Travel Often

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

Love Deeply, but Laugh Along the Way

"Happiness is only real when shared." - Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

View Marriage as an Adventure

"Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage." ~Finnish Proverb

Fuel your body with GOOD (It's the only one you get)

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. - Arabian Proverb

Open your Soul to Motherhood

A Grand Adventure is About to Begin - Winnie the Pooh

A New Kind of Love is Born

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kid-Approved Dinner with Hidden Veggies

If they can't see them...

Ground Chicken Meatloaf Muffins with Hidden Veggies

I wasn't sure I'd be able to sneak these past my two boys (4 and 2) but I did! I stuffed the meatloaf muffins with carrots and zucchini leftover from the garden. You can use any leftover veggies you have around the house!
Ground Chicken Meatloaf Muffins with hidden veggies


1 pound ground chicken
1/3 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg or 2
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
A couple of handfuls of Ninja'd carrots and zucchini

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, but only use about ¼ of the tomato sauce in the meat mixture.

Press the meat into the muffin cups (you should be able to get eight to 10 out of this amount of meat).

Top with a dollop of tomato sauce on each one.
Cook for 30-35 minutes.

Serve two per person.

Nutritional Info: The calorie count is about 110 per muffin. (Pretty good if you ask me!)

ENJOY and let me know what you think!! If you want more recipes like this one, be sure to LIKE my page. If you're interested in receiving you FREE copy of my 5-Day Clean Eating Plan or if you want to participate in my next FREE Clean Eating bootcamp, apply here!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Healthy Stuffed Italian Shells

Quick Healthy Italian Dinner

Holy moly. These shells are amazing!! If you boil ahead of time, it's a pretty quick dinner!
Stuffed shells

1 lb ground chix breast
1 16 oz cottage cheese
1 pack of organic chopped spinach
1 bag of authentic large pasta shells
1 jar of favorite organic pasta sauce
1 TBS Penzeys Tuscan Sunset Seasoning
1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 400
Boil shells (the authentic ones should take around 20 minutes). Cool.
Heat ground chix in pan until cooked through and season with seasoning. Mix in a bowl with cottage cheese and thawed spinach.
Poor a little sauce to cover bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Stuff shells and top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 2 minutes more.
ENJOY and let me know what you think!! If you want more recipes like this one, be sure to LIKE my page. If you're interested in receiving you FREE copy of my 5-Day Clean Eating Plan or if you want to participate in my next FREE Clean Eating bootcamp, apply here!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mexican Chicken Zucchini Boats

Taking Taco Tuesdays to a New Level

These boats are a healthier spin on chicken burritos, swapping in nutritious zucchini for flour tortillas. A typical flour tortilla contains 25 grams of carbohydrates, 458 milligrams of sodium, and not much else. One zucchini contains 10 grams of carbs, 26 milligrams of sodium, as well as vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Using zucchini as the vessel is also convenient way to watch your portions without having to think too hard: 1 boat = 1 serving.

Mexican Chicken Zucchini Boats

Total Time: 1 hr. 10 min.

Prep Time: 20 min.
Cooking Time: 50 min.
Yield: 8 servings, 1 boat each
21-Day Fix Containers: 1 Green, 1 Red, 1/2 Blue, 1/2 tsp
4 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
4 tsp. olive oil, divided use
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup tomato sauce, no sugar added
2 Tbsp. tomato paste, no sugar added
1 Tbsp. ground chili powder (or 1½ tsp. chili powder and 1½ tsp. ancho chili powder)
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground paprika
3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1⅓ cups corn kernels
1 cup shredded cheddar (or Monterey jack) cheese
2 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1. Preheat oven to 400ยบ F.
2. Using a spoon (or melon baller), scoop pulp out of zucchini to make boats. Place on a large baking sheet. Brush with 1 tsp. oil. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender-crisp.
3. While zucchini is baking, heat remaining 3 tsp. oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
5. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
6. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and paprika. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
7. Add chicken and corn; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from heat.
8. Evenly spoon chicken mixture into zucchini boats. Evenly top with cheese.
9. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until cheese has melted.
Sprinkle evenly with cilantro, tomato, and green onions; serve immediately
ENJOY!! And please come back let me know what you think!
If you want more recipes like this one, be sure to LIKE my page. If you're interested in receiving you FREE copy of my 5-Day Clean Eating Plan or if you want to participate in my next FREE Clean Eating bootcamp, apply here!

