A friend of mine posted the following image on Facebook this morning. As an artist, I immediately took notice of the gorgeous but seemingly hostile environmental imagery used as the background... and then read the words.
My brain immediately concurred with the saying, but something in the back of my mind hit me on the front of the forehead as if to say, "uh, nooooo, not quite... think again!" I caught on to that thought very quickly, hit the like button and typed the following response:
I thought the imagery then connected with the opinion of the words in a much stronger sense now having connected the dots. The natural beauty of the landscape colors and their subtle blending gives a sense of peace and serenity. The steam rising slowly into the atmosphere softly hazing and masking what is beneath speaks to me about hiding our problems; which if you think about it, are natural and not always as ugly as we often judge them to be. But in contrast, the lifeless, dry tree and immediate area around this gorgeous, enticing wonder tells a story about the dangers of spreading toxins. It's baron and desolate... I"m sure we can all relate that to society headed into a social media driven world.
I doubt the person that chose this image thought this deep into it for what he or she was going to type, but it really turned out perfect together.
I believe that more often than not, most people tend to downplay their problems or choose to keep them private when they really could benefit from the help of others. I'm obviously not one of those people. But I do know many who are. We allow each to choose what they air to the public and what to keep to themselves, but we also judge their decision and quite abruptly on social media. Would we say the same thing to them if they vocalized their problems to us on the phone or in person? Is there a difference? Could they be asking for help discretely or just needing s friend to vent it all out to?
When I was going through cancer, we didn't have social media outlets. I used carepages.com which is now shut down:
That was the website where a patient and/or family could post updates for caring friends and family. The followers could then donate money, send gifts, write comments... much like social media now, but specifically for caring for one another. I suppose they shut down because everyone's connections to others is now incredibly easily accessible at all times... and since most people have social accounts, why add another?
I think it's important to share your personal problems; but, I also think it's equally important to share them with selected people... if you're in need of prayers or a food chain or tremendous help, then I think you should air it on every social media outlet as possible because there are so many individuals out there who do care and are willing to help in any way they can. But if you're just complaining about life, I hope you seriously ponder it before clicking that "post" button for everyone to read and judge because some of us are on borrowed time and would love to have the small problems you think are monumental... it makes us feel just a bit worse than we already do (because we miss thinking those problems were big when really they were not). Fortunately, we can always unfollow complainers, but then what happens when you really do need those prayer warriors and everyone has stopped reading your posts? Have you become the boy who cried wolf?
So, air your requests for opinions, your search for answers, your need for prayers... and one at a time, we can make social media more than just about ourselves, but about a community of family, close friends and extended acquaintances who help each other when needed... big or small.
We'll start with the results first- NED! If you know anyone who has had cancer in the past and gotten good results, you know that being NED is a very, VERY good thing! It means that scans and labs resulted in "No Evidence of Disease." This last scan marked ELEVEN YEARS of my body being without any evidence of cancer! ELEVEN YEARS after a prognosis of six months to live (at most)... I AM that miracle... that hope that someone may need at this moment. Those cells in a person's body that we call "cancer," don't own them; they aren't yours and they're not invited to stay long either. I had cancer, but it wasn't "my" cancer... it was "the" cancer... and I was fortunate enough to rid of it... and I'm not the only one... so hang on to that hope if you're going through something right now! I'm glad that it's been eleven years, not only because that means "life" over "death" but also because it proves that we, as individuals, can overcome the impossible... and many of us do!
Every year is a milestone on borrowed time! I still come across people that wince over an upcoming birthday because it means they'll be one more year older. I have a request... please... never complain about your birthday and be someone that makes the change in others about celebrating special days because for cancer patients and survivors, a birthday is a bonus; it's a day to celebrate life and all the beautiful things in it. I feel a deep sadness in the center of my heart when I hear or see someone acting negatively about their birthday or flat-out refusing to enjoy it. God gave us each ONE life and it's not very long... the day you were born was nothing short of a miracle in itself and we SHOULD celebrate that! You get only one day a year to call yours, own it!!! And, own it with all the joy you can muster up! Next time you talk about your birthday, please imagine yourself sitting in front of a cancer fighter or survivor before you allow any words to come out of your mouth... and think about what it means to be a "survivor." (...that word we need to change)
This trip was not an easy one, shocking, right? (ha ha) No trip is easy. No scan is easy. No lab work or doctor's visit is easy... everything is amplified in worry after you've had cancer and it's more challenging for some than others. I'm that "some." I like routine when I go into something that creates fear in me and this trip was WAY out of my routine! I worried for over a month before heading to Houston for this one... I analyzed EVERYTHING that was wrong with me, I had doctor appointments for this or that and our kids' schedule was out of the ordinary. Then, I decided to sign up for an angel flight to see if they might be able to find one for us knowing the chances would be extremely slim considering they've only found ONE FLIGHT for me in the first ten years of me traveling to Houston. I wasn't sure I could get through it given the level of anxiety this time around. Of course, they found two- roundtrip! I wasn't sure I would be able to get on a plane at all considering my level of anxiety this time around... but a SMALL plane!?!? Well, I was really struggling at this point.
