Sometimes I wonder if the decision not to have a second child was because I didn’t want my son to have the potential of the extreme pain if he had a sibling who died. I never really have said this aloud. When I would be asked if Dave (Dave being former husband and father of Michael) and I were ever planning on having another child after Michael was born, I knew one child would be enough and would say so. Many times the person asking me the question would look almost outraged and would usually say something like, “Awww, that is so sad, Michael will never have a little baby brother or sister.” Sometimes when I was feeling particularly fresh and freshness was pretty common back then, I would respond with, “Well I had a sibling and he died,” I cringe at that reply, after all people are often only spewing their own belief systems and projecting their own realities on to other people not usually with mal intent.

Sibling loss is so sad even twenty-two years later. There are the immense changes that take place in the family dynamics. Then there are all of the unknown changes too, and there is a profound awareness of simply knowing that things would have been different if Michael were still alive. How could they not be?

My mother’s sisters, my aunts, Kiley and Peggy, were super close to each other like my brother and I. I imagine that sisters are even closer than a brother and a sister and as I am writing this I am realizing that losing a sibling is another thing that my aunt Kiley and I have in common. Essentially I am like Kiley’s younger sister as she is only fifteen years older than me. When Peggy died, Kiley experienced such traumatic pain. Unlike my brother’s diagnosis, there was no preparation for Peggy, she went into the hospital Memorial Day weekend and died two months later. I hadn’t been that close to Peggy in recent years, but we loved each other for sure and I always took great comfort that Kiley had Peggy to lean up to and on to.

When siblings die there is no doubt of a family shake up and ours was fractured severely. What and who was left in the wake, though was a much tighter bond of Kiley, me and my son, Michael. My mother went MIA and so did Peggy’s husband and daughter.

The odd thing about sibling loss is as painful as it is, I deeply understand that the pain will never compare to the loss of a child. Losing my brother meant that my parents lost their son and the loss was devastating on multiple levels. My parents had such a volatile divorce and my mother never really got over my father leaving her. Despite the denial of her anger at my father, she seemed pretty pissed at him for most of her life and losing my brother sealed the deal with her anger and her intense sadness.

The vestiges of unworked grief have left their trail in all of the relationships since. Grief must be worked through not around or it rears its ugly and sad head in the relationships left behind. I miss my brother because a sibling is the only person who knows the insides of our homes, our parents’ idiosyncrasies, their streaks of meanness and their streaks of goodness. No one knows this besides a sibling, not extended family members, not dearest friends, but siblings. When my brother died, so did our sharing of our memories of childhood, our histories with our parents, their marriage, their divorce, their remarriage. When my brother died, he took with him the connection we had that got me through the twisted and combative relationship with my mother.

I often had the sense with Ann that she was almost disappointed that it was Michael and not me that left this planet first. My mother had finally started to repair the relationship she had failed at with Michael earlier that caused him to live with my father. Michael had moved to North Carolina after high school to live with her while he went to college down there. He developed a really close relationship with Ann’s husband, Nik and as much as parents drive their kids crazy, Michael navigated around Ann’s world and seemed to be figuring it out. He had his share of girlfriends and Ann did her thing loving them in the first five minutes and then judging the hell out of them. I think Ann unconsciously felt that she finally had a chance to regain some parenting ability with at least one of her children. Any potential girlfriend was a threat to the ill informed theory that there is never enough love to go around.

I don’t know if I have written publicly about my mother’s tragic loss of my brother and me to my father. She lost custody of both of us to my father. This was in 1980. Kramer vs. Kramer time. Couples were just starting to get divorced and the notion that a mother could lose custody was odd. For me, who I lived with wasn’t really the issue. I was 15 and the courts at that time let me make the decision, but for my ten year old brother, this would involve the courts. I think my mother always thought that my father tried to get custody of both of us for financial reasons or to spite her. I never had that sense with him. David (my father) realized early on that he was dealing with someone who easily flew off the handle, after all he had been married to her for sixteen years. She was always raging about something. It’s funny, when I recall her, I can see her angry twisted face first.