Monday, August 22, 2016


Perfect quick salad for an event

This weekend we were invited to a home brew party. Luckily I had all these ingredients at home thanks to our garden. This takes 10 minutes to whip up and is usually a hit. We'll see what these home brewers think! Think it'll pair well with beer? We'll see...
Quinoa Greek Salad in 10 minutes

1 cup quinoa (recommended: Bob's Red Mill)
1½ cup vegetable broth
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded (if preferred) and diced
8 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoons dried dill
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup kalamata olives, halved
4 ounces feta, crumbled or cubed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
In a medium saucepan stir together quinoa and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, stir once, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
Then fluff with a fork.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked quinoa, cucumber, tomatoes, olives and feta.
In a small bowl, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, dill, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Pour over salad and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least a half hour to allow flavors to meld.
ENJOY!! And please come back let me know what you think!
If you want more recipes like this one, be sure to LIKE my page. If you're interested in receiving you FREE copy of my 5-Day Clean Eating Plan or if you want to participate in my next FREE Clean Eating bootcamp, apply here!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Minnesota Staycation for Families with Young Kids

Staycation with Young Kids in Minnesota

Fun things to do close to home

Here are a few of our favorite adventures to do close to home and that don't cost an arm and leg.

1. Berry Picking

We have a few favorites in the area. This year the May frost destroyed any chance at cherry picking but we have been able to get in Strawberries and Blueberries!

We love Little Hill Berry Farm for our blueberries

2. Find an ice cream shop you haven't been to and dig in

We like to find local ice cream shops since they seem to have all kinds of fun flavors. We enjoyed a delicious kid's cone at Cow Interrupted in Farmington.

3. Set up a Tent in the Backyard

We haven't done full on camping yet, but the boys will find tons of entertainment when we set up the tent outside. Daddy and Jackson even spent a night out there together and it went great! Next up...the open woods:)

4. Set up a Slip and Slide and join in

Need I say more? Bring on the giggles! Even better when the PARENTS join in!

5. Fill up a Kiddie Pool

The fun can last for hours. Bring out some squirt guns and it gets better.

6. Go Fishing

There are TONS of lakes around Minnesota. Test your kid's patience but see the pure joy when something bites their line!

7. Find a new trail to take the bike on, catch bugs and critters along the way and have a picnic

We love taking the bike out and discovering new trails in Minnesota! The boys LOVE when we pack a lunch too and set up a picnic in front a park so we can play and then refuel.

8. Discover a new park

We love checking out a new park every Friday and discussing what we liked about that particular park after. Leads to fun adventures and great conversation!

9. Explore a new Splash Pad

There are a TON of fun Splash Pads in Minnesota. One or our favorites is at the Minnesota Zoo!

10. Go Kayaking or Canoeing

We heard that we could rent a canoe for $8 at Lebanon Hills and decided to give it a try. It was AWESOME and so much fun! We'll definitely be doing this again.

What are some of YOUR favorite adventures to do with your kids that is close to home?

For more ideas like these or for healthy recipes and health tips, please be sure to follow my LIKE page at Coach Christie Koester!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Week Three and FINAL RESULTS of the Ultimate Reset

Down 9 pounds. Down from a Size 6 to a Size 4

Wow. 21 days of total CLEAN eating and I'm down nine pounds. I had eight pairs of size 4 pants buried in my closet that all fit now. What an incredible feeling to slip those on. But most importantly I really feel great and that is what I was going for!

There was ONE night during the final week where I had so much energy surging through me that I could not sleep. It was almost like a drank a pot of coffee. I could not settle myself down. Other than that, even a week after completing the 21 Days, I am still sleeping incredibly well. I lost an additional .5 pounds during the 4th week and that is with me adding in foods like grains, legumes, some chocolate and meat. I'm ecstatic.

Read about Week One Here
Read about Week Two Here 

I tried drinking coffee and my body rejected that. My heart went crazy and I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest once again. I was quickly reminded how that felt and I do not want to go back to that. No thanks. So I haven't been able to get myself to drink it. I continue to use a lot of the recipes from the 21-day Ultimate Reset in our weekly meal plan and that is helping a lot. I find myself craving the healthier foods over junk. Probably because I know how I feel when I eat well and fuel my body with foods straight from Mother's Earth vs. foods that have been manipulated or processed by science and man.

I did try a little Culvers after the zoo this past weekend and it did not sit well with me once bit. Not my proudest moment. My heart raced, I felt super sluggish and tired. I even took a nap, which I rarely do and spent the rest of the day feeling thirsty, groggy and swollen - I was retaining water terribly.

Would I do this again? In a heartbeat!! I was overwhelmed that first week but I realize that's how I had been feeling about EVERYTHING in life and I had gotten to a point where I was desperately seeking something that would help take that pressure and anxiety away that I had been feeling for months. Nothing seemed to be working anymore. This did the trick! Plus, it helped me get my love of meal planning and prepping back. I was getting burned out on trying to figure out what to make week after week. I also added in daily words of affirmations, massages, chiropractic adjustments, meditation, lots of walking and all that water and good food and it's amazing what that did for me - what this program did for me!!