We ended up not taking the first flight because it was too far of a drive to the hangar on the day one of our daughters was scheduled to have teeth extracted... it was just simply too stressful for me with the tight timeframe. So we took our usual Southwest flight down. And by "we" I mean my husband and I... that's right... my mother decided to sit this one out... perfect timing considering we knew my doctor was going to be out and I was going to see a new doctor. Honestly, I don't know how I manage to live at all some days. So, normally, we fly out on Southwest, grab our reserved rental car, drive to the hotel (the same one every time), decide what to do for the rest of the day depending on what time we arrive then head back to the hotel for a movie and room service. In the morning, we get up around 6am, head to the clinic, go to the 29th floor, check in, grab my lab tubes, head down to the 16th floor, check in for outpatient imaging, get my scan cocktail and IV put in, then the tech will draw the blood for my labs from my IV because my arm veins are very sneaky little bastards and it's painful to be stuck in the arm when they're playing a game of dodgeball with the needle!! Not to mention... I'm a freak about the whole process to begin with. Then I head up to the 29th floor with my labeled and filled tubes, fill a little cup for the urinalysis and drop it all off with the ever-so-appreciated lab techs in the oncology clinic. OMG... they're so nice. I can't even tell you how much this ridiculous process they allow me to do helps with anxiety in me. Then I go back to the 16th floor and wait for scans, get it done, then go eat and head up to the big waiting area (usually for hours) to see the doctor and get results after they check my now very high blood pressure just before heading into the exam room. That's just bad timing... we need to change that part of the process.
Here's a video showing the beautiful oncology clinic I'm able to travel to... what a difference environment can make when you have to go through something so challenging. This is the 29th floor... I'm surprised they don't show you the views from the windows... I love looking out the windows, even in the exam rooms.
OK... so THIS time... Mom didn't join me, the hotel was under construction and we stayed elsewhere, they scheduled my labs AFTER scans, so my whole elevator ride routine was all messed up, there was a new guy in outpatient imaging who "wasn't comfortable" drawing my blood from the IV, it was out of control. I ended up taking two pills that day for anxiety... my doctor was out on medical leave (we'll get to that another day and my prayers are with him and his family every single day), I was seeing a new doctor whom I know nothing about when it's my doctor that I travel to Houston for in the first place... the angel flight corporation set up a flight FROM Houston for us, so I was stressing out about that (for NO REASON- who doesn't want to fly on a private jet comfortably without dings, announcements, lack of leg space, partially reclining chairs, small snacks and loud crowds?!)... Blank stares... I get blank stares in my head about my own issues because I really do realize how absurd most of them are and I try SO HARD to overcome them... I just keep going through it all and HOPE I come out the other end still alive and not wrapped up in a hospital somewhere for one reason or another. Cancer won't kill me... I'll manage to handle that myself with the anxiety and stress my brain puts my body through all the time because of what I've been through and what I know can happen... BECAUSE IT DID! PTSD... it's fantastic. Anyway... so I did push myself through, but not alone, never alone- my husband was there (he is the best calming factor... I love this man so much), the director of outpatient imaging was trying to help me on the phone in his car, the nurses in the labs were trying to help me... and it was THEY who found the solution for me and I am praying this will be my new routine... they found a caring infusion nurse to put the IV for me and draw the blood right there... OMG... that was so much easier than even my FIRST routine! I don't know why they just don't allow the lab nurses to put in the IV's in the first place. Whatever... it worked out. THANK GOD!!! I'm sure EVERYONE was breathing a sigh of relief after that extravaganza.
The rest of the day went as usual... we came up after lunch to wait and weren't in the waiting room more than 5 minutes! What the...???? I had absolutely no time to sit there and freak out internally about every single scenario that could possibly go wrong this trip and how it would trickle down into all other areas of my life... no time for that! It was nice. We went in, met the new doctor right away who was all smiles and very friendly. I honestly did not expect that. I think that's not really the norm, at least from my personal experiences. He gave me all good news which included some spots reducing in size and labs being spot on... and I'm sure HE was breathing a sigh of relief when he saw the scans and labs before he came in because I can't imagine anyone in that hospital not knowing my name by now. Bad news for me is not easy. I do my best to deal with it, but all those feelings and memories just come flooding right back in when I get bad news... and THAT is why I love my doctor as I do... he makes bad news OK to deal with. Fortunately, it was good news this time! ...and almost every time. There was one little area of concern though that I'm trying not to dwell on... he did not want me to wait a year for another scan as my doctor had said we would allow if this trip proved to be a good one... he said there are other spots they are watching. So, I'm going back in September. The good news on that: no surgery this time! I have another seven months to live life, and... it gets me through all our birthdays and my favorite season of the year!!! It will be a happy summer!!!
