One year later…

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This is it. This month, last year, I was diagnosed with stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. Resulting in the following 6 months of (very brutal) chemotherapy. Chemotherapy which nearly killed me. Where I was so sick, that I eventually spiraled far, far down into the deepest depths of my own personal Hell. A Hell, in which I honestly was not sure that I would ever escape from.

But thanks to the mercy of God, the radiance of my then 3 year old daughter, and the daily support of my Mom, I fought my way out. And survived. And am here, currently in remission, one year later, living each day within the sheltering grace of this miracle. This 2nd chance at life. A 2nd chance which has changed nearly every aspect of who I am, as a wife, mother, and woman.

And so, in celebration of this 1 year remembrance, I’d like to share some of the most important things that I have learned within this past year. Things that I once took for granted, in so many various ways.

Firstly, being who I am as a Mother. Like most mothers, particulary mothers of younger children, before my cancer diagnosis, I struggled every day with the feeling of not being good enough. Where because of my depression and social anxiety, I wasn’t doing nearly as much as I should have been doing for & with my little girl. Where I foolishly believed that my daughter would be less happy because of not doing the many things & activities that I had seen so many other mothers of 3 year olds doing.  A feeling of inadequaetcy which became completely debilitating while I was undergoing those 6 hellish months of chemotherapy, when I could barely walk, more of less move from bed. It wasn’t until I had survived those 1st four months, when I truly understood what my mom & oldest sister kept reminding me. This being that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t able to take my daughter to the playground anymore, or be on the floor actively playing games with her, or hold her in my arms throughout the night. Because at the end of the day, no matter the many things that I wasn’t able to do, the one thing that mattered more than anything else to HER was that I showed that I loved her. Through a kiss, or hug, or held hand. It was that simple, through those simple actions of affection, to give her what she wanted, and needed, most. Because to her, then, as well as today, I AM enough for her. My love will ALWAYS be enough.

Another thing that I’ve learned most deeply, from then to now, is that every day is a reason to celebrate. Every day that I rise, with my family of 6 snuggled up besides me in our big bed, and every night when I rest my head, is a miracle in and of itself. Where the many moments within each hour, make up the whole of my life. The completion of my heart. Without the guarantee of another tomorrow. Since I now know, perhaps more so than most, how nothing is guaranteed in this life, and that everything (be it good or bad) is fleeting. And everything (EVERYTHING) is a blessing granted. Being able to tinker away in my kitchen, creating a new cake. Jumping in my car, by myself, and drive wherever is needed. Reading a full book again, without becoming completely overwhelmed. Doing the dishes, and mopping  the floor, and folding the laundry, all on my own. Taking my daughter to her favorite playground, where we’ll run around playing hide & seek, and climb rocks together. Being ACTIVE. All miracles to me, in their own little yet incredibly special ways. All blessings, to be cherished, and remembered.

All because God granted me this 2nd chance of life. A 2nd chance that I will strive my hardest to celebrate. Every new day. Every new moment. Because this life, be it busy or slow, is worth rejoicing in.

So tonight, as I push “publish” on this post, one year after my life was flipped upside down, and torn apart, I hope that no matter what you may be experiencing in life, you’ll always be able to breathe your way through it. And celebrate it for the miracle that it is.

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

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For the love of words.

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This week has been rough. It’s incredibly hard to see someone that you love go through the ickiness of chemotherapy. Particularly when it reminds you too much of the hell that last summer was. So to stave off the roiling waves of PTSD, I decided to grab my camera, and hunt for my favorite summer flowers. Because flowers always make me feel a bit lighter.

As I was thumbing through the flower photos on my camera, one particular quote about flowers, & resilience, came to mind: “Deep in their Roots, all Flowers keep the Light.” A quote, which in turn, opened up the floodgates within my heart, for the words that mean the most to me. Words which inspire, and uplift, calm, and soothe, encourage, and provoke. Words which remind me of the relentless beauty of the world within my heart, and mind. These are a few of my favorites:

“Words are the most inexhaustible source of magic.”

“Fairytales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

“Be softer with you. You are a breathing thing, a memory to someone, a home to life.”