I was hoping my Optic Neuritis would magically get better, but my eye is the same. My guess is if I continue to treat my body right, maybe my chances are better for a quicker recovery. Fingers crossed.

I've been sharing a lot of the recipes I tried during the 21 Day Ultimate Reset over at my Like Page. Be sure to like my page for more recipes or comment, like and share any of the posts.


I'd give myself a 9.5. I do miss the fitness part but all that walking and stretching was pretty great!



Yes. I found myself wanting a bite of my kids foods more than just once or twice. Or I wanted a cracker or 10 a lot. I also tend to want to eat really fast during meals because someone always needs something. I tried to slow down and remind myself I deserve to have a nice meal too and that I won't die if I don't eat something the minute I start to feel hungry. That was a big thing for me. I have this idea in my head that I will pass out if I don't eat when I'm hungry. Not true.  




10. I am back to brain dumping everything I'd like to do, then writing them out in a level of importance and getting a handful of stuff done. Rather than having that brain fog and freezing and doing nothing at all, which would create more anxiety. 



If I get over 6 hours and 45 minutes of good sleep, yes. Anything less and the answer is NO.


The day I had a few sips of coffee, my headache came back, otherwise I don't!

No. I feel really good!


If you're looking for that change and are ready to commit, I'd love to work with you! Take a moment to fill out this form so I can get to know you and your goals better!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Ultimate Reset WEEK TWO

Image a weight being lifted off your chest and being able to sleep rock solid at night. Yeah. That’s what’s going on with me. This whole ultimate reset has done WONDERS for me. Not only do I feel more Zen and at peace with everything, the heavy pressure and anxiety has lifted, and my tight pants from two weeks ago are now LOOSE (total bonus!). I truly feel amazing from the inside out.

Best of all, my confidence has grown. I feel like I have broken out of this shell I’ve been wrapping myself in. It’s hard to explain because it’s not like I’m a super shy person—I enjoy  building relationships and being real with others—but I do swallow my emotions. I honestly didn’t think I was so caged up inside. I honestly think it boils down to control. I like to be in control of things and there were so many things happening this past year that I had no control over and that freaked me out. So I kept internalizing and would get distracted, so there was nowhere for those “emotions”/”feelings” to go.

This Reset has helped me appreciate who I am as a person, has shown me what I’m capable of and has made me see that holding things in is actual a disservice to my body and those around me. I simply need to be me, enjoy life and fuel up my tank with positivity and gratitude as much as I can FIRST before I start giving.

I've been waking up early and I start off by drinking 20 ounces of water and taking supplements at the same time each day and on an empty stomach. There are 6 different kinds of supplements. These supplements consist of ingredients like Pink Himalayan salt, aloe vera, curcumin, milk thistle, and probiotics to name a few. Nothing strange or that I haven’t heard of and all straight from Mother Earth—like all the foods in this program. I still can’t believe I haven’t sneaked a cracker or piece of chocolate or sip of beer this entire time. I am so much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.

Meal prepping for everyone has been tough though. I'm not going to lie. I have had to stop myself from grabbing a cracker or finishing food off my kid’s plates….or licking a spoon. That part has been tough. Karl brought home pizza and cookies on Saturday night. That was challenging. The whole house smelled incredible but I also reminded myself, if I wanted that cookie SOOO bad, I could have it after the 21 days. And then I was fine.

After I drink my mineralized distilled water upon waking in the morning, I prop my feet up, lie on my back and breathe. I breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5, exhale for 5 seconds and then pause for 5 seconds. I do this for 5 minutes. Then I do light yoga stretching. This gets my energy flowing. I get ready in the bathroom and read daily affirmations that I taped to the mirror. This helps remind me WHY I’m doing this and WHAT is important in my life and that I AM enough to everyone around me. It helps me stay focused and grounded.

On my way in to work and on my way home, I have been listing to Outperform the Norm, which has been such a good read for me. The author (from Minnesota) hits home on ALL areas of health. From nutrition to fitness to mindset and applying all of this into your daily life. If you're not feeling your best, how can you DO your best? 

I have been following the guide to a T! This is crazy to me since I never used to miss a day eating dark chocolate and I usually go a bit crazy on the weekends with naughty foods. I try to follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to eating, but we had a couple stressful months and I was eating more 60/40 and my body was screaming at me.

Entering the second week (called the Release phase), we eliminated meat, eggs and dairy. I’m not going to lie. I was scared. In the guide we have our meals planned out for us – we just need to get to the store, prep the food and enjoy! All the recipes are in the back. I share them on my Like Page (follow me there!). 

I have tried so many new types of foods and have prepared food in different ways, which helps me because I was getting burned out with meal planning for the entire family before I started. This has just helped put that extra bounce in my step and I appreciate food SO much more and realize how lucky we are that we GET all the options we do. What we put in our bodies really determine a lot!
During the final week we focus on plant based nutrition. So we eliminate grains and legumes. It’s simply fruits and vegetables. Will I be able to do it?

