You Don’t Grow In Your Comfort Zone – I’ve Jumped Across The Line This Week

I think the say goes something like “you don’t grow inside your comfort zone” with something prefacing or posting the saying.  Before all of this, all of this awful ovarian cancer stuff, I stuck to a square box.  I wasn’t necessarily comfortable there, but I was able to “control” what was happening around me…or so I thought.  Since all of that, I’ve been pressing it and lately, I’ve been jumping out like a crazy person waving my arms around. Let’s just say I’ve become really good at being uncomfortable – I might not like it, but I’m mastering it!

Today was FULL of outside of my comfort zone type of things – let’s be honest, this entire week has been, and it’s about to become more of a regular occurrence.  But let’s focus on today. What happened today you might ask???  Two things – I had my first group in-person wellness event AND I had my first virtual group meeting.  Two things I led. Two things I put together. Two things that were so far out of the person I’d become used to – I stay inside the lines, this isn’t me…but guess what, you don’t grow inside the lines.  you’ll never find out what you’re fully capable of.  Why do we stay in these boxes??? Because we’re scared and/or afraid of failing, that’s why.

This afternoon we had a Basics Yoga Class at Blue Bird Yoga – it’s the studio I’ve been going to for around a year now.  The place I go to relax, stretch things out and have a little “me” time.  I had no idea who was coming, how many to expect, or would it just be me and my little family, so my anxiety level was high – what if no one wanted to do this??  Well, 20 of us did, and we had fun, despite the lovely pouring snow STL decided to have today!

What’s it look to have 15 Survivors on a virtual group meeting together?!?! THIS!

This evening, I did another thing that I am NOT trained in, that I have NO idea how to handle, BUT it is something I think we need in not only the ovarian cancer community, but the gynecological cancer community, and virtual group meeting session, if you will.  I had a list of things I wanted to achieve for Kick Ovarian Cancer this year – the main thing being a community feel for those effected by ovarian cancer.  One of those components was group meetings where we could share things, find commonalities and hopefully help each other through something that isn’t necessarily the easiest.  Some of us are still fighting the fight, others of us are out…but this whole life after thing, it’s not easy…NONE of this is easy.  I was a nervous wreck, but I was hopeful, hopeful that it would help someone along the way, hopeful that the ladies would want to do this again.

What I’ve found through both of these things is that if you don’t ask, you’ll never know what can happen.  Had I not asked Ellen and Sarah if hosting a wellness event at the studio was something they’d consider, the answer would have always been “no”.  Had I not put a post on Instagram and Facebook about participating in a group meeting, no one would have ever shown. Sure, I could have put the message out there and no one could have commented or messaged me…but that didn’t end up being the case. We had a nice sized group for the first time, have a plan in place and hope to be able to move forward in a month from now with another meeting!

You see, if we stay inside the lines, in the little box that we create that is nice and comfortable, BUT NOT GREAT, we’re not really doing ourselves any favors…we’re comfortable, but we’re not growing.  You’re staying in the same place you were, you may not be living to your fullest potential…and more than likely, it’s going to become boring.  We look just like everything else.  I don’t post all of these things for a pat on the back, or an “atta girl!” …I post them so that you can see BIG things, things outside of those black lines we’re all taught to live within (trust me, until 14 months ago, I was living right smack dab in the middle of those lines), are possible.  They’re not only possible, but great things can come from just have to take that step, that so-called leap of faith and believe in yourself.  And maybe it won’t go great, it won’t every time…but maybe it will go okay or well, and sometimes that’s the goal…can’t knock it out of the park every time!


What Happened On This Day 1 Year Ago – The Day I Chose To Shave My Hair Off d

Today started like any other day…nothing special, until I saw the Facebook “one year ago today”…thanks for the reminder!  To be honest, I’d been thinking about it early last week, but completely forgot this morning.

Last year, on March 4th, I chose to shave my hair off – it was my choice, it was the one thing I wanted to have a say in.  I didn’t want to hop in the shower one day and have clumps of hair in my hands…I’ll be honest, I would have lost it, it would have been too much to handle.  I also had it resemble a party, so it was easier for Olivia and Jaxson – they would be the two main people to shave my head, with my “niece” Lilly-bug stepping in at one point.  This way, it wasn’t as scary for them and let’s be honest, it wasn’t as scary for me.  I don’t think I could have stood in the bathroom with clippers – I’d have been crying too hard.

As you can see, I wasn’t nearly as brave as I appeared…I was merely doing what needed to be done, in a way that was best for not only myself, but the children as well.

