03 February 2009

On Nana Rie Bling and Talismen that Cannot be Diliuted

Just days after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my friend KT met me for a tea downtown before one of my genetic tests. She asked me point blank: "You're not going to start wearing pink now, are you?"

I laughed out loud at the sentiment. "What do you think?!"

Aside: I do NOT have the BRAC1 or the BRAC 2 gene, much to the surprise of the docs.

My friend, Doreen, a breast cancer survivor and fellow Eastie girl cut from the same cloth, phoned a week later threatening bodily harm should the pink ribbon materialize on my bosom or on any area within a one-foot radius.

I don't care for the color pink in general (except on my daughter, of course, and other wee ones) and the irony is not lost on me that the flagship color of breast cancer awareness is -- what do you know?

I mean zero disrepect to the pink ribbons and those who wear them. First, you have to wear what works for you, what makes you feel positive and strong on your journey. Second, there is NO doubt that the pink ribbon's uber-success in raising awareness has led to numerous fundraisers and one, two or three-day walks that many of us have participated in. Because of the pink, the BC coffers overfloweth with cash-money, research funds and expertise. The pink is probably one of the biggest reasons why I have a better chance of surviving breast cancer today. So, I give thanks to the pink.

But with great success, comes ubiquity.

(Hence, LPD and I beating feet out of a North Scituate surplus store after a rapid succession of Susan G. Komen and other related BC commercials)

And when something becomes ubiquitous, it becomes generic. And when something becomes generic, it begins to no longer mean anything. The whole sentiment becomes diluted.

Anyhooters, with one in 8 women projected to get breast cancer at some point in their lives, each illness, life situation and journey will be far too unique and personal to fall under one symbol. People will find their own inspirations and talismen to get them through the battle.

That's why the Nana Rie bling (NRB) among other things, is working for me. And not just for me, but for my cousins who also have their own arsenal of NRB to draw upon for strength. My Aunt JoJo (their mom) was recently diagnosed with MF lung cancer. So, we're all wearing NRB in solidarity, and on Facebook, of course. (BTW, those who never met JoJo in person, she is the artist who hand painted my kids' "Make way for Ducklings" table and chairs that everyone raves about when they come over.)

If you don't know the story of Nana Rie yet, it bears repeating: Our Nana Rie was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37, back in the 40s when it was a death sentence. She had a double mastectomy and went on to die at 81, in perfect health, after being hit by a car on her way home from a dance class. She took that disease DOWN, wearing her funky hats and pins and beads and necklaces the whole time. Holding onto a piece of her strength and fighting spirit can only make you stronger -- or at least give you a funky-ass baseline along the way.

Aside II: The only ribbon I will wear is the turquoise one, which represents ovarian cancer for my sister-in-law. Nobody has any idea what the turquoise stands for (yet) and people are always asking me about it. Caroline wears her turquoise ribbon as a barrette and says it's for "My Auntie Paula." I usually answer: it's for ovarian cancer, do you know the symptoms? Well, there aren't really any (asides bloating, but c'mon), they whisper. Cue Icicle Works: "Whisper to a Scream."

That said, I share my sack o' talismen that accompanied me to the Dana for my first 1-2 punch of chemo yesterday AM.

-Nana Rie bling: Her rhinestone heart pin that comes with me anywhere.
-A strength stone from my Aunt Joanne.
-Caroline and Paul's artwork, including an envelope Carrie addressed to me that says "Kate Jackson, I love you."
-Uncle Paul's (the orginal Boulos) cross passed along by Paula (he was a brother at Stonehill College who passed away a few years ago. We all loved him.)
-A metal from Majagoria from the Dell'Olio's that I'm wearing on a beaded charm bracelet.
- A necklace that James got me from a street vendor in Positano (right after 9/11) as a reminder that we'll return there during better days.
-I'm sure the bag will continue to grow throughout the journey.

Since I'm wearing as much as this stuff as I am carrying, James has begun referring to me as George Clinton, King of Funk.

That said, please stay tuned for tomorrow's installment (if I'm still upright): "Drip, Drip, Drip goes the Chemo." I'm feeling good today after yesterday's infusion. They told me my bad days will likely be Wed and Thurs, possibly starting later today because of my small size, aka "the boney cheese hater size," if you will.

