Dreaming about my dreams coming trueRead More
Someone asked me the other day about my type of cancer… they have never heard of Triple Negative before… I guess, neither had I until my diagnosis! And stage 4 nonetheless, so I got to know it pretty well!
Anyway, it got me thinking that I should share what I was told about it! And how Zero Negative was formed from that triple negative diagnosis…
Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of the disease. The difference is that all three types or receptors are NOT a factor with triple negative, making it a little harder to treat because there is only one option really, which is chemotherapy.
For example, some breast cancers have receptor cells that respond to hormones. There are three main types of receptors:
Doctors diagnose breast cancer by identifying which receptor is present. They run a series of tests for each of the three receptors, and these will return either positive or negative results.
When a person has breast cancer, but all of these results come back negative, doctors diagnose the person with triple-negative breast cancer. Also, in my case, I tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene, which means I had increased risk of breast cancer, increasing my risk of triple negative breast cancer.
(I remember when I was given the name, triple negative, I was like, this sounds horrible! Negative, negative, AND some more negative, how much worse can it get?! But it turned out that my type of cancer became a ‘gift’ in a way, because it gave me the name Zero Negative, and the story behind it all… it was such blessing in the end!)
TREATMENT: Many treatments aim to block one or more of the three receptors. When results for all three are negative, hormone-based medications are not an effective option. Instead, a doctor will recommend other treatments, such as chemotherapy.
(I was told that chemo was the ONLY medicine to treat triple negative…and even though it was the only choice, it was known to have a very reliable rate of success in diminishing tumors… )
As with other breast cancers, the success of treatment for triple-negative breast cancer depends on the size of the tumor and how pervasive it is.
(My tumor was really big, 7.4 cm, and it was so confusing and frustrating for me because I had HAD my mammogram 6 months ago, AND a check up with my gynecologist, and NO ONE had felt or seen this huge tumor growing inside of me. Soon after I learned that because I had dense breast tissue, I should have been having ultra-sounds WITH my mammograms…but no one told me this… crazy right? BUT at least I’m okay now, and hopefully I can make others more aware of this now!)
There are fewer treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer, and it is more likely to spread and recur than other types of the disease. More information can be found here:
When I heard all of the characteristics of triple negative, I was scared. Very scared. And to make matters even scarier, my doctor at UCLA who I was meeting for the first time, Dr. Slamon, said that one of the positives about triple negative was if it doesn’t come back in 5 years, then it has a very low chance of ever coming back, but if it DOES come back within that time, then it will be more aggressive and very hard to treat. Basically, he was saying I would most likely die from it, IF it comes back. And, the statistics were very scary… 50% of patients end up cancer free forever, and 50% of the patients won’t, and there is no rhyme or reason of why, but THAT, in a nutshell, is the nature of triple negative.
‘UGH’ and ‘SHIT’, I remember feeling as I was sitting in his office. However, it was really strange and I remember this so well… as I was hearing the stats, basically hearing I had a 50/50 chance to live, I was weirdly starting to feel optimistic for the first time… I felt like I was stepping into my diagnosis, owning it in a way, AND, I was realizing how safe I felt with Dr. Slamon… I think I was finally accepting my prognosis, and then felt like, ‘Okay, if Dr. Slamon thinks he can do this, then I KNOW I can do this, and I WILL do this…I will be part of the 50% group that makes it past 5 years, and I’ll live a cancer free life once I get through all of this. And I’ll have perky boobs for the rest of my life, that’s cool no? And I’ll surrender to the whole experience, like a student, and see what happens… AND, in the meantime, I’m going to figure out how to raise money for his research at UCLA, because god forbid, if this DOES come back (or doesn’t go away), then I better be part of the team looking for a cure!’
And, so it was, in Dr. Slamon’s office, when I decided to turn stage 4 triple negative breast cancer into something positive, which makes me want to advise others of how important it is when picking your team of doctors…you have to believe in them so deeply, you need to be willing to put your life in their hands and trust their advice and treatment, so they can believe in you…it’s a gut thing, but, you know when you know, ya know? What I didn’t know then, was how relevant my type of cancer was in developing my company… and obviously, triple negative gave the idea for the name, Zero Negative, and became symbolic in it’s meaning, going from stage 4 cancer to cancer free (which, by the way, was only 4 months… I must had done something right?!).
(I didn’t know then, BUT I see it so clearly now, that I was planting the seed of ‘surviving’ in my head, in my body, in my being, telling myself what I was going to do, before doing it...hoping others can take this message and use it to their advantage!)
Of course, that day on Tuesday, December 20th 2016, I had no idea HOW I was going to accomplish any of this… BUT, I had a goal, a dream planted in my head, and I truly believe that paved way for my happy ending …to be continued…
#lessonslearned #havinggoalsDOhelp #manifesting
Recently, I started asking myself, WHY did I get cancer? As if the universe was putting me in a ‘cancer class,’ and I had to write my final report about it. Why did I get cancer and not my sister? Have you ever asked yourself, why? Why did you get cancer? Why did someone you love get cancer? Why did someone you know die from cancer? Just, WHY?
Well, I’ve been struggling answering that question for myself. I know cancer is a ‘disease’, but what exactly is disease? If you break it down, it would be dis-ease…something that’s ‘not at ease’ within us, within me, within you. It doesn’t need to be judged, and it might have been brewing since childhood, or even something passed down from my ancestors, but I see it as something that needs to be healed, and it chose ME, it chose YOU, to heal it. WE are the lucky ones!
So, why did I get cancer? Of course, it depends on who you ask. If you ask my doctors, they might say, because I had the BRCA 1 gene, and the odds of me getting cancer were like 60% by the time I turned 60. But I got cancer in my 40’s, so why then? I went through a lot of IVF trying to get pregnant, that could have made it come sooner, but doctors also said that if I DID get pregnant when I was trying, the pregnancy would have killed me, making the cancer spread uncontrollably. Crazy right? Cancer saved my life if I look at it that way…I think all of these reasons are valid, but I also have another theory to add to it all, and whether it’s true or not, it’s the story that resonates most with me, the story I wish to tell, and the story that is my truth.
If you ask me, I would say I got cancer, stage 4 mind you (the universe knows how stubborn I am, and stage 1 or 2 wouldn’t have done much!), to teach me how to love myself, to teach me how to appreciate everything I have in my life, AND, to stop comparing my life to others. To feel GOOD about myself, with all my failures, missed opportunities, AND with all my successes and experiences. I didn’t have children in this life, and I really wanted some. Of course, I can adopt one, but part of me feels too old to do so, and part of me feels like I have too many other things to pursue, too many other dreams to fulfill, and I want to go for them all. Also, my husband is 16 years older than I am, so it seems selfish of me, of us, to take on a child at our age, but that’s it. SO, I put that dream to rest, or should I say, cancer put that dream to rest, and maybe one of the reasons cancer came to me… to let go of having a child. SO be it.
Also, cancer showed me what’s most important in my life. I mean, I knew what was most important in my mind, but NOW, my whole being knows. And, my #1 thing is health, the MOST important thing, because without it, I couldn’t be free. SO, now that I’m 100% healthy and cancer free, I can have a ‘bad day’, or a failed dream, or an empty bank account, and still be okay, really okay, because I have my health. Period.
Cancer also taught me one thing that I kinda knew about myself, but now I REALLY know it… I am a really strong person, and when I set my mind to something, I am a force that can pretty much accomplish whatever I want. And I am very grateful for my strength and tenacity, to be physically blessed with a strong immune system. I mean, my immune system was strong even on chemo! I remember being told, don’t be around crowds, don’t go to events where there’s a lot of people, all that stuff… I remember my family, even my husband, getting colds, some got the flu, and I never got anything! And I was teaching all my yoga clients as I went through chemo, they would get sick, they would have to cancel, but I never got sick…so yes, my immune system is pretty freakin strong!
But other than health, my lessons were mostly about the importance of LOVE, being around love, doing the things I love, being able to receive love from others, appreciating love from friends and family, and not wasting time being around people or activities that don’t bring a sense of peace, or love. Of course, we all need to do errands, or clean toilets, or go to events for others, or see a movie that your friend wants to see and you don’t, or change a diaper when you rather be sipping a margarita… that’s all normal ‘non fun’ stuff…but it’s important to be conscious and aware of how you are spending your time, who you are spending your time with, and what you’re giving your time to, because time goes pretty fast, and doing things that don’t bring us joy seems like a waste of time, no? I mean, I can break it down like this… activities that bring more stress, more fatigue, more depression, more anger, more resentment, they are probably things you don’t love, or things that are unhealthy.… when we’re doing things we love, it can only make us happier, more joyful, and in turn, make us happier and more joyful to be around for others.
Lastly, one HUGE reason, I believe, I got cancer, was to develop Zero Negative, and be able to help the world in the way I’ve always wanted to help the world. I have a message to give, one that I lived through and one that helped me, so I know it can help others. I was used in a way, used by the universe, to help shift the world, our perspective of how we live, of how we treat others…and the universe gifted me cancer to put me on this path. It’s such a big task, one that I had to go through many doors to receive all the lessons, all the guidance, and now that I’ve passed a lot of the necessary tests, now I walk forward with Zero Negative, not knowing exactly how its going to work out, but knowing what I want to say, and it’s purpose.
