If I had to describe myself, I could easily think of a long list of flattering, and perhaps some not-so flattering, nouns and adjectives. For example, I am a writer, a runner, a photographer, weirdo, a proud aunt, an awkward goofball, so on. One word you will never see on that list: a hugger. I am just not much of a hugger, and if given the opportunity between a hug and an enthusiastic there-there pat on your shoulder, I’m choosing the latter.

When someone hugs me, my social awkwardness immediately takes center stage. My body stiffens up, and I automatically start counting the seconds until I am free to move my body again.

My ambivalence, and sometimes active avoidance of hugs, did not develop over time as I have gotten older. Even as a young kid, I was not a fan of hugging. My dad would ask me, “Can I have a hug, Lara?” My response was always a firm “no,” and now and then, it would be an emphatic, “NO.” God bless my dad, he always respected my response and never forced me to hug him. He taught me an important lesson at a very young age, and I am grateful to him for that.

He, however, would tease me about my No Hugs policy, by saying, “When you get older, I am going to tell your future boyfriends that you don’t like to hug.” Joke was on him, though – due to my non-existent self-esteem and sometimes crippling anxiety, I did not date anyone in high school or college. Can’t tease me in front of someone who doesn’t exist!

While growing up, my one brother would now and then trap me in a bear hug for way longer than what’s socially acceptable. He recently asked if that was why I don’t like hugging as an adult. I assured him that it was not. Whenever he did that, it never felt like he showing me affection, and it was more like he was either establishing dominance over, just trying to annoy me., or a combination of both

I did have a moment in middle school where an unwanted hug made me wish the floor would open up and swallow me whole. My middle school hired a substitute teacher who used to teach at the Catholic school where I previously attended. In fact, this teacher was one of my brother’s teacher the year that my mother died.

Mrs. K was not a woman who could blend into any background. She was fairly tall, loud, and had a body type similar to Robin Williams’ character in Mrs. Doubtfire, which had come out that year. Since middle schoolers are assholes, myself included, that is what we called her behind her back.

She spotted me in a semi-crowded hallway and called out: “Lara?!? Is that you?”

My heart sank. I had hoped that she did not recognize me since it had been a couple of years since I attended Catholic school. Mrs. K enveloped me into a tight embrace, smooshing my face against her giant chest. As I heard my classmates snickering around me, I never wanted to disappear so much, and I went into my defense mechanism: playing possum.

Dead arms, stiff posture, and wide eyes, darting back and forth, looking for an exit.

Looking back, I understand that she was showing affectionate to a kid whose mother died not that long ago. However, as a 13-year-old child who had been bullied for years, the last thing I ever wanted was any attention being focused on me.

There are, of course, exceptions to my No Hugs policy. I hug my boyfriend, and basically do everything I can to invade his personal space when we’re hanging out. I love hugging him and can never get enough of his hugs.

 My other exception is that I will ask my nieces, nephews, or my friends’ kids if they want to give me a hug. Will it ever be one of those smooshy hugs that cause one or both parties to go “OOMPH” in joy, not a chance. Although my heart can sometimes be icy cold, I would never imprint my feelings about hugs to any kids. If a kid is a hugger and wants to show me affection, I am not that dead inside where I’d go, “Back off, kiddo.”

My youngest niece does not like to hug. Last time I saw her, I asked if she would give me a hug and she turned me down. I said, “That’s okay. Can I get a fist bump?” She turned that down! Whaaaat. Not going to lie, my pride took a hit on that one; however, I will always respect her wishes, like my father respected mine.

Fast forward to my double mastectomy in 2012, which left me with no feeling in my own chest. If I hug someone, I experience no feeling or sensation in the chest, and as a result, my neurosis related to hugging quadrupled. Am I hugging too tight? Do my implants feel like two squishy water balloons? Make it stop. Oh lord, when can this fresh hell end?

Thanks a lot, cancer!

Now, when someone goes in for a hug, I immediately go on the defense and angle my body so that all they get is a side hug. If I am feeling particularly affectionate, I will throw in a couple of pats on the shoulder.

Just a word of advice to the huggers of the world out there: if you’re going in for a hug and the intended target of your hug says, “I really don’t like to hug,” PLEASE DO NOT REPLY “Oh that’s okay” and go in for the hug anyway. This has happened to me so many times that one day, I’m just going to turn around and start running away to avoid the hug.  I am not playing hard to get- I seriously do not want to be hugged.

One time, one of my runner friends said to me, “I felt bad the one time I hugged you before I remembered you don’t like hugs. You looked a little terrified.”

“I probably was.”

