Bender Is Mended!

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Bender' s Mender

IMG_0991 My family (Josh, Harrison and Sophie) at the finish line! 

I hesitate to write/say “Bender is Mended,” because I question whether I am or will ever be “fully mended.” Truth is, I question whether any of us are ever fully mended from whatever challenges begin to present themselves the moment we enter the world. What does it even mean to be fully mended? Aren’t we all stitched up beings, forever changed in some way by whatever led to the stitches in the first place? Perhaps we’re stronger in some ways, more vulnerable in others… do those vulnerabilities mean we are less mended? Clearly I’ve been contemplating such questions of late…

One thing is certain: I feel a physical confidence that I haven’t felt since before starting treatment– and maybe not even then. I think I am coming back with even more confidence, knowing I can go through what I did and come out the other side feeling truly…

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Feature Article on Bender’s Mender!

People have been asking about Bender’s Mender. I wish I had reblogged this post from when my local paper did a feature a couple of weeks ago on the run/fundraiser. Bender’s Mender is now complete, and I just posted an update on that site, which is coming momentarily…

Bender' s Mender

IMG_9286 From left, Rabbit (our dog companion), me, Amanda, Jen, Nunia, Clover, Jain. We all head to Nantucket this weekend with our families!

Our local paper, the Hampshire Gazette, did a feature article on Bender’s Mender this week– a two page spread with a slew of pictures! My daughter, Sophie, appears in one of the pictures which was great fun, to watch her excitement about being in the paper. And I don’t deny it, it’s been pretty exciting for me, as well, especially as I get to receive people’s responses. Today, as my Wednesday morning running group passed a stranger on the path, she shouted, “I saw you all in the paper yesterday! Good luck this weekend!” And later, I went for a check-up with my radiation oncologist, and everyone in the office–receptionists, nurses, doctor–greeted me with joy. “That’s our girl!” they said. “We put the paper in the break room…

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Risk-Taking

Bender' s Mender

This month, I am trying to take a (healthy) risk a day. Part of the challenge has been figuring out what that even looks like. What do I think of as a risk? What are examples of risks, big and small, that I might take? I’ve loved exploring these questions with people. (How does my idea of a risk compare to or differ from your idea of a risk? What risk could you take today? I’d love to hear your responses!!)

This week, my greatest risk was setting my alarm for 5:30 a.m. (a risk in and of itself since I am the opposite of a morning person), so that I could try the Bikram yoga class a few doors down from where I was staying in Washington DC. (I took a Bikram yoga class, once, about 20 years ago.) This week’s class felt great, and I felt truly proud of…

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Bender’s Mender

WHY BENDER’S MENDER?

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014, I was 39 years old and running eight to ten miles most Saturdays with a group of close women friends. Though I was able to maintain a base level of running throughout my intensive cancer treatment (six months of chemotherapy followed by a left mastectomy and six weeks of radiation), I wasn’t able to eke out more than three miles at a time; plus, my pace slowed dramatically. My goal from the beginning of treatment has been to get back to those long weekend runs.

Toward that end, my running (and dear) friends have been endlessly cheering me on, slowing their own pace to keep me company as I build my strength and stamina; as well as planning a getaway weekend run for us to do together to celebrate my healing. Initially we looked into already established races, but it isn’t easy to find a ten-miler, which is my particular goal. So, for the weekend of May 7, I am traveling to Nantucket with five other families for a customized, ten mile, comeback run—now officially named “Bender’s Mender” after my last name! (To read more about the run, please visit https://bendersmender.wordpress.com/)

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I’ve always known that I wanted my comeback run to be not just about celebrating my recovery, but about giving back. And so, I am running to raise money for two organizations: The Cancer Connection, a local organization that has offered invaluable support to me and hundreds of others touched by cancer; and MET UP, a national organization “committed to changing the landscape of metastatic cancer through direct action.”

