Tag Archives: Happiness

Unwrapping the “Mummy”

Photo on 7-31-15 at 9.16 PM Friday night. Two days after my chemotherapy port-a-cath removal. It was time to remove the bandage covering the suture site where my port had once been. My surgeon warned me about possible bruising but I didn’t know what to expect when the bandage came off.

Slowly I began peeling back the thin, clear layer of water-resistant tape that covered the bandage. A corner here, the sides there until finally I could remove the bandage altogether, exposing the steri-strips protecting the suture site.

One layer of dissolvable sutures beneath the skin, one layer of sutures in the outter layer of skin. I thought back to when my surgeon was stitching me up. I tried to look away but could see him threading the skin in the reflection of the nurses’s glasses. I could feel the taught tugging of my skin as he brought the layers closer together until the hole was whole again.

But there wasn’t any bruising.

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Not for the faint of heart, a close up of my former port site. Sutures and all.

Maybe it was the self-Reiki I had given to the area, on and off, the day of my procedure. Maybe it was a combination of that, having an Angel or two on my shoulder and being a quick healer.

The unveiling of my former port site was odd. Not seeing that triangular shape beneath my skin or feeling the three, tiny, silicon dots in the center of it – the marker that guided my nurses time and time again where the chemo needle needed to go. Strange.

Just my skin. My flat, sutured, sore skin.

 

 

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Arrivederci!

There’s something about the giant, sterile, surgical light that hovers above you in the surgery room. Whether it’s minor surgery or major, it doesn’t matter. Seeing that lamp sent me into a panic.

I was fine when I checked in to have my port removed. Fine sitting there as the nurse came and checked my vital signs and then escorted me into the room where minor surgery is performed. My surgeon, “Dr. D”, went about preparing what he needed to open me up and literally cut out my chemotherapy port-a-cath.

Immediately after my port was removed. Trying to fight back tears of joy long enough to take a "post port removal" selfie :)
Immediately after my port was removed. Trying to fight back tears of joy long enough to take a “post port removal” selfie 🙂

I started breathing heavy, hot tears flushed down my face…and I had just laid back onto the surgical bed. The nurse took my hand as Dr. D started prepping my skin, adding the dressing to the area that isolated the spot where he needed to remove good old “Penny”. He hadn’t even applied local anesthetic and I was quickly losing my composure.

Thank goodness my surgeon is the smartass that he is. The first needle was nothing. I’ve had blood draws taken that were far worse. I didn’t know he was going to inject about four or five more (possibly more, I lost count after the fourth injection).

It felt like someone was digging around, underneath my skin, with a miniature hot poker. Dr. D says to the nurse “Would you call that a whine or a whimper?” And when I wasn’t laughing he told me it was time to start manning up! Believe it or not, his sarcasm put me at ease.

Dr. D isn’t the type of doctor to coddle his patients. Tough love maybe but it’s the kind of attitude I grew up with and the reason why I probably got through my cancer treatments with such an optimistic attitude. It’s the “suck it up buttercup” mentality that allowed me to say “Okay, I’ve got cancer, what do I have to do to kick its’ ass ad move on with my life?”

He got me to calm down, that and a combination of the local anesthetic kicking in. I started taking slow, deep breaths and made small talk about my munchkins with the nurse.

I was done about ten minutes after Dr. D opened up the port site.

245b6a3786bfe4aaf8a939164f3d1bf5On the way out, the nurse asked me if I wanted to give a single finger salute. I said “What? No, I really like Dr. D” After bursting into laughter, she said “I didn’t mean to Dr. D, I was talking about your port!”

I looked over toward my surgeon and saw it there on the counter next to him. In a little plastic, specimen collection jar was my chemotherapy port.

That part of my life, for the most part,is over now.

A new journey begins…

And for my next trick…

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This is it! The last photograph that will ever be taken with my port in the photo 🙂

And for my next trick ladies and gentleman…I shall make this port disappear!

In about ten minutes I’m heading to the hospital for a quick day procedure/minor surgery. Today my chemotherapy port-a-cath is being removed!!!

