Happy New Year!
The last month of 2015 proved to be crazy — to say the least. Here’s a little re-cap of everything that went down with my operation and how I am recovering, as well as what’s up for 2016.
The last month of 2015 proved to be crazy — to say the least. Here’s a little re-cap of everything that went down with my operation and how I am recovering, as well as what’s up for 2016.
Hello, my shining moonbeams. It’s been a minute. Within that minute I have entered what I feel to be a new phase in my life, a freeing phase that is catapulted by happiness. For nearly a month, I spent time across the pond and rediscovered my life and the things I want out of it.
To start off, wow. Can I just say – I LOVE ENGLAND! I’ve always known that and I had been there times before, but this time felt different. As most of you know, if you follow my story, I have been on travel lock down since my cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2013. By nature I am a jetsetter. I enjoy being in unknown places, without being attached to my “real” life and the troubles within. When I travel, there is a certain romance to it, a freedom that allows you to be whomever you want and for me, that is living without a terminal illness. I’m able to go back to being me; an adventurer with thirst in my blood for worldly experiences. When I was diagnosed, I felt that one of the biggest losses to having cancer was the fact that I could no longer be as free as I wished to be. My citizen of the world passport would no longer apply and I’d be stuck doing treatment after treatment without an escape. My escape had become writing. If I were no longer going to be able to leave and experience life, then I’d write about it, which I have.
This year, 2015, I vowed to myself that it would be different than the last two, that I would yet again spread my wings and live a little. In the beginning of the year I approached my Doctor and pleaded for some independence from my chemotherapy week after week, to which she obliged and advised that 2015 could be my year of travel with chemo squeezed in between. It was the best news I had heard in quite some time and immediately booked a trip to Hawaii with Steve-O and planned the trip for Nan and I go travel to the UK together to attend my beautiful cousin’s wedding and share laughs and love with the family over there that we don’t get to see often enough.
The trip was so important to me and I wanted to ensure that I soaked everything in. My Nan in her very own way was my wish-granting factory, as she made the trip happen. Being that we were returning to her home town, I was fortunate enough to visit her previous homes, where she grew up, the house she was born in, the hospital she had my Mum and Auntie Bev in, where my Granddad went to college, where the two of them were married and so much more. Being able to experience England through her eyes was more than my hearts desire and something I will never be able to thank her enough for.
There were endless amounts of stories, laughs, fish and chips, tea and best of all time with family on both my Nan’s side and my Granddad’s side. My roots are in full force over there and it was lovely to get to know that side of myself so much more. The posh wedding of my cousin, which we attended, has built memories that will last a life time, as well as traveling to Chester, Liverpool and all over the Wirral with my cousin’s and their other halves, of course also visiting London with the best company and seeing each and every friend and family member. Howls were had, love was expressed and England will forever hold the key to my heart. Quite literally, as Nan and I locked our love on Albert Dock in Liverpool and threw the key into the River Mersey. Our loved ones can continue to visit us in Liverpool, even though we may not physically be there, our spirit will always remain.
Since I’ve been back I have been reliving each moment in my head and finding it difficult to write about. My time spent there was so special, that it is difficult to express. I feel rejuvenated and feel I have a new sense of direction for my life. Suddenly gears have started moving upon my return and from that, fresh goals have emerged. I’m super excited about the future and what it holds and as things get closer, I’ll share more deets.
In the meantime, check out some photos from my trip and watch out for some upcoming projects and collabos. Big Kiss x.
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Happy December, my friends and for those in the states, I hope Thanksgiving brought warmth into your bellies and hearts. It hardly feels like the Holidays, being that I live in the desert and it was a balmy 87° degrees on the very weekend that Arizona and the rest of the country kicked off the holiday season. Don’t even get me started on how quickly this year has passed. I swear I feel as though I have merely blinked and the year is nearly over. I am also aware that I am not alone in that sentiment. However, clearly I am not here to talk weather or how quickly a single year can pass before our eyes. I just figured I’d check in again.
One thing I didn’t stick to this year was my blog; the very same blog that brought me so much delight, with a pure connection with my readers and allowing for a genuine therapeutic outlet. Admittedly, I fell short of sharing many of my experiences of life with cancer, particularly as a person in her twenties. Yet, you all know and have been so patient and understanding in that I have lacked the “umph” to do much of anything at all.
