Apparently each member of my immediate family is walking around with a big “V” tattooed on our foreheads these days. That’s “V” for victim. Karly’s car was hit with paintballs two nights in a row last week and Randy woke up last Wednesday to find that his car had been broken into during the night. The thief/thieves took his iPod and wallet and he spent the morning cancelling credit cards and talking to the police. My story of victimization, however, takes the cake.
I woke up Thursday to an e-mail from a stranger entitled, “Your pictures have been posted on a porn site…thought you’d like to know.” At first I was convinced that it was just a spam ploy to get me to click on the link enclosed in the e-mail to visit a porn site, but as I re-read the message it began to ring authentic. The message stated that there was a user on this particular website who had been claiming to have cancer. When other members questioned the veracity of her story, she posted bald pictures of herself in her site profile in order to “prove” that she was going through chemo. Several other members did a quick Google search and discovered my blog and posted the link on this porn website as proof that the pictures did not actually depict the user who was claiming that they were her. One woman followed the link, found my e-mail address, and sent me the e-mail.
I checked out the site but discovered that in order to access anything there you had to be a registered user. I was able to find an e-mail address for the site owner, however, so I sent an e-mail asking them to investigate these claims and to remove any pictures of me. As I thought about it some more, I became curious and decided to just go ahead and register for the site. Once I was officially a member of this porn site (I’m not going to post the link here, but if you want to know which one it is e-mail me and I’ll send you the link.), I began looking around. The members of this site can create a blog within the site and it only took me a couple of seconds to find this woman’s blog. She had removed the pictures by the time I visited, but I was able to read the posts on a thread where other members accused her of stealing the pictures and her responses to those accusations.
I immediately sent an e-mail to two attorneys I know who I thought might be able to give me some guidance as to how to handle this situation and then I went about my day. When I was finally able to get back to the computer later in the afternoon, I discovered that the woman’s blog was gone from the site as well as all the posts about my pictures. I discovered another blog, however, where people were talking about this and I decided to go ahead and post a response. In my comment, I talked about the fact that I am not this woman, that I never gave her permission to use my photos, and I suggested that she contact me if she was reading this and that I could give her some links to actual cancer support groups. I also wrote that there were probably better places for her to look for cancer support than on a bondage/s&m website message board.
I documented everything that was still available on the site with screen shots and then I called the police. The officer who came out documented my story, though he didn’t actually file a report. I hoped that would suffice if I needed to subpoena records from the website at some point.
I am grateful to the woman who contacted me, because I would never have known about this if she hadn’t told me. She said that her mother died of cancer and she was therefore disgusted that this woman was using pictures of me with no hair and claiming them as her own. She also offered to let me know if she spots any more photos of me.
And then some interesting things began to happen. Other users of the site began to post angry messages on the blog directed at me. They thought that the fact that I had suggested that this woman look for cancer support somewhere other than this website was my “small-minded” way of saying that the members of this website were somehow bad or flawed and that they couldn’t possibly support someone in need. These people were furious with me and let me know it in no uncertain terms, but I felt that their defensiveness was an over-reaction. In fact, one of the members apologized for the perceived “rudeness” of some of the posters and suggested that they were defensive because the bdsm community is not generally well-received. I returned to the blog again to posted a comment explaining that I didn’t mean to disparage the people on the site in any way and that I was sure they had as close-knit and supportive a community as any other on the internet, and that my intent was really just to offer cancer support resources to the woman who started all of this.
The following morning when I checked my e-mail, I had a message waiting for me from the woman who posted the pictures. She apologized for what she had done and noted that she had retracted her claims and that she had taken the pictures off her site. I wrote back to her, accepted her apology, and told her that as far as I was concerned this was all water under the bridge. I said that I understand that we all make bad decisions sometimes and that we really just have to try to move on from them after the fact. I also offered to share my cancer support resources with her if she needed them. She replied with some very kind words and stated that she was not yet feeling brave enough to explore any cancer support resources.
The most amazing part of this, however, is the number of private e-mails I have received from other users of this website over the past two days. Quite a few people wrote to me to tell me about their mothers or grandmothers or friends who have or had breast cancer. All of these women said that they had clicked on a posted link to my blog out of curiosity and then they started reading my story and apparently it resonated quite strongly for many of them. I find it astounding that out of all of this, a group of women that I would probably never have come into contact with have been moved by something that has happened to me. The internet certainly makes the world a smaller place, doesn’t it?
There is also a lesson here, of course, and that is that you have to be very cautious about what you put out there on the internets. There are a lot of crazy people out there, and unfortunately we take a risk when we open ourselves up to them the way that I have. I knew when I first decided to post pictures that I ran the risk of something like this happening, but I certainly never thought it would happen to me. I plan to leave my pictures up and easily accessible on this blog, but I will be removing the pictures of my kids so that there is no danger of something similar happening to them. (If I have posted a picture of you at anytime and if you want me to remove it from my blog, please let me know.)
