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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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! :)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Feet Back Under Me Day 4: Tasting New Food!

How many of you fought constantly changing taste buds?  How many still do?  One of my frustrations are my taste buds!  What tasted good one day doesn’t the next. I have even gone from hating yogurt most of my life to loving it for a couple years and then from one bite to the next, I don’t like it again!!  Go figure!

One of the things I use to love doing is trying new foods from different countries.  Recently I had Korean food at a friends wedding and loved it!!  Then tonight I saw a place called Cafe Rustico and decided I would try Russian food for the first time!!  I was not dosappointed!  Lol!  I can’t remember the name of what I had  but it was three giant meatballs made of pork and beef in a cream sauce with a special hard and soft noodles around it!  Very, very good!!! Thank you taste buds for behaving tonight!  Hoping more delicious, new food is around the corner!  What are some of your favorite ethnic foods?!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Feet Back Under Me Day 3: Small Towns!

Having gone from a bustling city in the land of sun showers to a small, historic town has been so great!  One thing about it is just how close everything is sometimes.  I say "sometimes" because having to go over the pass to a bigger city to find stores like Best Buy or my personal favorite, JoAnn's Fabrics, is a necessity.  However, a good coffee shop, grocery store, quaint downtown, delicious restaurants and my own home are pretty much in about three or four miles of each other!

Tonight I had to swing downtown after work and worked briefly on finding an address.  I couldn't help but laugh that the address was a half a block search from where I parked on a cross street.  And as I found the address I was looking for I discovered my little town has a beautiful Jewish temple tucked into its streets.  I feel like I never know what I will find next!  As I wound my way through the narrow streets I realized that after only three and a half months, I am using my GPS less and less and almost never down town.

I love that I can walk from my church to the Amtrak station on the other side of down town in about five minutes or so, depending if I take the detour to get a coffee or not.  I don't really know people outside of work in this town yet but when I previously spent a half an hour walking in and out of shops on the main street, I was greeted with smiles and kindness and many welcomes when I said I had recently moved to town!  I want to get involved with my community here and get to know people  and be able to wave at people I see on the street and help out around town.  Corny, yes, but I haven't felt such a welcome and generous spirit in a community in a long time.  Cheers to small towns!  Can't wait to get to know it better!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Feet Back Under Me Day 2: Making Plans That Happen!

I am someone who likes to try a lot of things and explore.  BC (which will from now on represent "before cancer") I would get into my car and just drive and see where I would end up.  When I lived in Virginia before, this often took me to out of the way Battlefields to hike.  I loved doing this and I loved making plans with people or by myself to go to new places and old favorites.  I stopped doing that even after I got the energy back to drive longer than a half an hour without shaking from exhaustion.  I don't know why I stopped.

I wanted to do everything I use to do.  But for some reason there was a block.  I would sit on my bed when I was living in Florida telling myself that I was an hour away from the Atlantic Ocean and I needed to just book a hotel room and walk on the beach and explore the shops around there.  That I was only an hour or so from NASA and my love of all things space related was yelling at me to spend the $50 and go on a tour.  But I literally couldn't get myself to move!  Towards the end of my time down there I was finally able to admit that it was probably due to almost crippling depression.  I think the only thing that got me out of bed in the morning to go to work was because my love and excitement for the work I do was stronger than the depression.  Then the weekend would hit and often I would not get out of bed.  I tried to sound happy or talk about all these plans I had to explore the Sunshine State over the phone to friends and family.  And then I would hang up and roll over, saying that I would get up in a few minutes and do more than wander around the tiny 400 square feet I lived in.  That wasn't me.  I don't recognize that person.

Since coming up here I have made plans and hung out with friends and my hike on the mountain pass was my first step back to doing those things I use to do all the time.  It opened something inside me again.  Then yesterday I saw someone who I met when I did my internship.  She became a friend on my first day back then when she saw my port scar (which was pretty fresh from the port removal only a couple months before) and smiled so brightly and said "You had a port!"   and then gave me a big hug!  She was a survivor too and that was it, we were friends!  We had talked about going hiking when I moved up here last fall and I was still breaking out of the bad habit of saying I was going to do something and then rolling over, physically and metaphorically.  Yesterday I told her about my small hike on the pass.  We decided that come March we were going to do some marching on a hike!  And I know it is going to happen because that something that got closed off inside of me and ignored is opening again and I really and truly want to explore again and see what new places and things I can find!  Don't just make plans...make plans and then make them happen!  Here is to a hike with my friend next month and many, many more adventures with my friends and family or even just myself!

Here is a challenge to my fellow fighters and survivors and anyone else who wants to participate.  Big, small or in between, have an adventure and do something new and let me know what you do!  comment on the blog or post where you read this and challenge others as well.  Go to the movies, take a hike, explore a new town, start learning a language, take pictures of your life and make a book...anything!  Maybe if we share those plans with each other we can encourage each other to not roll over in bed and put it off.  We can encourage each other to keep walking (not running!) forward and living life!  Then maybe I can put all the adventures and plans into future blogs and share them around!!  On your mark, get set, GO!