And one more thing, I guess I can’t talking about how amazing cancer is?! I might sound like a freak, but I am talking truth right now! Cancer taught me that I need to be good to myself. Period, most important thing. We need to love ourselves first and foremost, and then go out and love others. If I don’t love myself, how can I expect someone else to love me? And that’s usually what we go after, someone to love us and give us love because we don’t have it for ourselves. But that puts us in a very ‘ungrounded’’ place, when we NEED that person to love us, when we’re not picky about who love us…that’s when we stay with people who don’t treat us the way we deserve.
Anyway, I could ramble on and on about love, but I’ll end with this…funny, but I think cancer made me human. Brought me back to who I really am, and made me aware of who we really are as humans. Brought me back to what’s important in life (to me), and how to appreciate and be grateful for it. If I were to die tomorrow, I would be happy with everything that I have learned this lifetime…I would be bummed that I didn’t get to live another 50 years, knowing what I know now, but at least I would know I’m okay with how my life turned out. SO, how can I NOT be thankful for cancer?
And ultimately, it doesn’t really matter WHY, but it matters how we choose to deal with it. I dealt with my cancer with Love, Understanding, Appreciation, and Acceptance, believing it was here to help me grow. And I DID grow, a lot. Which makes me feel like I understand how to ‘get through things’ a little better, and that the stories we tell ourselves have a lot of power in them! SO, I’m choosing to view cancer as one of the best things to have happened to me thus far. My story, my perception, and my truth. So be it!
How do you perceive your cancer? Lemme know!
Here we go again, one more time???!!! I guess when it comes to cancer and surgery, when the doctor says "last surgery", it might not always mean exactly that! But, who's complaining right? It is just another surgery to correct the first breast reconstruction surgery. The right breast settled in perfectly due to the radiated skin being so tight... it was a perfect breast! But, the left breast started to drop, the skin on my left side was looser and stretched more, so it turns out, the left breast dropped down an inch, and I wasn't okay with that... I mean, really, if I'm gonna have to have fake boobs, they better be perfect!
So, once again, July 23rd, 2018, I went in for my anesthesia nap. I wonder if I'd have a lot of issues if I hated anesthesia? I mean, I know it's not good for you, so I don't like it because of health reasons, but as far as how it makes me feel... I love that zoning out for 10 seconds, and then you wake up as if nothing happened. I feel in complete surrender and trust, everything is perfect in that moment, life is good :). But anyway, I was down for about an hour and a half, and woke up hearing those perfect words again, "the surgery went great!" I was able to leave about 2 hours later, wrapped in bandages across my chest, some oxycodone, and a husband who was ready to take care of me.
Recovery is pretty fun for me now, because it is a guilt free, stay in bed, watch netflix, meditate, read, write, order people around, kind of vacation! And for me, slowing down and doing almost nothing every day is a lot of work, but I am proud of myself for being able to have gotten the hang of it. And, because I really think this surgery was the last one, I am trying to get the most out of this recovery as possible. Which means, enjoying my time in, being able to sleep whenever I want, having people to drive me around, hanging out with my dog, and also, taking time to process everything I have been through.
What a year and a half it's been! And as grateful I feel to be on this other side, this ending feels more like a beginning, and I feel like a 'new ME'. I am sooooo excited to be on this new path of health again, being cancer free, AND developing Zero Negative in a BIG way. I have picked out all of the new colors for the bags, designed some new styles, and am hoping to get the Zero Negative message out there in the world! The newest style of Tote is going to be a 2 colored tote, black and white to start, to symbolize that there is always 2 sides to every situation, 2 sides to every story. So, in regards to cancer, I looked at cancer as a blessing instead of a curse. There was a positive spin on it, instead of a negative one, and I believe that led my journey to end on a positive note. So my message to everyone listening... there is always light with a dark situation, and there's always a positive in a negative. My belief, is that you focus on the GOOD stuff over the BAD stuff, then the good will grow and become bigger and the bad will end up being overpowered by the good. And, I wouldn't have thought this to be true, until I experienced it first hand. And lastly, I believe everything happens for a reason, and that reason is not to punish us, but to help us grow to our fullest potential as a human being. So, if that's the case, then it would help everyone to see their situation as a blessing and not a curse, and in relation to cancer, that cancer is not a death sentence, but a journey to a better place?!
So, I invite you to think of your situation now, or in the past, something you went through that was really tough... play around with how you perceived it... and try on different perspectives! You can write your story the way you want to write it, and you can see everything through LOVE or through FEAR. I LOVE being in control of writing my story, and I hope I can inspire just one person (hopefully more) to change their story to help better their outcome. And that's my story for now, take it or leave it :)
The end has finally arrived. I am waiting for the 'happy juice' to pump through my trashed chemo veins, and looking forward to my anesthesia nap. I am a little nervous, which is always the case, but I am happy and positive that this will be the end of a very long year and a half.
I wake up feeling very refreshed, unlike the other surgeries. And I don't feel cold, I don't feel very out of it, I don't feel sick, but I DO feel thirsty. I always opt for apple juice instead of water, and I love how cold it is and how refreshing it tastes. I can't wait for a coffee, however, which is what I am craving the most. But they won't let me leave yet. I guess it's not normal that someone who just woke up from surgery is ready to leave so soon, but that's exactly how I felt. I got the good news from the doctor, saying 'it was just a cyst, I am 99.9% sure that there will be nothing that shows up on the pathology report, but I will call you as soon as I get the results back.' Aaaaaahhhhh. That's all I wanted to hear, those exact words, that is music to my ears.
15 minutes later I am ready to go. I have to go to the bathroom, and they warned me that it would burn to pee, and yes they were right... ouch! But they said it shouldn't last more than a day, and once again, they were right! I loved all of my doctors. I complained a lot that they were always so busy, sometimes hard to get on the phone, sometimes hard to get answers right away, but they knew what they were doing, and every doctor did exactly what they needed to do, they saved my life. Thank you doc's!
So, I'm home now, 2 days past surgery... funny because I really thought I would be in bed most of the weekend recovering. But, I wanted to go celebrate last night, so I made my husband take be out, I brought a really nice bottle of wine, and had an amazing steak. Afterwards, I was not ready to go home, so I took my husband to the Santa Monica pier where they have lots of rides, and so we did the roller coaster. Funny because who would go on a roller coaster the day after surgery, but I felt totally normal and so happy to be feeling normal, that I didn't want to stop... so we did the ride, which to me, was the best ending to an amazing night, AND, most symbolic to what this journey has felt like, a roller coaster ride. We screamed, we laughed, we felt sick, we felt fear, we hung on to each other, we had tears in our eyes...it was basically all the emotions in that one ride that we had felt through this last year and a half. And we had each other to hold on to, the most important part of the journey.
Aaahhhh, so many lessons I have learned that would seem to make me a completely different person, but at the same time, I feel exactly the same, just a little wiser than before, like I've seen it all. The one thing I took from cancer is that it showed me how strong I am, and showed me how powerful the mind and spirit are when going through tough times. If you want something bad enough, you can do it. It's just a fact, and a great one. We are in control of ourselves, even though we aren't in control of what's around us. I desperately wanted to make cancer a 'gift' in my life, and here I am saying, it truly was a gift.
Another lesson I will take away from this journey is how important it is to appreciate what life is right now, in this moment, because one day, there will be no more moments, and this is something we cannot ever change. This moment is amazing when you are IN the moment. This life is amazing when you are IN your life and not worrying about all of the things you don't have in your life. What DO you have? If I have my health, then I can deal with all the other stresses in my life. And yes, there are a lot of stresses, but I guess what I took from cancer, is that the stresses aren't AS stressful as they once were. For example, I feel insecure a lot about my business and about not having the right financial backing to make my business what I want it to be. But if I focus on what I don't have, I won't really get anywhere. If I focus on the passion I have for my business and trying to bring into my life the help and guidance I need for my business, then I won't feel so stressed because I will be too busy moving forward in my own way. I am sure there are a lot of people who started a business with no money, right? I can't be the only one. And if the universe has my back, which it does, then I can trust there will be way for all of this to work out, even if I don't know how yet.
What can I teach others who are just getting cancer? What can I teach others who don't have cancer, but they are just unhappy? What can I teach anyone going through a hard time, or who feel lost, depressed, alone, resentful, or just unwilling to change a bad habit? I can just say that I was also that person, I was also lost at times, really depressed, really angry, really hurt, and almost suicidal at times. But the best phrase I learned, that is so true and no one can argue it's truth, is 'THIS TOO SHALL PASS'. Whatever is going on, just believe there is a reason for it, there is a blessing to come out of it, a lesson, a gift, an open door, another path, a different way, that will HELP you, and not punish you. And the pain that is going on now, well, it will pass. It just will, because that's how life works. Whatever is happening in this moment, it will pass. So, whatever situation is going on, it too will pass. And that's what I really have learned to embrace. Take what you can and see it for what it is, get the juice out of the lemon, and then drink it. Make it 'juice' that works for you. It's not easy, but who said life should be easy? Who said life should be fun at all times? Life is EVERYTHING. Life is hard, life is amazing, life is painful, life is joyous, life is full of love, life is full of hate, life is lonely at times, life is provoking, life is enlightening, life is LIFE. So let's live life the best we can and take life for what it is... and to me, life is a gift.
