Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rica's Kick Cancer's Butt Super Bowl Pool

I'm not too much of a risk taker when it comes to money. I'll usually only buy one square in the office Super Bowl pools because I'm afraid to lose out. (Of course, the year I bought 2, I won a couple of hundred dollars, but that's a whole other story... )

I had to take a huge gamble in this season of cancer, and I'm waiting for my Super Bowl ring when I am officially declared cancer free in five years. So, until then, I'm rallying friends and family to help LIVESTRONG support cancer fighters as they struggle to reach their touchdown moments.

Make a $10 donation made to my LIVESTRONG Challenge account for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and I will send you an email with the link, password and instructions so you can pick your squares on Rica's Kick Cancer's Butt Super Bowl Pool online grid.

Prizes for pool winners will not be cash, but LIVESTRONG gear, instead. Prizes will include t-shirts, hats, and more, and the knowledge that you did something great for the 28 million living with cancer today.

The pool will close at 5:30 pm on February 5th and, then, numbers will be posted.

Sh*t Girls Say to Girls with Breast Cancer

My friend, Jody, posted this video on Facebook this morning, and what was scary was that the number of things that have been said to me absolutely outnumbered the things I'd never heard before.

The sad thing is that, more often than not, it's me that mispronounces everything. LOL!


Jennifer does some great work! And it looks like she'll have a web series on her website,

Of course, I'm thinking of a sequel... "Sh*t GUYS say to girls with breast cancer."

Friday, January 20, 2012

White Plains/New Rochelle is not the center of the non-NYC universe!

I'm going on the record, here, in a plea to all cancer organizations who claim to "service" Westchester County, NY.


There is a large population of people in Northern Westchester that is unable to use public transportation, who are screaming for assistance! Mount Kisco, Lewisboro & Bedford have significant populations, and, unlike the Lower Westchester residents, we are left isolated!

For many of us, our Connecticut neighbors are far closer and accessible by public transportation than White Plains! But, because we are New York residents, we can't use them!

Please set up some satellite offices! And just because we are getting treatment in Connecticut, do not assume that we're "taken care of" or doing so to deny our New York roots!

And to those that provide the services, learn the geography of the county you serve! And I don't just mean looking at a map, I mean take a long look to see what it takes to get to White Plains! If I look at a map, it may look like, going from the border of one Northern Westchester town to yours, it's just a quick jaunt. But actually map out the route and you'll see it can be an ordeal, especially when you're in treatment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Having Faced Chemo: The Cons

As a follow up to my October post, "Facing Chemo: The Pros," I felt that it was only fair that I include this companion piece.

