My journey to a healthier me

Tales of my life

Today is my Uncancerversary

5 years ago today, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room.  I was waiting for my name to be called.  I was waiting to go into surgery to have the cancer removed that had invaded my body.

It was early morning.  I was not nervous or even scared, which I found odd when I thought about it afterwards.  My husband, on the other hand, was extremely nervous.  I remember telling him not to start crying or I would too.  He had a list of people he was to call when the surgery was over, which I reminded him about.  He walked with me to the operating room, then went to a different waiting room.

I can remember thinking how glad I was that it was finally the day.  It seemed to take forever to arrive.  From the moment I heard the words “you have cancer”, I waited anxiously for the day when it would be removed.  I had complete faith in my oncologist and his team.

I remember cracking jokes just before the meds knocked me out.  I was laying on the table, and my arms were outstretched because they were trying to put the needles in.  I have tricky veins so they were having problems.  My arms were strapped down.  Then the table started moving up.  I joked that I felt like a scientific experiment.  A few people laughed.  I thought it was hysterical.  Of course I was drugged up LOL.

The next thing I remember is coming out of what felt like a very deep sleep.  My throat hurt. A lot.  And Dan was standing next to my bed.  I’m pretty sure he was crying.  He wasn’t allowed to stay long.  I remember asking for ice chips because my throat hurt so bad.  I remember being in a big room.  I assumed it was the recovery room.  I think at one point someone told me they were waiting for a room to be available to move me to.  I’m pretty sure I just went back to sleep.  I remember waking up a couple of times, but not for very long.  If I remember correctly, I did ask for my glasses at one point.

Anything else that happened that day, I don’t remember.

I would later learn that the surgery went very well.  I would spend 5 days in the hospital.  And it would take me several months to feel pretty normal again.

It would take a couple weeks to find out if they got all the cancer out with the surgery.  I was really hoping they did.  I didn’t want to have to go through chemo or radiation.  I was nervous when I finally got the call from the doctor.  They got it all and I would not have to have chemo.  I’m pretty sure I cried.  I would have to have regular followups for the next 5 years, but I was okay with that.

So today is 5 years since my surgery.  In a few weeks, I’ll have my last followup with my oncologist.  My oncologist and his team have taken really good care of me.  They have treated me like a person, not just a patient.  And to me, that is an amazing thing.

So today, on my Uncancerversary, I want to say …

Fuck you, cancer!!

 

 

 

 

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Perspective

It’s all about perspective.
It’s something Tyler told me not long after we started working together.
It’s something I’m still learning.

I’ve been known to dwell on the bad stuff happening, instead of focusing on all the good around me.
I’m trying to change that. I’ve been working on it a while.
Sometimes I’m pretty good at it. Sometimes I’m not.
Sometimes it takes a friend or loved one to point out that I need to focus on the good.
Thankfully I have people around who do that.

When I was younger, I would sometimes get excited about something new, some new challenge. But when I would tell some people about it, they seemed to take great pleasure in pointing out negative aspects of it, to the point that I was no longer excited and would just give up on the idea. I don’t know if they meant it to happen, I would hope not, but more often than not, that’s what happened.

And I think over the years, I learned to do that for myself. I would be happy about something, but almost as quickly, I would see the negatives of the situation. It’s like I was talking myself of even trying.

But I never recognized that’s what I was doing. It took people around me to tell me, to show me what I was doing. And that only started happening in the last few years.

Now, I didn’t always do this. But it seemed to happen more often than not. Sometimes I wonder how many great opportunities I missed out on because I did this.

I’m learning how destructive that can be though.
When I do this, I’m robbing myself of the joy, the wonder of all the good there is.
It takes away from the beauty in the every day.
It makes me forget how lucky am I.

Over the last few years, I have gotten better at not dwelling on the negative. But I still do it. And sometimes when I do, it goes on and on for awhile. It can be hard to snap out of that mindset.

