The Beautiful Thing Is That Life Moves On- Waiting through Remission

The beautiful thing is that life moves on.  On April 18th, 2015- 2 YEARS AGO ( what?) , I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I never thought I could move on as I have.  I didn’t think that I would be breathing through another kid’s birthday, summer, and farmers market. More importantly,  getting this far in the journey and experiencing what I have so far.  

Well, I suppose a congratulations for making through the first portion of treatments are in order, and I’m technically in remission. It seems to be a big deal for non-cancer folks.  I get, “so are you in remission now?” I know, many are wondering where I am in my cancer treatments, its normal and kind to be asked. However, I prefer this question instead, “Where are you in your cancer journey, or have you finished treatments?” 

 It wasn’t until recently when I understood why I hated the word remission. It doesn’t accurately describe the feeling or life that follows active cancer treatments. Actually, it devalues my new normal entirely. There continues to be a pain, or a seriousness of the disease.  In fact the most crucial time for cancer patients and possible recurrence is the next 5 years. The actual  overhaul toxins may have ceased, but cancer treatments continues on.  Remission is a temporary recovery as the REAL healing and pain begins.

I have shared many ways that I cope and deal with life after cancer.  I strive daily, in fact, sometimes minute by minute.  I truly love harder, laugh heartier, and live deeply.

 My new perspective is a gift. 

I’ve been so busy- living a full life with a rewarding career, parenting with the love of my life, and healing through organizations like SEND ME ON VACATION and IMAGE REBORN.  I have been writing for SMOV for a few months now,  neglecting my current blog, but reaching more readers and survivors through it.  I am  beyond grateful  for the opportunity to be a part of the healing of others in their own journey.  It is a really beautiful blessing, the silver lining of my health journey and I thank God for it.

There is a recent picture of Shannon Doherty that sums up the depletion that occurs after the”fight”.  The transition is not as joyous as one may think- there are lot of – “ok, so now what” moments that can paralyze you.  

The idea of the next 5 years terrifies me more than any other time in my life.  In the next 5 years- I am waiting for the “clear”.  However, as much as I desperately want the time to fly by, I am absorbing the mommy moments, taking on the professional challenges at work and creating plans for the future with the love of my life.

Regardless of what the  next 5 years bring, I know I am living a well lived life. 

If you haven’t already, check out the intimate blog posts here —–> Send Me On Vacation Blog

Thank you for your love and support!

Before This and After This

 1 full year and couple weeks after cancer treatments and I’m not over it.

It’s not “old news”. It will never be old news to me.  Even after everyone stops asking about it- I still live behind the cancer curtain.  I have grown in my journey with enough strength to peek from behind it. Thank God for that- but it was due to the loving support I have received from my  friends and family.  Miraculously, it doesn’t drape over me with an unbearable heaviness.  I know eventually, I will wear it as a cape. 

However, I couldn’t shake the fact that my very thought process has shifted and I see my whole life as a “before” and “after”.

I was married “before” I had cancer. I took a job “after” I had cancer.  I had my kids “before” cancer.  I started the bog “after” cancer.  People I met are defined as those who know I had cancer and those who don’t. The friendships that I currently have are defined by  their involvement before and after my cancer diagnosis. 

For those who have endured some kind of tragedy in your lives:

Doesn’t  this resonate with you?

Everything that happens to me here on out,  will ultimately be categorized as the after. There just doesn’t seem to be any way around that mindset.    Honestly, I am okay with that.  Everyday gets a bit easier. This is why:

 

 Cancer has not limited me.  I am limitless. I rely on Him.

 “Our Lord is great, with limitless strength; we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does”. ~ Psalm 147:5 MSG

It hasn’t defined me, but it has REFINED me.

SO my life story is this- my chapters defined as Before and After.  Cancer will always be a driving force in my decisions but it is not motivated by fear but faith.   I’ve resolved that to me, my cancer diagnosis will never be old news, even if the questions stop being asked and I’m 100% cancer free. I don’t have to live in fear, instead I know living an unlimited and empowered life feels too good- why would I want it to be old news?

Thanking God for another day.

So what’s on the agenda today?  Just hanging out with that family and knowing that I have GOD’s unlimited potential in me. 