Over the last few weeks, my so-called “umph” has been restored. Not to discount, of course, that all that ails me continues to do so, being no better or worse than my early days on this cancer journey. In fact my current statuesque is a dash on the unsteady side, as my tumor markers are similar to playing Russian roulette; one week they will be extremely low and there seems to be progress and then the following week they have sky rocketed, where boisterous concerns begin to be flown around. When I visited my Oncologist today, we were going over the different elements to my chemo and the method to madness of it all; taking control over my life and my cancer. Pondering whether the designated treatment is doing it’s job and if my tumors are shrinking or perhaps the opposite and my body and tumors aren’t responding to the chemotherapy, at all. In my case, neither one of those scenarios is my situation. Leave it to me to have unruly tumors that are difficult to pinpoint patterns, their plan and very own method to their madness. We’ve been reviewing my tumor markers bi-weekly to attempt to make sense of it all. One week the markers will be incredibly low, which leads to talks of lowering my chemotherapy and even possibly removing one of the five concoctions all together which would allow for more energy. Then the following week the numbers as I have said earlier, skyrocket leaving everyone, including my Oncologist, a smidgen perplexed as to what the actual situation going on inside of me is.
It makes sense though, because just like everything in life, it’s a mystery. I’m not sure that I will ever be able to make sense of my cancer, nor will I ever be able to make sense of my roller-coaster ride of tumor marker results week over week. Instead, my mind has recently chosen to compartmentalize those things and I have been pushing myself to live the life I daydream about, as I have been laid up in bed for the past year and a half. Be brave, push the limits of my pain and makes strides towards healing the mental tolls that cancer has imparted on me. If you were to ask me how I arrived at this ever-evolving place of newfound energy and peace, I’m not entirely sure if I would be able to pinpoint it. However, a little something is telling me that it began with a little appreciation.
It began with reassessing how I was regarding my appreciation for my surroundings; people, things, places, etc. Once I reevaluated all of those things, it was representative of the life I want and that perhaps I had been taking most things for granted. There was a sudden shift in my mental state. My lack of genuine appreciation to the people in my life, the roof over my head, food on my table and even despite my unfortunate health circumstances, I understood that I am still here, breathing and on the journey that is life. It reminds me of a certain quote by Tony Robbins, “[If you] trade your expectation for appreciation, the world changes instantly.” It truly starts right there.
Pushing myself beyond the limits of my pain has been very challenging. Most of 2014 has been spent in the confines of four walls and a comfy bed. I’m sure to some that may sound very lovely, perhaps a vacation from life. However, as I lay day after day, I couldn’t help but begin to think about life and all of the things I had wished for myself and my dreams to capture the world by it’s heartstrings, but then losing everything I had worked for and still wished for. I had begun to see the world with a different vision and was maddened by all of the things I didn’t think I was capable of doing or having since being diagnosed as a Stage IV cancer patient. Unsurprisingly, that is a hard pill to swallow and naturally, you wish for a new reality, or no reality at all due to the gloomy reality you are currently in. After such a long period of time and some much needed therapy throughout the later half of the year, it was then that a new reality finally began to sink in. For starters, I became more accepting of my cancer, forgiving of my situation and told myself that if I could find a way out of the gloom, I wouldn’t waste another minute being unhappy or living my life on a king size bed. I began to follow the rhythm of my wild heart and push myself to do things that once made me, me. Spending every day in bed is now something of the past, there are new winds in my sail and I am going to be more grateful for the things I am capable of accomplishing, rather than focusing on things I don’t believe I can do. But, psssst – anything is possible and it’s not bad to think you are capable of it all, because we all are. We are alive, damnit.
That said, as we spend the holiday season amongst friends and family, I will not be taking anything for granted and in the meantime I will continue to push myself beyond my cancer and fight for my place and purpose in this world. A PET scan will be taking place next week to try to gain some insight as to what my tumor(s) are doing and if there is anything to be concerned over. I’m a firm believer that what you think about, you bring about – so only good vibes allowed! As I had mentioned time passes so quickly, I am sure December will fly by and we’ll be ringing in 2015 before we know it! There are plenty of fun things planned for this month, so expect some updates sooner rather than later. As always, thank you for reading and continuing to support me so vigorously, it does not go unnoticed.
Just one last thing, thank you to the lovely anonymous reader who sent me this picture today. It melted my heart.
Peace and love always.
The bath water was scorching—hotter than a backyard pool in the middle of Arizona’s “dry heat” season. It would have been my fourth bath of the day. No judgments, I truly feel that I belong in the movie, Mermaids with Cher and an early Christina Ricci. It’s bizarre that the bath is where I find it peaceful and a place to fully rest my head— my safe haven since my diagnosis.
