Sunday, December 27, 2015

Let Down

Well, shit. If you read my last post, you'll know how excited and hopeful I was about the idea of reconstruction surgery and one day being rid of my prosthetic mouth piece. I had that appointment a few weeks ago and it went nothing like I had hoped or anticipated. I walked out of that doctors office totally deflated and on the verge of tears. It was like I had a bunch of big red balloons and the doctor came in with a pin and popped them all.

Bottom line, reconstruction is not an option for me and is not going to happen. I know the phrase "never say never" so I'll say this, I'm 99% sure it is never going to happen. It is way too risky, way too invasive, way too gnarly, and way too much of a bad idea to ever be considered. Technically, can it be done? Yes. But to say the risks far outweigh the benefits would be a huge understatement.

Going into this consultation with a world renown reconstruction surgeon, I had a general idea of what the surgery would consist of. That it was going to be a monster of a surgery and process. Something that may take a few years to be fully rid of a prosthetic and would require multiple surgeries. I knew all of that. But I still thought the choice would be mine. I thought I was going to walk out of the appointment with all kinds of crazy new information that would be terrifying, but just as exciting, and I would have this massive decision to mull over. Nope. No decision. No choice. Just plain ol' not going to happen with a little bit of 'are you freakin' crazy?' sprinkled on top.

This doctor went into great detail, more so than anyone has for me before of what this surgery would really entail. I'm pretty sure my eyes bugged out of my head a few times while he was talking. The doctor told me that 99% of the people who are in the same situation as me stay in their prosthetics forever...and there is a reason for that. I wanted to ask, out of those 99% how many of them are in their early thirties, but as he went on, I realized that point was irrelevant. Here's a quick breakdown of what this reconstruction would really entail: First off, it's a 10 hour surgery (for those that don't know, that is a big deal). It would require 8-10 days in the hospital. Using a bone graft from my leg to rebuild the roof of my mouth and jaw, they would also have to open up my neck (from behind my ear down to about my collarbone) to attach all the muscles and blood vessels to the new bone graft so that everything is generating properly. There is a high probability of needing a tracheotomy due to the swelling of the area closing off my air waves. And finally, going six plus months without any teeth in the missing area that my prosthetic is now providing. And that is just phase 1 of 3 of this process. That's not even the multiple surgeries for implants of teeth and gums. At one point, I legitimately started laughing. This is a MAJOR surgery with what the doctor explained to have "significant risks"...and it would be elective. Not a good idea.

He wasn't just saying this matter of factly, there was an implied tone of 'don't do this, you shouldn't do this, you'd be crazy to do this and I'm certainly not going to be your surgeon.' He wasn't a dick about it, far from it. He was very sincere, very thorough, and very upfront. He was never dismissive or rushing me out of his office, but I did get the feeling the guy was thinking, what the hell are you doing here, do you even know what you're talking about?! Again, technically it can be done, the technology exists, but it would just be freakin crazy to do. The doctor actually said that this is a perfect example of 'if it aint broke, don't fix it.' He said this isn't one of those cases where, sure, I'm doing fine with my prosthetic, but let's see if we can make it better. But rather, I'm doing fine and absolutely don't touch it, don't mess with it, leave it alone.

My mom asked about medical advancements down the line and potential options I may have in the future that wouldn't be so invasive, his response wasn't all that hopeful and included the word "decades" in it. The way this doctor went into detail and really broke it down for me, I have a better understanding of everything that needs to be done to rebuild my mouth. Honestly, at least in my lifetime, I can't see that ever happening without them having to cut my face open. And I don't want that, it's not worth it. I always just assumed, well they took out half of my mouth without having to cut my face open, so they can build it all back without doing that too. Not the case.

The whole thing was just a complete let down. My mom and I walked out of his office kind of speechless, we just kept saying over and over again, "Wow." I keep thinking of that image I had in my head of me and all of those red balloons. Pop. Pop. Pop. As I've said before, the 'forever' part of this was one of the hardest things to deal with and it was just comforting knowing the option was there. Even if I never went through with it, it would be my choice. My choice whether or not I was in this prosthetic the rest of my life. But there is no choice, there is no option, and I just have to let this idea go.

As we were driving home, my music was playing on random shuffle from my iPhone, and Jack Johnson's "All At Once" happened to come on. It was quite fitting for my day and this entire journey in general, the opening lines hit me like a truck...