Much love,

H.

 

 

 

 

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Holiday = Stress? How I prevent it from ruining my LIFE, anymore….

 

7 Ways to Reduce Stress and Depression

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Before the holidays come and go, I wanted to share my last tidbit from Send Me On VacationMermaid Journey and I think it is fitting, especially since Holiday = Stress for many individuals diagnosed with or without cancer.  We all manage stress differently and the goal is to lower our “Stress Threshold”.  On day 3 of the Mermaid Transformation, we discussed how the threshold varies with every person.  We are  individually responsible to understand and respect our own threshold. 

( I seem so relaxed as I put into practice my stress free lifestyle in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico) 

The holidays bring with it a variety of emotions and for  many, new anxieties. Last year at this time, I was diligently going to my daily radiation treatments.  I would drive the 55 minutes to and from each appointment and then the 10 minute procedure. It was exhausting.  I was hit with fatigue, nervousness, fear, sadness, nausea, I had all of it.  I was not in the holiday spirit.  It took all I had to try to bring joy into my home to normalize the season to create comfort for my children.  This task was not easy.  I would focus on the moment that I had with them, reminding myself that – It could be my last.

Now, one year later, I am celebrating another Christmas with my loved ones.

How BLESSED am I?

My heart is beyond full when I think about how far we have come as a family.  We went from such grim and sadness during the holiday season to a profound gratitude and pure joy for another year together.  I am not going to pretend that the year leading up to this time has been easy breezy- but it has been beautiful.

Our stress level has significantly lowered- we have not allowed the threshold to increase and overwhelm us. 

We have made strides to focus on our happiness and our future- TOGETHER.

 For some time, I was trying to manage my heartache and my emotions after cancer alone- my husband has helped to prove to me that it is TOGETHER when Ill grow stronger.   More than ever, I rely on his compassion and unshakeable love for me and our children. Again, how BLESSED am I?

For example, PTSD is rearing its little head, especially since, I am currently suffering from an eight week cold.

EVERYTIME I get sick, I imagine the worst case scenario and I become an emotional mess.

I see it coming, I know what’s happening, but I can’t stop it from temporarily taking over.

So far, meditation has worked.  My husband continues to be that extra concerned and comforting  man and ALWAYS willing to talk through the hurt. (He is one of my “Go To” people- keep reading)

Stress before and after cancer exists because our bodies have gone through so much.  We are anticipating the worse, hoping for the best and experiencing emotional and physical pain.  It’s only natural to STRESS.  What most cancer patients are made aware of is the negative impact that stress can continue to have.

You are in luck- here is my list to prevent holiday STRESS and DEPRESSION.

 

Cancer patients get a double whammy and as you know, the key is PREVENTION.

 

 

 Keep these in mind as you bring in the NEW YEAR and the NEW YOU!

Preventing Holiday Stress and Depression

 

When you are in the midst of a stressful situation, it can be challenging to think it through and regroup, but PREVENTING the stress is one of the best ways to ensure a happy holiday season.

BREATHE and MEDITATE: If you read my previous post, then you know that the best way to change your BRAIN is to meditate.  This directly effects your stress level.  If you are feeling overwhelmed from the shopping crowds, the never ending energy from the kids, or the annoying family members- remove yourself from it all and take 7 minutes to breathe and meditate.  Specifically breathe in this mantra:  I am that: ___________.  Fill in the blank.  

I like to say. “I am that, calm and joyous light in my life. I am that, healthy and cancer free woman.”

ONLY 7 minutes.  You can do anything for 7 minutes!

CHECK IN with your FEELINGS:  Acknowledge what is going on, whether those feeling are anxiety, sadness, fear or all the above. Be honest with yourself and allow your feelings to be heard.  Ignoring it can make it worse.

DETERMINE your holiday EXPECTATIONS: MAYBE, just maybe, you can’t manage to be the host for your annual Family Christmas Dinner for 30, right now.  Slow it down and be realistic.  Pass it on to someone else this year and maybe next year too.

SLEEP: When you sleep you are healing your body.