And just so you know, I was NEVER one of those 'happy' people who just smile all of the time and say how amazing everything is and nothing is ever wrong... I was NEVER someone who would stop and smell the roses. I mean, I would make fun of those people! They were stupid! I grew up thinking if you were happy, then you were stupid, and the more depressed you were, the smarter you were... I mean seriously, how messed up is that?! But here I am now, smelling roses when I see them... and you know what? It actually makes me really happy to smell a rose! I mean, they smell beautiful! Why not make yourself happy whenever you can? Life is too short to NOT take in the simple things that can bring so much joy...don't you think?
Ok then... peace out cancer!
So, I've been mentally preparing for the LAST and FINAL surgery of this cancer journey. Mentally preparing in a way where I am mediating, calming my nerves, feeling grateful for having gone through this year and half and come out of it a 'better me'. I have been so grateful for everything and everyone in my life, it's like I've been feeling 'high' with my own happiness and excitement for this chapter to be over. I am even planning a trip in April or May to celebrate THE END with some of my friends. So, the LAST thing I thought could happen, after seeing the bladder specialist, is that I need ANOTHER surgery after this LAST surgery, making this LAST surgery the SECOND TO LAST surgery...EXCUSE ME????
I feel like Al Pacino in The Godfather, trying to get out of this environment, and something keeps pulling him back in. I am just about finishing this breast cancer stage, and now I have to be put under AGAIN to remove whatever the heck is on my bladder, and pray to god, it better not have anything to do with cancer. I feel safe enough, from the doctor's reaction, that it ISN'T cancer, but, it still needs to be removed and tested and given a name for what it is. I joke and say my bladder is just a little bloated, that's what it looks like to me, but who knows what it is. The unknown is the hard part, because for some reason, the unknown means something 'wrong', not something 'right', it triggers the part of me that wants to be in control of everything.
I can say I pee a lot more than I used to, I can say that I have gotten a lot of bladder infections in the past, so, maybe this is a reaction to that? I can think about everything I did wrong to my bladder in my past, I can try to come up with an answer, but really, what good does that do me? This is obviously just another universal test for me to learn from and overcome. Am I supposed to think about this? I don't want to worry for another month, especially before this surgery coming up. It is hard to NOT think and NOT worry, I am acknowledging that about myself, and I'm sure its a very human thing. SO, what will I do ? I will TRY TRY TRY to continue to live my life, change nothing, other than staying positive, staying excited for my boobies, staying healthy, staying true to who I am and what I stand for... positive vibes and love all around. I will be the person I wish to be, period.
But yes, I know it's okay to be scared, it's okay to admit being scared, and it's so normal to feel scared, especially in times like this, where there is something unknown going on in my body. And a lot of the fear is because it reminds me of when they found something on my sternum and determined it was cancer, which made my breast cancer stage 4... I guess since that was the furthest thing from my mind at the time, I am scared that cancer is such a real possibility. But hey, I dealt with stage 4 and beat it, so worst case scenario, I will deal with bladder cancer, even though I KNOW IT'S NOT. It's not.
So, it hasn’t even been a year since I’ve graduated into the ‘cancer-free’ world, so I KNOW, without question, this might not be my WHOLE life after cancer, it’s just my life right now… after cancer.
The first thing that is completely different than I was BEFORE cancer, is that I was never sick, and I never even worried about being sick. If something hurt, well it would eventually go away. I went to all of my yearly doctor visits, so I wasn’t ignoring anything, but it was just something I never worried about. Cut to, now… EVERY little thing that hurts, or feels weird, or LOOKS weird, like a muscle cramp, a swollen gland, a freckle I haven’t noticed, a pain in my hip, etc, I immediately think…CANCER ?!?! And even if NOTHING feels ‘off’, I still live with this cancer ghost behind me, watching my every move, wondering if it wants to come back or leave me alone.
Whenever I am in a doctors office which is almost weekly, I am not shy to ask about certain things that feel weird…most doctors kind of smile because of the absurdity of thinking it’s cancer, but I am able to get an ‘absolutely not’ from them which is ALL I need. But here’s my dilemma right now, and please let me know if you’re a survivor and feel the same… I am worried about my worries… because I don’t want to be the one person manifesting my cancer to come back! I am Miss Positive, taking a negative and turning it into a positive, making this trauma in my life become a blessing, and it has become a blessing in so many ways, and I am the one who manifested that… so I don’t want to be the one who worries about cancer coming back, and then one day, yikes, the cancer is back…even writing it down scares me a little bit, so I’ll stop right here. My worries are my worries, and I am sure they are normal to a degree. I know that my doctors are watching me very closely for 5 years, and if my cancer doesn’t come back in 5 years, then it’s NEVER coming back. So be it. My worries are just in my head and have no way of making anything happen. But this is a real, slightly annoying, part of my life AFTER cancer.
The second thing about life now, very different than before, is that I am very aware of death now. I came so close to death with my diagnosis, which was the last thing I would have ever thought would happen to me… and now, after living through it, I just feel so much more vulnerable to the world, to life, to the universe, that I can’t control anything, and death is somewhere out there, just waiting for me. It does create some positive actions, however, because I really do take every day more seriously than I used to, which is both bad and good. It’s great when you make the most out of your days, and feel happy to be alive. It’s hard, however, when you put a lot of pressure on yourself to make the day great, and as we all know, not every day can be great, so a bad day sometimes becomes a VERY bad day, just because it’s bad. But then on the opposite side, sometimes I feel blessed to just be alive and have bad days, because being dead would NOT allow that! So I guess life after cancer is a little bit confusing!
The third thing about life after cancer is that no matter who I’m talking to, cancer becomes the main part of the conversation. Not so much with close friends and family, but every one else that I run into, it’s always about cancer. How I’m feeling, what was chemo like, how scary it must have been, etc…And part of me loves talking about it, because I had a pretty special story come out of it, and I love sharing it. It also makes me feel proud of myself, talking about what I went through and where I ended up. The downside is that it’s starting to become part of my identity, which I feel weird about embracing. Yes, it’s a fact, I AM a cancer survivor, and will always be one for the rest of my life. But, I am so many other things that are getting pushed away because cancer wants to take main stage. I’m assuming it’s because I’m so freshly out of the battle. Maybe, in a couple of years, it will move to the back burner. But as of now, my identity feels as if I am a cancer survivor and nothing else. I guess it could be worse, meaning I could be a cancer victim, or someone living with cancer, both of which I definitely do NOT want to be.
Anyway, I guess I’m just trying to figure out what life is AFTER cancer. And maybe there’s nothing to ‘figure out’, it is just part of my journey, and what I’m experiencing at the moment. And it’s weird to feel ‘fine’ and ‘boring’ when just 6 months ago I was fighting for my life, I was in a war, I was engulfed in something that was all consuming, and now life isn’t so dramatic anymore. My husband fights with me now, doesn't think about the fact that I almost died… it’s like everything is back to normal, except me. I feel I’m the same person, yet I’m not the same person. I feel differently about things. Sometimes I feel others don’t ‘get me’ as much as before. I don’t want drama in my life, and I see some people fighting over stupid things and I think, how crazy it is to waste so much energy on nothing that really matters in the big picture. I get annoyed at petty conversations. I don’t like hearing others beat themselves up about how they look. And, I don’t want anything in my life that isn't anything but LOVE. Love, to me, is the most healing of all things, it’s so amazing, and so worth it. Which is why I have become so passionate about Zero Negative, and promoting Love through fashion!
Anyway, I’m still a lot more positive than I was, even when I worry about cancer. I know deep down, the cancer isn’t coming back. And I know deep down, the universe has my back. There is a quote that I love, and it feels like a good ending to this blog…
‘Staying positive does not mean that things will turn out okay. Rather, it is knowing that YOU will be okay, no matter how things turn out.’
"Sometimes you don't realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness."
Last night I had my first ‘cancer nightmare’. Surprised I never had one until now. It's been over a year since being diagnosed, and not one cancer nightmare? Hmmmmm, I guess I should be grateful. Either way, as scary as it was, I think I learned a big lesson from it.
So, in the dream I was going to the doctor to have a check up. Then, without any explanation, they said I needed to have some more chemo. The chemo was in the form of a pill I was supposed to take. AND, I was supposed to schedule a throat/esophagus surgery the next day, because since my cancer was stage 4, there was a very high chance that is was going to go into my throat and esophagus, so I needed to take them out. The procedure would be long, and I was told that after a lot of physical therapy, I still might slur my words, or lose my voice. Needless to say, I was so upset! Angry in fact! I wanted to talk to my oncologist, where was he? I was so livid that this wasn’t explained to me on day 1. I felt like I was being raped in a way, and I couldn't understand why.
I remember, in the dream, I had all of my hair back, and I was about to take a pill that would take my hair away. That alone was so upsetting. Such a defeat. All this time I spent recovering, only to be wiped away by one pill. I remember yelling at my husband in the dream, ‘there’s no f’’’’’cking way I’m doing a surgery without knowing anything about it'. The doctor, I felt, gave me no answers on why I needed it other than preventative surgery, and he didn’t even know what type of cancer I had. He didn't KNOW me, and he didn't care.
