A Mother and her Two Daughters

31 July 2010

A Day of Hope

Friday I had my first outing since surgery, to spend the morning at the grand opening of the new Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.  It is UAMS’ $130 million, 12-floor expansion doubling the institute’s clinical and laboratory space.  It’s difficult to describe the building.  However, it was evident that the plan was to create a clinic of serenity.  As Dr. Peter Emanuel, Cancer Institute Director said, “A cancer diagnosis is one of the most difficult and challenging things a person can experience. We want this building to provide as much comfort and convenience as possible while also helping to ease our patients’ burden, lift their spirits and promote their healing process.”  UAMS hit a homerun.  It’s all of those things, and more. 

Several hundred people attended including Liseanne Rockefeller, the widow of the late Lt. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller who fought the tough fight but lost his own battle from myeloproliferative disease in 2006.  I’m certain he is very proud to have his name on such a highly regarded cancer-fighting institution. 

There were many touching moments in yesterday’s opening celebration. 

First, the backdrop for the event platform was the face of cancer, more than forty Cancer Institute survivors, all of them with their own battle scars and stories.  Naturally they received a standing ovation from the crowd as they ably represented the 120,000 patients treated there each year. 

Dr. Emanuel accurately described two of the most significant moments in the cancer journey – the day you are diagnosed and the day you complete your treatment.  To honor this right of passage in the journey, in the facility’s atrium is a sculpture entitled “The Seed of Hope.” As patients complete their cancer treatments they will be given two tokens, one to keep and one to toss into an opening in the sculpture.  While I have not yet arrived to this place yet and won’t until I complete my radiation treatments, all who were present yesterday were given tokens to toss into the sculpture.  I couldn’t help but think about the thousands of people who will toss their coins each year feeling a great sense of hope and triumph. 

There are many definitions and synonyms for the word “hope” – a wish, an expectation, faith, trust and more.  But for the cancer patient, our HOPE is quite simple.  It’s a wish in our heart that life in the future will be better, that we will someday arrive to a cancer-free life without dependency on harsh treatments.

Yesterday a longtime friend said to me, “You really like this place, don’t you?”  My reply:  “How can you not feel an incredible bond to an institution that is doing a stupendous job of curing your cancer, saving your life?” 

The hope I have and the trust I feel for the Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Institute was confirmed for me yesterday with a story shared by Dr. Emanuel.  He reflected on the 2008 topping out ceremony when a white steel beam signed by UAMS employees, volunteers and supporters was raised into place to mark the highest point of construction on the building.  Among the many signatures and messages was this one, probably signed by a UAMS cancer researcher:

Fight it with all the genius we have for as long as it takes. 

Here’s to you UAMS and your fighting spirit to find new ways to prevent and treat this horrible disease called cancer.  My hope is with you! 

Here's a photo of me and two of my dear friends who work at UAMS, Jo Smith and Pat Torvestad.  They have been two of my great soul sisters, for sure.  

29 July 2010

Definition of UAMS Medical Care - and more good news!

Today was originally the day I was scheduled to receive my pathology report.  But when my outstanding report was given to me Monday night, the game plan for today changed.  Here is what I now know. 

First, the most impressive news – yesterday a team of 8 (yes, I said EIGHT!) UAMS physicians met to review my file.  The group included Dr. Klimberg (my surgeon), Dr. Makhoul (my oncologist), Dr. Kent Westbrook, and others like pathologists, radiologists, and plastic surgeons.  WOW!  How impressive is the UAMS approach to medical care, the gathering of many brilliant minds to review your file and determine the very best “next steps.”  This is care at its finest and I feel very secure in all the decisions that we are quickly making.  

The updated news about my medical status is this – originally I had been told that reconstructive surgery was likely not an option for at least a year, maybe two.  However, with my positive pathology report (i.e. no cancer cells present), that has all changed.  I will meet next Tuesday with the plastic surgery team and could have surgery scheduled as early as next week.  My medical team of eight agrees that with my pathology report as it stands, there will be no oncological risks associated with this decision.  