Check out these videos:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/video/watch/what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-dont-sleep/vi-BBpAct9

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=what+your+body+does+during+sleep+to+heal&&view=detail&mid=9C729AB8B78542DA82E99C729AB8B78542DA82E9&FORM=VRDGAR

 

Keep MOVING: Go for a stroll, do yoga, or hit the gym.  Keep your hormones and stress levels low by working up a sweat. Remember that there are these fancy chemicals like endorphins,  oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine that bring happiness and pleasure when your body is moving.

FIND your  GO TO Person: We all have one and if you don’t, get one.  This is someone that you can easily tell everything to and there isn’t any strings or judgment.  You can divulge all your secrets and this person still thinks you’re awesome.  Could be your mom, a church friend, your oldest best friend, a spouse or even your dog.  It might be a challenge to find that person, and if that’s the case, go to the person you most trust and ask if they are up to being your “go to person”.  We should all have at least one person,  other than ourselves, to advocate for us! 

   

 

 

 

Heart of GRATITUDE:  Above all else, practice this.  You get to experience one more beautiful year with your loved ones.  Embrace this time and don’t let stress take it away from you.  Take a look at something that touches your heart.  It may be your children, your pet, a plant.  Whatever it is that makes you smile,  take in the moment and be grateful for that.  God has blessed you with one more moment to cherish.

 

 

 

 

Wishing you all the peace and love during the holiday season! Stay healthy and stress-free!

-H

 

Transformation of a Breast Cancer Mermaid ~ two

The Transformation of a Breast Cancer Mermaid ~ two

Transformation Tidbits from the Mermaid Journey

WHY I HAD CANCER and WHAT IM DOING ABOUT IT.

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Photo Courtesy of Monica Burton

 

As I mentioned in the previous posts, I gained a significant amount of wisdom from Rebecca Taylor Shaw during her Send Me on Vacation– A Mermaid’s Journey. I wrote endless notes and hung onto her every word during our time together in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  She gifted me with the knowledge of strategies that I have personally incorporated since Mexico. It has empowered me to continue to live a happier and healthier life after cancer.

If you want to skip all the stuff in the middle- her contact info is below……but at least, pretend you are interested in what I have to say and continue reading.  I promise it will be worth it!

So, I can honestly say, at first the idea of the” mermaid” seemed a bit tacky, or cliché.  I thought, “Ok, sure, I’ll buy into it.  We are all mermaids diving into unknown depths and finding our magical purpose after such tragedy.” Blah… Blah…

However, after that first session of the Mermaid Journey- I was convinced.  I did  have an inner mermaid emerging to the surface desperate to share the strength that I needed to continue to live a more joyful life after cancer.

The mermaid, an archetype of mystery, wisdom, beauty, power, magic, grace, and inner strength.

 

She possesses unwavering faith in her own intuition

 

The mermaid is sought after, untamed, and in control of her own fate. She is wildly fierce as she dives into the unknown and displays an unusual amount of courage.

One of my FAVORITE quotes:

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When I received my cancer diagnosis at 34, it cut me off at the knees.  How was it possible that my life could have taken this direction without any warning? The truth is, after a year, I could now answer that question.  I didn’t want to admit it, but I do have the answer, and there was WARNING.

It’s a personal conclusion that I have grappled with for over a year.  Could it really have been that easy for me to have prevented it?   My doctors, friends, and family might challenge me on this, but my intuition tells me differently.  My intuition is real, your intuition is real.   We get so busy and distracted that we end up stifling it and giving it no voice.

Cancer has forced me to find a way to make peace with my situation and to teach myself how to deal with emotional stress.  It is teaching me to find faith in my intuition.

 

I can honestly say that my lifestyle + emotional stress = CANCER

 

It has been a tremendous wake up call for me.  Admittedly, it has taken me a whole year to move through the motions of this realization.  I am a work in progress.

It has been hard work to view my diagnosis as a SIGN.

A sign that I have finally read and it is saying that “the way that I am living is killing me.”

 

 I am literally killing myself by the way that I am living.

 

No one wants to admit that they may have caused their own cancer, and I didn’t do it intentionally of course- but I am owning up to the fact that- it is MY cancer, my cells that are abnormal and are making me sick and I have to change it.  I TRULY believe that I have the power to change my fate.   And THAT,  is empowering!

