Thank you for being a friend

Fact- I have made the bestest, most awesomest friends since my diagnosis. I mean they are the best. Some have become like sisters to me. One I even traveled to go see this weekend. It was epic to hug her (not to tight the girl is  mess) but the reality was a quick trip to the doc to have her checked for some serious pain. Fucking metastatic cancer. I loved every part part of being with Seporah this weekend. The food, her town, her hamster and fish, the laughing but hated with a passion the cancer part. NO it wasn't all about cancer but her pain was clear and how it effected the visit was yet it didn't matter if we just sat and did nothing either proving what amazing friends we are. I hated leaving her, hated it like a child hates to part with it's blankie. We needed this weekend like oxygen and I would not trade it for anything but watching her color change from walking too much or having to pick up her friggin nasty tissue cause she was in pain told me a different side to this. The reality of our friendship. The sisterhood is real, I mean I traveled 4.5 hours to see the freak not knowing what I was getting into. Granted I brought Tom but what good is he really the big sap! I would be lost with my skittle butt and devastated if she wasn't part of my daily routine. 

 I will not say that I met her or any of my peeps because of cancer I refuse to give cancer the benefit of giving me anything especially these fabulous men and women. I do call them my "cancer friends". They get it, they understand all the effed up shit that comes with cancer. And I mean all of it. There is so much emotional baggage that sometimes I think  it out weighs the physical. So the truth be told we need each other like oxygen. Studies show that 70% of those who find a support group do better in their healing, hence the reason I have created Bravery Bags, Warrior Wellness  why I work for pages like Cure Diva and the Googe Chat.

BUT here is the thing. As much as I love Seporah, Lisa, Bob, Kate, Nancy, Tali, Efrat, Norma, Val, Mabel, Remi, Knot, AnneMarie, Val, Jo, Emily and so many others. Some of them I talk to daily and all day. I need them like my family. BUT if someone came along and said "if you could get rid of cancer but all those friendships would go would you?". WOW, ummmmmm yes I would. Cancer ruined their life, altered and destroyed them. It has killed my friends Barbie, Jen, Shelly, Kim, Jennifer and so many more. So yes as much as I love these amazing people in a heart beat I would lose that and that breaks my heart at the same time. If only this was that simple it is not, cancer is here but the thought entered my mind so I had to put the thoughts down. And after this weekend it would be even clearer. I am honored to know Seporah but for her to never have cancer would be an honor beyond existence. One that even me typing this is making me cry because I know that it is a dream, warped right?

Our relationships are s vital to us living through cancer. Our diagnosis are all different, our take on cancer may not be the same, even our time zone are not lined up but we connect. We connect in a way that makes us push our crazy butts through this cancer world. We love each other and understand the screwed up, surgery, chemo, radiation, tamoxifen, scared ways that cancer leaves us. We get that some days we don't want to be positive happy go lucky freaks that we just want to cry. We know that sometimes we just want to laugh at our loop-sided nippleless breasts that are sewn together with our butt (yes sometimes we have butt-boobs). We want to dream we never met and never got cancer. And some days we drive 4.5 hours so give each other a hug in real life because we love each other so. 

I am just glad I don't have to give them up. I am also glad that none of these cancer friends will take my tiara or boa or stilettos, well Bob might but that's a different blog! 

It's my boobs and I will cry if I want to...I will laugh too!

Nipple courtesy of Pink Perfect

Nipple courtesy of Pink Perfect

.Damn things change fast with breast cancer. My body in the past two and half years has seen some crazy shit. I have been sliced and diced like mango (I like that fruit and I am a vegetarian so I won't use meat). When I was first diagnosis I did the whole "take them off" "get rid of them" "they are trying to kill me I don't want them". I thought that was the easy part, you know because the cancer was there so why not just get rid of what is hurting you. Then after the breasts settle :) and you start to adjust so does your mind. And the games begin.

It happened fast for me I think because it was in the summer. You know you wear less clothes. I saw this body change so quick my mind didn't have time to catch up. My chest didn't fit into my clothes and that was hard plus with implants and the fills the change kept happening. Then the weight gain after the hysterectomy. I couldn't stop crying. I felt deflated-who was this scared person with misshapen breasts weighing 25 more pounds? It was a hard year and I could not see how I was going to get out of it. Then the implants shifted into my armpits-not at all the look I wanted back to surgery. The DIEP was hard, painful and really changed my body but I felt a little like me in a weird way. Like I took two from cancer back and said "fuck you" this is me! That was when my mind started to get it, like it was connecting.

