In charge

One in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer—one in eight, that’s staggering. Just imagine you and seven friends having lunch together. One of you will get the disease. Better make sure the lunch you order is good for you—think fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, little dairy, no alcohol, and moderate amounts of fat, sugar, and calories.

While there is definitely a chance that family history, genetics, environment, and bad luck play a part in the development of breast cancer, research tells us we are also in charge of our cancer destinies—case in point: A healthy lunch (and breakfast, dinner, and snacks) helps fuel good cells and stall bad ones. Here, five methods for fine-tuning your lifestyle in the spirit of breast cancer prevention.

Maintain a healthy weight
. Gaining weight at any age and stage of life boosts a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer after menopause, says the National Cancer Institute. Haven’t reached menopause yet? Still, you should get your weight in check so you’re ready for this time of life, because as many as 20% of cancer deaths are due to being overweight or obese.

Hormone Replacement Therapy. It slightly increases a woman’s breast cancer risk, according to the large Women’s Health Initiative. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the smallest effective HRT dose for the shortest period of time.

. Women who exercise more than six hours a week cut their risk of invasive breast cancer by 23 percent. It’s never to late to start. So lace up your athletic shoes today.

Alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol spike breast cancer risk. Taking folic acid in addition to consuming alcohol helps, but cutting down on drinking is your best bet. An equivalent of one glass of wine per day is all you should drink. Less is better, if you can manage it.

Vitamin D. Pay attention to vitamin-D-rich foods—more here—and soak up the sunshine for 15 minutes each day. If you think you might be deficient, a supplement with at least 1,000 IU of the vitamin is recommended.

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You should know: Asbestos causes cancer

More and more, it’s becoming clear that lifestyle and environmental factors play a role in the development of cancer. That’s why I’m doing my best to eat right, exercise right, and stress less—research says these practices can keep me healthy and just might prevent breast cancer from paying me a return visit.

I’d be wise to avoid contact with asbestos for the rest of my days too, because according to The Asbestos and Mesothelioma Center, the stuff is deadly.

Asbestos is a hazardous material, used in the insulation of homes and buildings until the 1980s and still existing in countless products and homes across the country. Contrary to popular belief, asbestos is not a banned material, and a frightening number of manufacturers still use it—a CSI: Fingerprint Investigation Kit toy purchased at Toys “R” Us was recalled earlier this year for exceeding dangerous levels of asbestos. Sadly, there is a 15-60 year latency period from exposure to diagnoses, which means it takes more than a decade before we can realize the effects of such products on our health.

What can you do? Take proper precautions when performing DIY renovations on older homes, for one. And check the materials used in the products that you buy, especially cosmetics and toys.

Here’s why you should pay attention to asbestos: The inhalation of its fibers can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma—a terminal cancer only proven to be caused by asbestos exposure. For more about mesothelioma, hop on over here.

Enter The Asbestos and Mesothelioma Center—created to promote education and awareness for those suffering from asbestos-related illnesses. Check out their website here. It features more than 2,000 articles covering the latest news on asbestos-related cancers, as well as breakthrough medical procedures, alternative healing methods, and medical directories that can benefit individuals affected by all forms of cancer. Need free services and counseling? This is your place. Want information about products that may contain asbestos and safety information for properly discovering and removing asbestos in your home? Also your place.

Yes, what we do in our lives and how we do it can affect our risk for developing cancer. Smoking might do it. Lugging around a heavy body might do it. And buying contaminated toys might do it. That’s why I’m doing my best to avoid all risk. I hope you are too.

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There is no 100% when it comes to cancer. There just isn’t. No doctor will ever tell you 100%: you won’t get cancer, or 100%: cancer won’t come back, or 100%: surgery and chemotherapy and radiation will save a life. This is why actress Christina Applegate’s recent comment about her breast cancer battle bothers me.

“I’m clear,” Applegate, 36, told Good Morning America the other day. “Absolutely 100 percent clear and clean. They got everything out so I’m definitely not going to die from breast cancer.”

Now, I’m all for hope. Gosh, I I’d love to say I’m definitely not going to die from breast cancer. But I just can’t say that with complete conviction. No one can. Applegate’s own mom has had breast cancer—twice. And the actress herself has tested positive for the genetic mutation BRCA-1, a big risk factor for breast cancer diagnosis and recurrence—and for ovarian cancer too. There is simply no lifetime guarantee on breast cancer survival.

