Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The last round

Finishing Chemo...

Yesterday Olivia started her last day of Chemo. As anyone who has gone through Chemo knows, that is quite a milestone. I realized that many people may have never known Chemo from the inside out. They may have watched others go through Chemo, but personally they have never had to endure it. Thinking about Olivia, and her family, I thought about when I went through Chemo.

I’ve tried to come up with the perfect analogy about having to have Chemo. Being told you should have Chemo after you have been told you have Cancer is something akin to being told you have rotten teeth and then seeing the pliers poised over your mouth to yank out all your teeth. It’s like doing your taxes and then being audited by the IRS and then thrown on the stand in court to explain your entertainment budget. Maybe this… It’s like believing in Santa, and then finding out he is not real when he arrives at your door with a gun and robs you blind.

The truth is there is nothing like having Chemo. You KNOW you have to do it. You dread it. You fear it. You try and find ways to deal with it. Since Chemo is broken into different sessions over some time, you go through these feelings multiple times. If you are an optimist like me, after the first session you say I have finished 1, not I have ___ more to go. But that last session, in the time leading up to it you are saying “I only have one more to go.”

When I went through Chemo, I feared losing my hair and I feared being continually sick. But I feared dying more. I would listen to hymns on my walk-man. Glenn sat by my side. The nurses were always nice putting a warm blanket on me as the cold drugs would make their way through my veins. I would leave feeling fairly ok… and then I would spend a few days feeling not so good.

When I had my last session I knew that was it. I wasn’t going to be having radiation. The follow-ups I would have wouldn’t be invasive or painful (short of mammograms or blood work). It was like I had graduated from one school of Cancer with a degree in Chemo. They even gave me an angel pin to congratulate me. The rest of my education on Cancer would be in other schools and those schools are actually the ones that shape your life. You see it is how you move on from Chemo and Cancer that defines you. You are not Cancer. You are a human being and you are meant to live.

Chemo gives a Cancer patient a chance at life. The things you learn after Chemo are the things that give you permission to embrace life fully. During Chemo you don‘t have to think much. Chemo kind of does its own thing. While getting Chemo I believed at least the Cancer isn’t growing. I don’t think I truly accepted it was completely gone. With each check-up after Chemo where there was no Cancer to be found, I still held a piece of me in reserve that said it could come back. As my hair grew back and I thought about how hard it was to lose I would hope that it would never need to fall out again. But I knew that was always a possibility. I let myself eat and drink and be merry, still not 100% sure how long my life would be. And I think for a good deal of the 13 years that followed my Chemo, I moved somewhat comatose through life. Enjoying it and finding joy, but living with a silent fear.

It took me a LONG time to move on to the next college and get my next degree. I even got a diploma, a flag called BELIEF. Standing in the Survivor Circle at the Susan G Komen 3 day, looking out over the faces, many streamed with tears, I realized I had moved on to fully and completely believing I had beaten Cancer. The Chemo and surgery had done their jobs. I was not a Cancer patient. I was Cathy Youngling, age 58, living and breathing and making a difference. Cancer hadn’t killed me. It almost did. What it had done, I finally realized, was make me stronger, wiser and a fierce warrior who now could fight for others.

And as I think about Olivia and the rest of her journey, and the journey of her family, I know there is a lot ahead. There will be joy, there will be life large and small, and I know there will be silent fears. But I also know and believe they will be standing one day with flags of their own.


Because when it comes to survivors, it takes one to know one. Here’s to the next phase.

Goodbye Chemo, hello life.

P.S. The last day to sign up as a 3 day walker for 2012 with the current discount is December 1. Use the Code CURE2012 (It saves you $30)

In case you didn't know I am walking 2.... San Francisco Sept 7-9 and San Diego November 16-18

Go to and look me up. Join the team. Make a difference... or if you can't walk... DONATE, 2011 is almost over and you may like a tax deduction!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ok... I need to vent.

The other night on 20/20 there was a segment about whether or not attitude can influence survival or not. There was this high faluting doctor explaining how his "study" showed it had no influence. There was no discernible difference between someone who had thrown their hands up in the air and gave up, and someone who had hope and faith and determination to beat their illness.

