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, November 2, 2016

My New Normal Days 74, 75, & 76. Scared.

The past few days I have been struggling with something I have to do.  Part of getting my new job is also getting new health insurance.  And part of moving to another state is getting all new doctors.  I considered trying to stay with my doctors I had previously if they took my insurance but that is a lot of traveling back and forth and sending of scans and records back and forth.  And taking time off of work.   And that could get pricey.  As much as I don't want to leave my oncologist, I know it just makes more financial sense and is easier.  But it is also harder.

Tonight I finally sat down and forced myself to get online and start looking into my options down here.  I will freely admit that I called my mom to help get me jump started into doing this.  And I also admit that I was fighting a loosing battle to keep back the tears and anxiety and overwhelming fear that started to fight for top billing inside me!

As I started scrolling through the doctor's names on the screen, trying to decide which direction to go since I couldn't find the one doctor that had been recommended by a nurse down here.  Finally I just went to the website for the Florida Cancer center here in Orlando and sent a request for contact form in.  And I was shaking pretty hard as I did it too.

Three years later and just the thought of starting this process is overwhelming.  I can feel every mile between me and the people I love and wish were here with me.  Even my brothers who are only a couple hours away.  Because this is the first time I have had to tackle this alone.  No one to turn to and hug after I hit send.  No one I can just sit next to and feel them next to me and just let it all sink in that I can't pretend it isn't still happening anymore.

I just have to vent for a second and say...THIS ISN'T FAIR!  THIS COMPLETELY SUCKS!  I shouldn't have to be worrying about this.  I shouldn't have to be scared or anxious.  It's times like this where I feel overwhelmingly angry at everything I have to do and everything I have lost!  Of all the children I'll never get to have because of this stupid, horrible thing.  And it's just not fair!

I know I try to be upbeat and positive in these blog posts but for right now, for this post, I'm just angry and hurt and anxious and scared.  I know the chances of getting a bad result when I finally have all my tests is a low percentage.   But so were the odds of me having this cancer in the first place and then having it move to another organ.  I know people want to hold me up and say all the words that are supposed to make a person feel better.  But sometimes those words can't make it through.

And now I am going to take a deep breath and wipe my face dry and curl up in bed with Netflix and remember that tomorrow I get to go do work that always brings a smile to my face.  I get to see the client's I work with and laugh with them and talk with them and encourage them and try to be there for them when they are having bad days too.  And I am determined to not let anything happen that will stop me from doing this work.  I'm going back to being positive and upbeat now.  But thank you for letting me break down a little on here.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

My New Normal Days 72 & 73. Godfather Marathon!

As I sit here, I am watching the third Godfather movie!  Lol!  I found all three movies for sale for $12 Saturday morning at Walmart and though, I need a veg out weekend!  Lol!  Nothing more relaxing than the Godfather movies!  LOL!!

OK, I know thats a little nuts!  But they are a classic and some of my favorite movies!!  I was introduced to them by my brother Peter talking about them and it made me curious!  I about fell over laughing when I found out that the ring tone for his boss (who I believe was Italian) was the theme song from the movie!  I wonder if she ever knew!  Lol!

Anyway, my weekend has been a quiet one.  Running errands, going to church and relaxing at home.  :)  Couldn't have asked for more this weekend!

My New Normal Days 69, 70 & 71. I Made it Through!

As described in a previous post, I had a rough and exhausted start to the week and so the rest of it was pretty much my thinking, "Put one foot in front of the other!".    Not only was I able to do that but I got more accomplished than I had planned!  Lol!  Don't me ask me how other than my Guardian Angel was watching over me!

One of the other things I had to do was fill out some paperwork that asked a lot of medical questions, including a list of every day activities and wether I could do them or not.  Like cook or dress myself or sit up.  Things that believe it or not I had to mark as "No" three years ago.  And as I looked at the list one evening after work I had to shake my head to keep my eyes open.  There was a section allowing me to expand on some of my answers and I thought in my head, "I am so exhausted after my day that I struggle to keep my eyes focused.  But I can honestly say that no matter how tired I am at the end of the day, I got through the day!".

I left work on Friday so tired I felt sick.  But after a rest I was able to get up and feel ok again.  I made it through!  I don't see another week to be as rough as this one any time soon.  But if it comes to it, I know I can do it.  I know I can make it through.

My New Normal Days 67 & 68. Do Not Close Your Eyes At The Red Light!

I can't believe I am using this phrase but...when I was younger...Ouch!!  Yes, I am now looking back on days.  Don't let this baby face fool you, I am not a young kid anymore.  I am not old either.  I am in that in between spot made worse by menopause and the after affects of treatment.  But I digress.  As I was saying, when I was younger I could drive all night, stay awake and spend the next day going strong at work.  And then stay up ridiculously late that night and still go strong the next day.  I can't do that anymore!  Lol!

I spent a lovely but quick weekend in Michigan with my folks and due to plane delays, I didn't get back into Orlando until almost midnight.  then I had to get an Uber, which proved more difficult than I had thought, and get my car from my office.  I seriously considered just curling up on the white couch upstairs in the office since I had to be back there at 7 in the morning.  But I got in my car and drove home and arrived around 1 am.  At which point my body fell exhausted into bed and my mind refused to turn off!  I couldn't fall asleep for easily an hour!

Needless to say the next day was ROUGH!  Lol!  I ended up with a full day which wasn't the plan.  But just before I left the Friday I tucked in an early appointment for Monday!  The good thing was, once I started to work with a client I woke up.  I still have an adrenaline rush when I work with a client and I am focused and awake and sharp.  Then I sit down again in my car and oh boy!!  This is when I confirmed a lovely new reaction.  Caffeine puts me to sleep!!!  So as I drove from client to client I went between freezing cold AC and blaring music to calling friends and family asking them to talk!  I distinctly remember at two red lights that are notoriously long thinking "I can close my eyes for just a moment!  Rest them some!"  Lol!  I did not though and I made it back to the office.  And there I had coworkers around and I perked up some more.  I will admit though, the first thing I did when I got home was to lay down and not move for a while!

So, when I think I am 24 again and have all the energy in the world, I have to remind myself that in fact, I am almost 37 and dealing with all these changes that drain me completely and I have to tell myself, take it easy!  Lol!  And whatever you do, don't close your eyes at the red light!!

My new Normal 64, 65 & 66. Fall Colors!!!

This weekend I went up to visit my parents for the weekend and attend a Tea with my mom!  It has become a tradition with us and we didn't want a little thing like me being on the other side of the country to stop it!  Lol!

It felt good to be in cool weather without a hint of humidity and to see all the brilliant colors of the trees!!  from yellow to oranges to reds to purples!  There was a symphony of color mixed in with the green that was still dotting the trees and fields!

I got a chance to visit with my grandma and just walk around the farm with my mom and dad and take silly pictures like the ones I have added below!  It felt so good to be back there for a couple days and just relax and rest and refocus!  I got a chance to have a taste of my favorite season and it sent me back to work feeling happier :).

Pictures described below:

Yellow fall colors on the trees lining the dirt road in front of my parent's house.

Mom and I dressed up and standing on the front walk before going to the Tea.

Me sitting on the John Deer tractor in the front yard in front of the small barn.

A selfie of dad and I in the front yard.

A selfie in the barnyard with an all white ram who is poking his nose at my glasses and face because I had stopped scratching him and he wanted me to continue!  Lol!

My New Normal Day 62 & 63. Something New :)

I have done something small for myself that I have not done ever.  I bought a brand new piece of luggage that I actually like for some trips I am taking this winter.  Just short ones so it was only a carry on.  Every piece of luggage I have ever gotten myself has been from Goodwill or Big Lots or Walmart.  Granted, I got this one online but it is a nice piece and I feel good when I look at it!

It might seem silly but for so long in my life I have been pinching pennies and robbing Peter to pay Paul.  And it isn't like I have a ton of money now.  But for the first time, I was able to buy myself a piece of luggage that isn't from Goodwill and it won't fall apart within the year!  Lol!  I'm not rich!  Far from it!  But I am able to do little things for myself now and then!  And that feels good!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My New Normal Day 61. Finding the Balance With Food

My whole life I have struggled with weight.  But before, if I put my mind to it, I could loose weight.  Slowly but steadily.  The past few years I have been struggling to loose even a single pound and keep it off!!!  I lost plenty of weight during chemo but I ca;;ed it fake weight loss.  I could barely eat and would loose 9 pounds in just a few days!  Not healthy and it always came back on as soon as I could keep down solid foods.  And forget eating healthy during treatment!  Very few things sounded good so whatever I could keep down I ate!  And it seemed to change with each chemo!  For a few weeks the only thing I could stomach were crescent roles with plane cream cheese on them!

Now, my eating habits have much improved and my exorcise has gone up and I have managed to tone some of my muscles but I haven't lost a single pound!!!  I've had long talks with my doctors and they have run tests but it always seems to come down to the same thing...it is very hard to loose weight during menopause!  And I truly believe that is a drastic understatement!