As a non-hugger, I am a little hesitant about re-entering society because I know there are so many huggers out there, jonesing for a hug, looking for that sweet sweet physical connection. Between the fear of the coronavirus and my desire to not be hugged, I am going to be ducking and weaving any incoming hugs like a punt returner running back for a touchdown.

“Lara! It’s so nice to see you! Come here!”

Stutter step! Pivot!

“Lara, I have missed you!”


Maybe in this coronavirus world, society will back away from hugs and revert back to bowing and curtsies. A girl can dream…

Let it Go

When I was younger, I used to hold onto friendships for longer than I should have. (This also applies to romantic relationships but that’s a whole other blog post.) In my 20s, I felt like I should be grateful to even have people wanting to be my friend due to some serious self esteem issues.

I held onto a few relationships even when some of these friends turned into acquaintances and then ultimately into drags where I felt like I was being anchored down. I felt some weird sense of loyalty even though I felt like their therapist or mother figure, not their friend. What happened was I grew to resent them, but I didn’t have the emotional capacity to talk to them, plus an overwhelming fear of confrontation. I just stopped talking to them.


There are several people in my life who I am no longer friends with, and it has made my life absolute better and I do not regret it whatsoever. What I regret is hanging around for as long as I did when I realized that the person made me feel like I’m suffocating. I felt guilty at first. “Oh, so and so is going through a hard time. Be there for them.” But when something serious comes up for me, that person is trying to one-up my hardship or illness, like it’s some sick contest.

Nope – I’m out. Never ever will I be friends with anyone who wants to “compete” with me for who has it worse health wise. How sick and self centered do you have to be to hear someone’s cancer diagnosis, who you supposedly call your friend, and then try to turn the conversation around about your possible illness? Believe me, I don’t want to be someone who gets sick a lot and has lost count how many surgeries I have had. I’d love to not have [redacted] and not have to worry about a lifetime of illness and surgeries.

Friendships should be about quality, not quantity.

Hell, I have been on the other side of this and I know this. There are people who I was friends with who have suddenly or slowly stopped being part of my life. You know what I don’t do? I certainly don’t keep calling or texting people who have shown little to no interest in my life, and why should I? The people who I want to be in my life and who are in my life are fantastic.

The sudden friend breakup I had with my Twin (from another mother and father) broke my heart and still hurts to this day. What I won’t do is follow his or his wife’s blog or social media accounts and keep getting reminded of a friendship I no longer have. Friend breakups hurt but you have to move on, and accept it.

If I am not in your life, please know that it is deliberate. Please leave me alone and let it go. If I haven’t talked to you in years, there is a reason – I don’t want you in my life. I don’t owe anyone my friendship.


Yes, exactly this.

Gray Hair… I Kinda Care

So once again, I have made the decision to stop dying my hair, even though my vanity is begging me to reconsider. I have several reasons why I decided to stop. First one being, my scalp stopped tolerating the dye. After each dye job, my scalp would feel itchy for days. My hair would also feel greasy.  I would just feel uncomfortable for days, weeks, like my scalp was being taken over by vindictive, invisible bugs.

Until I recently reconnected with favorite hair dresser in the world, I was going to a salon in the mall every 6 or 7 weeks and paying $120 for a cut and color. For a brief time after I reconnected with my hair dresser, I was paying half of that every 6 or 7 weeks. The cost added up, but before the bad side effects happened, the cost used to be worth it to me.

Now, it’s not worth it. Nothing is worth me itching my scalp and feeling physically uncomfortable for large stretches of time. If I could, I would still dye my hair for another solid 10 or so years. It breaks my heart (okay, pride) because I love how I look with dark hair, and felt super cute and confident.

Seeing these white/grey hairs slowly take over my scalp has been a mind fuck, and making me feel strangely emotional. On one hand, I understand that being able to grow old is not a luxury afforded to all. I have known so many amazing young women who have died from metastatic breast cancer in the previous year. They would have given anything to be able to grow older.

But I’m not working with this abundance of self esteem to be barreling toward 40 (a little over 2 years from now, ahhh) and seeing an “old” lady looking back at me in the mirror. I see my hair and I feel old, defeated. I don’t know how to reconcile with what’s going on the top of my head with how I really feel.

Why is getting older so hard to accept? I used to think I was going to be dead by the time I was 40, just like my mother. I was certain that breast cancer was going to kill me, too. Now, I’m only a couple of years away from the my mother was when she died, and frankly, y’all, I’m starting to look more like her. In my mind, I’m lookin’ like a woman who’s been dead for 30 years.