A few weeks following reconstructive surgery, I will then begin radiation treatment for six weeks, as they said, “every school day” – thirty total treatments. 

What does this mean?  For me, the ultimate goal is to be pretty much finished with cancer by the end of 2010, other than the oral chemotherapy required for the next five years and regular monitoring for possible recurrence.  How great that would be!  I could record 2010 as one of the worst and best years of my life, and possibly put this cancer behind me. 

While reconstructive surgery is certainly not a requirement, some women make this choice for various reasons: to return their body to its original shape, for body image and self-esteem, to regain a sense of balance and eliminate the need for external prosthesis.  Whatever the reason, today I learned that the sooner reconstructive surgery happens, the easier the recovery.  So, I’m going to take the plunge and get it over with.  While it might have felt more comfortable to have had more time to consider, the truth of the matter is this – time is not always on our side.  

As is usually the case, I don’t know everything right now, but will know more next Tuesday.  As I told my boss earlier today, my thinking is this – why not have everything done now and recuperate from two surgeries at the same time.  Yes, there is more pain and discomfort associated with this decision.  But better to get it all over with now.  

Again, my medical team is brilliant.  And while they give me lots of hugs and pats on the back for the awesome progress, it is my UAMS team that has created this miraculous recovery.  I will be forever grateful to them. 

Since February I’ve said that I am hopeful to be here when great minds find a cure for cancer.  The truth is – they have already found a cure as they have cured me and thousands and thousands of others just like me. 

So today I change my wish.  I am hopeful to witness the day when NOBODY must experience cancer, that we find a way to prevent its very presence.  Cancer is a dreadful disease that no one should have to endure.  

27 July 2010

I am Rockamundo

I’m still hung-over from yesterday’s good news. To join the ranks of those who have also achieved "complete response" to the chemotherapy is the highest privilege of my life, no better achievement to be had.  I'm still rejoicing even though a celebration must be postponed due to the recovery process. 

Last night and today have been memorable days filled with many good wishes from family, friends and colleagues.  To know that others are celebrating with me is very heartwarming and meaningful.  Thank you to all of my dear friends. 

I have not felt well since Saturday morning - lots of pain that I'm not accustomed to.  This is a very tough surgery; don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  It’s painful in the chest area and under the arms where the lymph nodes have been removed.  And for ten days you are confined to home due to two drainage tubes with about four feet of tubing that attach to two jugs they call a “closed wound suction” device.  It’s terribly awkward and certainly not anything that you want to be seen sporting about town.  I'm counting down to Thursday when they are finally removed!  

The surgery is emotionally tough too. I wonder if others who have had this same surgery would agree with me – it’s like any kind of body amputation, whether it’s your breasts, legs, arms, ears or whatever.  Mentally you tell yourself that you can do without this part of your body, especially in exchange for a hopeful cancer-free life.  But it’s still physically and emotionally a tough procedure. 

But there is an old Latin Proverb that says, “Pain of mind is worse than pain of body.”  So amazingly true!  Yesterday I was again not feeling well, experiencing some rather tough pain.  But since Dr. Klimberg called yesterday with the pathology report, it seems that my pain threshold has greatly increased.  I am still having some pain but who cares??  I HAVE NO CANCER IN MY BODY!  I feel fabulous!! 

I must share with you all one of the greatest notes received from a longtime friend.  He always hits the nail on the head, with this time being no exception.  Here is the message he sent:

I remember a horse who won the Arkansas Derby a number of years back.  My memory is he was the longest shot in the field, maybe 100-1 or something like that.  On paper there wasn't any way he could win that race.  Probably shouldn't even have been in it.  Nobody in the grandstand gave him much of shot at all.  But he crossed the finish line first, went to the winner's circle and got his trophy.
You're new nickname is Rockamundo.

So from now on, when we cross paths here in town, just call me Rockamundo.  I like it!  

