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AMONGST THE TRIBE

AMONGST THE TRIBE

“How come you haven’t been to the Sister’s of Survival dinner?” I was asked by my aunt a few years back at my first diagnosis. I tried not to roll my eyes. “It is not really my thing,” I responded as graciously as I could muster. If anyone can possibly imagine at that point, I was trying to keep under the radar so the thought of sitting with a group of breast cancer survivors discussing their breast cancer was way too much for my newly diagnosed self. This has been a part of me and my personality that I have been trying to work on. This part of my personality that I definitely inherited from Ann (aka the woman who gave birth to me who doesn’t speak to me)- the quick to judge part, the quick to say no part with no possible consideration that it may just be what I need. How would I know if it would have been helpful if I wouldn’t even give it a chance?

Fast forward two years and we all know what happens next- a new diagnosis, a double mastectomy, reconstruction and there is no hiding out this round. My writing is out there and so am I. There is no under the radar anymore. Here I am again, but this time, one of my favorite and dearest long term clients asks me. “How come you haven’t been to the Sister’s of Survival dinner?” Here I realized that I had actually never been asked so instead of responding with my quick and typical no, I softened the reply with the truth. “I have never been invited.” She seemed surprised by this and we continued to discuss the positives of the dinner and then the conversation concluded when she was called to her appointment. Little did I know that this casual discussion would later come with an invite to this past week’s Tuesday evening dinner. I really couldn’t say no. First off I love the intention of the group, I love the women who started it, and I love my client. I decided to step out of my comfort zone and say yes.

I have always had a bit of hesitation around cancer type groups. For no reason other than my own seriously stupid need to be independent and I can do this myself attitude. This never serves as I have learned in my business world, certainly in parenting. But breast cancer for some reason, I just didn’t want to join the pity party. My aversion and concern about jumping into this was twofold. Firstly, I didn’t want to walk into a full blown two hour dinner with comparisons of surgeries, doctors, ailments and stages of cancer. Secondly, and most importantly, I didn’t want to be around a big group of sadness leaving me feeling sadder and depressed. Clearly this wouldn’t have been helpful for healing. I think that my revelation of getting lost and my fear of it comes into play here. I realized that my deep fear and anxiety of getting lost in the woods on my hiking trips that I love is a profound metaphor for how I travel in my life. The reality is that getting lost is a knowingness of relinquishing control. Breast cancer diagnosis is also this. Sure, we can blast off to nutritionists, do extensive searches on the internet (where we endlessly quote to our doctors all of the facts we find- talk about eye rolling) go to alternative naturopaths, start purchasing enough monthly supplements that could otherwise feed a family of ten every month and so on to allow us to think that we are in control. Ultimately though I have come to realize for the most part it is out of my hands. The feeling of release, of getting lost on the path and more importantly allowing it is actually better for my soul and its healing. I am just talking about me here. Everyone is different.

So as Tuesday evening came closer, I had a bit of a nervousness in its approach. This in itself is out of my comfort zone. I am a social being. I love parties and connections with other women. The butterfly feeling in my gut surprised me and I was guessing it was because of the unknown feelings this dinner may conjure up. When I found my friend, her biggest brightest smiley and happy face met mine along with the group of also smiley and some familiar women she was sitting with already downing their first pale pink gorgeous cosmo and I was immediately at ease. I sat with her and four other power house survivors who were kind and joyous and extremely welcoming. There were stories, yes. But they were filled with humor, laughter, and an automatic knowing between us that just made me feel like I was taking a much needed nap from my busy alayne white self. I loved the dinner with them. I didn’t have to explain anything. I could be quiet and listen or I could talk and engage and it was all accepted with love and warmth. The only analogy I can come up with is my trip to Israel at Christmas time about seven years ago. Living in a primarily Christmas town, I have spent most of my son’s life explaining and listening to him explain that we don’t celebrate Christmas (because in case you don’t know, not everyone does and it is OK.) Going to Israel and seeing Hanukkah decorations abound and no Christmas decorations allowed us to be Jewish among Jewish. It was so easy to hang out and say Happy Hanukkah and not have to explain that it is not “our Christmas.” We were among our tribe during an otherwise month of the usual red and green and everything Santa. It was a relief.

The Sisters of Survival dinner was like this. It was a relief. It was a rest. It was getting lost and found and knowing that even if I got lost, I would be rescued and if I wasn’t rescued then I wasn’t. It was the moment, not the what if. It was the sharing and the camaraderie amongst all walks of women who have found themselves because they got lost when they were diagnosed. This was the surprising rescue of my soul. It came because instead of judgmentally jumping to a no, I kindly and graciously said yes for a change and allowed and accepted the experience. The reward was a lovely evening with the strongest and kindest of women who offered their hearts to me without having to say a word. Lost and found indeed.




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NO SUPERGIRL HERE

NO SUPERGIRL HERE

“Of course you are going hiking when you still have stitches,” my friend, Julie Tremaine emailed me as we were trying to get together for a dinner date. I had casually mentioned my hiking and biking trip where I would be MIA for eight days as some dates I wouldn’t be available. Frankly, this thought never occurred to me, but there was some obvious truth to the statement as I got ready at the beginning of last week to be one with Mother Nature. So after traipsing all over the beautiful and color rich foliage laden towns surrounding North Conway with no cell phone and felt as good as I did, I assumed that I was back in full swing. Full swing meant that I could go on my favorite app and promptly sign up for a week full of workouts. Yoga at Bristol Yoga Studio Sunday with my goddess friend, Tracy, Monday at Pulse Gym for my favorite cardio weight class with my favorite instructor, Kathy Martin, Tuesday, a barre class, Weds a spin class and then a break Thursday and Friday. After all I had climbed over 25 miles on foot and ridden well over forty miles on bike on this beautiful vacation, I was ready to finally get back to my life. The yoga class was just what I needed on Sunday as always, it never disappoints. Followed by a bike ride on glorious Poppasquash Rd. through Colt State Park in Bristol, RI after hitting the market to fill my very empty fridge with a plush assortment of food for the week. As I got dressed for my first class back three and a half weeks after my final surgery, I actually forgot it was three and a half weeks after surgery and forgot to put on that support contraption of a bra the good Doctor had me wearing 24/7 for the first week post surgery. At my last appointment he told me I could cease wearing it because his work was coming along just perfectly (if he did say so himself, my words not his). So I stopped for the most part so as I got dressed yesterday for my first real kick ass boot camp style class, I actually forgot to put it on.