So two and half years later I sit here. I am sewn like a patchwork doll, not nearly as fit as I was before cancer not even close, losing weight a little every week but feeling a little more like me. Cancer is a dirty bastard and I know I will never go back to my entire whole self, cancer took a lot of my confidence. I walked for the past months with my shoulders rolled in, slowly I am rolling them back. You may not have realized you were doing this but one day I did and I am blaming cancer, the bastard gets blamed for everything.  I am dealing with the weight gain and learning to accept this challenge but know that because of everything I have been through it will take time. My breasts are now me, ALL me and that makes me happy. Happy they are me not that I have them let's be clear there. This was not a "gift", I hate that shit. I do not want a gift from cancer nothing actually if anything I want to give it away.

The scars are just that- a reminder of who I am. I need to stop looking at them as pain but as strength and smile at the fact that they are more than a line across my chest and stomach. That a scar doesn't make me ugly or imperfect or weak. That a scar does the opposite is shows beauty and strength. As far as perfection goes screw that no one is perfect and I wasn't before so why the hell would I be now.  I will tell you one thing, cancer changed a lot of things but it didn't make me perfect.

Yes I cry still in front of the mirror, at the doctors,  when I realize I have no feeling or when I am mad at this fucking disease but I laugh too. A LOT! Not because I am alive and beat cancer and all that crap but because I am Ann Marie fucking Giannino-Otis and I laughed before cancer so why the hell should I stop now. The tiara looks best with a smile anyway.

The opps is 7

I really never thought I could get pregnant after Anthony. I know what you are thinking that I am crazy because I clearly had 3 kids. But I also had 4 miscarriages and was on hormones to hold my pregnancy with Anthony #3. So when I missed my period when Anthony was 14months old I was shocked to say the least. I called my BFF in tears (not the joyful kind) and she was unsure to congratulate me or wish me luck. Nerveless seven years later this monkey butt Julian Albert is here. Funny cause if this kid was first there would have not been another. I am pretty sure Dr. Rick did not cut the umbilical cord cause he is still attached to me. He is so flippin whining that  sometimes I think someone is punishing me. Do not even think about touching his legos he will lose his shit on you. This kid has a temper like no other. But at the end of the night when he snuggles into my chair, sucks his thumb, twirls my hair and reminds me how much he loves me all that goes away. Julian tells his friends his mom is a super hero that battles breast cancer, "don't mess with her she will crush you too" he has been known to say. He loves his momma like the princess I am and for that I love him like my baby forever and a day. Happy Birthday you crazy, monkey butt. You sure do require a lot of duct tape.

Just remind me of that when he freaks because Tom moved his legos to get into the playroom to get a coat!

Posted on October 30, 2014 .

Happy 9th Birthday you rotten Kid

"Mom what's for dinner?"

"Gross not that?"

"I have nothing to wear"

"When are you doing laundry?"

"When can I get a phone?"

"It's not fair that Ben gets to"


Anthony is the biggest pain in the butt. No really he is, 9 years he will be off to college and we are counting to days although he is the biggest food snob we have so what the hell he will eat is beyond me. He complains nonstop, tries very hard to get his way, hoards his money and wants me to buy everything and my biggest consumer. But he wakes up in the morning and gives me a kiss a big juicy sweet kiss. When we walk anywhere he holds my hand and does ours "special thang" I ain't telling you fools its our thang! He hugs me and tells me he loves ne every morning before he gets on the bus. And when he can we snuggle. So I guess it makes up for being my complainer. He is my lover boy and no matter what he makes my heart happy when he gives his love.

I won't dare go into his delivery it was scary scenario, I should have known then what life would be like with this kid. Or the fact he crawled at 4 months just to torment his brothers. But today I am so happy that I have an Anthony Jude, he is a way cool dude. Really almost too cool. Please keep your daughters away I can not control this one I have tried, Tom has done his best we just can not anticipate what his swag will do. Actually you may want to keep your sons away too he maybe the ring leader in some serious party rocking in the near future.

