Monday, October 29, 2012

To Live

Sometimes I forget I had cancer.  I use the word, "had" because I am hopeful that it will never come back!  I have days where I almost forget what I have been through, days where the "C" word doesn't even pop into my mind at all (tender mercy!).
I can't decide if that's a blessing or a curse.
One one end, it's really quite a blessing to not have my world and thoughts "revolve" around cancer, my mortality, and the unknown future.  To live a "normal" life again is such a gift!
But on the other end, sometimes I wonder, "Do I just not live in reality?",  "Is the cancer going to return eventually, only to take my life?"  Maybe I should think about it more often, not to dwell on the negative emotions, but just to remind myself not only what I've been through and still going through.  Maybe it's good to always prepare oneself for the worse, right?!
I used to say that all I wanted was to be a survivor.
But there really is a difference between surviving and LIVING.  To live implies, that one is living life to the fullest, enjoying every minute of it, even the ups and downs.  Right now, that is what I'm trying to do, I guess.  I just want to live my life. I want to be around to see my 40th birthday, I want to cheer on my boys at their games, I want to see them graduate from high school, I want to see them off on their missions, go to college, get married, and someday have GRANDBABIES! I want to be with my husband, by his side, and continue building our life together, making adventures, and tackling the challenges in life.
There is so much to live for.
May we all not just survive, but LIVE.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Common Denominators

I remember at one point a couple of years ago asking my doctor, "What do you feel are the common denominators in your patients that survived?"  I knew this was a loaded question perhaps, and of course, subjective, but my curious nature couldn't help but inquire.
His response?  "Well, I think it might be a lot of things, but a positive attitude gets you far."
At the time, I was satisfied with his answer (because it made sense to me), but then I decided to do a little of my own research in finding out what other possible "common denominators" there might be between cancer survivors.
Now, my conclusion (after talking to lots of cancer survivors)...And I admit is totally MY own opinion.  I have met a lot of cancer survivors, and many who were given a poor prognosis just like me.  Upon talking to them and getting to hear their stories, I believe that my doctor is right, attitude is everything.
People who ignore the statistics, I think, in general fare better.
People who maintain a positive outlook on life and throughout their challenges, in my opinion, often do better than those who have a poor attitude.
Those that don't give up because that isn't even an option, live longer.
But there's more.  I think there are some other common denominators between cancer survivors:
1.  They are their own best advocates when it comes to their health care.
2.  They have a good support network.
3.  They believe in a God or some "supreme being" and exercise their faith.
4.  They do everything they can to have success with treatments.  They adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Or maybe that means "thinking outside of the box" and combining uncoventional with conventional treatments.
5.  They take risks (such as choosing a cutting-edge chinical trial).
6.  They enjoy life despite their challenges and set-backs.
7.  They are happy.
8.  They allow others to help and support them when times call for it--physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
9.  They take care of themselves, eating healthy and exercising.
10.  Last but not least, they pray.  The power of prayer is a real!
I'm sure there are many more common denominators.  I know that even if one has all of these attributes it doesn't mean they will get the desired outcome, but I don't think they hurt either!
What has helped you survive cancer?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ryan Reynolds melanoma PSA

Do you know what the sun and Ryan Reynolds have in common?
They are both HOT.
On the Style network, Ryan Reynolds recently did a PSA for melanoma awareness. It's pretty freakin' awesome.  Style also has a ton of melanoma facts and prevention tips on their website.  To learn more go here.
You must watch this PSA.  Not only because Ryan Reynolds is in it (wink, wink), but because this message is important and could save your life.
To watch, go here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Before and After