We celebrated, as we always do. We met with my friend Jennifer, her husband and our oldest daughter, now in the Navy, was in from Virginia to see us and her boyfriend who now lives there. I love spending time with her. It was a really great dinner, as all celebratory dinners are. Jennifer and I miss Katherine... no scan date goes without prayers to her and for her family. I always feel her presence around scan time... I wish I were as strong as she was. I am so thankful she was in my life for the brief time she was.. I'll always look up to her. I can only hope that some day someone might be able to take something positive from me so I could pay it forward.
The next day came... we woke up early to head to the hangar for our complimentary private flight courtesy of Corporate Angel Network and the company offering us the flight through them. Skipping security and crowds made a HUGE difference in my anxiety level, but I was still a little nervous to be on a smaller plane unsure if I would feel claustrophobic. What if I had a panic attack while in flight!?!? One of my coping skills is to seek solace in a restroom where noises are slightly more limited. I didn't know what sort of bathroom there would be, if any at all. I didn't know anything about this aircraft or people on it. I didn't have to do this... I could have just flown my trusted Southwest Airlines... the familiarity of the process and planes gives a false sense of security, I know, but even if it is a false sense... it's still a sense of security which technically makes it real and no longer false. But, I really try harder than most not allow anxiety to get the best of me... sometimes I win, sometimes not. So, we were going to take this flight even if meant I was going to die on that plane! After all, would it be so bad to die on a private jet?! Makes for a good ending at least.
Needless to say... IT WAS AMAZING!!! Once we boarded, all anxiety just literally exited my body and stayed in Houston for the day. I felt so relaxed because it was more spacious than commercial airlines, there were no stressful directions to follow, no worrying remarks, no overhead announcements in static, no tray-tables to put up or seat backs to check- Just a very friendly attendant who made us feel so welcomed! We were given breakfast and shown the features on the plane. I was able to just lay back, put my feet up and gaze out the large window and the gorgeous sky, which is one of my favorite views. It was the most memorable experience. I am SO, SO, SOOOO grateful for Corporate Angel Network and the companies, organizations and private jet owners who work with them because this flight made a BIG difference during a stressful trip... even if it was the return flight after good news. It's still a part of the overall stressful trip.
I'm home now... and I'm still that living, breathing, walking mess of a miracle... and I'm here to help you or anyone you know in any way that I can through sharing my story with all the crazy that comes with it. Have a very thankful, happy day today! Love to you all.
It's sometimes challenging to remember to keep it positive... especially when in scanxiety mode. This is a rough visit for me. There are numerous variables that have me overthinking everything. I am not sleeping well, I'm off-task with mundane busywork, I'm on-edge... fortunately, I have been accomplishing a great deal of actual work. Bonus! But, on the other hand, breathing is sometimes a chore I have to force myself to do lately. I do often feel like I'm the only one that goes into this mindset before scans or procedures to this extent and wonder how others handle it.
The photo above is what strength looks like. That's our youngest daughter with a broken arm... both bones broken and holding a wobbly arm. Smiling. In the hospital with no pain medication yet, not even a Tylenol. Smiling. SMILING! We can learn so much from kids if we take the time to think about it. I have an album in my phone with favorite photos... mostly so that I have them to look at while they take blood for labs during scan time. They help me remember the feelings of those moments when I see them so that I am not focused on the pain or worry of what's currently happening. This is a "strong" photo, I think.
I try to keep things positive and often feel like a complete failure. Then I feel guilty because there's always someone (if not MANY others) that have it worse than myself. Generally, my life is absolutely abundant! I have endless mounds to be thankful for, especially if we are counting laundry mounds. But does that mean that I should not be feeling any negativity at all? No. I'm human, just like everyone else on this planet. I have the same emotional ups and downs. I struggle with accepting this. I always feel so guilty, which then leads to sadness and sometimes depression. Not deep depression... just far enough to be a little more than sadness. I'm still fully functional, though not to my potential yet. That's an ongoing struggle... will I ever get there? Probably not. But I'll keep trying. Meanwhile, as of today, I have 20 days in which to accomplish any and all lifetime goals because we all know that once scans come, I'll be given information that will be one of three outcomes: an "all clear" with more time, a "you have some spots" which immediately results in scheduling me through short-term investigative procedures followed by an "all clear" with more time -or- followed by a whole new way of life... again. So... 20 days. I'm in the "get your ducks in a row" phase.
I am cleaning my house like a crazy lady, scheduling things far out in advance (which is, if you know me well, something I don't normally do), trying extremely hard to plan for ANYTHING past scan day... the list goes on and on. I'm appreciative for events that are happening BEFORE scans, like our daughter's last school party on Valentine's day. That way, I won't miss it for her. But, I do feel the pressure of that "20 days left" thought. So, I'm going to get back to getting things done because that's what makes me feel just a little better right now.