Happy birthday Anthony go rock the world!

Posted on October 4, 2014 .

Was it worth it?

I get asked that question daily. Really no, none of this was worth it, it all sucked. But inquiring minds want to know so let's dish about my reconstruction. I am not going to blog about the suck ass part, you know lymphedema, exhaustion, can't move your arm, elephant on your chest all that crap- this will be just recon. I won't rehash the bullshit of "oh my god you are getting a FREE boob job", "finally getting the boobs you wanted", "are you going bigger", "no more saggy boobs" because I will just get angry and no one likes angry AM. Plus we all know that is utter nonsense. See a boob job is a choice we did not choose this and it comes at us full force. Recon from breast cancer is different they scrap you to 1% of breast tissue, rads and chemo effect how that implant sits too. Your body is going through a trauma and trying to adjust. Now add your mind set or your mind wrapped in cancer, completely different than a boob job.

The you have cancer comment happens then almost immediately after it is the "do you know a plastic surgeon?" I think our issue starts there. Why do we push right to recon? Our body is about to go into major overhaul adding this element is something I think is more pushed by society. Think about it, the first and most important is to remove the cancer. Just that surgery is intense and takes a toll on our body. The drains, the removal of the breast, the exhaustion and the mental part. Add a foreign object and what the actual f$^k just happened. Then there is chemo and rads making it all a big ass mess. Recon should come later but it does not. In retro spec I would have gone flat and fabulous to heal mentally and physically then done recon. I am not anti recon only on Brideplasty that show pisses me off.


The recon started right at mastectomy with expanders was difficult. They felt like a squeaky toy inserted in my body. Then with the fills, ugh.  I felt nausea set in and pain like a hard work out, do able but with everything else it sucked. There is a metal piece that they use to find the part for the needle to inject the saline in, seriously read that again that is in our body!  I set off the metal detector at an SU football game and had to explain to the security guards, they were freaked out I was amused. The expanders were a bitch-uncomfortable and odd. Just didn't know what to make of them. I think watching your body change before your eyes is a mind screw too. Cancer messes with you on the inside but you can not see it this you watched literally. Looking back I know I joked about it but I  think it was hard to watch yourself change like that.


Then you have the implant itself. Hard, unmovable, lifeless thing inserted into your body. CRAZY! Now do not get me wrong it works for some, not for me. I hated them. Zipping up a dress they didn't move and that got me for some reason made it so sad to me. Granted they shifted into my arm pits, not a good look. This and infection is common because of the above reasons chemo, rads, and scarping to 1% of breast tissue. I remember when I went into the plastics office the first time and asked for a tram surgery he laughed at me, rude! I weighed 107 pounds and was fit and healthy he told he couldn't find anything to make even one breast from that is why I went with implants first. It was such an alien invasion for me but everyone kept telling me how great they looked I didn't see it nor did I feel it.

I went in to have my scars that were HUGE keloids and very painful looked at and the PA said first we need to figure out what to do about the shifting. UGH another surgery. I asked about the DIEP because now thank you cancer you dirty devil it gave me 27 pounds and I could. I was warned of the surgery but knew what it was because I had done my research and talk to many who had it. I was mentally prepared, I really believe that is why I did so well this time. My head was ready for a 10 hour surgery, 3 days in ICU, 3 days in the hospital, 3 weeks resting, months recovering, and  another surgery to follow. Do not be fooled by the tummy tuck bull shit this is not what this operation is about so do not go in thinking that. I felt like using part of me was like taking two back from cancer, hahaha I was a thief in the night and was going to get myself back. Dumb to some but to me I needed this.


Then came the revisions. ALL of my friends told me the lipo was the worse part. See with this surgery you get what someone (who the hell was it I would like to know) dubbed "dog ears" on your hips. Its from crap settling after and you need adjusting. So every time my doctor would try to explain but Ann Marie you are having.... I would reply I know the lipo is the worse. He gave up and I went in a dumb ass. This surgery kicked my ass. He removed ALL my scars, YAHOOOO and we will watch and ride them like crazy. He made my breasts the size I wanted, I always knew he went bigger the DIEP so he had something to work with. He did good but he basically did another mastectomy. OPPS I should have listened.