Also, why is it so hard for me to accept the fact that people are going to stop thinking I’m not in my 20s or heck, even in my early 30s? I simultaneously don’t believe people when they say I look 10 years younger than my actual age, but  I love it. Not going to lie. I know that’s going to stop when more of my white hair comes in.

I know it’s okay to accept that my pride and vanity are taking a beating. I’m not a bad person for seeing my white hair coming in and wish that this wasn’t happening for another 10 or 20 years. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good and taking pride in my appearance.

I think this will take time to accept, and I will just adapt with however this turns out. I know what I look like with red hair, blonde hair, black hair, and dark brown hair. Now, I am just going to find out what I look like with a combination of white hair and dishwater blonde hair.

Well, at least my glasses and wardrobe is going to be fly AF.


Since the beginning of the new year, I’ve started keeping an excel spreadsheet tracking my expenses. Nine days into the new year, this simple act is completely changing how I am view money and my relationship with money. I am well past the age I should be and not have a great handle on money.

I never ever ever ever want to find myself in a position like I did with the Ex where I become financially dependent on someone. He and I should have ended things several years before it did, and I was hesitant to pull the trigger because I’d have been financially wrecked without him.  In fact, I even told him this on several occasions.

The Ex rarely complained about getting me anything I wanted, and he was generous with his money during our relationship. Hell, he has been generous even afterwards. I am simultaneously grateful for his generosity but mad at myself for letting myself get comfortable and complacent. Maybe, if I had been more diligent about finances and making wise decisions, maybe I wouldn’t have spent those last years in a relationship with someone who had no desire to be with me.

I know when you live with someone, you are supposed to share bills and responsibilities. In the six years we lived together, we didn’t approach household finances as a team, and always as two people who happen to share a house. Yeah… that should have been a sign. It’s certainly something I never want to repeat ever again.

My relationship with him ended a year and a half ago, and I’m still in the process of learning how to fully get my shit together. I slip up a lot, and I fall into bad financial habits (Starbucks, I missssss you).

Things are going great with my Amor, but I never want to feel financially dependent on him or make him feel like he has to take care of me. (Granted, if I get sick again, then that is different, but the focus here is on healthy, able-bodied Lara.) If/when he and I combine our lives together, I want to have my shit together and be my absolute best. I want to get back to the Lara in her mid and late 20s who was making piddly squat, but saved like a champion.

This excel spreadsheet is a great start, and I definitely have additional steps I need to take to walk confidently into middle age with my head held high and my stress level not at a “Call my therapist” level.  Now and then, I want to check in here for accountability and to ensure I’m living solely within my means.

The Good in People

Two days ago, I was walking with a manager from one building to another for a 12:30 meeting. We were only a block or so away from Firstside, and well, I tripped over a crappy piece of sidewalk and face planted. I was carrying my laptop bag and purse, and just tripped and my face met the sidewalk.

It was surreal. I started gushing blood from my face immediately, and I am pretty sure I went into shock. I mean, that’s what happens when you bloody your face, right? I just lied there for a second, marveling at the blood coming out of my face.  I was trying to keep the blood from spilling onto my pants and feet, but came up unsuccessful. (RIP navy blue dress pants.)

My manager came to my aid and you know who else did? A bunch of complete strangers also came to my assistance as I laid bleeding on the Boulevard of the Allies.  Someone handed me a couple of napkins, which did absolutely nothing but I appreciated the sentiment.

A man and a woman came up to my manager and me and told me to hold my nose together in an effort to stop the bleeding. Another woman, a middle aged woman, actually went running to a firehouse a couple of blocks away to get help for me. A complete stranger ran to get help for me, and she came back minutes later with towels.

These strangers stayed with me and my manager as my mouth kept bleeding. They kept me absolutely calm (or maybe, that was the shock). Honest to dog, it warmed my icy cold heart that these strangers stopped to help a thirty-something woman who face-planted onto a sidewalk.

Pittsburgh is definitely a small big city, and the day of my accident showed me just how much.  I am forever grateful to these strangers for helping me, and for my coworkers keeping calm as my upper lip would not stop bleeding.

Also, for the record, I wanted to share that I DID NOT CRY. Once. Not after I fell or when the adrenaline wore off.  I ended up with a broken nose and busted chin and lip. I’m bruised and cut up on my right knee and elbow. The bright side – my glasses didn’t shatter (although one lens got scratched up) , and I still have all of my teeth. I’m pretty sure my guardian angel (what up mom) did her job on Thursday.

Now I know what it feels like to be beat up, and frankly, not a fan. I hope I never have to experience that again. Fingers crossed!


Do as I say, not as I do…?

