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 🙂

The birth of “Gift with a pink ribbon”…

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.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Let my travels begin…

Less than 2 weeks into my move I was getting ready to board a plane for Peru. “Could I be any luckier?” I felt so blessed to be taking such an amazing trip, and couldn’t wait to explore another country. This was one of those vacations that I put on my bucket list, but never thought I’d have a chance to take. It was so surreal arriving in Lima the first night. “I can’t believe I’m actually here!”

Early the next morning, we were back on a plane, destination Cusco. One of our stops was the Scared Valley. There was something so special about being in those mountains. The weather was beautiful and the sites were breathtaking. That night we stayed in one of my favorite hotels, Casa Andina. The view from our room was something right out of a movie! It was gorgeous and everywhere we went the people were so kind and accommodating.

After waking up to the most incredible view I had ever seen, we had a quick breakfast and boarded a bus that took us to the train station. There, we’d board the train taking us to Machu Picchu. I must say, up to this point, we were very impressed with the booking agency we used. All of our accommodations were beyond my expectations. Many of them first class.

At last, we arrived in the town of Machu Picchu. It was small and so full of great energy. Our hotel was so close to all of the markets, dining and entertainment. It was the perfect place to just go exploring on your own without feeling like you could get lost. Of course, this also meant we did a lot of shopping too. 😉

The hotel provided the entire group with a spectacular dinner that evening. We really enjoyed ourselves, and were excited about going to Machu Picchu the following morning. I couldn’t wait to be on the top of that mountain, and take a moment to reflect on all I had gone through, and the many blessings I had received along the way…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Results are in…

Good evening everyone!

I’m happy to report that the results of my first check up since surgery and the completion of my radiation treatment are in and I’m clear!

Thank you all again for your prayers and words of encouragement. I really appreciate all of you. 🙂

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Photos and details to follow…

Another milestone…

The day has finally come!

I’m officially on my way to Naples this morning to follow up with both of my oncologist’s, and to have my first follow up mammogram and ultrasound since the completion of my radiation treatment.

Though I feel all will turn out okay, I can’t ignore the small part of me that is very nervous and anxious to know my results.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my outcome…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Saying goodbye…

It was officially my last day at work and time to say goodbye to the people I had worked with for over 11 years. I was excited to be starting a new life on the other coast, but I was also sad to be leaving everyone behind. My coworkers had become my family and my best friends.

These were the people that watched me grow into the person I am today, and taught me so much along the way. To be honest with you, even through the tough times, this was the kind of place people only dreamed of working in. My boss is the kind of doctor that works “for the people” and not “for the dollar”. Yes, we all know it’s a business but, he taught me to be compassionate towards my patients, and by example taught me, that without a good patient/doctor relationship there is no business.

As I cut my cake and we shared a few laughs, I remember reflecting back on my experiences and with a smile on my face thinking, “These people will always hold a special place in my heart”.

Goodbye to my life here in beautiful Naples, FL. It was now time to head on over to the place I would now call home. A place full of new opportunities and adventures to come, Miami, FL.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Final check ups before the big move…

Once the high from the half marathon wore out, it was time to countdown the days before my last radiation treatment. It was a bitter sweet good bye but, on February 14th, I completed my last treatment and said goodbye to the group of technicians that within a short period of time, had become family. Looking back, I can’t believe how quickly the time passed. On my last follow up with the radiation oncologist, I was given the 2 thumbs up and a, “we’ll see you again in a few months”.

Next I had to follow up with my oncologist so that he could start me on my medication, and let’s not forget about the gynecologist. I still needed to get his opinion on the area in my pelvis that had raised a red flag before.

I went first to the gynecologist and after reviewing the results of the tests that were done, he was pretty convinced that there wasn’t anything I needed to worry about. He did however, recommend I establish with a gynecological oncologist once I moved so that I could have it monitored. I made note of the recommendation, and with great relief, crossed off “get a second opinion on pelvic results”, from my to-do list.

The last person I checked in with was my oncologist. After finishing my radiation treatments, he started me on a medication called Tomaxifen. Since my cancer cells had come up 100% positive for both progesterone and estrogen receptors, it was imperative that I take this medication to help reduce my hormone levels. I was warned of the possible side effects but lets face it, the pros out weighed the cons.

