Category Archives: Uncategorized

Failure; The Warrior’s Prelude to Success

FullSizeRender

Show me a person who thinks that failure isn’t an option and I’ll show you a person who never grows. We are are so terrified of failing and rejection as a society, conditioned to strive for perfection. Yet if we stay within our comfort zone, stick to what we know we won’t fail at, countless opportunities are lost. Opportunities for growth, for new friendships to develop, for romantic relationships to begin. Fear of failure can cause us to miss out on an extraordinary life.

The failures I’ve experienced; heartache, rejection, emotional, physical and financial struggle – they’ve all conditioned me to work harder on myself, to FIGHT for my dreams to become a reality. Failure has forced me to be my own hero, to stand up and take MASSIVE action toward living a life of deep soul fulfillment.

In 2010, as I studied Veterinary Medicine to become a Veterinary Technician, I knew it was what my family wanted. I loved working as a Veterinary Assistant and thought the next logical step was to become a technician. Nearing the end of the program, however, I felt a great discomfort in my heart.

It wasn’t what I wanted.

My soul longed to study writing, to somehow earn a degree in the field that allowed me to use my gifts, to further cultivate an art that had been an early childhood passion of mine. In the meantime, I was having difficulty passing one of my veterinary courses. When I went to speak with an advisor, serendipitously laying there on the office table was a handout about the college’s Creative Writing degree program.

The same day, I brought the handout home and shared the pull I felt to change my major with my mom. Our conversation left me disheartened. “You’ve worked so hard for your degree already honey. I’d hate to see you have to start all over again, you’re almost done,” she told me.  She meant well, as most mothers do, but my heart was heavy with disappointment.

At the same time, I was in the early stages of pregnancy with my daughter. The smell of chemicals in the anatomy lab, not to mention morning sickness and fatigue, caused me to fall behind in the veterinary course I was already having trouble with. It was my second time attempting to pass. If my heart hadn’t been so dead set on becoming a writer, maybe I would have tried harder. I did end up passing the class with a C- but because the program required passing with a C or better, I was forced to leave the program.

CrWWs3LWAAEr0qH

The following semester I changed my major to Creative Writing. It led me to taking an introduction to journalism class on campus. With a “little” encouragement from a wonderfully stubborn teacher, Professor Cooksey, I became Features Editor of the campus paper.

After graduating with a 4.0, I transferred in the Fall to a four-year Journalism program at the local University. The Travel Writing course I took, as part of the program,  allowed me to travel to Sicily for ten days with a dynamic group of classmates – who I’m proud to say I’m still friends with four years later. Studying Journalism helped me obtain a paid internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as a conservation writer, for 14 months.

For one of my journalism classes I had to write a story about sick-time-leave in the workplace. I interviewed my mom’s boss for the story, who told me about a local bar that offered live music. A few months later, I interviewed the bar’s owner to write a feature story for the same journalism class. Because of that interview, I ended up receiving a call from the owner six months later about an available bartending position. I’ve worked there, part-time, for two and half years now.  The stories of incredible souls I’ve met through that job alone would take SEVERAL more blog posts.

Through working at the bar, I discovered “Unbuttoned, An Evening of Spoken Word.” An open mic night hosted at the bar, the first Tuesday of every month, just for writers. This event brought me to speaking with a woman, the first night I performed, who invited me to join a small group of other women writers who meet once a month as well. Remarkably, we’ve been taking spin class together for months and had no idea that either one of us were writers! Because of joining this group, I’ll be performing poetry in April at an annual fundraising event ran by the woman who hosts our women writers group.

96dd85b41e24030ec746c694a0372e3e

When we surrender to our purpose, miracles happen. Growing up I always heard, “You’ll never make a living as a writer.” Even my professors cautioned, “Until you write what your editor wants you to write, and write it well, you won’t be able to write the stories you really want to and get paid for them.”

