College Pick-Up

IMG_1637The Real Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

It was nearly nine months ago that we drove away and left our soon to be 18-year-old daughter at college. Numb from the Herculean task of packing almost the entire contents of her childhood room (not recommended) into our car and then unfurling it into a dorm room with a roommate with the same idea it’s hard to believe we will be retrieving her shortly. At the time, I was certain I was suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder from the college process, the bells and whistles of senior year and college shopping to feel anything but exhaustion. Yet, sadness did cast over me, back at home, when entering her uncluttered room and setting the table for three. My dog Harry lobbied for the spot but I wasn’t that insane yet.

Somehow the year droned on, busy with life, work, writing, my husband, son and assorted pets. I never really had that big moment, except the first time I entered her room after she left and it was likely the lack of stuff that did it to me. I was really joyful, happy to shed the college process nightmare and see how life would unfold for her. Like most moms and daughters we are close but we did a lot of bickering senior year, the pressure of applying to college, finalizing an art portfolio and squeezing her entire life into our Acadia for the drop-off caused friction. I was happy to be Mom again and not stage manager which is what I felt like.

Now we will be on our way to pick her up. She’s still looking for a summer job and she’s crossing her fingers. It’s not the big college internship but it’s a job. For me, I’m going to take a deep breath and have her lead the way and make peace with her stuff (truthfully, I’m terrified of the invasion). I’m not sure what I will be dealing with next. I do hope she’s different but not too different. I know she does laundry, makes her own appointments and can solve problems herself. So, I’m not offering laundry service or stepping into those arenas. It will be an adjustment for her as well. She will miss her friends from school but get reacquainted with her high school friends. It’s going to get some taking used to for both of us but I’m glad she will be home for the summer. I need a little more time to get used to the fact that one day all that stuff will be gone as she strikes out on her own.

Prom: Tiaras & Treachery?

5358704690_13b0ac0fc1_mI’m reposting this tongue-in-cheek essay about the prom with a serious note to parents to encourage your graduating senior to be kind and inclusive, avoid the “prama,” help out friends who may need dates and be careful!

Somewhere between tuxedos and tiaras, the prom has become a cesspool of treachery. Who’s to blame for the veiled drama this evening of pomp and circumstance delivers? Sorry to say that most of it is orchestrated primarily by girls, some not all, who are determined to make prom the night of their lives brandishing a “take no prisoners” attitude.

Perhaps Disney is to blame for some of this throwback sensibility by feeding, these girls didn’t grow up with the “Frozen” anthem, a steady diet of fantasy by way of a handsome Prince saving the day. The prerequisite ball, adoring fans and the final kiss have been imbedded in the minds of, otherwise intelligent, girls on the cusp of college and many wonderful things. Reality TV may also be to blame by parading female contestants vying for the same man via the “Bachelor”, it so makes me pine for The Dating Game. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have lowered the bar so low there is no bar, except everywhere on that show. Lest we compare the “Rose Ceremony” to the “Promposal” – don’t get me started.

Speaking of entertainment, prom is rife with conundrums such as finding the “right date” and then “group.” The group, for those not versed in prom vernacular, are candidates who go through a sorting process and form a cohesive unit who then proceed to carry on the festivities after the prom. That’s if you’re not kicked out of your group before the shining event. The post festivities include another party, because the prom in and of itself, does not deliver enough grief. The after party carries even more import than the prom itself and must include some sort of regal transportation for 50, magic carpets excluded, and a fantasy castle by way of a Hampton’s house.

For the “right date” rules of friendship do not apply, which means that you can lose a best friend since middle school for the right to nail a prince. All of this mishap and maneuvering can obliterate what you spent your high school years building like friendship and a sense of community. Yet, it’s so worth it in the end as you glide across the ballroom snag your shoe on your dress, fall on your date and realize you’ve spent so much time in the restroom that you’ve missed the chariot to the castle and now that you’re face to face with your date you realize you he’s no Prince and from the way he’s looking at you – your Princess days are numbered.

photo credit: <a href=”″>Tiara</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

Still Deciding On College?