So, here is the list of cons to chemotherapy:
  • The Obvious
    • You lose hair. Perhaps you'll just thin a bit, but you'll lose hair. Not only the hair on your head, but everywhere. From head-to-toe, you lose hair. You may not lose ALL of your eyelashes, or arm hair, or eyebrows. Though, it could be considered a pro - you don't have to shave your legs, or your armpits. And, ladies, let's just say that my "Hello Kitty" (as Nene Leakes puts it) has never been hair-free and smoother for this long before. Brazilian Waxes can't hold a candle to chemotherapy in that regard. (Though, I don't recommend holding a candle to anything in that general region... unless you're into that kind of thing.)
    • Crap will be an understatement when people ask you how you feel. You will be forced to come up with a whole new vocabulary of synonyms for crap, each one getting worse as they go.
    • If you choose to eat when you feel you can, consuming as many calories as possible for fear that you may not be able to eat when nausea kicks in, and the anti-nausea meds never wear off, you will realize at the end of treatment, that you have gained so much weight that you could give the Stay Puft man a run for his money, and rue every day that you ate because you could.
    • Chemo brain messes with your mind. As a result, you can not remember the names and faces of all the kind nurses and technicians that take care of you and have to resort to writing notes somewhere (which you'll undoubtedly forget) so you can remember and not look like a moron when you come back in for your next appointment.
    • Even if you've had 20/20 vision, expect some fuzziness. So, you'd better invest in some anti-aging/anti-wrinkle treatments because the squinting will age your face 30 years by the time you're done with chemo.
    • You have absolutely no clue, if you've lost all your hair, what color, texture, or condition your hair will grow back in. You could have been a brunette, and, voila! 6 weeks after chemo, you have seedlings of ginger hair growing. You could have had pin-straight hair like Janice in the Muppets, and it will grow back curly like Little Orphan Annie!
    • No, that ridiculously expensive, fine wine hasn't turned. And, no, that fois gras hasn't spoiled. That gnarly taste in your mouth, as though you've been sucking on rusted bike chains, is a result of chemotherapy. Now isn't the time to go fine dining, folks, unless you've given your taste buds a test run. Money down the toilet.
  • The Not-So-Obvious
    • If you are a blonde and bald, you are now capable of getting brainfreeze from the outside in.
    • When you finally get the clearance to move again, and you're not feeling like a sack of leaden bones, you may find simply walking to and from your mailbox as exhausting as running a marathon (or whatever you might imagine it might be like if you've never run a marathon.)
    • You stare at the first, single, isolated sprout of "real" hair, vs. the weird chemo peach fuzz that grows in its place like a transparent mold, and ponder if you should pluck it or not.
    • You fear the impending itchiness as hair grows back. Anywhere and everywhere. I'll leave it at that. You can figure out the rest.
    • You miss your oncologist and the regularity of the appointments and are not quite sure what this "daily grind" thing is anymore.
      • When you start to dip your toes back into the "daily grind," you realize it's the wrong roast and are no longer sure you survived in order to get back into it.
      • You will have to give up your yoga and pajama pants.
    • You put mascara on, hoping to make your lack of eyelashes not quite apparent. Unfortunately, you only have 3 eyelashes per lid long enough for the mascara to adhere, so you end up looking like Spongebob Squarepants.
    • You can't touch your toes. You see, apparently, for some of us, our organs react to chemotherapy negatively. (Duh.) They may swell, giving you a lovely bloated feeling that isn't just around for a couple of days a month. If you also put on some weight, you will find you have to get your children to help you take on and off your socks. So, if you're currently healthy and don't have cancer, treat those rugrats well. They may be taking care of you sooner than you thought.
    • Invest in a hemorrhoid pillow. Not because you'll have hemorrhoids, but because you may find yourself frequently getting intimately close with your toilet seat, so why not make yourself comfortable? And make sure you have some disinfectant wipes nearby just in case you forget which side is up.
    • Your oncologist is going to put you on a stool softener. Don't think that the minute you finish chemotherapy that you're home free. As you start to venture out of the safety of your home or hospital, make note of where all the bathrooms are wherever you go and just how long it takes to get there.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Registration now open for the 2012 ROCK the RIDE & RUN

Not sure that I'll have as much hair this year,
but I'll try!
We're still getting approvals on the courses, but registration is NOW OPEN for the 3rd Annual ROCK the RIDE & RUN!

Choose to ride your bike, run or walk to kick cancer with me, the kids and the community!

I'm also seeking volunteers and businesses to sponsor expenses like the insurance, t-shirts, etc! If you're interested, please contact me at

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My response to Outside Magazine's article "It's Not About the Lab Rats"

Mr. Gifford,

I read this article just 1/2 hour after returning from my oncologist's & plastic surgeon's offices reviewing the next steps of my post-chemotherapy treatment. My heart is racing, I have tears in my eyes and an adrenaline surge that could get me up the Alpes d'Huez, despite having endured 5 months of chemo and off the bike. A chemotherapy treatment that was scheduled around my participation at the LIVESTRONG Challenge in October. You see, I've been a LIVESTRONG Leader and fundraiser for going on 3 years, now. Long before my diagnosis in July. Ironic, I know, that I'd be such an ardent advocate when I hadn't fought cancer myself. But I was a new cyclist, I had a mentor who was diagnosed a second time, just as Lance was launching his comeback, so I got involved.

And then I met the people in LIVESTRONG. Not just the staff, but the people who were moved by LIVESTRONG. The ones who had survived cancer. And the ones who supported those whose time ran out in their fight and were carried on the backs of LIVESTRONG Leaders, the staff and others affiliated with the organization. It was clear that, yes, as a marketing professional, I recognize that the organization is incredibly savvy, creating buzzwords and catch phrases that stick. But there is a reason they stick. Because they have meaning to us.

