Tag Archives: Perseverance

Let Challenge Transform You

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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! 🙂

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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)

Getting Back to ME

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Hello, hello world! It’s been quite some time since I last blogged. Okay, realistically, maybe only a month or so since my last post? Getting toward the end of the semester, which means lots of papers are due and final projects are in need of being worked on. Discovered a few music artists (SoMo, Hozier, Alesso) and began listening to country. Yes, I said it, I’m no longer a closet country fan…between Luke Bryan and Lee Brice, don’t know why it took me so long to catch on!

Anywho, this moment of reflection hit me the other night and felt like sharing 🙂

Last fall, my son played basketball through his school. It was absolutely exhausting for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but cancer had been growing within the cells of my body for who knows how long. I knew I was fatigued. But hello, I was (and still am) the single mom of two high-energy children,  a college student and a young woman with a very active social life. Who wouldn’t be tired?

I would bring my daughter’s stroller along, walking her up and down the hallways of the elementary school, while my son played ball in the gymnasium. Back and forth we’d go, until she fell asleep, usually not until practice was just about ending. It was tiresome gathering the energy to keep up with my children.

This past Tuesday was my son’s first basketball practice. It was more of an introductory session. Get the kiddos together, run some drills, arrange the teams. As usual, my daughter wasn’t remotely about to sit still while all this was going on. I made an executive decision to walk with her out in the hall while my son played in the gym.

“Mommy, let’s have a race! On your mark, get set…go!” She took off own that corridor so fast her curly, brown, ringlets couldn’t help but bounce from shoulder to shoulder. Her raspy giggle echoed through the hall as I ensued; not needing to catch my breath, not feeling that rhythmic pounding lump of anxiety because I couldn’t keep up. In fact, I was running circles around her! My three-year-old had to stop to catch her breath. A few more times, up the hall, back down, she was exhausted but I was ready to run a marathon! Okay, so maybe not a marathon. But I could have taken on at least another lap or two.

This was about the time I had an epiphany. My body is getting stronger everyday. I feel healthier and happier as more time passes. It’s been two months now since my final chemo treatment. In that moment, as all these thoughts passed through my mind, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. My health isn’t just returning to me, it’s being renewed. I feel healthier now, for the most part, than I have in over a decade. I have the energy to run circles around my children and it feels INCREDIBLE!

No more sitting on the couch for hours on end, barely able to move from utter exhaustion. No more staying inside during the winter, unable to play in the snow with my children. The harsh cold causing excruciating pain against my chemo infused skin. No more asking relatives to bring my children to basketball, martial arts, baseball or gymnastics. Because now I’m energized to a point that I can do it again on my own.

How empowering! I have my life back. My health is being regained little by little. Each day I become stronger, more motivated to thrive than ever before. Cancer taught me to be brave. But survivorship is teaching me the power of perseverance. Lack of good health gave me the emotional tools needed to evolve as a soul. Surviving gives me the opportunity to use those tools, to implement so much of what I learned into my life. There are no words for that kind of empowerment. But the two that come to mind are simply “thank you.”

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