I was happy to report back to him that so far I had been handling the medication very well except for a small visit to the gynecologist. Unfortunately, the medication can increase your chances of an infection because it throws off you bodies natural flora. It didn’t take long before I got one, but luckily, the nurse practitioner at my gynecology office was able to recommend a few things that could prevent it from happening again.

So with future my appointments in hand, I said goodbye to my doctors. It was amazing to feel like I could finally focus on my move. It was however, sad to be leaving everyone behind. I loved my co-workers and was going to miss my friends and family more than I could ever imagine. I hadn’t mentioned it before, but for a small period of time I began seeing a therapist to help me through the emotional part of my journey. You didn’t think I was going to leave all up to the antidepressants did you? No way! I needed to reach out as well and find a comfortable place for me to share what I was going through. It is something I would recommend to anyone going through their own struggles, regardless of what your journey is.

Leaving her behind was hard too, because she had helped me get through some really tough times. I was beginning to wonder if I was ready to make such a big change until I reminded myself of the gift that came with a pink ribbon. I had already gone through such a difficult journey, and if I kept the same attitude, there was nothing I wouldn’t be able to accomplish in the future.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

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The Half Marathon…

Race day had finally arrived. I had mixed emotions about it since I’d been feeling so tired and sore from the radiation but, my partner reassured me we’d finish it together, even if that meant walking to the finish line. It was just the support I needed before heading to the event that morning.

We arrived and I remember being amazed at how many people had registered for the race. This was by far the largest half marathon I had ever participated in. The music was insane and you could feel the energy and excitement as you walked through the crowds. The count down finally began and the race was off to a great start. I was back and loving every moment of it! It was breezy and still dark out, so the running conditions were perfect. It wasn’t till around mile 7 or 8 that my body felt like it was giving up on me. By then, the sun had come up and the heat was really getting to me. I was tired and had become frustrated with how long it was taking me to get to each mile marker.

Slowly, I began to lose site of why I was running. My goal was to finish the race and to have fun, but instead, I was focusing on my speed and setting unrealistic goals. I hadn’t trained enough nor was I in the physical condition to be pushing myself as hard as I once did. My peers and doctors thought I was a bit nuts for attempting to run the distance but I wanted to at least try. I suppose it was my own way of telling myself I could still do it if I really wanted to. However, it stopped being fun and that’s the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish.

That’s when the universe through me a curve ball. Left and right I was running passed participants with physical disabilities far greater than mine. They were happy and so full of life, living their moment the way I should have been living mine. This wasn’t suppose to be about speed or breaking my own record, it was suppose to be about having fun and finishing what I started. I was inspired once more and for the remainder of the race I made it a point to soak in my surroundings and appreciate the fact that I was able to be a part of something so amazing.

The crowds cheered us all on as we crossed the finish line. It was a beautiful race and I was happy to say that regardless of the pain I was in or how tired I was, my treatments didn’t stop me from doing what I enjoyed most. In that moment, I couldn’t have been happier. It was as though I had gotten a little piece of my life back…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

** Note to reader **

Be sure to check out my photos to see my medal for the half marathon. 🙂

 

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A few weeks into radiation…

I was starting to wrap things up at work when I looked at my watch and realized I needed head over for my daily radiation treatment. I had grown more and more excited about going with each day that passed. Not only was I one day closer to finishing, I was also meeting some really nice people along the way. To my relief, I hadn’t been experiencing any pains or serious burns either. I had started mountain biking again and was even feeling confident about running the half marathon with my partner. It was only a week or so away and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I really couldn’t understand why I had read stories of so many people having such a terrible time.

To my surprise however, shortly after those couple of weeks, my energy level did start to decline and my left breast had become inflamed and extremely painful. It began to interfere with my work, sports, sleep, and was wearing me out emotionally. I had tried several over the counter creams to help alleviate the burning and itching but nothing worked. I eventually mentioned it to the radiation oncologist during my weekly check up. She suspected the possibility of my having mastitis of the left breast and prescribed me an antibiotic along with  a cream to help with the itching and burning of the skin. Within a couple of days I was starting to feel a difference in the amount of pain and swelling I felt but, I was still tired and worn out emotionally.

