Dena Taylor | Breast Cancer
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Why today's mammo is different: Part 1

“It gets better,” someone told me about the anxiety that comes with post-cancer mammograms. The first mammogram post treatment was naturally the worst. After getting normal CA 15-3 and mammogram results, I felt a little bit of everything: relieved they didn’t find anything but afraid they missed something; confident in my treatment but worried it would come back. It was a pendulum of feelings that would hijack my mammograms and follow-up appointments for years to come. But for that moment, I was given the green light. I could pass Go. I could blend back into the fold as if nothing was wrong. As if. — excerpt from my memoir, I Don't Wanna Be Pink. It's been 7 years since I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, just under that since chemo, and nearly two years since I popped my last tamoxifen. While I have a good prognosis, I still feel trepidation come mammo...

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8 Things that Seem Easier than Building an Author Platform

Ask anyone in the business, building a new author platform is really hard and can take a really long time. Throw in that it's for an as yet unagented memoir and well, almost anything seems easier. 8 Things that Seem Easier than Building an Author Platform Scrubbing the floor of an Irish pub the morning after St. Patrick’s Day with the feather of a baby hummingbird. Adhering eyelash extensions to Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in the movie Prisoners. Meeting a single, straight man in his late 40s willing to date a single, straight female over 40. Deconstructing Anthony Weiner’s sext messages with my 83-year-old mother. Employing Ted Cruz’s eyebrows to procure an important message from a Ouija board. Taking my cross-eyed shelter cat for a walk on a leash at night through a strobe-lit park during a falconry exhibition. Twerking without an ibuprofen or Icy Hot chaser. Eating a McRib. Thankfully, expert advice on platform development can be found online. It's...

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When I was sick. Guest post on Cancer, Cancer bo-Bancer

When I came across @DeeAnne_Barker on Twitter and saw the whimsy in her blog title, Cancer, Cancer bo-Bancer, and the spirit in her tagline, "I'm the boss of me!" I had to follow. When I learned more about her story, I was humbled and inspired. This incredible woman has faced cancer not one, not two, but three times, and maintains a sense of humor. In one of my favorite posts, her response to Facebook's blunder in failing to capture her most important moments of 2012, she writes: "Well $#%!&! you Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, I've got moments!" We can learn a lot from her. As her 500th follower, she allowed me to guest post on her blog. An honor. Thank you DeeAnne! ...

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Tamoxifinale

Sunday morning I sprung forward, first at 7:30 am (too painful, fell back), then for real at 10:07 am, and for the first time in five years — five years! — I didn’t take Tamoxifen, an estrogen antagonist (I love that) used to treat breast cancer. [caption id="attachment_1386" align="aligncenter" width="291" caption="Buh-bye"][/caption] I took my last 20 mg pill Saturday, commemorating the occasion by washing it down with water from a wine glass, but not before dropping it on the kitchen floor where it rolled under the stove, precariously close to two boric-acid laced roach tablets. Determined to see my prescription through to the end, I called the five-second rule, moved the (cheap, featherweight) stove, dusted the pill off and swallowed it, bringing my “adjuvant therapy” to a close. I recently expressed concern that once I stopped taking the drug tasked with keeping the evil-dividing cells at bay, I would feel like a sitting...

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Five years later, it's still the moment that counts

Back when I was sporting a chemo-induced chrome dome, I remember someone saying that if I were cancer-free for five years, I would be considered cured. A loaded statement and a tall order, but something to shoot for, if making it five years without a recurrence was within my control. It was like being on parole: “Stay out of trouble and you won’t end up back in the slammer, where your chances of ever getting out and seeing an organic vegetable again are going to be slim.” I would follow the recommend course of treatment. I would eat kale. I would do my best, the five-year marker, my saving grace, firmly lodged in the back of my head. [caption id="attachment_1166" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Will kale kure?"][/caption] Five years seemed like 50 then, and yet here I am, in my fifth year, cancer free. Party! Right? [caption id="attachment_1172" align="aligncenter" width="220" caption="Woop!"][/caption] Not so fast. First of all, I’m not...

