Pop-Tart Gratitude

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More birthday gratitude, and this time it’s my nephew’s birthday that I’m grateful for. My little pop-tart is about to turn 4, and my family and I went to Maryland this past weekend to celebrate with him. We had a family party complete with about 10 cousins (the kid’s party will be in a couple of weeks), and it was fantastic to watch him gobble up the family love and attention! Before everybody arrived he insisted on standing on the step-stool and staring out the window, asking me every couple of minutes why people were late (they weren’t ). I told him at one point that we had about 45 minutes until arrival time, and he asked me, “Is that a long time?” “It is when you’re just staring out the window!” I told him. We both laughed (well he giggled), and he agreed to come back and play until his guests arrived.

He melted (figuratively of course!) into his awesome Yellow Submarine Cake that my sister-in-law Stacy made for him, unbuttoning his adorable preppy gingham so that he could show us his Yellow Submarine shirt underneath. He looks just like my brother Jake did at that age! (Jake, circa 1976/77). Jake as a little boy Happy Matthew on his birthday

He ripped the wrapping paper off of his gifts just like how you would expect a 4 year-old to, with such enthusiasm, as if each gift was made of gold!

The Yellow Submarine ShirtMatthew's birthday cakeMatthew birthday

When everybody had left M was zonked, but we made it to our favorite Mexican restaurant in the area and he did well, giving us nuggets in between his rice and beans of what he loved the most from the party. And the next day we had him all to ourselves, so we played with his new toys: his Pirate Playmobile, Hungry Hippos, and Zingo.

In the mornings M came into my room and jumped on my bed, asking to play games on my phone, hiding under the blankets and squealing with delight when I would pretend like I had no idea where he was (then I’d tickle him), and then asking that I come downstairs and eat breakfast with him. With each request my heart melted just a little bit more, and I watched him out of the corner of my eye when he didn’t know that I was watching, trying to drink up every little lovely thing about him– The adorable way that his hair sticks up a little bit in the back, the bit of chocolate from his birthday cake that he had no idea was giving him a cute little mustache, his laugh when he says something silly and cracks himself (and everybody else) up. His sense of wonder at the “little” things, his desire to learn about the earth, sun and moon (taught by my Dad, his pee-pah), the text messages that he asked me to write on my phone and send to Grandma from him, and the way he curls into my arms when I’m reading to him and he’s tired. I don’t get to see him a whole lot, so I truly treasure every single moment that I have with him.

Since my cancer diagnosis I have been much more focused on creating and bringing more joy into my life, and it’s experiences like this that fit the bill perfectly. My little pop-tart is my sunshine, my buddy, my blood. I love you Matthew. Happy Birthday!

Sam and Matthew on his birthday

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All year long

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Happy spring! Though it’s cloudy here in Boston it’s in the 50’s, which feels like a heat wave to us! During lunch the other day I grabbed my first iced coffee of the season and as I passed the local Dairy Queen I noticed that they are now open for business! It is officially spring! Now let’s just hope that the weather continues to cooperate with what the calendar says.

Here in the Northeast we’re all so happy that the shift is being made from winter to spring. It was a long winter with bitterly cold temps and lots of snow storms. It also felt like a long winter not feeling well, being hospitalized, waiting for scans, finding out that I needed more treatment, and having surgery. The truth is, it’s been a long 9 months.

But there’s something about the change of seasons, especially when that season is about the rebirth of nature, that makes me feel even more alive than ever. I can’t wait until the trees start to fill in with greenery, until the flowers begin to pop up with vibrant colors everywhere, until the air is warm enough for us to finally say goodbye to our winter coats for a while. I like the idea of rebirth, of renewal, of the world going from gray to color. I yearn for more color in my life; the way that I feel when I’m with my husband or friends or family, the way that I feel when I help somebody at work, the way that I feel when I write a blog post, or get a spark of passion when I know that this is just the beginning of my story– that I can handle anything that comes my way, that so much more good is in store for me. And through this blog I find that I honor the complexity, the joy, and the hard days too.