So, lately I have been trying to be more careful of what I eat.  And I can do well for a while and then I fall and have the dreaded carbohydrates of pizza and chips!  My stress food apparently!  And while the stress I have been feeling is more caused by being tired..in a good way...it is still triggering that desire for everything that is bad for me!  But I am determined and this morning I made a fruit smoothie for my lunch.  And by the time lunch came I was starving!  It was good in the moment but I freely admit, two hours later I felt like I hadn't eaten all day!!  Why does food that is good for you never seem to satisfy beyond the moment???

I am going to keep trying though and see if I can find the right combination of food and exorcise and defy the stereotype of not loosing weight in menopause!  Or at least I will if I would remember to bring my travel mug home with me so I can fill it with another smoothie!!!

Monday, October 17, 2016

My New Normal Day 60. The Tax Collector!!

There are so many things about Florida that just boggle my mind!  People's calm acceptance of reptiles all over the place.  The drivers that honestly seem to be on a mission to almost cause the most horrendous accidents and then somehow swerve out of catastrophe at the last second...for the most part.  (My language has gone down hill quite a lot since driving these roads!).  People thinking that I am insane for keeping my house at a barely comfortable 73 degrees (they seem to think I am trying to build an igloo indoors!).  And the most recent head scratcher is the name they have for their DMV.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, The Tax Collector!!

When my brother told me that was what Florida called the DMV I couldn't stop laughing!  So many images were fighting for top billing in my mind!!!  Biblical images of the money changers and despised and unclean tax collectors from the New Testament!  A poor, muddy village in the dark ages of England with soldiers enforcing the crippling tax of the King and protecting the oily and evil tax collector (who is always quite rotund in just about every movie that involves such a scenario!).  And most recently, I have had the image of a hulking wrestler taking the WWE by storm...hated and dreaded, cloaked in dark mystery, THE TAX COLLECTOR!!    Mwahahaha!!

Not quite what it was actually like this afternoon as I settled in, more than a bit stressed and jumping the gun about not getting a chance to be seen, for a long wait for my number to be called in the large room which had for some reason only browns in it's color palette (broken by periodically spaced pieces of electric blue felt for the background for ID photos).  I went in today and transferred my license and car registration to Florida and registered to vote.   My new Florida license was handed over to me and after I winced at my cringe worthy photo on it, I took a second or two and let it sink in that I am now a Floridian.  The state of rain out of a clear blue sky, lizards that fall on you without warning from trees (no, I will never get use to them!), home of Disney, NASA, beaches and infamous in history for hanging chads!  I wasn't quite sure how I felt about it all and so I tucked my license into my purse and headed out with my oh so snazzy paper plates for my car,

So yes, I am still processing the fact that I am a resident of the home of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofey and the whole gang.  But what will forever put a smile on my face is the ridiculous images in my mind now that I can say that I have paid The Tax Collector!  Lol!!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My New Normal Day 59. Post It Notes & Apps!

As I sat at my desk tonight thinking of what to write about, I glanced to the right and shook my head in frustration.  I bought my grand niece a little Minnie Mouse doll when I got down here because she is a big fan.  That was back in August and I still haven't remembered to mail it!!  I did get as far as picking up a priority mail box (that I think is just a little too small!) but that was over a month ago!

I am daily amazed at how my memory has become somewhat of a swiss cheese when it comes to some things!  I can remember the oddest things but unless I start to implement my post it note system at home I fear Minnie Mouse shall be decorating my desk for a long time!

I have found that if I physically write something down on a post it note and put it at eye level on my desk, I will remember to do the thing written on the note.  I am also working on the habit of using the Reminder app on my phone as well but so far post it notes get the quickest response still.

My frustration level of these memory problems can sometimes hit some pretty epic heights!  Three years later and I am still fighting the after affects.  I logically know that this is going to be a life long fight for me.  However, the emotional side of my brain is getting angry at itself for having to deal with it.  It doesn't help when people make gentle reminders that three years is a long time and I should have this figured out by now or that since I don't have the chemicals in me anymore than everything should be back to normal.  That makes me want to scream because the emotional side of me wants to agree with them and the logical side is just shaking it's head and saying "Never gonna happen."

I think that is one of the \biggest struggles I have these days.  I have gained back a lot of my stamina and energy.  And the adrenaline from loving my job always gives me a shot in the arm.  But this whole blog this year is me trying to understand and realize that what is normal for me now isn't necessarily what was normal for me before.  If I am having a difficult time figuring that out I am sure it confuses someone who has never experienced this.    That being said, I sometimes wonder if the people around me could understand and just accept how difficult this is and maybe not be overly cheerful and "encouraging" me to just keep pushing forward, maybe it would be easier?

I guess what I am saying is, this is hard enough for me to accept and learn to live with as it is and I think it would be easier if I wasn't constantly questioning myself because of comments made to me by people who think I'm just not trying hard enough, or think I am trying to garner sympathy or live in the past or who believe because there are no more symptoms than that must mean that all side effects are gone too.  All of these reactions coming at me make me constantly questions myself.  Which then makes dealing with these after affects that WON'T go away even harder.

But, I am trying!  And part of that means papering my desks with post it notes and setting reminders on my phone.  And when I am presented with a well meaning but very unhelpful and hurtful comment, I need to try to take a breath and not let the stress and anger and frustration flair up.  It does that on it's own whenever I forget something!  I need to remember all the people around me who do understand and don't push me but rather encourage me and help me find my way.  Like one of my brothers telling me tonight that he has noticed just how much stronger I am and how much more I am doing now in a very encouraging and loving way!  He didn't say, "See!  It's all over!"  But rather "Look at how far you have come!"

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My New Normal Day 58. Three Years Into the Rest of My Life.

This morning I woke up and looked at my phone and saw the date.  October 15.  My mind started to fill with memories and thoughts.  Three years ago today was my last chemo treatment.  Three years. It seems to be both a long time and hardly any time at all!  I don't remember every moment of that day, thanks to some of the swiss cheese left in my memory.  But I do remember a few things.

I remember I was concerned because my throat had been sore and they weren't sure until the last minute that they would allow me to start the treatment that day.

I remember just as the Benadryl was going into the IV my oldest brother and his wife walked in to the infusion room as a surprise.  They had come to be with me on that last day and hang out!  I was so excited and so worried too because the IV Benadryl made me more than a little loopy!  I would start talking uncontrollably but it sounded like I was a And the things that came to my mind were always odd thoughts!  Then I would pass out for about an hour and when I woke up I was just sleepy, not drunk anymore!  It was a great source of hilarity for my mom and nurses but for some reason I remember feeling so worried I might scare my brother and sister-in-law with my drugged ramblings!  I didn't of course but I think I was seriously over compensating trying to act normal!

I remember my mom standing next to me at one point, holding my hand and then putting her head down by mine on my pillow for a selfie!  Lol!  I remember my nurses coming in and out of my little cubby I claimed for each of my treatments.  I remember feeling happy and scared and trying not to think about how sick I was going to feel for the next week.

Each time this date has come up I have found myself to some degree or another feeling anxious and scared and I usually spent a good deal of time crying.  All I could do was relive the feelings of fear and being sick.  I could actually feel it all like it was that same day over and over again.

Today however was different.  As I looked at the pictures and posts I had put up that day three years ago (thank you Timehop) I felt myself starting to feel a new feeling.  One of gentle shock and disbelief.  As the day went by today and I spent a few hours hanging out with my little brother (who was an amazing support to me through all of it), I found myself almost marveling at how different everything is.  As I drove back to my home this evening I was talking to a friend and it struck me very hard just how much has happened.

Three years ago I was a rambling idiot, pickling her brain hoping it killed all the active cancer cells hiding in all the dark corners.  I was anticipating a week of feeling sick and so exhausted I couldn't life my head sometimes.  Now, I'm on the other end of the country from that infusion room.  I have a Masters and am certified in my field.  I am someone people turn to for help and information.  I am so busy running from one thing to the other with work that I only thought about what day was coming up only a couple times before I had to push it aside and focus on work.

I was amazed that I was able to push the thought of today aside so easily!  I didn't think I would be able to ever.  I'm not forgetting what happened to me at all.  I don't think I ever could or would really want to forget.  For me, remembering everything I went through keeps me pushing forward.  It keeps me wanting to enjoy life and find as many reasons as I can to smile!  But being able to set it aside and not let it consume my life every minute of the day feels like a huge relief!  I went through the week focused on my work.  The work I am able to do because I went through everything I went through!

I can't let myself forget what happened or I might start to forget to do things like take that ridiculous trip to Europe and go to see friends or the ocean or NASA.  I would forget that I have a pretty good reason to enjoy my life and find new experiences and do those things that might scare me.  But I want to be able to enjoy all of these new things without feeling that fear all the time.  And today, I was able to put that fear aside while still remember what day it was.  I'll never forget this day.  Every year it will come around and remind me just how much more life I have left to live!

Picture:  Two pictures side by side.  The left is of me on this day in 2013 in the infusion room smiling with my bald head covered in a pink bandana with yellow and green swirls on it.  On the right is a photo of me today with a small smile and my hair spilling down around my shoulders.