“Fear is the stone we push. May yours be light.”

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quite voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”

“Some women fear the fire, some women become it.”

“Wear your tragedies as Armor, not shackles.”

“After a while I looked in the Mirror, and realized…Wow, after all those hurts, scars, and bruises, after all of those trials, I really made it through. I did it. I survived that which was supposed to kill me. So I straightened my crown…and walked away like a boss.”

“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place, when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question.”

“What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?”

“Tired of trying to cram her sparkly star-shaped self into society’s beige square holes, she chose to embrace her ridiculous awesomeness and shine like the freaking supernova that she was meant to be.”

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

 

Happiness Project#87: Banana Muffins!

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PTSD. I’ve been through a ton of scary medical situations in my life, but none have created such a strong reaction from me as living with cancer has. Recently, someone very close to me was diagnosed with breast cancer, and has already gone through her 1st round of chemotherapy. Fortunately, although she’s had a couple of side effects from the chemotherapy meds that she started, she’s doing much (MUCH) better than I did when I went through chemotherapy. Which is SUCH a relief. To everyone.

But because of seeing her start chemotherapy, and seeing how tired it has made her, the PTSD that I have from my own experience, has been hitting me HARD. For the past 7 days, I’ve been trying to quell this crushing anxiety about it. Because it reminds me too much of the hell that I endured last summer. A hell which I honestly did not think I would survive. And even though I feel like I’ve come pretty far this year since walking out of that terrifying experience, just the word, “cancer,” strikes dread within my heart. To where I’ve been struggling with sleeping, and eating, and leaving my house.

So for the past couple days, I’ve been working on new fondant products, and baking. A lot of baking. Since the act of baking (usually) provides me a small dose of therapeutic relief. The messier, the better.

Hence these new Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins, which my Daughter will be taking to her teachers tomorrow, as a THANK YOU for everything that they do. A quick little baking project, with a wonderful punch of flavor. Stress therapy has never been sweeter.

2 cups cake flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

pinch of cinnamon

3 ripe bananas, mashed well (I use a fork to mash them all up nice & good)

1/4 whole milk plain yogurt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line two cupcake pans with 18 paper liners.

In bowl #1 combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well.

In bowl #2, either on a stand mixer, or handheld, combine all 3 mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla extract, mixed well. Slowly add the wet mixture (bowl #2) to the dry ingredients (bowl #1), and gently stir until the flour mixture is absorbed. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the banana mixture into each of the 18 paper cupcake liners, filling them 3/4 of the way full.

Pop the 2 pans into the oven, and bake for 18 minutes. Pull both pans out of the oven, and let cool on a wire rack. And serve, with or without butter.

The best part of this recipe? When a 4 year old bites into one, saying, “YUM!” That always makes my day. Even though they’ve recently been a little darker.

The predicament of busy.

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Every morning, I wake up breathing in the essence of life. Cherishing every new dawn, and every coinciding nightfall. Because this time of mine is precious. And not a certainty. It’s hard, if not nearly impossible, to go about my day without acknowledging the threat of possible re-lapse, that sits quietly (far) back within my consciousness. I cannot, for the sake of responsibility, believe that I will, from this year forward, never again need to worry. Because I always will, in some way or another. This is what we survivors do, I believe.

So to combat any anxiety that I feel, I try to do what most restless adults do: I stay busy. Or try to, anyway. Which sometimes feels more like a curse than a relief. But why a curse? Because the act of busyness can sometimes bring about more harm than good. Physically, and emotionally. Something that I’ve seen far too often in the lives of both adults, as well as those of children.

There’s a quote being thrown around, in many of my closest circles; “Stop the glorification of busy.” And it’s something that I wholeheartedly believe in. For myself, my daughter, and my family. After last summer’s 6 months of chemotherapy, where I was too sick to do anything on my own, one of the lessons I learned was that it was OKAY to NOT DO things. That it was OKAY to NOT be busy all the time. Because I’ve come to realize that being busy doesn’t always equate being happy. In many ways, being busy (running around & always making plans) prevents me, and many of those around me, from having the time to FEEL happiness. From acknowledging the quietness of being ALIVE. Because, yes, it’s generally within moments of silence, and quiet, that we truly FEEL the many things within our hearts & minds. Something that we’ve forgotten how to do, because of this drive to be busy doing things.

