Sliced Open

Amy Reichbach is back on the blog with a poem she wrote. It was inspired by Alicia Ostriker. 

1076990_10151539621431538_1290151235_oSpooned it off and away,
nipple and all this time,
last time the odds said
the articles said
the surgeon said
Lumpectomy
the breast so big anyway
we could go in again
and no one would know.

Until
day of surgery mammogram
a technicality
until someone
called over
someone else
and they found more
we’ll try anyway
with one site, maybe two
cut away those cells
layer upon layer
learn how many more
lay in wait.

The call the next week:
good news and bad
two nodes
the spread contained:
I can breathe
those cells have not
seeped through blood
to capture all of me.
Probably.

But those spots
the ones the first mammogram missed
meant losing the breast
I’d held her to
for more than two years.

Such a hard start
we fought, my daughter and I
I believed mothering
meant feeding by breast,
only by breast
and mine certainly should work
given their ample size
passing an early test of motherhood,
I thought love
protected the breast.

Maybe it was brought on
by end of love
cells bursting
through anger, betrayal, shock
after fourteen years, an affair
end of love
why had I picked you
to cut me, sliced open
you didn’t mince words
when you left.

I had already become a statistic
one more of those who would divorce
following a seven year itch
you needed to scratch
within a decade of gaining the right
to marry.

In our home now
my daughter
notices the noises
people in and out
trying to cover over
fill in
the imprint of my wife
while in her other home
she notes the quiet
her other mother,
her young lover
and their demons
her only company.

And so I grade papers,
I listen to wind,
the empty echoes
and try not to
get stuck in the spaces.
Divorce. Cancer.
You never think it will happen to you,
what happens every day to other women.

The Art of Sharing (or Not)

Amy Wu is a panelist for our Breast Cancer 360: Mapping the Future for Young Women With Breast Cancer, taking place Saturday, June 13 and offered through FREE Web stream. In this piece, Amy writes about sharing her breast cancer experience with family and friends and how she coped with their reactions.

AmyWu14

When bad things happen most folks either retreat or share. I am of the latter. I tend to share.

When life throws its lemons I pick up the phone and call my constellation of close friends and family. Bad hair day. Stressful work day. Bad commute. I will share on the phone, by text, or on Facebook.

And then something interesting happened. In the wake of being diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2013, I clammed up. I shared just enough of the bad news with immediate family out of necessity and then retreated. I just wanted to be left alone and even deactivated my Facebook account.

Beyond the initial shock I swiftly started to share again. I shared my story with the local newspaper. I shared with my friends. I shared my story on social media. I shared with colleagues. I shared with my 93-year-old grandmother who insisted on knowing what was going on. And I shared with my then fiancée. I didn’t just text or email. I picked up the phone and shared. I shared in person sometimes over coffee or an adult beverage. In retrospect I’m not certain as to why I shared so swiftly and vastly. I just know that I shared my story with almost everyone I encountered.

What I was not prepared for the reactions I received or didn’t receive. This is one of the unspoken challenges of being a young woman diagnosed with cancer. No one expects that the news would come from someone so well, young.

“No way, you’re so young, it doesn’t make sense,” a lot of friends would say. I’d shrug. Yeah, well. Oh well. Continue reading

Yoga On The Steps 2015: Your Love Story

Yvette and JenniferWelcome!

We are excited to share our theme for Yoga on the Steps 2015Your Love Story.

When we say “Your Love Story” we’re not talking about romantic love, nor are we talking about love for family, or friends, which is all valuable and essential. When we say “Your Love Story” we’re talking about a theme for the Yoga on the Steps practice which features you at the center of your own love story, honoring your own experiences and journey. Because ultimately, self-acceptance, self-care and self-respect is the love story a yoga practice promotes.

What is your love story?

All love stories begin with something happening or not happening to you. Your expectations and world changes and your perception of “Who you are” is challenged.

