Sunday, January 29, 2012

How We Survived Prostate Cancer

I mentioned Victoria Hallerman’s book, “How We Survived Prostate Cancer”, last week. It jumped off the shelf into my hands at the local bookstore because of the word “We” in the title.

She had me at “we”. Victoria is a wife, and her husband has prostate cancer and the book is about both of them as they go through this experience. That’s been something I care deeply about and why I write and speak about relationships and cancer. I see how often spouses and partners are left out of the equation by the medical community. Yes, there’s that obsequious nod to caregivers in the magazines and by professionals –but we’ll know they mean it when caregiver services are part of the deductible.

Hallerman’s book is terrific. The subtitle also tells you a lot: “What we did and what we should have done.” So as you can guess, she tells their mistakes, missteps and shares a lot about the hard parts they had to go through. And she writes a lot about their sexual experiences and sexual consequences and the cost and gain to their marriage—and she does not sugar coat it. A man with no testosterone and extra estrogen is not sexy, and when he is also incontinent, grouchy and physically ill—for a long time—it’s not a made for TV movie romance.

But that is what makes me love this book and Hallerman. I know that cancer and caregiving are not made for TV movies. Those movies hurt more than they help. But truth, honesty, humor and woman-to-woman talking have always helped me.

Yes, the book is about Hallerman’s experience with her husband’s prostate cancer but this book and its ideas translate immediately into any other cancer diagnosis. It’s about what they did and didn’t do as a couple and the medical and emotional costs of those choices. This book will be valuable if your cancer is breast or brain or lung or colon. If you have a partner in the battle read this book.

Coaches Verus Cancer

Coaches Versus Cancer basketball tournament today in Albany. At the Times Union Center. Games all day..entertainment, food, cancer services info and expo....Yes-- a fundraiser for cancer. More details at the link below:

Friday, January 27, 2012


Maybe like me you put off watching the 2011 comedy/drama 50/50. I didn’t watch it for a year. I assumed it was either a sappy, tearjerker about cancer, or a gross, expletive-deleted, Seth Rogan 20-somehting boy story. I didn’t know, and didn’t realize, it was both.

Watched it last night and we laughed and cried. Yeah, John too. I am glad I didn’t see this at the movies with friends though. Not because the cancer scenes cut so close to home but because there is one boy-to-boy discussion of girl friends and sex acts that made me blush. If I saw this movie on a first date I’d leave the theater in sunglasses and go right home.

But, we’re not dating, we’re married, and we've done that sex act many times, and I’m laughing as I type this, Ok it’s funny.

And yes, Seth Rogan is mostly a pig but, a pig with a heart for friendship and some insight into how guy pals talk and fight and love each other. Yeah, the movie is a love story and –spoiler alert—the love object is not Anna Kendrick.

I would put 50/50 in my top three cancer movies. Check it out. But not on a first date. to speak...For Prostate Cancer and Sex

I could not pass this up. The link below is a resource for couples dealing with prostate cancer. And, yeah, its about sex in CancerLand. I just love the directness and reality of these suggestions. I found this on the website of writer Victoria Hallerman, author of "How We Survived Prostate Cancer". Yeah, she says "we"...thats what caught my eye when I was scanning the cancer section of the local bookstore.

I love her book, and will say more about that tomorrow. For today check out the tips on the link below:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What You Believe In...

A quote that I love goes like this: "What you believe in must be bigger than what you are afraid of." I heard a woman named Kim Klein say that in a conference on fund raising many years ago. She was telling a story about how she overcame her fear of solicitation--asking powerful people for money. She said that one day in a fit of terror, about to approach a big CEO, it hit her that she really did believe in the women she was trying to help at her DV shelter, so that had to be bigger than her fear. And her fear decreased that day.

I have applied that quote in my life many times: at work, in relationships, in social settings and now I'm thinking about health and wellness and cancer. Do I believe in God? Goodness? the power of the body? the balance of the universe? Ok, can I remember that when I am afraid?

This week a friend who knows I love that quote pointed it out to me again. I have been wrestling with my passion about caregiving and this cancer advocacy work--do I dare put myself out there? really step up to the plate, and the microphone, with Love in the Time of Cancer? And my friend Martha said, "Diane, what you believe in has to be bigger than what you are afraid of."

My own advice to others hiding in plain sight. That makes me believe in God. And his sense of humor.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

When I am the Patient

Oh humility; oh arrogance. This week I am the patient. Eye surgery this week. And my first inclination is to tell you it's no big deal. There, right there, it begins. The comparison, "Well, it's not cancer"; "Well, it's not brain surgery". Oh Jeez--it's eye surgery--my eye balls--my vision.

Here's what I'm learning: It's so hard to sit still. I'm supposed to rest, take it easy, no stress. Well, this has totally outed me as a workaholic if I had any doubts. I'm also supposed to use four different medicines four times a day and my first reaction is: "What a hassle, must be someway I can condense this?" No, I have not been to medical school but that does not stop me from thinking those instructions are for other people, surely not me. That is a form of arrogance, not to mention stupidity. Did I mention these are my eyes, my vision, I'm playing with?