So maybe instead of allowing the busyness of life to dictate our every moment, maybe it’s time that we take the TIME to be STILL instead. Where instead of rushing to the store, we’ll sit in the parking lot, with the windows rolled down, listening to the breeze pushing it’s way through the trees. Or instead of doing the dishes every day,  we’ll let them sit in the sink, or in the dishwasher for one more day, so that we can go outside, and sit in a favorite chair, watching the clouds roll by. Maybe instead of pushing our children into 2 or 3 after-school activities, we’ll let them come home from a full day of school, so that they can PLAY instead. Where they have the freedom to DO or NOT do whatever they want. So that they can re-charge their imagination. So that we, as adults, can re-charge our lives, and in turn, our souls.

This one life of ours, is just that: one life. One chance to be who we truly WANT to be. Considering that we spend a good half of it (if not more than just half) in school, where school days are anywhere from 6-8 hours long, and then in jobs, where a job is anywhere from 40-50 hours a week, perhaps NOT being scheduled all the time, will give us the space, & time, to see the many blessings that this life has given us. To feel again. To let go of the glorification of busy, and just…breathe.

Those dishes sitting in the sink? That laundry piled up in the hamper? That dirty car resting in the driveway? They won’t be any less functional by being dirty for another 24 hours. But living through the quietness of being still? This is something much too precious to waste. This is time spend wisely.

Stop the glorification of busy. Rest. Relax. Breathe. You are worth it.

A world without standard.

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“Nothing makes a woman more beautiful, than the belief that she IS beautiful.”

Let’s talk. Let’s talk about the idea of what “beauty” is, and how we, as people,  particularly as women and girls, become “beautiful.”

Societies all over the world, show beauty in different ways. From what I’ve studied, women in Africa show beauty through intricate body paintings, and lip plates. In certain Middle Eastern countries, women become beautiful with stunning body wraps, or colorful head scarves. Here, in America, society opinions of beauty tend to revolve around a woman’s physical form, through smaller body sizes, makeup, and how a woman chooses to dress themselves. While none of these American views of feminine beauty are necessary wrong, it’s become very apparent within the past few decades how “important” they’ve become within mainstream society. Important enough so that our opinion of ourselves has been steered relentlessly towards the mindset of physical completion through society standards instead of towards what truly matters: that true beauty comes from within.

Have you ever really LOOKED at how biased society has become towards the female form? How there are FAR more stores within our malls that cater towards “beauty” products, and clothing, than any other kind of consumer product? How commercials are nearly entirely based on being a “wrinkle-free,” and “swim suit ready” mentality? How in order to be “beautiful” or “desirable” a woman must be a size 5, always dressed in fashionable clothing, with perfect hair, and a face full of makeup? That, according to magazines, the only way that you’ll be happy in life, is if you conform to the beauty of “perfection?” Or worse, if you’re NOT a size 5, without a face full of makeup, you’re not “good enough” to be seen? Because showing gray hair upon your head, or an un-formed eyebrow means that you don’t care about yourself, or body?

Well, I’m here to call ALL of that “beautiful perfection” as bullshit. How does painting one’s face every day, or covering up the gray within one’s hair, define a person’s beauty? Those winking little wrinkles around your eyes, and your mouth? They’re from smiling, and laughing. They grow each year because of JOY. So why do we feel the need to cover them up, or worse yet, erase them? Why are these beautiful marks of life considered “imperfections?” Those lovely strands of gray, threading their way throughout your hair? They’re because, as humans, we age. Have we turned a blind eye to how miraculous that is? The blessing of being well enough to celebrate another year of life, when there are so many others, because of illness, & disease, who don’t receive that blessing? Why should being a size 5 determine what a woman can or cannot wear? Does being a size 14, automatically guarantee that I won’t look just as beautiful in a summer dress, or bathing suit, as I would if I was wearing a pair of jeans? Why do we, as women, place so much importance on what others think?

