Feeling Good!


Spending an afternoon at Marymount during my internship!

My rocks!

My rocks!
Wouldn't be where I am without my parents!


Walking for my Masters. An interesting book end as this all started when I graduated from undergrad!

Awesome Nurses!

Awesome Nurses!
After my port removal and saying goodbye to my chemo nurses before moving away from Michigan. Wouldn't be doing that without them!

Last Chemo

Last Chemo

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Something to remember and return to. A good day!

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Feet Back Under Me: Teenage Plans VS Reality.

Tonight, as I sat at my kitchen table and paid bills, I found myself thinking back to my teen years and how I thought about what my life would be like.  I don't remember all the scenarios that went through my head as I had a very, over active imagination!  There may or may not have been a hope to find myself transported into a magical fantasy land that was some combination of Narnia and Middle Earth!  Lol!

It is interesting though to look at what I thought would happen vs reality.

Teenager Plan:  Be an actress.
Reality:  Tried out for a play in college and couldn't stop laughing through the whole tryout!!  I was horrible!!  But I found out in college that I had a talent for working back stage as stage manager!

Teenager Plan:  Be an author.
Reality:  I still love to write and have so many stories I have started but haven't finished.  I feel like this is still a plan that could happen.  One of these days I will get the stories inside of me into books!  And maybe turn one of my blog series into a book too :).  Not giving up on this one teenage me!

Teenager Plan:  Get married young and have a big family.
Reality:  38 years old and not married.  Hurting still from a break up that I knew I had to do for me.  Still in love with that man.  As for a big family, well, adopting and fostering is my hope for the future.  Started to seriously look into both options as of a couple months ago.   Easier to write than to do but a family, and maybe even a big family, I think is still in the cards for me.  As for marriage, I suppose I have a lot of work to do on myself before that can happen :).

Teenager Plan: Be a singer.
Reality:  On occasion I can hit some pretty high and on key notes.  But a Grammy is not in my future!  Lol!

Teenager Plan:  Be a teacher:
Reality:  I was actually a teacher for one year!  I was hired to teach Creative Writing and ended up also teaching religion, spelling, and english.  I was planning to go back into teaching once I finished my undergrad degree in English Literature.  I even had a very promising interview process happening for a position as an English Teacher when I was diagnosed with cancer.  I had to pull myself out of the process (and I believe I had made it to the final round) when I had to go through chemo.

Teenager Plan: Own a house in the country by the time I was 25.
Reality:  38 and finally feeling like I can look for a house comfortably and on my own time schedule instead of just window shopping or desperately trying to find something to live in bigger than a studio apartment (buying would have been cheaper living when I was in Florida).

So many ideas went through my mind as a teenager as to where I would be when I was older.  For some reason the magic age for me was 25.  I felt like I would have my whole life figured out by then!  I would have to say that only in the last four years (since having cancer) have I stopped putting age limits on goals.  It is funny what seems old and established when you are in high school.  Very little turned out how I thought it would.    But that's ok.  So much more happened that was good that I never even imagined as a teenager.  And maybe as a teenager I would have said to my older self "Are you nuts!?"  A sentence I am sure my parents, family and friends stopped themselves from uttering...most of the time :).

So maybe my life didn't turn out as I planned.  Maybe the rest will be different than I think even now. All I know is I want to live it...whatever may come.  Create my adventures, open my life up to God's Will.  Do what I can for others and smile every day, even those times when my heart is hurting.    Because even though my teenage plans may not have come about as I had hoped, a pretty full life of 38 years is behind me to think back on and remember.  My present and future life, for however long God wants me here, is wide open in front of me for all the experiences, laughter, tears and surprises the Good Lord has in store for me!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Feet Back Under Me: I Found it!!

When I was in 8th grade a lot was happening. My older brother Peter was diagnosed with cancer for the first time and I had started homeschooling after begging my mom for years (kids can be cruel with teasing and I got it daily in school).  One other thing happened that was so small in comparison but still is a part of my life today. My mom was given a flute and some beginner instruction books. I asked her if I could try playing it and she told me I could. Over the next year I slowly taught myself the basic fingering and what fingering was what note. I started playing some simple music by ear and would write the letters of the notes above them in the melody of other songs. I was never great and probably never got beyond beginner status but I loved it!!!

