While the many questions I have regarding “what comes next” have yet to be answered. There is one answer I know for sure. I once again have breast cancer.
It was only yesterday when I received the call confirming my greatest fear. Same breast and same type of cancer. “High Grade Ductal Carcinoma in SITU.” The fact that it’s in SITU is great because it means it’s in it’s early stages. Nevertheless, it’s been an exhausting 24 hours as you can imagine. No matter how busy I’ve been at work and with my personal life, it’s a topic I find hard not to think about. Just the thought of another surgery makes my stomach churn.
Life was going so well you know? I had just received a promotion and been accepted into the mentorship program I had applied for. It frustrated me more than anything how intrusive this disease has always been. Not that it’s something you are ever ready for. It’s just always taken place during a time in my life where major changes are occurring making it so difficult to enjoy those special moments.
I wasn’t even sure if writing about this now was the right thing to do but, my goal was to write about the good and the bad. It’s about my life, my take on it and my hopes of helping others that have or are sharing my journey. So if you are going through your own personal journey, know that I am here. We are sharing this moment together and together we will pull through this. We are going to Kick Cancers Butt!!!
January 2015 has come to an end and we are quickly already approaching the middle of February. Where does the time go?
I don’t know that I’ll ever really find the answer to that question, but I can say I have accomplished a lot since the year started. I wanted to enter 2015 with the same tenacity I had moving into the big city. I was so excited and felt like I could conquer the world!
This small town girl however was in for a surprise. I struggled so much with the cultural differences when I arrived. As the time went by, the aggressiveness of the city was turning me into an overwhelmed mess. Not to mention only recently I had received news of further studies that needed to be done regarding an area in my left breast. Seriously?
I was starting to think of all the bad things that could result from the stress and the ideas that lingered in my mind and they were starting to eat me up inside.
That’s when I decided to reset my thoughts and focus on the goals I wanted to accomplish, and not on the things I disliked around me.
One of my first goals was to run the Miami Half Marathon I had registered for the previous year. The challenge here was that I hadn’t run since the last one in 2014. In fact, The most I ran the entire year was a distance of 1.25 miles and that occurred less than a handful of times. My work hours had been long, but worse was the way my medications were making me feel. I just didn’t have the energy.
Nevertheless, I wanted to get back into the game and this race was a special one. I know I’ve said that about many others, but this race was the one I ran while undergoing radiation the year prior. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it than and I could do it now.
The race was a beautiful one as always. I ran the first 6 miles feeling sore but great all at the same time. It was after mile 6 that my body broke down and my emotions were at an all time low. I was starting to break down and so many thoughts were running through my mind. “Why are you putting your body through this torture?”, “You didn’t train and weren’t ready for this.”, “You were so much faster last year, look at all those people running by you.”
You know that saying, “You are your own worst enemy”? It was never more true than in that moment. If I had listened to my thoughts, I would have parked myself on the side line to wait for someone to pick me up and bring me to the finish line.
That however was not about to happen my friends! It took a few pep talks but I finished that race with my run/walk combination and it felt amazing!!!! What a great sense of physical accomplishment. 🙂
Could this year get any better???
Yes it can!!!
It was that same week that I was officially turning over my old position as “administrative assistant” and walking into my new one as “assistant property manager” in the building I started working at last September of 2014. This being a completely different career for me felt like the greatest accomplishment. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to move up in the company and I was honored to have been given the opportunity to do so.
To make this opportunity even greater, I received news that I had been accepted into the mentorship program I applied for back in October, after working less then 2 months with my company!! I remember reading the beginning of the email and my jaw dropping in excitement. This was such a blessing and was going to be such a great tool to help me grow as an individual in my company. 😀
All of these blessings have helped keep my mind at ease about the uncertainties that have previously cluttered my mind. Most importantly, I learned that all I have is “Now”. I need to “seize the moment” as they say and make the most of my “now” so that I can get to where I want to be in life.
Planning for the worse has only proven to keep me from doing the things I really want to. It made me less adventurous and taught me to always play it safe. Life isn’t always about walking the straight and narrow though. You’ve got to allow yourself to be creative and follow your heart. It may not always make sense but if you want it, you’ve got to reach out for it. Not matter the diagnoses or the obstacles.
So to all of you out there who think you can’t do it, I have a message for you…
So what better way to remember my amazing trip to Peru while learning how to cook a new dish? Why a cooking date night with a chef of course!! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never got around to doing so.