I also did this – one last family photo that looked like we were “normal”.  Sure, you could see my port, I was only 5 weeks post-surgery, and I was very thin – if you look really closely at my eyes, you can tell something wasn’t right.  And the poor girl that did my hair at the Breeze Blow Dry Bar that day was sooo good…I felt terrible for her, my hair was coming out in clumps.  But I wanted one more photo of all of us together, with hair, without the “scars” from what was to come…and little did we know, one year later it wouldn’t just be me growing my hair back, my Dad would be too.


Jaxson may have been way too excited about this whole thing – I’m not sure he knew what to think though when he realized all of my hair was gone a few days later.

As luck would have it, the next morning when I got in the shower…almost all of my hair fell out – body hair, hair on my head, all of it.  At that point in time whomever was at my house with me would stay in my bedroom while I showered in case something were to happen; I screamed for my friend Kim and I’m pretty sure she thought something had happened that was worse than my hair falling out.  I wasn’t panicking, I was more shocked I’d just beat all of this to the punch.  If I’d have waited any longer, there wouldn’t have been much to shave off.  How many days post my first round of chemo was it??  13 days…almost exactly what they told me it would be.

However you decide to let your hair go, do it for you…not because this is what everyone else is doing.  And guess what, a year later, it’s going to be much better!

The Weekend That Was Scottsdale!

Yep, we got all kinds of fancy this weekend in the Southwest, supporting Colleen’s Dream, and of course, Brittany!  I’ve had a difficult time finding the words to express all that was this weekend, for many reasons.  Maybe it’s because I’m tired, maybe it’s because it was overwhelming, or maybe because things were different this time when I flew into PHX…I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it, but I thought I’d go ahead and try…sometimes when I start to type it gets a little easier.

In case you can’t tell – we’re pretty excited to be together, and it’s 8am!

So many wonderful things happened this weekend, the first being that the three of us were back together again, which in and of itself is more than worth it, oh, and we let the boys come this time too 😉 !  Not knowing how we all would feel, but being the Type A personality that I am, I did a bit of research to see what we could do, if we thought we had enough time to do everything.  We ended up deciding on one hike, Camelback and spent the remainder of our free time hanging out, low-key, eating and taking in the Scottsdale area – ummm, if you live in Scottsdale or the surrounding areas, consider yourself lucky…your restaurants are top notch AND there are so many healthy/organic options that we’re missing!

All three of us (Mandi, Brittany and myself) had been looking forward to the gala, because let’s be honest, there aren’t many times we get all dolled up.  Shoot, I can’t remember the last time I purchased a formal dress, it was fun!  All three of us had a bit of anxiety about the whole thing for one reason or another as well – one of us was speaking, all of us were going to an event that leaves it a bit difficult to pretend our situation isn’t what it is, there’s really no turning a blind-eye when you’re in a room of 650 people supporting an organization whose sole focus is ovarian cancer.  Let’s just say that I was a wee bit sweaty (there you have it folks, I sweat when I get nervous/anxious), and when you’re in an off the shoulder, cap-sleeved dress, there’s really no hiding it when hugging someone!

For those of you reading this (the majority), who were unable to attend the event in person, I have the video of Brittany speaking posted on my FB pages, both personal and Kick Ovarian Cancer’s.  I couldn’t have been more proud of my friend, she did something very brave, very outside of her comfort zone, very well – she was honest, raw, and poised.  Mandi and I had both read her speech prior and were aware of what she was going to say, and what was to come, but I soon found that didn’t make it any easier to hear the words spoken.  You see, for someone who rarely sheds a tear in front of people (we all do it, we keep it behind closed doors, so you don’t see us), when they breakdown, you breakdown.  And hearing the words “chemo will only buy me time…not cure this disease…”, it’s reality hitting you smack dab in the face (Brittany is currently participating in a trial treatment program, which we hope will turn this whole thing around).  If you were sitting anywhere near our table of 12, all you heard were sniffles, ruffling for tissues or the cloth napkin.  Deep down, I think we all wanted to be strong for her, but sometimes that’s just not possible.  Brittany represented all women effected by ovarian cancer better than anyone could have, and what was to follow, was simply amazing.