I have always lived a bit more spontaneously than most.  I crave change, adventure, and I desperately seek what’s around the corner.  It has served me well, up until now.

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Now, I am a full time mother and wife  maintaining a full time career.  I am supporting my husband with his successful catering company, while balancing friendships, family and other social obligations.  This alone is enough for anyone to feel stressed and exhausted- oh yeah,  let me throw in CANCER survivor as well.

I do not have the ability to manage every aspect of life with grace and ease.

And I honestly don’t know anyone who does.  Something will always give.

Being a parent is already exhausting.

Being married has its challenges.

Finding a balance between work and home life can be near impossible.

 

SO my answer is to STOP and say NO.

 

Say NO to _________ (fill in the blank- you already know what it is- your intuition has told you! ) that makes you unhappy.

Say NO to people in your life that make you unhappy.

Say NO to a lifestyle that makes you unhappy.

Say NO to food that makes you unhealthy/unhappy.

Say NO to a job or career that makes you unhappy.

Say NO to whatever makes you unhappy.

Find your happiness by listening to your intuition.

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It has been telling you all along what do to.  When you don’t listen, then it shifts to more dramatic measures and it tells your body.  If you still don’t listen, those symptoms become louder and it’s impossible to ignore.  It may be too late.

Think MERMAID.

There is so much power to harnessing your intuition.

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Photo Courtesy of Monica Burton

It hasn’t forsaken you- you just left it on the shelf.  Like a good book that draws you in, pick it back up and focus on the power it has.  It can bring back emotions, lost memories and experiences that brought excitement and peace.

The #1 lifesaving strategy that I want to share with you is the POWER of PRAYER and MEDIATION. 

Deepak Chopra says, that “Prayer is you speaking to God and meditation is allowing the spirit to talk to you.”

I have implemented both at varying degrees in my life.  Some years, I have been more prayerful, especially when tragedy, sadness or fear come into play.  I find peace and I rest on my faith to push me through the tough times.  However, mediation has physically, emotionally and mentally changed me.

 

I have felt the connection between my intuition and physical body. 

 

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The best part is that there is a science behind mediation to confirm my experience.  I’m not crazy!  It affects you on a cellular level.

Check out the short video below.

The Science of Mediation

To start however, I would aim for a more practical guided approach, especially if meditation seems too impossible of a task.

 I would start out with a mediation that guides you to complete relaxation and a purposeful vision.  It is open ended, it uses your creativity and allows you to feel free to explore your intuition- the same one that you have overlooked all these years.

Guided meditation or guided imagery is a scripted video or audio clip that is a proactive yet gentle process of focusing on accomplishing specific goals, from work achievements to physical healing, to personal transformation or deep relaxation.

I would personally recommend working with Rebecca Taylor Shaw from Charleston Hypnosis for your first experience.  She is loving, successful with her clients, and passionate about helping change your brain through strategies, such as guided imagery, to reach your greatest potential and well-being.  There are several other scripted guided practices that I can share with you.  Comment below  or shoot me an email and I will send that information your way.

Guided imagery and mediation will literally change your brain matter in 8 weeks.

Check out the Harvard study below:

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

This transformation is not an easy one, but totally worth it.  I am listening to my intuition and practicing meditation daily.

Of course, it was easier to get started on this journey on a beautiful vacation to Puerto Vallarta with Send Me on Vacation and it does help to have your fellow mermaids along side you.  I was blessed to get to know ten beautiful souls, each with their own stories of inspiration.

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 If you have had breast cancer or know someone who has- consider sending your application to Cathy at Send Me on Vacation.  It continues to be one of the best experiences in my cancer journey so far.  I encourage you all to find your inner mermaid, as cheesy as I may sound- it’s working for me.

Connect with me as we swim the depths together. 

 

I pray that it doesn’t have to be cancer that gets your attention.

 

Let’s be all be mermaids!

 

Let’s be sought after, untamed, and in control of our own fate.  Let us be wildly fierce as we dive into the unknown and display an unusual amount of courage.

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Photo Courtesy of Monica Burton

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Transformation of a Breast Cancer MERMAID ~ one

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The transformation was subtle. It began the moment I was accepted into the Send Me on Vacation – Mermaid’s Journey and read the letter aloud to my husband.  It was only a couple of months away and I was already day dreaming about sleeping in, ordering room service and reading by the pool. 

