Looking for Peace (And Pastries)

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Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” — Alan Alda

I read.  I sleep.  I dream.  I live in a land where I used to be somebody else, but no more.

An old friend reaches out to tell me that’s OK; we’re always evolving.  Trying to stuff so much of my old baggage into the new suitcase is time consuming and “futile.”

Maybe she’s right.

Who am I now?  I do not know.  I suppose this is OK.  Your true self shows up when it is ready.  Perhaps mine is not ready.  Not yet.

A lot of us have trauma; too many.  Things that we’ve seen or experienced personally; dreams that attack us when we are awake, nightmares that try to crunch through our ear canals while we sleep.  If we let them, they can take away a lot.  Like our authenticity.  Our love of life.  Our humor.  If we let them.

My blood sugars remain high, though I am working with my endocrinologist on it, but still my head is fuzzy and when I’m asked to do something at work I pray that it’s something easy.  I know that I can’t handle much else, or at least without being made to feel like a fool (I’ve been here 6 years, some things by now should just come easily).

I’m careful when I drive.  I’m careful when I walk down the stairs.  The diabetes has once again thrown me off the edge of this cliff; the one where I stand with my toes curled underneath me, feeling the sand and the brush and the rough rocks just waiting for me below.

I try again and again to get out of here– to get some reprieve from work and the doctor’s appointments.  From the needle pricks and the blood and keeping count of pills (yesterday was 17) and numbers.  I do small things for myself here and there that are supposed to add to self-care like massages and lunch with friends.  I get enough sleep.  I snuggle with my kitties.  I went for a walk for the first time the other day in I don’t know how long.

It doesn’t work.  Not really. The writing and the sharing keeps me from becoming totally isolated, but life is boring.  Non-adventurous.  Just waiting for something to happen.  Something good.  I soaked myself in a meditation last night that reminded me that my beliefs navigate my world, not the way other way around.

Maybe I need to find the adventure, instead of waiting for it to find me.

I long to jump off of this medical merry-go-round that I seem to be stuck on.  It’s making me nauseous.

I have long, deep dreams about traveling.  Shaking off my day-to-day life responsibilities and going to the beach.  Don’t care if I need a sweatshirt.  Don’t really care where it is.  Just some sand, water, a blanket, and a book.

I long to put on my headphones and faze out the rest of the world.  I would jump on a plane and maybe go see the red rocks of Sedona.  Maybe squeeze myself into a crevice somewhere in a national park and watch the sun set without being afraid of seeing the dark.

Meditation reigns me in; it’s one of the few things these days that makes me feel still, like I’m not sliding right off the map.  But still, I search for far-away places:

Seattle and Vancouver could be lovely.  I could stay out with my friends who have neighborhood block parties and go sailing and we could get some good grub and pretend that none of this other stuff is happening, has happened.

I could go to Austin and swim in the rooftop pool at the South Congress hotel and finally drink a cocktail and find a good food truck covered with lights.  I could play w/ A’s kids in the driveway with chalk and soccer goals and forget about where I’m from, in that moment.

I could go down to Miami and help my friend M forget about the hurricane, the cleanup and the disaster that her city now is.  Instead we could go to the beach and rent bikes and eat Argentinian pastries on the boardwalk as the sun wakes up.  We could make green juices and go for walks.

I could go all over– to Europe to eat pastries and wander museums, to have afternoon tea with the Queen, to shop on the Champs Elyse, stopping at the Musee De l’Orangerie for my fix of Monet water lilies.  I could eat the best gelato in Florence and go visit my high school teacher in Arezzo.  I could go to Fiji and sit on my own private veranda and jump into that crystal clear water whenever I want to.  I could have somebody bring me drinks and pretend like I don’t have cancer.  Or stomach issues.  Or glaucoma.  Or diabetes.  Or massive fatigue.  Or overwhelming depression.