The remainder of the night went like this.  The live auction raised some major funds, the fund a need portion left all of us in a state of shock – for a type of cancer that we feel like gets the back burner most of the time, the people in the room raised their paddles for us…to the tune of $280,000 — yes, you read that correctly.  The live auction and fund a need raised $280,000 – enough money to fund the remaining amount needed for 10 women to start a trial with tgen, focusing on an extremely aggressive form of ovarian cancer that most often affects girls and young women (SMARCA4 gene mutation).  We also laughed, danced, made silly videos and took some serious photos – just like everyone else at the event.  Here’s the thing, I think we actually showed everyone in the room what you think an ovarian cancer survivor should look like, isn’t necessarily the case – as you can see in the photo, and this isn’t all of us young ones at the event.

And the next day, we put on our regular attire – athleisure, as many call it – and made our way to the top of Camelback!  Why do we do these things – why not?!?  Nothing’s stopping us from living, nothing’s holding us back from doing things everyone should be doing – we’re all purposefully living this one life we’ve been given.  Hmmm, think about that for a second, are you doing the same??  If not, what’s your excuse, why aren’t you, and what can you change to make sure you’re not missing out on things that could be setting you free, making you more alive?

All but two of the ladies pictured are ovarian cancer survivors…the other two lost their mother 5 years ago this past weekend to the deadly disease.

A huge thank you to the Drury and Cundiff families for all that you do to support research for ovarian cancer treatments and early detection testing.  THANK YOU to all of you in the room raising your paddles on Saturday evening – I personally know two women who hope to qualify for this trial, we’ve got our fingers crossed they do.  THANK YOU to those of you who are spreading awareness every day on behalf of those of who are fighting/surviving/thriving through this thing called ovarian cancer – it’s hard, it’s not fun, and it’s time for more of us to have a fighting chance!

Do The Things That Set Your Soul On Fire – I Have A Few!

Do The Things That Set Your Soul On Fire — And Don’t Settle For Anything Less!

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed one of these things for me is skiing – ask me how long it had been since I skied and you’d be shocked! By the smile on my face, you can tell it’s where I’m happy, although sometimes the cold gets to me – when my hands get too cold, it’s like needles, it wasn’t like that before, I’m hoping it improves with time.   I made mention when I was leaving in January to someone that I needed to figure out how to go skiing once a month during snow season – she agreed. Why, because I was happy, I was a little more “me” and I forgot.

My others, well that’s simple – hiking, the house down south, and really anywhere with a beach. I’ll be hitting all of these spots in the next three months – some of them multiple times. Does this make me tired, sometimes. But I’ll tell you time and time again, these are things I enjoy doing, the things I WANT to do, the things that SET MY SOUL ON FIRE and make me forget. Truth is…I’m not ready to sit with my thoughts about all of this, I’m not sure when I will be. You see, the last 3 years of my life, cancer aside, have been quite trying, to say the least.

This past weekend I was able to take the children with me to do one of my favorite things, skiing, with the help of my parents (another thing I didn’t see myself doing, doing this whole thing solo!). I still remember the ski trips we took as a family growing up, and I wanted that for them too. I was so nervous about how it would go – what if they didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, what if they never wanted to go again, what if they were still too young??? All of my fears were erased after day one – both of them couldn’t have been more excited to tell me how their day went. Both of them LOVED skiing and Olivia, well…this may be one of her happy places too, she excelled like no other at this activity and was bummed when the day was over! J-man, I think he got a little tuckered out by day 3, but he said he’s ready to go back next year!

Find what sets your soul on fire, it doesn’t have to be an activity – a solid glass of wine, a good book and a spot outside will do the trick too – and hang on tight to it. Make time to do these things – don’t settle for things you think you should be doing, not the things you want to be doing. I did this for far too long – take it from someone who knows what NOT to do – LOL!

I’ll be honest, STL isn’t my happy place. Too many things have happened here – it is where I need to be at this time though, so I do what’s needed to carve out time to spend doing the things I love, which is why I’m on the go quite frequently. Don’t let temporary things set you back – it’s not permanent, things will change, and in the meantime, figure out a way to make it work – settling for anything less than a rip roaring fire, isn’t doing your time here on earth any justice. You only have one life, spend it doing the things that make you, you.

Hitting the skies again Friday to meet up with some of my girls (okay, guys…I’m excited to see you too – LOL!) in the Southwest – Phoenix/Scottsdale, I’m coming for ya! Where will you find me, on the hiking trail (my type A personality has a list with details on each for us to decide on – I forewarned everyone!), possibly sipping a glass of wine (or two) at a local watering hole, grabbing a bite around town, and getting all dolled up for Colleen’s Dream’s Gala on Saturday night (y’all it’s like we’re going to prom!). So excited to see my girl Brittany up on stage, sharing her story, she’s going to kill it!

