Tag Archive | gratitude

M.I.A.

Image

[About the photo:  

The best photo I could come up with to illustrate “missing” on short notice. My soul feels like this puzzle at the moment — missing pieces, unfinished, broken…

On a more positive note, jme & her husband bought this 3,000 piece puzzle for us on one of their visits. The gorgeous subject is Seychelles, a place Julie, jme & I all hoped to visit (but never did).  We worked on this masterpiece together for a solid week, and then continued to work after jme & bryan returned home. It was a lovely puzzle, but we never quite finished it.

On the boys’ birthday party day that year, I had to make an executive decision: put the puzzle back in its box unfinished and reclaim the kitchen table for the party OR cancel their birthday party last minute!  It was a tough decision!  I took this photo just before we packed the puzzle up that day.]

***

Hello Dear Readers,

I know I’ve missed an entire week (or so?) of posting.  

And I set off alarm bells when I didn’t even participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge for last week, which is not like me at all.  Some of you noticed my absence and have emailed to ask if I am okay.   So I am writing to tell you that the past week and a half has been extremely difficult, but that I am alright.  

I will be posting in the next few days to explain.  And you will likely understand my silence after you’ve read the post.  But in the meantime, know that I haven’t forgotten about you.  In fact, I think of you every day and I am grateful for your presence in my life.

My warmest thoughts are with you all xxx

 

Today is My 1st Birthday…My Blog’s 1st Birthday, That is!

The twins asked for matching Angry Bird birthday cakes, so I made 6 cakes in a matter of a week.  Two blue, three red, and one yellow Angry Bird.  This was my fave -- a lemon cake, even though I am a chocolate girl!

The twins asked for matching Angry Bird birthday cakes, so I made 6 cakes in a matter of a week. Two blue, three red, and one yellow Angry Bird. This was my fave — a lemon cake, even though I am a chocolate girl!

Yep, today is my first blogoversary!

It has been one year since I first entered the blogosphere.  One year since my very first post, Yep, I’m a Cancer Patient.  One year since I first sent my thoughts out into world for everyone to see.

The thing is, I never expected anyone to see them. I didn’t tell anyone about my blog or where to find it.  So I thought no one would.  I thought this blog would just be an online diary of sorts, a memoir for my kids.

And that’s it.

To this day there are only a handful of people in my offline life who know about it.  I almost said in my “real” life.  But that wouldn’t be fair to you or to my blog.  What you are seeing, what you are reading, is my “real life.” In fact, you, dear reader, have been privy to more of my experiences and thoughts than most people in my “life-life.”

With you I have shared my joys and my sadness. My valleys, my peaks.  The waiting.  The worrying.  The hope.  The FEAR.  The beautiful.  The ugly.  The pain.  The LOSS.

And so much more.

You’ve laughed with me and cried with me.

Your beautiful comments have helped me celebrate the good moments — and have lifted me up through the most difficult times.

Took this photo at the boys'  District Art Show.  The quote says:  "My life would not be complete without my friends and family. I don't know what I would do without them all."

Took this photo at the boys’ District Art Show. The quote says: “My life would not be complete without my friends and family. I don’t know what I would do without them all.”

So it is you who deserves a celebration on my blogoversary.  It is you who has spurred me along and encouraged me to write and to share, when I felt like it — and when I didn’t.

And it is you who deserves my gratitude.  Thank you for reading, liking (even when some of the content seemed unlikable!), commenting, following and sharing…

I feel like a VERY lucky girl!!  Well, aside from the cancer thing, of course!  😉

If this is your first visit, welcome — and click HERE for a good place to start.

First anniversary stats for those of you who like math:

-226 wonderful followers

-15,300 views

-1,100 (exactly!) comments

-95 posts

And cake, for those of you who prefer baked goods!

I asked the boys if I could share their cakes with you and they said, "Of course!"  They looked at me like I was nuts, but they were happy to give you all cake!

I asked the boys if I could share their cakes with you and they said, “Of course!” They looked at me like I was nuts, but they were happy to give you all cake!

THANK YOU!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved — In Memory of Julie

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

Julie (left) & Me

I missed last week’s photo challenge, but when I saw this week’s topic, I had to pull out my old photo albums.

The photos you see here embody my New Year’s resolution for 2013.  What is it?

***To appreciate that life is sometimes too short — and to fulfill some of my bucket list wishes.***

The photos I’ve chosen are from a defining point in my life.  Why was this little window of time, this blip in my life, so special that I feel the need to highlight it here?

Because the girl in the photos with me is my friend Julie.  She was one of my very best friends growing up.  I loved her like a sister.  We laughed together, cried together and reached many a milestone together.

