Tag Archives: Joy

What me and Old Blue Eyes have in common…

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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.

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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.

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(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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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.

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!

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?

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

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(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.

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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 🙂

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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 🙂