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AUTHENTICALLY BOLD: REBECCA

BETTER, NOT BITTER

Never Say Never

Another weekend has come and gone, much like the fleeing of those two days of rest often seems to disappear like the fog in the early morning.  Typically, my weekends are filled with the activities of your run-of-the-mill parents:  sports activities of the children, errands necessary to maintain a household, and some type of relaxation activities if there are not upteen birthday parties or family parties to tend to.

This past weekend, I chose to spend the bulk of my “down” time with eleven other adults, five of which were crammed in the same tight quarters of a twelve-passenger Ford Transit van for over 36 hours.  Trust me when I say I’m not quite sure how TWELVE passengers would fit in this vehicle as it was just barely doable with five other adults and our belongings for the 36 hours.

What were we doing that required the rental of a large van and our belongings for 36 hours?  Oh, right.  I signed up for another Ragnar Relay race.  What….on….earth…is…wrong…with…me?

A couple of years ago, I was conned persuaded to join a 12-person relay team to run a 200 mile road race in 24 hours.  I enjoyed the experience tremendously; it was unlike any other race experience and I knew I would do another one someday.  Twelve people sign up to run three times in 24 hours; six people in van 1 and six people in van two covering 36 legs of the relay route by foot passing a wrist bracelet “baton” to one another at pre-arranged transition areas continuously until the entire team crosses the finish line.

Flash forward to May 2016, I completed the Ragnar Relay Cape Cod with some Crossfit and running friends of mine.  As hard as it is to run multiple miles in 24 hours, the adventure afforded by the Ragnar event leaves you feeling an enormous sense of accomplishment, but also, the memories of doing something outside of your comfort zone and an escape from your everyday burdens life.

At the time, I recall saying repeatedly that I would *never* do Ragnar-Reach the Beach New Hampshire.  No way.  No how.  That race is full of MOUNTAINS.   You know…never ending inclines, hills, and did I say MOUNTAINS – as in the WHITE FREAKING MOUNTAINS?   Yes.  No way am I ever doing that!  NEVER.

Oy vey.

In the immediate after-glow of Ragnar Cape Cod, in my delirious and over-tired endorphin laced stupor…..I somehow agreed (it still makes me wince) to do Ragnar-Reach The Beach New Hampshire.  Yes.  Remember I said never?

I was duped. 

I was conned. 

Two of my Ragnar Cape Cod teammates/friends must have batted their eyelashes at me and wooed me while I was inebriated on serotonin.  What kind of friends ARE those; I ask?

Fast forward again to this past weekend, somehow, suddenly a mere four months had vaporized into the time machine and here I was again, sitting in a large white passenger van en route to the deep, dark woods of New Hampshire’s lake region on a Thursday after work.

Why a Thursday you ask?  Because the team I was on was assigned a race start time of 6:45 am on Friday.  We decided it would not be in our best interest to leave at 2 am on Friday to make a three-plus hour trek up to the starting line located at Bretton Woods when we would then have to be awake for however many hours it took us to complete 200 miles to Hampton Beach at the finish.  Fortunately, one teammate in van one and one teammate in van two had homes in the lakes region so we could stay and sleep for a little while before continuing onward North and to higher altitude (aka MOUNTAINS).

Instead of that dreaded 2 am wake-up call from home, we woke at 4:40 am to get the final hour drive up to our race starting point for the safety meeting and check-in of our team.  My nerves began to intensify and my belly reminded me multiple times over that my brain was indeed on crack, or something far crazier than serotonin.  My Gremlin came out and started with her negative banter:

“You are too old for this!” 

“You are not in shape for this!” 

“What WERE you thinking?”

“You are way too fat for this!” 

“You are so slow, you will hold the entire team back!”

“What on EARTH (or any other planet) were you thinking?”

“You are going to fail.” 

“You won’t be able to complete your legs, someone else will have to pick up YOUR slack.” 

On and on and on this terrible self-torture went on.  ENOUGH!  I would shout to myself once in a while.  That sneaky slimeball Gremlin would weasel back in:

“You think Crossfit training is enough for you to run all these miles? HA!”

“Maybe you should have focused on more training runs and not lifting weights!”

“Seriously?  400 meter runs at Crossfit, a few longer runs around town and you think you can do this?”

It was too little, too late; I was committed to a team and fidgeting nervously, anxiously, at the base of Bretton Woods waiting for Runner #1 to go off and wonder if I could start my race with a decent enough run to shake off the demoralizing Gremlin.

I started to look around me and I shivered; but it was only 39 degrees at the base of this particular mountain.  Thank goodness it’s not hot and humid, I gently reminded myself.  Look at that sky!  Look….at….that…sky!  The crisp sky was such a brilliant shade of blue contrasted by the dark green of the mountains around me.  There were hardly any clouds except for a wisp here or there.  As I took in a deep, cleansing and calming breath, I knew it would be okay.

Once the baton was handed to me, I reminded myself to start off comfortably as I tend to want to bolt out – partially in anxiety and anticipation, but partially because the old running star still thinks it resides in my brain and has yet to meet this 42 year old body.

Brain, meet body (again, for the thousandth time).

Body, meet brain (again, also for the thousandth time).

Not only am I 42 years of age now, but my body still suffers from the collateral damage of breast cancer treatment and the never-ending gifts that delivers.  Three different types of chemotherapy have left life-long residual effects such as neuropathy and a post-cancer diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.  Have you ever tried to run several miles on numb feet and with massive joint pain?  For some reason, I do – and for fun!

My first leg of the Ragnar was simply a four and a half mile excursion from Bretton Woods to the Grand Washington Hotel and back to the base of Bretton Woods.  As I took off from the base of the ski lift and the grassy knoll it calls home, I headed into a trail that consisted of a sandy, uneven and rocky bed.  Deep cleansing breaths ensued as I kept my feet steady on the shifting and moving foundation underfoot and I chuckled as I read the “Beware of bears” sign I wobbled past.  Because it was cold, my muscles started to threaten to cramp (damn, why didn’t I warm up more?) and I shook off the pending fear that tried to take over.  Before I knew it, I was out on pavement on Route 302 distracted by the glorious peak of Mount Washington before me.   I continued on and met the Nordic cross country ski trails to run on; again, somewhat of a nightmare for feet impacted by the nerve damage of Taxol.  I found myself chuckling again as I remember what a disaster my one and only cross-country skiing excursion went two years ago at my work retreat on these very same trails.  Why would someone try cross-country skiing when they have severe neuropathy?  Oh, why the heck not?

Distracted by my own laughter, I suddenly found myself at the base of the rear of the Grand Washington Hotel.  It was majestic in its white and red glory against that radiant blue sky. img_5711

The trail evened out and was sure-footed as I wrapped around to the other side of the hotel and around the Nordic Ski Center itself where the front of the Grand Washington caught my breath again.

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Knowing my teammates were waiting, I scaled the uphill driveway to find myself following several other runners scattered along the exit and back out onto Route 302.  As I blasted into the transition area, my team was eagerly and happily waiting for me and I was so pleased to learn I had finished that leg of my race a little faster than I had anticipated.  *THIS* is why I do this, I said to myself.  I *CAN* do this.

My teammates in Van 1 plowed along through majestic mountains and scenery until about 11:30 am where we handed off to the rest of our teammates in Van 2 for them to start their adventures.  We had a few hours to eat, rest and regroup before starting up again for leg two later that afternoon.

By 5 pm or so, the temperature had soared to around 73 degrees and sweat was coming off everybody coming into the transition area for runner #12 to pass off again to runner #1.  My Gremlin started to undermine me and cause me uncertainty for my next leg; the same of which was 6.8 miles.  While runner #1 was out completing his mileage, I worried about what I had gotten into once again.  The pesky questions of self-doubt started to rise and my stomach flip-flopped making me question my lunch choices.  The angel on one shoulder was reminding me of my efforts ten hours earlier and giving me words of confidence.  The devil on the other shoulder was chastising me, berating me, and trying to convince me that I would be unable to do it for a myriad of reasons.

A little after 6 pm approximately, I trotted out of a sandy pit and onto a winding, country road to start my longest leg of the race.  The sun was starting to set with brilliant pinks, reds, and oranges disbursing through the green leaves of the trees.  The farm animals lent their smells to the warm mountain air.  I practiced breathing as I found myself withholding from the anxiety that still remained in the early mile and I tried to shake out the stiffness from sitting in the van for so long coupled with the remnants of rheumatoid flare the week before.

The rolling hills started to turn into much larger rolling hills; with me trying to make up time on the downhill with my friend gravity as I slowly and steadily plowed my way up, up, up the seemingly never-ending and growing hills.  Panic set in as I realized I was only about three miles in; I questioned how I would get through more.  Slow and steady.  Slow and steady.  I recited this to the different beats and tunes surging through my earbuds.

The hills got longer, steeper, and much harder.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to call my van and plead mercy.  I give up.

No.

Keep going.  You have more.  Slow and steady.  Slow and steady.

I can’t do this.  I can’t.  My feet hurt.  My joints scream.

You have beaten cancer.  You have more.  Keep going.  Slow and steady.

The conflicting dialog continued on in my brain as my body detested the motions I pushed it through.  Suddenly, I hit town and more vans were approaching.  I must be near the transition area.  I can do this.  As I turned the last incline, I saw the crowd of people waiting for their teammates to approach and I knew my very own team would be there waiting.  I did it.

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My van-mates were done around 12:15 am before passing the baton off to van two again.  We had the luxury of getting a shower, a meal, and about two and a half hours of sleep at a family member’s house nearby.  Another 4:40 am wake-up call and we were en route to the final and third-leg runs for our van.

The long and short of it is my body was by now, very sore and achy from the 11.3 miles it completed in the hours before.  Getting in and out of the van was now a challenge, my knees and hips telling me they were not a fan of my activity and my muscles stiffening.  I modified by getting out of the van backwards each time.  Thanks to a wildcard leg for runner #1 and runner #2 in these legs, the mileage was to be determined by both of us.  Runner #1 felt good enough and was a trooper enough to accomplish over 6.4 miles, leaving me with the remaining 4.5 miles to track down for the transition to runner #3.  My van-mates reminded me it looked to be mostly downhill, as words of reassurance and confidence.  Early on, I knew my final leg was going to be a challenge simply because we had lack of sleep, we had too many miles thus far, and my stomach would not tolerate enough fuel for these last miles.

As I tried to maneuver the downhill grades with a faster clip, my quads started screaming at me.  I may have told them to “STFU” and used that momentum for the continuing hills I ensued on this last leg.  Are we not getting closer to the freaking ocean?  Why are there still so many hills I pondered?  My piriformis muscle really let me know it was angry; angrier than my nerve-damaged feet and with more intensity that my quads tried to bail out with.  I walked.  “Just to that telephone pole and then you get your ass moving again, Rebecca!” I said.  I would run until near tears.  I walked.  “Just to that telephone pole and then you get your ass moving again, Rebecca!” I said yet again.  Over and over and over until the final hill of the leg was standing before me.  At this point in time, it looked as if it were Mount Everest before me and I nearly burst into a full on girl cry.  One more massive hill.  I had no choice.  Quitting was not an option.  I walked the entire last hill.  I felt shame.  I felt guilt.  It took me a long time.  I apologized to my teammates who were just so glad I was there.  I started to chide myself again for my lack of performance as I nauseously stepped my sweaty mess of a body into the van.

As we drove to the next transition area, I made a decision.  I had completed 15.8 miles over three legs in 24 hours.  Does it *really * matter how fast or slow I went?  Does it *really* matter if my legs were hilly or not?  Does it *really* matter that I walked some of those big hills?  Really?  No.  It does not.

I said I would never do Ragnar-Reach The Beach New Hampshire.  Yet, here I sat……sore, broken, exhausted, but yet, done.  My never had turned into a reality.  My never had delivered forty-eight hours of memories and adventures with good friends and new friends.

My never had once again reaffirmed that despite the negative Gremlin that lives in my head, I have the power to overrule the nasty words she spews.  My never had also reinforced the belief that despite my sadness that I will never have a “normal” like I had before cancer, my current state of “normal” is okay.  My never allows me to be alive and live…truly live by doing things that are not only a test of my physical body, but my mental ability to overcome.

Putting myself aside, I saw friends of mine take on this endeavor and crush every mile  Friends of mine who are not “runners” as they label themselves, are now the owners of bragging rights for completing distances equal tonor greater than a half-marathon!  What a sight to see!  What pleasure I gained from seeing their smiles and sense of accomplishment!

Life is always full of challenges for all of us, that will not change.  Instead of saying never in the future, I will look at challenges with an open-mind and I will know that I am responsible for whether I choose to accomplish or overcome those challenges as I see fit.  Instead of saying I will *never* do an ultra Ragnar (only six runners for 200 miles, instead of twelve); I now firmly, confidently, and emphatically say, “I choose NOT to do an ultra.  I have zero desire to consider that challenge.  I will look elsewhere for a different challenge.”

Anyone in for Ragnar Cape Cod 2017?

 

Free Ticket Giveaway over at Lucky Scarf!

Visit the blog over at Lucky Scarf today and comment at the bottom of the post to win four tickets to the famous King Richards Faire for you & your family/friends!  Drawing is tonight, so don’t delay.

Click below:

Free Tickets to King Richards Faire!

Let’s Talk Boobs, Shall We?

Surprising how quickly time seems to fly these days!  Days turn into weeks; weeks turn into months; and suddenly, months turn into years before we realize the cycle of time.

With a full time job, three kids, a husband, an avid Crossfit addiction, a need to advocate for those with cancer, and more commitments; I find time elapsing faster than ever before.

In the meantime, as I ponder new material to share with the world I realize that some of my content from my former blog, “Confessions of A Curvy Girl” had some posts that were worthy of a re-share.

For now, let’s talk about Boobs:

Confessions of a Curvy Girl: I Am A Boob Girl

The DOER Series – April Edition

With a recent couple of scares at the local high school in the past several months, including a full protocol lock down, in talking with a friend of mine who works at the high school, I realized the depth of my next nominee for The DOER Series here in my Authentically Bold blog.

I do not go to the high school often to dismiss my oldest child, but when I do, I am greeted at the front entry by a gentleman that has a conflicting aura about him: he is both intimidating but yet, warm and funny in the same moment. For those of you that know me, I do not get easily intimidated, but I love people with a great sense of humor and particularly those who make fun of me at my expense.

Meet Michael Hume, our April Edition DOER.

 Mike hume

After the seriously scary lock-down at our high school, I asked my friend more about this man after it dawned on me that *this* man is our first line of defense should anyone target our high school through the front entry- way. Without knowing this man beyond our handful of interactions, I know without a figment of a doubt that he would put his life first before letting any intruder get to the thousands of students that go to the high school. My friend confirmed for me that the “scary funny” man (as I described him) that sits at the front desk would absolutely place himself in any line of “fire” that may threaten to harm any of the building’s occupants.

Who IS Michael Hume?

Beyond the tough shell and super teasing personality is a man whose wife describes him as “a very caring and compassionate person.”  Dayna states, “We were both raised in political families and were taught from an early age to give back to our community whenever the opportunity arises.  We have managed to teach our children those same values and are so impressed with the level of compassion that they have toward others!”

Dayna traces back their desire to help outwardly was their decision to become foster parents.  She credits the foster parenting training as being so intense that it allowed Michael and her to recognize qualities that they did not know they had as a couple.

When their son Bo, began to play Pop Warner Football at the age of 8 years, Michael and Dayna became involved in the Pop Warner program in Leominster.  Not only did Michael, as well as Dayna, become board members, but Michael started a long career of coaching, becoming director and subsequently President of the League itself. Dayna was right behind Michael as the league secretary and team mom for Bo’s teams; and even tried her hand at coaching cheerleading.

Michael started the Mighty Might Bowl in Leominster one year so that the youngest kids who do not get the opportunity to have playoffs, could have a chance to play in a “big” game. The parents were so thankful to Michael for giving their kids that experience.  While Michael was President he managed to change the Leominster Pop Warner colors to match the city colors of blue and white and purchased new uniforms for most of the teams.  Based on Michael’s leadership example, his older son Rich also became involved: he mowed the field and helped install the new electronic score board at the field.  Michael further championed for the continued use of the field when the then current city government tried to eliminate the lease of the field. Michael’s diligence, research and perseverance allowed a long time tradition of Pop Warner football to continue on in its Leominster location.

Michael and his family belong to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Leominster; and of the members of the family have all been baptized there. Michael and Dayna were married at the church on West Street.  Church is important to Michael and his family and he has demonstrated that by volunteering at the church’s Thrift Shop every Saturday for five years.

At St. Mark’s, Michael did the one thing that he loves the most; cooking while Dayna worked in the clothing part of the Thrift Shop.  Michael was given several opportunities through his church roots to help others in the community.  For example, there is one couple who came in to the church often, but who did not hail from the Leominster area.  The couple wanted to go to Milford to put flowers on a family grave around Memorial Day; however, they had no method of transportation to get there.  Michael offered to drive them and took the couple on two occasions.

Michael donated all of the food for the thrift shop kitchen and loves making homemade chicken soup.  Another lady who came in regularly became a friend of ours too and loved Michael’s homemade chicken soup.  When Michael and Dayna stopped working at the thrift shop, they continued to bring Michael’s delicious chicken soup to the woman and her husband.

The newest ministry at St Mark’s has been the Community Café held at the Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday evenings.  Michael not only continues to cook, but he has become the meal planner.  The families fed by the Community Café are those who are living in local motels, displaced from their prior residences several miles away due to a discontinuance of a statewide subsidy program. The Community Cafe gives these displaced families not only a night out of the motel rooms where they are cramped with several family members; but a chance to fellowship with each other and actually enjoy a sit down meal as a family.

Michael’s career working for 29 years as a prison guard allowed him to acquired wonderful skills in dealing with people with a deserved level of compassion and understanding.  Perhaps, this experience explains the “tough outer shell” I referenced above. However, it is that soft interior filled with compassion and humor that allows Michael to succeed in his role at Leominster High school.

The students at the high school respond to Michael’s style very well, knowing he is there to not only enforce the rules and boundaries, but that ultimately, this man has their back. Many of the students continue to keep in touch, even after graduation; often times stopping by to visit Michael and bringing him his beloved Diet Coke.

One of Michael’s students from a few years ago lost her dad. The impact that Michael had on this particular student is she repeatedly tells Michael that she wants him to walk her down the aisle when she gets married.

Michael hopes to use his current experience within the high school, coupled with his ties throughout the community from his Pop Warner service, and his church volunteerism to embark on a bid for a School Committee seat this coming year. His passion for the kids and his love of the community deeply drives his ambition to help make some much needed and important changes in the Leominster Schools.

I always say it takes a village to raise children and Michael has certainly paved his way in being a solid, although humble, leader in giving back to his community through sports, church and in the school itself. Mike may not stand and scream his accolades from the rooftops, but his actions prove his character is undeniably changing our local community for the better without any benefit other than filling his big heart. Our big, little city needs more of that…..and he’s is definitely an Authentically Bold DOER.

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If you have a DOER you would like to nominate for a future edition of The DOER Series, please contact me at rsoulliere74@comcast.net.

$100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway! Now Until March 26th

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Welcome to this fun Amazon $100 Gift Card giveaway. Mommy’s Favorite Things and Mama’s Baby Cupcakes have brought together a group of great blogs (Authentically Bold: Rebecca included) to co-host this prize for one lucky winner.
With Amazon, the possibilities of purchases are endless, but with Spring around the corner, we thought now would be a great time to help one lucky winner with this giveaway to possibly expand their out door fun.
All you need to do is enter the Giveaway Tools on the link below, come back for daily entries, and up your chances to win big!
This giveaway is brought to you by our co-hosts you’ll see below. Mommy’s Favorite Things is responsible for sending Gift Code. Open to US and Canadian Residents, 18+years of age. Void where prohibited.
Enter to win here:

Out of the Mouth of Babes – A Surefire Way to Have Body Image Issues

An oldie but a goodie, from May 2012 and “Confessions of a Curvy Girl”Out of the Mouth of Babes, A Curvy Girl Perspective.

How do you deal with the blunt honesty your young child(ren) dole out to you?  With an outwardly smile and a inwardly “STFU or I will kill you” thought process.

My youngest has added these gems over the past couple of years since I posted “Out of the Mouth of Babes”:

“Momma, when will my forehead have those lines like yours?”  Baby, don’t wish for these wrinkles…..ever.

“Momma, I LOOOVVVEEEEE your figgy pudding belly!” (As she squishes her face into it and makes kiss-y sounds).  Love, I am so thrilled you love me unconditionally and recognize my squishy flub as the real estate that housed you, your brother, and your sister for a collective 26 months of pregnancy.  <*Note to self:  do MORE ab exercises!>

“Momma, I love playing your butt bongos!” (Yes, she stands behind me and swats a rhythmic beat out on my rear end.)

Arg.  Kids always tell it to you like it is and you love them unconditionally so.  <After you get over the stabbing pain right through your heart and your incessant mirror peering with 563 different angles to see if you can make said figgy pudding less, er, um, figgy?

What have YOUR kids said to you?

The DOER Series – February Edition

Who gets depressed when they read the daily news lately? I know I find it easier to steer away from the likes of CNN because the headlines are often graphic and depict verbiage that describes death or rather horrible manners in which humans treat their fellow humans. I am not apathetic, but I need a bit more balance in my life when it comes to the stories I read.

Swing over to social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram and there are more positive inspired posts <okay, okay and thousands of selfies galore> for one to be lifted up by. My newsfeed is filled with several people getting healthy and encouraging others to do so (myself included), stories shared of laughing babies, bleating goats (how can one NOT laugh at a bleating goat?), and more silliness. My newsfeed is also streaming with those who continually applaud themselves for all the *good* they are doing in the world. Please do not get me wrong, I absolutely adore and admire people who are making pervasive change in our little universe. However, there is a big difference between just *doing* and *talking* about all that you are doing in exchange for the public accolades or trying to make others feel badly because they may not be doing what *you* are doing for the greater good.

However, in my futile attempt to steer clear of being negative myself – I thought, “What about all of those that are doing good deeds, paying it forward and changing our world *WITHOUT* the self-promotion on social media?” As I thought about this premise, I realized that even in my own little Central Massachusetts community, there are SO many people who are indeed undertaking amazing deeds of kindness every….single….day…..and yet, they are not asking for anything in return. These people I have named The Doers.

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Circling back to my desire to read more positive news that will soften the disheartening stories of the barbaric acts of ISIS, or those dying in awful and tragic accidents; I had an epiphany! Why not use my blog as a method of sharing positive stories about The Doers? The people who are choosing authentic acts of kindness deserve to be applauded in a bold way……so here in my Authentically Bold: Rebecca way, I will pay it forward by highlighting a special Doer each month (with their permission, of course).

My first nomination: Amy Conley McManus

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I have known Amy for well over ten years now, possibly a few years more. My friend recommended Amy to me as a hairdresser when my other hairdresser decided to leave the field. My relationship with Amy was pretty much love at first sight as she knew what I wanted and/or needed nearly every appointment at her salon, Trinity Salon in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Amy is nearly the same age as I am and went to another local school, so often, my appointments would share stories from days gone by or include updates on who we may have run into or had conversation with.
Amy shaved my head for me when I started chemotherapy for the second time and was about to lose my hair again. Despite the sadness in her face to have to perform a hair service I did not ask for, she stoically and gently moved the razor around my large skull. Amy gave me suggestions and products to care for my scalp while my insides were poisoned. She laughed with me as I went in a few months post chemo and had this wiry, unruly “pubic” hair as I called it.

As the years have surpassed, I have noticed that Amy’s giving spirit seems to be increasing and rubbing off on those who surround her. Without any hoopla, Amy hosts fundraisers and collects donations or physical items for soldiers who are stationed overseas or currently, an animal shelter that has significant needs.

Most specifically, last year in 2014, Amy hosted the fundraiser of all fundraisers to help some crazy lady who had the idea to run the Boston Marathon as a means of not only celebrating life after cancer and a 40th milestone birthday, but as a way of showing the world just how Boston Strong we all are after the horrific marathon bombings just the year before <hint: that would be me>. Knowing that in exchange for my race bib to the marathon I had a very lofty fundraising goal, Amy approached me and offered to do a full day event with all proceeds going to help my Team Eye & Ear efforts. Amy rallied the entire salon of stylists and nail technicians, all of whom follow in Amy’s giving spirt and they donated their time, their products, their services and so much more to raise over $2,000 for Team Eye & Ear.

Despite a hip labral tear at mile seven, I knew I had to push through and finish the race even if it took me many more hours. I personally knew so many cancer survivors that were counting on me to finish, but when the pain became blinding – taking a minute to recall how much effort Amy and her staff had put into propelling me TO the marathon helped me plow forward and eventually cross that blessed blue and yellow finish line on Boylston Street in Boston.

Amy will be the first to tell you she does not do “much” and what action she takes is minimal compared to others. By highlighting her as The Doer of the month, I hope she realizes that there is no such thing as doing too little or minimal good deeds. The impact of her actions flows beyond her desire to do a little, by rippling outward to those she works with and further to those who are the recipients of her acts of kindess. Ask the soldier(s) who were on the receiving end of her care package and one may assume the response is a heart full of gratitude. If the animals could talk, I am certain the items being collected will ensure an unlimited amount of tail-wagging, tongue licking, barks and meows.

More examples of the DOING that Amy and her salon gals have DONE:

  • Raffle for the Healing Garden in Harvard, MA
  • Dancing with the Realtors for Habitat for Humanity in 2007 and 2008
  • Donation to a client’s 3 Day Walk for Breast Cancer
  • Cut-a-thon for the Ayer Relay for Life
  • Care packages for overseas soldiers serving our country
  • Countless gift certificates and baskets for several other fundraisers.

Personally, my heart is full and knowing the acts that Amy undertakes for no reason other than it feels good to pay it forward, makes me authentically proud to call her a friend and a fellow Doer.

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If you have a DOER you would like to nominate for a future edition of The DOER Series, please contact me at rsoulliere74@comcast.net.

Forgiveness, A Year Later

With death, one often shares thoughts and memories of a decedent to hang onto their love.  Remembrances of past experiences comfort you with a soft embrace and perhaps, warm your heart or bring a ticklish smile to your face.  For me, little signs and occurrences have been sparking my more positive memories as of late. Negative weight my mind harbors has been slowing wedged out of the way like a plow, leaving behind a glistening, fresh road of positive recollections to relish instead.

My dad passed away in March 2011 and my mother died suddenly in April 2013.  Having had severe medical ailments for most of their adult lives, their deaths were not surprising but they were unexpected.  At first, my feelings were of relief for each of them.  Relief, you ask?  Yes, relief.

My father was wasting away in a nursing home, sharing a room with two other nursing home residents.  In my opinion, one of the most unfortunate ways to spend your last moments here on Earth.  The smell of the nursing home: a bizarre mixture of sanitation, fecal matter, urine, and cafeteria food is strong enough to make my hairs bristle.  The visions of countless old people sitting, biding their time until the Angel of Death swoops in to take their last breath is disheartening as you wonder what their life stories are that led them to this “waiting room”.  The relentless sounds of incessant beeps from a multitude of alarms emanates from room after room after room waiting for the over-stressed staff to come and hit the reset button for the umpteenth time.

My mother, on the contrary, was still living independently, albeit in a senior housing facility.  Despite a life filled with codependency and unhealthy relationships, the final years my mother lived were empowering to her on many different levels.  Instead of wasting away in a trapped room, my mother had a social circle in her apartment building and despite using a scooter to maneuver around, she had suddenly become the most active she may possibly have ever been.  Her apartment was a time capsule when my husband and I walked in with my half-sister (*that* is another blog in and of itself) to take care of my mother’s affairs post-death.  The radio was still playing in the living room, set to the oldies station my mother was so fond of and used to sing terribly off-key to.  The dining room light remained on, with light filtering and highlighting the notepad with her blood sugar results she posted the morning of her death.  Her nearly empty tea cup sat cold next to the pen she used to keep track of those aforementioned diabetic readings.  My mother had plans to return home.  She never did.

Despite a very dysfunctional life, the life I grew up with is *MY* life.  For all the horrible memories I retain, from the searing childhood abuse from my mother and the pressure to be that perfect child from my father; my experiences molded me into the person I became.  See Not All Mothers Are Created Alike and I Miss My Dad.

Last year I posted about Forgiveness. Would I be able to forgive my parents for the behavior and treatment they doled out from the moment they moved in with my young family in late 2003, through my cancer battle in 2007-2008 while pregnant with my third child, to the ensuing years up until their respective deaths?  What has happened in a year’s time, you ask?

Alas, I have not completely forgiven or have I been able to resolve all of my conflicting inner-most feelings about my parents.  While my anger and more so, my disappointment, has lessened with the passage of another 365 days; my ability to completely absolve the words and actions of my parents has not been entirely fruitful.  However, I choose to focus not on the negative feelings that reside within me and instead I find myself carrying out acts that implement the more positive acts of each of my parents.  Instead of letting the harboring weight hold me down, little and effortless acts appear in my weekly routines that allows me to pass along the warm memories of my parents to my young children.

My kitchen has lately embraced the smells of recipes that my mom used to make for me; dishes so warm and *huggy* that my children are now enveloped in Grandma’s love.  Recently, I was compelled to make a spinach lasagna so I drove to the grocery store for the very ingredients that will meshed together a fond memory of my childhood into a full bellies and hearts of my own family.  We talked about Grandma that night.

My boss’s mother-in-law saved a special piece of her homemade South African fruitcake post-holiday after hearing my fond recollections of my dad having a love for fruitcake; an odd trait that was passed along to me.  As I savored the small piece of the holiday delight, each morsel helped navigate my brain waves into the cistern of retrospect and suddenly, it was as if my dad was there enjoying a piece with me.  My kids laughed at me rolling my eyes into my head in enjoyment of this little treat, but they understood that the indulgence of these ingredients meant far more than my theatrics and taste buds would allow.  We talked about Grandpa that day.