These photos of Julie and me are from a once-in-a-lifetime trip we took together.  I know, I know, people say “once-in-a-lifetime” but they don’t always know that for sure.  Sometimes they just say this to be dramatic.

But I am saying it because I know it is true.  I know that Julie and I will never take another trip together.  In fact, we will never laugh or cry or meet another milestone together again.  Ever.

Because Julie is dead.  She was killed in a car accident 5 years ago when we were just 31.

It still takes my breath away when I remember that she is really gone, but I often find myself smiling as I think of the time we spent together.

Though Julie’s death was tragic and horribly sad, her life was the opposite.  Julie exuded warmth and beauty.  She was positive and sweet and lived her life to the fullest.  She was courageous and didn’t let anything stand in her way…

…including me.  You see, I didn’t want to go on that trip.  I had never done anything like that before.  I wasn’t adventurous.  I didn’t think I deserved the opportunity to get on a plane.

It was about a month before our high school graduation when Julie proposed the idea.  Her exchange student for our senior year, now like our new sister, would be returning home to Mexico just after graduation.  What if we went to Mexico to stay with her over the summer?

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

I was not the adventurous type and I opted to stay home and work until we started college in August.  Plus, I needed to be home to help care for my little sisters.  And I had never done anything just for me before.  How could I start with something so drastic?  No, I would not go.

But it wasn’t really up to me.  Julie would not listen to my protests.  She jokingly threatened to unfriend me (we had been very good friends since we were kids) if I didn’t commit to going.  She said she knew what was best for me (and I admit that she often did).  So, on one of the many evenings I spent at her house, she made a final plea.  Again I refused.  We were munching on her delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies when she picked up the phone and called the airline (this was before you could use the internet to book your tickets).  She pretended to be me and booked my tickets while I stood in her kitchen.  Though I halfheartedly protested and though I feigned anger, I was secretly delighted.  I knew I would enjoy this special time with Julie.  And I knew I was going to miss Judy (her exchange student), who was now a dear friend and that this was my chance to see where she lived and to say a real goodbye.

This was going to be my first real adventure, my first and last hurrah before heading off to university (20 minutes away – another story!) in the fall.

So we graduated from high school, Judy left for her home in Mexico, and we embarked on our adventure 8 days later.  Before stepping off the plane in Tucson (and driving the 4 hours across the border to our friend’s house), I had been a shy straight-A student who hung out in the teachers’ lounge after school because I could always relate better to people older than me.  Between sophomore & senior year, I took every single Advanced Placement class (and there were a lot!) our high school had to offer — and aced them all.  I was voted “Class Introvert” and could get A’s on Calculus tests without studying.  I thought A.P. Physics and Chemistry were fun.  I had been babysitting since I was eight and got my first “real” job the moment I was old enough to get a work permit.  I balanced school and mountains of homework with two afterschool/weekend jobs.  I volunteered a ton — you name a volunteer activity and Julie, jme and I signed up for it.  I had a resume filled with achievements.  I had a full scholarship to Cornell University and scholarships to a number of other prominent schools for Engineering or Biochemistry/Pre-Med waiting for me and I had every intention of continuing to be that people-pleasing, old-before-my-time nerdy girl…

I thought that maybe before college I would do something crazy like cut my long hair or start wearing lipstick.  I had no idea how this trip was going to change me.

It was an incredible 3 weeks.  Because Julie and I were staying with Judy and her family, we “lived” in the heart of a non-touristy part of Mexico where I was the only person with blondish hair for many, many miles.  We got a taste of what it was like to grow up there.  What an amazing way to see another culture.  Our many adventures included a 28 hour (total) roundtrip escapade on an old, steamy, smelly, jam-packed bus.  We were headed to see another friend (Juan–also a former exchange student) in Mazatlan.  The bus trip came complete with dirt roads, middle of the night stops by gun-toting “bandits” in the midst of nowhere, and people who were so scary that we slept in shifts because there had been a number of recent American kidnappings on buses just like ours.  As the only Americans who had probably set foot on our bus in a very long time, we figured we were targets, which made it that much more exciting for my friends (and nerve-wracking for straight-laced me).  When we stumbled off the bus, though, I realized that it was all worth it.  The area was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.  The days were amazing — swimming in the ocean, drinking pina coladas in the pool, parasailing and so much more — things I never dreamed I’d be doing.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

Julie parasailing in Mazatlan

And the nights were even more incredible.  More things I never dreamed I’d do.  All of a sudden quiet, shy me who hadn’t really dated much was dancing on tables at these gorgeous open air bars, forgetting about all of the responsibilities waiting for me back home, and getting kissed by older guys in their 20s (Mexicans & Americans alike) who could have stepped off movie sets or off the pages of GQ.