Do you want to know why every dollar donated to LIVESTRONG is so important, as opposed to pure clinical research? And why your arrogant article is worth nothing more than bird cage lining to a survivor? Of course, cancer needs to be eradicated, and the only way that the disease itself will disappear is through medical advances. But the effects of cancer on the people who have it, who have fought it, and those that surround that individual can never be erased by a new chemotherapy, a new surgical procedure, or a berry in the rainforest. The only way that kind of healing can happen is empowerment. Hope. A sense that there is something one can do when you're not in a research lab. When all you have are two legs, a heart, and the desire to do something.

Awareness. If it weren't for their awareness campaigns, I would have never gotten that mammogram in June. You see, I'm well below the 40-line. It would have been a few years before I had a routine mammogram. But it was reminders about taking care of myself, early detection etc, that LIVESTRONG promoted that made me, as a LIVESTRONG Leader, feel obligated to take the opportunity to have a free mammogram when the office park where I work held a health fair. Had it not been for LIVESTRONG's awareness campaigns, I wouldn't have done it. And the very tiny, but highly aggressive invasive breast cancer that was set so deeply in my breast, that no manual or routine breast exam would have detected until it was dangerously too late, would have never been detected in time for my relatively "simple" treatment. A treatment which included a double mastectomy (as I also discovered I had the BRCA II genetic mutation), a 2-week stay in the hospital with an infection and another surgery, 5 months of chemotherapy, and now, two more reconstructive surgeries and 5 years of hormone treatment.

That's where LIVESTRONG plays, in my opinion, the most valuable part in the fight against cancer. Lance never said, "I'm going to cure cancer." Find me one pamphlet that LIVESTRONG has issued that says, "Our mission is to find the cure for cancer." But it does say, and it does achieve, that it will give the cancer fighter, and those around them, the support, navigation, and motivation to find a reason in themselves to survive.

There is no doubt in my mind that if it weren't for EVERYTHING that LIVESTRONG does, from the silicone wristband I wore throughout every surgery, and gave very clear instruction to all nurses and techs that over my dead body were they to remove that band from my wrist while I was unconscious, that reminded me to be strong throughout this hellacious experience, to a Tweet from Lance and others who have been through this the day after my double mastectomy, that I would not have been able to come through this fight sane, hopeful, and with the tenacity to live on beyond cancer.

How DARE you write this, as though LIVESTRONG were nothing more than a whimsical revenue stream for a selfish man? Mr. Gifford, if you had seen the smiles on my children's faces in October when we met Lance, smiles like I hadn't seen on their faces since before I told them I had cancer in July, you wouldn't be questioning the work that LIVESTRONG does. Lance and the organization promises hope, drive, fight, and survivorship. And they deliver on that promise. My 13 year-old son, who has been through hell and back, rode 90 miles in October. Do you know why? Because, after seeing so many people fighting so hard throughout the Challenge, who had been through so much, and knowing how badly I wanted to ride beyond the 10 mile mark but couldn't, he explained, "I rode the 90 miles for my mom because she can't."

My 10-year old daughter was scared every day that cancer was going to kill me, despite reassurances from doctors, friends, family and me. It wasn't until she met Lance, she spoke with the staff at LIVESTRONG, who treated her like gold, and saw all those other mommies who had breast cancer, too, ride through the Yellow Mile and collect their yellow roses, that she realized I wasn't going to die, and that I'd be riding my bike, and living and loving life just like before. And that she didn't have to worry that I was going to die. That weight on her shoulders was too much, but it was LIVESTRONG that helped her lift that off of her shoulders and see how strong she, and I, were and that we'd make it through this.

Komen, by the way, whom you laud in the article, did NOTHING for us. I've long been skeptical of their "pinking" tactics, but when I was diagnosed, I decided to let bygones be bygones and reach out to my local office to see what support they might have, programs, etc. I called, left messages, emailed repeatedly. What was the response? They turned a blind eye to me when I reached out to them, looking for help, advice, and hope. All I got was a barrage of emails asking me to donate to them.

