Our Voices, the Blog

Dear Mom - Sunday, May 8, 2016
Dear Mom,
Today is Mother’s Day, and while part of me wants this day to pass as quickly as possible so I can try to fool myself into not missing you so much, I can hear you saying to me, in that subtle way you would when life was less than ideal, “well this isn’t exactly how I thought today would go, but we love each other and that’s all that matters.”
The beauty I’ve learned over the last few years since you and grandmother passed is that you were so right - love truly is what matters and it’s the love that remains. Sure, it’s often the kind of love that only lives where joy meets grief, and sure, I’d rather be celebrating mom’s love over brunch and a Prosecco, but today, it’s the love we shared during those times that matters. It’s the love that I still carry with me each day. It’s the love that defines who I am and how I live my life. And it’s the love I now share with others.
Whether sharing that love is through helping women with ovarian cancer through your legacy SPB Foundation, whether it’s the love I give to my partner or whether it’s the nod of love I give to the man hunched over at a busy stoplight who looks to need some, it’s all about love. I know it sounds cliché and sentimental, and I’m far from being all “lovey” every minute of my life (just ask Kevin) but it’s true.  
You see mom, now I know that the love you gave me was meant to share with others. And not only does that love remain, it expands, burns brighter and has the power to transform. And while you and I might rather spend today having one of our marathon talks about how to be more loving in our lives, I know now the ultimate purpose of those talks - and everything we shared while you were here in person – is to be more loving in my life and contribute with lovingkindness to the world.
Speaking of the world, today also happens to be World Ovarian Cancer Day so I’m especially humbled and grateful that, before you moved on, you created a space named SPB for a special brand of love to live and where each day I experience love amongst a community of ovarian cancer thrivers, their families and friends, and those working to make their lives better. Talk about love matters…
So kudos mom. Here’s to a job well done, a mission accomplished and a role fulfilled. You instilled in me a boundless, far-reaching and never ending love that is living on in many ways.
Something tells me you’d think that’s a pretty darn good way to honor mother’s day.
And so it is.
Happy Mom’s Day…


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The Personal Sherpa - Friday, June 26, 2015

For some unknown reason, I was fortunate to have enjoyed the past 15 years with Susan as my best friend, soul mate, and wife. Looking back I can best describe my primary purpose in her life as her “Sherpa.” I can say this with total confidence, as this is how she described my existence in her life to all who would listen. And let me be totally clear, I relished my position. As most know, a Sherpa is the guide who totes a mountain climber’s personal belongings up the tallest and most dangerous of peaks in the Himalayas. This begs the question, who has accomplished the most, climber or Sherpa?