My Alma Mater, Fordham University

Decision Day Advice!

It’s been a long year for high school seniors and their parents. The emotion, drama, hype – the hushed conversations while avoiding that question, “So what college is so and so going to?” Take it from someone who’s been there, this too shall pass and in many ways, with the halo of high school over, things get better. I’ve developed a list of considerations before you choose:

  • ‘Dream’ School – Your child is steering the way and they are the only ones who will make their dreams come true. Certain schools will open a few more doors but perseverance, grit, determination and hard work will be the final barometers for success. Rejection at a dream school means dreams can be realized elsewhere.
  • Brand Name – Ever since I vied for those Jordache jeans, I’ve been acutely aware of the allure of the “brand” and the fact those jeans never fit well. An education should not be reduced to the shallow allusion of a “brand.” College is a big business, so shop wisely and don’t shell out your hard earned money for a “name” that may not offer your child their major or the best opportunities. If Harvard comes knocking that’s fine but with 5% acceptance rate the majority of us won’t be wearing Harvard sweatshirts.
  • Major is not a Minor Matter – At this stage of the game, you know if your child will be heading off to major in Neuroscience. Students need to think about what courses they’ve enjoyed and been successful at. There are many resources and career aptitude tests out there that can help chart a course. This could save tons of angst when your child discovers they want to be a Marine Biologist and there is no program at their school. A little homework can provide insight into a potential major and the type of institution they should attend.
  • Curriculum – College is school! I’m sure “senioritis” has hit and their attitude will make you wonder if they realize they are signing up for four more years! I made my daughter review the courses she would take at the schools she was choosing between. Many colleges have core curriculums so a review of those required classes is essential!
  • Waitlisted – Start a “campaign of interest!” Call, send a letter or email with news such as awards or achievements or just let them know you are still interested! Do not take this personally; colleges are overburdened with way too many qualified applicants. Though some schools pull only a few students off the waitlist, without the effort, you’ll never know.
  • Money Matters – With the skyrocketing cost of college, it’s important to consider all offers! Now is the time to call and/or write an appeal.
  • Raise Your Hand – Interested in a special program (such as Art or Music)? Encourage your child to call the department or visit. Some departments need students, this may help advance their application or gain aid.
  • Visit – Get rid of preconceived notions. After a while, info sessions/tours start to blur, visit and get a feel for the students. Ask your child if they can picture themselves at the school.

College is just the beginning of more hard work ahead. Change is imminent. Their decision may be spot on or they may transfer. What won’t change is their drive and ambition. They should seek out the best opportunities tailored to meet their goals.

Sorority Rushing

small_85271515Strokes your ego or kicks you to the curb?

I don’t believe in absolutes, not viewing the world as black and white but weighing different shades of grey I was open to my daughter’s foray into rushing for a sorority. It wasn’t as though I didn’t have an opinion, I wasn’t crazy about it, yet I didn’t have enough ammunition of my own to burn out the fire. I went to a college that was void of  Greek life and if they did I likely wouldn’t have been a part of it. I prefer to make my own friends and they don’t need to be connected to each other. The herd mentality did not seem to appeal to my daughter in high school but freshman year has been going great with good friends who were all rushing.

She shopped for new clothing and was genuinely excited. I listened and suggested some Google searches in case she wanted to delve more. She was beginning to sound like she was repeating the party line when she advised me to “trust the process.” I was proud; she recounted interviews where she shared her love of photography, art major, high school yearbook skills and work experience. I believed the interviewing stage was a worthwhile endeavor. Disappointment started early, after visiting 12 houses she was asked back to six, some of her friends were asked back to nine and some three houses. She felt she had good conversations with two of the houses and had already developed some favorites. The next step she was asked back by two and she texted me letting me know she was dropping stating,“It’s not worth my time unless I love it.” She did not feel either house suited her. Her friends were continuing on in the process. She seemed fine but I could sense she wasn’t. I personally thought that it may not be for her but she went for it and for that I give her credit.