I walked into my familiar territory with my workout peeps and got set up in my preferred spot next to my workout idol, Kate and quickly realized that running in place, jumping in place, skiiers in place caused some upper body awareness I had not experienced in almost seven months. My breasts now moved. They swayed. They jiggled. This was a new sensation since for the past six months those hard bowling balls were as firm as a screw tightened by a drill. I had forgotten what moving parts felt like and I quickly came to the unfortunate realization that I should have worn the support bra. I slowed myself down, semi cupping my breasts using my hands for the support I should have. I started more low impact moves because I had no idea if my moving and shaking would cause this new silicone to readjust and realign in a way that may cause my breast to now become a part of my underarm or my collarbone. I just couldn’t believe I had been so foolish, but the fact of the matter was that I finally feel so great, I actually forgot. Forgetting even for a moment about all of this nightmare is definitely something I cherish even if it is fleeting.

Burpees, squats with overheads, bicep curls with situps, long jumping, chest presses, all seemed to be quick reminders that I shouldn’t be doing them so because I am not a person who has to prove anything to anyone except myself, I slowed down and made up my own workout. At the 40 minute mark, I decided that I had better stop this. After all I have my whole life to get back to my workouts. I didn’t want to set myself back. I was already moving forward at a great pace and I didn’t want to cause any reason to have to have another surgery purely for cosmetic reasons. Enough with the surgery already.

For some reason, some of my friends use the term supergirl or wonder woman. I know it is tongue and cheek, but I always cringe just a bit. It makes me feel like I am trying to be this super power force for some ulterior reason. I am not. I am not supergirl or wonder woman. I am just a chick who has a lot of energy, a lot of life in her and doesn’t want to waste a single moment not embracing its exclamation point. I like fitness because it settles my very busy brain. When I am not working out, I am not as calm in my head. Workouts are my natural Prozac. I don’t workout for any other reason- not for a kick ass body, not so I look better in a bathing suit, or a pair of tight jeans. Christ, I don’t even wear tight jeans these days. I am just so comfortable in my own skin, that I dress for comfort these days. It is hard to be in the beauty business and also represent the beauty world in yoga pants and Life is Good t shirts. But this is my honest truth. Comfort. With my lines, my skin, my body, my brain. I am not supergirl or wonder woman. I am just me and at 52 with my sporting new upper self, this is enough these days.




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NO SERVICE

NO SERVICE

Words that could send some into a tailspin, surely these days with our cell phones now a new extension of our fingers, an added digit to our very busy brains, when I saw these words on our drive to one of the many trails along beautiful Route 302, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. NO SERVICE meant that my busy and now new and big breasted life had no excuse but to shut down. Absurdly, I have two phones- one is for mostly business and daily texting with many as well as an app for this an app for that. That phone, the phone I consciously left behind and turned off for eight days, the one that consumes an inordinate amount of time creating a sense of importance and busy-ness in my life sat comfortably on my night stand patiently waiting for my calm and serene return. I needed a vacation and my phone and I needed one too. I am not going to mislead, though, I struggled with the decision, but in the end, my rational self won, the example of my grandfather’s world he lives in easily techno free won. The other phone I own is my emergency phone. This is the one I chose to bring with me on my annual trip with the man I love to spend hours every day in nature hiking and biking in total silence amongst the intense foliage. This is the one that I brought with me in the car because photos are a must, but service isn’t and when the two glorious words of NO SERVICE popped up as we climbed past Mount Washington, I felt free.

Let me first clarify the word hiking. I am a casual hiker. First off, I have an intense fear of getting lost, some people have a fear of heights, or spiders or snakes, I have this weird fear of getting lost. As I write this, I am struck with an epiphany of sorts that I will explore later as this essay today will surely lead somehow back to an inner realization, but later on that. This fear coupled with my love of hiking does not make for good bedfellows, but there is such an opposing intense love of nature and silence that I am a willing participant in challenging my fears. The old cliché of feeling the fear and doing it anyway applies here. I love the challenge of feeling a little scared, then seeing the trusty old yellow or blue or red dot that signifies a well marked trail. I am the type of person who really wants to climb Mt. Washington because physically I know I can handle the eight hour climb, but the fear of not knowing if the trail is well marked for my fearful self keeps me from the otherwise magnificent climb. (another epiphany in the reread-BAM)

I would be just as happy doing the climb up the road that the cars climb knowing that the way up is as well marked as Disney World. I am embarrassed to even write this as I know this misses the entire point of the climb. As I reread this, I know that I wouldn’t do that, but I am just trying to demonstrate how deep this fear goes for me. The peace and calm of the hike is the main point and clearly the tarred road with the never ending family dreams of placing “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper stickers looming as one 40k SUV after another passed by surely would miss the point.

I have learned over the past four years on this annual fall trip how to read maps, how to navigate enough so that we find the trails that are both challenging, but also are marked enough so that I am comfortable enough to continue the climb. There is always a stunning reward at the end. This is the bonus of a good hike on a great trail, the climb up to the surprise at the top-usually a breathtaking view and one that takes my breath away. This is worth all of the fear and this is why I climb. We all climb in our own ways. Some more literally than others. In my case, leaving my busy world and leaving my business phone behind to be off the grid as best as I can is challenging enough. I realize many nuggets as I am traveling quietly alone with my thoughts toggling ahead or behind my partner.