They even used the example of Gabby Gifford. Her recovery they said was due 100% to the trajectory of the bullet. So none of us Cancer survivors have any power over our destiny. We have no influence over the speed of our recovery, or our recovery at all... We are after all victims of our circumstances and we should just "let the doctors do their best and accept our fate."


Sorry if I see it, smell it, hear it I have to call it. BULLSHIT.

I posted something on Facebook and got a lot of feedback. "

I believe your attitude does matter when it comes to survival. I find it sanctimonious and annoying when people insist it makes no difference. I pity people with so little belief in things outside themselves. Attitude won't change everything, but it makes the best of what you are given and then some. But to blame a person’s death or illness on not believing enough that is the height of arrogance."

It must be my rage over this struck a cord so I thought I should blog about this as a follow up.

I feel sorry for those people who cannot accept there are things outside our knowledge, things like miracles, that have no explanation but exist none the less. Miracles do happen. Someone who was told they have days to live, sometimes find they live for years. For me, I owe my survival to many things. If my Cancer did anything it reminded me that it is up to us to fight for our own lives.

I listened to the Doctors. I followed the most aggressive course. I prayed. I allowed the people around me to pray and hold me up. I survived because I did everything I could to survive. Others don't survive, why? I only know about me and I know it made a difference.

There have been several times when other's arrogance and ignorance, personal fear and powerlessness have led to the most hateful evil kind of help. "God must be punishing you. You had better get right with God." Oh yes they did say that. The Doctor saying "attitude will not help your survival" and the idiot who says "Cancer is God's punishment" are both cut out of the same sorry cloth. Elitist, arrogant, sanctimonious and dangerous.

When my Mother was dying from Cancer, there were a couple of those moments. One was sitting at a card table with my parent's investment counselor who said to my Mother, "When you die you won't be seeing your father. He didn't go to church so he will be in hell and you Bettie will be going to Heaven." I watched as I saw the light die in her eyes, her hope and love disappeared at the sound of this man's words. I grabbed his arm and looked him in the eye and said "Really? Well if my grandfather is in Hell and you are in Heaven please God send me to Hell because he had more love and compassion in him in his little finger than you have in your entire body. I feel sorry for you." I still am angry that at the end of my mother's life somoneone would choose to hurt her like that. So when I hear some holier than thou Doctor pontificate over his study, which in his mind is the same as "holy words" I get angry. Angry because his small mindedness might just cost someone hope and no one should feel they have the right to do that.

Did the Doctor mean it doesn't matter if you lengthen or improve your life, because you will die anyway? If that is the case ok, he's right. We all die. But how we live is ALL up to us. What we believe is ALL up to us. The quality of the time we have on this earth is up to us. The joy we find in each day is up to us. And I believe that can be a difference between us.

If Cancer ever knocks at my door again. I will look it in the eye like I did before. I will acknowledge it for a formidable foe and I will fight. I will fight until I can't fight anymore. That is MY choice. And now, now that I am Cancer free, I will continue the fight so there will never be a day when the arrogance and ignorance of people join forces with Cancer to kill the light in the eyes of people I love. That is my choice. It doesn't have to be yours, but you should never let someone else tell you there is no choice. There is. What would your choice be?

And on that note... I am going to walk to work.

P.S. I am half way to my minimum fundraising goal because there are people out there that believe we CAN end Breast Cancer. If you want to get me to the minimum goal by the end of the year DONATE.

And if you want to walk in 2012, find a walk and join it. Use the code CURE2012 to get a discount on the registration. If you want to walk with me, send me a message and let's talk.

Friday, November 18, 2011


All of us at times, bemoan the things we don't have. Here's part of my list....

I don't have my children living close by.
My Mother.
My sisters and brother and their families live in other states.
I won't have a mortgage paid off anytime soon.
I don't wear a size 8.
I don't travel as much as I would like.
I don't have an I-Pad 2 or a wireless printer.
I don't have multi million dollar escrows.
My face is starting to look its age.
I need a new range.

You get the picture.... the list could be quite long. Sometimes late at night when I can't sleep I think of everything in the world that is a worry or a want. I don't spend time thinking about what I have. That list... the important one, is too often neglected.

From that place of I need, I want, I don't have... very little forward movement is possible. It is a negative place. A place that paralyzes you and keeps you from moving forward.