Pointy note: I never meant for the PU to become a blog about cancer. But that's where we're at right now. And hopefully we will in a different place next year at this time. Thanks for sticking around in the interim. I appreciate you all. xo KJ


Mark Rowlette said...

Jesus I feel bad, I'm wearing a live strong braclet and a pink shirt and tie. Does that say something about me?

Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Whether your blog is about Cancer, your kids, your dinners with your friends or your once in a while rants, I love reading!

3 more of this cocktail to go, right? Hopefully you make it through this week feeling pretty good. Stay strong!

KJ said...

Hahah..Mark, you be you. We love you as you are. Hoping we'll be pulling through this shite and be with you and Lauren at the Pogues. Fingers crossed, wigs on. Talk soon.

KJ said...

Thank you anonymous.:) Glad you're sticking around. KJ

Roving Lemon said...

KJ, this is a great illustration of what your SIL said--it's not about the stats or the disease, it's about *you* and your experience. And I'm glad you're taking us with you on the journey.

Glad you are feeling okay so far. Thinking of you lots.


Lynn said...

Kate, you crack me up. You are such a rebel. I guess I will put that white canvas bag away with the pink ribbon on it full of pink tulips, and have Bob plant the flippin tulips somewhere else... And you are so right, I wear my Soul Sisters T-Shirt around with the big ass turquoise ribbon on the back, and explain to everyone what the hell it stands for. We are here all week, if you want me to take the kids for a few hrs or out for dinner. Love you all.


Diana M said...

Kate, just got my first pink ribbon last night in Hanover - no offense but I am keeping it on my car until you are ready to take it off with me in 16 months when NED is here. Love your writing -
thinking of you every step of the way! Di from Scituate

Anonymous said...

I think the 'Fuck Cancer' hat should be the next fundraising strategy. I doubt it will become ubiquitous. Strength vibes, xanax wishes and peaceful thoughts to you.
And, of course, the ubiquitous hugs.
Sarah Doobs

Michelle said...

Kate -

Stay strong. Thinking of you!


frannie fatnose said...

Kate, Richie L. forwarded this link to me. You are an amazing writer. I'm sure you have tons of helpers, but if you ever need a Hanover old friend to help with whatever, I'm happy to lend a hand. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. -Tricia.

Tracey H. said...

I have to say, Kate - I have never laughed so much reading about cancer. I hope everything went well with your first round of chemo. No go kick that tumor's ass, girl. Hugs to you and your family!

bg said...

Keep up the good vibe, KJ. Cancer = Crap.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog daily and was in your seat at DFCI just a few month's ago! You are in GREAT hands with "ann" and "Michelle"
try and get "Cheri lynn" for your
chemo nurse!! I wish your all the best!

SAC said...

Hey Kate, I have forwarded you blog posts to many friends and family who find your courage and strength and most of all, your humor, inspiring! Kepp it up! Just don't go politico on the pointyuniverse!
I have a unique gift for you that James will get tonight. Goes along with the Clinton thing...yipeo, yipieah!

Paula said...


the bling is working it's magic.... Jojo got some (relatively) good news yesterday too... i believe the word treatable was used..

anyhooters :)... keep up the good work and your blog is what it is ... a story about your story... one that inspires and humors us all through the dark times...



KJ said...

Paula - treatable. TREATABLE?? That's music. That's the bling. This is a good day. xo love coming at you.

Anonymous said...


I have this vision in my head that you are appearing on The Colbert Report in support of your book titled Fuck Cancer. Colbert's first question is "How exactly do you fuck cancer?" I promise that I'll Tivo that episode.

Your in my thoughts and prayers.


carrie mcinerney said...

Hey Kate, I, too, love your blog. I could read about anything if you write it. Hope you are doing ok through this first battle. Stay strong, and Jamie will be calling you "healthy" Kate soon enough! (Remember that?) Love you guys, Carrie M.

Anonymous said...

You my dear, are a very gifted writer. Your story has made me cry and laugh. You have earned this "stranger friends" respect 100x ova sista.

Seriously, know that you have people (that don't really know you) in your corner praying and pulling for you.

You'll be doin' cartwheels when this is all over.

Hang inthere, K?

Heather said...

For me it was my hats. I hated being bald but the best thing that came out of chemo was my hat collection. And, yes, I have the pink baseball cap. My mother wanted to "do something" so I asked her to find me one.