However, my responsibilities as Susan’s personal Sherpa were not fraught with hair-raising risk. My role could be better defined as her valet, fishing and hunting guide. More like “Driving Miss Daisy,” but in this case more like Driving Miss Aniston, as in Jennifer Aniston. What a beautiful and elegant lady she was, Susan.
As our friends know, I love the outdoors; hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and most of all fly-fishing. Susan adopted my habits, or perhaps I assisted in waking her latent desires. Regardless, I had a beautiful partner to venture into the wilds with and there was a definite benefit to having my female companion along side of me on these remote excursions ------- She could cook! And what a fabulous cook she was. I taught Susan the art of hunting. Quail and dove hunting, perhaps the easiest to overcome the queasiness of actually killing something. After all, anything that hatches from an egg is fair game, correct? Her decision to pursue the four-legged variety of game required serious preparation, mostly mental. She dutifully practiced her shooting skills with her rifle, and as instructed, determined beforehand if she had the will to harvest her goal, a mature bull elk. We began her quest with a warm-up hunt in West Texas hunting pronghorn antelope. Typical of Susan, her preparation was complete and flawless, dropping one with a single shot on the hunt’s first day. The animal never suffered as her shot was true to the mark and an instantaneous kill. She then dusted off her antelope recipes to enjoy the benefits of the hunt. Come on now, everybody has antelope recipes, right?
At this point, I was convinced Susan was ready to pursue her bull elk, a much larger target and a much more physically demanding hunt. Elk like living in the highest and craggiest mountains in Idaho and Colorado. This requires hiking for miles up and down steep slopes at elevations exceeding 10,000 feet. Not for the faint of heart or anyone not in excellent physical condition, but Susan was habitually fit so she qualified. This is where the Sherpa story begins. We travel to central Colorado to hunt in the Wet Mountains just west of Pueblo. The morning of the first day of the hunt begins with Susan packing, or rather over-packing  her backpack. In an attempt not to interrupt her thoughts of the daunting challenge in front of her, I did not ask why she considered three books (cooking variety), a dozen or so power bars, 6 gallons of water, 2 sweaters, an extra pair of boots and 5 apples were required on a morning hunt that would at most last three hours. So, quietly I shouldered her nearly 30-pound pack and off we went with our guide Allen. “Oh sweetie, would you mind carrying my rifle too?” Sure, why not, I had nothing better to do.
That afternoon Susan bagged her elk. He was a magnificent and mature fellow with antlers large enough to register in the famous Boone and Crocket, a list of animals reserved for only the grandest and largest of specimens. Typical Susan, with her determination and preparation, she accomplished what most hunters never experience, on her first day of hunting. And oh yes, she had many elk recipes.
Susan retired from hunting after bagging her elk and concentrated on her fly-fishing skills. She’d sit patiently on the bank of the Frying Pan River entertaining our three dogs as I fished our favorite pool. Curious as to why she was not wading the river, it became apparent to me, she preferred fishing with me by her side, which sounds very romantic. However, it was to her liking because it was much easier for me to net her fish, take the fly out of said fishes’ mouth, re-tie her fly on hair thin fly line and direct her next cast to a fish I saw rising while finishing these tasks. Why would she want to soil her new manicure touching those squirming slippery devils? Better suited for Mr. Sherpa. Oh yes, my enviable task of ‘Guiding Miss Susan’.
I miss those warm sunny days shared with Susan on the Pan, hiking with our dogs, or being quiet and doing nothing at all. I am so grateful to have shared in her understated elegance and love, and to learn through observance how to live by the Golden Rule. Her infectious smile warmed the hearts of many and made their lives better for knowing her. And as my job of Sherpa turned into carrying the same hunting backpack through the maze of hallways of M.D. Anderson, I watched this remarkable lady face her biggest and most daunting challenge with grace and caring for all those with similar needs. Cancer shortened this joyous relationship for some unknown reason. Perhaps to initiate this Foundation to financially support innovative research for a future cure or early diagnosis. Susan knew her body, took care of herself, but never sensed anything wrong until it proved too late. Through her namesake Foundation, we are committed to carry on Susan’s legacy and to help others understand the wickedness of this disease. Our goal (to be a Sherpa of sorts) is for everyone to know the symptoms and questions to ask doctors, so that someday soon the detour on the path of life forced onto Susan will be barricaded forever.
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"A Daughter’s Experience”, #1 - Monday, April 13, 2015

April 2015...Mindy White

On Friday, February 14, 2012, I was having a great day getting ready for Valentine’s Day with my husband and son.  Friday’s are always great days!  That afternoon my mother called and I happily answered, knowing she was calling to wish us a Happy Valentine’s Day, as she always did.  Mom loved celebrating all holidays!  But, I was wrong.  What she told me was the most tragic thing I’d ever heard; she told me she had cancer.  We cried, we rationalized, we said everything would be okay, and we believed it.  That is how our journey with Ovarian Cancer began as a mother and daughter.

I am cancer-free.  I get the CA-125 blood test, ovarian ultrasounds and pap smears every three, six, and/or nine months, depending upon what I feel is necessary for me.  I do not go more than a year without seeing my doctor.  My mother’s diagnosis opened a huge door to different healthcare issues women must know about.  Neither she nor I had information about the symptoms and risk factors for ovarian cancer, and we don’t have a family history of gynecologic cancer. So when she was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer, we were all shocked, as many women are. We have always been adamant about annual pap smears, mammograms, physicals, colonoscopies, and even going to the dentist every six months.  My mother was even more adamant than I was about her health care because she loved her life and wanted to ensure she lived to 100!  The only thing my mother did have issues with throughout her adult life was chronic gastrointestinal distress and moderate to severe endometriosis, which resulted in her having a partial hysterectomy in her early 30’s.  Due to her young age, her gynecologist recommended she keep her ovaries to help her with hormonal regulation.

Mom was amazing throughout the entire 2 ½ years she lived with cancer.  She fought hard, and although there were times she considered a break from treatment, she always kept going, wanting every possible chance at remission.  She and my dad enjoyed every day she had when she felt good and filled their days with traveling, shopping (she could do some shopping!), quality time with friends and family, and even building a winery.  It is really ironic to say, but even though we were already so close, cancer brought us that much closer, and we spent so much more precious time together.  I will never forget those wonderful times.  They might not have always been convenient for all of us since the family is spread across the US, but we made it happen and being together in those years made all the difference.

I’m encouraged by recent developments in the ovarian cancer movement. The latest news about Angelina Jolie and her decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed due to her family history of ovarian cancer, her CA-125 levels and carrying the BRCA 1 gene continues to shed light on Ovarian Cancer and bring it to the forefront.  While the coverage of her story may be controversial to many, I truly appreciate her raising awareness this way. This could make the difference to someone who might miss the information otherwise. Thank you, Angelina!