My New Normal Days 53 thru 57. Crazy Week Capped Off With a Spa Visit!

I realize I am cramming five days into one post but I also just realized that the last week just flew by in a haze of work and events and sleep!  Everything that had to be rescheduled due to the hurricane started making the week become a full and non stop time!  Add into that a couple days of meetings and it makes it all just a blur!  Thank goodness for Thursday afternoon!!

As the ending event to my teams two day retreat of meetings and White Cane Day events, we all had an afternoon at the spa!  Relaxing in massage chairs while getting a wonderful pedicure...even though I can't get through the pumps stone part without laughing so hard I can't breathe!  Drat my overly ticklish feet!!  Apparently a co worker recorded me laughing so hard I started crying and it was enjoyed by one and all!  Lol!!

Without that afternoon of relaxing and recovering from a crazy week, I am not sure I would have made it through the next day and the non stop, 12 plus hours!!  But the week is over and it was, all in all, a really great week!  At least the parts I clearly remember!  Lol!

Picture:  Myself and four other members of the adult services team relaxing in the wonderful massage chairs and getting pedicures during our spa afternoon!

Monday, October 10, 2016

My New Normal Days 51 & 52 Processing Anxiety

When I was going through the insanity of three years ago, I felt such amazing amounts of anxiety!  Everyone told me that is normal but for someone who's mind and body couldn't properly recognize or communicate anxiety for 30 some years previously, this was something I wasn't quite sure how to handle.  I think my parents would agree with me when I say I don't think I handled it all back then!  I just let it wash over me and held on to my parents for dear life!

But now, I don't have the immediate, looming specter of the daily struggle to keep my head up.  Now I am happy!  I have a job I love and am making progress in my field and meeting wonderful and amazing people through my clients and other opportunities.  But I have to say, I still feel anxiety to a large degree.  Primarily when things are changing in my life or when the unexpected in any negative, or perceived negative way comes into my life.  I didn't use to be that way!  The first time I actually felt that overwhelming anxiety I turned to my mom from my hospital bed and described it and asked her if it was something more on top of the confusion and fear of why I was hemorrhaging.  She very patiently explained that I was feeling anxiety and it was perfectly natural given the circumstances.  I also discovered that one pill to calm me down in that particular moment made me an entertainment act to my mom and friend Jennifer!  I guess I was absolutely dumbfounded that I could move my feet in a counter clockwise motion from the ankle!  Thats the only thing I remember but I guess there was plenty more!

It isn't that I have never felt annuity before.  It's just I never knew what it was and my mind simply wouldn't acknowledge what my body was trying to tell me.  Now, my mind is listening and I wish it wouldn't!  It feels like my mind is grabbing the anxiety my body feels with both hands and running in circles like a Looney Toons character yelling "Stress!  Anxiety!  Stress! Anxiety!  Stress!  Anxiety!"  (For some reason in my head, it's Daffy Duck doing this!).

I'm starting to learn how to deal with this and it isn't easy!  I am learning more about how I have changed because of it.  I jokingly told my dad today that the four day weekend the hurricane gave me drove me crazy and that I was happy to be back at work again because I missed my structure!  Then I thought about that joke and realized to a certain extent, it is true.  It's not that my life before didn't have structure but it certainly wasn't put together!  I flew from one thing to another, one place to another, one event to another and didn't see a big deal about it.  If my life was going to change my response was, "Let's hit the road.  No use sitting around waiting now that I know I need to make a change."  If life threw me a curve ball, I would wildly swing and maybe connect 50% of the time and run the bases anyway.  Some good things happened because I wasn't afraid of change or taking chances.  Some not so good things happened too but they didn't come close to the good that happened.

Now when life throws me a curve, I stand there wondering if this is the right time to swing or not.  And the anxiety comes rushing in.  I'm afraid of loosing control again I think.  And then I get mad at myself for not swinging and eventually I take a deep breath and I swing.  I keep my eyes open and fly my bat at the ball as hard as I can.  But now there is a fear and anxiety there that makes it hard to enjoy the moment.

I am learning to walk away from the little things that cause my anxiety.  Like turning off the TV after 45 minutes of hearing that Florida was about to wiped off the map!  It was literally making my stomach church.  Every time I see a new client I feel the butterflies in my stomach and somehow they start turning to lead weights.  So I remind myself why I am going to see this person.  That I can give them the tools they need to be confident and keep moving forward.  The butterflies start to come back but I associate those more with excitement:)  I find ways to combat the anxiety when ever I can and it seems to be working for the most part.  Taking the thing that is causing the anxiety one small piece at a time and realizing that I have to attack it piece by piece and before I know it, the anxiety has eased away.  It's not a 100% fix for sure.  But it is a way I am able to enjoy the changes in my life:).

Florida didn't get wiped off the map!  My clients are happy to see me and I'm happy to see them!  Even teaching orientation to college campuses is starting to be less terrifying!  Lol!  Because I am not letting my anxiety beat me.  Yes, I can get really scared.  But I can also see through the fear and anxiety and see the good.

Just give me some time to process when the anxiety hits!  It takes a minute or two to rein in Daffy!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

My New Normal Days 49 & 50. Hello Matthew.

I have found there are a lot of things to become use to since moving to Florida and right now I am experiencing something that never really came into my life before.  Hurricanes!  Hurricane Matthew has come a knocking and it seems like everything is revolving around updates from the news channels and warnings.  I will admit that I am more than a little nervous even though I am not in an evacuation zone.

The rain is starting to hit here and I can actually watch it all approach on the TV.  Possibly that is adding to my anxiety but at the same time, I want to know what is happening.  The worst isn't supposed to hit my area until about 3 in the morning.  So for now I am charging my devices and napping and really just watching news and chilling out.  With all the business involved in getting ready for the storm, now it's just time to sit and wait.  I don't like sitting and waiting!  Lol!

I am watching images from the ocean where the storm is starting to hit and I have to say, there is a frightening beauty to the images of the water building up.  The damage that can be caused by the water and wind is what makes it frightening, but if there was no one to be impacted by this storm, it would be an almost beautiful thing to watch,  The absolute strength of nature is awe inspiring!

But here I sit, only able to marvel for a moment at a time because outside my home is rain falling that will get heavier and faster,  Those moments of awe are quickly interrupted by worry for everyone affected by the storm.  I know my power will be going out and the damage in my area is going to be big...and I'm about an hour and a half to two hours off the coast!  The damage on the coast will be even more!  But still, a respect for the strength of nature is growing in me and the realization that even though it's frightening and dangerous, it's also frightening and dangerously beautiful!  The contradictions are amazing!

My prayers to all my neighbors here in Florida and asking for prayers from everyone that the damage isn't as bad as they are predicting!

My New Normal Days 47 & 48. SURPRISE!

I have said this many times and I honestly can't say it enough...I really have awesome brothers!  Not long ago I got a call from my brother Andy asking if I wanted to go out to an early lunch and he could be in Orlando before noon.  I said sure, really happy to get a visit in with my brother!  When he said he was looking for my building I went outside looking for his big 'ole truck.  A man pulled up on a motorcycle and started honking at me!

It took me a moment to realize it was my younger brother on a Hog!!  Lol!  One of my neighbors was watching me try to figure out who was honking at me and started calling out to me that I didn't have to go up to this strange man if I didn't want to and she even hung around watching as I recognized Andy and went running over and gave him a big hug with shock and excitement!!!  He was here to give me my very first motorcycle ride!!!!!!

With helmet in hand (after running to Walmart to buy a pair of tennis shoes) and my heart beating like crazy I approached this beautiful machine!!!  I was nervous for sure but determined to enjoy this experience!  Andy drove around my complex so I could get use to how to lean and hold my balance and it felt completely natural!

Then we jumped out on the road and headed out to find a place to eat!  I couldn't stop laughing!!!  The whole ride I was giving shouts and laughing working to catch my breath with the excitement!!! It felt so natural and thrilling to be on the bike!!!!!!  Send out big thanks and big hugs to Andy and can't wait to go on another ride!!!!!

Picture:  Selfie of Andy and I sitting on the bike with our helmets on!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

My New Normal Days 45 and 46 Pillows

One of the best inventions ever made was the pillow!  For the past two days I have been curled up in bed fighting some kind of sinus bug and am so very grateful for my pillows!  I have four of them.  Two are amazing, lavender scented memory foam, breathable pillows and two are fluffy pillows from the Furniture Store.  I realized this evening that different combinations of these pillows all around my head, shoulders, arms and back have kept me sleeping comfortably off and on for the past 48 hours.

My pillows are currently arranged to basically make a little, enfolding nook that I can crawl into and and immediately sink down and close my eyes.  When I stood up to go take a shower I turned on a light and had to laugh as it looked like a nest of pillows and sheets perfectly formed to fit me!  I am not a very good patient.  When I feel sick it feels like nothing in the world will ever go right.  And I really hate being sick alone.  But this little haven of pillows is helping me forget that train of thought and helping me rest and hopefully be back up on my feet again in the morning for another busy week of work...or at least a toned down version of it!

