Staying Alive

 

 

john travolta staying alive

It’s been many, many moons since I wrote a post. But when I had someone reach out with a personal e-mail asking for advice and hoping I was still doing well, I knew I had to get back to writing regularly. It’s nice to have folks care about how I’m doing after all this time.

Last weekend marked 3 years since I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The day came and went without much fanfare, until I sat down that night and realized what a huge milestone that actually is. I know that 5 years is the magical number for survival odds to greatly increase, but hey, I’m on the downward slope now and I can see the prize.

I guess you could say I’m doing fantastically well, which is part of the reason for my long blogging hiatus. There hasn’t been much to report other than the mundane day to day details that create a life. I’m still working from home, driving kids all over town, and taking care of a menagerie of animals. All the things most people complain about that survivors relish.

This year has been surprising. I left my job working in a hospital lab 18 months ago to finally use my chiropractic degree and build my practice. I’ve since come to realize what I probably knew on some level all along, that chiropractic in and of itself isn’t my calling. It’s not enough to feed my soul and satisfy my creativity. So life has taken me in some pretty unexpected directions.

I’ve started making and selling jewelry. I even opened up an Etsy shop and started doing craft shows. That’s craziness, considering I had never done this before last summer. Creativity…yes, it’s good. And it’s a sweet validation to have someone like your work enough to buy it.

I’ve also been taking intensive courses to learn how to create a business helping others online. My first project will be to create an online community of breast cancer survivors who are open to holistic health. There are groups who are completely anti-medical, and there are others that want nothing to do with anything outside the mainstream. But there’s very little in the middle. I hope to create courses and programs that will teach survivors how to use nutrition, supplements, and other alternative therapies to support their recovery and stay well. And there will be no shaming those who choose traditional treatment as well.

Along those lines, probably the most unexpected thing that has happened over the past year has been my foray into essential oils and the amazing way they have boosted my  health. I run, I have energy, I sleep well, I can put myself in a better mood, I have no aches and pains, and my hair is fuller and thicker. (Is it wrong that the last one makes me smile the most?) It took me a long time to be able to share all these things with people without feeling awkward or sheepish. But people noticed, and at some point I decided that it was really more of a disservice to keep it to myself when it had the potential to help so many who are not faring as well or just want to feel better.

So, I have decided to do a Facebook class on this topic. Monday, March 28th at 8pm, I will  be hosting a class called “Essential Oils That Have Let Me Thrive In Recovery”. I’ll tell you exactly what I’m using, why it’s important for survivors and how it can help you. I’ll post the link below. If you’d like to attend, all you do is follow the link and click “going”.

At the class time, posts will appear 3-4 minutes apart, and you can refresh the page to see each new post. You can ask questions in the post’s comments section. I’ll leave all the posts up for  day or so to let you review or catch up if you can’t be there live. I’m very passionate about essential oils, and I love to teach. Hope to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/events/920824514700789/

 

Joy To The World…Or I May Keep It All For Myself and Give You the Recipe!

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Joy. Such a simple word. Yet it instantly paints a complex mental picture of all that is good in life. The first kiss; a bride’s smile on her wedding day; a baby’s laughter. What power is found in those three little letters! So how do you take all of those intricate nuances and weave them together in a scent?

So far in our essential oil education series, we have focused on science and physical health. Don’t get me wrong, those are vitally important in any discussion of alternative medicine. But what is often overlooked is the emotional component of health.

As someone who has suffered off and on for…well, pretty much most of my life…with intermittent depression, the mental aspect of health is HUGE. It doesn’t matter if my lab numbers are perfect or I look great in my size 4 bikini if I can’t figure out what my mood will be from one week to the next.

I’ve looked high and low for the “thing”. That thing that will finally make my moods even and reliable. Ok, so that thing is called Estrogen! But, that one is out after having breast cancer. So, what’s left?

I’ve struggled a lot with the loss of my hormones due to chemotherapy. A lot. Not with the hot flashes that so many women experience, or the joint pain. No, my struggle has all been in my head.

For a week or so I feel absolutely fantastic, on top of the world, able to leap tall mountains. I finally think to myself “This is it. I’ve beaten it. I can pursue all my plans.” And then, just as quickly as it came, it’s gone. I don’t fall into a dark hole very often, thankfully. I just get a bad case of the “blahs”. I lose my ambition, I no longer want to socialize or make plans for my business. It still catches me by surprise, every month. It’s as if my mind has forgotten that my body is no longer capable of having a monthly cycle.