Those quiet moments were what I was most excited about.  I didn’t make that a priority in the past and going to Mexico would reset my expectations for myself and my family.

 I would finally have the skills to put into place healthier living after cancer.

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I arrived in Puerto Vallarta on Friday afternoon to beautiful cloudy skies. The air thick, hot and humid.  The resort was only 15 minutes from the airport and I easily transported there by taxi. 142

I stayed in a 5 diamond  resort on the 4th floor called the Grand Luxxe at Vidanta. I had a wonderful “suite” mate that shared the other half of the suite with me. The resort is enormous. I explored elegant pools adorned by comfortable poolside beds and cabanas.  I had my fair share of piña colada and cerviche.

Seriously, breathtaking!

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Since I had arrived a couple days before , “Mermaid Meet and Greet”, I took along with my new breast cancer survivor friend and suite mate, Jennifer, and we explored the enormous resort via shuttle bus.    We took a tour of downtown Puerto Vallarta and went to a tequilla tasting.  We made our way to dinner along the beach and watched the sunset. We were found pinching ourselves and exclaiming our deepest gratitude for the opportunity of a lifetime.

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My sanctuary was the spa called Spatium.  It was the ultimate self care experience.  I would jump into the eucalyptus vapor room, then the Swedish shower, followed by the sauna, another shower, relax in the hot Jacuzzi with cucumber slices and a cold cloth on the eyelids.  I would then end with a a dramatic dip in cold water to close the pores. Repeat if so desired.  It seems like a lot of work, but it was incredibly relaxing and self satisfying. img_0668

It took about 2 full days to remove the guilt of being away from my family and creating these memories without them.  I hadn’t been away from my children for that long.  I had never purposefully vacationed without my husband.   It seemed so dreamy, but I missed them.  They have always been and are my life. I truly struggled those first couple of days.  But there was that small voice, the one we all have before marriage and having children, hidden beneath the piles of laundry, online bill paying and taking out the garbage.  That little voice that spoke for you and advocated for your deepest wishes. It came back to me  joyfully and with an abundance of freedom.  I was gently reminded that I am in Mexico for my own HEALING.

I need to be WHOLE again, that I may be the best version of myself for my family- and that includes getting tan!

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It has been said that breast cancer is not just a physical disease but an EMOTIONAL one as well.  There are many layers and many false explanations.  Just as quickly as it came, it was gone. The chemotherapy, radiation and lumpectomy took care of the actual tumor, but left me empty and sad.  Just like that, it was over and I felt so  physically and emotionally exhausted. 

  The scars, the concerns, the confusion… in the aftermath, so much lingers and cancer has left its mark.

I’m doing my best to work it out and to balance the different hats I must put on.

Organizations like Send Me on Vacation get it. 

 

Their goal has always been, to provide an unforgettable vacation experience for those who are in need of much deserved rest, rejuvenation and peace as they move forward in their cancer journey.

The real beauty and life changing work happened during the four day empowerment workshop. 

With Rebecca Taylor Shaw,  the CEO and director of the Charleston Hypnosis Center (CharlestonHypnosisCenter.com) located in the South’s most friendly city of Charleston, South Carolina.  She is also a Certified Master Trainer in Clinical Hypnosis with the International Association of Counselors and Therapists. She led us through a transformation of empowerment.  Rebecca used interactive guided imagery, relaxation strategies and other meditative strategies and modeled these resources to add to our  breast cancer “tool belt”.

 

Her passion for cancer survivors is evident as she created a gentle journey of connecting to our inner mermaid. Through it, we dove in our fears, insecurities and immeasurable strength.  She simply asked,

“How is that story working for you”? 

 

If you don’t like it, then change it. 

In the next post, I would like to focus on the specific useful strategies that she shared and ones I have actually been practicing since Mexico.   As a breast cancer survivor, or anyone who has suffered through a tragedy, issues that can stem from it are:  anxiety, restlessness, depression, lack energy/drive, fear of re-occurrence, relationship worries… the list goes on. 