There are 3 basic elements to process change:

  1. Choose a lens to view your experience. You have a choice. Do you choose to feel victimized? To fall into the trap of ‘worst case scenario’ thinking? Or will you choose to be the heroine of your destiny? Choose the lens, the perspective of yourself that empowers you.
  1. Advocate for your self-care and investigate what draws you fully alive. Will you reach out into your community for support and education? Will you love yourself enough to make yourself a priority and advocate for your personal care and joy? Choose your joy and respect your own process.
  1. Simplify and love. Clean house, unclutter, and eliminate what crowds or blocks you from doing what you love. Simplify and distill your life down to what really matters to you. Instead of talking about it, do what you love. Love is a verb, an action. You love baking, love dancing, love being with friends, love the outdoors, etc. Get engaged to what you love. Do what you love.

We invite you to come to Yoga on the Steps with the intention to empower Your Love Story in new and exciting ways.

We look forward to seeing you on the steps!

~ Jennifer Schelter & Yvette Pecoraro

Jennifer Schelter, MFA, is the founder of Yoga Schelter, Inc., and co-founder of our signature fundraising event, Yoga on the Steps. Learn more about Jennifer’s work at http://jenniferschelter.com/

Yvette Pecoraro is a singer, songwriter and Kirtan artist. She released her debut CD, “Into the Arms of Love,” in April 2010. Read more about Yvette and her work at http://yvetteom.com/

Mets Monday: Reflecting on Those Who Joined us for the Annual Mets Conference

This past weekend we held our 9th Annual Conference for Women Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. More than 300 people from 42 states came and gathered information, connected for support—and voiced their concern that few in the general public understand the scope and gravity of living with stage IV breast cancer. We’ll be posting lots more about the conference in the coming days, but here’s a quick look at some of our participants during the event.

LBBC’s Hear My Voice volunteers organized a group to depict the need for greater awareness of what metastatic breast cancer really means and to gain insight and support from those around them.

108everyday_1

For others, the conference provided an opportunity to gain support from meetings others facing a similar diagnosis.

This #MetsMonday, we acknowledge the loss of 108* people every day to metastatic breast cancer. We will continue to highlight the needs and experiences of people living with this diagnosis, especially as we develop a public education and outreach campaign that will launch this fall. Together, we can make all the difference in our own unique way.
If you are inspired to share your thoughts on living with metastatic disease please add your voice here or to our Facebook page or Twitter feed.
*The 108 figure comes from the 2013 American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Facts and Figures. The number of estimated deaths from metastatic breast cancer in 2013 was 39,620. Divide that by 365, and you get 108. The number of estimated deaths increased to 40,000 in 2014.

Navigating Genetic Testing and Family Risk

Lise Marlowe blogs about genetic and family breast cancer risk and navigating the genetic testing process. Live in the Philadelphia area? Learn more about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer risk during our April 26 community meeting.

award picture 2 (1)My cancer “journey” began last June on a gorgeous spring day after my daughter’s confirmation at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. I left my daughter’s confirmation service that morning filled with tears of joy and happiness; I didn’t realize that in a few hours, there would be different tears coming my way. That afternoon, I had a mammogram and breast ultrasound appointment. A few weeks earlier, I felt a small lump in the shower and wanted to make sure all was OK. As a busy mom, I honestly didn’t know the last time I had done a self-exam. I have since learned that most women find their breast cancer, not doctors. Early detection made my “journey” a little easier and according to my doctor, saved my life.

With dense breasts, the results of my mammogram turned out to be negative, but the ultrasound showed a mass in my right breast. A week later, the biopsy confirmed that I had stage I breast cancer. When I heard the words “cancer,” my whole world turned upside down. I was supposed to plan my son’s upcoming Bar Mitzvah, not have cancer. I called my rabbi and asked how to handle cancer and still be “mom.” She said “let your kids know that your job is to still take care of them, that doesn’t change with having cancer.”

The next day, I received a phone call from my primary doctor who was shocked to hear of my cancer diagnosis. He has known me since I was a teenager and knows I try my best to live a healthy lifestyle. I am a vegetarian, exercise every day and don’t smoke. After learning I had breast cancer, my doctor thought maybe I carried a BRCA gene and told me to get tested. If I was a carrier, my daughter, son, brother and nephew would have a risk of developing breast cancer, too. My heart sank hearing about this. I was already concerned about my family’s emotional health, and now I was worried about their physical health, too. Continue reading