I Think I Need To Clarify Something – I’m NOT Super Woman

A few weeks ago a fellow survivor friend reached out to me because she was having a moment, like we all do, and she needed help – she didn’t feel inspirational, commented that most days she sat in the bathroom and cried , and so forth.  She had a speaking engagement quickly approaching and had no idea what to say.  It didn’t take me long to write back and got the wheels spinning in my head – wait, do the survivors/women/people who follow me not think that I feel the same way?!?

Let’s get one thing straight – I’m FAR from being Super Woman, NO WHERE CLOSE!  I’m holding it together by a string most days, just like you.

I’ll be honest, I don’t feel inspirational, strong, or anything else people may think of me – I’m merely a girl who when faced with a HUGE challenge, did what I’d hope anyone in my position would do, fight.   Why don’t I feel any of those things…because I’m not any of those things, I’m just like any of you reading this…I chose to not let something as stupid as cancer defeat me, win, or take control of my life.  I didn’t/don’t  have another choice, it’s my life we we’re dealing with.

And some days, you’ll find me in the bathroom, on the floor or in the shower, crying as well – it’s the place no one can hear me, if the kids are home or people are here, it’s cold, dark, and quiet.  I am just like all of you  reading this who are fighters/survivors/thrivers – the bathroom is my favorite place too, followed closely by the car, with my head on the steering wheel, parked in my garage.

I’m no more inspirational than anyone else, the way I live my life is a little bit more public than yours might be, but that’s really it. The word “inspirational” makes me extremely uncomfortable.  Now, I hope that because of me, someone didn’t give up, no matter what their “hard thing” may be, and they pushed through and hopefully pay it forward.  I guess you could say the only thing I want people to see, is that hard things can be done – over and over again.  That life after cancer can somewhat resemble what it looked like before.  That you can still do the things you once did, differently, but you can do them.  I struggle through most things I do, but I get it done, and that’s the part I want people to see.   Who wants easy???  Easy is more comfortable, but it’s usually not as fulfilling as choosing the more difficult option – trust me, it’s worth it.

Wanna know exactly what I said to my friend – I told her we all spend many days sitting on the bathroom floor.  That she has a lot of things to say, but what about her story does she really want people to hear – being “inspiring” isn’t always the goal, sometimes it’s about being brutally honest about all that ovarian cancer is, incorporate the positives with the ugly truth of it all.  That this is hard, that things need to change for more women to have a fighting chance.  I told my friend that none of us are really great at standing behind the microphone, but she was going to kill it.  And ya wanna know what?!?  That was exactly the advice she needed – she killed it!  I smiled the entire way through hearing her speech, because I was so proud of her – she took something difficult and flawlessly nailed it!

Things scare me, just like they scare you – I don’t sleep much, I’m always on the go because it’s my way of coping at the moment – it means I don’t have time to think – I push myself when it comes to a lot of things, because I can.  And yes, I cry A LOT…this shit is hard people!  (sorry, not sorry!) No one should ever have to do this – and everyone out there fighting/surviving/thriving, I take my hat off to you, and I’m cheering you along the way!  I’m just like you…I’m not Super Woman….I’m merely someone choosing to do hard things with a smile on my face, because I can, not because I’m a super hero.

January, I’m Not Your Biggest Fan…But Thank You For This…

It’s February!!! Which means I made it through January, not exactly my most favorite month.  January is my diagnosis month, the time I spent a good chunk of the month in the hospital.  And now, as luck would have it, the month I have checkups, scans and blood work – all things, which can make one come unglued.

Despite all of this…January gave me a couple of things that made me smile – time with my friends, doing things I love.Had you asked me a few months ago how I thought this month would go – I’d have told you to look for me in the corner of my bedroom, more than likely crying and angry.  Did that happen once??  NOPE.

Jen, Peggy and myself after a day of snowfall
Too much fun on day 1 with Jamie!
Blast from the past – Tash!!

My diagnosis day will always be my diagnosis day, but this year, I gave it a big finger (ya know which one I’m talking about)…and took to the slopes.  Some of my girlfriends joined me, and they made sure we were always laughing, smiling, had a drink in hand after the chairlifts shutdown, and I forgot about all of it….even if it was just for a little while.  You see, I came back to the reality of things – scans, tests and doctor’s appointments (precautionary CT scan tomorrow morning, then I’m done until April, fingers crossed).  BUT, for 4 whole days, I got to do something “normal”.  Something that resembled the old me…and when I say “old me”, I’m talking years ago.