I know it’s only been a few weeks since Applegate had her double mastectomy and perhaps the girl is just elated that she caught her cancer early and feels in her gut it will not return. I understand—my instinct tells me mine won’t come back either. But to broadcast to the masses, most of who may know nothing about breast cancer and its implications, that beating the disease is as simple as removing breasts and moving on, seems a little simplistic. When explaining why she opted for a prophylactic mastectomy when her cancer was early stage and had not spread, Applegate said: “I didn’t want to go back to the doctors every four months for testing and squishing and everything. I just wanted to kind of be rid of this whole thing for me.”

OK, so she won’t need mammograms anymore—there’s nothing to squish and squash anymore—but breast tissue remains. And cancer cells sometimes get away—my friend Amy had both breasts removed and then discovered cancer in her lungs and brain. She died 15 months after her initial diagnosis.

My bottom line is this: There is no 100% when it comes to cancer. I wish there was. But there just isn’t.

Photo courtesy of tanakawho on flickr

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20 years

post.gifTwenty years it's been since I graduated from high school. A lot has happened in that time—6.5 years of college, 13 years of marriage, 6 homes in 2 states, 2 babies, a handful of jobs, and 1 dance with breast cancer. I got to talk all about it this past weekend, with a crowd of classmates of mine who turned out for two nights of reunion reminiscing in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

First, let me say this: My old hometown looked nice—quaint, quiet, sunny, a little updated, and full of character with its older houses and touch of history. Not like Florida—my favorite if I were pressed to pick between the two locations—but appealing all the same. I felt nostalgic while there. I guess I should. I was born and raised there and didn't leave until I was 22 years old.

Second: WOW, was it fun to see so many old faces. By old, I mean I haven't seen the faces in a long time—ever since my last reunion 10 years ago—although I guess we are actually pretty old too. Amazingly, some people looked just like they did in 1988 when we made our collective final exit from the doors of Cuyahoga Falls High School. Some friends showed they'd aged a bit. Some looked as young as ever. Some were unrecognizable, identified only by the name tags they wore. Some were bigger. Some were smaller. Some were balder. Some were drunker. Overall, seeing the folks I spent four years with—longer if we went to Lincoln Elementary and Roberts Middle School together—was as I'd imagined. It was exciting, strange, a definite blast.

Third: The food. Rockne's (love that Firestone Salad) and Swenson's (no burger this time but the grilled chicken sandwich was plenty yummy) are tops.

Fourth: I had no idea how many people have been reading this blog. Unless you leave a comment, you see, I have no idea you've visited. Several people commented at the reunion, though—Laura, Shelly, Kirk, Gary, Chris, and maybe others who didn't tell me. In a word: Thanks. Thanks for reading, for your support, for your kind and encouraging words. Keep checking in. I promise more updates and only hope they are never as eventful as they were when I first started writing here almost four years ago.

And finally: Kim—you rock, my friend.

Twenty years. Amazing.

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img_1758.JPGCancer takes away control. I hate that, because I like to have control—not necessarily over people but over my surroundings, my space, my schedule. I like a neat house, a manageable calendar, a semi-clear view of what's ahead. Losing control makes me nervous. Image my anxiety, then, when I had to wait weeks to learn about my breast cancer pathology—the stuff that determines a treatment plan. Consider how wacky I was waiting for my hair to come tumbling out of my head. Think about my mental anguish over the foggy head I developed after my fourth and final dose of chemotherapy—talk about literally losing control—or my two unexpected five-day stays in the hospital. Cancer was out of my control.

I hate that.

But losing control taught me something. It taught me to chill—a little bit—which is why the state of my kids' beds is not driving me completely bonkers.

My boys, ages 7 and 5, are making their own beds now. I figured it was time to charge them with something more than playing, eating, sleeping, watching TV, and occasionally dragging a trash can from the street to the side of our house. So I told my guys one morning to make their beds. I gave them a simple how-to on the whole process, and I set them free. Now they make their beds every morning, often before I even ask for compliance. I love it. I love the initiative they take, the pride they feel for their accomplishments, the fact that it's one less chore for me. What I don't love: The end result—the lumpy, bumpy comforters that are not nearly as smooth as I'd make them, the crooked pillows, the stuffed animals thrown on top of it all. They do far from a perfect job. Gosh, how I wanted at first to control it all, run in their rooms once they finished to straighten and fix it all. But I didn’t, and I don't, because it's their work, it's age-appropriate, and it's something I no longer need to do. They'll become more skilled with time—and maybe with a refresher course taught by me—but for now, they are doing a beautiful job.

