Tag Archives: Inspiration

Colonoscopies are no pain in the @$$…especially if they save your life!

 

Today, I underwent my third colonoscopy since December of 2013 – when the first one determined it was cancer causing me to be sick, underweight and plagued by exhaustion. One year after that, I went in for a second colonoscopy (post Stage III Colon Cancer, post-treatment) which deemed me to have a clean bill of health. No cancer. No polyps. Ready to rock and roll into remission!

Today’s colonoscopy was seven months overdue. Life had become quite busy between being a Mom, moving, setting new goals and being fully present for the holidays.

Finally in February, I called the GI (gastrointestinal) specialist’s office. I hadn’t realized they needed to see me in the office, first, before the procedure could be scheduled. It would be another month before I was seen in the office. My insurance company had changed my policy but hadn’t sent out new cards yet. I did have a copy of my group number and everything I needed to schedule the appointment. Unfortunately, the office required a copy of the actual card since my current medical insurance provider now specified which hospital the procedure could be performed at. After waiting another two weeks for new insurance cards to come in, I was scheduled my colonoscopy.

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No matter how many blood draws or colonoscopies or check-ins I have, there is always a certain level of anxiety beforehand. What if the cancer-cell-indicator blood test says cancer cells are present? What if they find something during the colonoscopy? What if the doctor finds a lump or palpates an internal blockage of some kind? It’s easy to start feeling batshit crazy when pondering the “what-if’s” of oncology screenings and check-ins.

My rock-star Mama accompanied me today, as she always has for any hospital visit I’ve had during my cancer journey. She’s puts up with my anxiety-prone irritability, not knowing if I’ll be myself or stressed or numb, wonderfully well. In spite of the mood swings, she stays by my side, knowing it’s only temporary. When it’s over, I almost always go back to being her “little pumpkin.”

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While we were waiting for the nurses to wheel my hospital gurney away into the procedure room, I could hear music playing overhead in speakers on the ceiling. Colbie Caillat, Never gonna let you down was playing. A quick stream of tears ran down my cheeks. Emms.

Last year I sent that song to my soul sister, Emmylou, telling her it was our friendship one hundred percent. We have the kind of friendship where (quite literally) everywhere we go – people think we’re either sisters or romantic partners. We’re that close, that connected and always have been since the day we met.

When that song came on I felt her presence with me, even though she was probably painting an extraordinary mural somewhere or off to the gym in her current home of Mother England. I saw her there by my bed side, laughing with me and holding my hand. In that moment, I knew everything would be okay.

Immediately after that song played, Tale as old as time from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came on. It was my favorite Disney tale as a child and still is to this day. Hearing that song brought back childhood memories of  Belle gliding across a frozen ice rink during Disney on Ice. I remembered the “magic mirror” my Mom bought for me as a souvenir. When you pushed a little button, the mirror face lit up and made the kind of noise that made me say “whooooaaaaaa!” everytime.

I thought about my daughter, Izzy. How awestruck she was after I took her to see the Broadway musical version of Beauty and the Beast at our local university. How she tells me, “Mommy, you’re just like Belle because you kind-of look like her and you like to read and you’re like a little weird.” To which I always tell her, “Mommy has worked very hard to be a little weird and since you’re my daughter, that makes you my little weirdo!”

As I wiped tears from my eyes, I thought of my son Dominic. His bright yellow and green, rainbow-loom bracelet adorned my wrist. I thought about him hand-pulling every rubber band through to make it. How superficially upset (but secretly happy) he would be to see me wearing his bracelet. Even though he’s at a sleepover and Izzy is with her amazing Aunty Kimmy, I needed to feel they were with me somehow. And I did.

Two blown intravenous lines and one moment of waking up mid-procedure later – it was time to go home. I overheard Dr. S tell my mom she found three polyps, removed them and sent them out for biopsies. Other than that, I was given a clean bill of health. Because of my colon cancer history, and Dr. S finding polyps, I’ll have to have another colonoscopy in three years rather than the five I was hoping for. But if it saves my life and removes any chance of my body developing cancer again, I’m certainly not complaining.

As soon as the polyp biopsy results come in, I’ll be certain to update everyone!

Thank you for reading, for sending prayers and love and support. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes community to combat cancer. Sending big love to you all!

~Amber xoxo

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Book Launch Par-yay!

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This past Sunday was the first official book launch party for my new book; The Gift of Cancer: A journey of transformation through faith, family and gratitude.

During the course of my initial diagnosis, treatment and surgeries – I kept a personal journal, kept friends and family updated on Facebook and published blog posts here on WordPress. I’ve spent the last four months compiling all of those entries into a 200-page book. (now, proudly available on Amazon.com)

Writing this book was healing on so many levels. Being surrounded by friends and family while sharing some of the most intimate, vulnerable moments of my life was beyond therapeutic. I know I’m one of the “lucky” ones, I was given a second chance at life. The opportunity to be here today, alive, to write this book is a blessing in itself.

My hope is it will inspire those going through it to keep fighting. Or that reading this book will help oncologists and doctors practice more compassion with their patients, understanding we are all so very different. I believe anyone serving as support to a cancer patient or cancer family can benefit from reading this book. While every cancer is different and every person a unique individual; there are certain things we all battle when facing this disease. The Gift of Cancer offers insight into that sacred, vulnerable world.

 

Failure; The Warrior’s Prelude to Success

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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 Day 20: Followers!

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DAY 20:

Saturday/September 27:

Over the weekend, there were several bloggers who decided to start following my blog as well. To you, to all of the people who choose to follow my blog, I want to say a huge thank you!

As a single mother, student and cancer patient (now survivor!!! woot woot!!!) I have to consciously make an effort to keep my blog going. The more followers I receive, the more it motivates me to write. To chisel in that time for creative thought, freedom at the keyboard.

As much as I enjoy having new followers, I enjoy reading your blogs as well. There are so many different blogs I follow. They include eclectic topics; everything from motherhood to travel, organic living to how to write a better blog.  All of which carry the personality of their writer with everything from sarcasm and wit to humor and compassion.

I love the variety that this website offers, the joy of connecting with other writers. When my babes are finally in bed for the night, housework is done (or at least in my head it’s done) it becomes Mommy’s blogging time! Sometimes it’s the only sanity I have from my busy schedule.

And all of you keep me going. True, I started blogging to cope with the pain of cancer–both physical and emotional–and to inspire. But now I write  to connect, to uplift. I write to remember this journey but I also write to share it with others. Which, hopefully, invites you all to share with me.

Thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to read my blog. Even if it’s not every single post, I appreciate anyone who takes time to listen to my story.