My black and silver, new pipe flickered in unison with the candle off to the side of the bathtub, as I further emerged myself into the hot water filled to the brim with bubbles. I reached for that new, shiny pipe, realizing that I was officially a pothead— a medical one, but nevertheless a raging, “puffale” (pot lingo…I think). It seemed clear in that moment that I wasn’t smoking to see unicorns and middle earth, but because it had become the only way that I knew how to get from one eight hours to the next. Some would call it depression, but it is so much more than that.
I typically stray from too many young cancer articles, or just information in general. However, I did come across the Brittany Maynard video and watched it from beginning to end. Firstly, what a brave and strong woman she is—perhaps it’s expected with a name like, Brittany (jokes)! I couldn’t be more enthused that she got to complete her “bucket list” and completely understand that in her soon to be condition, there will come a time when it gets far too painful and depressing and she will want to end her life. It’s only imaginable how many people may have an opinion on this subject matter, the subject of death with dignity. While I gather that this is a controversial topic that is now more spotlighted, I can’t help but be envious that she has the right to say when enough is enough. Unless you are terminally ill, I’m not sure this sounds straight, but those of us who are, may we be fortunate enough to have the option to die with dignity.
This above statement is in no way implying that you can’t have a terminal illness and find happiness, it can be amazing and a good balance. Sometimes it even aids in engaging the patient to live life to the absolute fullest. I was there once and it was a brilliant, I was fearless, somewhat unscathed at that point and ultimately I did things I would never have done if it weren’t for my so called death sentence. Death has a way of being contradictory, at times you feel at the absolute top of the world, living with what little time you have left to the edge, or on the contrary, your soul has simply left the building and it becomes a waiting game, while the emptiness and sadness gets the better of what’s left of your body and mind here on this earth.
When I took the first hit through my pipe, the smoke filled up my lungs and the THC ran rapidly through my body. Yet as I released, I was waiting for the sensation of being numb—from everything. I didn’t quite feel that familiar numbness I had grown fond of, however, it was more of an impassiveness sense, like, here we are again—never worse, never better. My life became a state of mind, constantly hanging my head, waiting for no tomorrow. In that instant, I unquestionably lit the lighter and let the flame burn a little longer than the usual and then directly pressed the lighter to my bare and tender skin. I wanted to feel something, feel alive and feel something other than the pains of cancer and the mental/physical shit show that it can have over me. It burned like hell and I loved every second of it. I know for that split few flashes that I was embracing what its like to have self awareness.
At this point I fear that it’s no secret to the state of mind that I have been in lately. Really, for the past several months. More recently I hardly show my face around anywhere at all. At social events I’m a ghost, with little to no urge to socialize much in general and I am living a life of solace in my own solitude. I’ve managed to isolate myself from most things and people. It’s been a very non-organic experience for me. I was always a very social gal, loved going out, trying new things, spending time with good friends and good beer; but then over this past summer, one day, I literally just threw it all to hell. Of course it’s nothing personal to the people I know who are there for me and rooting me on, despite my lack of the friendship pact and I happen to think about these people in my life more often than you’d probably think.
So what’s my problem? The answer is, I don’t know. I’ve reached a point in my life, where I feel I have no more life. I can’t get excited to travel and see the world, because I’m not allowed to travel. I can’t throw on a pair of sexy heels and paint the town red, because I have the energy of a snail. I can’t even get my hair colored at my favorite salon, because every hair follicle feels like it’s experiencing Jurassic Park. Yes, that’s right, I referred to my head as Jurassic Park, where every hair follicle is feeling the race of survival against the dangerous creatures that roam the island. Also known as chemotherapy side effects. See, this is what I am talking about.
On a more serious note, rather than talking about the 1993 Spielberg blockbuster, I have committed to seeing my therapist on a consistent, weekly basis. She makes me feel like less of a freak show and more like a normal human being, LIVING with cancer. The whole point of life is to live it, right? Our main goal is for me to find a place of peace with fighting every day for my life and rebuilding a quality of life fit for my needs. That said; if I ignore your texts and phone calls, please know that I love you and more than ever appreciate your thoughts. If I miss out on get-togethers and parties, which there will be, than please know I am there in spirit. Clearly there’s a lot of missing out on and lack of communication on my end that have happened and realistically will happen again. I could go on for days, but at the end of the day, please know I’ve pulled away for my own reasons, fears and doubts about life and not a single thing is at all personal. My therapist and I are working away at rebuilding what I have destroyed and working towards a happier me, in the face of cancer or depression. As for my own personal goal, I hope to back off from being such a “puffale”.