Yes, my boys are in control. I'm not. And that's OK.


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Two more

savethetatas.pngIn a day—yesterday—I learned of two more women diagnosed with breast cancer. First was former Married with Children and current Samantha Who? actress Christina Applegate. A young woman, just 36 years old, and already cancer has descended upon her, like it did me when I was 34. The second, a friend of my mom's friend, who happens to be surviving breast cancer herself—it's been one year since she had a mastectomy following a diagnosis of Paget's disease. One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer nowadays. I guess it's no surprise then that I'm notified of cases like these so often.

Both women mentioned above are apparently doing fine. Applegate's spokesperson says she caught her cancer early and is expected to make a full recovery. My mom's friend's friend just had surgery and will begin treatment soon. I wish them both the best as they embark on their journeys.

Photo courtesy of

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Off and running

img_0543.JPGI ran a 5K on my treadmill yesterday. Ran another one this morning. Now I know I can tackle this physical feat come October 4 when I participate in my fourth Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. What I don’t know is if I can raise as much money this time. Last year, I gathered nearly $4,000 from family and friends.

Two months before the big run and I’m off to a good start: $275 has come rolling in already.

To honor the kind and generous folks who contribute to my breast cancer cause, I will do what I did last year: I will write each and every donor’s name on my body. To reserve your very own spot, click here and donate and if you can. Make it big. Make it small. Every dollar counts.

I thank you.

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A million years

img_1426.jpgYesterday, Joey asked me: "When I'm daddy's age, will daddy still be alive?" I gave it some thought. John was 33 when Joey was born so when our 7-year-old is 40, like his daddy, John will be 73.

I don't really know if he'll be alive then—who can tell what might happen in a span of so many years—but I sure am counting on John being around, so I said: "Yep, he'll still be alive."

"So, I've got like a million years to spend with him then, right?" replied Joey.

"You've got lots of time," I assured him. And then he told me about his grand dream.

"I wish I could do magic and make everyone I know who is dead come back to life," Joey told me. "Then they would never die again, and I would get to see them. But if they wanted to go back to being dead, I'd let them go back. You know who would definitely want to go back?"

"Who?" I asked.

"Riley, because Riley never really liked kids." Riley was my mom's dog. He died several years ago. Joey is right—Riley didn’t seem to like kids.

I like Joey's dream. I like that he'd get to see his great grandma again—he only knew her for a short two and a half years. He'd get to meet John's dad too, his grandfather who died two years before he was born. And yes, he could see Riley again. Maybe Riley would like Joey better, now that he's a bigger guy.

Such a simple idea—just bring back the people we miss and keep them alive forever, unless they want to go back—from a simple little boy who has no idea just how complicated life can be, a little boy who just wants to spend time with the people who belong to him, forever. I like how he thinks.

Photo: Joey, a million years ago.

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The End

the_last_lecture_2.jpgI am so sad that The Last Lecture guy, Randy Pausch, has died. I am sad because of all that his death means. It means he lost his life to cancer, the same disease I've had. It means he wasn't so lucky to survive for almost four years, like I have, because his cancer was worse than mine—his was pancreatic, mine was breast. It means he's left a wife and three small children behind. It means he left this world when he wasn't ready—he was only 47 years old. It means we all are vulnerable—to death, disease, unfortunate tragedies—and that, my friends, is scary.

Not all of me is sad. Because let's face it, Pausch was one heck of a guy, and the life he did live was nothing short of inspirational. Nancy Gibbs puts it perfectly in this TIME magazine article. Give it a read. And then be happy with me that this Carnegie Mellon professor with a knack for courageous living has taught the world so much, even though his untimely death is so very sad.

To watch Pausch’s now-famous last lecture, click here.

To check out his book, The Last Lecture, click here.

To reach his personal website, hop on over here.

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Pink on my doorstep

img_1645.JPGThis pink gear arrived on my doorstep today. It was neatly packaged in a box, mailed all the way from Nevada by my aunt who each year runs the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and each year sends me the goodies she collects. This year: A pink hat, a pink survivor t-shirt, a pink tote bag, the cutest pink rubber gloves, and the pink sign she wore as she raced against breast cancer. The best part: Her handwritten note, with these words:

I ran the Race for the Cure this past weekend in Aspen. When I picked up my race packet, I asked if I could buy an extra shirt for you and explained you were a breast cancer survivor. They told me NO, I couldn’t buy one but they would give me a shirt, a hat and bag for you. Wasn’t that nice?