Now the hard part, she began to question the process, “How could they make a judgment about me after a five minute conversation?” The whole “speed dating” mentality started to bring her down. She questioned her looks, her intelligence – the rejection was a blow to the ego. She was the first one of her five close friends to leave, three more would follow. It was hard for her; the school was abuzz with excitement. College was beginning to feel like high school, where impenetrable groups were the norm. While I believe many women do have wonderful experiences as members of a sorority the process indisputably either strokes your ego or kicks you to the curb. How can women do this to each other? Surely, there has to be a better way. She began to see how superficial it all was. Additionally, girls were advised that it was very rare not to be offered a bid which turned out to be untrue as many girls were left without bids.

Her freshman dorm, morphed overnight into a hotbed of drama, whispering, crying, hysteria as some girls experienced their first rejection. Many pondered what they were lacking or did wrong as the process you are supposed to “trust” does not provide feedback.

So this week, the new sorority sisters at her school ran through the streets and dorms celebrating their bid. The celebratory mood overshadowed bruised egos, strained friendships and for some heartbreak.

While all will fall back to place again and those not chosen will find other paths and those who eventually pledge may find happiness, the process should be questioned by all young women. I found this quote from a wonderful article titled, “Why Sorority Recruitment Is Horrible And Needs To Change” written by a woman who breezed through recruitment just to find out when she was on the other side how debasing recruitment can be:

“…why do we have a selection system that forces such incredible women to judge and reject other women almost arbitrarily? Why do organizations based on sisterhood pick their members in a way that destroys the confidence of so many young women? We should be encouraging and welcoming new women, not sorting them based on high school activities and 20-minute conversations, tossing many out along the way. Sorority recruitment has become a rigid, overly-structured, needlessly stressful numbers game. You can’t explain “quota” and what Nationals expects for your chapter to a PNM who can’t understand why, after what she thought was a great conversation, she wasn’t asked back. We say things like, “…really, don’t take it personally–they don’t know you after one conversation,” but none of it matters to a young woman who feels as if she’s been told, “We don’t want you.” Women are still fighting for equal rights and equal pay in this world–the very last thing college women should do is tear down new college women.”

photo credit: <a href=”“>Joe_Focus</a> via <a href=”“>photopin</a> <a href=”“>cc</a>



Watching My Son ‘Go-Go’

IMG_0198Sixteen is a swooping comet of happiness, acceptance, irreverence, doubt, fear, rage and honesty.

There is female dialogue for 16. Parties, glitz and glamour although anyone who has known a 16-year-old girl will attest that sweet is an oxymoron. The age is a struggle for independence, acceptance and poorly applied makeup. What about boys? I’ve recently read some beautiful essays about ages and what they represent and I’ve decided to explore feelings about my son growing up and moving on.

We’ve gone from wide-eyed orbs casting a happy glow to grunts and an occasional smirk. I still see him dipping French fries in pools of ketchup with his friends at his side. He was always jumping, leaping, grabbing for something he thought was too far but not far enough for limbs on springs. The world was intoxicating and waiting for his introspection. His physical abilities were complimented by an imagination caught on fire by words. This was a child who wanted to speak and created his own vocabulary, until the cognitive abilities kicked in. He named items based on function, a ball was called “go-go” thrilling him with how it traveled unfettered and sometimes unstoppable. I remember laughter, starting as young as several months when he watched his sister run around the house, pure joy at the notion of being fluid and free. Every adventure from pogo sticks, riding bikes to drawing with chalk was embraced with gusto. Blowing bubbles on a sunny afternoon, adopting a dog, rescuing a kitten – his eyes danced with freedom and joy.