I want to dip my toes in 7 mile beach; my favorite, the Cayman Islands.  I want to float in that water forever, until the sun sets and you can’t see the little fishes swimming so carefully underneath you.

(So to recap:  Pastries and the beach are calling).

I want to feel carefree. I want to believe that it is possible to feel carefree again.

I want to chuck it all– just bring SHL and a backpack and pretend, just for a while, that I’m just a normal girl, living an adventurous life, one without regret, and one with much peace.

 

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The World Spins Wildly On

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The water is so smooth as it travels from wave to sand, it covers my body like a kind of medicine that only I can see, feel, and attest to.  I linger in the blueness of mother nature and push my feet up as high as they will go, until I can see my bright blue sapphire toenails peeking up against the turquoise waves and my curly blonde hair surrounds me– turned back into a salty, wet, mess.  I love it, and  I long to stay here– right here– floating on my back, alone, watching the clouds turn into turtles and dragons and anything else that my mind wants them to be.  This is something that I can control.  It is as is nobody else exists, or more importantly, nothing else:  No doctor’s appointments.  No diagnoses or prognoses.  No scans or infusions, no phone calls or lab withdrawals.

My body hurts (mostly my stomach).  I put all my vacation eggs into one basket, counting down the days until SHL and I could ditch this popsicle stand and go rest our weary feet down in Bermuda.  10 days.  10 whole days to do nothing but swim and feel salty and play volleyball and kadima and golf and tennis and sleep and nap and eat and drink.

It wasn’t a total waste.  Despite the fact that I didn’t feel well, there were some times when I was able to make it to the beach or the pool, swimming, drinking cokes to settle my stomach and reading a good book.  I haven’t been a reader in a long time (I used to be a veracious reader and one summer in 2006 I read about 12 books, my claim to fame) but now with the deepest kinds of distractions I just can’t seem to get through a book anymore.  However on this vacation I finished a great one (My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry), cleaned up a 515 page total beach book called Truly, Madly, Guilty, and am now about half way done with Noah Hawley’s (FX Fargo series writer) NY Times bestseller Before the Fall.

For the first week of the vacation we weren’t even sure that we’d be able to stay.  I spoke to the on-call doctors and most agreed that my first infusion of Remicaide right before the vacation just wasn’t at a high enough dose to knock out any of this painful inflammation that has been plaguing me.  If things didn’t get any better, they said, I’d have to go to the local urgent care.  We don’t know if it’s the latest immunotherapy that is still wreaking havoc on my body, or what we found out after a recent endoscopy and colonoscopy, that the melanoma has now spread to my stomach.  Thank g-d the doctors don’t think that’s life threatening at the moment, but I’d still love to know how it got there.

Wouldn’t we all.

Ever since April I have been in some kind of pain– liver pain, stomach pain, massive fatigue, kidney stones, feelings of being full after I eat small portions.  It’s been downright nasty to see the world spinning on while I have to eat plain pasta and be stuck on the couch.  Positively unfair, one could say.

So Bermuda was supposed to be 10 days of romance, salt, sun and fun.  And though we did make the best out of it and we were able to stay the 10 days, it wasn’t exactly what we had in mind.  “Care-free” has not crossed our paths in a very long time, and I long for a life that I had remembered in those soft, colorful shapes that seemed to fill the cracks.

We used to go to Bermuda a lot on family vacations, so the pastel houses with white roofs and milk named after Dunkley and playing Rummy Q out on our balcony all brought back such sweet memories.  Now I was to make these memories for my husband, who had never been there.

There were many days when we didn’t get the full scope of sunshine, a day or two spent inside the hotel room looking at the ocean from the bed, and some days just dragging to figure out what to eat while everybody else was just positively dripping with ice cream.

