Posted tagged ‘Susan Elizabeth Phillips’

Tests, Breasts and Maura Tierney

July 27, 2009

I finally got my letter in the mail the other day.  After six days of waiting.  It was a while before I could bring myself to open it.  Scanning down the form I saw the little box next to ‘Mammogram’ checked and then farther down the letters ‘OK’ written. 

That’s it? 

Don’t get me wrong.  I was very, VERY happy to read those two letters.  It’s just that you’d think the anxiety prior and the actual test would warrant something a little more wordy.  Something like ‘patient reaction to compression’ (OUCH!) or ‘area vs depth upon compression ratio is good’ …..  Just something more than ‘OK.’

At my age, I have had a fair number of mammograms.  Now I am supposed to have them yearly.  Yuck.  They are not fun….but not too bad either.   I am extremely sensitive to the way I am treated when having one.  Insensitivity from a technician or the slightest inking of embarrassment and I go elsewhere.  I like where I get them now.  The technician reminds me to breathe.  I never realized that I wasn’t breathing.  So it’s friendly and fast and they have great magazines.  Not that you get to read any of them to any great extent.  Even though it was busier than I have ever known them to be, I was still in and out rather quickly…..for a medical appointment.

Women – as a rule – are not really talkative when it comes to mammograms and breast care.   At least in my little world they aren’t.  It’s not something that comes up in conversation as a rule.  If it does, we tend to keep things light hearted.  We share ‘war’ stories involving rough technicians who stepped a little too hard on the pedal to the compressor.  Or of mammary glands that were surely seperated from chest walls in the interest of  ‘better’ health care.  We tend to join walks/rides to raise money for breast cancer research and education instead.  Unless someone close to us has an issue.  And in my circle of acquaintences there have been several instances of ‘issues’ in the past few weeks. 

B took advantage of a free mammogram offer during a small business trade show a year ago.  I found out about her surgery and chemo treatments in a lengthy family news letter that came with an invitation to her daughter’s graduation party.  It kind of rocked my heart a little bit.  I was the first grade teacher to three of her now college age five children.  She was a good friend and important part of the ‘village’ that we used to help raise my son years ago.  They moved to another state when he was five.  He has a lot of memories of adventures with her family…not the least of which is always wanting to live in a house with stairs so he could ‘slide’ down them like her kids did.  Today I am a regular visitor to her Caring Bridge site to get up dates on her treatments and to share in her delight of the curls that fall down the back of her head again…finally.

I was surprised at church one Sunday to see prayers requested for S.  She was a  friend and family camping buddy until other responsibilities and interests pulled us in other directions.  I hadn’t seen her in a long while.  And when I did, she was wearing a hat to cover her bald head but her smile was the same.  Normally as regular as clockwork about mammograms, she had put this year’s off because of general busy-ness.  Until a surgeon requested that she have one done before hernia surgery.  Her cancer was stage 3.  Always the optimist,  she is counting her blessings that a hernia forced her to follow through.  Had she waited much longer it might have been stage 4 with fewer options for treatment.

T is a member of a message board that I frequent for author Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  It’s a busy board where fans share thoughts about everything from reality TV shows to monthly reminders that ‘it’s time to check the TaTas!’   I have bookmarked T’s blog since discovering that she is a Teacher and a Mom and a writer like me.  She is facing breast surgery in August and needs to take days off during the first week of school.  I can relate to that extra anxiety of being gone from a new class of fourth graders…..totally. 

I had known for a while that RS had a close call with breast cancer some years ago.  It wasn’t until I asked my Facebook friends to share their mammogram experiences that I got her full story.   It was one of frustrations, friends, decisions and family.  She pissed off an oncologist because she didn’t accept his plan.  She is empowered.  She is a Special Ed Teacher.  And a Wife, a Mom and a Grandmother.   I have learned from her that each and every day is a blessing and to live it the best way that you can.

Maura Tierney was forced to come out with a public statement about her breast cancer situation.  She is an actress that I have followed as a fan for many, many years.  I finally met her after a play in NYC last fall.  Twice!  I have seen all of her movies, watched ‘NewsRadio’ , followed her work on ‘ER’  for nine seasons and was looking forward to her new ensemble series – ‘Parenthood’ – this fall.   That show’s premiere was put on hold due to her ‘health issues.’   NBC’s bungled publicity attempt to keep her medical condition private resulted in a public statement clarify her condition.   She has a breast tumor that requires surgery. 

While I know she is a very private person who likes to keep her personal life…private….I am not sure that she is aware of  how her news as affected the people that frequent the fan message board that I belong to.  We are an international group.  I am the Elder Statesman of sorts there and have been for years.  Sometimes they listen to me and some times they don’t.  When Ms. Tierney’s statement was released there was a frenzy of activity and frustration and not knowing what to do.  Like a group of  caring friends gathering at the local coffee shop, messages were flying.  What can we do?  What is happening?  Anyone find any more news?  Finally we did something proactive.  We set up a poll where members could post that they had either gotten a mammogram or done a self check of their breasts because of Maura Tierney’s statement.  Things calmed down significantly.  We shared stories of friends and family members that had gone through the same sort of thing.  We shared links that described proper steps for self checking.   What to look for.  We were talking.   And I scheduled my over due mammogram.