Getting it removed is much easier than having it put in place, according to my surgeon. When I called to ask the receptionist if I would need someone to drive me to and from the hospital, she replied “It’s just like going to the dentist and getting novocaine.” They numb the area, make an incision, remove the port and glue me back together. Not quite like going to the dentist but I understand what she meant.

No more port, no more chemotherapy.

When I dropped my four-year-old daughter off at preschool this morning I told her that when I picked her up later, my port would be all gone. We had this conversation yesterday as well but I wanted to reiterate it to her again just to be safe. She smiled at me when I told her this morning. Then she brushed my hair aside and moved my sleeve to the side of my arm, exposing the port. She looked at it for a second then looked back at me, smiled and gave me the biggest hug. Her way of saying “be brave Mommy!” after leaving a kiss on my cheek and telling me she loved me.

I’m ready.

If I’m Bloggin’ – I’m Happy!

Or in my case tonight, by my giant nine-year-old
Or the “almost as tall as me” nine-year-old

It feels like I’m on holiday right now; even though my nine-year-old is restlessly karate chopping me in his sleep while his sister strategically positioned her feet  near my head. I’m happy. They’re both sleeping and I finally have a moment to breathe, relax and blog.

I’ve been craving to write a good blog entry for weeks! About anything, everything and nothing at all. So much is happening everyday. If I don’t take time to write it down, type it out; I feel like these moments will be lost forever.

85bfcd7befabe015abeb3a1570349c48 - Version 2In January I stood in the middle of seated room of 300, in New York City, to have a fifteen minute conversation – live, in front of everyone, while being video recorded – with one of my everyday heroes; dating and life coach Matthew Hussey. Hussey told me point blank if I continue to sacrifice my love life for the sake of my children’s happiness I’m going to “fuck them up” and cause more damage than good in the long run. His rationale was that they would see their “mum” putting them first and never putting my own romantic happiness in the forefront. Leading my kiddos to believe it was what they were supposed to do as adults. Food for thought. Thank you for that Mr. Hussey, you’ve given me plenty to think about.

Two weeks ago, I traveled from Virginia to Maryland to Massachusetts in one day…by car…toting my children along for most of the journey. One of my best friends crossed the stage at her college graduation in Virginia Beach. I was not only there for moral support but to embarrass the bajeezus out of her by screaming out “I LOVE YOU KRISTIN!” in a very crowded, semi-quiet, stadium size, campus auditorium. Because hellerrrr, that’s what best friends do woman!

It was no small feat for a single mother of two to graduate with honors. I’m still so proud of you Snookum Snookums! When you’ve been friends as long as we have, and know as much as we know about each-other, you come up with silly nick names. It’s out of love, don’t judge.

Mama's first Sox game at Fenway, woot woot! #SOXNATION
Mama’s first Sox game at Fenway, woot woot! #SOXNATION

In April, I finally attended my first Sox game (SOX NATION!) and with the only person in this world I could imagine being there with; my son. I also started a kickass internship with quite possibly some of the most intelligent, interesting and charismatic people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with – acting as an intern and conservation writer for the US Fish and Wildlife Service WordPress blog.

This past Saturday, I pet a Madagascar hissing cockroach. Or as my threenager (about to be four) put it, a “kissing hockroach.” My son rocked it out at both of his soccer games this weekend. My daughter painted her little heart out designing faerie houses for our garden.

Some of our faerie garden supplies, my daughter walked off with the rest. And that glue...definitely got returned. Warning labels about hazardous fumes should probably be written on the FRONT of the bottle somewhere...not on back behind the packaging.
Some of our faerie garden supplies, my daughter walked off with the rest. And that glue…definitely got returned. Warning labels about hazardous fumes should probably be written on the FRONT of the bottle somewhere…not on back behind the packaging.

My 2015 memory box is already flooded with so many invaluable treasures from beautiful moments. And it’s only June 2. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds!

A beautiful life isn’t built in a day. A beautiful life, to me, is made moment by moment – when you do that thing you’re afraid of doing, say the thing you fear being criticized for and expand your mindset beyond society’s limitations.