Being home again, I can’t say that I really remember anymore what made me happy.  I know I am not my illness, (I am told this, but if I actually believe it is another thing entirely), but even as I begin to slowly start to feel better (as I wait for a biopsy of some liver tissue and get countless blood work and labs and infusions and scan results) I wonder:  Who am I?  What really makes me happy?  Will the same things that did a year ago now suffice?  I am scared that they may not.  I do not feel like the same person.  I do not remember what it feels like to be content.  I feel sluggish, discontent, lost, far away, and so, so tired.

Here is what I am grateful for, and it’s big:  The last liver scans shows stability.  My doctor says that he’ll take it, so will I then.  On Tuesday before getting my IV placed in for the biopsy my surgeon made sure to stop by to tell me that the had looked at the last scan as well and said that some things on the right side (which have had longer times to soak up the medicine) have even shrunk.  Thank you g-d!

So there is melanoma in the stomach.  There have been labs and more/other scans and biopsies and hours worth of infusions, but we cling to what we hear about the stability of the liver.  My #’s are rising which is why they need this tissue biopsy, and I can only hope and pray that things are OK.  That I am OK.  Because I don’t have much left in me to give right now.  I never did really recharge my batteries in Bermuda and now, I am on low once again.  My blood sugars super high from the steroids; the steroids saved my stomach but the high blood sugar makes me feel so foggy that I slammed into a curb the other day and gave myself one heck on a flat tire.

And I am scared, petrified really, that I may never be myself again.  Because I don’t even really remember who that girl was, let alone if I was to be her once more.

Dear readers– friends, family, social media family– please do not tell me that I will be myself again, and soon.  Please know, in that the deepest hours of the darkest thoughts, that nobody really knows what will be and for now, that will just have to be OK.

 

 

The Days Long Before Cancer

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I’m so antsy, only this time (thank g-d) it’s not restless leg syndrome.  It’s the “I’ve got to get out of the house and try new things” kind of syndrome.

The last two weekends we have finally gotten a change of scenery from just sitting at home and staring at each other (not that I don’t love SHL’s face).  We went to the Cape one weekend and sat out on the deck having breakfast overlooking the ocean, sat outside reading, went out to a  movie and to eat, and had friends enjoy the beach with us.  This past weekend we went to a BBQ and beer fest (I was more into the BBQ and SHL was more into the beer) and then the Red Sox/Yankees game (we love Fenway!).

So it’s been more exciting than the past 3 months, that’s for sure, but at the same time, I feel like crawling out of my skin.  Perhaps it’s the work week that gets in the way of my mojo (can you relate?) as just as I feel like I’m relaxed, it’s time to go back to work.  Perhaps it’s just three months’ worth of bottled up angst at wanting to get out and do things, and now it seems like I just can’t get enough of fun and I wish good food (battling constant stomach aches and nausea). I long for adventure, and interestingly enough, I just wrote an article for our work blog where I quote an author who talks about getting out of a mental rut.  He was tired, overworked and overstressed, and people kept telling him to just rest and “take a break.”  But that didn’t feel institutively right to him, so you know what he did instead?  Stand-up comedy!  He said that breaking out of his comfort zone in the end really helped him mentally.

I can see that.  When A and I went to Mexico in February to celebrate my 40th birthday we went swimming in a cave and though it seems easy/peasy, crawling down that ladder while scared of heights was definitely out of my comfort zone.  Not only that, but swimming in a cave in a wet suit with bats flying all around and feeling somewhat claustrophobic and stalactites jutting around each corner felt adventurous!  I definitely felt more alive afterwards and remember celebrating with tacos and beer by the side of a dusty Mexican road.  Ahhh, adventure!

Any suggestions?  Should I have a spontaneous backyard party with a slip-n-slide, s’mores over a fire pit (that I yet to own) and a game of capture the flag?  Should I jump on a plane and go visit a friend?  Should I try a new food, go zip lining (so scared of that)… Should I get in the car and just drive somewhere?  I’m longing for the water, fresh air, sea salt and good, fresh, homemade ice cream.  I’m longing for overnight camp where we’d go to the general store and spend $2 on junk food that we’d eat late at night on each other’s beds.  I’m longing for carefree fun.