So, in the dream, I decided to do my own research, and I emailed Shannon Doherty (apparently we had run in to each other at some party and discussed cancer and exchanged numbers and emails... funny how intricate dreams can be). So, I emailed her, I remember thinking she had a really cute email font. I asked her if she had to have throat surgery and what it was all about. She emailed back right away, which I thought was cool and strange at the same time. She said YES, she did have the throat surgery. AND, coincidentally, she was sitting with her doctor who operated on her, and would I like to come meet up with them.
WOW, I thought, this must be a blessing?? So, I met up with her and her doctor, he was from NYC, and in Los Angeles 3 months out of the year. He said he could do my surgery. I asked him all my questions. Why do I need to remove my throat it if I only had breast cancer? Is there a chance I lose my voice? Is there a chance I will get throat cancer if I do NOT do the surgery? How long can I wait until I have to get the surgery?
He answered all of my questions, but not in the answers I wanted. Basically, he said because I had stage 4 cancer, it was a very wise surgery to do. He said I could wait up to 9 years to decide to do it. Ugh, I felt. I wanted to wait, but I also wanted to get it over with, because if not, it would just be lingering over my head. I remember seeing Shannon Doherty happy and healthy, and that I would have never known she had throat surgery. She could talk normally, and there were no scars. So, that lessoned my fear, however, I was still really really really really pissed off...and that’s where the dream ended.
I spent all morning trying to analyze this crazy dream. The feeling in the dream was 'OMG, this is scary, this was thrown on me without any warning, my doctors never mentioned it, I never heard about it, and now, this was the life I'm living?' It was very scary. I was so angry in the dream, more so than I ever felt in real life. Or allowed myself to feel. And then, it dawned on me. I've been living this healthy, positive, hopeful, grateful life, that has definitely helped my recovery, and most likely, saved my life. However, where did all of my anger go? Cancer was happening to me, taking my life as I knew it away from me, without any warning or any say. My life was raping me, cancer was raping me, and I had no outlet for rage. I guess it's hard to be angry when you're fighting for your life. There isn't much time for anger.
But it seems, rage is living inside of me, in my subconscious. And maybe now that my journey is almost over, maybe now, the rage feels safe to come out. Maybe the rage will get it’s say through my dreams, and be able to work itself out. I hope so. Even though I still believe most of what I've experienced was the opposite. Most of what I experienced is life is precious, each moment is precious, and life is a gift, and one day, that gift will be taken away.
But you know what? Even with that truth, that really sucks!!! And it makes me feel powerless... and I HATE being out of control! I HATE that this happened to me, and stole a year and a half of my life away. I HATE that I lost my hair and lost my health! I HATE that I was so close to dying. I HATE that I had to have my breasts taken from me. I HATE that my ovaries are next, and I will have to go through early menapause. I HATE all of these things…AND AND AND… AND, I love how strong I became. I LOVE that I was able to get through it with flying colors. I LOVE that I grew closer to my friends and family. I LOVE that I have more appreciation for life than I did a year ago. I LOVE that I am a survivor and can help other victims survive. I LOVE that I started Zero Negative, a company named after my cancer. I LOVE my short hair now. I LOVE that I will have perky new boobs. I LOVE that I will never have to get a menstrual cycle again. I LOVE how supportive and loved I feel from the world. I LOVE knowing that I am strong and can accomplish whatever I want to accomplish. I LOVE that I feel more powerful and connected to the universe than I ever did. I LOVE that I can surrender to life now, knowing every day is a gift. And, I LOVE being cancer free.
So, I guess, with all the good, with all the happiness, there's another side needing to be released and expressed. And, maybe that scares me, to feel that anger, to feel so let down from myself, from the world. But, I'm hoping my dream last night, a little bit of my anger, was lifted off of my heart. And, just like the quote said, if I face my anger, or face all of my feelings, I can become more aware of my strength, knowing I am still whole, and still cancer free. Nothing can take that away from me. Nothing.
No one knows what really goes on in someone else’s head. No one knows what really goes on in someone else’s shoes. AND, everyone is here for a reason, and everyone is here for a short amount of time. Fact.
I can’t help but think about death all the time. It’s not in a dark way, it doesn’t make me freak out or anything, it’s just in a way where I am acknowledging that very real fact of life. My husband thinks its strange, and that maybe I should talk to someone. I think it’s just reality.
I am aware of my death at all times, like I am aware of being alive at all times. I’m aware when I’m stressed, I’m aware when I’m happy, I’m aware of my hip hurting, I’m aware of liking a song, I’m aware of laughing and feeling good, I’m just aware. Not sure that’s a bad thing? I mean, I am so aware of how LOVE and POSITIVITY played a huge role in surviving cancer, and going from stage 4 to cancer free in 4 months. I am so aware of this that because of it, I HAD to start Zero Negative and share this with the world. To share this revelation, this message from the universe, that LOVE and the ability to embrace your situation in a positive way will HELP you and not HURT you. Period. This new awareness is now engrained in me since I had cancer, since I beat cancer. And, yes, since I became a cancer survivor, I am more focused on every little thing, because these little things really mean something. These little things, one day, will be gone.
This week I was a little more stressed than normal. And I noticed that I didn’t like feeling stressed. It sucked out my energy. Made me more internal. Smile less. Sleep less. Cry more. So, I decided to practice some of the things I preach…I used my own pep talk, I said to myself, it’s better to be stressed than to be dead, and what if I decided to LOVE my stress instead of hate it? Ha, I’m not sure that would work on everyone, but it kinda gave me a whole new perspective which is what I needed. And yes, I WOULD rather be stressed than dead. I WOULD rather have bad days, or sad days, some of the time, and it’s okay to feel alone and sorry for myself once in a while. I WOULD rather all of these things over being dead… So, the LOVE I began to feel for my life was renewed in a way, because I realized that life was about all of these things, and then I remembered that these feelings TOO would pass, so don’t be scared to let them in. Of course, if I felt this way every day and all of the time, maybe I would rather be dead…JOKE;) But, I know these feelings are normal and situational, and if I didn't feel bad some of the time, then I might not be human…right?
But anyway, what I’m trying to say is…this week was tough. And it threw me for a loop. A self-conscious, insecure, neurotic loop, with a gang of unsupportive voices banging their drums in my head. So many worries… ‘How can I run a company on my own? How can I run a business with very little money and no experience? Who is going to want to come on board with Zero Negative? And who am I to think I could make a difference in helping find a cure for cancer? What if all of this stress makes my cancer come back? Then I’ll just be a hypocrite and a fool with no message at all. Ugh. Maybe I should just be a good wife, relax, go to lunches, sleep in, do yoga, enjoy my husband, and just smile? Maybe that would be easier?’
But no, say NO to listening to your worries… Truth: I have a passion I can’t ignore. I have a dream, that I want to see through. I’m trying to raise money for Zero Negative now, starting a campaign to raise 50,000.00 in order to purchase more bags and get to the next stage. Can I do this? Who knows. Does it feel very vulnerable trying to do this? Yes! Do I like asking people for help? No! It’s hard putting yourself out there! But, I guess I believe in the company so much, that I’m willing to look like a fool. I am willing to be annoying to some people at times. I am willing to be judged by others. I am willing to fail. I am willing to succeed. I am willing to try. And I guess that’s the bottom line… I AM WILLING TO TRY.
It takes more than just one person to make dreams come true. And I am sure there are many people out there who have the same dream as me... to help find a cure for cancer. So, I will end this blog with a humble request. IF you have actually found yourself reading this up to the very end, wow I am impressed and grateful! There's a link on the HOME page of this website that is labeled, 'HELP JENN FIGHT CANCER IN STYLE'. If you click on it, it will take you to my gofundme site. We have raised close to $3,000.00 so far, with the goal of $50,000.00, to help purchase new bags and make new products. If you know anyone in your world who would be interested in helping out the cause, I would be forever grateful if you would pass on the link. Every little bit counts, and all it takes is just a click to 'Share'. Thank you so much for being a part of my journey. I keep reminding myself, it's not the end result, but the journey that's worth enjoying:)
Over the holidays I was given a book from a friend called More Beautiful Than Before. You can probably guess what it's about, but I'll tell you anyway ;) It's about overcoming sickness, pain, and/or loss, and coming out of it on the other side, more beautiful than before. So, the crazy thing was that the author of the book, Rabbi Steven Leder, was actually the Rabbi that had converted me AND married my husband and I. So I had to reach out to him to tell him how much I loved his book! So many passages in the book hit home for me, about seeing how pain can be a gift, about understanding how fragile life is and how it can be taken away at any moment, and also about going through suffering with grace, kindness, and appreciation. He so generously granted me permission to share parts of his book, so I wanted to share a chapter called 'Enough is Enough'. I remember being diagnosed with cancer and feeling like I would never be the same, no one would see me the same way, my body, mind and spirit might be compromised forever. But obviously, that was not the case, and in this chapter, Rabbi Leder really shows us how we ARE enough no matter what is going on, and what we have is always enough, no matter how much, or how little...
Enough Is Enough
Eighty percent of the world lives on less than 10 dollars a day.