Here is my list of what I am grateful to acknowledge I have... and trust me this list has no end, these are just the ones on the top of my mind today.

My husband. He is at the top of my list. He allows me the freedom to be who I am, and loves me more for it. He is my biggest cheerleader, and has the strongest shoulders I know. He listens to me when I am worried. He gives me incredible advice which almost always is right. I am blessed to have found my soul mate. My partner . With whom I share an incredible life. My first and my last husband, who I will love forever.

Our children. We both are blessed with daughters who are intelligent and beautiful. Each are very different from each other. They grew up in each other's shadow to be their own people.

Katie is artistic and creative. She has a heart that is tender and I feel blessed to feel I am in her heart. Blessed to watch her grow. Grateful she has a job and someone she cares for. Happy every time I hear from her. I know she will always be there for me as I would be for her.

Allison is intelligent and an unbelievable writer. I feel blessed to have seen her marry and be loved. And blessed to watch her as she pursues her career in something she has dreamt about. I am so proud to see her succeed. She is strong and I am blessed to know she loves me and will always be there for me.

My friends, near and far. To name them would be to compare them and they are without compare each and every one. I am so grateful to be a part of their lives.

Fellow survivors... I feel completely and utterly blessed to be a part of a group of people who have had the same life altering experience of being told you might die, only to come through and be stronger and wiser.

I am grateful for my home. It is a place where Glenn and I can be ourselves. It is our home. It serves us as shelter, as a place to welcome family and friends. It is where we look out windows to the most amazing changing landscape. It is where I grow amazing apples from a tree that Glenn planted.

Tamalpais Valley, our larger home. I am grateful for the trails, the beach. The fog as it dances its way down the valley in the summer. The trees that sway in the breeze. My work. I am grateful that through my work I have met some of the most incredible people in the world. Many have become friends, some have become like family. I feel blessed when I know I helped them find a home where their dreams can be realized. I am grateful for a beautiful and intelligent partner who keeps this business interesting and fun.

I am blessed to have had dogs as a part of my life. Blessed to have a goofy boy named Tucker and a prima donna named Sophie. Both of whom look up to me and Glenn for love ( okay maybe cookies too).

I am grateful my dress looked good for the Susan G Komen Gala, and that my daughter could be my date. I am grateful that Glenn helped me, to give myself permission to go. I am grateful that that trip, the walks and all of my participation in Susan G Komen has helped me to dream big dreams, for myself and everyone. To dream of a world without Cancer is a big dream ... but somehow, I feel I am blessed to be a part of making that dream come true.

I am blessed to have discovered I am not older, I am stronger. I am not an athlete but I can walk 60 miles. I am blessed to have discovered how good it feels to make a difference, and how incredible it feels to physically, mentally, emotionally and in every way embrace my own survival.

I am grateful I started this blog, that allows and encourages me to think one layer deeper. I am blessed to know this matters to other people.

It's almost Thanksgiving. It is a time for thanks. And I could go on and on and on about what I am thankful for... Every day should be a day to be thankful. I have a feeling we all would sleep better, be happier and ultimately create a heck of a lot more to be thankful for, if we just took the time to acknowledge what we already have.


PS NEW THANKS! Judi has officially joined

Team:Are We There yet? SF! We are going to have the best time!

DONATE and give me one more reason to be thankful!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Its been a busy week with a few Real Estate deals brewing. There's a lot of brewing in Real Estate, a lot of maybes, a lot of waiting. I read in a Real Estate blog a question and answer about how available are you for your business. Almost everyone answered 24/7. You can't survive in this business unless you are available FULL time.

Even though I am pretty darn available and have a lifeline attached to my I-Phone, I refuse to make Real Estate my life. My life is so much more. But it is tempting to forget that when you set out to do something for you... and a deal, a seller's insecurity, a buyer's immediate need is calling for your attention. These obstacles are there to challenge your resolve to balance your life. If you approach the obstacles with an open mind, and seek other avenues to take care of business at the same time you take care of yourself, you can often find a better and more healthy avenue to follow.

But it isn't easy. It isn't my personal life that wakes me up at 1 am, its my business. But I find sleep comes much better, if I have not neglected my walking, my friends and my family and life.

