Thankful for You

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The momentum continues, Team Lozier, in lots of different ways.

Lately, it’s been the meditation that has been propelling me toward a calmer inner voice, slowly helping my mind and my body to connect in a place that feels just right for me. It’s a process, for sure, and one that I sometimes struggle with as lots of the time I just can’t get my mind to quiet. So I try not to judge. I go with the flow (which if you think about it, makes life much, much easier, rather than trying to fight against a current), and eventually I feel confident that nuggets of the meditation are penetrating into my mind, body, and soul. In fact, I know that they are, because I can not only feel it, I can sense it on a day-to-day basis.

I’ve been mostly meditating to fall asleep at night, since the steroids make it difficult. Very often I’m up in the middle of the night, my mind racing, so I meditate again, listening to Deepak Chopra either talk about perfect health, or my authentic self (I pretty much listen to one of each at least every day).

The other night I listened to a meditation about gratitude. In all honesty, when I think about gratitude, sometimes my initial instinct is to scoff. “Gratitude when you have a stage 4 cancer at the age of 36?”

But my mind and my heart immediately counter that when I think about all of the love in my life. I think about the fact that I have a husband who would go to the ends of the earth to take care of me, parents who couldn’t go out of their way any more in life to do what’s best for me, and family and friends who check in on me, offer support, dinner, a helping hand, a laugh, a shoulder to cry on, and just let me be me. That in itself is such a great gift. So gratitude?! Heck yeah, there’s an outpouring of it in my life. Sean and I have a beautiful house to come home to every day, we have pets, jobs, health insurance, travel plans, family, friends, holidays to celebrate, warm showers (yes I’m grateful for that), good healthy food in our house, music, the list goes on and on. So it wasn’t entirely surprising when I was meditating the other night to the prayer of gratitude, and I began to sob.

I imagined myself on a beautiful stretch of white beach, nothing but silky soft sand and the clearest blue water. And all of a sudden everybody that I know and love began to fill the beach, surround me, hold hands, and send an outpouring of positive and healing energy directly to me. While I am trying to learn to love everything about myself (even Kris Carr says that she’s trying to learn how to love her tumors), it’s still been hard to send that message to my tumors—what I want to do is send them a huge blast of “GET THE HECK OUT OF ME RIGHT NOW!!” Is it possible to do both? How can you love your cancer? It just doesn’t seem possible (add that to the list of things that Kris and I will one day have to sit down and chat about).

So as I continue to meditate and connect with my own heart and soul, visualizing a “perfect” health where the gratitude keeps flowing, and I shift towards a more authentic me, I find that Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time to tell my Team just how thankful I am for all of you: For each and every single one of you. You each bring something unique into my life that could never be replicated by another human being. I hope that you know that, really take that in, and be proud of the fact that you are standing by somebody who needs you very, very much.

Almost every single year now for the last 8 years, my family and I have been gathering with my cousins at their beautiful country house in West Virginia. It is our favorite holiday of the year: Amazing food, company, laughs, games, movies, and an “activity” every year the day after Thanksgiving (thank goodness we’re done with most of the battle-sites in the area! I think pedicures seem like a lot more fun). We all talk about it throughout the year, begin to plan exactly which game or which movie will take precedent months beforehand, and now the holiday is almost upon us. I am so excited for a few days of rest and fun with 17 members of my family, I am almost giddy!

Lots of love and a happy and healthy (and fun and tasty!) Thanksgiving to all of you, and thanks for reading. xoxo

Breakfast at the Loziers!

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Lots of good momentum here, Team Lozier, and I wanted to share.

