My thought of the day….

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…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Pre-Surgery Update

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.

Flowers from my love :)
Flowers from my love 🙂

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.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂

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. ❤

An Exciting Month…

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.

It's time to lace up my sneakers and hit the pavement!  <3 <3 <3
It’s time to lace up my sneakers and hit the pavement!

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.

I Finished!!! 😀

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.

Yes!!! What an honor. :)
Yes!!! What an honor. 🙂

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…

If it’s in your heart, you can do it. 😉

Stay tuned…

Elizabeth 🙂

Cooking class anyone?

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.

Hungry anyone? :)
Hungry anyone? 🙂

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! 😉

Stay tuned…

Elizabeth 🙂

So, what now?

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…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

The Voice Within….

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…

jour·ney

noun
1.
*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”

verb
2.
travel somewhere.
“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. 😉

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Fairy Falls & Crystal Lake

After our first group meeting, we headed out for our first hike. Our destination, Fairy Falls, was not very far from the bed and breakfast. Once we arrived, we each took the opportunity to enter the fall, giving ourselves a fresh new start to our individual journeys. I remember slowly making my way to the water and freezing up the moment I took my first step in. The water was colder than any water I’ve ever felt. My first instinct was to run and reject the cold water like I normally would. Then, someone said, “come on, who’s going to be the first girl to enter the fall”?

That’s when the insane competitive side kicked in and said, “come on, be brave, you can do it!!” I guess, having a slight competitive edge paid off this time because it was just what I needed to drum up the courage to walk right into the fall and lose myself in the moment. It was so cold and I could barely stop shaking enough to keep myself standing. I remember screaming “Mahalo”, like those before me, and feeling an instant surge of energy run through my body. It was as if my body had finally woken up from the stagnant stage it had been in for so long.

One by one, others followed, as those who had already entered cheered them on. We then found a spot of our own along the stream to enjoy our surroundings. It was beautiful and peaceful. You could hear the wind blowing through the trees, the water from the fall and it flowing down the stream, and the birds singing songs of joy. Though I suppose in their own language they could have very well been asking each other who’s bringing what to the next family gathering. Lol

A quick selfie after an invigorating dip in Fairy Falls :)
A quick selfie after an invigorating dip in Fairy Falls 🙂

The following day after gathering again as a group, we carpooled up to Crystal Lake. It was a short hike to the lake, and the spectacular area where we all enjoyed lunch together while soaking up the nature around us. I felt so lucky to be living that moment. To often, I have a million things running through my head and a to do list, like many, that never ends. There, the only thing I had “to do” is enjoy that moment.

After a group meditation and healing exercise, we made our way to the lake for a refreshing swim. Now, when I say refreshing, I mean it was really cold. Granted, I’m a Florida girl who has been guilty on many occasions of complaining about the beach water being cold where I live, but this really was cold! For me at least. I promise not to complain about my beach again. All in all though, it was very nice, and I had yet another chance to do something I normally wouldn’t have done.

On our way back to the B&B, I received a call that completely made up for the cold water I had jumped in. While at the falls the day prior, I had asked god to please continue to provide me with opportunities for growth and to help me find balance in my career. I was spending so much time on the road, and I wished nothing more than to be closer to home. If only I could move the office closer to me, right? Well that call was just one of the few gifts this journey and god had provided me with. I was offered a job in the city, about 15 mins away from home, making much more than I was currently making, and with many additional benefits. It was the package I had been looking for when I had previously interviewed for the company. At the time the position hadn’t been available, and out of no where, BOOM, there it was!

Never in my life had I done such a crazy thing, but I accepted. In that moment, I couldn’t believe the opportunity I was presented with. I also had no idea how I was going to inform my current employer of the life changing decision I had just made. I had always pride myself in being loyal to my employer, and here I was deciding to leave after only 2 weeks. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity though, and I had to follow my intuition.

I spent the rest of my afternoon thinking of what I would say to my boss. Was I going to tell her by phone? Would I wait till I got back? The new executive administrative position I had accepted was ready for me to start as soon as I got back home. I felt however that I still needed to provide some sort of notice and I wanted to do so as soon as possible, even if it meant doing it by phone. We had a 3 hour time difference and I had reached my room late that evening. The call would have to wait till the following day…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

2 weeks completed, now it’s time for another amazing vacation ;) …

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.

And we've arrived to San Francisco!! :D
And we’ve arrived to San Francisco!! 😀
Time to hit the road and make our way to Mt Shasta :)
Time to hit the road and make our way to Mt Shasta 🙂

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.

Lake Siskiyou :)
Lake Siskiyou 🙂
Me+My bike+lake siskiyou= awesomeness!!! :D
Me+My bike+lake siskiyou= awesomeness!!! 😀

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…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Past vs Present…

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…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Paws & Recovery…

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…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