Until his mind caught up with his body, he was free to dream and roadblocks were nonexistent. As school became more like school, there were flickers of self-doubt, usually dampened by achievement, but still lingered in the air. At times, spears of his peers would reignite doubt, leaving flying embers. Yet, success and praise were his elixir. Art, writing, thinking, learning quickly and the ability to sit and concentrate made him an endeared student. He discovered books and characters and learned about the power of escape. Grade school innocence swooned in my head and clouded my vision for the tsunami ahead.

The first two years of middle school brought the calm before the storm. The smile was still there, going in a boy and leaving for high school not quite a child or a man. Hormones lurked in the shadows, snipers, ready to attack. He met disappointment and injustice head on, little pieces of his innocence chipped away. His smile eclipsed, tucked inside for occasional appearances, replaced by reluctance, doubt and fear frosted with sarcasm. I could see the boy inside, trapped by influences I could neither control nor stop. The world was moving, forging ahead and I want those orbs to look at me again and smile. I wait. Sixteen is a swooping comet of happiness, acceptance, irreverence, doubt, fear, honesty and rage. I’m no longer infallible and he’s found out I never was. This time 16 is slipping away, leaving me with every step from learning to drive, taking the SAT, girls and college ahead. Sixteen doesn’t have time for me. I tell myself he shouldn’t have time for me. I capitulate and hope to see his mouth move in upward sweeps to greet me.

He once told me, “Mommy if you die, I would cry but I can’t cry forever.” There was wisdom at three, the sense to know that life would roll along and picking up the pieces would be necessary for survival. I loved being his epicenter, he would wait for me, when I went out, telling his grandfather that he needed to sit by the window and watch for me. He would worry about me when I was out shopping, while I grabbed moments of solitude and freedom. We have switched places. I worry now, wondering how I can stave off the darkness he will encounter knowing full well he will “go-go” no matter what I do and he’s already on his way.

A Year Without A Christmas Tree

medium_5250149045-1Being grateful for this year’s conifer

He was there to fix the clogged shower, part of owning a house is you get to know the plumber or electrician. Somehow between talking shower heads and the weather he shared his story. His daughter, a drug addict who just delivered a baby would rehabilitate only to spiral back into addiction. He was burned out from years of providing help which only led to disappointment. When he left he said, “I haven’t had a Christmas tree in three years.” His words washed over me, especially the part about the Christmas tree.

It takes effort to put up a Christmas tree, whether artificial or real. A tree is the embodiment of the holiday season for Christians. A shelter for gifts and, though pagan, it serves as a symbol of hope, renewal and celebration. It’s hard to get on that train when you are suffering.

Growing up our family had a year without a Christmas tree. This was the year my mother died and my father declared we wouldn’t have a tree. I held it against him; we were already wrestling with so much loss, and not having a tree set me off on a path of ambivalence about Christmas trees. As fate would have it, I married a man who has to cart home the largest tree in the nursery. Our first year of marriage and pretty much every year thereafter I’ve struggled to fill the tree. I’ve done it all from silk poinsettias to a more sparse look the first years. We’ve now accumulated enough ornaments to trim a large tree. I can now understand my father’s resistance to putting up a tree that year, perhaps he thought it was a symbol of inappropriate celebration or the task was too laborious. The labor part I get, since I’m married we’ve had lots of tree challenged moments like the time we thought the tree was crooked when the stand was defective, we replaced the tree and all its accessories only to find another “leaning tower of tree” or the time we strung lights around a seven foot tree to find we couldn’t plug it in because we were left with the female end. We’ve also had years with “tree blackouts” you know how one light goes out and there goes all the lights or the year the cat found shelter smack center in the middle of the tree and wouldn’t get out.