I hope your day is happy and healthy!
"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say 'I used everything you gave me.'" - Erma Bombeck
I know I have mentioned before that this is my all time favorite saying. I never knew this quote before I saw it in a hospital gift shop one day. It now sits on my desk for me to see daily. My mom has always traveled to Houston with me for scan days, surgeries, and clinic visits, but this year will not be joining me. It makes me sad because we have a routine and I enjoy her company. I know it's time to move forward though and my husband is just as supportive. He has traveled with me when able in the past, though I'm not sure he knows yet that now he will be expected to every time. He will... willingly. I love him SO MUCH!
My doctor was at a different hospital when I found this small, inexpensive, creatively decorated cross with the quote in the center. I remember spotting it among so many other little trinkets in a display case. It was a crowded little boutique. But it was located in the strangest place, I thought. It was not situated in the lobby of the hospital at all. The hospital was connected to a hotel and it was just off the walkway from the hotel into the hospital. We always stopped in there. We still have the same habit today. The new hospital (well, not new, but the one I visit now) has a little gift shop on the second floor in the main area of the outpatient building where I brave through (haha... "brave" through) all my labs, scans and clinic visits. It is not as overflowing as the previous place and I haven't really found much there, but it's always nice to browse. It takes my mind off the upcoming results, even just for a few minutes.
Breaks are important.
Sometimes, more often than not, I forget this; or rather, I ignore it. Breaks are regenerative. I give everything I have when I give. I truly do. THAT I am sure of. And yet, I still seem to have so much more to give. I hope that through my posts, you are getting something positive from my experience sharing. I would love to read some of your comments and please... let me know what you need.
Thank you for being here with me.
42. My current age.
That just doesn't seem right. I think I'm going through another one of those "I'm still alive. Maybe I should get my life together and plan for more years" phases. Time sure does tick away.
The other day I mentioned I was set up to visit a new primary care physician. This has really been a process for someone like myself. Sometimes I'm convinced it's a miracle I function at all. I was worried about my blood pressure and wanting to join a fitness center that requires blood pressure to be within a certain range in order to join so I had no choice but to find a doctor. Well, I did have a choice: A. Find a doctor, get a note, join the fitness center, eat healthy again, lose weight, find balance and feel less anxious while becoming healthier.
- OR -
B. Forget the whole plan and stay on a path of depression, anxiety and illness.
I deserve an award for choosing "A."
I felt like a doomsday prepper the day of the appointment. I took beet juice a couple days before, started eating bananas again, drank lots of water, cut out coffee. I REALLY love coffee (even decaf).
The morning of the appointment I didn't want to skew the results, so I only drank water, refrained from having that cup of coffee (or three or four), and I did NOT eat the beets and bananas. I did, however, look up an essential oil rollerball recipe (which I'm not sure did anything; I was missing an ingredient). You must know that since cancer, doctor appointments have never been easy for me... so much so that I will simply not go unless someone forces me and nearly drags me out the door (even at age 42). If I'm sick and know I need a prescription, I still won't go unless my husband is available to go with and it's usually in the late evening to urgent care when I can get in immediately- there's less people and it's calm. I've managed to find all the weird ways to avoid triggers for anxiety. I'm in possession of numerous home remedy books and have high speed internet for more. So a doctor is a last resort for me most of the time.
I went to see this new doctor and felt the need to say affirmations on the way. Thankfully, this place is merely minutes from my home. I had no idea what the inside looked like or what the feel of the environment would be. That's a big thing for me. Environment is everything! I did pre-evaluate the exterior of the building before making the decision to book an appointment. Along with affirmations, naturally, I went over every possible scenario of the upcoming visit which included the most likely scenario of it being a regular appointment: a discussion, a plan moving forward then I would go about my day. Other scenarios included (and if you have anxiety about seeing doctors, I'm sure you've already thought of them all here):
1. Blood pressure medication: the side effects of them. Doesn't blood pressure mean it deals with the heart so medication would be heart related. I'm not so comfortable with screwing around with my heart, I'm already down a kidney and part of a leg here... and half a thymus since we're counting. But my heart... that's gotta just be left alone. I'll talk to my heart and we'll figure this out. Then I went into rationale mode: don't be stupid, it's no different than getting an antibiotic for a bacteria or a prescription for anxiety. I know a ton of people on BP medication. Not a big deal. OK. Fine, if she puts me on BP medication then so be it. We'll just get it under control and move on with our LIVING. I'll need to change my eating habits, but I want to do that anyway.
2. I make it past the vitals with the nurse and get into the exam room where I have a sudden panic attack and have to leave? I sometimes need the door open just to know my escape routes. This is crazy. I'm not doing this today. But I know it could happen.