Have we forgotten how important we are as individuals? There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter society, so why do we force ourselves into a cookie-cutter mindset? I, for one, refuse to do so. Why? Because my life is my own. It’s not one that’s based on what others think, or feel.

Last year, before loosing all of my hair to chemotherapy, I fell into that vicious social standard. Because I was a size 18, at that point in time, I wore jeans all the time, and shirts that hid my arms and stomach. I felt uneasy, when being out in public places, because of my weight, and because of what others might think. Which, once you really sit down, and THINK about, was, and still is, ridiculous. Yes, ridiculous. Life is complicated enough, when faced with it’s many uncertainties, than to be controlled by a society’s biased opinion.

Because of my experience with chemotherapy, and how it changed my entire body last year, I’ve found myself learning how important being REAL is. Being real about my heart, and my thoughts, and the importance of lessons learned. Lessons of forgiveness, and strength, of health, and beauty. Lessons that have shaped me into a different, hopefully better, woman this year.

A woman who’s learned that I am more beautiful with a makeup-free face, no matter my wrinkles, and scarred skin. That I am more beautiful with a hair full of lovely strands of gray, and brown freckles upon my shoulders. That I am more beautiful without painted nails or toes. That I am more beautiful because I SHOW my true, natural beauty. Because I show MYSELF.

Imagine what we could do, within society, and our own lives, if we lived within our own beauty, without bias, or expectation. Without worrying about appearances or standards. Perhaps we would accept more, we would care more, we would love more. Perhaps we would BE more.

So here’s my challenge, to women far and wide, no matter your physical size, or age, or skin tone. BE YOU. The real you. Without that painted face of makeup. Without the perfect colored hair, or perfect shaped eyebrows. You, with all of your beautiful wrinkles, and battle scars. With bared shoulders, and bared legs. YOU are BEAUTIFUL. You, beyond what a misguided society may think. You are, and have always been WORTHY. Your physical size doesn’t dictate your worth. It never has, and never will. Believe it. I do. So now, go SHOW it. Get out there, in a pretty new dress that shows off those lovely legs, or a dreamy new shirt that shows off those freckled shoulders, and show them what beauty truly IS.

I believe in your beauty.

I believe in you.

Happiness Project #86: Dragon Flyers Iced Lemonade!

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Mothers Day this year was truly MAGICAL! This was the first Mothers Day where I was healthy enough to go out and celebrate Mothers Day with my little family of 3. Which is a testament to where I’ve been and how very far that I’ve come.

What made it most US though, was how it wasn’t about flowers, or breakfast in bed, or jewelry, like a vast majority of other Mothers seem to want. Nor did I care about having an empty kitchen sink, or the laundry done. To me, those things are well…just things, that don’t really make any day more special than the last. I’m okay with a messy house on Mothers Day. A messy house means I’m doing something far more important (than worrying about cleaning) with my sassy little 4 year old daughter: spending real, uninterrupted time with her. Doing something that she loves. Which in turn, I love.

Which meant spending the day at our favorite local amusement park & zoo! Which was planned for the Friday before Mothers Day Sunday instead, so that we wouldn’t be slammed with massive crowds. Since I’ve become so much of a social introvert when it comes to being out in public places, the smaller, more familiar places, the better. Something that thankfully, my husband understands very well about me.

Anyhow, one of my daughter’s favorite rides at HH, is Dragon Flyers, where an adult passenger, with a child passenger, strap themselves into a dragon shaped flyer, pedaling themselves up & down, while the ride is in motion. Hence something akin to controlled “flying.” To say that this is my daughter’s favorite ride, is a major understatement though. Considering how she would “fly” in this ride ALL day long, if I let her. All. Day. Long. No joke.

Once we had finished “flying” and enjoying the parks other little kiddie rides, my husband and little girl enjoyed a couple of turns on the park’s lovely carousel, while I relaxed on a bench, in the sun, watching them. And while I was sitting on that bench, reviling in the moment, I realized how very blessed I was. Blessed to be healthy enough to be OUT at that favorite park, enjoying the day with my two favorite people.