On the bus ride back to Judy’s city, I felt like a new person…  All of a sudden I had gone from being a cornerstone on the math team to someone who had 25 year-olds competing to spend a few minutes on the dance floor with her.  It was fascinating and exciting.

Our next stop was a lovely little town on the Gulf with mountains in the background.  Here we had more adventures with sangria, late-night swims, and mechanical bull-riding.  Then Julie’s older brother (who was in a band & lived in San Francisco) asked us to take a couple of days out of our Mexican adventure to come to see him.  Julie hadn’t seen her brother in a while and she had a huge crush on his roommate, so it was a quick yes from her.  All we had to do was drive to San Diego & he’d have tickets waiting for us at the airport.  Along the way we stopped to visit Judy’s cousins in Tecate (right next to the Tecate beer factory) for another wonderful night filled with yummy food & drinks and happy people.  No matter where we went (with the exception of on that bus to/from Mazatlan), I never heard a word of complaint or saw a frown.  Regardless of what everyone did or didn’t have, the people we met/lived with were warm, welcoming, generous, and positive.

Even the drive up to the U.S. was an adventure.  And then we were off to San Francisco, a place I had always wanted to visit.  We didn’t do anything too exciting, but even a trip to the grocery store was fun with Julie.  And, as it happened, the roommate guy she had a crush on actually “liked” me.  Julie was very gracious about it and happily let me have my moment with him.  He was 25 and an engineer on a big naval ship — the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.  Though he was quite handsome, he was nerdy like me & we were instantly drawn to each other.  It was odd for me to realize that I had spent my teenage years feeling awkward and burying my nose in books — and all I had to do was take my hair out of my ponytail and throw a pair of jeans on (and talk to people 7 or 8 years older than me!) and voila…  Eric and I stayed up all night every night talking.  And then we all spent the days together seeing the sights.  It was a total departure from the “me” I knew, someone who had only had a few high school boys show any interest in her.  [Eric continued to send letters & call me (and my mother!) for years after this trip.]

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

Julie in Spain — wasn’t she lovely?
(I didn’t take this photo — I never made it there)

Before I knew it, Julie, Judy & I were flying back down to San Diego and driving back into Mexico…  And shortly afterward, we made the long trek back to Arizona to catch our plane.  Judy’s family had a condo near the airport, so we spent one last night there — the 3 of us girls — laughing, talking & drinking more sangria in the hot tub (I hadn’t even been in a hot tub (or a condo for that matter!) before).  It was a wonderful way to end our trip.

That summer was — and remains — the best of my life.  After that I started college as a new person.  Still the old nerdy straight-A student who loved math on the inside, but with a new look and a newfound confidence on the outside.  I was always so grateful to Julie for that and so many things.

That trip was the last time I saw Judy… Until 5 years ago — for Julie’s funeral.  Julie was killed by a drunk driver in Spain, a country she loved so much.  The special young man she loved survived, but he was seriously injured — and he had lost the love of his life right before his eyes.  I was no stranger to loss or tragedy, but this was beyond anything I could wrap my mind around.  When jme, who had grown up with Julie from the age of 3, phoned to tell me what had happened, it was an absolutely heartbreaking call.  Jme got on a plane to come back home from Seattle.  And Judy flew from Mexico to stay at my house so we could be together to bury our dear friend…

Though her life was short, Julie’s impact was great.  She made everyone feel special and she touched lives here and across the Atlantic in deep and lasting ways.  The world was a far better place because she was in it.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

Julie (rt.) and me
Early morning somewhere in Sonora, Mexico

So, this year I resolve to be more like Julie.  I resolve to check some things off my bucket list (and to make a bucket list).  I resolve to just “go for it” more.  I resolve to work on living my life to the fullest (I’m sure it will take me a while to get there, but I vow to work on it).  And I plan to honor her memory by trying to find and nurture the little light that she saw inside of me when we were just girls on the edge of new beginnings.

In Memory of Beautiful Julie – 1976 – 2007

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

A long overdue thank you…

I can’t believe I have let so much time pass since receiving award nominations from three of my favorite bloggers…but I’m embarrassed to say that I have!

So here is my long overdue ‘thank you’ to Kat B. of Travel. Garden. Eat for a Liebster Award nomination…to Cancer Curmudgeon for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  And thank you to another of my faves, The Green Study for a Reality Blog Award.