All at once
The world can overwhelm me
There's almost nothing that you can tell me
That can ease my mind
Which way will you run
When it's always all around you.
And the feeling lost and found you again
The feeling that we have no control

In a way I guess it's a good thing that I found all of this out now, instead of carrying the idea of hope with me for a few more years. No longer will I have the stress of should I do it, will I do it, when should I do it, etc., which has been in the back of my mind for years. Now I know, and I can begin to let this idea go. Time to close this chapter.

*** It's been a few weeks since I originally wrote this and several things have since happened. None of which have any sort of effect on me having reconstruction surgery or not, but has changed my mindset on how I reflect on what happened at the appointment that day. A family friend recently passed away way too young and was dealt obstacles no one in their lifetime should have to go through. It was sad. But he is a true reminder of what it means to be thankful everyday because despite the hardships he faced every single day of his life due to a disease, he was always smiling and he truly lived. His story is humbling, inspiring, and his life was truly a gift to all that knew him. I didn't want this to be some sort of sad pity post. Yes, the information I got that day was a complete let down, but it doesn't change the countless blessings I have in my life and it is not a rain cloud that I need to let hang around. I am grateful for where I'm at, and looking forward to where I'm going. Regardless of whether or not I can remove my mouth. ***

At the end of the day, this is just another reason to Be thankful. Everyday.

Monday, November 23, 2015


To reconstruct my mouth, or not to reconstruct, that is the question. I was thrilled to learn that the option was even there. When this tumor, cancer, surgery journey started almost 4 years ago, I was under the impression I would be wearing a prosthetic mouth piece for the rest of my life. Turns out, there are options. Insanely gnarly options, but options nonetheless. It's such a relief mentally to know the option is there though. The "forever" part was one of the hardest things for me to accept with this whole thing, so it's a comfort and relief knowing that isn't the case.

At a recent check up with my dental oncologist (the doc who handles my prosthetic), we started discussing my options and whether or not I really was going to be a "lifer" at his office. I remember my first consultation with this doctor, all of the scans had already been done, the surgery was in place, and he was the guy who would be creating my new prosthetic mouth and everything that went along with it. I'll never forget him saying to me, after going over the mountain of records we sent him, "Unfortunately Amy, it looks like you and I are going to be life long friends." It was comforting and crushing all at the same time.

Turns out, that doesn't have to be the case. We had a lengthy and informative discussion about reconstruction, what it consists of, the different options I have, why I would be a good candidate, and doctors who would be my best option to perform the surgery. It was nice hearing from this doctor, someone who is in the dental prosthetic industry (yes, that does exist), that he would like to see me out of mine one day.

The option that makes the most sense to me, although it is by far the most aggressive, would be to fully rebuild my mouth using bone grafts, then getting dental implants later. There are other options, but all of them require a surgery that still leaves me with a prosthetic in my mouth. None of those options make sense to me, if I'm going to do it, I want this thing out of my mouth, otherwise what's the point, I'm fine where I am.

The full blown reconstruction surgery is pretty effing gnarly though. As I have explained in a previous post, most of my maxilla bone (essentially the roof of my mouth) along with the teeth and adjacent jaw bone, have been removed. So that is what needs to be reconstructed. Basically, they would take part of my fibula in my leg, along with its muscle and use that to fill in the missing bone portion of my mouth. They would attach the bone graft and rewire the muscle so it would be "live" as the doctor put it, so things would be generating and working properly. Skin grafts may also be required and I would have a sizable and visible scar on my leg.

That is phase 1 of the surgery. While that is healing, I would be given a different prosthetic, so I would actually have teeth during this time. This takes about 6 months to heal before we start the process of dental implants. My doctor said that if I were to have reconstruction surgery tomorrow, it would still be about 1-2 years of wearing some type of prosthetic for one reason or another. So that just shows how lengthy and gnarly this process would be. This surgery is not to be taken lightly. It is a doozie and a million factors go into this being successful. We are not simply closing up a hole in my mouth, but also trying to restore all of the normal functions that it should preform.