It wasn’t all awful, she had a fabulous laugh and a great sense of humor. She also taught me incredible social skills, but our experience in the house was layered primarily with anger and rage and I never knew where to walk when I was in her presence. My father leaving her was a major blow to an already highly charged personality. Instead of taking a few breaths, staying calm and thinking about what would be best for their kids, Ann and Dave went into reactive mode and my brother and I were the remnants of the storm.

Michael suffered the most. He was only 8 or 9 when they separated. Our lovely house in Jamestown, RI was sold, we were moved to Brookline and started a new school the following September. Oddly we adjusted fairly quickly, but Ann was an emotional wreck. Her prospects must have been frightening. For the first time she realized that she was on her own with no obvious skill set and had to figure it out. I always admired this about her. She had a really comfy life financially with my father and when they got divorced alimony was temporary. She figured out how to survive and thrive on her own. This must have given her incredible satisfaction. Surely as sad as it was that my brother and I moved in with my father less than a year after the initial breakup, it was probably easier to figure out her career without the worry of caring for two kids as a single mother. The emotional scars from losing your children this way though were probably unforgiveable.

There is a view for me into this window of understanding, but at the same time, we should have all been in family therapy. She should have been in therapy. The blame game only allows the excuses so far; ultimately as a parent, your first responsibility is your children. Mistakes happen, I have made my fair share of them, but admitting them and learning from them is life. Ann never really seemed to do this, she ran and we ran from her.

My brother dying, then my father dying leaving us as the surviving two was almost ironic. I remember when my father was first diagnosed with cancer over seven years ago now. I said to him, “Dad, are you and Michael seriously going to leave me with Mom?” This is a cringe worthy comment I am almost ashamed to publicly display, but NINE WEEKS TODAY confirms my need for total transparency and pure unfiltered honesty.

I wish I could say that there was hope for a reparation with Ann. Surely all of my writing has likely not helped this cause as I am sure even if she were reading these heartfelt pieces, she would only read the things that appeared negative. As many of those elements that exist live between us, I have tried to sprinkle in the positive attributes along the way. There is always hope for forgiveness. What I have learned about forgiveness in my years of Al Anon meetings along the way is that forgiveness is not about getting another person to change. It is about releasing the pain so that it doesn’t destroy you. I work on this everyday. Like the sad loss of my brother, I am sure the unfortunate loss of my mother in my life will never completely go away. What I know for sure is that the very important relationship of mother and child is the foundation of how we move through our world. What I have learned from all of its rawness and difficulty is how to improve upon it. So the gift for me is the way I have learned how to parent, the way Dave and I travelled through our divorce in a calm and loving way as best as we could. This to me is the result of the work of FORGIVENESS. The work never ends for sure.

I began this piece calling it I MISS MY BROTHER. As my writing winds its way and finds its way to places I didn’t know I was going to, here it lands. It seems I miss my mother too.

Gotta love Alanon quotes




After sleeping until 7am yesterday morning which meant that I slept through my 6:30 am beach boot camp, I decided to head back to the Y to do my own workout. This was just as well with me since it turned out that it was freezing out yesterday in this early month of June. The beach would not have been fun except for the badge of honor it would have given me for showing up, but this double m life I lead has released my need for that type of glory.

As I walked into the Y, a place I seldom go to but am quite happy that I share my partner’s membership. The Y is an easy place to get a workout in and they have a sauna and I love a sauna. I love even more a sauna in the buff. Of course I am conscious of the other women who may be in the sauna and always have a towel handy to wrap myself, but if I am solo in there, I am home free.

As I walked into the locker room with my bag in hand needing to change into my gym clothes, I realized that the last time I had been in this very locker room was the beginning of February. The first time I posted a writing was THE LOCKER ROOM dated February 4th. Back then, there was not even a thought that my breast cancer had returned so standing in the locker room yesterday contemplating my last four months was a bit of yet another catharsis.

The first item on the agenda was changing into my workout clothes. I always change out in the open, after all we are all women and we all have bodies. I have these crazy scars on my back now and my boobs are obviously fake and weird to the average Jane. They are more normal to me as is my back, but the other day when I was helping one of my new team members with a back treatment I realized just how disconcerting my back is. Comparatively speaking to the first week after, my back is amazing, but to a young woman seldom exposed to scars and breast reconstruction it was a bit of a shocker. This was going through my mind as I began undressing. The Y is filled with women of all ages, it is also filled with little three year olds getting ready to go with their mamas in to the pool for their morning swim lesson. I was hyper self aware of my body in an almost self conscious way, but also a, “Go ahead take a look,” way which was interesting to me because usually I do not even think twice about taking off my clothes in the locker room.