Mandi & Brittany – hiking it up on the ranch!

Fast forward to the last weekend of the month – ya know, the one where you have to wait after all the testing is done, until after the weekend when you see the doctor (ummm…3 days feels like 3 months) – I headed south to hang with my Texas girls!  We all needed to see each other, and I got to meet Stephanie!!! The reason I HATE January so much, is the reason you see us together.  Cancer united us, but cancer doesn’t define one of us.  I always get asked, “well what’d y’all do??”, like we sit around and talk about cancer the entire time, or we don’t do normal people things.  My response this time – we did what all Texans do, went to the ranch, drank champagne, shot a couple rounds on the 22 and hiked and had Mexican food, duh! – teasing!

Meet Stephanie (@derailingmydiagnosis – follow her if you don’t already!)

Seriously though, we did all those things, and yes, we talked about cancer.  Although none of our stories are the same, none of us have the same diagnosis, we can each relate to the other in ways that our friends and families can’t.  And sometimes, that alone is enough…sometimes, it’s nice to talk, have someone nod their head, and not have tears in their eyes or a sad look on their face.  I can talk, freely, Mandi, Brittany and Stephanie, can talk freely, and it’s nice. But let’s get one thing straight…it is a part of us, but cancer is not all that there is to us.

January, I will probably always have a love hate relationship with you – you are the month that changed life as I knew it.  But I learned this year, that I have a choice in how I function throughout the month – I could have been a total B, done nothing and everyone would have understood, it would have been allowed.  Instead, I decided to challenge myself and see if I couldn’t turn a crappy month into something that I could have fun with — and although I succeeded, there were still a bunch of tears.  Without the 19th of January, I wouldn’t have had a fire lit underneath me, I wouldn’t have done things this month with people that make me smile, I wouldn’t have met Mandi or Brittany or Stephanie. So January, I’m not your biggest fan, and I probably never will be…but thank you, thank you for making me do the things I enjoy with people I love.

Here’s your challenge – what is your “January”?  How can you take that “thing” and no longer make it a day you dread, a day that makes you sad, a day that you want to forget, and change it into a positive???   (ummm, trust me, I still want to forget that day exists, I’m just learning to manage how I address it. I’m not a master at this…I’m a work in progress)

Wellness Wednesday – Let’s Talk About Lymphedema

Those of you who watch my Instagram stories, have seen that I’m back in Occupational Therapy over the last couple of weeks – I’d exhausted everything I knew to do and the fluid build-up wasn’t getting any better.

Lymphedema of the lower extremity isn’t really something people talk about – I get it, it’s not fun, especially in the pelvic region.  I get asked why this happens to me, but not others – everyone is different, is the answer.  The number of lymph nodes removed, the way your body manages getting the excess fluid to a different area of your body – it’s different for every case.  Women with breast cancer experience this as well, you’ve probably seen more of them with compression sleeves and things of that nature for their arms and hands.  For me, it’s the opposite, I need it for my legs, and unfortunately my groin/pelvic region (good times!)

What is LymphedemaLymphedema  occurs when the lymphatic system is compromised – in my case, due to a debulking surgery for cancer related issues.  For me, it became too uncomfortable and a little painful.  Over time, the accumulation can actually result in significant changes to the tissue and skin around the area – I wanted to ensure I took care of this, before that happened.  It is a permanent condition –something those of us effected by will live with for the rest of our lives – it is manageable though, which is why I try and stay on top of it.  It’s one of those things they don’t tell you about, until it actually happens.

This is the exact thing I use – one time, per leg, every day.

How do I manage my particular issue – It’s fairly easy, just time consuming at this point in time.  I have a FlexiTouch device which helps in getting the fluid out of my legs – it isn’t as helpful with the pelvic/groin area for me, because I’m a little too thin for the trunk piece – this takes 2 hours out of the day, one in the morning and one at night.  Throughout the day I wear 30-40mhg compression tights, a swell spot (THIS IS A LIFESAVER – if you have pelvic/groin area swelling – TRY it!!), and I have a pair of 20-30mhg custom (again, too thin) compression capris I will start to wear for hiking and days when I’ll be standing for extended periods of time or traveling.

There is a manual technique I use as well help get the fluid to the lymph nodes under my arm, the next largest set, outside of those I’m now missing.