Three years ago, I wrote a blog imploring parents to not fade away from the pictures. I had a strong emotional reaction to the realization that there are only four pictures of me and my mom. Four. She hated having her picture taken, and most pictures taken of her, well, she’s not smiling.  If my mom is smiling in the picture, then there’s a good chance alcohol was involved.

My blog resonated with a lot of folks who saw themselves in my mom. I have had friends tell me that my blog woke something up in them, and now, they get in the pictures with their kids. I am so proud of that, really and truly.  I am glad I was able to reach out to parents and convince them that years from now, their children will only see them, not any of their so-called flaws.

I have a confession to make: I am just like my mother, really and truly.  I look like her, walk like her, and have the absolute same disdain for being photographed… like her.

I made a gallows humor joke to my friends that if I die, my loved ones will find it hard to find decent photographs of me. Instead, they’ll have to make due with all the fantastic photographs I have taken of others. To be honest, it was a joke, but after I said it, I might be okay with this idea anyway.

I hate having my picture taken, and I honestly believe it’s why I started taking pictures in the first place. I didn’t want to be in them. It is definitely why, whenever I’m photographing an event, I am sympathetic toward people like me who hate having their picture taken.  If it’s unflattering, I’ll delete it or take a new photograph.

When I see pictures of myself, I cringe at my uneven skin or never perfect hair. I just see flaws. I view these pictures as a photographer and someone who doesn’t necessarily always like what she sees.

In recent years, I have tried to be better about being in the pictures, especially when my nieces and nephews are around. I take silly selfies with them. I act weird in photos with my dad. I think the last photograph I took with my dad really sums up our relationship:


There are very few pictures of me and my ex, which used to bother me but now, hell that isn’t a bad thing, LOL. I’m a-okay with how that turned out.  I don’t want the same thing to happen with my boyfriend.  He makes me so happy I feel like I radiate smiley faces and heart emojis from my very core.

I don’t want to disappear from the pictures, just like my mom did. I’m a damned good photographer but I’m not photogenic. Maybe one day, I’ll come to the same revelation others did reading my blog from 2014.




Lara Bradshaw

Recently, Facebook reminded me that it has been a year since my relationship with He Who Shall Not be Named ended.  Between this and hearing about the death of my first boyfriend, I have been thinking about my past relationships in a Carrie Bradshaw sort of way.  Step in because we are about to go down memory lane.


My first boyfriend died a couple of weeks ago after suffering a heart attack in his sleep. When I heard about his death, I wasn’t surprised at all. He was an alcoholic, and he battled alcoholism for a very long time. When he died, I wasn’t surprised and that made me feel guilty.

Aren’t you supposed to feel shocked when someone dies unexpectedly? I mean, even when a friend of mine who has had stage four breast cancer has taken a turn and died from the disease, I have felt shocked. I guess hearing that a middle-aged man who has had a horrible disease for probably two decades dies of a heart attack isn’t a shocking end to that particular story.

He was the first man I ever had the relationship talk with, and he was my first breakup. Boy, I did not take that breakup well. I pretty much reacted like a textbook jilted ex girlfriend, and the things I said and did are not anything I am proud of. One of the many lessons I learned from my relationship with him and the subsequent breakup was pretty much a list of what not to do the next go around.

I don’t want to paint him as an alcoholic and nothing else, because he was more than his disease. He had a good heart, and he loved his friends and family fiercely.  He had a pitbull for a long time, and she was his constant companion. If funds were low on his end, and he had to choose between him eating and her eating, he’d feed his dog first. I credit him and his precious pittie for why I love that breed.

I hope his family and any of his loved ones find peace during this time of mourning. I also hope if there’s an afterlife, he is there and he’s reunited with his favorite creature – Harpooa.

Then a week or so ago, my Ex told me he bought a house in an affluent neighborhood for himself, his girlfriend and her daughter.  I have no doubt that the man is going to beat me down the aisle, and that’s a-okay. I’m not in a Moving On competition with him.

After telling me his good news, he asked me how I was doing, like this would affect me negatively. I might have said too bluntly, “Why would I care? Our relationship has been over for years.”

Keep in mind, our relationship officially ended a year go.

I meant every word of it, including the emphasis on the years part. Him telling me that he and his new lady love were starting their new life together had absolutely no affect on me.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.

Elie Wiesel

It’s absolutely true that the opposite of love is truly indifference. When our relationship ended, feelings may have lingered for a couple of weeks, and looking back, I’m not even sure if that was because I missed him or change was just scary.