So here I stood, consciously aware of how my body may look to someone else and changing with much more deliberation. As it so happened, I must have caught the locker room in between swim and aerobic classes because there was not a soul in there. Ahh divine intervention. Always comes to the rescue at my dark times when I am open to its kindness. My hip was still killing me and my hot upright stationary boobs and I limped our way to the treadmill hoping that some walking may help loosen it up. It just had to be a pulled muscle, right? It couldn’t possibly be cancer all over my bones, right? So I did my very painful walk for only ten minutes, did some weights on my upper body and then stretched and rolled for at least a half hour.

There were a lot of people in the gym and the thought crossed my mind, “Doesn’t anyone work?” I made my way back to THE LOCKER ROOM and stood at my locker waiting for a kind grandmother to change into her suit while her patient two year old granddaughter waved at me. I realized that my body means nothing to anyone. The world does not in fact revolve around me as Ann always liked to remind me in my childhood and frankly no one was looking at me. Even if they were, why would I even care? I am a warrior.




I am going to be totally forthcoming. I love smoking medical marijuana before bed due to my very legal medical marijuana card from my original diagnosis since I have had this last surgery. Medical marijuana completely removes the tightness around my upper body, loosens my weird new hard ass tennis ball bowling ball double set now attached to the front of my chest. No bullshit here. My body becomes like a rubber band and this has helped me have a deep sleep in a super chilled body.

This surgery only EIGHT WEEKS ago was miraculous. I got to wake up and look down at my chest and see boobs. It was a completely different outcome than I ever imagined, a way better outcome. I can almost say I have enjoyed the experience; this sounds fucking nuts. But I know that my super mellow evening date with my medical marijuana card on occasion is a personal victory for my brother’s memory and his harrowing experience, for my own experience and for my overall health. Sometimes the tightness is so uncomfortable and the hardness in and on my chest is indescribable. My new nighttime ritual is the only thing that has been helpful for my upper body to lighten up for a few hours and way into my evening sleep.

Some people may think that the smoke part of the smoking pot is not a good thing. I agree with this. But Motrin and Tylenol have been proven to be detrimental to the liver/stomach when taken too frequently. Oxy, for me anyway, only lasts for two to three hours and knocks me out for the count, then wakes me up abruptly like I never took it. It is also highly addictive and is in fact a proven gateway drug, unlike marijuana, though I imagine some would dispute that. Besides the fact that when you have to get an Oxy prescription filled, you feel like a common criminal at the pharmacy.

The side effects of pharmaceuticals are shameful leading many people to take more pharmaceuticals. I don’t know how Big Pharma peeps wrestle with their conscience and actually place their head on their pillow and sleep (oh yeah they have pharmaceuticals to help them doze). I am not throwing Big Pharma completely under the bus. I am fully aware that there are many prescription drugs targeted for many ailments providing comfort and relief and can be life saving. The overuse and over prescribing though leading one drug need to another drug need and so on is what my concern is.

When I reflect back on my initial entry into the possibilities of the Big Pharma world and the decision to abstain from the recommendation of an aromatase inhibitor for five years, I made it as a super self-informed patient. The purpose of the aromatase inhibitor is to block any remaining vestiges of estrogen for the estrogen positive breast cancer I had been diagnosed with. When I researched the side effects, my concern was the other drugs I would eventually have to be put on.

Me to Oncologist: “I heard one of the side effects are bone loss, could you give me a little more information on this?”

Oncologist to Me: “If this does happen, we can just put you on blah blah blah, (some bone repairing bullshit drug) but it will only happen while you are taking the aromatase inhibitor, after you stop taking it, your bone loss will repair itself.”


She said this so matter of factly with no consideration of how these side effects would possibly affect my quality of life. I clearly remember the appointment with the oncologist that day. She thought that I was coming in there for a five-minute appointment, as a matter of fact, she had already called in my prescription to CVS. The assumptions that prescription drugs are the go to for anything that ails us without question worries me. I really don’t want to be part of the system if I can help it.

