Chapter 3: Closed

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A commercial made me do it.

It was for real estate.  Could have been Realtor.  Could have been Redfin.  Something with an R and a little boy with a sweet face who said goodnight to his Mom while peering at the stars because clearly she was no longer with him.  He just looked so… lost.  Then his Dad buys a new house closer to Grammy and Grandpa and at night he looks through his new bedroom skylight of stars and smiles as he says goodnight to her again, this time looking more a bit more content.

I wept, got up from the couch, and went over and emailed my nurse from the fertility clinic where our embryos have been frozen for the last 4 + years.

It was a Saturday and I knew she wouldn’t get it until Monday morning, but I didn’t care.  It felt like then or never.

“Dear Sandra,

I don’t know if you remember me, but…”

I proceeded to tell her that we were ready to let our embryos go.

How could I ever do that to a child?

I waited a few days until I heard back from her and found out what we needed to do (a notarized letter).  I brought it up to SHL as he was cutting up chicken for dinner.  That seemed liked as good of a time as ever. I told him about the commercial and started sobbing uncontrollably.

After a long embrace and talk about leaving him to raise a child by himself, a conversation that nobody ever wants to have, we also dipped (again) into even just having the energy to raise a child (or children) when very often I don’t feel well.  What would that look like?  We decided we that we didn’t want to find out and went back to making dinner.

And just like that, I heard the door close.  Softly.  It didn’t lock, but it did shut.

We are Stars

Broken

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I didn’t cry the first month.

There wasn’t really anything to cry about; or perhaps there was, but it was all just masked by bewilderment and anger.

I knew that I was doing the liver radioembolization for a damn good reason.  Some doctors thought that my immunotherapy wasn’t working, and that the tumors in my liver were getting bigger.

This could potentially stop that.

So I switched my care from Dana-Farber to MGH, who offered me this new treatment, and I was immediately so impressed with my new oncologist and surgeon.

My old oncologist promised me that I could never “lose him,” that I was just adding new people to the team now.  One of the nicest things that he could have ever said to me.

My team grows, and hopefully the cancer does not.

You don’t think about the relationships when you think about cancer, right?  Mostly you probably just think about the treatments and medicines, but the relationships with the doctors, nurses, infusion nurses, physician assistants, medical assistants and admin staff have all been such a huge part of my life for the last almost 4 years.

“You may not feel well for a while,” the surgeon warned me.  “Perhaps some nausea, gastrointestinal issues, and you may feel like you have the flu, headache, and very tired,” he went on to explain.

But all treatments, immunotherapies or surgeries or what have you, have side-effects, and you have to outweigh the good with the bad.  If this could potentially stop the tumors from growing, than it seemed logical to try it.

“I can get through it,” I thought to myself.

For the next four weeks I very often forgot that I was in pain because of cancer.  I just plain forgot that the whole crux of the issue was the cancer.  Maybe that sounds silly, forgetting the biggest thing that has ever happened to me, what is growing inside of my body, what I’m doing this all for.

But all I could focus on was how crappy I felt.  And how isolated, lonely, and scared my days were (even though SHL and my parents have taken outstanding care of me).  The doctors said that people could take weeks to heal, but they did find it was very rare that it would go on for this long (I am not being a “debbie downer” but my family will tell you that if they say, for example, 1% won’t feel well for an extended period of time, I will be in that 1%).

My best friend A came from Texas.  I had planned a Greek lunch with my Mom, an Asian dinner on the seaport for Saturday night, a hike and juice or smoothie during the day, a brunch with local friends, and then going to the MFA to see the Matisse exhibit.

We had lunch with my Mom, and that was about it.  Poor thing came all the way from Texas– I know to see me– but just saw the inside of my house all weekend.  Because at that point I had a kidney stone that was just rearing its ugly head and wanted out, on top of the liver being inflamed.  (A took such good care of me, making me grilled sandwiches and rubbing my back and we watched mountains of cooking shows together.  She’s been through so much with me!).

Before that, about 5 days after the liver procedure, I was supposed to have an ultrasound to figure out why I still didn’t feel well, but when we got to the doctor’s office they took one look at me and put me on a stretcher and wheeled me down to the ER.  My Mom was with me and we stayed there for about 24 hours while they did tests and waited for a room for me.  Finally I was moved to a room where I stayed for another day and night and then was sent home.

So after A came to visit I went back into the hospital to have the kidney stone removed, about 17 days since the first liver radiation.

Two days later I had such excruciatingly bad stomach pains that my Mom rushed me back to the ER, where I was admitted for what I call “after-shocks” from having kidney stones.  More pain meds.

Home.  Home is where the heart is, until you’re home for 35 days, and then all you want is to be anywhere but home.  Mexico, perhaps?  Heck I would take Natick.

The last few days my Mom has been getting me out of the house; I’m still on pain meds but so not really able to do much without her, but we’ve managed to have lunch out and do some errands to get ready for our mini-golf fundraiser coming up on June 3rd!

(Shameless plug to donate here; all money goes directly to the Melanoma Center at Dana-Farber where they are working tirelessly to find more treatments and of course eventually, a cure): http://www.myjimmyfundevent.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1166643&supid=444457597.  Click on “Give Now.”  We are so appreciative of the kindness of Team Lozier and Beyond!

What do I miss, many ask?  I miss my friends, so much.  I haven’t felt well to have visitors or try and even keep up with conversations; when you’re in so much pain, on pain meds, loopy, tired and depressed even though you miss others, sometimes you just feel it would be too much.  I miss Tulum and those amazing coffee smoothies that no matter how hard I try to make at home come out sub-par.  I miss those hard, intense yoga classes overlooking the ocean with the little shooters of green juice afterwards.  I miss having slumber parties with A at night talking about the Grammy’s and our married lives and cancer and all that other “stuff” that best friends talk about.

I miss my twin M who was here from Florida for some of the last good times that I had before this pain.  My 40th surprise birthday, eating cake for breakfast, strolls down Newbury Street and dinner in the North End.

I miss going to work and helping people, feeling accomplished, feeling productive, schmoozing with my co-workers.

I miss days without pain, days without doctors calls and scheduling appointments (4 more to go before they do the next side of my liver in a few weeks).

It all seems so simple, doesn’t it?  Those every day things that we all too often take for granted.

It used to seem simple.

No, I didn’t cry that first month.  Now I cry almost every single day, waiting for the time when I can tell you that I have a pain-free day.

Please, please just read these words and know that I feel broken.  Please, I beg of you, do not tell me that it will get better, that I can’t feel like this forever.  I know you just want to help, but those words seem weightless right now.   I know it’s so hard to know what to say.

I love you.

But…

I wonder:  What if I really am broken?  What if they broke me?  I long to see the gold; to know it is there.  To know that broken does not mean in pain forever.

