Tuesday, July 18, 2017

CANCERVERSARY




July 18th is my cancerversary, which is a pretty good excuse to eat cake. And while I won’t say that my diagnosis was a blessing, God did bless me with a new and improved perspective.

Everyone asks what I would tell my 38-year old self who was just diagnosed with breast cancer? Well, I’d squeeze her, make her a cup of joe, and share what the last year has taught me. I’d tell her that no matter what, God’s got this, and regardless of her outcome, one thing she can control is how she reacts, how she lives, and possibly how she dies. I would add that people are wonderful. They really are. There’s nothing like cancer to remind you of the essential kindness of people. Lay down your independence and accept the offers of prayers, dinner and hugs –- sustenance through the tougher days and nights ahead.

Cancer is a team effort and, just like raising a child, it takes a village. There’s little purpose to tackling it alone. Support is invaluable.

You will cry. But you’ll also laugh. A lot. Pockets of joy come unexpectedly: coffee with friends, packages/letters in the mail, people randomly grabbing you and hugging you at church, grocery store, or parking lot. Meals served to you in bed, prepared by your kids, is definitely a highlight.

Hair. Smair. It grows back, okay?! Don’t get caught up in the vanity of all that. Just breathe and be thankful you are living another day. Plus, chances are there are wigs that look a whole lot better than your real hair anyway.

You can do this. And in a year’s time, you’ll be where I am now – physically different and a little bruised, but wiser, braver, and stronger. Just consider all you will have conquered!



Friday, June 30, 2017

GOALS






Happy 6 month birthday, 2017. What better time to reflect and assess where I'm at and where I'm going. 

Over the years, goals with numerical targets (often to do with the bathroom scales) have made way for more holistic or wholehearted ones. They have oscillated and undulated but generally followed a path of eating better, moving more (physically - not houses!) and living with fewer but better-quality items within our home. 

Just as I have been broader with my goals, so too have I been more forgiving with the results. In fact, this year that was and is my focus. So if I want to practice yoga more and the three-year-old wants to talk through all of it, or stop five minutes in to have breakfast then that's okay. Five minutes worth of stretching is better than none at all. If I only get to write my journal or blog once a month, then that's okay too. Something is better than nothing. You just do what you can, when you can. And show the kindness to yourself that you would to others. One day at a time. 



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

THE WORDS WE SPEAK






The words we speak are the fruit of our heart and our words should be different, because our hearts should be different. Today, remember to speak life to others. If your words are positive, speak them and if they are negative, simply silence them. For we are vessels to the Lord and here to serve one another, love one another and encourage one another as the wonderful Almighty has done for us. Love, obey and hold fast to Him.



Friday, June 9, 2017

AS THE MOON AFFECTS THE TIDE






“When we choose to be parents, we accept another human being as part of ourselves; and a large part of our emotional selves will stay with that person as long as we live. From that time on, there will be another person on this earth whose orbit around us will affect us as surely as the moon affects the tide.” – Fred Rogers



Thursday, June 8, 2017

CHEMO BRAIN


“Hang on. It’s coming to me. It's right there on the tip of my tongue.  It's a word that has a "th" sound in the beginning and a "ing" sound somewhere at the end.  Oh, oh I can almost see it! Crap, it's gone.”  Perhaps later, when I’m lying down for sleep, that stupid word, so maddeningly intangible just hours before will pop right into my head, as if it were all just a silly misunderstanding between me and my brain.

I'm guessing that if you've had chemo and have experienced the stupor that often follows, then you know what I'm talking about, right?  It's not that you just can't retrieve language; it's that you can't comprehend it.  My thinking, learning, processing or remembering is now so very different. It's like the arcade game with the crane where you try to scoop up the cheap plastic key chain and then ten dollars later, it's stuck in the chute.

It is painful to read and re-read an email, sometimes even a third time, unable to decipher it. When I have to respond, asking for clarification, I feel tempted to inform the public “I have chemo brain. Please dumb this down for me.” Or when people look at me with confusion in a meeting while I am trying to talk -- I consciously know that I'm not making sense, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  After having spent most of my life being praised for my communication and vocabulary, when these events happen, I literally die a million deaths.

Chemo may have cured my cancer, and I am thankful for that, but I grieve the loss of the person I used to be. It worries me daily. How long will these cognitive deficits interfere with my job and my ability to function at home? Will I continue to be able to provide for my family? Will I ever retain what my son told me just hours before? Does this mean I will incur dementia? Am I permanently dumber as a result of chemotherapy?