Thank you all so very much!  I am over the moon with gratitude, especially because I admire your blogs so much…

To formally accept these award nominations, there are a few things I must do.   Here goes…

breast cancer thirties 30s liebster blog

The Rules for the Liebster Award are as follows:

  • Link back to the blogger who gave you this award – http://travelgardeneat.com/2012/11/29/you-flatter-me-blogger-friends/
  • Post the award to your blog – done!
  • Post 11 things about yourself – see below
  • Answer the questions asked of you, plus create 11 new questions for your nominees to answer.  (I’m going to fudge the rules a bit and ask my nominees to answer the same 11 questions if they choose — otherwise I might never post this!) – done
  • Nominate 11 people you think deserve the award and link them to your post. – see below
  • Go to their pages and tell them they have been chosen. – This might take me a couple of days!

11 Things About Me:

  1. I love sea turtles, giraffes and elephants.
  2. I have twin boys.
  3. One of my two best childhood friends was killed in a car accident when we were 31.  It’s been 5 years, but I’m still in shock.
  4. My other best childhood friend dropped everything and hopped on a plane from the opposite end of the country when she heard that I had cancer.  (See photo from A Minute Can Make a Difference)
  5. I have 2 dogs.  A big mutt and a mini-wiener dog.  They look like giant and mini versions of each other.
  6. My favorite movie is The Adjustment Bureau.
  7. I was a straight-A student and graduated with Honors.
  8. I love bacon even though everyone tells me I shouldn’t eat it because of the cancer thing.  I just can’t resist!
  9. As soon as my children’s kindergarten class heard that I had cancer, I was overwhelmed by kindness and yummy dinners.
  10. My grandmother died of cancer when I was just a few months older than my own kids.
  11.  One of my dogs is named Kevin. 

Questions for me from travel.garden.eat :

A place you have never traveled to that is on your travel bucket list?

-Hawaii’s Big Island

Book you are currently reading?

-I forget — I think it’s called The Lost Girl

Have you ever bungee-jumped?

-No

Morning bird or night owl?

-Used to be a morning bird.  Now a night owl for sure!

How long have you been blogging?

-Only since June

Which movie can you watch again and again?

-50 First Dates

One of your favorite quotes?

-“I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life.  I know you’ll be a star…in somebody else’s sky.  Why can’t it be mine?”

Your favorite recipe (in full or via link)?

-I’ll have to think about it.  I love to bake, so probably a chocolate cake recipe.

Pet peeve?

-People who repeatedly ask for advice but never take it.

If you could invite anyone to join you for dinner — fictional or real, from the past or the present — who would you invite?

-My grandmother

Your favorite blog post — from your blog!

$50 Straws and How Cancer Changes Everything

or

The Daily Post: Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

Now for my Liebster Award nominees:

  1.  Life PortOfolio
  2. sharechair
  3. Yet Another Prostate Cancer Blog
  4. Richert Images
  5. rarasaur
  6. Ron Mayhew Photography
  7. The Blog of Otis
  8. Wind Against Current
  9. Westlake Musings
  10. Cancer Curmudgeon
  11. FiftyFourandaHalf

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Very Inspiring Blogger Award

The rules for this award are:

Post about this award and the blogger that nominated, tell 7 (random) things about myself and nominate & notify 15 other very inspiring bloggers.

First, the blogger who nominated me…  Cancer Curmudgeon.  I love her blog for her ‘tell it like it is’ attitude and her engaging posts.  I also love the way she finds the best of what’s out there and reblogs topics that her followers like me!) want to read about.  Thank you for the nomination, Cancer Curmudgeon!  And thank you for your blog!

I have decided to spare you and not share another 7 details about myself — I think I bored you enough above.  I am skipping straight to my list of nominees:

  1. inspired2ignite
  2. Clanmother
  3. Prego and the Loon
  4. Three Hundred Sixty-Five
  5. Keeping It Real
  6. The Retiring Sort
  7. born by a river
  8. Mirth and Motivation
  9. mainelyhopeful
  10. Green and Clean My Life
  11. Bucket List Publications
  12. Jump For Joy! Photo Project
  13. Campfire Memories
  14. Denise4Health
  15. The Sarcastic Boob

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The Reality Blog Award

This award has NO rules!  Yay!  But I will follow The Green Study‘s lead here and answer a few questions:

1) If you could change something about your life what would you change?

My marriage

2) If you could repeat an age, what age would it be?

25.  I would like a do-over now that I know better.

3) What one thing really scares you?

Dying before I have a chance to have a real and positive impact on my children’s lives.

4) What one dream have you not completed yet and do you think you will be able to complete it?

I would like to have my novel/autobiography (not yet fully written!) published.  I doubt that I will be able to accomplish this goal before I leave the earth.

