Sunday, May 4, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Walk to End Alzheimer's

10. Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer's cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed unlike the other top ten causes of death in the US.

9. More than 500,000 seniors die each year because they have Alzheimer's. If Alzheimer's was eliminated, half a million lives would be saved a year.

8. While the number of deaths due to HIV, stroke, heart disease and prostate cancer all declined between 2000 and 2010, deaths attributable to Alzheimer's increased 68 percent, according to the Alzheimer's Association. (source)

7. If you're a woman, Alzheimer's is as great a threat to your health as breast cancer. This means, if you're a man, Alzheimer's is as a great a threat to the health of your sister, your wife, your aunt, your mom as breast cancer is.

6. Funding for Alzheimer's "still remains a fraction of the $2 billion that the NAPA Advisory Council recommended."  We need to keep raising money to ensure we see a change happen.

5. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease may nearly triple, from 5 million to as many as 16 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease. The need for research and medical developments is URGENT and cannot wait. Alzheimer's isn't slowing down so we can't either.

4. Every 67 seconds, someone in the US develops Alzheimer's. Think about how long it's taken you to read this--how many people have developed Alzheimer's in that time?

3. We all deserve to grow old, #tbt, and say the words "Remember when?" Alzheimer's robs us of the ability to grow old and gray together with our friends, to enjoy blissful retirements, to be badass seniors who dance like this.

2. We need to make noise. "Americans whisper the words Alzheimer' needs to be yelled and screamed."

1. There are no survivor hats or shirts at Alzheimer's walks, and there should be. There's something to be said for going to a walk and celebrating the survivors you see or to see someone fighting whatever it may be that the walk/event is raising money and awareness for. However, when you go to an event for Alzheimer's, there are no survivor hats or survivor t-shirts. We walk in memory of and in support of those who fought or are fighting Alzheimer's. It's a sobering reality of the disease, but it doesn't have to be reality. We can make a change.

Please consider walking with or donating to my team, We Kick Alz! The walk is on September 28 this year.

Want more information? Read the 2014 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures--a report from the Alzheimer's Association. (A lot of these facts came from this report.)


Some more reasons courtesy of BVB in LA:
Board of Directors meeting for the California Southland chapter of the Alzheimer's Association
Mom's Birthday Year 1

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What do we need to know and believe about ourselves, our worth, and life?

Yesterday, my former roommate, Cassie, who is currently an assistant school leader at my old school texted me to loop me in on one of my students. This student has been having a tough time recently and feeling very sad--and not just elementary-school-student sad but grappling-with-very-difficult-things sad.

Cassie told this student that he/she (I'm avoiding any revealing details about the student) could select an adult to write to and that that adult would write back. (To be clear here, Cassie also is taking many other steps here to support this student--and this is one way to allow him/her to find a way to express his/her feelings.) My former student asked to write to me.

I've now written two letters, and this got me thinking about all the things I wanted and still want my students to know and believe. I started with the following:

...and today I wrote the following:

What are the essential things that children need to hear, deserve to hear, and must believe about themselves, their worth, and life? For that matter, what do we as adults need to hear, what do we deserve to hear, and what must we believe about ourselves, our worth, and life? I'm starting a list (the first four have already been shared)...but I need help. (Please ignore the fact that they are a mix of first and third person.)
  • It's okay to feel sad, and it's okay to admit you are sad. Doing so makes it less scary.
  • You are wonderful, strong, caring, and funny.
  • Never forget how special you are.
  • I am important.
  • Even if you think you're not the bravest or the strongest, trust that life will make you braver and stronger than you ever thought possible.
  • I deserve to be happy.
  • Life will never give me more than I can handle, but that is not to say I will not have to ask for help.
  • It's not easy, but I can and will have the courage to get up and try again even when things are tough.
  • Never ever forget to say I love you.
  • Be kind.
  • Love wins.
  • A cheerful heart is good medicine.
  • Laughter really makes things better.
  • There is goodness all around you--sometimes it's hard to see, but trust me, it's there. If you look hard enough, you can find goodness.
  • I deserve to be loved.
  • I am enough.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy mom's birthday to you

(Fair warning: there's a noticeable increase in my use of swear words in this post. I'm no Wolf of Wall Street, but you've been warned.)