Today, after a fitful night of sleep, during which I worried about my sellers and buyers, I decided, to walk into work for the first time in a couple of weeks. I am betting, tonight I will sleep. And thank goodness for the I-phone. If an offer comes in, I am a hour from a computer and seconds away from responding. Remind me of this next time I am tossing and turning. It is a valuable lesson for all of us.

Today's walk - The Obstacle here was the high tide. I could have turned back...

But I didn't. I went cross country looking for a way to pass it by.

And eventually found myself back on the path.

Looking back at what held me back a few minutes before.

HELP ME ON MY PATH to my fourth 3 day walk?!

Make a donation

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired

Last night we had our dear friends Patty and Claire come to dinner and I had the table beautifully set. The tiny votive candles were sparkling and the wine was chilled. Glenn came home and we talked about our day while we waited for our guests. I had my I-phone in my hand when I saw a post had come in from Leslie.

Leslie is Olivia's Mom and a Breast Cancer Survivor. Olivia as you know is battling Cancer, currently using the weapon of a stem cell transplant from the Cancer weapon's arsenal. Olivia turned 3 during this past month.

Leslie writes about their journey on Caring Bridge to keep friends and family updated. I wanted to read the post to Glenn. Leslie started by giving a disclaimer that the post may seem down. Even though I know my inability to read really emotional things out loud, I went ahead. She spoke of their long and tiring day, after months of long and tiring days. This one felt worse because the exhaustion in Olivia had momentarily stolen the spark from her eyes. She said it was as though Olivia was sick and tired of being sick and tired. It was there that my tears in my eyes swelled up.

I know that feeling. I remember it well. It didn't usually happen right after my chemo it was sneaky and laid in wait for a couple of days and then it was as if a Mack Truck ran over me, plastering me to the pavement. I would feel as if raising my head was a Herculean task. At some point I remember just giving into the exhaustion and laying on the couch for a couple of days. And I was 42 years old.

Olivia is 3.

There is something about knowing the feeling and then looking at a sweet innocent 3 year old that is so very hard to accept. Why. Why is it happening to this little girl.

None of us are immune to life. Life is this wonderful thing that gives each of us so much joy, but with that comes the other part... the part about being human. Life is at one time the most generous of benevolent philanthropists, giving unselfishly of the best it has to offer. Then turn around and life seems like a thief, whose main purpose is to steal our joy and burden us with pain and worry. It is a part of being human.

It is also a part of being human to ask what did I do to deserve this? What had I done to deserve getting Cancer. People are always looking for someone or something to blame. There are those sanctimonious idiots who say you haven't lived right, or God is punishing you. (Yes they actually do say things like that to Cancer patients, I have heard them personally). There are people who want to blame the water, the sun, their grandparents or anything anything except life. But it is life that gives us these challenges and life that also gives us such hope and joy.

I am not saying there aren't other causes to Cancer. Of course there are and that is part of the reason I walk, I walk to find not only a cure, but in the process identify causes so the cure can be found. But just like life, this isn't a simple task. Right now there are around 18 different types of Breast Cancer that have been identified. They are saying now that genetics, although it does play a role in some, is far less relevant than previously thought. They are even testing a vaccine for Breast Cancer that has shown a lot of promise for ONE TYPE of Breast Cancer. There are 18+.

So for those people who want to blame something, don't waste the time. Use your time in a more constructive way. Life has given you gifts that you can use to fight Cancer now. The biggest of these is LOVE.

It has long been my belief Cancer gave me gifts more than it took from me. But it took me a while to understand that. For many years I sought to hide from Cancer and in the process I hid from the incredible bounty it had given me. When I was "brave" enough to look back at my Cancer I saw it brought me love, and a sense of community. It taught me that I had power beyond anything I ever imagined. It renewed my spirit and brought me closer to truth. Cancer in trying to steal my life, made me love it that much more. It made me committed to helping others see the same things in themselves. As much as I want Cancer to fall to its knees in surrender...I thank it for the lessons I have learned.

But I still can't help crying for the hurt and trials Olivia and her family have had to endure. But, just so you know, I also have to cry a bit for the joy I have knowing how each and everyone of these people will turn that trial into triumph. That will be something to see.