We have to expect more from ourselves than anyone else could possibly expect. I’m a single mom of two, working two part-time jobs to support my babes, soon to be three…part-time jobs, not babes.  The gym is my second home, I’m there six days a week. Every day I schedule in time for priming, gratitude meditation, journaling and podcasts or reading. Some days I don’t get to do all of them, but most days I do. If someone like me with a super busy schedule can make time to feed my passion, there should be no doubt in your mind that you can too.

“I don’t have time,” “They say I can’t,” “I don’t have the money,” “I’ve had a hard life.”

Guess what? We ALL have a story.

Every…

single…

one…

of…

us.

Don’t let your story become the excuse that makes you miss out on an extraordinary life. Stop telling yourself you can’t. Stop letting your fear of failure hold you back.

Take back control of your life, take massive action and make shit happen. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s taken years of work behind the scenes to get to where I’m going. Even once I get there, there’s going to be new mountains to climb. New goals to conquer, to create. But I’m not giving up, I’m not backing down. I’m taking what’s mine, and I want you to know YOU CAN TOO. I believe in YOU. Believe in the dream you have for yourself, immerse yourself in whatever knowledge you need to make it happen and then take the initiative to get shit done. YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!

image4

 

Advertisements

“Unbuttoning” My Cancerversary

Extending my sincerest gratitude to Julian Parker-Burns Photography for capturing these candid moments of me at Luthier’s Co-Op during “Unbuttoned, An Evening of Spoken Word!”

Writing short stories and creating poetry is something that, throughout most of my life, has helped me come through the darkest of circumstances with a healed heart – however bruised it may be. When I began my cancer journey, it was no different. 

This blog allowed me to connect with all of you, to not feel so alone on the road to wellness. For that, I can never begin to thank you enough  – for reading my posts, for following me on my journey, for sharing your own stories of how mine has impacted you – I am so truly grateful.

After listening to a “School of Greatness” podcast with Lewis Howes and Rupi Kaur, a few months back, something in me shifted. Rupi’s story inspired me. As much as I had spent the past year unearthing my truest self – another part lay hidden, beneath the layers of motherhood, being a woman, working hard and achieving my goals. A part of me lay buried beneath the ash of pain and sorrow, waiting to be brushed off with life anew.

A few days after listening to the podcast, a completely unrelated conversation with a friend led me to discovering a local open mic night. It offered poetry in the beginning and live music afterward, the second Tuesday of every month. It was pretty clear what I had to do.

The first time I sat down to write that poem for open mic night, was beneath the shade of a large maple tree. That is, until a group of ants decided to use me as their personal playground. I quickly moved my blanket out onto the open field. My best friend Emmylou from England was a few hundred feet in back of me, sitting on park grass, journaling away. I remember how warm the sun felt on my back, beating down without a cloud in the sky.

I was nervous about writing again. Would my poetic muse still be there for me after all this time? I had abandoned her when she was always by my side. For a good five to ten minutes, I heard that old “worrier” voice in my head, “You’re not a poet anymore, it’s been too long.” Followed by “You’ll never have time for this, it can’t be done.”

I hadn’t come this far, to give up now. I regrouped, put Lindsey Stirling on in my earbuds, took a breath and that’s when I heard her. My inner Warrior shouting to me, “It can be done, you’ve got this, MAKE the time for it!”

Like a distanced lover, who you never really had a falling out with, but instead just drifted apart from – my poetic muse embraced me with open arms. I did finish my poem that afternoon and read it that night, aloud at that open mic event. It was INCREDIBLE!

Last week I returned for open mic again. The poem I prepared was “A Letter to Cancer,” about both the struggles of treatment and the people who pulled me through. Just minutes before going on stage, it hit me that it was also my three-year Cancerversary. What a beautifully raw, emotionally charged, empowering way to celebrate being three years in remission!

A LETTER TO CANCER

Dear Cancer,

You thought You damned me,

condemned me to death.

But instead…

You breathed into my life

a power I had yet to know.

More fulfilling than the first breath that, 

into newborn lungs, flows. 

Dear Cancer,

You gave me,

bee sting pinches

for port access

just below my collar bone.

Toxins,

every other Tuesday

that took away my glow. 

Nine months of…

treatment

for

every

one

of

those

I

fought

through.