One moment can lead to even greater moment, a connection with a person you may not have met which can lead to a job and/or career choice you never thought you’d have the opportunity to make. It’s all about choice. Will you choose to stay within the boundaries of your self-inflicted comfort zone? Or will you break free and shatter the parameters of your own fears?

Gratitude for Good Health

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(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.”

Another Moment of Gratitude

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The day after my munchkins and I went out to eat, I lost this bracelet. It was a sterling silver bangle my father had given me over twelve years ago. It’s not that it was expensive because it wasn’t. The sentimental value of it made it irreplaceable to me.

I still remember the day my father brought it home. He had picked up some jewelry from a moving job he did. Customers from time to time would give him things they couldn’t or didn’t have time to sell but no longer wanted. We accumulated quite a few “knick-knacks” over the years. So when my dad would say he was bringing something home again, my mom and I would just look at each other and think “Oh boy, here we go again!”

But this day he brought home a few bracelets wrapped up in white cloth. He placed the cloth on the table and told me, as he unfolded it, I could pick just one of the bracelets. When I saw the bangle I was thrilled. I’ve always been big into (quite obsessed really) with Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Greek mythology/history. One particular bangle had the meandros (Greek key) going all the way around it. That was the one I chose. It was a symbol of both unity and eternity in Ancient Greece and one of (if not the most) sacred symbols Ancient Greeks utilized.

I had been running errands last week on a particularly cold morning. Not usually the winter glove wearing type, I went back into my house to grab a pair since the cold was so bitter that morning. Unfortunately at some point in the day, while taking one of my gloves off, the bracelet had come off without me realizing it. My wrist felt lighter like I was missing something but I couldn’t quite place what it was since I had several bracelets on that day.

By the time I noticed the bangle was missing, I had already made three stops. Not one of them said a bracelet had been turned in. I was devastated. I’m not going to lie, it really put a damper on my day. I had taken this bracelet with me to Italy for ten days but somehow managed to lose it locally running errands. Sheesh!

I went home that day, after finishing up what I had to do, accepting I was probably never going to see the bracelet again. “Can’t take it with me when I go anyhow right?” I told myself to take the sting out of losing it. I tried to “fogetaboudit” but was still a little upset that night when I went to bed.

The next morning was another busy morning (as is usually the case) but around noon I received a call from one of the places I had stopped at the day before. Someone had actually turned in my bracelet! Before the receptionist could even describe the bracelet, I gave her a full rundown myself; the size, material, design and just how much it meant to me to have it back. After getting off the phone with her, I headed straight over and picked up my bracelet. I was almost in tears. Not only from having it back, but from the fact that there was a person out there selfless enough to turn it in rather than keep it for themself.

It goes back to that whole boomerang effect of good and bad Karma. I thought back to all the times I had found a credit card or someone’s wallet or a smart phone and turned them in or found the person to give it back to them. Maybe it was a little good Karma coming my way. Who knows? All I know for sure, is that I was very very grateful to whoever turned my bangle in!

Pay It Forward :)

My children and I were getting a little stir crazy last week. We have a pretty busy schedule but the routine of it all gets a bit overwhelming sometimes. I’m the kind of person who needs adventure, variety, to not be doing the same thing each day. Since my son has something going on every day after school Monday through Friday…every…single…week…it gets to be monotonous.

I was looking forward to coming home and throwing on my jammies after my son’s appointment that day. A few days earlier, the Patriots won their game against the Ravens. Which meant that one of my son’s fave local restaurants was serving up the kids menu for free all day! No, it’s not organic but I figure once in a great while won’t hurt anything. My son was oober excited so I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d rather come home than go out to eat that night.

We left my son’s appointment later that night, heading to the restaurant. Dom (my son) and Izzy (my daughter) were so well behaved I thought I must have walked right into the Twilight Zone for sure! I mean one behaving okay, but both of them? Wow. Not only were they behaving but they were entertaining each-other and the surrounding tables with their comical theatrics.