I’m fortunate enough that in my times of reclusiveness, I have had two very dear friends spend their hard earned dollars to visit me in the month of October, as well as a group of friends that when I say I’m too sick to stick to our Saturday night plans, they come over and we enjoy a night in with pizza and games. My lovely family, too, which when I say jump, they ask how high and a husband who has taken on this challenge of caring for me, which I can honestly say is probably the most annoying job in the world. Cancer is truly not what’s scary, or all of the niceties that it brings forward in it’s war path; it is being alive and not knowing what to do with it.
My point is, I am so happy that Brittany Maynard has shared her brave story and shed some light on #deathwithdignity. Also, happy that I am finally reaching out on my blog to say hello—it’s such a warm and happy feeling to write again. I’m not going to lie and say that I’ll be writing all that much, but it’s certainly a part of my goals and sharing my very own story, one again via Be Still My Heart Blog.
In the meantime, avoid doing as I have by becoming a puffale, or burning yourself with lighters to feel alive. But, continue to live your lives as you do—free yourself from vanity, fear and embrace your soul fully.
On that note, I am off to take a scorching hot bubble bath, before I drink two dollar beers and spend the evening dressed up as the scariest Halloween costume of all—me.
Cheers and love always. x
The young cancer epidemic can be quite daunting. Just when young adults are getting themselves prepared for their future into adulthood, i.e.- education, career, relationships, they are grossly impaired once the discovery of cancer has been made in their young bodies. Many things can be affected when it comes to cancer in young adults and a large amount of sacrifices have to be made. For me personally, I have had to put my life on hold and with the possibility that it will never get back on the same track again according to my career goals, family plan and overall setup of my young life. Since being diagnosed in July of 2013, I have had to give up my position with a wonderful Fortune 500 Company, a position that was nearly ten years in the making as I had been with the Company since I was nineteen years old. I had somewhat of a cushy position, a work at home position, one that I revered highly and worked hard to get. In addition to having to forgo my career, I have also had to put my education on the back-burner, when I had just one year left until graduation. Seemingly, these are all replaceable things when it comes to the importance of your health and life, however nonetheless important if you have spent nearly a decade trying to get to where you once were.
As I further along in my “cancer career”, I realize that young adult cancer and the awareness needs to be at the forefront of the medical world. We are talking about the generation “now”, who is responsible for birthing the generation of tomorrow. Many times, young adults are diagnosed with cancer at a late, already aggressive stage. This can then lead to problems with infertility as well as lifelong residual symptoms of the toxins dumped into the body in an effort to keep the cancer at bay or gone completely.
I have mentioned before that since my diagnosis, it is difficult for cancer to not consume your world, as you live and breathe it daily and go through the tumultuous motions and emotions that comes with the toll. Naturally, since my world has been turned up side down, I am determined to not only fight for my life, but bring awareness and attention to the risks in young adult cancers. It is my mission to advocate for others and myself that medical awareness, even as a young adult is extremely important and most of all entirely necessary.
Often times those who are effected by young adult cancers have a late stage diagnosis, as well as life threatening stakes as many young adults fail to get proper screenings until symptomatically they are forced to go to the Doctors. This then leads to assertive treatment, which then contains many after effects. Through my many hours of research on young adult cancer, I stumbled across a website specifically for the cause; StupidCancer.org. Stupid Cancer is dedicated to young adult cancer, awareness, resources, tools and a bevy of helpful implements. Moreover, it is wonderful to connect with other young adults suffering from cancer and who are busy living despite their prognosis.
Stupid Cancer holds a convention each year and also offers meet up’s throughout the country; in an effort that the cancer patients can stand up to cancer with one another and no one has to go at it alone. Just watching the below video gave me the boost I need to get up on my feet and declare war against my cancer and my peer’s cancer. We can all learn from one another and help one another through the process; if there is a will, there is a way!
Additionally, there will be a Stupid Cancer Convention called OMG2014, which will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on 04/25-04/27. If you would like to register please visit OMG2014 Summit. “The 7th Annual OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults is the premier oncology conference and social networking event for the young adult cancer movement. The largest gathering of its kind, OMG2014 will bring together hundreds of survivors and caregivers to connect, get educated, build community and unite to drive the change we wish to see.”