My son lent me his strength.

My daughter guided me with her light.

You thought I’d give up

when I got you.

But I had butterfly kisses

and little league baseball games to go to.

Berry bubblegum serenity

lingering on my little one’s

freshly shampooed hair.

Dear Cancer,

 Chemotherapy caused me pain…

physical pain.

I walked on invisible shards

of broken glass

each time bare toes touched cold concrete.

Put on socks

to go in the basement.

Wore gloves

just to wash clothes.

Dear Cancer,

I had enough!

In spite of You

I didn’t give up.

One week on treatment,

the next at the gym.

Protein shakes,

power lifting,

then chemotherapy again.

Slowly…

5 pounds on.

Steadily,

ten more.

Dear Cancer,

I’ve gained weight now. 

You have…

forged a fighter,

within me.

A survivor, 

an inspirer. 

Dear Cancer,

I dont hate You

anymore.

You thought You damned me,

condemned me to death.

But I see now,

You were never my disease…

You were..

my CURE.

 

Let Challenge Transform You

225932-Iyanla-Vanzant-Quote-Who-you-are-is-strong-enough-to-bare-your

IMG_2870
PHOTO LEFT: This was me, 3 years ago this May, age 29, three months into chemotherapy…and super blonde! I weighed 119 pounds, my hair was thinning, exhaustion and fatigue were relentless daily adversaries, intent on defeating me.                                                                                          PHOTO RIGHT: Fast forward to today, this photo was taken Feb 2017. I now weigh a HEALTHY 145 pounds (fun-sized at 5’4”), am letting my natural auburn/brunette hair color come shining through and have never felt healthier or stronger!

When I began chemotherapy in 2014, I was told that my treatments would more than likely cause muscle loss in my body. That alone made me want to cry. For ten years I struggled to gain weight, no longer the thick curvy girl I was in my early twenties. I weighed 119 pounds, on some days 117. Bi-weekly doses of toxic chemicals, poisonous to the point of killing my healthy cells too, flooded directly into my blood stream in hopes of destroying the cancer cells.

Being told I may lose even more weight was the turning point for me. I became angry. “NO…FUCKING…WAY!” I told myself. I was determined to let this dis-ease in my body break me open, not break me down.

I joined the gym. I started slow. I could barely do three sets of squats with a ten plate on each side, with a Smith Machine. Now I squat with a free bar, 5 to 7 reps per set with 140 pounds…155 or a little more when I have someone there to spot me.  Miraculously, I gained about 18 pounds or so by the time I finished all of my treatments. Then another 5 or 6 pounds a few months after that. Now at a solid 145 pounds, I have my curves back and then some. My self-confidence and self-love are through the roof!

The thing is, it’s not the results that gave me back my confidence. It’s the promises I’ve kept to myself as a result of deciding to take value in my own health and well being. It’s the self-respect I gained through eating healthier, being active, staying committed to my workouts even when I’m tired, even when it’s easier NOT to go to the gym.

Being diagnosed with cancer saved my life in so many ways. It brought me closer to my family, to my children, guided me to going on a week long women’s retreat where I made lasting friendships and healed the relationship I had with myself. It brought me more compassion and understanding for the human condition. It gave me the gift of loving deeper, laughing louder and knowing just how sacred the precious commodity of time truly is.

It led me to a day where I said “ENOUGH” and joined the gym. That decision alone has led to so many new friendships and experiences. It’s led to fitness becoming part of my children’s lives early on, something I hope stays with them as they grow into adults of their own. It’s led to me becoming an Ambassador for the supplement company I’ve been using for about two years now.

Cancer could have destroyed me. Instead, it acted as a catalyst – transforming my mental, spiritual and physical states beyond the parameters of what I knew to be true. It accelerated my soul’s growth and brought me to a more authentic version of myself.

If there is something in your life – a fear holding you back, don’t let it.  I never would have thought that joining the gym could change my life so dramatically. My life, and who I’ve become, are practically unrecognizable from where I was three years ago. But it’s only because I took that first step. You are always one decision away from a completely different life, YOU have the power to make it a masterpiece!!!