5) If you could be someone else for the day, who would you be?

Someone who lives on a lovely tropical island.

And my award nominees are:

  1. Three Hundred Sixty-Five
  2. The Retiring Sort
  3. FEC-THis
  4. Chris Martin Writes
  5. Cancer Curmudgeon
  6. Flickr Comments

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Thank you, Travel.Garden.Eat., Cancer Curmudgeon, and The Green Study!

GUEST POST: A Holiday Season With Cancer

cancerinmythirties@yahoo.com breast cancer thirties young 30s mom motherhood baby Christmas holidays

*Just so there is no confusion, this is me (NOT Heather)*
Christmas 2010

***

I am pleased to introduce guest writer Cameron Von St. James.   I was honored when Cameron approached me to ask about posting an article here.  After reading a little bit about what his family has dealt with, I was also moved and inspired…and I thought you would be, too.  With a new baby to care for and the holiday season just beginning, Cameron’s wife, Heather, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer.  Their story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Please join me in welcoming Cameron Von St. James…

__________________

A Holiday Season With Cancer

The holiday season has always been near and dear to my heart. It was always a time when my family came together to practice our holiday traditions and give thanks for all that we have in life.

In 2005, I was especially excited for the holidays, as my wife Heather had just given birth to our first child, Lily, and we couldn’t wait to establish our own traditions with our new family. Those feelings of giddiness were stamped out completely when we learned, three days before Thanksgiving, that Heather had cancer.

Our daughter was only three and a half months old when we learned that Heather was suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma. I knew enough about the disease to be concerned for our future. The anger I felt was overwhelming, and I found myself preparing for the worst.

I dreaded the holiday celebrations that year, during which Heather’s family came to stay with us before she headed off to a treatment center in Boston. During dinners that should have been about seasonal togetherness, we discussed how her family could come to terms with Heather’s deadly disease. We talked about the future of our finances and childcare options for Lily. We made plans to pay for Heather’s expensive treatments, and to my embarrassment discussed how her family could help us stay afloat financially.  Heather and I both worked, but with the new baby money was already tight, and with expensive treatment and travel looming, on top of the fact that we would soon be down to one income when Heather started treatment, we were going to be in real trouble. Heather’s family helped us figure out what we could liquidate for cash, and how much they could afford to pay for. I was mortified and embarrassed, and it would be years before I could look back on that conversation with anything but shame.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer malignant pleural mesothelioma story stories thirties 30s young mom mother kids holidays Christmas

Mesothelioma
Image courtesy of http://www.mesothelioma.com

I was so awash with negative emotions that I couldn’t see what I now see today. I realize now how mistaken I was to look at this time so negatively.  What I see now is that I was being so firmly supported by our family – people who came from afar to be with Heather, Lily and me during our moment of need. They were willing to help us in any way possible, they offered to make incredible sacrifices of their own for our well-being, but I was so weighed down with guilt and fear that I couldn’t see that clearly.

In spite of the odds against her, Heather eventually beat mesothelioma. This holiday season I want to take the time to give thanks for everything that I have; I know how much family means because of how close I came to losing the most important person in my life. I am so thankful for my little Lily’s continued health and growth and for all the people who helped us through our dark times. Thank you so much! You’ve all given me a reason to look forward to celebrating the holidays.

*******************

Special thanks to Cameron and his wife for sharing their story…

Would you like to be featured here?  

If you have something to share, please send me an email:

cancerinmythirties@yahoo.com

                        

Thank You & Happy Holidays!

Grateful Am I…

oopherectomy hysterectomy breast cancer cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com 30s incision liver lab

After not posting for a week, I thought I would put my concerns about poor liver function tests, leg and abdominal edema, and the words of the medical professionals who urged me to “get myself to the Emergency Room” this week aside and return with a post focused on gratitude.

A fellow blogger has honored my little blog with an “Illuminating Blogger Award” and I’d like to take a minute to acknowledge how thankful I am.

Many thanks to http://theretiringsort.com/!

breast cancer in my thirties cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com 30s

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The rules for accepting the award are as follows:

  • Leave a comment on the original award site
  • Share a random fact about yourself:  My dream job would involve saving sea turtles.
  • Choose 5 bloggers to pass the torch to. Here they are:

***

1.  http://bornbyariver.wordpress.com

2.  http://travelgardeneat.com/

3.  http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/

4.  http://keepingitrealmom.com/

5.  http://clanmother.com/

Thank you, “The Retiring Sort!”  Thank you to the bloggers listed above (whose blogs brighten my days).  And thank you to everyone who takes the time to read and follow my blog!