This morning began with a phone call home: "Happy Mom's birthday," I told my dad, and a few hours later I texted my brother the same thing. It's a weird thing to celebrate--but let's be honest, no weirder than celebrating my mom's life and her awesomeness two and a half years ago at her funeral.

I tried to write last night, but my brain just couldn't process it. Perhaps it was the after effects of the vodka on the rocks I had the night before (because of course, my mom's signature drink couldn't be margaritas, but no, straight vodka on the rocks), but it just wasn't happening. Instead, I spent most of my night flipping through photos of my family--many of which included my mom. I re-read things I wrote two and a half years ago, and I kind of felt pretty awful.

I give myself 1% of the year to feel shitty. I figure 3.65 days of the year I'm allowed to have all out crappy days. 2 of them are the same each year: October 3rd, the day my mom died, and April 21st (or thereabout depending on when it actually makes sense for me to celebrate her birthday. Vodka is not a Monday night type of drink for me).

Last night it was a 1% day. As I looked through photos of my mom, I was reminded of just how amazing she was. She was selfless. She was caring. She was compassionate. She didn't give a shit what people thought, she knew what she wanted in life, and she went after it. She was always up for a challenge, and she was always on the go. She lived life the way I think most people strive to, and she was pretty damn awesome.

This should make me feel great, right? The fact that my mom was such a wonderful woman, and it does.

...but it also makes that loss all the more difficult. I didn't lose an okay mom. I didn't lose a mom who maybe cared about me or who sometimes told me she loved me or who believed in me 75% of the time.

I lost a mom who cared more about her family than I can really even process.
I lost a mom who told me on a daily basis she loved me.
I lost a mom who believed in me without wavering or doubt.

So there I sat, sad girl in pajamas, eating sushi on the couch, flipping through photos, thinking, "Man. This hurts."

I very much so believe in my ability to will things to happen, to make a choice in life and to see that it happens, but the reality is, I can't will my mom to be alive and healthy. I actually don't have a say here. I don't get to call my mom on a daily basis to ask her advice, and I'm going to have to keep deleting all of those damn emails that are filling my inbox about "gifts for mom" as Mother's Day approaches. All those questions I want to ask my mom just aren't going to get answered right now.

*sad violin plays*

...okay so yes, yesterday I tried to close my eyes really tight and see if I remembered my mom's voice. I don't. I tried to think about the last memory I have of her when she was 100% healthy, and I found myself thinking back to the end of eighth grade. We're talking 14 years now. It's hard, and it gets scarier the less I remember of her. I get nervous at times I'll forget her.

However, then, my better judgment kicks in. I read her eulogy and what I said at her memorial mass.

...and I find myself constantly arriving at the same conclusion:
Yes, losing my mom was easily one of the most painful things I've ever gone through. And yes, it still hurts.

But oh my goodness,
how fucking lucky were we all to know her?

I would almost argue that the real people who are unlucky here are those who didn't know her. I feel a little envious of those who knew her better than I did.

...but I also feel so unbelievably blessed to have had such a wonderful mom for the time that I did. It almost feels greedy to say that I should have had more time with her, because I got to know her for longer than many other people did, and the impact she had on my life is immeasurable.

I got to reap the benefits of having such a bad-ass mom. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure my mom cringes over some of the choices I make (Mom, it's cool, I do too), but overall, if I dare say so myself, I think my parents raised some pretty awesome kids.

And so I find myself going back and forth between two very different sets of emotions:
1. Feeling sad (and well, feeling sorry for myself), because really? Mom, really, you had to leave me so soon?
2. Feeling a kick in the ass from my mom reminding me: Life is tough; suck it up, because at the end of the day, I'm very lucky.