Playing the flute was a peaceful thing for me. I wouldn’t call it an escape but more of a release. It was calming for me when I had no control over anything. I had to grow up fast at 14 because of my brother’s illness. And I was far from perfect at my new responsibilities. But whenever I picked up that flute I didn’t care.   And that flute has stayed with me ever since.

I have Moved a lot over the past couple of years and when  I finished grad school the flute got packed in a box and put into storage. Tonight as I was cleaning out some boxes, desperately trying to make my bedroom feel more comfortable and homey, I found my flute! It is in sad need of cleaning and probably new stops but I played it for a few minutes and was reminded of how much I loved playing and how soothing the sound was to me.   I think I needed to find it tonight so that I could once more have that release and calm that always came with playing my flute.

So thanks mom!  I feel like I absconded with your flute long ago and I am grateful you let me!  Love you!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Feet Back Under Me: Scary and Sad Moments

It has been a while since I have written.  Some of that time has just simply been filled with every day life.  But some of that time was also filled with a terrifying doctor's visit and personal sadness.  I needed some time to process and I am certainly not done processing and dealing with it all but I am to the point where I think writing will help me.

A week ago I had a follow up visit with my doctor due to an abnormal pap.  My first one since cancer by the way.  What I was told over the phone by a nurse or someone making the appointment was that I had one thing (not cancer) and that freaked me out.  I won't go into details.  Suffice to say it gave me more than a few restless nights and I did everything I could to not think about it because it seemed impossible.  Turns out I was right.  It was impossible.  I was given the wrong information over the phone.  The doctor was in fact having me come in because the abnormal cells that were found were low grade cells.  Meaning if they found more that day during the closer exam they would be considered high grade cells and that would have been a one way ticket to an oncologist.

When this was explained to me as I sat on the exam table I will be honest...I started crying and then started to try to stop myself from crying which resulted in painful hiccups and sounding like a lunatic trying to ask questions and not being able to think or see strait.  I freely admit, at 38, I wanted my mom!  The doctor was very kind and understanding and consoling.  She told me to let her do the exam and after that there would be a clearer picture and more information.  Probably the longest five minutes I have experienced in a long time.  A million things flew through my brain.  A thousand possibilities and outcomes crowded the space and it felt like, for those five minutes, my world was crashing down around my head again.  Praise God she did not find anymore abnormal cells in the exam!  All clear for one more year!  It took most of the rest of the day to bring my blood pressure down but I was relieved and also a little numb as well as terrified.  But as I said I have been processing that experience and working through it.

Another thing that happened last week was a realization that had been growing inside me that you can love somebody with your whole heart and want them to be the one and still realize that as much as you want that, you see there are just too many fundamental differences between you.  At which point, continuing on would not have been fair.  I know that for me it was the right choice but it was certainly not an easy one.  And he is in my prayers every day.

So last week was a one, two punch.  But I have been praying a lot more and entrusting everything into God's hands as well as leaning on two good friends.  It is all hard to articulate.  It is this painful feeling of missing someone I loved but have to let go to be fair to them and me, as well as trying to not let those terrifying memories of cancer overwhelm.  It's about remembering that I am ok and there were no cancer cells.  I think it is also about praying and focusing on the future and deciding to keep moving and not let my feet be knocked out from under me again.  I don't know where my personal path will lead to right now but I am holding on pretty tight to Jesus at the moment.  So I am asking for some prayers please and assuring you all of my own prayers!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Feet Back Under Me: Processing Doctor's Appointment.

First and foremost I have to make sure I say that my most recent doctors appointment was routine and so far uneventful as for tests.  The normal yearly tests were run and are being sent off for results.  No concerns.  What I had to spend a few days processing before writing was a long conversation my new doctor and I had concerning genetic testing.

I learned when I was starting chemo that I was genetically predisposed to the type of cancer I had, Endometrial Cancer, as well as re-occurances.  I remember a doctor asking if I had been tested for the BRCA gene.  I had not and at the time to even think of it was beyond overwhelming.  I didn't think about it since because none of my other doctors have brought it up.  One said they wanted me to get a base line mammogram because my grandmother had breast cancer and cancer in general seems to run in my family.  I was not able to get one because I was told by every place I went to that I was too young.  So when I hit 40 in less than two years, I will be in line for one.  At any rate, my doctor last wanted to talk about the BRCA gene.  I said I hadn't been tested and she seemed worried by this given my history and my family history.  She is looking into seeing if my insurance will cover it because of some other family history.  I know it is not a cheap test and if my insurance can't cover it then I guess I won't be getting the test.