To be perfectly honest, it scares the shit out of me. Terrifying. But also, so exciting. To be rid of the prosthetic would be so great. Sure, I look fine, you can't tell that I have this gaping hole in my head and am wearing a device that allows me to breathe, swallow, eat, drink, and speak. If anything, it looks like I'm wearing some kind of retainer. But there are a million moments a day that I notice and deal with it, you just can't tell. I'm used to my prosthetic now though, as much as one can get used to something like that. That being said, I'd love to never have to wear the damn thing again.

Here's the other kicker, I think about this often... this is an elective surgery. It's my choice and mine alone. With the surgery to remove the malignant tumor, which was so unbelievably awful I can't even put into words, I had no choice in had to be done. This time, it's my call. When exactly is the best time or right time to put my life on hold for a year or so to have this done? Am I getting greedy here? I mean, the cancer is gone, I can talk, eat, drink... I really don't technically have any limitations with my prosthetic in the grand scheme of things. Do I just leave it alone and continue to deal with it? I asked my doctor these exact questions and his response was, "Well you're wearing glasses and have for most of your life, but if there was a surgery out there that would fix your eye problem and rid you of glasses, would you do it?" Of course.

At the very least, its in my best interest to schedule some consultations and see what these doctors have to say. I may be a great candidate for this surgery, but at the end of the day, I don't have to do anything. As of right now, and my opinion on this changes often, but as of right now, my stance is I want to do it, it's just going to come down to whether or not I have the cojones to go through with it.

One thing is for sure, this particular doctors office can be pretty heavy. Dental oncology and prosthetic dentistry. The things you hear and the people you see... no tongues, zero taste buds left... talk about a reality check. Being there rattles me to my core every time, but I walk out of there skipping thinking, fuck I am so lucky!!

Be thankful. Everyday. Don't ever forget it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

31 Things

I love these lists. Yes they are a little overdone and cliché, but whatever, I love them and decided to write one. I recently turned 31 and thought it was fitting to make my list consist of 31 things I've learned about life thus far. This is way harder than you think, to come up with your own authentic list with your own points. I do enjoy that there are some common themes on lists like these. They are usually the most obvious and also the most overlooked. I always talk about how much I've learned from my cancer diagnosis and its aftermath, how its taught me so much about myself and about life and that I am actually grateful for everything that's happened. It's like I got schooled in the lessons of the universe. Here are some of the things I've learned thus far....

31. Take risks. Go against the grain. Don't let the fear of failure or the fear of what other people will think, say, etc. deter you. I quit my job without anything else lined up because I knew deep down it was the best thing for me. At the time, I was in the middle of medical ordeal/breakdown and my body, mind, and spirit needed some time to heal. I had to put myself at the top of my list. Nobody at the time agreed, everyone thought I was crazy.

30. Be honest. Lets keep it real people. I don't mean in the simple form of don't lie (don't do that either), but more of say what you're feeling. Say what you think. Learn to say no. Speak up. Let it out.  Be upfront. Don't be an ass about it, but keep it real.

29. Be yourself. Be weird. Get weird. Be all you and be all in.

28. Stop whining. This life is pretty damn amazing if you stop and look around and it's usually not as bad as it seems. You're allowed to vent it out and maybe throw yourself a little pity party, but don't be a whiner. Stop with the why me.

27. Meditate. So many benefits to this. So powerful. Make this part of your daily routine. Start small, try a few minutes a day. There are some great guided meditations to start with. There is no right way to do it, just put in the time and do it. The benefits are endless.

26. Treat yo self! Spend more time and (in some cases) money on you! It's ok to indulge and it's ok to splurge sometimes.

25. Trust your gut! You know what I'm talking about. It's always there, try to listen to it more.

24. Put down your phone!! Look up. Look where you're going. Look at the beautiful surroundings. Look people in the eye. I am just as guilty as you are, but that is why I listed it and I am trying to be more mindful. One of the greatest things we can give someone is our time and attention.

23.  Health is extremely underrated. Invest in your health. Take care of your body. Take it from someone who has dealt with some serious health issues, the first wealth is health. Notice and appreciate it and do your part to maintain it.

22. ___________. Good for the body, good for the mind, good for the soul. Mine is surfing. What's yours? Whatever it is, do more of it. We all have one. It can be getting outside for a walk or run, dancing, cooking, whatever activity gives you that restorative, refreshed feeling. Do more of it.