26 July 2010


For More Information contact:
Dr. Suzanne Klimberg, M.D., UAMS Cancer Institute
Dr. Issam Makhoul, M.D., UAMS Cancer Institute

Cancer Lady Dancing In The Streets

(Little Rock, AR – 26 July 2010)  - Pathology reports released late today by the UAMS Cancer Institute have revealed that Little Rock native Stacy Sells, and her whippersnapper medical team, have officially kicked cancer’s butt. 

The team was prepared to release the report to Sells on Thursday at her regularly scheduled appointment.  However, according to Dr. Suzanne Klimberg, Director of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Program, “this news was just too good to sit on for the next three days.  Stacy needed to have this news immediately.” 

“While the initial diagnosis of Inflammatory Breast Cancer was less than positive, we have taken an aggressive treatment journey that has resulted in eradication of the beast,” said Klimberg. 

Proud of her team of UAMS cancer warriors, Sells stood by with a big grin across her face.  “What little hair I have is standing on its end,” she said.  “These people are smarter than a barrel of monkeys, for sure.” 

Sells admitted that only two weeks ago physicians told her that the chances of not having any cancer cells were only 20 to 25%. 

Dr. Issam Makhoul, Sells’ oncologist and a native of Syria said, “Like they say here in my adopted home here in the south, ‘Bless her heart.’”

Further details will be made available on Thursday following the pathology consultation.  The physician team has indicated that radiation therapy will still be a necessary measure to reduce the chances of recurrence.  

"Who cares!  Bring on the radiation," said Sells.  "The only real thing that matters today is the beast is dead."  

Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below - below. Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Witch is dead!

23 July 2010

Children & Cancer, with many thanks to my Council of Moms

Today Allyson will come home for the weekend, and it will be GIRL WEEKEND here at my house.  The last time all three of us were together was the Komen Race for the Cure weekend in St. Louis in June.  What a wonderful two-days we enjoyed together, also formally recognizing the tough battle of breast cancer by participating in the Komen race, along with Jeff, his family and many of Allyson’s sorority sisters from Mizzou.  Although my legs were probably at their worst in terms of pain and lack of strength, it was the perfect weekend for a Mom with cancer and her two daughters. 

One of the things I’ve learned about cancer is this – a cancer diagnosis for Mom is as frightening for her children as it is for her.  Together we are scared to death about death, but all of us are trying to stay strong for one another.  Isn’t that what loving family members do for one another? 

Staying strong and putting up an emotional front is one thing.  But it’s critical that families who face cancer face it together.  With love and hugs and age-appropriate communications, children will adapt if their fundamental and emotional needs are met, if they understand what cancer is all about, and have some warning about the treatment process that lies ahead.  It serves nobody in the family well to talk in hushed tones or to ignore the inevitable.  Instead, parents should empower their children to face the significant new illness demands of the family.  Looking back, my advice would be: 
  • Communicate with your children that most families experience changing times and tough times too, whether it’s a family illness, divorce or a financial crisis. 
  • Explore their feelings and talk with them about it. 
  • Make sure they have others to share their feelings with, whether it’s a counselor, an understanding schoolmate, a youth minister or family friend. 
  • Understand that Mom now requires special medical care on her path towards the ultimate goal – regaining health. 
  • Recognize what will change, while also recognizing what will stay the same.  This is very important, as children must know that some things will remain constant. 

 But unlike other families in crisis due to job loss or relocation or behavioral troubles, children of a parent with cancer or other potentially fatal disease face the overriding fear of uncertainty, loss and possible death.  With lifestyle changes happening almost immediately, anxiety about the future can be at the highest level for a child.  In the past, it’s been Mom who took care of life’s TO-DO list and problems.  However, during this time, children can find themselves often caring for Mom, and also feeling as though they are facing their own problems alone.

When it comes to cancer, some things will not, cannot and should not change.  All children, including teenagers and young adults, still need their mothers.  As they say, “A mother’s work is never done” – even when we are sick.  Children should know that love is forever and that somebody will be there to pick up the pieces, if needed. 