— W o r l d B a n k
I got out of bed on two strong legs. It might have been otherwise.
I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach. It might have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill to the birch wood. All morning I did the work I love.
At noon I lay down with my mate. It might have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks. It might have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day.
But one day, I know, it will be otherwise.
Jane Kenyon wrote this poem in 1993, upon hearing her husband’s cancer diagnosis. Ironically, it was Kenyon, not her husband, who died a year later from a fierce and swift onslaught of leukemia. The “otherwise” she foresaw came unexpectedly one day, with no regard for the silver candlesticks, the paintings, the birch wood, or the flawless peach.
Pain diminishes us, and it is so important to remember, in the midst of pain and everything that pain takes from you, that still . . . you are enough. You are enough just as you are. You are worthy of love and kindness. You are enough. And you have enough.
Whether in our own pain or in witness to another’s suffering, life is a miracle for which we ought to be grateful every day, because it could be otherwise.
The Polish psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik proved that when you show people a picture of a circle with a small wedge cut out of it, their eyes first go to the missing piece and miss the much larger whole every time. In the midst of pain and loss, it’s hard to recognize how much remains. If you want to change your life—really change—wake up to the blessed life you already have despite your pain.
“Rabbi, in just two more weeks he would have been 90,” a son tells me as we prepare for the funeral. “In another year they would have reached their 65th anniversary,” says the daughter. I understand their disappointment, but I also remind them that 89 years and 50 weeks of life and 64 years of marriage are full, whole, beautiful, blessings.
Often, when I start to feel sorry for myself because I think life has dealt me some unfair decree, I think about a conversation I had with a friend who is a famous comedy writer. “Whoever said there’s no justice is right,” he said to me. “Thank God there is no justice. If there was justice, I would be a slave in a factory or bent over in a field someplace like most of the world instead of getting hit over the head with a bag of dimes every time I say something funny.”
I know what many people think when I encourage them to count their blessings. “Okay. We get it. We’re lucky. We’re not starving. We’re not living in a hovel. But things go wrong in our lives— terribly, painfully wrong.” Believe me, I know. I know because it’s my phone that rings when a family needs to find a treatment program for an addicted teenager, or wonders if I know of a good family law attorney or a job opening somewhere, anywhere. And I know because I’ve stood in my closet at the end of so many long days, reaching for a hanger, pondering the tear stains on my suit coat from holding someone earlier that day in front of an open grave.
“Imagine, if you will—a gift,” says Stacey Kramer in her TED Talk. “It’s not too big—about the size of a golf ball. . . . It’s going to do incredible things for you. It will bring all of your family together. You will feel loved and appreciated like never before and reconnect with friends and acquaintances you haven’t heard from in years. Adoration and admiration will overwhelm you. It will recalibrate what’s most important in your life.
“It will redefine your sense of spirituality and faith. You’ll have a new understanding and trust in your body. You’ll have unsurpassed vitality and energy. You’ll expand your vocabulary, meet new people, and you’ll have a healthier lifestyle. And get this—you’ll have an eight-week vacation of doing absolutely nothing. You’ll eat countless gourmet meals. Flowers will arrive by the truckload. People will say to you, ‘You look great. Have you had any work done?’ And you’ll have a lifetime supply of good drugs.
“You’ll be challenged, inspired, motivated, and humbled,” Stacey continues. “Your life will have new meaning. Peace, health, serenity, happiness, nirvana. The price? Fifty-five-thousand dollars, and that’s an incredible deal. . . . This gift came to me about five months ago. . . . It was a rare gem—a brain tumor, hemangioblastoma—the gift that keeps on giving.
“And while I’m okay now, I wouldn’t wish this gift for you. I’m not sure you’d want it. But I wouldn’t change my experience. It profoundly altered my life in ways I didn’t expect. . . . So the next time you’re faced with something that’s unexpected, unwanted, and uncertain, consider that it just may be a gift.”
Ironically, it’s easier to count your blessings when you have cancer or some other terrible challenge than it is when things are fine. Most of us lead pretty ordinary lives most of the time, and that’s a challenge in itself, because it’s hard to appreciate just how extraordinary ordinary really is.
While having breakfast at my hotel the morning after I delivered a speech in Austin, Texas, I happened to sit next to a Texas state assemblyman who had attended the prior evening’s presentation. We chatted about this and that and then I asked him what I thought was a common and appropriate question posed to most politicians, which was, “What’s the next office you plan to run for?”
“Why do you ask?” he challenged. “Isn’t what I’m doing now important enough?”
His response stopped me short. He was so right.
If you ask me to define what it means to be a spiritual person in one sentence, I would say, “It is the sanctification of the ordinary.” All religious and folk traditions I know of have some sort of prayer, blessing, or ceremony related to the most mundane aspects of daily life: sharing a meal, seeing the sunrise or the new moon appear, waking up in the morning, eating bread or some other very simple food. Why? Why a blessing over something as ordinary as bread? It’s simple of course . . . if we can be grateful for bread, then we can be grateful for the other, greater blessings of life as well. Ideally, we are at our best when we take no small thing for granted. It is a wiser person, a happier person, a more successful person, a better person, who even in pain, or especially in pain, can affirm the enoughness, the beauty, the miracle of bread.
From: More Beautiful Than Before; How Suffering Transforms Us by Steve Leder (SteveLeder.com), Published by Hay House Inc. and available on Amazon.com
A brand new year for me, good bye 2017, you were a crazy one, battling cancer, fighting for my life, losing my boobs, my hair, my control … but was it worth it ? I sure hope so ! I started a new company called Zero Negative, I went from stage 4 triple negative cancer to cancer free in 4 months, I grew closer with my husband, and found a strength within myself that I never knew I had. I am also probably happier now than I was a year ago, mainly because I feel my life today is a gift. I received a gift from the universe, my angels, God, however you want to look at it, and my life was given back to me, where it could have easily been taken away. So 2017, I have to say thank you, but I also have to say, good riddance!
So, on New Years Eve, in my dreams, I got a message from the universe that I don’t need to fight anymore, I am taken care of, I have my life back, it is a gift from the universe, and I can relax now. I’m not joking, this was really in my dream. But what does it all mean? How do I thank the universe for giving back my life to me? I know I can do anything I set my mind to. I know I want to help raise money to find a cure for cancer. I know I want to help anyone who is suffering from cancer. I know I want to give back to the world to help make it a better place. But again, what does that mean I need to do? Take care of myself for one, which means practicing self-love at ALL times. Love was my weapon, receiving love from my family and friends, and taking care of myself, knowing how much I can give, and how much I need to give to myself. And today, if my life is a gift, what will that change for me? I might make healthier choices in my diet. I might try to sleep a little bit more when I feel tired. I might take my vitamins without missing a day. I will mediate daily instead of monthly. I might be easier on myself, or watch more sunsets, or travel to places I haven’t seen and have been wanting to go. I will definitely practice gratitude and appreciation, and write more, and work harder, and of course smile :) So, with this New Year, these are my intentions, and I’m writing them down so I can’t escape them. And in 2018, I am all about developing Zero Negative’s message, that LOVE will help you get through EVERYTHING. A POSITIVE perspective can help you get through everything. And, a BELIEF that the universe is giving you everything you need in life, to help you to evolve as a person, AND to help you find your purpose, your soul’s path.
What are your intentions for the new year ? Let’s make this year count. Let’s believe in ourselves, in our lives, and find our true callings… Please feel free to ‘share your story’ on our website…I believe we help each other by sharing our stories and in sharing our stories, we are helping ourselves!
Happy New Year!
I am feeling lucky...and it’s a good thing because I’m in Vegas for my annual holiday trip with my husband. Every year we go to Vegas for 2 nights around the holidays to let loose. Last year the holiday cheer turned into a holiday nightmare because it was in Vegas when I found out I had breast cancer. It was in Vegas that I was on the phone trying to make multiple doctor appointments with future oncologists. It was in Vegas that my world was shattered and I felt the universe had tricked me. It was in Vegas where I lost my ‘luck’...but now, one year later to be exact, I realize it was exactly the opposite. I really WAS and still AM a very lucky girl.
Being back in Vegas one year later feels very special to me; just knowing what I’ve been through this past year, remembering how depressed I was last holiday season, and now feeling so grateful and blessed this holiday season. It always surprises me how much life can change in such a short period of time. How much I can change in such a short period of time. Which brings me to the next thought... what comes next? I realize that I DON’T want to be one of those people who are always talking about being a cancer survivor. No, I don’t want to diminish it, but I DO want to make sure that being a cancer survivor is not my only identity. I had a lot going on BEFORE cancer, and I’ll have a lot going on AFTER cancer. Cancer was a year of my life, and I feel that’s about enough time to spend on cancer, no? And yes, I realize that since cancer, I’m a little different in my thinking, in my being, because now the one thing that matters most is my health. But let’s think about everything else in my life that left a mark in who I am as a person... From the beginning, I was a preemie baby. I came out early and almost died because I was so small. Being the shortest and tiniest kid growing up definitely shaped my identity, but do I talk about being a preemie survivor? NO :)
Next big part of my identity was being a gymnast and leaving home at 14 years old to train for the Olympics. Yes, that was a tough life for a kid, but it was something I chose to do and I was proud of what I accomplished. I was on the US national team, traveling around the world representing the United States. Unfortunately, I hurt my knee and had a major surgery 2 years before the Olympics… I was never the same gymnast after that. But does that make me a gymnastics survivor? Yes, I guess, but again, I don’t talk about it much anymore.