Friday, September 30, 2016

My New Normal Day 44. First Presentation!

Today was a first for me!  I gave a seminar to the heads of departments at a very large resort in Orlando to help educate them on how to work with an organization of the blind who will be holding a weekend conference there.  It was really exciting!  I got to educate people on blindness and low vision and it was a really great group at the seminar!  Really good questions were asked and problem solving on how to make accommodations.

What I loved is that I did it alone!  And other than the occasional tendency to talk a little fast now and then when I got excited, I think I nailed it!  There are certainly things I'll do differently next time and I know I can always improve.  But for my first time presenting and speaking on behalf of my field...I think it went pretty great!!

Picture:  The meeting room I spoke in.  Tables shaped in a U with black covers and green seats with the table I sat at facing the open end of the U.  My laptop is on my table and a place card with my name and company written on it!  I seriously considered asking if I could take the place card with my name as a remembrance but kept it professional and didn't.  I have the picture!  LOL!

My New Normal Days 42 & 43. Making Plans!

When I was going through treatments one of the things my mom and I would do to help get through it is talk about all the things I wanted to do when I had the ability to hold my head up again.  We made a lot of plans to do things that mostly involved traveling.  Going to Laura Ingalls-Wilder's grave.  Go to Prince Edward Island to see the inspiration for the Anne of Green Gables series.  There were a lot more plans but those two are the two that have stuck in my mind!

Then I started to get better and I jumped into Grad school before I was even recovered and haven't really stopped.  My life was on a certain path, and it was a good path and has taken me to where I am today.  But I realized that I didn't do even one of the things I had planned!  Then, as I was sitting at my table planning out how to switch from a once a month budget to a bi monthly budget (harder than it sounds!) I realized I could start making those kinds of plans again!  And I actually already have!

I have a trip to see my parents in the works.  I am also going to be spending my birthday with friends back home in Virginia!  Christmas in Michigan!  I'm planning a short trip to St. Augustine (about an hour and half away) to see friends in November.  I'm going to see one of my brothers tomorrow.  I am going to be going to NASA (again, only an hour and a half away!) as soon as I have a weekend!  I want to spend a weekend on the ocean this winter!  I am already making plans to go to two different conferences in my field next year!  And sometime in the spring I am going to meet friends in NYC to see Anastasia!  At least thats the plan!  Lol!

And I am working like crazy and budgeting and doing everything I can to make it all happen!  And even if in reality only half of it happens...I'm so excited!  Because I am MAKING PLANS!!  The door that I thought had slammed closed in my face is opening again.  Sure, this fall is going to have some rough times too.  I have to get a new Oncologist and go through scans and tests and the anxiety of waiting for it all.  But in the mean time, I am setting plans in motion and living my life to the fullest!  Doing what makes me happy!  And who knows, maybe I will still make it out west to Laura's prairies and north to Anne's beautiful island!

Picture:  The shore line of Prince Edward Island.  Waves rolling against red cliffs with green grass along the top and blue skies with wispy, white clouds.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My New Normal Day 41. Hello Freaky Kitty!

First of all, I have to say that it isn't even October yet and for the past week or so I have been driving by a house near my office that is so decked out for Halloween it is insane!  Really people?!?!  Can we keep our holidays in perspective?  Or at least in the month it occurs!?

That being said, I freely admit that I have been finding myself looking forward to passing this house for one big reason...emphasis on BIG!  Among the MANY decorations on their front lawn, these Halloween loving denizens of the fruity crazy nut house who celebrate too early, is a GIANT, house sized, blow up Black Cat standing guard with a creepy, cheshire grin plastered on it's helium filled face!  Don't believe me?  Check out the picture below!  It's unfortunately placed hindquarters come to the top of the house's window!  Imagine waking up to that image every morning!

However, I need to thank the over eager decorators for supplying me with an image that almost never fails to put a smile on my face!  And so, as I drove by trying to get to an open road that would let me into my office parking lot (Michigan road work has NOTHING on Orlando for "what the hell?!" moments!), I slowed to crawl at the light and snapped a picture of the feline that has gone from a god like creature in ancient Egypt, and friend to all witches, to a monstrously scaled lawn ornament in modern day North America!  Roll over in your graves pharos, witches and cat ladies and then laugh at the ridiculousness that grins before you!

Picture:  A house sized blow up Halloween cat among smaller blow up halloween decorations in the front yard of a house.

My New Normal Days 39 & 40. Getting Through Bad Days

We all have them, no matter what, bad days happen.  I think it is about how you are able to get through them and the people you are able to lean on.  Those days where it seems nothing goes right and then at the end of it you come home and for some unknowable reason, your key won't work in the lock!  And eventually you discover that was because the lock was changed and no one told you!

As far as I know nothing I did caused this to happen and more than likely the information about this (or a key to open the door) was simply forgotten to be passed on.  Maybe the person in charge of it was having a bad day themselves.  All I know was that coming home and not being able to get into my apartment ended up not being the straw that broke the camel's back for me.  It was my realization that I was initially looking to a person who couldn't or wouldn't give me the support I needed.  Last night Facebook was more important to that person I tried turning to than the fact I was locked out and upset and not feeling well.  Fortunately, another friend and a brother were right there to let me vent and offer some suggestions and make me laugh while I was growling in frustration.

Bad days are going to happen.  I guess I can take comfort in the fact that this bad day had nothing to do with cancer.  Its almost a relief to have a bad day that doesn't center around a life altering disease.  It doesn't make it any easier though.  So it really comes down to how we handle them.  I think there are a few ways to do this well.  First, turn to the people you know are going to actually be there and let you vent or check in on you.  Second, make sure there is ice cream in the freezer at all times! ;)  And I think most importantly, third, make the next day better.  Focus on the positive.  Find something to laugh about.  Look at the many blessings you have in your life.  And then take a deep breath, roll out of bed in the morning, and start the day new.  Realize you got through the bad day and that bad day doesn't have to take over any more time than it already has.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

My New Normal Days 37 & 38. FINALLY!!!

I was bummed this weekend because I had planned to go visit one of my brothers today.  However, due to my car slowly turning into a pool (leak to be fixed Monday!) the smell of mildew from the constant water on my floor has made my car just a little too much to tolerate for long periods of time...as I learned Friday after my third pull on my inhaler spending a total of 2.5 hours driving in Orlando traffic!  A two hour drive each way was more than my lungs could handle this weekend:(.

That being said, I finally, after weeks hunting and wanting to pull my hair out, I found a table!!!  That might seem small but let me set the stage a little.  One of the things that helps me relax is sewing on different projects.  I can have music or the TV or nothing at all going in the back ground and just get lost in the project for hours and I feel great!  I haven't been able to do this since April.  When I got down to Florida, I felt like I could finally get back to one of my ways to relax...once I could find a table.  This is when I started finding myself really missing my mini van and friends stronger than I am!  I had to pass on many a great deal because I couldn't lift the table on my own and I couldn't find a way to safely transport it with my little sedan.  And tying a table on the roof of my car, while the most often solution offered, was not something I was going to even try!

As I sat looking at my tablet this morning I continued my search through different furniture websites, looking for something that didn't cost an arm and a leg and could be delivered!  And there it was, a store less than two miles from where I lived with tables I could afford!!  With a puff on my inhaler I jumped into my car and headed down the road!  After walking through the bargain room a couple times with a very helpful sales lady, I landed on the table now nestled in the last open space in my apartment!  Lol!  My sewing machine is set up and after one quick trip to JoAnn's I will be able to get back to my sewing projects!

Picture: A large brown table with my sewing machine on it and pieces of different colored fabric around it.

My New Normal Days 35 & 36. Biker Chic at Heart!

One of the things most people don't know about me is my love for motorcycles.  I have wanted one since I was in high school!  No, I don't know all the different details about them and haven't actually had a chance to ever ride one (thanks to my little brothers telling their friends they couldn't take me on rides!) but I love them non the less!  When the engine roars to life I get a thrill down my spine!!!

Friday, after work, I walked outside and saw two motor cycles parked next to my car.  I went over to chat with the guys by them as two of the three were people I worked with.  One of the bikes was an Indian and I had often heard my brother extol the virtues of that particular brand of bike!  After a little bit of chatting I got the nerve to ask if I could sit on it.  A little note about bikes, it is highly and strongly recommend that any bike you ride, you be able to sit on it with both your feet flat on the ground.  It isn't a rule every one follows but seeing as I want to be as careful as possible when I do eventually get my own bike, I have it firmly fixed in my head that my feet must be flat.  When you are only about 5 feet 3 inches, and your legs are not the longer half of your body, finding bikes low enough that don't sound like a bumble bee that just inhaled helium is a challenge!  Not to mention finding one with enough power to be taken off the back roads and on to highways!