Broken objects.jpg

30 Things I Learned in My 30’s

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On my the eve of my 40th birthday, as I leave the 30’s and enter into a new decade, I share with you the 30 things that I learned over the last 10 years:

  1. There are way more than 30 things that I’ve learned in this decade.
  2. I believe in miracles.
  3. Get a second opinion.  ALWAYS get a second medical opinion.
  4. When in doubt, sleep on it.
  5. Practice compassion towards yourself and others–everybody is doing the best they can with the tools they have.
  6. Meditation can save your life.
  7. If meditation doesn’t save your life, find something else– anything else– that grounds you and helps you cope with life’s ups and downs.
  8. Find what sets your heart on fire and do it.  For me, that’s traveling and I want to have adventures all over the world with SHL.
  9. Do what you want to do, when you want to do it, as long as you’re not selfish or hurting anybody else.  Life is filled with responsibility and crap; the rest of the time, enjoy yourself.
  10. Surround yourself with people who are not just like-minded in how they treat you and others, but who have positive energy/vibes.  Life is too short to get caught up in bullshit.  Leave that in middle/high school.
  11. When you feel like life throws you a curve ball and you’re in the trenches, do something nice for somebody else.
  12. Clean up your side of the street (as Gabby Bernstein says).  It’s the only side you actually have any control over.
  13. Have an open mind.  If I didn’t, I never would have met my husband through Facebook.  After all, he lived in Canada!  Where did I think that relationship could go?  Turned out, this random guy from Facebook is my soul-mate.
  14. Be authentic.  You don’t have to write a blog or post your every feeling on Facebook, but just be yourself in whatever way feels good to you.  It’s way too much energy and effort not to be.  And for what?  This is the only life we’ve got, we mine as well make it our own.
  15. The deeper you go with the people you feel safe enough to be vulnerable with, the greater the love and support that you will feel in your own life.  Guaranteed (if you open yourself up to the people who “get it” and “get” you).
  16. Nobody’s life is perfect, even though it may look like it.
  17. Find others who you can look up to; I have learned so much about love, self-compassion, healing, forgiveness and being in the present moment from Kris, Gabby, Lolly Galvin, Ella Woodward, Brenee Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, Geralyn Lucas, Matthew Zachary, and many others who are constantly striving to live their best lives possible while helping others.  We don’t know it all; admit that you don’t and learn from others.
  18. If you have a miscarriage, even before hearing a heartbeat, you’ll never stop loving that baby that could have been, and wondering who they could have grown up to be.
  19. Show up for anyone and everyone who means something to you.  Whatever that looks like, just show up, in any way.
  20. Say you’re sorry.  Oh man, I know this is hard, but it can be so freeing, so humbling, and it can even take your closest relationships to a whole new level.
  21. Give second chances.  Boy am I glad that I have and that others have done so for me too.
  22. When life hands you lemons and you don’t know else the f*ck to do, follow these steps:  1) Take out some small candy bars of your choice 2) Put them into a zip lock bag 3) Put the zip lock bag on a sturdy cutting board, 4) Proceed to smash candy with a rolling pin or a cooking pan.  5) If your tears don’t taint it, turn that smashed candy into the best g-d damn ice cream cake your friends have ever tasted.
  23. Cry, when it comes naturally.  Let it flow.  Let it heal and ground you.  Don’t ever force it back inside; it will only come out in other, unhealthy ways.  As painful as suffering is, suffer.  Face it.  It allows you to be more in the present moment.
  24. Have gratitude for everything– I mean the big stuff (your family, spouse, kids, health, money to take care of your basic needs and then some, home, friends, job, whatever) to the “little” stuff (warm shower, running water, birds singing, a dog’s smile, crocuses blooming, a funny movie, a beautiful meal, coffee with a good friend, a warm embrace, a note from a loved one, a cat-like peaceful nap, a great piece of chocolate).  Then remember:  There really is no such thing as a “little” thing after all.
  25. Let the gratitude rise to the surface in an organic way.  It’s nice to keep gratitude lists and have a daily practice (I do), but there will be some days when life hands you a big bag of shit and you don’t want to say “thank you.”  That’s OK.  Be true to your soul.  Say thank you when you mean it.  That’s the best kind of gratitude, the authentic kind.  The kind when you’re eating lunch with your best friend and you realize how freakin’ lucky you are that tears just melt down your face.  That’s gratitude.
  26. If there is something that you want, go after it.  Our only limitations are in our own minds.
  27. Take your own advice.
  28. If you only read one “self-help” book, let it be something by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  29. There is no map.  Really.  We may think we are destined for one thing, but if a door closes, promise yourself that you will still live a great life, despite what you think you don’t have. You create your own journey, nobody else can tell us what great is.
  30. Love.  Love deeply, gently, authentically, without expectations, passionately, and with abandon.

31) Bonus:  Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Extra bonus: If you ever need to spend the night in the hospital, bring your own toothbrush. For the love of ug-d, BYOE (bring your own everything!).

Love,

Sam xoxo

Creation of Chaos

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Out taking a walk I hear the dribble dribble of a basketball; it’s actually warm enough in January in Massachusetts to be out in the driveway shooting some hoops.  I see a kid, a teenager, in a white sweatshirt with the hood up, jeans and sneakers and it looks like he’s just entertaining himself on a Sunday afternoon the way my brother used to when he was that age.

All of a sudden tears unexpectedly well up in my eyes and I think about my nuclear family.  Sometimes it strikes me as absurd and strange that in our American culture many of us grow up so closely with our parents and siblings and then when we leave the house, everything becomes so different and we become so spread apart.  (Especially after people get married and have kids).  I think about the sound of the basketball on the pavement back on Moran Circle where we lived until I was 9 and my brother was 13; about how the backboard and hoop got stolen one night on our quiet little suburban street, and we couldn’t believe that our dog Benji didn’t even give us a little bark to let us know.  I think about the vacations that my parents took us on; eating pineapple in Hawaii and drinking tea in Moscow and having a picnic not far from Rainbow Bridge in Utah.  There was cross-country skiing in Concord, dinners with my Grandma at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, and watching the little planes take off and land in Marlboro while eating mint-chocolate chip ice cream. My Dad started me off early collecting things like bottle caps and pins that said “I love the piano” and my jean jacket just couldn’t hold them all.  My Mom and I would spend summers when I returned home from camp doing errands together (I loved it) and playing jacks on our cold tile floor. I remember my brother and I videotaped by my Dad as we told each other secrets and took long walks on the beach, lying on rocks like salamanders and soaking up that Cape Cod sun.  Us!

There are seven of us now, including spouses and kids, and we’re probably all together three times a year.  (Sometimes we get lucky and it’s four).  I know for a lot of families it’s way less, depending upon how far you live from everybody (and for some of you it’s way more).  But with geographical distance and jobs and health and kids, our time together is limited.  (And OK, maybe we get along better because we don’t see each other every weekend?  I can feel people nodding their heads.  You get it.  You would protect your family from a lion but you don’t necessarily want to do a Sunday brunch every weekend!).  And still, it just strikes me as funny, and a little bit sad, that I went from those family of four vacations to us being together only a few times a year.