Next, I would probably talk about all of my relationship dramas. I was married for 4 months when I was 29-30 years old. It wasn’t right. He is probably a great guy now, but when we were together, it was filled with a lot of emotional abuse. Being a gymnast, I was used to emotional abuse, but I knew deep down that it was NOT how I wanted to live my life, and thank God I had the courage to leave my marriage after it went downhill very quickly. So, am I a survivor of abuse? Yes I am… but today, I'm not one to talk about it OR think about it too much.
Next were a lot of failed relationships, some bad and some amazing. One lasted 8 years and was filled with so much love, however he didn’t want to have children and I did, so as hard as it was to leave, I listened to my voice and went after what I truly wanted...to find a guy who wanted kids and marriage and the whole thing. Anyway, to make a long story short, I am happily married to a guy who has a daughter, but also wanted to have kids with me. And so when we got engaged, we started trying. We did lots of fertility doctors and drugs and tried and tried for over 2 years... We were on a hiatus from trying for a couple of months until I found out I had cancer and learned that if I had gotten pregnant, the pregnancy would have KILLED ME because it would have made the cancer spread everywhere and there would be nothing that I could have done about it. Strange how the universe works, no? And my previous relationship basically saved my life because if I was with another guy, I would have had kids and I probably would have gotten cancer earlier and died. So, as painful as the last relationship was, it saved my life, and as painful as it was to have not gotten pregnant while trying, the universe was protecting me. So yes, yes, yes, I feel LUCKY! I also feel that the universe has my back in so many ways, and sometimes I want to yell and scream at the universe for not getting what I think I want, but in the end, I see how magical the universe has been in guiding and protecting me, and everything in my life has been just the way it was supposed to be... even getting cancer!
Anyway, I hope you feel as lucky as I do, even without every dream coming into true...because it’s important to realize, one dream NOT coming true but be a BIGGER dream to come through at a later time.. just saying!
And now, time to head back to the poker tables! Luck be a lady tonight and every night to come!!!
I’m not the same person I was a year ago. No one is, I assume, but mentally AND physically my body has been through a major trauma. And as I think about the past year, I have to think about chemo and what it’s done. Before I started chemo, I remember feeling this dark curiosity towards it. I was curious. A strong body like I thought I had - what was chemo going to do? And as someone who was never sick, what was chemo going to do? Was I going to feel sick all of the time? Was I going to have to stop working? Would I have to stop going out? Having fun? Drinking? Eating? What was going to happen? I really wanted to dive right into it. I also wanted to call chemo ‘medicine’ as opposed to ‘poison’. Chemo was hopefully going to save my life, so I better treat it with a little respect, no? I better bow down to it and love it and love the fact that I could receive chemo. Chemo HAD to be the bomb! Also, every time I sat in my chair looking out the window, I was consciously asking the universe, ‘Please let me receive this medicine to kill the bad cells and save the good ones. Please allow this medicine to heal me. Thank you for giving me this medicine. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to get rid of the cancer cells. Thank you.’
And it was a success. Chemo worked so fast on my large 7cm plus tumor, that by the 3rd round of chemo, my doctors had a hard time feeling it! My doctors were so shocked at how fast the tumor was shrinking, that it filled me up with so much gratitude. And it was all gratitude for chemo, for finding the right medicine that would save me, that DID save me.
I’ve learned with every up there is a down, and it definitely wasn’t all fun and games and happiness.There was a lot of pain, a lot of nights where I couldn't sleep because I felt so nauseous, a lot of tears coming from exhaustion, frustration of not feeling like myself, and a lot of doctor visits and blood tests, just to make sure I was surviving the treatment. I remember having to carry a thermometer in my purse because if my temp ever got past 99.9, I had to go to the emergency room. I was not allowed to get my nails done for risk of infection. I wasn’t supposed to be in large crowds because of germs. I basically had no immune system, so you kind of have to live in a bubble. But for the most part, I was lucky. I NEVER got sick even when my husband and family were all catching the flu. I didn’t have to stop working even though I was a lot more tired than normal. I didn't stop my normal exercise routine, and I didn’t even stop having fun once in a while. Today, however, I’m living with a lot of after effects that I’m not always so happy about, and as much as I want to be back to ‘normal’, I’m definitely not…
1. Fatigue: This was the first thing the doctors told me I would experience, without a doubt. And they were right. I remember being on a stationary bike and feeling exhausted after only riding for 5 minutes. I remember taking my dog on walks and not being able to get up the hills I used to do daily. I used to be a gymnast, so all of this was very humbling to me. I never used to nap, and I became a daily napper. But it gave me a chance to actually listen to my body and do what it needed me to do. I needed to rest more, go to bed earlier say NO to fun events, and say YES to sleeping in. I’m a lot better these days. I can walk my hills, I can ride the stationary bike, I can do Pilates class and teach all of my yoga clients… however, I DO need more rest that I did before chemo, and I DO allow myself to nap now and then without feeling guilty :)
2. Nausea: I was fortunately only nauseous for 1 to 5 days after chemo, where it was hard to eat. Also, my taste buds were changing, making things that I used to love not taste so good, making things I didn't like so much taste amazing - it was really weird! The first couple of chemo rounds made wine taste AMAZING… like grape juice, it was quenching my thirst, it was hitting the spot, and it didn't need to be expensive or anything, it just needed to be red. Also salty things tasted amazing; chips, fries, red meat, pretzels, popcorn… it was all I was craving, and probably not the best diet for cancer, but my doctors said whatever I wanted to eat was ok during chemo because you’re just lucky to be able to eat. I wanted cold things too, like ice cream or ice chips, or fruit, grapes, blueberries, apples, those all tasted good to me. I didn't want to eat fish too much, or sugary things were not a turn on. Coffee, which I drank every day, did not taste good to me. I knew I was back to normal when coffee started tasting good to me, and normal was good back then. I didn’t end up losing OR gaining weight which was a possibility. If anything, I lost a lot of muscle because I wasn’t working out, but mostly I felt heavier because chemo makes your capillaries retain fluids so I felt bloated all of the time.
3. Chemo brain: I didn’t get this right away, but now being 6 months after chemo, my memory is definitely NOT like it was before. And stupid things happen like, you’re trying to remember a famous song and you know the guy but you can’t think of his name and it could be Elton John! Or you mix up your friend’s names. Or you can’t remember the fight you had the day before…? These are just some examples of how it appears to lose your mind. It’s subtle, but it’s definitely lasting. I hear that it will go away eventually, but as of now, I am definitely living with chemo brain. At least I have an excuse when I don’t remember something!
4. Mood swings: I don’t have these so much anymore, but during chemo, I was a roller coaster, and the person who suffered the most from my moods swings was my husband. Basically, it’s like being on your period, times 100! I would cry for no reason, I would be mean, I would call for ‘my mommy’, I was a mess… and then sometimes I was so happy, so full of craziness, so full of life… There was no rhyme or reason, it was just another thing I had to surrender to…and my husband and to deal ;)
5. Dead libido: Chemo has shut down my ovaries forever, kind of sad, very sad, I will never get a period again, but kind of cool, I will never get a period again :) But as a young woman who loved sex, sex became such a chore. It also was painful. I was so dry. Ouch, I don't want to think about it… Thank god I had a husband who understood all of these temporary effects, and thank God it was only temporary. You never know whether something is going to be ‘forever’ or not. All you know it that you are experiencing something soooooooo different to what you normally experience, and can you please please please get back to who you were, Well, I will never get back to where I was exactly, but I can say as a pre-menopausal woman, the libido is making its way back to being alive again, slowly, very slowly, but surely…
All in all, I am not the same after chemo, and I heard it takes a good year to 2 years to get back to feeling ‘normal’ again. I’m not sure I will ever feel ‘normal’ again, but then again, I never really felt ‘normal’ to begin with?! All I can say is chemo was not fun. And looking back, I think it was helpful to NOT KNOW what was going to happen. For me, it made it less scary and I was more curious. If I had to do it all again, knowing everything I know now, I would not be happy. I might be more scared, more depressed, because it was really hard and trying on my body and my psyche. I was strong because I didn't know any better. I might not be as strong the second time around, but then again, you are what you need to be, and why am I even worrying about it? I am NOT going to have to go through chemo again… NEVER!
Monday is usually a blah day. I think most everyone can agree with this. The weekend is over and there are 5 days to get through before the next weekend. I’m usually feeling extra tired because I try to have as much fun as I can over the weekends ;) However, this particular Monday was NOT so blah. It was a Monday that showed me how lucky I am today, how lucky I am to be cancer free, how inspired I am to make a difference with Zero Negative, and how fortunate I am to have had such an amazing family and team of friends on my side of the fight.