That is nice. I am so touched.

I am touched by the generosity of the race people.

I am even more touched by the kindness of my aunt.

Thank you, Sue.

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img_1608.JPGHelping others helps me. Knee-deep in breast cancer treatment a few years ago—yes, it's been years—I found it soothing to my distressed soul to reach out to people in need, mostly cancer folks who needed guidance, sometimes others in tough life positions. Helping always puts my personal scenarios in perspective, teaches me there are bigger issues than my own, makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I think my little boys know how I feel.

"Aren't you so happy Froto got to go outside for a walk?" Joey asked about the big black dog we'd walked at the Humane Society the other day. "Yes, I am," I told him. I meant it. It does make me happy to know we're helping abandoned and neglected animals. What makes me the happiest is the fact that Joey is the one managing this volunteer project of ours.

Spurred on by his passionate pursuit of a pet—and his parents' definite rejection of such an endeavor—I spearheaded this animal venture. I made a phone call and took the three of us to an orientation session. Joey has done the rest. He determines when we visit the run-down location that cares so lovingly for its rescued dogs, cats, and kittens. He plots our course while there—we always hold kittens first, then visit with and brush the big cats, then walk a few dogs, then head back to the kittens—and he determines how long we stay. We've been there for as long as three hours. Some days, an hour, tops. Danny goes along with the whole plan, never complains, and just today asked if we could go back. We'd already chosen a movie for this afternoon—Journey to the Center of the Earth, the 3D version—so I told him we'll go another day. He can't wait. He's in the process of picking his new favorite kitten—the scrawny little one he chose first was just recently adopted.

Joey has a favorite too—a cute tabby kitten that seems to know him already. Joey is anticipating how sad he'll be when we arrive and find the kitten is no longer there. I told him it will be a good thing, it will mean the kitten has found a home. It's not sad, I told him. It's happy.

Helping makes me happy. I think it makes my boys happy too.

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Connecting cell phones, cancer

Cell phones cause cancer.

No they don’t.

Yes, they do.

No, they don’t.

Like my little boys who are spending much of the summer disagreeing about almost everything, experts are battling about this very pressing question: Do cell phones cause cancer?

The latest in this ongoing uncertainty comes from the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute who recently urged his faculty and staff to limit their mobile phone use because of the cancer risk. Dr. Ronald B. Herberman especially urges limited use for children. I guess it’s clear where this guy stands.

There’s a growing body of research, says this doctor, linking long-term cell phone use to health problems, including cancer. Although evidence is controversial—the overwhelming majority of studies find no link—he happens to be convinced. He bases his concerns on unpublished data that hopefully will one day be published, so we all can weigh the risks appropriately. In the meantime, I’ll have to determine what’s best for me, a girl with only a cell phone, no home phone, and a definite aversion to cancer.

What’s best for you?

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Saving my life

I heard on one of the morning news programs today that breast self-examinations can be dangerous to your health.


Yes, that’s how the message came across. But they are not so dangerous, really. They are more life-saving than life-threatening—a self-exam saved my life, if that counts—and I want you to know why.

Breast self-exams can be dangerous in this way, say the news sources—backed by doctors, of course: They can turn up suspicious stuff—that’s the point, after all—and they can cause women to worry. When women worry, they tend to visit their doctors. When doctors can’t figure things out, they tend to order biopsies. And biopsies tend to turn up nothing all that worrisome—nearly 80 percent of breast lumps are benign. Self-exams, then, lead to unnecessary biopsies. Not an ideal scenario, I know, but does that make self-exams dangerous? Not in my opinion. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I suggest all women conduct self-exams once per month. Make it about one week after your menstrual cycle when hormonal changes are minimal and make note of how your breasts feel each time you examine them. You’re looking for a change from one exam to the next. I know it can cause anxiety. But I promise you that cancer causes a whole lot more. So why not err on the side of caution? You may not even need a biopsy. Mammogram and ultrasound often come first and rule out the need for needles of any sort.

I’m a fan of surviving breast cancer. Are you? If so, then check those breasts, starting this month.