As I continued to walk, I started to think about time, and relationships, and faith.  I have faith in my family, that they’ll never abandon me, that they’ll never stop loving me, that they’ll always tolerate my “mess.”  (And I’m not just talking about that nuclear family anymore; now my husband, sister-in-law and nephew are my family too.  And then I remember that things are supposed to change and shift and evolve and now, instead of just the four of us, we have SHL and my SIL and my nephew and how could we ever life without them now?  — We couldn’t!).

But lately, I’ve had faith in little more than that.  For only the second time since I was diagnosed, after coping with some side-effects that bring about more doctors appointments, change, and unknown, did I tell myself recently that I can understand how somebody with a chronic illness could, at some point, want to give up.

And as I walk I think about those who have worries, but who basically live a “normal life”, and I feel more separated from you than ever.  My insides ache not knowing or remembering what that feels like.  I feel as though I have a huge knot in my brain that is tied up in fear and everything else…well everything else just feels sort of foggy.  I long to unravel the ties that make up this fear, but every time I make a little progress gently undoing what has been done, another piece comes along and adds itself to the creation of chaos.

I’ve worked so hard over the last 3 + years on authenticity, managing my disease, trying to live life to the fullest, working hard on my perception of food and cancer and challenges and movement.  I’ve had days where I couldn’t get out of bed, and I’ve had days where I’ve knocked it out of the park at work and slept in SHL’s arms.  This is life, I understand, the motion of the waves, the wavering faith (if you’ve ever had anything bad happen to you), the broken heart that fills up with gold in those cracks where it has been broken, just as the Japanese believe that is the best way to mend a broken object. They believe that if something has suffered damage and has a history, it is more beautiful.

I long to remember the beauty in my own life; I know it is there. And I know that gold must course through those shards, so many of them living within me.  It is just so hard to see and feel the beauty right now, through the unknowns and the fear and the injustice of it all.

I think about how I had no say in this at all, and then I remember how much more I’ve learned to love life since all of this happened.  I like to think that I have no control, but my words carefully remind me that I’ve had many choices, that I have chosen to make my life better even while living with tumors.

I continue to go to my mat and sometimes that helps, imaging cords of love and compassion between myself and the world, between myself and the cancer.  I see a rose-gold energy that twinkles and encompasses my body and keeps me safe; and yet, outside of that meditation time, it does not keep me safe from everything.  What am I to believe?

Gabby Bernstein always says that the “Universe has your back,” and I used to believe it, until one bad thing after another happened.  If you believe in the law of attraction than my mindset needs to change shape because I don’t want to call negativity into my life either.  I want to face the suffering (as much as I really don’t), only in the hopes of being able to mend my own broken objects, my heart, my faith, my confidence.  Can you understand the dilemma just festering in my heart?

I understand that trying to face suffering while trying to let go seems impossible, but in the end again my words help me to understand that they actually fit together.  And so, I will find my way back, I will let the course take me where it needs to.  I will get through this because I have to, because my work and love is not yet done.

I can’t wait until I can tell you all that yes, the universe really does have my back.  And in the meantime, I need to have my own.

 

There Always Is

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Dear G-d,

How are you?  Does anybody ever ask you that?  I know it’s usually about how we are.   Anyway it’s Sam here (chuckle, I know you know who it is), coming at you from zip code 02052.  Just wanted to say thank you for the good stuff this year.  Yeah I mean, a lot of things really sucked or felt scary in 2016 (Brexit, Syria, talk about building a wall?  Really?  David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Alan Rickman, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds… TRUMP?).  But there were some good things, too, of course.

But first:

I will not compare my suffering to the atrocities that have gone on around the world, but I’d like to reflect on what kind of a year it has been for me, personally.  Is it selfish of me to talk about that G-d, when there is so much turmoil, division and fear in the world?  I pray for those who need our help, and I pray that I will figure out a way to be some kind of light in the world.  Can I pray for myself, too?  That’s OK, right?

This year I had 7 sets of scans and 6 of them showed growth or suspicious looking things in my liver.  I had 3 surgeries (almost 4 but was woken up from the anesthesia as the surgery could not be done), and countless doctor’s appointments.  Blood, IV’s, the waiting, the waiting… The waiting.  There was a lot of fear this year, a lot of unknown.

I’ve learned some really hard lessons this year, G-d, and I suppose I should start with that, because it’s always nice to end on a high note (that’s why SATC went off the air after 6 seasons).

Anyway, I didn’t ask for these lessons, but we never really do, huh?

I have learned that the dark and stormy days are just as bad as you think they will be, and you can’t sugar coat the bad stuff.  The stuff of life.  But I’ve learned that leaning in to the suffering, at least a little bit, can actually help to release some of the fear.  I’ve learned that I’ll probably always be afraid but also, it’s cool to live for today.  And if you don’t know what to do, sleep on it.  I totally learned that this year.

I have learned that some fractured things stay fractured.  Some things unravel and never get tied back up again.  Other things slowly form their way back to some kind of normal semblance and you can’t imagine how you ever got through that tangled web of difficulties.

But you did.

I’ve learned that fear can be felt in all different parts of the body, not just the stomach and the heart, but even the tippy toes.  Fear can live everywhere, and if you don’t learn how to manage it, it can take over your life.

But then I found the mantra, “Everything I need, I already have,” and it kind of changed my life.  I wanted to believe that you and the universe (are you one and the same?) had my back, but I was stuck between being afraid to think anything was certain, and the painful uncertainty of life. Stuck between some strong magical thinking, and a body that I did not know (or understand).

Somehow, learning to stay in the realm of hope, living right underneath it (for the most part), and having a sense of humor combined with the warm comfort of spirituality and love, can heal.  Oh yes it can.

At the end of December we tend to think of past years, saying goodbye to the old, rejoicing in the rebirth of the new.

I remember ushering in 2013 with SHL and friends, feeling as though that was going to be the year that we got our baby.  Instead, I got cancer.

I’ve never been a resolution kind of girl.  I just don’t see how all of a sudden I’m going to stop craving chocolate and start craving 5am workouts between 11:59pm on December 31st, and 12:00am on January 1st.

I do the best I can every day.  Some days I really “mess” it up, and other days I nail it with such gusto I feel like I should be on the cover of a magazine.  Most days I’m somewhere in between.

(Another thing learned in 2016 is that “mess” is actually just life.  So you either embrace it and live your truth, or you miss out BIG TIME).

A friend recently sent me an email from a motivational blogger with some intriguing questions with which to look back on the year, and to set some intentions for the coming year.  One of the things that she asks is:  “What do you want to let go of?”