This weekend my Uncle Bill and Aunt Joan came up from Florida to visit. They’ve been just great about keeping in touch with us regarding my health, and Sean and I really appreciated the fact that they wanted to come up see us in person. It was a great motivator to get our new house in order! We figured out that my Mom, Sean and I spent well over 10 hours just in the week before they arrived getting ready… Sean transported the rest of our wedding gifts from my parent’s basement (along w/ books, plants, and a table), and we unpacked boxes, put away all of our china, bowls, etc. arranged books, hung up art work, and moved stuff down to the basement for storage. We were all exhausted by the time that they arrived, but it was well worth it! Other than getting a chandelier for our dining room and perhaps hanging up a few more pieces of artwork, we are basically ready for visitors.

Kitchen table set with wedding china

Friday night Sean and I went over to my parent’s house for dinner, just as Bill and Joan had arrived, and Saturday everybody came to us for breakfast. For most people, this Saturday would have been a typical, run-of-the-mill day… Brunch with relatives. But for me, just 9 days after being released from the hospital, it signified just how good I was feeling, to be able to host. I set our kitchen table with our wedding china, excited to use it for the very first time, arranged some flowers, and made cinnamon yogurt muffins and a Barefoot Contessa frittata for 6, complete w/ pumpkin-raisin bread, fresh fruit, a mixed green salad with a homemade salad dressing, coffee, and orange juice. It felt amazing to be able to have energy to be able to host and to cook! Afterwards we went for a long walk so that we could show them our new neighborhood, then came back to the house and in true Bill and Joan fashion, they wanted to roll up their sleeves and help us with whatever they could (they’re very DIY-ers!). So they helped Sean hang up a heavy mirror in the dining room and my Aunt, who has a great eye, helped me think about some decorating and curtain options for our family room. We had drinks (still no alcohol for me) and chatted, looked at our wedding album and talked about their new house and their son’s wedding coming up in March, and then had a fabulous dinner out in our new town at a place called Zebra’s Wine and Bistro. It was excellent, and my first burger in almost 3 months!

Sam and Sean at Zebra's wine and bistro

I assumed that after Bill and Joan left I would take Sunday to completely veg, but the steroids have given me some more energy, so I cleaned out my closet, baked Sean’s favorite cookies (it felt so good to be able to do something nice for him!), and did laundry. THEN I vegged… And when SHL came home from work, he vegged with me. It felt absolutely priceless to be able to have some good quality comfy time on the coach w/ our cats, catching up on stuff on our DVR, just the 2 of us…

Then Monday came, and it was even better day. Although I didn’t sleep well (the steroids are giving me some insomnia in the middle of the night, to which I usually have to mediate to get back to sleep), it was productive and I noticed that a shift in the way that I think about Mondays probably had something to do w/ the positivity. I had decided the day before to just ban the words “dread” and “Monday” from my vocabulary. I think at this point it’s just a habit to dread Mondays, but what I’ve come to realize when you have cancer is that there is just no time to dread anything! (Except for maybe the medical stuff, obviously). As soon as I made a conscious decision that Monday would come and would be fine, it was as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I woke up tired, but decided that coffee would be a pleasant reward, and something to look forward to, and that there was really no reason not to like anything about what the day would bring. During my lunch break I had an almost hour-long phone session w/ my life coach (the first in a long time, definitely since I’ve been diagnosed), and we did some work on my “inner-ally,” who helped me to target what I appreciate about myself, and what I’d like to work on during this period when I’ve finished treatment, and I await my next scans. What I’ve decided is that everything that I am doing for myself right now (and really, always), I want to be about loving myself. It’s been years of negative self-talk, criticizing myself, and just generally coming at myself from a place of insecurities and neurosis, instead of actually what is healthier—and really, true—that there is plenty to love about myself. I don’t think that I’ve ever said that before, but as I begin to really believe it (or I “fake it until I make it,”), I think that it’s helping to bring more joy into my life, which is kind of the point, right? I think a lot of the self-love and motivation has to do with my Team Lozier bulletin board: If my friends love me so much, then why should I not love myself just as much?