These strategies have proven to be life changing. I am thrilled to share these resources with you!

www.sendmeonvacation.org

www.rebeccatayloyshaw.com

 You have helped me heal in your own way. I am grateful. I wish you many blessings and send love to each of you. Thank you for your support. 

Stay tuned!

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Send Me On Vacation -A Mermaid’s Journey

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It took me several days to let go of the guilt associated with leaving my sweet husband and adorable kids at home.  It had been predicted that a storm was coming to our precious PNW. I had packed and geared up for a 8 days and 7 nights to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and was filled with a bit of apprehension about leaving but more so with glee-  I was going to MEXICO!!!!  AHH!

Let me pause a minute and give you the backstory.  In August, I had stumbled across a cancer resource page that listed various “retreats” that catered to women and their families who had suffered through breast cancer.  

I found Send Me On Vacation, a non profit organization that started with a vision by Cathy Backus to rejuvenate and provide emotional healing for her best friend who had suffered from breast cancer for the second time. With her knowledge and energy, Cathy created a foundation that enhances the healing journey for many survivors into a new normal that empowers, provides rest, fosters gratitude and creates genuine friendships, all the while experiencing an unbelievable vacation. There were several opportunities within the foundation to choose from and I decided on the Mermaid Journey– with Rebecca Taylor Shaw.

I have sat for a several days in front of my computer determining what would be the best way to describe the experience that I was so very fortunate to have had.  I just can’t possibly put it in one digestible post- I’ve decided to write a blog series on this BEAUTIFUL and EMPOWERING journey.

Transformation of a Breast Cancer Mermaid

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I want to describe the various facets that a trip like this entails- what it felt like leading up to the decision, pushing aside the guilt associated with saying “yes” for my own healing (way overdue) and many more thoughts and true emotions of my “transformation journey”.   Cancer is more than a health disease, its emotional and spiritual.

I have broken the series into the Before, During and After, but not necessarily in that order!  Stay tuned for the gorgeous photos, the life changing nuggets of insight from the brilliant Rebecca Taylor Shaw and the tools and resources that have lead me to the stage I am now of renewal and transformation that is rolled up in a pretty bow of compassion.

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I spoke to a previous breast cancer mom this morning, and she commented on the fact that, only those who have walked through our journey can truly understand the anxiety,fear, guilt and sadness that {we} survivors suffer through. I hugged her and knew that it doesn’t have to be this way- the pain is inevitable, sure- but it doesn’t stay, it comes and goes.  If there is anything that I will do with more passion and heart, until the day I die, is to help eliminate those anxieties and bring about as much peace and joy to my life and the lives of fellow survivors. Let’s all be mermaids!

3 Things to Tell Yourself After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

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Most people see cancer patients and notice the hairless features on their heads and face. A tilt of the head and a quiet empathetic sigh are the normal thoughtful gestures one might receive.

Chemotherapy in almost all cases is the culprit for the dramatic change of appearance. In fact, before I had chemo, I looked healthy, but I wasn’t. There was a physical, emotional and cellular war waging in my body. I chose to push through the heavy battle with the toxic doses of chemo to destroy the ugly with the ugly. Medically, I wasn’t qualified to decide in the matter of just a few days what would be the best course of action. I had left that up to my oncologist and other supportive staff that were at my care.

Sometimes I teeter between the decision to have taken the prescribed cancer treatments or not. Conclusively, I decided on Chemo, other cancer treatments, and a more integrative approach to healing.

As I look back on an experience that I could only describe as life changing, I am grateful. I learned this about myself:

1. I have a voice.
As a mother of 2, a peaceful kindergarten teacher and a natural pleaser, I struggled with my own voice in the first weeks of my diagnosis. The numbness and paralyzing emotions that came with the initial realization of cancer only exacerbated my inability to make my own decisions and speak for myself. I resolved to break the cycle and empowered myself to be my own advocate. I researched, asked questions and I visualized my children’s life without their mother and I became angry. I challenged the medical staff, I demanded explanations and reason. There were intense feelings that had came over me and I chose strength over helplessness. I chose to speak for the life that I still had left in me and for those I would leave behind, if I didn’t speak up. It was a determined voice that called to action the first steps to healing.