I made the choice after very thoughtful consideration. I weighed the risks of the many side effects and my future quality of life versus quantity of life. When I decided not to take the aromatase inhibitor, it was because I had also made dietary changes, supplement additions, and an additional surgery that would force my body into surgical menopause. When I received the news that I had recurring breast cancer, it occurred to me that my decision to not take the drug could have been a reason, but my instincts never equaled regret. My doctor made sure to tell me immediately that this new cancer had nothing to do with my decision. It was estrogen negative, not estrogen positive, so the drug wouldn’t have helped anyway.

After this last cancer surgery, I gave myself a two week pass to divert from my usually strict diet and typical of sugar and carbohydrates, (thank you Al Forno, Elis, Pommodoros, Ina Garten recipes and PVD donuts-michelle m), two weeks has turned into eight weeks (and add a few glasses of wine the past few weeks as well.) Sunday afternoon I started to feel a lot of leg pain, so much so that it woke me up Sunday night and I had trouble sleeping. Yesterday I was limping and the thought started running through my head that it was cancer all over my bones. The weird thing about living around so much cancer death in my young life is that I have such a trigger response to some of the symptoms my brother had before he was diagnosed. He had a lot of leg pain that doctors had a hard time diagnosing for him. By the time they did, the cancer had metastasized all over his bones.

So of course my thoughts did not go to my regret of not taking a drug, but of veering off my regular supplements and of my Whole 30 way of eating that had changed my life. My doctor even said to me after I questioned if what I had been leaving out of my diet as valid since my cancer had recurred that perhaps the recurrence could have been much worse if I hadn’t made the commitment. I hadn’t thought of that. This gave me great comfort and as I tossed and turned with worry Sunday night beating myself up for an eight week free for all, I changed my thought pattern to the word PATIENCE, my old comforting friend I occasionally forget to call upon for assistance. It is doubtful that an eight week free for all would cause cancer to metastasize all over my bones. I promised myself I would stop fucking around with my health and get back on my nutritional wagon.

I don’t think these types of thoughts will ever leave me for the duration of my life and I will have to figure out ways to balance the extreme worry with putting my head in the sand as I don’t want to be an alarmist, but a realist. Afterall I have the genetic mutation, BRCH 2, and it propels me into a constant state of reality awareness. So in all of this psychological trauma, I feel grateful that I have a medical marijuana card. It has reduced anxiety, it has helped me sleep, it has removed physical pain Most importantly, it is a natural alternative to a chemical pill created in a lab somewhere by a mad scientist.. Medical marijuana should be easier to get for many more ailments. Medical marijuana has been the only drug that has helped me and I wish it was more easily available as a viable alternative to the prescription drugs jammed down on our throats these days.

Yep I said it and I hope the people who get to sit in their ivory towers with no ailments are reading.

That big ass smile was in honor of my brother. It took me almost five months after surgery to get this card yet only 5 minutes to pick up an oxy prescription.

New boobs, 8 weeks after surgery- 3 fills later

And the veering off final recipe of baked pasta from the spectacular Ina Garten queen of butter and cheese and carbs. I’m going to miss you, Ina.




When my brother was alive, he had a girlfriend whose name was Eva. She was in a PhD program at Duke studying something brilliant that had to do with the ocean, something like the way barnacles interact with certain paint types on the bottom of boats. I am sure this was not her main thesis, but whatever it was she was studying, it was certainly way over my head. She loved my brother and my brother loved her. They were in their early twenties and living in an apartment together near Duke in a neighborhood near Ninth St. in Durham, NC. I am sure that twenty two years later, this neighborhood has become trendy and overpriced, but back then it was just cool and affordable. The two of them would move to Beaufort, NC in the summers where Eva would continue her studies at the Duke program near the beach and my brother would work at the docks. They had a really nice life, one that was easy and the way it should be in your early twenties as you try to find your way. They made lots of great friends along the way and when my brother was diagnosed, these friends would become family as we all tried to navigate this foreign territory of dealing with fatal cancer in a twenty three year old healthy full of life young man.