My ability to forgive may remain challenged, at least for now.  As I embark on my quest to live more authentically in 2015, there is comfort in knowing that with the passage of time, more and more memory *hugs* (as I like to call them) will surface.  Each reminiscence will envelope me in the love I know my parents had for me; even when they were most challenged to show it to me.  Each recollection will allow me to expand upon my own parenting with my children; offering each of my kids a tidbit of the very threads of my being that is now being woven into their beings.  Perhaps, these offerings will equip my young family in their ability to forgive in their years ahead.

forgiveness

Resolutions, Schmezolutions! Word Of The Year Instead

Resolutions, Schmezolutions! Word Of The Year Instead

Like so many others, last year I made my typical New Year’s resolutions to bind me for goals and guidance in the newly 2014 year. Similarly to many of you, I bet I hit some of my resolutions and others went far by the wayside, despite a good attempt.

Last year I also chose to piggyback my friend, Candace at Lucky Scarf and use her word of the year “Refine” for personal guidance. Countless times throughout 2014, I simply reminded myself in precarious or overwhelming instances to refine my thoughts, refine my actions, or filter my life accordingly.

Barely into 2015 and my decision to scrap the usual mix of New Year’s resolutions has been implemented. Instead, I am choosing one word to define my goals in the days ahead because one word has the ability to be powerful, yet simple, in allowing me to attain my goals.  One of my favorite lines from Elvis…”A little less conversation, a little more action….” Right?

no resolutions

My word of the year is “Authentic”. Yes, I chose authentic. You see when I first decided to start my new blog, I wanted to attain the goal of putting forth my writings and my musings in a most genuine manner. My desire was (and remains) to offer unadulterated versions of traipse through cancerland along with my subsequent charitable endeavors and advocacy; coupled with the many veritable excursions on the roller coaster of Momma-Land. My blog was named “Authentically Bold: Rebecca” because of these aforementioned reasons. Yes, I live my live particularly boldly since cancer because for me, what other way is there. My choice of “Authentic” in 2015 will guide me and tether me back to center when my world may stray askew.

authentic

The world also does not revolve around me, myself, and I. Over the past few years, I have realized wholeheartedly that I am a better version of me because of the people I surround myself with! Yes, I am crowded by a community of honest-to-goodness folks who are the *real deal* indeed. Day in and day out, I witness the genuine kindness of people who carry out veritable actions for no reason other than to instill a greater faith in humanity alone. Therefore, part of my master plan in 2015 will be to share tidbits of these authentic people; people who choose to act without any ulterior motive or desire for notoriety. (I find the news so depressing and tarnished by what the media chooses for us to see. My plan is simply to choose *authentic* people and stories of positive real-stuff to set the example by which we may follow.)

Are you ready to follow? Will you share your stories with me? Be sure to send along examples of authenticity that you witness so we may send the kindness ripples out into our world. As always, we can be the change we wish to see.

Happy New Year!

2014: What A Year! My Top Ten Posts & More

2014 is fast closing in on us and what else is there to do but reflect back upon our 365 days of the year past. For me, 2014 was a bit of a high – as I took on larger than life challenges like the most important Boston Marathon to date as well as pursuing my other new favorite form of healthy exercise, Crossfit.

Despite the challenges that remain from my breast cancer battle, the only sense of control I retain is the ability to stay as healthy as possible physically, mentally and emotionally. All three aspects of health are certainly easier said than done, right? Particularly, when you lose someone close to you that battled a different subtype of breast cancer, but lost her battle this year – should it have been you? How do you console the pain in HER sixteen year old daughter when your own sixteen year old daughter clings to you?

As I ramp up for what I am preparing to be an even more BADASS year in 2015, I share with you my top ten blog posts from 2014 based upon how popular the selections were with YOU. Thank you for following my crazy journey through life. Buckle up and hang on tight because 2015 will prove to be that much more spectacular indeed.

top posts 2014
Photo courtesy of Candace, Lucky Scarf

In order from most popular, starting with number one:

  1. Collateral Damage
  2. How Do You Say Goodbye?
  3. Right on Hereford, Left On Boylston
  4. 26.2 Miles of Inspiration
  5. A Graphic Look at PINK, A Survivor’s Plea
  6. Breaking Bad
  7. The Unexpected Ride
  8. A Letter To You On How to Prevent Breast Cancer
  9. Mother’s Day Revisited
  10. Have You Ever Looked *THERE*

Happy New Year’s, my friends!  I hope you continue to come along for the many adventures and share some of your own.

With that, for more reading pleasure, check out my talented blogger friends over at their respective sites below. These gals certainly are creative with so many DIY projects that I am green with envy.

bloggers

1. Candace from Lucky Scarf
2. Stephanie from Sandpaper & Glue
3. Michelle from Weekend Craft
4. Kelly from A Lovely Life, Indeed

Time to Teach: Accountability – Is It Gone?

Accountability, What IS that?

This week I find myself with BOLD opinions; the very opinions that once fueled the actual name of my blog itself. Intentionally, I will share my thoughts with you on some sensitive and touchy matters currently at hand. I hope you will share your insight as well in return as we navigate the waters that challenge our very basic human rights.

As we rolled into Thanksgiving week, you saw Facebook statuses galore about all the gratitude people have for pieces of their respective lives. Recipe swapping was on high rotation and the swirls of Black Friday with retail promises of bargain scavenger hunting were relentless.

Thanksgiving week for us in Central Massachusetts also means one thing: FOOTBALL. Yes, we have one of the biggest rivalries that go back over 100+ years. Leominster versus Fitchburg is akin to our own Super Bowl and the traditions that go along with the rivalry may likely be as old. One of our favorite traditions in Leominster is the Thanksgiving Pep Rally, where all of the high school students pile into the wooden gymnasium and watch the insanity while they engage in school pride.

Until this year, that is.

Apparently, a long story short, a student from LHS talked about a shooting to happen during the pep rally just a few days before Thanksgiving. Imagine that scene: thousands of students gathered into a small gymnasium celebrating traditions when someone merely mentions the idea of a shooting. You hear about school shootings on what appear to be a regular basis now; but not in YOUR child’s school. The actual thought made me sick to my stomach and I felt nearly as vulnerable as I did when I brought my first-born home from the hospital sixteen years ago; burdened with the task of keeping her life safe for at least the next eighteen years.

School? Isn’t school supposed to be a safe place? Not in 2014, it seems that school is a vulnerable place to send your child. However, the mall and movie theaters are now both places where murderous shooting rampages have occurred in very recent times.

school shootings

Yesterday, my oldest had her high school go into lockdown. Because of cell phones and social media, we were given unofficial notice of this lockdown with no solid information to base our worry upon. Rumors were rampant and nerves quickly went into fray as details were filtered and exaggerated through the same social media and cell phone dialogues.

Within minutes, I knew that a student or students had entered the school wearing ski mask(s) and carrying bags. My initial reaction was fear: my daughter hadn’t answered her text from me and I quickly remembered the aforementioned Thanksgiving threat. Within a short time, a friend of mine who works at the high school let us know that there was a lockdown and all was okay.

Later, after speaking with my daughter, I realized the severity of the lockdown and listened to her recount her fears as she had no idea what was going on but saw the dozens of state and local police running through the hallways with their “massive guns” drawn.

The school’s explanation of the day is that the Center for Technical Excellence students returned from working outside in their winter gear, entered an unauthorized back door and proceeded through the halls while still wearing their gear. A fellow student was alarmed and contacted his parent, who in return called 9-1-1.

Even though this particular set of incidents turned out okay, I asked myself this week, once again, why public shootings, particularly school shootings seem to be on the rise or happening with more frequency. My theory is harsh, bold, but an opinion that allows me to cope with the WHY such violence seems to be happening.

I blame the parents. Yes, I do. For my argument, I will exclude the mental health argument as that is one discussion that will stand alone and separate. I understand the mental health issues in this nation are underserved and signs point to the need to address and support the community in this regard. However, my argument here today is directed back to the parents.

I am an “old school” parent. I parent firmly, sometimes harshly but with unconditional love. I understand that my children need to be raised with character that they will not only be contributing members of society; but that they will have the best tools in their lives in order to cope and handle their surroundings. I am not a perfect parent; I am far from it. However, my children are raised to do well in school; respect their fellow humans; treat people with kindness; and above all else – my children will own their accountability for their actions, including the words that may come out of their mouths.

People have been asking why the shootings by young people at schools and other public places seem to be on the rise. Again for sake of argument, I will acknowledge that I believe a certain number of these violent acts are attributed to mental health issues. However, my speculation of some of the cases that may be those on the rise is a growing population of children who have been coddled and over-pampered at home. Yes, I blame the parents. The helicopter parents who don’t or cannot say no to their children. The hovering parents who sort and work out every notion of conflict in their child’s life from toddler throughout college.   (Yes! There ARE those parents who contact college professors demanding an explanation for a poor grade!)

My theory is we have a generation of young adults who have never been given the coping skills or mechanisms to handle being told no, of being rejected, of having things not go their way. Add in the technology age where instant gratification and a constant connection to everyone and everything; you have a melting pot for spontaneous combustion even when the coping skills are there.

Do you remember high school? What an awkward time in your life that is! How many of us faced the badgering of our fellow classmates for one reason or another? How many of us had our hearts broken by our first loves? How many of us were rejected by a crush? How many of us felt inferior, insecure, or just plain not good enough or perhaps out of place?

I was bullied as a child (trying being the ONLY hearing impaired and Jewish kid in your small, rural Oklahoma town). I was picked on as a teen (again, trying explaining that hearing aids are very similar to eyeglasses but for your ears). I also made poor choices that led to additional ragging on and badgering by my peers. As bad as that all made me feel, I also knew that there could be no outward display of reaction. I had to cope with the behaviors of others towards me, even if it made me feel absolutely horrible. I had to cope with the consequences of my actions – good, bad, or otherwise.

The point I intend to demonstrate is that my parents certainly went to bat for me when a situation was out of my control (i.e. some of the bullying) but otherwise, I was taught to learn from my own battles, to learn from my own mistakes and decisions and handle the consequences there on out.

My fear is that way too many parents are too involved and that the younger generations is not obtaining the emotional coping skills needed to function in life. When children are not told no at home or held accountable at home, there is no way we can expect them to cope with being told no in the real world. When things do not go as they expect, they are ill-equipped to handle the emotions of rejection (whether it be in school, job related, socially related, etc.). My inclination is to believe some of these public displays of violence are a build-up of the perpetrator being unable to cope with the overwhelming emotions and hence, he/she acts out violently.

I understand this *theory* is a bit generalized and vague; however, a lesson remains to be learned from these recent acts of violence. Our children learn from home; these kids learn by example and by action of us. Love on them unconditionally; however, give them space to solve their own challenges. Offer support and advice but let them figure it out.

As our children hit middle school and high school ages, it remains very hard to sit back and let them solve their dilemmas. However, there are critical life skills to be learned in doing so.  What CAN we do?

Color-School-shootings

  • Teach them how to stand up for themselves in a multitude of scenarios, but let them actually execute the decision that fits them best and let them learn from the experience.
  • Continue to teach them kindness and compassion as they enter these hormone-filled and “strife” filled years. “Be nice!” “Share” “Don’t hit!” “Say Please & Thank You” should not stop once they are past the ornery toddler years.
  • Teach them to stand up for their fellow peers when it is right to do so. Remind them that no matter how badly their broken hearts feel at that moment, with time, broken hearts do heal and we grow stronger from the experience.
  • Teach your children that under no circumstances are violence the answer.
  • Teach them to find a better way to cope.
  • Teach them accountability. Stop blaming everyone else and take a deep look within.

A friend of mine shared this quote with me this week and I shall share it with you by ending on this note:

“Peace on Earth and it begins with me.”

Accountability – Do We Owe It?

Personal accountability seems to be at an all- time low. Do you agree? Owning our actions, our words and every aspect of our daily lives seems to be tantamount. For everything that goes wrong in our lives, we seem pretty quick as a society to cast blame outwardly. Perhaps, it is time we start to reflect inwardly and own up to our personal responsibility for holding ourselves accountable.

accountability

My intention is for this to be a several part series as accountability applies to many components of our lives: from work, to health, to our children, and to each other as a society.  My first post hits a sensitive nerve on a topic way too close to home:  our health and cancer.

Nod your head in agreement as I casually comment on how the cancer diagnoses seem to be rising; or rather, how you know of this one and that one who has battled or is currently battling some form of cancer. Yes? Of course! Even though I am a cancer advocate, I am meeting someone new each week – EVERY @#$&%@ SINGLE WEEK – to whom I am introduced to by someone who wishes for me to offer the “been there, done that” spiel to their friend, their neighbor, their colleague, their aunt, or even themselves.

Personally, I am beyond frustrated as each year BILLIONS of dollars are poured into the various cancer fundraising vehicles….and yet, every week as I mentioned above, I am talking to *new* people with cancer regularly. The so-called quest for a “cure” makes me even more nuts as I do not believe the solution is on the horizon. I wish for the scientists to continue looking for the elusive piece of the puzzle, but in the meantime, what do we do *NOW*?

Why are we not talking about the responsibility we owe ourselves in ensuring our good health?

acccountability sign

What is *CAUSING* these seemingly higher incidents of cancer? Why are we not looking for the root cause just as much, if not more than, the cure?

Cancer is normal. Yes, cancer is very normal. Cancer happens to our cells as part of basic biology; always has and always will. What appears to be different is that our immune systems have become somewhat compromised and our ability to fight off various cancers has diminished. What on earth is compromising our immune systems? Where do we begin………

Whereas I do not wish to get into a scientific debate here, I simply want people to recognize the power of accountability. If we know something carries a higher risk of causing cancer, why do we do it?  Why do we not take a more preventative approach to better health?  Why do we take our bodies for granted?

Prior to 2007, I was one of those people who took my health for granted. I most certainly did. I was barely into my thirties at the time, why would my health even be on my radar aside from regular physicals?

Did I ever stop and think about what I put into my mouth? Sure, when I felt my love handles being more than a handful or when my folds of my stomach climbed upward into flabalanche status. I thought more about eating healthier for a few weeks at a time, but purely for the sake of losing weight for vanity sake. I never once thought about extra weight putting me at a higher risk for breast cancer.  Wasn’t I too young?

Did I worry about microwaving plastic, melamine, or using other modern day items of convenience, including Styrofoam? Why would I? I was much too busy and chaotic to worry about things that made my life faster, quicker, more convenient, more on the go and just *easier*.  Why would these things possibly impact my health?

Did I think about the lotion I rubbed vigorously into every inch of my skin post-shower? No. Why would I? I smelled good and my skin was soft. Did I think more about the different face cream I smoothed into the creases around my eyes or my smile lines? No. What about the cleanser I used at the end of the day to remove my make up?  Who cares what ingredients were in all of these different products?

Did I worry about the stress in my life? Sure, sometimes I did but not as a Mack Truck about to steamroll my very core being into a fight for its life. When I thought about the often times incapacitating stress in my life; I did not picture being able to make choices to *fix* my chaos, I only daydreamed about an escape…..or more so, a *time-out* so that I could focus on just me for a moment.

Oh, I got that so-called time-out alright.  What went wrong in me that I was just shy of a Stage three breast cancer diagnosis at age 33?  I have had plenty of time to consider all the potential *causes* of my cancer.  For a while, I racked my brain thinking of what *it* was that directly caused my disease:

  • Was it all the McDonald’s, Bagel Dogs and ramen noodles I ate in college?
  • Was it the chemicals I was exposed to all the times I spent hanging out with dad at his construction sites?
  • Was it the mercury I used to roll around in my hands after breaking an old-fashioned thermometer?
  • Was it all the body care products I used that were chock full of parabens?
  • Was it the insane amount of stress I was under from a ridiculously demanding job coupled with being a care-taker to my aging and high-maintenance parents while managing my own young family?

Who knows?  The list could go on and on and on…………

I will never know the precise *trigger* of my cancer and I am okay with that. However, I now know my health really begins with ME. I have to be accountable and held responsible for ME.

My children have a much higher rate of disease now, thanks to my diagnosis. I want to enable all three of my kids to be pro-active and make better choices than I was ever equipped to make. I want my friends to be pro-active instead of reactive. Why go through the horrors that I did?  Having watched my best friend go through a much different cancer battle in the past year makes me want to SCREAM this at all of you!

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Do we not owe ourselves some level of accountability? If we knew a battle lies ahead, wouldn’t we run out and get whatever weapons we could in our arsenal, to help us protect and defend our home lines; the very place where our most beloved reside? Of course we would! Why are we not using the same concept with our bodies and our health?

We *KNOW* that eating a palate of fresh vegetables, clean meats and plentiful amounts of water are ideal.

We *KNOW* that regular exercise is good for us.

We *KNOW* that exposure to certain chemicals increases a multitude of health concerns and issues.

We *KNOW* that stress wears us down, makes us sick and causes friction in our daily lives.

Where’s the accountability? What can we do to effectuate change *BEFORE* it is too late?

For me, I do not want to get cancer again so my changes have been pretty dramatic. I want my children to learn from me now, post 2007-2008 and post-cancer. I want my babies to be equipped to make better life choices than I ever did. Will they? I do not know but I want them to have a balance. Yes, Slim Jims are disgusting and totally unhealthy for you. However, having an occasional Slim Jim through-out the year will not cause extensive damage because you are eating your healthy nutrition all the other times, coupled with regular exercise, stress maintenance and using the lowest possible chemical exposure on top of it.

For you, promise me that you will *think* about your accountability here and there. Give yourself a handful of reasons why you should be pro-active when it comes to YOU! We live in a fast-paced, uber-convenient society that takes nearly every luxury for granted. Find five…….. (5)……only five (!) ways you can be more aware in your life. What matters most to you or what is easiest for you to own accountability for in your life?

Here are some easy examples:

Check your grocery cart before checking out. Are there any products that you can find a better version of that has less processed or chemical ingredients? Maybe you do not need that product at all.  Read your labels.

Check your personal care products. Find safe products or perhaps find ones that will work for you with less toxic chemicals. What are your children using? You will find them safer products, right?  Read your labels.

Check your exercise routine. You do not have to be all insane and crazy like some people we know. (Ahem, are you looking at me?) Even if you *despise* exercise, there are so many ways to incorporate a little more in your daily life: park further away, take the stairs, or find a friend to take a walk with before you share that bottle of wine.  What works for you that you will create a habit of?

Check your daily stress. Many of us feel trapped and unable to make a change. Sometimes, a lower paying job or reducing the household bills will make all the difference in the amount of stress taxing you on a regular basis.  Change begins with YOU.

Find a buddy to help keep you accountable. Write your five goals down and share it with your spouse or your friend. When you hit those five goals, aim for five more and before you know it – you have made massive lifestyle changes and you are paving the way for your children, our future generations, to live in a *hopefully* healthier, less cancer filled world.

Are you in?

steer yourself

Food for Thought: Discussion Please

Read this article from The New York Times “Why Everyone Seems To Have Cancer” and let me know your thoughts.

http://goo.gl/pu6agw

Major omission or failure to discuss within the article:  Why are so many younger people (i.e. children and young adults) now being diagnosed with cancer?  We cannot use the age argument in this respect.  Therefore, what is it?  Why does everyone seem to have cancer nowadays?  Thoughts?

Before My Eyes (My Life Flashed)

Before my eyes, last week, my life flashed in front of me. The anxiety that permeated my very being is different than the scare I felt yesterday, when a giant extension ladder fell off the top of the box truck in front of me on the highway. Sure, my heart catapulted upwards into my throat providing an instant gagging feeling and surge of adrenaline as my mind processed the speed of the escaped ladder careening towards my vehicle at least sixty miles per hour or more. As I swerved to avoid the now skidding trajectory, I thanked my guardian angel for allowing me the sense to have at least four to five car lengths between my car and this truck. Scary? Yes. Was I more freaked out with my medical incident of last week? You bet I was.

What happened last week, you ask? I thought I may have cancer again. My life literally flashed before my eyes and the fear of my children and husband growing up without their Momma and wife became surreal.

People assume because I remain in remission from my cancer, that all is well – including me. Heck, that girl is six years out from finishing her treatments…..why is she *still* talking about her cancer? Another friend innocently remarked, “Well, you hit that five year mark, why would you have cancer again?”

Recently, in the past year, I finally graduated to what I call the “big girl” schedule for my oncology follow ups – I only have to go annually now. Yes! Once a year visits to ensure my health remains solid going forward versus the every three month schedule I was on for five years. As much as I wear these oncology graduation milestones as a badge of KickAss, there is a little piece of me that has a heightened sense of anxiety that I only see my miracle workers once a year. A year is a VERY long time in Cancerland.

Last week, I confidently announced that I was going to walk into my oncology visit for my first annual checkup in my typical badass style. I was going to give love to my beloved doctors and be on my way in a half hour or less. After all, I have been working out at least three to four times a week and my nutrition has never been better. I finally have my joint pain under control, whether it is from the remnants of my chemotherapy collateral damage or actually from the rheumatoid arthritis. It has been several years since I have felt this good.

BOOM. CRASH. SREEECCCCH.

The sounds of my world coming to a skidding halt after I pointed out what I thought was a little nothing lump on the back of my neck.

On sight, my medical oncologist believed it to be clinically benign, but in Cancerland everything has to be proven otherwise…meaning a biopsy has to be done to ensure that a strange lump is non-cancerous. In triple negative breast Cancerland, I have recently learned that all bets are off – this disease is a beast in and of itself and everything, I mean everything, must be ruled out for cancer regardless of how much time has elapsed since treatment. Oy.

My doctor said she would schedule a fine needle biopsy for me and we would get it done. Fine. I was calm and collected. No big deal. I remain healthy, I thought to myself. Moments later, my doctor came in and announced that pathology was on their way over within fifteen minutes. Cool.   Let’s just get this done today.

The pathologist walked in and promptly asked if she could perform the biopsy with no lidocaine, as it causes the area to swell and make it harder to obtain a sample. Sure. I have had three kids with no pain meds, what’s a little needle to the back of my neck. Eek.

After jabbing the needle around the lump in my neck, the pathologist seemed slightly frustrated. The lump was hard and dense, not allowing her to get any tissue sample to review under the microscope. Did I mind if she tried again? Sure. The latest images of The Walking Dead entered my mind again as I let this sweet, petite woman jab yet a second needle around the back of my neck. Thoughts permeated my brain like: “Is she close to my jugular?” “Boy, I have been hanging around the gross kids and their stupid movies too long now!” “Oy, what the hell….why is this lump hard and what does this mean?”

The pathologist was not successful in obtaining a tissue sample from the second biopsy. Two neck stabbings down and no results on what this thing was in my neck. I kept my cool. Previous fire drills (aka medical scares) have allowed me to try to remain calm and collected until my medical team gives me a reason to be otherwise. (Okay, my bowels were starting to gurgle!)

My medical oncologist returned and said we need to figure out how we will biopsy the lump so we can know exactly what it is. After she left the room again for a brief period of time, she returned but this time with my beloved surgical oncologist a step behind her.

“Ohhhh, look who I happened to find strolling down the halls!” She exclaimed. The partially retired Chief of Surgical Oncology, two steps behind my doctor; the man who helped to save not only my life, but the life of my unborn child. After I jumped up to give my beloved doctor a hug, I then took pause……they’ve brought the big guns in. Holy poop. I started to debate myself: Dr. Q and I have a special bond, is he here because he loves me and wants to be sure I am okay? Dr. Q is top notch and knows his way around Cancerland….did my other doctor bring him in because…..well, you know……my heart-rate quickened.

Long story later, the big guy decided I needed a punch biopsy and right then and there. He would do it himself, in fact. As relieved as I was to have my savior there and to do the procedure himself, my nerves were on high alert. In fact, during the biopsy itself, I had what I consider my first panic attack. I nearly stopped the biopsy because my heart was pounding OUT OF MY CHEST. If I ever felt like I was having a heart attack, it was at this very moment when my doctor was carving a hole into my neck.

After the punch needle biopsy, my doctor sat down and sighed. With that sigh, he shared with me that triple negative breast cancer can metastasize to the skin. Wait, what? What the what, what? I fiddled with my hearing aid to be sure I heard him correctly.

Post treatment I have been coping with the fear of a recurrence; after all, triple negative breast cancers usually come back in the liver, lungs, brain, bones…….but the skin? That was a new one for me. A quick jaunt to my Triple Negative Breast Cancer forum on Facebook and the question posed was met with countless women who have had skin metastases from all over the world, including those with neck nodules. Holy crap. I quickly jumped off the internet for a bit as it is not the most reassuring place for someone who thinks they may have cancer.

Fortunately, for me, I have some of the best care in the world and despite the fact that my life flashed before my eyes while waiting for results, I got the call from the Big Man himself and heard the magical words every cancer survivor longs to hear: your tumor was non-cancerous. Phew. Phew. Phew.

Despite being six years out from treatment and feeling as healthy as I have been in a very long time, the journey through Cancerland is never quite done. Despite my risks of recurrence going down significantly after five years post-treatment, there is still a risk of recurrence of my disease. I will carry that with me for some time forward.

The thoughts that I am beyond my cancer were resurfaced last week and the feelings made me very vulnerable. Wait, I am the advocate now! I help mentor women through their breast cancer! I am sooooo done with my cancer.

Eff. I had a bit of a reality check last week. Any thoughts I had of moving on from the pink world were firmly re-implanted in my very core. Despite the fear and the vulnerability, I do hope that my experiences shared will alleviate the thoughts of another who is going through the same thing. In the meantime, I will press on and continue to make healthier choices for me and my family. There’s way too much life to live before it flashes before my eyes.

2014-10-21 13.22.21

Life Isn’t Fair (A Parental Perspective)

Having a sixteen year old daughter who is very much like you is a strange conundrum. On one hand, the experience of parenting a child who looks like you, who acts like you, and who is really a better version of you is both exciting and rewarding. Yet, on the other hand, having a child so much like yourself is a bit scary as you wonder if she will make the same mistakes that you made. When you see her struggling with life’s obstacles and she seems to be handling the problems much like you would have at that age; but you want to guide her otherwise now that you are older and wiser. <Where is my Parenting 101 Guidebook when I need it?>

My sixteen year old is my first born, so whereas she has all the rights and privileges of being number one in our family (ask my son how he likes *that*), she also bears the burden of our intense parenting…okay, MY intense parenting, as I insist on raising children that will not only be successful people, but compassionate humans who will be highly functioning in the real world. <Yes, she may need therapy soon, as will my other two children.>

My oldest has experienced a challenging situation this fall, and instead of being a helicopter parent, I am *trying* to provide her with the coping skills she needs to handle the situation herself.   My words of support only take this strong girl so far.   Being the brave girl that she is, she has managed to instigate a conversation to find out how she could make the situation better. My sense of pride swelled as she described how she handled herself. Yet, the words returned to her were simply heartbreaking and offered no real explanation. Inasmuch as I could hear my motor revving and my instinctive desire to swoop in and find out more behind the lack of description behind the words provided to my hard-working girl, I had to refrain from being *that* parent. <@#8@&#^!@)*(!@#@!@#E*&$#@!!!!!!>

Life is not fair.  How do we find the ways to cope with *that* message?  You just do.

life is not fair

My gut tells me to continue talking to her, to encourage her to engage in dialogue again with the other party in this particular matter. Yet, my daughter’s eyes glazed over and she complacently agrees with my *strategy* to go get ‘em, killa! My need to use my twenty-four years of experience post-sixteen myself becomes compulsive and my talent of picking up on body language cues slides further down the slippery slope. <LISTEN TO ME, HONEY…..I was THIS girl twenty-four years ago and I now regret some of the choices I made or did not make!   LISTEN TO ME, PLEASE! >

<Hangs head…..knowing this girl is exactly a form of me and I need to back the eff off before I push her too far and away.>

Tuning in to my newly minted fourteen year old son I turn, hoping to find a few easier parental lessons here instead. My son and I are at a good place after a couple of tumultuous puberty-filled years. However, his newfound lady friends and his increasing interest in them have me more on high alert. Keeping the dialogue open with a teenaged boy is vastly different than communicating with my teenaged girl. Slowly, and painfully, my son is learning that the more he shares with me the less I am to keep inquiring. <Trolling: parents hovering, watching, stalking, leering, peeking, looking away for a moment, observing, and pulling out all points surveillance on all forms of social media to ensure your child is behaving in a manner that you deem appropriate. I am guilty as charged and holy Instagram, Batman!>

Continuing down the path of parental trials is my youngest girl, at six years old, who is so innocent and excited to be in school. The plethora of friends and social activities that she engages in frightens me; as much as I adore how social this particular child is, I fear that she may provide me with my biggest parenting obstacles as she grows. <Can a six year old be deemed a party girl, party animal, using her zest for life as an excuse to enjoy her world?!?>

Lately, I find myself conflicted with my personal rule of NOT picking my children’s friends. As my littlest girl shared every sordid detail of her school days (Maybe *that’s* why my son does not share much– he’s sandwiched between two sisters who tell me everything?!?), I started to worry about particular details of a classmate. Certain out of school behaviors lead me to believe that I am not comfortable with my child spending extra time with this child. How do I tell my precocious daughter that we are not okay with her being friends with so and so? Eek. We have simply talked about bad choices and that perhaps a good choice for my daughter is to limit time with those who continually decide to make bad choices. <Stay the EFF away from these kids, THIS KID, you are NOT to be friends with them. You will not EVER be allowed to spend time with them without my presence. Smile. Blink eyelashes. <Have this conversation in your head to yourself!> (Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.)

Life. Phew. Life is far from fair. As a parent, your instinct is to shelter and protect your wee ones from the garbage in life. We desire the world to be viewed from those rose-colored glasses. The older the kids get, the more you realize you cannot protect them from the tougher instances in their lives; but instead, you must equip them to someday go off into the vast world and survive themselves.

Life is not fair. My children have had more than their unfair share by watching me, their momma battle cancer and by losing their maternal grandparents at a young age. My *need* to protect them from the other inequitable aspects in life seems more profound than what you may find in a typical parent.

I do not want to watch my oldest struggle with the internal sadness she feels as she tries to understand her current challenge. Yet, I understand that she must handle this situation on her own and find her way. The best thing I have the ability to do right now for her is to offer her hugs and kisses. Unconditional love. If anything else in this world, my sixteen year old and her siblings will have parents, especially their momma, to offer them unlimited and unconditional love when their world may seem as if it is falling apart.