After reading all that do you think recon is easy? NO! Was it worth it? I won't answer that. It is what it is. It is what I had to do to feel a little like me after cancer. It is not what I wanted no matter how many times before cancer I joked about perky boobs I would never to plastic surgery as want ever. Recon SUCKS but like anything it should be your choice. Do you have to have this no way. Flat and fabulous is just that but like recon not for everyone. I think the best thing is to talk to as many people as you can and listen to their experience and remember it is just that theirs you are different than them and will handle this your way. For now my size is comfortable, they feel comfortable and I am in a good spot. When I am dressed that is don't get me started on the scars, OY this post is long enough. Did anyone make it to the end? My tiara got dusty just writing it!

  This is what my breasts have been through in 2 years, this is a lot of trauma for a person's body.


When mom gets cancer

I can sit here and type about how cancer effect me emotionally and physically. I can tell you how it stressed out Tom, worried my dad, freaked my family and friends and changed my kids. But I can not explain in detail what they felt. Every family feels cancer that is just a fact, especially kids.  Fact is kids are selfish by nature not in a mean way they learn over time to thin of others (yes I know some are giving right off the bat but come on not all). Cancer makes it hard for kids to get out of their little world and think about their parents. When I was diagnosed my son Ben then 12 was hit hard- he was in the midst of teenage years, fitting in, being a selfish child and well honestly he hates sickness even a cold he runs the other way. Add the fact he was the oldest made it  a lot was riding on him. He acted out which made me so sad because Ben and I were so close.

It was through writing I learned that Ben was angry. Not at me really but since I had cancer that was where it was directed. Cancer is not a thing to touch or see or feel and really who would want to? So in turn kids especially take it out on the adult with cancer. Once we realized this with Ben we worked through it and it all made sense to both of us.  I remember once in the hospital I was so mad cause he wanted to leave to go to a friends, I wanted to see him. I cried when he left. It wasn't until I read the reason for him hating the hospital that it was clear to me.

When Cure Diva asked for a Mother's Day post a little different then the regular type they asked for Ben's point of view. He said sure and we posted. It went over great. So great that Marie Claire posted it on the web, beyond exciting right? I thought so until I got some emails and saw the bigger picture. People were emailing telling that now they understood why their children where lashing out, it made sense. One women had her son read it and he was crying telling her "Mom he wrote what I feel". Another said that her daughter was so angry she was not speaking to her and wasn't coming to the hospital, her daughter has OCD too and now it clear why. See Ben's writing was validating these kid's feelings, he was showing them that they are not alone. And it was helping parents see that kids are effected my this frigging disease no matter how we try to shelter them. I am blown away this morning. I literally can not answer all the emails, which proves to me that this MUST be read by parents and kids. Please share it, I am sure you know someone just like Ben feeling his feelings too. Yes I am a proud momma right now, it may last all day this time.



Take a good look

A friend recently posted asking when was the last time you took a good look at your scars. I thought about that question all week. I look at them daily. Mostly to figure out how I can make sense of them, how to accept them. I stare and wonder if looking is the way push through the pain of how they look. I know all the posts about scars make us stronger, they are the story, or my favorite "a scar just means you were stronger than what tried to hurt you". But honestly those words are mute when you stand naked.

I can start with the mastectomy ones that remind me of cancer. The fear that cancer brought in my life and left me with a mark to show it had been there. I can move on to the scar that was left by a lump I found a few months after that my doctor removed in her office "just to be safe" another reminder that cancer was lurking and could be back. Or the burn mark that I got from cooking because I have no feeling in my chest any more which resulted in 2nd degree burn humorous in a warped way until I undress and look at the wound it left. My worse are the drain marks-painful from the keloids, extreme pain but the reminder of the awful drains is almost worse. The DIEP left the most pronounced scaring ever. Deep, bright, thick, painful marks across my breasts and belly leaving me looking like a rag doll. The images make them almost look good so in a way they help more then the mirror.

 Alive but sew together to stay that way.

Someone once said to me "You are married why do you care about the scars". I think about that comment when my husband and I on the rare occasion are intimate and I wear a tank top because I am embarrassed of the scars not wanting him to touch them. Or when I go to change at the YMCA and run into a private area so no one sees what a mess I am. Or worse when I have to stand in front of a mirror naked and wonder how I got in that body. Scars are hard to look at think about when you are in line at the store and you see someone burned or scared you have to look away because you want to star but that would be rude. That is how I feel 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Add the eructating pain that keeps me up because of my keloids and you have an entire other element. Do not tell me this is purely cosmetic this is so much more than that.  