When I took my first class about Young Living Essential Oils and signed up for my Premium Starter Kit, one of my biggest hopes was to find an oil or oils to alleviate some of these monthly ups and downs. I was impressed with how inhaling the oils sends them straight to the brain within a matter of seconds.

After a little bit of experimentation with my free diffuser, I finally hit on a combination that does wonders for my mood. I told you about my love affair with Peppermint oil in the last post. But…when you add the oil blend Joy to the Peppermint, then you’ve really got something!

What’s in that little bottle of Joy? Are you ready? Joy contains:

  • bergamot
  • ylang ylang
  • geranium
  • lemon
  • coriander
  • tangerine
  • Roman chamomile
  • jasmine
  • palmarosa
  • rose 

Remember when I told you in a previous post that Rose was one of the absolute most expensive essential oils because it takes 5,000 pounds of rose petals to produce one pound of rose oil? That’s right, it’s in Joy. And this comes as part of your Premium Starter Kit with 10 other oils to try.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a big floral girl. Never have been. So, I wasn’t crazy about the smell of Joy at first. That’s right, I kind of poo poo’d the Joy. But let me tell you…it grew on me like ivy on Harvard! When that combo of Peppermint and Joy hits my brain, it doesn’t know what hit it! It is the best feeling I’ve had in a long time. It just plain makes me happier.

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So what is Joy good for?

  • sadness
  • sleep issues
  • emotional imbalance
  • hyperactivity
  • emotional pain/grief
  • defiance or occasional moodiness in children
  • bump up the romance (and I know a few ladies struggling with that one)

This smells so good to many people that they wear it for perfume on the wrists and over the heart. It is also great in homemade lotions and bath salts. Check out this recipe for an uplifting body cream:

HAPPY ALL OVER BODY CREAM

body butter plain

1 cup extra virgin unrefined coconut oil

1 tsp vit E oil (make sure it is not synthetic vit E)

5 drops Young Living Joy Essential Oil

10 drops Young Living Peppermint Essential Oil

Whip coconut oil with a mixer for about 3-5 mins until the consistency resembles icing.

Add in other ingredients and mix well.

Will fit in a half pint jar. Should last until it’s gone. Young Living oils never expire.

This smells Heavenly!!

To get started on changing your family’s health naturally and get some Joy of your own, check out this page.

It Puts The Oil On Its Skin And….It’s Hair Grows Thicker?!?

3 Years Ago

3 Years Ago. Notice That Sexy Bald Spot Up Front

Mother Nature Wants You Dead!

Perhaps some of you out there can relate. As a woman ages becomes wiser, Mother Nature starts to play these cruel little jokes on her just for fun. You see, after 40, you’re washed up! So sad, too bad. Once you’ve birthed them babies, you have no purpose left in the strictly biological sense. You’ve seductively flipped your long, luxurious locks for the last time, sister!

One day, you look in the mirror, and you start to notice just a tiny bit less hair up front than you used to have. It’s subtle at first. You can do a comb-over and keep things in your denial box, for a while. A couple years pass, and there ain’t a comb big enough to cover up that mess! You’re…offcially…old.

Well, that was happening to me at a fairly rapid pace. I would take a shower and have to hold hairs aside so they wouldn’t go down the drain and clog it when they came out. I’m not talking about a handful; just enough to be depressing.

 I Only Thought I Had Bad Hair Until Chemo

Wanna complain to the Universe about your misfortune? Whammo! It can most definitely get worse. After the top picture, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I underwent a year of treatment including double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, followed by reconstruction. All in all, it could have been a far more devastating experience. I took care of myself with food, supplements and exercise to get through it relatively unscathed. One of the worst parts? Losing my hair.

I know, I know, that sounds really shallow. But, not only is a woman’s hair one of her most powerful outward signs of femininity, it’s loss also reminds her daily that she is sick. As long as you have hair on your head, you can be undergoing the most rigourous treatments and still feel normal. When you lose it, you suddenly become a “patient”, someone to be pitied.

Once chemo was over, my hair started to grow back, very curly I might add. At first, it looked like I would end up with better hair than before. No loose locks in the shower, no thin spot up front. I was secretly tickled.

Then, over the past several months, as my hair has gotten longer (and been colored enhanced), I started noticing that my part was getting wider again. And I was getting some hair on my hands when I washed it. “Oh no! Not Again.”

Oil To The Rescue

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I figured it was just my destiny as a menopausal crone to be follicularly challenged. Well, over the last few weeks, I have noticed those little baby hairs coming in fast and furious at my hairline. And…my part is filling in. At first I thought it was just my imagination, but now it’s unmistakable. The only thing I have done differently is diffuse and apply my Young Living Oils daily and drink the super-antioxidant, essential-oil infused Ningxia Red drink by the same company.