My daughter is fourteen.  She would definitely fall into the ‘itty bitty’ category a friend described when telling me about the ‘spatula’ tool that was on the mammography machine when she went for her mammogam.  It was for members of that ‘club’ and male patients (and yes, L, I did know that guys can get breast cancer too)  When I mentioned that I had an upcoming appointment, I asked my daugter if she would like to go with me….to see what it was all about.  She cocked an eyebrow and said, “Now why would I want to do that?”  Heh.  We were talking.  And now she knows a little more about taking care of herself.

And D tickles me to death.  She schedules her mammogram for the very same time on the very same day every year.  And wears her lucky panties.  She is an internet friend I will always want in my corner.  We ‘talk’ and we laugh.  And I am reminded that there are others with the very same apprehensions that I have.

I think that people in the public venue like Sheryl Crow, Christina Applegate….and Maura Tierney….have the means of reaching people.  Reaching women…and men….to remind them.   Remind them that it’s important to self check.  Remind them to make those mammogram appointments.  Remind them to take better care of themselves.  Remind them to listen to their doctors and to listen to themselves.  Remind them to talk to one another and support one another.

Of course their stories are painful….and private.  We are lucky that they are driven to share them.  And they are not alone.  There are thousands…no…millions….of stories like theirs.  But they are the very public voice of my friends and I.  We hope that you are hearing them loud and clear.

Check your breasts. 

Do it today.


April 9, 2009

I have become obsessed.   I have a novel going.  Like 300 + pages of a novel.  It’s fun.  The characters are great.  They have cool back stories.  They are funny.  They all get along.  They like each other.  And that is my problem. 

Woe is me. 

No conflicts. 

I’ve tried.  And I am certain that I would never make it as a romance writer because I can’t write sex.  Believe me.  I’ve tried that too.  Too many sunflowered fields, rainbows and bunny rabbits happening.  I would love to be able to do it like  a Barbara Delinsky….or a Debbie Macomber….or a Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  I would love to be able to write the same sort of angsty, guilt riddled characters of a Karen Rose (who has also mastered some humdinger sex stuff….lucky woman)….or a Patricia Cornwell.  Dang it all.  I am obsessed with a sunshiny, delightfully fun and happy.  And I can’t ditch it.

Would someone…..PLEASE……wish me some dark clouds or something???  I need me some DRAMA!


A Winner!

January 5, 2009



Just came from a chat room visit with one of my favorite authors, Susan Elizabeth Phillips.   What fun!  There were lots of people from the SEP message board there.  Friends of a sort.  And I won a prize!  Yay!

And while I was typing away and marveling at the fact that I was having a conversation with people from every corner of the US and beyond, I got to thinking about how people communicate these days.  My mother used to visit with neighbors and chat.  Weekly telephone calls were the rule when I was at an out of state college.  Expensive, too.  Things are very different these days.  I mean, I can actually send messages to my principal and other Teachers in my building right from my classroom.  Communicating with family memebers in other states can easily be a daily thing.  Amazing.

 Chat rooms are one of the very first things that ‘hooked’ me to the internet.  My sister and I – both teachers in schools nine states away from each other – used to meet up in a chat room for educators sponsored by NASA.   That was YEARS ago.  We made some very interesting friends in that room and since we can both type as fast as we can talk, we garnered a reputation as the ‘laugh a minute chicks.’  I was sad when that chat room was dissolved.   And I think my early experiences there probably eased my fears about the encroaching technological world.  Exactly what NASA was hoping for, I imagine.

Another chat room that I frequented for a while was one created by an on line friend that drew people who were fans of the Abby/Luka  storyline on ‘E.R.’  The chatroom may have been gone for the last 2 years but I still text and email some of those friends.   Amazing….

I have chatted with adoptive parents and birth mothers in AOL chat rooms.  Some of those people also frequented chatrooms established for parents of toddlers or teens or boys/girls. 

For a LONG time I was the member of a message board network of Kindergarten Teachers teaching all over the United States.  We shared classroom ideas and projects and problems and solutions.  I was once able to collect Valentines from 100 different classrooms and we tagged them to  map of the United States on our wall.  Great geography lesson!   There are similar networks available for other grade levels and home schoolers. 

As a Technology Teacher I have to severely caution my students about communicating with people online.  Internet message boards and chat rooms have proven to be precarious environments for children.   I find this to be a sad state of things.

  I have been in internet contact with people with similar interests – writers, adoptive parents, fans of an author, fans of a television show, Teachers, artists, etc. – for a long time.   I have established friendships , refined my writing skills, shared problems and triumphs, extended and received advice from people…..literally…..all over the world.  My computer has become my very own backyard fence.   A cyber-fence of sorts. 

So, I may have won a personally autographed notebook from one of my favorite authors tonight….but in the long run….chatting with my ‘cyber friends’ made me a winner a long time ago.

Just realized that this is my 100th post on this blog….a ‘hobby’ that began two years ago on January 1st.  Amazing…..