Downer post for sure but as I go in for phase 2 which I know will addresses some of the scaring I can't help but focus on them which results in pain. And as they say "pain is meant to be felt". Breast cancer results in the amputation of our breasts by no means is an easy thing to deal with. Processing it, accepting it and pushing through takes years. It is easy to walk around covered up you may even forget for a moment but with my scars I can not. I feel them through clothes, they are bothered by certain tops that rub against them, hell I can't even wear certain underwear because of the my stomach. So yes the cleavage looks great, but the size is too big and the scars are too deep. You can have the cleavage.

I didn't ask for this road I am just navigating my way down it through the bumps. I am figuring out which shoes to wear and how to walk because trust me when I say this changed my confidence level. Adjusting to the new takes time.   I just hope I have enough shoes to get me through this because it requires a lot of attitude!

Posted on September 11, 2014 .

Happy Birthday to my favorite son (don't tell the others)

Today my big hearted baby boy is 12. My Sammy boy has a huge love for family, his friends and an even bigger one for sports, he is caring and kind kid and wants nothing more than to make people laugh. He is one of the hardest workers I have and I can always count on him to get the job down. I rely on him for a wise ass remark or to give me a classic Dickie V voice over and over again especially during March Madness. He is a major sports freak, the kid can tell you stats on every local, major, minor and profession league in any sport from soccer to curling ( I am not exaggerating at all he will make a ton of money some day working with his cousin Tommy P). Family is the most important thing to Sam, he needs Sunday dinner and Cape Cod like we need air to breath.

Cancer hit Sam very hard and he had no problem showing it through tears. Every surgery, appointment, scan or check Sam is nervous and worried telling me before how much he loves me and always remembering when I get home to ask how it went. Sam reached out to Lola Scott and Talia an when they died a piece of Sam's innocence was taken and my heart broke watching his face when I told him. When there is a Bravery Bag to be stuffed, an event to go to or a #giveitup to do Sam is right there with an idea to make it bigger and better. He wants to be involved because he has a heart of gold and wants a change!

Today my boy is 12 and I could not be more proud of the kid he has become. His laugh is infectious and loud, he thanks for me for dinner and clears his spot, his smile from ear to ear and is always on his face especially when he is annoying I mean making his brothers laugh and more importantly he has big dreams of going to college FAR FAR away! That being said this is the kid that will be taking car of me and Tom so I know he will be back.

Happy Birthday Samuel Thomas Otis my favorite .......shhhhhh do not tell the others it will cause chaos. 

Posted on September 6, 2014 .


I get that everyone is always asking for money. Hell, I have a fund raiser every month. I get it. I also know that there is a large elephant in the room. Guess what- I am not a researcher ( I know you are shocked, but I am not). I know absolutely nothing about how to write a grant, what genes to focus on, or where to even begin. I do know, however, that 30% of those with breast cancer will develop metastatic cancer, meaning it will spread to other parts of their body. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, either way taking their life in some form. These lives are those of women and even a few men that I have become very close with.  Isn't that number too high for you? 

Yes, donating money is always a big deal. Who do I give to? How much can I afford? What will my money actually do?  METavivor is a non-profit that is dedicated to those with Stage 4 breast cancer. "METAvivor remains the sole US organization dedicated to awarding annual stage IV breast cancer research." According to the METavivor page ,"every fourteen minutes someone dies from breast cancer." What they are doing is making a difference and you can, too. What can you give up from your life to support the research?  

Can you "give it up"?

Here is the deal. Video tape yourself giving up a little something- a coffee, a lunch (couldn't you bring it to work one day?), a drink at the bar that you don't need, that shirt that was on sale at Target.  These are things you could do without for a day, right? What we need is more cancer research! If you can't give up something, how about some time? Write a note of encouragement, or sit down and inform yourself of the facts. Metastatic cancer hasn't had a decrease in the numbers in forty years. Why is this acceptable? You don't need to mow the lawn this week (my husband thought of this), dinner at that swanky restaurant is not a need... but research is.