2. I am worth it and I am enough.
Of all the revelations that I had during this journey, the one reminder that still tells me how far I have come is knowing, “I am worth it.” The bubbling heat of empowerment surging through my weakened body created within me a foundation I began to stand upon. It could only be described as the “real” me. In this intensity, I knew what it was all for and what truly mattered at the end. All that I have experienced and all that I am now, led me to this exact moment in my life. This clarity would prepare me to move forward regardless of how much it was going to hurt. It didn’t matter because I am worth it and what I am, is enough to push through to the end.

3. I am stronger than I thought.
My support system helped me realize that. I believe with all my heart that I couldn’t have survived what I did without the unconditional love of my husband, joyful children, generous friends and self-sacrificing parents. They gave me the much needed rest, the ability to have an ugly cry, or the hard laugh I needed to get through the day. There is no doubt, my survival thus far was due to my support team.

However, the journey was still a lonely one. It was my body that was failing and my body that was suffering from the toxins. During those still and quiet moments, I carefully plotted my life after the treatments. I listed everything I wanted to do, who I was going to be, and how I was going to do it. I focused on hearing God’s voice and thanked Him for one more day. My gratefulness grew as did my strength. One day, I looked back and realized I had made it through. I survived and I am still here.

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What things, mantras, or reminders did you tell yourself when your life was affected by cancer?

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The Weekly Schedule of a 34 year old Breast Cancer Patient (who is also a wife and a mother of 2 under 5.)

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I was a bit envious of those older breast cancer patients that would receive their treatments during the same time that I did. I would look over at them, slightly shaking my head thinking “Oh, how nice for you. After this, I bet you are going to just settle into a sweet little nap on a comfortable and peaceful outdoor hammock while eagerly falling asleep to the gentle tweeting of our local birdies.” Of course, any true judgment or jealously is realistically and quickly thrown out the window as I know with or without young children, going through Chemo, just plain sucks- for anyone, young or old.

However, being a young mom, I have a slightly different perspective that is worthy of being shared.

My schedule, thank God, was simplified because my angel of a mother-law and my own sweet mother helped with: Laundry, the kids, meal times, bathrooms, dishes, play dates, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, last minute medical needs, and the list could go on. Basically, everything that one would potentially need to manage life and the life of your family, I was able to pass on to one of these ladies with tremendous guilt. I see now how silly it was to feel that way.  It took me several weeks, maybe months to truly understand my inability to manage the basics. Especially when I was overwhelmed by the displaced emotions and insecurities related to the fact that, “I HAVE CANCER?!”

I did my best with what I knew as I pushed through the 2 major symptoms:

 1.) Unrecognizable and unexpected Emotions

 2.) Lack of Energy

This lead to a new diagnoses that I swear should be in a cancer medical dictionary.

 (Zombie Mom + Chemo Brain = Chemombie)

 

The worst combination ever existed. In the middle of Chemo, I was also trying to sleep train my 2 year old. I thought “Isn’t this the best time to transition him into his own bed?”  I needed to have uninterrupted sleep- so why not now?  Well, that was NOT easy and it was stupid timing.

But the week would look like this:

Monday– Chemo Day

I would have treatment in the am. Sometime around 8:30.   The night before, I had packed my bag filled with inspirational breast cancer stories, a journal to reflect on those thoughtful stories of breast cancer survivors and a fluffy celebrity magazine to balance the seriousness.  I’d have my iPad and my cell phone.  I thought of anything and everything that could keep me comfortable as I sat there with the toxins pouring into my port.

After an hour of the pre-drugs, I’d wait for the Benadryl to kick in and then I would just doze off, putting aside all my preplanned activities and find a comfy position in the chair, with my legs prompted up on a pillow and leaning against another. It took approximately 5 minutes to fall into a deep sleep.  Occasionally, I would wake up to my own snoring, look up and determine how much longer I had by the amount of liquid remaining in the IV bag and drift back to sleep.

After about 12:30, my faithful cheerleader (my husband), would bring a lunch as I gently woke up from the nap and we would both eat, discussing the rest of his plans for the day. He was ALWAYS there for my treatments.  I don’t know if he realized that his mere presence made me that much stronger. I endured more than I thought I would just because he sat there across from me.