21. If you focus on what you have, you will always have more. If you focus on what you don't have, you will never have enough. Be happy with what you have, I promise you it is enough. Money, power, things, status, etc. does not equal happiness. I don't know why, but it seems people have a hard time truly understanding this one. Or they'll agree with that statement, but still live life to the contrary.  At the end of the day when this ride comes to an end, none of that will matter. Again I say, be happy with what you have, I promise you it is enough. And so are you.

20. Be accountable for the role you play, the decisions you make, and the outcomes they have. Stop with the blame game and don't make excuses. Give a shit. About your own life. For you.

19. Stop caring about what other people think. Because it doesn't fucking matter.

18. Stay present in the now. Don't get wrapped up in all the exterior noise and nonsense that life has to offer. Nothing is guaranteed. All we have is this moment, right now.

17. Attitude is everything. This is so damn true. You'd be surprised how different things would be with a little change in perspective.

16. Get outside. Travel. Explore. Nature nature nature. Whether it's your own neighborhood or a grand adventure in another country, get outside! Walk. Move. Explore. "If I'm an advocate for anything it's to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else's shoes, it's a plus for everybody. Open your mind. Get up off the couch. Move." -Anthony Bourdain.

15. Tell people you love them. Make sure your loved ones know this. Not in the quick, "Love you, bye" at the end of a phone conversation (do that too), but make sure they really know what they mean to you.

14. Give back. Volunteer. Give yourself to something. Giving is always better than receiving. This is one I am trying to do more of myself.

13. Be kind to yourself. Negative self talk is toxic and we are our own worst enemy. You are doing the best you can.

12. Don't underestimate the power of sleep. It is necessary and needed. Our most optimal levels are when we are well rested. This one is straight science, not just my personal opinion.

11. Drink lots and lots of water. Always. Your body will love you for it. Several years ago my cardiologist told me how important it is to drink a big glass of water in the morning after waking up. It helps rehydrate everything...your body and even more so, your brain! I've never forgotten what he said and I slam a bottle of water almost every morning.

10. Trust the process. The struggle is usually part of the process so don't fight it. The struggle is proof that you are there, showing up and are working to make it/you better. (This leads directly into....)

9. Trust the timing of your life. This can be incredibly difficult, but I believe it to be true. The universe has our back, it's just sometimes hard to see it that way.

8. Learn to reframe the word failure. This one is huge!!! Make mistakes. Learn from them. Grow from them. Be humbled by them. You don't suck, you're not dumb, you are capable. There is a lesson in there somewhere, find it! Failing at something can be one of life's greatest launching pads if you let it.

7. Forgiveness. This one is so huge. It usually goes hand in hand with letting go of anger. Both of which are absolutely toxic to your own well being. I came across this quote online years ago and I have never forgotten it, "...I felt that I had the right to be angry because of all the things they did to me. It took me a long time to learn that holding on to bitterness and resentment did me more harm than the original incident. When I refused to forgive, I was the person who was hurting... I learned that forgiveness did not mean that I condoned another person's negative behavior. Releasing my resentment let me out of prison... I forgive, I let go, and I fly free."

6. Never stop learning. We are always a work in progress and that is totally okay, in fact, that is the beauty of it. There is always more to learn. Never stop challenging yourself. Never stop growing. Never stop exploring.

5. Be open to change. Life will not go as planned, so it's best you get comfortable with that now. On the flip side, if you want things in your life to change, then you are going to have to change. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

4. You never really know how strong you are until you have to be. It's true, give yourself a little more credit, you will surprise yourself.

3. Family, friends, relationships... Care for them, cherish them, make time for them, foster them. It's a two way street. When it comes down to it, those relationships are EVERYTHING.

2. It doesn't get any easier. Relationships, friendships, work, self care, time It doesn't get any easier as we get older. But everyday you have a choice. The power is in your hands. What you make time for, what you give power to, what you're willing to let go of. "The power is always in your response, never in your circumstance." -Mastin Kipp

1. Be thankful. Everyday. Wake up in the morning and be thankful. Do it again the next day. That mindset is seriously life changing.

