What is NOT Cancer 14

Managing to find acceptable components for a costume that my daughter Erin wears for her school play, the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, HMS Pinafore.

You can't see Erin's face, but the costume turned out pretty well!

Buying a Christmas tree.

We bought it in the rain, but it's a pretty perfect tree.

Managing to do most of our modest Christmas shopping on-line.

In a fit of insanity, sending out Evites to resurrect the Christmas Eve open house that our family held for decades.

Finally putting up the pictures on the walls, getting rid of most of the inside moving clutter (still lots of outside clutter to deal with, if it ever stops raining on the West Coast).

Celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary with leftovers and wine—I didn’t feel well enough for a big celebration and we couldn’t afford it anyway—and realizing that cuddling on the couch is a perfectly fine way to spend a milestone anniversary. Love you, Pete.

Actually managing to decorate the Christmas tree, more than ten days AFTER we bought it.

We got married in December, and give ornaments as anniversary gifts, so the tree gets quite glittery.

Welcoming dear friends from Brooklyn to spend Christmas with us.

Welcoming my stepdaughter Maureen to celebrate Christmas in San Francisco for the first time in a decade.

Taking matters into our own hands when IKEA sold out of the prefab gingerbread house pieces.

Piping on the icing is the fun part.

Marveling that the gingerbread house actually stands.

Luckily, stepdaughter Maureen is old enough to resist taking a bite. Not sure we could say that of the younger part of the younger generation!

Enjoying the Christmas pageant at Grace Cathedral, legions of angels, shepherds, kings, queens, even a donkey and lambs!

Pulling off the Christmas Eve open house, a holiday miracle indeed.

Letting go of some OCD Christmas details: mini stockings at Xmas dinner, English Christmas crackers. I was the only one who noticed. We had a grand time, the roast came out perfectly and all was merry and jolly. Take that, Martha Stewart!

Cleaning out the garage, the last bastion of moving chaos, the day after Christmas.

Getting stepdaughter Maureen’s moving truck loaded to move her stuff up to Oregon.

Admitting that I’m exhausted. Accomplishing not much for the last couple days, and realizing that that’s just fine.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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4 Responses to What is NOT Cancer 14

  1. Jeanne and Noel Weidner says:

    Hi Heather,
    I saw your “poster-child” article last week on msnbc.com and wrote a comment at that time but apparently it got lost in the ethers. We are both shocked and saddened by this diagnosis – but we also are confident about your ability to weather this storm. Please let us know if we can do anything (second pathology opnion, referrals in the area, etc).
    Glad to hear that you resurrected the Christmas Eve party – brought back many fond memories. Please give our regards to Pete and your family, and to the neighbors on the “old” block. God bless you all in the New Year!
    Warm regards,

    • leftbreast says:

      Jeanne! So glad to hear from you. Give hugs to yourself, Noel and Maggie. (Does she still go by Maggie? She must be 30 by now, right?) The people who live in your old house have a smart car, one of those tiny, tiny ones, and it has eyelashes! Have to get to know those people. They obviously have a sense of humor.

      You’re correct: your previous comment did not appear in my “manage comments” queue. I may definitely hit you guys up for some reporting/medical advice. So far, I’ve been in awe of both my doctor friends (who are many) and my actual doctors at UCSF. I’ve done a lot of medical reporting over the years, and I’ve got to say, the Breast Care Center at UCSF is how all medicine should be: interdisciplinary, holistic, respectful of the patient (i.e. involving the patient in decisions about their own care), cutting edge scientifically.

      Please keep in touch.

      All the very best,


  2. Michael says:

    Love the pictures. Happy Anniversary!

    • leftbreast says:

      Thanks Michael. We missed the more personalized approach that you bring to the Xmas pageant, but the “cast of thousands, welcome all comers” approach works well for the Cathedral. Only rehearsal for adults, and main characters, i.e. Mary learning to ride in on a donkey without falling off. Hope your Xmas was terrific. Pete’s going to visit Brooklyn/NYC the weekend of Feb 6, Bloomberg business thing. Hope he’ll see you guys at Grace Church. XO

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