Last weekend was the Breast Cancer 3Day and it was an amazing experience. It was everything that people had told me it would be…and more. I have been reluctant to sit down and write about it because I don’t think I can possibly do it justice. I can say that if you have the opportunity to take part in this kind of event, you should definitely do it!
The first day we walked along the North Shore, through the Botanic Gardens and then down Sheridan Road along the lake. We covered 21 miles that day and ended up at our camp site in Des Plaines. My sister had some trouble at the end of the first day, so she and I spent most of the evening in the medical tent while she was hooked up to an IV. Once she was feeling better, we headed to our tent where we got little sleep thanks to the noise from the busy road 100 yards or so from our heads.
The showers are contained in six 18-wheelers and are no more than a small cubicle with a thin curtain partially covering the opening. There are sinks with running water outside of the shower trucks, but other than that the entire weekend was spent using porta-potties. Because you have to drink so much throughout the walk (to avoid an IV) you end up using them a LOT, and we all found that after half a day it doesn’t even bother you anymore.
By the second day, most of my teammates were developing blisters on their blisters, and we were all tired of the food provided at the pit stops and at the meals. I didn’t get any blisters the entire weekend, but we decided that was probably fair since I had cancer. The second day we walked through Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect and Prospect Heights. We encountered a few minutes of rain and some clouds in the morning, but other than that the weather was great all weekend. Saturday night I gave my speech and then it was off to our tents again for another night of bad sleep.
On the third day we were taken into the city by bus and then we walked south along the lake shore through Lincoln Park, down Michigan Avenue, and we ended at Soldier Field for the closing ceremony.
Despite the bad food, poor sleep, and aching feet, however, we had a fabulous weekend. Randy and I are planning to crew for the walk next year, and most of my teammates have said they want to either crew with us or walk again. It really is worth all the aches and pains!
The Chest Nuts
We’ve spent months training and preparing, covering miles and miles. We’ve grown from a pair of old friends planning to walk together, to a team of 12 amazing women. We’ve raised over $40,000. And it’s finally time to walk.
The Chest Nuts and I will be walking 60 miles this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, along with somewhere around 2000 other people. We will be walking to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure and, more importantly, to do what we can so that hopefully YOU will never have to go through what I went through last year. We are walking for ourselves, for our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our grandmothers, our aunts, our nieces, our fathers, our brothers, our sons, our husbands, and our friends. We are walking for everyone who is battling this disease right now and in honor of those who have lost their battles. Every step we take and every dollar we raise represents another step toward the eradication of and a cure for breast cancer.
I am so lucky to be strong and healthy and alive and able to take part in this event. Thank you so much for your support in my journey to get here.
Update: I have been invited to be one of two survivors who will speak at the camp show on Saturday night. There will only be between 1500 and 2500 people there...I'm not nervous or anything. (!)
Here is a link to the supporter page at the 3Day website. At the top of the page is a feed from the live webcam at camp which will be active between 2:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. (CST). (Video only, no audio.)
Saturday was media blitz day for The Chest Nuts. Not only did we appear on the local NBC morning news, but there was an article about us in the local paper, too.
Rachel, Diane, Karen, and Lesli and I met at my house at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and were on our way at 6:45 a.m. We were supposed to be at the NBC studio no later than 8:45 a.m. On a light traffic day, it takes about an hour to get into the city so I thought that would give us plenty of time to park and walk. As we pulled out of my driveway, one of my passengers reminded me that this weekend was Lollapalooza in Chicago. Then I began to get worried about making it on time. And sure enough, we hit traffic early in the trip. It was a good thing I had a car full of people to crack jokes about it, because I may have panicked if I was by myself.
At NBC5 Studios in Chicago
Despite the traffic, though, we made it downtown with time to spare. We used the extra time wisely with a stop at Starbucks, and then it was on to the studio. Rachel had some guests staying with her from out of town and they accompanied us into the city, so we had them snap a couple of pictures in front of the NBC building before we went in. Just before we knocked on the door, Kristi joined us on the plaza.
Per my instructions, I knocked on the “secret” entrance to the studio and the door was opened by one of the crew members. We were greeted by a staff member, shown the bathroom and the coffee maker, and then we were told to wait. The back of the studio was nothing like I had pictured it in my mind. There was no glamour or greenroom or craft services or hair and make-up crew. Instead, it was just a long narrow room filled with pieces of equipment and a few computers for the crew. There was a microwave and a coffee maker in one corner and there were a few stale doughnuts lying on a counter. There was also a refrigerator covered with 4 x 6 photos of various celebrities. Soon after we arrived, the producer introduced himself to us and explained that we needed to be quiet since the set was just on the other side of the curtain we could see at the end of the room.