I probably sound terribly arrogant saying this, but, on a daily basis, my life is fucking fabulous. I'm actually not quite sure why I've been given such a phenomenal life with such amazing people with whom to share it, but I have. ...and each day that I got to spend with my mom (when I was smart enough to listen to her and not being a punky child) has contributed to the awesomeness of my life. Each day that I wake up and do something that would make her proud, well, it continues to contribute to how wonderful my life is., really, if I were to re-write this post, I'd probably write about how lucky I am and how much you should be jealous of me, because I had the privilege of having such a wonderful mom, and though I may not get to see her on a daily basis or talk to her at all, I get to go through life with her in my heart, which, hey, really isn't too shabby.

Happy mom's birthday to you; may you be as lucky to know someone as amazing as she was at some point in your life.


Monday, March 24, 2014

High five for scars and fevers

I spent today with my apparent new best friend of 2014: Advil. You see, Advil has been a pretty crucial part of the past month of my life. Despite the fact that I don't like taking medicine as I consider myself to be very tough, sometimes things like broken elbows or fevers require me to take medicine.

(Fun fact: I've had a bottle of 80 Advil that I purchased the weekend I fell. I have 49 left (discovered this today when the bottle spilled...)--which means I really haven't taken very much medicine anyway since I'm allowed to take 9 a day).

This morning, or if I'm being really honest, nearly this afternoon, as I was lying on my couch, I briefly got a little angry at my body. Seriously? You are just getting over a broken bone and think that now is an appropriate time for me to get a fever? I disagree with you, body. I issue a strong statement of dissent.

The moment quickly passed, and I found I was reminding myself of something I know but maybe sometimes forget: my body does a lot for me, and I should really be grateful for it.

Now don't get me wrong, my body and I have our disagreements. I will often push my body to its limits, because I think I'm oh-so-tough. I often don't give my body a break when it needs it. For example, I still remember being offered a wheelchair when I needed to have some lung test while I was going through chemo. Let's be honest: I probably wasn't looking so great if I looked like I needed a wheelchair. I refused, however, and felt a little bit upset--really, body? Can't you keep it together?

I also have moments where I get distracted by things and people around me, and the words "juice cleanse" seem intriguing. Though my pant size is a single digit, I'm no longer as little as I used to be in high school; I know, it sounds so awful (sarcasm marks), but hey, sometimes it's hard to ignore the allure of new diets and trends.

However, in time, I've come to realize my body is pretty damn strong, and I ought to give credit where credit is due (instead of getting sucked in to a world of skinny jeans and feeling down on my appearance). Sure I have a few scars, and yes I'm not always stoked to take a day off from work, to admit I'm not feeling well, or to feel like my body at any point is limiting me, but if I look at all the evidence, well, it's in favor of my body being strong and useful--and in fact, not limiting me.

My scars are reminders that 1. My body can handle cancer. Win., 2. My body can also handle my clumsiness and failed attempt at using a steak-knife to cut a plum when I was 10, and 3. Shark bites happen (I kid. It was the crazy tumor--but I like referring to it as my shark bite).

Each day, I get to wake up, make breakfast, walk to my car, drive somewhere--my body allows me to travel, to sleep well, to move, to walk, to dance, to talk, to write. If I'm thinking really big picture, my body allows me to live.

Sure, perhaps today there wasn't a lot of dancing happening, but maybe, just maybe, instead of getting angry at my body for failing to be healthy 365 days a year without a break, I should cut myself some slack and rest. Take care of my body after all it does for me. So in the spirit of being grateful that in a day or two I'll be good as new (and being patient with my body as it gets back to 100%), I'm heading to sleep early. Thanks for being awesome, body, for putting up with fevers and scars and still coming out on top. It may be time for a self-five.


Monday, March 17, 2014

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