Friday, July 3, 2015

It Wasn't Meant to Be

As many of you know, I have been training the past 3 months for an epic Grand Canyon hike with the amazing Project Athena Foundation. We were going to be hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim, 40+ miles, all in 2 days. Sadly, I was not able to make the trek with them. After a long 8 hour training hike a few weeks ago, my foot was killing me. I was hoping it was just sore and tried to stay off of it as much as possible; I gave it a week hoping it would turn around. I think in the back of my mind I knew something was wrong, but I knew what acknowledging that would not going. My foot was incredibly swollen and as the week went on, I knew it wasn't soreness I was feeling, it was pain. Sharp, bad, always there, pain. Turns out I tore my plantar fascia along with the hallucis longus tendon (which sounds like something out of a Harry Potter book). So, no Grand Canyon for me.

I'm not going to lie, I was pretty devastated when I got back from the hospital that day on crutches. Months of training capped off with this injury 5 days before I left just killed me! I moped and sulked most of the day, but found myself to be in an okay mood by the evening time. I don't know what else to say other than I just sort of got over it. To put it bluntly, I've had cancer...not much fazes me anymore. Doctors have literally sawed out a quarter of my mouth, so in the grand scheme of things, this really isn't a big deal. Don't get me wrong, it sucks and I am pissed! But it's nothing to let ruin my day. My life is pretty damn good and the Grand Canyon isn't going anywhere. If you know me at all, you know how incredibly competitive I am, this just makes it personal now and I am fired up! I WANT that Canyon and I WILL complete it in its entirety! It just wasn't my time last weekend.

Ahhh life, always giving us opportunities to learn and grow...isn't it grand? --not always easy to see it that way, that's for sure, but I do believe that statement to be true.

It's easy to be feeling good and appreciating life when things are going right. The real test is when things go wrong and life throws you that inevitable curve do you respond then? Over the last few years I've painfully learned to roll with the punches. I have been forced to learn some life lessons, all of which I am incredibly grateful for. I have learned to trust the timing of my life.

I love this quote by Gilda Radner and it seems quite fitting for this post and for just life in general...

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity."

Always remember...Be thankful. Everyday

Monday, April 27, 2015

I Am an Athena

Athena, Goddess of war and wisdom. I think those two words go pretty well together, for me anyway. I've been through a "war" and I have most certainly gained some wisdom because of it.

I am an Athena. I have been given a grant by the Project Athena Foundation to go on an epic adventure. I will be hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim, all in 2 days, at the end of June! That's 40+ miles, in 2 days, walking...ahhhh!! (You can stop laughing now:)

The Project Athena Foundation is a nonprofit organization that gives women who have faced traumatic injury or illness the opportunity to live out their adventurous dreams, all as part of the healing process. It was founded by Robyn Benincasa, a local San Diegan and all around badass. Seriously. The foundation all stems from her belief that "it isn't about the setbacks, it's about the comebacks!" God, I love that! So freakin' inspiring.

I read about Project Athena in a local newspaper article while I was getting a pedicure. My mom had saved it for me, saying she thought I would love the story and handed it to me as I was walking out the door. Robyn, the founder, had been nominated by CNN as one of their 2014 CNN Heroes, and being a local, the paper did an article about her. I was instantly moved by the article. I felt like I was literally being called to be a part of this. I couldn't get home fast enough to send an email and reach out. I just wanted to be a part of it, I didn't care in what way, I needed to be involved with this. Even if it meant going door to door handing out stickers for them, I was in! After hearing my story, they didn't ask me to pass out stickers (although, I still happily would), but offered me a grant to go one of their adventures.

It was instantly all systems go and I was signed up for the Florida Keys adventure where we would kayak and bike our way through The Keys. I had done pretty much all the training and was probably only a few weeks out when something out of the blue happened. Starting immediately, I had a job offer! So HUGE for me since at the time I was unemployed and had been for some time following my whole cancer, surgery, breakdown ordeal. Suddenly out of nowhere, work became priority number 1. This was a huge opportunity for me and I had to fully commit and put everything into it. It killed me to do, but I had to back out of the Florida Keys adventure. Luckily, the Project Athena crew being as amazing as they are were incredibly understanding and supportive and still offered me a grant for an adventure of my choosing the following year. So here I am, all systems go for the Grand Canyon, and I am happily still in that same full time job!