Photo courtesy of Ruth on flickr

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See my boobs

dsc_0195.JPGSee these boobs? Protruding outward in all their glory. Pushed up in a fancy bra, positioned under a tight pink shirt, pointing right at you as you read this post. These are the very boobs that threatened to take my life almost four years ago. Well, the cancer inside the boob—just the left one, to be exact—is what made the threat. The boob was simply the packaging for the tumor that presented itself underneath my fingertips on that horrible November day, in that hot, steamy shower where I thought I would merely wash my body, not find a cancerous mass.

A mass I did find—a mass a surgeon removed, an oncologist poisoned, another oncologist radiated, and the first oncologist targeted with the glorious drug Herceptin. Thanks to these two men and one woman, the mass I found is gone. So are all traces of cancer that could have started pouring through my system but for now, have not.

Yes, the mass is gone. My boobs, they are not. And this is such great news that I just have to share—my joy, my relief, my pride over having two very healthy and hearty boobs that will be featured in published form in September when they hit the newsstands inside Family Circle magazine.

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I hate cancer

Today, former Press Secretary Tony Snow died after living with colon cancer for three years. Yesterday, Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau announced that he’s been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Journalist Leroy Sievers has cancer. North Carolina State University Women’s basketball coach Kay Yow has cancer. Patrick Swayze has cancer. These are the well-known folks, those in the public spotlight. And the list goes on. Imagine how long the list gets when you take into account everyday people like you and me, like my neighbor and friend, who passed away just a few days ago after a short battle with metastatic breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 1,437,180 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2008, not counting non-invasive cancers or basal or squamous cell skin cancers. About 565,650 people will die of cancer in 2008—that’s about 1,500 people every day. Cancer is the second leading cause of death—heart disease is the first—and accounts for one in every four U.S. deaths.

I hate cancer.

Photo courtesy of cancerdotsc on flickr

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Knowing better

The doctor I saw today for my persistent cough asked me why I’d waited so long to come in—it’s been more than three weeks now that I’ve been hacking away. I told him I thought the cough would go away and that I’d detected some improvement. I’m no longer coughing all night long, after all. That’s got to be progress.

Last night, though, my cough took a turn for the worse and began sounding more like it did weeks ago, during the worst of my sick days. Over the past few days, it’s also been producing some yucky stuff in my throat. And for some reason, it was a bit difficult for me to breathe while watching The Bachelorette last night. Maybe it was the anxiety about failing to see a doctor sooner that caused my breathlessness, I don’t know. But this I did know as I watched Deanna choose Jesse as her soon-to-be-husband: I had to see a doctor. Today. And so I did.

The doctor heard lots of crackling when he listened to me breathe. A chest X-ray turned up nothing significant but it’s likely I’ve had bronchitis for all this time. Armed with an antibiotic and a new cough suppressant, I’m primed for getting better—and for knowing better too. Next time a cough strikes, I won’t wait to so long. Next time, I’ll know better.

Photo courtesy of trp0 on flickr

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Of all the numbers in the world, 18 is Joey’s favorite. About a Lego boat he built today, my 7-year-old told me: “I needed one of these white pieces and when I looked for one, I found 18.” The other day when we disappointed him with the news that we could not go out to dinner for the third time in one week, he said: “We haven’t gone out to eat for 18 years.” Joey went to summer school for 18 days. He had 18 swim lessons. Danny has broken 18 of his toys. He is sure he’s read 18 books since school’s been out. And I’ve made him do 18 things he hasn’t wanted to do—summer school and swim lessons included.

Eighteen is a big number for Joey. It denotes large quantities—lots of Lego pieces, lots of school days, lots of books read—and I can hardly wait for the kid to announce that his mom has survived breast cancer for 18 years. When that time comes, though, he’ll be almost 22 years old. I bet 18 won’t be such an important number for him then. But it will be for me.

Photo courtesy of Claudecf on flickr

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Could it be something more?

I’ve had a cough for two weeks now. It’s so bad I’d hack all night if it weren’t for a narcotic-strength suppressant I’m taking. It’s so bad it’s making me vomit, it’s irritating my family members, and along with some lingering tummy tuck swelling that’s consuming my mind, it’s preventing me from exercising. I hate that.

Along with my cough, I get chills now and then and on occasion, I have a low-grade fever. It all makes sense, all these symptoms, because Joey had the very same illness just before me. The very same—the annoying cough, the throwing up, the chills, the fever. Clearly, he passed his germs on to me, and I’m probably passing them on to someone else right now. But I must admit that the thought has crossed my mind: Could it be something more? Like cancer.