I’m entering the third week 6.5 pounds lighter and feeling so great! I can’t wait to see what’s in store that third week.

What would be the hardest food for you to eliminate from your diet right now if you had to? 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Week One on the Ultimate Reset

Five Pounds...GONE!

One week down of the Ultimate Reset and I have lost 5 pounds. Say what? I can’t even believe it. But at the same time I can ...with the amount of healthy foods I have been consuming.

My goal starting this detox wasn’t to lose a bunch of weight, though I’ll be OK with a few pounds gone. I have a stack of pants in my closet that just don’t want to fit right.

Truthfully, the main reason I did this was to FEEL good on the inside. Karl reminded me several times that I already eat healthy and my insides are fine, did I really have to do this detox? 

Starting Weight: 157
Day 7 Weight: 152

My answer: YES.

In the pictures you can’t tell much of a difference. Or at least I can’t tell. However, the scale doesn't define us. But I can see why people would give up if they CAN'T SEE a difference in themselves when they put so much work and time into making a change. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Healthy changes take days upon days of hard work and dedication. And let me tell you, one week in and I feel amazing. I’m going with that!

I had been feeling so much brain fog, I was jumpy at times and anxious a lot, full of worry and I’d wake at night almost in a panic with all the thoughts racing through my brain. I would toss and turn and dwell on things I didn’t need to be worrying about but I could not release them. I’d work out, but I still felt tired though I had energy. I’m not sure that makes sense but it was a different sort of exhaustion. More like a “burned out” feeling. I felt stuck. Almost frozen because there was so much going on that I didn’t even know where to begin. And it kept coming. But by doing nothing, I created a huge amount of pressure on my chest. And I constantly had to remind myself to breathe.

Starting Weight: 157
Day 7 Weight: 152

With the Ultimate Reset, you get a sweet booklet that has everything in it. Grocery lists, your meal plan for the week and recipes. It’s THE best guide EVER. You head off to the health food stores and fill up your cart with a ton of great organic healthy eats. You learn about WHY you are doing this and what it will do for you, what you can expect and why these foods are the chosen ones. There are three phases. Week One - Reclaim. Week Two - Release. Week Three - Restore. 

What I like best is in the booklet, there is a section on “This is Me Now”. It’s a place to journal the day you start and on day 21.


I’d give myself an 8. I get up early to workout. I pretty much follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to nutrition, but I don’t get the greatest sleep and stress seems to be a constant thing in my life right now. And I let it eat at me. Why? 

No. I'm pretty good!


Eating has been stressful for me. Kids are usual screaming or crying and I find myself dreading it. I love preparing the food for everyone but when it gets flung across the room and Nathan screams his brains out and Jackson cries and tells me it’s “yucky”, that causes stress. It's not a fun time. So I find myself forcing food down my throat at a crazy fast speed. 




8. I have a LOT of energy, but I think I’m hovering around the “burnt” out energy levels now. I never shut off. I keep going and I want to find the part of me that can relax.

YES. I will have coffee in the morning on my drive in. Do I ever finish my coffee? No. Is it usually hot? No. Do I spill it? Yes. 

I can fall asleep in a second. But I wake up often. I toss and turn. I worry. I feel anxious. I have lots of thoughts going on in my head. Ideas. Stories. Memories. Crazy dreams.

If I get over 6 hours and 45 minutes of good sleep, yes. Anything less and the answer is NO.

I have this strange rash on my right cheek. And hard zits like I used to get my freshman year in college.

Not too often.

All the time.

No. This makes me feel panicky because I honestly can’t focus for a second.

My focus is so wonky right now. I am way too anxious. I have never done a detox for the fear of starving myself. I need a change. I want to feel awesome. I want to prove to myself I can do this. I want to see if this will help my optic neuritis. If this will help my stress levels. Just want to be the best mom and wife.

I want to feel like me again. Not sweat the small stuff.  I want to feel refreshed, healthy from the inside out, determined to take on the day and laugh throughout the day. ENJOY every day. Feel rested and calm but still have that fire in my belly to knock the socks off my dreams.  Not feel like I need to take on other’s problems and just simply focus on how grateful I am for this life I have been blessed with. Be more mindful and simply just love! I want to express my emotions better too. When something is on my mind, I just want to get it out rather than holding it in. I have this thing of keeping in any sadness/frustration I feel. Like when my grandparents died, I felt like life just kept going and I had to be done feeling sad. 


Not asking for help enough. Putting on my oxygen mask last, not first. Not taking enough time for me to breathe. Not saying affirmations enough. Complicating everything rather than simplifying. Spreading myself too thin. Need to be better at communicating how I’m feeling with others rather than holding it in until I'm ready to blow. 