I love a good walking stick and I have found two on my travels this week. There is something balancing and meditative about using one both up and down. There is a rhythm to the walk with a walking stick and in addition, my eyesight perception is off so it helps me find my way up and down rocky and leaf covered terrain. I have big badass bold thoughts about my life and what I want to do with it when I am hiking and biking.One thought was how much i would love to have my son with me as I have taken him up in these Great Woods many times. As he gets older, I love him more. I didn’t realize how much more I could love my child every day. This is an incredible gift of nature, these gems of poignant realizations. I also realized this week that owning my own business has so many gifts and one is that I get to direct it, it doesn’t direct me. Sometimes in the mire of day to day operations, I forget this. I have always been an opposite thinker when it comes to “what I am supposed to do” because I own a business i.e. be attached to a cell phone 24/7, social media 24/7, email weekly blasts with this promotion or that promotion, the ‘shoulds’ of day to day entrepreneurship. What gives me pleasure is not that part, what gives me pleasure is the day to day personal and real physical connection with people, mostly women. Hiking in the mountains grounds me. It serves my soul a big plate of centering and creativity. It releases my brain from work and it allows expansion. Without this, I am lost, how ironic but not really that my fear of getting lost is exactly what serves me the most.

The climb we were on was pretty steep and as I traipsed up the third trail of the week after a twenty-five mile bike ride the day before having to pause an unusual amount of time, I said to Michael, “Maybe I am having to stop so much because we didn’t eat breakfast before leaving.” He and I are on this twelve-hour between dinner and breakfast intermittent fasting plan in our perpetual quest for the perfect nutrition balance. (I know- a big yawn for those of you who know us).

He starts laughing and turns to look at me and says, “Maybe it is because you just had surgery three weeks ago, Alayne.” I seriously forgot that this could possibly be a reason for my slowness. I laugh at myself and I cry at myself because I consider in that moment of clarity how infrequently I give myself a break. Merge this with my occasional teary eyes as I walked and stopped as a twenty five year old couple climbed by us and stopped to chat for a moment. As they moved on I said to Michael, “I am a little teary eyed.” He, with his intuitive beautiful soul, said back, “I am guessing their age reminded you of your brother, honey, let the tears flow.” And they did because yesterday, October 20th would have been my brother’s 47th birthday and I realized that before he died he answered my question of “What is your advice to me as I go forward on without you?” Meaning of course how will I climb without you, how will I not get lost without you in my physical world. His not quite twenty five year young cancer ridden skinny soul said, “Live life to the fullest, Alayne.” And so I do. And so I will.



finding a beaver damn and my walking stick, never mind those braless tatas just sayin… and me and my man at 2 of some really nice trails this week. highly recommend before the snow starts to fall. Love this hat too… thank you Grasmere of Bristol, RI.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH JULIE TREMAINE AND THE BAY MAGAZINE

AN INTERVIEW WITH JULIE TREMAINE AND THE BAY MAGAZINE

The interview below was written by Julie Tremaine for THE BAY Magazine, a local magazine for East Bay, in RHODE ISLAND. When I get interviewed, I am never quite sure of the end result, especially because I always speak my truth like it or leave it. I really loved what she wrote and I wanted to share it because like I told her, SHE GOT ME.

A BIG THANK YOU TO JULIE TREMAINE.

Alayne White is not a shrinking violet. The longtime Bristol resident and owner of her eponymous spas there and in Providence has always been vocal: about living life on your own terms; about how beauty can be empowering; about, well, everything. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, Alayne went totally silent. “I talked about it to people that I knew,” she says. “But I really hid out. I just wanted to have some privacy.”

Not this time, though. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time earlier this year, Alayne had just started to put her first experience into words on Medium.com. Her first post, titled “The Locker Room,” described the experience of unapologetically baring her scarred body at the gym. “The next thing you know,” she says, “I’m getting diagnosed.” And this time, the floodgates opened. Through her double mastectomy, reconstruction and recovery, Alayne has been writing near-daily blog posts about her experience — and they’ve been resonating with thousands of readers, in the East Bay and beyond.

“It was a totally different experience three years ago than this time,” she says. Now, bravery, honesty and humor define how she shares her experience — or maybe “overshares” is more accurate, since, she says, “I’ll show my boobs to anyone who wants to see them” (maybe/probably/not really a joke). “That feeling of having part of your body taken off was so sad to me,” Alayne says, “but I wrote about it so much that I think it helped release that sadness. The thing that helped me the most was that I met a woman who had the same surgery by the same surgeons. She invited me to look, and I was like, That’s going to be great.”

Just as other women with breast cancer have helped ease her own fears, Alayne’s openness has helped to inform others living with breast cancer in their lives, whether they’re the sick ones or not. She’s not providing medical information — she’s sharing what it’s like for one woman to go through cancer. “I’ve been making a difference in women’s lives for 15 years with the treatments that we do at the spa” that boost women’s confidence and help them to look and feel beautiful, she says. “But now, there’s a depth that feels so connected. I’ve had so many women and men say to me that they love what I’m writing, or they sent it to their sister who has cancer.”

As much as her posts celebrate bravery and recovery and thriving in the face of cancer, some reveal an author who’s vulnerable and afraid, especially in the countdown posts before her double mastectomy. In those days she was coming to terms with losing pieces of her body, and fearing the loss of her womanness, her desirability, her sense of self. For someone so adamant about aging naturally — Alayne barely wears makeup other than lipstick, and doesn’t color her graying hair — getting reconstructive implants was a difficult consideration. “There was a moment when I thought, Why am I even going to do this?

Yes, she was diagnosed early and yes, her recovery has been less difficult and faster than some. Alayne is aware she’s making cancer look easy. A close friend of hers is having a very different battle with the same cancer right now. “The thing that’s interesting in people reading my writing is this sense that I’m Wonder Woman,” she says. “I laugh at it — but I don’t like to have that be the perception” of what going through cancer is like. “This is just my experience with it. When it gets caught early, you don’t even feel sick. I want everybody to know that it doesn’t have to be so bad if it’s not bad.”

Late in September, Alayne went in for the last in her series of reconstructive surgeries. She’ll continue writing about her recovery, but more than that, she’s just going to continue writing. “I think I have opened up my personal floodgates, and there’s no stopping my truth now,” she says. “I feel liberated by it. I think this… acting ‘as though’ has been the gift of cancer. I get to stand on the precipice of my mortality and look at my life and say, Alright, what do I want to do differently? I really like that.”