(SIDE NOTE: Izzy is obsessed with Disney’s Frozen right now. Absolutely obsessed in every sense of the word. To the point where normal everyday conversations become lines from Frozen. Last night when I told her it was bedtime, she went to run away from me and said “Mommy, you have to tell me ‘Elsa stop!’ okay?” Then tonight she went to kiss me. Lovingly, she placed a hand on each of my cheeks. Looking into my eyes with a kissey face on her lips, she said “Oh Ana, if only someone out there loved you.” [this is what Hans says to Ana in the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it] This was followed by excessive giggling and “Oh Mommy! I’m such a little stinker huh?!?” Like I said, obsessed!)

Anyhow, she was belting out “Let It Go” in her loudest Disney princess voice as we waited for our food. I leaned in close to her and let her know she needed to use her quiet, inside voice to sing. This little goofball looked me square in the face, laughed out loud and then (in a very not so quiet, outside voice) said “Mommy! I farted! Oh what’s that smell?!?! Who did that?!?”

On their way out, a couple I’ve known well over 15 years stopped by our booth to say hello. They had been sitting in the back of the restaurant (unbeknownst to me since my back was facing them). I hadn’t seen them in years. It was great reconnecting with them over pictures of their grandchildren, joking about the times we had when I used to work for them. They each got a huge hug from me before going on their way.

Me and the kids went back to our meal. I kept thinking how I was going to leave a pretty sweet tip for our server. He brewed a fresh pot of coffee for me, brought my soup out as soon as it was done (still piping hot) and kept our “to go” order of ice cream in the freezer so we could pick it up on the way out. All without me asking. It was such a great night. The energy was light, care free.

When it came time for the check, our server told me that the couple I had been speaking with earlier picked up our tab. Even gratuity had been covered. I was speechless.

So this is my message to you. As we all start off 2015, let’s start it off right. PAY IT FORWARD! A simple act of random kindness doesn’t have to be done for someone you know. That’s the joy in it. You don’t have to be dough loaded to make a difference. Sending a personalized “thank you” or “thinking of you” note/card can be all it takes.

Whatever you put out into the Universe comes back to you, I truly believe that! It may not be today or even next week (well…for some people it might) but at some point there’s a boomerang effect. When someone does something special for you, keep that good deed moving forward. Do something selfless for another. You’d be surprised how much a simple act of kindness can change someone’s day for the better 🙂

Reflecting One Year Later, Part 1, Surgery

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(above image: My son visiting me in the hospital, two days post-op)

One year ago today, I spent New Year’s Eve recovering from major colon resection surgery in the hospital. It was less than two weeks after being diagnosed with Stage III Colon Cancer.

Going in that morning, I was terrified.  Both of my parents had accompanied me. I had spent the hours prior to surgery sending Reiki to every single person who would be part of my surgery; surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, hospital staff, myself, my parents and most of my family. I prayed. I called upon others to pray for me.

Thinking back upon it now, tears well up in my eyes. “If you had waited another six months, it would have been too late.” I will never forget those words coming out of my surgeon’s mouth, just five days before Christmas. Twenty-nine-years-old, diagnosed with cancer. Stage five is the highest level my type of cancer goes and I was stage three. A single mother with two reasons to fight, get stronger and kick this cancer’s ass (all puns intended). My son Dominic and my daughter Izabella didn’t just pull me through, they saved my life. In more ways than they will ever know.

Whatever powers that be were looking out for me during this journey and have been my entire life. I know this for many reasons. But relevant to cancer, because I had always wanted two biological children; a son and a daughter. At the age of twenty-nine I began chemotherapy as part of my cancer treatment regimen. Chemotherapy which may have left my reproductive organs unable to bare any further offspring. Although my cycles are still occurring, much to the surprise of my medical team, who knows if I still have the ability to conceive?

Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I was blessed with the gift of motherhood. Even on the worst of days, my babes far surpass any ideal I could have held in my heart. My reasons for living, for becoming the best human being I know how to be; if I can be half the woman they see me as then I know I’m doing something right.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just like any other mother. Some days I yell, I scream, I say things I don’t mean. My son has left me speechless at times with his melodramatic response to something as simple as bedtime. My daughter has left me wondering how I manage to get through her temper tantrums simply by breathing deeply or walking away to cool down.

