In the Air!

In the Air!
400 feet above the ground in Orlando.

Florida

Florida
Taking my first step towards a new life.

Virginia

Virginia
Spending an afternoon at Marymount during my internship!

My rocks!

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

Graduation

Graduation
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!

Hair again!

Hair again!
Growing longer each day

Last Chemo

Last Chemo

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Silliness

Silliness
Something to remember and return to. A good day!

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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!



Sunday, August 7, 2016

365 Things to Smile About Day 364. Mom and Dad and Laughing :)

Today was a curl up in bed, try to study but also try not to freak out about all the big changes happening in the next two weeks!  It wasn't a pretty day.  But then on the way home from church this evening I called my parents and my dad picked up the phone and I have to say, just the sound of his voice brought my anxiety level down a few notches and I finally smiled.

It made me think of all the times my parents have been there, pulling me up out of tears, anger, frustration, pain, fear and every other terrifying and painful thing that has happened in my life.  I truly believe I wouldn't be where I am without them.  And one of the many things they are able to do is make me laugh!

I couldn't help but remember only a few days after my hysterectomy I was standing in the hallway by my bedroom with my hand hovering over my incision, but not touching it.  They had used glue instead of stitches and for some reason that made me nervous.  It hurt and I was still not ready to process everything that had just happened.  I'm not sure I've been able to even now.  All I know was that I felt so down that in that moment all I could do was stand there and just not move.

Then my dad walked down the hallway with something in his hand asking me if I could help him.  I looked up and he was holding a thing of dental floss that in some way had come apart.  As he handed me one end to hold I completely missed taking it and we both watched helplessly as the entire spool unraveled like a yoyo as the heavier end fell to the floor.  Every inch of that dental floss was played out from my dad's hand to the ground and down the hallway.  Then my dad started to laugh!  Just laughing really hard at the ridiculous thing that had just happened and it felt like something inside of me clicked back open and I started laughing too!  Then I started crying because my incision hurt from the laughing, which for some reason made me laugh even harder as I begged him to stop laughing so I could because it hurt to laugh!  At which point my dad turns to me and tells me to be careful that I don't come unglued!  Which made us both laugh even harder!!  My mom came in quickly wondering why dad was laughing so hard and I was laughing and crying and begging him to stop!  She took one look at the dental floss and started laughing and then of course dad had to repeat his glue joke and for the next few minutes all we did was stand there and laugh!!

I'm not saying that from that moment on everything changed.  It definitely didn't.  But I felt just a little bit better.  My parents kept finding ways to make me smile and laugh through the next couple years of treatment and recovery and trying to find my path again.  So I know that every time I hear their voices, no matter how bad the day is, I feel a small smile at the comfort and support I know I have from them.  "Luba you" mom and dad!  Love you so very much!






Saturday, August 6, 2016

365 Things to Smile About Day 363. Oh Wow!!

Today was a good day!  I found myself laughing and smiling all afternoon:). I was so happy:). And then the craziest, laughable thing presented itself to continue my smiles! 

This evening at the store I saw something that brought a variety of reactions through me!  First I gagged a bit. Then I shivered and looked in total disbelief!  Then I started laughing over the rediculousness of what I was looking at!  It was none other than Szechuan Chicken potato chips!!!

I'm not sure where they are coming up with these flavors!  They keep getting more gag worthy but also gives one even more to laugh about!


365 Things to Smile About Day 362. All the Feels!!

As the end of my internship comes so does the high school program I'm working with. I had a student who had to leave early come up to me to tell me, in their way, that they loved what they learned from me. I told them how proud I was of their improvement and hard work. 

They got a little emotional and so I worked on getting the smiles and laughing going again. I was successful and the last time I saw the student they were smiling and happy!  And my heart was feeling all the pride and awe in them! 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

365 Things to Smile About Day 361. Thank You Netflix

I will be very up front right now.  I feel miserable.  Wether it is the flu or possible food poisoning I don't know but starting yesterday late afternoon through late this afternoon the nausea has been coming in waves. :(.  I ended up leaving work only a half an hour after getting there it got so bad again.

When i got home I ended up curling up in bed crying because all I could do was remember being sick after chemo and how very long that stretched out and horrible that felt.  It felt like I was back there again.  It took a while to stop crying and that didn't help the nausea.  I think flashbacks are some of the hardest things to deal with these days.  Fortunately they are not often but when they come, the last thing I want is to be alone.

So I curled up again and turned on Netflix.  I dozed through many episodes of Gilmore Girls and then dozed through several episodes of Black Dawg Salvage or something like that.  And I didn't care that I missed it all, it just helped me push those memories away hearing voices that almost always had a happy tome to them.  It made my mind go somewhere other than those memories.

Now the nausea is gone but I still feel completely worn out and exhausted.  Which is yet another memory I don't want to dwell on for now so I think I shall be returning to dozing through a show for the evening.  But thank you Netflix for taking me out of myself and giving me something to smile about today.:)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

365 Things to Smile About Day 360 A Nice Breeze

My job keeps me out doors a great deal.  I don't mind this but there are days in the summer where the sin and heat and humidity are just a lot to take all day!  But today was not one of those days!  Today, all day, there was a fairly steady and pleasant breeze all day!  No matter where I was, if the sun started to feel a little too hot, a breeze would kick up and I felt that refreshing feeling rush over me and I didn't think about the heat any more:).  A very small thing a breeze but a very rejuvenating and refreshing thing to experience:).

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

365 Things to Smile About Day 359. You Smell Like Cheesy Potatoes!

I honestly do believe that I could start a whole series of things you hear on the bus to and from lessons!  You never know what to expect a teenager, or any kid, to say!  Today had not just me but the other instructor and the driver laughing pretty hard!!  With no preamble, the other instructor was told that when her student first met her, she smelled like cheesy potatoes!  Which apparently was their favorite food!  LOL!!  I looked over at her and she was bent over double silently laughing and trying to catch her breath and after a few seconds I couldn't hold it in anymore and our driver joined us shortly after!!!  I am almost guaranteed that no matter how rough my day is, inevitably I will be set laughing by a comment said on the bus!!

Monday, August 1, 2016

365 Things to Smile About Day 358. Little Smiles :)

Today was a pretty strait forward, normal day.  I worked with my students all day, had lunch with colleges and then went home.  So as I sat here wondering what to write, I realized that while nothing big stood out today, there were the things that just brought a smile to my face in the moment.  Like eating lunch and teasing with colleges.  Walking into my "office" after my third lesson and almost jumping out of my skin when I saw my supervisor sitting there waiting for me.  Students calling hello to me in the hallways.

These are the days that I realize I am smiling because it is so ordinary.  And my ordinary days now consist of jokes in the hall way, a guide dog out of his harness and happily going from person to person for love and pets and play, grabbing a green been grown by a co-worker out of a bag and chatting about my disbelief that people can actually eat tomatoes like apples!  Lol!  My ordinary days are just that...ordinary.  Nothing in particular stood out above the rest.  But I did find myself with a little smile on my face throughout the day and enjoying how my life has changed yet again.  :)