Imagine my absolute delight when I settled in on this 1100 cc bike (I had been told I wouldn't find much over 550 cc that I could fit on) and not only was it comfortable but I also had both feet flat on the ground!!  It felt great and balanced beautifully when I straitened it off it's kick stand!!  I couldn't stop laughing and the guys around me joined in at my elation!  One even kindly agreed to take my picture so I could send it to my brother!  Lol!  I just needed some sturdier shoes and my helmet from my apartment and I would have been begging for a ride!!  It was the best way to end my work week!!!

Picture:  Me sitting on the bike with it off the kickstand, my sunglasses on and a huge smile on my face!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My New Normal Day 34. Things I Never Saw Myself Saying!

I often hear my friends with kids repeat back the things their kids say.  I see the man posts on Facebook and I often find myself wiping tears from my eyes laughing at what is said!  I realized today that I am starting to say sentences, that while not as funny, are ones I never thought I would hear myself say!

For example, this morning I was trying to explain the concept of crossing at an all quiet and waiting for any masking sounds to pass by.  In other words, listen for when there are no cars coming towards you and no other ambient sounds that could be masking the sound of an approaching car.  As my client and I stood patiently waiting for an over head helicopter to pass by I was annoyed to see it start to circle back around before the sound had faded enough to not mask a car.  As I watched it circle us a third time I made a comment on it and my client calmly informed me that there are often helicopters looking for someone in the area.  I then realized that the big, razor wired fence I pass every time I visit this client is in fact a prison!  And the helicopters are searching for people who belong behind the scary fence!  In my frustration, as the helicopter circled a fourth time, I yelled up at it "He isn't here!!  Move on already, I need an all quiet!"  As my client was laughing at my frustration, we were both astonished to suddenly see the helicopter leave it's circling pattern and fly away!  As we settled down after about a minute of laughing the reason for the helicopter moving roared over head...stupid airplane!

Needless to say I have never found myself yelling at a helicopter before!  I am sure the neighbors, watching the crazy blonde chic following their neighbor around, were considering calling some of the rulers of the scary fence to come and check out why she was yelling at the skies! I have a perfectly logical answer.  I need the police to go hunt elsewhere so I can illustrate an all quiet crossing for my client so they can safely cross the street without relying on their eyes!  I mean honestly, isn't that reasonable?!  Lol!

Monday, September 19, 2016

My New Normal Day 33. New Confidence!

One of the things of starting in a new field are the new opportunities coming my way.  It is a small thing really and part of the job but I'm excited.  I am going to be giving an educational class to hotel employees who will be hosting a conference for people in the Blind Rehab field.  As many of my friends can attest, I love talking about my field but it has always been to friends.  Yes, educating, but not to professionals outside the field.  This is the first time that I get to educate and help spread the word about blind rehab.   I am feeling good and confident and excited!!!  Can't wait to get more opportunities like this!

In the past, I might have been passionate about something but I usually kept that passion only among friends.  Now though, I have a drive that I didn't have before.  I have a confidence that I lacked in myself when it came to something I really believed in.  I still struggle with confidence now and then personally but when it comes to my work...all the passion comes out whenever I get the chance!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

My New Normal Days 31 & 32. Some Day!

OI have been looking around for pictures to hang on my wall lately and hit a little pay dirt over the weekend!  One of the pieces was a canvas print of what I think is a Venice canal with buildings.  I have a dream to be able to travel Europe some day and this print is a reminder of that for me. :)  It is something to work towards and save towards.  And now that I have a job again, the possibility just got closer!  So falling asleep and waking up to this print on my bedroom wall helps keep me motivated to get there!  Then I will be able to replace the print with a picture i take that is full of my own memories!

My New Normal Day 29 & 30. Routine

I started a little weekend ritual before I left Richmond of going to Panera for breakfast on Saturday mornings.  I grew to LOVE the quiche there!  I have been back and forth since I got down to Florida but I finally found a Panera that I can get to in ten minutes from my new place. :)

I have noticed in the past couple years since being sick that I really depend on routines.  It's not that I can't be spontaneous anymore, it is just feels like I need to be more organized and prepared.  I like having a plan for most things.  Surprises are still nice but I have noticed that if I don't keep a routine I forget things even more easily.  And that is just incredibly frustrating!!

I have the option of finishing some of my work at home, such as reports and the like.  I can't bring myself to bring my work home for two reasons.  The reason I use at work is I like to keep a separation between my work life and my personal life.  Which is very true.  But if I also spread out where I work from just my desk at work to home....I'm not sure my post it note organizational pattern that works GREAT at work will travel well!  Lol!

I guess it is just my way of dealing with the memory problems that were left as a parting gift from the chemo drugs.  Something I hate having to say because when you don't look like you have gone through chemo people don't always understand.  So I use my routine to stay organized and get things accomplished. :).  Definitely not how I was before it all but I am learning new ways to fit everything into my New Normal. :)

My New Normal Days 27 & 28. PTSD is Real

Three years ago I was going through chemo.  That comes to mind still very vividly and when it does all I can think of is "what if it comes back?"  As soon as that thought crosses my mind its very hard to not relive everything that happened.  It's really frightening and overwhelming when it happens because in that moment I am back in the infusion room, laying in bed feeling like my life was just not ever going to be the same.  A year ago I spent some time talking to a counselor about this and some other things.  One of the things I was told was that these flashbacks are not out of the ordinary for someone with PTSD.

When I heard that I actually didn't know what to think.  And it has taken me a year to completely be able to accept that I do have PTSD.  I felt that something like this was too big for what I had gone through.  In my mind PTSD was associated with what soldiers have to deal with after going to war.  They made such large sacrifices and I sat in a chair with an IV in my port.  A year later though, I actually find some comfort in know there is a reason I can't push the fear away all the time and the memories are so incredibly vivid.

I know I don't have it as bad as so many others who have gone through all of this.  But I also know that it is often hard to accept.  And it isn't something I think is talked about that much.  I had a moment hit me recently and I was just standing in the bathroom swishing Listerine and suddenly all I could think about was how I couldn't use it during treatment and the next thing I know, it all came flooding back!  I started to freak out and breath hard and cry uncontrollably!  I was back in the hospital and then the infusion room and everything seemed to come back all in a few seconds!  Thankfully I was able to turn to a friend who just let me talk until I calmed down.

The odd thing is, I can talk about what I went through with a complete stranger and have absolutely no reaction.  But when I'm alone the most random thing seems to trigger these moments.  They aren't often, thank goodness, but I think its something we need to talk about more so these moments maybe won't be so scary knowing others are going through it too.

My New Normal Days 25 & 26. Gag Reels!

I have been without internet since moving to my new apartment and have been watching some episodes of he Big Bang Theory that I found on sale at Walmart.  I love finding things to laugh over and I about fell off the couch watching gag reels on the DVD!  Lol!  It felt good to be laughing!  What I love about the gag reel is I have worked some on films and I remember the many, many times where uncontrolled laughter took over the set!  Just smiling over the memories it brings back!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My New Normal Day 24. A Delicious Change!

I realized today that I have had yet another taste buds change!  Normally this means food that I have really liked is no longer something I can stomach.  However, this time it is the opposite!

I've never been a fan of berry flavored ice cream. I know, I'm crazy! But the other day I found something really interesting. Dove bars with raspberry sorbet inside!  Normally I would've passed by without a second glance. But for some reason this time I stopped and stared at them for a full minute! For some reason that sounded unbelievably good to me!  I grabbed the box and tossed it in my freezer.  When I first had one, the taste was so amazing! I normally don't like dark chocolate, however, the combination of the dark chocolate and raspberry sorbet was delicious!

Thank you taste buds for finally giving me a delight!  Lol!

Monday, September 12, 2016

My New Normal Day 23. New Evenings!

I had to laugh at myself tonight. I was thinking of what to do tonight as I drove home for work and I realized that I don't have to do homework anymore!  Lol!  It's been a long time since that wasn't the case!!  

First every evening in the last two years of undergrad was homework. Then that rather unpleasant year of feeling sick most evenings. Then two strait years of grad school and homework!!  Now, I know I still have one more certification exam to pass and I need to keep up on journal articles and the like.  But I don't have any more papers to write, books to read, assignments to do or classes to study for!!  Lol!  

I've been so focused on trying to get a place to live and get my new job under control that I forgot....I can just relax in the evening!  So I have chosen to watch Dr. Who for a while and then curl up in bed and fall asleep reading for fun!  A lovely, relaxing evening before another busy day of work tomorrow!!  Feels good!  Really good!!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

My New Normal Day 22. Remembering.

9/11. A date I don't think we will ever forget. I remember that morning I was working as a nanny and a call came from the kid's grandmother just after the first plane hit. From that moment on, with a few trips to the phone to try to reach my sister on Andrews Airforce Base, I stayed in front of the TV. 

I've noticed I have a hard time remembering things from my life pre chemo (and post chemo) without pictures. I can remember after looking at the picture the moment of the picture and sometimes a few things surrounding it. More often then not I get events and times confused. A lovely parting gift from chemo. But that day 15 years ago I remember in terrifying detail.  

