Tag Archive for: #breast cancer

Clicking Our Heels – Charities and Social Issues We Care About

Clicking Our Heels – The Charities and Social Issues We Care About
The Stiletto
Gang members have lives outside of writing. Today, we tell you about some of
charities and social issues we are
passionate about.

T.K. ThorneMaranathan
Academy, a non-profit school in Birmingham, AL that gives critically at-risk
children a second chance, because I get to see faces turn from despair to
excitement with learning and hope for a better future.

Dru Ann Love
– The New York Blood Bank – because when I needed blood for a transfusion, it
was there for me.

Shari Randall – I’m very interested in literacy issues (you
can take the girl out of the library but you can’t take the library out of the
girl!) I volunteer with my local libraries in book sales and book nooks. So
much research has shown how libraries play a big role in leveling the playing
field for less-advantaged children. Many parents cannot afford books for their
children and it’s vitally important to keep libraries open to help those families.

J.M. Phillippe – LGBTQ Rights, because of how much people in
my personal life are impacted by being denied the same basic rights of other
people. And reprodctive rights, because again of the impact they have, not just
on women, but on entire communities.

Judy Penz

Canadian Cancer Society — I’m a
breast cancer survivor (10 years and counting)

. I’ve done volunteer work for
Golden Rescue (golden retrievers) and support them — I’m on my fourth purebred
Golden and had a Golden mix as a kid.

Kay Kendall
– I support the Sierra Club in all it stands for. It’s the oldest and most
influential environmental organization in the U.S., amplifying its 3.5+ million
members’ voices to defend our right to a healthy world. Helping the Sierra Club
keep fighting for Earth’s natural resources is important to me.

Mary Lee
Ashford (1/2 of Sparkle Abbey
) – As
Sparkle Abbey, we are involved with several local pet rescue groups and
contribute a basket of goodies (and sometimes a chance to have your pet in a
book) to their Raise Your Paw Auction. These groups do great work to rescue
animals that are abandoned or in bad situations and find them forever homes.
The other cause near and dear to my heart is literacy and I donate, speak, do
whatever I can to support local literacy groups. 

Debra H.
– I have a special interest in
issues relating to women and children. Consequently, I support the YWCA of
Central Alabama’s domestic violence and pre-school programs as well as programs
sponsored by the Girl Scouts.

Bethany MainesThe Pacific Northwest has a higher percentage of Multiple
Sclerosis than any other spot in the nation and they don’t really know
why.  MS causes deterioration of the connections between the body and the
brain and there is no cure. I can count at least five people I know
personally who have MS or have died from MS and that is at least five too
many.  If you would like to donate or help in some way the National
Multiple Sclerosis Society is a great organization that is BBB accredited and
is dedicated to curing MS and helping those have MS live better

Julie Mulhern I worked for ten years for a not-for-profit
that helped individuals and families manage the challenges posed by serious or
chronic illness. It remains a cause dear to my heart.

Linda RodriguezI’ve been a member of Amnesty International for many
years. What they do for political prisoners around the world is tremendously
important work. I have long had a recurring donation going to Doctors Without
Borders because their work in the locations where violence and war are
devastating people is critical. I also have long had a recurring donation that
goes to the American Indian College Fund, which provides funding for tribal
colleges and Haskell Indian Nations University, the only four-year university
for Native Americans. Ironically, my son now teaches at Haskell Indian Nations
University, but my involvement with the American Indian College fund goes back
to his grade school days. I have a recurring donation that goes to the ACLU,
who are doing yeoman’s duty at this time in this country as it has become,
defending our Constitution and our law against all of the attacks which are being
waged against our kind of liberal democracy. And there are others, but those
are the ones I’ve been involved with for a long time.

Health Wagon operates in West Virginia and serves people without health or
dental or vision care. Mostly run by volunteers, THW manages its money and
resources in an amazingly frugal way. One day I hope to join them on site—in
addition to supporting them with $$. 

Cathy Perkins – While my husband and I have offered financial support for numerous charities over the years, my volunteer time has gone to The Sexual Assault Center. The agency recently extended their services to all crime victims but the mission remains one of support and healing. In today’s political environment with the constant attacks on women’s rights, I find it vital to stand up and give back and encourage everyone to pick your passion and support it.

I Heart Boobies

by Susan McBride

At the moment, I have boobs on the brain.

As I write this, I’m finally home after spending 2-1/2 hours at The Breast Center in West County, getting my annual mammogram and contorting into positions that I’m not sure the Rubberband Man could accomplish very easily. I saw my surgeon afterward, and she did a good old-fashioned exam of my chestal area. It’s something I’m used to now, nearly four years post my lumpectomy. I alternate a mammo with an ultrasound every six months so nobody misses anything (at least that’s the plan!).

When I was diagnosed back in December of 2006, I was considered at low risk for developing breast cancer. I was 42 years old, healthy as a horse, and the only woman in my family who’d had breast cancer was my maternal grandmother. What a difference a few years make. In November of 2007, my maternal aunt was diagnosed and, just recently, my mother. These days, it’s not enough to worry about myself, Aunt Mary, and my mom. I worry about the next generation of girls in my family.