I am thankful for my Council of Moms who have helped me out during this time – my own mother (and Dad and Mike too), dear friends, mother’s of schoolmates, work colleagues, church members, neighbors and schoolteachers.  And how many times has Tim stayed at my house while I remained in a chemo-sleep to make sure Anna-Lee returned home safely and on time.  So many great people have substituted for me from time to time, have remained in close contact with my girls, have made sure they had good meals, and have been a loving friend and advisor to them both.  Their love for Allyson and Anna-Lee has meant more than I can ever articulate. 

For a Mom with cancer, there is no better gift than the comforting words and hugs from your children who understand and who also have high hopes for a brighter day.  I’m looking forward to a weekend of love and comfort and hugs with my two girls.  And all three of us remain hopeful for a brighter day, filled with good health. 

With much love to Allyson and Anna-Lee . . . you are soulful and heartfelt and I’m proud of you both! 

And with much appreciation to my Council of Moms - you know who you are.   Thank you for all that you’ve done to help me care for my girls.  I will never forget.  

I experienced a post-surgery upset yesterday when I began vomiting and became covered in a terrible itching rash.  As luck would have it, I was allergic to the pain medication prescribed.  After a quick visit to UAMS, I'm now on new meds and feeling much better, and sleeping well too.  

21 July 2010

A Loss

On Monday I lost both of my breasts.  They’re gone, along with a few lymph nodes too.  In addition to losing my breasts, I’ve also lost the ability to wear several types of clothing items that used to fill my wardrobe.  I’ve also lost the freedom to move my arms, especially my right arm.  And some who have experienced this same disease and surgery talk freely about losing their sense of sexuality, restful sleep, and physical comfort.

I came home today from the hospital, around 10:30 this morning.  Later this afternoon was the first time I took a look at the procedure.  I’ve been afraid, somewhat tentative about seeing the final outcome.  But when I did, I smiled.  Why?  Because on Monday I also lost some very bad breast tissue that cancer had invaded, a cancer that was wreaking havoc on my body.  This cancer forced me to succumb to four months of chemotherapy – the elixir for a cure but that feels akin to a napalm bomb exploding inside. 

On Monday I lost a part of my body, but I also lost some of my fear of recurrence.  This loss has been more than worth it, and tonight I am content and feeling hopeful for a longer life.  

20 July 2010

Post Surgery - Day #2

There is little to report.  Today has been primarily about pain management and sleep – and lots of both.  Hopefully tomorrow I will go home.  We’ll see, and I’ll keep you posted.  Drugs like these are not conducive for doing much writing.  

19 July 2010

This will go down in my personal history as the day I don’t remember much. 

I’ve been told that it’s been a good day. 



Hi, this is Georgia, Stacy’s mom.  She cannot stay awake long enough to finish this post.  She has been “in and out” all day, mostly “out.”

Here is what I know:

     She lost very little blood.
     Her vital signs remained good throughout.
     The pathology test will not be back for a week.
     She will have radiation once she heals.
  .  She has a morphine pump, which someone called “delicious.”
     She is very comfortable.

She is on her way to healing.  It is not an easy road, but it is one she has been down before.

We all appreciate so very much your calls of concern, love, your many acts of kindness, food and more food, and the unbelievable faithfulness during these many months.  I am amazed at the outpouring of love and prayers that
have come our way.

You have blessed us forever.

18 July 2010

‘Twas The Night Before Surgery . . .

What a weekend!   Tim had read a story in this week’s Arkansas Times about the south Little Rock taco trucks - mobile taquerias found off the streets in parking lots, with Mexican fare made right before your eyes.  It’s a real kick, a new twist on a dinner date.

Saturday began with a trip to Petit Jean Mountain to visit our friend Gerry and for the Arkansas Bountiful Festival, a celebration of Arkansas’ natural agricultural resources.  The highlight was the tomato tasting.  For those who worship the Arkansas tomato, this is the time to discover what type is really your favorite. We then drove down the mountain to the lovely town of Oppelo to enjoy our favorite cheeseburger at the Fina gas station.  Tim honestly believes that each burger takes 2 to 3 years off your life.  What we had not noticed before in this lovely little store is the tanning bed off a back room.  What more could you ask for – a fill-up of gas, a decadent cheeseburger and a suntan in 15 minutes. The day ended at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner with James Carville as the guest speaker.  WOW!  That’s all I can say.