What was hard to process for me was that this doctor seemed very concerned that I did not know if I had the gene.  And this forced me to think about what might come up if I am tested and found that I have that gene.  How would I handle it?  Do I even want to know if I have it?  Is there anything I can even do about it?  I managed to work myself into a stressful spot that day.  And then, I took a deep breath.  Something I have to work on with myself is how much stress I allow in my life and how much I let it feed on my fears and worries.  And I can't let this feed.

There are no signs to cause concern.  And if I can't afford the test then I just stay vigilant with my breast exams and make an appointment for November 21, 2019 to have a mammogram.  And I set it aside and not let it stop me from living my life.  But it did make me hesitate in writing for a few days as I wanted to make sure I didn't spill out that fear and stress but rather looked at it in a way that would help me.

I have some big things I am looking into that I will share with you all soon.  Big life changes of the happiest kind!  So, I am putting my stress and fear of this BRCA gene into God's hands right now, since there isn't much I can do about it at the moment.  I really believe He has had a plan for me all along.  He has been watching over me and filing me with strength and grace when I need it and He will keep doing this.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Feet Back Under Me: Sewing for People I Love!

I love to sew!  Not so much clothes.  For some reason clothing patterns and I have an antagonistic relationship!  However, sewing blankets and tote bags and aprons...pretty much those crafty items, is therapeutic for me and a funnel for my stress!  When I sewed 30 some mini totes for gift bags for a former co-worker's surprise baby shower, my supervisor at the time felt compelled to ask me just how stressed out I was!  Well, 30 mini tote bags in one week kind of stressed!

I haven't gone on a sewing bender in a while now!  Lol!  I do have a blanket started and two baby blankets planned to put together soon for friends.  Tonight I was looking at my tubs (yes tubs!) of fabric and finished crafts and wondered when I will be able to make blankets for my own kids.

A couple years before I was diagnosed I was sitting at my desk working on homework for an undergrad class and my mind seriously started to wander.  I couldn't tell you what the lead up to this decision was but I decided then and there that once I was secure and stable, I was going to adopt wether I was married or not.  I always wanted children and I was tired of waiting.  I felt completely at peace with this decision and I wonder sometimes if it wasn't the Good Lord putting that into my heart and mind because He knew what was coming.

I am not saying that the inability to carry my own baby for 9 months under my heart doesn't tear that very heart out of my chest.  It does every time I think about it.  But then I remember that I had made the decision to adopt two years before this all happened.  So while I sew these blankets and little gifts for the people in my life that I love...I can't wait until someday I am sewing them for my little children that I opened my heart to that day I made the decision to adopt.  I have faith that God will send them to me and send me to them.  And when that happens, I will have plenty of blankets made by my hand to wrap them in and hold them close.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Feet Back Under Me: Why Am I Still Counting??

For a year I wrote a blog entitled 365 Things To Smile About during a particularly difficult time a couple years ago.  It made sense to count as I wanted to post every day something that made me smile and pulled me out of my worries, frustrations and stress.  Before that I would have countdowns on calendars until I went on trips or countdowns to finish chemo.  It helped me get to a destination.  A concrete place in time.

Tonight I was thinking about what I was going to write and I actually felt stressed out!  Lol!  Which blew my mind as this blog is supposed to be a way for me to relax and an outlet.  It isn't a count down for anything.  Then I realized that right now, there is no more need for a count down to a better time in my life.  It's just life.  Sure, I am probably going to continue to set myself goals to meet because I always want to be doing more in my life.  But not frantic goals and not anything that requires a countdown.

Its real day to day life now.  And I will be honest...that feels a little scary.  I know that sounds odd but its true.  I have been going at such a pace since I was diagnosed.  I felt the only way I could get through things was in part through counting the days.  Putting another day BEHIND me.  Now, it's looking forward to the next day with a positive outlook.  Yes, I am going to have those scary doctors appointments still.  In fact, I have one this week.  But it isn't as scary now.    My imagination of course takes flight whenever I have to see a doctor.  I think we all have that experience.  But that is a different kind of scary.  

