Monday, July 30, 2012


The past ten days have seen me in more than my fair share of dust-ups.  Between movie reviewers who spewed venomous words here and somehow managed to delete (not once, but TWICE) my very respectful, ON POINT reply from the site where HE posts, and bikini parades (which, by the way attracted a grand total of 39 people) and the misguided information about suntanning as a safe method of fulfilling our Vitamin D requirements, my head is spinning faster than Linda Blair's. I must admit, there was a point I felt this blog space could do with a bit of an exorcism....... Now?  Not so much.

Last Friday, I wrote about Angelo Merendino's photo exhibit in Cleveland.  That was another dust-up of rather epic proportions.  The nonsense here was amateur hour compared to what was going on with Angelo's beautiful art.  I stayed out of the fray and simply spoke my mind to the best of my ability. Hopefully I was able to cut to the heart of the matter. Hopefully I was being respectful of Angelo, of Jennifer and most importantly, of their love which is at the heart of the photography.

Who's heart did I reach?  Mom.  My Mom.

(Mom.... here's the part where you should just stop reading and know I love you and maybe you don't want to recall this stuff.......)

In 1987, when my mom was diagnosed with her first round of breast cancer, immediately followed by renal cancer, my dad never left her side.  He was with her for every appointment.  When her surgical bandages were removed, the doctor asked my mom if she wanted my dad to leave the room.  "Your dad saw what I looked like before I did."

Every chemo, every follow-up for (I think) ten years until she was finally released from the care of her oncologist, my dad was by her side.  Her records were kept in an orderly and meticulous fashion.  By dad.  In 2007, when she was diagnosed with a new cancer in her other breast, my dad had just died three weeks earlier.  I had just completed my final surgery two weeks before that...... Then she got the call.  Something they were "watching" had "changed."  I went with her for her stereotactic biopsy. She came out of the examine room in sunglasses.  I knew why.  My dad should have been in that waiting room.  Not Me.  And, my dad should have been with her when she got that phone call.  Instead, I was beside her in the surgeon's office an hour later.  It should have been my dad.  Not Me.  Let's just say that 2007 was kind of a really sucky year.  REALLY.

Last Friday night, at 11PM, I found this message in my inbox.  It was from my mom.  She had just finished reading the blog and in her words, she was able to see this from both sides.  Except, she wasn't talking about the sides between Angelo and The Gathering Place... she was referring to Angelo.  Just Angelo.  How she appreciated the way he cared for Jennifer...... it reminded her of what my dad did in 1987.  And then, she switched roles and stepped from the role of being cared for to the person with the broken heart.

From Mom.....

"I can see this from two sides of the fence.  Angelo is an amazing man and only makes me realize all the more everything Dad did for me.
True, I was lucky to survive with the support of a husband that was willing to give up everything to see me through.
He loved me through it all.  I do not have the answer to why I survived and his wife did not.
On the other side of the fence, I know first hand what he is going through.  Losing the love of your life is losing part of yourself.
Please convey to Angelo my thanks for being the man he is, and helping me remember the kind of man Dad was.
What a wonderful tribute to Jennifer.  I don't really understand what TGP did, but I know for sure, Angelo's heart is in the right place."

My dad's devotion to my mom was unending.  The love Angelo displayed for Jennifer as he held her up throughout her illness struck a chord with my mom.  His shattered heart stuck a chord with my mom.  The photos struck a chord with me on such a personal level.  I recognize those gowns, I recognize those exam rooms, I recognize those hospital beds.  I recognize the outside of that building.  I was in those gowns, those rooms, those beds.  Like my mom, I too, don't know why I am here and so many others are not.  The guilt of NED while others are dead or dying......

I reached a pretty gigantic milestone on Friday.  Those of us who have been burned by the words, "You Have Cancer," never forget "those" days.  The dates.  Whether we choose to acknowledge them or not seems to be yet one more thing we can debate ad nauseum.  The bottom line?  Friday, July 27, LAST Friday.... the line was drawn in the sand.. the line that divided my life into two distinct parts.  July 26th, I was BC.  Before Cancer.  I was up for twelve hours before it dawned on me..... "Whoa.  Six years ago today you were sitting in one of those gowns, in one of those rooms...."

I've been living "in the fog" and it would appear I will continue to live in that fog.  And it's okay.  It's taken an entire year of writing and volunteering and meeting so many wonderful people to finally bring me to the other side of the calendar: Officially AD.  The simple fact that I didn't even REALIZE it was a day that holds such tremendous significance in my life until 7PM, made me realize something far more important.  I have truly embraced AD.  Indeed.... I am:

Adamantly Determined

AD.  It IS officially here.  Step out of my way because I'm not leaving any time soon.  Not until I see an absolutely

Astonishing Difference

No, it's not here.  YET.  But I AM Here.  Determined......

Adamantly Determined to see an Astonishing Difference.  


  1. Ann Marie,

    This post brings tears to my eyes. My dad was right there by my mom's side through it all too. He is not a man of many words, but even so, the love he had for her was obvious right to the end. On her last nights at home he would lovingly lift her by himself from her wheelchair, place her in their bed, tuck her in and kiss her goodnight. It was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. I guess this is part of why I appreciate the photos of Angelo Merendino so much. Mostly what I see in the photos is love. Thank you for sharing about your parents' love and devotion. Thank you for being adamantly determined.

