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.

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.”

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Guilt-Free, No-Bake Cookie Dough Treat

Did someone say cookie dough?

You're going to love this quick NO BAKE healthier option.


2 scoops of vanilla Shakeology (I used two individual packs. Shakeology does not contain artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners or soy)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBS unsweetened almond milk
2/3 cups of real almond butter
as many semi sweet chocolate chips as you'd like


Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix with hands. Roll into tiny balls and stick in fridge!


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