Some days I honest to God don’t know how I get through it. But I do and it’s in those moments that I find solace. Their smiles, hugs, love and laughter. No one on this earth is capable of loving me the way my children do and no one will ever be capable of loving them to the extent that I love them. It’s the kind of love that goes without saying. Truly described only by the deeply held emotions found within one’s heart. Boundless and beautiful.

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This New Year’s Eve, I will be celebrating with one of my closest and dearest friends. I won’t just be celebrating a New Year of possibilities and adventure. I’ll be celebrating another year of life, of love. Another year of being surrounded by family and the most loyal, loving and selfless people I know.

Not only did I come out of 2014 as a stronger human being, I’m ringing in this new year as a survivor. My cancer is gone, I’ve adopted new lifestyle habits such as working out and meditating more. There’s always room for improvement but I am so much closer now to being the unstoppable, (as a dear friend would say) Epic, Sexy Soul that I know I am meant to be. Cancer catapulted me into 2014 with such a fierceness for life that I didn’t want to miss a single moment. I did as much as I possibly could for myself, traveling and checking things off my “Living Life to the Fullest List” (the idea of a bucket list seemed kind of morbid once I was diagnosed with cancer).

So bring it on 2015! I can hardly wait to see what you have in store for me. Whatever it is, I know it will be beautiful and magnificent!

Wishing you all a safe New Year’s Eve and a prosperous, joy-filled, ass-kicking new year in 2015! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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(above image: One year later after diagnosis and treatment)

2014 in Review

I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for reading, following, commenting on and sharing my blog. This blog was started to help me through my cancer journey. But knowing that I’ve been able to reach out into the world and share my story with so many, knowing that you care enough to read my blog and be part of my life…well that’s what gives me the motivation to continue blogging and sharing with you all.

Thank you everyone for being part of this journey in 2014! Who knows what adventures will await in 2015. I wish you all a beautiful New Year filled with love, family, good health and joy! Thank you again for everything 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

‘Tis the season…for a healthy colon…Part 2

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As my mother drove us home, I answered a call from one of my older brothers. “Hey Wonder Woman!” It had become his new nickname for me since I began going through cancer care. “Hulkster!” Yeah, that’s right, Wonder Woman and the Hulk. Cheesy as it sounds, that’s how we roll!

My brother is a man of few words. But I know him well enough to know just how elated he was by the news. Over the last year, I could hear the concern in his voice more than once when we spoke about my treatment or diagnosis. As hard as it was for me to go through, I think it may have been even harder for friends and family to witness. Sitting by the sidelines, watching someone you love battle a potentially life-threatening disease, unable to do more than offer your emotional support…it’s heart-wrenching.

The holidays will be so different for my family and I this year. I was diagnosed five days before Christmas last year and went in for surgery on New Year’s Eve. I only shared the news with my siblings, parents and a few other friends and relatives until after the holidays. I had battled the decision to tell everyone via Facebook but didn’t know if I was ready to.

The day after my colon-resection surgery, New Year’s Day, I decided to share my diagnosis with everyone else via social media. The responses ranged from sadness to encouragement. A few people even thought my account had been hacked.

The holidays were a difficult time for us, not knowing what to expect or what the new year would bring. While everyone else was opening gifts and celebrating–my family was sharing tears, facing fear of the unknown. We faced it together as an unbreakable unit but it didn’t make it any less concerning.

This year, I’ll be spending the holidays without fear of the future. I am so eager to see what the new chapters of my life will bring. I’ve already been graced with meeting so many like-minded individuals. Like-minded, in the sense that we share passion for living extraordinary lives. I’m not content to live a life by the nine to five standard  that society says I should. Cancer has catapulted me full force into tapping into the energy of creativity, of visualizing a beautiful life of my own doing. I can hardly wait to see what 2015 brings. I look forward not with anxiety, fear or worry but with clarity, eagerness and anticipation. Bring it on Universe! I am so ready 🙂

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