Pinky Pie

One chapter ends; another begins

Is this the swan song for Pinky Pie? I hope so and it all came about because of a broken pink mug.

My daughter called me to tell me a story about the mug, which she bought in La Crosse  the day they brought me home from the hospital. She drank coffee from it every day at work. When she moved from one  school district to another last year, she said it was the most important thing to take with her.

This pink breast cancer mug was almost like a talisman against evil–which in this case would be cancer coming back. If she stopped drinking from it, would  my cancer come back?

This morning she told me that she was  profoundly sad to see it absolutely unfixable after she dropped it.

She searched unsuccessfully for an exact replacement but could not find one. It was then when our rabbi in La Crosse happened to call her. Saul Prombaum is a friend beyond his rabbi-a-hood.

Maggie described how sad she was about what happened. He told her it was a good thing. A mother  breaks a plate in an Orthodox  Jewish wedding to symbolize the end of one chapter in life and the start of a new one.

Her breaking that mug, he told her, means the chapter on cancer is over.

Deal. Sign me up.

I called her back a few minutes later posing the question if this is a great way to end the Pinky Pie blog. She agreed it is.

Maggie bought this mug the day she was returning to Kansas City after my surgery.
So long, mug, I hardly knew ya.

So the fat lady is singing (and not just mouthing the words).

I don’t mean the person known as Pinky Pie. Instead, I’m referring  to this blog that I began after my breast cancer diagnosis in 2009. I named it Pinky Pie because that is what my mommy called me when I was little when she dressed me in tons of pink.

I became very sick of pink, but once  I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I figured I had become BIG Pinky Pie. Pink came back and then went away again when I was overwhelmed with pink-atude.

The blog gave me something positive to do with my energies during the dog days of recovering from mastectomies, waiting for chemotherapy to start, chemotherapy, radiation and the aftermath of the treatment.

I shared stories, emotions and tried to be entertaining, a.k.a. the funniest cancer patient you will meet, although I also have written about poignant experiences, the scary and sad stuff as well. It helped me think and absorb what was happening to me.

Through it, I formed a philosophy about life after cancer: you can’t let a disease define you. I don’t know if my cancer will return, but I sure don’t want to spend whatever time I have left in fear, rolled up in the fetal position. That would squander my life.

In the last year or so, this blog has been where I wrote my political stuff. To put it simply, politics in our state have become another cancer that I don’t care to repeat.

Pinkie Pie, good-by. Please don’t make me bring you back.

I‘m not done blogging, however. Want to learn about what I think about this and that? Go to my Lessons From Life blog at susanhessel.wordpress.com. I have been waxing poetic about my personal history work, including my and my family’s personal history there for a while. It is all about the importance of storytelling.

So here’s to good health for you and me. Thank you for your support for Pinky Pie, both the character and the blog.

And let me just say that if cancer reared its ugly side again,  it won’t be because Maggie broke her pink mug. I don’t believe in magical thinking like that.

But, Maggie, I prefer you don’t step on any cracks. I don’t want to take any risks.

y.

In a very unlucky category of life – losing a child – we feel very lucky.

Twenty-five years after our son, Matt, died we have a way to remember him not with sadness but with joy and the ability to do some good for others.

We have published the 199-page novel that 8-year-old Matt wrote in the last months before he died in 1986 of leukemia. It is a celebration of his life and creativity, not a commemoration of his death.

In his novel, Matt wrote about Israel, Libyan terrorists, Muammar Gaddafi (spelled Khadafy then) and about a battle between Libya and the United States Central Intelligence Agency. It was long before the Internet, but Matt knew about Libya and Gaddafi because of events in 1986 that included the United States and Libya clashing both rhetorically and occasionally militarily.

Matt was a writer from the time he was a little guy, creating short stories far beyond his age. They often were a mixture of Hardy Boys and Star Wars, not to mention one, “Hospital Mania,” inspired by Chevy Chase in “Family Vacation.”

A collection of his short stories, The Great Planet Swap and Other Stories, was published while he was on bone marrow transplant at the University of Minnesota.

A few months before that, Matt decided he didn’t just want to write short stories, he wanted to be a novelist. He always figured he’d be like author Robert Louis Stevenson, who was sick as a kid. He began work on X-Man, even completing it while he was on transplant.

After he died, news of this 8-year-old boy who had written a book went on the national AP wire after stories were written about him in the La Crosse Tribune and theMilwaukee Sentinel. We heard from people all over the country who wanted a copy ofThe Great Planet Swap so we gave it to the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis, where we lived for three and a half months, to print as a fundraiser for it.

We also sponsor a writing contest for elementary school students in Matt’s name. The prizes were small, but those who received them – along with their classmates – have been thrilled. I’m a kind of Publisher’s Prize Patrol here in La Crosse.

We would have gone on pretty much like that forever more had it not been for the Arab spring in 2011. When demonstrations for democracy broke out in Libya (and other Arab nations), I remembered X-Man, which he wrote in 1986.