I have to trust that despite periods of pain or sadness in my children, they must make their own choices in their lives. My children will learn from each of their smart decisions, as well as learn from their respective mistakes. <Do as your mother says, NOT as your mother did!!!!> Each experience in their lives is simply yet another thread in the woven work of progress they are each individually, just as my experiences are my own and my decisions make me (or made me), uniquely me.

I am not proud of some of the decisions I made in my youth. Some of my decisions were downright poor and I was judged heavily for those poor choices. Yet, the lessons learned remain with me to the present day and offer me the ability to be a better parent to my own kiddos. (If I ever get lucky enough to finish my book, you may find out what some of these poor decisions were in detail. EEK.)

life is good

My children may learn that while life may certainly not be fair, the journey at times may be tough, but their lives are to be full of so much greatness. <Once you surpass the high school days, that is, children! Cackle!>

Repost from “Confessions  Of A Curvy Girl” on October 3, 2013

I do not hate pink. In fact, I find it to be a flattering color for me and the several shades of pink represent so much more for me in my life post-cancer.

I do hate the way pink is used. Pinkwashing. Have you heard of it? Tell me you have not walked into any box store in the month of October and you have not been drowned in pink as it is everywhere. Pink has been branded into a commercial enterprise of its own; namely for many corporations to jump on the breast cancer “awareness” bandwagon and ultimately, reap the benefits of its bottom line profit margin.
nfl pink

Debates abound with some die-harders telling me that a pink ribbon on their bucket of fried chicken does make them stop and think about their breast health for a moment.

kfc pink

Come on! <Insert my most dramatic, sarcastic eye-roll right here!>

Seriously, is it not infuriating that the pink ribbon – a symbol of a horrendous disease and a cause to “cure” the same – is somewhat misplaced on a bucket of obesity inducing fried chicken? How does that pink ribbon on a bag of cat food or cat litter help women with their breast health? Personally, I have seen the ribbon on everything from toilet paper, bubble wrap, Italian sausages, yogurts, duct tape, and countless other items of merchandise for sale.

We KNOW, we KNOW, we KNOW breast cancer exists.  Can we all safely say we are very AWARE that breast cancer is a profound problem currently today?  Um, yes.  Do not even get me started on “the cure”…..that is another blog post in and of itself.

Have you read the label to see how much of your “donation” by purchase of said item actually goes to the purported cause? Maybe ten percent, or maybe ten cents or maybe the disclaimer is as vague as “a portion of the proceeds from the purchase of this product goes to a breast cancer charity (or to breast cancer research).” Wait, what?

Where is YOUR money going?

Buying pink does not necessarily do anything for the hundreds of thousands battling breast cancer each year. In fact, many of the so-called pink items actually contain ingredients that may CAUSE cancer. Yay for a cure!

Come on! <Insert my most dramatic, sarcastic eye-roll right here!>

We CAN do better than this! We can, we can, we can!!!!

Let me tell you a little about breast cancer. Your brain will permanently etch the sound waves of your surgical oncologist calling you to tell you that you have cancer. You will hear that voice in your head for the remainder of your life. You will never, ever forget the dread, the fear, and the pit in the bottom of your innermost core knowing you have a disease that may possibly take your life.

Your eyes will never erase the image of a nurse donning all but a HazMat suit to come administer the insanely toxic and potent poison right….into…your veins. The fear of watching the gelatinous “Red Devil” (aka Adriamycin) arriving in the largest syringe you have ever laid eyes on (bigger than a turkey baster, people) being slowing pushed into the IV port and the feeling of the cool toxic substance surge into your body is similar to what you envision being tortured may be like. You will also panic at the sight of a technician coming in with a metal lockbox containing the radioactive isotopes they inject INTO YOU. Anything that must be under lock and key in a protective safe and deemed *radioactive* (I think Chernobyl if you will), must not be thrust into your bloodstream. Oh, yes, it does.

Despite drinking gallons of liquids to counter the effects of the noxious chemicals soaring through your system, you will not forget the feeling of not being able to poop. That is right. You insist to yourself that what goes in MUST come out. However, trying to poop on chemotherapy is nearly impossible. You actually consider an emergency room visit because it….just…..will…..not……come…..out. You cry.

Your breasts will never be the same. Ever. Not only will you show hundreds of different people your boobies on a daily basis, you will not be able to pull off the name Misty Rain and get tips in your thong for displaying these beautiful mounds. Oh, did I mention that about ninety-five percent of these people who gawk at your boobs will also touch them. Yup. Men and women. Young, middle-aged, and old. You cannot help but wonder how many boobs they touch every day in their professional lives. Seriously, your mind goes there.

Your armpit will be scarred and lymph nodes taken for good. Your breasts may be one or all of the following: scarred, misshapen, lopsided, tattooed, puckered, dimply, discolored, numb, plastic, radiation-induced firm, mis-matched nippled, lumpy, filled with scar tissue or fatty necrosis or even reconstructed from tissue from somewhere else on your body. Your emotional outlook on how your feminine breasts are now far from how you were made naturally may take a huge hit causing you to hide your breasts from your husband or not want to date for fear of disgusting them.

The bone pain from the other poison, called Taxol, will make you contemplate suicide. Take the pain of childbirth and delivery but maximize that by 1000% and pretend you are getting run over by a gigantic Mack truck crushing all of your bones slowly. You will ponder if death is a more palatable alternative.

You will have countless side effects long after the treatment has commenced and your support teams have dispersed. The emotions shift daily and as if on a roller coaster in the Marianas Trench. The residual bone and joint pain makes you shuffle like a ninety year old. The phantom striking pains in all of your surgical sites. The fog brain. Yes, you will not remember anything like you used to. Words you know will be stuck…..somewhere…..as you try to complete your sentences.

Welcome, my friends, this….is……PINK.

In an effort, myself, to do better about the world of pink and to make the lives of my fellow cancer counterparts more comfortable, I had to find a way to ensure that change was being made. I could not ask people for donations to support pink and not be able to tell them where their money was truly going. With a passionate cancer advocate who has bulldozed change herself, we founded PINK Revolution Breast Cancer Alliance. Our mission was to ensure that monies that come into our pink world actually go right back out in its entirety (yes, 100% of those monies – no skimmed fat executive salaries of these so-called NON-PROFITS; no operating expenses to cover extravagant five star hotel functions to “rally the troops”; no cents of the dollars actually coming back to the ultimate cause) to help patients you may very well know yourself.

How can a woman try to fight for her life when she has no disability insurance and cannot work because of the aforementioned “side-effects” of chemotherapy and surgeries; and the assistance she is given through our local social programs is $27/month in food stamps? Oh sure, what little she will try to eat given the projectile vomiting and constant nausea may amount to $27/month.

Come on! <Insert my most dramatic, sarcastic eye-roll right here!>

Our world has become a fast and furiously paced place to live. However, we are all humans and we all have the capacity to love one another and to help one another. Let us bring back the human touch. Let us take a moment from our busy lives to care for each other. It truly does take a village, so let us bring that back.

Donations are immensely helpful and help PINK Revolution fund a number of necessities – from local research at UMass Memorial Medical School Research, to leading edge technology (one of five in the world sophisticated tomosynthesis (3D) machines for betting diagnostic imaging) at UMass Memorial Comprehensive Breast Center, (yes, that’s me on their page),  to improved patient care and funding for items such as wigs, lymphedema sleeves, prosthetics and so much more.

Make your pink dollars count. Know with confidence that your donation is making a huge difference in the life of a very real breast cancer warrior. If you cannot make a donation, there are endless other ways to pay it forward: make a meal for a family going through cancer treatment, give a patient a ride to their chemotherapy, mow their lawn, rake their leaves, watch their young children, clean their house and set the ripple of pervasive change in place for our future generations.  If all else fails, ask me – I will certainly help align you in an opportunity that will allow you to feel even better than buying that pink yogurt.

Let us all be passionately pink.

Let us all be the start of pervasive change.

911-memorial-quote

“No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time”

In honor of the fallen of September 11, 2001

#Never Forget

Word Of The Year: Refine (A Report Card)

Back during the New Year and with the ever present resolutions circling rampant, my friend Candace of Lucky Scarf and I were talking about what word we needed to focus on for the year ahead. Candace blogged about it here: Refine.

refine

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means “to improve something by small changes”.

Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast cowboy.

cowboy

I had great intentions of starting off strong and using the word refine in all aspects of my life: personal relationships, in my career, at home, in my health, and more. Recently, as I began to feel a bit bogged down again, I chose to reflect and circle back to the beginning of the year and my ideas of filtering my life. Two-thirds of the year 2014 is now in the past, how did I fare?
Hmph. Depends on who you ask; I, for one, am not impressed with my level of cleansing my life. However, I am also that person who has sky-high expectations for myself so how do I calibrate a reasonable refinement?

My home is Clutter-City, USA. I have great intentions of clearing the Great Wall of Clothes in my bedroom. I do! Not a day goes by that I do not wish for a peaceful bedroom without mounds of clean laundry strewn about. I wash. I dry. I try to fold. I try to re-fold. I try to put away. Time is of the essence, people. Yes! I had grandiose plans of purchasing more plastic tubs to put LAST winter’s clothes away for good. No! I never got it done. (But we live in New England where summer was barely an eight week reprieve and lookie here: the cooler 50 degree mornings of late require some of those clothes that never got put the eff away. I saved myself of that time! <insert my typical eyeball roll here>.

Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock

Let’s not talk about my basement. Please. What you do not see will not hurt you! (Right?)
My career has been a bit better. Sure, I have refined my ways to provide more efficient work and I have zero clutter on my desk. My mind remains cluttered as I still navigate a post-cancer career path. I over-analyze each day: WHAT am I doing with my professional life? WHAT path should I be on? WHAT career move is best suited for my uber-Type A personality but extremely important life-balance needs (aka checking out of work at 3 pm to head to job number two as Momma).
Should I be engrossed in a life of charity and advocating for those that struggle; particularly in the world of cancer? Absolutely, but then how do my bills get paid? Should I abandon the charity route as maybe, just maybe, my time is “up” riding this path?

Should I make the sacrifices necessary to pursue a life of health and fitness by working out and possibly coaching others to do the same, all while spending hours in my kitchen cooking wheelbarrows of delicious and healthy food? You know, does it *really* matter if MY kids eat?
Should I be focusing on writing that book I dream about? Am I living a pipe dream? Who would be interested in reading about how many times I have fallen and yet, somehow managed to get back up and persevere? I am not the only one who was abused as a child. I am not the only one who has a profound hearing loss. I am not the only one who was pregnant while battling breast cancer. I am not the only one who has had ups and downs in marriage. I am not the only one who finds the parenting thing to be supremely challenging. I am not the only one to have lost her parents young. Who would read that? <insert another typical eyeball roll>.

Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock

My personal relationships have felt a little bit cluttered. I promised myself in January to refine those relationships that are bogging me down. If someone is not allowing me to be the best version of me, I challenged myself to make better choices about that person’s spot in my life. How did I do? Eh. I removed two half-siblings from my life as they were toxic. Simply put. Maintaining some type of relationship with these two seemed the *right* thing to do, but *right* by whom? The value add of their presence in my life was nil, zero, nada and once our shared mother passed away last year, I determined there was no positive contribution to my life, or my family’s life, by having them in it. As I learned with my relationship with my mother, simply sharing a bloodline (albeit a partial bloodline in this regard) does not mandate a forced relationship.

REFINED.

Friends. I have whittled away at some of the relationships that were one-sided or simply non-existent. I made it a directive of mine to purge of the relationships that were not worthy of my time investment. Does that sound harsh? Selfish? Perhaps, yes, however, justification ran rampant in my mind as I used the time otherwise in helping support the weekly conversations I engage in with breast cancer survivors.
As I struggled greatly this summer with some very deep personal problems that are inappropriate to be shared here, I isolated a bit and found that some friends were none the wiser. In fact, some friends seemed somewhat disappointed or angry with me that I did not find the time to engage with them. Ah, had they only checked in on a more personal level versus just assuming I had no time for them. Alas. Do I just do a good enough job of keeping my personal life private and putting on the smiley face that I fool the outside world? Perhaps certain people are not in-tune enough or made the choice to assume that my pulling back was just me being me, too busy for them instead? Food for thought on what further refinement is necessary or not. <Sigh, eyeball roll.>

Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock

One area that I made refining strides in is my health. Yes! Post-marathon injury and recovery set me back to June; however, as an outlet to my personal life, I continued to focus on ensuring I found time for me at the gym. Burpee after burpee I sweated out the tears. Deadlift after deadlift, I dropped the monstrous weight. WOD after WOD, I challenged myself to push the limits and let go: see how far I could push myself to new heights. I refined myself from wanting to do it all (i.e. run races, seek PRs at Crossfit, hike, bike, and more). My body, the one vehicle that houses my very being – the body that I sometimes feel betrayed me by having cancer is really pretty amazing. Once I refined my goals, my body has been rewarding me ever since and I am confident I have much more in the tank.
My nutrition continues to be an area of tweaking and modification. In addition to my workout modification, I recently challenged myself for twenty-four days: I came out bearing less weight and several inches smaller. The particular challenge I did has been life changing and stay tuned as I blog about that in the very near future. Next week brings yet another new challenge for optimal health for this gal, more refinement and I am super excited to share that along the way. I am nervous, but refine has been a pretty good word for me this year.
Perhaps the lesson is right here in front of my too-busy rolling eyeballs! Is it a monumental effort to hone all areas of my life in one year? Sure, there are 365 days to allocate to the mission! Should I have further over-analyzed and set mini-goals for each quarter of the year to accomplish? Should I take that forsaken chill pill and *feel* accomplished with the strides that I have made?
My thoughts have runneth over.
About face and recall the definition of refine itself: to improve something by small changes. Literally, I have made small changes in all aspects – so yes, yes, I have had success in improving my life this year. Perhaps, for 2015 the word of the year shall be persistence or perseverance, so that I can continue to chip away and chisel out the very best version of me in all aspects.
What about you? Have you chosen to enhance yourself in some way (i.e. career, personal relationships, health, or other)? Where are you in your refinement? Do you over-analyze or get bogged down my high expectations? What should you do to de-clutter your life?

tell me

Not All Mothers Are Created Alike

Reprinted from “Confessions Of A Curvy Girl”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not All Mothers Are Created Alike

mommy dearest 
Not all mothers are created alike.  No, no, they simply are not. 
 
You have heard the phrase, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy.”  The same rings true for mothers.  Sure, mothers give birth to us all….but a laborous trip down the birth canal does not qualify someone as a Momma.
 
All of us Mommas have our quirks, our habits, and our comforting ways of soothing even the worst of boo-boos or the scariest of nightmares.  Some of us discipline with the master of a pursed-up face in the STARE of DEATH; whereas, some of us chide our littles and get right back to what we were doing (while the littles get away with mischief and mayhem).
 
Most of us will tell you we learned our “tricks of the trade” from our mothers before us.  Not me.  Instead, I learned precisely what I did not want to be as a Momma.  Yes, you read that right.  My mother taught me invaluable lessons;  lessons of what I would NOT do in my children’s lives – EVER.
 
Because this is not my memoir, I will spare you many of the details from my young life.  However, as I roll into the latter half of my thirties, I have come to realize that it is really okay if you do not have a good Momma.  Sure, I long for a relationship with my Mother; a relationship between mother and daughter than many of my peers have in place.  I want a Momma to call with good news, or bad….I want to share my parenting strifes with one who has been there before me…..I want someone to remind me I am her child and that everything will be alright.  However, what I want and what I have are not in alignment and simply not meant to be.  That is OKAY.
 
You see, despite being beaten with a wooden Dr. Scholl sandal (circa 1980) until bloodied and welted; I loved my Mother deeply.  Despite being the subject of her near-manic rages and having Club brand cast iron pots thrown at my cowering little body, this was MY Mother.  Wasn’t I supposed to love her unconditionally? 
 
The mental illness of my Mother displayed itself in various forms of anger – on me, because I was there and I was a powerless child.  Countless times, I felt the wrath of 1/2″ wooden dowels (she learned they did not break as easily as the weaker kitchen wooden spoons) across my limbs.  On many occasions, I felt the immense sting of skin on skin from her large hand connecting with my backside, or even the backhanded knuckles making their mark on my face. 
 
Contrary to what you may be assuming, I was a good child – I was obedient, I was a great student earning praise and top honors, and I was outgoing and friendly.  I hid the welts, the bruises and the emotional pain of my Mother’s misplaced anger.  Only ONCE was my mother questioned for her behavior towards me; as I had blood on my tee-ball uniform.  Social services was brought in, upon which my mother apologized and cried for hurting me – saying simply that she did not realize she hit me so hard.  I was then punished and sent to bed without dinner; why on earth would I answer a question from an inquring adult as to the why I had blood on my shirt?
 
I vividly recall  my little brain telling myself back then –  I would never, ever, ever, ever hit my child.  NEVER.  I would not subject any of my children to the fear, the pain and the shame that goes along with your Mother hitting you.  NEVER.
 
Now, as a mother of three, I will not lie – I have had THOSE moments; those rare moments where in disciplining my child(ren) –  the only thing I felt was an intense, burning desire to rip my child’s face off!  What Momma has NOT felt that fleeting feeling of  losing control?  Who hasn’t had that momentarily lapse in rational judgment when a stubborn child is pushing every button?  Guess what?  I refrained.  Yes, I did.  I did NOT hit my child.  I did not want to be my Mother.
 
As I entered adulthood, I still loved my mother.  I somehow believed that we should always respect our elders; and because they are not perfect, we should still provide them with care.  With a two and a half year old and a one week old nursing newborn, I traveled to my Mother’s house daily after she had a quadruple by-pass surgery.  I am a Momma; the ability to tend to a high-energy toddler and a brand new baby, all while caring for my Mother was somewhat of a feat, but not impossible. 
 
After this surgery, my Mother became a different person!  We had a good two years with as normal a relationship as we would ever have.  Shortly thereafter, my father became severly ill and with that, my Mother’s mental illness intensified and re-emerged with it’s head uglier than ever.  My Mother did not like competing with my father for attention.  Somehow, I managed to have them move into my home, with my young family – as I still believed it was my duty to care for my elderly parents and I loved them both.  I only wished for them to live out their golden years and be grandparents to my children.
 
Flash forward four years and I was suddenly fighting for MY life.  For those of you who know me, I was also pregnant with my third child.  In all of the chaos and the fear of death flashing before my eyes, my mother still needed attention; a lot of it.  She somehow could not dig deep and be MY Mother, at the very moment when I needed my Mother most.  At first, I was crushed.  How could my own Mother not step up and be a Mother in MY time of need?  I needed her most, right now this moment!  Then, I was angry.  I was quite possibly the most murderous I have ever felt in my entire life.  However, I awakened…..and I realized that not all of  us are treated equally and given the parents we hope for.  Sometimes, we just do not have the parents we need during our times of tribulation.  I did not have a Momma.
 
Sadly, I do not feel love for the woman who calls herself my Mother.  I am okay with that.  We have a relationship enough so that my children can retain their relationships with their grandmother.  Yes, she gave birth to me.  Yes, she is my Mother.  Yes, I have some better memories of her.  However, after much guilt and after harboring many bad feelings about doing the “right” thing by her – I have learned that I will never change her.  I can only change ME and how I cope.  I do not have to have a relationship with her simply because she is my Mother; especially when it is not healthy for me.
 
I have taken many mental notes out of my life experiences, and I use every one of these invaluable tools to make myself the best possible Momma to MY children. 

With that, I promise my children that: 

  • I will be there for them in ALL of their times of need.
  • I will hug and kiss their boo-boos from now in their childhood to that when they are adults on their own. 
  • I will be that voice of reason. 
  • I will be the pushover when they bat their eyelashes at me. 
  • I will love them unconditionally and despite possible disappointments to come, I will reassure them they are mine and I will help them move forward.
  • I will love them with a passion that runs so firmly and deeply embedded into my very core and within every single cell of my body. 
After all, I am their Momma. 
crazy kids and me
 
Note:  My mother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on April 17, 2013 and you can read more about that here:  “RIP Mom”

Coaching – A Gift?

Circa 2004, I was given the opportunity to coach my oldest daughter’s soccer team. Okay, okay, I was frantically freaking out on the phone when the in-town soccer director was telling me if I did not coach, there would be no coach for my team and did I want that for my daughter? <Insert Jewish Mother Guilt Trip feelings RIGHTHERE>

Despite my many years of playing soccer (I played for five years up until 1987, when I was forced to pick ONE sport per season at Leominster High School and I chose to pursue my love of running instead), I felt unprepared to coach a team. Playing a sport and excelling at it is quite different than actually coaching a team of kids!  Yikes, would I remember the rules of soccer to teach a bunch of young ‘uns?  Would I have the patience to make it through a season?  Would the parents burn me at the stake for not making their wee ones soccer prodigies in a mere eight weeks?  <Where’s the toilet when you need it?>

coaching

Yes, I reluctantly said  yes! I quickly learned that teaching children a game is more like herding wild cats; finding creative ways to engage them and not simultaneously lose them.  <Whoa, six year old attention spans are really short-lived.> Whatever do you do with the child that finds more interest in the passing butterfly than the incoming soccer ball aimed precisely at her head?

As a mother, I realize I was given more *time* with my young children by coaching their sport. Instead of sticking my nose in a book along the sidelines or gossiping with the gaggle of other mothers, I was on the field engaging with not only my child, but countless other children who I became immensely fond of. I discovered early on that my soccer field was often times a safe place; a place away from troubles at home or problems at school. My grassy field was time out of a hectic day where the littles on my roster would laugh, cry, fall down and get back up again and again.

My field became a place where bullies would try to enforce their behavior, but instead, these children were given boundaries by me that there would be no tolerance on MY field and yet, reassurance that I would unconditionally be their coach regardless. The persistent buggers would be greeted with warnings and followed up with consequences; and the recipients of the taunting actions felt safe knowing this field belongs to them as well.

With each passing season, my confidence as a coach grew and my ability to gauge the level of appropriate skills and expectations expanded. What started as an in-town team of co-ed six year olds has carried on through the present day with coaching the girls’ high school summer teams. Imagine the opportunity to watch these girls grow, blossom, develop, struggle, persevere and continue on in the sport that they love!

A few years ago, my son’s team needed a coach and once again, I found myself heavily recruited to take on the task of managing a bunch of pre-teen boys. My bowels shuddered with fear: I knew I was able to coach girls but to be a positive influence on a bunch of tween boys? I doubted myself. Highly.

Coaching boys proved to be very much different than coaching girls. The game remains the same, but the players, boy, the players were nearly a separate species. For example, the girls will play on and on and on – even with injuries. I swear that girls will continue to play with a broken bone! About a third of the way into my first fall season with my boys and I had three players walk off during practice crying.

CRYING? THERE’S NO CRYING IN SOCCER! WHAT….THE……..

My first instinct was to tell these young gentlemen to suck it up and get back out on the field. Deep breath, ask my assistant to cover and I would soon find myself engaged in conversation with the crying young man about something outside of soccer that was bothering him. A little pep chat, a little mental health break on the sidelines and a freedom to jump back in when he was ready seemed to ease the water works. My field HAD to be a safe place for any number of emotions for any of these kids.

Boys…..they show their anger. Whoa. Time outs. Yes, they apply to tweens. Parents were notified when I was forced to reprimand and deliver consequences. Most times, parents were supportive and encouraged my on field discipline. Some occasions, however, they were not. Parents. Parents.

Parents. Yes, you parents add an entirely different dimension to the world of kids’ sports. Early on in my coaching, I was positive that my local town soccer organization was rife with *these* parents. Over the years, I witnessed that *these* parents are throughout all sports. As a coach, I was forced to re-evaluate my own perspective as a parent of children who play sports. Holy cow.

Parents have their own unique personality traits, much the same as some of those I saw (see!) on the field. In the latter portion of my tenure coaching, I found myself not only setting expectations for my team players but setting boundaries and expectations for my team parents!

helicopter parent

If I had the opportunity to sit you parents down and tell you one thing – everything you say has some type of impact on your child(ren). EVERYTHING. When you tell your child they are not good enough, I see it when they walk out on the field with their body language screaming their lack of confidence. When you tell your child they are the best thing since Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo (when they are *clearly*not), I see it when they practice and when they play; as well as trying to give them additional tools to become a better player for this TEAM sport.

As a coach, my goal has been to make sure your child comes off a season a better player than when they first started that particular season. Being a better player not only includes a stronger skill set on the field to engage in more strategic and technical play; but also having an arsenal of tools to be a better human being.

As a parent, my goal has been to make sure my children have expectations and goals to rise up to. Each child has a different personality that requires a specific set of expectations for them. I refuse to coddle my children and give them false allusions of grandeur; but I also refuse to set them up for failure from the beginning.

When you tell your child that his/her team stinks and will never beat a particular team, you are stripping your child from the very get-go of the tools they need to march out and prepare themselves for their game. The likelihood of your child’s team may be slim-to-none of winning, but from a coach’s perspective trying to instill hope after you have stripped it away is a heart wrenching experience.

lessons

We must enable kids with the opportunities to *always* go out and give their best efforts regardless of the wagered outcome. Many of these experiences now will translate into your child’s life ahead – ultimately in how they handle situations in their careers, their marriages and more. Empower them NOW.

My tenure as coach has allowed me to see the impact of many of life’s challenges on your children:

  • I have seen the impact of divorce;
  • I have seen the impact of abuse;
  • I have seen the impact of helicopter parenting;
  • I have seen the impact of neglect; and
  • I have seen your children thrive.

Ten years later, with countless seasons of soccer under my belt – as a mother and as a coach, I reflect with a certainty that the in-town director gave me a gift way back then.  Yes, the director gave me a priceless opportunity to expand my own life adventures, but to have an impact on the lives of young children in their otherwise hectic worlds.

My role as coach has been far from perfect.   However, I do hope that a couple of kids will remember “Coach Rebecca” fondly and know I had a positive impact on their young lives. Your role as parent is also that of a life coach!  Remember your words and your actions may also have a positive impact on your children’s lives from the sidelines of their favorite sports. Let them hear these words from me AND from you: “I believe in you!”

 believe

apple cart

Few things knock me off my apple cart; really, I am able to teeter, to totter, and to maintain some sense of balance with most of life’s curve-balls aimed straight at my head. With each blow that makes contact with my emotional well-being, I may wobble for a while but very rarely is the instance in which I completely fall down. When I do fall down, I fall hard – usually face first into the concrete-hard truth of reality.

In “The Strongest Girl I Know”, I described the day my best childhood friend was diagnosed with leukemia. Never for one figment of a moment did I doubt that Karen would beat her form of cancer.  I *KNOW* she will come out stronger than before (yes, that IS possible, as I am living proof myself). Karen has recently finished her cancer treatment and will be place on a maintenance program for two more years. She is currently in what I have personally named the “transitional phase” of her cancer experience.

For those of you not in the cancer world itself, the “transitional phase” is what I deem the absolute hardest. Many cancer survivors will tell you that it is so hard to be done with treatment – everyone assumes you are okay and they move on, seemingly forgetting about you and what you just went through. You have an overwhelming range of emotions that often times makes you feel crazy for feeling such diverse and intense thoughts.  For me, personally, after my breast cancer battle, I did not struggle with this aspect as I was more than ready to get on with my life, my *new* normal, and put the cancer behind me.  Or so I thought.

New Normal? What the heck is that?

What doctors do not necessarily tell you is about survivor-ship and all the emotions that come with paving your way in a world that is not quite like your pre-cancer world; nor is your brand new beginnings as *glorious* as one would expect when given a “second chance” at life. As Karen begins her survivor-ship and careens through her transitional phase, I am once again reminded of the tumultuous hike ahead and awful emotions that surface therein.

About a year after my treatment wrapped up, I began feeling intense emotions:

  • Anger <man, was I pissed off!>
  • Sadness <how is the world this sad that it takes young people prematurely from their loved ones?> 
  • Fear <how would I identify and thrive in a “new” normal with such bodily limitations and at times, crippling fear of recurrence?>.

Five years later, I had personally arrived at a spot where I had resolved *some* of the emotional intensity and I had learned to cope with *some* of my limitations, but only as a mere matter of acceptance. My neat and tidy apple cart was first really tipped hard last October when Karen called me to tell me she now had cancer.  The past months I have spent picking up my apples and placing them back in their respective places.  Until Karen’s transitional phase, that is……..how does one watch a best friend go through a similarly horrid experience with cancer?  How does one prep her friend for the toughest mental part of the so-called “journey” post-cancer?

I *love* that Karen now understands and relates to so many emotions that I personally struggled with. I feel more equipped to be there for her and listen to her as she gives examples of the emotional onslaught she currently faces. I offer examples and stories of how I writhed with similar thoughts or how I chose to handle ignorant comments. Yet, my heart is sad that Karen has to experience so many of these instances as she continues on her path to ultimate health.

Recently, when Karen called me flabbergasted that someone would say such a callous statement to her, I felt empathy for her pain. I also felt a weird sense of déjà vu as my memories circled back around to those ill-timed statements delivered to me just a few years back.

open mouth insert foot

Not only am I having a WTF moment for her, but I am chuckling at the WTF moments of my past. For example, “Boy, I should get cancer so that I can lose weight!” or “Whoa, I need me some chemo so I can get rid of my period!” are two of my *least* favorite lines, delivered by a loved one during my treatment. How do you explain to someone that you understand they honestly do not wish to get cancer?   <REALLY?!?!>   Or rather, the mere idea of getting rid of your period by going through MONTHS of poisoning via chemo is not only repulsive, but that is the most insensitive and ridiculous thing you could say to a cancer patient in the throes of their treatment!  (Karen and I have enough material to create a free-standing book of its own with more examples!  Stay tuned.)

In the cancer world, you honestly do not know if you will live or die – you just do not. Sure, the doctors give you a fairly optimistic prognosis, but ultimately, they do not know for certain and that is very scary. The treatments make you sick……not just sick, but SICK. No amount of vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, excessive fatigue, horrific bone pain or more will justify the need to ever lose weight or get rid of your period.