I’m longing to feel young and healthy and free again.  And in the end, what I’m really longing for are the days long before cancer, when I could believe that I was invincible.

 

A Good Day

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Today was a good day.

I worked a full day (for me, which is part-time) for the first time in weeks.  As I walked into the office this morning I heard a dog collar (which turned out to be a dog bone encrusted with rhinestones) and was greeted with the most beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that I had ever seen– Dallas, my co-worker S’s new puppy!

Those of you who know me well (or heck even not that well at all) probably know that I’m a super-duper animal lover.  I grew up with dogs and SHL and I obviously have our fur-baby cats and are ourselves pretty close to getting our own dog, too.

Here are a few pictures so that you’ll believe me when I say just how cute she is!  She loves to play fetch, running down the hallway shaking her little bottom and wagging her tail.  She has what I call “man hands” from Seinfeld– huge paws for such a little girl!  Her ears are soft and floppy and they fall casually into her water bowl when she’s lapping up the good stuff.  Filtered water is best, our co-worker C (another crazy dog lover) educates us.

Take a look into my morning here (jealous much?  ;) )

After work I came home and had a little down time before popping out to the spa.  I was there for 3 hours (3 different services) and feel like a new person!  (It’s been months since I’ve been able to sit comfortably for anything like even a haircut.  I did it once but it was not pleasant).  My colorist even gave me some pink streaks and a free blow-dry as a token of kindness after my pain the last few weeks.  How sweet!

I picked up a turkey burger on my way home from my favorite, The Cottage, and didn’t get a stomach ache after eating it!  It’s a beautiful night here in Boston and my heart is filled to the brim with gratitude for being able to work, love, play with puppies, be pampered, eat my favorite foods without discomfort, and soak up this beautiful weather.

I’m not 100% and I may not be yet for a while, but hope has found its way back into my life again.

Yes, today was a good day.

xo.

Sam with tiger ears

 

 

 

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.

 

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?

 

 

Cotton Candy in Vegas

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“I swear I can still taste that hope.”  ~ Geralyn Lucas, Why I Wore lipstick to My Mastectomy.

I take my thumb and index finger and touch both corners of my lips once more, making sure that the red that I have never worn before is not smeared like a four-year old who colors outside the lines. How embarrassing would that be?  It is just called “The Red” by Sephora and I have gotten one for G and one for myself.

Geralyn Lucas enters the room carefully (in high heels of course) and yet with a presence, and just like that I can only arrogantly tell you before it happens that she will change my life.  She takes off her huge black sunglasses that make her look like a celebrity (and I am sure that people are staring at her in this gorgeous dining room in Manhattan where celebrities sit behind curtains), and I am wrapped up in a huge hug and we are already wiping away tears.

Two hours later we cannot stop talking, and in between coffee and eggs (and more coffee!) the waiters have gently approached our table just a few times to make sure that we have everything we need.  “We’re celebrating life,” Geralyn tells one, and I think “This is my kind of girl.”

I want every second to be a celebration.

I am also scared to talk about all of this.

Another waiter approaches carefully and lets us know that if we want the buffet we may want to go now because it does close at 11am.  It is 10:50am and we have been talking for 35 minutes straight.  Another five minutes go by before we finally make it up to the buffet but then we start talking again and the waiter quietly smiles and tells it like it is:  “It is not pretty when they break this buffet down,” he says, and we laugh and quickly grab our yogurt parfaits and head back to our glitzy and chic table (that Geralyn called ahead to reserve, how amazing is that?).  We sit with our backs against a banquette and underneath the most beautiful, huge bouquet of spectacular flowers that I just know my Mom would adore.  I don’t really know what our view is because I am too busy trying to make sure that my red lipstick does not end up all over my coffee cup and more importantly Am I making sense?  Am I talking too much?  Am I crying… Again?  Does she know how cool she is?