I did care for my Ex but well before our relationship ended, I stopped loving him the way you’re supposed to love someone you’re supposedly in a relationship with. When one or both parties aren’t committed to being in a relationship with each other, that type of love just fades away. Somewhere along the way, he stopped being my boyfriend and became a safety net, but I just didn’t want to admit that.


I learned the hard way that he wasn’t who I was looking for, and given his behavior, I certainly was not who he was looking for. He’s going to get the family he’s always wanted, and he just didn’t want that with me. I never came with a guarantee that I’d always be around.

When we were together, I thought I wanted a family, and I resented him terribly for never wanting that with me. I thought I wanted to have a family and be a mother, but months after he and I broke up, I realized that part of my desire to have a family with him was to have some sort of a connection with someone supposed to be in a relationship with me.

While I know I would have been a great mother, I honestly don’t feel like my life is missing anything like I did when I was with him. I realized that the empty feeling I felt with him was just… well, how I felt about him.


Don’t get me wrong – I wish him well, and I don’t hate him.  Once again, the opposite of love is indifference. Hell, he and I still share custody of Boomer and Mal. I want him to be happy, and he and I took way too long in realizing that involved finding other people. The ex and I have a history and not all of it was great or fantastic, but it certainly wasn’t all bad.

Right now, I am a 37 year old woman with a condition that affects my adrenal glands and one ovary. That pretty much cements the fact that I am not having kids, which is perfectly fine. I love what I do for a living and want to keep exploring different aspects of that and growing.

Again, nothing feels missing from my life. I get to be an aunt and go home to a quiet house. Wait, who am I kidding. With my two dogs, my house is never quiet, haha.

While painful, the mistakes and bad choices I have made allowed me to truly understand what it is I want in a significant other (a nerd for books or pop culture, a partner who wants to go out and be active with me, and someone who wants to go out and have adventures – big or small) and what I did not want in someone (i.e., smoker, drinker, or exhibited any obsessive qualities).

Right now, I couldn’t be happier with the man in my life who I have told everything. I’m not kidding – I have told this man allll my deep, dark secrets. All of them. He even sent a cease and desist email to my stalker (a married man with a kid), who I have asked repeatedly to stop contacting me who felt like ruining my birthday by sending me a  message from a spoofed number. Yeah, asshole. I know it was you.

My boyfriend has my back and I have his. He and I have something really great going on, and I look forward to spending as much time as I possibly can with him whenever possible.

Yo, yo, Get Up Swinging readers. I am back, kind of. A lot has happened since I last updated and if you’re interested, keep on reading.

The primary reason why I went on an unintended blog hiatus is the fact I started a new job. In mid-October of last year, I resigned from the job that I had been at for more than 9 years. It was a long time coming, and I could not be more excited. I made a lot of wonderful friends at my old company, and I wouldn’t be at my new job if it was not for this nine-year stint.

Boy, though, I could not be more excited and relieved to be moving on. I had plateaued at that company years ago, and there was nowhere for me to go. I had been getting negative reviews for three years in a row, and I wasn’t given any type of raise. I felt like I was repeatedly running into a wall hard, getting up dazed and then running back into the wall again.

When the opportunity for this new job for more money, opportunities and the chance at a real career path, I jumped at it. Did I ever. I was so unhappy and miserable at my old job, and my life had to change. There was drama when I left and I got threatened with a non-compete. That’s why I remained pretty much silent for the last nine months because I was afraid of being accused of doing anything untoward. Now, my non compete period is over, and I feel free to share about my life, especially my professional life, without threat of litigation.

I am happy at this new job. Sometimes the hours make me want to curl up into a fetal position and whisper to myself “it’ll be okay.” I am at a job that pays so much better, offers career training and opportunities and has expanded my skill set in ways I never could before. I’m grateful. I’m being challenged and at the same time, appreciated.

I honestly feel like a completely different person since I switched jobs.  I don’t wake up feeling a suffocating sense of dread.


The other big change in my life occurred a couple of months ago. My boyfriend of 7.5 years and I broke up, and he moved out. Sigh… Things that cannot be undone were done and now we’re done.


Our relationship was not right for two years, probably three. I knew something was not right for at least two years, and I should have ended it back when the signs were there. The signs were neon, blinking and in all caps.


I was not ready then. I was scared. I was scared to live on my own and without him. I also wanted it to work out, and I tried so hard to make it work. He was with me during cancer. We had gone on so many adventures together. I went skydiving with him. My longest relationship before him was 10 months.

When things become bad for a long period of time and you find yourself in relationship purgatory, then both people need to want to leave it to ever go anywhere. He never wanted to leave the purgatory. We were stuck. We were not being completely honest with each other, him definitely more so than me. We avoided the truth staring at us in the face.