I am running for the one in eight women in the United States who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime; and for the more than 40,000 women who die in this country each year because of metastatic breast cancer. I am running because we are ALL survivors, for as long as we live, and I am lucky enough to be living still.

If you would like to cheer me on to the Bender’s Mender finish line; if you would like to support others with cancer; if you would like to help find a cure for metastatic disease, please consider making a contribution of any amount here.

With gratitude,

Jenny Bender

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DONATE:

www.youcaring.com/bendersmender

Love Letter

I wrote the following several months ago but never posted it. Thank the stars and the trees and the oceans, my grief has since passed… but not the deep love. It being Valentine’s day, I am compelled to share this now as a tribute to my Josh.

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This Is Grief and Fear and Love

There is nothing I haven’t told you. I’ve told you my guilty secrets: like that I miss the days of chemotherapy, when I slept late, then lay on the couch while the other grown-ups did what had to be done for the children; the days of chemo when I could say no when I wanted to say no—I could say maybe or yes or even fuck off and get away with it.

I’ve told you what a pain in the ass it is to have one breast (and yes, devastating, too). A pain for me anyway, who doesn’t feel comfortable walking around that way, not unless I’m walking around you and even then, I hover an arm, a hand, a piece of sheet across my naked chest, even though you changed my bandages as tenderly as I’ve ever done anything in life, even though you looked before I was ready to look myself, even though I’ve studied and studied your face and you’ve never once winced.

I’ve told you how afraid I am, even though I know you’re afraid, too, terrified really, and part of me wants to protect you by not telling you anything. I don’t want to tell you about all the ways I could still die, even though you already know all about that.

I’ve told you what I want to be when I grow up and about the dream I had last night and about the terrible things I did as a child and a young adult and last week and about what’s for dinner and that I love you more than I ever thought possible and that my heart is your heart is my heart.

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Writing Saved Me

Thank you to the amazing Sam Reynolds from SamSpaces for asking me to write a guest post for her blog about the healing power of writing! Sam is another breast cancer fighter-survivor-veteran who has been transformed by her experience. Through SamSpaces, she offers mentoring and other resources to patients nearing the end of treatment and during recovery. It has been a gift getting to know Sam over the last several months as we’ve shared our fears and challenges, dreams and passions . I hope you will check out her site, share it with others who might benefit from all she has to offer — and of course, I hope you will click on the link and read my guest post!
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I’ve Been Nominated for a Liebster Award!

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What an honor to be nominated for a Liebster Award by my cyber friend Rosemary of cystaract.wordpress.com – thank you, Rosemary, for your sisterhood and support these past many months and now for your nomination!

 The Rules:

  1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer 11 questions that the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate up to 5 blogs you think are deserving of the award that have less than 200 followers.
  5. Let the blogs know you have nominated them.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

 Rule #2: Answers to Rosemary’s 11 questions:

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  1. What is your favourite quote?

It’s always hard for me to pick a favorite anything; I feel much more comfortable with “one of my favorite” or “my favorite this week.” So, “one of my favorite quotes,” which has been taped beside my bed these last many months and feels an appropriate choice for this particular blog and community is:

“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”

– Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

  1. What have you gained from writing your blog?

My blog has given me:

  • An online community of women going through similar challenges and transformations.
  • A focus and a purpose and a passion during my year of intensive breast cancer treatment.
  • A place to reflect. Writing about my breast cancer experience has been one of the most important pieces of my survival, healing and spiritual/emotional growth.
  1. What’s your favourite post on your blog and why?

One of my favorite posts is “On Grief and Gratitude” (https://writingbreastcancer.com/2015/11/07/grief-and-gratitude/) because it feels timeless and full of important reminders for myself. Re-reading it now, it is a good reminder that everything shifts in life; that I can carry my emotions with me without being ruled by them; and that practicing gratitude is an effective way to lift myself out of the darker places. It is also a good reminder of how strong I am, even when I don’t feel it, and that my strength will carry me through anything.

  1. What’s your focus for 2016?

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To nurture joy as well as simplicity and space.

