The Magnificent Seven

As I sat at the high school football game last night, listening to the marching band play one of my favorite stand tunes, The Theme from The Magnificent Seven, I knew it would be the title of today’s blog post!  “Why?” you ask. Because it’s been a magnificent seven years that I am cancer free!

I will always count this milestone and celebrate it. As my second cancer, breast cancer, clocked in at Stage III, I knew things were serious. I knew there was a risk that I would not see my son grow up, learn to drive, go to the prom, or graduate high school. I can now say I have lived and loved every one of those experiences, knowing that each was a gift. Because seven years ago, experiencing those events was not a given.

Seven years ago was the day of my double mastectomy and lymph node dissection. It’s the day I count as my cancer-free anniversary, since it’s the day my 8 cm tumor, and a few lymph nodes, was removed from my body… along with both of my breasts. The chemo and radiation that followed were insurance policies.

But more importantly, it’s the day that I knew I had to take back my health. I had to assess what I was doing to make my body turn on itself. And so began a journey of changes to diet and lifestyle that continues to this day. I’m hardly perfect in my daily routines, but my plant based diet ~ along with getting enough sleep, managing my stress, being careful about what chemicals go into my body (or rather don’t), and getting some exercise ~ has been crucial to my health. I believe my diet, in particular, is what keeps me thriving and cancer-free.

So here I am, seven years out! Relishing and reflecting in the magnificent things I have been able to enjoy because I fought back. Fabulous travels; precious time with my husband, son, family & friends; writing a book; starting my own business; the birth of our first (and amazingly adorable) grandchild; being able to share my gifts with some awesome nonprofit organizations; and yes, seeing my son graduate from high school and start college, with love and pride in my eyes!

Seven years! I am so very grateful for each day of those seven years, even the tough ones. Here’s to 7 more, 17 more, 27 more! Hell, some days I think I could even do 37 more!

So what changes do YOU need to make to take back your health? I promise, you won’t regret it!

It’ll be magnificent!

seven girls from the backside doing a heart with the hands looking at the ocean waiting the sunset in vacation leisure activity. friendshipt all together forever concept, travel to sea places

IMDb: The Magnificent Seven (1960)


Announcing to the World

About six weeks ago, I mentioned that I was in the process of writing my first (but hopefully not last) book. I had planned to give a sneak peek between then and now, but it’s been a crazy six weeks, trying to wrap up the book amidst all of our busy schedules. This book experience has been amazing and I have learned SO much. The biggest lesson? That the easiest part of writing a book is… writing a book! It’s all the other stuff that’s hard, especially when you are self-publishing. Getting Word to cooperate when you are trying to format your manuscript into a template… frustrating! Figuring out the best way to create a cover, after multiple attempts using Canva and KDP failed… even more frustrating!

I am grateful to the love, support, and help of so many people who got me through the frustration, taught me how to “layer” in PhotoShop, or fixed a file for me! Those who shared their thoughts on page colors and font selections, who proofed and re-proofed, edited and re-edited. I am immensely blessed to have so many people who helped me on this book-writing journey!

With that, I am so very excited to announce that my book, “Beyond the Pink Ribbon: What I Wish I Knew About Breast Cancer (Before I Got It)” is now available in paperback on Amazon!! Woo hoo! In addition to being exciting, this is also a bit scary and surreal for me. To write a book is to really put yourself out there, making yourself really vulnerable. It’s a huge step out of my comfort zone, but a dream I have realized after several decades of wanting to be an author.

The book, as the name would imply, details my journey from diagnosis to returned health. I think it will be a great resource for newly diagnosed women, even if a different diagnosis than mine, and for women who might just be trying to lower their risk of breast cancer in the first place.

I do ask that if you purchase and read the book, that you return to Amazon to do a review. It’s apparently how one moves up the Amazon rating scale, which has benefits (that I am still learning)!