I recommend it to any one who enjoys the kitchen, even if only a little. I am no chef but the ability to cook a new dish , while enjoying good music, a delicious beverage and meeting new people was enough to have me sold on the idea.
All of the dishes came out amazing, especially the Lomo Saltado that we prepped…lol 😉 It was certainly a confidence booster for me in the “home cooked meals” department. Cheers to fun in the kitchen! 😉
So now that I’ve shared my story, the biggest question lingering in my head is “what now? What else do I write about?” Sure I’ve had new struggles, but I no longer know whats important and useful to share. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out myself. Many people think that once you’ve gotten over “the worse part of the journey”, things are smooth sailing from there on out. Here’s the thing though, “the worst part” is different for us all.
Let’s take me for example. I sailed right through my surgery and radiation like a champ. Even my doctors were worried about the fact that I was “taking it so well”. Later though, when the storm had past, I expected nothing but rainbows to follow. The “worse part of the journey” was over right? Not exactly. Instead of rainbows, a tornado swiped through unexpectedly destroying the very foundation I had been standing on for so long. It was as though every emotion I had suppressed had come bursting out of a secret box buried deep within. I began to ask myself, “Am I really a survivor?” To me the word “survivor” meant it was all over and life would be what it once was. Why wasn’t that happening?
I knew I couldn’t be the only one feeling this way so I decided to write about it. It’s about the only part of my journey that really makes sense to me at the moment. I’ve realized that the life I once lived can no longer exist exactly as it was. No matter how much I try to even think the way I once did, it’s impossible. It’s like buying a delicious ice cream cone with all of your favorite toppings and watching it hit the floor just before you start eating it. You can’t just put it back on the cone and eat it without thinking about the “slow motion” fall you just witnessed. Instead, you learn to appreciate whats left of it and go on your merry way.
Learning to cope with the side effects of my surgery and medications, while remembering how lucky I am to be typing away at my laptop sharing my random thoughts with the world, is my version of “learning to appreciate what is left of it and going on your merry way”. I too am guilty of finding it hard to see the silver lining at times but I promise you, it’s there. It’s just difficult to see when our emotions get the best of us. Just take a moment and remind yourself of your many accomplishments. You will slowly start to realize that there is no way you could accomplish so much and be the same person. In time you will find you are far more amazing, courageous and beautiful…
Do you ever find yourself at a cross point where one part of you is happily making it’s way from one goal to the next, while the other half is busy looking for shortcuts and not taking a moment to appreciate what you’ve learned along the way? “I have!”
At first I thought this was all happening as a result of my journey and my history of always being so hard on myself. However, I later realized that this happens to a number of us on a far to regular basis. Sometimes, we even find ourselves daydreaming of the life we want only to feel stuck in the life we are living, not even taking into consideration that the current situation/opportunity is what will prepare us for what is to come.
While aspiring to be more and have more can be great, when does it ever become enough? Better yet, why does it make us forget the great things we have already accomplished or why have we lost so much patience with ourselves and the sacrifices we must sometimes make to get to our next goal in life? I myself, even after all I’ve been through, am still guilty of not giving myself enough credit and taking some life lessons for granted.
With that being said, I’ve spoken to a lot of people this week that haven’t given themselves the pat on the back they deserve and are also feeling stuck in their current “journey” and I wanted to remind them, as well as myself, that what we are going through is just that, “a journey”. This means we aren’t stuck in this phase of our lives forever and life still has so much more in store for us. If you think I’m lying, read the definition of journey below…
*an act of traveling from one place to another.
“she went on a long journey”
*a long and often difficult process of personal change and development.
“her spiritual journey towards Roman Catholicism”
“they journeyed south”
See, there is nothing in that word that states there is no moving forward from here. So keep your chin up butter cup, life is full of many blessings and you are just one of them. 😉
It was only about 2 weeks ago, that I was blogging about how my first week at my new job going. Since then, so much has occurred. My first 2 weeks at the gynecology office had gone really well. My coworkers were great and it felt amazing to be in the workforce again. However, traveling was proving to be a little tougher than I had anticipated it would be. I was finding myself spending anywhere from 2-3 hours of my day, driving to and from work. I didn’t think it would be such an issue considering I had traveled long distances before for work, but it was really starting to wear me down. Luckily, I had planned a vacation prior to starting my new job and it would serve as a good break for me to recuperate.