It’s been 3 weeks since the car accident. And I’ve been dwelling on it. The cuts on my neck and hands that are becoming scars. The soreness in my body that is preventing me from running and getting a really good workout in. The fact that we need a new car.

And when I start thinking about these things, it snowballs into other things.
I start blaming myself for the accident. If I hadn’t been going away that weekend, we wouldn’t have been on the highway. And I blame the weather. If it hadn’t been raining so hard, we might not have crashed. And I blame my husband. If he had been driving slower, we might not have crashed. If he had noticed that the back tires needed replacing, we might not have crashed. But it always comes back to blaming myself.

And then I start blaming myself for other things too. It’s a vicious cycle.

Usually when it gets bad like that, it can last awhile. And it almost always takes the words of a friend to break me out of it.

I wouldn’t say I’m completely out of that mindset with the accident, but I’m trying. I’m really trying. Friends have definitely helped with that, reminding me that I’m a lucky person, and not just with the accident.

I have a house to live in.
I have food to eat.
I have a wonderful husband.
I have 3 great cats.
I have been cancer free for 4 1/2 years.
I can go out walking.
I volunteer with 2 great organizations.
I have loving friends and family.
I call one of the best countries in the world home.
I live in a beautiful town with lots of friendly people.
I can see beauty in every day things.
I can hear wonderful music.
I can taste good food.
I can read and appreciate beautiful books.
I can watch television and movies.

There are a lot of people in this world who are not so lucky.
And I need to remember that.
I need to remember just how good I have it, just lucky I am, even when bad things are happening.
It’s all about perspective.

Even with the accident.
Yes it was bad thing that happened.
But it could have been a lot worse.
It was a single-car accident.
And we walked away from it.
Yes, we both had some injuries.
But they were/are relatively minor ones.
It’s all about perspective.

I’m a very lucky woman.
I need to remember that.
And thank you to those friends who remind me of that when I need it.

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I only have myself to blame

One of the things I’ve learned about myself along this journey is that I’m an emotional eater and a stress eater.  Most of the time I have pretty good control of it.  Most of the time.

The last 6 months or so have been hard.  There have been times when I’ve been pretty stressed out.  And the events of the last several days have not helped any.  And I haven’t been about to control my eating the way I had been.

I’ve been struggling.  A lot.  With everything, it feels like.

The result?

The scale is going in the wrong direction.

And I only have myself to blame.

I’ve been trying.  But obviously not hard enough.

My workouts are different.  I’m not doing as much strength training as I was.  And I’m sure that has contributed to the problem.

I’m trying not to be too hard on myself.  But how can I not be?

I was making such great progress.  And now I’m going backwards.

And now since the accident, I can’t do much until I get the okay from the doctor.

The only thing I’ve been able to do is a little walking.  But with my sore hip, it takes effort.  And it’s not something I can do every day.  Nor can I go for really long walks.

And that just makes me want to eat more.

I’m trying to be good.  Really, I’m trying.  But it’s so hard.

Not everything I’m eating is bad.

Okay, some of it is.  I try not to keep that stuff in the house, but my husband and I don’t eat the same.  He can have anything he wants.  So sometimes we have stuff in the house.  Most of the time, it’s not a problem.  But lately it has been.

When I’m stress-eating or emotional-eating, I gravitate towards things like bread and sweets.  Not sure why, but I always have.  So if there is bread in the house, I just keep eating it, little by little, until it’s gone.  The same thing goes for sweets.

But sometimes it doesn’t stop there.  Sometimes I just will eat whatever I can find.  It depends on how big the stress or emotional level is.

To make matters worse, I’ve not been keeping up with my food journal as I should be.

I had been really good about it for so long.  I don’t know why I stopped.

I really need to get back to doing it.  I know how much it helps.

I need to get back to basics, I think.

I need to refocus.

I need to plan my meals and snacks better.