You can hear life-changing testimonials from other people, but until you start to experience your own health shifts, they’re just that…stories. I’ve only been using these oils for about a month and a half, and I feel better on the inside, but I’ve been waiting for a sign, an “Aha!” moment. Well today, the outward signs of health are mirroring the changes going on inside. “Aha!”

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I’m putting the cart before the horse a little bit (again, I know!) with this post. We had really just begun our oily education. But I felt compelled to share this with you today.

Coming up..The what, why and how of essential oils. Then we’ll move on to individual oils and their unique uses and health/beauty benefits, including cancer prevention and possibly…adjunct treatment!

If at any point you feel like you’re excited and want to give these a try, e-mail me and I’ll tell you the best and most economical way get started with the company I use for my family and my patients.

Cancer Schmancer: Here’s To Completely Shaking Up 2015!

It’s been a while since I last posted. I guess I had run out of things to say…same old, same old. “I’m trying to find my purpose after my breast cancer diagnosis.” “I can’t seem to shake this funk.” “My hormones are kicking my ass.” I got tired of listening to myself. Then, something came over me….

None of this is ever going to change if you wake up each morning with the same mindset and continue doing what you’ve always done. Not exactly a revelation, but so many times we hear things over and over, and one day they just  click.

So…I’ve decided that enough time in my life has been wasted on regret and negativity. I’ve embarked on a total life overhaul. How?

I’m not sure where or when it happened exactly, but I started reading motivational books, listening to positive affirmations, and generally trying to surround myself with positive influences in the virtual world. I started taking yoga classes, which I find deeply relaxing for the rest of the day. Got stress? Take yoga!

I got myself a business coach because I decided that I have something to offer other people, even if I haven’t completely refined my niche just yet. I know that it will involve holistic health care for women with a specialty in holistic cancer care during treatment and beyond. That one decision to get a coach has profoundly changed my mindset. He is an acupuncturist with a degree in Eastern philosophy. He is incredibly inspiring, not “salesy” and “sleazy”.

Most recently, I came across a phenomenal young man named Hal Elrod who is a life coach and extremely successful motivational speaker. He had a high-paying sales job at 20 years old when he was struck head on at 70 mph by a drunk driver going the wrong way down the interstate. He had to be cut out of the car and was clinically dead for 6 minutes before paramedics could revive him and airlift him to the hospital.

Take a peek at Hal speaking in the video below. You don’t have to watch the whole thing…but I bet you won’t be able to stop.

Told he would probably never walk again and had suffered permanent brain damage, he chose to accept whatever would come without self-pity. He told his father that he either would walk again or “be the happiest guy you know in a wheelchair”.

He did walk again, through sheer determination. He went back to his sales career and shattered his previous records. Eventually, he wrote a book that would become one of the highest rated in Amazon history, at age 32!

The name of that book is “The Miracle Morning”, and I just started reading it. So far, it has been full of great advice and inspiration. The book talks about how all highly successful people wake up early and have a morning routine that sets the tone for the rest of the day. The book spells out 6 points of that routine in detail, all of which take no more than an hour.

Not being a morning person, at all, I’m a little nervous about getting up an hour earlier, but the book has hundreds of testimonials on Amazon about how it has changed lives. I’m really excited to try it. I’m going to finish it this weekend and start on Monday.

The book talks about having an Accountability Partner for the “30 day Life Transformation Challenge”, so if any of you want to do it along with me, let me know. There is a website where you can get some great free stuff and get a feel for the philosophy. You do have to give an e-mail address, just a heads up. No…I don’t work for this guy:)

I know that there may still be ups and downs in my recovery, but I finally feel like I’m on the right path and learning how to enjoy the journey. Happy New Year, my friends!

And That’s A Wrap….(pretty please, fingers crossed..)

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This December will mark one year since I finished active treatment for breast cancer. But for those who have gone down this road, you know that the icing is always a few feet away from the top of the cake. I hope that the end of the year will be only the beginning…the beginning of many Merry Christmases not spent in the shadow of fear…the beginning of conquering demons one by one to make room for happiness…the beginning of a new but different life, one that is authentic and not based on “shoulds” and “laters”.