Matt was very aware of the terrorism connected with the Libyan government, particularly after Libya bombed a West Berlin nightclub frequented by U.S. troops.

His novel, obviously was written before September 11, 2001, and the Internet. As we say these days, the story was ripped from the headlines. Of course, who knew featuring Khadafy then would be applicable a quarter century later in this season of Middle East revolutions.

It is an 8-year-old’s view of the world and Libya that included car chases between X-Man, CIA Director William Casey, and Khadafy (or any way you want to spell it). Also, X-Man, known as Jack, played poker with Khadafy and won big bucks.

Every cent of X-Man will go to the La Crosse Public Education Foundation to encourage reading and writing in children. My kids had wonderful educations in the School District of La Crosse and want to say thank you for that.

So how do you get this book? If you are interested, you tohttps://www.createspace.com/3625364. It will be printed on demand; or you can go to Amazon and ask for the book that way. (Buying through createspace directly means more money for the Public Education than if it is purchased through Amazon.)

When we were interviewed about Matt’s book after his death, I was quoted as saying, “The good guys won in all his stories. Unfortunately, the good guy didn’t win in this story.”

It’s still true, but the victory comes in celebrating his life. And doing some good for others.

(I also posted this in my Lessons From Life blog.)

We’ve all grown up with the big bad wolf either wanting to blow our house down or to attack Little Red Riding Hood. Wolves are always big and bad.

That may be why the thought for a day on a friend’s page caught my eye: “Fear makes the wolf appear bigger.”

I liked it immediately.  I Googled the expression and learned it is an old German proverb. I also discovered a bunch of blog posts related to it, including one with a bunch of exclamation for what it means, including http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/90grd/fear_makes_the_wolf_look_bigger/

Suggested meanings on that site include:

  • Kill all figurative wolves by opposing the acceptance of greed.
  • Fear also keeps the local systems in line.
  • By being afraid of the wolf, your imagination will make you think the wolf is bigger, meaner, more evil than it really is.
  • I think the wolf is the “terrorist” and that we fear them, and so we over-react and are willing to subject ourselves to constant surveillance, reduced liberty, etc.

“Fear makes the wolf appear bigger” reminds me of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

It illustrates the reality that fear feeds on itself. The more you fear, the more you fear. It can be overwhelming and contagious.

Remember how frightened so many were about the new century?. Everything was supposed to fail technologically because computers had not be programmed for years that would start with 20 instead of 19. Some folks predicted nothing would work and we would take up arms and be survivalists to protect our families.

The clock struck midnight on December 31, 1999, and we had heat, our cars worked and life went on.

If I wanted, that wolf could have appeared mighty big after my diagnosis of breast cancer. I decided I didn’t want to live my life that way. And now I like to say, “cancer is in my rear view mirror and hopefully is not closer than it appears.”

Or, hopefully bigger. I like my wolves small.

Mau Mau, a graffiti artist, painted this vision of one wolf and little red riding hood for the Cans II festival. Photo by Alan Bee.


You know your password is not appropriate when you – meaning I – have to write it on a piece of paper and give it to the technician.

“Awesome,” he said and then gave it to another who laughed. They were trying to get my email to come in on my replacement Blackberry.

I was just grinning because I was not someone they would have expected to use that particular expression as part of a password. Use of these words began with my blog which started life as a cancer blog. At that point it was quite appropriate to have certain words expressed against cancer.

But I had to show this to the technician, admitting I am a little old lady with a potty mouth password, which made them laugh. I also suggested it would be a great story for them to tell to their friends after work.

Sprint: they were not unprofessional. I was having fun about it.

I have used  variations of that password for various sites, the last was for my email on Charter a couple days ago. I was so sure that I would remember it that I didn’t write it down.

When my replacement phone came I needed to get it to take my Charter email. Actually, I also needed my Blackberry login and password first which I didn’t know. The guys helped retrieve it.

Nothing was done, however, when Dick and Michael joined me at the Sprint store wondering how it was going. I motioned to them to come closer so I could explain my indelicate problem. They laughed.

Eventually the Sprint guys and I decided that I needed to change my Charter password since I clearly did not have my potty mouth password right. Perhaps Blackberry was rebelling from my non-businessworld language.

Once that change with Charter was made – and I selected a PG password this time – I put it into my Blackberry. All of a sudden, many messages began arriving on my phone. I was reminded that most email messages are junk. Thus, I sure didn’t really need to get at them immediately.

That brings me to a story about the time that middle school Maggie used the word “freaking” in front of my mom who sternly told her that she knew what it was a substitute for and she was not to use it. I ran out of the room laughing at that moment, leaving her to be chastised alone. I am weak.

No, my mom would not have approved of my prior password. My new one does not require my writing it down to give to a technician or hiding from my mother had she still been with us.