I need to do what workouts I can until I get the doctor’s clearance.  And once I get that, I need to get back to do workouts like I used to.

I only have myself to blame for where I’m at now.

But I can’t continually beat myself up about it either.

I need to get myself back on track and do my best to stay there.

I’m not giving up.  I’ve come too far.  And too much is at stake.

I just need to do better.

I will do better.

 

 

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Still trying to figure it all out …

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while, and I’m sorry about that.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and trying to work through some stuff.

Things are a lot harder on my own.  But I’m trying.

I’ve been feeling very alone.  I know I’m not, but the feeling is still there.

And there seems to be more roadblocks and obstacles than ever before.

I know this is just another test.  The universe just wants to see how strong I really am, how committed I am to this journey.  But sometimes I feel like I’m failing the test.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, not making any progress.  Or worse, going backwards.  I haven’t struggled like this since the beginning of my journey.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up.  I refuse to give up.

I’m frustrated and angry.  At myself mostly.

I don’t know why it has gotten harder.

I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time.

I’m questioning everything.  Including myself.

I’m wondering how I could come so far only to be stonewalled for as long as I have been.

I’m wondering why I can’t seem to break through the wall I’ve hit.

I’m wondering why the universe continues to test me.

I’m wondering why I can’t seem to get very far on my own.

I’m wondering if I have the strength to continue.

And on top of all this, I’ve been sick more in the last few months that I had been in all the previous year, maybe even longer.  And I don’t understand why.  I’ve had a bladder infection, a couple of migraines that have lasted for days, and a pretty severe cold! Plus I fell on the ice – twice!

Just when I think I’m getting myself back to where I need to be, something else happens.  And I don’t get why.

I really am trying.

I’m just so frustrated.  And disappointed.  In myself.

I know I’m better than this.  I’ve proved that.

I’ve come a long way.  I’ve made great strides.  I’ve overcome a lot.

And maybe that’s part of why things seem so hard right now.  Maybe that’s why the universe is testing me so much.

I’m not giving up.  I have a lot of fight in me.  Maybe my nickname should be “stubborn bitch” instead of “skinny bitch”.  I don’t feel much like a “skinny bitch” right now anyway.

I’m trying to refocus.  Look at things differently.  Shake things up.  Try new things. Make some changes.

The weather has been a big problem this winter.  I’ve wanted to get outside, but we’ve had a lot of snow and ice.  Not really good for getting outside for workouts.  Hoping the weather gets better soon.  Until then, I’m doing what I can indoors.

And I’ve asked for help. Begged really. A few people offered help, but then flaked out on me. And that just left me feeling worse than before. If they didn’t mean it, why did they offer? Why get my hopes up only to watch me crash to the ground?

So how do I get back on track?  And stay there?

How do I make working out fun and interesting again?

How do I break through the obstacles in front of me?

These are some of the things I’m still trying to figure out.

I know it sounds like I’m whining. And I kind of am.

And I know this sounds a bit negative. And I agree, it does.

But these are things that go through my head. And I find it beneficial to write about them. That is why I started this blog in the first place. Sometimes writing (or typing) these things out gets them out of my head and off my mind.

There is a lot of stuff to think about on this journey. A lot of it is good, but sometimes the negative stuff creeps up. Sometimes I get stuck in my own head. Sometimes I’m hard on myself. And that’s a good time to write about this stuff. And it usually helps.

Being on my own for the last several months has had me thinking a lot more. I am still figuring out a lot of stuff. And it will take time. But it’s all part of the journey, all part of the process.

And I need to remember that.

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A letter to myself …

Dear self,

I know you’re still struggling.  I know it’s hard.  But please don’t give up.  You’ve come a long way and you’re doing an amazing job.

The last few months have been difficult for us, a lot has changed.  But that’s no reason to give up.  It’s just another test of your strength, your resolve.  The fact that you are still at it proves you are strong.  There are some out there that would just love to see you fail.  Don’t give them the satisfaction!  Keep proving all those haters wrong.