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YES, GOOD ENOUGH.

YES, GOOD ENOUGH.

I am in the wrong business, I thought as I sat in the plastic surgeon’s office waiting for my appointment. People- women, actually, ALL women, waiting, coming in, going out, being called in for some appointment to sculpt, inject, shape, change, consult, buff, and whatever else is offered at this very busy place as I waited for my second check up since my last and hopefully final surgery. Were they all here for the same thing I was? Doubtful. I tried to surmise why each of the ten women who happened to be there around the 10:40 am time slot would be there. Frankly I have no idea. But what I do know is that there was no way the majority was there for the same reason I was. First off, the wonderful consultant my Dr. has employed to walk through the details of the reconstruction part of the mastectomy surgery was on vacation. There were signs everywhere for the multiple services, hydra this, injection of this, smoothing of this, freezing of that, sculpting, prodding, poking all for that fountain of youth.

The irony does not go unnoticed. I fully understand that I too make my living in the beauty business, but my methods and messaging has always come from the place that we are all good enough. This busy enclave of an office with a handsome male doctor at the helm and female nurses and assistants by his side changes the message. It says, you are not good enough as you are, your aging face is not good enough, your sagging breasts and fat deposited hips and protruding abdomen could be better, younger, firmer, tighter, and therefore happier. This has never been my message. I like to think that I have messaged the notion that we can bring out the better, but only if you feel good already. I don’t capitalize on a weak spot or inject an idea that the expectation about aging should be anything less than what it is –normal. We get old. We get lines and wrinkles. We get puffy and loose. Our decisions in our youth have made themselves known in our fifties and sixties and seventies. They will continue to make themselves known and we can make corrections in how we eat and move, but ultimately there is a part of us that is supposed to gain self acceptance as we age. That is the glory of aging, the self acceptance and self love of ourselves when we look in the mirror.

I know it is easy for me to say this, I have a rocking new upper rack that is a force to be reckoned with, I have freshly liposuctioned hips that (maybe) will be kick ass someday (frankly they are a bruised bumpy mess right now and it is hard to imagine smooth prettiness ever again) all because of that pesky and annoying we caught it early twice double dose of breast cancer. Lumps, bumps, uneven nipples and bizarre sensations in my entire upper body affirm that all of the plastic body improving surgery we women partake in whether voluntary or involuntary is no match for the natural aging process. If I could do it all over again and not have the diagnosis, I would love my body more than I do now, surely. We age. We sag. We have earned the right to be easy on ourselves and pass the torch to all of the young women who take our place. We cannot be that again. Potions and lotions can brighten and gleam and this is enough. The knife, the suction tools and contraptions, the needles are no match for Nature’s pull. Often downward.

We women forget our unique power.

We are the carriers of life. We are the warriors of love and family. Our intuitive place on the planet is power. We are not prone to war, but we are warriors, we get to think and strategize with the essence of peace as our backdrop. It is our nature and yet we sit in these offices thinking that we are not good enough to move through our world in the shape we are in. We tend to bumps and bruises in our children, we care for our aging parents, we are roll up our sleeves and get shit done entrepreneurs. We handle life coming at us with a ready for battle stance without the need for weapons, but with the innate force that we can handle just about anything. Why do we weaken when we look at ourselves in the mirror and feel like we should be younger looking when we know we are filled with immense wisdom and power? This astounds me as I sat in the office looking at these women who feel weak in their beauty. How is this possible? How did we get here? What examples are we setting for our sons as they watch our insecurities unfold every time they watch us watch ourselves. What examples are we setting for the next in line aging women? Our daughters and granddaughters? Maybe none of this is our responsibility; maybe they are supposed to figure the aging process out in their own time like we are. I know that when I am looking at myself in the mirror and there is one more hair sprouting from some place other than my eyelashes, brows or head, or another brown spot shows seemingly overnight, I am good enough. I know when I look at a picture of myself and see how much my hair has whitened since the last picture I saw of myself or there are lines around my eyes and I am not even smiling, I am good enough. Perfection is bullshit and unattainable. That perfect body goal went out the door when I had my first lumpectomy and my upper shape was left disfigured and highly sensitized. In many ways, it was liberating. The mastectomy and reconstruction was like taking the cape off and giving myself a break from the unattainable hope that one more workout or one less brownie would give me the satisfaction I was looking for at the image staring back at me. What satisfies me these days is the leniency I have bestowed upon myself by replacing my rigid rules about food and living with a less Type A mentality. Clearly I am a work in progress and this is good enough. October is Breast cancer Awareness Month so I am running for the hills because this pink everywhere makes me want to puke. I don’t need awareness and I surely don’t need one more pink ribbon thrown at me every corner I turn. I am highly aware every time I look at my naked reflection.

I just read an article by Joel Kahn (https://journal.thriveglobal.com/breast-cancer-prevention-month-green-not-pink-b1d05f0c4cfb) called Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Green not Pink. The best article I have read thus far on the point of pink ribbons. Let’s make them green ribbons instead. Let’s change the language to Breast Cancer Prevention Month instead of Breast Cancer Awareness. Let’s talk prevention, let’s talk nutrition for a damn change when we are going for our yearly mammograms. There is science behind prevention these days even for genetic mutations. My breast doctor who is completely evolved was the only person who talked nutrition with me at my first post negative mammogram consult. Eating crap, drinking too much and not exercising is a trifecta for breast cancer, but this question is NEVER and I MEAN NEVER asked at a mammogram consult. It is shameful. Until these things change, I want no part of the pink bullshit that has become part of our consumerism life like the Apple logo. I hope that the women I get to witness every day and the women I cross paths with at the Plastic surgeon’s office know how good enough they are before they get an unfortunate diagnosis. Lumpectomies and radiation and mastectomies and reconstruction and liposuction all suck. I talk lightly about the “fun” part of all of this because what choice do I have but to look at this situation for what it is- I am alive and I am good enough.