I can close my eyes and see the blue of the sky that day and feel the cool breeze outside the house. I can see the second plane hit live on television. I can see the buildings crumble and still feel the fear, sadness and shock.   I can see the Pentagon with a giant gash in it and a burnt and scarred field in Pennsylvania. I watched the pictures go up on the fences and walls of people looking for loved ones.   I panicked because I couldn't get my sister, only an hour and a half away from me in Maryland, on the phone. I dialed and only got a busy signal.  Fortunately, my mom in Michigan was able to get ahold of her and make sure she was ok.  I know I cried throughout the day and watched the parents of the kids I helped take care of try to explain what none of us adults could comprehend. 

7 years ago, I remember sitting in my classroom in Illinois listening to the Social Studies teacher read from their book about 9/11.  I couldn't believe it was already in a history book. Even today it still feels like it just happened.

Why does trauma stay with you?  Why am I able to pull up the memory of where I was on 9/11 in detail and that whole day?  Why can I remember in frightening detail the scary and painful moments of my diagnosis?  Why can I still sometimes feel that poke of the needle going into my port that isn't there anymore?  Why are the moments I want to pull into my mind in detail so hard to remember?  I know a great many happy events have happened but the details and memories of so many seem to exist in a fog. Just beyond a sheer curtain that distorts it and confuses me. Why does fear break through the chemo brain but happiness is harder to recall?

Maybe this is why I take so many pictures. Those pictures help me push aside that sheer curtain clouding my memory, even if it is just for the time I'm looking at them. Then the memories are happy ones getting through. I'm not saying I want to forget about things like 9/11 and my hospital stays and treatments. All these things helped form who I am today and spur me on to continually do better and help others.  I'm saying I want to work on adding happy memories to my mind. And if that means taking a thousand pictures to help me recall that moment, so be it!  To all my family and friends out there...just get use to the camera capturing happy moments so I can remember them:). 

And as for those sad moments that never fade, my heart and prayers go out to all the people and their loved ones fighting cancer. And my heart and prayers always go out to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and all the days since...the victims, first responders and the men and women in our military as well as all their families. You will never be forgotten. Not even chemo can take away my memory of your sacrifice.  

Never forget 9/11/2001

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My New Normal Days 20 & 21. Settling In & Relaxing:)

Yesterday I finished moving my things into my new place and today I think I bought out the dollar store to stock up my kitchen!!  Lol!  It's still in much need of decorations but I'm getting there!

It's a little funny because I'm completely wifi-less for now and am kinda liking being partly unplugged. I still have my phone and data but I'm finding myself more focused on what I have to do and relaxing a little more.   

I'm going to be getting wifi in the next week but I think I'll purposely unplug from it a little more. There has been a lot of stress lately in my life and I've been trying to find ways to help lessen it some.  Not having that draw towards my computer helps a little:). So here is to relaxing and unplugging...says the person posting a blog!  Lol!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My New Normal Day 19. Back on the Road Again!

Today I started going out to see clients again. I'm finally starting to feel comfortable in my job by going out and DOING!  I feel like I'm doing more when I'm out on the road going to my clients and working with them!  

I know paperwork is the inevitable part of every job but I am always happy when I can be done with that part:). My car is cleaned out and my music is turned up and I'm out with clients and teaching and laughing and encouraging!! Love my field and the direction it is taking me!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My New Normal Day 18. Big Winged Thing!

There is a saying that "Everything is bigger in Texas!"  I'm adding to it: "And their mama's are from Florida!"  The bugs down here are a bit ridiculous!!  

This evening I was literally blocked from getting into my apartment by a giant, winged, black, flying monstrosity that may or may not have had a stinger!  It was flying drunkenly around in front of my door and he had the upper hand for sure!  I was not about to try to brush Bubba aside to get in because I think he could have taken me!  

Eventually his drunken tango took him bobbing up to the second floor and I could get to my door!  Every day is something new and different down here!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My New Normal Days 16 & 17. I Found an Apartment!!!

I have never had such a hard time finding a place to live before!  But as of today, I have secured a cute, little, itty bitty apartment not far from my office, in a good neighborhood and newly redone on the inside!  I had to pass on the in-unit washer and dryer but I'll live!  Lol!

I've never lived in a studio before but I'm going to learn the true meaning of streamlining here!  I love how it looks on the inside but it is very small. So I've decided it is my reversed TARTIS...smaller on the inside than it is on the outside!  I can't wait to get in there and put my touches on it and make it more homie. 

Thanks to everyone for all the prayers and encouragement!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

My New Normal Day 15. Bad Day to Good Evening.

Today turned into one of those days that makes you want to just curl up in bed for the day. I started out strong going to get some breakfast and just kind of looking around the area. Still trying to get to know the town. However, Orlando is so huge I really don't think that is possible!

Then I got into what I suppose could be called a text message fight. Something that just dragged me down. Something I don't know entirely how to deal with.  I went home, curled up in bed, and called my parents. Fortunately my mom and dad were able to help pull me out of my funk.  Enough so that I was able to pull myself together this evening and go to church.

For so long church has been the place I've gone to to calm down and deal with things. I'm Catholic, although for the past few months I've not been a very good one. I've been feeling myself fall away and I think that has contributed to me having more bad days like today. 

One of the things I love about my faith is something called Eucharistic adoration. Where you can go in to a little chapel and have some face-to-face time with God.  I haven't had that since the beginning of April and I'm feeling the lack of it. The church I went to back in Kalamazoo had a small adoration chapel. I often find myself there when I was having emotionally difficult days like today. It's hard not having one of them around me anymore.  But I still have church. I still have mass. And tonight I sat in the church and opened my eyes. I saw that I didn't like a lot of the things that I have been doing.  I saw that I have been pulling away from my faith and I realized that this was quite possibly why today has been so bad.  

I saw I was pulling away from my faith and constantly finding fault in the churches around me as an excuse. And the more I did that the more bad days I started to have.  I use to always lean on my faith for strength and guidance and it's never let me down. Some time along the way I stopped doing that. Tonight though, I started to slowly lean back on that faith and I felt a giant weight start to lift off my heart. It isn't totally gone yet but my day went from bad to good in the one hour I spent in church. I've never been a praise and worship music kind of person but tonight, every line of every praise and worship song sung seemed to be speaking directly to me. 

So thank you Lord for helping me turn an emotionally draining and stress filled day into a good night!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

My New Normal Day 14. Yes. I Screamed!

Everyone told me it would happen. That it was inevitable and it doesn't mean your home is dirty. I saw a HUGE cocroach in the kitchen!!  Yes, screamed!  A couple times I screamed!  And I couldn't figure out what to kill it with!!  I can't kill a little spider...forget a giant cocroach!!  Then it disappears down the side of the oven!  I'm re scrubbing already clean counters and still shivering!!  May I say...I'm not sure how use to this I will get!

Friday, September 2, 2016

My New Normal Day 13. Keep on Crying!

I have had a lot of goals lately!  From finishing my program and getting my diploma and my certification and started a new job and moving halfway across the country, life has been pretty full! 

Then today I got a phone call from my mom. She let me know I got something from Western Michigan University. It was my actual, physical diploma. She started to read everything that was written on it and all I could do was sit at my desk at work and cry!  Even as I write this tonight I'm starting to cry just thinking about it!  

I tend to blame the unbalanced hormones inside of me for all of the tears, but the truth is crying is good for you!  I held in so many tears in my life especially, when I was sick.  I always wanted to be strong for the people around me my whole life! But I have learned that crying doesn't mean you're weak!  Crying is your body's way of releasing everything built up inside of you.  And sometimes once I start crying its incredibly hard to stop! 

I remember one night last November begging my boyfriend over the phone to help me stop crying because I was hurting so much from losing a friend to cancer! I wanted him to make me laugh so I could shove those tears and that hurt deep down. And he told me to just cry and let it all out. That sometimes you have to cry it out, you can't hold it in all the time.  He was right. As much as it hurt, I needed to let myself cry for my friend and myself and for everyone dealing with this disease. 

And crying doesn't have to be sad! I texted my younger brother telling him that I couldn't stop crying when I got the picture of my diploma today. He just replied that it was because I was happy!  It wasn't the unbalanced, synthetic hormones, it was me just being truly, deeply, unbelievably happy to see a physical manifestation of all my hard work!  One piece of paper that stood for so much to me!  Three years ago when I got my Bachelors diploma in the mail it was waiting for me the day I got home after my hysterectomy.   This time, I don't have cancer, I'm not jumping from surgery to chemo. This time my diploma came and I'm on the other side of the country starting a new career!  These are definitely tears of happiness!!

So keep on crying. Don't hold it in. Let it out! Tears of sadness or tears of happiness, just let them out!

My New Normal Day 12. Support Groups.

I think we all have those days where everything is going so smoothly and great and it's just been a good day. And then something like a song reminds you of something or someone that isn't around anymore.  Or an event in your life that took everything you had to make it through. Then everything just kind of comes flooding back, all the memories, the ones that make you laugh and the ones that make you cry. 