It was August 16th, when we hopped on a plan heading to San Francisco, California. I was super excited to embark on another new journey. This time I was doing a spiritual retreat in Mount Shasta. I honestly didn’t think much of it at first. I just knew we would be hiking, meditating, and doing some yoga. That alone was a great vacation in my book.
Our flight from Ft Lauderdale, Florida to San Francisco, California was 6 hours long, and Mount Shasta was a good 5 hours away from San Francisco.
For the record, I would recommend arriving in Sacramento or Redding, California instead. It will easily cut the drive time in half. If you don’t have that option, plan to stay the night in San Francisco and drive up the next morning. You’ll be happy you did.
Upon arriving at the lovely Mt Shasta Bed & Breakfast, we checked in, I placed my bags on the room floor and passed out like a baby after a heavy meal.
The next day, I showered up and made my way to the dining room where breakfast was served daily to all of the house guests. There, we slowly began to meet some of the individuals that were also partaking in the spiritual retreat. They were all very sweet and pleasant to talk with. Each with a unique background and wealth of information. As much as I enjoy being a social butterfly and talking to others, I found myself happily listening to each conversation, eager to learn more about the people I would be spending the next 7 days with.
Later that morning, we explored the town a bit and decided to rent some mountain bikes. The sun was out and there was a cool breeze in the air. With the view of the beautiful mountains surrounding us, it was hard to deny myself the desire to ride again. We mounted our bikes and cruised through the city and eventually made our way to lake siskiyou. It was so beautiful to see a big lake surrounded by such a majestic mountain. When I took a closer look, I could see the locals swimming and canoeing, while others played fetch with theirs dogs. In that moment, I began to feel grounded again. The fast pace of the city was drowned out by the nature all around me. I could have stayed there all day, only we had to return the bikes to the store and make our way back to the bed & breakfast for our first group meeting.
Andrew, our group leader, and his partner in crime Lauren, welcomed us and gathered us into a circle. One by one, we were asked to introduce ourselves and express to the group why we were there. In other words, what did we expect to get from the retreat. I was honestly looking forward to some time off. However, when it was my turn to speak, the most natural explanation to leave my mouth was, “Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I’ve wanted to stress less about the little things in life and focus more on living my life and my true purpose”. I can’t recall if I worded it just so, but it’s pretty close to what I remember saying. I don’t even know where the words came from. I hadn’t met any of these people before, and here I was, sharing such a personal experience without flinching a muscle. I have blogged about it, yes, but never have I spoken to such a large group of people about it. In that moment I knew that this “vacation” was going to provide me with more than just time to meditate, hike, and do yoga. I was going to continue my growth in a way I had been longing to for some time and I look forward to sharing my experience with you all…
It’s been a little over a week since I started my new job, and although it’s made me happy to be working again, it has truly been something difficult to adjust to. I wasn’t prepared to physically feel the way I do and needless to say it has affected me emotionally as well.
I spend every day reminding myself of all the challenges I’ve overcome since being diagnosed with breast cancer, but once again have found myself saddened by my levels of exhaustion, resulting from my medications. I keep getting flashbacks of the girl that used to go on long training runs after a hectic day at work, and how refreshed I felt after running an easy 5-6 miles. It’s hard to believe that was ever me when the thought alone feels so foreign.
I have blogged about my experience in hopes of helping someone else cope with there own journey, but I would really love to hear from anyone willing to share their story, and what has helped them get through their challenges as well.
The truth is, there are many emotional ups and downs that come with a cancer diagnose, and I have personally realized that it never really ends. The damage is done, and you just have to learn to work around it and make yourself a stronger person in the process, in order to really move on. You just can’t reflect so much on what was. Instead, I continue to try and find peace in thinking about what will become of the new me…
There are moments when no amount of words could ever express the way you feel. This was often an issue for me while going through my journey. In fact, many of those moments lead to frustration. I would often find myself creating distance from everyone so that I wouldn’t even have to make an attempt to explain what it was I was feeling. I just needed my emotions to run their course in hopes of finding the answers later.
There is one little guy however that I found comfort spending my time with. He wouldn’t try to hard to make me happy, or ask me to break down in detail why I felt the way I did emotionally. Well to be honest, it’s because he couldn’t speak. That however, shouldn’t take away from the importance he’s played in my journey.