I pray that you never have to face this disease head on, personally. But if you do, try it without Lance,   LIVESTRONG or the programs and materials that they provide by your side for just one day and see how well you do. I guarantee you that not long after that day, you'll be wearing yellow silicone on your wrist soon enough. And, hopefully, publishing a retraction and an apology to those of us who feel so incredibly grateful for LIVESTRONG and to the 28 million living with cancer today that Lance and the good people at the LAF work so hard for every day.

- Rica Mendes
South Salem, NY

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reflections from my bed

Not that I ever imagined what it would be like to have cancer, so I can't say, "I always thought that when I fought cancer, I'd... " but, once I got involved with LIVESTRONG, I assumed that if I had cancer, I'd either be in a hospital bed the entire time or be one of those amazing folks whose life would be completely uninterrupted, and working out/exercising more than before. Hell, I'd entered into this adventure racing during diagnosis, determined to ride the LIVESTRONG Challenge, doing pilates, etc.

And yet, since October and the infection, I've put on weight, I am heeding my doctors' advice and not doing anything, and nervous about going outside to walk, spend too much time out of the house, etc. I've become a reclusive Pillow Pet. With the exception of a few days to the office, an excursion or two, I've pretty much just been in bed or on the sofa. It's gotten to the point, between the lack of exercise, chemo, etc, where simple things like walking a block or two down the street, going up and down the stairs, etc, leaves me absolutely winded.

For a while, it was just affecting me physically. But, now, I'm finding it's affecting me mentally. Other than day-job work from home, I'm finding myself struggling to put the effort into doing other things. I'm so mad at myself for not doing more. I should be able to make more phone calls, write more letters, etc. And, yet, I can't quite seem to get myself out of my mental bed.

The good news is that I'd have to imagine that this is a temporary situation. Perhaps this blog will be enough to jar me into activity.

I need to find some motivation, here, folks. Part of me wishes I had a dog so I'd have to walk it. Or someone other than the kids in the house to force me to go for walks.

One of the pluses of living here on the lake is that it's quiet and secluded. One of the minuses of living here on the lake is that it's quiet and secluded.

It is beautiful, though. If you could only see the sunset view I have from my room night after night, and stunning vista of the sweeping flights of the swans over the lake throughout the day is remarkable.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"What's Next?" - President Jed Bartlet (The West Wing)

My final day in "The Chair."
It's just under 24-hours since I completed what is supposed to be my final chemotherapy session. I say, "supposed to be," simply because I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. My oncologist, Dr. Tepler, reassures me time and again that this will be it. Perhaps it's the paranoia of having cancer; the same auto-pilot reaction to any ailment or ache that immediately causes a cancer fighter to assume the worst, or the fact that Murphy's Law has had a nasty habit in the past for playing the "Oh yeah? I've got a curveball for YOU!" game with me. But regardless, I'm cautiously optimistically celebrating.

My father came by at around 8:20 to pick me up and take me to Stamford Hospital's Bennett Cancer Center. We loaded up the car with the usual suspects: My laptop/briefcase, a couple of DVDs including Robin Williams' "Live on Broadway," "The Shining" (my father's never seen it) and "Clockwork Orange" (he's also never seen this, so I figured I'd bring it just in case), my iPod, the yellow blanket my cousin Jon's mom used when she had chemo and has subsequently passed onto various cancer fighters to keep them comfortable during their treatments, a couple of Naked Juices and my laptop lap desk. It seems like I was packing for college, but let me tell you, each and every item serves a purpose.

First, I hadn't had anything to eat or drink all morning. It was another one of those, "Rush, get the kids ready for school and then take care of yourself," mornings, and I was just ready in the nick of time. So, I had to bring the Naked Juice for nourishment. The iPod was meant to bide the time in the waiting area, distract me while I had my finger stick, and fill in some boring moments with some motivational music.

After the finger pricking, Dad and I were walked to the room - in fact, it was the same private room I had with my first appointment. We were full circle. Dad started setting himself up while I set up the laptop to play the DVDs. (We know from experience that most of the DVD players don't work.) The nurse, thankfully, listened to me (unlike last time), and didn't try and go spelunking for veins never tapped before, but went for "Old Faithful." Either the veins have begun to recover, or my nurse continued her magic touch, because I didn't feel a sting from the saline, nor did I taste the metallic-saltiness on my tongue. I didn't even notice the  Decadron.