I thought long and hard about this one.  I’m not a hoarder per se, but I do still have some birthday cards that my 3rd grade teacher has sent to me over the years, a signed baseball that an old Minnesota Twins player gave me at Fenway Park back around 1986, and an old broken necklace that I never got fixed and is totally out of style, but I just can’t bear to get rid of.

Here is what I do want to let go of:

  • Self-loathing
  • Carrying around responsibility that everything I eat, drink do or say has caused my cancer.  Carrying around the “It’s my fault” clause.
  • Fear of heights, but only for the good stuff like going on a hot air balloon ride.
  • Control.  Especially of my spouse.  It grows out of anxiety and now that I know that, I am finding it a little bit easier to let go (and admit).  But it’s hard, and I’d like to try and continue working on this.
  • The “little things.”  I’m constantly aware of this (while giving myself some space on it; just because I have cancer doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes want to give somebody the finger for some silly little reason), and I think it needs to stay on the list for 2017.  Dishes in the sink, getting mad when I let somebody into traffic and they don’t thank me (SHL says not to do it for that reason, but it’s just a pet-peeve of mine!), people not doing what I think they should be doing at work.  Get.Over.It.  Focus on the “bigger stuff.”
  • The “mean girl.”  I was never a bully as a kid, so why would I bully myself as an adult?
  • The thought that I can’t do something.  I hate when people tell me that I can’t do something (“You may only live for _ many years.”  What do you know?!  Or  “You can’t pass this math class.”  Well looky here, I just got a B).  And yet, I tell myself that I can’t do things all the time.  “You’re not (fill in the blank) so you can’t do it.  I”m tired of telling myself that I can’t do something.  There are only limitations if you believe that there are limitations (thank you for the reminder M!).

So no resolutions.  Instead, intentions.  This is what speaks to me and has in 2016. So here is what I intend for 2017:

I intend to start every day with a fresh, clean slate.

I intend to believe in myself and my capacity for greatness.

I intend to keep tapping into my potential.

I intend to love greatly, deeply, and authentically.

I intend not to hold back on life.

I intend to say YES to things that I want to do, and NO to those that I don’t (within reason).

I intend to write, speak my voice, help others, share my wisdom and my faults/mistakes/lessons learned.

I intend to stay healthy.

I intend to continue tapping into all the happiness that is available to me.

I intend to live in the light.

I intend to keep singing show-tunes around the house, in the car, at work…

I intend to never stop sneezing the “Kobrick Sneeze.”

I intend to eat a hot fudge sundae any damn time I want.

I intend to eat a rainbow of healthy foods in between the ice cream sundaes.

I intend to move my body.

I intend to help others.

I intend to vacation/travel the hell out of 2017.

I intend to live with hope.  (That’s so my jam. Wonder if that term will still be popular in 2017?).

I intend to be the best wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, social worker, and cancer advocate that I can be.  This doesn’t mean striving for perfection, this means living my truth.  In this way, I will be good for those that I love, and good for myself.

I started to make a list of all of my blessings and all of the fun that I had in 2016 which immediately put me in a better state of mind about what I had deemed as a really crappy year.  Maybe you should try it too!  Here is my list…

Thank you 2016 for the girls sleepover with my camp friends, Ireland with my Mom, Spain and Morocco with SHL, surprising A for her birthday, being in Miami w/ M, forming really beautiful new friendships, loving my old friends, going to the beach with my nephew, having my brother sit with me for my first treatment this year, finding gratitude confetti, having the time off work to deepen my spiritual practice, meditation, my spiritual teachers (Kris, Gabby, Glennon, Deepak Chopra, and lots more), meeting Geralyn Lucas (a-mazing), applying skin masks with my cousin (thank you for living over a Sephora!), feather tattoos (also courtesy of my cousin), street tennis, the best Mexican brunch ever, finding the Super Woman pose and doing it w/ my Mom whenever things get stressful, the love and snuggles that I receive from my kitties, SHL’s US citizenship, sitting on the Schwartz Panel for Compassionate Care, speaking to Jimmy Fund fundraisers, getting a piece published on the Dana-Farber blog, nurturing my relationships with the ever-amazing Cancer Hope Network (Hi Sarah!), going to NH for my birthday with SHL and having him serenade me on the street with a random guy’s guitar, all of the beautiful flowers and care packages sent to me during my recoveries, finding the joy in adult coloring books, all of the abudance of love and generosity by those who support our Team Lozier Mini-Golf Fundaiser (raised over $14,000 this year!  Major props to you guys, my parents, and to Josh & Katie at Dana-Farber/Jimmy Fund who help us so much!), gratitude to SHL for cooking so many delicious meals for me (who knew I married such a little chef?), game nights with new friends (who me, competitive?), red lipstick, Red Sox, cozy socks, my first (and last) wheat-grass shot…

And last, but never least, I am so grateful for the immunotherapy that I am receiving at Dana-Farber.  I am grateful that it seems to be helping, I am grateful that I can get the treatment, and I am grateful for my doctors, nurses, and everybody who gives of themselves at Dana-Farber.

You know what’s so cool, G-d?  As soon as I started to think about the GOOD in 2016, all of those awesome things just came rushing back!  And the bad just kind of took a back seat while I got to relive some of the light-filled stuff.  Huh, there was more than I thought.

There always is.

Wishing you all a bright, love-filled, super healthy and amazingly happy New Year. Bring it on 2017!

Peace, love, health, gratitude confetti, unicorns, green juices, ice cream sundaes, miracles, feathers, ladybugs, warriors, and love.

Sam XOXO

Thinking about the joys of 2016, here are some of the “Greatest Hits:”

 

 

 

Warrior, Ladybug Sightings, and the Lotus

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Here is my most recent Team Lozier email update:

Dear Team Lozier,

Yesterday we learned that Carrie Fisher (i.e. Princess Leia) passed away. I like Star Wars but I must admit, I was more familiar with her work from When Harry Met Sally (one of my all-time favorite movies).  She had an interesting (and very often difficult) life. (Now there was somebody who colored outside the lines).

She was kind of a badass, right?

And the epitome of light and darkness, like all of us.

We all knew Princess Leia as a Princess and a Warrior, wouldn’t you agree? Which got me to thinking about how we see ourselves and how the world views us.  Do they ever match up to be one and the same?

I began to wonder about the toughness and grace that somebody must show to be deemed both a Warrior and a Princess. I wondered about the word “Warrior” so I looked up its exact definition, which is this: “A brave or experienced soldier or fighter.”

Hmmm.

Then I looked up “brave” and found this: “Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.”

What is the difference between courage and bravery, I wondered? Hi-ho, hi-ho, back to Google I go…

Courage: “The ability to do something that frightens one. Or strength in the face of pain or grief.”