It’s done now. I could hate him, curse his name and tear up all his pictures. Frankly, I used up all that jilted ex girlfriend energy in those two years since I knew he was not on the level. Now that it’s over, there’s a sense of relief and sadness. I can and will forgive hi, because how else could I ever move on?

The sick irony of it all is now that we have laid all the ugly truths on the table, he and I are closer than we ever were in the last couple of years of our relationship. I don’t know if this honesty is the result of a sense of freedom now that the commitment ties have been cut. Like, why not just say it because it’s not like we can break up even more so than we are? Ah who knows, maybe I’m being cynical and this openness is the result of two people who learned the value of each other too late.

We are going to try to be co-dog owners unless it gets too fraught with emotions of the negative variety. I’m already dating, which some might say is too quick since my relationship has only been over for a month or so.  I don’t think so. I had been mourning the loss of this relationship for a long time, thinking about dating a lot toward the end. Now I’m here. It’s not that I’m not sad or am throwing parties that I’m single. It’s that I’m a social person who loves being around people.

I’m not going to let the end of this relationship make me a cynic, I won’t. I still believe in love and part of me will always love the Ex. He and I weren’t right for each other. I don’t see us ever getting back together but I can’t see a life without him in some manner. Maybe that’s early break up thoughts dancing in my head right now but that’s the mentality I have at the moment.

There you have it. I’m at a new job that pays me so much better and has an actual career path. I’m newly single too. Lots and lots of change here in Get Up Swinging land. Hopefully more positive changes will keep happening now that I’m no longer in relationship purgatory or at a job where I was going nowhere.

I’m going somewhere for once. It’s pretty awesome. I’m looking forward to who I meet along the way and who might want to go for the ride with me.


What Does “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” meant to you?

Before we all know it, Pinktober is going to rear its ugly head once again, and everywhere you look will be pink ribbons – from the grocery store, to chain restaurants and maybe a part of your downtown running path is now covered in bras (that one made me want to set the bras on fire) – all for the sake of “awareness.”  I know I have gone on and on and on about breast cancer awareness month.  I think pretty much everyone who knows me or who is familiar with Get Up Swinging knows how I feel about this month.

Well, I wanted to ask other folks with cancer, any cancer, the question: “What does Breast Cancer Awareness Month mean to you?”  The responses mostly came from other women who have had breast cancer since that’s the disease I have, but there responses from others who have undergone treatment for cancers other than breast.


Here are responses from those who have metastatic breast cancer:

“Even before I was diagnosed with breast cancer I loathed October. No matter where you go there is a sea of pink, ribbons, t-shirts, key chains, etc. What started out as something good had morphed into a retail/marketing machine that line the pockets of those ‘bringing awareness.’  Now after living with Stage 4 breast cancer for the past year, I understand how serious this is. There isn’t a female on this planet that isn’t ‘aware’ – that doesn’t ‘feel their boobies.’  Every person diagnosed with breast cancer COULD develop metastatic disease. Early detection does not guarantee safety.  What will save more of the 40,000 people that will die from breast cancer each year is research.  And that means money for research – not awareness.  What Komen and the others give to research is sickening. Nancy Brinkman should be ashamed of what her memorial to her precious Suzy has become. More lives could benefit from research and the clinical trials that are born of research. Until we can change the perspective of the public at large this will be an ongoing disconnect and more people will die – like me.”

“Nothing,” and then: “I have metastatic breast cancer.  When I die, I will not have lost at all.  Another reason October grosses me out: battle metaphors.”

“I think my stance has only grown stronger since being diagnosed stage 4 in the last 12 months.  I have a really hard time going grocery shopping.  I’m already getting the stupid emails about playing secret games.  How does that raise awareness?  I’m trying to come up with something for [metastatic breast cancer] similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  We’ve just got to come up with something good.”  The same friend then said, “I still really just want to punch that Komen lady in the throat.  Do you think that will bring more awareness?  I bet it’d do more for mets than a pink frying pan.  (I’m totally kidding…. Sort of.)”

Here are the responses from those who had breast cancer, aka the people who we’re supposed to celebrate during this month (allegedly):


“Enough awareness already.  Time to focus on research for those with mets.  I used to like pink.  Sometimes now I struggle with wearing it.  Oh, and it makes me want to throat punch people.”  It will shock y’all that wasn’t something I said, but damn, it’s something I truly feel.

“I cringe every October now.  SGK has created an atmosphere wherein people actually resent breast cancer charities – even the good ones. It makes me very sad.  I used to like pink, too.  Now it just makes my butt pucker.”