Going to the gym that night after work for the first time since getting sick (I’ve just been taking walks for exercise, when I can) felt like an extremely big accomplishment to me. And instead of doing the usual, “I probably won’t even get in that good of a workout,” or “This will probably never happen again,” I just simply enjoyed my time there, and knew that no matter what today or tomorrow brings, yesterday I did something really nice for myself. Afterwards I hit the grocery store and came home to make a stir-fry, anxious to try brown rice for the first time and see if I could handle it (so far so good, knock on wood).

I know that not every day can or will bring life coaching, gym sessions, and healthy dinners, but for now, I am literally taking things one day at a time. Today is about today, and what good the day will bring. It’s not about tomorrow, or next week, or next month. It’s about finding the joy and the inspiration in even the smallest of moments. Savoring that, being gentle and kind with myself, and knowing that I am doing everything that I can to take care of myself.

Team Lozier Love

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Team Lozier Gift of Love

Today I received the most unbelievable gift from my friends– love.  I just can’t put into words how much it means to me to know that such wonderful human beings are in my corner, loving me, rooting for me, supporting me, laughing with me, crying with me, and letting me just be me.  Below is my email thanking them for this amazing gift. Every single person in the picture (including the kids and the babies!) are wearing a “Team Lozier” t-shirt.

Dear Team Lozier,
I simply do not know what to say. I fear that a simple email can never truly be enough to express my gratitude at the greatest gift that anybody has ever given me– love.

Today I received my “Team Lozier” bulletin board, complete with all of you wonderful human beings in the best t-shirts that I have possibly ever seen (!), with the most inspirational and loving notes attached to it. As I opened the cardboard and mounds of bubble wrap, I could never have imagined what would be inside! Tears immediately began to stream down my face as I looked at each and every picture, exclaiming to myself each time, “OH! Look who it is!” — As all of my amazing friends look up at me with huge supportive smiles on your faces. I can’t even imagine the time, effort, coordination, and love that it took to get the t-shirts, take the pictures, compile the board and the notes, etc. And even your kids are wearing the Team Lozier t-shirts to boot! How amazing.

I wish that you could all feel what is in my heart right now… It’s bursting with so much love, and so much gratitude and appreciation for each and every single one of you. I wish that I could say that each day since the diagnosis of cancer has been easy, or inspirational, but I don’t think that anybody would ever expect that. There have been mounds of fear, doubt, anger, and sadness. But thankfully, that is not every day. There are also lots of days where I feel joy, laughter, spirit, determination, and an overwhelming sense that this is just the beginning of the story. I still sometimes catch myself singing along to a favorite song on the radio, tickling Sean or laughing with him during a movie, being excited about our new house, or eagerly anticipating a much-needed phone call or hug from one of you, and it reminds me that I am ALIVE. A HUGE part of remembering this has been about all of you– knowing, even if we don’t talk every day, that you are thinking about me and sending out your prayers, positive energy, and love directly to me for good health, healing, mending, and peace. I will never, ever be able to tell you what that means to me, but I can say that no cancer patient can ever do this alone… I need ALL of you.

To be able to say that I am far from alone feels simply wonderful… I feel all of you with me each day, and knowing that I don’t have to go through treatments, appointments, scans, and feeling under the weather by myself is a gift that I treasure far beyond anything else materialistic in my life. I know that no matter what happens, you will love me, support me, and believe in me. And I want you to know that I’m doing everything that I feel that I can g-d willing at this point in my life to shrink these tumors and to keep on living my good (no make that exceptional) life.

Just for fun, I counted up all of the years of friendship between us, and it came to 326 years!! Isn’t that unbelievable?! But whether we’ve known each other for 36 years or 36 months, I treasure our relationships, our conversations, our ability to pick up right where we left off, and our funny, loving memories, of which there are just so many! I’m not quite sure how I got so lucky in the friend, family, and love department– But I count those blessings every day. And when things get tough, I think about all of the fun that we’re going to have in the future together as well… Not just with the “big” things in life, but even just with a cup of coffee, together, you and me. This is the stuff that life is made of– the sweet moments between friends, family, and loved ones. There is so much more to enjoy together.