I know you’re stressed out about the number on the scale.  Just remember that that number doesn’t tell the whole story.  Remember you are building muscle as you are losing weight.  I know it’s hard, but try not to focus on the scale.  Just keep at it.

I know it’s not easy working out alone.  I know it’s sometimes hard to push yourself beyond what you think your limits are.  But remember that just because no one is right there, doesn’t mean you are alone.  You have a great support system.  It’s okay to lean on them, talk to them about your struggles, ask them for help.  They all want to see you succeed.

We knew from the beginning that this journey would not be easy.  But we also knew it would be worth it.  You’re doing a great job.  I’m very proud of you.  Just keep at it.  Keep doing the best you can.  I believe in you.  I know you can it.

Love,

Me

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Four years ago …

Four years ago, my life changed forever.

Four years ago, I was sitting in a doctor’s office with my husband by my side, listening to him say words I never thought I’d hear — “You have cancer”.

Some days it seems like a lifetime ago.

Some days it feels like yesterday.

So much has happened in the last four years.  More than I thought possible.  More than I expected.  More than I would have liked to have happen.

But through it all, I’ve learned a lot.  About life.  About strength.  About myself.

While I wouldn’t say I’m a completely different person, I’m changed quite a bit since that day.  I think I’m more open.  I’m certainly stronger, both mentally and physically.  I’d like to think I’m more empathetic.  I’m more willing to accept change (or at least I think I am).  There are other changes too, but I think those are the biggest ones.

I’ve learned not to take things for granted (a very important lesson for all to learn).

I’ve also learned the importance of having a good support system.  Everyone needs family and friends around them to help them along, whether or not they realize it.

I’ve learned motivation and inspiration are all around us, if we are just willing to open our eyes and hearts to see it.

I’ve learned one bad day does NOT make a bad life, and that tomorrow is a new day.

I’ve learned slow progress is still progress and not to give up.

Life is about choices.  We make choices all day, every day.  And it’s about making the right ones, the best ones for us.  What might be right for one person, isn’t necessarily right for someone else.  It’s about learning which is which.  It’s not easy, but no one said it would be.  But it will be worth it in the end.

Four years ago, my life changed forever.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It might sound strange to some, but personally I think getting cancer was the best thing to happen to me.  It made me realize I needed to change my life.  And I think I’m doing a pretty damn good job doing just that.

I consider myself to be lucky.  Lucky to have gotten cancer.  Lucky to have beaten it quickly.  Lucky to have realized I needed to change.  Lucky to still be on the right path.

 

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Memories – Happy Birthday Mom

Today would have been my mom’s 66th birthday. I went to sleep last night thinking of her and woke up this morning thinking of her. I’m filled with memories today. Everything seems to remind me of her today.

I took the day off from the gym today because I knew it would be a hard day for me. Yesterday I took in cupcakes I made in honour of her birthday — butter pecan cake with whipped cream cheese frosting. Everyone said they were good. (For the record, I did not eat one, although I did have a little bit of frosting). Baking always reminds me of my mom because she’s the one who got me interested in baking. I can remember being a little girl and helping her in the kitchen. She taught me to cook as well, but baking became my passion. Christmas just didn’t feel the same until we started baking. I still feel that way now. Even when I was recovering from my surgery, I still baked at Christmas. It has always made me feel connected to her. Probably more so now that she’s gone.

As I get older, I find myself doing things like she did. It used to bug me, when I was in my teens and 20s. But not now. Now it seems kind of special. I wonder if my brothers and sister feel the same way. Do they find themselves doing things or saying things like she did? If so, I wonder how they feel about it. I will admit my mom and I were not always close. I was a daddy’s girl growing up. Mom and I clashed a few times when I was a teenager. And after my parents split up, we didn’t talk for a few years. But life has a way of bringing people closer. Mom and I mended our differences and grew quite close. When I found out she wouldn’t be able to travel to my wedding, Dan and I moved our wedding to her so she could be there. She even made my veil. When I moved far away, I tried to call and visit as often as I could. It got harder and harder to visit though. And I regret that. I hope she knew how much I loved her and wished I could have visited more often. It breaks my heart to think otherwise.