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WHEN IN DOUBT

WHEN IN DOUBT

Clean. Organize. Fold. Wash dishes. Put clothes away. Do the laundry. Clean the fridge. Reorganize a closet. Find some beautiful music (Pete Bradshaw on Pandora as of late). Turn off the tv. Weed a garden. Turn the phone to silent. Complete one task you have been meaning to get to. Distract yourself from yourself and all of that time to reflect. The solution to self- doubt and disarray is this for me. If and when I force myself to take that first step from immobility off the couch and propel myself into a task, a menial task that distracts my non-stop washing machine brain as of late then I reap the rewards when it is done. I light a candle, sit back on the couch and do what injects calm into my soul, I write, I read, I finish the Sunday times. I stop obsessing about the what ifs where I am never comfortable. In fact I so seldom go there that when I visit the island of What If, I do not enjoy the trip. It is foreign to me actually so I think that its unplanned destiny is magnified because it is unfamiliar territory. Kind of like female driving alone, getting lost at night with no phone service looking for a gas station. Get the point? I am usually the person who leans into change and movement with gusto and I can fix anything mentality. I know this to be true. I know these feelings are a normal part of recovery from two hours on the operating table and doped up with anesthesia, followed by narcotics and antibiotics followed by bruising and being tired. This is the perfect recipe for self doubt; though maybe self doubt isn’t the best word to describe, more like feelings of being really overwhelmed at the notion of what needs to be done. The lists never end. I fantasize about the day I can cease technology, cease social media, cease having to reinvent the way I do my business to keep up with the never changing methods of communicating my business. I am exhausted by myself on occasion and it is this feeling that makes me want to “stop the world I want to get off.” A phrase from a musical in 1961, way before Facebook and all of the other shenanigans became a part of our daily thinking of necessities. What world did they want to get off?

I have always worked best under the pressure of chaos, and when there is no chaos, which in fact should be a desire, I am lackluster. So the question is do I create the chaos by my own energy field? Or once I accomplish my infinite tasks, the settled and peaceful feeling is so foreign to me that I am unsure how to lean into it. Hmmm, let me think about this. Is this my cross to bear?

Taking a break from myself yesterday, my partner and I did a favorite Sunday afternoon date; we went to Eli’s for brunch in Warren, RI, then over to the Coffee Depot for a nice cup of tea and to finish the paper and finally a walk over to Second Story Theatre to see The Boys Next Door. http://2ndstorytheatre.com/show/boys-next-door/

I have seen this play before at Trinity Repertory Theatre in Providence probably over twenty years ago. It is a joyful chaotic blend of laughing and crying and all of the emotion in between. I love local theatre, especially well done local theatre. I couldn’t believe there were seats available for this show. It is one that shouldn’t be missed (shameless plug here-tickets thurs-sats at 7:30 and my favorite Sundays at 2:30) and I sat there feeling calm and happy with my partner and more importantly so grateful. I think what happens when my head starts spinning in What If land, gratitude is my equalizer. Why do I forget this? Lack of movement amplifies these What If thoughts and has the ability to immobilize. The interesting piece of this is that I know it is happening, I know what I need to do to detour it, but it takes me too much effort to consider the way out. I am grateful that I know what to do and I most always figure out a way to take that step, but the before the step is painful. Ahh life coming at us. There are no guarantees that the flowers will bloom, but I do know that they usually do and this is enough.


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ALL FOR THE PERFECT BOOB

ALL FOR THE PERFECT BOOB

The one thing about having to sit on your ass recovering for a week is that books and writing become a mandatory staple. There is just so much television to watch and frankly, my head starts to spin after more than an hour. Couple this with a perfect indian summer week of glorious weather and between writing and reading, my brain doesn’t feel as mushy as it sure could have. Sitting outside, birds chirping, sun brightly lighting the remnants of the flowers and plants soon to lay dormant and I can actually forget this week of bruising and soreness all for perfect boobs. The absurdity of this surgery does not go unnoticed by me. Feelings of guilt for taking this week to take care of myself have leapt into my brain and then of course I realize how silly this thinking is. I can hear my therapist saying, “Can’t you give yourself a break, Alayne?” Apparently not. Surely it doesn’t help that I haven’t been in my own home all week so that I could go under the radar and hide out a bit and not feel the pull of my business below calling me. Add to this, the blend of no exercise, a daily tab of oxy and craving sugar and carbohydrates and it is a recipe for a fucked up spinning head. But today is a new day; the bruising as promised by Dr. M has gone down considerably, I feel more like myself on this Day 9. I’m not going to lie though, the bruising, numbness and soreness in my sides of my hips has taken me by surprise.

If I had just had the surgery to do the exchange without the liposuction I would have been back to work in about a day, but this healing is slower than I thought. I want to be normal again. I want to get back to my house, my life, my work, my workouts, sex without worry that a part of my body will hurt, clear head. I sound like I am whining, maybe a little. I don’t like feeling unsettled and this is what this last round of my final mastectomy surgery has caused. All to have sculpted boobs. The lunacy of this also does not go unnoticed. I am grateful, a grateful cancer survivor. Shit could be so much worse. Clearly there is a lot more psychological significance and I seem to be more reticent about this aspect of this experience. Yes I write. Yes I am truth. But the head stuff that is coming up from this last surgery is an interesting science project on my brain. As I can hear my former husband saying to me, “Alayne, you think too much.” This used to drive me crazy, but there is unique wisdom to this comment. I wish I could easily lean into a more relaxed head space more often. My brain just has a hard time shutting down, off, lowering its speed. Then I get annoyed that I can’t so easily turn down the volume a bit and just stop the madness. This of course could all be because of Day 2 off of oxy and sugar and carbs and a full week with no exercise and usually this is when crazy brain revs up for the wild and bumpy ride. I know the things that bring me to balance and one is nature so going to my son’s rugby game today will definitely be a help.