The scariness of day to day life with no need to count the days and put them behind me is because I dare to have real, honest hope again that I won't have to go back to putting days behind me.  I don't know how to explain it honestly other than I feel like if I can stop counting things I can start really living in the present with an optimistic eye to the future.  The fear was always getting a career or relationship and then having to leave them all.  Except, that isn't a part of my every day life anymore. So I am going to stop counting things unless it is an amazing countdown!  Like a countdown to adopting or a countdown to getting married.   Neither of which is on the horizon right now but...you never know!

So I am altering a little of this blog to stop counting the days and just living the days and writing my thoughts and experiences.  I feel like theses blog series kind of change with me.  Maybe some day I can look back and see a good progression and hopefully a good story too!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Feet Back Under Me Days 5 & 6: Desire, Adrenaline & Acceptance.

I feel like I often find myself thinking and saying the words "I use to..." and then insert activity afterwards.  One of those activities that has become frustrating when I want to take a long trip (or sometimes a short one!) is driving.  I have to back up and explain something first about my relationship with driving.

I was born with an eye condition called Ocular Albanisim.  Basically it is a mutated gene (hello X Men!  Just without the cool powers!) that affects my ability to create melanin and therefor stops my body from producing pigment.  Hence the pale skin that burns easily, the blue eyes that are hurt by bright light and the blonde hair that chemo gave a little more dash of red to.  It affects my eyes through nystagmus, stigmatism and reduced visual acuity.  My parents were told when I was a baby that I would be lucky to tell day from night.  Well, apparently God had other plans.  While acuity can improve in kids with albanisim up to about age 7 or 8, mine continued to improve into my teen years.  It fluctuates a line now and then depending on if I am in school or not and the amount of eye strain I have but with correction, it improved enough for me to be able to safely drive.

I will admit it took me a long time to trust myself since most of my life it was made painfully obvious to me that I didn't have the same vision as everyone around me.  My parents gave me everything I needed to succeed and always encouraged me to keep reaching and not let my vision be a reason to give up.  After a demoralizing experience at 16 with a bit of a jerk driving instructor who didn't like home schoolers or people with disabilities (I struck out twice!), I eventually got my license in my early twenties.  And my first car about a year later.  It took time but eventually I found myself driving back and forth from Virginia to Michigan.  I would hit the road in the evening and drive through the night along the turnpikes when the traffic was light.  That was about an 11 hour drive for me since I didn't have a lead foot and stopped for breaks.  But I did it without blinking.

After treatment I slowly started driving again and it took a while to build up my stamina.  Desire and adrenaline were two main things that got me places and through events for about a year or two after I finished chemo.  It still does today.  I guess the frustrating thing is even today, I have a max limit of about 3 hours driving time before my body and my eyes become too tired and I have to pull over for several hours of real rest.  And that drives me crazy!

I don't like limitations on myself.  My parents raised me to be independent and to find ways around what most people in this world would call limits.  And I always found ways.  And I suppose with driving a great deal of what keeps me going is desire to reach my destination and the adrenaline of the excitement of what is taking me to that destination.  But there is a third ingredient; acceptance.  And this is truly the hardest to put into the mix.  I have built up the stamina in my body to do my job which requires a great deal of driving but never more than an hour and a half or two hours tops one way.  Then I am out of the car and working with my clients and just pumped over the progress we make that the drive to the next client or back to the office isn't hard.  The difficult part where I have to stir in acceptance is when I make weekend or vacation plans.  A work week takes a toll on me now and come the weekend, I want to relax and have fun!  Which generally requires driving.  This is when desire and adrenaline have to be tempered by acceptance that maybe, just maybe, now and then I have to take a weekend off.  Or plan that weekend around the stamina my body has after a long week.

It 's one of those affects of everything I have gone through that will never be back to how it was before but I know I am not alone in those things in life.  It's frustrating that something cases my eyes and body to become tired so quickly in comparison to before.   Its frustrating that my brain won't recall words when I need it too more often than someone my age should be dealing with.  The short term memory moments are a treat too!  And lord help me, the hot flashes, cold flashes!  I am just grateful that the flash backs are not as often or as intense all the time.

But then I wake up to my alarm, head to work, drive to my first client of the day and look at all the beauty around me.  My three ingredients to deal with the after affects of chemo start to blend together; Desire to be at the work I do, adrenaline from helping my clients move forward and succeed and the acceptance that it's ok that my life isn't the same.  It's my life and I am blessed to have such a good life.  

Desire, adrenaline and acceptance...the often difficult but effective recipe I have cooked up over the past four years.  Give it a try and let me know what you think! :)