If there is anything I’ve desired most in life, other then helping others, it’s been to travel the world. Earlier this year we had booked our tickets for Paris, my dream destination, but after being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time and undergoing surgery, I had to postpone my trip.
As the year went by and I underwent one treatment after another, we realized that if we didn’t reschedule our trip prior to the years end, we would forfeit the money we had invested earlier in the year so, we booked our trip to Madrid, Spain for the Thanksgiving holiday.
I couldn’t have been happier with the destination we chose. Madrid and Toledo, the two main towns we visited, were amazing. The architecture was breath taking, as was the history behind the structures and landmarks that surrounded me.
Of course, the food was also delicious. Especially the typical Churros and Chocolate that I had at least once a day while there. 🙂
This trip inspired me once again to fulfill that desire to walk the last 100km of el Camino de Santiago de Compostela in the year 2016. It’s an experience of a life time and I feel I am finally ready to take on not just the challenge, but also humbly accept and appreciate what that journey has to offer me. I returned refreshed and in love with life, feeling no boundaries existed, even those I built in my mind, moving me into the next stage of my life…
Being diagnosed with Cancer is not an easy thing to swallow, and if I could share some words of wisdom I would say, “let yourself be”.
Of course, there are many other important things like taking notes, asking questions and informing yourself of other treatment options available to you. You would be amazed at whats out there. However, please keep in mind that not every treatment option is the right one for you, which is why I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your own research.
Still, for me the hardest part was allowing myself the freedom to openly feel the way I was feeling in that moment without judging myself.
I would understand if your first thought was that this isn’t really relevant to your care however, it’s actually a key component. Not honoring my feelings made me realize the unrealistic goal I had set for myself. I couldn’t accept the urge to cry, feel sorry for myself or even feel anger because in my mind these were signs of weakness and/or being ungrateful. This emotional roller coaster eventually made me feel physically ill.
The truth is, these are all natural emotions, and you having them doesn’t make you less appreciative for the good things you have in your life. I say this because we’ve all heard the good old saying, “it could be worse”. I do feel it’s true and I use the phrase regularly, only now however, I do a better job of acknowledging that I am also human and am allowed to have a bad day here and there, as long as I also do my best to acknowledge the good that has come from my journey with breast cancer.
My “gift with a pink ribbon” taught me that I am stronger than I had ever imagined. I also believe that this may be gods way of using one of his social butterflies to help others by sharing my story and I am humbled to play such a vital role in bringing awareness.
So with that said, I leave you with this…
Free yourself from your emotional binds and know that it’s okay to feel what you are feeling in this very moment. It will take some time to figure it all out and that’s okay. The important thing is that you embrace each moment as an opportunity to love yourself and who you are in that moment, all judgement aside. This will help you cope with the new challenges that come your way, knowing that you have yourself on your side of the cancer battlefield, instead of working against you.
With all my love,
Elizabeth P 🙂 ❤
P.S. Sending a special thanks to Cure Forward for encouraging every survivor to share their cancer journey with new patients.
Have you ever searched deep within and asked yourself, “What makes me happy?”
I know it may seem like a daunting task to ask such a difficult question but in reality it isn’t so difficult at all. We actually make it harder by thinking of all the things that keep us from getting to that happy place. I for one am 100% guilty of doing this.
If you erased all of the negatives and asked yourself that question again, what is the first thing that pops into your mind?
“What makes me happy?”
Did you think of something?
Now ask yourself, “When was the last time I did this?”
If it’s to hard for you to remember, it’s time you penciled yourself in for a little visit to fun town. A wise person once told me, “Time passes regardless of what you are doing”, and with that being said, don’t you think you deserve to throw a little fun into the mix?
Please allow me to fill in the blanks to that question…. “Yes you do!! 🙂 ”
The problems will always be there when you return so take a break from your norm and do something you’ve been wanting to do for a while now. Don’t over think it, just do it! You will feel renewed and your mind and body will thank you later for the break. 🙂
I’d like to say it was about a year ago when we made a pit stop at Dunkin Donuts for a delicious coffee and snack, only to run into a very special young lady. She was so sweet and it was extremely refreshing to be around a person with such good energy after a long day on the road.
Prior to leaving I shared my contact and blog information, and to my surprise, she opened up to me about her mother, whom if I remember correctly lived in Cuba at the time. Her mother was going through her own journey with breast cancer and I could see and feel the sadness in hers eyes as she shared her moms story.
She was living so far away and I could only imagine how much pain she was feeling and the frustrations of not knowing what to expect. My heart went out to them both and till this day I keep her and her mother in my thoughts and prayers.
Truth be told, the memory of her kindness and warm embrace helped keep me motivated after being diagnosed the second time around. Knowing that in that moment I was able to provide her some kind of support, was a reminder of what I feel is my journeys purpose.