Sunday was spent at church, hanging out with Anna-Lee, visiting with friends, house chores and dinner at The Red Door.  I don’t think these encounters are accidents – like when you run into your friend Nancy at the restaurant.  Nancy just celebrated her successful mastectomy eleven years ago on July 15.  She was the perfect friend to run into tonight, to give me a real sense of ease.  She is a beautiful woman with a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye – the perfect role model for someone like me.  Thank you Nancy!


Tomorrow is another big day.  It’s been five months since my diagnosis, and on that day I was told this surgery would be in my future.  It’s finally here and this is good. 

I’m confident that all will go well under the direction of the very brilliant Dr. Suzanne Klimberg. With thousands and thousands of women going through this surgery each year, this has unfortunately become a rather routine procedure. 

As for my mental state, I’m doing just fine. Honestly, I feel certain that enduring four months of chemotherapy, with all of its’ many side effects, has been the toughest part of this cancer journey.  Not only is this surgery necessary, I look at it two ways:  (1) surgery is the most expeditious way to rid my body of this very nasty cancer tissue, and (2) this is hopefully my ticket to no more chemotherapy. 

If you say a prayer in the morning, please ask God to give medical researchers the wisdom to find a cure for cancer, to heal us all.  I continue to be hopeful that one day soon we will witness the cure for cancer.  What a glorious day that will be. 

16 July 2010

Surviving Cancer

Survive: To remain alive or in existence; to carry on despite hardships or trauma; to persevere.

Survivor: One who lives through affliction; one who outlives another.

In June, when Allyson and Jeff were setting up their Race for the Cure team in St. Louis, Allyson visited the race headquarters to pick up the t-shirts.  As most know, the Komen Race has two t-shirts – one for race participants, and a special shirt for survivors.  Allyson had ordered a t-shirt for me.  The volunteer asked, “Is your mother a survivor?”  Allyson told her not yet, that I was in the middle of chemotherapy and still fighting cancer.  The volunteer replied, “Well that makes her a survivor.”  I think my daughter was happy to hear that term. 

In the cancer community, “survivor” means someone who has received the diagnosis of a potentially fatal form of cancer and is therefore forced to face his or her own mortality.  To be a bit clearer, a cancer patient is defined as a survivor at the time of diagnosis, and remains a survivor until the end of life, no matter what the cause. 

There is far from universal agreement about the term “cancer survivor” – especially by those who have experienced the cancer themselves.  Some object to it, saying they are cured. Others say they are living with cancer. And still others prefer to put cancer behind them, and argue that being called a cancer survivor stigmatizes them. However, no alternative term has emerged, meaning the term “cancer survivor” seems here to stay.

The phrase “survivor” was actually coined in 1985 by Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan in an essay entitled, “The Seasons of Survival: Reflections of a Physician with Cancer.”  This essay was written ten years after the young physician’s own diagnosis with a deadly malignancy. Following the diagnosis he wrote,

“I was, in fact, surviving, struggling physically and mentally with the cancer, the therapy, and the large-scale disruption of my life. Survival, however, was not one condition, but many. It was desperate days of nausea and depression. It was elation at the birth of a daughter in the midst of the treatment. It was the anxiety of waiting for my monthly chest film to be taken and lying awake nights feeling for lymph nodes. … It was survival, an absolutely predictable but ill-defined condition that all cancer patients pass through as they struggle with their illness.” 

In the New England Journal of Medicine, Mullan described what he believed to be the three phases of cancer survivorship, or what he referred to as “the seasons of survival.”  They are (1) acute survivorship (diagnosis and treatment), (2) extended survivorship (post-treatment), and (3) permanent survivorship (long-term survivorship). 

In 2009, Dr. Kenneth Miller, director of the Lance Armstrong Foundation Cancer Survivorship Program, slightly revised Mullan’s definition of the seasons and expanded on the definition by adding another season that follows acute survivorship:

Transitional survivorship:  
The difficult time when celebration is blended with 
worry and loss as a patient pulls away from the treatment team. 