The food has been incredible!! I thought it'd be tasteless. I'd be starving. My whole life would revolve around what I was eating and when. It hasn't been that way. I'm not going to lie and say there isn't prep work involved. I had to do that in pockets of time on the weekends but just like anything, you start to get the hang of it. You just need to give it a TRY! I will post more food in the recap of WEEK TWO! 

Drinking distilled water. I never really knew that was the most purest form of water. I have cooked and baked with and only drank distilled water! Nuts, huh? But perhaps this is why my skin is so great right now? 

The fruit for breakfast. I LOVE fruit but I feel like I need protein. I'm super hungry right after breakfast until lunch time. I'm trusting the process though. After all, it's only 21 Days and I probably will be adding more protein back into my breakfast and another protein filled snack before lunch once this is done. For now, I can get my mind right and breathe through it. And I drink a LOT of water!! Distilled water, that is.

AMAZING!!! I haven't slept this hard and good in years. I feel incredibly rested. My rash on my face has cleared up. I have little anxiety. The brain fog is gone. I had a couple rough days with detox headaches but for the most part I feel STRONG. Love feeling like this! I wake up and drink 12 ounces of water right away and I sit and breathe for 5 minutes. I do words of affirmations and I stretch. Doing this has been so great for me!

I'm SO glad I'm giving this Reset a try. I can't wait to see my results after Week 2!! I'm super grateful that I am a Beachbody coach so I hold myself accountable to my own health and fitness and I get to try out all these amazing programs and products AND get the amazing discount too!! Just knowing that we get to EAT normal foods and not have to do all this crazy wonky stuff you see how there (wraps, pills, patches, double shakes for days), makes me feel proud. If I wasn't a coach, I probably would have kept going like I was and would have forgotten how good it feels to be healthy from the inside out!!

Have you done a detox before? Were you happy with the results? If you're interested in learning more about the Ultimate Reset or Coaching, please click here.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

When the eye doctor says...."I Think You Have MS."

“I think you have MS.” The eye doctor looked at me with concern.

“What?” But I'm healthy, I thought. By then, the world had already sucked me into a vortex far away from anything and anyone. I vaguely remember Nathan pulling out all the napkins and Kleenex from the doctor’s office garbage can and tugging out all the electrical cords from the outlets. I did nothing. The eye doctor became Nathan's makeshift babysitter. 

Swallowing was hard. My heart pounded in my ears. I shook my head to rattle the dark thoughts bouncing around. “What? Does this mean there could be a tumor up there?” I squeaked out. I thought of my dear friend Kathy who lost her life in short 15 months after being diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme. Her diagnoses started all because she had a dark curtain in the upper quadrant of both her eyes.

So this is how she felt… My heart sank.

“I’m going to run a series of more tests, but everything you are telling me points to MS. The good thing is you didn’t have a stroke. You do not have a detached retina.”

The room started spinning. I stared at Nathan who was now spilling cheerios everywhere and marching all over them. I blinked. What does this mean? I won’t get to see him grow up? My kids won’t have a mom anymore? I’ll be in a wheelchair? I will start falling apart limb by limb? Karl will be burdened with taking care of me?

A little back story... On Sunday, March 13, I woke with a blur in my left eye. I thought maybe it was one of those floaters or maybe I had extra goop building in my eye. After all, both boys were sick with bad colds. I mentioned to Karl that something was blocking my vision that afternoon and that was it. Monday came and it felt like there was a curtain over my left eye. What was going on? Why did I keep seeing this weird gray overlay? Why did it hurt to move my eye suddenly to the left? I mentioned it to Karl and he snapped at me that I needed to get in the doctor right away but that I’m too stubborn to do anything about it. I didn't even get defensive. He's right. Plus, he too had a dear friend pass away from glioblastoma multiforme, leaving behind two young kids. I could hear the fear in his voice. I knew his mind was going to where mine had.

On Tuesday, my intuition kicked in as I was driving home from work and everything looked so blurry. That voice that pushes me to do things I fear the most reared its head. “YOU HAVE TO GO IN. THIS ISN’T NORMAL.”

I wanted to ignore. I just wanted normal. But it’s hard to ignore when I look out of my eyes all day long. I was constantly reminded something wasn’t right. Something was going on inside my brain.

It had to be stress. Right? Stress does crazy things. Both my grandparents died back to back and I still haven’t fully grieved them. Cuz as a mom when do I ever get to simply BE and THINK? I spent a solid 12 months of not sleeping. The last 3 weeks I was up 3-5 times a night with a teething toddler. We’d just lost an hour of sleep with daylight savings. I had huge projects going on at work, I'm a Beachbody coach to an amazing 2 star Premiere team and my mom just had a double mastectomy and was recovering at home and I couldn’t be there. I felt the heaviness of stress on my chest for months. Was it just that?