The Otis family decided to give you some ideas on how to make this a family adventure! We gave something up, and in the process my kids got a better understanding about metastatic cancer. They make me proud.

What can you give up? Post it on Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer FaceBook , the METavivor Faceboook or email me and DONATE on METavivor page. Let them know SDBC sent you.

Step by step

1. #giveitup- what will you give up? A candy bar, coffee, a night out? Every dollar counts.

2. Have fun making a video and get your family and friends involved. Let them know you are "giving it up" for metastatic breast cancer. Make sure you ask a friend to give it up, too!

3. Post that video with the # metavivor #sdbc #giveitup4mets on all those socieal media places. Let your voice be heard!

4. Now this one is important: DONATE to METavivor. Every single dollar makes a difference. Together all our dollars can be the research and the voice that those with stage 4 need.



***disclaimer Mimi got her coffee, no cupcakes were ever eaten (the case wasn't even full so we were not  tempted), Tom LOVES washing the car so that was rough, Sam does NOT have a British accent, Ben will be riding the big wheel to High School and Anthony really isn't getting a new back pack.

Rebecca #giveitup4mets GO SU!!!

Sadie #giveitup4mets desserts who needs them we need research!


Missy #giveitup4mets video loves coffee  but mets research is more important

Surgery, cancer book, lifer and fried pickles

I had preop the other day for my up coming phase two of the DIEP the other day. It is like old hat to me now. I sat in the waiting room and this fabulous women sitting next to me who happens to be having surgery same day as me asked if I was that "stupid dumb breast cancer lady". I love that. We chatted, hugged, laughed even found a couple of moments we had tears in our eyes. Her implants didn't take and she is having revisions done, mine shifted so we had a lot to shoot the shit about. That lucky girl got her hospital preop canceled I have to go through that all over again, I mean seriously I have had 6 operations there I am pretty sure I am in the system. But I am going there next week to sit and go through all that arggg.

I went in to talk to my doctor about what we will do and I signed all the papers and got my meds no problems. I am not worried or nervous actually happy to get rid of these dog ears (really that is what everyone calls them) that have puffed on my hips. I can't wait to get these toobies the size I wanted so that part I am feeling good about. I am hoping with everything I can that he can help with these painful scars. That wasn't the issue.

I couldn't help but to think back two years ago at myself walking in there. Naïve to this whole experience thinking that it is simple as you having a lumpectomy, mastectomy, swap and done. What a frigging joke!? Now I must admit that the office never even once told me this, he and the staff told me about revisions, changes and settling. But they never prepared my mind for what was about to happen. How can they? Can anyone explain to someone how emotional the entire cancer process is? How losing your breasts is devastating even though you are glad to be rid of them?

If only I knew how my head was going to be confused about all this. Wanting to be rid of the cancer yet wanting the saggy breasts at the same time. Being happy to be alive yet thinking about dying from cancer and wondering when it will be back. If I only knew that this cancer world doesn't let you leave for many reasons then maybe I wouldn't have acted like a tough girl and said "I can't wait til its over". Its never over. The fact is I wouldn't leave because I have too many friends here now but I hate that we are bond by cancer. I hate that I have lost so many friends and so many more are suffering in ways that isn't right. Cancer SUCKS did you know that?

Don't get me wrong I am not all doom and gloom here. I just feel like doctors really do not let their patients know that not only are you a lifer in their office but your head will be in the game forever.  I wish someone would have warned me about this cause I really thought there was an end. Truth is its like a book, you close one chapter and open the next but the story goes on. Your chapters get a little less about cancer but the its always some how finds its way in, the bastard!

 September 12 is surgery day , I get my dog ears taken care of and toobs resized. But more importantly my painful scars addressed. They hurt beyond words and make it very difficult to feel any lumps. Gotta do those selfies (you know self breast checks). It is amazing how they have changed, Genevieve is taking pictures next week to show the change. How can one's body do that in two years?? Makes me exhausted to see it then I realize that is me!  

Well you know what surgery day means right? SHOE shopping! And the kids go back to school so it is perfect. I am thinking something red, what do you think? But for now this little princess is off to my favorite place, The Great New York State Fair. The fair is one of my happy places, do not judge or hate. There is nothing a little fried pickles can't comfort.

Fair 2010
Posted on August 20, 2014 .