I could have looked up “strength” but I decided to just leave it at that. :)

But strength is a tough one, isn’t it? What’s strong to me may not be strong to you, and vice versa.  Is it “strong” to work through cancer treatments?  Is it weak not to?  Is it “strong” to get up and get out of bed every day when you have cancer?  What is your alternative?  (Not a good one, certainly).

I would like to be both a Warrior and a Princess I think, but for different reasons. If I was a princess then perhaps I could live in a castle and have my iced latte brought to me every morning with just the perfect amount of ice or… Off with your head! I would like to be a warrior because I think that would be much more exciting and fulfilling.

Then I thought about who I know, and how many of those people have faced adversity, challenges, and the ups and downs of life. I see that we’re all brave in some capacity.  And, if you’ve never been afraid or have never shown courage, then could that be a signal that you’re never really out of your comfort zone? And who knows what goodness lies there?

And speaking of comfort zones, I am never more out of mine than when I wait for test results (but who isn’t?).

I had my scans on Friday; the first since I began this immunotherapy treatment. The date had been on the calendar for months and as the day got closer, my fear started shoving against the door the way those monsters do.  “Let me out!” it kept saying repeatedly.

I had been using all kinds of tools to cope with the fear– mostly healthy ones– like seeing friends, taking long walks, and meditating (the unhealthy one may have been the amount of brownies that I consumed leading up to this appointment!). Also talking sometimes about the fear helps too, and sometimes just being with it silently helps as well.

Then, kind of out nowhere, I had this revelation:

When we completely avoid suffering, it only makes our fear that much worse. Whatever we’re afraid of lurks in those dark corners, but we spend so much time trying to push it out of our minds that we can never really be present in our own lives. (Also sometimes we just have to push it aside in order to be able to get out of bed every morning.  Nobody can face their suffering 24/7).  A few weeks before my doctor’s appointment I thought about the Thich Nhat Hanh book that I read a few years ago entitled “No Mud No Lotus.” The second I looked that horror in the eye and acknowledged my worst fear, it retreated– just a little bit.  Like, for a second.  That second was one of the best moments of my life.

But, like all human beings, we fear and we struggle and we try to make reason of things, and those “one second revelations” are hard to maintain because well, we’re human. I practice– a lot– the way that I talk to myself.  Am I beating myself up or letting myself “off the hook?” (Which really means just loving myself, “flaws” and all). I practice forgiveness (of myself and others), but also try to get the “ick” out of my life when it shows up. And I practice being aware of all of the abundance in my life.  “I have all that I need and more” is a mantra that I use when the monster under the bed wants to play.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  And other times, I let that monster come out just so I can look it in the eye and admit the truth that something very real exists.  It does not mean anything other than that; it exists.  But I think admitting that is part of learning to live with grief. And other times I just ignore it completely in order to continue on and not lose my mind.

The waiting for test results I can only relate to torture. Bamboo shoots under the nails ain’t got nothing on this. I can’t quite put into words how difficult it is to go home after having scans (trying to read the technologists face even though they’re not allowed to say a peep) and wait– this time for 4 days– to hear what the doctor will say.  Are the tumors shrinking?  Are they growing? (Sometimes they say that they get worse before they get better).  There were so many tumors there when I first started my treatment, are there any more? Have they spread anywhere else?  Will I make it to my 40th birthday in March? Seriously– these are the things that go through your mind while you wait.

I start sweating. Through the night I wake up drenched in sweat, often having strange dreams where people tell me that they’re “very worried” or just crowded nightmares where I’m trying to run away from something bad but my legs are like concrete.

Sean and I went to the Berkshires this past weekend just to try and give ourselves a little reprieve from it all; the snowboarding (him) and reading by the fire (me) and eating nice meals (us) was a nice distraction from it all (as much as it could be).

I was up for 3.5 hours yesterday morning before I got to talk to my doctor. Some of the longest and hardest hours of my life.  It seemed like this would be a big appointment, waiting to see if there is any indication that the medicine may be working yet.

It is.

The tumors are stable right now. There is one that they are watching because it has changed a little bit and so that is of concern, but I will be scanned again in another couple of months and if it continues to change than we’ll deal with it then.

 We’ll deal with it. If we have to, we’ll deal with it.

In the meantime, it was the first time in a year that we have gotten good news.  From last December 2015 up until now, every appointment has been either “We see something suspicious and we’re watching it” or “We need to do something like surgery or immunotherapy” or “There are more. Lots more.”  Eight sets of scans since last December, and this was the first in a year where I heard the word “Stable.”  I’ve never loved a word as much as I did when I heard it yesterday.

(This one to watch isn’t “good” of course, but all things considered, you can’t get too much better than this report).

The practice, the meditation, the body and mind visualizes, the prayers, the self-love, the suffering, all lead me to here. The spirituality that I have found since being diagnosed with cancer has, in a way, saved me almost as much as the medicine.  Because if you can’t cope, then how can you let the medicine help you fight?

Speaking of miracles, many of you know that I believe in things like lady bugs, feathers, and gratitude confetti.

A few days before, as Sean and I were packing for the Berkshires, I found a ladybug on the blanket on the end of my bed! Many of you probably know that lady bugs are good luck, but my friend Marla and I also believe that when we see a lady bug it is her sister Lisa who passed away a few years ago watching over us.

(This is what one website says about lady bugs: The appearance of a Ladybug heralds a time of luck in which our wishes begin to be fulfilled. Higher goals and new heights are now possible. Worries begin to dissipate. New happiness comes about. This insect also cautions not to try to hard or go to fast to fulfill our dreams. Let things flow at their natural pace. In the due course of time, our wishes will all come true. Alternatively she could be signaling that you can leave your worries behind and that new happiness is on its way. This species of beetle signals you to to not be scared to live your own truth. Protect your truth and know that it is yours to honor.)

Live your own truth! You can handle the truth! 

OK, lady bug a few days before doctor’s appointment, duly-noted. Then in the Berkshires I see another ladybug sitting right on my night table!  Sean says he just found it on the bed and put it there.  Two?  In winter?  Whoa.

Then as we’re packing to come home I find ANOTHER one! (I know it was a different one because this one was a deeper red with more spots than the other one).  What?  THREE?  And when we get home, the lady bug that I had originally seen on my blanket had found its way to my night table there too!  Three lady bugs and four sightings!

Kind of amazing, right? Between the lady bugs, my new-found understanding of getting a little bit closer to suffering to live a more present life, and the way that my meditation practice has been comforting me, I felt like I was (I am) on to something.  Out from the murky waters of the mud comes the lotus, remember?  Sometimes getting there is so painful, but the more I let myself authentically roll around in the awful, disgusting mud, the more beautiful and hard-earned the lotus seems when it arrives.