Exercise is important – I know, I know, here she goes again!  This has been proven to help with the lymphatic drainage – the muscles and joints work together during some workouts, creating pressure, which allows the fluid to move into the lyphatic system.  The yoga, spinning and walking I do, religiously, is for this very reason.  Start with something small and see if you notice a change, I think you’ll be surprised, I know I was.

You’ll find that if you’re with me, I don’t really care where I am and how rude it may look, my legs go up.  People will need to get over it! LOL!  If you have any other questions regarding any of this – give me a shout!

January, I’m Not Your Biggest Fan – January 19th

January 19, 2017 – the day that would change my life, the day I would hear the doctor on the other end of the phone say “I have your biopsy results back and they’re not good, you have ovarian cancer.  It’s aggressive and we need to get you to an oncologist, quickly.”

There are many things throughout the year that I can’t remember. There are certain things I remember like they just happened.  And there are tons of things I can kind of make out in a fog, and others I will stare blankly at you and say I have no idea what you’re talking about – yesterday, I don’t remember how I walked across the street to Imo’s to get my lunch, realized this as I was walking through the lobby of the hotel.

The day started just like any other – I was recovering from surgery a week prior, to remove a “dermoid cyst” the size of cantaloupe.  I got up, wished a friend happy birthday, rode with my mom to take the kids to school and came back home to rest.  I was giving my doctor until 1pm to call me before I texted her again to see if she had the results yet.  I wouldn’t need to text her…the phone call came shortly after my mom stepped out to get lunch, a lunch I would never eat, but one my body desperately needed.

I sat at the kitchen table and waited for her, she could tell by the look on my face I’d talked to the doctor.  “Dr. McDonald called, I have ovarian cancer.”  My mother basically fell apart, to which I responded by saying “I can’t do this right now, I’ll call someone to come and help you, but I need to find help. I’m going to my room, please just let me figure this out.”  I texted Sonya, and told her I couldn’t help my mother at this moment in time, could she please come over as quickly as she could.  After receiving a message that she was on her way I picked up the phone to call my friend Anne, a fellow three time (different types) cancer survivor to see who she knew at Siteman Cancer that could tell me where I needed to go and who I needed to see.  She had just the person and she worked her magic – I called with nothing but an email copy of the results and got on the books for two weeks later, Anne took the same results and went to the doctor directly, one business day later I’d be walking in to meet with Dr. Hagemann.

Out of everything in the results, the only thing I knew for sure was that it was Grade 3, high grade, and that was NOT good – I needed to get it out as quickly as possible.  I had no idea what stage it was, but knew the chances of it being an early stage was rare (I’d find out a few weeks later I got lucky and it was).

The last thing I remember about the day is looking at my phone, rolling over, crying (it was more of a quiet sob) and falling asleep – the same person I’d wished happy birthday to, had texted me, thanked me for the gift I’d sent along with him, and shortly after said it’d been a pretty crappy day – I wouldn’t reply until the next morning, knowing I would need to tell one final person the news.

January 19, 2018 – the day I would take back control and tell cancer to “suck it”.  Today, I’m not sitting at home, crying by myself (I’m not sure if I’ll cry today, guess I’ll find out), several of my girlfriends are with me near snow covered mountains.  Today, one year later, I’m going to spend the day going down run after run, after run on the mountain with some of my girls.  The girls I sent texts/emails to and said “hey, January 19th is my cancerversary, I’m not letting cancer win, wanna go skiing for the weekend?” The majority of whom were able to make it – the others had circumstances out of their control which wouldn’t allow for them to be able to.

One year can change so many things.  One year ago, I had no idea what was going to happen or what the outcome would be.  One year ago, a fire was lit inside of me that said “oh hell no, I’m not going down like this.”  Ovarian cancer, you may have changed my life, but I refuse to let you take away my life – so today, I choose to “celebrate” the day my life changed…probably for the better in more ways than one.

The next few days I’ll have posts and stories galore about all the fun we had – I’ll introduce you to each person with me, and fill you in on a couple that weren’t able to make it over the course of the next month.  What I hope you see by all of this, is that despite probably not really being okay with this whole ovarian cancer diagnosis (because really, I’m still not okay with all of this…not even close), I’m making a choice to make the most out of it.  I refuse to let cancer win.  As Brittany always tells me when I text her a random, “I need to do this, but I really don’t want to…what do you think??”  — B: “you know what I think, I think you do it! Because if you don’t you’re letting cancer win, who wants that?!?”