She tells it like it is.  No holds-barred.  Is so open to answering my questions, immediately wants to connect me with Matthew Zachary (I’m too young for this/Stupid Cancer) and invites me to his cancer summit in the spring in Vegas.  The question doesn’t even fully register between her words and my brain before I know that we will be there.  Together.  Why not?  Cancer is stupid.

I ask her about her family, her diagnosis, her doctors, her book, and she answers all openly and honestly.  I ask her about sugar, because that is my question for those living with or in remission from cancer.  (I never consciously decided to obsess over that when I was diagnosed with cancer, it just kind of happened). She agrees that being healthy is wonderful but also says that caffeine, alcohol, and sugar are a super part of life!  I feel my shoulders relax; she is not one of these crazy “one muffin will kill you” kind of people. That is exactly the kind of person right now that I don’t think I should be around.  I am already putting too much pressure on myself after the doctors have found more and more tumors and wondering if it was the Coca-Cola lights that I treated myself to this summer while in Morocco that have caused this.

She shakes her head and becomes serious:  “Please, please don’t do this to yourself Samantha,” she says.  She looks into my eyes and all of a sudden our joking is put to the side and real life sinks in.  This shit is about to get real. “You are not to blame for your cancer, and having a smoothie with bananas or a brownie or a cup of coffee with milk is not going to make or break your cancer.”  Make or break.  I want to make.  I want to live.  Is what she’s saying true? How do I distinguish between the truth and fiction these days anyway?  I love her.  I love Kris.  Who is right?

But all I know, suddenly and certainly, is that I want to be happy.  I want to notice the power of my soul and honor it.  I want to live. I want to be healthy, of course.  I want to strengthen my immune system and feel strong and well.  I honestly do love my green juice and energy bites with flax seeds but I also love a latte and I don’t mean to brag but my brownies are kind of amazing, and I beg myself to just be able to release the guilt, the thoughts that hug me tight and won’t let go– that in fact, are strangling me.  I no longer want to suffocate.

I breathe.

I know that I will not get it perfectly today, or ever.  But I want to try.  Try to not let cancer grip me so hard that I miss out on my life.

“I want you to eat a piece of candy today,” she says, and I don’t even think that she’s kidding (that night I have gelato with friends at dinner).  “Cotton candy!” she says, and I laugh thinking about being almost 40 and eating cotton candy and that reminds me of being in an amusement park and roller-coasters.  This leads me to think about how I got here (because life with cancer = a roller-coaster), and how I will make decisions and how I can live with myself if I eat cotton candy and I have cancer. For any person who has ever had any issues around food, imagine that multiplied by a million and then add a few cups of guilt and shame and a fear of death and then I think maybe that’s why we can all relate to each other despite our circumstances: Because most of us struggle with finding happiness, purpose, and balance; not just those of with cancer (it’s maybe just a bit more “in your face” for us).  So much of this is about self-worth, about choices.  It’s about not letting ourselves just be on auto-pilot, thinking about what we put into our bodies but also thinking if our thoughts are punishing or loving or just how much we’re enjoying our lives.   Do we bully ourselves?  Do we treasure others above ourselves?  What is missing?  What isn’t? No excuses, no bull shit:  Are you happy?

We each get out our red lipsticks and reapply in the mirror of the restaurant, asking the waiter to take our picture.  “We’re celebrating life,” Geralyn declares again and I pull out her book and show the staff:  “Look!”  They ooh and ahh and take pictures of us with roses from the table that we hold up to our noses to show the world (and ourselves):  We’re stopping to smell life, cancer or no cancer.

She kisses my book, leaving a beautiful red imprint of her lips that have smiled and laughed and I bet tasted those salty bitter tears that come with having lived with cancer. “Thank you for being you,” she writes.

How do I thank her for being… Well, another guardian angel in my life?

