Thursday, June 12, 2014


My mom always says, God only gives you as much as you can handle. I'm not sure if I totally agree with that statement because there were definitely times throughout this journey where I was thinking, are you kidding me?!?! With that being said...I'm still here.

What I have found, not only with this, but with other jolts throughout my life, when the worst possible outcome happens, the scary truth comes out, or my greatest fear is realized, I have found that 10 seconds after, 5 minutes after, 2 days after...I'm still here. Life went on. The world didn't end as I so greatly feared it would.  It might not be pleasant, it might not be good, but it keeps going. There is a choice to make with that. To make it good and continue living. To keep going as life does.

"Your power is always in your response, never in your circumstance." I love that quote by Mastin Kipp, it is so true and so powerful.

Everyone is faced with that moment. That crossroads (we're actually faced with "it" many times). Are you going to face it and accept the challenge head on? Or are you going to turn your back on it? Run and hide from it? Running and hiding was my specialty. "It" being anything negative, bad, scary, etc. that I didn't want to deal with or face. I was a master at stuffing things away, putting it on the back burner until enough time would eventually pass and I had convinced myself and others it was no longer an issue. This was different though, you can't run and hide from cancer and its aftermath. I have an every second of the day reminder of it in my mouth. Every time I swallow, bite, chew, smile, I am reminded of it. I had to face this, which in turn meant I had to face myself. I'll say it again, your power is always in your response, never in your circumstance.

Everyday it's a choice, not just with this, but with anything. The good, the bad, and the ugly...what are you going to do with it? You have that power. Life's lemons usually hold with it a major opportunity to learn, grow, or change. We just usually don't see it that way. Joseph Campbell was right, we're all on a heroes journey, we just don't know it. Some answer the call, some don't. I can proudly say that I have. This experience has forced me to face things that I've buried my entire life...and I love it!! I want more. I crave the stories, experiences, and lessons others have learned. It's lead me down a more open hearted and open minded path full of meditation, juicing, authors, books, and ideas all of which I would have shunned away from prior to all this.

One of the very first books I read once I began to deal with this had an opening line that instantly grabbed me, I remember thinking "Woah." It's still one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors with one of my favorite quotes, "Broken Open" by Elizabeth Lesser:

"How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be."

Always remember...Be thankful. Everyday.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Fear

I've gone through a lot of changes as a person throughout this journey...physically, mentally, spiritually. My entire perspective on life and what matters has changed, and I think for the better. Other than some of the physical crap...I mean changes, I've had to go through, I think almost all of it has been for the better. It's been positive changes of growth for the most part.

One of the changes I'm not a fan of is how my mind has changed in relation to the fear. At the time I discovered my tumor, I can honestly say the word "tumor" and certainly the word "cancer" never crossed my mind. I'd never had a tumor before, why would I think this ginormous lump in my mouth is a tumor, and even crazier...cancer?! Those thoughts really never entered my mind. But now, I feel any sort of weird bump, or I'm more tired than usual for long periods of time and I am instantly convinced its back. The cancer did that, that fear. I hate it. I was never like that. A 'think the worst' type of person, even when it was blatantly clear and a tumor was literally staring me in the face, I didn't think it.

Hearing that you have cancer is a cancer in itself; it gets into your mind and infects it just as cancer does. Hearing those words forever changes the make up of your mind and thoughts. It is forever altered, the fear is always there, just like a cancer, eating away at you. Extracting that is a whole other type of cancer battle.

There have been a few times where I frantically called my doctor and was convinced I had another tumor and the cancer was back. There was a lump towards the back of my neck that I found while I was stretching and rubbing my neck one day. It was a legitimate lump, you could feel the outline and its random placement. It was instant panic. Instant sweat. Instant pit in my stomach. This blanket of fear just took over me, its back. Doctors visits ensued and scans were ordered, turns out its a skeletal mass that I just randomly have. Nothing to be worried about. Also, pretty much anytime I have a PET scan, it doesn't come back clean. I go through this whole roller coaster ride of these few lymph nodes lighting up in my neck, which of course sends me spiraling, but after further review it's just due to the ongoing sinus infection I have from my surgery, and is in fact not cancer. You have to understand how quickly you revert back to that terrifying place. If there's an ounce of you that believes that it's back, you're transported to that place in your head instantly and you're fighting you're way back out all over again.

It's about that time of year again for my yearly scan and those nerves are starting to kick in. I know it's totally normal to be nervous and freaking out, but I still hate it. It's a constant battle in my head to not let my mind wander too far. Of course all the 'what if's' start playing, along with the long list of already bad memories, moments, places that are already associated with this. It just stirs up a lot of emotions and memories, none of which I ever wish to visit again. I don't know if the nerves around scan time ever go away?? The therapist I was seeing specialized in traumatic injury or illness and was a cancer survivor herself for almost 25 years. When I asked her if that fear ever goes away, she said "No, not really." I don't know if that made me feel better, knowing I'm not alone in that, or made me feel worse, knowing it's never going to go away.

It's times like this that remind me that this journey isn't over. Sure I've learned some life lessons and gained some perspective, but now isn't over. Its a daily reminder and sometimes seems like a daily struggle to keep those things in perspective and practice those life lessons. Things don't magically get easier with some newfound knowledge. It takes work, constant work, to stay on that path with the right frame of mind. It's ok that the fear is still there, I just can't let it run me or ruin me. Once again, cancer = teacher. At a certain point, you have to be ok with the fear and the idea of not knowing what's going to happen. Life is full of uncertainty, and uncertainty is a necessary part of getting where we want to go.

Always remember: Be thankful. Everyday.