Telling a cancer patient they look good is equally *offensive* because what you are really saying is that we do not look *as sick* as you expected, or that you have nothing else to say so you will say that. I believe I said it to Karen once at a hospital visit when she was particularly sickly feeling – and I instantly kicked my own ass (albeit in my head).foot in mouth

In talking to another friend whose neighbor has recently been diagnosed with cancer, I find myself getting defensive and riled up about those who *think* they know best for the one with cancer. Empowerment has never been more critical to a newly diagnosed patient; let them make their treatment decisions on what is best for THEM. What is best for YOU may not be the best for THEM. The strong-armed advice that the newly diagnosed should consider holistic and all-natural treatment as opposed to the medical experts’ advice of engaging in a strong protocol, a proven regiment of drugs that gives us a 70, 80 or 90% survival rate is just plain hard to swallow.  We appreciate your *concern* but a simple, “What can I do for you?” are the simplest, yet, strongest words you may ever deliver to a cancer patient.  Five years it took me to come to this reality; and boy, will I advocate for those in my presence to ensure they are empowered in the decisions that affect their bodies.

Sensitive much? Yes, I am.

Karen and I faced our cancer diagnoses with similar ado: bring it bitch. We moved so quickly into our warrior phase, determined to beat the tarnation out of our respective cancers that we chose to deal with our emotional journeys as best as we can/could. Even as much as Karen has shared, I cannot even begin to fathom the thoughts she has and how she copes with the angst. I offer my ears and my words in hope that I bring her some sense of consolation; whether by helping her feel *normal* in these overwhelming emotions or by helping her to identify some ways of coping that work for her. Again, what may have worked for me may or may not work for Karen. Only she has the ability to ascertain what mechanisms are best for her.

As we move Karen into the next phase beyond the transitional phase (finding her new normal), I find myself on yet another unexpected ride of my own emotional cataclysm: 

  • Damn, I am pissed – why, oh why did she have to go through this?
  • WTF, I am angry – why did Jackie, Cara, Donna, and Tony, to name just a few, lose their battles so young?
  • URG, I am sad – each time I see Jackie’s daughter or pictures of Cara’s children my heart strings tighten and make me take a deep, cleansing breath to absolve my mind of the sorrow.
  • I am sadder yet to talk to more newly diagnosed, or to acknowledge the grim reality of those with chronic cancers that will…NOT….be….cured.
  • BOOM, I am motivated – to continue to advocate, to research, to raise money and make a F*cking difference in this world so that no one else has yet to battle a form of cancer.

apple cart over

Enough! ENOUGH ALREADY.

I cycle back around to myself and place a gentle reminder that I need to be sure I take care of me. After all, I have three munchkins whose lives depend upon having their Momma in it. Another deep cleansing breath, some perspective re-alignment, and better choices for how I pursue my days ahead and the very moment I am within.

Deep breath. Brush myself off. Pick up my apple cart and we continue along the path of the Unexpected Ride. These are my moments; my moments to be present within and all I will do is watch for incoming curve balls. With each passing moment, these tangents of life are navigated and cushioned using the tools that have come from the blows before. Life is full of a multitude of lessons learned; and I do know that my apple cart will soon be back up again.

Have You Ever Looked….*THERE*?

During a recent vacation, I was forced to take an indoor shower. Yes! The horror of an indoor shower while on Cape Cod when the luxury of a warm temperature, blue sky, and ocean salt air infused outdoor shower exists.

outdoor shower

Let us not discuss the reasons behind why the indoor shower was utilized, but instead, let us ask the reason(s) why on EARTH the owners have a full length mirror hanging daftly on the wall just outside of said indoor shower.

While brushing my teeth on our first night, I was reminded that the beautiful farm house we rented has a large mirror above the bathroom commode and when your eyes boringly scan the horizon, there is suddenly a reflection of your backside – a full length vision – courtesy of a full length wall mirror behind you.

mirror

This year I promised myself that I would not go through the typical, annual charades of self-loathing on my body while on vacation. Yes, the constant, internal verbal bashing that occurs every third week of July was NOT going to happen this year. Enough is enough.

As I sat on the beach, the Gremlin started up and I would envy an athletic looking mom that walked by, before telling myself that I am also an athletic mom – albeit with a very different body. That is all. Enough!

When I reached for my cover up to literally cover up after a swim in the ocean with my children, I paused for a moment and I asked myself if I truly needed the *safety* of hiding behind my thin piece of cloth. Yes, yes, I did need it at that moment. Keep your judgments to yourself.  My flabalanche is rather invisible behind these threads.  You do NOT see it.

Ok, I thought I was doing fairly well until the unfortunate Great Indoor Shower event. As I bent over to dry myself off, I happened to inadvertently take a peek .

Ohhhhhh Myyyyyyyy GAWDDDDD.

shock and awe

Oh. My. Oh….heavens. Oh….geesus….. Oh. Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Whoa.

You see, as I took my terry towel on the insides of my legs and ankles to dry off from washing; I was not-so-graciously bent over.  I *MISTAKENLY* peeked behind me, through my legs and, and, and….there was *THAT* mirror.

Shock and awe!

shock and awe lucy

Should I stay or should I go?

peeking

It is not every day that a woman gets a full-sized view of the entire tundra of where the sun does not shine. Part of me was horrified and I could not stand to peek for a millisecond longer.  Even with an imaginary thong on, the view was nothing remotely close to the recent social media images of Miley Cyrus and her nethers. A piece of me then halted; I realized that three of the greatest human beings on Earth had humble beginnings in this far part of my world (and yes, god forbid they read this they will cringe and crumple in disgust at their Momma.  Sorry, kiddos!)

miley cyrus

My eyes were suddenly magnetically drawn to the quarter-sized mosquito bites that singed red on my artic white ass cheeks. Literally, I told you, the sun does not shine………well, at least the fear of ass melanoma is likely slim-to-none positive. However, I am now pondering the random thought of whether a mosquito takes a bite into my gluteus maximus with the same ardor that one would chew on a succulent morsel of a rump roast. Anyone?

As my vision shifted and focused like an electron microscope, the scattered hairs demonstrated a need to take better care while shaving – slow the heck down and graze that razor over the vast land of skin, lady!  The latest issue of Cosmopolitan at the hair salon does not promote the mangy, homeless cat look, am I right?  The very chemotherapy that left me bald and looking like a pre-pubescent eight year old, well, my hair follicles are now pretty pissed off. Yes, there is hair……here, there, everywhere……and I must take better care to razor-fy myself with every future shave. No, I cannot bring myself to my nearest hair removal salon and ask them to……….   Did you know my toes and feet could likely resemble Sasquatch if I did not keep my razor near? Since when did *THAT* happen? (I redirected your attention there, intentionally so.)

Enough is enough.

Somehow, I came out of the reflective stupor I was mesmerized by and decided to very quickly get the heck out of the upstairs bathroom. Clothes went on and my thoughts recalculated as we drove to the beach.

Remember that promise to myself? Mmmmhhhhmmmm. Yes, yes, I do. My brain fought the urge to go down the self-destructive path.  Instead, I had to muscle up every ounce of inner strength; and I chose to focus on all that this body HAS done again (please recall I have a hearing impairment….I need things repeated repeatedly in order to *hear* them).

Instead of the flabalanches, cellulite, stretch marks, surgery scars, radiated tissue, extra weight and aging spots upon my being, I decided the mirror reflects only what I choose to see.

My vision of this body has earned every notch and then some over 40 years; my body has:

  • birthed three babies and lost two others early on
  • fought off an aggressive form of breast cancer and won
  • run a marathon
  • completed a triathlon
  • run several half-marathons and countless other road races
  • regularly picked up heavy things and put them down at Crossfit
  • hiked mountains
  • cuddled tears
  • belted out ridiculous laughter
  • advocated for others
  • championed for a better world for all of us
  • hugged friends, and still
  • sprouts way too much hair.

What’s your reflection in your mirror?  Will you be a kinder, gentler person to yourself?

be kind

Guest Blogger: Jill Devaney “A Shady Thicket”

It’s that time of year again.

‘Summer?’ you ask.

Yes, it’s summer. It’s also time for my annual gynecological exam, the bane of many women’s existence. This anniversary of sorts prompted an odd trip down memory lane for me of the many exams I have endured in my life. I thought about how many people – medical professionals that is – had gazed upon my vagina.

speculum 

I have a fleeting memory of my first internal exam. I had availed myself of the Health Services Department at college. I always tried to do the right thing at the right time and considering that I was ‘an adult’, I felt that I needed to take my health and wellbeing seriously. On my first visit to Health Services the physician’s assistant commented on my watch, it was a Swatch. I laughed to myself, ‘Good try lady, but there is no freaking way you are going to take my mind off of what you are doing.” No pictures on the ceiling.  No dangling butterflies or planets. I know exactly what you’re looking at, where your hands are and what is, excuse the term, going down, down there. Let’s just keep the chatter to a minimum.

As my personal life developed I felt it was time for a trip to Planned Parenthood. Word on campus was that that was the place to go for cheap care and affordable birth control. So, off like a prom dress, I went. Poor Planned Parenthood, their operation was pretty minimalist. White walls rejected mismatched office furniture and a few posters tacked to the walls. The administrative employees were always the same as was the price for a pack of pills – a whopping $4. In my three years going there I don’t think I ever saw the same doctor twice.

pills

On one particular visit I remember having a younger female doctor — they were all female. I assumed the position and she came at me with her gloved hands. “Into the sandwich,” she exclaimed. I was super-focused on the constellation map over my head so her comment didn’t sink in immediately and then it hit me. I laid there in a stupor. I felt a bit like a piece of meat – a nameless, faceless vagina. I’m sure after decades in that line of work it’s probably what it all comes down to, they may forget our faces but can recall the structure or attitude of our vaginas. I can hear it now, ‘You know, the lady with the tilted uterus, C-section scar, narrow hips … Nope. Well manicured landing strip, definitely doing her Kegels. “Oh yeah, I remember her.”

landing strip

Well, this young doctor was green. Maybe she was eight years older than me but nevertheless too young to be using such jaded comments. I wonder where she is now and if she perfected her gyno shtick. Hopefully, she was just fulfilling her clinical rotation and moved on.

After that my annual visits are a bit of blur. I’ve moved around a bit so I have had quite a few gynecologists. Many a person has examined my lady parts. The one thing I do know is that all of these visits were scheduled first thing in the morning and that a cleansing of epic proportions took place before each and every visit. The preparation that goes into these exams is unparalleled. Every year it’s the same. The level of aesthetics is at its all time highest. Even your husband doesn’t warrant this kind of attention to detail anymore. I hope for the gyno’s sake that every woman takes the time and effort that I put in pre-visit. God bless them if they don’t.

At work I sometimes cross paths with my gynecologist. Initially he was my O.B. but sadly and gladly he is now just my gyno. I am not sure if he remembers my name but he knows my face, maybe he’s running through his mental rolodex of facts on me: four induced births, all full term, huge babies, reeks of Bath & Body products…’ He always asks how my children are doing.

One day a coworker asked me who he was and I told him. He was horrified. ‘Doesn’t it bother you he’s seen you naked?’ he implored. ‘Nope,’ I replied. “Well at least he recognizes your face,’ he snickered. I would hope so; I’ve been his patient for almost 20 years! We’ve had a great working relationship.  He never comments on my weight and I never comment on his.

So, in retrospect there has been many a person that has witnessed my personal business. When you think about the process of labor and how many people examine you or ‘take a peek’ it starts to add up. I am most likely considered to be pretty modest with my body but as you age and the amount of views add up, in that particular area, you become more and more blasé about it yourself. It’s almost a separate entity.

It was ‘standing room only’ at our youngest son’s birth. He had an issue that was diagnosed in utero so there were three people in the room for the baby and four or five there, besides my husband, for me. We could have sold tickets. It was a teaching hospital and it seemed as though everybody and their brother did a drive by that day. ‘Can I take a peek?’ Sure, what the heck? It’s just the most personal part of my body but get on in there and take a gander!’ It was a far cry from when our first child was born and they asked if a student could observe and they got a resounding, “NO!”

So here I sit, writing this filled with nostalgia for my younger self. It’s funny how something can spark your memory or in this case tickle you’re fancy. It happened as I put on my Swatch watch on this morning. If you let it those experiences can be unpleasant and embarrassing. I try to look for the humor.

The way I see it I have 364 more days of regular upkeep until I am at DEFCON level again. I want my gyno to remember me in a positive light not: ‘Is she the one that seems like she bathes twice a week and does not tend the shady thicket?’

 shady thicket

 

Crossroads

(Photo courtesy Huffington Post)
(Photo courtesy Huffington Post)

Have you ever hit a time in your life where you felt like you were approaching or at a crossroads? The intersection of complacency and transformation, yet, you are unsure which direction to take. What do you do?

Being the adventurous “traveler” that I am I have found myself at this junction several times over; particularly in the past twenty years. Often times, I blame my Type-A personality, my need to achieve style, my *Can’tSitStillForAMoment* character trait for circling back around to said intersection of confusion.

confused

My arrival at this jointed station is always – always – greeted by the little Angel Rebecca and Devil Rebecca on each respective shoulder. Alas, says the Angel….what’s wrong with a little complacency? From a high level perspective, your life is pretty darn good at the moment….what needs to change? Enjoy the ride! STFU, says the Devil (she can be a terse bitch), why would you ever settle for what is? Life is too short, keep moving, keep changing, and certainly do not ever think for one moment that life is meant to coast.

angel devil

Who sets the pace of the journey we take called life? We do, of course. For some, the ride may be slower, less bumpy and pretty consistently wandered without much fanfare or ado. For others, like me, the ride may be like Goliath the roller coaster: ups and downs, fast and slow, exciting and scary – consistently changing and somewhat unpredictable.

For example, there are people who are perfect happy with the same job – year after year after year. Or there are folks who complacently live within the boundary lines of their home town, and contentedly so – not missing any happenings in the next city over or even nearby in Boston. Is there anything wrong with these satisfied gentlefolk who start their lives on a straight tangent and continue that way throughout their lifetime without any crossroads? Of course, not. Is it a simpler way of living, an easier life? I do not know. Let’s ask them!

What about people like myself, who stream along but when things seem stagnant for an undetermined amount of time, we feel the need to shake it up a bit? Why settle? Why ride straight when there’s that turn here, this turn there, whoaaaa – lookie that curve ahead………..right?

what to do

In addition to my *Can’tSitStillForAMoment* trait, I fear complacency. I strive for the need to be a better person than I was yesterday. New opportunities present additional lessons to improve upon myself: professionally and personally. Right?

Having had cancer and the typical cliché “awakening” that comes with surviving a potential death trip, I am more hyper-vigilant about ensuring I am living my life to the fullest and I wonder if that is why I come to more crossroads than ever before. I also believe this is why I struggle with knowing when it’s “okay” to ride the complacency train for a bit. You know, maybe I do not need to turn off at this junction and it is okay for me to continue straight for a bit. The nagging feeling of needing change is not one that *needs* to be acted upon at every junction.  My kneejerk reaction is to change my course, particularly when things are not going as I planned or envisioned.

right

My role at my current job is somewhat undefined, yet there is growth potential down the line when I am more ready and find it easier to balance motherhood and career (all while not jeopardizing my health). Much of who I am as a person is defined by my work, so the need to keep striving in my employment is compelling. Yet, I am *okay* with what my current role is because my children need me and my years with them are limited. My flexible work schedule also allows me gym time, which is becoming more and more important and compelling a factor in my future. Perhaps that’s a to-be-determined crossroad in and of itself in my constant scrutiny of living my life to its fullest? Ah, time will tell.

My role in charity and non-profits is certainly at a junction. Somehow, if the bills would pay themselves, I would thrust myself into the world of charity even more so than my current over-giving personality allows. What is my current role to be exact? Sure, I mentor cancer patients and help them advocate for themselves on a weekly basis. With my time being constrained by other responsibilities, the time I afford to charity and my favorite non-profits must be delegated wisely. Do I push forward with the ones I am currently associated, despite on-going challenges or do I take a left turn? Ah, time will tell.

Even with this particular blog, there are many detours and intersections of direction offered. Do we go straight? Do we turn left? Do we turn right? What direction do we go? Each turn we take navigates a different walk of life; some choices may be better for us and others may be entirely wrong. The pace in which we guide ourselves is only something that each and every one of us may determine – and it cannot be compared to those around us. Coasting down the straight away may feel weird to some of us, but sometimes, that is the answer as well.  Complacency has a place, at times, right?  Wrong?

complacency

Questions for YOU:

What are some of your crossroads? What decision do you make? Are you constantly evolving and changing direction? Or do you prefer the consistency of the straight away ahead?

 

Fatty McFatty Pants (The Gremlin)

You may recall in Right On Hereford, Left on Boylston, I completed the 2014 Boston Marathon; a lifetime dream of mine came true on April 21st.  Despite my months of training, particularly through New England’s Artic Vortex and miles upon miles logged; I somehow experienced a hip labral tear just past mile seven.  Because I am incredibly stubborn and ­­­_______________ (reader’s choice, you pick: crazy, tough as nails, resilient, stupid, mental, stubborn again…..), I did finish; albeit nearly an hour and a half after I expected to.

After a very painful (mental, not physical) six week, doctor-ordered mandated break from working out, I returned to Crossfit.  For those of you who have deemed Crossfit a cult, that “cult” welcomed me with open arms and had me feeling as if I were not only genuinely missed but everyone was proud of me for coming back in.  My workout “family” was non-judgmental and gently nursed my bruised ego as I crossed the gym floor to resume my vacant spot.

A gentle manner and easing into something is not a regular habit of mine; so I was even a bit worried about how my still healing hip would feel as I resumed throwing weight around – both that on my body and that on my barbell.  The pain was virtually non-existent in my hip, but there was a good instability and a random clicking to remind me to be safe.  My coach was excellent about providing modifications to me that did not further add insult to injury.  On top of that, my “box-mates” were constantly asking me if I felt good, if I was okay, and so forth on making sure I respected my bodily boundaries as I regained my pre-marathon weights and workouts.

Surrounding yourself with caring people in an environment where each person is out for his or her own, but he or she pushes you to hit new personal bests or simply get through a bad day is most rewarding.  I know I can rely upon myself to push myself harder than most, which is a hard-wired trait of mine. However, I cannot always stop the Gremlin – the voice that enters my head and tells me that I should have pushed harder, faster, stronger or better.

gremlin

Last week was a perfect example of how my Gremlin started to take over when she had NO business being anywhere near my sweatiness.  Our strength portion of our workout was a 1RM (one round max) of a bench press; or in other words, the heaviest we could go for one rep.  I had not done a bench press for a max in a very long time, so I had no recollection of what weight I should be at.  Instantly, I asked a strong Crossfitter friend of mine to work with her, as I am typically 10-20 lbs behind her and she’s an inspiration for me to work with.  This fellow Crossfitter is always encouraging me in the kindest of ways and making me strive to find my peak strength without losing my femininity (yes, I joke about my growing man-muscles).

We added weights and benched pressed our way up and down the rack.  Once I hit 125 pounds, I lost my mojo and simply could not get the bar up over a certain sticking point.  My box-mate rallied and pushed her way through to 137.5 pounds.  As we put the weights away to prepare for the next phase of our workout, I started to allow myself some disappointment that I did not hit the 130 pounds I deemed as the appropriate number for myself.  The funny thing is I have no manual on what numbers I should be hitting.  Crossfit, itself, has no manuals on what numbers I should be racking up.  My body told me last week that 125 pounds was the max it was going to afford that day.  Enough said.

We finished the rest of the workout, which included things such as toes-to-bar, handstand holds and double unders.  Yes, toes-to-bar. Anyone who is overweight and has had 3 kids has something of a pooch (not a dog, but a hanging flabalanche that starts just below the boobs and ends somewhere in the southern nethers) that is a clear obstacle to your toes meeting the bar.  Ah, yes, there’s a thing called a modification: knees to chest. Let us just say that my knees get parallel and I have to be happy with that (for now).  However, I swing and I sway so that my movements sort of blend in with the rest of the monkeys who make getting their toes to a bar over their head second nature; as if they have been practicing since they were in utero.  Maybe I should stick to running…….Fatty McFatty Pants can cover the distance.

Handstands. Publicly, I will admit it: I am TERRIFIED to try a real handstand in the vicinity of other people, regardless of how much they love me and how they would NEVER <ahem, publicly> judge me or laugh at me. I reluctantly did the modified version and I felt strong despite leaning the opposite way of my box-mates.  Take your weight and invert it upside down using the strength of your upper-body to hold it versus your legs?!?!  Who ARE these people?

Photo: crossfitannarbor
Photo: crossfitannarbor

Recently, another WOD (workout of the day) had me doing thrusters and pull-ups.  Thrusters are a barbell exercise that require you to clean the bar to your collarbone from the ground, squat and then press the weight up over your head.  While I manage to be fairly strong in any barbell required exercises like thrusters, I still carry a tremendous amount of extra weight for body weight movements – making things like pull-ups all but nearly impossible (did I not just outline the pretty picture with toes-to-bar above?!).  However, instead of just jumping up trying to reach the bar as I have for months on end, I am noticing lately that I can actually get my chinny chin-chin up there to the bar.  With more work and practice, I know someday I will be able to do a pull-up without using the force of my jumping legs up to get there.  I may actually complete a handstand as well.  (Insert eyeball roll as I wonder if I will EVERRRRRR get a toes-to-bar).

Every single day has become a routine:   I look at the posted workout on my CrossFit page and a part of me gets giddy. I anxiously await the time of day later that belongs to ME.  I *strut* into my box knowing full well I am about to get my big ass handed to me in some terrible manner, courtesy of no one but myself and my enormous girth.

During the workout, I will curse myself a million times over, and then a few times over again – for being crazy and out of my mind. I will actually question my sanity. I will tear myself down for being so overweight and for allowing myself to get there (chemo weight or not…it still feels like an excuse).

I will complete the workout to the best of my ability on that given day. Most days are given a good effort, but there is a random day where the energy cannot be mustered from any source. However, nine times out of ten, I will walk out of the vast gym feeling like a million dollars and high on an ever-growing addiction to endorphins.

hardest

CrossFit is hard; that is why it is not for everyone. CrossFit is not the latest fitness craze that anyone can just jump into. The workouts take hours practice for proper form, the weights take time to build up to, the endurance adds with each push or pull given by you.  CrossFit is commitment.  CrossFit is determination.  CrossFit is a lifestyle change.

One would not expect their life savings to grow overnight, much as one should not expect their health to grow overnight as well.  With each deposit into my health bank (i.e. a completed WOD), my health is vastly expanding.  I am chipping away at my future health by giving my body the strength it needs to be strong, whether it is in my muscles, my cardiac system or my mental health (including kicking that ugly Gremlin to the corner once and for all).  Each day I complete a workout, I am one day closer to changing my name from Fatty McFattyPants to something more appealing…….(i.e. The Beccinator; Beastly Rebec; Sweaty Bec; Bodacious Becca…….) but until then……..

strong

Yes, I am stronger, I am leaner, and I am a better person than I was the day before.

Should that not be the goal for each of us?

yestrday

P.S.  What do you do with YOUR Gremlin?

Red Rubber Ball

Remember the latex-y smell of a new red rubber kickball? Remember the tinny, hollow, bouncy sound the ball made when it hit the ground? Remember how much air that textured ball would get upon a good, swift, hard kick?

kickball

Childhood memories are a funny thing: some recollections of our youth are so vivid that you can instantly delight not one, not two, but often all of your senses in precise detail as if the memory is as recent as a day or so ago.

The absolute earliest vision I can evoke from my memory banks is that of a gift; a present from my maternal grandparents, Benjamin and Frances Mindlin. My grandparents had driven from their home in Bloomfield, Connecticut to our home in Dover, Vermont for a visit. My mother told me later in life upon rumination of this story that I was about two, but not quite three years old.

To this day, I recall the joy and excitement in anticipation of my grandparents’ arrival as their car pulled into our driveway. After cordial hugs, kisses, and hellos; my grandparents presented me with a brand new red rubber ball. What a gift!

Tink, tink, tink….the sound reverberated as I bounced the rubber sphere eagerly and sloppily on the driveway as a wobbly toddler would. Tink, tink, tink…continued as my brand new ball bounded down the driveway faster than I managed to keep up. Tink, tink, tink……pop……….phiiizzzzzzzz. Just like that, the air spewed out of a pierced hole, faster than convicts on a prison break and my brand new toy was deflated flat. Ruined. No sooner had I risen with the glee provided by my red rubber ball had I collapsed into the ultimate sadness, as my dog sunk his teeth into the fleshy, springy object he chased down the pavement.

Shortly thereafter, or so it seems in the fuzzy and worn memory cards, my family was preparing to move out West. The reality of this relocation meant nothing to me at such a young age, my comprehension being limited to the trauma that ensued when my dad threw out my itty-bitty skis. As my father tried to rationalize with my irrational three year old self, my tantrum escalated. How was I supposed to know that our destinations of Texas, New Mexico and ultimately, Oklahoma had no ski mountains?

My journey from Vermont to Texas is piecemeal at best, with the lively mariachi band that strolled through the San Antonio marketplace being a joy to recall. Otherwise, I have negative snippets of the adventure: the larger-than-life bug that was in our motel bathtub (seriously, it was as big as my little girl foot….okay, no, it was the size of Godzilla and my shrieks probably alerted everyone staying at said motel that something was dangerously afoot); the neon green, algae-filled swimming pool that the motel encouraged my parents to let me take a dip in (have no fear, they did not let me go near the vat); the complaints from my mother how god-awful Texas was and my father’s supreme disappointment in how small the Alamo really was in real life.

painted desert gonewiththewynns

New Mexico brings back fonder memories, so much so that I do hope to take my family there some day. The pictures of visiting the Grand Canyon with my Grammy (my dad’s mother), who had come to spend time with us are near and dear to my heart. The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest of nearby Arizona are seared into my brain, as are my mother’s comments proclaiming her love for the area. Najavo Fry Bread (or sopapillas) combined with refried beans bring me *RIGHTBACK* and warm my heart with the love of the time I spent there. Seriously, when I visit again I will likely have that be my first order of food to roll around in emotional happiness.

Najavo Fry bread The recollection of losing my hearing while in New Mexico is non-existent up and until I was being fitted for my new ear molds. Shortly thereafter, we relocated to Oklahoma with a builder my father had worked for building housing for the Navajo Indian tribes; they were going to continue building low-income housing for the Cherokee tribes in the Northeasterly portion of Oklahoma.

My mother spoon-fed me a version of events surrounding my hearing loss which she insisted is why we up and moved from New Mexico to Oklahoma (something about a shotgun to kill the doctor who she deemed as the culprit who caused my hearing loss). My father always corrected her that we followed his work to Oklahoma, and I now know that is likely the more true version of the stories.

Lately, when times get chaotic or too fast-paced for even my liking, I reflect back on my ten years in Oklahoma. I honestly miss so much about those years and that part of the U.S. Everything people here in the Northeastern part of the U.S. think about Oklahoma is pretty close to being true: things are much slower paced in the more rural parts of the state; people are so very kind; and the mid-western drawl has a life of its own.

My memories of Oklahoma take on a life of their own! Again, food based memories are seared in my brain’s taste buds as I think back to happy times with my parents – nothing like Wednesday night at Lorene’s Restaurant. A fried chicken dinner was $1.99! $1.99 people……and this was the 80s, not the 40s! My father would get so excited as I would swap him my breast for his drumstick. I would get so excited when my father would let me get a gigantic, mile-high piece of chocolate cream pie or uber-delicious sticky, pecan pie; all home made from scratch by Lorene and her kitchen staff themselves. White creamy gravy drowned our mashed potatoes and my mother would gag, ask us why we would eat such library paste, and gag again as my father and I would devour the heavenly fatness on our plates. I chuckle at the idea that my dad allowed me to order frog legs for dinner (and I have instant heartburn at my willingness to consume an amphibian from a local pond/lake).

Friends of mine from my days in Oklahoma are now refreshed in memory, thanks to that social media forum called Facebook. Recently, from my childhood friend Nicole, I learned that Lorene’s has closed for business. My brief sadness was not for the emotional food memories, but instead, more likely the closing of another chapter of memories I hung onto with both of my parents who are now deceased.

I relive various memories with each posting of those Oklahoma childhood friends who remain in the area. I know some day I will venture back that way and show my children where the bulk of my childhood was spent, so they can embrace some of the places where the thread of my very character was woven by the people and places that surrounded me. I will show them exactly where I used to catch the tarantula spiders to sell to Tommy on the school bus for $5. I will show them the great Grand Lake where I caught my first three pound catfish (with a fishing pole, thank you very much, no “noodling” or Hillbilly Handfishing for this girl) and spent many a summer day cooling off in. I hope to show them Fairland Elementary/Junior High/High School where I went from 3rd grade to 8th grade; where I was a Homecoming Princess, where I found my love for running track and field, and where my classmates and I went through all the requisite angst of tweendom with the aforementioned Nicole, Tina, Tammy, Talana, Tracey, Amy, Holly, Lisa and oh so many more!

softball

And to think, the reminiscing began all with a bouncy, red rubber ball.

#FBF “What Did You Say”

An oldie, but a goodie from #ConfessionsOfACurvyGirl

What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

Recently, I had three different people from different walks of my life tell me they were holding back from their exercise in particular; one was returning to her gym, another considering joining a new place to work out, and the third just wanting to do something but unable to just pull the trigger.

Immediately, and independently of one another, I asked each of them what was delaying their return or their actual start. Instinctively, I began coaxing them that each day they did not embark into their desired athletic routine was another day they failed to get stronger. What did they have to lose? Except another day of added strength and good health because they feared what? Get in there! So what if you need to start at what you consider “ground zero” from a fitness perspective; you will walk out of there stronger or fitter than when you first came in. Chip away at your fitness goals, but you have to take that first step in order to get there.

hold back

All three of them had various reasons why they were hesitant: one was ultimately scared, one was nervous about trying a new gym/exercise and the third just does not prioritize herself. Three women, one week, all putting up roadblocks to personal goals they sought to pursue.

And then I realized I had been doing the same thing – holding myself back.