(Shot out to Unico Nutrition!!! Use promo code Amber7 for a 15% discount at http://www.uniconutrition.com/shop/team/Amber.Strong )

You can also follow my new IG Fitness account at Amber.Strong.Journey

THANK YOU so much for reading! 🙂

Never-Give-Up-Quotes-6

Celebrating Two Years Cancer Free

The day before yesterday, 12-12-16, was my Two-Year-Cancerversary. It was also Frank Sinatra’s Birthday. Lucky coincidence? I think not.

It’s been two years since a follow up colonoscopy, post chemo completion, deemed me cancer free. What a feeling 🙂strength

How did I spend the day celebrating? The night before I attended a Reiki share with some fellow Reiki practitioners. It left me feeling super charged and ready to take on the day Monday. My Cancerversary itself was spent outdoors in the snow, acting like a five-year-old with the best teacher: my five-year-old daughter Izzy.

We built a snowman, as she yelled at me to stop singing Frozen’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” Not sure if it was my singing or her inner demolition queen but our snowman didn’t stay assembled long. The Madd Queen from Alice in Wonderland may as well have shouted “Off with His Head!” Because that’s exactly what my sweet, little Izzy did. Without haste she belly-flopped into the snowman. His mid-section was transformed into a powdery mist, his head airborn as it propelled toward my dog – an innocent bystandard caught in the midst of our snowtastrophe. After we made snow angels, our leggings were so caked over snow clumps we had no choice but to go in the house and change. .

Honoring the parts of my life that mean the most; quality time with my love bug being one of them

Two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to be outside with either one of my children in Winter. The side effects of chemo made it impossible for me to touch anything below room temperature, about 65 degrees. On a cold day, even touching the glass slider that led out to the patio, would cause INTENSE pain in my fingertips.  Nevermind what going outside in the snow would have done to me.

I’m reminded of that every winter. The precious gift of life I have. The gifts of health, of strength, of family and the immense support and love of my friends and family. I’m reminded of what truly matters. The cold reminds me of how far I’ve come, of the mighty giant I battled and won. Winning isn’t everything though. It’s the lessons I took away from that battle more than anything that keep me grounded, that remind me to keep a grateful heart and never forget those who were there for me while I faced my darkest hour.

83fc0def5343456bcf0c2eb33687902e

What me and Old Blue Eyes have in common…

i-faced-it-all-and-i-stood-tall-and-did-it-my-way-quote-1

This past December, I celebrated my 1 year Cancerversary, one week after my Aunt lost her five year battle with aggressive lung cancer. What happens after you survive cancer and you lose a loved one to the disease? That’s something that I don’t think even the best doctors and nurses in the world can prepare you for. I couldn’t remember being so angry at the Universe when I was going through chemotherapy or even after being diagnosed. But after my Aunt Anne passed away, I wanted to high five the all mighty creator…in the face, possibly with a closed fist. All I could think was, “Why? Why did she have to leave and I’m still here?” I could have screamed it through hot tears at the Universe if I thought someone would answer me.

The night I celebrated my Cancerversary I wore a purple lei, her favorite color, in her honor. What I hadn’t realized until just days before was that my very special day also happened to be the 100th birthday of Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.

I fell in love with Sinatra as a child, first seeing him as a cameo on an episode of an old classic cartoon I was watching with my grandmother. She sat next to me in her rocker, eyebrows wiggling up and down as she said “That’s Frank Sinatra” with a mischievous smile. Luckily my grandfather was asleep in his recliner.

Sharing my special day with Sinatra, made my heart smile. I like to think of it as the Universe’s way of letting me know my grandparents were with me in spirit, proud of all I had overcome.

12729148_797653060378080_1682415804820287678_n

As though that in itself weren’t special enough, my 1 year Cancerservary also turned out to be the Day 3 Hawaiian Luau celebration of the Matthew Hussey retreat I was attending in Florida. The energy I experienced that night was like anything I’ve felt. Perhaps, only parallel holding my son and daughter for the first time. Yeah, that good.