Sure, it could be. A persistent cough can sometimes signal a problem in the lungs. It’s just not very likely. And really, I don’t believe anything serious is wrong with me. It’s simply my head. You see, it’s wired now with this very sensitive alarm system. If ever cancer comes back, I plan to fight like mad, so my brain alerts me when something, however small it may be, goes amiss. It could be a funny something I feel in my breast, a headache that won’t go away, or an ache in my belly.

This time it’s a cough, which will probably go away and take up residence in John’s body, causing him to hack, spit up, and get all cold and hot and bothered. And I won’t worry at all. Because he’s never had cancer. I have.

Photo courtesy of whiskeyandtears on flickr

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Six weeks

img_1446.JPGSix weeks, my plastic surgeon told me. Six weeks to fully recover from my tummy tuck surgery.

Sure enough.

It's been six weeks—seven now, actually—and I am back to doing everything I want to do. Some tasks came earlier than others, like driving—did that after nine days—and walking upright, and sleeping in my bed instead of a recliner, and lifting increasingly heavier objects. But my compression garment didn't come off until the six-week mark and the biggie—exercise—was off limits for the entire six weeks. But now, I'm back at it.

This morning, I walked up and down the seven steep hills in my neighborhood with my niece Tori in her jog stroller. Yesterday, I did a pretty strenuous treadmill workout. A week ago, I took a long bike ride with my mom and Joey. I've also lifted a few weights, held myself in the plank position several times, and have been trying to tone my legs and butt—six weeks of sitting have not been kind to them. My tummy, though: I love it.

Here is my tummy, in all its glory, prettier than it's ever been. Finally, I am comfortable in my skin—well, my lack of skin.

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Babies, no more

mvc00149-9.jpgIn November 2004, I wanted another baby. I got breast cancer instead. Not a great trade, but what could I do—except fight the cancer and reassess my baby wishes later down the line. Which is what I did. I had surgery, then chemotherapy, then radiation, then more drug therapy. I lost my hair, re-grew my hair, went to counseling, and physical therapy, and doped myself up on an anti-depressant for a year. And then one day, I was free from cancer and free from treatment. Then the baby question came up.


Or no baby?

I have decided on no baby. I use the word "I"—as if John is not a player in the baby game—because he would take the plunge and have one if it were up to him. But somehow, it comes down to me. I guess my having had cancer trumps his not having had it. And so I get to decide. Because for a while, my decision to no longer reproduce was all about cancer. I didn't want to get pregnant and have my cancer return during those nine—well, ten—months. I didn't want to have a baby and then die and leave John with three kids to rear. Two is more manageable. I didn't want pregnancy hormones raging through my body; fueling tumor after tumor, ensuring a life spent fighting a nasty disease. Cancer made me say no more to more babies. But now, it's not cancer at all that makes me stray from having another child. It's everything else.

I don't want a baby because in two weeks, I'll be 38. I don't want to be pregnant at an "advanced maternal age." I know loads of women have babies at this age—and older—but I don't want to be in this camp. Besides the health implications of later-in-life child bearing, I'm just plain tired. Which brings me to another reason I don't want a baby: I like to sleep. I don't want to wake every few hours to soothe and feed a fussy babe. I don't want to function like a zombie through my days for months and months—and sometimes even more months. I don't want the endless baby chores that would make me, well, more tired.

There's more.

I like my self-sufficient boys. They brush their teeth, get dressed, give themselves showers, tie their shoes, and buckle their seatbelts. Joey even vacuumed my entire mini-van this morning. It only cost me three bucks. I also like my job. I like devoting school-day mornings to my business of writing. I love my four free hours—the stillness, the quiet, the candle I burn in honor of all that is peaceful during my alone time.

When it comes down to it, I realize I'm really happy as a mom of two growing boys. I even think I'm a better mom for older boys than I was for baby boys. Babies are unpredictable. Big kids are easier for me. They communicate, respond to my questions, clearly express their needs. They can sit through dinners out, manage through long car rides, and tell me they love me. Who said parenting is thankless job?

Nope, no more babies for me. Not because of breast cancer. Because I couldn't be happier at this moment in time with the two blessings that have been bestowed on me, the two guys who simultaneously drive me crazy and make me giddy with love and laughter and hope.

Cheers to Joey and Danny. And our perfect family of four.

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