I received an email from a customer that had ordered a bunch of stuff from the Zero Negative website for his daughter, who was going through breast cancer. Coincidentally, she has the same type of cancer as me, triple negative breast cancer. Anyway, it struck me that by being a cancer survivor, I am now a member of a certain community, or tribe. It's a very supportive community, where everyone treats you with respect, everyone calls you a warrior, and everyone has you in their thoughts and prayers. In the past, that might not have meant much to me, but today, it means a lot. We are all human beings, we are all living on this earth, and at the same time, we are all vulnerable to this cancer thing. And once you’ve been there, you know how hard it is to BE there, and how desperate you want get to the ‘cancer-free’ side.
Now, as a cancer survivor, so many things remind me of when I had cancer and how grateful I am to NOT have it anymore. And with that, I’m inspired, or called on, to help other people going through cancer. Not that I know anything more than I did before cancer, but I DO know what I went through and HOW I went through what I went through. So, when I heard from Mark, the father of Jessica who has triple negative breast cancer, I wanted to help in any way I could. I heard that Jessica’s tumor wasn’t shrinking from the chemo she was on; that she was doing 16 rounds of chemo where I did only 6 rounds. I heard that she’s doing surgery after chemo and removing and reconstructing one breast. I could sense the concern from her dad, who had said the tumor wasn’t shrinking.
I know I can’t really help, but WANT to help! I want to tell Mark what I did, and what worked for me. I want to pray for Jessica because being so far away from someone you don't even know, praying is about the only thing you CAN do. I want to send her a Love Tote from Zero Negative. I want to watch out for her and make sure she’s going to be ok. This is what I feel when someone reaches out to me, and it makes me remember when I was on her side, going through chemo, talking to so many people who were survivors. It helped me to hear their stories, hearing how they felt, what THEY did, and how healthy they are now. It made me feel confident that I could do the same.
Believing in yourself and in your journey is such a big part of beating cancer - I think at least :) So, if I could help someone get to the other side of cancer, that would definitely fulfill me. It really would. It would also make my cancer serve a higher purpose, and as the creator of Zero Negative, I’m always looking to make my cancer mean something positive.
So anyway, this Monday, this ‘not so boring’ Monday, I would like to send a huge prayer out to Jessica and her family. May her tumor start shrinking right away, and may she have a successful surgery to remove all of the lingering cancer as they reconstruct her breast. May Jessica live a healthy and cancer-free life after the surgery and radiation, and may she help others who will be going through what we went through. I wish this for Jessica, and I hope on this Monday night, with my small, humble voice, that the universe hears my prayers and Jessica is on the road to health. I am on her team, even though she probably will never get to know me and I will never get to know her. But that is what cancer does. It connects us. It makes us feel understood. It makes us feel like we are a part of something. And we are. We are a part of humanity, AND we are cancer survivors.
I wanted to see what I was feeling almost a year ago, exactly how I was feeling… I was journaling at that time. So as I dive into this blog ‘thing’, "Weekend Reflections" are going to be about going back in time, not remembering per say, but in actuality, how I was feeling… a blip from the past, EXACTLY how I saw it. Let's go back a little bit...
----> Dec 16, 2016 <----
So, today I found out from the pet scan that I have a weird thing going on in my sternum bone. Once again, nothing is cleared. The pet scan was supposed to be an easy test showing nothing else. But something else is there, and the anxiety is horrible. I can’t control anything. I am OUT of control. I’m wanting the doctors to be IN control, but they too are OUT of control. And you want to trust that every doctor cares about you, but it’s a business, and they’re so many people. Maybe I’m just a number to them and not someone they can actually care about because they don’t really know me, so they pretend to care, but I hope more than anything that they care about the cancer and curing it more than they cure about me. I hope they’re vigilant about fighting the cancer. I will be vigilant about fighting it.
But I can’t help but ask myself, WHY WHY WHY? Why am I having to do this? What did I do wrong? All of my choices in my life... Am I being punished? I smoked in my life. I knew it was wrong, but I chose to do it, so is that why I have breast cancer? I had mammograms EVERY year for 7 years, and NOTHING was alarming to the doctors, so why tell me I have stage 3 cancer?
And now if it’s in the sternum, it’s stage 4. And doesn't stage 4 mean that you're gonna die? I’m soooooooo not ready to die. I thought I was just starting to live, not EVEN starting to live. Has my depression caused all this? I was always diagnosed with a little bit of depression throughout my life. Did my last relationship break my heart, and is that why my sternum has cancer? Did I not take life seriously? Was I too rebellious? Is that why I have cancer? Why do I have cancer? Why, God, why?
I honestly thought that it would be hard to kill me. I was gonna live into my 100’s for sure. I was mostly worried about Larry (my husband) dying and leaving me with not a lot to keep going. That was my worry. Not dying. In fact, I remember the reason I bought my first pack of cigarettes was when I was about 23 and it was not because I wanted to die, I just wanted to help the death process because I thought I was gonna live too long. Nothing could kill me, so maybe this is the first test? Nothing can kill me. I’m invincible. But, I have to say when you’re hearing all of this news about cancer and the type and the stage it is, you don’t feel very invincible. And it’s like a week before Christmas, a week before everyone is supposed to be cheery and vacationing and going to parties and getting presents and I can’t think of anything other than I have cancer, I HAVE CANCER. Do you have cancer?
Ugh, this is going to be a tough year. What caused this? I NEED to know! I can’t believe how different life feels to be in this place. To NOT know if you’re gonna live. I guess I’m supposed to ignore this and just know I AM going to live. I will have to fight, but I WILL live. I thought some days I had a cloud over me just because I felt fat, or I felt insecure, or I was worried about money, or I was worried about fighting with Larry, or I was bored, or whatever the cloud was…. but now there really is a cloud, a big black cloud, and I know how it feels to be under it; it’s over you at every second, and you feel so alone. No one can really know how it feels to be diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer unless they’re diagnosed.
In the past, I’ve felt compassionate to so many cancer people. Ha, I call them ‘cancer people’, but I was also so secure that I was never gonna have it, and also so grateful that it wasn’t me that had it… I could give compassion at the same time that I could feel I wasn't connected to it. But now I’m connected, and oh boy, I wish I wasn’t connected. Am I still the same person? I THINK I’m still the same person. I HOPE I’m still the same person, but I feel there is now a stigma or something. Now people will look at me differently, feel sorry for me, treat me differently. My friends will stop feeling the same way about me. I’ll be someone they need to take care of, not someone they always go to for advice or to do things with.
Oh my hair, I love my hair and it’s all gonna go if I don’t use the cold pads on my head … what should I do? GOD, where are you? Please talk to me. I need you. I want to know you are watching me and on my side. What do you want me to do? I promise I will help every cancer victim after I survive this, I will love to help people get through this. I will donate money. I will write a book about my journey, my story of survival and being scared.
I’m so lucky to have found out that I have something curable, and so many people have this and not something that is deadly and incurable. But I start to feel like my life has not been worth anything so far, like my life has been a waste, and that’s why I am getting this. I was given a certain amount of years, and since nothing really happened so far, then I’m going to be killed off. I didn't have any kids, don’t have a big job, not really doing anything good for the world, so get rid of me. Maybe?
I hate that I’m causing pain to my family, especially my mom who has been through so much. I guess part of me is happy I’m the one who has it and not the one who is witnessing it because that would be harder than having it. I can beat it. I am strong enough to go through it all, so I’m glad I have all the support of my friends and family. I feel like I am extra young to be going through this, but it is my journey and this is what I got… I've a great life so far, maybe too good, so I need to pay up right now. But I could also be looked at like the girl who never got what she wanted. I had the broken heart. I had a career that was not ever fulfilling. I wanted a child that I never had. Poor Jenn. Wow, there are really so many ways of looking at this, so many perspectives, but what do they matter anyway? I have cancer. That’s all I know.
Everyone I talk to who has had cancer, are all so supportive and positive - like they know since they were cured, I will be cured. Even the doctors aren’t saying I’ll be cured, so it’s hard to know that as a fact. Part of me is so okay to die, and that part scares me. I don’t have kids who need me. I have a dog who needs me, basically. I have people I don’t want to leave, but no one really NEEDS me, so maybe that fact alone will make the cancer worse. I don’t want to think bad thoughts; I really want to stay positive. Sometimes I feel so positive, but that also could be denial. Sometimes I feel so scared, so out of control, and I don’t like feeling that way. It’s the worst feeling in the world, actually, for a control freak. Maybe once I feel the chemo, the chemo will be worse. I’m better with psychological pain over physiological pain, I think? I guess we’ll find out soon… ugh… I’m scared.
I’ll end this by saying, I WILL get through this, I really do believe that, because medicine is so great now, but I still don’t like hearing that stage 4 is more serious, that we don’t know for sure if the cancer will react to the chemo, that we don’t know if it’s gonna come back or not… I guess it will have to be day by day, moment by moment, and hope that the strength I have inside will come out. I used to be called a mac truck because I was never sick and never felt anything wrong. It’ll be a strange thing do be looked at like the ‘sick person’. Maybe I’m the only one who looks at me that way? But then again, I AM sick, I AM the ‘sick person’. So weird. because I don't feel sick... Anyway, all I know right now is that I don’t want to die, and that I really don’t understand anything anymore…
I’m starting to go through all of my pictures from the last year, from when I had long brown hair, to bald, to my current pixie cut and bleached blond Billy Idol style … and it’s pretty surreal how the way I look with my different hair cuts shows so many different personalities in myself. When I look in the mirror, I see myself in a different way. But I remember NOT feeling different inside, especially when I was bald. Looking back at myself as a baldie, it makes me have so much compassion for that person and for my parents. I look at myself and see a frail, sick person and that makes me feel sorry myself. I can’t believe my parents had to watch their child go through this transformation, my husband the same, and yet they kept it together most of the time. They didn't treat me differently, they didn’t feel sorry for me. I didn't even feel sorry for me.