Nearly two months post Boston Marathon, I have only recently returned regularly to my Crossfit and regular activities from a labral tear in my hip. Every day I would wake up and say to myself, “Today! Today is the day I’m back at Crossfit!” Every day for two weeks, something would come up – whether it was a kid activity, or a viral bug that went through the household, or even slight hip pain and I would not make it in to Crossfit. Enough with the excuses (whether they are good, bad or indifferent), the bottom line is that using my injury as an excuse was getting old and quickly so. I was holding myself back because I did not *feel* ready. Rationally, I knew my coach would help me modify my workout. Irrationally, I knew I would get caught up in the momentum and want to push myself further. Rationally, I knew my coach would be ALLUPINMYBUSINESS and not allow me to push beyond what was acceptable for my current state of mobility. Irrationally, I did not want to put myself into that position to have to tell him to GETOUTOFMYFACE (and risk further injury to myself at the cheap cost of some endorphins) as I proved to myself and the world that I was BAAACCCCKKKKK.

worst enemy yourself

Humble, humble, I tucked my little tail between my legs and resurfaced in my local Crossfit box a couple of weeks ago. I was welcomed beyond expectation as my fellow Crossfitters were happy to see me and cushioned my re-entry with kind words like “Welcome Back! We missed you!” Knowing, sympathetic glances were cast my way as my projected and envisioned trajectory into that day’s WOD would be a bumpy ride, at best. Yes, I baby-stepped my way right back into the world of DOMS (that’s delayed onset muscle soreness just so you know) and my brain gobbled up the swirling adrenaline rush and endorphin party. My muscles seem to have a better memory than my body’s fitness. The strength came naturally and the cardio nearly made me die. Snatches felt great (not MY snatch, the overhead barbell movement perverts) and burpees felt not so great. Okay, I lied, the burpees not only hurt my hip they crushed, steamrolled, pounded my ego with the resounding scream that nearly escaped my lips as I tried to bang out five @#$%&*! burpees every minute on the minute (amongst deadlifts and wall balls, thank you very much).

Holding myself back. Um, yes. Why? Because I feared not being able to perform like I was pre-marathon. Does anyone care how I perform? Um, no. Yes, I do. Yes, my coach does. However, the expectations, at least from normal people, are that you must build back up again. Why is that a fearful process? If a friend hurts themselves, the first thing you would advise them to do is go slow, steady and be smart and careful about working back up to their pre-injury routine. Right? Right. However, often times it is much easier to rationalize a different story for ourselves and mold our thought process to fit our justification accordingly.

The realization is that we need to stop and ask ourselves, “What Story Are You Telling Yourself?” Really. Yes! Ask yourself. Stop, breathe, ponder that question for a moment – and find out if your story is true to you.

What do I mean? Here’s an example: during my marathon traiing, endless numbers of people commented, “Ohhhh, good for you. I can’t run.” Reallly? You can’t? Or do you choose not to? It is okay if you choose not to, but do not say you cannot run. Everyone can run. You have two legs and unless you have a physical disability, you can run. Is your story that you cannot run? My question in response will be what activity is it you do like to do?

Running is not for everyone, nor is Crossfit. I happen to like both, for very different reasons. I do not like to Zumba or do yoga. My story is not that I cannot do them, because physically, I can. Dancing is not considered exercise to me, I only partake in busting a move when being goofy (like last week when “Buffalo Stance” suddenly came on the radio while I was waiting to pick up my kid at the movie theater), or when I have had a few drinks (and I suddenly think I am a former Fly Girl). Yoga is great, but not my preferred cup of tea (I prefer to literally kick my own ass). But I CAN do them.

doms

Lately, I have asked myself again, “What Story Are You Telling Yourself” with respect to other aspects of my life. As I seek to discover a way to morph more of my passions into the forefront of my life, I am tethered down with the need to earn a paycheck and pay bills. Alas, more thoughts of me holding myself back and I am forced to ponder what precisely I intend to do about it.

More friends convey similar patterns in their respective lives – afraid to make career moves because of the story they tell themselves. Do you have friends who are afraid to undertake particular activities? Is that person YOU? Are you going to settle for the same old, comfortable layer of explanations on why they cannot do something? Are you going to say you cannot? Because I will tell you that you CAN!

Everybody has the capacity to dream up and believe anything he/she wants to.  Why is it so easy to fall into the trap of your story? Chapters may not be rewritten, but future chapters are certainly open to strategic outline, careful planning and most certainly execution. Is it easy to hide behind the most comfortable version of our book of life rather than seek out the change we most desire? Most of you that I know are not lazy people by nature, so I know it is not languor that drags you down. Most of you are not fearful people, but is it fear or even anxiety that prevents you from tweaking your life story? When I find fear entering my life, I have to remind myself of the old question itself: What’s the WORST that can happen? In my particular version, I simply pick myself up and dust myself off a thousand times over. Sometimes, it is easy and other times, it is soul-crushingly hard. However, that person I am picking up is stronger, healthier, smarter, kinder, and resilient enough to go at it again and that feels good.

chase dreams

So, what story are you telling yourself?

Recently, I became so frustrated with the amount of money flying out my front door that I decided change must occur in our household. With children in multiple activities that cost nearly an arm and a leg, we have to start making some other sacrifices because I do not want to live in a yurt when I am 65 (unless that is the choice I make, not the only option I have because of a non-existent retirement account).

The first place I looked was our “Triple Play” statement. Are you kidding me? Are you #*&$@ kidding me? Every month we pay for a home phone that we NEVER use (because we are NEVER home). Every month we pay for a cable package that does not include the premium channels, but has 652 other channels – yet, constant complaints about how nothing is on are daily mantras from the creatures that reside in our dwelling. Every month we pay for internet speed which drives nearly every form of technology; namely technology that household members are ON while complaining that there is nothing on the television.

Enough. I called our provider and said to nix the home phone (911 will be fine from our cell phones and THAT hefty bill we have been paying for the past three years while in this home). I asked our provider to nix the cable, with the exception of the basic news channels for a much more comfortable $10/month. I asked the provider to please leave the internet alone (and promptly signed up for Netflix for yet another comfortable $10/month). We are saving over $115/month! Yes, that went out the door for another new bill almost as soon as I told the provider to cancel those aforementioned services (damn kids)!

With that, we started watching the series, “Breaking Bad” as we had heard so much about it and I am a fan of Bryan Cranston since his “Malcolm in the Middle” days. Honestly, I had no idea or any expectations of the AMC drama – as I knew it involved Bryan’s character, Walt White, making and selling meth. I had no idea that Walt would be making and selling meth because he has lung cancer. Nor did I have any idea the flooding emotions that would overcome me with many of the passing episodes.

“Breaking Bad” is one of those shows that sucks you in with a magical force; a deep drawing breath pulling you closer and closer – not unlike that of a Dementor pulling the life out of Harry Potter. You cannot get enough and you are conflicted: making and selling drugs is bad, but Walter White wants to provide for his family before he succumbs to what appears to be a terminal case of lung cancer. You find yourself shaking your head in disgust because of the process and community involved with methamphetamine; but you find yourself rooting for the family as their dad sacrifices to ensure their future without him in it to provide.

In my own cancer battle, I recall wanting to make the best decisions for my family and not necessarily me. I knew I had to stay alive at any cost because I had two young children and another on the way. Every single sacrifice had to be made in order to ensure my children did not lose their mother prematurely; that was my driving factor and I did not feel there was any other choice. Perhaps when Walt was being pressured by his family to make that same decision that I had to (saving yourself regardless), my tears flowed heavily because now, six years post-treatment, I understand that a choice of treatment plan is precisely that – a choice, a decision that ultimately needs to be made by the person diagnosed with cancer themselves. Every situation is different; every family is unique and will do whatever they need to do in order to keep a loved one alive. However, at the end of the day, the decision on what poisons, or surgical procedures, or costs to incur is up to the body the cancer resides within. I learned this the hard way when a friend of mine battling stage four breast cancer met with me to tell me she was done. My own brain could not fathom the selection of words she was conveying to me; the side effects and quality of life were not worthy enough to warrant another year or so on this planet. But your kids! She quickly and firmly retorted with a resounding explanation of how she did not want her kids to remember her last weeks/months/years as a supremely sick being. That night, in our local restaurant, my friend gave me a priceless gift of a different perspective, an empathy if you will, but also an empowerment in realizing how important it is for each of us to have the choice in what we do for our bodies; particularly when given a cancer diagnosis.

breaking bad chemo

I cried for Walter White; a fictional character on a television series because his family was not giving him the right of a choice of what was best for him.

Every time Walt vomits, my eyes well up as my own vivid recollections of spasmodic, wrenching, chemotherapy induced projectile vomit rifled through in lighting speed to the front of my memory banks. My oldest is exceptionally compassionate to the scenes because she remembers her mom clinging onto the kitchen sink calling her father for help in between the heaving.

breaking bad walt vomit
Photo courtesy of AMC

As Walt gears up for surgery and acts loopy from the pre-surgery drugs, I laugh with him in recalling my own silly pre-surgery moments; such as when I was in for my wire localization lumpectomy. I laid nervously on the table in radiology waiting to be wheeled into surgery with a very thin, long wire standing up approximately five inches or so out of my left breast. Since it was early December, I joked about how I looked like a remote control car my young son would be getting for Christmas. Or the time the Chief of Radiology wrote a very large signatory initials on my left shoulder to document the proper side for my sentinel node surgery and I clumsily teased him if he autographed all of his art work (he did not find it funny, but I laughed from a drug induced stupor as if I were suddenly on the same caliber of comedy as Lily Tomlin).

I feel every ounce of Walt’s anxiety as he nervously awaits dreaded diagnostic test results, such as an MRI. Ask any cancer survivor and they will tell you, the waiting game is nearly enough to derail you and force you into the fetal position until THAT call comes in or you drag your feet into your oncologist’s office. Even my husband comments on the scenes waiting for the doctor to convey the news, with a repulsive feeling of the dread that accompanies the inevitable words outlining the good or the not so good.

My emotions bubbled up when Walt first held his newborn baby; because I knew, I knew what was going through his head.  After all, I lived it by birthing my own baby smack dab in the middle of my cancer treatment.  The first thought you have is, “Will I live to see this child grow up?”  Yes, I was relating to a fictional character who makes meth!

breaking bad new baby
Photo courtesy of AMC

Watching the show regularly (one plus of streaming your television is instant gratification and not waiting another WHOLE week before the next episode), I question why I suddenly have such strong cancer emotions six years after I finished my treatment. With each passing year of good health, one would assume that I am well on my way to putting the cancer behind me. If it were only that easy!

Not only did I focus so much on getting the cancer OUT OF ME, I neglected to let myself feel the emotions that come with the territory. I shoved those ugly feelings wayyyyy down deep within. Yes, I did. However, the real lesson here is that you may never assume anything in the cancer world. You cannot control what you feel and when you feel it. Six years later, I am still sorting through unexpected emotions just as my body still struggles with the “Collateral Damage”. More so, now being in a position to support my childhood best friend through her cancer battle allows me to process some of the emotions I buried. For what I did not feel for myself, I feel for her…..my eyes well up at the injustice of it all – the cancer world pounds the crap out of you and stays with you for the remainder of your life.

As we pore through Season Three, my heart breaks for Walter White and his “Breaking Bad” family because the pain they portray is very real. The writers and the actors have done a supreme job at conveying the realistic and compromising world of cancer, the unexpected and often times inappropriate reactions as well as the assumed responses from those affected.

In particular, the conflict of right versus wrong (is it okay to make/sell drugs to leave a legacy for your family because you think you are terminal) toys with the obscure reality of whether you may live or die when you are diagnosed with cancer. Would I do the same as Walt has chosen to do? Would you? Would I make different choices in my cancer battle now versus what I did back then? Would I choose to handle my emotions in an altered manner had I known then what I know now?

breaking bad bad good

There are no answers. I am now awake, however.  I choose to live in the now and experience, feel, cope with the emotions that may surface. I cry at the television when it strikes a chord with a relevant cancer scene. I get angry watching my friend going through six hundred and fifty three seemingly never-ending chemotherapy treatments. I am anxious when I plop my boobs on the cold tray as they are about to be squished and scanned for any sign of recurrent disease. I also feel the energy kick of the kale surging through my vein. I experience the strength of cut and weakened muscles as they pound through a WOD at Crossfit. I hug my friends who are struggling to get through their journeys. I laugh at the amount of money we are saving by reducing our spending; and know that even though my children have this new savings spent before I actually touch it that I do not need to sell any meth to buy more time with them. I have it, even if some of it is spent watching “Breaking Bad” together.

breaking bad I am awake

Fly Free – Revisited

Last weekend, within moments of  when I sat down at my oldest’s soccer game, I had a visitor:

baby dragonfly

Yes, a baby dragonfly!  Hundreds of people at these fields and here I am within moments of arrival…..you have to believe.  Although, this dragonfly will grow up to be one of the gigantic variety that I compare to that of a pterodactyl and is not quite as beautiful as some its opalescent counterparts that shimmer in the sunlight; I took the visit to heart – literally.  Cara came to mind and my heart momentarily squeezed tighter as my recollection become more vivid.  I wondered to myself:  Is she now able to Fly Free

dragonfly

Shortly thereafter, I revisited my former blog,  Confessions of a Curvy Girl link “Fly Free” and I know the answer.  I now daydream of a world that may not necessarily be cancer free, because that is simply how our bodies work, but perhaps, a world where there is much less cancer, better treatments for those that do get cancer leaving little or no Collateral Damage, and the ability for humans to revel in the vastness joys of life!

I am re-sharing the content from the original “Fly Free” post from August 2012 here:

I will never forget the day, approximately three years ago when I was sitting at a local watering hole (a pond, not a drinking place people) and a beautiful dragonfly landed right on me. The beach was filled with people, but yet, this beautiful, metallic blue creature landed on me and stayed with me for an uncommonly long time. My friend commented on this unique moment, as did others – while I simply embraced the peace and beauty his magnificent creature brought. Why did it choose me?

Shortly thereafter, dragonflies were very common around me – and in my presence. Of course, I took particular note of them after the pond incident, but big, beautiful, bird sized dragonflies and small, fragile damselflies hovered around me with an odd frequency. My family even noticed their increased company around my being and I could only wonder what it meant.

Of course, google now being my best friend – I researched the various meanings of dragonflies and what their significance could mean in my life. Here, I’ve summarized them:

  • Change – change in the perspective of self-realization and understanding into the deeper meaning of life (looking beyond the surface).
  • Power and Poise – ability to accomplish objectives with simplicity, effectiveness, elegance and grace.
  • Clear Vision – discovery of one’s own self; by removal of self-created illusions. Iridescence being the property to show oneself in different colors or lights.
  • Living IN the moment and living life to the fullest – by living in the moment you are aware of who you are, where you are, what you are doing, what you want, what you don’t and living moment-to-moment. Living without regrets.
  • Uninhibited Vision – open mind and ability to see beyond the limitations of human self.

Wow. Right?

After my cancer battle, my perspective was completely different than before. As cliché as it is, my self-realization of how precious and how short life truly is was magnified as if under an uber-powerful electron microscope.   I tend to over-analyze things in general; however, a clear vision certainly guides one down their destined path.

Another source indicated that dragonflies may often symbolize the appearance of a deceased one in your life. Am I being visited?

Dragonflies are known to live a very short time; hence, the correlation to living in the moment and living life to the fullest. Do dragonflies make the most of their short time on Earth? It’s certainly a good reminder to us humans to make the moments count.

Despite the flight of the dragonflies, I struggle and I have yet to learn how to cope with the shortness of life in people. Some of us die way before our time – before our flight is over; this I understand. I also comprehend (albeit with much frustration), that we will never know the “why”. However, I cannot seem to come to grips with those who die at a young age, particularly because of cancer.

People have offered me various explanations: Scientifically, it’s survival of the fittest – we cannot all live to be 100. Religiously, it is all a part of God’s Master Plan. Medically, his/her body cannot outlast, outwit or outplay cancer and it’s deviance to all modern medicine.

With news of another local warrior entering hospice earlier this week, I have been consumed with heavy thoughts. Every little moment of my day, I am in her shoes. Every moment is a BIG moment.

For example, my daily shower is shrouded by thoughts of how this woman will soon be unable to take a shower and bathe herself in the latest smell of Bath & Body Works shower gel. My morning cup of coffee is savored knowing that the simple pleasure of enjoying a favored drink will soon be no longer an option for her. The latest pop song on the radio may be one of the last enjoyed by her ears. My tears flow heavily for her.

I hug my children so much tighter; knowing that soon, the warm embrace of this beautiful woman will only be a fond memory that her children will have to cling on to. I tell my friends I love them, because I know that in due course, the wonderful friends that have supported this kind soul will cherish all the times they were honored to have with her.

I cry. I cry. I cry.

I only went to high school with her and with her husband. I have taken the small measures that I could during her battle, to try and offset the burden that comes along with a cancer diagnosis; as many in our tight community have done for their family. I am not close enough to this amazing soul that I should be feeling the amount of pain that I do feel.

I cry. I cry. I cry.

Perhaps, my heart is breaking because of my own experience with cancer and my own threat of the possibility of death. I am in her shoes for the time being. I cannot fathom the pain that she and her family are going through as she prepares to finalize her journey. I only know that every time I see a dragonfly going forward, I will think of her. I will know she touched the lives of so many people in her brief stay. The strength she showed during her darkest days; her relentless courage; the brilliant and iridescent smile she afforded everyone in her presence; the vision throughout that life should be lived in moments and memories made………she will fly free.

 

collateral damage

Unintended damage, injuries, or deaths caused by an action, especially unintended civilian casualties caused by a military operation.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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Unintended damage caused by a war, perhaps a war against breast cancer in your very own body resulting in collateral damage. The impairments are very real and often reside behind the brave, smiling faces you encounter in a survivor. Despite asking a breast cancer warrior if she’s recovered and well after months of toxic treatments and debilitating surgeries, she is still suffering on a regular basis. How, you ask?

Often times you will not hear about the painful and balance compromising neuropathies in her feet. She hides the stumbling gait: the excruciating pain upon waking, trying to walk like a forty year old and not a ninety year old, from everyone except her husband. Yes, you did see her trip up those steps and hear her joke about her awful clumsiness; however, that smile hides the frustration in the numb feet that caught the lip of the granite and nearly caused a full on face plant, or worse, scraped hands that have braced many a fall.

Nor will she elaborate on the difficulties she faces in buttoning her young daughter’s sweater or fumbling and trying to tie the little shoelaces. The often- times illegible handwriting to the poor teachers in a school note, or the misspelled texts stem from stumpy finger tips that aim but do not always hit on target, are a regular routine event these days, one she just shakes off as a new “normal” post treatment.

Words do not come easy, surprisingly, even for the most motor-mouthed of them all. Regular words feel as if they are on the tip of her tongue, but are nowhere to be found in the circuitry of brainwaves. Disappointment and disgust enter as she tries, she blunders, and she finds a somewhat less-fitting replacement word to continue on in dialogue and unbroken conversation; followed with nervous laughter to disguise the aforementioned disappointment. New words are created as the synapses misfire between mouth and brain creating a weird, and often times hilarious, fusion of two similar words that spurt out simultaneously. Memory is far from what it was pre-treatment, while well-intentioned jokes about age from her spouse are smiled at, a sadness sometimes sneaks in as she *still* tries to get accustomed to the new normal, even five years out from completion of treatment.

Nagging joint pain continues to crash the neuropathy party in her body: a residual daily souvenir of the poison cocktails that surged through her blood vessels systemically; the sole mission of chemotherapy to seek and destroy those cancer cells that formed a mini-brigade against your immune system. The trudge against the very cells trying to mutate and possibly kill her, instead leaves her with a significant amount of collateral damage. While the surgeries may have been successful, the skilled surgeons’ knives left scar tissue and disrupted lymphatic flow – highways re-routed and blocked, further adding to swollen arms and hands as lymph fluid has nowhere else to now go. She does not complain about compression sleeves or pumping, after all she is alive and wakes each day grateful for another day of memories, even if they are foggy.

Phantom pains surface every so often, from breast tissue that is no longer there perhaps, causing her to grimace through the smile at the soccer field because she wants to grab her breast in pain, but knows it is inappropriate in a field full of tween boys. Radiated tissue is harder than non-radiated tissue, a reminder she experiences as she shifts from her right side in bed, to her left side instead and back again because it is too uncomfortable to lay upon that previously scorched side.

breast pain

Chemo weight is nearly impossible to remove, despite 4,552,854 burpees done each week or marathons run. Depression tries to overtake her brain with the weight frustrations, but she smiles again knowing she is alive and the continued efforts to perfect said burpees helps her health in other ways despite the flabalanche that surrounds her middle. Strength may be defined in her life, not only by the size of her deadlift, but instead by knowing she faces the ongoing collateral damage with every ounce of muster she may gather.

Bathing suits are anxiety provoking to most women, but add large surgical scars and uneven, lopsided breasts, and she has to summon the courage to find a flattering suit – one that covers the Frankestein-like marks upon her chest, the radiation tattoos, and helps to adjust the boobs from not being overly stared at for the discrepancy in size. She may want to wear a sign that warns the general public about the scars and misshapen body parts, but she quietly smiles and builds sandcastles anyway.

Despite her unconditionally loving spouse, she may still cover up and hide when he walks unannounced into the bathroom as she exits the shower. She cannot help but wonder what goes through his mind: will he notice the significant different texture in each breast? Will he be turned off by the drastic size difference? Wait, that won’t bother him as much as the anchor-scars that surround each breasts or the rippling or pulling skin from deeply buried scar tissue within? She will then escalate into additional worrisome thoughts: will he be freaked out by the hot flashes and the night sweats? Will he find her early morning hobbling eerily reminiscent of her parents’ old-age disabilities? The collateral damage finds its way into her personal relationships, as if to add insult to injury.

Everyone seems to consider cancer survivors are well after they have beaten their disease, or rather have remained in remission or have no evidence of disease. Many people are unaware of the residual side effects that remain in the weeks, months and years after treatment has long ended. Cancer survivors are told that many of the side-effects will lessen with time or go away all together; but for many, that is not the case and the collateral damage is with them for a lifetime.

Many of us may simply be so thrilled to be alive and to remain free of the disease, we feel this is the “price to pay” for life itself. There are some of us out there that do not cope as well, and wonder if the “price to pay” was worth the daily pain, the new-found disabilities, the slack performance in previously stellar areas of our lives like work and again; the regular amounts of agony left behind when the cancer was obliterated.

The war against cancer, especially breast cancer, leaves significant impairment on the life of the person affected. Many facilities are now only just focusing on survivorship; life after breast cancer and the well-being of the patient once treatment has completed. Recovery needs to be more than follow up appointments every three months to ensure the disease remains at bay. Breast cancer patients need to be sure to continue to advocate for their quality of life post-disease, being educated on residual side-effects that are very real, and knowing what pain is normal and what options for pain management are available.

In the meantime, she may be grinning and bearing it, so give your breast cancer friend a warm and gentle hug to soften the achy joints, offer her compassion as she stumbles in the grass unexpectedly and as she fumbles around for words to add to your conversation. She is learning to live within her post-war environment chock full of collateral damage, despite wearing her best outward smile.

In the meantime, breast cancer survivors are encouraged to participate in the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundations studies – more information may be found here: The Collateral Damage Project

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Friday’s Inspiration: Not about falling down, but more about getting back up again. Right?

http://www.godfruits.com/2208/runner-falls-during-the-race-of-her-life-then-gets-up-and-shocks-the-crowd.php?ref=8

Runner falls and then……what happens will make YOU cheer.

A Letter to YOU (My Advice On How to Prevent Breast Cancer)

Dear Ladies (and Gents):

I am going to tell you how you can prevent breast cancer. Yes, I am going to spell it out so that you may possible avoid the dreaded words from your doctors, “You have breast cancer.”

Within the past two weeks, I have learned of yet two more local women in my circles that have been diagnosed with a form of breast cancer. For someone who lives in a “small” city of approximately 50,000 residents, it is rather alarming and disheartening to learn of two women I know or know of having just heard those words, “You have breast cancer.”

Something has to give! Millions are poured into the pink breast cancer vehicle year after year after year and still “in 2013, an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 64,640 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.” Source:  Cancer.org

Something has to change! “In 2013, there were more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.” Source:  Cancer.org

I am not a doctor, nor am I a researcher so my disclaimer will be up front and center. However, I am a breast cancer survivor and I am an avid advocate for pervasive change. Never have we had a need to rally the troops more than right now this moment. Never have we had a more pressing need to make sure that YOU are doing what you can to prevent breast cancer.

Nearly every person that is young (i.e. 20-50 years old) with a cancer diagnosis has had a traumatic or life altering and very stressful event in their lives. STRESS. Many of us know that stress has a tremendous negative effect on our immune system, but in my opinion, many of us know all too well the actual effect – a cancer diagnosis – because of the result of that tension in our lives. We reside in a society, in modern times, where the amount of stress we perform under is tantamount to a badge of honor. For what? At the end of the day, do you really want to go to the grave with everyone remembering what a wound up ball of rigidity you were in your lifetime? I used to wear my stress in that fashion; everyone used to compliment me on how I managed my chaotic life like a graceful Superwoman with a corporate career, little children, aging and sick parents and then some. Newsflash: I did not manage it well. I nearly – LITERALLY – killed myself in the process.

Many of you may be aware that we all have cancer cells in our bodies. Yes, we do. Typically, our immune system is strong enough to destroy any mutant or wayward cells in our bodies; but what happens when our immune system cannot destroy or keep up with the rate of multiplication of the cancer cells? You often times develop a tumor (unless it is a type of cancer like leukemia, which is blood borne and does not create a tumor).

What can we do to ensure our immune system stays strong enough to battle? We can do a lot. Preventing cancer is not a proven science, or we would not be seeing my rage right now. However, if I told you that following Steps 1-10 would very likely help you prevent cancer, why would you not want to do it? Why would you not want to enable these steps in your children’s lives so they prevent their increased risks at getting cancer?

Ladies, we need to rally now. Men, you need to join in because even though your rates of breast cancer remain low; the ability to lower your risks for breast cancer are the same options that also lower your risks for other types of cancers.

Who’s in? Is everyone raising their hands? Let’s be the change we wish to see in the world, instead of being reactive and waiting for more cancer diagnoses in those around us, let’s be PRO-ACTIVE starting NOW.

  1. Reduce your stress. Starting right now. I am already stressed out worrying about how many of you will not undertake these measures (but I am employing my coping technique and hoping that even if *some* of you start making changes, then we have started the positive path of change). Limiting the stress in your life is not easy; we all know this. Just as we pick and choose our battles with our irrational toddlers in our lives, we need to pick and choose the battles of stress we allow to wash over us. That bill you are worried about paying – it will still be there tomorrow, and next month, and making yourself worried about it is simply not worth the money owed. The deadline your work has imposed, you can only do your best…..readjust the other sails in your life to implement your best, but at the end of the day – work is only work and you will not be remembered for that aspect of you at the end of your life. I felt trapped prior to my diagnosis: the lifestyle I chose to live forced me to maintain the unreasonably stressful job I employed; my parents residing with us was a choice I made to ease their lives but was a choice that nearly destroyed my life. Would a different job or having my parents move out have prevented my cancer diagnosis? We will never know, but my quality of life for those years would have been much better for my well-being.
  2. Do NOT smoke. I am calling myself out for being a hypocrite here, as I do not like being told what I can or cannot do by others. However, the statistics cannot be any more telling and forthright: smoking causes cancer. You would not inject yourself daily with a toxic disease would you? Every cigarette you smoke is akin to playing Russian Roulette with your health. Your smoking causes family members of mine to have asthma attacks. Many of you would never intentionally cause harm to another human, but smoking does not only affect your health – it affects complete strangers around you and seizes their lungs to the point where they may not be able to breathe.
  3. Exercise. Stop shaking your head, ha ha. Sure, we can all exercise a bit more in our lives but again, the statistics demonstrate how valuable exercise is for our well-being. You do not need to go all Crossfit on me, but daily walks, weekly hikes, a few minutes of stretching and simple exercises like sit ups or planks help your health with much more impact than you may realize. Find an activity that you like, join a friend and make it fun. Your body will thank you.
  4. Nutrition. The topic of what we eat will spawn a multitude of spin offs from this blog. Nutrition is key. In my opinion, part of how I have staved off a recurrence of my highly aggressive form of breast cancer is in large part due to how I changed my nutrition post-treatment. Our grocery stores are laden with processed foods that will not give us optimal health. Sorry, Cheetos are not fuel for immune system precision. The food industry has been allowed to alter our food and fill every bite with man-made chemicals; some of which we have no idea of the impact on us after years of consumption. Is the consumption of azodicarbonamide worth the risk? Again, this is a battle I choose not to take and I avoid for me, for my children and those around me. Join a CSA for locally grown produce (and you may inquire how they treat said produce with pesticides, if at all). Purchase your meats from a local farmer who raises their animals cruelty-free and without injecting them with all sorts of growth boosting supplements. Too expensive you say? My full year of cancer treatments, surgeries and related protocols cost in excess of half a million dollars. Over $500,000 worth of methodology to save my life and that does not touch upon lost wages, additional out of pocket expenses and the emotional price of cancer. $500 for sixteen weeks of more veggies and some fruits than my family of five can handle, plus $65/month for grass-fed, locally raised meats. Hindsight is always so clear.
  5. Wear your sunscreen. I will always wonder if those bad sunburns on my chest may have been the trigger for the wayward breast cancer cells.
  6. Watch your personal care products. We live in a great country that affords us so many choices, why not make the ones that are best for our good health? If we know parabens are known carcinogens, why would we continue to use them on our largest organ: our skin? The bottle of soap right next to the one containing parabens may not have parabens – read your labels and find what works best for you and your children. One more way you may empower yourself, your immune system and possibly dodge a cancer diagnosis.
  7. Be your own best advocate. If your body or your health seems questionable, ask, ask and ask again to be sure you get an acceptable answer. Your body has an amazing way of letting you know something is off, so listen to it. Your doctor may have an M.D., but sometimes, they are only human and it is OK to question what they tell you. Again, we live in a phenomenal country where choices are rampant – it is okay to pick and choose your medical team.

Ladies, I used to be one of those people who ignorantly spouted: “We are all going to get cancer or die anyway, I may as well die eating, drinking, doing the things I love!” (Head down, shamefully shaking my finger at myself). We all have the ability to make better choices for ourselves and for our families. We have got to take our health into our own hands, we have to make sure we stop taking our lives for granted and we have to stop and ask: “Am I making the best choice for pro-active, preventative health?”