But it makes me far less edgy and therefore less interesting to young technicians.

P.S. To those who are wondering why I needed a replacement phone, I had my old one sitting across my water glass on Wednesday to keep my cat Herbie from drinking from it. I looked over and found it in the glass. Thus it went swimming with the fishies, which it did not like at all.

Herbie says no to the downward facing dog pose.

People have been telling me for years, possibly decades, that I should try yoga. The stretch would be good for me and it would improve my balance.

I always said there was no way I could ever take a yoga class because they didn’t make Depends strong enough to get me through the class. I was sure I would start to giggle and then would be unable to stop laughing and well, I am a woman in  my upper 50s and all.

Apparently that is not true.

No, I did not get a great deal on Super Depends.

I went to a trial Yoga class Tuesday and didn’t even giggle. Perhaps I was a little intimidated. I was the only person who had not done yoga before and felt a bit like the stiff that I am. Also, I knew no one with whom I could exchange smart aleck comments. Also Yoga was hard and I had to put all my energy into trying to do poses that this body has never seen before.

And then I looked down at my toes and saw my nails in disrepair with nail polish half on – or maybe half off, depending on whether you are a pessimist or optimist. It’s hard to do the Garland, Pyramid, Triangle or Mountain pose when you’re trying to hide your toes.

Despite it all, I think yoga was helpful even if I couldn’t do all of the poses in the class. I feel looser and less achy.  I signed up for a class but will paint my toesies before I go.

What made me take an interest in yoga? I was visiting the loft of a new client and discovered this figurine of a cat doing yoga. I told the client I intended to steal it. She told me where she got it – Pier 1. I went directly to the store and bought one.

It makes me smile. And more important, was it a sign I should take yoga?

One thing I know: Herbie and I have been more mellow ever since I bought that figurine.

This is not a Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream” blog post. It’s not that noble.

Instead, it is a tale of two dreams – that show just how odd nocturnal lives are. The first was about ten days ago when I had a dream that I am pregnant at age 58 and 2/3rds.

The second is that Dick at age 62 was drafted into the army in the Republic of Armenia. Supposedly, they just found out he was born there. So he was in basic training there. I had to call into the clinic to say he would not be seeing patients for a while because he was in the army in Armenia.  Dick does not have patients; he is a retired journalist.

Immigration Naturalization Service: this was a dream. No need to raid our home. Dick  was actually born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thank you.

I must admit that my geography stinks, however. I had to look up where the heck Armenia is and learned it is at the “crossroads of western Asia and eastern Europe.” And I discovered there is a website of he Republic of Armenia, http://www.gov.am/en/, where  I read:

Dear Friend,
I appreciate your interest in the activities of the Government of the Republic of Armenia and welcome you to our website.
As you can see, we have tried to put the website across under a new design providing diversified information.
Now, you have at your disposal the facilities for online tracing of your letters addressed to e-government and public governance agencies. The availability of these public control tools is supposed to help shape a tradition of effective control on the part of civil society.
We would appreciate receiving your comments and proposals regarding any such issue as to your mind should be kept high on our team’s agenda.

Tigran Sargsyan
Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia

What a friendly place, Armenia must be. There even was an article about the government working to improve health services that included:

“The meeting endorsed the inventory of ambulances and attending equipment donated to Armenia under an agreement signed earlier between the governments of the Republic of Armenia and the People’s Republic of China. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan stressed that the receipt of about 90 ambulances from China will help considerably improve the quality of first-aid services in the country. Note that this is the first such replenishment provided to Armenian medical institutions for the last 20 years.”

Perhaps when I have that baby at age 58, I’ll just call an ambulance from Armenia. I hope it’s within network.

I announced Friday my special event on Sunday was going to be a “boobs-in situation.” That’s no relation to “The Situation” from the Jersey Shore program.

I thought I would look better in my dress with an endowment, even if  only adopted.

Yes, I was going to wear my breast prostheses for the first time in many, many months. The last time I tried was at my nephew’s wedding last October, but discovered the bra was higher than the dress. So much for that plan.

Items are smaller than they appear. This was a shot of me in 2010 trying on the Double or Triple D sized prostheses for a photo op. They are not what I bought and lost. And my hair is back.

When I was packing Saturday night for Sunday’s event, I looked and looked for my bras and “the ladies.” No luck.  Where were they? I don’t think I gave them away to Goodwill. If I did, someone sorting my clothes would have a shock of his or her life.

I actually have two sets of prostheses and three or four bras and couldn’t find any of them. It was only a problem because once I start looking for the missing, it’s hard to stop. But I did.

The truth be known, prostheses are surprisingly heavy and I’m guessing not so comfortable in hot weather.

It didn’t matter. I am what I am and am very comfortable with me  As I’ve said before, I am not my breasts (or lack of) and my breasts (or lack of) are not me.

And no one on Sunday even asked where “the ladies” were.

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