Back in January, after I had finished chemotherapy, and had started living my life again, my little girl & I had gone to the same amusement park, just the two of us. But because I was so recently out of treatment, and in remission, I was still only functioning around 60%. So it was physically very difficult to run her around in her stroller at that point. Yet on this Mothers Day trip, everything was different. I WAS able to run her around in her stroller, and visit the lower area of the zoo, without exhaustion leaving me completely immobile. Being able to DO all of the “normal” physical things again, was truly exhilarating. And once again, life was reminding me of how very fleeting, and uniquely precious that it is. Something to never be taken for granted.

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To end such a perfect Mothers Day, the three of us, along with our 2 stealthy cats, and easily excitable dog, played hide & go seek until bed time rolled around. A game that is fast becoming one of my daughter’s favorite bedtime activities.

Oh! And just to add a bit of extra sweetness to the day, my little girl & I created this lovely Frozen Lemonade recipe together! A refreshing little indulgence right before bedtime!

May you and yours also celebrate many happy days together, with this yummy citrusy drink!

Juice from 3 lemons

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup cold water

3 cups ice cubes

Throw all of those ingredients into a blender, and pulse together for a couple of minutes, until your frozen lemonade is nice & slushy. You can add in another tablespoon or two of  granulated sugar to the mix, if you like a sweeter taste.

Serve immediately, or freeze for a more frozen texture.

I hope that all of the Mommies out there also had a wonderful, fulfilling Mothers Day! No matter how difficult life may get, I pray that you are always SEEN for the many, beautiful  little things that you do for those closest to you, and that you are always LOVED for every little part of who you are.

Freedom!

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“Look, Mommy! I’m the tallest!”

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve posted anything. Not because I haven’t had the time (because I do have the time), but mostly because I’ve been reevaluating most, if not all, of my priorities in this 2nd chance of life. Last year, with the cancer diagnosis, and the resulting 6 months of chemotherapy, changed the way that I look at my life, as a woman, wife, and mother. It was a dramatic (& horribly traumatic) wake up call.

After living with my Mom throughout my chemotherapy, I was OVERJOYED to move back to my own home in January. To be back within my comfort zone, my safe space. To be able to drive again, and cook, and clean, and DO things with my Husband & Daughter. To be gloriously independent. To be free. FREE from the mind numbing, soul crushing fear, and anxiety. FREE to be ME again. The loving, happy, go-getter ME.

Not to say that I’m don’t need to work on my physical & emotional health anymore, since I do, and am. Nor do I see everything in life as some sugar coated land of rainbows, because it isn’t. I’ve still got a long road ahead of me to BE my best self. But for now, since I’ve been given this 2nd chance of life, I’m happy, truly happy, with where my life is right now. No foreseeable surgery, no sickening chemotherapy, no more hospital stays away from my Daughter. Just….freedom. Something that I never saw quite as clearly as I do now.

Have you ever really mulled over what FREEDOM is? What freedom actually means? To me, freedom comes in the form of being able to DO the things, the activities, that most people take for granted. Like baking my 1st cake in over 6 months. Like being able to jump into my car, at a moments notice, to run errands at my favorite stores. Like digging my hands into cold, new soil gardening soil. Like being able to read a book again without feeling emotionally overwhelmed by it’s plot or characters. Like date nights, in Santa Cruz, with my Husband. Like taking my Daughter to the playground. Just me and her. Watching her run through the grass, plucking up flowers to hand me. Watching her climb her favorite rock structure, twirling in circles, calling down to me, “Look, Mommy! I’m the tallest!” Watching her beautiful little face soften into slumber, in the dead of night. These things that I’m able to do again, these precious things that I once took for granted. These things that embody freedom.

Freedom, to just be, me. Finally.

A priority, that I pray, I will never change.

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Butterfly Brave: my fight continues…

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It’s been a while. Since I’ve talked about this battle I’ve been fighting. Because most of how I feel is dark and sad and very broken. So I don’t talk much about it. This darkness that has overcome me.