We popped the Robin Williams DVD into the laptop and thus began our laugh-fest. Thank goodness we had a private room with a door, because the profanity spewing from my laptop had me a bit red in the face - not that I, personally, am that sensitive, but there are so many demographics represented in the halls at the hospital, and folks, undoubtedly, who do not feel that chemotherapy is a fun thing, I didn't want to offend anyone.

At one point, Clarissa, my first nurse at my first appointment, came in and saw Robin Williams. Just as she says, "What a great DVD to watch!" Robin begins a riff about how his friend Lance is in France riding in the Tour after going through chemotherapy. Needless to say, they knew I'm a LIVESTRONG leader, and this got a big giggle from everyone.

Chemo went smoothly, and, now it's post-chemo recovery mode.

One of the next steps, in my case, is going to be hormonal therapy. Typically, that means Tamoxifen. Here's the catch. I don't want to take it. I mean, I really don't want to take it. It will likely put me into early menopause, which isn't exactly a prospect I'm jumping at. I've had enough thrown at me to put my femininity into play this year, had my boobs lopped off and replaced by square-shaped Ziploc baggies while I wait for silicone jelly beans. Not to mention, the side effects of menopause doesn't exactly excite me, either.

I was going to participate in a clinical trial incorporating Metformin, which is a drug used in treating diabetes that has been successful in helping prevent some of the problems with Tamoxifen and menopause. I was really looking forward to it, after being told I was an ideal candidate. That is, until I was told that my tumor was 0.175cm too small to participate with the new guidelines for the trial.

So, now I'm screwed.

What's next? A long, hard talk with Dr. Tepler to figure out a way to get me involved with Metformin, because I am not going onto a regiment that will put me into early menopause, with all the bells and whistles that accompany it.

My body. My cancer. My treatment.

So, what's next?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When I grow up, I want to be a Superhero... Who knew?

When I was a really little kid, I wanted to be Spiderman. When I was a little girl, watching Linda Carter week after week, I wanted to be Wonder Woman. And when the movie came out, I wanted to be Supergirl. In high school, when I saw Michelle Pfeiffer don the latex, I wanted to be Catwoman (of course, meeting and selling Eartha Kitt muffins every morning for a summer contributed to that fantasy). In college, I was thrilled to dress my friend Charity, who was playing Princess Ida, like Xena in our production of the "Three Princess Project" And I always tell my kids not to make me angry, as they wouldn't like me if I got angry...

Ok. So I DO own Wonder Woman/Supergirl boots.
I bought them the day I was diagnosed - I was already
channeling my inner super heroine. Glad they followed
in my footsteps.
I never, sadly, developed any superhuman strength, or super powers. I shared nothing in common with any of these heroines. They were unattainable beacons of womanhood. Good examples, of course, but they existed on a plane that was far beyond reach.

Or were they?

A brilliant ad campaign is launching in, of all places, Mozambique, promoting self-breast examinations as a means to increase early detection of breast cancer. Associação da Luta Contra o Câncer in Mozambique is launching the following campaign of super heroines giving themselves breast exams in, what I think is, one of the most eye-catching, powerful campaigns I've seen in a long time.

It doesn't play on fear, shock, sentimentality, or the color pink. It focuses on powerful women. Strength. It humanizes these super heroines that so many of us grew up looking up to, and generation upon generation admire at some point in their lives, and shows us that, despite all the supernatural powers in the world, cancer can touch us all. Despite the cloaks, spandex and genetic mutations, we are all still women.

Today, I feel like Wonder Woman. I may not break out the starry bloomers and tiara, but I realize that I faced a dubious super villain, and I'm beating it down.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chemo Round 3 Day 18: Embracing My Inner Sloth

Ah, yes, post-surgery/chemo couch potatohood has struck, and my waistline, ability to move, etc, has paid the price. I'm on the verge of becoming one of those people who has to be surgically removed from their sofa as their flesh has interwoven with the upholstery. Help me! Help me!

As always, feel free to donate to my fundraising efforts benefiting LIVESTRONG:

Wish I'd thought of that...

My cousin, who took those lovely portraits the day before my surgery, sent me the following cartoon:

I've since emailed it to Dr. Nordberg and informed him to stock up on pink Mardi Gras beads...

