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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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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