I have learned in my life that our lives really are divided into different "chapters", as this quote implies.  Beginnings, endings and lots of "middle parts".  When I look at my life, I can "break" it into these "before" and "after" moments, and all of them were pivotal turning points in my life.
First there was my childhood/adolescent years, where I was growing, learning, and being cared for by my parents.  Then came my college years when I was on my own, free to do what I please, learning about myself, and figuring out what I wanted in life.  Those years were great experiences, as it was during those times that I really found out who I was.  Next came marriage which was probably the most pivotal point in my life up to that point.  Instead of being on your own, now you have a partner that you have chosen to commit yourself to and share your life with.  I didn't anticipate that my life would get better after marriage, but it did.  I was happy on my own, but with my husband, I was happier and more complete, if that was even possible.  Sure, we had our challenges as newlyweds, but we grew more in love over those first few years and shared some amazing, memorable times together.  We grew together and truly became "companions" to one another.
Next to getting married, having children was the next most pivotal moment in our lives. There was "before" kids and then "after" kids.  Our life changed even more once we brought children into the world.  And even though I feared losing our independence and freedom once we had kids, our world changed for the better.  Parenthood made us more selfless, more empathetic, more loving, more protective, more cautious, and more patient.  I remember thinking the first few months of our first son's life, "What did we do before we had kids?"  We just couldn't imagine our lives without our kids.
The next "before" and "after" moment of my life occurred when I was diagnosed with cancer.  There was before cancer--I often took my health and life for granted, never thinking that I, of all people, would get cancer at my young age.  The thought just never crossed my mind.  I was too busy planning for the future, running in 10 different directions all at once, taking care of our family, stressing over things like finances, raising our boys, and where we would be in 5, 10 years.
After cancer, I felt like a different, more confident and self-assured person.  I have a greater perspective, I appreciate life more, I enjoy the simpler things in life, I have more patience and humility, I have more trust and faith in God, and most importantly, I have more love and compassion for others. 
 Can cancer be a blessing? For me, it was.
Cancer truly changed my life for the better.  It transformed me and it made me a stronger person.  I am grateful for this new chapter in my life--my life after cancer. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Letting Go....

I have learned this to be true in my life.  Letting go of our burdens (whether physical or mental) is a necessity to move forward in life and be happy and present.  To feel that weight lifted off our shoulders when we are able to do so is both FREEING and EMPOWERING.
Letting go is NOT giving up, it is realizing that there are more important things to worry about it in life than the things that we can't control or change in our life.
I am also learning better to take my heavy burdens to the Lord better.  That is the reason He is there for us, to take our burdens and make them light.  We simply just have to let Him.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My "Tool belt"

