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Through the Shite storm

This is the post excerpt.

April of 2015 was a month that changed my life forever. It catapulted me into a year of dealing with lumpectomies, biopsies, chemo, Tamoxifen, forced early menopause, oh…and finally a double mastectomy with reconstruction. All of which sucked the big one. But….as Celtic warrior chicks do….I kicked arse and took names. Or something along those lines. I had my “boo hoo” days along the way….you know….the days where you are curled up in a fetal position crying for your Mammy. Ya….those days really sucked. But….I pulled me socks up, and vowed not to live in my “boo hoo” days, and instead to figure out a way to make this shite storm work for me.

And I did. Somehow, somewhere inside me, I figured out that I had a way with words, (although the Sisters of No Mercy told me I was complete shite at writing in school) and how I described the experience/challenges I was going through resonated with people. I started posting on Facebook, and people really responded to what I was saying. In fact that’s the reason I’m starting this blog…..because of those said responses.

Now, I haven’t got a bloody clue how to write a blog…..but I’m willing to give it a try. Maybe no one will read it. And if they do, they might think it lacking….but I think it’s going to be a way forward for me. A way to heal, grow, learn, and possibly guide others sailing through their own shite storm.

Bare with me tribe. These are uncharted waters for me. The things I can guarantee with this blog attempt are honesty, humor, some swear words (but with an Irish twist), a fair amount of shenanigans….and a wee bit of malarkey thrown in.

I will be heading out on a trip of a lifetime in a week. Australia and New Zealand here I come. And along the way, I will be meeting with women in each country that I follow on social media. Women who are either surviving breast cancer themselves, or are working to help heal and rehab those of us who have gone through treatment for cancer. In a way, I’d like to think of myself as an Ambassador……of Boob Cancer. Connecting women all over the world who have gone through what we have gone through. Why reinvent the wheel ladies….instead lets learn from our sisters in arms (or Boobs), and lets make our tribe bigger and better. Ps….men are welcome too! One percent of males get breast cancer….so dudes….check your pecs!!!

So strap on your life jackets tribe. We are heading out on a journey of discovery….and again…..with some shenanigans and a wee bit of malarkey.

 