I can never, ever thank you enough. If I could, I would sleep with the bulletin board underneath my pillow every night. :)

With the most deep-rooted love, hope, joy, and inspiration,
Sam xoxo

Jazzy Girl

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Back to the world of blogging.  I missed putting my thoughts out there into the universe in the hopes of helping me continue to make sense of my life, my diagnosis, and the new way in which I am forever forced to look at things.  

But I have been remiss in writing because I was just in the hospital for the last 8 days.  I had an amazing time down in Austin visiting my bestie and her family, but while there I began to feel increasingly more sick, and by the time I flew home, I knew that something just wasn’t quite right.  I woke up the next day achy and nauseous (thankfully nausea has never been a big side-effect of my treatments thus far), and could not keep any food or water down.  I spoke to the nurse in my doctor’s office that morning who immediately scheduled me for an outpatient colonoscopy (they had been afraid that my treatments could possibly be causing colitis). My Mom came over when SHL went to work and going through a list of foods, she tried to find things that I could possibly eat, popsicles, broth, crackers, but after throwing up nothing and barely being able to get off of the couch, I became increasingly worried that I was going to get even more dehydrated prepping for this colonoscopy at home.  The next day I called the nurse back, and this is the best example of being your own advocate, told her that I knew that something wasn’t right, and that perhaps we needed a different plan.  Thankfully she listened, and my team immediately agreed that I needed to go inpatient to the hospital.  I was less than thrilled with this idea, but I was also a little bit relieved, wondering how I could ever manage these symptoms at home myself.  

I arrived at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to find that not only would I have my own room, but that I was on a special floor reserved only for Dana Farber Cancer patients, and most of those patients have melanoma. Therefore, and this is more huge than you can even imagine, both the nurses and the physician assistants were completely aware of my treatment, whereas if I had gone to any other local hospital they may not have had a clue as to what my treatment even really has been. In this case, they have seen countless patients getting the exact same kind of care that I am, so they are familiar with the drug, the side effects, and the treatment plans.

They quickly got me going with fluids and lots of potassium; my levels were so low that they needed to monitor my heart and found that when I got up from the bed my heart rate doubled every time. The bag of potassium burned through my veins so badly that one night I practically pulled the IV from my arm, probably waking up every single patient on the floor, screaming in pain. After that they did the more humane thing and let me drink most of my potassium with juice, which was pretty gross, but so much better than the burning. PA’s and nurses came in and out almost constantly, it seemed, monitoring my vitals and taking blood. The first night in the hospital, as my Mom and SHL and I watched Game 6 of the World Series, I prepped for my colonoscopy (which was not as bad as I had heard it could be). It was a long night with about 2 hours of sleep, but I lucked out, and in the morning they took me immediately for the colonoscopy (they had said that I could potentially have to wait all day for the test). I had been on only clear liquids up until that point for the past 4 days. I spent the rest of the day weak and exhausted, lying in my hospital bed, until they came to tell me that they didn’t even need to get the biopsies back to see that I have treatment-induced colitis. Now colitis is awful as it is, as many of you know, but this quickly became even more loaded to me: Would I be able to finish my 4th and final treatment dose, if I was now diagnosed with colitis? I would soon find out from my oncologist that the answer would be no.

I felt the tears and fear bubble up from a place of dread, but quickly knew that I needed to change my mind-set, and not get stuck in one less dose of treatment than was expected. 3 doses could still be very powerful stuff (I’m told that some people get so sick that they can’t even receive that many), and my body was obviously going into overdrive from the treatment due to the colitis, so why not look at this from the point of view that the cancer cells are being attacked hard as well? I was grateful for the 3 doses and tried to stay in that positive place.