They call it “chemo brain” or “cancer-treatment-related cognitive impairment” but don’t let the terms fool you into thinking it’s only a state during which chemo is being administered. Wrong! It can persist and manifest in many ways long after the end of treatments in as many as 75 percent of survivors. In my research I've learned that many chemotherapeutic agents used to treat cancer trigger inflammation in the hippocampus, a cerebral region responsible for many cognitive abilities, such as learning and memory. This inflammation can destroy neurons and other cell types in the brain.

Additionally, these toxic compounds damage the connective structure of neurons, called dendrites and axons, and alter the integrity of synapses - the vital links that permit neurons to pass electrical and chemical signals throughout the brain. One researcher I follow compares the process to “a tree being pruned of its branches and leaves. In many instances, people experience severe cognitive impairment that's progressive and debilitating…the results can be particularly devastating, leading to reduced IQ, asocial behavior and diminished quality of life.”

Survivors I meet often bring this up, hoping I have an answer to share. But I don’t. No one really does. But I do have theories, which include juicing and eating a primarily plant-based diet. Cut out the junk. Focus on lean proteins (if you eat meat) and a colorful assortment of vegetables (especially dark leafy greens) and fruits that nourish the brain. Avoid saturated fats (cheese, whole milk, lard, butter, fatty animal products) and trans-fats (in some fast foods and baked goods such as pie crusts, donuts, crackers, etc.) that can clog arteries and cause poor blood flow to the brain (there’s a reason trans-fats are banned in a few states). Omega-3 fats are the good guys (wild salmon, fish oil supplements, herring, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, etc.). Researchers believe they improve mood and protect against inflammation and cognitive decline. 

Lastly, laugh.  Laugh a lot.  Humor really does help bring the world into focus and that's an especially good thing for people with chemo brain.

For those of you challenged with consuming adequate servings of fruits and vegetables, Juice Plus+ offers a solution in the form of a capsule or gummy. CLICK HERE formore information.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

BED TIME






The kids beg for a few more minutes and we give them five more, tell them to put away all the toys and things. They do, mostly. And the sun starts to disappear over the horizon, fading but not frowning, and promising to come back.




Monday, June 5, 2017

I CAN






Imagine your brain.

How much time have you devoted to thinking about what you cannot change? How much energy have you expanded toward trying to fix it, manage it, or nurturing those emotions wrapped around that person, past event, or thing?

Accept it.

Accept that we cannot change that loss.

Accept that we cannot go back and rewrite that story.

Accept that we cannot make that person love us in the right way.

Accept that we are in a hard place that we didn’t ask to be in.

Oh, that’s hard. Don’t ask me to do that.

As I’ve shared, I’m in the midst of something I cannot change. Accepting this fact allows me to free my brain, my soul, my time, my heart to what I can change.

I can’t change cancer. I can’t turn the clock back. I can’t fix this.

Yet I can be present. I can love. I can even love the unlovable. I can serve. I can take pictures. I can write. I can clean. I can advocate. I can coordinate. I can cook a mean quiche and I can pray.



Saturday, June 3, 2017

I'VE BEEN THERE




Let’s be quicker to say “I’ve been there” and “me too” to our fellow moms. “Us” can conquer the world. Together.

To the honor of raising an iron-willed son and the humor in pushing grocery carts with screaming toddlers.





Thursday, June 1, 2017

BLOGGING



It’s amazing that we are already making summer plans, isn’t it?

I’ve been quieter on my blog the past couple of years. Our life is a full one, and I often have to prioritize needs over wants. Blogging sorta borders both, and so does being fully present with my children. So, my writing tends to take a backseat. Fortunately, some of my very best blogging friends  and readers are also working mamas...they get it. Too, they bring a wealth of knowledge to the table.

I’ll never forget the day I sat at our  old desktop computer and tried to brainstorm a name to use for my blog. I didn’t really even know what a blog was at the time and had no intention of ever really writing one, but I knew that I wanted to be able to have my tiny picture pop up next to blog post comments and in order to do that, I needed a blogspot name (yes, times have changed).

That was nearly ten years ago, which makes me an ancient grandma in the blogging world. Pinterest  and Instagram (find me here) weren’t even a thought and I hadn’t even started a Facebook account yet. Those of us who began blogging back then are like the ones who trudged through miles of snow to get to school and can speak to all the changes we’ve seen. It’s such a privilege to have been on the cusp of this whole new way of life – social media has changed everything – and we are able to learn, create, connect and discover so much because of it.