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Dear Boobs,

Dear Boobs,

It’s been four years since you’ve been gone !!! Four. Fecking. Years!! 
They say time flies when you are having fun…..or NOT!
Personally, I think that time just flies. I’m flabbergasted that it’s actually that long ago, because so often, it feels like it was just yesterday. 
Only the other day, I was trying on an outfit for the upcoming Christmas Poinsettia Ball, and when it came to zipping up the bodice…..Thelma and Louise were having NOTHING to do with that!! There was no budging them. Now….it it were you, my original boobs, I could possibly has smooshed and shoved, and zipped up that fecker. But no go. 
T & L don’t really do that sort of thing. There’s only a small amount of smoosh, and very little shoving leeway with these two. Don’t get me wrong…..Thelma and Louise are pretty, and somewhat perky for an almost 52 year old. 
But they are not you….my dear departed boobs. 
So…..I had to send that outfit back, get a bigger one, have it altered, and chalk this up to another T & L experience. In the scheme of things…..it’s not bad, just another subtle reminder of how my body has changed since being diagnosed with breast cancer. 
But then again, those reminders happen daily, not just with T & L, but with the aches and pains, the power surges and hot flashes, and the constant (but thankfully more distant) fear of recurrence, or worse….metastasis. 
But my dearest boobs….life goes on. And despite the shite storm that blew my way four and a half years ago, my life has NEVER been better. 
Someone I know, recently told me, that when he saw me for the first time in over a year…..he thought to himself…DAMN. She looks good. She must be “getting some”!  Yes….he used those EXACT words. 
Now….Thelma and Louise have YET to go on their maiden voyage in that respect. They (and I ) are most certainly NOT getting “some”. More’s the pity. 
But, after I stopped laughing out loud, I explained to this person, that the “glow” he was seeing was NOT generated from any “nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more”….it was the glow of HAPPINESS coming from within ME. 
Apart from traveling and hanging with THE best friends and family a woman could ask for, Thelma, Louise and I have done some WICKED cool things since I last wrote you. We have all gone to Washington DC, and have spoken to our Political Representatives about Survivorship legislation on Capitol Hill. Not bad for an Irish immigrant who loathes politics as a norm. I am grateful to the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), for giving me that opportunity, and for all the amazing work that they do. I am very honored to be part of their Cancer Policy and Advocacy Team (CPAT). And I am blessed by the people I met on there. People who I have formed a life long bond with. 
We have also been part of some AMAZING fundraising events…..Freddie and Dennis’s Excellent Adventurers, which helped raise money to give bikes to kids whose families could not afford them. To see the look on those children’s faces when they received their new bikes, was absolutely priceless. Lori, Dennis, Freddie and friends did an amazing job organizing this ride. 
We raised money and biked a shite load of miles for cancer charities here in the state of Maine (only getting slightly lost 2 times). 
 ~Champion the Cure Challenge, where Team Pink Stanley raised over $12,000 for research into cancer in our local area. We are lucky to have amazing sponsors (Stanley Subaru & News Center Maine to name a few),and a team dedicated to helping fight cancer.  
~The Beth C Wright Cancer Resource Centers Ride for Life, to help provide services to cancer patients and their families in Hancock and Washington counties.  
~And of course, the Dempsey Challenge, where Brooke (my Breastie and cohort in shenanigans), walked and biked, and got our pictures taken with the man himself  (Patrick), in our pink tutu’s none the less. Don’t panic….we had other clothes on too…….but the tutu’s definitely stood out. We hung with a crew of unbelievably kind and giving people, and funnier than shite!!! Including Patrick’s two amazing sisters, who I am giddy to say, I now consider my friends. 
We also got to be part of a badass warrior retreat in Kennebunkport ME at the end of October. Warrior Revolution was put together by a tribe of entrepreneurial women.  Leah and Sarah from SaltyGirl Beauty, Cynthia from Violets are Blue Skin Care, Amanda from Prim and Propah Blog and PR extraordinaire, and the one and ONLY, Melissa from Instagram’s Cancer Fashionista (who is now my new BFF). The information/speakers were brilliant, but THE most amazing part of the weekend, were the connections we all made. Thelma & Louise even made a guest appearance….in the middle of the cocktail party. Yup….Cora was up to her shenanigans AGAIN, and flashed her tats for two ladies who were considering getting mastectomy tattoos. The poor young male waiter has probably not recovered from it yet, and is most likely scared for life. LMArseO!! 
And last, but not least, we got to be part of the 13th Annual DownEast Living with Cancer Conference, organized by the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center in Ellsworth Maine. At this conference, I wore two hats. One, was as a Physical Therapist Assistant and part of a team providing information on the Oncology Rehab and Lymphedema Program’s offered through the hospital I work for, Northern Light Maine Coast. 
The other, was as a woman surviving breast cancer. Both were very glad to be a part of that day. From all the sponsors/participants with tables displaying information about services, to the excellent speakers that asked us to participate and be active in the day, and in our cancer journey. Barb Cookson, Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, and Dr. Ralph Moss provided us with tools and resources to navigate our survivorship. 
So all in all my dearest Boobs…..it’s been a brilliant year. Thelma and Louise continue to do their best to fill your space, and although they will never be “you”….I’m still happy with the decision to have made them part of me life. 
I will leave you with a couple of quotes (big surprise there eh!);

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”


Arthur Schopenhauer

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”


John Green


The loss of you, while devastating, revealed ME. The grief allowed me to focus on who I really was. I was not the sum of you, my Boobs, OR of my long red hair. Those things were not what made me beautiful, or strong. THAT was revealed in the way I faced the grief head on, and rewrote my own story. Which, if the Gods allow, I will continue to do for a LONG time to come. 
So dearest Boobs, here’s to another year.
 To be continued…..

A lesson for Memorial Day…..

“On this day, take time to remember those who have fallen. But on every day after, do more; put the freedoms they died for to greater and nobler uses.”