Of course there were those times I was depressed and feeling sick and always tired, but most of the time, I felt lucky. I know, it sounds so strange, but I was lucky to be getting cancer so early in my life, early enough where I knew I could handle it, when my body was strong enough. I also felt lucky because I saw cancer as a sign from the universe to take a step back, re-evaluate my life, check-in, and see what works and what doesn’t work. Cancer was saying to me, YOU NEED TO LOVE YOURSELF, LOVE YOUR LIFE, LOVE YOUR WORLD, BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW HOW LONG YOU WILL BE HERE. And that message to me was HUGE. It inspired me to create Zero Negative. To be in control of my destiny. To turn negatives into positives. And in seeing the message in the negative, I was turning it into a positive. Or at least, that’s how it felt to me.
I also looked at cancer as cleaning house… or like a cleanse… I called it the ‘chemo cleanse’ and my ‘mid-life cleanse’. I mean, I was getting brand new hair, thicker and healthier! I was getting brand new boobs that I could design in any way I wanted, and most importantly, I was getting a brand new outlook on life. And because I saw it that way, I have to wonder if that’s why I survived and why I'm cancer free?! I manifested it? I wanted it to be that, and so it was that? I really don’t know…
But if I was depressed, if I was sad, if I felt cursed and unlucky, if I felt like a victim, maybe I would have been a victim? I know once in a while I would feel scared and alone and ‘why me,’ but that feeling never stayed very long with me, and most of the time, I was feeling stronger than ever before, because I was living and working and having a life even when I was doing chemo. I was saying to the cancer: come on cancer, lemme feel you, lemme see what you do, because you can’t control me, you can’t take me away, you can only GIVE GIVE GIVE to me, a new life, a new hair do, and perky new boobs…
Anyway, what a lesson this whole year has been… to think, almost a year ago, cancer was not even a thought in my head. And now, having been there, done that, in just one year - it’s crazy!! I really can’t wrap my head around it?! But, it makes me excited for the future…AND it makes me feel like a super hero sometimes, that I can do anything I want because look what I overcame so quickly! If I can do that, I can do anything right?
November 28th… beginning again.
Ok, I have been gone for a LOOOOOOONNNNNNNNGGGGGG time, and I am so sorry to have ditched my blog…. but I’m now out of the tunnel and on the other side, the other side of cancer, which means I can sit down and actually process everything I went through and hope that my story can reach other stories and inspire everyone who is blessed with cancer, to know that they too can get to the other side, the Cancer Free side.
And with my year anniversary coming up of being diagnosed, December 14th, 2016, I feel very inspired to start writing about my journey. But with that said, before I go back in time, I have to admit that tomorrow is my first pet scan to check and make sure I am still cancer free and I’m a little scared. In my head, I KNOW that it would be almost impossible to have cancer again, so soon after chemo, but it’s still scary knowing that every 3 to 6 months I’m going to be going through these pet scans to make sure the cancer hasn't come back. Ugh.
I remember all the MRI’s and pet scans I had in the beginning. Each scan led to more bad news, all very unexpected and scary. The first MRI was to see how much cancer was in my breast and to rule out the other breast. Well, it ruled out the left breast, but it said there were ‘multiple’ lymph nodes with cancer. Next scan was a pet scan to rule out anything in the body. Every doctor said it was highly unlikely, but it was just a routine scan to make sure. Well, more bad news. The cancer had spread to my sternum bone. Not good. That meant that my stage 2 cancer was now stage 4, and all the doctors became more serious.
I remember being in the doctors office after waiting over an hour to get the results back. I remember him coming in to say “Well, we have found possible spread of cancer to your sternum.” My heart started beating - faster and faster. I could feel the tears welling up, but I didn't want to cry. Not yet. I wanted to know what he was saying. My sister was in the room with me, my husband was downstairs in the parking garage with my mom because he ran over her foot. Ha, another story to tell at a different time! But here I was with my sister, freaking out. She was hugging me from behind as I was trying to keep it together and hear what the doctor had to say. Funny, I haven't really walked through this event again, and I’m writing it down and feeling the tears again. I guess it’s still such a traumatic event that I had to push down to get through it.
Anyway, the doctor said that even though it had spread to my bone, it still could be cured with chemo. It was just a little harder to guarantee chemo getting rid of all of it. And the bigger issue being that if it came back, it would come back in another part of the body, bone, liver, lung, and be much harder to control. Basically he was saying, we can most likely control it now, but if it comes back, we won’t be able to save you. This seemed like a death sentence to me, and it all happened within a week of being diagnosed. I was a healthy young teacher on Tuesday, then Wednesday I possibly had breast cancer (but needed to get a biopsy), then by Friday I presumably had breast cancer, but most likely only stage 1 to 2.
Then the weekend came and my husband and had planned a holiday trip to vegas. While in the encore hotel heading out to go shopping, Monday, December 14th, I had triple negative breast cancer. Two days later I had the MRI showing it spread to my lymph nodes. Friday I had stage 4 triple negative breast cancer… and in my mind, I was going to die. My life as I knew it made no sense to me anymore.
BUT, I don’t want to end this blog on a bad note because everything is amazing now! I guess my pet scan tomorrow is bringing up a lot of feelings from the past. Feelings that I haven’t given words to yet. I think this blogging might be a really good idea…
The year was 2004, I was a busy, working mom when I went in for a routine mammogram. This was back when digital mammograms were very new, so, naturally, when it showed that I had more calcification than my previous Mammo, I figured that it was due to the difference between the old and new imaging. Before I could even process anything else I was interviewing doctors for surgery, scheduled for an MRI guided lumpectomy and tattooed for an 8 weeks radiation protocol.
There is more to my story, but how did this experience impact me? I did what I needed to do to get through. I showed my daughter that hurdles can be thrown in front of you at any given time of your life, and it's possible to conquer them. You may not have a choice, or any control about what it is or when it happens, but you do have a choice to use your power to either jump over, crawl under, go around, or break through anything in your path.
Now, I get to support by carrying a gorgeous hand bags made by one of my beautiful bruin sister.
Submitted by: Lesley Goldberg
Edited by: Dia Morgan
When I first heard I had stage 4 Triple Negative Breast Cancer, I was in shock. I was never someone who got sick. I've always had a strong my immune system, I'm a freaking yoga teacher, and a heath conscious eater. The fact that I had cancer just didn't make sense.
Then I was scared. I didn't want to be one of those young people who gets sick and dies. I've always had a feeling I was going to live a very long life, but then, a diagnosis of 4 triple negative cancer, a very rapid moving cancer, came and slapped me in the face.Everything I once believed vanished and went out the window. The universe was just a freak show and there was no rhyme or reason for any of it.
A couple days later, after setting up my team of doctors, I started to accept the diagnosis and say, "ok, I can beat this. Maybe this is just a sign. A reason to take a step back and to reevaluate my life and how I live it." My attitude about cancer drastically changed, it became a cleanse...a mid life cleanse. When it's all over, I'll have new hair, new boobs, and a new attitude on life.
During the process, I became obsessed with a "LOVE" imprinted handbag, designed by my friend, and now partner, Orit. Although she had just opened a restaurant and was extremely busy, I knew she's always believed in her designs, so I approached her about partnering up with her and using the bag to raise money for cancer research.
From there, we started from scratch. We found someone who could manufacture our bags and build a brand. Then came the name. I wanted it to be something that was cool in it's own right, but also tied to cancer in some way. In the cancer world, all you want to hear is that you're "cancer free," or, in my case, I've got "no negative" or "ZERO NEGATIVE."
Now, I wait for the bags to arrive, I have finished my 6 rounds of chemo (thank god)! I just had my double mastectomy, where I learned that the chemo killed 100% of my cancer, and I am recovering from surgery. All that's left is 6 weeks of radiation, implants, and selling out our first shipment of bags
December 14th, 2016, while I was taking time off in Las Vegas with my husband before the holidays hit us, I got a call from my Doctor, just past 2pm, that I had cancer. I had gone in that friday to have a breast biopsy, and the assumption was that it would definitely be cancer, but it was still an assumption and I was still cancer free. The week before I had just noticed a lump under my arm and had my physician check it, thinking it was a cyst or fatty tissue... But now, a couple margarita's in and some money down the drain, it was serious. WTF. I had breast cancer. Stage 3. And it was found in multiple lymph nodes. And more tests were now needed to be done. Pet scans, MRI's, brain scans, all to rule out any other parts of my body. And the type of breast cancer I had was called Triple Negative. And the treatment was chemotherapy. And I needed to start as soon as I could. And, and, and...(was I going to die?) Period. The end. Good bye, oh, and have fun in Vegas...
And that was the first day of my journey with cancer ...