To that end, I finally decided last week to quit my job all the way. I made a half-hearted attempt at it a month earlier, promising to work as needed, keeping one foot in the door, not burning any bridges, blah…blah…blah. Well, I can see those suckers ablaze in the distance now. And you know what? The most profound sense of peace came over me the day after I did it. It’s as if I had been walking with a splinter in my foot for years, trying to ignore it; eventually, I learned to live with the annoyance. I think I’ll look back on this someday and wonder why the hell I wasted so much time doing something I hated.

Right now, I’m adrift in a way. I’m adhering to the Chinese proverb: “Be like water.” Water doesn’t try to be what it isn’t or force itself into a certain shape. It flows where an opening exists and takes whatever journey it is meant to take. Of course, water doesn’t have bills to pay or children to appease, so there’s that…I can only afford to be water for a few months. But I’m really enjoying this time; I feel a stillness inside that has been absent for so long. I dance with my daughter in the kitchen and sit in my pajamas all day when I want to.

The last piece of my breast cancer odyssey will be complete December 1, when I get my “tats”. There is a lady here in Asheville who does areola/nipple tattooing for free for breast cancer survivors. She does this to honor her mother who died of lymphoma, and it is really a special gift.

I toyed with the idea of getting flowers and vines or some deep words of wisdom to cover the scars, but in the end, I’m a fairly traditional girl. I think that most breast cancer survivors just want their bodies to look somewhat like they did before things went wrong, kind of like a reboot. I’ll be perfectly content to have regular breasts with regular areolas and nipples. They’re not ever going to be the same as they were, but I’m grateful to have them. And they’re not too shabby…

Of course, there will be fairly frequent check-ups for the next year or so. Everyone asks me what the doctors do to see if the cancer has returned. When I answer “nothing”, people look a little uncomfortable and surprised. Unless there is metastatic disease at diagnosis, there’s really nothing to “monitor”. There are blood tests for tumor markers, but these can be elevated for other reasons, so they aren’t regularly done. As a matter of fact, my tumor marker (CA 29-9) was in the normal range with Stage 3 disease. So much for that.

So what do we look for? Mainly symptoms. The most common signs of cancer recurrence are: shortness of breath, constant headaches, unexplained weight loss, and unusual pain. Naturally, survivors are always hyper vigilant when anything out of the ordinary occurs. “Could this be it?” “Why does my back hurt?”

For now, I’m happy to be alive and in good health. I’m toying with the idea of running another half marathon in February. I’m going to start the training and just see how it goes, one day at a time. I don’t want to stress out my healing body. And if I’m being totally honest, that little voice inside is saying this is probably not a great idea just yet. I’m working hard to honor that voice when it speaks. Maybe we can negotiate…

This World Was Never Meant For One As Beautiful As You

October 5, 1987, 8:57 am.  I remember it like it was yesterday. I was hugely pregnant that month in the oppressive heat of a Miami summer. It was an exciting time. I was eagerly awaiting the birth of my first child, the Pope was visiting the city, and I was full of dreams and youthful naïveté.

Early on the morning of October 4, I was lying asleep in my waterbed. I was awakened by a sudden gush of warm water. I woke my husband and told him that the bed had sprung a leak. He took a look and smiled at me. “Why are you smiling? Do something before it gets all over the rug” I pleaded.

“There’s nothing wrong with the bed. Your water just broke.”

I looked down at my pajamas and realized that I was the source of the leak. I was in labor. Not knowing what to expect, I took a shower and waited anxiously for what would come next. In an hour or two, the contractions became uncomfortable and I timed them at five minutes apart. I thought that I was surely pretty far along in the process, so off we went to the hospital.

“One centimeter,” the nurse said matter-of-factly. “You’ve got a long way to go, honey.” The fun was just beginning. I was treated to enemas and botched IV’s, all while being starved and listening to my suite mate scream in agony. “She must be ready to deliver, huh?” I whispered to the nurse. “Nope. She’s only one centimeter dilated, just like you.”

My labor went on at a snail’s pace through the day and into the night. After my family and I had played poker, spades, monopoly and every other distraction we could think of, the decision was made to speed up the contractions with Pitocin. Or as I like to call it, Satanic torture serum.

My labor went from uncomfortable to unbearable in a matter of minutes. The anesthesia team came to top off my epidural, but the medicine wasn’t touching the pain. Every 90 seconds I was gripped by violent, mind-numbing contractions. I felt the urge to push after about 24 hours of labor, but the doctor told me not to. I was only 9 cm dilated, and they were afraid that there might not be room for the baby’s head.

At this point, the medical team was becoming concerned because the baby had been without amniotic fluid for 24 hours. The risk of infection and fetal distress was getting higher.