It’s now been nearly 3 months since my diagnosis, and I’ve undergone 4 chemotherapy sessions, with 15 more rounds to go. 15 of which I try not to think about often. Which doesn’t work in the dead of night, when I’m in pain and feeling sick. Because 15 more sessions, to me, feel like forever. All 4 of my previous sessions has made me very sick. Sick as well as struggling with sometimes horrific pain. Which none of the pain meds I’ve been taking have relieved. Pushing me towards seeing the inside of the ER a dozen times since starting chemo. Because their drip meds have been the only thing to bring me any sort of relief. Needless to say, most of the ER doctors and nurses know me. Well. Not something I’m proud of.

I’ve been an emotional wreak. Pain and constantly feeling sick does that to me. Forcing  the darkness deeper into who I am. And so far, I’ve found nothing to save me. With the exception of the brightness of my daughter, everything is dark. And I’m struggling now more than I’ve ever struggled before. And am jealous of everyone else around me going about their daily lives, with work, and homemaking, and activities with family & friends. Most of which I’m too sick to partake in. And with this jealousy comes a lot of anger. At cancer. Of where I am right now. Of who I’ve become within this bleakness.

With the sole exception of my beautiful, fiery, loving, affectionate, comforting little girl. Who’s big smile and wide, merry eyes are the only things keeping me from giving up. Because without my Mischief Maker, I would. Give up.

Because this is where I am right now…

A warrior fighting a battle she doesn’t want to face. A warrior too tired and hearts worn to do anything but try to keep her stand.

Photography by the most loving Colleen R with C.R. Photography

Butterfly Brave! A lesson in eggs!

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Beautiful, farm fresh eggs. With lovely speckled shells and thick (perfect) yolks. A dream for hard core bakers and pastry chefs like me. Every (rather infrequent) time I get my hands on fresh organic eggs like these, my heart sings a little (okay, a lot) like it’s Christmas Eve. In July. Since it IS July. Because not only do I love working with what I call “real” eggs within my recipes, but eggs have become incredibly symbolic in my 38 years thus far. For more reasons than I can relate in one small blog post.

Eggs, to me, to all humans, and most other mammals as well, mean one very important thing. Truly the most important thing. They mean life created. They, very technically, mean the realization of children, following in very expectant footprints. Love reincarnated. As I know, with every beat of my heart, because of my own own daughter, now 3-1/2 years old. She, who my husband & I fought for, for nearly 2 years, through more physical pain than most can imagine. Because we knew that we were meant to be parents. A miracle that the Universe, that God, bestowed upon us, in the form of this warm, affectionate, loving, spirited, fiery, mischievous soul who is our beautiful daughter, Arianna. The greatest gift we have ever received. Because of the beauty of one little egg, that despite all odds and every battle that I faced, became our Miracle.

So in light of my reminiscing, of the odds that were spoken (& assumed) against us, of the physical, exhausting pain that I endured while we struggled to create our Miracle Baby, of the many, many years that we could have “tried” yet didn’t, of the cancer specialist who urged us 11 years ago, after my 1st multiple tumor removal surgery, to begin our family THEN instead of risking my (then borderline) cancer from becoming malignant, today, after so many years of battle, this is what I’ve learned.

Don’t wait. If there’s something in your heart, beating up against your soul, screaming quietly to break out, to break free, to experience, let it. Let it break free. Let whatever passion that is, whatever dream of yours that may be, break free from whatever restraints have been holding it back, for whatever reasons. Let it happen. Take that dream, that passion, that lifelong goal, and just…do it. Now. Because there’s a reason why you’ve kept that passion, or dream of yours tightly bound, and confined within you, for so long. It’s something that your soul WANTS, NEEDS, something that’s been burning, and burning, brighter & brighter within you, something that’s made to be taken up within your hands, and molded, and shaped into being. Something that is meant to happen. Because the sad truth? Life is too short to not BE or DO the things that you truly WANT to do. Life is complicated, and messy, and very uncertain. But that’s NOT the point of life. The point of life is this: do what makes you happy. Do what your heart wants. Your dreams CAN come true, little by little, if you choose to let them. So don’t wait. Don’t wait any longer because of what this world has tricked you into believing. Let it just..happen. You might be surprised by what awaits when you do.