I’ve had a vast array of amazing opportunities through blogging. From speaking and writing to brand spokesperson positions, I’ve traveled throughout the US with my blog.

The biggest thing I wish I could change would be to go back to the “old” days of blogging before everything needed to be magazine quality and there were so many different social media platforms added. My blog grew because of the real life, authentic nature of sharing life with readers and that’s still my heart. Community actually occurred in the comments, meaningful discussions took place and believe it or not, lots of real life friends were made just from that. Now it’s become very competitive and it’s hard to keep up because so much emphasis is placed on the “image” of varying platforms with perfectly photographed, pinterest perfect living.

For me, my desire is that when you meet me in real life, you will feel like you’ve known me forever and I’m exactly the same online as I am in person. I will never stop encouraging women to embrace life right where they’re embracing authentic lives with laundry piled on the sofa and all. Unfortunately, it means that creating beautifully pin-able photos isn’t my forte like the other mentors, but sharing life in abundance? I’m your girl.  And hopefully, my someday dream of building a large barn/event venue will allow for us to all hang out more regularly on our homestead. 




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

THREE WORDS


My gosh, you people. You came out of the woodwork with your comments and shares and personal emails… all these words laced with both pain and hope… because you get it. You’re right there too, in the hours before the dawn breaks. I’m carrying your stories with care, and nearly two weeks later these are the three words I would say if we could meet for coffee and I could look into your eyes: You are brave."



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

THE LIFE AFTER


Many of you ask frequently ask how I’m feeling, and while I’m quick to rebuttal, “Great! I’m really good,” I feel compelled to elaborate. Honestly, I have felt pulled between being honest about my symptoms and focusing on a much bigger and more pressing goal – living life to the fullest. I’m still trying to work out the kinks and pave a new path for what lies ahead, all the while keeping my eyes on the prize. 

It’s been a recurrent struggle, a back and forth tug of war between then and now. Cancer isn’t just a moment in time. It’s not just something that happens and eventually goes away. It doesn’t sit on a timeline nor does it have a beginning or an end. From the moment it physically rooted itself into my anatomy, it also marked my very DNA and soul. Though we believe I am free of disease, I am forever marked by it and affected by it. Though I walk without cancer, I will forever carry its side effects with me.

I will also add that after cancer, life is more confusing than anyone told me it would be. Frankly, they don’t tell you what to anticipate when the disease is gone and the dust settles. I always thought that time healed all wounds. That maybe, just maybe, this period in time would fade away into the history of my life’s story. And though I still believe there is some truth in that, I think that healing requires more than days gone by. Life after cancer requires head work and soul work. Partly determined to avoid feeling victimized by cancer, and partly because I believe that living a life that is joyful and grateful and adventurous is really living life instead of letting life live you.

Adventuring removes barriers, manifests breakthrough, unites, births joy, and uplifts the dark corners of our souls. It ignites in us a passion for this life that we often forget is meant to be experienced actively, not sedentarily. It pushes us off the cliff of comfort and gives us wings to fly in vibrant ways. It freshens stagnancy, quenches deserts, and elevates us to living the way we are called to live. Adventure gives us new perspective and creates vision. Though comfort is easy and adventure is often hard, the rewards for the latter are much greater.

Cancer stole so much from me, but through it, God gifted me eternal vision and has radically changed my perspective on the purpose of this life. 



Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 (ESV)
“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”



Monday, April 24, 2017

CRYING OUT


So many times I find myself in a situation where I have no idea which path to take. I’d like to say I’m one of those people who hears God’s audible voice giving me specific answers, but that’s not always the case. I often pray for weeks, sometimes toiling over a decision instead of trusting Him to guide me.

In those desperate times when we scan the horizon, and the path in every direction looks bleak, only one thing will get us out of our mess – crying out to God. His ways are more complex that our own, and He will answer in the most unexpected ways.



Saturday, April 22, 2017

BE VERY GLAD



“Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.”
Matthew 5:12



Thursday, April 20, 2017

NOISE


I often pray and then fill my life with so much noise that I can’t hear God speak. My busy schedule doesn’t make it any easier. That’s why step one is so critical. God often speaks in whispers. We must be silent to listen. And we can’t hear God if we don’t make time to get alone with Him daily. 



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

LIFE IN PICTURES




Thursday, April 13, 2017

KEEP GOING


It's okay to feel like an absolute and total mess, like you don't know what to want or what you want. It's okay to want to sleep all day for a while. It's okay to be where you're at. 