“Absolutely nothing.  It’s a disgusting marketing ploy.”

“It means companies profit off of a disease (mostly).”

“That I’m going to flip the fuck out the next time someone posts something about not wearing underwear or using their boobs to get out of a speeding ticket because they are playing a ‘fun’ breast cancer awareness game.   And October, the month that used to be my favorite, is now the month that I won’t be able to, even for a minute, forget I had breast cancer.”

“Well, it means breast cancer awareness for everyone else, but for me, that’s every month every day.”

 “Breast cancer is sadly something we’ve all heard of.  We’re all aware of it each October because it’s shoved down our throats.  I’m all for education of things like triple negative or IBC or mets, etc., but buying a pink frying pan isn’t going to do that either.  By the way, I don’t think that pink is a vile color; I do love it, but I hate all the negative bullshit that it stands for now.  Hopping off my soapbox now….”

“I guess the month is more personal to me.  I got THAT phone call from the breast surgeon on October 1, 2012 telling me my biopsy was malignant.  ‘Sorry for the phone call, but we need to act on this PDQ.’  So, two weeks later, I’m in surgery for seven hours, having a double mastectomy and tram flap.  I’m sick of pink.  I’m sick of Tamoxifen.   I hate cancer.”

“Most people are unaware or ignorant to anything until it happens to them or someone they love.  I feel like I’ve been under the breast cancer cloud since I was about 13 and my aunt, who was like my second mother, was diagnosed and had her mastectomy.  I don’t know if her struggle was a warning to me, so I’d catch mine earlier because she ignored hers for a while before she got checked. . . .  I try to see everything for the benefit it could or does have, but the little awareness ‘games’ piss me off because people think they are doing something when they really are not.  If the month gets more women to do self-exams, check up on something suspicious, get a physical, or donate time or money who would’ve never thought to do before, I pray that is the good that comes out of it.  It’s kind of a hard month, but so is every day once your life changes that little bomb of a seed has been planted in your mind and body.”

“I definitely feel the attention has to shift from awareness to cure.  I think we all are aware now. However, maybe any attention to the disease is good attention?   I will tell you though it pisses me right off when I see crap like … For breast cancer awareness I will be brave and post a picture of myself on Facebook without makeup…. Puuuuleeeze. Personally, those who post those self-serving pictures (oh girl, you’re gorgeous without make up, wish I could look half as great) did abso’f ing’lutely nothing to help my treatment go more smoothly – physically or mentally.  If they want to see the face of bravery, I suggest they take a field trip to the waiting room of the women’s cancer center and look at the beautiful faces there with their heads covered with baseball caps, scarves, wigs or nothing.  I encourage them to look into the eyes of those women, which might be brimming with tears because they were just given the news they did not want to hear, or tears of relief because they did.  Regardless of age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity or any other defining factor.  These women and their families and support systems have hearts full of hope.  So my hope is that October brings meaningful advances in the cure and prevention of breast cancer.”

“I don’t have a lot of attachment to it.  I went to a nice breast cancer fundraiser last night with all the pink bells and whistles for the cancer center that saved my life and had a good time and made some donations.  But, there was a lot of ‘stuff’ there, that had I been in the throes of treatment or diagnosis, would have absolutely pushed me over the edge.  So, I have awareness of the real deal!  I do feel that I’ve helped shape some fundraising events so that they don’t push those buttons for others by creating awareness myself.  I’m thinking it is a good month for me to keep being true about how it all is.  At the same time, I can stay positive about the whole thing because my doctors told me the money that is raised truly helps patients and research and I believe that.  Plus my mom with Alzheimer’s only likes to wear hot pink…which is pretty weird since my sister and I are both breast cancer survivors. She doesn’t consciously understand the significance. I think I will stay away from the pink cupcakes though; and I will definitely be remembering those we have lost who no longer can pink partake. . . .  I admit, I did buy my mom a pair of breast cancer awareness sneakers because they were hot pink.  I think like a penny supposedly goes to help somebody.  *snark*”

Responses from people who had cancer, but not breast cancer:

“Well, I don’t have that type of cancer, but to me, it means I expect to see women without cancer showing off their boobs and bras and women with cancer not feeling great about being flooded with images of boobs.”  When I read this response, I actually shouted “YES!” loudly at my desk.

“Blegh.  What about the other kinds of cancer?  Pinkification stinks.”  I agree.

“I wish oral CA had the same publicity as breast CA.”