It’s one of the reasons I’m so open about my experience. I know so many women whose lives have similarly been touched by the Big C, and it’s a relief when you can talk about it. Certainly, it’s everyone’s choice whether to keep their journey personal or not, and I respect that. My view is that discussion–and even laughter about some of the crazy aspects of muddling through a diagnosis–makes it seem less frightening and perhaps less of a stigma.

My first time speaking in public about my boobs was at the big Susan G. Komen Survivors Luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis back in April of 2009. Before an audience of 800 survivors and co-survivors, I shared my story. I was told “don’t make anyone cry!” Which I didn’t want to do anyway. I mean, geez, just getting through it, you cry enough. My sense of humor kept me from crumbling, and that’s what I focused on in my talk: seeing the quirky side of things.

More recently, I spoke at the Horizon of Hope Dinner in Edwardsville, Illinois, which raises money for the American Cancer Society and breast cancer research. Again, I shared the crazier aspects of my path from the dark side into wellness. Although it’s never really over for survivors, is it? Someone once told me, “Breast cancer is the gift that keeps on giving,” and I believe it. If it’s not weird aches and pains, it’s anxiety. A survivor-friend and I have decided that cancer leaves a bigger scar on your psyche than on your body.

Before this all happened to me–and to others in my family–I’m not sure I could’ve stood up in front of hundreds of strangers to discuss my boobs. Books, yes. Those have always been easy for me to yak about. But breasts? Not until almost four years ago. When I suddenly shed any modesty. When so many people in white coats from doctors to nurses to rad techs saw my bare chest that I was tempted to unbutton my blouse when I sat down in the dentist’s chair. It kind of got to be a habit.

And I shed my verbal modesty, too. It became way too easy to say “boob” in all kinds of company. I didn’t even blink when one of my rad techs showed up at my book signing in a “Save the Ta-Tas” T-shirt. It’s part of the Culture of Pink.

So I was rather dismayed to read about fundraising bracelets stamped with “I Heart Boobies” being worn in high schools and the adverse reaction to them.

Okay, yeah, it gives teenaged boys something to snicker about (and maybe some of the girls, too). Yes, it probably leads to jokes; but if we think high school kids aren’t talking about boobies anyway, we’re naive. Have you seen what kids watch on TV these days? Or view on the Internet?

For me, it’s a matter of awareness and getting comfortable with the idea that breast cancer–and other cancers–are all too common these days. People are being diagnosed at younger and younger ages. If you make it to 70 now and don’t get cancer of some kind, you’re very fortunate. It doesn’t matter whether you believe the cause is genetic or environmental (or a mix of the two). It’s how things are, and we need to talk about it.

So if having “I Heart Boobies” on a bracelet makes one young woman who feels a lump go see her doctor to get it checked out, it’s worth the snickers and the gasps and the jokes. I don’t know any way to discuss cancer that isn’t uncomfortable on some front. Until you’ve been through it. Then some days you feel like it’s all you can talk about.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so think Pink! I recently spoke on “Great Day St. Louis” on this very subject. If you’d like to take a look, click here.

In the Pink

by Susan McBride

Last Saturday, I woke up to the alarm buzzing at 6 a.m. and quickly dressed in my running shoes, yoga pants, and my hot pink T-shirt so I’d be ready at 6:30 when my ride showed up to head downtown for this year’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. St. Louis turned pink that day, from the fountain at Kiener Plaza to pink “ribbons” plastered on the sides of buildings. It was my fourth Race since I finished radiation treatment after my diagnosis of breast cancer in December of 2006, and I felt much different than I had back in June of 2007 when I first participated. Being a survivor was new to me then. Heck, I’d never felt “sick” in the first place, even after an MRI confirmed I had a lump in my left boob. It’s amazing how three little words like “You’ve got cancer” can change your life.

Although I’d tried to stay fit during my surgeries and rad therapy, it meant strolling on the treadmill or unloading the dishwasher so that my left arm could regain enough mobility to finally reach the top cabinet shelf. When I walked in the Race in 2007 with Ed, my good friend and fellow survivor Shelly, and Shelly’s hubby Jerry, I didn’t know what to expect. Would I even be able to finish the 5k? Would someone bump my left boob (I was afraid of that for a loooong time)? Would I be so overwhelmed that I’d cry?

Shelly and I did skip the “Survivors’ Walk,” which they do early on before the Race starts, because she warned me it was very, very emotional. I decided that I’d done enough bawling after my diagnosis, and I prefered to avoid further tears. So we ran around to some of the freebie booths (Ed thinks it’s funny that women who survive breast cancer aren’t afraid to trample each other to collect bags of free loot). Then we took our Race team pictures, and I hung out with some of the St. Louis Public Library team members (love those library ladies!). Music blared and people hugged, and a sense of affirmation bubbled up inside me so that I had tears in my eyes anyway!

