Dena Taylor | Breast Cancer
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I say tomato

I was at a gathering for writers. The leader talked about whipping out x thousands of words a day, getting so-and-so to help edit the final manuscript, another to do the book design, etc. and getting it up on Amazon as fast as possible to get those sales made and dollars rolling in. Leader made writing and publishing a book--a whole book!--sound as easy as popping a frozen bean burrito in the microwave for lunch. Leader recommended using an online global freelancer site for editing and related services, and noted that he used someone from overseas because the people in the U.S. "just charge too much." Leader also mentioned a family member who has been working on a book for "three years now." And with the shake of the head said the family member, "is never going to finish." I've been working on my book for over seven years. I won't be going back...

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New oncologist, fading nerves – Part 2

Well that was weird. With one exception, everything I thought would take place at the new oncologist's office, didn't. In my last post I mentioned going to a new Denver oncologist (onco) for my annual followup. Since finishing treatment and five years of tamoxifen, I've been monitored with: Annual digital mammograms (despite implants, my previous surgeon felt that it would capture microcalcifications in any trace tissue, since technically, it's impossible to remove every last trace) Manual exams Tumor marker blood test Vitamin D levels (associated with cancer risk) Some sort of discussion about whether or not I'm peri-menopausal ("Are the heat waves I still get two years after finishing tamoxifen a sign? If so, when for the love of God will they stop?") I figured we'd knock out each item plus the following: Discuss whether I should take tamoxifen for another five years (studies have shown it to be beneficial for women who had early-state ER/PR positive cancer, like...

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New oncologist, fading nerves – Part 1

  I didn't always know how to talk cancer. When I went to a survivors luncheon just two days after my diagnosis in 2006 —or was it one?—the words were like rocks in my mouth, funny tasting, awkward and some had sharp edges. "The way they were talking so openly about it -- like you would a migraine or bladder infection -- clashed with my current state of shock. I could barely utter the words “I have cancer” let alone talk about its characteristics or plans for treatment. I was still reeling, still raw." — excerpt from I Don’t Wanna Be Pink I can talk about it now. I'm honored to do so if it will help others, and comfortable when it's within the context of my book, such as in my recent interview on Good Grief with Cheryl Jones, on my blog, via social media, or in my journal. That is to...

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Interviewed about breast cancer, memoir. Kept the bunny to myself.

This past January, Cheryl Jones, host of the Good Grief radio program on the VoiceAmerica Health and Wellness Channel, came across my blog via Twitter, and blew me away by asking if I’d be interested in being a guest on her show. Good Grief explores the losses that define our lives. As described on its web page: “Each week, we talk with people who have transformed themselves through the profound act of grieving. Why settle for surviving? Say yes to the many experiences that embody loss! Grief can teach you where your strengths are, and ignite your courage. It can heighten your awareness of what is important to you and help you let go of what is not.” Why settle for surviving, indeed. Cheryl and I would have a conversation about my breast cancer experience, life post-treatment and my memoir, from which I'd have the opportunity to read a few excerpts. I was...

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About the Book & Blog

One-third-life crises happen. Ever have one? I was healthy, single, in my early 30s, and working as a creative project manager in Seattle when mine hit. Everything was fine but fine wasn't cutting it. So, I got busy, did a little self-reflection, took a few risks, tried out some new ideas, and by the time I was 36, had transitioned to freelance copywriter, budding actor and new resident of Austin, Texas. I did my homework Prepared what I could And jumped Almost. The move was delayed when a routine mammogram, prompted by my mother's recent non-invasive breast cancer, revealed microcalcifications in my left breast. I was diagnosed with atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), which isn't cancer but is a red flag requiring mammograms every six months for two years. I didn't have cancer I jumped For real this time For the next three years, I embraced the warmth and romance of Austin. There were many attractions to discover, men...

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7-Year Hitch: Vowing to Finish What We Started

We came to be out of shock, grief, coping, and resolve. "I need you," I said. "I trust you." "You help me make sense of things." "Whether I bitch, moan, laugh or cry, you're always there. Always." A few years later, things changed. "You're still here." "Sometimes you bug me and I need my space." "I think we're stuck." "We should talk to someone." ~ Sound familiar, writers? Have you ever started a loving relationship with a project and hit a crossroads? I never thought we'd be together this long, me and my cancer journal cum memoir. We've had our ups and downs, but with sound counsel from developmental editor, Alan Rinzler, bottomless encouragement from loved ones, and a lot of hard work, we picked up the pace the last few years and as of 2013 my memoir manuscript is mostly done. Great, right? Right. Our relationship has gone to the next level. But there's more to do to ensure our story gets...

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Embracing comfort, not so worried about joy

I'm getting on a plane tomorrow. Going to spend time with some people I love, people who have known me since before I could talk (oh how they must cherish those days!). The weather could be frightful, the flight could be delayed. The people could be frightful, their stress unchecked at the gate. I could be one of those people, giving in to impatience. But I'm going to try not to. I'm not going to wear a sweater with bells and snowflakes on it or force a joyous demeanor, mind you, I'm just going to carve out some moments of comfort along the way — pockets of peace, if you will — to help make it easier to go with the flow. Whether it's getting to the airport early enough to enjoy a cup of coffee, rereading David Sedaris's Holidays on Ice during the flight or listening to random favs...

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Why today's mammo is different: Part 2

"Miss Taylor?" asks the technician. I'd guess she's in her late 50's, reddish bob, no makeup.  She reminds me of someone. Maybe an old friend of my Mom's. We are down to two in the mammo lounge now. The other woman is buried in her cell phone and two whispered damnit!'s indicate she's stressed. She's had her mammogram and it appears they want her to stick around, reason unbeknownst to me. Maybe she's answering work email, another diversion to the present ambiguity. I follow the tech to an exam room. She sighs trying to discern the history I scribbled on my form. "There's a lot of notes here," she says. "So you've had breast cancer?" "Yes." She opens my robe and asks which breast was removed. "Both." "Both?" "Yes." "Have you had a mammogram since then?" "Yep. Every year." She sighs and wonders aloud about which machine to use. "Every doctor is different. Let me see exactly what kind and how many...

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22 Ways to Occupy Yourself Before Your Name is Called for a Mammogram

Fear is real and I don't take it lightly. I sit with it, consider its origin, talk it over with someone, journal about it (check out Kris Carr's awesome post on ways to take fear for a joy ride). But at some point I've got to move on. The following is in order of how they arose in my brain while waiting for my name to be called for today's mammogram. Employ at your own risk. And if you do, oh, please, oh, please, do share! 1. Imagine that Betty White walks into the waiting lounge and sits next to you. Would you talk to her? What would you say? 2. Count in threes to 100. 3. Think of five things about the day so far that you're grateful for. (I had this amazing terra taco at a local cafe, and was glad to meet a deadline) 4. Do a crossword puzzle. 5. Bring...

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