For those of you who prefer e-book, I am working on this and hope to have that released by early next week.

IMDb: Announcing to the World (1950)

20 Years After

It’s been a very long time (5 months) since I posted anything on this blog. I’d like you to know that, even though I’ve been silent on this page, I continue to write. I am in the process of writing my first book and I’m working towards a release in March. It’s been a labor of love and I’m having a lot of fun with the process. I promise more details in the coming weeks, but today’s post is focused on a major anniversary of sorts.


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of my first husband, Ray Noll. As many of you know, Ray died in 1999 after an almost-3-year battle with leukemia. I believe it’s important to remember these anniversaries so that we can all remember who he was, relish in the fun memories we all have, and remind ourselves just how precious life is. Acknowledging his diagnosis, battle, and death helps provide amazing perspective about what’s truly important in our lives.

Those who knew Ray loved him dearly. His sense of humor and zeal for life were contagious and showed up best when he was on a stage with a guitar in his hand. His talents were beyond comprehension (who teaches themselves to skillfully play the mandolin in 24 hours?) and he was the ultimate performer. Every friend he every made remained his friend for life; I don’t know a single person who didn’t love him. He was fun and silly and knew how to be happy.

One of the most fit people I have ever know, when he wasn’t performing on stage, Ray was at karate. A second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, he was addicted to the hard work and sweat of this sport. He gained a new circle of friends at the karate school, and he was passionate about teaching the next generation of karate students. When I was looking for a picture of Ray for this post, I stumbled upon this one. Ray doing staff work in the back yard.

Ray Karate in Yard 2 Resized

The three days leading up to Ray’s death were a bedside vigil of sorts, where so many of those friends showed up to pay homage to someone who fought so hard to live. I remember the karate gang showing up in the wee hours of the morning to help see him off. Family, coworkers, childhood friends, fellow musicians… they all came.

It’s interesting that, all these years later, so many people remember him — even those who cared for him during his illness. Just yesterday, I accompanied a friend to her chemo treatment. We were having a conversation with her nurse about the particular drug being administered. I was telling the story of Ray receiving this drug back in 1996 (it was a memorable occasion), and after we got to talking a bit more, it turned out this nurse was one of Ray’s nurses back on Mercy 8E. She remembered Ray well, and we reminisced about all the wonderful people who took care of him back then. When I think of all the people this nurse would have attended to over the past 20+ years, what are the chances she would remember Ray? Well, that’s the kind of impact he had on people, and so I’m not really surprised.

My life has taken a number of twists and turns since that day 20 years ago when, as a 36 year old, I was picking planning out a cemetery plot and planning his funeral. I know that he is always with me and I know that he would be happy that I got to be a mom and that I am pursuing my dream of writing a book. As someone who believes in the power of mediums, I can tell you that Ray always comes through — he’d never miss a party!

On this anniversary, I’d like to ask you to think about him. For those of you who knew him well: have a shot of Sambuca or a Heineken and give him a “salut!” (Heck, even if you didn’t, feel free to send up a toast!) For those of you who did not know him, take a moment to appreciate the joyful moments in your life, whatever is going on right now. Life is fleeting; find the joy now.

Ray with Cigarette in car

(Happy 59th anniversary to my parents in heaven.)

IMDb: 20 Years After (2008)

6 Years

Snip20180831_25 copy

Today I mark 6 years of being cancer free.

August 31, 2012 was the date of my double mastectomy – the day I consider myself to be cancer free, even though I would still need 3+ months of chemo and 8 weeks of radiation. I documented my mastectomy adventures in this blog post.

In reviewing that post this morning, I am transported back to that day. I didn’t know how many years, or months, or days I would have left (do we ever?) and I am grateful for every day since my breast cancer diagnosis.