Once the Race started, we were all business. I remember Shelly and Jerry booking so fast I wondered how I’d ever keep up! I kept downing bottled water as I walked, telling myself, “You can do this, you can do this.” That was important somehow, just finishing the Race and not collapsing. People cheering the Racers from the sidewalks hooted especially loud when Shelly and I passed in our “Survivor” T-shirts. At first, that unnerved me. Why all the fuss? What had I done? I mused until I realized we stood for something to them: HOPE. If we had survived and were fit enough to briskly walk a 5k, then, by God, they could climb over obstacles, too.

This year, it was weird to imagine that I’m 3-1/2 years post-diagnosis. I felt strong as I walked–and, baby, I walked fast!–and, once again, I was initially surprised to hear the loud cheers from the sidelines. Although now it’s more because I feel very ordinary compared to the many women I’ve met since my diagnosis who’ve gone through what I’ve gone through (and much tougher stuff, too). I am surrounded by these ladies–my heroes–on a daily basis, and I don’t know what I’d do without them. When I whine about aches and pains, they make me laugh and, as importantly, they make me feel like I’m normal (or at least as normal as I’ll ever be!). Because if there’s one thing that having had cancer takes away from you, it’s the sense of normalcy. Oh, yeah, the scars it leaves on your skin have nothing on the havoc it’s wreaked in your head.

Although when you’re walking in a sea of over 71,000 people, nearly 5,000 of them survivors, as I did at the Race this past Saturday, you realize how NOT alone you are. Once you’re a member of this huge pink army, you’re a member for life.

P.S. Speaking of being in the pink, I’ve got a PINK, GEEK, AND CHIC CONTEST going on at my web site. You could win a hot pink tote bag, some hot books, and a DVD of “Star Trek” (the one with Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk)! Good luck!

Feelin’ Brain Dead

by Susan McBride

I’ve got two weeks left to finish up THE COUGAR CLUB, and I’m feeling just a tad freaked out. I’ve been trying hard to say “no” more and travel less so I have more time to write, particularly with back-to-back deadlines these past two or three years. But despite the best intentions, I never end up with as much work time as I’d like. Something’s gotta give, and it’s usually sleep. That leads to brain fog, which leads to “oops” moments. Take this morning, for example. I had two hours’ worth of errands to run before the writing could commence, and I realized as I hit the vet’s office to pick up a prescription for a cat that I’d forgotten to enclose a check with a bill I mailed off at the P.O. this morning. Sigh.

For some reason, my tired mind keeps singing, “feelin’ brain dead” to the tune of “feelin’ groovy” from Sesame Street. That’s when you know you’re sleep-deprived. At least it’s stopped thinking of that stupid FreeCreditReport.com song!

Still it’s hard to regret taking time off work to do things like fly to Houston in early April for the Texas Library Association convention (even though I had laryngitis–oy! Can you say “stress much”?). I loved being back in my old hometown, seeing friends, doing a drive-thru of my former neighborhood which is where THE DEBS series is set, taping a TV interview, signing stock at the lovely Blue Willow Bookshop, and doing an event at Murder by the Book. If I sounded like a croaking frog, oh, well. There wasn’t much I could do about it, and everyone was awfully nice though it sure made it hard to schmooze! (Pictured left: Sara Zarr, author of SWEETHEARTS, and Justin Somper, author of the VAMPIRATES series.)

Neither do I regret playing emcee at Lisa Scottoline’s appearance on April 21 at the St. Louis County Library headquarters. I’d never met Lisa before, and she’s terrific. Just a bundle of energy and a hilarious speaker.

And, my gosh, it would’ve killed me to say “no” to the St. Louis Komen for the Cure co-chairs, Dede and Kris, who invited me to be guest speaker at the 11th Annual Survivors Luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton on April 26. As a breast cancer survivor, I felt honored that they’d asked me to share my experience with 800 fellow survivors and their friends and family. My husband, my mom, and my mom-in-law accompanied me, and I ran into several pals and met lots of other amazing women. I’d been warned not to make my speech sad, something I wasn’t sure how to do anyway. I got through the worst of my boobal trauma by relying on my sense of humor. If you can’t laugh through the tears, I don’t know how you make it.

I’d never been so nervous before a talk, however, and I picked at my food during lunch (which was a shame because it was delish!). But once I was up on the stage and the lights were glaring in my face–I mean, those suckers were bright!–the words began to flow and the laughter rang out through the ballroom. By the time I finished, I realized people were on their feet, clapping. It took a minute to grasp the fact that I’d gotten my first standing-O! Wow. I signed books for at least an hour after, and I probably took longer signing than I should have. But I couldn’t help chatting with each woman who approached. It’s astounding the connection between strangers when you share a bond like surviving breast cancer. I felt like I’d been embraced by some of the nicest people in the world. For all the luncheon ladies who said I inspired them, let me tell you, they inspired me, too.

No more outside events until next Friday when I speak at the Young Authors Conference downtown to St. Louis Public School students. No matter the interruptions, I keep telling myself to FOCUS and get THE COUGAR CLUB done by May 15. (I think I can, I think I can!) And if that fails, I remind myself that I finished TOO PRETTY TO DIE and wrote THE DEBS entirely while going through my surgery and radiation therapy in late 2006 and early 2007. Geez, Louise! If I can do that, I can surely complete the last chunk of COUGAR in two weeks, right? Even with a soggy brain.