I chose the Grand Canyon mainly because I've always wanted to see it, so even cooler, why not hike it?! It was one of those things that sounded awesome in theory. Get to go to the Grand Canyon and hike it, how rad?! Then I got the training document......."well, shit." That was my first reaction. I definitely felt a little overwhelmed after reading the required training that was expected of me. I am halfway through the training and I still go through waves of "What did I get myself into" to "I got this!" This hike is no joke. It's like 2 twelve hour days, back to back. When I think of it like that, I get freaked out. During my training I've taken on the whole 'just get to the next telephone pole' attitude, then without realizing it, I've gone like 10 miles. I'm hoping that 'small chunks' approach gets me through it. Yes, I'm aware, there are no telephone poles in the Grand Canyon so that's potentially problematic for my mindset, but you get the jest. I know I can and I will get through it. It's one of those things you just kind of have to let marinate for a while. That's how I operate when the gravity of something is pretty big. I just let it sit there, think about it, feel about it, what's my gut saying, start putting in the work and then you just start to realize, ok, I can do this. I've learned through my cancer journey that you never know how strong you really are until you have to be, and more often than not, you will surprise yourself.

I will be in good hands along the way with seasoned endurance athletes who literally do these things for fun. I am putting in the work to get myself prepared, I have all of the proper equipment, I'm excited and I want this! So don't worry mom, I know you're freaking out all over again while reading this, but I will be ok! I cannot wait to see what this incredible experience has in store for me!

Just another reason to always remember...Be thankful. Everyday.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Three Years Thriving

Three Years. I can't believe its been three years. It seems like a million years ago and just yesterday all at the same time. I was just talking about it with my mom recently how it all still feels like a bad dream, some out of body experience where you actually think to yourself, did that really actually happen?

Reflecting on the past three years just makes me have a huge exhaling breath with a giant smile on my face. There's something about hitting another year with this for me. On these days I feel so powerful, so capable, this 'I made it, I can do anything' type feeling. It has most definitely been a long and winding road, but it has led to some amazing views that have been so rewarding. I have grown so much as a person, in fact, I think I've completely changed....aside from my sarcasm, I'm a totally different person. One for the better. This whole experience has forced me to explore things about myself and about life in a way that most people never do. I've made peace with a lot of things. I've expanded my comfort zone. I've learned invaluable lessons in acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude. Really taking joy in the simplest of the point where some might find it annoying. It's wonderful. I'm really in a good place. You have no idea how great it feels to say that and actually mean it!!!

Most people probably don't know this, but the title of this blog was originally called "Thrive On...". I love that word, thrive. Thrive: verb; to grow or develop well or vigorously. To prosper, flourish.

Once I gave in to it all and started to accept everything that had happened, I began healing, I began writing, I began thriving. Yes, I was broken, but I was broken wide open and was able to let all kinds of new goodness in. I've read on different blogs and in different books that you are never broken, you are perfectly fine the way you are in this moment, there is never anything broken about you. I guess I see the point they're making, but I assure you, I was fucking broken. Shattered. Empty. Broken...into a million pieces. BUT...that's ok. It didn't lessen me in any way, it was just a fact...broken. It was either embrace it or remain broken. Don't get me wrong, I fought it for a very long time, I literally went on a parade of "See, I'm fine" to family and friends for quite a while. What can I say, I'm incredibly stubborn, I'm Basque (look it up). But I eventually gave in and just let this thing take me. I've learned that breakdowns = breakthroughs (if you let them). Here I am, three years thriving.

"The truth is that our finest moments are likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers." 
- M.Scott Peck

I think I started sharing my story, not only as a therapeutic outlet, but also as a way to gain back some control after the ultimate loss of control that cancer brought to my life. Cancer told its story, it sucked. Now I'm telling mine. Writing this blog has been a blessing. There's something incredibly liberating about writing it all out and hitting "Share." Like its not my issues or problems anymore because it's out there for the world to see (or my immediate family and friends who actually read this). It allows me to release it.

This experience has challenged me in ways I did not know was humanly possible. Thinking back to those early months, God it was so awful, the pain was indescribable. I still have photos of my mouth and what it looked like then, it's pretty unbelievable to look at, so gnarly! It's things like that that make me so thankful today. Never again will the simple act of waking up to a normal, boring day as a healthy individual be taken for granted, nor go unappreciated. This experience has taken me to hell and back. But I am back. And I've got to feels pretty damn good!!

