Susan...

Pinky Pie Noses & Me
When my breast cancer was diagnosed more than a year ago, I did what any sensible woman would do – research. I made calls, talked to people in person and scoured the Internet to get what I needed: clown noses. And they had to be pink.

Why? I wanted to remind people to laugh around me and not be grim.

I also realized that the little girl her mommy once called “my Little Pinky Pie” and clothed in so much pink was now “Big Pinky Pie.”

I found the noses, thanks to La Crosse Clown Kenny Ahern, at a clown supply store. (Yes, there are such places.)

Fifty noses arrived the day I got home from the hospital and soon photos were taken of everyone who came to visit me wearing the noses. I also had photos sent to me of pink noses worn around the country and world. Some intrepid souls spray-painted red noses pink for the photos, including one couple who put one on their unhappy dog.

It was all part of my goal to be the funniest breast cancer patient ever. The last year wasn’t a bundle of laughs every day, but believe it or not, there were hilarious moments associated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Funny is not something new to me, or so I think. But I discovered good stuff inside myself. As Little Pinky Pie, I was so frightened of cancer that I made my parents turn off the television or radio if the word was said.

As Big Pinky Pie, the scariest time for me was waiting to hear if I actually had breast cancer. It wasn’t exactly diagnosed at the earliest stage – 3 – but once I knew I had it, I became less frightened because I was doing stuff about it. Lots of stuff.

Among things was writing about my experience in a blog. Somehow with this blog, I found a way to work in all sorts of cultural icons from Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof to Shirley Temple of the Good ship Lollipop, and from Clint Eastwood making my day to Madonna in her cone bra period.

It was my way to keep folks informed, to entertain myself, family and friends, and to help me understand all that was going on inside of me. I wrote about anything and everything; this blog was and is not for the squeamish. And, I am NOT a private person. I have no secrets.

And more and more that cancer treatment is in my review mirror (an object that is hopefully not closer than it appears), I write about all sorts of things unrelated to cancer.

I am amazed by how many women have gone through cancer treatment or will go through it. It might be so much easier for them if pink noses were issued with the diagnosis.

Susan T. Hessel

What have I learned this year?
By Susan T. Hessel
  • Friends & family are very important. Make connections any way you can.
  • Find a way to laugh even during tough times.
  • Make eye contact and smile towards those who might guess there is no hair under your hat.
  • Keep your mind and body going.
  • Be prepared to tell your story because people always want to know what happened.
  • Listen to the intent of what people say to you, not the exact words.
  • Don’t make others suffer because of your struggles.
  • Don’t call your blog, Pinky Pie, unless you have the resources to build an extra room on the house for all the pink stuff that nice people send you.
  • Help others. It’s a way to get out of yourself.
  • Listen to stories of survival, not stories of loss.
  • You can’t make much money from a head rubbing concession when your hair starts to grow back.
  • Wash your hands. A lot.
  • Celebrate the good stuff.
  • Be nice to everyone, just like your mother said.
  • Fighting cancer is not about courage; it’s about wanting to be here for family and friends.
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