(Insert affirmations between scenarios of absurdity.)
3. What if I don't get to the exam room at all? What if I get in there and my blood pressure is so high that they decide to call an ambulance and send me to the hospital. (This is where all the other scenarios come in to play... I'll just let you in on the worst case one or this entry will take weeks to write.) Here's how this scenario plays out... I walk in, the environment is tight and dark, the front desk greeters are cold and careless, they check me in. I sit down to fill out the 10 pages of medical history that I have PTSD about and never know if I will go into a panic attack when I have to relive it in my mind. Then, as I'm hyperventilating in the waiting room trying to fill out the hard stuff and work through anxiety and flashbacks, the nurse will call me in for vitals at the height of it all. My blood pressure will be so high that she takes it again and again just to make sure then leaves the room, calls the doctor and an ambulance and a team comes in the room to have me lay down and breathe. They hook me up to oxygen or something and some monitors and explain to me that I need to go to the hospital. They ask if there's someone they can call to meet me there. I skip the ambulance ride in my mind because at this point I can't even imagine it and go straight to the intensive care unit (the one where my lung collapsed, of course) and now my brain sounds the fight or flight alarm and my body decides to have another vasovagal episode and I code. Death.
All my worst case scenarios end in death. It's like the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon but it's the Mandyland medical version.
Here's how it really went:
I walked into the very well, naturally lit waiting room with floor to ceiling glass windows. I went straight up to the counter and was greeting by a very friendly, smiling individual who spoke kindly and softly. She had all my insurance information already in the system because, unbeknownst to me, they are affiliated with the hospital where I had my lumpectomy. They had SOME of my medical records already. She gave me three forms to fill out- standard forms. I sat down. I wrote my name and birthday and was called back by the nurse. I will admit that because it was so swift, I did feel rushed and nerves crept up a little, but likely much less than if I had more time in the waiting room. I knew the blood pressure was coming. Two nurses guided me to the room where the standard questions and vitals happened. I didn't have to fill out the forms at all!!! One nurse walked me through it very quickly and typed everything in for me... which by the way, was a HUGE blessing! It prevented me from having flashbacks because I didn't have to write it, it didn't drag on and I had no time between one memory to the next to dwell.
Vitals: I notified the nurse that I have anxiety and told her all about every one of my concerns, especially the one about ending up in the hospital today. I asked her to please just tell me I was going to be ok even if it was high because I'll freak out if she shows concern. BP was high. Twice. She made my laugh. I asked what my BP reading was and she paused and said "you're ok." with a little smirk. I laughed because I knew she was just pleasing me at this point. My eyes popped out of my head and I said, "it was high, wasn't it?!" I asked if she was going to send me to the hospital... she said no, so then I breathed again. Good... hard part done.
The doctor came in right away and was very pleasant, calm and seemed to actually care. She did NOT have a white coat on, thankfully. I don't know if she did that just for me or if she normally does not wear one but it worked. I appreciated it immensely! She was dressed so beautifully that I had something else to focus on other than the doctor's office and being stuck in that little room... her fashion sense. It was so nice to feel like that in a doctor's office. We discussed the basics and have a plan which doesn't even include BP medication because when she took it at the end of the appointment it was completely normal! Go figure.
All done... like a child getting immunizations, honestly. 42.
I headed to the fitness center to join. There were some miscommunications about BP requirements which set me into more anxiety, but it was resolved. I'm looking forward to them calling me for our initial orientation and program assessments so we can start exercising there soon.
This day... it was a day to celebrate. It may seem a bit ridiculous to some that a simple doctor's appointment would cause so much turmoil and stress, but I know I'm not the only one who has this issue. My history will never be erased and I try to manage it every single day.
I saw a meme the other day that read "gain in your 20's, build in your 30's, chill in your 40's." It made me depressed. I did gain in my 20's, then became ill and lost in my 30's, now I'm back to planning (I think that's probably what would have been written for "teens.") in my 40's. So far behind! But, I do enjoy life and hope that I can continue on the path moving forward even if only one baby step at a time.
Each accomplishment is one push further from anxiety.
Life in short increments. (One more month to live before life completely changes or I get extra time again.) That's where my mind has decided to settle upon once again. It's about one month before my next big scan date and anxiety has begun committee meetings inside of me like a little band of rioters collecting members while creeping around my thoughts. I've been attempting to ignore this for a few days, but today that aggressive little group grew quite a bit bigger, merged with the depression society and found another group: the "F* it" group. Those organizations don't really get along... when you have a "F* it" gang fighting an anxiety and depression troop, it's almost like you have an internal war of feelings happening all at once.
