To my newly diagnosed reader…

Dear Reader,

Being diagnosed with Cancer is not an easy thing to swallow, and if I could share some words of wisdom I would say, “let yourself be”.

Of course, there are many other important things like taking notes, asking questions and informing yourself of other treatment options available to you. You would be amazed at whats out there. However, please keep in mind that not every treatment option is the right one for you, which is why I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your own research.

Still, for me the hardest part was allowing myself the freedom to openly feel the way I was feeling in that moment without judging myself.

I would understand if your first thought was that this isn’t really relevant to your care however, it’s actually a key component. Not honoring my feelings made me realize the unrealistic goal I had set for myself. I couldn’t accept the urge to cry, feel sorry for myself or even feel anger because in my mind these were signs of weakness and/or being ungrateful. This emotional roller coaster eventually made me feel physically ill.

The truth is, these are all natural emotions, and you having them doesn’t make you less appreciative for the good things you have in your life. I say this because we’ve all heard the good old saying, “it could be worse”. I do feel it’s true and I use the phrase regularly, only now however, I do a better job of acknowledging that I am also human and am allowed to have a bad day here and there, as long as I also do my best to acknowledge the good that has come from my journey with breast cancer.

My “gift with a pink ribbon” taught me that I am stronger than I had ever imagined. I also believe that this may be gods way of using one of his social butterflies to help others by sharing my story and I am humbled to play such a vital role in bringing awareness.

So with that said, I leave you with this…

Free yourself from your emotional binds and know that it’s okay to feel what you are feeling in this very moment. It will take some time to figure it all out and that’s okay. The important thing is that you embrace each moment as an opportunity to love yourself and who you are in that moment, all judgement aside. This will help you cope with the new challenges that come your way, knowing that you have yourself on your side of the cancer battlefield, instead of working against you.

With all my love,

Elizabeth  P 🙂 ❤

P.S. Sending a special thanks to Cure Forward for encouraging every survivor to share their cancer journey with new patients.

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 🙂

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 🙂

What do you eat after cancer?

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. 

Information was gathered directly from the Sabra website. Sabra was my favorite brand for hummus until I started making it on my own, to avoid all unnecessary chemicals. :)
Information was gathered directly from the Sabra website.
Sabra was my favorite brand for hummus until I started making it on my own, to avoid all unnecessary chemicals. 🙂

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.

Photo taken by  http://operaflute.blogspot.com/2014/05/everglades-pedal-no-2.html Guanabana (aka Soursop) has become one of my top favorite fruits. I eat it everyday, usually in a shake. :)
Photo taken by
http://operaflute.blogspot.com/2014/05/everglades-pedal-no-2.html
Guanabana (aka Soursop) has become one of my top favorite fruits. I eat it everyday, usually in a shake. 🙂

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.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Happily moving forward…

Last Thursday I finally established with a new gynecologist here in Miami. It took a while to get in, but so far I’m pleased with her approach. She looked over my medical records and immediately followed up on my pelvis. She ordered another pelvic ultrasound and a CA125.

The CA125 was going to be used to determine my baseline, and monitored for any abnormalities. Last night I received those results through my patient portal, and was pleased to see that my score came back at a 10, placing me within normal range. This was great news and a huge relief.

Today, I went to have my follow up ultrasound done. I feel confident that the results of the test will come back normal too. I should know for sure within a few days.

I did also receive a call from Moffitt yesterday afternoon, however, the results of the genetic testing were still not available. I was told it would take anywhere from 2-3 weeks, so they feel I should have some answers by the end of the week.

All in all, I’m happy that everything is coming together so well. It allows me to stay focused on moving on with my life. Though, I’m reminded everyday of this experience when I look at myself in the mirror, I’ve started to adjust and accept the changes that have occurred as a result of it.

Thanks to an insane amount of vitamin E, I feel my scar as healed so well since November 2013.
Thanks to an insane amount of vitamin E, I feel my scar as healed so well since November 2013.

My scar isn’t something to be embarrassed about, it’s a beautiful reminder of one of the most important experiences of my life. An experience that changed my life for the better and brought me closer to the person I want to be…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

A short update on my where abouts…

So as my story catches up to present day, I’ve found myself reaching a “writers block”. Sure there are things going on, but nothing major worth writing about. At least that’s what I thought. Then I remembered, this is a story about my journey, that includes the bad, the good and even the boring. With that being said, I thought I should at least update you on what’s been going on.

I’m still in the process of interviewing for the right job. Not that offers haven’t come to the table. I’m just still waiting for the one that will meet my needs as well as my new employers. It’s been a tough process going into a new field, especially because of the fact that most people can’t see beyond what’s written on a résumé, but there have been some great people that have taken the time to sit with me and truly see what I have to offer. I feel like I’m getting close though. I just need to continue to keep myself open to different opportunities and have faith that the right person will see my potential. If there’s anything my journey with breast cancer had taught me, it has been to be open to new experiences and not be afraid to try something new.

My recent trip to Moffitt Cancer Centers for more genetic testing & counseling...
My recent trip to Moffitt Cancer Centers for more genetic testing & counseling…

On another note, about 2 weeks ago I drove to Tampa again for some more genetic testing. I should have received word by now of my results but the phone has been silent on that end. I’m not scared of anything coming up positive. I suppose it’s because I’ve been told that if it did turn up positive, it only means I will need to make adjustments in my preventative care plan. To be frank, knowing what could potentially happen before it does is a huge advantage. It gives you the opportunity to do whatever you can to prevent it from occurring.

                                                                            

Icare Registry Questionnaire, completed and out for mail...
Icare Registry Questionnaire, completed and out for mail…

On that same day, I volunteered myself for the icare registry. It’s for cancer patients who would like to be notified of any new studies they can partake in. Of course, it has other benefits too, but that was the one that was most important to me. If there is something I can do to prevent someone from going through what I did, sign me up! I realize it’s a small step, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

 

The End of an Amazing Vacation…

That night, after visiting Machu Picchu, we explored the city for the last time before heading back to Cusco the next morning.

Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. :D
Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. 😀

The following morning we took the train back to Cusco and settled into our hotel.

Arriving back into Cusco...
Arriving back into Cusco…

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)

Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! :)
Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! 🙂

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…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Machu Picchu…

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.

It almost fits in my hand...lol j/k :)
It almost fits in my hand…lol j/k 🙂

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.

Enjoying the spectacular view :)
Enjoying the spectacular view 🙂

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.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