Over the next couple of days they tried to get the colitis under control with steroids, but I rebounded too quickly, so I had to go from an IV form to a pill form to another IV form again, and each time they needed to monitor me for at least 24 hours to see how I did, so the days began to stretch, one into another. My friend Kate came from CT to visit and somehow, 6 hours later, just sitting in a hospital room, my spirits began to lift spending the day with such a good friend, who just let me “be” whevever it was that I needed to be that day. Then I was told that I would need a chest x-ray and a TB shot, just to make sure that I was clear of any kind of infection, in case I needed to start another kind of steroid (there were only 2 choices in the matter, and I was already trying the first one). Another complex point of all of this is that sometimes, when a melanoma patient has to be put onto steroids after this kind of flare-up/side-effect, they can then sometimes be excluded from being eligible to participate in a clinical trial down the road, should they ever need one. So you see, it’s not just about the colitis: It’s also so much about keeping as many options as possible open in the future in case I ever need more treatment. But my team assured me that while some clinical trials may not accept people who have been on steroids, hopefully that would not be the case for all. And truth be told, as silly as it sounds in this day and age and in our country, if you don’t treat colitis, your organs can shut down, and things can become much, much worse. It felt like things were slipping out of my control, though: No 4th dose allowed, and only 2 steroid options to control the colitis, some of which could impact my future treatments. When you have cancer you crave control and time. Instead I turned to what I felt I could control: Meditatation, and keeping a sense of humor.

By this point I had already been in the hospital for 4 days, and it seemed like I may never get out of there. My Mom and SHL took turns taking care of me, each trying to get some rest in between. I never got 1 night of interrupted sleep in the hospital during the 8 nights that I was there. Thankfully towards the end of my stay, as the steroids began to help, I was encouraged and able to get out of bed and go downstairs to the lobby to Au Bon Pain. My eating still hugely restricted, I was still able to enjoy a sandwich and my first sips of iced coffee in months. My Mom and I would go sit out on the brick wall in front of the hospital, soaking up the sun and the cool air, watching people hooked up to their IV’s wandering around, and despite that, it felt like a glimpse of being normal again. Sean and I played Boggle and cards, and watched movies, and I challenged just about everybody that I know to Words With Friends (including my Mom, which was cute). We spent countless hours on our Ipads helping me to decorate my new house, looking at websites and perusing bookshelves and pillows and finding ways to distract myself from the fact that everybody else was busy putting their kids into cute Halloween costumes and getting ready for another autumn weekend while I was, well, not. The nurses joked that my Mom and I were having slumber parties, and at one point we even went down to the gift shop and found me a cute pair of earrings which I immediately donned. The nurses got such a kick out of my earrings paired with my hospital gown that they started calling me “jazzy girl.”

With my fluids and potassium stable, and the colitis seemingly (knock on wood) under control with steroids and other meds at home (5 in total), it’s now time to think about my next scan. This is what I have been dreading since the day that I was told that I have cancer: The scan. I thought that I had more time, thought that I would have my last treatment dose on Wednesday, November 13th, and then wait a few weeks for the scan to see just how much butt I’m kicking in the cancer department. But getting the last dose of my treatment could be deadly with the colitis, so it’s just unfortunately off of the table for now. However they do say that a lot of people have had good success with only 2-3 treatments, and I hold onto this tightly as I imagine the cancer shrinking, and then ultimately disappearing. I think about the last 5 months: Countless doctor’s appointments, 2 MRI’s, 2 liver biopsies, 3 cancer treatments, probably about 15-20 blood draws, 5 IV’s, 8 nights in the hospital, a chest x-ray, a TB test, fluids, vitals, meds. I think about how different my life is from everybody else’s that I know.

Now, we wait for the scan. Now, we pray. We meditate. We look forward. We cherish things that we would normally dismiss, like an iced coffee, taking a nice long warm shower at home, or having the energy to make the bed. Home has never felt sweeter, with SHL and our cats. And we find joy. Not just in those “big” life things– weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, but in EVERYTHING. We don’t wait for the joy to find us. We find it. xoxo