So, we all know what the anxiety group is like... even if you do not experience true anxiety on a personal level, chances are that you know SOMEONE who does or at least you know a little about it. But do you know about the "F* it" group of feelings? The easiest way to describe this would be to compare it to the show "The Big C." The part where the main character goes through this "F* it" phase and does crazy sh*t she would otherwise not do had she not been given a cancer diagnosis. Before this show came out, I didn't even want to see previews of it because I couldn't handle the PTSD flashbacks from all the triggers. After the first season was over, I forced myself to watch it... it was pretty similar to my "F* it" phase. Oh yeah, I had one. It was a good one too... until I realized I was still alive and might actually continue to do so... then the anxiety troop took over to calm us all down just in case we ended up living longer than expected, which is exactly what happened. If I had to choose a side, I would definitively join the "F* it" gang. It's definitely a lot more fun and manageable... but extremely risky. So, currently, I'm hoping that these two internal groups will come to a middle ground of some sort; I think that may be what most would call "normal." I'm not fully sure though, I haven't been normal in over a decade now.
Anyway... I'm going to see a NEW primary care physician in the morning. The only reason I'm doing this is because I unquestionably loathe the fat suit around my body- it's gotta go... and in order to exercise at the fitness center of which I would like to become a member, I'm required to prove my blood pressure is within a certain range or get a doctor's release. I'm not even sure this NEW doctor will give me a release considering this is an initial visit and she has no history with me. I'm quite bitter that I have to see a regular doctor... I'm still completely perplexed on the rationale or lack-thereof which prohibits Naturopathic Doctors from being primary care physicians. I miss my ND in California. I resent that I have to live in the dark ages (or what seems to be the dark ages we call the Midwest after having such an abundance of access to a variety of health options out west). BUT... I want to be very clear on something... I would live ANYWHERE for the family I have!!! I am completely in love with my husband an children and would do ANYTHING for each and every one of them! In addition to that, I am SO BLESSED to live in the neighborhood we settled in, we have THE best, friendliest, almost family-like neighbors and I wouldn't give them up for the world!!! And I genuinely mean that with all my heart. In any case... my current focus is to get this body moving again so I can feel better about myself, and so I can say I'm healthy and actually FEEL it! How does this relate to the anxiety I'm having? Well... simply... my body likes to flip out when that BP cuff goes on. WTF?! Honestly, it's not like it hurts... what is the big deal... I talk to myself and try to calm myself down, I do breathing exercises, I started taking beet juice and diffusing oils, I stopped drinking coffee a day ago (you like that? A whole DAY ago... what an effort... makes me feel like a cheater), I started eating more bananas for the potassium and I googled how to get that bottom number lower (because everything we read on the internet is true and works 100% of the time, right? Ha ha.). Well, at least I can say that I'm going to put forth full effort. The good news is that in the two days I've been recording my blood pressure (probably too many times a day), the top number is ok). But that darn bottom number! I finally got it down to 89 tonight... so I left it at one and done considering that was an accomplishment (or luck... either way, it was good so I'm ending the day on a good note. Usually I suffer through 3-4 takes with 5-10 minutes between then average them all). I just need to be in the 80's to join that fitness center... just in case I don't get that doctor's note (which I still need anyway for history of cancer and an internal prosthetic).
Alright... so it's late, really late... and I'm sitting on the computer contemplating how I'm going to handle tomorrow. I'm going to have to try to find my last blood work up, my scan results and take a whole bunch of stuff in to fill out the thousand page intake form these facilities have now. They said to arrive 15 minutes early, which to a cancer patient usually means 30 because it takes forever to fill out surgeries and medical history. UGH. Wish me luck.
I jumped online the other morning, as I do every morning in an effort to wake up my brain and eyes. I grabbed my phone, browsed emails, flipped to Facebook (which immediately made me feel old considering the stigma of it not being a forum for the younger generations any longer; and while I felt a bit bitter about that, I also sensed gratefulness and strength to be in the "older" category now... considering the alternative). The first post I saw was one by SU2C (Stand Up to Cancer), which oddly has since been removed. I don't see their posts often, which makes this one a tad more intriguing. It was a short clip on a woman who was diagnosed, fought, changed her lifestyle and helped educate family and friends then celebrated all within a year and the end of the video posed a question "How have you paid it forward?"
"How have you paid it forward?"
"How have YOU paid it forward?"
"HOW have YOU paid it FORWARD?!" It screamed at me!