While all of these definitions make sense, seem quite logical.  But I’m convinced that survivorship is more of an attitude to keep on living, celebrating each day, finding all that is good around you, surrounding yourself with people who love you and help create a magic kingdom wherever you are.  It’s a determination to keep fighting, to remain focused on the treatment plan ahead, BUT mixing it all up with a good dose of fun people, life experiences and special moments. 

With surgery on Monday, I plan on spending this weekend living with reckless abandon, as they say.  I’ll ask Tim to drive me to Oppelo, AR, and maybe meet my friend Gerry for one of those luscious cheeseburgers at the Fina gas station.  Maybe I’ll get out a hairbrush (they make great microphones) and sing loudly to Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light (where are you Kim?), or Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (Kate-are you around?).  Or as my friend Leslie suggests, maybe get on the phone with an old friend with our high school annuals, and read random signatures back and forth.   I might go shopping at the Mexican food store on Baseline Road and ask Anna-Lee and Tim to help me cook up a delicious dinner of Queso Flameado and Enchiladas Verdes . . . and who knows what else.  Maybe a movie, a fresh squeezed lemonade, or a cruise through the bookstore wearing my new false eyelashes.  What else can I come up with? 

Here are some poignant words from my new Senior Paster, Rev. Britt Skarda, in his weekly reflections:  We mortals have a tendency to approach life as a sequence of events, rather than a series of moments.  We schedule our time, set goals and rush toward personal achievement at breakneck speed.  And then, one day we wake up to find it’s all over.  In a deep and profound sense, each of us is in the process of moving—moving from this life to the ultimate life with God.  So, just for today, forget the sequence of events and, instead, enjoy the moment.

Enjoy your weekend.  Don’t just survive – LIVE EVERY MOMENT!   I’m going to live my weekend as if it were a festival or gala.  No weekend should be ordinary, especially this one.  

15 July 2010

Inflammatory Breast Cancer & Radiation Therapy - The Post Surgery Game Plan

 I haven’t talked much about it since Tuesday, but I received more news.  The post-surgery game plan will be radiation therapy.  Oh well, the journey continues . . .

Inflammatory Breast Cancer has a very high chance of recurrence.   In fact, with the combined efforts of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy and hormonal therapy, these treatments have resulted in approximately 30% of patients surviving more than 5 years without a cancer recurrence.  Not the most promising odds, but I’ve proven to myself that I can beat the odds, and I plan on doing it again. 

I don’t know much about radiation therapy except that it can cure.  And that’s all I need to know right now.  And I certainly know many great people who work at CARTI (Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute) and I’m confident they will care for me well, just as they do all of their patients.  

Today, I’m going to be a broken record about Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  This will be my regular reminder about this nasty cancer that so few women know about, that sneaks up on us with little warning.  Read this, pay attention, cut and paste it and pass along to your mothers, sisters and friends. 

There is more than one kind of breast cancer.
  • You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.  Inflammatory Breast Cancer usually grows in nests or sheets, rather than as a confined, solid tumor and therefore can be diffuse throughout the breast with no palpable mass.
  • Typical symptoms of IBC include breast swelling, itching, warm to the touch, change in color of the breast (pink or red), nipple discharge or retraction, and breast pain (from a constant ache to stabbing pains). 
  • Because the symptoms are similar to mastitis, a breast infection, doctors will oftentimes prescribe antibiotics. If a response to antibiotics is not apparent after a week, a biopsy should be performed.
  • IBC is the most aggressive and accelerating type of breast cancer.  Because it has usually invaded the lymphatic system before diagnosis, IBC is typically diagnosed as Stage III breast cancer.  Unfortunately, it has often also metastasized to other areas, leading to a Stage IV cancer.  (There is no Stage V!). 
  • Because Inflammatory Breast Cancer makes up only 1% of breast cancers, get your annual mammogram.  Mammograms are still a good way to detect the other breast cancers.  But if you experience any of the signs or symptoms listed above, make an appointment with your doctor immediately!
  • Again, you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.