The fact my eyeball hurt to move told me otherwise. Eyeballs don’t hurt when you’re stressed out. Do they? I closed my eyes that night and bright blue lights started zipping around my left eye. And then a bright white light followed. It reminded me of the light I saw when I had a dream of my grandpa and he told me his time was coming. Was this a sign? Was my time coming? 

I woke up on Wednesday and felt like I was surrendering. Nathan was sick and I stayed home with him. I knew this meant my projects at work would be pushed behind even more, but by this point, I could barely focus on anything anyway. Plus, any chance I can get with my boys, I'm on it.

My eyesight was getting worse and I asked Karl if my eye doctor was still covered under our new insurance. I would try to get in since I was already taking the day off. Karl took it one step further and got me in with his eye doctor immediately.

I thought maybe I’d do one eye test and they'd know. I sat Nathan on my lap and went through 3 hours of tests that morning. Each one scared me more. I couldn’t see the blinking lights they were showing me in my left eye. My anxiety grew. What was going on? The eye doctor examined and re-examined my eyes. He dilated them. I never once wore contacts in my life, and the glasses I did wear back in the day were more for the “cool” factor and for a stigmatism that was corrected 5 years ago. When I went to my eye doctor in the fall, I was told my vision was even better than 2 years ago. Seriously, what was going on?

He came back in with my test results. “The good news is your actual eyeballs are healthy and perfect. However, you have this thing called Optic Neuritis. Your latest vision test confirms you are unable to see clearly out of your bottom right quadrant of your left eye. Your optic nerve is inflamed and usually optic neuritis is the first sign of MS.”

“What? MS? So it’s not a tumor?” (Why, oh, why did my mind keep going down this road?)

“There are no tumors that I can see in your eye but this is more nerve and brain related and I need to send you to a doctor at the U of M to get a MRI done. I talked to a neurologist already and he agrees with me that you have the classic signs of optic neuritis. They don’t know why it happens. It just does. You didn't do anything wrong. You have all the symptoms and you’re a female between the ages it normally develops.”

I blinked. My brain could not process what was going on. By now Nathan was licking the germ infested toys in the office. All I could do was stare at the floor. The admin assistant was able to get me an appointment but not for another 13 days!!!! I had to wait 13 days to figure out what was going on with my vision? Maybe a tiny part of me was comforted because if this was truly urgent, they would have gotten me in immediately, right?

I got in my car. My head was buzzing. I couldn’t make out words or names and numbers on my phone because I was still dilated and tears flooded my eyes. Nathan was now crying and fussy because we missed lunch and were right in the middle of nap. For one minute I wanted to just have a BREAK from it all. I called Karl and started crying. What was going on with me? Why was this happening? It was Karl’s birthday and I was telling him I might have MS. I didn’t want to tell him but I knew I couldn’t tell my mom. She needed to heal from her surgery. She did not need to worry about me now too. Maybe I'd wake up and everything would be fine?  

For the next several days, I was wound up so tight. My eyesight never changed, which fueled my anxiety. Why was my eye like this? I can say my perspective changed. I looked at everything and everyone differently. I let things go - things like food stuck on the floor and toys scattered all over the kitchen table. I hugged tighter. I snuggled in closer. I took naps. I relaxed on the couch and watched more TV (totally hooked on The Office right now. Thanks to Karl. I needed something funny to focus on) and wrapped myself in my prayer shawl. I begged God to let everything be OK. I prayed and prayed and talked to him and cried in silence. What did this all mean? I tried to stay away from Google but before I knew it according to my symptoms, I had a tumor, leukemia and MS with Lupus.

I tried working out because that has always been my saving grace and my therapy, but my eyesight would get worse every time my body temperature rose and it would create a greater anxiety in me. Was I harming my body? 

By now my mom knew what was going on. I had my preventative care appointment and she was curious as I was how things would turn out. Maybe something would come up there. I told my doctor what was going on and she was just as confused as I was. She ran extra blood work and the results were emailed to me throughout the day via MyChart. Every new test that came through, and I was Googling what organ was tied with the results. Everything was NORMAL. My potassium was a little low and my white blood count came in just under the standard numbers but the doctor didn’t see concern for that. What did a lower count mean, anyway?  I jumped on Google and before I knew it I had a rare form of cancer.

I needed to STOP.

From that point on, somehow I was able to take any negative thought and send it right to God. There was no other option but to do that unless I wanted to burn a hole in my stomach with the amount of worry I felt. I had to work hard at it but that’s what helped me get through the next several days. I figured God already had a plan laid out for me and I had to trust him. I had to trust there was a reason this was going on and I needed to be OK with not having answers.