If those with breast cancer are expressing disgust and resentment at the very month that is supposed to celebrate them, then changes need to be made.  We need to stop trivializing a deadly disease by wrapping it up in a pretty pink bow.  Men also get breast cancer, and I couldn’t even fathom how horrifying Pinktober would be to a man with breast cancer.  If a friend sends you an invite for the stupid annual Facebook game so many people mentioned above, respond with links from those with cancer as to why these games are offensive.

Most of the time people mean well, but I have come across so many people who want to use Pinktober as an excuse to have a girls’ night out and drink (dumb) or just say boobies or knockers or hooters.   We need to take breast cancer seriously, even if deals with a body part that can reduce grown adults into immature 10-year olds.

I asked Lori Marx-Rubiner, the president of Metavivor, how can anyone help a loved one going through breast cancer treatment, and here is her response:

What can people do?

Give of themselves – run errands: dry cleaner, market, carpool

Make a meal – check first abt dietary restrictions

Keep patient company during treatment

Come by with a good movie

Check in 6-7 days after treatment, when the attention has died down


If you don’t have a specific person in mind-

Volunteer at a treatment or support center

Organize a local fundraiser

Sign up for Army of Women


No time?

Send a gift card – Jamba Juice, bookstore, Netflix subscription, local restaurant that delivers

Donate to research or directly

Robin Williams

Out of all celebrity deaths, Robin Williams’ suicide seems to be hitting me the hardest.  When I was a little kid, I was obsessed with “Aladdin.”  I played that cassette repeatedly while I was in my family’s basement, trying to keep to myself.  Despite the inability to carry a tune, I knew every word and inflection of this soundtrack by heart.   I especially loved the song “Friend Like Me,” and as a weirdo kid, it felt like the genie/Robin Williams was my friend.

If a Robin Williams movie came out, I always made an effort to watch it, even if he wasn’t starring in the movie.  Even if role was small, like in “Nine Months,” he made it larger than life.  I watched “Mork & Mindy” when it was on Nick at Night.  I loved “Hook,” “Jumanji,” “Good Will Hunting,” and of course, “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

He made me laugh.  If it was in the movies or in a television interview that he overtook with his manic wit, Robin Williams made me laugh and feel better.

During my first ever trip to New York City, I spent an entire day just walking around and taking pictures.  I walked from the Upper West Side to the entrance of Central Park.  I stopped to watch a group of performers, and out of the corner of my eye – I saw Robin Williams.  He was walking quickly through the crowd, and he dashed across the street.  I wanted to say something to him but I was so starstruck.  I just saw my childhood hero!  Since I couldn’t say anything, I took a picture instead.

Robin Williams in New York 2008.

Robin Williams in New York 2008.

When I heard about his death, I immediately felt sad, but when I read that it was an apparent suicide after he had been struggling with depression, I felt devastated.

Depression hit me after cancer treatment, which caught me by surprise.  I had never experienced depression before.  For a long time, I kept thinking I could will myself out of the despair I felt.  I couldn’t understand why I felt the way I did after treatment, like I just went through hell, so why couldn’t I escape it?

My life felt hopeless, and I believed I was resigned to a life of illness and pain, that all I was Cancer Girl, and this was how I was going to die.  I was my mother’s daughter, after all.  For awhile, I was obsessed with the thought of my cancer coming back either locally or distant (i.e., stage 4).  I was living in the “what ifs” and “what just happened,” and the present was just bleak.  My relationships suffered.  Even my beloved pooch couldn’t grab me out of the complete despair I felt, though bless her heart, she tried.

After the horrible thoughts that the world would be better without me consumed me daily, in late 2012, I reached out for help.  It took me way too long to realize that asking for help wasn’t a sign of weakness.  It was an act of someone who recognized that her will wasn’t enough.  I continually seek help for depression, and sometimes I am ashamed to admit that.  There’s a stigma to mental illness.  I’ve been managing my depression with therapy and running.  It’s not just a phase or something I can just snap out of.  It’s not a weakness in my character – it’s a weakness in my brain chemistry.  And it’s okay that I see someone to help me cope with depression.

Robin Williams’ suicide just hit me right smack dab in the feels.  I’ve already come across the blog posts saying that he was a coward or selfish, and it just breaks my heart.  He was a sick man who struggled with addiction and depression his whole life.  Nobody will know his frame of mind when he committed this act, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree he must have been sinking in a despair that nobody could understand or withstand.  When someone dies of cancer, we call them brave.  When someone dies as the result of mental illness, they are called weak or cowardly.

If you have never struggled with mental illness in any of its forms, I envy you.  Let me just say – don’t be fooled into thinking that since you’re mentally “sound,” you’re an expert on mental health.  You’re not.

You’re lucky.