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…
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. 🙂
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
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…
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.
Lately, despite all of the craziness that has been surrounding me, I have found myself reminiscing about my past. The ups, the downs and the, “hey, where did that come from?” I’ve often times even considered what I could have done differently.
After sharing those thoughts with my partner, I was asked a very important question. What have you learned from the experience? It’s funny, I’ve always known that every thing we go through in life is an opportunity to learn. However, how often do we really ask ourselves, “what did I learn during this process?” To often, we let time pass and figure it out when a similar situation arises. Why not ask the question now and allow ourselves to further enjoy the moments we’ve overcome and take more pleasure in knowing we’ve learned a great lesson.
It makes sense, and here’s a perfect example of how this plays out in my own life. I’ve beaten myself up so many times for not being the athlete I once was. Could I have trained harder before so I wouldn’t have been so behind now? Should I have focused less on my mental and emotional recovery and thought more about getting “back into the game”?
The answer is no. I realize that I may still not be as strong physically as before, but I am stronger emotionally and mentally. That strength is the tool I needed to build more confidence, allowing me to speak out and make a bigger difference in the world around me. I was given a second chance to do with it all I’ve imagined, not to let it go to waste. With that desire to make a difference, and an opportunity to fulfill it came the birth of “Gift with a pink ribbon”.
So in short, just when you think you are at your lowest point or that things are going wrong because you’ve made a bad decision, remember that this may be the necessary steps needed for you to gain the tools to fulfill your life purpose.
That night, after visiting Machu Picchu, we explored the city for the last time before heading back to Cusco the next morning.
The following morning we took the train back to Cusco and settled into our hotel.
The next two days in Cusco were spent exploring the main square and visiting nearby ruins, such as the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. This was also the perfect time to break away from all of the touristy restaurants and eat like the locals. There is nothing worse than visiting a place and not experiencing the culture. The food was absolutely amazing! It was fresh and cooked to perfection. We even tried Alpaca while we were out there, and to my surprise, it was delicious! (I apologize in advance for any vegans reading this post)
Since we were there for Palm Sunday, we were able to visit the cathedral for their mass. It was beautiful, and the largest I had ever seen. Certainly a great way to end the trip. After leaving Cusco and arriving in Lima, we spent a little time on a guided tour, exploring the city before it was time to board the plane again. We stopped to eat at a place called Tanta Tanta. The food was delicious and although it was dark out, there was a nice view.
On our way back home I spent some time thinking about our entire vacation. I felt as though the trip had changed me somehow. It had opened up a new world of possibilities and fed my desire to travel and learn more. It also made me realize that I needed to stop living my life behind the scenes, or how others thought I should live my life, and I needed to share my experience with others. Not my vacation, but my journey. Everything I had gone through and all that I was to become. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I was going to find a way…
The next morning I woke up with so much built up excitement. I had heard so many stories about the different energy levels found on the mountain, and I wanted to experience it all. I wanted to feel that euphoria people claimed they felt while visiting.
As I handed over my ticket and passport, I felt goose bumps traveling up my spine. “This is it! We are on Machu Picchu!” We were traveling as a group, but I remember leaving them behind a few times. It wasn’t intentional. I could just feel the mountain calling out to me, guiding me through its paths. It was almost as if I had been there before.
When we reached the top however, my feet were planted right to the ground. I could have spent hours gazing into the distance. I didn’t feel the change in energy everyone had talked about, what I felt, however, was absolute freedom. Maybe that’s what people were trying to explain? Till this day, just thinking about the feeling I had that day, brings happy tears to my eyes.
It made me thankful that I was able to survive my journey and have this experience. Thankful to hear each sound as it was, not as someone heard it, and to see and feel everything with my own eyes and hands, versus seeing it through the lens of someone’s camera and imagining what it would feel like.