I could go on, and I just might if you all would like to hear more – even if you don’t, I still might!  I encourage all of you beautiful and amazing women out there – and the wonderful men who stand beside them – please listen to your bodies.  Susan did have some symptoms that she thought were something different, and had she known more about ovarian cancer risk, she very well might have talked to her doctors earlier about them. So, please learn more about signs and symptoms on our website at http://www.spbovariancancerfoundation.org/archive/Symptoms.aspx.html and talk to your doctors if something feels “off.”  Ask for further testing and ask about the CA-125 and BRCA blood tests.  I know all of this can be challenging and costly, even with insurance, but what is your life worth to you and those who love you?  PRICELESS.




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Calls for balance… - Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Beautiful balance - Susan enjoys time with her granddaughter Brooke

A fabulous 2014 to you all! Time has flown since the launch of our website in December and thank you all for your positive, encouraging responses. Our team was overwhelmed with gratitude and motivated by your support.
It was two years ago this month that I heard the words “you have ovarian cancer” and life has been full of extraordinary lessons since.  The one that stands out to me these days is balance. Navigating the detours a dis-ease like cancer has thrown my way rocks the boat, to say the least, and yet I call on balance in a new way each time it does.
I had chemo the Monday before Christmas, and while not my dream holiday scenario, I thought “Hey, no big deal. I can do this!” Well, after feeling good and having fun opening presents with my family on Christmas morning, it wasn’t long before “the droops” set in and I was lying on the sofa while my family played and cooked the "roast beast.” Cancer doesn’t take time off for the holidays so treatment doesn’t either.  I learned that laying low this Christmas was my trade off…and my balance.

Then my sweet Mom passed away in January and it broke my heart.   Making peace with this while undergoing cancer treatment was surreal.  My family stepped in and said “You get well; we will handle everything else.”  They helped me balance my scale and focus on recovery while dealing with my grief.  I gave up control (not easy for me to do!) of arrangements and let others help me in order to keep balanced.  After all, it was Mother's wish for me to be totally well.

On a lighter note, I took the plunge into Eastern medicine this year by adding acupuncture to my healing plan. It's kind of funny saying "on a lighter note" when I’m having needles stuck into my body!  Acupuncture helps correct imbalances in the body and mind so it makes sense to integrate it with chemo.  I find my sessions soothing and restorative.  Yet another way I’m heeding the call for balance.

The key for me, I’m learning, is accepting that I can’t do everything I want.  Yes, life is different now, but life doesn't wait until after cancer.   It just calls for more balance, more patience, and more flexibility. Cancer or not, I think we could all use more of those.

At the foundation, we’re practicing balance as we learn and grow. Choosing the best research projects, meeting with strategic partners, and taking action requires time, energy and steadiness.  Like I’ve always said, this is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.
So what is calling for balance in your life?   What are you learning as you practice finding, losing, and/or restoring balance? Please consider sharing your story in our comments below.  Your lessons are sure to help others.  I’d love to hear (and learn) from you.

I wish you all a beautiful new year. If you’d like to help, please spread the word about our efforts to save women’s lives by advancing ovarian cancer detection and treatment options.
And always, believe in healing. And balance along the way!
Love and light,
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Our trek... - Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hi. Today is the day our foundation begins its trek. We are looking for opportunities, ideas, answers, and stories, and we’ve come here to create positive change one step at a time. We’re glad you’re here.

Since I am a Pollyanna at heart, rose-colored glasses and all, we’re not going to spend a lot of time dwelling on the what ifs, omg's, or statistics. Living well with ovarian cancer is what I am talking about and what our foundation is all about. We’ll do whatever it takes to make advances in detecting, managing and curing this dis-ease.

I was shocked when the doctors said I had ovarian cancer and that I was a classic case of advanced stage diagnosis. I remember saying “Really? Seriously? You have to be wrong. Go back to the drawing board because I truly don't have time for this. I am busy!” After all, I had annual Pap smears, Mammograms, check ups with my internist plus I worked out, ate well and occasionally meditated to boot!

Needless to say, the doctors were right and so now in between shopping, cooking, traveling, and pottery is chemo, blood work, no hair, new hair, and more love and support than I could ever imagine. And that is how it all began.

I want to do everything I can to help my daughters, girlfriends, and all women learn about ovarian cancer, identify its tell tale signs, understand that a screening test isn't available, and help change that.

Susan Poorman Blackie Ovarian Cancer Foundation is a small group of passionate, focused, not-very-quiet individuals (you will get what I mean as updates come along) determined to make a difference.

Please join us on this journey; you are vital to change and the reason we’re here. It may seem like attempting the 500 mile Camino de Santiago in Spain, but to me, it's just putting on your Nikes, walking out the door, and taking that first step.

With love and light, Susan

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