Today is the most important gift that we have been given. Use it. Before it’s gone.

All my love, xoxo

 

 

 

Happiness Project#81: Broccoli Salad with a side of Chemo!

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3 weeks ago I went in for my 7th surgery. To remove another tumor. But things didn’t quite go as planned or expected. Instead of leaving the operating room with one less adrenal gland, I ended up leaving without a full kidney as well. Though I wasn’t told WHY I had unexpectedly lost a kidney (throughout a grueling 10 hour surgery), until my 2nd recovery day in the hospital. To put it as simply as possibly, though not lightly at all, my 3 doctors took out my left kidney in response to a rapidly growing tumor that had gone from eating up my adrenal gland as well as encasing my entire kidney within the 3 months that I had been undergoing pre-surgical testing. 3 months. Needless to say, when the oncologist came over to my recovery bed, on that 2nd day within my 6 day hospital stay, and revealed to me the “news,” my heart froze, and my verbal response was nothing short of absolute silence. The 5th day, before the day of my release, the same doctor (now my official oncologist), visited me again to reveal that the preliminary testings from that unexpected tumor had come back as active (malignant) cancer. Yes, cancer. Stage 3 Ovarian cancer.

So with this shocking, unexpected diagnosis, my life has been turned completely (& brutally) shaken up, and turned upside down. Because after 11 years of benign tumors, severe endometriosis, depression, a panic disorder, menopause and more visits to the ER than a person could ever imagine, cancer was never something that I believed could ever happen. Not when I was still struggling with so much. Yet it’s happened. And nearly 3 weeks later, after hearing of my diagnosis, I’m still angry, and overwhelmed, and very scared.

Since meeting up with my regular MD, my surgeon, as well as the specialist who completed my first massive ovarian/tumor removal surgery nearly 11 years ago, within the past two weeks since being released from the hospital, I currently know just enough about my cancer to have a very general idea of the “plan.” Which means chemotherapy for the next 5 to 6 months. Though NO radiation. Which seems like a pretty significant blessing, in my book right now. This Wednesday though, will be the BIG day, when I meet up with my oncologist for the 1st time, to figure all of this out.

Until then, when I start my half year regiment of chemotherapy, until my body figures out what I can and cannot take, until I have a better idea of what I’m up against during this new battle of mine, I’ll scream, and cry, and rail against this Universe. A Universe that continues to push me beyond what I thought I was ever strong enough for. Because I’m beyond scared right now. In more ways than I can ever explain.

So for now, I wanted to leave you with the yummiest broccoli apple salad (or as I affectionately name as broccoli candy salad), that I have ever feasted upon. Feasted upon like I could eat this ENTIRE recipe all on my own. For real. Ready for your own?

3 cups uncooked broccoli florets, minced

1 cup shredded or finely diced pealed carrots

1 cup green grapes, rinsed

2-1/2 cups diced Gala apples (my personal favorite apple)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

pinch of fine sea salt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup low fat Greek vanilla yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

*1 cup dried cranberries, optional

You’ll need two medium sized mixing bowls for this salad.

In the first mixing bowl, combine the broccoli, carrots, grapes, and apples.

In the 2nd mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, mayonnaise, yogurt and lemon juice, until nice and creamy.

Drizzle the dressing onto the dry broccoli salad, and with either your fingers (who’s ready to get messy?) or a big wooden spoon, toss everything together until fully coated. Throw in some dried cranberries if you want an added pop of sweetness! Pop that pretty salad into the fridge to chill before serving!

And believe me when I say that this is one of those salads that you will never tire of. I could eat this every other day if I wanted. Because this is MY idea of candy salad! Try it. You’ll totally get it once you do!

In conclusion, I might not be blogging as many family recipes while undergoing the next 6 months of chemotherapy. It mostly depends on how well I handle everything. I will however, be blogging here, all about this unexpected new battle of mine. Because I know that I can’t fight this battle alone. Without those who love, encourage and hold me up. Those who are my army.

Until next time, all my love to you! xoxo

 

 

 

 

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