Psychologically, I had reached my max. I know it sounds crazy, but I would compare the way I felt to the feeling you get after eating a meal to fast. Think about it, you eat really quickly, ignoring your stomach’s chemical signal telling you to stop. You than realize you ate way more than you could handle and now you’ve given yourself a stomachache. That’s how I felt. I had filled my emotional storage space to its max without even picking up on its distress signals and was officially on overload.

During my previous episodes of emotional ups and downs, my radiation oncologist had suggested the use of an antidepressant. I refused it, feeling that it would be a symbol of my weakness and inability to balance my emotions on my own. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need medication to do that. I had already been down that route years ago and had found a better way to cope with my stress through running and staying active. I remember asking myself, ” If there were other people out there that got through this without medication, why should I be any different?” I now realize that, not only was I comparing myself to other people , adding unnecessary pressure, I also wasn’t considering everything else going on in my life that made me feel so off balance. I was leaving my job after more than 11 years. I was moving away to another city leaving my family and friends behind. These were major life changes I was going through, all while juggling everything that came with having had cancer.

I continued on this slippery slope, hoping I could wake up one day feeling different but I never did. The closer I got to finishing my treatments and moving away from everything I knew, the more anxious and depressed I became. Going to my treatments was like a safe haven for me. I felt like cancer couldn’t come back while I was being treated and I feared what would happen when it was all over. I could no longer focus on work, family or my relationship with these thoughts clouding my brain. I wasn’t even enjoying my running and biking anymore. It was then I realized I was in over my head and agreed to take an antidepressant which turned out to be the best decision I could have ever made…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

 

Finally, I’m running again…

It had been a few months since my last run and I was ready to hear the sound of my Newton’s hitting the pavement. As I was getting dressed, I kept picturing myself running and feeling absolute freedom as each step brought me closer to my goal of running the half marathon I had agreed to run with my partner in January. The thought made me a bit nervous because I knew here soon I’d be starting my treatments but, I didn’t want to go into it already thinking about all the obstacles I might face along the way and keep myself from doing what I loved. I promised myself I would keep going until my body told me I needed a break and, I intended to keep that promise.

We drove over to one of our favorite running spots and parked the car. I got out, did a light stretch while waiting for my Garmin to find my location and remembered taking in a big breath and exhaling as if I was telling myself, “this is it, you’re finally running again”. It was a bit warm out that day but the humidity was low so it made for great running conditions. We started our run and I remember the fireworks going off in my head. It was as if I were secretly celebrating my running again. I felt amazing and unstoppable! At least this was true till about a mile into my attempt at running a short 3 miles.

My chest started pounding and I felt so out of breath. My form was a complete mess and, as I continued, I began to feel a numbing yet tingling sensation in my left arm. I wasn’t ready to admit I needed to stop so I simply slowed down a bit hoping my partner wouldn’t notice. I managed to keep running but not long before my plan proved to be a complete fail and I was busted. I had to stop. This was an instant reality check. I may have been running but, I wasn’t able to run nearly as fast or as efficiently as I had before. How on earth did I get to this place?

My arm had begun to swell a little and I was exhausted. I had barely run 2 miles yet I felt as though I had been running for hours. In that moment, it became very clear to me that agreeing to run a half marathon may not have been the smartest thing for me to have done. How was I going to get myself back into tip top shape within a month. “Hello, earth to Elizabeth!!!!” After a short break, we started to jog, slowly making our way back to the car.

I wanted to crawl up in a ball and just cry. Of all my sports, running was my strength and what I loved most. I wasn’t ready to just throw it all away. I needed to get a grip on my emotions and find some kind of balance. I couldn’t just stop running as it was the one thing that provided me with any kind of sanity so, I did the only smart thing I could do. I modified my goals and started from the beginning, just like I did when I was working with my range of motion.

I couldn’t force myself to run at my previous speeds and distances. It wasn’t fair to put that kind of pressure on myself. I needed to gradually make my way back and remind myself once again that in time, I would regain all I had lost. This wasn’t the end of the world, instead, it was a small reminder that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that regardless of how it all turned out, I could only grow from this experience…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