Reading a book is also helpful to slow it down and escape a bit and I just finished a new favorite author who I had discovered by unfortunately reading her obituary in the NYT. She lived in Maine and the Portland Press Herald writer, Mary Pols started her obituary like this: “Elaine Ford, a novelist, retired University of Maine professor and seeker not of fame and fortune, but truth on the page.” Sing it Mary Pols! I love delicious writing and Elaine Ford is the first writer I have been inspired enough by to contemplate writing something fictional for a change. The New York Times started her obituary with this, “ Elaine Ford, who wrote spare elegant novels about quiet lives and thwarted aspirations…” My heart skips a few beats at these descriptions of her writing and I hungrily digested my first foray into her world in finishing in a day her collection of short stories called, The American Wife. I want to buy all of her books pronto.

If breast cancer not only got me off my ass and writing more, and breast cancer led me to Elaine Ford and the contemplation of attempting fictional writing, then I am grateful for its lessons. Good and bad, annoying, frustrating, confusing, mind fucking, head spinning, life rejoicing, appreciating and heart widening breast cancer. Who knew?

http://www.elainefordauthor.com/the-american-wife/

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/31/books/elaine-ford-writer-of-spare-detailed-novels-dies-at-78.html

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OPTIONAL IS BULLSHIT

OPTIONAL IS BULLSHIT

“I don’t think it is fair that the word, ‘optional ‘ or ‘elective’ is used when referring to the second half of the mastectomy portion of your surgery,” my dear friend Sara stated so matter of factly and her voice of reason as usual brought me back to reality. I was reviewing the trials and tribulations of my most recent second surgery five days post with her and using this language to describe my ‘how did I get here?’ feelings. “Come on,” she said with her pragmatism I have grown accustomed to in our almost twenty year sisterhood bond. “How dare they use that language with women when it comes to the plastic surgery portion of this, what do they expect, every woman to walk around with no boobs? It’s our inherent female body part.” She was so right. I was starting to have a bit of panic from this last surgery, oddly not at all because of the breast part of this, that part was a serious breeze- take the hard baseball tissue expanders out, put the soft squishy real feeling silicone in. Done. Awesome. Easy. It is the liposuction part of this surgery to replace the spaces and dents like epoxy on an old 57 chevy (52 in my case) that has thrown me for a loop. I am bruised and battered. All of this the good doctor warned me about and told me truthfully that this was the part that was going to suck, but that it would only last a couple of weeks max. If I added a photo to this writing, no one in their right mind would think this would be going away within two weeks from now.

Black, blue, yellow orange and not the pretty color selection from the rainbow. Besides I feel like I have the worst period cramps coupled with that five hundred crunch workout and the southern part of my body (and not my legs) is now part of the party too. The irony does not go unnoticed of super hot tits, but the southern part of my body (was planning on using the V word here, but my partner sounded kind of horrified when I read it aloud so I decided to censor, forgive me) that looks like it was tackled by a team of drunken hockey players. Not pretty. My friend, Melissa asked me matter of factly as I was lamenting over my soreness feeling mighty sorry for myself struggling to get up from the couch, “What are you doing looking anyway?” I can’t stop looking at it frankly, I had no idea this was a repercussion from the Twilight Zone desire of my Doc for me to have perfectly sculpted boobs. OMG. Pray for me. My other friend, Kris assured me that she watches some bizarre reality TV show that shows lots of liposuction and this is temporary. I don’t know what I would have done differently. I wasn’t going to not have the reconstruction. I wasn’t going to tell the GOOD DOCTOR not to do his job, I don’t think he would have listened anyway because the fact is bruise now “perfect” boobs later or no bruise and distorted misaligned boobs forever.

Bruises and pain go away, this is not permanent. It is just fucking freaking me out and I don’t think I was really prepared for the pain of this as much as it is. I can hear my inner circle of friends saying, “It is only five days, Alayne, what did you expect?” I know. Do I dare say that this is worse than the mastectomy? I am not sure. Maybe because at the mastectomy I was totally prepared for pain. I wasn’t for this so it has kind of caught me off guard and it is pissing me off. All because of the vanity portion of this surgery. I wish I was one of those super cool chicks who said, “Fuck tits. Take ’em off, sew ’em up and bam done, I’ll start running laps with no shirt on now that I am boobless. Tell the boob dictators to go to hell.” I just couldn’t do it. Does this make me less of a warrior? The language of elective and optional surely doesn’t help me feel like a warrior anymore as I sit on the couch taking oxy for the soreness in pain because my plastic surgeon was aiming for perfection in his surgery and I let him because I trust him. Still do. I am struggling with the vanity portion of this in my pain here. I am dehydrated, constipated and tired. I wasn’t prepared for this and I am annoyed that it is all because I chose to have “elective” surgery causing one more woman angst for yet another decision she makes. It reminds me of the guilt thrown on women for natural childbirth vs. epidural or formula vs. breastfeeding. What the fuck. Maybe the oxy is getting to me or the mounds of dessert I have been indulging in this last five days trying to minimize the pain. I know you superchicks out there reading this are ready to kill me with my laments. I can hear you screaming at the computer, ALAYNE, CAN YOU GIVE YOURSELF A FUCKING BREAK, A PASS?!!!!!! Thank you I can hear you and I will definitely. Starting right now, I will mindlessly lie in front of the tv, clicker in hand and turn this computer and my over thinking brain off and let myself heal. Thank you.

It is now the morning after I wrote this and I am glad I slept on this because I I feel way better today as promised by Dr. M. He said 7–10 days and today is the beginning of the Sixth Day. I didn’t sleep very well last night at all and I was sure today was going to suck, but I think the evening was the worst, now I feel better. YAY. Don’t worry out there, my friends, I am not going to run to the gym and overdo it. I am going to have lunch with my son and nap, read and write today. I love the turning point of healing, you just know when it is happening. The bruising is starting to soften a bit and things are looking up. What a difference a day makes. Fuck Optional.