It’s not just about the support I get from others for sharing my story, it’s more about the support I can provide others in the process that really brings me joy and gives this whole experience true meaning.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an extreme blessing to have so many wonderful and kindhearted people supporting me throughout my journey. I honestly couldn’t imagine what it would be like without all of you being a part of it, which is why I want nothing more than to be there for others. Simply put… we can all use a helping hand every now and then.
This past month has been a real struggle so I took a break from writing to try to focus on my thoughts. Even though my mind knows I have so much to be thankful for, my heart just can’t make sense of that no matter how hard I try, making me feel like a terrible person. I feel so empty and like I’m simply going through the motions as if I were a robot.
I smile because I know I should and laugh because jokes are supposed to be funny. It doesn’t happen 100% of the time but I can tell when it does because I feel like in that moment I step outside of my body and begin watching myself from across the room. Just trying to understand why, in that precise moment, I stopped feeling anything at all. I finally decided to write about it in hopes of discovering something I hadn’t already or maybe just as a way of letting it go. I chose to share it on my blog not to obtain sympathy or complain to the world, but instead educate others on the thought process I’m going through. It wouldn’t be fair or right for me to portray myself as a superhero.
Those that have been following my blog since the beginning know I’ve said it before, “allow yourself to feel sad if that’s what you are really feeling”. I’ve realized now something very important about that statement. It’s a full time job. Why you ask? For me the explanation is very simple. It’s easier to keep the sad moments to myself because too often when I provide truth about my journey, the feedback is the usual, “Just be thankful that you are still alive today”, “there are people worse off than you”, “god has a special plan for you”. While I agree this is all true, it’s not exactly comforting to hear when all you need is a listening ear.
I may be up and running but trust me when I say that each day has its challenges and looks can be deceiving. My journey is far from complete and even after a bilateral mastectomy, I’m still going through a painful breast reconstruction, am waiting to hear if radiation is still a must and have a regimen of injections and pills waiting for me to start. Not to mention the possibility of other surgeries outside of completing my breast reconstruction.
So what crazy idea have I come up with? It’s simply really. Since most people don’t really want to hear the details when they ask how I’m doing, I save them the trouble and respond with a simple, “Just taking it one day at a time”. Those that want to know more will ask and this way I don’t have to pour myself out to those that are simply just trying to be courteous. I mean, why bore people with the details if they aren’t interested in them right? At the same time, I keep myself from hearing the “Generic” comments most people use, thinking they have to say something that makes sense to make you feel better when in reality, nothing really does.
It’s like when people ask, “Hi, How are you?” Have you ever really taken a moment to notice that most people ask but they don’t stop what they are doing to hear the response? It’s terrible. As a society, we seem to have lost our human side. The side that shows compassion and true caring for others. Maybe I’m just being sensitive about the topic but I’m sharing the thought because I know there are others like me going through something similar and I want them to know they aren’t alone. I’m also hoping that people become a little more aware of their interactions with people and start showing genuine interest in each other. Cancer or no Cancer, all of us are going through something and it’s important we give each other at least a minute of our undivided attention. It can make a world of a difference…
It’s been almost 2 weeks now that I found out my cancer had returned and I’m officially packed and ready to head to the other coast tomorrow in preparation of my surgery Monday afternoon. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by.
Packing was a little different this time as there was one essential item that wasn’t coming with me. My bras! I know it sounds kind of silly, but when it finally clicked in my head that I would no longer be wearing my bras, I felt a whole in my stomach and a pain in my heart. I mean it’s not like I just received the news yesterday but in that moment, it felt like I had.
I have one day left before I say goodbye to the “lady lumps” that have been causing so much emotional stress in my life.
While removing them is the best decision for my future, they’ve been mine for 32 years now and I think that merits the right to be a little upset about losing them.
The plan for my surgery is a bilateral mastectomy, (one side required and the other preventative) with reconstruction. The reconstruction will take place in phases as they will not be putting in the final implants right away. I’ve opted to go with the placement of “Expanders” first at the recommendation of my plastic surgeon, due to the fact that I am small to begin with and have had radiation to the left breast in the past, making the healing process a more difficult one. It will reduce my chances of complications due to infection or my incision not healing correctly.
I admit I’m a bit nervous and am overwhelmed but I try to stay positive and remind myself that what I’m doing now will bring me so much peace in the future.
I’ve also been blessed to have such an amazing support system to help me get through my daily struggles. My partner, family, close friends and new friends. They’ve all been an essential part of my mission to “keep it together”.
I will continue to blog throughout my recovery so be sure to follow along. I hope what I have to share will be both educational and comforting to others who may be going through something similar or know someone who is.
At the end of the day my purpose for sharing my story is to educate others and help in any way I can to comfort others going through the same. The support I’ve received along the way has really just been a blessing from all of you. One of which I am extremely grateful for.
P.S. The painting above was done by one of my co-workers. The woman represents me and the 2 flowers above my head represent my journey, one flower being darker than the other to resemble a larger and more difficult journey the second time around. The flowers below are white representing peace and the bird with the survivor ribbon represents my freedom and survivor-ship after completing my journey. This painting truly touched my heart. ❤
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! 😉