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Breast Cancer, Row 7

Flight from Seattle to Anchorage Mom and I are sitting in row 8 reading as the remaining passengers board. An older man in front of us engages in conversation with his rowmate. He had breast cancer, he says. I prick up my ears. I know men can get breast cancer, I've just never (over) heard it first hand. In the span of about 7 minutes I hear him describe the cancer that was found a little over a year ago. He had chemo; it knocked him off his feet. He was 60. His older sister has had breast cancer too. He was tested for the BRCA gene. He encouraged his two daughters to get tested too. I couldn't make out the results. He went on tamoxifen for two months. He got a bloodclot in his leg. He is wearing compression garments. He has to get up and move every hour to prevent another...

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About that crap I'm drinking: higher stakes, greener foods

MOM: What is that crap you’re drinking? It looks awful! ME: I’m going to give you a chance to rephrase that. MOM: What is that…stuff…you’re drinking. It looks absolutely horrible. ME: And let’s try that one more time. MOM: Okay, what is that…you’re…drink…ing? [caption id="attachment_3298" align="aligncenter" width="147"] Compared to my fresh green juice (L) a glass of superfood does look pretty gross.[/caption] I was visiting Mom for the weekend, celebrating her impending birthday, and since she doesn’t have a juicer with which I could make my (almost) daily fresh green juice, I brought along a little baggy of my Superfood -- a drink powder made with organic green foods designed to “achieve the recommended 5-9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables.” I read about it in Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet, saw it on sale at the Whole Foods Market and snatched up a container. I admit, a glass of Superfood looks a lot like watery...

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Friends let friends (and friends of friends) look at their reconstructed breasts

The sharing and baring of breast cancer. The other day on the Twitter, “reluctant blogger” @chemo_babe asked her followers, “Have you ever felt brave by telling the truth of your cancer story?” She was referring to the courage it takes not to go through treatment, but to tell people you have cancer. “I wouldn't say brave,” I replied. “I have felt good, though, in that sharing may bring comfort, a laugh, or needed info to make a decision.” When I think of brave, I think of either the shy kid who gets up in front of class and stumbles through a God-awful poem about her pet gerbil or the soldier who consciously puts his or her life on the line for their country. Extremes, I know, but that’s what comes to mind. I’m not brave. I’m not a warrior either. Fucking breast cancer came along (and I hope that sounds unladylike because breast cancer...

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From afternoon snack to premature Rapture

I was going to tell you how to make this lazy sexy snack that is both healthy and satisfying for that 3pm lully sweet tooth (inspired by my love for Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Diet.) About how it takes like 10 seconds of your day to make and is way better than a waxy candy bar or crack-sugar-smackaccino from the local coffee bar. About how you simply take a brown rice cake, slather some almond butter on it (or whatever nut butter you like) and sprinkle it with coconut shavings, and voila! A sweet, crunchy snack, and a good source of protein. [caption id="attachment_3352" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Ingredients: Brown rice cake, almond butter, coconut shavings (from the bulk bin).[/caption] But instead I'll tell you about the barfy-carpet in the Los Angeles International airport. Seriously, the image below shows one of the three color splashes that are part of the design carpeting the floors...

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My brain on chocolate strawberry smoothies.

Today is another example of a complete diversion and something I might do more often. It's about eating and drinking stuff that tastes good, is good for your body and doesn't take all effing day to make. We have better things to do, no? Why do I care? Because in 2006, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the worst day of my life, which is to say it wasn't a gift. If it was a gift, it would've been a pretty lousy one, like showing up to someone's birthday party with a pinata full of cockroaches. Nobody wants to hit that. Nevertheless, it happened and now I'm doing what I can to prevent it from happening again, i.e., stepping up my healthy diet and exercise habits. In the wake of my diagnosis I found a handful of books I could relate to: Meredith Norton's Lopsided, Shelley Lewis' Five Lessons I...

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