It’s taken a long time, but our tree has grown into a tradition, well despite the lights, that I look forward to. I treasure childhood ornaments and those that my kids have made through the years. For a long time, I carried that treeless year with me and have learned to appreciate the freedom to celebrate. I’ve learned as life moves on that the unexpected can hit like a ton of bricks but the indefatigable human spirit never ceases to amaze me. All we have to do is read the first few pages of the newspaper to be struck down by despair and we all share heartbreak of some form but somehow there’s always that glimmer of hope, that persists, even when we think it’s not there. So I hope my plumber finds his tree again and I’m going to be more grateful for this year’s conifer, despite what happens to the lights, and what it represents – time with family, faith and enduring hope.

photo credit: <a href=”“>Bruce A Stockwell</a> via <a href=”“>photopin</a> <a href=”“>cc</a>


There Are Many Ways To Say Goodbye


I wrote this June of last year, reposting to honor my father and November/Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month.

Facing a parent with dementia…

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 8 older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease. The incidence and prevalence of this disease is on the rise. As we age, many of us will face this disease with our parents. This piece was written to raise awareness and in tribute to my father.

Until I received a very strange phone call two summers ago, I didn’t realize how many ways there are to say goodbye.

My father was on the line and he wanted to know if I was sitting down because he had great news.

“I just inherited a million dollars,” he exclaimed.

I don’t come from the type of family that bequeaths a million dollars. When he told me his fortune was from a childhood friend he hadn’t spoken to in 70 years my concern rather than his bank account increased.

I soon learned that it is futile to disagree with someone who is suffering from dementia. At 87 years old, my father survived World War II, widowhood with two small girls to raise and most of his old age sans too many bruises all to become master of a strange universe. It was sudden and difficult to come to terms with.

Dead relatives have resurfaced and have invited themselves to Thanksgiving dinner. All kinds of celebrities have become distant relations and I’ve even found myself with a new brother. More heartbreaking is my father’s insistence that my mother, who passed away 38 years ago, is still alive and spends most of her time at the Waldorf Astoria waiting for us. He often queries if we have seen her and becomes upset if we haven’t. Though in his own way, he ponders why he hasn’t seen her.

He was someone who loved to travel and he now travels between two different worlds –  the world that seems to agree with the order of things and the one inhabited by the past lacking order or control. The characters who surface in this new world range from those who’ve left big gaping holes like crater in our hearts to others who just flitted by.

The old world barely exists and the new world doesn’t. After the initial shock and denial, I decide to participate in both worlds not understanding either. Meanwhile in my own world, I’m missing a piece. I have a wonderful story to relay and I think my father would be a great audience and then I pause and remember that it would be too arduous to explain. From a wonderful conversationalist he has become taciturn.

I wonder about loss. Is this a legitimate loss? If it feels real, it must be. If that’s so, his premise is not that far off. I pine for our laughs and for his wry and sardonic quips. His generosity always outpaced what he had but he loved to offer help.

Alternatively, he is at times more satisfied than he’s ever been. The pre-dementia father could be unhappy.

We all have many sides to our personality. Forever changed irrevocably my father is here and gone. Now we travel together, he revels in the past while I yearn for it.

photo credit: <a href=””>Josep Ma. Rosell</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>


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A Midlife View Of The ‘Mommy’ Problem

get-attachment-10.aspxThanks to Heather Havrilesky’s, New York Times article “Our Mommy Problem,” I’ve been jolted to posit my opinion not as an expert or psychologist but as a mother and writer. I’m also at an age where I’ve “been there done that,” having a daughter in college and a high school junior.

Havrilesky states: “Motherhood is no longer viewed as simply a relationship with your children…Motherhood has been elevated…to the realm of lifestyle, an all-encompassing identity with demands and expectations that eclipse everything else in a woman’s life.”

There is a “Mommy” problem out there perpetuated by the media, stereotypes, politics, fear – and worse by women themselves. We are living in a world, where women are given instructions at every fork in the road. Some of my favorite Mommy anthems

  • Having It All– No one can have it all at one time.
  • Lean In– I liked the book (my review) but we shouldn’t be the only ones leaning in (hear that corporate America, government policies).
  • Perfection Affliction – Just don’t go there!