And with renewal comes change, and I liken it to working on myself; in fact, I have never worked on myself with as much compassion as I am now. Little changes in my life I hope will add up to big benefits (as Deepak Chopra says) like cutting out soda, trying to eat less sugar, resting and napping when I need to, meditating, and decreasing stress and worrying about the “little” things that I needn’t worry about. Every day I try to be the best version of myself that I can be. Some days go better than others! But that’s reality– I’m human and far from perfect!

And I try to block out what the doctors have told me, though their words linger and sometimes catch me off guard when I hear their whispers in my head. When you’re trying to beat an incurable cancer, it does not help to hear that it’s only a matter of time until more tumors appear. I need to block out the negativity and focus on the fact that they don’t really know me, know what I’m capable of, know that there are possibilities out there that maybe they can’t even fathom. I send bouquets of spring (and every season) gratitude to my doctors for their knowledge, wisdom, research, and compassionate care, but I also listen to my own heart and mind and seek alternative ways of thinking about this cancer. I’m not a cancer denier, I’m a cancer defier.

So I wait for that greenery, that warmth, that color. And in the meantime, I look inside of myself to find everything that I need. Because no matter how cold or gray it gets I know that I have what it takes to welcome not just this spring, but many springs to come. Love makes everything vibrant, and that’s with me all year long.

Bright upon the horizon

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How fitting that my 37th post on this blog is inspired by my 37th birthday. As I’ve said before, aging just doesn’t scare me anymore. In fact, I’m thrilled to turn 37, happy to be alive and celebrate another year of living on this planet. When you have cancer, birthdays take on a whole new meaning.

So I was disappointed when on my actual birthday I wasn’t able to do much of anything at all. Still recovering from the ablation surgery, I was in pain and tired and not really up for even leaving the house. SHL and I had to cancel our dinner out with my parents the night before, and our celebratory dinner planned for that night as well. I essentially didn’t leave the house or even get dressed in anything other than my sweats or pj’s for about a week. I was (and will always remain) grateful that the surgery went well, but my body was still healing and very, very sore. And after everything that I’ve been through in the past year, I think that this may have finally been the tipping point for my body, and that’s why it’s taking me a little bit longer than I had hoped to recover. After liver biopsies and MRI’s and treatment-induced colitis and procedures and countless blood withdrawals and being hospitalized, the ablation surgery just made my body realize that it has had enough. Almost 2 weeks after the surgery I’m still sore and exhausted but working on getting my energy back, eating well again and looking forward to the achiness going away enough that I can exercise. And with spring coming there’s going to be too many fun things to do to not be feeling well!

I had told SHL a couple of months ago that this year I really wanted to celebrate my birthday at some point with my friends; I felt like with everything that’s happened in the past 9 months it would be important to be surrounded by some of Team Lozer. Little did I know, he sent a “cover” email to my friends with my email address attached, and then a “real” email to everybody letting them know the plan. So on Saturday SHL asked that I leave the house for a while and when I returned, he and 2 of his band mates were setting up their equipment in our living room!
Dave and Simon setting up
Shortly thereafter, as I was getting ready for the evening (all I knew is that we were going out to eat at a Mexican restaurant in Boston with our friends, and I thought that we were meeting everybody there), I heard the doorbell ring. Unbeknownst to me, Sean had asked that everybody come over to our house first! So we had a few drinks and my friends met my other friends and the evening was off to a rockin’ start. Hanging out at the house Then, surprise # 3! Instead of everybody having to drive into Boston, SHL had gotten a luxury van to take us all into the city! I'm surprisedSo we climbed aboard and headed to the restaurant in style. It was so fun to be able to go in 1 car– more quality time all together! (Here’s a selfie taken on the way!) Selfie