But I can’t give all the credit to lady bugs, my meditation practice, or all of the prayers that go out there to g-d and the universe (though g-d and the universe get a lot of props and so do you for praying for me as well). I also have to give some love and credit to the immunotherapy which is helping me to kick some serious cancer ass, as well as to my doctors and all doctors, researchers, scientists, and donors who have made creating these medicines and having them available to the public possible. Gratitude!

And so I leave you with this my friends: It is OK to make your health and happiness a priority. In fact, it is your birthright. 

We are all Warriors, Team Lozier.

With hope, love, gratitude, feathers, gratitude confetti, and lady bug sightings,

Sam xoxo

My Thanksgiving Gratitude List

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These days we hear the word “gratitude” thrown around so much that I can only hope it is not one of those “buzz” words that we have started to tune out.  And hopefully it’s not just at Thanksgiving time that we actually take a moment to step out of our busy lives and look around at the good.  Did you know that there are now lots of studies out that showcase how keeping a gratitude journal (or just mentally stockpiling as you go) can actually be beneficial to your overall health?

I love Thanksgiving.  Anybody who knows me well knows that it is my favorite holiday Though I am a big lover of giving gifts, it is a nice time of year when no gifts are actually required; it’s simply about being together, having fun, eating comforting foods that we’ve been eating on this day for years (our traditions are rich just like I bet yours are) playing games, and cuddling up with a good movie.  There’s also some mandel bread lying around which reminds me of my Grandma Jeanette (who always had some in her freezer in case somebody was nice to her at the hair salon, the bank or the dentist).  Nobody will play $100,000 Pyramid with me any more (rightly so).  And on any given Thanksgiving you can usually find a few people upstairs in the loft watching football, a few people downstairs on the couch napping, smells of stuffing and pineapple souffle (yes, pineapple souffle wafting through the house (it is a family favorite and sooo good) , maybe a game of mah jongg or backgammon or Balderdash going on in the corner, and maybe (just maybe) the women are getting a little rowdy while checking on the turkey and giggling like not one day has gone by since we were all in the kitchen together checking on the food.  Snacks are out, apple cider is out, maybe some deer wander through the backyard.  This year our surroundings will be different this year (we’ll be in Florida instead of West Virginia or Virginia), I know that good memories are to come, and I can’t wait for the sunshine, warmth, and palm trees to help us create these new memories.  As long as I’m with those that I love, I could be in Timbuktu and be OK (though I’d prefer Florida).

Though I think about my blessings every day, silently to myself or in a journal, this year I wanted to just share a few with you before the holiday.  So here goes:

I’m grateful that even though I’m treatment, I can travel to be with my loved ones this Thanksgiving.

I’m grateful that my relatives and I love each other.

I’m grateful that my relatives and I like each other.

I’m grateful that I can eat my favorite foods on this holiday.

I’m grateful that my treatment doesn’t fall during Thanksgiving week.

I’m grateful for warm showers, meditation, gratitude confetti, green juice, blueberry smoothies with bee pollen, and warm cozy sweaters.

I’m grateful that each member of my family plays an integral part of my team from research to hand-holding to calmness to making me laugh to sending me feather tattoos.

I’m grateful that my friends forgive me for not calling, emailing or texting more.

I’m grateful that even though yesterday I was so tired I cried, I was still able to go out for a walk and enjoy nature.

I’m grateful for autumn in New England.

I’m grateful that my co-workers (and my boss) seem to miss me and send me nice notes telling me so.

I’m grateful that my nephew loves to cuddle, lets me call him Pop-tart (and hopefully will until he goes away to college), and keeps me laughing.

I’m grateful that my best friend’s kids want to FaceTime with their Sam Auntie so that I can tell them just how much I love them.

I’m grateful that my best friend A has the wisdom and heart to walk this path with me– all with such grace on her part.

I’m grateful that my best friend M has taught me the value in meditation, patience, and compassion.

I’m grateful that my Mom is my best friend.

I’m grateful that my husband is my best friend.

I’m grateful that he gets me.

I’m grateful that I have a beautiful office where I am writing this from.

I’m grateful that my family would go to the ends of the earth for me and my health.

I’m grateful for my doctors, researchers, physician assistants, medical assistants, nurses, nurses who give me my infusions, people checking me in at Dana-Farber, my surgeons, my nutritionist, and everybody who has ever smiled at me or said a kind word to me at any of the institutes/hospitals where I have ever been treated.

I’m grateful that my oncologist hugs me when he sees me.

I am grateful for the nurse Alexia Marcous who took care of me when I was in Brigham & Women’s Hospital after my surgery last February.

I’m grateful that my surgeon wants to do everything he can take to help me, and bonus:  He has a great bedside manner!

I’m grateful that there is a shot that can help with my glaucoma. Having said that, I am also super grateful for Ativan.

I’m grateful for the support of the Cancer Hope Network.

I am grateful that I can sleep every morning until I need to.

I am grateful for naps.

I am grateful for my kitties who cuddle with me and sit on my chest and purr and make me pet them instead of looking at my phone.  They are reminders that nothing on my phone is as important as what’s right in front of me.

I am grateful that through my meditation and spirituality practices these last few years, I have learned how to let go, forgive, and find freedom in the unknown (sometimes).

I am grateful that Facebook has kept me connected to so many kind and awesome people.

I am grateful for the Jimmy Fund.

I am grateful that my husband understands my need for coffee.

I am grateful for YOU.

What are you grateful for?  xo.

 

Where I Live

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“Please g-d, find me,” I think to myself, though I know that g-d is already near and always has been.  I release some sort of anguish that lies inside of me until I sound like an injured animal.  I am alone, in my car, crisp fall pieces of the season tapping against my windshield and thick red trees still adorned with leaves despite the fact that it is almost Thanksgiving.  I live in a beautiful wooded area of Massachusetts and cows with long brown streaks greet me through the setting sun; I see one meandering slowly down to a stream for a drink of water.  On the next corner a beautiful wooden fence (so New England) stands between me and three gorgeous horses who are always wiling about eating grass without a care in the world (every time I see them it makes me want to go horseback riding again overlooking the Tetons standing grandly in Jackson Hole, in the lush green hills of Cong Ireland or through coffee plantations in Costa Rica with my Mom.  This all makes me think about the richness of life, the travels, the different cultures, the experiences that I carry with me.  It makes me think about taking a breath and being alive).

The tears brim in my eyes for what feels like forever, and I admonish them not to fall, though I know it is way too late for that.  They feel hot and tired, just like my body.  And when do I release them I feel a great sense of relief, as if this batch of tears has been brewing like an overdone tea kettle that has been whistling longingly asking for me to finally let it go.

I wonder what it will be like to be alone.  I think about a box of wrapping paper that sits on my top shelf in my front hall closet; ribbons all tangled up together and bows of different colors situated perfectly and soft pieces of felt and markers and cards and things that I do not use.  Because of where the box is every time I hang up my coat I see it and think of it.  I long to use it, but I am not really the “crafty type,” and now with things like Amazon I hardly ever wrap gifts to give in person anymore. I love this box because pretty things make me happy, the thought of giving gifts makes me happy, but it mostly sits alone on that top shelf in the closet where the only other guests are old hats and an umbrella that we never use.