A couple of years ago, my dad and I went to visit his brother. My mom was always close with my Aunt Liz, even after my parents divorced. And when I saw my aunt, I realized just how much she reminded me of my mom. It was Easter weekend of 2011. I called my mom while we were there and let her talk to Aunt Liz. It meant a lot to me to hear them talking. And I think it meant a lot to my mom too. When we visited again after my mom died and after my uncle died, I was reminded again of how much my aunt was like my mom. I think I told her that too. At least I hope I did. My aunt is a very special woman too.

When my mom died, I was nearly derailed off my journey completely. I felt like I was in a fog for probably 6 months. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to come out of it. But I did. And I think I’m stronger because of it. I think about my mom a lot. I’d like to think she’s proud of me and what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s the memories of her that help keep me going, keep me from giving up. There are days that I cry when I think about her. And there are other days when I smile and laugh. Like when I think about her up there spoiling my cat Sloan who died in 2010. Even though mom never got to meet Sloan, she would make him toys at Christmas and he loved them. Mom had a cat named Maxx and she spoiled him. I can just imagine her spoiling Sloan the same way. My other cat who died, Jale, might be harder for her to spoil, but I bet she found a way. It’s thoughts like those that make me smile and miss her even more.

She got the chance to see my home or the town where I live. But I bet she would have loved it here. Most of the time, my area is very peaceful. I think she would have liked walking along the waterfront. Or driving around the county. I wanted to shoot a video for her, so she could see where I lived, but I never got around to it. I regret that. But I try not to dwell on things like that. I try not to have regrets. Life is too short. Losing my mom so young made me realize that. I try to live a better life in part because of her. I miss her every day. And I think I always will.

I love you, Mom. And I miss you so much. Happy Birthday.

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A letter to my mom

This week is a difficult time for me, with Mother’s Day and what would have been my mom’s birthday within days of each other. I lost my mom in 2011. I miss her every day. There are times when I just want to pick up the phone and call her. I want to tell her about my accomplishments, my achievements. I want to hear the pride in her voice. I want to visit her, hug her, tell her I love her. With that in mind, I’ve written her a letter to tell her all the things I wish I could tell her now.

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Dear Mom,

I miss you so much. I’m sorry I didn’t call as often as I should have. I sorry I didn’t make more of an effort to visit. I hope you know how much I love you. Even now. Even though you have been gone almost 2 years. It’s hard to believe sometimes that it’s been almost 2 years. Time has really flown by. There is so much I wish I could have said to you before you left us. There is so much I want to tell you now. Jerry let me have the angel bear I gave you. It’s sitting on the shelf above my desk. And the angel picture you painted for me so many years ago is still hanging on the wall in my bedroom. They remind me of you, as if I need reminding. I like to think you are watching over me.

I wish you were here to see the woman I’m becoming, the woman I think you always wanted me to be. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you sooner. I know you always wanted the best for me. We clashed on several occasions about what was best for me. I did hear the things you said, even if it appeared I didn’t. I heard them, but didn’t truly understand. I know that now. I’m sorry it took me so long to understand.

I wish I could tell you how much I admired you, how much I wanted to be like you. You were always a strong person, especially when times were tough, like when your dad died, and when you and dad split up. I was so shy and introverted, I didn’t think I’d ever be as strong as you. I’ve proved myself wrong there. I think I’m very strong, much more so that I ever thought possible. I think I owe some of that to you, for showing me the way. Thank you for that.