Dinner at Papaygayo in Boston was great; the ambience was fun, colorful, and festive. All 16 of us crowded around a long table and the margarita ordering started, followed by chips, salsa, and table-made guacamole. I loved seeing my friends all chatting away with each other, and especially loved seeing people talking to those that they were only just meeting for the first time that evening! Faces After dinner I was surprised by dessert and a rounding rendition of Happy Birthday complete with birthday candles, so another birthday wish was made (I love birthday wishes!). Sam and Sean on birthday Here’s a picture of my friend Heidi and I– we went to overnight camp together and have known each other since we were 10 years old! I think that we still look the same, don’t you? Sam and Heidi

After dinner we all piled back into the van and headed back to our house. We hung out for a while and then SHL and his band played for us– what a treat! CTN 5 year clubSean playingSean playing guitar

In thinking about my birthday, I remember while out to dinner Kris Carr popped into my head and I thought about all of the good that she does, focusing on prevention and teaching people just like me how to be “cancer warriors.” I have been so focused lately on trying to figure out how I can make my mark on the world, how I can use something so terrifying as a cancer diagnosis to help other people, to make some kind of meaning out of all of this. And then it hit me: I may never be the Queen of Green Juice, and I may never really be able to make sense out of my cancer (who could?) but I have found my purpose, and it is to be with my husband, my family, and my closest friends. As I sat there and soaked up all of the love, I realized that there really is nothing more in the world that I want than to love, and to be loved. While I still hope to write a book someday, I don’t have to be scared that no mark will ever be made, that my purpose is fuzzy or altogether lost. My purpose is love. I know that you’ve loved me all along (and I you), but it took my world getting turned upside down to understand just how much none of the other “stuff” really matters.

The night before my big birthday bash, SHL and I met other friends out for dinner who couldn’t be with us the following night. My friend asked me if I was still thinking about going into life coaching and how my job was going and I explained to her that the honest truth is, maybe someday I’ll become a life coach or go into private practice, but for now, all I really, really want is to be with SHL, my friends, and my family. At this point in my life, I suppose my career just isn’t something that I’m so focused on. I always thought that my purpose was to become a mother, and while that could still happen, sometimes it seems as though that dream is drifting further and further away. So I can either watch as that twinkle dangles in the sky like a star afraid to shoot, or I can concentrate on a new purpose that feels bright upon the horizon.

The birthday group

Birthday Gratitude

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Today is my 37th birthday, and this one holds a lot of wishes; perhaps more than any other year. Although our society seems to be obsessed with finding ways not to age (think if Ponce De Leon was here he would be putting on eye cream every night?), I myself have a completely different way of looking at age these days. There is nothing that I want more than to be able to celebrate my birthday; it means that I am here, 1 year older, and alive. “I am 37!” I want to shout from the rooftops. I know somebody who didn’t want to celebrate her 40th birthday recently, and I have to say, I was almost insulted. People with cancer would never turn their cheek at being another year older or having people want to celebrate such a happy occasion with them.

So I celebrate. I celebrate the fact that thank g-d my ablation surgery went well. I celebrate that despite the fact that I am in a great deal of physical pain this week while recovering, I am surrounded by my loving family and friends who want to celebrate with me. The physical pain is just something to get through, and I’ll gladly get through it if it means that the surgery was a success. I celebrate that I am alive, that I am happy, that although there is no cure, there are treatment options for me. I celebrate life, and in turn, the gratitude that I so want to express comes back to me like a boomerang– my gratitude seems to expand my universe into even more prayers, love, and support. Positive energy creates positive energy.

So what exactly are my wishes for my birthday? I can’t say or they wouldn’t come true. But I will just say that finding a gray hair (or two), or celebrating being another year older doesn’t faze me, it just makes me feel alive. And that’s never a bad thing. So yes, this birthday is filled with lots of birthday wishes, but it’s also filled with a lot of birthday gratitude, including my thanks for all of you. xoxo