I’ve always heard that what goes around, comes around.  In this instance, thank goodness!  

One of the proudest accomplishments in my public affairs career was the 1997 passage of the Arkansas Breast Cancer Act, which created Arkansas BreastCare.  This is a statewide program that provides much needed funds for low-income women to have mammography services, and diagnostic & treatment services when necessary.  Today over 150,000 free mammograms have been performed with almost 2,000 positive breast cancers diagnosed.  Hopefully most of these women are now survivors.  In addition, it has raised millions of dollars for breast cancer research at UAMS, benefiting breast cancer patients outside of Arkansas too.  UAMS is a premier breast cancer research facility, recognized by the Susan G. Komen Foundation with several national research grants.   

This past December I was proud to chair the committee that sought sponsorships for the annual CARTI Festival of Trees Gala.  Last year's Gala was a beautiful event honoring my dear friend, First Lady Ginger Beebe.  I learned much about the great work of CARTI and the positive outcomes for their patients.  Did you know that CARTI is one of only a handful of non-profit radiation treatment facilities in the nation, providing radiation treatment to all patients referred without regard for their ability to pay?  Unbelievable!  In addition, I was fortunate to work closely with some of their lovely and very competent staff.  Who knew that in the next year I would become a patient?  Lucky for me, I know I’ll be in good hands.  

13 July 2010

Boobies, TaTas, Hooters – or Life

Today was another appointment at UAMS, the pre-op meeting with my surgeon, Dr. Suzanne Klimberg.  I’m convinced that almost anyone in Arkansas who keeps up on life knows the brilliant reputation of my surgeon.  I’ve known her for fifteen years as she raised the money to hire me to pass the Arkansas Breast Cancer Act in the mid-1990s.  I’ve been one of her fans since that time, and let’s hope she thinks half as much of me as she’ll be the one holding the knife on Monday.  Seriously, as I told her today, when I received the February phone call with my breast cancer diagnosis, I called my mother first, then Dr. Klimberg.  She is highly respected inside the breast surgical oncology field and her patients come from far and wide seeking her masterful surgery skills.  I’m just fortunate enough to live here in Little Rock where she practices. 

The pre-op meeting was what I expected – information about the surgery itself and what to expect during recuperation – pain control, approved activity, drains, home medication, etc.

It was today with Dr. Klimberg that I made a 180 degree turn around – I think I’m no longer scared of this upcoming surgery. 

This afternoon, I thought about my relationship with my boobs, and what is it that makes most women terribly terrified of this surgery.  What is it about the relationship we have with this part of our body?  What’s it all about?  Quite honestly, I’ve never been real attached to my breasts.  In fact, if someone were to give me the choice of keeping my TaTas or my eyelashes, it would definitely be a favorable vote for the eyelashes.  I really do miss my eyelashes right now! 

Reflecting on my teenage years, I quickly remembered middle school and a real creep of a boy in math class that used to make fun of my slow progress in the area of female maturity.  Yes, he was a real jerk whose terrible self can still haunt me from time to time, only because I can remember few people as horrible as he was.  (I sometimes wonder what kind of life he lives today – not that I’m hoping for anything but the best for he and his lovely family . . . HAHAHA!)  While some of the other girls in my grade were already sporting B- and C-cup bras, I was honestly wearing a training bra that I didn’t particularly need.  I’m certain my mother bought it for me just to meke me feel like the rest of the girls. 

Around that same time, my father had a friend who was a terrible jokester.  And today he is actually a good friend of mine, a colleague in the communications industry.  But during this time in my life he would say to me, “Ah Stacy, you’re a pirate’s dream, a sunken chest.” 

My mother had a small-chested friend who obviously felt a kinship to me, even during my young teenage years.  How could I forget the night she informed me that SHE was the President, and she was making me the Vice President of IBTC – the Itty Bitty Titty Committee?  I would have been horrified if not for the fact that I loved Miss Ila so very much. 