I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you about my health. I know now that I wasn’t ready. I heard the things you said, I just wasn’t ready to change. I’m sorry it took so long for me to be ready. I’m sorry I didn’t listen when you got sick. I’m sorry it took me getting sick to realize how right you were. I hope you are happy that I’m finally getting it right.

I know I wasn’t always a good kid. I know we had our problems. But I always loved you, always respected you. I was just trying to find my own way, be my own person. You taught me that. I am who I am and who I’m becoming because of you and dad, of the things you taught me, of the ways you showed me, even if you didn’t realize that’s what you were doing.

I wish I could talk to you about my journey. I want to share my accomplishments with you. I want to cry on your shoulder when I’m struggling. I hope you are proud of me, of what I’m doing. I’m proud of myself. I’m not sure I ever thought I could be this person. But I like being this person. No, that’s not right … I love being this person. I’m doing things I didn’t think I would ever be able to do. I wish you could meet the new friends I’ve made. They are a great bunch of people. I think you would like them. At least I hope you would.

I love you so much, Mom. I wish you were still here. I know it was your time to go. I know you are in a better place. But there are days when I really need you. I will always miss you. I will always keep you close to my heart. I will always love you.

Your loving daughter,

Jenn

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Feeling disconnected

For the last week or so something has been off. I don’t know what it is. All I know is I’m feeling very disconnected. I’m struggling to get through the day. I’m struggling with food cravings. Sometimes I just want to curl up in my bed and sleep the day away. But I don’t. I still get up and try my best to get through the day. I try to put on a happy face when I’m around others. I think some of them may know or suspect that something is wrong, but they haven’t said anything. I’ve tried talking about it, but that’s hard to do when you don’t know what’s wrong. I keep thinking that maybe it’s just the winter blues, but I don’t know for sure. I wish I did. I wish I knew what’s going on. I’m trying not to let it affect my workouts. But I don’t know if it is. I’m still going to the gym 5-6 days a week. I’m trying hard. I keep pushing myself. But is it enough? I’m feeling alone. I’m not sure anyone can understand. I’m not sure I understand. I don’t know how to even talk about it. I don’t know how to break out of this. I’m feeling very disconnected.

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Out of the dark

For the last few weeks, I’ve been in a dark place, a dark mood. I don’t know what triggered it (sometimes I know, sometimes I don’t), but I feel like I’m finally out of it.

Sometimes I can feel a dark mood coming on, but more often than not, I don’t see it until I’m well into it. It’s bad enough that I get into them, but what’s worse is I don’t know how to get out of them. Sometimes talking to friends helps, sometimes something really great happens and that pulls me put, sometimes they just end on their own.

This one is particular was tough. Everything felt like a struggle. Dan and I were fighting, which is very unusual for us. It took everything I had to get up each day and get to the gym. I felt like my workouts and cardio sessions were suffering too. I wasn’t sleeping well. The only positive thing is I managed to keep from diving into old eating habits.

I’ve said it before, I’m an emotional-eater and a stress-eater, so when I’m upset, I eat. At least I used to. And it was almost always junk food. Now that I’m eating healthier, and not eating junk food, what do I do when I get into a situation I would normal use food to deal with? Good question. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer … yet. What I do know is that I need to learn to deal with the feelings and emotions that come up. And let me tell you, it’s not so easy!!!

Thankfully, I have a lot of support. I have an ever-increasing network of family, friends, acquaintances, and well-wishers who always seem to be there when I need them, whether I know it or not. They help more than they may even realize. They listen to me whine and complain. They put up with my attitude. They deal with my tears. They offer advice. They offer a heart-warming story. They offer a much-needed hug. They are just there.

So now that I’m feeling better, feeling like I’m out of that dark place, I’d like to say something to those fabulous people. I want to say THANK YOU. Thank you for putting up with me, thank you for being there when I needed you, thank you for everything. And know that I’m here for you too. I will always be here if you need me. You are all very important people in my life. And I’m grateful for each and every one of you.

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