Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Baby steps...


On December 31, 2011, when the nurse on the telephone told me I had breast cancer, it was a game changer.  My life as I knew it from that moment forward would never ever be the same.  Then and for several days following that dreaded phone call, I had no idea where the road was headed and whether or not I would even survive.  The disturbing reality of cancer is that it takes many lives on a daily basis.  That last sentence is what rattles me to the bone every-single-day! With the age of social media, it's especially difficult to distance ourselves from the toll that the Big C takes in the lives of those we love.  We read heartbreaking stories on Facebook, donate to fundraisers and run in 5ks in support. 

At the time of my diagnosis, I immediately took a leave of absence from my teaching position.  In the two years and nine months since I took that leave of absence I had multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation as well as countless doctor's visits.  This is kind of a big deal for a 39 year old who had never been admitted to a hospital before. For almost three years, my top priority was to get healthy physically and emotionally and become the best version of myself for me and for those I love.  I learned more about myself during that time than I had learned in my 39 years prior.

In some ways it seems like that life changing phone call was just last week and in other ways it has been a very, very long road, mostly filled with baby steps to get me where I am right now...
  

Today I took another (not so baby) step when I returned to teaching.  I've been ignoring the looming start date for several weeks and today, it was here.  I got up extra early so I could sneak in a quick run before I left for my first day in 3 years.  As I was running, it suddenly hit me.  Walking back into work today doesn't make all the ugly stuff go away, but it does help to put some closure to it.  I am moving on and although it's hard to do, it feels good to start a new chapter.  Today's step still felt a bit wobbly; I continue to be a work in progress, but I did it and with the support of my family, friends and colleagues I think I'll be just fine. 

And then there was this "sign" in the high school bathroom after the orientation this morning.  I certainly appreciate the gesture among the f-bombs and other profanities garnishing the toilet paper holder.  At least the vandal was spreading kindness!
And finally, I can't let the day go by without wishing my beautiful BFF a very Happy Birthday!  Wishing you a fantastic, fun-filled and perhaps, slightly boring year ahead.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Change the world...

I think it goes without saying that sometimes life is hard.  But, like I've said before, hard things help us to learn and grow.  I tell my children this all the time, but sometimes it's easier to dish out the advice rather than take it.   

It's been over 2 1/2 years since I took a leave from my job and in a short time, I'll be trying my best to resume life as a paid working girl.  I'm scared out of my britches about it.  I feel out of the loop and out of touch and my mind is a whirlwind of emotions, including fear, anxiety, and a small dose of excitement.  As I transition back to the working world, I continue to question my decision to do so.  How will I manage?   Will I be able to do this?  or Will I fall completely on my face?  The thing is...I can not anticipate the outcome, no one can.  I can make conclusions based on past experiences, but even then, I don't truly know how things will ever work out.  All I can do is put one foot in front of the other and give it my best; that's all anyone can do.    

Over two years ago, I wrote this post.  It still holds true today.  To be able to get through the ups and downs of life and have people embracing those moments with me or picking me up when I fumble, is a gift I am very grateful to have.  

Imagine having those ups and downs, being surrounded by loving people and still feeling alone.  This is often the reality of being clinical depressed.  The death of Robin Williams has brought the sad truth of depression to the forefront once again.  One can only hope that the tragic way in which he died will bring light to the fact that mental illness needs to be addressed.  Sometimes we get caught up in life and become complacent with all that goes on around us. Unfortunately it often takes a tragic event to help wake us up and fine tune our priorities. 

We need to check back in, educate ourselves and help when we can.   



Today you were blessed with another day to go forth and do good in the world.  It's an opportunity you should grab onto...with both hands!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Milestones...

I think most of us are familiar with the word milestone, especially those of us with children.  As new parents we anxiously await for our children to conquer the next big thing.  Smiling, rolling over, eating solids, crawling, walking, and talking are all tasks we check off our mental list of our childrens' achievements.  Some of us panic if our child is at the latter end of development, others are perfectly content if their child is a late bloomer.  Regardless, I think it goes without saying that we all want our children to become the best versions of themselves.   

"Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments."


As a survivor of the Big C, I've noticed that there is a process in the healing after being diagnosed and treated for cancer. And, like children reaching their milestones, all of us survivors do not walk through this journey in the same manner. 

I often become frustrated with myself because it seems I should be reaching "milestones" sooner, that I should be able to bounce back to the same person I was B.C. (before cancer).  The truth is, I will never be the same and although I know this to be true, it's often hard to walk this unfamiliar path.  

Throughout my treatments, when I would visit any doctor's office, I would take someone with me.   I soon learned that the anxiety that would take over my body could be lessened just by having someone with me, even when that person did not say a word.  

It's been 2 1/2 years since the Big C invasion, and the doctor's visits are fewer.  There is more time in between and more time for me to feel like a "normal" person once again.  I'm slowly finding my new normal and doing my best to enjoy my life without the constant worry about what's to come.  

I reached a milestone the other day when I went for a follow up at my radiation oncologist's office by myself.  I anticipated that the visit would be quick and without any surprises, so I braved the task on my own.  Although the visit was routine and all was well, I did end up waiting for 45 minutes, 35 of those minutes was in a hospital gown in the office.  After 25 of those minutes, the lump in my throat got a little too big for my own handling...I texted my BFF while in the midst of taking deep cleansing breaths and telling myself that all was well.  Sending pictures of myself in the ugly johnny helped to calm my anxieties and within a few minutes, the doctor had come in.  She performed a thorough exam and said everything looked great, well "lovely" was actually the word she used.  

It's when ordinary people rise above the expectations and seize the opportunity that milestones truly are reached.


Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed with myself that I couldn't handle the visit completely on my own, but then I realized how blessed I am to have an enormous support system and they're (literally) available right at my fingertips.  

There are some things I know I am not ready to conquer on my own just yet.  So later today, when I head to my annual mammogram appointment, I'll take my mom with me.  Just knowing she is there will help me to get through it without increasing the anxiety level to a point where I can't handle it.  

One thing (among the many) the Big C has taught me is that it's ok to ask for help and to lean on others.  I prefer to be independent and do things on my own. But sometimes reaching those "milestones" is a heck of a lot easier when someone is right my side.

And another thing I've learned is that hospital gowns are drab and boring and really should be made in more cheerful, bright colors.

My path has not been determined. I shall have more experiences and pass many more milestones.

UPDATE:  My mammogram was normal...it was a good day!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Insta-Friday...


Newport via my iphone...












We go every year and it never gets old.

Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
Ezra Taft Benson

If you are on Instagram, you can follow me at abetterdream

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A day at the beach...

From last week.  Lots of pictures, few words...
































"Silence is better than unmeaning words."Pythagoras