I have really been working hard to find ways to generate funding for Gift With A Pink Ribbon, Inc., and with the help of my amazing team, I am super excited to announce that we are currently doing a fundraiser with Yankee Candle!!! 😀
Shop by clicking here and 40% of your purchase will go to Gift With A Pink Ribbon, Inc. to help us fund the production of each blanket and cover the cost of shipping them!!
Thank you in advance for your support and as always….
Gift With A Pink Ribbon, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that donates handmade fleece blankets to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, to provide them with warmth and comfort throughout their treatments. Blankets are handmade and shipped free of charge within the US! 🙂
“I am extremely humbled by the love and support of our wonderful volunteers and look forward to our continued growth, and touching many more lives through this cause…”
#teamGWAPR… Together we can make a world of a difference!
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…
A little over a week has past since my double mastectomy and it’s been an interesting experience thus far. I can completely understand why so many woman struggle with the decision of having a mastectomy done or knowing that its their only option. It’s scary, painful and there are so many unknowns.
Thankfully, we now live in an age where so many brave woman have shared their stories, giving us front row seats to their experieces. In all honesty, this really prepared me for what was to come and has also helped me stay strong through the process.
As a way to give back, I too have been sharing my journey and will continue to do so by writing, posting photos and sharing videos. I’ve already posted many on my Facebook page but will add them to my blog for those who aren’t following me on Facebook. I hope you will continue to follow my crazy journey! 🙂
Click here to view some of the videos I’ve shared since my surgery. Enjoy! 🙂
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…
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 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…
I wasn’t ready to jump on the bike or go for a run but, I was determined to start setting goals and accomplishing them during my two weeks of recovery. I didn’t want to just lay in bed doing absolutely nothing. I was an athlete. Prior to my journey with breast cancer I had a very active lifestyle. I had run several 5k’s, a 10k, 2 half marathons, completed a metric century, started mountain biking, and in September had just done my first triathlon. My next goal was to run a marathon.
It wasn’t about exercising to be skinny, it was a lifestyle. I was addicted to the adrenaline I felt after each race and training session but, most of all I enjoyed the amazing people that I met along the way. I had developed an extended family and I missed them. I also missed the outdoors and how healthy and energized my body felt. What I had been feeling in that moment was so foreign and uncomfortable. I needed to find that place again so, I did what every athlete does, started setting goals.
It wasn’t anything drastic but it was a start. My main goal was to regain the range of motion I had lost in my left arm. I could barely lift it to wash my own hair so after about three days of recovery that’s what I tackled first. I found the shower to be the perfect place to start my therapies because the warm water would loosen my muscles enough for me to start stretching. My first goal was to get my arm up high enough to wash my hair comfortably. It had been days since I had been able to do this on my own.
I started by placing my hand on the shower wall and using my finger tips to slowly climb up while bringing my body closer to the wall. Most people refer to this technique as the “wall climb”. It allows the muscles located in the area of the armpit to stretch out. It was very difficult and I admit painful at first but I progressed quickly and before I knew it only days had passed and I was finally able to wash my own hair. “Yes, I did it!” Seems like a silly thing to feel so excited about but, you’d be surprised with the things we take for granted when they come so easily.
The next goal I tackled was brushing my hair. I’m not a lefty but I wasn’t able to lift much weight at the time and I thought using my left hand to brush my unruly curly hair would be a good way to use a bit of force without injuring myself. This too helped with my range of motion. I started doing the wall climbs outside of the shower to allow my muscles to stretch without the assistance of heat and began working on reaching up over my head and bringing my hand as far down my back as I could. I was shocked to see how little I could do when I had always been more flexible on that side.
I used the assistance of a small towel to help me get to my desired goal of reaching my hand right into the space between my shoulder blades. In order to do this I would grab the towel with my left hand, raise it above my head and bend my elbow enough to allow the towel to hang on my backside. I would then place my right hand on my lower back, grab the towel and slowly pull it down bringing my left hand closer to my goal.
It was tough and in all honesty there were moments I wanted to give up because it just seemed so easy yet I was struggling so much. I felt like I was starting from the very beginning after having come so far. Everyone around me was progressing at incredible speeds in their prospective sport and here I was taking baby steps to perform the simplest tasks. I had to constantly remind myself how far I had already come within a week and that it wasn’t going to be like this forever.
I was reaching my goals, big or small, and I needed to stop being so hard on myself. I was able to brush and wash my own hair, I was reaching for things in the pantry and making myself food. That’s something I couldn’t do before. I was accomplishing what I set out to do and soon enough I would be the athlete I once was.
While achieving my physical goals however, I was also facing another struggle. One I chose to ignore from the start of my journey. It was during those two weeks of my recovery that the emotions I had hidden for so long exposed themselves and I was forced to meet face to face with a side of myself I never wanted to encounter…