The 29th came and Karl and I drove to the U of M together. “Isn’t it amazing what a miracle our bodies really are? We don’t realize how amazing we have it until something goes wrong.” I choked down those words. Karl nodded and gripped the steering wheel tighter. I knew how I was feeling. I could only imagine what was going on in his mind since I’ve always been considered the positive one. I was so thankful he was there. I even mentioned that I felt like a college student again walking around campus next to him. We held hands. When was the last time we held hands?

It felt nice.

I filled out the paperwork and did another series of eye exams. My vision in my left eye was so blurry by now. I could barely make out the tiny letters in the top row of the eye chart. I had to work extra hard at reading them. I panicked.

We met with Dr. Lee and he asked me questions and examined my eyes. He too asked if he could dilate them. He studied them and confirmed that I do in fact have optic neuritis. He held up a bright red folder and the color changed to a burnt orange when I looked out of my left eye. That didn’t happen before when the first eye doctor did that test. My heart raced and palms got sweaty. Was I going downhill fast? 

Dr. Lee laid it out for us. “You have optic neuritis. To be diagnosed with MS you need two of the major symptoms. You have one of them, which is optic neuritis. Now, if your MRI comes back with white matter on it, you are at 75% risk for developing MS and will need to take preventative measures. This would mean you will meet with a neurologist and then decide if you want to get on the medicine that prevents MS. It’s just like someone who knows they have the BRCA1 and 2 genes deciding to get a double mastectomy because the chances of them developing breast cancer are so high. Now, if there is NO white matter, your chance of developing MS is 25% and you get to come back and see me in four weeks. You can also schedule another MRI in 6 months and schedule to get one every year if you want. Otherwise, your vision in your left eye usually will get worse before it gets better and it’ll take around 3 months to be restored. I also think you have something called Uhtoff’s. You have a faulty nerve wire in your eye. That might never be repaired so I want you to be prepared for that. When your body gets hot, you lose some of your vision and then it gets better when you cool back down. You are not harming your body by working out or taking showers. Do you have any questions for me?”

I didn’t. Other than this being a possible tumor. He told me it'd be SO rare for that even happening because all my symptoms point to MS, but he couldn't say never. He used some animal analogy they use in the healthcare field to help calm me and I figured he was probably right. There would be more symptoms if I had a tumor. By now I just wanted to know there was NO white matter on my brain and that I’d be OK. They call this idiopathic optic neuritis - there really isn't a reason why it happens. 

My MRI was scheduled for 2 p.m. I sat in the tube and watched the tech's face reading my scan through the mirror. Did he look shocked? Did he seem concerned? He seemed to be enjoying a pop... You wouldn't enjoy a pop if someone's brain was lighting up with white dots, right? After 15 minutes, he pulled me out of the tube and added dye to my arm. I went back in for another 12 minutes. Taylor Swift sang in my ear and I kept on talking to God. Maybe he wants me to see how truly powerful my mind can be? I had myself believing the worst case scenario. If I can channel all the negative thoughts I have into positive ones, I will be unstoppable. If I can just learn to trust him always and continue to put my faith in him, I will have the peace I need to simply ENJOY this amazing life. But why IS LETTING GO and GIVING TO GOD SO HARD to do though? 

My MRI was over. Now I would wait for the call. I wanted to enjoy the rest of my day but we were out of milk and eggs! So off to Costco I went. It helped keep me distracted.

At 5 p.m. my phone rang. “It’s Dr. Lee. Your MRI is NORMAL. Everything looks great. I will see you in four weeks to see where your eye is at.”

I melted to the floor. I cried with relief. I will BE OKAY. Sure there is still that small chance for things to happen but in my mind, I have my second chance. THANK YOU GOD! It’s time to get busy living!  

Ever have something funky happen to your eye? 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What Comes with Breast Cancer?

I have started this blog post a bunch, but then I stop.
Every. Single. Time.
When I don’t have control over things, it feels uncomfortable - scary at times - and so much easier to ignore. But when cancer is involved, you can’t just pretend it’s not there.
My mom and my sweet lil niece Audrey

Most of you have been following my mom’s journey with breast cancer. It all happened so fast and caught us off guard. But statistics are now showing that we’re all going to be faced with cancer at some point in our lives. The fact that she’s made it into her 60s without any history up until this point "is great", according to the doctor.
I lose my breath at the thought of all this - cancer feels like it's taking over at times - but let me continue on. 
A month ago, my mom had an appointment with a new surgeon who would do another lumpectomy. She would cut into my mom’s left breast, remove and mark more positive margins and remove and test three lymph nodes. If there was cancer detected in any of the lymph nodes, they’d keep testing until the last lymph node showed no sign of cancer.
The first lumpectomy my mom had, the surgeon removed all the breast cancer and positive margins but didn’t mark where he collected the positive margins from. During a lumpectomy, the surgeon’s goal is to take out all the breast cancer, plus a rim of normal tissue around it. This is to be sure all the cancer has been removed.