Richelle E. Goodrich

Last night was an illuminating one for me on different levels. I learned some things about myself that I am not very proud of, and from this day forth will be rectifying. For the past six years, I have not fully put those freedoms that people have died for to greater and nobler causes. Not in the greater sense of those words.

I believe I am a good person; in many ways a contributing citizen of the country I have chosen to be a part of. But I’ve fallen short on one of the more important aspects of being an American Citizen. Politics and the duty to cast an informed vote. For the past six years, I have NOT chosen to become informed on ANYTHING involving politics. I run in the opposite direction of politically charged conversations. I don’t watch the news, or read about what’s going on in government here OR overseas. I’ve shut myself off to it. And I’m here to apologize, and say that I was wrong.

I have hidden behind the excuse that my ex husband belittled me because of my political choices (which he did repeatedly), and made THAT the reason I don’t become involved. But last night taught me a valuable lesson. It was on me, NOT him, to learn and become informed about the issues, so that I COULD be involved in a discussion KNOWING the facts, as opposed to coming at it from just my emotion…..which let’s face it…..I’m Irish and FULL of fecking emotion!!! He was who he was, and it was on me to face that situation differently. And I didn’t.

Last nights conversation,instigated by ME btw, for some unknown bloody reason…..showed me my weaknesses. And I do not like to see those. AT ALL!!! But….the universe sometimes gives you what you need, even if it’s uncomfortable to face. And you can either bolt (like I almost did), or you can stay and face your fear. It helped to have a calm individual on the other side of the conversation, to help peel you off the ceiling. And that was a good lesson to learn. Not every man/person will think “less of you”, if you don’t see eye to eye with them. If you respect their views/opinions, then they will respect yours.

But the biggest lesson I learned from this situation, was that I need to respect MY opinions. I need to know the facts behind which I base my opinion on, and be able to articulate those is a respectful and calm manner. I am an intelligent woman, and I need to use that intelligence to become a more informed citizen.

And to the person on the receiving end of my Irish temper last night…..I say two things. Firstly….I am sorry for my behavior. It was not me finest moment. And secondly, THANK YOU. Thank you for making me feel safe enough to not run screaming from the building, and for helping me to become more aware of things that I now know I need to change. There is always a chance to learn in every situation, and last night was a very teachable moment. You did well, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn from it. We may never see eye to eye on the different issues, but it was a blessing to finally see that it is ok to not agree on everything. And as long as there is respect, conversations about politics do NOT have to scare the shite out of me.

So from this Memorial Day on, I will pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and embrace our politics, so that I can be part of the conversation. Because let’s face it, it’s one VERY important conversation. And it’s what so many people died for, in order for me to have the right to be part of this democratic process.

A Work of Art, Not a Work of Cancer

A Work of Art, Not a Work of Cancer
— Read on https://www.curetoday.com/share-your-story/a-work-of-art-not-a-work-of-cancer

So thrilled that CURE TODAY magazine published the article I wrote about my mastectomy tattoo process. And even more amazed that they are plan on featuring it in their print version this Spring. I am hoping it will inspire another woman during her decision making process.

Please share with your friends on Facebook. We all know someone touched by this disease. And share/subscribe to my blog at irishcora.wordpress.com

It is an honest account of my journey through this shite storm……with a wee bit of an Irish flare ☘️🇮🇪

Also…..a HUGE thank you to Danielle DeWald Pease for her before, during and after photos. She has truly captured the essence of me and the journey. I am grateful for you and your friendship.

And an equally HUGE shout out to Katie Dube. I am a changed woman because of her work of art, her careful attention to detail AND me, and her friendship through the process. I felt so very safe in her hands.

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019

“It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.”

Maya Angelou,

It’s fitting that I finally get me arse in gear, and write a blog post on my latest adventure, and that I write it ON International Women’s Day. Especially since my trip to New York Fashion Week was to honor and highlight some pretty bad ass women. Women who had that fire in their eyes, a definite swing in their waists, and joy ( as well as determination) is their feet as they walked the runway.

You see, what makes this even more poignant, is that every woman on that runway had Stage IV Breast Cancer. Women from all over the States, Canada, and possibly further away. Women from the age of 24 and up. Think about that tribe. TWENTY FOUR years old and up. STAGE IV…..that’s as high as Breast cancer staging goes!