I wonder what lies ahead, after our breakfast and months into the future.  I “future-trip” with Geralyn right in front of me after we talked about our meditations and being in the present moment.  I don’t want the breakfast to end.

But I’ll tell you one thing:  I’ll see you in Vegas, Geralyn, and I’ll be eating cotton-candy.

xoxo.

P.S.  Please watch this video from Geralyn’s website:  http://www.geralynlucas.com/lipstick/

It’s freakin’ amazing and could SAVE YOUR LIFE!  #courageiscontagious

Cherry On Top

2

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”     Maya Angelou

It takes a lot for me to have a day where I don’t think about cancer. Even on the good days when I am manifesting abundance and having fun, it is still there.  The reminder can come in something subtle like a song on my iTunes that I associate with the summer I was diagnosed, or something sky-writing huge like getting a call at work from a client who says that their family member has a Stage IV cancer and is going to die.

I tell you this so that you will fully appreciate just how special last Saturday was, at our Second Annual Team Lozier Mini Golf Fundraiser. Though we were there specifically to raise money for the Melanoma Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where I am treated, I wasn’t thinking about cancer at all (I realized later).

Yes, maybe I was too busy making sure that the day went off without a hitch; that people were enjoying themselves, that they knew where to purchase our “Help Me” golf package (those Mulligans sure come in handy!) or the opportunity drawing tickets; that everybody had something to eat and drink at the lunch afterwards at my parent’s house, that my nephew was close-by and having fun and that SHL and the rest of my family were feeling good.

Or maybe, it is just that I feel so alive when I’m with my family and friends. Nothing makes me feel happier than a sunny day with the people I love having fun.  What could be better?  Add in some grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream sundaes and wow, what a Saturday!

I have just been absolutely blown away by the kindness, warmth, loyalty and dedication that you all have shown not just to me, but to my family as well. As I said to Kris Carr through tears last summer at the Chopra Center, “Thank you will just never seem like enough.”

How will I ever thank you?

I will thrive. I will live, and I will live a life worth living.  I will help others.  I will look after myself but I will give back, too.  I will love you and stand by you and be there for you as well.  That is how I will thank you.

It is because of YOU that I expect that we exceeded our goal even from last year! I’m in the process now of adding up our pay-to-play, “Help Me” golf package, opportunity drawing tickets, and online donations so that I can give you our grand tally (and then my parent’s will MATCH THAT DONATION DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR!).  I can’t wait to announce it soon!

So the day that we were raising money for cancer was the day that I wasn’t thinking about cancer at all.  That is just another gift that you gave me that day on top of the gifts that I had already received (monetary yes but also gifts of your hope and love).  Like the sundae wasn’t already spilling over enough, you added a big ol’ cherry on top!

You helped me to be thinking about how much I was looking forward to seeing everybody; from my work friends that I see every day to an old co-worker who I hadn’t seen in 5 years, to family friends that I only get to see a few times a year to my camp friends to my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew who flew in from MD for the occasion, to my “new friends” who have rallied around me as if they have known me forever.

I was thinking about whether or not I’d have time to play a round of mini-golf myself (I did because of the kindness of friends who helped collect money and tickets and sign people in so that I could play; my contact at the Jimmy Fund Josh and I got to play a whole round which ended in a tie!).  I was thinking about the party at my parent’s house afterward, about the kids running around enjoying the ice cream sundaes and the sun beaming brightly on us after days and days of recent rain.

I was thinking about how it fills my heart to the brim to see SHL being himself and having so much fun with people that have only been in his life since he moved here (the warmth of our Team make him feel like they have known him forever).  I was thinking about who the lucky winners would be of our opportunity drawing and our family BBQ that night, just the 7 of us.  I was thinking about getting to squeeze my pop tart nephew M and maybe read him a story that night and how happy I was to be surrounded by so many people that I deeply love.

Those of you could not attend the fundraising event—you were there in spirit. I felt ya!