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THE AWAKE WAKE

THE AWAKE WAKE

“I am thinking about having a party while I am still alive,” my dad on his almost death bed, cancer ridden, stated with almost Zig Zigler salesman like conviction. I had gotten “the call” that my father had been rushed to the hospital by Dad himself who sounded for the first time unsure if this hospital visit would be the last one. I rushed up there, ‘there’ being New Hampshire, Dartmouth Hospital, near the college where I found my father and my stepmother dealing with the ramifications of esophagus cancer that would soon take his young life. Once we realized that this was not the end, my stepmother had decided to head back to the cabin situated on my Dad’s beloved 100 acre campground in the Great Woods of Northern New Hampshire, Strafford, north of Lancaster. I stayed put so she could have a much needed break as she had become his primary caretaker, a task surely not for the fainthearted, but for a person who loved the other with all her heart. My father was lucky to have her, surely, as I chuckled at the notion of my mother ever taking on this selfless role. Not a chance. Not a chance of his mother, my grandmother doing this either, those two women were just not made of that fabric. Bernadette was, is, and I felt so happy she was his wife. I am not sure I would have had it in me either, especially since my cancer ridden father continued to smoke his disgusting cigarettes until almost his last breath. “What’s it going to do, kill me?” he would say with his twisted sarcasm. I had been going up to visit him pretty regularly before his cancer more like a freak show exhibit as once again my father was on some business venture and I, like the rest of my very white collar family of lawyers, doctors and business people, was intrigued by his never ending gumption.

My father was fearless in his quest to find the business that would give him the combination of livelihood and joy and the campground would be the winner for him. He loved the woods, he loved the social, he loved the community and his ability to make a small living doing what he loved was the best way for him to move into his seventies. Until he got the cancer diagnosis. Dad always thought that he would blast through his life living well into his eighties like his other grandfather, Joe, his father’s father who smoked at least a pack of cigarettes and drank scotch like water every day. It was a fifty fifty shot. The grandfather he was super close to, the one who died while Dad was at boarding school in Maine at Hebron Academy, when he was only 59 also of cancer. Stomach cancer was the diagnosis back then, but in 1959 who knows if that was the cancer. Almost sixty years later, cancer diagnosis’ have evolved and become much more specific and the genetic realities that have made cancer more prevalent are only within the last twenty years. My father didn’t know about genetic mutations and drank and smoked with a Joi De Vivre since he was about thirteen years young. I hadn’t been around the endless smoke of cigarettes since I was 16 and reentering the haze and smell triggered me. I couldn’t stand to be around it and Dad as usual didn’t really give a shit. Dad was the black sheep in the family doing all of the opposite that was expected of him and this used to drive my Grandfather crazy.

My Grandfather Herbie, ran a textile company in Fall River like so many other Jewish men in the fifties and sixties and my father ended up working there. I don’t think my Dad ever really enjoyed this, but because he eloped at twenty to a Irish Scottish German Catholic girl from Newton, Mass and I came along a year later, I don’t think his track in the management career at Woolworths in Burlington, Vermont was feeding his soul or his wallet. He now had a family to support and since he dropped out of University of Vermont and totally pissed off my grandfather, I think this was his cross to bear. With his tail between his legs, hat in his hand, he went back to Fall River and began his career at the factory where he unhappily resided until I was at least fourteen. He had some other businesses afterwards but when he found this campground and purchased it I finally saw him living his truth. I loved the campground, it was a bizarre collection of camouflage, ATV’S guntoting, pot smoking Libertarians and they loved my Dad and he loved them. I don’t know how he managed to be part of the party as quickly as he did, but Dad was a gregarious outgoing and super smart guy. Super likeable too and his ability to live his life how he chose was a great example for me. He was a curious soul and the longer he resided there, the more he became a Fox loving Libertarian along with the rest of them. I was in awe.

So when he came up with this idea to have a party, I immediately jumped in and came up with the name and all we had to do was convince Bernadette. I’ll never forget her face when we both proposed the concept. It would be potluck. It would be a huge all day event, we would invite all the New Hampshire folks, all the Jewish family, all the Portugese contingent and whoever else wanted to jump on the party bandwagon. A bonfire would also be part of this wacky event, of course. And besides food, there would me much alcohol and lots of clothing layers. After all it was Northern New Hampshire in November. As we began the guest list, Dad determined who we would be asking and who we wouldn’t be asking. A couple of his first cousins would be left off the list which was fine by me. Hell when someone is dying of cancer, they make the rules, social correctness goes out the window and I was just the messenger. Little did I know that this decision would cause a war on the day of the event with me being the recipient of the fire. Of course the two cousins got wind of it and showed up anyway thinking it was me who left them off the list. Me in my codependent protective state took the brunt of their anger like it was right out of Seinfeld episode as they showed up in their Lexus with their high heels and Prada bags. Amusing and in hindsight added humor to the heaviness of the day. It didn’t feel funny on the day, but it definitely has been a topic at every family get together.

What is an awake wake? It is a celebration of life when you know someone is dying and they get to be the main guest while they are still alive. As one might imagine, this was a difficult concept for many of our family to swallow, but I was the cheer leader and no one was going to change our plans. I think losing my brother at such a young age made me look at dying with such a unique vantage point and if this was one of the gifts of losing my brother, an awake wake would soon be in the history books as one of the greatest celebrations ever. Imagine my grandparents traipsing up to New Hampshire from sunny and warm and wealthy Sarasota in the middle of November to “celebrate” their son’s life knowing he was going to die of a cancer that also took their first born grandson only fifteen years earlier. Heavy and hesistant hearts I am sure they had. Of all of the people who attended and there were at least 150, my grandparents couldn’t stop talking about this in the most positive of terms after the weekend experience. I think this gave my father a great feeling of peace. Why do we wait until someone dies to tell them all of the glorious things we learned and loved about them in a postmortem eulogy? The only advantage to knowing you are going to lose someone is that you know ahead of time. Why wait to celebrate their lives? Why not celebrate them so they know their importance on this planet and how they affected people and places by their short existence. I know this idea isn’t for everyone, but this experience with my father was life changing for not only him, but for the people in attendance.

