Life AFTER Cancer...The New Normal

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.’ 

xoxoxo Jenn

Weekend Check-in's

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.

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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.

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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?  

STRESSED

STRESSED

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?’

MY BOYS

MY BOYS

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. 

TEAM ZERO NEGATIVE!

TEAM ZERO NEGATIVE!

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:)

#WILLING

Happy New Year 2018

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!

New Years Eve

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.

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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!

Jenn 

 

 

Cancer: Chemo, and Other Side Effects.

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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… 

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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.   

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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!

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

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.  

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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.  

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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…  

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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?