What's not okay is to deny where you are and how you are. To not look at the things that need to be looked at or not feel the things that need to be felt (this is [part of] what got you into trouble before).

Your task now is to feel and to mourn, and to let that process grow and illuminate yourSelf. To see where this road leads. To love yourSelf more fully, with more abandon.

You will survive. (Yes -- you will.) Stop asking how -- the how is not important. The showing up whole and wholly imperfect and authentic is what's important.

Trust. Trust. Keep going. Don't give up. Serve the world. serve the world your very best. The world needs all the golden soul good that you (we) can offer. So keep going. Don't give up.

Keep going.




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

LIFE IN PICTURES





Saturday, April 1, 2017

BIRTHDAYS TAKE ON A NEW MEANING


This birthday feels like a pretty significant one for me, as I say goodbye to thirty-eight. It was last year that I found a lump in my breast and my entire world changed after that moment. Thirty-eight was a hard year; a year filled with many lessons, challenges, and triumphs. Not just cancer-related experiences. I’m sure for most people, thirty-eight is not necessarily a particularly significant year in their lives. Eventually all the years start to mush together, and become periods of time or life-stages, rather than an individual 365 days. But in my case, I am quite confident that I will never forget the 365 days of being a thirty-eight year-old.

I think many people who have had cancer would say that birthdays take on a new meaning after you have been diagnosed. They truly do become a celebration, and an accomplishment, rather than just another year. I have noticed that most people view getting older and aging as something to fear, and something they don’t want to face. It seems everyone makes comments and complains about how old they are getting, or how much they’re dreading turning 40/50/60, etc.

Thank you 38 for being so patient, adaptive, critical and open to positions you never thought you'd be in. I have grown this past year more deeply and passionately than previous years. I have found more things to love and appreciate. I have learned to trust and be proud of the work I have created. I have fallen to the pressure only to be picked up by new possibilities. I have traveled and experienced some of the most beautiful places. I surprised myself. I allowed my heart to grow. I have simplified life in order to focus on the important things. I have seen life cruelties reminding myself to always be kind and put people first. I will always do what I love and love what I do and never again fall short to a standard.

A rock star once reminded me to "actively participate rather than continuously anticipate, to accept what challenges you and defy gravity." This year I will do just that.

I am no longer part of this massive majority of humans who fear birthdays and wish for eternal youth. I dream of getting old. I dream of turning forty. I think getting older is a gift. It’s a privilege, to make it through another year, and have your health. It’s not a given, and it’s not your right. I feel very blessed to get to have another birthday, and to be able to share it with the people I love most in the world. I’ve earned this day, and I’ve struggled to get here. And now that I’m here, getting older never looked so good.





Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ME TOO!


Here's the problem people, blogs are like show and tell. You only put your best material out there, right? Why would you write about the massive fight you had with your husband last night when instead, you can show us your cute kids and your new kitchen remodel? Now listen, I’m not saying don't show those things...please do actually, this is the story of your life and those things are indeed interesting. Great things happen in life. Celebrate that. But bad things happen in life too, and when it comes to those things that create deep wounds, we shut down into ourselves and don't share. Well maybe a vague side remark on facebook for 400 people to see... But not on my blog because it's too personal. Oh and my grandmother is reading this. Oh and some of my co-workers. 

The problem is, when we write blog posts according to what others may think, we churn out watered-down versions of ourselves. We misrepresent ourselves and dare i say, if you are a Christian, sometimes we can inadvertently misrepresent the gospel. Jesus came because we are messed up, not because we have it all together. When we pretend like everything is perfect, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and to others. And to the story of our lives. Your story is important...the good parts and the difficult parts. That's what makes a story good, right? Conflict, love, overcoming hardships, tension, great happiness...all of it. All. Of. It.

The blog world is weird because we all make it that way. I do too sometimes, yes, so I’m writing this to me as well.  I wouldn't say the blog world is a place where one goes to find honesty. That's hard enough to find in the real world, friends...let alone on the "intranet". But imagine a bloggy world where people felt o.k. about posting their struggles? A she-did-it-so-can-i kind of attitude.

My hope is that people start telling the truth (*in as gracious a manner you can conjure) about what's going on in their lives. It's good. It's good for us to put ourselves on the line. It's called vulnerability and it is super-challenging. But it brings about character and honesty. And it also brings people out of the woodwork saying, me too! I'm going through this too! Because we are all going through something. No one is perfect. And people need others to say so.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

LIFE IN PICTURES




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