My heart sunk. My breath was taken away. I don't know that I have paid it forward, really... though I desperately want to! Then, before I could go any further with my thoughts, the next line popped up "Share in the comments below." Oh, great... now the pressure is on. You want me to share that RIGHT NOW!?! I'm already struggling with HOW to share and pay it forward and now I have to share it immediately... in this post?! No... I can't even begin to figure this out right now. Not happening. So, I scrolled down dismissing it completely. I got through a few other posts, the whole time with guilt and contemplating ignoring that blatant request from a higher place... I knew where it was coming from. I've been feeling that tug grow stronger and stronger. I slumped down like a child told to do chores, then reluctantly scrolled back up and instead of sharing, I decided to analyze the clip to see just where and how this particular woman paid it forward... At first I was confused. How is going through a diagnosis, having a team of friends and family support you and changing your diet considered "paying it forward?" I wasn't trying to attack her, I was just unhappy with my lack of action and wanting to figure it out- how did she do it? Where did she start? How did she get it all done within a year? I'm on year 11 and still attempting to share and pay it forward and with minimal response to help me analyze my efforts... ONE year? Have I really not been paying it forward this entire time? Why can't I think of ONE way I have actually paid it forward? Then they started to pop into my mind... teaching my family about being healthy, teaching our kids how to shop at the grocery store, teaching them all what to look for in food products, sharing my stories (even if sporadic) to give even just one person a shred of hope and happiness in a time of struggle, mentoring fighters as a survivor (for the record, I still hate that term "survivor"... doesn't anyone have an alternative suggestion?), every now and then I will cross paths with someone and offer a bit of strength and encouragement (though I never fully feel confident, my heart is strong when I do this)... and more came through. Yet, somehow, I still lack the feeling of truly "paying it forward." It seems it's just all about me; and with that idea, I'm not content.
I sure would like to know how you pay it forward. Please write in the comments below. And, if you have any suggestions for me to take my aspirations of helping others to the next level... please share.
Love and hugs to you all... enjoy this beautiful day!
Happy New Year!
As always, with the new year comes new resolutions... Please post yours in the comments below!
I have the cliché ones this year... time to get back to my pastime routine of eating healthy and exercising. I miss me, the happy me, the healthy me. BUT!!! I'm not dead YET! So... LET'S DO THIS! I found a gym that might actually be a perfect fit. You may be thinking "a gym is a gym." Au Contraire... it is not when you have an internal prosthetic and all you've been told is not to cross your legs, not to twist to the right and not to bend to a 90° angle or further. I've gone through physical therapy (several times over), but those are all floor exercises and then what??? Besides, I hate being on the floor (I don't get down there easily nor do I rise from it well. Besides, it's gross... especially when you live with four animals and three children... and a husband) and I don't self-motivate at home anyway. Besides the same monotonous routines get stale. Over the years, I have visited numerous gyms, spoken with a plethora of personal trainers and none seem to carry the education and familiarity to help me figure out what I can or should not do with this prosthetic. They wish to help, but they are simply unable to tell me what to watch for regarding pain, or which machines would be good to use vs which may be harmful. I've only been informed to stay away from the elliptical... the elliptical was my past time favorite. Of course, right? I know i can ride a bike, PT had me riding the cycle every day... (insert music from The Little Mermaid here- "I want mooooooooorrrrrre.")
I can see how people can fall through cracks. I went through extensive PT and OT both in-patient and out. But once that expired, I've just sort of been on my own. If you don't continue to make doctor appointments and keep the conversation going, you can literally just sort of be forgotten. I'm surprised I am one of those people with this type of prosthetic. It was such a big deal to all the doctors when it happened to me at a relatively young age... I thought for sure they would want to study my progress and keep in touch with me, but they just put it in, gave me the PT/OT scripts and had I don't remember how many check-ups (that was in my shock phase). Then that was it. One day... it was my last, and I didn't even know it. Now I live across the country and probably not going to call the same doctor. I don't know if I'm supposed to be scanned every so often or just call if something seems off. (I am pretty sure I know the answer to that question, but I'm not going to admit it right now because I don't really want to open the can of medical options right now, it's happy-thought time.)
I'm determined to find a new routine... even 11 years later, I'm still encountering "new normals." So, I think I finally found a gym... it is connected with a hospital and has TWO personal trainers with experience in orthopedics!! It also has an in-house physical therapy room, a SPA, and two pools with plenty of classes to take that interest me (I may even try to dance again- ha, that's funny). I'm excited to get started and I want to begin my routine TODAY, which I surprisingly have time for, but am required to get a doctor's release before they'll let me start. UGH! See? The challenges seem to never cease... there are so many things that become trickier after cancer. Most people don't realize that. It's the little things we take for granted. of course, I have to revise my entire financial situation and cancel some things in order to join this place, which I am in the process of doing. But... in the end, it will be worth it!
So... Happy New Year! I hope that you have a resolution and a game plan to implement it... please share below... let's encourage each other!