(Cartoon is on

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Start 2012 off on the right foot!

If there was one lesson I learned last year while organizing events, it was how important sponsors have been with expenses, promotion, etc. I am incredibly grateful to all of our sponsors from last year, and we are now looking for our 2012 sponsors!

Of course, our 2011 supporters are invited to participate again this year, but some of our events are getting bigger, and that means we need more assistance!

In order to ensure that the bulk of the registration fees for these events go to LIVESTRONG, we are not only looking for sponsors who will make a large donation to our Lance Armstrong Foundation Challenge account, but businesses that might be willing to cover some of the expenses like insurance, t-shirts, etc.

If you are an individual, but know of a company that might be interested in this opportunity, please direct them to this blog. Or, you can sponsor us in honor of a loved one or anonymously - however you feel comfortable!

Sponsorship Opportunities are as follows:

Title Sponsor for the Season - $3,000 Cash Donation
(1 sponsorship available)

  • Title sponsorship. The (INSERT NAME) ROCK the RIDE & RUN Benefiting the Lance Armstrong Foundation and The (INSERT NAME) ROCK the RIDGE Benefiting the Lance Armstrong Foundation
  • Logo on all printed materials including: t-shirt, handbills, course maps, registration forms
  • Extra Large Logo with link on web site and welcome message on home page
  • Recognition in all e-communications from January  to October
  • Headline recognition in media and advertising (press releases, fact sheets, etc). Must be secured by January 31, 2011
  • Prominent event day signage including
  • 2 mentions per month from January to October on Facebook fan page
  • Promotional item in goody bag
  • Free registration for all employee participants from your organization at all events
  • Vendor booth at event
  • Announcement recognition
  • Race day start speaking opportunity
Seasonal Platinum Sponsor - $1,000 Cash Donation
  • Presenting sponsorship opportunity at all events
  • Large Logo on printed materials including: t-shirt, handbills, course maps
  • Large Logo with link on web site
  • Recognition in six e-communications from January to October
  • Company feature in one newsletter
  • 1 mention per month from January to Oct on Facebook fan page
  • Company included in media and advertising (press releases, fact sheets, etc). Must be secured by  January 31, 2011
  • Opportunity for event day signage at vendor booth and victory party tent
  • Vendor booth at all events
  • Promotional item in goody bag
  • Free registration for employee participants

Event Gold Sponsor - $750 or Pay for the Cost of Event T-Shirts

  • Large Logo on printed materials including: t-shirt,  handbills, course maps
  • Large Logo with link on web site in the 3 months leading up to the event
  • Recognition in three e-communications regarding the event in the 3 months leading up to the event
  • Three mentions on Facebook fan page in the 3 months leading up to the event
  • Vendor booth at event
  • Opportunity for event day signage at vendor booth and registration tent
  • Promotional item in goody bag
  • 5 Free registrations for employee participants

Event Silver Sponsor - $500/Pay for $500 of Expenses (Insurance, Port-a-Potties, etc)

  • Medium Logo on printed materials including: t-shirt
  • Medium Logo with link on web site in the 3 months leading up to the event
  • 2 mentions in e-communications regarding the event in the 3 months leading up to the event
  • 2 mention on Facebook fan page in the 3 months leading up to the event
  • Vendor booth at event
  • Opportunity for event day signage at vendor booth
  • Promotional item in goody bag
  • 5 Free registrations for employee participants

Event Bronze Sponsor - $250 or $250 In-Kind Donation towards Raffle

  • Small Logo on printed materials including: t-shirt
  • Small Logo with link on web site in the 3 months leading up to the event
  • Vendor booth at event
  • Opportunity for event day signage at vendor booth
  • Promotional item in goody bag
  • 3 Free registrations for employee participants

Event $100 Cash or $100 In-Kind Donation towards Raffle

  • Extra Small Logo on printed materials including: t-shirt
  • Extra Small Logo with link on web site in the 3 months leading up to the event
  • Promotional item in goody bag
  • Vendor booth at event

Event $75 Charitable Contribution

  • Business Name on t-shirt
  • Promotional item in goody bag

To become a sponsor, please contact us and let us know which sponsorship package you are interested in.