Some random thoughts this morning, as I reflect on these six years…

  • I spent a lot of time waiting on the day of my surgery. We had to be there so early, to sit around and do nothing. I have wasted so much time just waiting in doctor’s offices in the ensuing years.  Some doctors are better than others, but in addition to waiting the morning of my surgery, I also waited 90 minutes on my first day of chemo. These are pretty nerve-racking events and I’m just not sure that all doctors understand what they are doing to patients’ mental states by having us just sit there — waiting to have parts removed or poison injected into our bodies.  I think there needs to be more awareness on the emotional toll that is taken on cancer patients.
  • When I re-read my description of the sentinel node biopsy that day, I laugh. It seems so tame compared to my actual experience. There are truly no words to describe exactly how painful that experience was. It hurt like HELL! Not even childbirth ranked as high in my books. I always say if men had to have that done, they would a) numb the area and/or b) knock us out! Radioactive bee stings in your nipple. Yep. Good times!
  • I still have no regrets on not reconstructing, although I do wish I had emphatically stated “flat”, so that what remained was not lop-sided, bumpy and dog-eared. But doctors always assume that you will change your mind and will eventually see clear to get implants. My logical brain could not wrap itself around implanting foreign substances into my body, putting it through more surgeries and pain and inconvenience, risking infection, and more… just to satisfy a social norm. And especially considering this was my second cancer. I know it’s a very personal choice and I’m not criticizing those who make that decision. We all have our reasons for our choices and those are mine.
  • I still live with the daily reminders — scars, hearing loss, memory loss, thinning hair, fear — of cancer. But those reminders encourage me to try to make the most of each day. To not worry so much. To take care of myself so I’m here for the long-haul (however “long haul” gets defined). To eat right and get enough sleep. To focus on what’s truly important, and not get caught up in petty worries. To forgive and forget. To keep away from physical and emotional toxins. To help influence others to be healthier. To be grateful for every. single. day.

And here I am, six years later. Appreciative. Healthy. Imperfect. Doing the best I can every day. Content.

Grateful. Here’s to the next six!

IMDb: 6 Years (2015)


Life In A Year


Isn’t it amazing just how fast a year goes by? I know the adage is “the older you get, the faster time goes” but I don’t really feel that old (yet). But here we are, a whole year since I became a “retiree”. 365 days since I left the corporate world behind and moved forward in a whole new direction. What a difference a year makes.

On the anniversary of my “retirement” date (yes, the quotes are intended to add a bit of sarcasm, since it wasn’t a voluntary retirement date…), it is fitting that I have officially and fully graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I had received my mid-certificate back in January which allowed me to start seeing clients, and now my schooling is complete. When I saw that our official graduation date was also July 10th, my official retirement start date, I chuckled at the message the Universe sent my way.

It really is a reminder of what can be accomplished in a year, how much life can change in 52 weeks. I have been educated, embarked on a new career, started a new business, made new friends and business partners, and never looked back. It’s easy, sometimes, to get stuck in the moments when things don’t go as planned, or when life throws you a few lemons. But time gives us a new perspective to look back and see how far we’ve come.

I am grateful for the opportunities of this past year. My husband’s support (and my severance package!) allowed me to pursue my passions and I know I’m lucky in that regard. I didn’t have to jump right into a job I didn’t really want just to meet expenses. I had the luxury of time to build something new.

So what can be done in a year?

  • I took 40 week certification in Integrative Nutrition Health Coaching (actual time was longer considering weeks off for holidays/breaks).
  • I started a new business, complete with name, logo, website, business cards, Facebook page, pamphlets, bank account, and all the other fun tax/financial stuff.
  • I drafted an outline for a book (my goal for the next year!).
  • I created partnerships with two wellness centers, started building my client base, and delivered multiple workshops.
  • I managed a new work/life balance, figuring out how to handle varied working hours to meet my clients’ schedules, while still managing my household, volunteering, and finding time for fun and relaxation. (To be honest, housework is where I made most of my concessions!)
  • I made lots of new friends, and tried really hard to keep in touch with the old ones!
  • And I even managed to get a few things done from that big list of projects I started my retirement with. (Not nearly enough of them, but I guess we always need to have a list, don’t we?)