YOU have the ability to reduce your risks for breast cancer. You DO. Find some friends, talk about what steps you will each take for yourselves and for your families. Teach your children how to put their best healthy foot forward, it will be a lesson they take with them throughout their lifetime and quite possibly pass on to their children. Empower not only yourself to possibly dodge a cancer diagnosis, help your friends and family. Maybe instead of hearing about two women in your town who were diagnosed in the past couple of weeks, you will be chatting with your peers about how POWERFUL your immune system is, or healthy our society has become and how everyone is living to be 80, 90 or 100 years old.

2013-10-07 15.35.01

Do you want to be a part of a team of superwomen/superheros who have armored themselves with the power of choice? I certainly do. Will you join me today?

Yours in health,

Rebecca

She Said What?

“She Said What” – a repost from original Confessions Of A Curvy Girl post on 17 January 2014 (*Note addendum update at end).

The day after my 40th birthday, I had a scheduled annual physical. You know, what better time to get on the scale after a couple of weeks of Christmas, New Years and birthday celebrations and libations. Happy Birthday! Oy.

For the past decade, the scale has NOT been my friend. Alright, what woman IS friends with her scale? I hear you moaning and groaning in agreement.  Further, I hear my scale moan when I step on to it. I am confident that I am NOT one of those women bound by the numbers on the scale. Seriously. I am not. I have no desire to weigh the beautifully perfect and lithe 135 lbs that I was at my absolute most fit self in college. I recognize that returning to a range of 145-155 would be ideal and a dream come true.  However, I will publicly announce that I get on the scale nearly every…..single…..day. (Yes, it bellows at me each time with a consistent reliability).

When I finished the third and final batch of chemotherapy, the medical staff informed me that the weight I had gained as a lovely side effect would indeed be more challenging to remove. I really wish they would have told me it sticks to your bones like freaking wallpaper paste and it is nearly impossible to remove EVER. (Yes, I have tried to steam it off in the hottest, most rocket fueled showers ever).

In any event, after questioning my oncologist about the stubborn Michelin tire that remains around my middle, despite regular works outs and low glycemic nutrition, he simply said, “You will be one of those people that this is always a challenge for.” BOOM. Knocked my ass to the floor with a dose of harsh reality; but I took that as a literal challenge and dropped about 25 pounds before getting stuck in yet another plateau.

As life will have it, more curveballs came my way and I have come to realize that I am an emotional eater….or rather an emotional over-eater. Those aforementioned 25 pounds lost, yeah, well, they “snuck” back on as I dealt with the skeletons in my closet……the emotions I *think* I know how to cope with, but rather I find it easier to shove those ugly emotions way down into your deepest core (which creates the Michelin tire affect around your mid-section). I would not recommend it.

People ask me, with some trepidation, how I can be the size that I am with all the working out and the healthy eating I do. I have had a doctor tell me it is in my genes; I am genetically pre-disposed to being a giant because of my Welsh/Polish and Russian heritage. I have had a doctor tell me, “Your parents are fat, therefore, you will be fat.” Remember, my oncologist even said it was chemo and just the way it was?

Yesterday, at my physical the new doctor I saw asked if I had any other concerns after announcing my clean bill of health. I said yes. After spelling out the reality of my habits, including a refreshed 2014 perspective on clean eating for my training regimen and upcoming races, I asked her if there was anything else I could/should be doing and if there is any truth to the lamest of excuses people have been offering me (“It’s hormones, women at your age have NO metabolism and hormones screw it ALL up!”). She looked me square in the eye and said, “Can’t you just be happy that you are healthy?” BOOM.

I was speechless. Yes, I had nothing to counter her response with. I was confused. I did not know how I should process this question/statement this new doctor had just uttered to me.

Am I happy that I am healthy? You bet your ass I am. Sorry, but once you have had cancer, a healthy body is the most compelling desire you would ever wish for. Am I thankful every day that my amazing body continues to function and perform well enough for me to carry out my daily activities AND to work out in multiple types of exercise? You bet I am. Do I wake up every morning and count my blessings that my heart is ticking, my lungs are compressing, my blood is surging…….yes, my blood is surging as I think about that statement more and more from this physician.

As fit as I am, regardless of the miles I can run or the monstrous weights I slam around, I am overweight. As long as I am overweight, my perspective is that I have the ability to be even healthier. Those extra 20-25 pounds that seem to come off and sneak back on, come on – we all know they are an added burden to my heart, to my lungs, to my bones……..yet, she thinks I simply need a perspective re-alignment.

With that, I am kicking this weighted (pun intended) negativity out the door – these ugly emotions will not be shoved down into the tire for added girth this time. Once again, the challenge is accepted. I refuse to ACCEPT the carelessly tossed statement from a medical professional that I should basically give up and be happy with my current state of health.

I will not focus on losing weight this year. Instead, I will focus on how this powerful body needs optimal fuel to perform and that is by clean eating. I have switched to a local farm for our meats (www.kalonfarm.com), so that I know my HORMONES are not being affected by hormone-laced meats tainted with antibiotics and more. During the cold, harsh New England winter when my CSA (www.harpersfarm.com) is not available, we make the trek to Idylwilde Farms in Acton (www.idylewildfarms.com) for fresh, vibrant and full of flavor vegetables and fruits to make it through the Artic Vortex.

I will continue to push my personal limits of strength, endurance and resolve at my local gym with the trainer that motivates me beyond any one before him and with the friends who share blood, sweat and tears by my side through grueling workouts (www.crossfit978.com).   I will run my long runs with my music pumping at hearing damaging levels (hey, I’m already hearing impaired) and enjoy the solidarity of the mental break these routes afford me. I will run the Boston Marathon a good deal lighter than I am right now, because honestly, I do not wish to carry an extra 25-30 lbs through 26.2 miles. I will walk into that doctor’s office again in a year and simply say “Boom!” because no one shall set limits for me nor do they tell me to give up or become complacent.

Have you ever been told something silly by a medical professional? How did you react?

Have you ever been told to give up on something in your life? What did you do?

**May 15, 2014 Addendum:  Having recently visited the same aforementioned doctor a few days after completing the Boston Marathon.  After determining that I had a torn hip flexor, said doctor jokingly announced that *THIS* is why exercise is bad for you.  My future medical plans include no longer making visits with this particular doctor.

Mother’s Day Revisited

April 17, 2014 was the one-year anniversary since my mother passed away suddenly of a massive heart attack in the back of a taxi cab.  Yes, my mother died alone with a stranger, a poor cab driver who had the misfortune of having someone die in his backseat prior to their arrival at their destination.

Did the driver collect his fare that day?  I have often wondered about that small fact.  Weird perhaps, but I am curious if he hung around after the attending doctors at the clinic began working to revive my mom on the sidewalk; or if he decided to move on to his next fare with a heavy heart.

At moments when my mind may be strangely idle, I find myself revisiting the day I went to my mother’s senior housing apartment in Fitchburg to take inventory of her assets and prepare to take care of her affairs post-mortem (aka clean up her messes).  My mother’s oldest daughter, my half-sister, flew up from North Carolina to “assist” me in taking care of business.  Out of kindness and support, my husband accompanied both of us to the high rise building knowing I would need him for a multitude of reasons.

When we unlocked the door to her small apartment, it was as if we walked into a time capsule:  the radio was playing, the light was on, breakfast dishes remained on the table, and my mother’s morning blood sugar log remained out and newly updated with the results of her last finger prick.  My mother had intentions of coming back home.  Welcome to the first of many, unexpected sucker punches to the gut.

As I took a deep breath to alleviate the aforementioned sucker punch, I tried to hold back tears (I do not cry) and remain stoic.  My mother and I had a cordial, civil relationship at her death.  Despite years of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse – I was now motherless and that kind of hurt in a way I had never planned for.

My mother gave me a priceless gift.  A year after her death, the gift of knowing exactly what type of mother I do NOT want to be to my children remains upfront and center.  How many of us joke about turning into our mothers as we age and our tendencies mimic the exact behavior we despised as children but coming from our mouths, our mannerisms, and our habits?

When I start to get angry at my children for their antics, a quick visit to not-so-pleasant memory lane allows me to recalibrate myself and parent differently and in a better manner.  Thank you, Mom.

When I start to manipulate my children into doing something for me because I am mom and demand they should; I again find myself having a one-on-one conversation with myself about changing my tune or perhaps doing said deed myself because it is not necessary for my children to be manipulated for my purposes.  Thank you, Mom.

When I have uncomfortable conversations with my children, perhaps about boundaries, instead of making dad the bad guy, I quickly and firmly announce that their father and I stand together, united, and that is the way decisions in parenting get made around here.  Thank you, Mom.

Much like any other injury, a broken-heart heals with the passage of time.  On Sunday, May 11th, Mother’s Day – I will be wishing my mom a heavenly Mother’s Day for the inadvertent messages she has gifted me with, as I celebrate Mother’s Day with my own three munchkins.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Mommas out there. 

mothers day

RIP MOM

Originally posted at my former blog, Confessions Of A Curvy Girl:  RIP MOM

So, I am on a vacation with my family – a rare treat, indeed.  We are relishing the days of no routine:  no work to race to, no after school pick ups, no soccer practices to run to, and more.  You know the feeling!  Waking up with no agenda, we get to the beach/pool when we can.  We pack our snacks and our hydrating beverages when we feel like it.  We wear nothing more than lycra bathing suits with mere cover ups as we transfer from beach to pool to condo.  It is a luxurious feeling.

And then you get THAT call.

Mid way through my vacation, I received a weird email transcribed by Comcast from a voicemail left for me.  I have not been checking my phone, but I have been following the Boston Marathon explosions closely because of my history with running.  I was going to blog about my feelings of the terrible event of April 15, 2013. But I got the call today, instead.

The doctor nervously asked me if I had heard about my mother yet.  Of course not.  What is going on?  He sadly and stoically pronounced that she had passed away earlier today.

I stood silently and awkwardly in the cabana pool room of vacation wondering what to feel.  My heart hurt, but my brain told me to not feel the pain.  My mother just died.  I felt conflicted.  My internal emotional radar was flashing all alerts red, but my rationale ruled – reminding me that my mother and I have not been close since my cancer diagnosis and that any emotions trying to rear their head were to be surfaced and quashed immediately.

If only that easy.

How would I tell my children that their grandma just died?

My mind raced.  I know she does not have a will.  She did not plan for stuff.  Ever.  She just went with it and if there was a mess, well, by gosh darn it, someone would clean it up.

My mind continued to race.  Of course.  My mother would pass while I am in the midst of a vacation with my family.  That would be the ultimate way she could get her negative attention.

My mind went on and on and on.  My heart ached with the reality that now both of my parents were gone.  I was an “orphan” so to speak.  My children, swimming happily in the pool, now questioned their own mother’s whereabouts – who would she be speaking to on the phone for such an extended duration on their devoted vacation time.

My mother passed away today.  The woman she was today was not the woman who was my mother.  Despite a tumultuous upbringing with what I now know to be a bipolar woman, I did love my mother.  I grieved for the loss of my mother when she was living with me and I was her caretaker, along with caring for my father.

Despite a roller coaster childhood, filled with regular beatings and manipulative mind games, I still loved the woman who birthed me.  Are we not supposed to love our mother’s unconditionally?

It was only during my own fight for my life – my cancer battle, that I realized that not all mothers are created equal.  The mother I longed for, the one who would nurture me and return me to health, along with that of my then unborn child, while we went through horrible bouts of chemotherapy and surgeries and more…..well, she was non-existent.

My mother-in-law stepped up and filled the void, but I would be lying if I said my own mother was one I longed for.  I am envious when friends have that nearly sisterly relationship with their moms.  However, a year and a half of therapy let me know that it is okay that not all of us have healthy moms – healthy relationships with moms or anything in the remote vicinity.

I was cordial with my mother these past few years.  We visited when necessary.  The children retained their relationship with her.  I kept a safe distance away because the reality of who my mother was to me hurt too much.

I have learned what NOT to be as a mother to MY children.  Unconditional love is all they will ever receive from me.  Good, bad, indifferent – I am their mother and I will be there for them.

Instead of focusing on the less than stellar memories, I have chosen to focus on the positive.  Yes, there are some positives in all of this.  Part of who I am today is because of my mother.  There are the “Oh, god, did I just say that?  I AM my mother!” moments…….and then there are the “Phew, I will never act like that – I am NOT my mother!” moments.

My mother, she struggled with loving herself – so I question her ability to truly and deeply love others.  However, I see that she loved my children.  I know that deep down inside her core, aside from her mental illness, she did, in fact, love me.  She had a very odd, and often times demeaning, way of showing it, but I know she did.

I will start to pick up the pieces and put them away neatly; after all, I am a care taker, I clean up messes, I like organization and stuff all tucked away tightly. I take care of stuff.

I will let the good memories surface, and I will store away the unsightly.

I will hug my children tightly and I will hope that my mother rests in peace on the other side.

Hope M. Pritchard

January 15, 1936-April 17, 2013

Read more here about moving on and forgiving My Mother:

“Forgiveness”

 

Channeling My Inner-Laura Ingalls Wilder

One of the more positive stories my parents would always offer me as a child is “what goes around comes around”, namely as it pertains to fashion styles, societal practices, trends and more.  When you are young, you do not necessarily take the words of your experienced parents with more than a grain of salt; after all they are “old” people who are a little out of touch (or are they really?).

I am a by-product of the 80s (even though I was born in the mid-70s).  I find it highly amusing, and oddly comforting, that a brief walk through Target to get prescriptions is enhanced by vibrant neon colored clothing everywhere.  I see lace popping up again on anything from shoes, to shirts, to shorts and I am instantly twelve years old again.  I love it.  Let’s start pegging our pants again and layering our socks, baby (or maybe not).

Recently, I ran the 2014 Boston Marathon in a day-glow neon yellow running shirt (underneath my fundraising shirt) and I revel in the memories of when I ran for an All American Cross Country team in Munich Stadium in 1989, in yes, you may have guessed it:  day-glow neon yellow running tights that would have matched the aforementioned shirt to a thread.  Twenty-four years and the cycle of fashion trends is coming full circle.  FUN!  (Although, I secretly hope mesh shirts do not find their way back, along with the Moms jeans! Eek!)

Recently, the trends with food also seem to be shifting, perhaps circling back to a prior era.  More and more of my friends, as well as the public in general, are making empowered decisions for better choices on what to feed their families.  Fast food has become a once in a while “treat” – because come on, sometimes one just needs a dose of salty French fries.  However, every day meals are being crafted at home, from scratch and using better ingredients that come from local sources versus the pre-packaged and processed variety in the inner aisles of our box grocery stores.

Even in households where both parents work, the act of preparing foods like Easy Mac or Hamburger Helper seems less likely.  The ingestion of the unpronounceable ingredients of so many “quick & easy” dinners is apt to leave mothers shuddering across the nation, and they take a few more minutes to create healthier plates of nutrition for their families.

As a child living in Oklahoma, we had a small farm for a while.  We raised pigs, goats, chickens, rabbits and the occasional wild animal that showed up in our lives, including a baby skunk.  Part of the intent of raising these animals, unbeknownst to me as a young child, was to utilize the meat to feed our family.  Needless to say, I was rather traumatized when my father announced it was time for the slaughterhouse for our four pigs that I had lovingly cared for and named:  Miss Piggy, Bacon, Porkchop, and Ham.  My father promised that Miss Piggy would not be sent for slaughter during all the days that she would come to me for back scratches and hugs, or when she would run to the fence to greet me after I came off the school bus.  My father broke my heart for the first time by breaking this promise and I vowed to not eat one ounce of the hundreds of pounds of meat that soon filled our freezers.

It was here, in Fairland, Oklahoma, where I first learned the phrase, “Did you ever see a chicken with its head cut off?”  Science demonstrated itself as my father slaughtered one hundred chickens himself; we had to do the cleaning and prepping process ourselves. Chicken after chicken lost its head and then ran around the yard for what seemed to be hours.  Fortunately for me, the process of raising and prepping chickens for food was a way of life back then.  We raised the animals from young, tender ages to being full grown – we fed them, we nurtured them and we knew all about them.

Fast forward many years to present day and thoughts about where our food comes from resurfaces.  Living in suburbia, growing and raising your own food sources are not likely. Our food can only come from the stores that provide it, right?  Yes and no.

After a hard cancer battle, I began to really evaluate our food sources.  Having no explanation for my cancer diagnosis, I began to suspect that environmental factors may have been at play.  Worried for our children, we began to make different choices to enable and empower us for good health.

Five years ago, we joined a local CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) for a share of the crops produced.  By signing up in the winter months, you provide the local farmer with the cash up front to purchase the seeds and supplies necessary for the crops ahead. In return, you get a weekly share that lasts anywhere from sixteen to twenty weeks of the abundance of the farmer’s land grown in June to October.  One benefit to joining a CSA is knowing where your food is grown; how the farmer treats the crops with pesticides, if at all; and eating the nutrients your body needs with the changing seasons.

Early June provides fresh berries and leafy greens:

ImageFollowed by tomatoes and summer squashes in July:

ImageAmple amounts of fresh corn, more tomatoes, summer squashes and greens through all of August:

ImageSeptember and October bring in more of the harvest and root vegetables including butternut and acorn squashes, potatoes, and so much more:

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Our current and by far, most favorite CSA is with Harper’s Farm & Garden. A few shares *may* remain, so do not hesitate and contact them to sign up today. Trust me, you will not regret it.

While vegetables and fruits certainly make up a large portion of our nutrition, we started looking for better meat sources.  Time after time again, we were disappointed in the disgusting taste and quality of many supermarket meats.  After spending much money on store-bought chicken breasts, only to have them be rubbery, taste poor and throwing the uneaten meat out; I decided there has to be a better option.  We were purchasing much of our meat at Central Street Meat & Deli, however, I knew there had to be a local farm that allowed us to feel confident about the source of our meat, as well as allowing us to support another farmer and his family.

Our current favorite meat farm is Kalon Farms.  Owned by Keith and Ashley Kopley, the quaint farm in Ashburnham offers such a wide variety of meats that we have yet to try all their offerings.  A twenty minute drive from where we live in Leominster is quick and easy.  We have fine-tuned our purchases so we go once every three weeks approximately and fill our freezer with a multitude of goods.

ImageThe meats at Kalon Farm are prepackaged in vacuum sealed pouches and frozen.  From fresh bacon, to ham steaks, to sirloin tips, to beef stew meat, to hamburg, and to roaster chickens; our dinners have never been better.  Preparing has never been easier, as the packages are easy to defrost and the meat remains as fresh as the day it was sealed.  My children even ask now, “Is this the farm meat? It’s so delicious, I can taste the difference!”

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Chili Lime Roasted Chicken infused with Clementines

My oldest, once a true vegetarian because she disliked the taste of meat and how the animals are treated is now eating small amounts of meat again – because the meats from Kalon Farm are tasty and she knows the animals are being treated humanely.

Now to find a local baker and I will feed my family much like people did in the “old days”; by shopping at each respective market for our food.  With the recent news of the latest carcinogen in our breads, (who wants to eat the chemical in yoga mats and sneakers a.k.a.  Azodicarbonamide), my focus is on finding suitable bread choices for my children and their beloved sandwiches.  The current favorite in the household is products by “When Pigs Fly” – namely their sourdough and rye varieties.  When Pigs Fly is based in Maine, but fortunately, their fresh, artisan style breads are available at many local markets.  The company uses only organic and fresh ingredients, and despite the higher cost,  we rest assured that our six year old can read the ingredient label with no hesitation.

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While I am unable to channel my inner Laura Ingalls Wilder and live on the prairie supplying my own food sources for our family; I am able to keep the local farmers in business by purchasing their quality goods and we are confident that the majority of our food is not likely to kill us. Although, we do enjoy Cheetos once in a very blue moon (translate: once or twice a year), have you ever stopped to ponder what exactly IS a Cheeto?

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What are some of your favorite local food sources? Share them with us!

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston

boston rjs numberThe journey to the Boston Marathon is truly unlike any other experience. Sure, there’s the twelve week (or longer) training programs you follow to pave the way for your body and your mind to start preparing for race day itself, but nothing, truly prepares you fully for anything and everything that can happen.

The winter of 2013-2014 was known as the one plagued by the Artic Vortex; many of us runners had no choice but to log mile after mile after mile in temperatures that would barely break the freezing point. We were layered upon layered with clothing, gloves, hats, face masks, wool socks, Yak-Trax and more to muscle our way through what Hal Higdon told us to for each respective week.  Our plans revolved around when we had to run, how long we had to run and life in general simply had to follow that course.

We runners try to do everything in our power to prepare for the big day, whether it’s the veterans who have done countless marathons, or us newbies who have only ventured as far as our half-marathons and our longest training runs have taken us. We use body glide to lube up every part of us to avoid the dreaded chafing everywhere that skin may rub.  We clip our toenails super short. We find clothing that makes us most comfortable, often ditching the undies and running commando in the simplest way to prepare. We carb-load the week before and we drink gallons upon gallons of water or Nuun-laced water to be sure our glycogen stores and hydration levels are prime come the day of the big dance.  We double, triple, quadruple check our supplies and make sure in our typical OCD style that EVERYTHING is ready and we are PREPARED.  We are a neurotic bunch.  We check again.  Yes, we do.  (Okay, we check one more time, too).

Many of us are not talented enough to qualify via time for the prestigious Boston Marathon, so we offer to fund-raise and pray for a spot on a charity team. I was fortunate enough to land a spot on Team Eye and Ear for the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute and given a minimum (eek) balance I had to raise in exchange. Coupled with the intensive training that lied ahead for me back in December, I also had the challenge of raising several thousand dollars.

boston team eye and ear jerseyFast forward and suddenly, April 21st was upon all of us – race day was here. Carefully laid out clothes were put on after pounds of body glide was applied. For me, I body glided nearly everywhere because at the Disney Princess Half-Marathon I experienced some horrific chafing on my inner arms due to the excessive humidity.  Deodorant was forgotten (and yes, I noticed profoundly of that forgotten task around mile 20 – peeeeee uwwwww). I apologize to any and all people I hugged smelling like a rotten rhinoceros.As luck would have it for me (TMI ALERT!!!!!), my period showed up just in time.  @#&%$@?, thank youuuuuuu body.  (Yes, I can hear all the women uttering complete empathy for me at this point whereas the unfortunate men reading this are raising eyebrows and saying we could have done without that piece of information).  Running with your period sucks okay and it changes EVERYTHING.  Fortunately, for me, I only had to relieve myself ONCE during the race so I chose to ignore whatever else was going on down there until I got home that night.  Your assumptions are correct, I last peed about 12:30 pm about mile 5-6 of my run in Framingham and I did not go to the bathroom again until 9:30 pm that night.  Welcome to the land of Marathon running.

Filled with nervous energy that morning, we shuttled to Athletes Village in Hopkinton, which looked to me as Woodstock should have looked, except we were bouncing around to a nervous energy, not some hippie style music, and no one was smoking anything (maybe we should have been?). We made the half-mile trek with literally thousands of others to find our way downtown to the most profound starting line of my life. All this preparation for months, and here I was, quite unsure of what lied ahead of me and what to really expect.

Just like that, we were off…and running, as fast as thousands of sardines packed in a 29 foot stretch of starting line and road would allow. I was overwhelmed by the amount of spectators already screaming my name and ringing cowbell for me. Before I knew it, mile three was approaching and I realized I better start grabbing some water as it was much hotter than the weatherman had prepped me for. As soon as I started worrying about the weather, I spotted some of my family on the sidelines freaking out! My sister-in-law, her husband, their children were so happy and cheering for me – so I stopped for a selfie with them and on I went.

Somewhere along the way, I grabbed a drink of Gatorade (against my better judgment) because we were coached to alternate water/Gatorade every other mile. Having this be my first marathon, I thought it would be wise to listen to the professionals. I should not have. I know my body better and I have always used JUST water. By end of mile six, I was feeling particularly hot and incredibly nauseous.

The week prior to the marathon, I woke up with a massive chest cold and barking like a seal.   #@#(*&%@#$#(@*!!! All winter I remained healthy, with the exception of a one day stomach bug, but NOW, one week prior to the race of my life, I am hacking up a lung?!? I did not prepare for that.

After ingesting the Gatorade, I began coughing and felt like each cough would end in a projectile of vomit. The phlegm from the chest cold seemed to be hovering behind my trachea covered with sticky, sweet Gatorade.  Trust me, have you ever felt like puking in front of thousands of spectators? Not a good feeling whatsoever and I struggled to keep the contents of my stomach from surpassing the hollow in my throat. The last time I puked in a race was the Falmouth Road Race in 2003 when it was ninety degrees out and 90 percent humidity. Somehow, as the coughing worsened, I found a small stretch with no spectators and a bush – I ran over, gagged a few times and dry heaved into the bushes until the Gatorade was no longer in my system. Onward, I went.

My friend, Michael, had caught up to me earlier in the race, and we were running together as I started to gag on Gatorade.  I apologized for having to cough, gag, sputter, puke and we continued on. Poor guy. (Believe me, I *tried* to get him to go ahead and leave me be).  Within minutes thereafter, I felt a sharp snap in my right hip. @#(*$&#(*@#. A few minutes later, four more snaps in my right hip and the excruciating pain ensued.  I was having a panic attack about being able to finish the rest of the race, as I was only one-third of the way in. As the pain progressed, my weaknesses surfaced and I thought strongly about bailing out of the race at mile ten and again at mile twelve. As we passed two medical tents, I was lured by the premise of listening to the pain in my body but I knew too well that the medical attendants would not let me re-enter once I stepped out. Onward I went. I had no choice.

Race day hit nearly seventy degrees at its warmest point. Only a fellow Team Eye and Ear teammate from Florida was adequately equipped for the pools of salt and sweat that rushed down our faces last Monday. Several people I know were struggling with staying adequately hydrated, perhaps battling severe nausea thereafter or even having to drop out at a certain point because of confusion and disorientation.  Others simply had to take more walking breaks or slow their pace in order to persevere through the afternoon highs.

The finish line of the Boston Marathon is much more symbolic to me and to many of my friends. Sure, the famed marathon is bigger than life and surreal. However, for me, to cross that finish line meant so much more – as I blogged previously, 26.2 Examples of Inspiration, finishing this trek from Hopkinton to Boston was the completion of a few chapters of my life allowing me to move forward. The venture over the vinyl mark on Boylston Street really does mean I am done with cancer, those steps forward are more steps away from my deceased parents, the tumultuous years and ensuing bad feelings that linger, but more importantly, my triumph in crossing that finish line gives other cancer patients *hope* – and I will say it again, I am living proof that cancer can be beaten and we are able to take back that control we lose during our experiences.

Cancer is a very scary world and those of us who have been afflicted often have fears of recurrence, despite all sorts of statistics thrown our way and milestones that we strive to hit. Knowing that I took my body back and completed the Boston Marathon may just give someone else the little bit of hope that they need to persevere in their own daily marathon. For if I have given one person that teensy bit of hope, I will feel very good about taking my journey here.

Needless to say, the race carried on and I saw friends and family and critical mental points. I knew after the twelve mile mark that I could really not ever bail; and with Michael’s encouraging words (“We will walk the rest if we have to!”), I pushed through the pain. My mind constantly battled with my body; and yet, as soon as I thought of a few of the names I had carefully written on my shirt, I found more strength to put one foot in front of the other for another mile and another mile thereafter.  I saw beloved friends at mile 6, mile 15, mile 16, mile 17, mile 18, mile 19 and again at mile 21 before those on the final stretch.  Thank you for helping to carry me forward.

boston friends picboston iacaboni pic boston mile 18 pic

My last meltdown was at mile twenty-two, not only was my hip slowly about to come out of its socket, but the blisters on my neuropathy-filled feet were popping with every step. Thinking we had just two miles ahead of us, I forced myself to quell the pain. Suddenly, an awesome cheerleader on the side yelled, “You’ve got this guys, only four miles left!” I angrily turned to Michael and asked him to repeat what this spectator had just screamed. He confirmed alright that we had four miles left to go. Mentally prepared for two more miles of extreme discomfort had just doubled before my eyes.  Yet, I must go on as the Prudential Tower was in sight. Moments later, I passed a man with a prosthetic leg and reminded myself that I had NOTHING to complain about.

I thought about Jackie and Cara; I knew they would need me to finish this race.  I pulled up my blue and yellow Boston Strong inspired Athleta running capris, courtesy of my best friend, Karen who is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia.  I thought of her literally…on…my….ass…..  How fitting?  Karen was riding my ass to get to the finish line.  Suddenly, I could HEAR her voice telling me to dig deep and finish this damn race.

We *finally* turned right onto Hereford Street and I looked up the slight hill to see that the crowds were still in full force on Boylston Street. Despite the hours that had transpired, the message of Boston Strong rallied through shortly after 6 pm, when the majority of the other runners had long since completed their race. Michael and I charged on and looked at each other – we both verbally announced that once we turned onto Boylston Street, every step of the remaining two-tenths of a mile would be RUN to the finish line.

Michael pulled ahead of me, while I was trying to soak in every face that was then screaming my name, clapping for me, and ringing more cowbell for me. I heard my name in a familiar voice from behind me and across the street, which with my hearing impairment is something of a miracle in and of itself, only to see my good friend Deana and her significant other, David cheering me on. I could not stop or go backwards, for fear I would not finish with my injury, so onward I ran.

As the crowd got louder, I threw my hands up in the air in triumph! Twenty four years after I first wished to run the Boston Marathon at the age of sixteen, over six and a half hours after I first stepped over the starting line in Hopkinton, and here I was……..running down Boylston Street. The tears escaped me and the inconsolable sobbing began. I had runners before me, I had runners behind me, but here I was in the middle of the street with thousands of people cheering my name and applauding my finishing efforts. For that brief moment in time, this was MY race and I felt as if I were Meb Keflezighi about to soar across that finish line.

