So I began blogging about my vacation to Mt Shasta and the amazing experience I had, then I became so busy, I never got to finish. Since I returned from vacation, I started a new job and have been on the constant go. I have no complaints though. My new job has been a great learning experience and has opened me up to new opportunities. In fact, I almost feel like I was able to hit the reset button and put aside the sad memories of what I had experienced since being diagnosed with breast cancer. I still intend to blog in hopes of helping others get through their journey, it just won’t be as often as I had before.
To those going through their own journey with cancer, I have this to share with you…. I want you to know that I wish for you all the support and love that I was blessed with to help you through your journey. We are amazing individuals and together we can help each other get through the toughest of times. If there is anyone out there that needs an ear to listen, know you have one here….
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.
I’ve decided to share what is becoming one of my favorite breakfast foods. It’s so easy, anyone can do it! The recipe I’m about to share with you is for banana pancakes. All you need are the following ingredients, a blender, and presto, you’ve got yourself a delicious pancake batter!
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.
I was finally moved into my new place, and officially done traveling to and from every weekend. It was hard while I was attending school earlier in the year, but even harder, later down the line, while undergoing my radiation treatments. After a year of traveling, I was ready to finally ground myself again.
I spent most of the first month exploring the city with the infamous “YELP” app. It helped me find some good places to eat and people watch. I love watching people go about their day. I often wonder what it is they might be thinking about and what kinds of things they have planned. Observing body language can really tell you a lot about a person too. All in all, I was enjoying my time off. It was a time for me to think about what more I wanted to do with my life.
I’d say the biggest adjustment I had to make after moving to the city was coping with traffic and the aggressive nature of some of the people that live here. Being raised in Naples, people were far more relaxed and approachable. I felt like people in the city were always in a rush to get somewhere. Too busy to even smile. It’s such a foreign concept to me. Now, put these people in cars and you’ve got yourself a serious problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone show me “the finger”.
I’ve learned to brush it off though and just move out of the way. Life is just too short, and to be honest with you, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to live in a place that offers so much adventure and new possibilities. That includes the possibility of building new friendships. Even though I’ve had some unpleasant experiences, I’ve also managed to find some really great individuals.
*** Note to Reader ***
The amazingly adorable dog in the picture with me is my cute little boy Chico. He’ll be six this year. 🙂