I wonder if this is what it will feel like after I am gone.  If I will feel beautiful, but not really needed anymore.  Saved for posterity, but still, dusty and distant.  I wonder if heaven is what I think it is (somehow everything is white like in the movies) and I wonder if those I leave behind will ever be OK.

It is too painful to talk to my loved ones about, the crushing fear of death, or how it will end.  If this will be it, or if it will be many years from now.  I cannot fathom how I could ever leave behind my husband, parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and friends.

So I talk to strangers.  I tell them how tired I am.  How I’m being treated for cancer and when the woman applying my lip gloss in Blue Mercury asks me why I need a “pick-me-up” (because what better what to say fuck you cancer than a new lip gloss), I tell her that I have cancer.  Why would I do this?  The words just slip out quickly and I long to pick them back up again, but they’re out there now spilled all over her beautiful make-up free floor and there is nothing that I can do about it.  “What stage?” she asks, and I get ready for a drama-filled face before I say, “4.”  Yup, there it is.  Her eyebrows raise and her mouth frowns and she looks me in the eye and says, “I’m so sorry.”  Her genuine compassion touches me, but I feel the need to tell her that I’m not gone yet, that I’ve actually had Stage IV cancer for years now.  Somehow telling people that legitimizes my space in the world.  Like, “I’m here.  I’ve been here.  I will continue to be here.”

She says that anytime I want my makeup done for a “pick-me-up” she can come to me, or I can come back into the store.  I wonder if this is using my “cancer card” but I don’t get anything for free, so I don’t think so.

I go into Magic Beans a few hours beforehand (maybe this is why I needed the new lip gloss today) to buy a baby present for the woman who cuts my hair. I argue with myself all the way to my haircut appointment today.  “You don’t really need to buy a baby present,” I think to myself.  After all, we’re not friends per se. We’re friendly because she cuts my hair and she’s very sweet.  But she’s been cutting my hair now for about two years and she does a great job.  I want to do something nice for her, I’m glad that she’s returned to work.  So I go into Magic Beans and pick out a lovie/teether and as it’s being wrapped in paper with puffy white clouds on it (so good for a baby, I don’t know why, maybe because babies are so soft and squishy like those clouds) I see a pregnant couple shopping for strollers.

I give the baby present to the woman cutting my hair and she loves it and tells me all about the things her two month old is doing now, giggling in his sleep, sleeping for 5 hours in a row, smiling.  She shows me a picture on her phone and says it’s the best thing in the world.

I’ve brought this upon myself.  Magic beans, the lovie, the gift wrap.

I wonder how I can live in a world where– according to others– I’ll never get “the best thing.”

She can tell something is up and asks how I’m feeling.  I tell her, since she’s been out on maternity leave, that I have taken leave from work, they’ve found more tumors, and I’m now in treatment again.  I hear myself say “I’m so tired,” and I finally turn my face up to look in the mirror (I’ve been trying to avoid mirrors lately) and as she cuts my wet hair I see it in my eyes.  The fatigue.  The fear.  The gremlins.

I ask my inner-ally to stop by for a visit, I really need her right about now.  She always visits me on a beach, and so that is where we connect.  I tell her that I’m scared:  What if the treatment isn’t working, how can I know?   I’m so tired which I think means my body must be working pretty hard at fighting this cancer.  That gives me hope.  (Being fatigued is a common side-effect of cancer and most treatments and it fazes nobody at Dana-Farber when you tell them that you sleep at least 10 hours a day now).  I feel a little bit sad because I can really only do one thing a day now without needing a nap.  I’m also somewhat worried about going back to work with such little energy, but I’m also scared not to work (what would that mean?  I cannot let this cancer define me but yet it is such a huge part of my life.  I struggle continuously with this).

We talk, for a long time, my inner-ally and I. And in the end I finally drain my tears until it feels like there is nothing left.  I imagine the tears that I have just shed inside of my body, pouring over my liver and the tumors, washing them away.

I imagine what my life would have been like without cancer.

But I can’t.

All I can see is that unused box on the top shelf.  The puffy white clouds.  The tea kettle begging for relief.

All I can do now is wait until the next collection of tears build up and wash over me, like the waves at the beach where my inner-ally lives.  Like where my hope lives.

And where, I remind myself, I live too.

 

 

Us

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As we drive home the sky turns magenta right in front of us; Daylight Savings Time is coming to a close, just as autumn is.  Though winter doesn’t officially start until December 21st (SHL’s birthday, as a matter of fact), it is November 5th and we are getting ready to turn the clocks back and all of a sudden it starts to feel “winterish” to me.  It’s as if the air changes overnight.  I can smell the cold weather coming, and as I slide into the car with just a linen jacket and sweatshirt I feel a chill go through my body and wonder (curiously and bitterly) where my winter coat is hiding at home.  Probably lurking in some extra closet in the house, just waiting for its turn to be worn again.

A few days before:

I arrive where it’s warm (or supposed to be), albeit it a bit rainy.  M and I have flown in from Miami and Boston, respectively, and stand in the driveway of our best friends house in Austin, eagerly awaiting her husband to go in and ask her to come out to get something from the car.  She appears, shuffling her feet tiredly, looking down at the ground.  Never in a million years does she think that we will be there when she looks up.

But there we are.

We could sense, as best friends, that she needed us.  Also her birthday is approaching.  We agree that she is the kind of person who is always taking care of others, especially her husband and three little kids.  But even her friends and parents and extended family and probably even people that she has just met (that’s kind of her way).

This time, we want to take care of her.

It doesn’t work out like that exactly, because of course she still goes into taking-care -of-mode and cooks for us, making us the pumpkin coffee that we like in the mornings and setting up toppings for tacos for dinner at night, but M and I do our best to take care of her, too.

Mostly we talk and laugh.  Sometimes we get teary-eyed.  We lift each other up.  We listen.  We support.  We give ideas, and sometimes advice.  Sometimes we just say to each other, “That is really hard.”  M points out that although we all have different challenges in life (career, family, health), we are all at a point in our lives where we’re trying to take better care of ourselves, trying to find purpose and meaning, and trying to find that balance that seems, most of the time, almost unattainable.

We remind each other of the things that we cannot seem to see in ourselves.