    1. Nancy,

      We are both sitting here with tears in our eyes. The way you describe how your dad took care of your mom brings a heartbreaking image of pure love into my mind.

      I just got an email from my mom and I am going to share it....

      Thank you for posting what is in my heart on your blog for all to see. I write this with tears streaming down my face, and through the blur I see Dad standing beside me.
      It is very ironic that this is printed today. I am leaving for my blood work at Sloan and know Dad is with me.
      Love. Mom xoxoxo"

      I don't think many people TRULY understand what it means to see that level of devotion. My mom couldn't get past Angelo's devotion, his truly selfless and pure love and how his heart is broken. She knows how he feels. She sat in that grief chair I spoke about and even though it was just FIVE years, in grief time for my mom, it's been about five minutes.

      Your friendship and support mean so much to me, Nancy.


  2. This is wonderful sweet friend. Thank you for sharing your Mom's email and the love story between your Mom and Dad. It is truly inspiring. Sending you much love and light.

    1. Terri.....

      I think about how many relationships fall apart and I remember my mom and dad... and I see Angelo's pictures and how can one help but NOT feel touched....

      I can't wait to see you..... NYC2012.....


  3. Thank you for sharing your mom's beautiful words. You both are an inspiration.

  4. Stay determined, AnneMarie. I admire you so much for all you do. And your mom's words were both touching and deeply moving. How blessed you are to have such a mom. xx

    1. Thanks, Jan. My mom is so special and I will make sure she comes back here to read the comments! I am blessed in ways I can't even begin to count. I am determined..... to live the life I deserve, to expect to have those who love me at my back in good times and especially, in BAD. I'm getting there..... I know I am...


  5. Wow. Such a close-to-the-bone post. I hear you, AnneMarie, and I think you are one hell of a great daughter. I admire the close relationship you have with your mom, and I'm so sorry for all the suffering your family has gone through.

    I'm coming off a self-imposed hiatus and am catching up.

    1. Self imposed hiatus sounds like a good thing. It's summertime. The time to really kick back and enjoy life.... And August is approaching rapidly (Ummmmm tomorrow?) Thank you for your very kind and very loving words. They mean more to me than I can possibly share here.


  6. My mother didn't have cancer in fact we didn't know what was wrong with her till a month before her death.. My mother was a bit of a hypochondriac so often we would take things with a grain of salt unless proven otherwise. Feb of 1999 my mother began experiencing episodes of weakness light headedness . She was sure it was the flu. I brought her chicken soup stayed with my mom for awhile..Little did we know my mother would never come home again.. It was the day before her 64th birthday. That evening my stepdad called frantic, mom had passed out in the bathroom he could not wake her she was taken to hospital by ambulance in a semi coma.It was such a shock. They ran tests found she had some tumors on her liver, her diagnosis Burkitts Lymphoma. My parents lived in Africa for a number of years it was common there. It was quite advanced the Dr.'s consulted about palliative Chemo to shrink the tumors - buy her some time. Or let her go, my brother and I wanted her to go naturally and with peace.. My other siblings did not. In May my mother developed other symptoms She was hallucinating seeing things that were not there invisible insects the CIA had infected the hospital with (My mom loved spy novels) My step-dad never waivered he sat with her talked to her though she was very aggitated she'd lash out at him believing he was a spy .. My step-dad is a gentle soul, he sat holding her hand , washed her, combed her hair. One day my mother lost all mobility she could not walk and dementia had set in almost over night. She had no idea who anyone was. She didn't recognize me .. It was now June, my brother and I noticed red blotches on her forehead. They did one more test The red blotches were Kaposi Syndrome. My mother had full blown Aids... She never was a drug user, certainly not sexually promiscuous. The only other possibility was when they lived iin Africa she may have contracted it when she was in some of the villages with Women's Development. .My dad just never left her side. When we knew my mom would not make it he slept by her bed in a chair never leaving except to go home to change his clothes. He would dress my mother in pretty nightgowns She was always meticulous in her appearance. Never saw him cry around us. He spoke so lovingly about his wife - our mother. My mother was nearing the end, the moved her to a private room and put a cot there for my stepdad. He slept every night from the beginng of June till she took her last breath July 9th 1999.He loved and cared for till the very end. I was so taken by his devotion to her.
    Several days after her funeral he received a letter from a Hospital my mother had a Hysterectomy in 1983. The letter stated that tainted blood may have been used in that year in surgical procedures people should be tested. It was too late my mom died of full blown Aids..Oddly enough in 1997 there was an enquiry called the Kreever Enquiry Tainted Blood Scandal, two years before she died. When my dad received the letter he applied for compensation Only patients who were infected after 1984 were eligible.My mom lived 16 years with the virus without knowing.. He took it in stride... disappointed though. he never complained about her, he made sure someone was always there if he needed to step out. This is what love is about the true unselflessness caring for your partner.
    Thanks. this made me cry remembering these days.
    (maybe one day I will learn to write short)

    Love Alli XX

    1. Alli,
      You don't EVER have to learn to write short. That was absolutely beautiful and truly a story of the essence of what it means to be devoted and loving. In sickness and in health.....

      I have to tell you that I received a blood transfusion, also in 1983 (I needed two units of blood). It was many years before I could face the possibility that I might have been transfused with tainted blood. What happened to your mom really hits home for me.

      Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal story with me. Your words are powerful and they truly display what it means to love in its purest form. I needed to see this today. I really need to see this.....

      Much love to you,



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