The energy between all of us High Value Women attendees and the GTG team was indescribable – 130 plus strangers, united by a desire for change. The kind of change that happens within, on a core level.

12733592_797653510378035_4366691658439752037_n
(Left to right: Me, Epic Emma (above), the Lovely Lindsay and the Extraordinary Emmylou)

The luau celebration ended only after half of us (myself and three closest soul sisters; Emmylou, Lindsay and Emma included) jumped into the pool fully clothed with the GTG team…actually it ended once we all jumped back out of the pool and started dancing again!

I’ve used that night as my emotional button for joy at least a million times since returning home. Okay, maybe only half a million…because I love the feeling it gives me to think of those women and the bond we all share.

I can’t think of a better way to have spent my first Cancerversary – on my favorite musician’s 100th birthday, with some of the most inspiring souls I have had the pleasure of becoming friends with.

 

 

TGIF!

It's Friiiiday! I said it's Friiiiday!!!
It’s Friiiiday! I said it’s Friiiiday!!!

Just a quick thought for today, wanna wish you all a fan-freaking-tastic Friday! I’ve been up since 5 a.m., feeling super productive today. Took over an hour to get all the recycling sorted out this morning, but I gets ‘er done! Did two loads of laundry, ate breakfast and am about to start getting my dope little humans up and ready for school and myself ready for work. Woot woot!

Give yourself a high five if you’re still breathing, just not to your face. I mean, hey unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Go out into the world, do epic shit. Be the reason someone smiles today. Pick up the order for the person behind you at Dunkin or Starbucks or wherever you get your a.m. cup o’ joe. Kindness is contagious, sprinkle that shit everywhere like glitter!

Happy Friday ya’ll!

Check Out My Port! (part 2)

05cc5abbfbb9412c1940ae03cdfcdcdf2146ef39e371cff42310d1b842bac383

Between cooking Chicken Marsala (I’m just saying, it’s kind of a big deal. If I could marry my marsala, it would be on like Donkey Kong) and the weather becoming much warmer–I quickly changed into a tank top as the kitchen started heating up tonight. 

Looking at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, seeing my bare shoulders in a tank top again, with that protruding triangular shaped mound just sitting there; really got me thinking. My surgeon has given the go ahead for port removal; it’s been in place for 15 months now. I’m already 7 months out from completing treatment…7 months!

present-not-final1

Change is the evolution of life right? But I’ve become attached to my port. It’s just as much a part of me as my hair or skin. What’s it going to feel like when I don’t have a port anymore?  What will it be like looking in the mirror to see a fading scar where an obvious prominence used to be? To not have to wear my seatbelt a different way for comfort? For my daughter to say “Mommy, where did your port go?” To not get stared at in public by total strangers who don’t always know what a port even is? To not see my oncology nurses every 6 to 8 weeks for a port flush? To go to the lab for routine blood draws, instead of to the nurses in the infusion suite?

Port removal is a major milestone as a cancer patient. When your oncologist and surgeon are in agreement that it’s time to take out the port, it’s this hopeful intention that you’re going to be healthy long term. It’s their way of saying a patient is in a good place of survivorship.

Having my port removed isn’t just letting go of what was, it’s moving forward into what will be. Living my best life, one day healthier and stronger at a time.

chemo-portCheck out my port! Pretty gross and extremely fascinating at the same time. Especially when you consider that it’s sitting under my skin at this very moment. Having a port is kind of like having a tattoo, you forget that it’s there. Except, unlike a tattoo, I get reminded each time I buckle my driver’s side seat belt, get dressed in front of a mirror or get hugged way too hard. The hugging doesn’t hurt, it just gives you this feeling of “Oh hey I remember that! The chemo thing my surgeon stuck in a blood vessel X amount of months ago.”