Well, I have successfully completed my first year back as a public teacher after "surviving" cancer. School is officially over for the warm months! One of my most ridiculous fears with taking a job like this lingers on my mind daily... what happens if a panic attack sets in during school hours? Thankfully, I was somehow able to strike a deal with anxiety and we've come to some compromises, but I know that this is not always possible as anxiety is often more stubborn than I (such as with airplanes now- we are still at the discussion table for this issue... back and forth with terms we go until hopefully we reach an agreement with which we can both be content). I am fortunate to occupy the given space at this school because interestingly enough, environment can often be a trigger and this is a particularly good set up for me. This past school year, my mind and body stepped up to the plate with big girl panties on and lived each day one at a time. I did NOT pass out... not once. BONUS! I did not freak out to the point of having to abandon classes mid-day as I thought was possible. I did not hyperventilate too much ("too much" being the key phrase here). I did not space-out to the point where my students thought I was having a stroke or something. I did not have a vasovagal episode during school hours, or at all in fact... BIG BONUS! My students did not ever feel the need to call the nurse or principal due to concern for my health and well-being (or if they did, I didn't know it and it never physically happened). I was able to make it through every meeting without having to get up and walk around to ground myself. I managed to function. Imagine that... just function... what a huge success that can be sometimes.
Yes, these are legitimate concerns. I 100% realize how absurd every single one of them sounds too because I didn't always have these concerns, remember. So if you happen to be laughing at the craziness here rather than relating then you do not suffer from true anxiety and/or panic attacks and therefor, please do not say you do in phrases like "I'm having a panic attack" or "I'm having anxiety." They have become very overused. If you relate to these, then you know what it feels like to worry about the simplest of things that others take for granted- or maybe it's not that they take them for granted, but rather just accomplish without thought... we call those "normal people," right? Because, for some reason, we (anxious people) have decided that we are not normal any more. But that's not really true. We ARE normal... everyone just has a different normal. Along with the term "survivor" I also do not care for the phrase "new normal." How many of you have had to face that term? How did you handle it? It didn't sit well with me and ten years later, sometimes I find myself dwelling on my old normal and missing my former life... but please don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean I do not like my current life. I am immensely appreciative for all that surrounds me and for the individuals whose paths intertwine with the one laid out for me. I have a very different life now after cancer. I don't know that I will ever fully be comfortable again as I once was, but somehow, I seem to manage to SURVIVE and live. I am aware and careful not to create too many similarities in my new life to my old life as I do not want history to repeat itself.
Getting back to summer... now that we have arrived, I know scans are coming. Thankfully, my doctor allowed me to break for 7 months this time rather than 6 so that I could celebrate our family birthdays before heading to Houston and starting the clock again. But, sadly, I was not able to stretch it to 8 months to ensure my participation in the big birthday vacation to Ireland and Scotland for my dad... which will come AFTER scans. My mom is the definition of positive thinking and freely books these trips on the assumption that all will be fine with this next set of scans. I still do not understand how she is able to do this. "WHAT IF?!" If you don't have someone in your life to pull you out of that mind-sucking leach of a "what if" state and force you to accomplish things outside of your comfort level for your own benefit, then I highly recommend finding someone because without my mother, I would be purchasing all the insurances, all the backup options, all the extras that will allow me to cancel last minute without penalties and likely spend more money on those things than if I just have to cancel when the time comes. Planning things is not easy for someone dragging panic around all the time and ironically, planning helps push panic aside.
I am looking forward to that trip and am going to focus on that!
I am looking forward to summer!
I am looking forward to celebrating our birthdays!!!
I am looking forward to each day being more "normal." (...and I hope you are too!)
Finding balance is a difficult thing to do for me and so here I type feeling guilty that I have yet again failed to write for the last two and a half months. I need to join a zen yoga mediation club or something. I am sorry. I'm working on it. Please forgive me and I hope you continue to read these posts whenever you need them most.
So we finally did it! An ENORMOUGUNGOUS "THANK YOU" goes out to everyone who donated funds for my 10-year cancer-free anniversary in March! We raised just under our goal of $1,000, but spent just over that amount! Another HUGE "THANK YOU" goes out to our local Michael's store who generously discounted our order by 30%! As you can see, we were able to purchase so many fun things that our receipt list was taller than we were and it was filled with art kits, art supplies, crafts, coloring and activity books, model car kits, craft lap desks, pens, markers, model magic, glitter glue, princess crowns and so much more... for boys and girls and for all ages! After spending a couple hours thoughtfully choosing each item and watching our cost, we checked out and headed over to Target to purchase four $50 gift cards for families or for the older children who might not be interested in art supplies or crafts. As my husband drove us to the hospital donation dock, the kids and I wrote some inspiring and happy words on cards where we put the gift cards.
It was heartwarming to be able to do this as a family and watch our girls be excited about the whole process. What loving hearts they have! We literally shopped for over two hours and not one of our children thought about themselves the entire time... not once did they ask if they could get something for themselves... they were just simply in the moment and happy to be able forward love and smiles to kids stuck inside a hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted with a friendly smile from Jessica, our donation coordinator. She helped us unload and set everything out for a photo and then presented our kids with "Super Donor" Certificates. We were all so excited throughout the entire day! I can't think of a better way to have celebrated my 10th anniversary of being cancer-free and am looking forward to doing it together again at my 15-year milestone!