January 19, 2017 – you taught me I can do hard things, I was made to do them.  Jamie, Peggy, Jen and Tasha – Thank you!  Carrie, we miss you!!

Wellness Wednesday – Make Yourself a Priority

36 full years and a cancer diagnosis to figure this out – 36 years is far too long, I’m learning from my mistakes.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”

– Stephen Covey

It’s time to put myself first – not because I’m being selfish, but because I’m worth it.  I think that was always my problem, I thought I was being selfish if I put myself first.  One of my friends continually reminds me, “it’s no longer about them, it’s about you…” Even after the diagnosis, I was more worried about how to make others “okay” with my newfound reality – ovarian cancer – instead of making sure I was okay with what was actually happening.  Maybe it was my defense mode kicking in, so I didn’t think about it.

I was a “yes” person – I’d say “yes” to everything, schedule myself so thin doing things I’m not even sure I wanted to be doing, but I did them.  What I’ve found, is that it’s time to make myself a priority and with everything I have on my plate, I have to re-evaluate the manner in which I schedule my time – my priorities now come first.  My priorities at this point in time are fairly simple – my time is allocated to what needs to be handled and the things that give me joy – my children and my health are top of the list.  By saying “no”, it’s not a negative, it’s merely me saying “I’m sorry, I can’t make that work.”  My body only has so much energy to go around, everyone’s does, and I want to make sure I use it in the best way possible for me.

“Balance isn’t fitting everything in.  It’s starting with what’s important and letting the rest fall as it will”

– Erica Layne

So how do I spend my time, and how do I prioritize the things that are important to you – here’s a little peak:

My health – obviously, this come first and foremost at this point in time.  This is not only things related directly to what was my illness (or is, I’m still on the fence about how to say this), but indirectly as well.  Making sure my body is in the best possible condition it can be in, is key (it should be for anyone!) – for me, this is spinning, yoga and building/defining key muscle groups.  These three things allow for me to be able to enjoy the other things I want to do.  Fueling my body with the right nutrients – you’ll see more of the cooking and things starting in February – I’m still a work in progress when it comes to this part, but I’m making changes for the better, replacing the not great things, with foods that actually help to ward off cancer cells.  Mental health is key too – this is where my yoga practice comes in, I need this hour to focus only on me and drown out everything else around me.

My children – Olivia and Jaxson have always come first, probably to a point that it could be considered a flaw, because I’ve pushed things aside for myself to focus on them.  This is my choice, they’re only young for so long and before I know it they’ll be grown and out of the house.  They need me right now – the past 3 years have been a TON of change for all of us – where more things have happened than any person should have to go through, let alone a tiny human.  I can guarantee you, if they have something and I’m asked to do something else, 99 times out of 100, I’m going to tell you “I’m sorry, I can’t make that work, but thank you for asking.”

My Joys – It’s been so long since I’ve actually done what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, that I’m probably making up for lost time.  I stopped doing things that made me smile and feel good, simply because I let other things get in the way – whether this be people, work or life. Yes, you see me traveling frequently as of late – I LOVE to travel.  You’re going to see me snow skiing more than once this season!  You’re going to see me doing epic hikes more than once this year! You’re going to see me meeting up with my gal pals OFTEN (understatement)!  And if I’m in an area where a friend(s) might be, I’ll reach out and try to get together — however, if I have the children with me, see above.  Right now, my focus is on them when they’re with me – I couldn’t do much with them last year without help.  Right now, they need to know that their mom is okay – WE need to have times to look back on and smile.  It’s been so long since I’ve actually let myself breathe and enjoy life, they way we should.  I’m also going to start reading more, I LOVE to read – my goal is 1-2 books a month, I will be posting reviews on those which I feel can benefit everyone.

I’d love to say “yes” to everything I get asked to do.  I’d love to make time to see everyone.  But it’s just not possible.  Right now, my extra time, outside of the things listed above, is going to things ovarian cancer related – building a community, raising awareness and funds.  Right now, it’s time I put myself first, for once.  It’s time for the “fixer” inside of me to take a backseat – I need to take care of me.  Maybe it’s your time to focus on you too – make yourself a priority, try saying “no” and prioritizing what’s important to you, not what’s on your schedule.

January, I’m NOT Your Biggest Fan – January 11th

January, I’m NOT your biggest fan — you were once a start to a new year, and now you represent a THICK, HARD line in the sand.  A line that marks “before” and “after”.  Before and after???  Yes, “before” ovarian cancer, and “after” ovarian cancer — it’s full of dates, surgeries, hospital stay after hospital stay, and getting a phone call that will forever change my life.