And for good measure lets add vanity to the humbling mix. I cannot wear makeup for a week and I cannot take a shower for a week and I have to wear big, dorky dark glasses at all times even at night in bed. Actually with the no make-up rule and the no shower rule I'm glad for the glasses.

And oh yeah, I'm not supposed to use the computer too much. But, hey, you can see how well that is going. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Swerve and Pleasure

I am reading the new book, “The Swerve” by Stephen Greenblatt. “Swerve” won the National Book Award in 2011. Its subtitle is “how the world became modern.” It is terrific and its about the Renaissance and intellectual history and theological history and intrigues of ideas and books. Greenblatt’s earlier book, “Will in the World—How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare” was also brilliant and a finalist for a Pulitzer. 

Now I just love this kind of chewy, rich, idea packed reading and I love to grab as much history as I missed in my earlier education—I was in the girl’s room smoking for many history classes I guess—or passing notes about cute boys.

But the reason I want to mention “The Swerve” here is not as a book review—though yes—grab this book. But this book belongs in a story about sex and cancer because Greenblatt explains with a clarity I have never read or heard—why we are so body-denying in our culture. In telling this story of how our thought changed and books were embraced and denied and rediscovered and hidden again he describes the church and intellectual shifts that took away belief in the body as a good thing and in God as a giver of pleasure and how that became disastrously distorted and left us—Western Civilization and Christians in particular --ashamed of our bodies and pain seeking rather than pleasure seeking.

All of that has contributed to shame about bodies, discomfort with talking about our need for and right to pleasure, and bonus for us in Cancer Land: a faint underground belief that illness is punishment. What a set up and what an intellectual and cultural crime.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gong Show

I am open to all kinds of healing and it's always my hope that I can find healthcare practitioners who respect and integrate Eastern and Western practices. Years ago I studied Reiki and have used it-quite irregularly--to help myself and others. It's one of those things that you can believe or not because its all to the good, especially when combined with good healthcare practices.

Last night I tried something new called a Gong Bath.  Nope, no getting naked or cold. Gong Bath is done with a group of people who lay or sit comfortably while being "bathed" in the sounds of huge (really huge) Japanese and Tibetan gongs. The lights are low, the sounds are not loud at all but you can feel the vibrations going through your body. There was a very brief intro--kind of like a verbal meditation instruction--Relax. Breathe. It was very comfortable and very comforting.

We stayed with the gongs "bathing" us for an hour and then some more brief verbal instructions to return to the present and the now. At the close the Gong Master explained that the gongs--there were 8 or ten of them--were tuned to the chakras of the body/mind and that the vibrations and sensations are intended to heal and align the chakras.

Even if you tend to roll your eyes at this kind of thing it's worth checking out. An hour after work on a Friday night, a cozy room, loving vibrations soothing to the body and mind--that was a Happy Hour.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cancer in the Movies

Not so much cancer on TV but we do have some cancer in the movies.  They are few and far between but we can find some. Here’s a list of my picks for top cancer flicks:

          Love Story
1.                       The Barbarian Invasions
3.                       Terms of Endearment
4.                       50/50
5.                       Wit
6.                       Sweet November
7.                      My Life Without Me
8.                      Erin Brockovitch
9.                     The Bucket List
10           Stepmom

What movies am I missing?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cancer on TV

If we know that one in 5 people has cancer and that cancer touches every family, and that most Americans watch more than 20 hours of TV a week--how come we don't see much cancer on TV?

Doesn't it seem that there should be cancer references and cancer experiences represented on regular TV? Yes, we have the fabulous ShowTime "The Big C" with Laura Linney but what about cancer in Modern Family and South Park and How I Met Your Mother and The Family Guy?

At any moment each of us knows someone with cancer--family member, extended family member, co-worker, in a friend's family etc. Someone has a diagnosis or is going thru treatment. Someone is dying or surviving. So where is that in our TV lives? Shouldn't there at least be a minor character with cancer? a mention of taking a casserole (yes, lasagna) to someone's home? Someone bald or in a chemo-scarf?

Cancer is in our lives, so how about our TV lives?

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Patient's Checklist

This week I read a review copy of a new and very handy book called, "The Patient's Checklist". While ostensibly a book for patients to take with them to the hospital--this is actually a great book for family caregivers and advocates. Elizabeth Baily had the experience of managing her fathers care--some complicated care--and this book grew from her experience.

It is, in fact, filled with checklists to use before going to the hospital and at the hospital and after. Lots of methods for keeping track of who's who and what's what and what comes next.

This is a book that everyone over 50 should have as they care for their parents and siblings and to pass on to their kids who in turn will be taking care of them.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hooray the Holidays are Over

Countdown to our annual "Hooray the Holidays are Over!" party. Guests in one hour. I love this party because we only invite people we like--no "have to" guests. And we make foods we like and people bring unexpected booze unless it goes home with the bringer--so a really nice time. But this hour before I am always nervous--the start of a party feels stressful--that pause before it really clicks and people talk to each other.

Each year we get better at doing this party--easier with each other, easier with expectations, easier with what happens. My favorite part is seeing strangers meet or discovering that they have or want a connection with each other.

A new year to be in love, wickedly sexy, full of health and at peace with God.