Then there are the types of mom you need to morph into:

  • Tiger Mom – May work for some, but when I’ve decided to act like one, I was ashamed of my hypocrisy, because my extracurricular activities consisted of the 4:30 movie. I also sensed my relationship with my children erode. Guess what? Some children are ambitious and driven from day one, they are going to stand at the podium delivering the Valedictorian speech. The remainder will find, thought it may not be on your timetable, something they are passionate about.
  • Helicopter Mom – Been guilty of this too. If you want to destroy any chance of your child growing up and moving away and having a modicum of dignity – stop hovering. All of these actions undermine a child’s self-esteem. I’ve moved away from asking too many questions from my college aged daughter. I still believe in keeping my eyes and ears open but I don’t audit the minutia.
  • Motherhood As A Sport – I’m not blaming or shaming, but I’ve seen the role of mother taken too far. These moms are involved in every aspect of their child’s lives and they compete at every level. They know if someone is giving their child a hard time and they will speak to that child. They are known to stamp their feet at sporting events and even root against their child’s teammates. Is this the kind of behavior you want your child to emulate?
  • Outdo Martha Stewart Mom – I made pumpkin shaped sandwiches for my daughter’s nursery school class. It was cute but I stressed myself out. Becoming a stay-at-home mom, I took the gusto I had for my career and turned out snacks and crafts because I thought that is what I was supposed to do.

The best mother you can be is your authentic self; children can spot a phony from a mile away. Show your children who you are, what you love, what inspires you and they will learn to embrace who they are. You also owe it to yourself to not abandon your dreams. The best piece of advice I’ve read, and the one that made the most sense to me, about facing an empty nest is to handle this stage in life with aplomb, even if you have to fake it for a while. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be sad but this is a prime time to show your kids how to handle change. Isn’t the point of parenting to raise children who can handle bumps in the road?

Old Photos Speak To Us

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11893904336_af124ae82a_m4863414036_d2bd59b7c5_m4949106634_25ec7b83f5_mSome of my mothers’ photographs on Flicker have been viewed 5,000 to 8,000 times. The only explanation is that old photos speak to each of us in different ways – whether we admire an era gone by or think of our own loved ones old photographs take us back to wonderful places.

I was thinking about what to write about this week when an old photo of my mother popped up on my Facebook wall. Much to her surprise, my cousin stumbled upon this photo in a Facebook group she follows: Manhattan Before 1990. Rheannone Rocha who blogs at New York City Vintage advised that this photo was one of her most popular posts. She found the photo on Flicker, where my mom, who never saw a computer, has gained a significant fan base thanks to my brother the keeper of photos and memories.

I can’t begin to explain what these photos mean to me, as I search for clues about myself I simultaneously feel she was someone I never knew, since she died so young, and the person who has had the most profound influence on my life. She was strikingly beautiful, resourceful, talented and creative. She made all of the clothes she wore in the photographs. We really aren’t sure who took these photographs, but believe it may have been my grandfather, the master tailor, who taught his girls how to sew. He was an immigrant who came to America with very little and no mastery of the English language. Although a pragmatic man he somehow saw the value in taking photographs.

The documenting of our lives is in a sense an attempt at preserving memories, dreams and our own immortality. Modern day technology allows us to constantly snap away from selfies to everyday events. The need, desire and value of photographing our lives are as pervasive as ever and the ability to share our lives through these images has expanded in ways unimaginable prior to the advent of the internet. Just take a look at Flicker to see the myriad of groups where every day people share their images. My brother is one of them; he’s also a very good photographer starting with a dark room when he was just a teenager. He serves as the family preservationist and catalogs the photos on his Flicker account. At first the photos were posted for family members but surprisingly they have attracted a following and the most viewed photos are of my mother. As a gifted seamstress, her photos often showcase a new outfit. The photos are emblematic of fashion in the 1940s. Prior to 1945, a utilitarian, although chic, look dominated the fashion scene. After the end of WWII, Hollywood’s Golden Age stars influenced fashions. My mother’s fashions are truly a study of the elegance of this time period.