When I was going through treatment I couldn't bring myself to find support group. For some reason it frightened me. But after treatment, going through recovery and then grad school and now coming to where I am now, I don't know what I would have done without the support groups that I found. They truly understand what a new normal means. I don't look like I was ever sick!  And that's really hard because even though I don't look sick and I don't feel the way that I used to feel anymore I still don't feel like me 100%.  

And when you try to talk about this to someone who hasn't gone through it you can hear the sympathy in their voice you can see the sympathy in their eyes and the love they have for you and that does mean a lot, but sometimes you need that empathy that these groups give. 

You can go to any of the Facebook pages and just let loose about something that's scary, happy, life changing or life altering, big or small. Or you can celebrate with them! From big things to small things to frightening things to amazing things! These people are here for you as much as you are there for them!  Complete strangers are instantly bonded together from experience.

I want to give a big shout out to all the amazing people on the support groups that I'm a part of! Your words of celebration with me when I go through something great is something that I can never thank you enough for!  And when I'm frightened, scared or just overwhelmed by everything that's happened and is happening and might happen or won't happen! You are there!

I encourage anyone going through any life-changing experience, whether it's cancer or something else, that when you're ready find a support group of people who understand, encourage, celebrate, and hold you close in friendship. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My New Normal Day 11. Hurricanes

I grew up in Michigan where tornados occasionally visited. Now I'm in Florida where I discovered Hurricane season starts now. And it's kicking off with a nice, big storm. Fortunately it is going north of me...and hopefully missing my brothers...but the rain!!

Rain will never end, or at least not for another week. I'm listening to it come and go and thinking about the daily emails I receive from the facilities manager at work with updates on the storms that come through. Very much a different thought process for me!  I don't want to actually experience a hurricane but it's definitely a new concept for me!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My New Normal Days 9 & 10. Certified!

And so the goal has been reached. The end of my program and two years of studying and working is completely finished. Sure, there is more I want to add to my knowledge and credentials but my original journey has come to its conclusion!

Today I am now officially a CERTIFIED Orientation and Mobility Specialist!  All the hoops have been jumped through and hurdles cleared!  I was able to go online and search all the COMS and my name was among them!  

The crazy thing is, I've been so focused on school and tests and reaching this goal and getting a job that I haven't stopped to really think of what comes next. How I'm going to live my life after I've reached all these goals. I have to admit...it's pretty anxiety provoking sometimes!  Lol!  I know I want to live as much as I can!  I know I want to be happy! I know I want to love and be loved!  I know I want a full life!  Now I guess I have to figure all that out!

But until I do, I'm going to be pretty happy that I'm DONE!  I've reached my goals and it is even nationally recognized!!  Time to take that next step forward once I figure out what it is!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

My New Normal Day 8. Look Out!

It's been frustrating looking for an apartment and I freely admit that today I got all new grouchy level!  The frustration and stress is certainly getting to me. 

As I was walking out of the last apartment building I had probably my 100th run in with the little speed racer lizards down here!!  Those little buggers creep me out with how fast they run right under your feet!  But for some reason, as I did a small jig trying to avoid the little guy, I started to laugh. Not a huge amount but enough to start to feel better.   So as much as these lizards freak me out and make me jump, I'm a tiny bit grateful for that little guy for making me laugh as I danced around him in the parking lot. 😊 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

My New Normal Day 7. Brothers!!!

One of the most important things to me is my family. It's tough to have everyone living all over the country because we don't get to see each other often. Today I got to visit with one of my younger brothers whom I haven't been able to see in just over two years!

One of the perks of my new job is that I can drive two hours north west and I see my brother Jim again!  Then I drive two hours north east and see my brother Andy!  

Being able to see Jim today was so great!  He was there for me from day one when I got sick.  We were both going to school in Kzoo at the time. When I was in the ER (which he drove me to one of the three times I went there that first week) he was there holding my hand, trying to make me laugh and just being there for me.  When I was going through chemo he shaved his head and kept it bald until my hair started growing back!  I'm so happy to be within visiting distance from him again!  So yes, today was a pretty great day because I got to see my brother again!

The picture below is of Jim and I before my hair grew back in at my 34th birthday / chemo is over party 2 years and 9 months ago:). The two baldies giving each other rabbit years!  I can't quite reach above his head!  Lol!

This picture is from today with Jim and I!  Lots of hair on both of our heads now!  Lol!!

My New Normal Day 6. First Week & Independance

My first full week of the new job is finished and I am happy with it:). Back to earning my own living. Back to being able to take care of myself.  It is amazing how much independence you loose when your entire focus is on getting healthy.   You do what you have to do and it isn't always easy or kind to your pride. 

For three years now I have been depending on others to get me through the months and years as I worked to get healthy and then worked to get back into the work force and doing something that is important to me. 

And now I have finished my first week of punching a time clock again. I looked at the 40.5 hours and took a moment to let it sink in that those hours will equal so many dollars and those dollars will add up to make me truly independant again.  It was a moment of relief followed by a moment of absolute terror. If anything else happened to me, I would have to watch it all disappear again.  So for today, I am going to keep working and get my Independance completely back and find a way to never loose that Independance again!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My New Normal. Days 4 & 5. Overwhelming

Moving to a new city can be stressful. Moving to a new state is starting to feel beyond that. I've noticed something of late. It's harder to stay focused when I feel like I'm getting no where. Apartment hunting has become overwhelming and I'm trying to find a way to make it less so. 

The actual hunting won't get any easier but I'm hoping I can find ways to relax and loosen up.  I get pulled into my work and that's good but once the day is over I feel like it's all falling on my head. I didn't use to have this problem. I could look at what was becoming overwhelming and come up with a solution and fix it.  Now, I can't seem to get my thoughts together when it's a personal struggle like this.  Another new reaction. 

I sometimes wonder if the difficulty in organizing my personal life now is because I lost complete control of it when I was sick. Somehow the professional aspect is easier to deal with because there are guidelines and a clear path. Personally, moving to another state and leaving all my friends and boyfriend almost 1000 miles away, trying to find a place to live and meeting new friends...just thinking about this is making my anxiety kick up!  And I'm in the middle of it!  

Being far away from your support system and slowly trying to build a new one, maybe that's part of the problem. I'm excited to be taking my first step into my new career but I'm honestly scared of being really on my own down here.   Taking one small step at a time and trying to not get completely overwhelmed.  I know I can do this but it won't happen over night. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My New Normal Day 3. Masters Degree, Check!

It took a year longer than the program normally takes but as of today, I HAVE MY MASTERS DEGREE!!!!  My degree was awarded today!!  That was an exciting email to read!  Lol!  I have to admit that as it sank in I got more than a little emotional thinking about it. 

I started the program less than a year out of chemo. Not the easiest thing to do!  Talk about discovering a new normal!  I wanted to put everything behind me and forget and that lasted maybe a month before I exhausted myself to the point of being incredibly sick for weeks!

 I had to completely readjust my schedule, my study habits, my perspective!  Instead of a one year program, I had to take two years and frustratingly watched all my other classmates I started with finish and move on before me!  I honestly started to wonder if it was going to ever be over and successful!  I could no longer just push through when I got tired and had to accept a lot of changes. 

Those readjustments of perspective and changes are still going on. At the end of a day of work I don't do much but go home. I save many things for the weekend. And I do still rest a lot more than life pre-cancer. 

But despite all that, today I'm celebrating (and will continue to do so this weekend) an accomplishment that three years ago right now never crossed my chemo pickled brain as even remotely possible!!  Now it's not just possible, it's a reality. It's a part of my life and I can close my eyes and breath a sigh of relief and joy!!!  

I can't believe I did it!  I actually did it!!  

Monday, August 22, 2016

My New Normal Day 2. First Day:)

So today was my first day of work:). I met a lot of wonderful people and my eyes about fell out of my head looking at a computer!  Lol!  I find it interesting that I can do a full day of lessons and driving from place to place and be tired at the end but still up right!  At the end of a day spent mostly on a computer my eyes and brain are mush!

My eyes haven't changed in anything having to do with my accuity. However, they get tired so much faster!  Makes office work exhausting. Once I get through the orientation period of my job I'll happily be out on the road again!  Lol!  It helps that it looks like I'm working with some very nice people:). So I just need get through the next couple weeks!  A good first day!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My New Normal. Day 1. Big Move!

The phrase "new normal" means something different to everyone. I've gone through a few different phases of it myself. Three years ago right now I was in the middle of my chemo treatments. Two years ago I was getting ready to start grad school and still recovering. One year ago I was half way through grad school and slowly starting to do more and more. This month, I just moved to Florida to start a new job and new career.  And I am excited and scared and so many other things!

I've come a long way since three years ago. But with every new thing I do, I can see the difference in myself from four years ago before my life got turned upside down. My short term memory is abismal!  My stamina, while leaps and bounds better from when I was in treatment, will randomly disappear on me. My concentration wanders so easily!  I have to rest more. I have a harder time fighting off any kind of virus or flu or cold.  And let's not forget the hot flashes, the achy knees, the constant struggle to loose weight, the doctors appointments and that fear of a reaccurance that's curled up in the back of my mind that wildly unleashes itself randomly!