So, we play golf together. We break bread together.  We’re there for each other when the chips are down, and we’re there for each other when the going gets really good. That my friends, is love.

With hope, gratitude, lots of holes-in-one, grilled cheese sandwiches and lots of ooey gooey love being sent your way,

Sam xoxo

Food for Thought

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Ohhh, dear friends, when you have trouble getting a “newbie” green juice down, it makes you feel like you’re less than a wellness warrior. Can we define just what exactly is a “wellness warrior?”  Because in my head it means somebody that drinks 3 purely green juices a day, cleanses once a month, becomes a certified yoga instructor, and posts inversions and walks out in nature every day on Instagram.  How do people have time (let alone flexibility?) for all of this?

Having said all of that, you know that I love Kris’s new book because it is so… Kris. Crazy Sexy Juice right on!  The pages are glossy and the info is friendly and the pictures actually make you wonder why you didn’t just come out of the womb drinking this stuff. She’s been doing this for years but I secretly wonder if when she first started she had some gagging going on of her own (Yes, I actually gagged this morning).

Yesterday I tried the “Berry Protein Powder” smoothie and though it didn’t have a strong taste of anything, really, it was pretty easy to drink: bananas, blueberries, almost milk, hemp seeds, cacao powder, and spinach.  I’m really into berries these days and I have secretly been wondering where almond milk has been my whole life.

I tried the “Green Me Up” juice this morning which Kris totes as a “newbie” one, excited (as I could be at 7:45am) to brush off the juicer since it’s kind of been like the step-child to the blender lately. All of these recipes seem to call for kale, which I thoroughly dislike (another reason why I can’t be a wellness warrior, right?  How can I not like kale?  Or beets or ginger, by the way).  I substitute spinach instead (it is hysterical to my parent’s that I eat/drink spinach like it’s going out of style, since I wouldn’t touch the stuff when I was a kid).  Green apple has less sugar, guess what?  That’s my favorite kind!  Score!  Cucumber, love it.  Pineapple, one of my faves, we’re doing well… And then…2 stalks of celery.  Though I’m going on almost a year on having my juicer, I still consider myself a beginner (hence the “newbie” juice) but I later learned that it was the second stalk of celery that did me in.  Ugh—I had to transfer the juice from my mason jar to a paper cup and try to just drink a little bit at a time, like medicine (I’m not sure what the transfer had to do with anything, it just felt more manageable, somehow). I’m still sipping the bright green juice as I write this, at 10:30am… And yes I know, the more oxygen that gets into the juice, the less potent it is, but come on people, I’m doing the best that I can!  This is a tough one to swallow, I’m not going to lie.  I wish that Mary Poppins would appear with a spoonful of sugar to help me get this “medicine” down, but then again, I guess that would kind of defeat the point, now wouldn’t it?

(I never thought I would say this, but I am so looking forward to my Ezekiel english muffin later on).

It is kind of cool that I have all of the fixings in my house not to make a martini, but to make a juice or a smoothie. My pantry is stocked with hemp seeds, flax seeds, cacao powder, oatmeal, dates, goji berries, chia seeds, almond butter and unsweetened coconut flakes.  My fridge usually has spinach, lemons, apples, and cucumbers.  Though I don’t always feel like a wellness warrior, maybe just my attempt to be one is enough, for now.  Just like any human being, I suppose, I first tend to focus on what I don’t like or what I don’t do, instead of all of the great things that I am incorporating into my daily life to be the best version of myself (not just food but thoughts, exercise, gratitude, soul blasting friend sessions and giving myself permission to just “be” sometimes).  Let that be a reminder for all of us to try and focus more on how we take care of ourselves (and love ourselves) and leave the rest for the birds.  I’m pretty sure that my dear Kris would whole-heartedly agree!

Why can’t we have juices that taste like donuts? Just sayin’.