We shared food, stories and life together with Dad and he knew his contributions without a doubt. He got to live two more months with the knowledge that he made a difference in many peoples’ lives and I think when he finally checked out, he was more at peace then he imagined. Less pissed off that his plan of smoking and drinking and outliving us all would throw our theories of health and fitness out the window, he was happy when he died. Isn’t this the point? And typical of loss, I miss my father more at each year that passes. I find myself really asking what would Dad have said, done, but I am so glad I was able to tell him what I loved about him while he was still around and coherent to hear it. Anytime I find out someone close to someone I know is dying, I always boldly suggest that they sit with the person privately and let them know all of the wonderful things they learned from them and loved about them. It is a real gift for the dying, but often it is surprising at what a gift it becomes for the ones left behind.










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LUMPECTOMIES, LIPOSUCTION AND WTF

LUMPECTOMIES, LIPOSUCTION AND WTF

It all started with a lumpectomy, actually two lumpectomies, when the removal of cancer became synonymous with plastic surgery. I tend to be Au Natural girl, I don’t really like the whole plastic surgery, botox, fillers, and all of the other crap we women have been told to do so we look better, younger, prettier, firmer. I have to give the docs credit for making reconstruction a major piece of a double mastectomy; reconstruction conversations go hand in hand and I almost forgot that this part of the surgery was optional.

When I went in for my double mastectomy almost six months ago, I never really gave much thought to all of the extra elements I would be facing simply because I couldn’t imagine my life without breasts. Who implanted that meme in my brain anyway? Was it an organic thought or was the thought much deeper stemming from my sneaking peaks at Playboy magazine of women and their luscious bodies when I was prepubescent. Hugh Hefner died the same day I was headed into my final surgery this past Thursday, September 28th. So the irony of this does not go unnoticed as I read the mass amounts of tributes and criticisms of his controversial existence as provocateur, free speech proponent versus his reputation as an exploiter of women, misogynist and free sex capitalist. I read a piece today in the NYT by Ross Doutat (not a big fan of Hugh) called Speaking Ill of The Hef which criticized the underbelly of the Playboy mansion and Hef’s line leader reputation behind the scenes. This got me thinking about my decision to go forth with reconstruction, a less bunny like term for the alternative-“breast implants.” As I sit here feeling like I got run over by the Patriots linebackers and have the bruises to prove it, I have started to question the auto pilot decision to go through this optional surgery just so I can look like my previous female self.

Dr. Hottie, my plastic surgeon who is the consummate professional and expert in plastic surgery and reconstruction is an artist as well. He was sure to sculpt and measure so my end result would be no less than a work of art. What this equates to is his recommendation to perform a small amount of liposuction during surgery too so that he could take fat from another part of my body and mold and shape it like Silly Putty filling in the holes and pockets that were left from the mastectomy. Every woman I ran into who had some semblance of knowledge about mastectomy/ reconstruction surgery spoke with sisterhood envy that I would be getting “free” liposuction aka belly tuck etc. There is nothing to envy here; trust me. The thing is that my belly was already flat. Remember I pay dearly for this flat belly with my overpriced boutique gym classes that I wouldn’t give up for anything. Dr. M, while looking for areas of my body to lipo determined what I already knew; we would be heading a bit more south for the usable (aka sides of my thighs) fat. Little did I know that exchanging the tissue expanders with new and improved final silicone would be a walk in the park compared to the lipo part of this last surgery. Who knew that removing fat and moving it to a different part of your body in its twisted Twilight Zone way would be so uncomfortable. Remember the old Jane Fonda workouts in the eighties? Remember her “Make it burn” one liners she belted out as she challenged us to do one more crunch in our thong leotards and leg warmers? So picture the decision to finally get off the couch and do your first Jane Fonda VHS tape workout after not exercising for like your whole life. You make it through the 60 minute tape out of breath and feeling burns in parts of your body like you never felt. You go to bed and when you wake up the next day you realize that you have muscles in your abdomen you never knew existed and you can barely get up off the couch.

This is what liposuction feels like. This too shall pass for sure, but where I thought the pain would be it is not, as a matter of fact, my upper body except for the too tight compression bra I am forced to wear for the next two weeks 24/7 is nothing compared to the areas that were liposuctioned. This leaves me to think why the fuck would any woman voluntarily do this to themselves. I would put a photo of the bruising that happens in the areas where the fat was removed, but I don’t want to freak out the women about to go for their final surgery. All of this is normal, all of this I was warned about and since I totally trust my doctor, I don’t care at all about this because I do know this is temporary. But on the coincidental timely passing of Hugh Hefner and my surgery, I am wondering why I put myself through this elective surgery. Was it so I could have the cosmetic replacement that society has told me is inherently defining as female? What defines female? Surely I am not, with the wisdom of retrospect now, shallow enough to think that breasts are what constitute my sole source of femininity. Don’t get me wrong here, I have absolutely no regrets on my decision. I have loved playing dress up Barbie for this past summer. As a matter of fact, my decision was not even a decision to begin with. My choice to move ahead with replacement parts was so automatic, this is what I find myself questioning. The auto decision. For someone who is so non cosmetic non invasive thinking when it comes to my female world, I am actually surprised that I didn’t think about this decision with a little more curiosity before I jumped into the rabbit hole of breast reconstruction.

As I sit here on my third day post surgery waiting for my single bra that God knows the price that was charged to the insurance company to dry (because there is not a chance I want two of these contraptions), I wonder if all of this will ever be over. I mean I have had my back, my breasts, my underarm, my stomach all prodded and poked to keep me whole. I have had radiation, more than I care to have mammograms and MRI and ultrasounds and drains and plastic surgery. I have had nipple sparing cosmetic surgery and fat sucking liposuction. And my breast cancer was caught early twice. For a young woman who had never had surgery except for a lazy eye when I was in second grade, I have surely caught up with it all in the last two years. As I sit here with the weight of the 475 cc in one breast and 495 cc in the other silicone replacement, waiting for my bra to dry, I find myself wondering what was the point to all of this. Is there one? Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I made the decision to march forth with these new bad ass wonder woman centerpieces that now reside on my upper body, but this last surgery has given me a different perspective in this decision. I am guessing I will be thinking about this much more as time and my new breasts march on.