During or after surgery, a pathologist looks at the tissue that’s been removed to make sure there are no cancer cells in the margin. A clear, negative, or clean margin means there are no cancer cells at the outer edge of tissue that was removed. A positive margin means that cancer cells come right out to the edge of the removed tissue and have ink on them. 
My mom was able to find out that day with the first surgeon that there were stage 0 and 1 cells in the tumor that was removed from her left breast. They just need to find out what grade. The grade would determine how fast this cancer was growing. When those results came back, my mom found out her cancer was a grade 1 – the slowest growing. She had her age and post-menopausal factor to thank for that. And he was sure he had removed all the cancer.
The next step was to meet with an oncologist and radiologist, which she did and loved. After speaking to the radiologist, she suggested my mom meet with a female surgeon who wanted to test her lymph nodes to be safe.
This is when she found out the positive margins weren’t marked specifically so she would also have to do another lumpectomy. So during my mom's second lumpectomy, the surgeon ran the lymph nodes off for testing while my mom was under. No further cancer of any form was detected in any of the lymph nodes. GREAT NEWS!!!
The surgeon sent extra breast tissue off to the Mayo to ensure there were no more cancer cells in the breast tissue. Seemed like everything was going to turn out just fine after all. Whew.
My parents left in good spirits since the news of the lymph nodes was great! But my poor mom was once again in pain and learned she would never be able to get her blood pressure taken from her left arm again or get blood drawn because they had removed lymph nodes from her armpit. Hearing this bummed me out. It’s the little things, I guess. Just one of the things we take for granted.

My mom was to REST and go back a week later and discuss possible radiation treatments and a certain medication she could take. Not the best of best news, but so much better than what could be, right? We will take it! My mom went home but never handles medication well and spent the evening throwing up.  We'e very much alike when it comes to medications. Our bodies just don’t handle.
I was feeling so guilty that I wasn’t with her because I was in California for a Beachbody Coaching Leadership Retreat and it took every OUNCE of me to leave my boys, let alone be even more miles away from her during this surgery. My anxiety levels were at an ALL-TIME HIGH. So when I got the good news, I felt like everything was right with the world and I could breathe a little more.
A week went by and my mom decided that she’d go forward with radiation.  But when she sat with the surgeon she didn’t expect the news she got. The tissue that was removed came back with some stage 0 (pre cancer) and some stage 1 cancer cells. Nooooooooo!! So that meant there were still cancer cells growing in her breast. I can only imagine what my parents felt, let alone my mom. Defeated? Frustration? Shock? Fear?
The surgeon suggested a mastectomy, followed by possible chemo. And then gave my mom some options. She could go ahead and get a mastectomy and leave it at that and look for a prosthetic boob or find an entire new surgeon and get the mastectomy and get reconstructive surgery. That specific hospital did not offer reconstructive surgery.
My mom went home stunned. She’d have to go through even MORE? What if this was just the beginning? What if her time here was shorter than she thought? What if she removed her breasts and the cancer had nowhere to go and ended up in a new spot? What if… What if…
(I only know these thoughts because she shared them with me in a moment on the phone. I appreciated her vulnerability but I don’t think I slept very much that night. Things became very real.)

She spent time looking at her chest in the mirror apologizing to her smaller breasts for all the times she criticized them for being less than perfect. She spent time visualizing her body without her most feminine parts in hopes maybe this would prepare her better.

Personally, I’m not sure how to prepare yourself for losing a part of you. I keep thinking what if someone said, well, I’m just going to take a couple fingers or toes? Is that different than removing your breasts? No matter what part of our body, they are all part of who we are.  
So my mom gathered all her results and went to a new hospital that offered a team of doctors for both the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery so she can get it all done at once. She met with the surgeon and plastic surgeon and felt really good with how thorough they were with her. They also said the chance of the other breast getting cancer is around 20%. So my mom is opting for a double mastectomy. The surgery should last around five hours and it will be painful – she was given an instructional video to watch.
She has met with a new oncologist (who she loved and made eye contact the entire time) who says after her breasts are removed, she will not need further treatment. Her double mastectomy, followed by reconstructive surgery, is scheduled in early March. 

So here’s to more prayers, lots of them, please!! For a healthy, quick recovery.
This is how I’ve been praying, “God. Please give my mom the wisdom and strength to make the right choices for herself so she will live out the healthiest and longest, most joyful life possible. Lead her to the right team of doctors to help her through this and comfort her through this recovery period. Fill her with sunshine and shoot sunbeams throughout her body to melt away any negativity, sadness, uncertainty, or bad cells that do not belong. Keep her strong. Fill her with hope and love daily. Hold her in the palm of your hands. I trust you. Amen.”