These women are deserving of a shout out on International Women’s Day! As are all women. But this post will focus on those women that I have chosen to surround myself with, to help me get through my shite storm called Breast Cancer. These women are both in my personal life, AND my social media life. And what was unbelievably cool, was that at fashion week, those two worlds collided in the most wonderful experience ever.

The first woman I want to give a shout out to is my Miss July, my partner in crime for some of my most recent shenanigans (NYFW included). Brooke Ismail has become one of my closest friends. My “Breastie”. Before I even met her in person, she had inspired me, and had given me hope at a time when I was struggling with fear, while sitting in my Plastic Surgeons office during one of my tissue expander fill days. My “blow up doll” days as I liked to call them. But don’t let me fool you…..behind the humor that I added to help me get through my journey, there was a frightened girl. Not knowing how I would look post reconstruction. UNTIL I saw Miss July in a calendar of survivors, on the wall of my Doctors office. Her photo and story help calm my fears, and give me hope. She continues to inspire me……as well as make me laugh my arse off constantly. ESPECIALLY when we end up taking a wrong turn at a charity bike ride, and riding FIFTY miles, instead of the 25 we had signed up for. I look forward to many more shenanigans with this inspirational woman.

The other women are too numerous to count. They are the women who have been my closest friends for decades, as well as those I have met through the storm. Who have stood by me through 2 divorces, the death of 4 of my immediate family members, as well as the diagnosis that has changed me forever. Chandra, Stephanie, Tamara, Angi, Therese, Carol, Barbara, Jean, Lisa, Sue, Sharon Rose, all the ladies involved in The Pink Runway Project, the ladies who come to the Open Arms Support Group, my FaceBook family…….and the list goes on and on. You are my tribe. And I am forever grateful for the support and love you have shown me over these many years.

Along with those women who have “circled the wagons” around me in my personal life, are the supportive women of the online Breast Cancer Community. Women like Dana, Tina, Emily, Karen, Laura, MacKenzie, Bianca, Marianne…..who have designed lingerie, written books, blog about their stories and experiences through breast cancer, produce art and music to help soothe our weary souls along the way….all to inspire others to persevere and navigate through their own “shite” storms. Some of these ladies I got to meet and hug in person at NYFW. I felt truly blessed to have found them online, and honored to have met them in at the show and after party. To have looked in their eyes when I told them how much THEY had helped ME.

“Tribes are not to be trifled with. Your ability to thrive depends on the tribe.”

Scott Perry,

I have come to understand and fully appreciate that I am a “Surthriver” through this diagnosis, because of the tribe of women (and men, but it’s International WOMENS Day, not Men’s Day 🤷‍♀️), I have been fortunate enough to surround myself with.

I would wish the same support for any woman reading this. Let’s celebrate each other. Let’s have each other’s back. And always know, I am a card carrying member of YOUR tribe.

Happy International Women’s Day 2019

Learning my way around loneliness….

“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Loneliness can be defined as “sadness because one has no friends or company.” Not sure that that is completely correct in my case. I have LOTS of friends (a whole tribe in fact), and can be in someone’s company at the drop of a hat, or a quick text at least.

For me, the loneliness is the lack of a partner in crime, a companion (of the opposite sex, although….beggars can’t be choosers 🤷‍♀️😉😂), a man to share the joys and the challenges of life with, a lover. I joke about joining a “nunnery”, or that I’m a “born again virgin”…..but the fact of the matter is, I don’t want to do or be either of these things. After 5 1/2 years of being divorced, I’m shocked that I’m still single. Now I know that at least 2 of those years, I was a wee bit busy kicking cancers arse to even CONSIDER dating…….but still. FIVE fecking years 🤦‍♀️. I may need remedial help with this dating thing, because clearly, I SUCK at it.

Sure….maybe thats cocky of me. Who the feck am I to think that I deserve the happiness one feels when they are part of a healthy union. The other half of…..whatever that saying is. I don’t need a man to “complete” me. I’m already pretty damn complete, and in all honesty, it’s no one else’s job to make us happy or complete. That comes down to us. Ourselves. Me.