Eva was a really special young woman. Her family was from Germany and she had a slight accent, I think she was probably born there, but I can’t remember. I remember her parents thinking that taking care of my brother was too much to expect while she was trying to work on her PhD, but she would not hear of anything else. She had an undying work ethic and an incredible sense of core value. She wasn’t going anywhere. She really cared for my brother and she really took care of him in their tiny apartments like a committed partner.

Ann, aka our mother, tried to take care of him, but she hadn’t had the experience of going through what being a mother was to a teenager since both of us had left to move in with my father, mothering was kind of lost to her. My brother tried to live with her when he was first diagnosed, but it was too stressful as Ann was freaked out. Any mother would certainly be freaked out at the prospect of losing your child, especially when you had already lost him once before because he moved in with our father when he was ten. Ann never really had the skill set in raising young adults; she really struggled with dealing with children who weren’t children anymore. So when Michael was diagnosed, she tackled the trauma head on, but as the sad novelty wore off and the harsh reality of Michael’s inevitable mortality became apparent, the grief became unbearable.

In my personal psycho analysis of Ann, pain and Ann were never a match. Pain for Ann meant flight, not fight and so flight was what she was good at. Her history was when the going got tough, we would move. I think probably always in search of looking to fill the hole with things and places and change. This had been going on since I was born so it is not because of my brother. Like all grief, when you run, it shows up over and over forcing you to move through it. The power of grief is in its refusal to allow you to circle around it. At least this has been my experience, but who am I? I can only speak of my own dealings with grief and I have knock on wood never lost a child.

Our mother in her dealing with the fact that her son would be leaving our lives turned her grief into blame. Blaming someone else for your personal pain is so much easier than facing the reality of grief at the moment. She became really resentful of Eva which of course as I write this sounds totally fucking crazy. One of Ann’s character traits that she learned from her mother for sure was the way she struggled with love coming at her. Love for Ann was with strings attached or never enough to go around. This seemed to be her own experience of love. Love would leave, love would desert, love was never good enough. Love was not one of those emotions to be totally trusted and Eva unconditionally caring and loving my brother put our mother’s blatant inadequacies front and center in the Snow White Magic Mirror. It was like Ann could never be happy for either of us being loved wholly and unconditionally by someone else. If she were reading this I am sure this analysis would jolt her. Perception is reality and for me and my brother recovering from the trauma of our parents terrible divorce and their behavior towards each other was clinging to each other deeper and more intensely. Losing my brother was the final insult to my mother and my fragile relationship. If there was even a thread of hope for my mother and I to repair anything, it ended when I showed appreciation for Eva’s care for Michael.

About ten years ago, my father tried to find Eva and I can’t remember if he did, I heard from her maybe when my father died or sometime that caused me to keep the envelope with her return address. I think I wrote to her and the letter came back with “unable to forward.” This past year I looked her up on Facebook and sent her a message. I didn’t hear back from her, thinking maybe my reach or my father’s reach drummed up some serious sadness that had long been put to rest. I think that recently finding all of my old writings about Michael coupled with my own son approaching twenty, this whole nonsense with Ann and my own cancer experience has put me in a time machine propelling me back to 1995. So in my EIGHT WEEKS TODAY piece, bringing back my reflections on the day my brother died, I put some universal flow out there in the planet.

So yesterday, it shouldn’t have surprised me when I got a note from Eva on Facebook. The note didn’t mention the writing, as a matter of fact, I don’t even think she had read it. She was responding to my message dated September 4, 2016 mentioning my son going to college on his first day. She being a professor, after all she is probably 47 now, and super busy seldom going on Facebook finally checked her message now that school is over.

After all this time on the exact time I rewrote the sadness of the day my brother died is the exact day I hear from Eva, I love universal flow, I am humbled by its power every single time it happens and so grateful.

I bow in appreciation.

Eva and Michael BC, the note I sent to Eva on sept 4, 2016, her reply to me yesterday on EIGHT WEEKS TODAY. 🙏




My writings over the years have been snapshots and portraits of my life. Unlike a photograph that captures an image, usually the one we want the world to see when we stare at the camera and “smile” because someone on the other end tells us to, writings capture the real story. Before laptops and computers as my primary writing tool, I would write in a large unlined wire bound journal in pens, sharpies or as of late, pencils depending on my mood at the time. I still write in these journals on occasion like when I am at the beach for example, but more and more find myself writing on my laptop. The computer is more convenient and I enjoy the sound of my fingers tapping on the keyboard; it encourages my creativity, and it also makes me feel more like a “real” writer, whatever that means.