Creating Our Own Days

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I broke a glass mason jar this morning. A favorite one, too, that I brought back from Maryland when my brother and I walked to the juice store nearby his house. Bummer. “Great way to start a Monday,” was the thought that immediately popped into my head, until I quickly reframed it to: “Just because this was the start to the day doesn’t mean that today will be any less awesome.” I found myself anxious to get to work on time after cleaning up all of that broken glass, even though I knew that I’d be there at least five minutes early, and I set my intention to “better manage my anxiety.” Too negative and too vague, I decided. I tried again: “I will have a peaceful day.”

Sure there are lots of times when I want to scream into a pillow because there’s broken glass everywhere, my cats are itching to get into the room with their sweet little paws and I’m running late so can’t make my smoothie for breakfast. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a Monday? This surely could have been one of those mornings, and sometimes you’ve just got to be pissed. But today didn’t feel like one of those days; I wanted to start my week off feeling calmer, and I felt that I actually had more control over that than I had ever realized in the past. That in itself, just being able to shift my thoughts about the day (especially when anxiety hits) felt pretty awesome.

(Plus I’m coming down from such a great weekend with my camp friends spent in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Those of you who have attended overnight camp or have kids who do understand just how special these relationships are– some of these girls I’ve known since I was 10 years old!  We laughed and drank grapefruit-tinis (sooo good) and shopped and ate and dug our forks into boxes of bakery deliciousness while we sat in our pj’s and gabbed.  We shared a suite and congregated in the sitting room like we did in our chugs at CTN and brushed our teeth together, just like the old days!).

Camp Friends in NH

 

But I digress (totally worth it).  What I really wanted to talk about today is anxiety, because I’ve got loads of it.  I was recently told by a practitioner on my team that my exercise routine is great, but in order to be able to better deal with this anxiety (if I don’t want to rely on meds), I should try to exercise every.single.day. Say what?! That seems totally overwhelming to me, especially with how busy and taxing work is and how much I love to do other things (like watch Real Housewives on the couch), but I relaxed a little bit when they suggested that I just start with taking a walk during lunch just to get some Vitamin D. I left my phone in the office and did just that today. I heard the wind chimes and watched the leaves travel with the wind from lawn to lawn in all their golden autumn glory. I’m not sure what I’ll do when it gets really cold here, but for now, it really helps my afternoon in the office to feel more manageable and I feel less sluggish the rest of the day. And I do love my arc trainer at home (it’s hard to make excuses not to work out when you’re lucky enough to have your gym in your basement!).

I’m also feeling excited; I got a notification from Amazon that the new Kris Carr book that I pre-ordered months ago will be here tomorrow, yay! Not only does it have new juice recipes, but I’ve read that it has tons and tons of blending and nut milk recipes, too. I’m psyched because I’ve definitely been gravitating towards smoothies more lately. I’m thinking of doing a “Julie and Julia” type of thing where I try a new smoothie or juice from Kris’s book every day. I know that there will be some that just won’t appeal to me (I substitute spinach for kale)—I hate beets and though I like ginger in small doses in certain situations (ginger ale, pumpkin cake), I can’t stand it in a juice or a smoothie. This will end up being about creativity and determination/motivation to stick with the breakfast routines that I know will make me feel better about my health and my day.

Mornings are tough because if you’ve ever lived with me (hey roomies!) you can attest to the fact that it takes me a good hour before I can even get a coherent sentence out, let alone drink water with lemon, juice, exercise, meditate, and then get to work. Um, yeah… I’m working on all of this. In the meantime, I try to incorporate those other tasty and balanced self-care treats throughout the day (5 minute meditation and 10 minute walk during lunch today), and even into the early evening.

I can’t wait to crack open her new book and tell you guys all about it! Or, get it here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1401941524?keywords=Kris%20Carr&qid=1445282246&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1.

Cheers to green goodness, Vitamin D, and creating our own days,

Sam xoxo.