To keep exploring the questions I’ve pondered deeply since my diagnosis in October 2014: Who am I really? What kind of life do I want? How can I honor my answers to those questions?

  1. Five blogs you follow?

1. Woman in the Hat http://www.womaninthehat.com/

2. Laundry Line Divine http://www.suzibanksbaum.com/blog/

3. My Little Bs Have the Big C https://littlebsbigc.wordpress.com/

4. The Cult of Perfect Motherhood http://cultofperfectmotherhood.com/

5. Cystaract: Leading #TeamPositive from diagnosis to all clear https://cystaract.wordpress.com/

  1. What’s one thing about you few people know?

I’ve always felt watched, even in the privacy of my home – which is just one reason why current technology and social media freaks me out: it makes me think that people might truly be watching me, through my phone, through the camera in my computer, through some secret hole in my ceiling. (But I’m really quite stable, not paranoid!)

  1. Where is a special place for you?

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Tuckernuck, an island paradise where I can simply be

  1. If you could have dinner with five famous people, who would they be?

1. and 2. Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, together

3. Pema Chodron

4. I know it’s cheesy, but Jesus—for the historical, political and spiritual conversation

5. Elizabeth Gilbert, because I just fell in love with her when reading Big Magic

6. Nelson Mandela (oops, that’s 6)

  1. What advice would you give your 18 year old self?

Notice and then seek out what inspires you and what grounds you. Everything else will fall into place from there.

  1. What type of music do you listen to?

I break out in a cold sweat if someone asks me to pick something to play. Okay, it’s not that serious, but even though I love music (and dancing), I’ve never been able to hold onto the names of musicians, albums, songs. I love dancing to hip-hop. I love listening to just about any genre… when it happens to be a song that I like. (A few of my favorite musicians whose names actually have stuck: Bon Iver, Gillian Welch, Jeff Buckley, Adele, Jay-Z, Dylan)

  1. What would you like to know more about?

Myself, always more to learn there

What goes on in the inner workings of my children’s minds and hearts

Facts that would help me further back up my values and politics when talking with someone who does not share my values and politics 

Rule #3: 11 Random facts about me:

otters sleep  (Okay, that random fact has nothing to do with me, but how sweet is that?!)

  1. I almost always speed when driving, feels like I’m beating the clock and getting a little more time in my day.
  2. I’d rather be too hot than too cold.
  3. I’ve always had a very active nighttime dream life.
  4. I’ve always wanted to travel the country in an RV and to go on a cruise. I think it’s the turtle in me who would love to carry my home on my back.
  5. I inherited a terrible sweet tooth from my parents (though I generally try to avoid sugar).
  6. I love Mexican food.
  7. My idea of a great vacation is sleeping in and then lounging by water (beach, river, I’ll even take a pool) with my book.
  8. I don’t like spending much time in actual water (unless it’s a hot tub). I like to jump in, cool off, and then get back to my reading/lounging in the sun.
  9. I get easily over-stimulated and have trouble with loud noises and commotion—which is one of the more challenging parts of parenthood for me.
  10. I got terribly homesick as a child.
  11. I was raised by politically active parents committed to social justice and gave my first speech when I was 8 at a benefit for Central American children. 

Rule #4: My nominees are:

There are so many blogs that I think are worthy of an award! But I’m thrown by the “less than 200 followers.” I imagine some of the ones below might not qualify, but since their numbers aren’t posted, and since I think more people should read what they have to write, I’m nominating them!

Rule #6: My 11 questions:

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  1. What do you fear?
  2. What inspires you?
  3. What would you tell your childhood self?
  4. What’s something you’ve always wanted to do in life?
  5. What do you think happens when we die?
  6. What’s something few people know about you?
  7. What’s one thing you would change about yourself?
  8. What’s something you’re proud of?
  9. What are 5 blogs you follow?
  10. What have you gained from writing your blog?
  11. What is your hope/intention for 2016?