My heart almost bursts open with love not just for A and M, but for A’s family too.  It was what I had hoped it would be when we left college and started lives outside of each other:  That her husband likes me, that I like him, that her kids know who I am.  Though I had imagined us vacationing together, renting a house on the beach somewhere every summer for a week in August, all of our kids running around together and feeling like they were cousins or best friends, I realize that the vision has had to change.  A vacations with other families, and I give these kids no “cousins.”  But whoever said that you can mother in lots of different ways, I realize with relief, was right.  The kids call us Marla Auntie and Sam Auntie and we steal glances and chuckle with love every time they do something adorable (so basically most of the time that we’re together).  We keep the kids company while one has a piano lesson, building towers of Legos, or playing 20 questions (the little one doesn’t yet understand the concept and just tells us what she’s thinking of immediately.  “Cheetah!” she yells out, so happy with herself, and even her big brother just has to laugh).

We go to the kids elementary school and get to see little D accept an award at school for “fairness,” for listening and including others in his play so well and for not just “playing by the rules,” but most importantly, “with his heart.”  The night before he tells me that he’s shy about receiving this award in front of the whole school and so we practice, me pretending to hand him the award and him smiling and saying thank you.  He is off-the-charts excited that the Principal who is giving him the award may say his last name wrong, in which case he would get a dollar!  He asks me to snuggle with him in his car bed and I just can’t get enough of his questions for me:  Sam Auntie, did you have assemblies when you were a kid?  I tell him about what I remember from my elementary and middle school days, the poem that my friend and I acted out (what was the scenery like he asks?  Such awesome questions), and the play that I was in in the 6th grade.  I tell him that I was Smee in Peter Pan, “Captain Hook’s right-hand man.”  I forget that he’s only 5.  A few minutes later he asks, “Sam Auntie, who was the left hand?”

He reminds me that I can love and listen without being an actual biological mother.  I love those kids so much and just want to continue seeing these little magical beings blossoming.  A and her husband are doing such an amazing job with their family, I am in awe.

We celebrate A’s birthday with chicken nuggets for the kids and pumpkin ice cream with Bailey’s for us.  (!) We shop (what we do best) and we reminisce about our shopping escapades, even back in college (some things never change, and that is comforting).  But of course there’s so much more to each of us and so much more to our relationships:  We fill each other in on more details than we often can over the phone, in text or email.  The real nitty-gritty.  Our visits bring us closer, if that is even possible.

We put a candle in the ice cream and I hope that A makes a wish about herself this year.  I hope that even in the sacred moments of each day when she is taking care of others, thinking about others, doing for others, that she can find it within herself to see what I see when I look at her:  A sensitive, compassionate, loyal, thoughtful, smart being.  She deserves so much happiness!  She’s the kind of person who can have meaningful conversations with a homeless man on the street or the CEO of a huge corporation.  She can cook a delicious meal with her eyes closed and throw a party like it’s nobody’s business.  She listens to my fears about cancer and life and she weeps with me knowing that I can’t have children, in a way that only a sister truly can, and then helps me to get back up and want to dig back into life again.  She gives me advice on my writing and speaking dreams and how does she know these things?  She’s so wise.  She always has been.

I remember the first time we met; her Pet Shop Boys poster proudly displayed in her dorm room, me showing her where to get her college ID, my Mom’s chocolate chip cookies and us rushing together and then ending up in different sorority houses (we each became honorary members of each others sororities because we were always together), and neither of us ever guessing that 21 years later we would be here. Family.  Love.  Life.  Fear.  Adventures.  Traveling. Challenges. Cancer. Marriage.  Houses.  Friends.  Sisters.

Us.

You can’t change things for others, but you can remind them of who they are at their core. I hold that hope for her dreams even when she can’t hold them for herself (we all need somebody to hold our hope for us sometimes.  She has done it for me countless times).  Yes, you can’t change things for others, but you can remind them what they can change for themselves.  And you can also remind them that sometimes, there is nothing to change.  Sometimes, they are perfect just the way they are.

And they have always been.  xoxo.

this-is-so-us

 

 

Sparkle

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sparkle

I want to do something fun.  I want to show the world that you should not– DO NOT– have to wait for something tragic to happen before opening your eyes and living your best life.

What does that mean to you?  Are you living it right now?

Cancer deserves a party?  Well kind of.  Not really.  I just love an excuse for a party.  Life deserves a party.  What we’ve learned from our challenges and obstacles and struggles deserves a party.

We wouldn’t be celebrating cancer.  We would be celebrating what showed me that I can heal, maybe not physically (or maybe?), but definitely emotionally.

What would you be celebrating?

Cancer (stupid, ridiculous, life threatening, scary cancer) has taught me what really matters.  It’s what’s teaching me how to be happy.  Like, really happy (not just “I think I’m happy because I’m supposed to be”).

What would this party look like?  Sparkles, for sure.  I love anything sparkly, as SHL (and my iphone case) can attest to.

Balloons.  No filters.  Water slides?  That’s what I think of when I think of fun.

Definitely good food.  Green juice.  Seriously.  This is what I now think of as “good food.”

Cheeseburgers + juice green because life is just like that:  Delicious, juicy, the worse for you the better it tastes, chase it with a green juice and believe– know– that both are vital to happiness.  In other words, don’t deprive yourself but take care of yourself.  It really can be done. I think.  Maybe?  I’m still figuring that one out.

Cocktails of green juice and smoothies with little umbrellas in them.  Sun (with sunscreen).  Sand.

“Real” cocktails.  Something like “Angela’s Punch” from that cute little restaurant in Dublin.  A little Absolut, a little green tea syrup, some plum bitters and freshly squeezed lemon juice with a sparkly soda top.

There’s that sparkle.

Donuts.  Warm donuts.

Energy bites with cacao and almonds and coconut and flax seeds.

Music.  Definitely music.  80’s, probably. Prince, Madonna, maybe even a Girls Just Wanna Have Fun or a Manic Monday?  Mondays usually are manic, aren’t they?

Let’s have a beach party with green juice cocktails and water-slides and Madonna blasting and sparkly balloons.

Let’s not ask each other “What do you do?” “Do you have kids?” but “Who are you?”  “Are you happy?  What’s the best thing that you’ve ever done in the whole wide world?”

What is one thing that you would do if you didn’t have a care in the world?

What is stopping you?

Fear stops me.  Doubt.  I want to help people live their best lives, but I am not living mine because I haven’t figured out how to live perfectly (and of course none of us ever will).  I am living better.  I am living more authentically.  But not perfectly.

Is this an original thought?  It’s been done before, hasn’t it?  People with cancer have shared their stories.  So what’s so different about mine?

I want to have a party.  I want to celebrate– not cancer— but life.  I want to celebrate because I want life to be fun. So much of life is not fun, am I right? I don’t want to be so serious all the time (who am I kidding?  I’m not that serious.  But just enough so that I feel like I need a really kick-ass party).  I don’t want to feel so pressured, so constrained, so worried that I can’t do x,y, or z because I don’t look the way I think I should look.

What would the cover of my book look like?  How would it help?  Would it help?

Where should we meet?  When?  And how do we get water-slides to the beach?