The first thing we all did was use the bathroom, which was about 5 feet behind the green screen used in the weather broadcast. As we were standing there, we saw the shadow of the morning weather woman appear on the other side of the screen and adjust her jacket. We were whispering…okay, maybe we were laughing a little bit, too…about how funny it would be to go up behind the screen during the broadcast and make shadows on the back of it, when suddenly we heard the disembodied voice of the producer call for “QUIET in the back!!” I felt like I was in middle school and had been talking in class as we all clamped our hands over our mouths and tried not to laugh. Eventually we were able to laugh about how terrible it would have been if we had gotten kicked out of the NBC studios within 5 minutes of our arrival.
They let us stay, however, so we settled in for a 45 minute wait. Just before the show started, crew member Kevin appeared with a mike and asked me to thread it up my shirt. After I did that, he attached it to my collar and then attached the transmitter to the back of my skirt. (Note in the picture how Karen is watching to make sure Kevin’s hands don’t stray where they are not supposed to. Thanks for watching out for me, Karen!)
Getting miked by Kevin
Another morning guest was waiting in the “greenroom” with us. He was dressed in a lab coat with an embroidered label that told us his name followed by the letter “MD.” He had a metal briefcase filled with small opaque white plastic bottles labeled with masking tape. He opened the briefcase and set it on a table next to him, and then pulled out a contraption that looked like a small laser gun. Always friendly, Rachel soon engaged him in a whispered conversation and discovered that he worked at the Smell and Taste Research Foundation and that he was there to talk about how much people smelled. The laser-like piece of equipment was a smell-meter that he could use to detect smells in a room.
Dr. Smellgood (names have been changed to protect the innocent) was one of the first guests on the show, so we got to watch his segment from the back room. As we listened to him describe how smelly people are, we began to steal glances at one another and soon we were laughing hysterically. Even one of the crew members was chuckling and shaking his head. The title of Dr. Smellgood’s segment was “The Stinky Truth” and he discussed how much stinkier it is in bars these days now that we don’t have the smell of cigarette smoke to cover up the stink of people—mostly men. He said that men smell worse than women (and attributed that to their less acute sense of smell) and that men’s rooms rank right up there with pig pens and bars as the smelliest places. His solution to the problem? Axe. Let’s just say that TV is not Dr. Smellgood’s calling. He was definitely nervous, and we all began to wonder if he was actually even a doctor as he stuttered and babbled his way through his demonstration of his smell-meter.
Dr. Smellgood and his "smelpers"
I had a lot of sympathy for him, however, because I was definitely starting to get nervous at this point. By this time I realized that there wasn’t going to be any preparation…no one had said anything to me about what the newscaster (Ellee Pai Hong, for those of you in Chicago) was going to ask me, and in fact we had only seen her very briefly when she came back to talk to one of the other guests. (And by the way, she and the weather woman were teeny tiny. They were probably no more than 5 feet tall in their spike heels, and both had hips and waists no bigger than a minute. Since they look regular size on TV, we all began to wonder if we would look like an Amazon walking team standing next to them.)
The segment just before ours was called Firefighter Fitness and consisted of a group of Chicago firefighters demonstrating exercises on the plaza outside the studio. As they neared the end of their demonstration, Kevin came and hustled us outside for our appearance. As we stood there waiting for the producer to tell us where to stand, Ellee Pai Hong came over to us, introduced herself, and then asked me one question about the walk. She wanted to know if we had just done one already this year (she was confusing it with the Avon 2 Day walk). I noted that she was probably thinking about the Avon walk and explained to her the difference between that one and the Breast Cancer 3Day. (I had spoken with a 3Day PR rep a couple of days before to do some media training and luckily she had mentioned that this is a source of confusion, so I was ready with my answer to that question.) After that, Ellee was called back to be on air and that was it—that was all the preparation I got!
After that things happened pretty quickly. The producer placed us next to Ellee and the weather woman, they did a final weather forecast, and then we were on. Ellee was so nice and kind and asked just a few questions about the walk. At one point in the middle of one of my answers the camera man moved very close to us and the camera was within inches of my face. I can tell exactly when that happened when I watch the interview because I lost track of my answer and had to search for a word as I felt the camera get closer and closer to me.
Luckily Randy recorded the show, because I had no memory of what she asked me or what I said right afterward! I think the whole thing lasted maybe 3 minutes, although I completely lost track of time, as well. After we were done the producer asked us to stick around to be in the “crowd shot” at the end of the show, so we did.
After that we all had breakfast and went shoe shopping as we tried to fight off the paparazzi looking for photo ops and autographs.