The other times I have used the wire bound journals is when I have taken writing classes. One of my favorite pieces I handwrote in 2005 was a piece I wrote at a local writing class by Hannah Goodman. It was a full blown catharsis to write a piece about my first grade teacher, Miss Foley. I realized after writing that piece how much her mean style of teaching my little self boxed in my creative writing spirit. Like an art teacher forcing students to color within the lines, a teacher who is primarily focused on obsessive grammar and spelling perfection instills a chastity belt on the spirit.

I love grammar and good spelling and I learned that in old style closed classroom teaching at Tansey School in Fall River, Mass. But Miss Foley taught with an old school fear based style that terrified me and put a huge damper on my creative writing as I moved into my teenage and young adult years. The piece I wrote about my scary memories of Miss Foley ripped off my cape and let me scream my words that had been stuck way down deep for many years. Pandora’s box was opened wide and I haven’t stopped writing since.

As I went looking for this piece because I wanted to transfer its hand written words into my laptop I came across the collection of writings. They were from the time I found out about my brother’s cancer to the day of his death. There it was, my familiar journal scribble,

“Nov. 20 — 1995

Michael passed away today.”

Handwritten, spotty from my tears that fell on the paper as I poured my weeping heart out in my familiar friend. I am including this piece today because writing captures the heart like nothing can. It is a timestamp on life coming at you. Better than photos because the story is not behind the smile and the picture of the person is not up for guessing when there is no name written on the back. Writing is the raw story behind the façade we show off in our pearly whites in all those photos trapped in our computer.

My writings have happily encouraged conversation with many people. “I am not a writer,” is one I hear most often. “I have a lot to say, but don’t know where to start.” I heard the other day from one of my favorite clients, “I don’t know if there is an audience.” What I know is that writing for me is my own audience. It has only been recent that I have published my writings and cancer was the catalyst. It was like I needed an excuse to let it out of my storage box. This is when I really appreciate social media as a vehicle for this self expression. Cancer also gave me permission to release the fear of writing so vulnerably. What the fuck, we live shortly, the older I get the more I want to know the deep truths of my friends and peers. The superficial bullshit is not interesting to me. I want to know the whys of our superficial bullshit. How did we get to the bullshit and why do we cling on to it as our protective shield. What are we so fucking afraid of in sharing our core underbellies? Writing my guts out has brought me closer to my desire for chick truth, for human truth. “The truth shall set us free.” Writing is freedom for me and I am so encouraged by the positive responses I have received from friends and total strangers.

I hope whoever my be reading this today will be encouraged by the purest rawest emotion of this piece I had handwritten almost 22 years ago at such a young age of thirty. Losing my only sibling to cancer was startling and writing was my drug of choice to handhold me through the grief. Ironic that cancer back then that took my beautiful brother’s life has been the start of the floodgates opening and no sign of a dry spell. This is one of the many pieces I wrote during and after his illness. More to follow.

“Nov. 20–1995

Michael passed away today between 6:30am & 7:15am- I can not use the word died because that mean his soul too and I know that is not true- Today has been an interesting day full of emotion, phone calls, denial, finality, reality, closure-I keep thinking waiting for Michael to appear somehow- Today Delessio came over and we went for a drive in the van- we parked for a second at Colt State Park & in front of us a lone seagull- majestically staring at us head on about 150 feet in front of us- the first thought that came to me was –there’s Michael saying hello.

I just got a sharp pain in my left pinky, never having that pain before, I thought, there’s Michael giving me a little jolt just to keep me in check.-

The finality of it all, realizing I no longer have a brother as I have known him, I can’t believe it. All this preparation and I’m having phases of denial-life is so interesting-I am writing so messy, but it feels so good to be so lazy. Strange that I got to the end of this journal and Michael passes on- I think I will continue until at least after the services for him-Mom’s Dec 3-Mine Dec 10.

Tomorrow Esme & Melly are coming over so I will drag them all to the obituary drop offs- I want to organize my photos & letters in some type of order-

I will write more later- I have many thoughts on my mother & father, but I am too lazy to write.”