All of this is a daily challenge for me to deal with. And not a lot of people I can talk about it with in my life.  My hair has grown back. My port has been removed. My scans have been clean.  Everyone else has moved on. It's not immediate. They don't see it. But it's all I can see. It will never go away for me. And that's another part of my new normal. 

In the morning I start a new phase in my life. I'm starting a job as an Orientation & Mobility Specialist here in Florida.  I finally get to earn a living doing what I love!  And I am terrified!!  What if I get sick again?  What if my stamina drops?  How do I deal with this in a work environment?  Am I up front?  Do I hide it?  Do I pretend it never happened when I'm around people?  Do I hide the hot flashes and bouts of exhaustion?  How do I get around the memory problems in a new work environment?  How will I deal with the new environment?  I know I can do this but sometimes I need to take a minute and collect myself, close my eyes and just breath. 

How do I find my new normal?

I don't know. All I can figure is that I'll just have to live each day and go with the experiences of those days. Keep looking for that one thing to smile about and settle into whatever the next New Nornal will be for me. So for the next year I'm going to be writing each day about my experiences, struggles, accomplishments and so on in hopes of finding that new normal. 

The first big step was moving down here. I can't drive more than five hours or so strait without becoming completely exhausted so I took five days to drive from Virginia to Florida on my own, splitting it up to be able to visit friends and family along the way. I'll share thoughts and stories from that trip in the days to come as I had a lot of time to think!  But for now, I guess part of my new normal I learned about is that I can't be in a rush to get places anymore. I have to take my time. And I think in slowing down, I get more time to look around and see what I'm passing through. 

And so now I'm here and excited and nervous about tomorrow!  Here we go!  Jumping in feet first!

Standing next to a space suit at the Florida / Georgia line:)

The Florida welcome sign. Big step moving here. 


Monday, August 8, 2016

365 Things to Smile About Day 365. Never Stop Fighting!

And here it is, 365 things that made me smile through a year of ups and downs!  I started this last August while I was going through a very painful and difficult time.  I was still trying to figure out my new normal and so many other things about myself.  So many things had changed in my life.  Perfect health was no longer a given.  Menopause was (and is) still going strong.  My chemo brain was still hitting hard and I was becoming very adept at pushing a lot of pain and fear and sadness deep, deep down inside me.

On top of it all, I was discovering that real, serious relationships and commitments required me to look outside of myself.  I have always only answered to myself.  Taken care of only myself.  And then three years ago I got this disease that I helplessly watched kill my brother.  This disease that literally required life altering and life and death decisions that I had to make on my own in what felt like a blink of an eye.  Yes, I had my parents with me the whole way, but they couldn't make the decisions for me.  And then I make it through this horrible time in my life and I find a new road taking me into a field that I love.  Work that pulls me out of bed in the morning.  And I get into a graduate program.  A very intense program.  And I end up having to make the decision to break out of the normal program and stretch mine from one year to two years because of this horrible disease and the fact I was still in recovery.  And that meant staying an extra year in the town where I felt like I was in one big, walking PTSD moment.  Again, another big decision I had to make on my own.  Always, every decision I had to make on my own.  And, last summer, because I make all my decisions without consulting anyone, I had my heart break.  And it was just too much.  And I couldn't smile.  I just couldn't anymore.

And then I remembered finding something to smile about, even when there seems to be nothing to smile about that day, can help more than you might think.  And I thank my friend Pat Keats for that advice every day.  I look back at all the entries I have made over the past year, through many difficult times and happy ones too and can see a progression in myself.  Even today, this last day that seemed so perfectly planned to happen on the day I was going to take my certification test for being a Low Vision Therapist!  What a great way to end this year by passing a second certification test!  Except I didn't pass it!  Lol!  It's taken me all day to see the ridiculousness of what happened but I am sitting here laughing at myself!  I get another chance to take the exam, and I am going to study even harder this time.  And I'll try again.  I guess its true that we can't always get it right on the first time around:).  Or even the second sometimes.  Wether it is in school or in relationships or life.  Sometimes you just have to keep trying and get up each time you fall.  Because if it is worth it, the bumps along the way will just make you stronger.  Sure, it hurts like crazy and makes you a little hesitant to keep going.  But when you love something or someone, you fight for them.

So no, I didn't pass the Low Vision test this time around.  But I did have two great things happen centered around my career today.  And as my dad said, two out of three ain't bad!  I got a glowing evaluation for my summer internship from quite possibly the best supervisor in the field!  And I also passed my clinical competencies for my O & M certification!  Something to be very proud of, and I am!  Two years ago I started this program and now I am standing ready to take that first step out into my new life.  And yeah, I am so scared!  I get my new health insurance in two months and that means meeting a new oncologist and getting new scans and exams and blood tests and living through that fear all over again.  Starting over someplace so new and so far away!  I never saw myself living in Florida until I was offered this job with this company!  But I am also so very excited too!  Turns out, I am good at what I do!  I love what I do!  And now I get to go out there and make a difference!

So this year is ending and at the same time beginning.  I have found 365 things that have made me smile. :)  It has brought me to my new life which is pretty amazing!  It has taught me to accept what I can't control.  It has taught me to think outside myself.  It's shown me heart break and heart ache but it has also shown me love and encouragement and the ability to keep moving forward and fighting each day for what I want.  Don't ever stop fighting for what you want.  Even when things seem like they will never go your way again, keep getting up in the morning,  Find something to put a smile on your face even for a minute.  And if the smile leaves your face it will still be inside of you and that will keep you moving.  Then when you look back, you see how far you have come and where you are standing now.  It's pretty amazing!

Thank you God for every blessing You have given me!  Thank you for the trials that have strengthened me and prepared me for Your plan for me.  Please help me to keep smiling, keep moving forward, keep fighting and helping others!  And thank you to all the people who have read this blog!  Your encouragement has meant so much to me!  And I am going to keep writing!  I'll have to find another cheesy title for another year or so but writing has been good for me.  And maybe, God willing, for other people out there.  If I have been able to touch your life or help even a little...I am happy!  Love to you all!

Pictures from the past year.  Just some of the things that made me smile over these 365 days!  Descriptions under each picture.

Standing in front of the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial last summer.

Chilling in Fairfax last summer!

Fighting a hot flash with my head literally in a freezer!

At the Lincoln Memorial starting a tradition with Carolyn and Ginny last summer :)

Eating the PB & J I made under the blindfold last fall!

Seeing a dear, close friend for the first time in easily 15 years last fall!

With my brother Joe and my sister Anne out listening to some live music last October!

Visiting with my best friend Marie last November at a Vineyard!

Hugging the stuffed Minion I got for my birthday last November!

With my niece Molly after her awesome performance in The Lion King!

At the Celebrate Life Dinner with dad put on by my Cancer Center last December!!

At a Christmas High Tea at the Herb Garden with mom!

Mom, dad and I checking out the Christmas lights in the village in December!

My brother Joe and I stylin it before Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve!  It looks even better in black and white but I couldn't find that one on my computer!

Styled hair and my new leather jacket last January!

Styling my new hat from my brother Chris and my new jacket in the snow on the farm over Christmas break!

First day of classes of my last semester on campus in my grad program!!

 Getting my 6 month CT scan last January.  All clear!

After Ash Wednesday mass!

Just getting back to Fairfax after a weekend trip to Richmond to find a place to live during my summer internship last March!

Port removal day!  In the little OR room they use, draped and ready to go!  Not the most flattering picture but a moment I am going to always remember...despite the double dose of relaxing, happy juice pumped into me!

Watching my niece Molly in another wonderful performance onstage!

Mom and dad's 50th anniversary last April with almost the whole family able to make it!

One of the best supervisors ever!  Love you JoAnna!

Graduation day!  Hanging out beforehand!

With mom and dad after walking in the ceremony!  No one helping me across the stage and no wheel chair this time!!

My graduation dat gift from my parents!  A cancer ribbon necklace with the stone in the center my cancer color!  Beautiful!

With my brother Joe on my graduation day!  I wouldn't have been able to have made my move to Richmond without him!!

Enjoying a drink after graduation with family and friends!

Joe and I heading out of Michigan to Virginia!!  Love this brother!

It's a little out of order but my fellow O & M's and one of the best teachers ever!!!

Hiking at three lakes in Richmond in May!

Walking around Maymount with friends in Richmond in June!

Frozen yogurt with Ginny!!!

One of my long time dreams (since high school) is to have a motorcycle license and I took a small first step towards that by getting my motorcycle helmet this summer!

Meeting the Governor of Virginia at DBVI.

House hunting with my brother Andy in Orlando!

Checking out some of the sights of my future home in Orlando, at the Orlando Eye!

Seeing my best friend Marie again this summer!!!

Yes that is me standing next to a man with a tough looking expression in a big floppy, southern hat with a white cane wrapped with stripes of hot pink tape!  And an off duty Guide Dog asking us to please play tug of war!  Just another day at VRCBVI!