So what can YOU do in a year? What are you waiting for? Start. Take a step forward. A year from now, you can look back and marvel at all you’ve accomplished!

IMDb: Life in a Year (2018)

The Skin I Live In

blur-body-care-161608Every so often I like to remind my readers to take care of their skin. Since I went for my annual full body scan this morning, today seemed like a good day for that reminder!

Several years ago, a group of women I worked with and I decided that we needed to go for a skin exam. We had seen an advertisement for free exams at a facility about 30 minutes or so from work and we all signed up. During that exam, an “atypical” mole was identified and it was suggested that I see a dermatologist for follow up. The suspect mole was ultimately removed without any issue, and thus began my commitment to annual full body scan. I never miss it.

Let’s face it, we’ve all done some stupid stuff — hot sun, no hat, no sunscreen, or worse yet, application of baby oil. I’ve had some super painful burns in my past and, given my cancer history, I think it’s prudent to get checked regularly. Even if you don’t have a history of cancer, it’s a smart move.

We all know that we should have our skin checked if we see a change in size, shape or color of a mole. But there are many parts we can’t see by ourselves! My problem mole was on the lower middle of my back; I would never have seen it on my own. And just because you may have burned your scalp, as an example, it doesn’t mean that’s where skin cancer would appear. It can show up anywhere. I have have peace of mind knowing that I was checked by a professional who knows what she’s looking for.

Today I learned that I should look at my toenails before reapplying polish. Not for the discoloration that may come from applying nail polish too often and without break, but to look for any spots that might show up under the nail! I would never have thought to look there. So next time you go for that pedi… take a look!

Another great suggestion I had heard previously (but have yet to implement…my bad…) is to have your spouse, best friend, significant other, mother… someone… take a picture of your back every six months and compare to the prior for any changes that might need a closer look.

If you don’t have insurance or don’t want to pay a co-payment, you can look for free screenings like my co-workers and I did all those years ago. Check out:

In the meantime, take care of your skin! It’s the only one you have to live in.

IMDb: The Skin I Live In (2011)

Parade’s End

I have blogged about this before, but when I received the official word that I had breast cancer, I was at EPCOT in DisneyWorld. I remember vividly where I was standing when the call came from the doctor.  That was in 2012.

When I visited Disney again in 2014, I had my husband take my picture to celebrate my return.

Disney China

Last week, I had the privilege of chaperoning my son’s band trip to Disney and I took the opportunity to take another photo. Yes, I’m still alive and well!

Disney China 2018

(Apparently I like the color pink, but it’s not because of the ubiquitous pink ribbons!)

Disney trips are always hard work, even as they are loads of fun. The temperature was hot (85-90), the humidity high, and my feet have never hurt so bad from all the walking and standing! But it was a great trip — our students are awesome and we couldn’t be prouder of their march down Main Street in Magic Kingdom!

One thing I realized on this trip? That I’m in better shape than I give myself credit for!

On the day the students marched in Magic Kingdom, I got in roughly 20,000+ steps in the heat (“86/feels like 92” kind of day…), and this included some serious running along the parade route to get ahead of the band for purposes of video and photos, and then running back to the back lot gate at Pirates of the Caribbean. It also included unloading/loading the van with some of the other chaperones in the back lot in the blazing sun. (Note: at least I was wearing shorts… our poor kids were wearing their wool uniforms, so I’m not really complaining!)

I was exhausted at the end of the day, and maybe a little faint at the parade’s end, but I did it! At least I know my heart and lungs are pretty solid, and considering where I was just a mere 6 years ago, I’m incredibly grateful!

This photo op will be part of every trip I take to Disney because it’s a reminder of where I was, and just how far I’ve come!

IMDb: Parade’s End (2012)