So we’ve established that I’m mostly happy and pretty damn complete….but those two don’t negate feeling lonely at times. Not always. Not everyday. Just at times. And….today is one of those times. And today, “I’m sitting with it” I’m learning my “way around it”, because it IS a part of the human experience. Along with joy. Along with happiness. And with sadness. We are not one without the other. We can’t know happiness without having experienced sadness. We can’t feel complete, without having known what loneliness felt like. I would not ever want to be shielded from the challenges that have come my way, because it is the way in which I’ve faced those, that have shaped me in to the person I am today.

A person deserving of a man who will be able to scale the walls I’ve built up around me in a single bound!! Ok….maybe not a single bound….but he WILL have to have some serious climbing skills. A man, who is complete within himself and doesn’t think that it’s MY job to make him happy. And I will promise not to make him a “scratching post” for my own unfulfilled yearnings…….not sure WHAT they are, although I have a few “nudge nudge, wink wink” yearnings that he MAY be ok with. Just saying 🤷‍♀️. I know…..I said that out loud didn’t I. LMArseO. 😳🤦‍♀️😂

So….I’ve gotten it off my chest. I’ve processed it by taking a “time out” from my social life, and writing it down. I’ve made a “map of it”. Ironically…I do better at dealing with loneliness (or any emotional challenge) ALONE. So…..don’t feel like you have to fix me my tribe (although I love you for wanting to), because there is nothing TO fix. It is what it is. And hopefully, not too far in the future, my sweetie will scale the wall, sweep me off me feet (while protecting his back and using good posture…..always the PTA in me 🤷‍♀️), and we will live out the rest of our days, loving each other through the good times, the bad times and the gloriously mundane times in between. Please God. Fingers crossed. Touch or knock or whatever you do on wood. 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️

“A season of loneliness and isolation is when the caterpillar gets its wings. Remember that next time you feel alone.”

Mandy Hale

Here’s to getting my wings……

Yup…..it’s that time of year again!

New Years Eve ! A night when all I see on social media, are people’s “reflections” on the year that we are leaving, and their “resolutions” for the one that lies ahead. And I feel like such a slacker, because I haven’t reflected OR resolved to do anything. So I guess I’d better get me arse in gear, and do some serious contemplation of my life over the last year. And possibly set some goals for 2019 while I’m at it.

BIG reflections include;

Meeting my deceased brothers daughter, my niece Hayley, in Brisbane Australia at the beginning of the year. THAT was the highlight of my trip, and of my year. Turning the big 50 in New Zealand with my recently discovered cousins (because of my brother Sean’s research in to our family tree…thank you Sean), was also such a blessing.

And spending 3 weeks with said brother here in Maine in September was absolutely brilliant.

Starting my blog, and really feeling the benefit of writing down my thoughts, not just for myself, but for the people whom my words have seemed to strike a cord, has been amazing.

Participating in Champion the Cure Challenge, Beth C. Wright Ride for Life, and The Dempsey Challenge, to raise awareness, money for research and services for people affected by cancer. Advocating has been even more prevalent in my life this year, and has helped me heal and grow as a person. I have been involved in support groups, both online and in real time, and have felt the healing that happens with those connections.

Completing my mastectomy scar coverup tattoos, and every morning waking up to see a work of art, NOT a work of cancer. And getting to share my experience on News Center Maine and social media to help inspire and educate others about the alternative options that are out there to help you feel whole again after a double mastectomy.

Being published in Coping with Cancer Magazine, in The Dear Boobs Project book, writhing for various online blogs and websites for breast cancer survivors, and recording my first Pod Cast to be aired in January. Never would I have expected my life to take this path, into writing, being on TV, speaking to groups. But I am doing what I am supposed to do. I have found my purpose.

And last, but certainly not least, are the connections with the people I have met at the different challenges, on the online breast cancer community sites, and in my travels as #boobambassador. These connections are what make the story of my life.

2018 has been a very good year. I am grateful for the chance to have lived it to the fullest. And I resolve to do the same in 2019.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

T.S Elliot