I spotted my family in their red Team Eye and Ear shirts in front of Crate and Barrel, I ran over to hug them and sob all over their happiness-filled faces. My oldest quickly proclaimed, “Momma, go finish YOUR race!”  I hobbled on another 200 yards to the blue and yellow line that signaled the completion of my journey. More tears, uncontrollable sobs and a feeling of victory oozed from every ounce of my body.

boston official finish

A fellow Team Eye and Ear teammate had finished at the same time and we were instantly interviewed by an unknown reporter before I was greeted by my exuberant family and a couple of work colleagues. I had a compelling need to go get my medal and hobbled down further until I could see my beloved friend Lauren waiting for me. Lauren is a volunteer who distributes medals every year and I knew I could get my medal from NO ONE but her.  I had fears that she had left earlier in the day since I came in so much later than planned. However, I saw her standing in the throngs of medal presenters and I dragged my leg to get there as quickly as I could.  Upon Lauren’s notice of me coming, I burst into yet more tears and sobs as she grabbed a medal to place around my neck. I hung on to that poor petite girl for longer than necessary, embraced my hours-long body odor all over her tiny being.  I could not stop, I cried hard tears for finally being at this point of closure.

boston lauren rjs meda

I do not remember much thereafter, other than my NEED to get to the medical tent for my hip. I demanded ice and some ibuprofen from the kind medical attendants after they laid me on a cot. I was given ice in no time, but told they do not disburse medicines of any kind. I was slightly annoyed because this *was* the medical tent after all (I realize afterwards why they do not distribute, but in that moment, I NEEDED ibuprofen). The physical therapist refused to work on me and the doctor came over to evaluate. I insisted that if he could not give me ibuprofen, then he better damn well give me a shot of vodka for the pain. Unfortunately, they denied me that as well but they did get a good chuckle out of me. The doctor suggested I had a stress fracture, despite my description of feeling something actually tearing in my hip. He gave me crutches and ordered me to call my doctor the next morning. I declined the crutches with a disgruntled “no, thank you!” and a nurse told him I had injured myself at mile seven. He looked at me with a wide-eyed gaze and asked in disbelief, “You just did 19 more miles with that injury?” I smiled and said, “Yes, we ARE a special breed, aren’t we?” The doctor discharged me from the tent and I met my loving family to find our way home. Little did I know that not only was the Copley T station closed, but all surrounding stations were also closed for safety. It took me another hour to walk from the medical tent to Park Street station so we could catch the T to Alewife for our car ride home.

April 21st left me feeling pretty beat up: blood blisters on three of my toes and I will lose at least two of those toenails; a foot sized blister on the ball of my left foot (over-compensation for the right hip injury?), and a torn hip flexor. However, all of these injuries will heal quickly as the body is a remarkable machine.

legs tired run heart

My memories are rampant:

  • Participating in the 118th Boston Marathon in the year after our city was shown some of its darkest memories helped add to the display of perseverance, strength and determination shown by those affected last year, as well as those that trained through tough New England weather to be ready.
  • Raising nearly $12,000 for Massachusetts Eye & Ear Institute and meeting some of the kindest people on earth on my Team Eye and Ear; but also by securing donation after donation from the good people I have in my life who wanted to not only be a part of this historic day but to carry me along in this journey of a lifetime.
  • Taking that *stroll* down Boylston Street to the finish line……. these memories and my finisher’s medal will last me for my lifetime.

Thank you.  Thank you for reading this.  Thank you for supporting me in my never ceasing talk about the race or my training.  Thank you for your donations.  Thank you for being the world’s best cheerleaders.  Thank you for making me feel like I am a superhero and that I can do anything I set my mind to doing.  Thank you for positively changing the world we live in and helping Mass Eye & Ear in making their strides to help each other as fellow human beings should.  The 2014 Boston Marathon has restored my faith in humanity.

It is not too late to continue to make a change, donate here:  http://www.crowdrise.com/teameyeandear/fundraiser/rebeccasoulliere

Now, we move on to our next, as of yet undefined, adventure!  Any ideas?

(No running quite yet, thank you very much.  I just cannot wait to get back to my crew at #Crossfit 978.)

boston believed she could so she did

P.S.  If your stomach can handle it, here’s the physical toll 26.2 can take on you:

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26.2 Examples of Inspiration

In my opinion, April 15, 2013 is similar to September 11, 2001. A regular day taken by cowards who sought to invoke extreme forces of evil on innocent people by bombing a sporting event; a world renown road race nonetheless. Fear was instilled on thousands as bombs went off and ripped apart bodies and lives. Immediately, however, the strength and determination that is not only the bond of the running community, but also of the Boston community, proved to be tantamount to the acts of stupidity carried out by two lost souls seeking to gain their moment of fame for an extremist view.

 

boston strong all

A year later, resilience and perseverance shine brightly as the families of those who were lost that tragic day last April find their ways to navigate a world without their own. The injured survivors remain in search of new patterns of *normal* with missing limbs, damaged hearing, and constant physical pain, all of which are daily reminders of how their lives were forever changed by simply being a part of a bond; an inspirational race which delivers its own form of resilience and perseverance.

After watching the horrific events unfold last year from afar and feeling the pain, the suffering, the anger, the disbelief, and the entire range of emotions that surged through my heart, I knew I had to be in Boston in 2014. The gravitational force, if you will, that pulled my heart strings back to Boston were intense.  I somehow had to find a way to not only be present in Boston in 2014, I had to make the 26.2 mile trek with purpose, with strength, with determination, with resilience and with perseverance.

Aside from being emotionally pulled by the lure of my home state, the signs were ever-present; symbols compelling me to face my fear and participate in the 2014 Boston Marathon. In less than two months after the bombings of last year, I reached a critical milestone in my breast cancer battle – five years with no evidence of disease. I would be cancer free, crossing what my oncologists deem most important finish line – the golden ticket for a form of breast cancer that statistically has the highest rate of recurrence.

In January 2014, I turned forty. Yes! Forty! My sister always told me her thirties stunk and that life truly started at forty. I was ready……a lot of garbage happened in my thirties and I was ready to close the chapter on that phase of my life. Forty! What better age, nearly twenty-four years after my first proclamation that I would someday do the Boston Marathon, that I seek to cross that finish line. Now or never, people.

boston strong all marathoners

My mother passed away suddenly, two days after the bombings last year. She and I had had a tumultuous few years since she and my father had lived with my family during some health crises they both had. As a result of her mental illness and her abusive behavior towards me, particularly during my breast cancer battle and pregnancy, we were somewhat estranged when she passed away. We had evolved to a cordial relationship post-breast cancer, simply so that my children would be able to have better memories of their grandmother than what had transpired during her residence with us. However, I kept my distance from her solely because it took me losing a few pieces of my heart to understand that just because she was the woman who birthed me, that fact alone did not give her the entitlement to treat me poorly. In any event, the emotions that surfaced with her unexpected passing caught me a bit by surprise, perhaps because I was already so emotional by what had transpired just a couple of days earlier in a race so near to me and on my home soil.

I am going to run from Hopkinton to Boston in less than a week, simply because I can. As much as running this race may be about me: all the emotions, all the signs compelling me to be there, all the adversity I have faced and conquered……this race is really not about me. Each mile will progressively get harder than the last and the pain will surface, causing me to question my ability to undertake such a monumental effort. After thirteen miles in or so, the mental game will kick into high gear and the self-doubt will try to shift into place.

boston strong run

There are so many reasons why………..and these reasons will carry me through. The factors that compel me to put one foot in front of the other are as follows:

Mile One:  Dedicated to my friend, Jacqueline Skinner LeBlanc. Jackie just recently lost her battle to her breast cancer. We became friends and bound by the ties that bind in the brutal world of fighting breast cancer. Our journeys were parallel; yet, for some reason our destinies were vastly different. I will start this race with the strength of Jackie to propel me forward for the long haul.

Mile Two: Dedicated to Cara LeBlanc Kelly. Cara was younger than I was in school, but I could never forget her beaming smile. Fast forward some years and this smile was present again as she taught my oldest daughter at her elementary school. Our paths crossed yet again as Cara was diagnosed and fought a tremendous cancer battle of her own. Despite the valiant battle Cara waged, she managed to give me her radiant smile with every meal that I delivered. We shared cancer war stories and again, our destinies were vastly different. My mind does not quite process the reason behind who gets to survive and who does not, but I do know that this early mile of my journey to Boston will be fueled by the energy of Cara’s smiles that I banked in my memory.

Mile Three: Dedicated to the remaining cancer warriors that fought their own valiant battles and little do they know, they continue to give me strength when I am looking for it the most:  Dad Dickinson, Tony Menendez Aponte, Donna Fontaine, Patti Brown, “Robie”, Ruthie Tumenas, “Ro” Boissoneau, and Rhonda Richards.

Mile Four: Dedicated to Roseann Sdoia, one of the first survivor stories that captured my heart as I drove up I-95 last year to return to Massachusetts from a week away. For some reason, Roseann could have been me and I latched on to her story of recovery shortly after my donation to her GoFundMe account.  My decision to follow her thereafter resulted in a continuance of inspiration and perseverance as she began life anew and with a new leg. Roseann was at the finish line to watch friends come by, an annual tradition. Read more about her here: http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/losing-part-my-leg-doesnt-change-who-i-am

Miles Five, Six and Seven: Dedicated to Jaqui Webb, JP Norden, and Paul Norden, who were all watching the 2013 Boston Marathon from the sidelines waiting for a friend to pass the finish line when they were impacted by the second of the bombings to go off. Both JP and Paul, brothers, lost a leg in the explosion whereas Jaqui was significantly injured and required several surgeries. Today, on this one year anniversary, the Norden brothers are walking the marathon route – on their prosthetics because they can. Follow them here: https://twitter.com/WCVB/status/456061394266251266/photo/1

Mile Eight: Dedicated to Martin Richard who was 8 at the time he lost his life in the explosion on Boylston Street last year. My heart breaks still for the Richard family of Dorchester. How do you ever move forward with the loss of your young son? How do you not harbor extreme hatred towards those cowards who carried out this disgusting and inexplicable crime? How do you pick up the pieces of your shattered hearts and help Martin’s siblings enjoy their lives, now also riddled with reminders of that day as young Jane demonstrates her new prosthetic leg? You just do. Support them here: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/martin-richard-family-healing-year-bomb-article-1.1755927

Mile Nine and Ten: Dedicated to my breast cancer while pregnant girls, Rebecca Byrne and Adrienne Toth. When diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at fourteen weeks pregnant, I thought to myself briefly – boy, what did I do wrong to deserve this? Are there any others out there that would have the misfortune of having to battle cancer while pregnant? Of course there are! Statistics show that it can be as common as 1 in 3,000! I recall when my littlest was two, a woman from Framingham reached out to me and wanted to chat because she was newly pregnant and had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I was adamant that we meet; not because I wanted her to see how well I was doing, but that I wanted her to see my little miracle and have that reassurance that her miracle would be okay, too! Rebecca’s little peanut is beautiful and Rebecca is doing rather well, herself. A high school classmate of mine made the connection via Facebook for another young woman who was also battling while pregnant. We chatted and I wanted to give her hope, give her inspiration, and make sure she knew it would all be okay! Her little miracle boy is quite possibly the cutest baby I have ever seen! Unfortunately, Adrienne’s cancer has recently returned – simultaneously with her boy turning one. My heart hurts for her, but I have no doubt that she has the strength, determination and perseverance to prevail. ❤

Mile Eleven: Dedicated to cancer survivor, Danielle Russo. Danielle beat stage 3 melanoma last year but has remained riddled with the “collateral damage” that cancer survivors deal with after their treatment has ended. A form of post-traumatic stress disorder, if you will, “collateral damage” is the pain that continues physically and emotionally once the chemotherapy stops coursing through your veins. “Collateral damage” is the new “normal” one must persevere through as their body, once taken for granted, no longer acts or moves the way it used to before that dark day when you were told you had cancer. Beating cancer is not a sprint, but in fact, a marathon – a race for your life, in which the best way to put one foot in front of the other is by taking it day by day. Danielle is inspiration for learning how to cope and by putting that best foot forward day after day.

Mile Twelve: Jeff Bauman, a hero in so many ways but namely for helping to identify the scum that targeted our city, April 15th, 2013. I will never erase from my brain, the post-bombing images I first saw of Jeff. However, this says it all: http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2014/04/jeff_bauman_thank_you_boston.  And to Carlos Arrendondo, for showing the word how to embrace humanity and care for one another, just simply as we humans should.

Mile Thirteen: Dedicated to my little buddy, Tommy Joffrion and his family; particularly his doting momma, Maria. Tommy is battling neurofibromatosis and chronic myelogenous leukemia. He’s seven. Whenever I think back on my arduous cancer experience, the chemotherapies, the surgeries, the endless testing and needles, my heart just breaks for Tommy and his family. My cancer appears cured; whereas, Tommy’s will be an unrelenting battle. I am an adult, whereas, Tommy has known this cancer world for nearly half of his life. Mile thirteen will be a pivotal spot in my race, where I know I am halfway through and I will think of Tommy, his precious smile and his determined momma, Maria, as I push through to persevere myself.   Read more and help them out here: https://www.facebook.com/TeamTommy2010.  Help generate funds for pediatric cancer research here, by supporting my friend, Candace – who is shaving her head as part of the St. Baldrick’s efforts to CURE childhood cancers:  http://www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/11195/2014.

Mile Fourteen: Dedicated to Adrianne Haslet, a bombing survivor who’s demonstration of strength, determination and perseverance in the face of adversity has been on display by her refusal to let adversity stop her. Adrianne, a dancer, recently danced again for the first time after losing her leg on Boylston Street last year. Her inspirational message is fuel for those of us who know what it is like to be knocked down, but the only option is to get back up and rise again.  http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/category/adrianne-haslet-davis/

Mile Fifteen: Dedicated to Marc Fucarile, also a survivor who was spectating at the 2013 Boston Marathon and has a trying year after losing one leg and now begging to lose the other. Marc is friends with the Norden brothers and has a long recovery ahead. Help him here: http://www.gofundme.com/marcfucarile

Mile Sixteen: In memory of firefighter, Lt. Edward J. Walsh, one of Boston’s finest and bravest.

Mile Seventeen: In memory of firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, one of Boston’s finest and bravest.

boston strong there is

Mile Eighteen and Nineteen: Dedicated to Sydney and Celeste Corcoran. Sydney is now eighteen, a year later, after the explosion nearly almost cost her life as she bled from a severed femoral artery. Like Roseann above, I was drawn to both Sydney and Celeste – a daughter and mother duo that had come to watch a loved one run the race, like thousands of other spectators that fateful day. Celeste lost both of her legs. Images of bystanders applying their body weight pressure to a fallen Sydney on the sidewalk of Boylston Street in Boston remain vivid in my mind. How easily could that have been my oldest daughter, who is now sixteen, and I if we were there watching the historic race? Their story here: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/boston-bombing-anniversary/boston-bombing-strangers-ran-toward-chaos-not-away-it-n78376

Mile Twenty: Dedicated to Team Hoyt, Dick and Rick Hoyt, father and son duo who have been racing together since 1977. I will never forget lining up to run next to them in the Christopher’s Pub 10k in Leominster circa 1990 and thinking to myself that I would finish before them. Finish before them, I did not and I have been a fan of these two ever since. 2014 will be their final Boston Marathon and I am honored to be in the same race as these two inspirational men. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/team-hoyt-run-boston-marathon/story?id=23288967

Mile Twenty-one: In memory of Sean Collier: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2014/03/27/in-tribute-officer-sean-collier/

Mile Twenty-two: In memory of Krystle Campbell. http://boston.cbslocal.com/2014/03/27/in-tribute-krystle-campbell/

Mile Twenty-three: In memory of Lu Lingzi. http://boston.cbslocal.com/2014/03/27/in-tribute-lu-lingzi/

Mile Twenty-four: Dedicated to my family for putting up with my crazy ideas and for supporting me in such endeavors. My family makes me believe I can conquer the world, super hero style and make a movie out of it. Without them and without their patience as I spent hours of training for April 21, 2014, I would not be able to gear up and set out on my mission. I love them dearly.

Mile Twenty-five: Dedicated to all of you who helped me fundraise and make a difference for Massachusetts Eye & Ear Institute. While I am certainly crazy enough to run a marathon, I am certainly not within means to obtain a number by qualifying for the elite Massachusetts race. Thankfully, Team Eye & Ear had faith in me and offered me a coveted spot on their team! The fundraising amount seemed monumental, but I knew I would be successful. Thanks to the goodness of people out there, I not only exceeded my minimum due but I nearly doubled the amount required! Mass Eye & Ear continues to treat the bombing survivors, as well as make a difference in the lives of so many others. Perhaps, someday, Mass Eye & Ear will have an option for me to have better hearing myself. There are so many to name, but most importantly, a genuine note of appreciation goes to the ladies of Trinity Salon in Fitchburg, MA for their fundraiser which vetted over $2,100 for Mass Eye & Ear. As of today, we have raised in excess of $10,600! WICKED STRONG!

boston strong wrong city

Mile Twenty-Six: Dedicated to the girl who became my best bud at age thirteen, Karen Luchini. Karen *gets* me. What I was to running back in the day, Karen was to swimming. We spent years laughing, crying, farting, laughing some more and prevailing in our sports. Karen went to Northeastern University, so many years were spent shared on Boylston Street watching as the inspirational runners came across that famed finish line. Numerous times, both Karen and I were propped up against the metal barricade that kept us off the street but cheering for the participants; and each time, I remarked that *someday* I would be there….on that street, making my way to the finish line. Karen was one of my supporters during my darkest breast cancer days. She has dedicated part of her PMC Challenges to me in the past.  Ironically, Karen was diagnosed with a form of leukemia this past October and I have had to put my big girl panties on to be her biggest cheerleader as she battles for her life. I am honored to cross that finish line with her in mind as she wraps up her treatment for her cancer simultaneously. I am living proof that cancer can be beaten and life truly begins again. I will run 26.2 miles, but that last mile will be for Karen – so she knows that she’s approaching her own finish line in her toughest race yet; her race for her life and good health. The finish line is in sight for her and I know I will be by her side triumphantly as she crosses to the other side; just as I know she will be with me in my heart as I cross the blue and yellow finish of the 2014 Boston Marathon.

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Mile Twenty-Six Point Two: Dedicated to me. The gift I am giving myself is the two-tenths of a mile down Boylston Street in Boston, Massachusetts, amongst thousands of spectators rallying for me to get my feet across that finish line. My life has come full circle: from the loss of my hearing as a young child and the subsequent torment I experienced growing up; to the verbal and physical abuse I suffered at the hands of a mentally ill mother; to the horror and fear of fighting breast cancer while pregnant; to being knocked down again and again and again…..and rising to my feet once more.  We can fall seven times, but we must simply get up eight!

April 21, 2014 is for me, for you, for all of those that wish to take this journey. Adversity has nothing on us as long as we have the courage to dust ourselves off and try, try again. Boston and the running world were knocked down on April 15, 2013. We have dusted ourselves off, we have come together and we will run together stronger as we soar on Patriots Day.

Thank you for taking this run with me. ❤

boston strong darkness

How Do I Love Thee Crossfit, Let Me Count The Ways

How Do I Love Thee Crossfit, Let Me Count The Ways.

How Do I Love Thee Crossfit, Let Me Count The Ways

cf love

Back in July, a new “box” (lingo for gym in Crossfit speak) opened up less than a mile from my house. At the time, I was intrigued, yet, super intimidated about this new place to exercise on my side of town. Thanks to social media, I was soon seeing offers to join up and my curiosity piqued. From those in my own circles, Crossfit seemed to have a love/hate affair – some swore by their relationship with their box and associated family; while others screamed the opposite banter: “Don’t you know you WILL get hurt doing Crossfit?” “Those people at Crossfit are just plain nuts!” “It’s a cult. Don’t do it!”

After a not so gentle push from a friend of mine, I dove in and signed up. I shared that newbie experience here: http://curvygirls2012.blogspot.com/2013/09/new-adventures-in-diarrhea-pants.html.  After easing myself into the WODs (lingo for workout of the day), coupled with my hectic schedule of working, coaching soccer teams, playing taxi and mom, by November I was able to start hitting my box at least three times a week regularly, sometimes four times a week. Suddenly, I was shifting from “I cannot go today because I have……….<insert random responsibility or excuse here>.” to newfound proclaimations of “Listen, I am GOING to Crossfit today, so everything else is just going to have to wait until I am done!” (and the subsequent racing from the box to dance, or to soccer, or to a board meeting is just that, rushing from point A to point B, but damn, I have fit my WOD in and let me tell you how I feel!

How do I love thee Crossfit? Seriously, let me count the ways for you! 

The team-like environment is unlike any other gym I have EVER been to (and I have been to pretty much all of them in the local area). For those of us who participated in team sports back in the day, well, after the first few times of awkwardness, the team-like environment is part of the appeal. Suddenly, there’s an underlying accountability from your regular WOD-mates. “Hey, I missed you yesterday – it was a tough one!” You begin showing up because you know so-and-so is counting on you to be there to suffer workout with them, or you want to experience the burpee sandwich with someone who is going to despise it relish it as much as you (in the accomplishment thereafter). Even if your gym mates finish their WOD before you, they will come over to cheer you on to finish yours strong; or perhaps, they may even join in and do more with you. Let me tell you, it is very hard to slack off when your gym mate is yelling at encouraging you to finish. Somehow, you dig deeper than you would have for yourself and your WOD is complete. How’s that for love?

The aforementioned sense of accomplishment, how can you not love a feeling of pulling off a workout that includes the dreaded burpees, or TTB (toes to bar), or deadlifts, or any other one of the many elements that make up Crossfit?

Fortunately, for me, I have a great sense of humor so the first million hundred thousand times I have tried to wrestle shimmy freaking move sway my large girth hanging from a pole into a kipping, gymnastic-like being who gets her toes gracefully to that same pole my hands are hanging off of…..well, it was anything but graceful, ok, it is downright hysterical (I now apologize to all of the lovely people of Crossfit978) but damn, I am going to keep trying until I hit that day where the grand choruses of the world start in unison with “Hallelujah!”

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Same with C2B (chest to bars), in a few months I have gone from hanging like a lounging chimpanzee (Orangutan? Gorilla?) to……….hanging like a lounging chimpanzee with a mere 2” improvement in my attempt to bring my boobs to that godforsaken pole I am STILL hanging from! Perhaps in another four months, I will be another 2” closer and that, for me, is a sense of accomplishment!

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The Opens. A couple of months ago, the same friend who pushed me to sign up for Crossfit in the first place asked me if I was going to sign up for Opens. I cackled. I did. Literally, a loud and annoying are-you-freakin-kidding me laugh (yes, Ashley is out of her mind, bhahahahahaha). Opens is a Crossfit competition! I have only been going to my box regularly for a few months; I am so NOT ready for a competition, even if it’s online. Bahahahahahahahahahahaha. Boy, maybe this friend IS drinking too much of the Crossfit Kool-Aid. She walked me through what the Opens actually are and firmly told me if I did not sign up for the Opens *THAT* night, she would take the liberty of signing me up herself. <Insert my famous eyeball roll right here.>

cf kool aid

I signed up. 2014 is about facing my fears, remember that? So what if I end up in the bottom of the barrel because I am not ready? At least I did it and I have that aforementioned sense of accomplishment I keep chatting about, right? Yes, I think I started having explosive diarrhea at that precise moment because I feared I was in way over my head.

The Opens is an online competition, however, you are going to do the workout anyway as part of your box’s regularly scheduled WOD, you may as well be scored on your efforts! The rules of the Opens is to report your score by a deadline to see where you stand in the world, in your region, in your state and in your own Crossfit box. I figured at a minimum, I would have a baseline to compare my growth to the next time I repeated any of these workouts in the future.

Enter 14.1, which consisted of 30DUs (double unders; or your ability to jump rope but pass the rope not once, but twice under your feet in a single jump) and 15 snatches; AMRAP 10 (as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes). My sense of humor kicked in with my fellow 4 pm crossfitters as we realized that if you did NOT do 30DUs, you could NOT move on to the snatches. Wait, what?

You see, in prior workouts, if you could not complete a double under you were allowed to single jump rope with attempts to double under every five jumps or so. NOT IN THE OPENS. Since I have only ever gotten four double unders, by some miraculous coming of God freak chance, prior to 14.1 – I figured my 10 minute workout would consist solely of jump roping and I would do something else thereafter.

How do I love Crossfit? Well, let me tell you something – that day, trying to complete 14.1, I was able to get double unders. My score was an 88 (30 double unders, 15 snatches, 30 double unders, 13 snatches). That is the beauty of the Opens – and I now saw it! Focus, determination, drive – these all led me to get 60 double unders in ONE workout when I had never before gotten more than four! Sure, I may have had to get them single double under by single double under, maybe stringing together a few sets of doubles, but damn, man, I got 60! Many of my fellow athletes nailed *their* first double unders that day! I walked out of my box that day with a Cheshire Cat worthy grin.

cheshire cat

The beauty of the Opens is you have until Monday night after the workout is released (on the prior Thursday night) to submit your score. You may *re-do* your workout to get a higher score. Yes, that is when the *sickness* kicks in. Who would want to *re-do* a workout? A box full of crossfitters, that’s who (sick bunch of freaks!). I re-did the workout the following Monday and scored a 128. Having the top woman athlete in our gym judging me was certainly motivational and I was determined to improve my score.

Moving on to WOD 14.2, we can avoid talking about that one if you would like. Do you recall the C2Bs I described above? Well, I was able to get my OHS (overhead squats) without any issue but I was unable to chimpanzee myself enough to get my chest to that bar. Meh. 10 points baby. No matter how much gorilla punching I did on my own chest, I could not garner any acrobatic strength enough to match boobies to bar height. (Can we stop talking about this now?)

gorilla

14.3 is where I want to be. I missed the Friday performance of the WOD because we were away for the weekend and my family overruled my innate desire to leave AFTER my performance of week three of the Opens. I was anxious about 14.3 ALL WEEKEND LONG and I could not wait to get in to my box to undertake it. This third workout consisted of deadlifts and box jumps, with the deadlifts increasing in weight (i.e. 95#, 135#, 155#, 185#, 205#, etc.) and repetitions (10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc) while doing 15 box jumps in between each set of deadlifts. Strength is my forte and after a pathetic attempt at 14.2, I was ready to redeem myself in 14.3. My coach freakishly demonstrated a perception that I would not reach a certain weight in this particular workout and I was not happy. How DARE he place limitations on me that were not about keeping myself safe or injury-free, but perceived by me to be his doubts about my ability to perform. I would show him he was WRONG. (Okay, so he was right….but just by a mere margin). My performance in 14.3 was exactly where I had set my goal and I walked out of the building as if I were just newly crowned a super hero (and silently whispering that said coach could kiss my ass because *boo-yeah*, I just about nearly nailed what you said I couldn’t).

14.4 was similar to 14.2 in that I handled the 60 seconds of rowing in a fair time, but my repeated attempts to get my toes to the @#(*&$^% bar were silly and not happening. My pride was a bit crushed, but my beloved new friends at my box were quick to remind me that NEXT year at this time, I will be crushing the toes to bar and I was complacent in cursing and moving on accepting that.

14.5 is today. I will admit I am scared and anxious because the workout consists of movements that I am capable of doing. Rumor on the street has it that this WOD is mentally tough. I am mentally tough, should be a good match, right? Burpees, people. A million infinite amount of burpees await me this afternoon. Thrusters and burpees in a descending repetitious manner……..and I am worried. Thrusters are not sexual, although, I almost wish they were……using a #65 pound barbell on my collarbone as I do a deep squat followed by my thrusting of the bar up overhead and back down again and again and again and again is not quite a *pleasurable* experience.

I want to do my best! I know I will do my best, but the pattern of 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 keeps surging through my ears and I am replaying over and over again how I *think* this WOD is going to go down. In my mental head, I am strong, I am fast and I will finish the WOD in XX:XX. Again, I feel the need to redeem myself after a poor showing in 14.4 – but will this be my opportunity? That bitchy gremlin that lives in my brain keeps trying to show up and offer poor excuses, namely, that I ran 16+ miles on Saturday and that my joints are not ready for this showcase; or perhaps that I just need to work on my burpees. However, my rational side of me tells her to literally STFU quiet herself and I am positively confident that I will do *my* best.

After five weeks, my first Opens experience is nearly over. I cannot wait to get myself re-focused and start working on new PRs, new firsts (like a @#@*#!@#&@* TTB), and to continue walking into my box strong, but walking out stronger. My muscles continue to earn more definition and contour, my inches are finally starting to drop, my innate ability to be hard on myself continues to wean and my love for myself is growing.

THAT is how I love thee Crossfit. Are you ready to join me?

start to be great

(*Ask me about their On Ramp program for newbies!)

Why I Run

The 2014 slogan of the Boston Marathon is “We Run Together” as the Boston Athletic Association announced earlier this year.  After the horrific tragedy, the terrorist attack at the finish line of our beloved race; a stretch of pavement where the world comes together in peace every Patriots Day in Massachusetts, we are more determined than ever to rally and demonstrate precisely what we mean by the words #BostonStrong.

ImagePerseverance.  Resilience.  Determination.  Strength.  All words of profound impact that any runner knows deep within his or her heart; and what she defines with each foot that drops in front of the other on every single run. On April 21st, 2014, #weruntogether as athletes, volunteers, fans and spectators to demonstrate the meaning of these powerful words; you, me, the Elite, the newbies and everyone else in between.

There’s the question:  Why do I run?

Why do I run?  The simple answer is because I can.   However, running is something that brings me right back to my twelve year old self, when it all started.  As a seventh-grader, I decided to try track at my little Oklahoma school because everyone just did it.  I discovered I liked running during my soccer team days when I could outrun the boys easily.  My coach put me in the mile run as I had no clue what event I wanted to do at that young age.  Placing 3rd  with a 6:21 finishing time in that mile, in my first track meet solidified that my running days were just beginning for me.

Why do I run?  I will never forget my arrogant self at the age of sixteen lining up for the Annual Christopher’s Pub 10k road race in my now hometown of Leominster, Massachusetts and noticing a man next to me who was going to push his son in a modified wheelchair type stroller next to me.  I was impressed that this man was going to push that extra weight for 6.2 miles, but I figured I would run faster than him without more than a second thought.  Little did I know that man was Dick Hoyt and he pretty much blew my socks off, despite a fast sub-40 minute finishing time for me.  Every road race that I encountered Mr. Hoyt’s presence at thereafter earned him the great deal of respect he deserved and I relished in the joy his son, Rick, displayed by running with his beloved dad as a pure testament to determination.

