In honor of both Janell's (POD) and Lance Armstrong's Cancerversary today, I'm writing about how cancer has affected my life.
This is a picture of my Grandmother, Maggie. As a little girl, whenever I visited her she let me play dress up with her clothes, jewelry and makeup - she would even help me put on her false eyelashes! A few years ago she gave me all of the jewelry that I played with as a child, and I love wearing several of the necklaces (although not all at once, like I used to) with my outfits to this day.
She lived in southern California when I was a child and would visit us in northern California quite often. She loved scotch and sodas and had a seltzer bottle, complete with the cartridges, that I was fascinated with. Every afternoon, she'd make her drink and make me one, too - using Nestea powdered iced tea mix in place of the scotch. However, she'd always let me have a taste of her drink - and yes, at that young age, I thought her drink tasted better! Some people have a perfume that reminds them of their Grandmother but for me, it's scotch - to this day, while I don't drink anymore, I love that smell.
As an adult, every once in a while I'd take a break from being a mom and go visit my grandmother for the chance to just be a granddaughter once again. She would spoil me - we'd go out for fantastic meals, shop, shop and shop, and then I'd help re-arrange her furniture. I remember her saying "why not?!" quite often - and bam, off we'd go, ordering dessert, or buying an outfit - life was to be enjoyed, and she certainly did just that.
Grandmother had a sense of adventure - she loved to travel and went all over - with her friend Pearl, they island hopped in small planes all over the Caribbean in 1956, and later went to Europe that same year. She's been to Mexico, Hawaii, Egypt, China, Tibet and Bali, back to Italy, France and England several times, and of course visited all over the U.S.
She was into aerobics - the real deal, not the "sit and be fit" kind, yoga, and while she tried Curves when it first came out, she found it "too easy." She delivered Meals On Wheels for decades (it was funny to hear her refer to delivering food to "old people" who were actually younger than her) and in her later years, she got back into painting watercolors - she had been an art major in college. She left us with some absolutely gorgeous pictures.
In August 2006, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We held a celebration of her life on October 8, 2006, which she attended with great glee, greeting and hugging the many friends and relatives who attended. She died 12 days later. We all believe that had it not been for cancer, she would still be with us today - my Grandmother had more energy than people half her age, including me, and was the picture of health. So this is how cancer has affected my life - it took a very special person away from me. And I miss her.
One last picture, taken at a Christmas dinner - she was the life of the party!