Hey Check Out My Port! (part 1)

be-kind-for-everyone-you-meet-is-fighting-a-battle-you-know-nothing-about-drkehres

Warm weather is finally here in New England! I don’t dare mention the “s” word. You know–that white, fluffy stuff that comes from the sky. Enough of it was moved about in Boston, this past winter, to “fill Gillette stadium 90 times” according to Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker. You know what I’m talking about. Even though it’s May, I’m not going into detail about it because after all this is New England. If it could sn– eh hem, get really cold again in May when it shouldn’t…this is where it would happen.

Warmer weather means less layers and more skin. Let’s keep this rated PG you dirty bird, get your mind out of the gutter…not THAT much skin. I’m talking tank tops, capris, sleeveless tanks. And one more thing for me, for other cancer patients…clear port visibility.

The area that my port was placed in makes it very, very visible. At Victoria’s Secret, one employee in particular always remembers me.  She gives me that “you look so familiar but I don’t want to offend you, so I’ll just ask if you need assistance instead” look. Until she helps me with something in the fitting room.  Then she’s all smiles and says “Oh that’s right! I remember you now from the…” At a loss for words, she touches her shoulder just below her clavicle–where my port is.

There’s also some concerned, elderly, female cashiers at one of the grocery stores I frequent. I can think of two or three of them off hand. This is the part that always gets me. They make conversation with me, idle chit chat, speaking to my kids or asking how they’re doing if they’re not with me. Eyes shift to my shoulder, in a passing glance but get fixated (momentarily) on my port. The next time their eyes meet mine, it’s this look of…I don’t know, pain? It’s a look I’ve gotten to know so well. The look of someone who, by some means, recognizes my port. “My God, how does someone so young have cancer? How could this happen to her?” THAT look.

You’d think with as many times as I’ve seen it, I’d be conditioned to not feel what I do when it happens. But I do. And every damn time someone gives me that look, it makes me want to burst into tears.

Not because I feel weak or think I’m too young to have had cancer. It pulls on my emotions because of the genuine element of human compassion behind it. Because I have never seen so much empathy, love and genuine concern from both people I know and total strangers in my entire life.

I’ve seen men as big as Sasquatch look like they’re about to cry when they hear I had cancer. Journalists, who are tough as nails in the field, look at me with such endearment because of what I endured.

There are still kindhearted, loving and sincerely good people on this earth.

It gives me hope.

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

DSCN8103 - Version 2

(above: My daughter and I after building our first snowman of the season!)

By now, I think most New englanders would agree…whoever pissed off Queen Elsa needs to go and apologize so we can get out this prolonged state of frozen Arendelle. It’s been snow, snow and more snow for four straight weeks in my neck of the woods. But before I got sick of the cold, there was this beautiful afternoon I shared with my daughter.

 The type of chemotherapy treatment I went through was 5-FU with Leucovorin and Oxaliplatin. Now every cancer type has a different type of treatment and each stage of cancer can also have treatment variations as well. Some people need chemotherapy and radiation, others need just one or the other. Some are extremely fortunate and only need major surgery to remove the tumors/affected cells.

My cancer treatment regime consisted of major colon resection surgery, followed by 12 rounds of chemotherapy. One chemo session every two weeks. Because of low blood cell counts (such as platelets and white cells) my treatment stretched out over nine months instead of six.

There are also different reactions to different types of chemo. Some people get hot flashes, experience pain with extreme heat or when eating/drinking anything hot. My reaction was sensitivity to cold.

Beginning chemo in early February, in New England, definitely wasn’t something I had prepared myself for. The residual effects of chemo left my body defenseless against the harsh, bitter weather. I couldn’t play in the snow with my kids. I couldn’t eat or drink anything cold unless I want to feel like I was swallowing broken glass. Anytime I went outside into the freezing air, I had to bundle up (picture Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”). Scarves, a hat, gloves, sometimes two layers of jackets and two pairs of sweatpants was my uniform of choice from February to May last year.

DSCN8104 - Version 2

You can imagine the elation I felt in January when we had our first heavy snow fall of 2015! I couldn’t wait to get outside. My daughter and I threw on our snow gear and headed out onto the back deck as the snow continued falling. It was the perfect texture for snowman building, fluffy and easy to pack. Not too fluffy where it won’t stick together but not full of too much moisture either. We had a blast playing in the snow together.