This is the “big guy” – the top is prior to removal, the bottom is showing the fallopian tube and something else.
This is the smaller one – squished between something in the top and the white circular one at the bottom.

Yesterday, January 11th, I woke up in a funk, honestly felt like sitting in a corner and having a good cry, but I couldn’t figure out why.  In my head, I geared myself up for today being the anniversary of my surgery to remove my cantaloupe sized “cyst” on my right ovary and my 1/2 that sized cyst on my left ovary.  It wasn’t until 7pm that I realized it was the 11th – I honestly think subconsciously I knew, I was merely trying to forget.  By Thursdays I have a tendency to be running low on fuel from the week, but yesterday morning I was having to peel myself out of bed to use my leg pump before I went to work – in enough time to be done before the kids wake up so I can get them breakfast and such before school.

At the time of this surgery, I was pissed because it was an inconvenience, but I think deep down I knew it was something more, something was off – no way could a “cyst” land me in the ER because I could hardly stand up or walk without feeling like I was in labor (have 2 children, know what it feels like!).  As I was being wheeled into surgery, I was supposed to have been boarding a plane with Olivia and Jaxson to go snow skiing, for their first time.  This is my first scar on my lower abdomen, the one you don’t see unless my bikini bottom is down too low – it’s basically a c-section incision.

Right before picking up Olivia from school I got a text from Lori, she’d sent a snapshot of a FedEx tracking sheet.  I looked at it, saw it said “in-transit”, but also saw the 11th, so I again, thought it was for tomorrow (I worked a whole day – I’m hoping I didn’t put the date on anything, because it will have said the 10th).  I was bummed, it was something I really wanted to be able to have, but I thought it was coming while I was gone. We got home and I had a list of things I wanted to get done because we’re leaving town to head to the house down south (p.s. may want to pay attention to instagram stories again this weekend, I just found out I get to meet another one of my survivor friends a little earlier then we’d planned!!), so I didn’t even check the mail or the front door.  A little after 7pm, I did and that’s when it hit me, IT WAS JANUARY 11th and my package was at FedEx.  How did I go the entire day thinking it was the 10th?!?

These are my “name rings”. rings, the ones Lori fixed so I could wear them again!

Why do I mention the package??  Because it was my “God Wink”…it was what I needed yesterday.  Lori, is Lori Heuring.  Lori owns Ivy Diamond Cole, I’d reached out to her last year prior to starting chemo to ask her if she wouldn’t mind making me a set of rings with Olivia and Jaxson’s names on them – I LOVED the rings and they turned out perfect, but chemo left my hands a little bigger (that’s the only thing bigger, thanks!) and I couldn’t wear them any longer.  I’d reached out to her to ask if she wouldn’t mind re-sizing them if I sent them to her, and I also needed her to make me one more, one that said “survivor” – she jumped all over it!  When she sent me the text I said “wait, I haven’t given you my card, let me know when I can call you”…no response.  Needless to say, I knew what was in the package and we got there just in time – I needed that ring on January 11th.

Checkout her instagram account as well – @ivydiamondcole

A note accompanied the three little boxes – three little boxes that changed my day.  The note read the resizing was on the house and my “small but mighty” survivor ring was her gift to me – needless to say, I was crying in the FedEx parking lot, trying to explain to the kids that everything was fine.

Lori, you will never know what this single word means to me – it’s my reminder of how far I’ve come over the past year, that I’m still here.  Yesterday, I needed that little reminder.  Your kind words and generous gift will never be forgotten, you were my “God Wink” when I needed it most – thank you, Lori!

I’m really not sure how this month is going to go for me — so far, it’s been touch and go.  Some days are fine, other days I find myself going through the entire year prior, all over again, and still wondering why – I want a do-over, even though I know this isn’t something I could have ever changed or prevented.  Next week is my 1 year anniversary to being diagnosed.  The last week of the month I have a checkup/blood work/ultrasound – it’s the first time since July that I’ve made it the scheduled 3 months I’m supposed to go without having to be poked our prodded.  My head is all over the place, but I’m trying to refocus my thoughts, and my tiny “survivor” ring did just that.

Who do you think I’m meeting up with this weekend???  I literally just found out today she was staying less than 2 miles from me – shoot, I thought she was going to Mexico!  Stay tuned, I’ll see her at some point on Saturday or Sunday.    try