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Why do I run?  I will never forget being part of an All-American Cross-Country team that ran in Germany.  Imagine being fifteen years old and warming up in the Olympic Stadium in Munich for a 10k race around Olympic Park.  Knowing the history of the 1972 Olympics and what awful events transpired on the property before I was born; and yet, being able to represent my country alongside of countless other countries in my race was resilience.  Eating a fresh, homemade bratwurst after hearing chants of “USA, USA!” while I finished my race is a priceless memory forever tucked in my book.

Why do I run?  I will never forget my high school and college teammates asking me if I would get electrocuted as I quickly whipped my hearing aid out in countless rainy practices and long runs in the elements (I quickly asked them where I was plugged in, what source of electricity would shock me from my battery operated hearing aid).  Losing my hearing at age four and being told I would not play sports afforded me the resilience necessary for adaptation in what could be a cruel world.  As bullying ensued about my hearing loss, I simply showed them I could run faster and harder.  You tell me I cannot and I will show you I can.

Why do I run?  I will never forget the day I was told I had breast cancer while fourteen weeks pregnant with my third child.  Somehow I got very much caught up in making a living and I was forgetting to live my life.  My cancer diagnosis and my unexpected third child forced me down a path that I had not planned for and new limitations were being doled out; whether by my medical team or the very treatments and surgeries that saved my life.  I lost control of my health.  I run to regain control of my health.  I push myself through physical limits afforded by long runs, hilly runs, cold or hot runs, and wet runs to show myself that limits are meant to be pushed and broken through.  I endure through my Crossfit workouts because it allows me to continue to push those limits and it makes me a better runner.  I run for each of my beloved friends who have succumbed to their cancer.  When I start to break down and feel like I cannot do it, I simply remind myself that Cara cannot or Jackie cannot, so I better get my act together because I CAN!

ImageWhy do I run?  I will never forget April 15, 2013.  I will never forget the pain in my heart once I read the breaking news that our race in Boston was bombed.  I will never forget the confusion, the disbelief and the suffocating fear I experienced as I came to realize the act was of terrorism and how many people were killed, injured and impacted that very day.  I immediately started following the stories of Roseann Sdoia, Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, Jeff Bauman, JP and Paul Norden, and the Martin Family.  Watching as these survivors employed every ounce of perseverance, resilience, determination and strength in the ten months that have followed since last year’s Boston Marathon.

Why do I run?  Because I can.  I may shuffle through many of the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston.  I may endure blisters, cramps and more discomfort.  I will not break any speed barriers.  However, I will cross that finish line and I know I will have run with my heart (despite what my legs may try to say).

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Perseverance.  Resilience.  Determination.  Strength.

I am fortunate enough to have earned a number for this prestigious race by being a part of Team Eye & Ear from the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary.  Mass Eye & Ear not only treated many of the injured from last year’s race, they are on the breaking edge of treatments for those with hearing and sight impairments from many different causes, including head and neck cancers.  I was incredibly intimidated by the daunting fundraising goal Mass Eye & Ear set for me, but I knew that with some of the traits I inherited from my own ordeals of adversity, I would seek out to blast past this fundraising “limit”.  Thanks to so many of YOU who wish to take this epic marathon journey with me, I am at mile 23.4 of my epic fundraising goal.  Yes!  I not only met the original goal set by my Team, I have surpassed it and I remain a mere 2.8 miles from my monetary finish line.  Because of your belief in me, because of your determination in helping me cross that beautiful finish line on Boylston Street, we will be changing the lives of so many that come through the doors at Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary.  Because we can.  http://www.crowdrise.com/teameyeandear/fundraiser/rebeccasoulliere

Why do I run.  Because I can.  Won’t you join me?  Because YOU CAN.

#weruntogether (Yes!  That’s Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick, still running together nearly twenty-four years after I first encountered him on the streets of Leominster!)  http://youtu.be/VWIafnuZ9JY

Here are some beloved “Why Do I Run, Because I Can” memories:

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Let It Go

Many of us have been impacted by a song, right?  A particular song  that resonates with us for a particular reason; whether it’s the lyrics or the story behind the song itself that makes us relate to a time in our lives or a feeling we have had.

How often is it that we are moved by a Disney song?  Not often.  Sure, we all enjoy “Hakuna Matata” and wish we could live life with no worries.  Enter the recent release of “Frozen” and the song “Let It Go” that is sweeping the world by storm (pun intended).

We, ourselves, rarely get to the movie theaters these days, and despite a strong desire to want to view “Frozen” based on the repeat trailers on TV, we never made it.  A friend lent us a pirated, flea-market copy of the movie and the six year old resident of my house insisted on watching it IMMEDIATELY.

The quality of the illegal copy of the movie was just terrible, but the movie devoured me from the get go and my attention span overlooked the dark and fuzzy screen in front of me.  The story line of two young sisters captivated me and before I knew it, I was mesmerized by the song of the lead character, Elsa in “Let It Go”.

frozen-let-it-go-photo

Listening to the lyrics, I felt the pull on my heartstrings as Elsa sings about hiding her emotions, shoving the strong feelings deep down inside so no one else may see anything but the strong exterior.

“The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know”

Why are many young girls and young women forced to put on that strong exterior?  I personally recall the need to be that perfect daughter to my parents.  Having the odds stacked against me from my hearing loss at age 4 made my desire to be perfect that much stronger, and the need to please my parents was my ultimate goal.  I am unsure where the need to be perfect started or how, but the stories about how my half- siblings from both of my parents’ prior marriages made me want to be that “good” girl that did everything right.  I heard often about how these siblings made mistakes, from getting pregnant at an early age to having alcohol/drug problems to moving out and being independent at seventeen.  My parents placed extremely high expectations on me, as well as even tougher restrictions so that I would be that “good” girl.

Being bullied in grade school for my hearing loss also fed my desire to be the perfect child.  With each taunt thrown my way, I pushed harder to excel in my academics and I was successful by skipping fifth grade as a result.  I ran harder and scored more in my co-ed soccer games, because whatever the boys could do, I could do better.   I ran faster because I was told I could not.

However, the physical abuse I suffered, namely at my mother’s expense, forced me to protect myself by hiding deep within my being.  I could not escape the beatings.  After being hit on my little body with everything from her hand, to cast iron pots, to wooden dowels and wooden clogs, I was forced to hide the blood, the welts and the humiliation by keeping these feelings all locked away.  Why did my mom beat me?  At the time, I did not know and the answers were clearly nowhere to be found until a bit later in my life (see: www.curvygirls2012.blogspot.com/2012/09/not-all-mothers-are-created-alike.html)

In my later twenties  I realized that I did not have to be that perfect person; and that in fact, being perfect was actually boring.  I like the quirky quirks of my being!  However, I still shoved my feelings deeper down within myself and used food as an emotional clutch to literally stuff away any uncomfortable emotions.  Conceal, don’t feel, right?  Isn’t that what I was indirectly taught by my mother?

Just how much did I conceal?  Frankly, way too much.  My life had gotten very much out of control and despite compliments from friends on how I seemed so well put together for a woman who had a full time, very demanding corporate career, two young children at the time, aging and ill parents living with me, coaching soccer and all the other *stuff* that comes with being an adult woman.

Frozen-image-frozen-36269861-1920-800

“Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway”

How do I admit that during the 2003-2007 years, my commute to and from work were often laden with thoughts on how I needed to just check out of my life for a bit.  Yes, I had those actual thoughts:  if I could only escape the day- to-day burdens that were literally weighing me down, even if just for a small bit of time it would be glorious.  I was tired of putting on “the face” and plowing through my life without living.  Ah, careful what you wish for, as I was given a cancer diagnosis shortly thereafter.  As a result, I was forced to literally check out of my life for the raging roller coaster ride through Cancerland during an unexpected pregnancy.

“It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all.”

Despite my illness and the fact that it brought my life as I knew it to a screeching halt, it really put everything into relevant perspective.  When I actually feared I had no control over my life, it was crystal clear lesson that I possessed that power all along, but I simply had no idea how to use that strength to my benefit.

elsa frozen let it go

The next five years after the diagnosis proved more difficult to cope with the suffocating emotions that came to the surface.  Cancer deaths surrounded me in friends and family close by.  My father’s dementia and my inability to care for him were hurtful, and I wondered if I did the right thing by having him move out of my home and into senior living.   My mother was thriving in her senior housing, but the emotional mind games she continued to play with me were overwhelming at best.  I was still operating under the “conceal, don’t feel.”  I STILL function as a matter of being hard-wired that way to shove my ugly or uncomfortable feelings way down deep into my belly (that is the blame of my thick mid-section, not the food I consumed when I could not cope).  <Insert eye-ball roll.>

2014 brings a new year of embracing a new motto:   Facing my fears, feeling them, not feeding them, and finally moving on from these ill feelings.  My parents have both passed away, my dad in 2011 and my mom in 2013.  Why are the unhealthy patterns and emotions they inflicted still regularly surfacing in emotions that I encounter?  Is it not time to just let it go?

“My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone”

The past is in the past.  INDEED!  That perfect girl is gone.  VOILA!  Rebecca, it’s really as simple as singing the lyrics of this Disney song!

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry

Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on”  

Frozen21

Here I stand.                      Here I’ll stay.                     You bet your ass, I will.            Time to believe I can.

I have surpassed being an abused child.  I have grown from being bullied by my unfortunate hearing impairment.  I am stronger than ever after pushing through a raging cancer diagnosis.  I am free from the emotional turmoil of my parents.

However, being the over-analytical thinker that I am – how do I teach this lesson to my children; especially my daughters?  Don’t we all wish for our children to be empowered and carry this message with them now and continually throughout their lives.  Don’t we want our kids to NOT wake up and be forty one day and be in a better place than we are now?  I want my children to be strong emotionally but also be equipped and have the ability to let it go.  There will be storms all around them during their growing years, but shouldn’t we enable them to stand strong and stay firm during the swirling winds of adversity?

How do I teach my children the opposite of conceal, don’t feel when that is all I have ever known?  Am I a hypocrite to instruct them to let it go when I still struggle myself?  Perhaps we will rise together, face our fears as one and weather the storm in unison.

Watching as “Frozen” takes our nation by windstorm and as the song, “Let It Go” continues to gain momentum and popularity, I smile and I am warmed as thousands of young girls hear the message behind the empowering lyrics.

Are YOU ready to LET IT GO?

 

 

Watch as the world does it, here:

Here’s two adorable twins doing THEIR version:  http://youtu.be/JfMBcIVU6Rw

Watch the national sing-along here:  http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/let-gma-hosts-epic-frozen-sing-long-event-132119661–awards.html

Here’s the official (UK) Disney video:  http://youtu.be/iEKLFS-aKcw

Here’s my youngest showing us how to “Let It Go”:  http://youtu.be/iUpMpeU_u_g

How Do You Say Good-Bye?

“Here am I
Yet another goodbye!”

Once upon a time, I met a beautiful woman at our local gym.  Jackie had been introduced to me by one of the gym employees and we instantly shared a common bond – we were both battling breast cancer.  In fact, I had been mistaken for Jackie once while trying to see if there was room for me in an overly packed Power class.  My bald head and Jackie’s bald head, both covered in similar pink baseball caps was the signature look for us as we walked the gym halls.

We instantly bonded and shared our war stories:  our laughable kinky, out-of-control curly *pubic* hair regrowth on our heads that had been obliterated by chemotherapy; our melancholy comparison of multiple surgery scars; and overwhelming yet simple gratitude to be alive.  We both had young children when we met; Jackie’s children were then 10 and 13, whereas my children were 10, 7 and a newborn.

My diagnosis came about two months before Jackie’s diagnosis; respectively in August and November of 2007.  When we met in 2008, we had both just finished our treatment protocols and were now trying to regain our health, or at least some sense of control over it.  Our treatments were very similar despite two very different forms of breast cancer and the distinct paths our situations necessitated.

We both openly admitted our fears to each other with an instant trust that only one cancer warrior has in another.  Despite being relieved that our chemotherapy was over at that time, we were terrified of recurrence and we both felt horrifically vulnerable.  Without the poison cocktails surging through our veins, would that not give the cancer an opportunity to come back?  We agreed to embrace our new normal and find a way to live stronger.  Somehow, we had to live a life where fear would not cripple us, but we both silently acknowledged that fear was ever present deep within our core.

Secretly, I had huge fears.  Statistically, Jackie’s cancer was the type that typically would not come back and if it did, it would likely be in her breast area again.  Whereas, I had the newly discovered triple negative sub-type that was incredibly aggressive and has the highest rate of recurrence.  Not only does the triple negative type come back with a vengeance, it’s typically in your lungs, your brain, your bones…..I can live without breasts, but I cannot live without those critical organs or body parts.  We often rattled on about the latest we had “heard”  in the breast cancer world; whether it was from our own oncologists, online research, or via word of mouth from others who knew of someone battling breast cancer.

Not two months after our treatment wrapped up and we had shared our fears of recurrence with each other, Jackie shared with me that her cancer had come back and was present in lesions on her lungs.  Despite the sad news, we remained optimistic that she would battle it again and then we would return her to yet another new sense of normal.

In between, we continued to live our lives clinging to any degree of that aforementioned normalcy:  we went to our daughters’ soccer games, we worked at our respective jobs, we went to the gym, and we spent time with our families and friends.

jackie riley shannon

Unfortunately, Jackie’s new sense of normal was a non-stop battle against her cancer.  Lungs, brain, bones….her cancer proved to be more than traditional therapies were meant to target and destroy over the next few years.  When Jackie called and mentioned she had lost hope, that all local treatment options were about exhausted; Jackie’s sister, her friend and I accompanied her to Dana Farber to see what else could be done.  Dr. Freedman, a specialist in breast cancer with brain metastasis, educated all of us on the multitude of clinical trials and experimental drugs that could be chosen for a treatment protocol by Jackie.  Optimism and hope found their way back into Jackie’s life that cold but bright winter day.  The four of us cried giant tears as we listened to the tiny doctor.  Jackie’s shoulders relaxed a bit from being up in her ears and her radiant smile lit up on her beautiful face.  Never under-estimate the power of giving someone hope.

jackie sister lisa me

Jackie continued to press on while the rest of us did what we could: endless dinners delivered, rides given, successful fundraisers held, late night texts and cravings satisfied, and anything else that would help her find the strength to press on and fight this disease.

jackie sherry me

jackie invite

“One by one my leaves fall.
One by one my tales are told.”

Jackie’s first clinical trial was successful, at first.  Her brain cancer shrunk and we were so hopeful that Jackie would live a long life, albeit continually on treatment, but at least to see her children grow.  Suddenly, as quickly as it started to work, the clinical treatment ceased to do its job and Jackie was put on another trial.

By the third clinical trial, Jackie was horrifically sick with side effects.  Jackie called me out of the blue one day and asked to meet me urgently the next day for “dinner” and I agreed.  I spent the next twenty-four hours pondering how I was going to handle our dinner meeting, because inside, I knew what Jackie was going to tell me.  My anxiety grew with each passing hour and I had no idea how I would keep myself composed in Jackie’s presence nor arm her with the dose of strength I anticipated she needed.

After the typical cordiality and warm hugs, we sat down and Jackie meant business as she expressed to me, through tears that she could not battle on in this current state.  Jackie explained to me that the quality of life was not worth it and she could not fathom her children seeing her so sick from chemotherapy; she could not be house bound with ill side-effects of a treatment that was supposed to prolong her life.  She just could not do it.

I struggled greatly with hearing the news of Jackie’s decision, as my knee jerk reaction is to do whatever you have to do in order to survive.  Cancer has taught me so much in five years, but namely, that any given person has the right to their body, their treatment and how they proceed.  The current medical trial had taken everything away from Jackie, and somehow, I had to help her find it again.  We worked through a dialogue of a worst case scenario to her current situation.  I reminded her that she, and only she, had the right to decide what was the course of action she wished to take – not me, not her husband, not her children, not her friends – none of us could dictate how she should feel, what treatments she should have and what was right or wrong for her.  I did highly encourage her to call her oncologist at Dana Farber and relay the same info and that this clinical trial simply was not working for her, they needed to make a change.   Within a couple of days, Jackie did call her doctor and shortly thereafter, she started yet another trial.

“It’s no lie
She is yearning to fly.

Throughout all of Jackie’s treatments, she continued to push forward and fight this horrible disease.  Jackie would often confide that she was tired…… immensely tired, actually exhausted, and sick of being sick.  Yet, somehow, she managed to persevere despite the obstacles thrown in her way.  She paved the path for so many of us to really see what consummate courage and bravery are all about.

jackie parade

Selfishly, I pulled back a bit these past few months from Jackie, as I knew the inevitable was on the horizon and inching closer.  Reluctantly, I struggled with being *the face* of the living in Cancerland,  as the grim reality of her fate was widening.  I asked myself:  maybe she does not need me to help her anymore because maybe she is just tired of cancer – period.  Instead of being up front and center with ways to support her, I took a step back and helped from behind the scenes.  When people asked how to help Jackie or her family, I simply directed instead of coordinated.

jackie yellow

Jackie would never have said it, but I just could not help but think about how hard it must be to look at the person who rallied with you in those early days of 2008; looking at the very person who got better; when you did not.  I am living proof that cancer can be beaten and I live affirmatively and outwardly so, so that others may gain strength and iron-will from that.  However, maybe Jackie did not want to see that regular reminder that her fate was going to be much different than my own. You may call it survivor’s guilt, or perhaps I was selfish in trying to protect not only Jackie from me, but me from me.

After the doctors put Jackie into hospice, I put my big girl pants on and went to visit her.  I was warned by family that she may not be lucid, may not recognize me or even talk to me – but that it would be good for her to hear my voice.  I have not really ever felt as vulnerable and scared as I did that Thursday morning.  How do you say good-bye?  Where was my Life 101 Manual when I needed to reference it?  My insides screamed so loudly I swear the CNAs and nurses I passed could hear the angst.

Surprisingly, Jackie was alert and recognized me.  Within seconds, she had the saddest look on her face and I immediately interpreted it to be the reality of life versus death, in me versus her.  I asked her if it was okay that I was there and she replied yes.  I instantly chided myself to act normal.  How do you say good-bye?

We chatted for a while about different things, namely the kids.  The war against cancer was demonstrative in many little ways:  the head tics, the involuntary hand movements, and the gentle transition in and out of lucidity.  Jackie wanted real soda, not the crap stuff the care center had.  I promised her someone would bring her some real Coke.  She smiled the warmest and happiest smile at my promise.  Shortly thereafter, I sensed that Jackie was not present and my emotions took me by surprised.  I gave Jackie a hug, told her I loved her and I would see her soon.  I could not say good-bye.  I ran.  My tears ran faster.  I could not breathe.  I was suffocating and drowning in the tears that poured from my sockets.  For four long days, I struggled for breath, I tried to see through salted tears and bloated eyelids and my heart just about burst underneath the weight of the Mack truck that sat upon me.

Jackie’s battle hit me squarely where it hurts the most; this fight was much too close to home and our family is struggling with the reality of just how much this situation is a “could have been” and counting our blessings that it is not, all while grieving for the hand that fate dealt to Jackie and her beloved family.  My brain struggles with the emotional roller coaster that comes with being so close to the journey through Cancerland and how this is not about me, or you, but just all encompassing about Jackie and her family.

However, my heart is broken with the loss of Jackie.  I am relieved that her body will no longer fail her and that her spirit is now free from the exhausting world of terminal breast cancer.  I am deeply and painfully saddened for the loss, for her family, for her friends and for myself.  Jackie will always be forever etched into the deepest valves of my heart.  I will offer her family unconditional love, especially her favorite girl who I hold so very dear.  I do not know why the statistics switched between us, but I do know that I intend to live a life full enough for the both of us.

  • Each time I visit Maine, I will think of you, Jackie.
  • Each time I smell the luscious lilacs in spring, I will think of you, Jackie.
  • Each time I bite into a fun Jelly Belly jelly bean (no substitutes, people!), I will delight in thinking of you, Jackie.
  • Each time I indulge in the super calorie horrific biscuits and gravy for breakfast, I will laugh and think of you.

jackie hand hide

Jackie brought people together and warmed their hearts with her infectious smile and her quirky sense of humor.  People wanted to give Jackie their strength, their support and their will to help her battle on.  Over six years, Jackie waged war on a horrific disease and yet, gave to all of us more smiles, more laughter and more memories.  Jackie will want us to continue on with the smiles, the laughter and the memories and I intend to do just that; as Jackie has given me the ultimate gift of strength in a time when I cry and bleed that I have no more strength left.

Fly free, J.  Fly free.  ❤
jackie beautiful

“It’s no lie
She is yearning to fly.
She says Adios, says Adios,”

(Enya, “One By One” lyrics)

Talk To Me, Baby (Sexy Voice, or Not)

Recently, I have seen a link go somewhat viral about how people should just stop bragging about their lives on social media.  Apparently, people are “fed up” with scrolling through their Facebook newsfeeds and reading  things about your “perfect” spouse, your “perfect” children, your “perfect” jobs, your “perfect” workouts……..and my kneejerk reaction is,  “Alrigggghhhhhttttt, simmer down sweetcheeks!”

Social media according to Wikipedia:  Social media refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.[

Right?  The creation and exchange of user-generated content about whatever said user desires to share openly on the platform in reference (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and so forth) is what makes social media so much fun.

I was super reluctant to join Facebook, especially back in 2009ish as I was just coming off of my cancer treatments and putting myself on line felt more vulnerable than I was already feeling.  My best friend convinced me to do it by saying it was so fun to reconnect with some of our high school friends and generally keep in touch on a more regular basis in everyone’s lives. 

Fast forward to 2014 and I have a hard time envisioning life without social media.  Thanks to Facebook, I have connected with childhood friends from Oklahoma and I am able to reflect back on happy memories with them, but see where their lives have gone since I moved from Oklahoma in 1987.

Thanks to social media, I am able to use my experience as a cancer survivor to talk to other cancer warriors regardless of geography and time.  Two of my Facebook friends connected with me because they had the unfortunate diagnosis of breast cancer while pregnant, much as I did.  We share our war stories, we share our babies’ milestones and it gives me great comfort to see their littles thriving much the same as my chemo baby.  Countless others on my friends list are cancer survivors as well and it’s a click of a message button and we are chatting about our fears, our strengths, our stories and so much more.  With a few keystrokes, those battling particularly hard in their disease are often given virtual support from countless others; support that is so monumental it may just be the comforting words they needed to lift them up through their next treatment, surgery, or bad day.

The aforementioned examples are only a couple of ways that social media has enriched my life, but let’s talk about your life and that so-called bragging, for a minute.

I want to hear ALL about your children – the good, the bad and the ugly.  If your child did well on his report card, then let us know.  I am proud of your child, much the same as you are proud of his academic accomplishments.  If your children are going through a tough phase and make it exceptionally hard to be a parent, I want to know that as well because then I know I am not the only one struggling when he/she talks back, tests my boundaries and learns a necessary life-lesson.

I want to hear ALL about your workouts.  Yes.  I.  Do.  Some folks have taken offense about other people sharing their workouts.  For me, I do not feel inferior or bad about myself when others post their workouts.  I am PROUD of you for telling me about your new PR at Crossfit.  Damn, straight, I am (and then I am secretly – or not – coming after your PR, or wait, I mean my own PR) happy to hear about your progress.  You had a phenomenal run?  Fantastic.  I know I am not the only one trying to improve my physical being and it inspires me to see others running their first 5k, or completing their Crossfit “FRAN” in an unbelievably insane time, or simply hiking through the local woods.  Why should one feel bad about exercising their body and sharing it with their friends?  I would not have ever signed up for a triathlon, or an Electric Run, or a Undies Run, or even the Boston Marathon without the push of like-minded friends on Facebook.  Many people I know are now less intimidated by the world of Crossfit as well, by my virtual display of my continued love-affair and my brutal honesty in posting the good, the bad and the ugly about snatches, double-unders and Toes To Bar.

I want to hear ALL about your new house or perhaps your new car.  Seriously.  These purchases occur only handful of times in our lives, why would I not want to congratulate you on that new vehicle?  Sure, I may be slightly envious if that new vehicle is one of those trendy retro Camaros, but I will be happy for you that you earned it or have good fortune enough to select that car for yourself.  If you have a newly remodeled, beautiful sunroom that overlooks your pool, I may just invite myself to enjoy it with you!

I want to hear ALL about your endeavors and displays of kindness.  I want to hear ALL about what inspires you.  If you are fundraising, I want to hear about it and then I may choose the ability to support you in the cause that makes me feel good.  If you are walking for pink or for hunger, if you are running for autism, if you are baking for children with cancer, if you are promoting mental health, if you are supporting the homeless, or if you are PTO – let me know.  When has sharing acts of kindness had any ill effect, ever?  In fact, I believe it inspires more acts of kindness and we all can use a world full of more kindness.

I want to hear ALL about your funny moments and the things that happen in between.  Many of my daily smiles are brought about by your verbiage of a particular “Out of the Mouth of Babes” moment, or an incident worthy of being on “America’s Funniest Home Videos”, or some random funny occurrence at the gym. 

With the helter -skelter that surrounds each of us, the ability to use a social media platform to engage in your life even though our days are chock full is a wonderful thing.  I love being able to bump into someone in passing and give them a hug; because they are struggling, they are thriving, or they are just them.  Thanks to social media, I feel as if I am along for YOUR journey and that is priceless.

So, just do it without another thought……..talk to me, baby.

Suck It Up, Buttercup?

suck it up buttercup

Maybe I do not want to suck it up! Seriously, how many times do we just dig deep and cast our feelings aside in an effort to appear strong and resilient, when all we want to do is break down and cry?

I do not know about you, but I hate to cry. I do. I cannot stand the way it makes me feel, I detest the tell-tale swollen and puffy eyes, not to mention it ruins your contacts. The only way I try to describe it is some people do not like to drink alcohol because of the feeling of loss of self-control; well, crying is my kryptonite.

I have cried more in the past week plus, then I have in the past several months combined. I *nearly* cried at Crossfit this week. Can you even imagine THAT spectacle? Phew, what a close call.

crying

Two of my friends are struggling; they have finished or are finishing their cancer treatments. Everyone thinks they know about compassion in the cancer world, but little do many know that the actual real battle begins when treatment winds down and immediately thereafter. It is a misperception that once a person finishes their cancer treatment, that they are okay and on their path to stronger living. In these now much quieter months of recovery, without daily medical visits and with the sudden cessation of meal deliveries or regular check-ins, cancer survivors start to go nuts. Yes, we do.

Many times in our path to recovery, we are unable to resume our regular lives that we had pre-cancer; recovery has placed newfound limitations on our careers leaving us with part-time work, if at all. The financial implications of reduced or non-existent work hours leave massive piles of bills, many of which are medical in nature – the procedures or treatments that may have saved your very life.

The fatigue and residual pain is a constant reminder that you have just waged a monumental war on something nearly larger than life. You struggle with your premature and uncomfortable sense of “normal” in a post-cancer era. The pulling and tugging on tight scars has you slowing down and remembering to be gentler.

The mental games begin: fears seem to shift and expand overnight, not unlike those small capsules you put into a glass of water and have grown 1000x their size while you were sleeping. Fear of recurrence, it follows you everywhere…..and I mean everywhere. Suck it up, buttercup? I think not.

All it takes is seeing a stranger in the grocery store wearing the scarf on her head and lacking eyebrows, you know….you know she’s engaged in her own battle. Your heart rate starts to increase and that nagging headache starts to worry you a little more; you wonder if a call to your doctor for some reassurance is in order.

As people start to lose their battles around you, from cancer, even if it is a type totally unrelated to your own, you start to unravel. Wakes become harder to attend as your own mortality and your fears escalate into their own sense of *normal*.

Another friend of mine has been fighting hard; okay, she has been fighting harder than hard and is in a losing battle. I did not expect the intensity of the emotions I have been trying to process over the past week. I have guilt, a lot of it. Survivor’s guilt. Friendship guilt. Mother’s guilt. You name it. I have lost control and cried harder than when I was even going through my own traipse in cancerland. Suck it up, buttercup? I. Just. Cannot.

I am over five years out since I completed my treatment, yet, I still have many of the same fears that my more recent cancer counterparts are experiencing. Sure, with time, the fear subsides and with the magic milestone of hitting five years, I rest a teeny bit more reassured. However, statistics are just that – numbers that are there to purportedly help seal your fate, but in reality, sometimes life has a different plan that what the measurements of data predict.

Learning how to cope is just that, each different life experience is a true test of how we cope. We cannot control our cancer diagnoses, the side effects, the residual pains or even the day to day fears. However, we CAN control specifically how we cope in all of our steps in cancer land.

Everyone of us can also control all of the stresses in the general demands of being an adult; such as those weekly challenges in crazy and rude family members, irrational bosses, needy parents, and arduous children or balancing that full plate with work, family, you-time and more.

control the sail

Once a former boss of mine sat me down and crafted a drawing after I was complaining about being a control-freak and having several instances where things were rampantly out…of….my…..control. I learned a lot that day, but it took my cancer diagnosis to really ingest the value of the lesson learned.  My REACTION to what happens around me is the best ACTION to undertake.

control

We are in control, believe it or not, of whether we feel sad or happy.  We can think happy thoughts, or we can be consumed and swallowed by sad thoughts.  We will be dealt a hand of cards that is just a mystery and we will never know why it happened.  Instead of getting caught up in the negativity of not understanding the bad things that happen to us all, we have to find the light – the guiding force whether it is a new friend met through a cancer diagnosis, a lifestyle change, or the chance to slow down and smell the roses.

How do I reassure my newer cancer warriors that it gets better? You just do. You pull up your big girl pants and you pave the way. Suck it up, buttercup – shed those tears, pound more weights and skip, trip, fall down and get back up again, and again, and again, and again.

control surrender

Welcome & Thank You for Joining Me!

If you are reading this, then you have found my new blog, “Authentically Bold: Rebecca”. As much as I loved my time on Confessions of a Curvy Girl, this blog will allow me to expand my topics and will have you embark on a more personal journey with me in my continued adventures through happiness, strife, and the general ride we have in our lives.

If you have any topics you would like to share with me, or have me touch upon, please feel free to contact me authenticallybold@comcast.net.

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deerutty

About coping with Depression and recovery from Breast Cancer

The Heart of Healing

My journey of healing mind, body and spirit

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