One year later…

1yearCfree

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.”

Happiness Project #86: Dragon Flyers Iced Lemonade!

frozenlemon

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.

dragonfly

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!

tallest

“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.

m&m

Butterfly Brave: my fight continues…

c-cadiz

cadizfam-3

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

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