So goes the beginning of my relationship with my boobies.  Not so good, and it never got much better.  Nobody has ever confused me with Anna Nicole Smith or Dolly Parton.  

It was today, after many long weeks of grappling with the emotional side of this surgery, that I came to grips with the fact that I have never been loved or admired or held in high esteem because of the size of my chest.  In fact, it’s been quite the opposite.  Hopefully, for those who love me, ours has been an affair of friendship and laughter, carpools and mother-daughter adventures, political campaigns, antique road trips, cooking parties in my kitchen, out-of-the-park PR programs, and a passion to bring great education to all children. 

After Monday, my body may be different, but today I realized that it’s all going to be okay.  Let Boobies be bygones. Tata to the TaTas.  I’m feeling pretty darn good that I'm going to LIVE, and all the rest about life will be the same.  Here’s to LIFE, and I love it!  

12 July 2010

Swim Out To Your Ship - Quick!

"Don't wait for your ship to come in; instead, swim out to it."

This was the quote on last Tuesday’s CJRW daily bulletin.  The ever-brilliant Sandy makes sure that at the end of my company’s electronic bulletin, there is something inspiring or informative to help begin the day with the right attitude.  Tuesday’s quote was especially meaningful as Monday night my cousin Lesli from San Antonio called by phone to visit.  Our conversation ended up being one of those very deep discussions about who is it that gets credit for my healing – is it my medical team or God?  Or, as this discussion went, “or is it both?” 

Cousin Leslie reminded me of a story in faith that goes something like this . . .

It had been raining for days and days, and a terrible flood had come over the land. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house to avoid the floodwaters, faithfully praying to God to save him.

As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord, the Lord will save me.” So the man in the rowboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. “Climb in!” shouted a man in the boat. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me.” So the man in the speedboat went away. The man on the roof prayed even harder, knowing that God would save him.

The waters continued to rise. A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord, the Lord will save me.” So the helicopter went away. The man on the roof prayed again for God to save him, steadfast in his faith.

The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned.

Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to God. “Heavenly Father,” he said, “I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?” God gave him a puzzled look, and replied “I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect than that?

This story is one for great discussion. 

When we ask God for help, what is it that we are looking for?   Is it a burning bush or the parting of the river?  Is it our own personal cure, or is it strength and inner peace for whatever the future may hold?  Lesli and I talked about the need to accept His care in whatever form He sends our way –even if it’s two boats and a helicopter, or a team of brilliant doctors to care for all things medical about this nasty cancer.  Does God work through human gifts, like brilliant physicians?  In my opinion, ABSOLUTELY!  He works through all of us as we reach out to those in need.    

If we believe that God is in all things, we can understand that He can send us many avenues for spiritual growth too – such as new opportunities to deepen our faith, ministers and spiritual advisors who guide our hearts and souls, and loving family and friends who keep our spirits high and full of hope.  I’ve read the works of one woman who describes this cast of characters as “Earth Angels” – gifts from God that appear to us through fellow humans, especially when we need them the most.  I for one have been incredibly blessed by countless Earth Angels and will be forever grateful to them, and to God for sending them my way. 

I am definitely not an expert theologian.  But a few lessons I have learned along this journey:
·      Life is full of surprises - some good, some not so good. But each unexpected event that comes our way is actually a divine opportunity.
·      God does not will us with tragic life situations.  Instead, this is a part of life.  It is God’s Will for us to understand the intersection of faith and life, and then use challenging life circumstances as a way to seek His help and deepen our faith.
·      God’s greatest present to us is His presence.  The greatest gift we can give to ourselves is to listen and be still long enough so that we know what to do with it. 
·      God promises to help us through troubled times, but we must open our minds to ALL of the opportunities that come before us. 


Today I learned that a dear friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  And tomorrow another friend will visit doctors at the Mayo Clinic seeking their medical expertise for his own rare form of cancer.  Is this an epidemic?  Tonight and tomorrow I will pray that both of my friends will soon find their own ship to get to the other side.  And I will continue to pray that one day there will be a cure for this terrible disease we call cancer.   

Web Statistics