Occasionally, someone will ask me how I "beat" Stage 4 Melanoma.  First of all, I don't think of it that way.  I don't think I will ever say those words because one, it can always come back ANYTIME, and two, when it's all said and done, God is in control of my life, not me.
BUT, there are some things or "tools" that I believe helped me get to remission and I call them my "tool belt".  I think my tool belt helped increase my odds in having success.
They consist of (and in no particular order):
1.  Having the right doctor.  I did a lot of research when I was first diagnosed with Stage 4.  I sought out opinions from some of the best melanoma experts in the country.  I eventually went with a doctor in S.F.  I chose him because one, my parents live in the Bay area, and two, he had been treating melanoma for over 20 years and had many SURVIVORS.  I figured he was doing something right!  I feel I made the best decision for ME, and I trust my doctor with my life (and that's saying a lot)!
2.  Choosing the right treatment.  There isn't one sure-all treatment plan that works for everyone (unfortunately).  We are all unique in our genetics, lifestyle, diagnosis, etc.  When I was choosing a treatment plan, I really researched it, studied it out, listened and contemplated on ALL of the opinions I received from doctors (and even patients I had met), and then went with the plan that made the most sense to me, gave me the best chance of remission and success, and seemed like the best FIRST step in kicking melanoma to the curb.  This plan also included a couple of back-up plans (also important, I believe).
3.  An amazing support network.  This is probably one of the most helpful "tools" in my tool belt.  There is no way I would've made it through treatment physcially, emotionally, and spiritually without my family, friends, church, community, and even strangers rallying behind me.  I can honestly say I wouldn't be here today without my "peeps"! :)
4.  The right mind-frame.  Another necessary "tool" to carry.  I think in order to "beat the odds" (especially when you aren't given very good odds), you have to ignore the statistics, have hope and faith in a miracle, be determined to come out on top, keep your "eye on the prize", and remain optimistic throughout the entire journey.
5.  A healthy lifestyle.  I was lucky, I think, to already have a healthy lifestyle before beginning treatment or even before I was diagnosed.  I have been physically active my WHOLE LIFE and have always tried my best to eat healthy, nutritious whole foods.  When I was diagnosed and then started treatment, I made more changes though.  I incorporated more yoga to my exercise routine (a big one for stress relief, anxiety, and the mind-body connection), I ate more leafy greens (by drinking green smoothies daily), I juiced vegetables and fruit, I cut out sugar almost completely, and I refrained from drinking any soda of any kind (not that I drank a lot of that before hand anyways).  In general, I adopted more a plant-based diet, taking in more than 50% of my diet in form of fruits and vegetables (and mostly in their raw form).  I even cut down on animal protein, rarely eating red meat, and even eating vegetarian a couple times a week.  I think all of those things made a HUGE difference and aided in my recovery and boosting my immune system.
6.  To go along with the healthy lifestyle, I also researched and incorporated a few "supplements" into my diet/lifestyle.  I started taking some really comprehesive whole food supplements designed to regenerate cellular vitality, enhance the immune system, strengthen the digestive and nervous system, and detoxify my organs.  I also started using essential oils and found incredible results.  Since using essential oils, I have yet to get a cold (and that was more than a year ago), my allergy symptoms are lessened, I sleep better, I deal with anxiety better, the list goes on...
7.  Having an acupuncturist and hynotherapist.  While undergoing treatment, I had regular hynotherapy and acupuncture sessions.  Those helped with stress and anxiety, sleep issues, detoxifying my liver/kidneys, tolerating the side effects of treatments, and harnassing the power of the subconcious mind by utilizing postive self-guided imagery.  I credit both of these practices with tolerating the treatments better than the average patient and staying positive throughout everything.  I think the people who are open to "alternative" forms of healthcare often do better.  For me, it just made sense to do everything I can, and "beat" cancer from all different angles.  I wasn't going to put all my eggs in one basket.
8.  Prayer, prayer, and more prayer.  The power of prayer is truly, in my mind, the most powerful force on the planet.  And I'm not speaking of only my own prayers.  Knowing that literally hundreds of people are praying for you everyday is one of the greatest blessings I could have ever experienced.  I know it is the power of prayer, and through the Lord's hands, that I was healed.
9.  An incredible caregiver.  One does not simply get through cancer without a great caregiver(s).  I was lucky to have a few.  My parents for one, who were with me for every doctor visit, scan, treatment, and hospital stay.  They would even sleep in a cot next to me when I was doing treatment for 5 days at a time.  Talk about selfless!  My parents would run "food" errands and get anything I was craving (and would eat), rub lotion on my back, brush my hair, and keep my mind distracted with happier things.  I simply couldn't have gotten through treatment without them beside me.  My husband was also a great caregiver.  When I was home, he made sure I ate well, got enough sleep, and took care of the kids, all so that I wouldn't have to worry about any of it when I was home (or away for that matter).  He arranged meals, got the kids off to school or friends' houses, grocery shopped, cleaned the house, and did the laundry.  I have one amazing husband and I'm so grateful that he stuck by my side and remained such a "rock" throughout.
10.  Did I mention, GOD?!  Of all my "tools" in my toolbelt, God was definitley the most important tool.  If it weren't for Him, the other tools wouldn't have made a difference.  They wouldn't have mattered without God.  I fully recognize that God provided me ALL of these tools to heal and get better.  He blessed with me the power, the knowledge, the people, and the attitude to do what I needed to do to get better.  Ultimately, it was His almighty power that provided the miracle that I see today--my life. I am so grateful to God for overseeing my journey and for answering all of my prayers.  Relying and trusting on Him has helped me see His hand in all things, and that is a true gift.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Today is worldwide LIVESTRONG day.  15 years ago, Lance Armstrong won his battle with cancer and started the Livestrong Foundation to help fund cancer research in finding a cure and connecting cancer patients to support all over the world.  Today his foundation has raised over 100 million dollars!
In honor of my late mother-in-law and grandma, and for many friends who have bravely lost or won their battles with cancer, I rode my bike today to honor them.  I also rode to celebrate my own survivorship with cancer and to remind myself how grateful I am to be alive! 
Life is truly a gift and I am determined to not take it granted ever again!
Who do you LIVESTRONG for?