According to my brother, “For a girl who never left the Bronx, her photos have gone everywhere: background for a PBS film, British Craft Magazine, logo for a Dutch Vintage Jewelry Store, YouTube music videos, Mother’s Day ad campaigns, and even the image for an urban renewal project in Covington, Georgia, and countless blogs. Sometimes I get letters from people who tell me they saw her; they recognized the dress. Dressmakers have copied her clothes and ask me for permission/advice. There is something special about these photographs from the 1940’s — an enthusiasm for life that seems to slowly disappear in the late 50’s and 60’s. Her photos are by far my most popular, especially in terms of referrers. I find them on lots of blogs; often in very funny juxtapositions, my mom and Marilyn Monroe, for instance. I often wonder what she would have thought of my publication of her photos. Our lives back then were lived on such a small stage: the kitchen, the living room, the backyard, the parish church and the neighborhood. That was it. Sometimes on weekends the one telephone, upstairs in my grandfather’s house, would ring, but he was rarely in the house to answer it. Always out in the garden. No one else dared touch it. So much for the whole wide world.”

Breast Cancer: Cure Is Long Overdue


My cousin Joann, walking in a 5K seven months after finishing treatment.

We Need To Keep Fighting The Fight

I just couldn’t let October slip away without paying homage to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. None of us should take for granted the advocacy spurred by medical professionals and ordinary citizens. There are very few of us whose lives have not been affected by this insidious disease and though detection and treatments have improved there is still no cure. My mother died of breast cancer in 1975, when the medical industry was just waking up to the fact that mammography screening could save lives.

My experience with breast cancer illustrates how far we’ve advanced and how pivotal awareness is. When my mother was diagnosed in 1973, my family considered it a death sentence. She died within two years and was treated with I’m sure deadly doses of radiation. I recall seeing deep purple bruises running down her back as though she’d been beaten with a strap. I was nine years old and living under a shroud of silence. I had no idea what cancer was and did not discover my mother had cancer until years later. It may be hard to comprehend but cancer was not a household word in the 70s and secrecy was a coping mechanism. There was minimal support for patients and families, no 5K fundraisers with women sprinting across finish lines and an entire month dedicated to awareness was unheard of. I’m not minimizing the suffering of those after my mother, alternatively I’m praising awareness and the significant strides that have been made to help patients and families – but it’s still not enough.


My mother early 1950s.

My mother’s diagnosis followed the trajectory of the disease in the United States, it wasn’t until the late 70s that breast cancer came out of the closet thanks to pioneers such as Dr. Philip Strax, galvanized by the loss of his young wife he was a tireless advocate for mammography screening. Though not perfect, this screening has saved lives but more work is necessary for detecting breast cancer in younger women.

Through the support of family and friends, I honored my mother one year by walking in the Susan G. Komen “Race For The Cure” raising $5,000. Yet, none of us should remain complacent. A beautiful friend of mine passed away at 40 years old, suffering from breast cancer for 10 years, and will miss out on the beautiful gift of watching her children grow up. Though awareness, research and fundraising has taken us far, her fate was as tragic as my mother’s.

Though the mortality rate has declined, according to the American Cancer Society statistics for 2014:

  • About 1 in 8 (12%) women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.
  • About 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,000 women will die from breast cancer.

I am grateful to new technologies, having undergone two biopsies myself and fortunately received good news but I worry about my daughter and little girls everywhere. How many more years do we have to wait for a cure? I can only imagine what my mother would think, nearly 40 years later and still no cure.

Last week I saw a photo of my cousin, my mother’s godchild, who has three young children and is battling breast cancer walking in a 5K race. She looked radiant and vibrant and coincidentally happened to be born on the same day as my mother, 35 years apart. As beautiful as the photo was, it was a sobering reminder that we are still fighting the fight.

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