Dreaming about my dreams coming trueRead More
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 :)
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…