6 Years

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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)

 

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Life In A Year

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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: https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/programs/screenings/find-a-screening

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)

Worthy

A common sentiment with many of my female clients, friends and family is this:

“I take care of everyone else, but I never make time to take care of myself.”  

I am surprised at just how often I hear this; it’s not 100% of the time, but it’s close. So on this Mother’s Day, I thought it might be helpful to write an affirmation for all the women out there who struggle to make themselves a priority. Read this. Say this. Embrace this. Live this.

I am worthy.
I am worthy and deserving of self-care.
I will make my own well-being a priority.
I will nourish my body with good food, movement, water and sleep.
I will nourish my mind with meditation, good books and stimulating conversation.
I will nourish my soul with nature, laughter, and letting go.
I will find time for me. Without guilt.
Taking care of myself is the best thing I can do to take care of others.
I will make my own well-being a priority.
I am worthy and deserving of self-care.
I am worthy.

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IMDb: Worthy (2017)

 

Bread and Roses

Who doesn’t love bread? Warm, soft, airy bread with gobs of melted butter…?

Since adopting a whole food plant based no oil diet in 2012, bread has been a challenge for me. Most breads are made with oil, and the ones that aren’t tend to be dense and/or dry. I’ve tried a number of different breads and I’m not really a fan (nor is my family) of most of the “healthy” breads; perhaps I have just not found the right one…

I don’t have the time or energy to read the ingredients on every single loaf of bread at Wegmans. And it’s not just the oil, but eggs, “natural flavors” and all sorts of other questionable ingredients. (Remember the “yoga mat” stuff?)

In the search for a healthy bread, I just opt for doing the best I can. Whole wheat. Wheat. Multi-grain. Organic. Close enough. And sometimes, you just need a crusty loaf of white Italian bread or some kind of bun that’s totally processed. Bread is just one of those areas that I have conceded we’ll never be perfect.

I’ve considered making my own (see prior comment on time and energy…) but that also entails digging out the bread maker and finding space for one more kitchen gadget.  Then I found this recipe for a 5 ingredient bread… no bread machine, no kneading, no oil, no artificial ingredients. (I’m sure you’re also thinking “no taste”.)  It only took an hour to make (20 minutes for rising; 40 minutes to bake).  We ate it warm with a smidge of butter, and it was pretty good. Depending on what you are serving it with, you may not need the butter, but I felt like it needed a sauce or something. It was still a little dense, but it had a nice crust, was warm, and (best of all) healthy. There wasn’t a bite left, so I think it passed the family inspection. I think I’m going to try to tweak the recipe a bit…playing with the salt and maple syrup, and also trying some additional seasonings for a more savory flavor.

Bread and Roses 2

As for the roses… Just wanted to wish all of the Moms out there a Happy Mother’s Day weekend!  I hope you are spoiled by your loved ones and get to relax a bit. I’m hoping to sleep in and go to see Avengers: Infinity War.  🙂

p.s. Your history lesson:
As my followers know, I always use the name of a movie as my blog post titles (to align with the “lights cancer action” theme). When I was searching for an image, I found that Bread and Roses was actually a political slogan after being referenced in a speech in 1911 by Rose Schneiderman, and is most associated with a textile strike where women were appealing for both fair wages and dignified conditions.

“The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”

IMDb: Bread and Roses (2000)

A Work in Progress

Things are progressing quite nicely on my new business. I am purposely trying to take things on the slower side to ensure I am giving 100% to anyone I work with, and to make sure that I am not taking on more than I can handle while establishing other components for the business.

I have several active clients and am very grateful for the referrals and opportunities provided by Dr. Denise Karpowicz! I am continuing to network with other local businesses in the field of wellness, and have a few speaking engagements lined up to help get my name out there.

I also have a presentation series on plant based nutrition planned for the month of April.   For my local readers, if interested, you can enroll in one or more of the 4 classes via my website: http://metamorphosismindbodyspirit.com/pages/Store

The details are as follows:

4/4/18 – Plant Based Nutrition 101: Definitions, Benefits and Myths
4/11/18 – So what do you eat?
4/18/18 – Getting started (planning & preparing for the transition)
4/25/18 – Cooking Demo

All sessions are from 7:00 pm to 8:15 pm and will be held at Wonderful, an art studio in Moscow. Each session includes the presentation, handouts and food samples.  Sessions are $15 each, or $50 for the full series.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at metamorphosismindbodyspirit@gmail.com.

*****

If you are looking for a super easy, delicious dessert, I recently discovered chocolate hummus from Don’t Waste the Crumbs. It was super easy to make and absolutely yummy! Your family won’t even know it’s healthy!  I served mine with fresh strawberries and raspberries. I meant to take a picture but we all ate before I remembered to do so!

*****

IMDb: A Work In Progress (2002)