The little guy I’m referring to is my toy Chihuahua Chico. “Agh”, you must have thought out loud. “Now I get why he couldn’t speak”. Though I must say, if he did, that would certainly have been a very interesting topic to be blogging about. 🙂
Because of Chico, I now realize how much better my recovery had been. What do pets have to do with recovery? Well, in the midst of all the craziness that occurred in my life once I was diagnosed with breast cancer, there was only one thing that kept me focused on “the now” and provided me with the non-stop “unconditional love” I needed. That one thing was my little boy Chico. He’s been the perfect therapy for me. He made me laugh with the silly things he did and kept me warm when I just needed to be comforted.
I’ve had Chico for 6 years now and consider myself lucky to have had him. For those who don’t already have a 4 legged child at home, I highly recommend it. You do need to be sure however, that you can make time for them, give them a good and safe home, and have the financial ability to take care of them. A great option is to adopt. I know its cute to have a little puppy, but there are 2 very big advantages of adopting an older dog.
#1. They have often times already been potty trained. You’d be surprised how time consuming all of that can be.
#2. The most important advantage point, you are providing a great home for your new addition.
As the time passes you will both become inseparable, the best of friends, and have helped each other live a more fulfilling life. There is truly no greater gift. If adoption isn’t something you can commit to, you can always visit or volunteer at a pet shelter if your health permits. This works well for anyone unable to take on the responsibility of a pet, and you will find that it still helps you emotionally as well as the pets you interact with. Visiting a friend who has a pet can also do wonders.
Regardless of your decision, I give K9 therapy a two thumbs up. I know I couldn’t have done it without my little guy…
What should I eat? That’s a question I asked myself a lot after having been diagnosed with breast cancer. It seemed like everything I loved was off the menu. No sweets, caffeine, dairy, meats, etc. The list went on and on. Since then, I’ve met a lot of people with valuable information about nutrition. I’ve even read countless articles and gone to conferences to hear speakers talk. The truth is however, I’m still Elizabeth, and not one diet or lifestyle was right for me.
Many were to extreme and others expensive to keep up with. I started to feel like it was all pointless. If I couldn’t stick to it, why do it at all? Then I thought, “something is better than nothing”. I’m no expert, but that something would eventually become habitual making other changes easier to add to my daily routine. So, with that being said, I decided to take baby steps towards eating healthier and cleaner. For instance, it’s ideal to eat fresh as often as possible. A lot of foods are processed, even if they are healthy choices.
Hummus, which I love so much, is a great example of one of the changes I made. I loved to eat dips but found myself eating many that were heavily processed. I went back to eating hummus. It wasn’t the cheesy goodness I loved, but it was certainly a healthier choice. I started by buying it pre-made at the store, but now I whip up a delicious batch at home with fresh ingredients. It eliminated any ingredients the company uses to keep it on the shelf longer without going bad. I just boil the chickpeas, put them in a blender with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, fresh garlic, a pinch of salt and Wala! You’ve got yourself a delicious dip of classic hummus.
Fruit was another big one. Don’t get me wrong, I ate my fruits, just not nearly as much as I should have. I was what you would call, “lazy”, about cutting and peeling. Plus, I could only eat so many before I would just say, “ok that’s enough”. That’s when I decided that juicing and making fruit smoothies would be the best way to fit in my fruits and even some extra veggies. I could still eat them as a snack through the day, but I would increase my intake by also incorporating them into my daily fluid intake. “Jackpot!” Store bought juices have almost become a thing of the past.
Currently my favorite fruit is Guanabana. It’s something I eat or drink everyday. Though I haven’t found any concrete data, I’ve heard a number of stories that talk about it being a fruit that kills off cancer cells. My hair dresser even shared a story of a friend of hers that was expected to have chemo treatments, but instead, decided to go one month adding Guanabana to his diet. When he went back to the doctors, they asked him what he had done, and shared that he no longer needed to have chemo. I was both shocked, and happy to hear he didn’t need the chemo. Needless to say it made me happier to be eating such an amazing fruit.
I don’t disagree with modern medicine, as in many cases it has not only helped me, but it has saved many lives. I am intrigued however, with the idea of eating cleaner and the positive effects it has on my body. I thought I was eating so well before, as an athlete trying to keep an eye on my body and it’s nutritional needs. Now I know however, that I still have more to learn, and I can’t say I’m not enjoying the taste testing as I explore new foods.