Be thankful. Everyday....don't ever forget that!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Staying Present

It's a weird thing to grasp, something that was so awful, yet I'm so thankful for the experience. I don't know if I'd say I've come to terms with it all yet, but I've definitely made progress. It's no longer the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. What I've come to realize is that this damn prosthetic in my mouth keeps me present. It smacks back to the here and now and I think that's a good thing.

I'm very aware of the monotonous routine of daily activities. When I'm eating, when I'm taking a bite of food, drinking something, my posture while swallowing, saying certain words, and brushing my teeth. Those aren't things I just do without thinking, I'm very much aware because I have to be. I have this little device in my mouth that allows me to perform everyday activities such as talking, breathing, eating, and drinking. It also reminds me of when I couldn't eat solid food, when it was a struggle to talk, breathe, and swallow. It makes me appreciate so many little things and so many little moments so much more. It smacks me right back to the present moment and I am grateful for that.

It's no secret, life will not always go our way or according to the plan. But that's ok. Take a deep breath. What matters is how you respond, how you bounce back, how you deal. I've used this quote before by Mastin Kipp, "Your power is always in your response, never in your circumstance." I love that line. It's powerful, it puts the power in your hands.

I often wonder if certain things or thoughts will ever go away. Will scans always turn me into a ball of nerves? Will the fear of it returning ever go away? Will I really always have this thing in my mouth, forever? Maybe those things just change in regards to how I think of them, but the thought of it is still there? I'm approaching my 3 year anniversary of diagnosis and surgery. I usually hate this time of year. All sorts of reminders of things I never want to be reminded of. But it feels a little different this year. Or maybe its how I'm relating to it all is what's different. I don't have that loathsome feeling towards it, I don't have that same anxiety of it approaching, I definitely still have all the memories, I don't think that ever goes away. I don't know, but it just feels different this year. Is that growth? I wouldn't say I'm excited about the anniversary of it all, but I am excited in the sense that this time of year is approaching and I'm actually ok. This is new territory for me. I kinda like it.

Always remember...Be thankful. Everyday.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My One Little Word for the New Year

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."  -Nora Neale Hurston.

Here's to a new year, new changes, new goals and a fresh start. In actuality, we can choose to have a fresh start any time we want. It's totally on us, the when and where makes no difference. But there is a collective buzz in the air of setting new goals and resolutions for the start of a new year.

Since I'm finally posting this, it's interesting that we are almost two weeks into the new year and you can already see people settling into old habits and that 'New Year, New Me" buzz is starting to fade. Nothing in 2015 is going to change unless you do. It's important to have little reminders or something to refer to through out the year to bring you back to that mindset. 

I don't necessarily have New Years resolutions in the traditional sense. I go more along the lines of how do I want to feel this year, what can help me get there? What do I want more of, what do I want less of, what can help me get there? How can I continue to grow as a person, what can help me do that? I think how you want to feel is just as important as what you want to do. It's important to pay attention to mind, body, and spirit.

There's something exciting with a new year and new possibilities. That 'clean slate', 'fresh start' type of magic. Although I have a lot of that for this new year, I think it's important not to get caught up in that either. The here and now is what really matters. It's a constant balance of appreciating and celebrating what we do have and the life we've created while working to further ourselves more.

It's no secret these last few years have been tough for me (years that have asked questions)... maybe with the exception of the last 9 months or so. This is probably the first time since the Big C that I'm genuinely excited for what a new year will bring. The last few years I was just so relieved they were over and I made it though another one, the new year was an after thought. I was just glad I made it through the last one. I've felt major growth this past year or so and I'm excited to start a new year looking forward to more of that.

This year, along with a couple family members, I'm participating in Ali Edwards One Little Word Project. You basically pick a word for the year, a word you want to invite into your life, something to focus on, reflect on, and invite in each day throughout the year. Each month there are little prompts and creative activities to help you really get in sync with your word. The word I chose, although it felt like it really chose me, is Explore. These past few years have been massive for me in self-discovery. Being sick, being broken, being lost, and eventually finding myself again. I've learned so much about myself and about life and I want more. I want to go deeper and explore more. Explore my comfort zone, my fears and weaknesses, my dreams and triumphs and everything in between...I just feel like I'm still searching.

I'm excited for the possibilities of this new year, whether it's one that asks questions or one that answers.

Always remember...Be thankful. Everyday.