At hour 25, I finally lost it. I had been stoic to that point, but the pain combined with the stress and lack of sleep did me in. I let out several guttural screams and begged the doctor to make it stop. I had given it my all, but it couldn’t do it anymore. The decision was made to take the baby by C-section.

After 26 grueling hours, I held my baby boy in my arms. I was 20 years old and the reality set in that he was now my responsibility for the rest of my life. He was a beautiful, precious soul. We would have many rough patches and learning experiences along the way, but we grew up together, and we adored each other.

I never imagined that I would lose that beautiful soul one day. I believe that some people are just too special to live in the real world. It takes a toll on them, trying to fit in and do what is expected of them. In the end, they break under the strain, and it is truly our loss.

My beautiful boy would have been 27 today, and we would have had a grand celebration. He loved to have a good time and make people laugh. I wish that I could smile and laugh today, but it still hurts too much. One day I hope that this will be the happy occasion he would have wanted.

Happy Birthday, sweetheart.

THE DANCE

I’ve been doing a rumba for the last 6 years, being drawn in by the seductive rhythms and passionate low pleading of the song. Each time I’ve turned my face away, hand outstretched, yearning to find my own steps, I’ve been forcefully embraced by a silent partner and led back into the choreography which was chosen long ago.

This metaphor could describe many of the layers I’m peeling away from a life which no longer feels authentic. The process is slow…not like ripping off a bandaid, more like wiping the grime off of a window that has been dirty and nagging for years, but has been overlooked for more pressing tasks.

I graduated from chiropractic school in late 2006 and received my license to practice in 2008 after rigorous national and state exams. Since that time, I have seen probably less than 50 different patients. After some initial excitement of setting up a home office and getting all of my ducks in a row, I’ve just never been “ready” to take the plunge and start trying to attract clients. Granted, there have been some really major stumbling blocks in my life during those years, but I almost feel like I’ve used them as an excuse not to practice.

If I’m being honest, the questions began the first time I toured the chiropractic school. Before I started, I was in a graduate program to teach science, but teaching high school was not turning out to be a very attractive proposition. A classmate of mine, who was a chiropractor herself, told me about her work. It paid well, the hours were decent, and there was an opportunity to help a lot of people using my science background.

It alI sounded very promising, and I decided to check out the school.  As I peered in the technique classrooms, some of the students had others lying on benches, practicing moves that were very foreign and strange-looking to me. My stomach tightened a bit. I couldn’t really see myself there. I ignored that feeling, as I had done so many times, and feigned enthusiasm.  In no time at all, I was enrolled and large promissory notes were signed.

I soon met another skeptic with a delightfully sarcastic sense of humor. Several times each semester, we would sit in the gazebo in the middle of campus, making fun of the chiropractic zealots and questioning whether this was the semester we should drop out and find another career or transfer to a less cultist school.

Once we got about halfway through the program, leaving became less and less realistic. We were in too far, both financially and academically. (Few people realize that chiropractors take all of the same courses as med students; they just have shorter “residencies”.) I also had a pride issue at stake. My brother had bet me at the outset that I wouldn’t finish the program. I proved him wrong. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was a win.

Since graduation, I’ve had numerous opportunities to go in with other doctors or rent my own space. I’ve even signed a lease and backed out of the deal. Something just keeps telling me not to commit. I love the idea of helping people and having my own space, but when it comes right down to it, I don’t love chiropractic. I find myself almost giddy when people cancel appointments. Don’t get me wrong, I find tremendous value in chiropractic, and I am an avid patient. I just don’t want to do it to others all day long.

This is probably the first time I have laid my feelings bare to such an extent, even to myself. It’s not easy to say. I have almost $300,000 in student loan debt, which is far more than my mortgage. I feel like I should suck it up and just make the money. But I can’t. Living through cancer has made it impossible to keep doing things I don’t want to do. The “shoulds” are slowly losing the power they have held over me for my entire life.

I don’t know what I”ll do from here, and that’s more than a little scary. My passion is nutrition. I would love to help people get well with lifestyle changes and natural remedies as much as possible, but I’m not sure I can deal with the public day in and day out. I need a lot of time for introspection, or I tend to get overwhelmed. Teaching might be the ultimate solution, maybe with a practice on the side.

I have a lot of good skills that I must now figure out how to weave into a cohesive fabric of occupational fulfillment while somehow still paying the bills Am I being unrealistic, asking for too much, going crazy? Maybe…probably…but I can’t continue to be an impostor in my own life. For better or worse, this is the new me. And I’m learning to like her.