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Always offering a smile. Ugh! So annoyingly perfect!

He is so much better at the spouse support stuff that I am.

 

The rest of the day was dedicated to sleep. I would go home exhausted from the nap, oh and the chemo drugs. I would nap more and make it downstairs for dinner, if the empty nauseous feeling in my stomach lessened. If not, I would vape through the evening and sleep some more.

Sadly on Mondays, I barely saw my children.  They would come in and give me their sweet kisses.  They would ask,” Are you feeling okay Mama?” I would say, “Just resting. I need my sleep.”  But as I was always left feeling like an old helpless dying person. Sleep was always the answer to those anxieties.

Tuesday:

The day after Chemo was always the worse. The nauseous feeling remained and would grow intense through the day. Going for little walks, going Pilates and yoga was helpful. Tuesdays were dedicated to more rest. I would walk around emotionally exhausted as I probably had to play out another conversation with a friend, who “can’t believe this is happening to you.” And a sympathetic “you look great”. All very sweet and coming from the best of intentions, but Tuesdays are tough.

Wednesday:

More of the same.

3 words- EXHUASTED, TIRED, FATIGUED. Oh wait, they all mean the same thing.

Yup- Wednesdays.

Thursday:

Chemo brain is real. Although the heavy fog lingered, I would wake up on Thursdays feeling better. The drugs slowly exiting my body. It was a constant battle of accepting the toxins and its curative capabilities and cursing it for the irredeemable side effects. Thursdays were always more of an emotional day. More sleep and journal writing occasionally helped. I would have more energy to play with the kids and may be able to participate in a fun family excursion like the park or beach ( although the sun was not my friend).

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  This was the part of the week where I would find my inner “I have cancer and I’m pulling it off because I’m bad ass.”

On these days, I would brave into the grocery store and wear a scarf that would reveal my baldness or I would wear a tank top that exposes my port scar. Thursdays were mostly good days. At times, I would “lose it”. This meant crying uncontrollably to my husband and apologize for “the wife” God had given him.  I was a mess of emotions. Like a crazy person, the emotions would change in a split second and at the same time that I was crying, I’d laugh about the how the wig I was wearing would be pulled too far back on my head and I thought of Worf from Star Trek and his huge wrinkly forehead. Then I would cry again because, I bet Worf never had to deal with cancer.

I was a MESS.

Friday:

Wahoo!  Fun Fridays.  I had enough energy on these days to start planning my weekends, play with the kids or at least be more present. I would have more enthusiasm and joy on Friday. I accepted more visits, invited the hard conversations and took my daughter to her weekly allergy shot to the “big” city about an hour away. After we would have ice cream and go to the park. Those were good productive days and I felt like a human, a mommy and I felt like myself again.puddle-splashing

Saturday:

I would help my husband with our catering company at the Saturday morning Farmers Market. We sold delicious and authentic Spanish paella. I would take the payments and chit chat with customers and he would cook and smile over at me. He really does makes the best food and he is just so handsome- we work well together.

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I wouldn’t have to set up or take down.  I would barter for coffee, croissants, and local vegetables. I enjoyed the energy from the market, the casual conversations, and the unconditional support and love.  Everyone knew I was dealing with cancer, at least that’s how I felt, but no one ever thoughtlessly shared any horrible stories about how “ my Aunt Kathy had cancer, I think it was the same kind you have, and well, it was so hard for her and she looked terrible and she died, but you look great.”  Yes, that has happened to me.

Please don’t say that to any cancer patient. I’ll write soon about what you should “NEVER say to a cancer patient”. Those are always fun.

Sunday:

This was a day that I could dedicate to feeling “normal” again. I was able to dress the children for church, prepare breakfast, shower, and exercise all before 10 am (not in that order). The rest of the afternoon would be dedicated to preparing for Monday. I’d pack my chemo bag, do laundry, clean up the house a little and of course play with the kids. I always felt stronger on Sundays.  It was supposed to be the day of rest, but I wanted to take advantage of the energy and I had less mental stress from the week. I would overdo it on Sundays.

But I’d tell myself, I have all of Monday to rest. “Keep pushing through!” I’d say. I could do it.  And I did.