To be out in the cold without experiencing pins and needles in my face, feet and hands was amazing! The tingling sensation I had associated with cold weather was gone. I kept waiting for the pain to set in, but it never did. Time passed quickly as we built our own personal version of Olaf. By the time my daughter and I went inside, my son had finished watching a movie he started with my mom before us girls had gone outside. That means I had been out in the snow for nearly two hours without the slightest bit of discomfort!

The further out my survivorship goes, complacency becomes easier to settle into. It’s only been five months since my last chemo treatment. Already it feels like this bizarre, waking dream that’s since passed. Surreal. Until something gently reminds me.

Each time I go back to the Infusion Suite, sit in that big blue chair and get my port flushed or have blood work drawn, I’m reminded. All of 2014 was spent, literally, fighting for my life. I love harder, laugh louder, dance crazier and live my life moment to  moment because of what cancer taught me.

I’m still sick of the snow at this point. Fortunately for me though, this winter, it’s because of an entirely different reason 🙂

DSCN8101 - Version 2

Gratitude for Good Health

10801733_605475872929134_230296916931725967_n

(Above: My mutt mutt Bella-Boo)

Almost two weeks ago, I gave my dog a bath.

“And?” You’re probably thinking, “Why the heck does that matter?”

Well, let me walk you through all that en”tails”…pun intended 🙂

My dog Bella is a sixty-pound, “no way in hell am I getting in that bath tub”, has every possible imaginable allergy under the sun, type of dog. Which means after picking her heavy ass up and placing her into the bath tub, she then has to be shampooed twice. Once with a yummy-tropical-smelling, hypo-allergenic dog-shampoo to get her clean. And once more with a medicated, prescription, dog-shampoo that has to be left in…for twenty minutes. Did I mention that she really really doesn’t like taking a bath?

The last time Bella had her bath, I was still going through chemotherapy treatments. It was exhausting. I could barely find the strength to pick her up twice. In fact, I’m pretty sure I let her jump out of the tub when her bath was over. Picking her up again simply wasn’t happening.

After her first round of shampooing, I was ready to call it a day. It took me just about two hours from start to finish. (That’s a very loooong time!)

But on this particular day (a few weeks ago) I was the victorious, alpha, rescue mom. Just as my soapy hands became full of dog hair, my children reminded me that they too were part of my multi-tasking agenda. I micromanaged my son’s appetite plus my daughter’s sudden need to become Queen Elsa of Arendelle then went back to work on my soapy pup.

I couldn’t help but be overcome with an enormous sense of gratitude. My back didn’t feel sore.  My legs weren’t becoming weak from the constant strain of bending to lather, rinse, repeat. It felt damn good to be accomplishing a normal everyday task without feeling wiped out! Healthy again. My body, while not back to 100 percent, was getting there.

Bella looked up at me, tail between her legs, ears back, eyes begging for release from this tiled prison. I was laughing and smiling the whole time. Being healthy enough to do something so simple was such a blessing. Something that, just a few month ago, would have winded me for sure.

I took it for granted that I would always be healthy. Just like being in an unhealthy relationship can give you new eyes of appreciation and admiration for the healthy one that comes along.

Cancer taught me to give thanks for everyday my heart is pumping. For each day my lungs allow me to breathe. Cancer could have owned me, destroyed my life, taken every precious intangible thing away. It may have been a very cruel teacher at times, with harsh lessons to learn. Without everything I gained because of it, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

I’ve lost quite a few people in my life to cancer. I can count on more than one hand how many family members have been afflicted by it. Maybe this was cancers way of repaying that karmic debt. By giving me invaluable knowledge, appreciation for days I may have taken for granted, moments that might have slipped through the cracks of my life–it made up for all the pain it had caused in previous years.

To be a survivor, I know how fortunate I am. Why fate chose to keep me here, I don’t know. I don’t know why so many have to lose their lives to this terrible disease. Why I wasn’t one of them. All I know is that I believe everything happens for a reason. So rather than saying “fuck you” to cancer, all I can say is “thank you.”