Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year!

Well 2013 is almost over. My brother and I were talking the other day about how much we have done this year. And I can honestly say that it has been a GREAT year! I have been blessed to do so many amazing things this year and I can only hope that 2014 is just as memorable.

So a quick update on the whole cancer thing. I will officially be one year out from chemo and the end of all my treatments on January 17 :) I will have another three month follow up in February with my oncologist and then HOPEFULLY be able to graduate to six month appointments! I had my last appointment with my surgeon in Birmingham a few weeks ago and he said everything looks great! I do have a pretty bad scar where my port was that he said needs to be fixed. But I'm not sure I can bring myself to have another surgery just yet. Maybe sometime in the near future though. But otherwise I feel great and am ready to move on from that chapter of my life.

I guess it's time for some updated hair pictures :) It's still driving me crazy. I swear I will never have short hair again. And I still wear the wigs when I don't feel like looking like a boy. The photos below are from 49 weeks post chemo.

 Please excuse my lack of makeup and mess of an appearance :)

So I guess since it's almost 2014 that it's time for New Year's resolutions. I'm not really big on resolutions. I just thing that they are so...well, resolute. That's a lot of pressure. And I always end up feeling bad when I mess something up. So this year I'm just coming up with a list of "goals" which I hope to accomplish. If I don't do something, then fine. I simply hope to be able to look back at myself at the end of the year and know that I did my best. 

1. BE HEALTHIER. I know, I know. This is so typical. But it is important. Sadly, I was in better shape this time last year than I am now, even though I was in the middle of chemo. I guess I was so concerned with not letting the chemo keep me from doing anything I want to do, that I took extra initiative to eat properly and workout. But as usual, I fell out of that routine. I think one problem people have with resolutions is that they are too broad. It's hard to stick to something like "be healthier" when you have so much wiggle room to cheat. So in 2014, my goal is to cut back on soft drinks and sweets, to complete a 30-day food challenge, and to run two, possibly three, 5k's (without stopping).

2. At the same time, I am going to stop HATING MYSELF FOR EATING DESSERT. You only live once right? I am also not going to beat myself up on the days when I don't have time to make it to to the gym. BUT I am going to actually make it to the gym on the days that I do have time.

3. DO SOMETHING THAT SCARES ME. I'm really not sure what I can do to top sky diving. But I want to push myself out of my comfort zone more.

4. PUT DOWN THE CELL PHONE. We get so caught up in social media and what's going on in other people's lives, that we end up ignoring the people right in front of us. For me, it's kind of a crutch. I can be shy and sometimes I get uncomfortable or bored in social situations, so I pull out my phone. But I want to be able to put it down, be more in the moment, and enjoy other's company.  

5. PAY IT FORWARD. Every now and then, my grandparents will be out to eat and just decide to pay for a total strangers meal, without even telling them. I want to be more like that.

6. TRAVEL. Preferably out of the country somewhere. But really anywhere will do. I want to experience the world and broaden my horizons. And I want to help others in need at the same time. Even if I don't make it out of the country in 2014, I at least hope to involve myself more in charity work.

7. QUIT STRESSING. This is a huge one and probably the hardest goal I have. Nearly everyone who has been treated for cancer has worries about whether the disease might come back. Every ache or pain can frighten you. So my goal for 2014 is to let go of all the worry and move on with my life.

8. LOVE AND ACCEPT MYSELF. Short, frizzy, curly hair and scars and all. After all, hair grows back and the scars will fade.

So there you have it! It's going to be hard to top this past year but I have all the faith in the work that 2014 will be just as amazing! 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Being Thankful

I know I say this all the time but life has been crazy lately. School and work are keeping me extremely busy. But I have to admit that I love my life and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's been a weird weekend and I haven't really been in the best mood. Other than the few minutes following a miraculous win by Auburn (War Eagle!), I have just not been feeling it the past few days. No reason in particular, I just didn't feel all that great. So in times like that, I have to remind myself of all the amazing things I have in my life and forget about the rest. I like to view the glass as half full. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided to sit down and come up with a few things I am thankful for. Sometimes you just need a little reminder. So, in no particular order, here it goes :)

1. BEING ALIVE. People tend to overlook this. But as a cancer survivor, I am thankful everyday to have another minute on this planet.

2. MY FRIENDS. Even on my worst day (or days) they are always there backing me up. They know me and understand me and love me.

3. HAVING HAIR. I complain about it all the time because I hate it short and the curls have a mind of their own. But I am thankful to at least have some hair now and not be bald.

4. MY FAMILY. I simply don't know where I would be without them.

5. GOOD MUSIC. Even when I am in a terrible mood or having a really bad day, the right song can always make me feel better. Always.

6. BEING MYSELF. I can be extremely shy and awkward until you know me (then I probably talk TOO much) which I sometimes really dislike about myself. But at the end of the day, I know who I am and what I want and I try to be genuine. And I am proud of that. Besides, being quiet sometimes just means that I'm that much more of a good listener than most and I think before I speak :)

7. AUBURN. This one is in the spirit of yesterday's game. WAR EAGLE!

8. OWNING MY OWN PLACE. I like being independent and I'm proud of the fact that I own something so big. Also, I fall in love with my condo all over again every time I walk in :)

(This is from when I moved in. I still need a lot of furniture though. But I can be a tad indecisive.)

9. MY COWORKERS. I love my job. And my coworkers are like my family. Nursing isn't an easy profession and there is no way I would make it without an amazing group of people by my side. 

10. CHRISTMAS BREAK BEING JUST AROUND THE CORNER. I am a nerd and like to read a lot. And I have a huge pile of books I plan to read over the break. And I couldn't be more excited about it.

Well there you have it! People spend the whole month of November remembering what they are thankful for. But I think we should remember to do this year round, not just for a month. At least that's my opinion on the matter :) I have to remind myself of this everyday but I always feel better when I think about the great things I have in my life. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hair Problems

I think I have officially reached the point where having short hair is starting to bother me. I miss my long hair! It is growing super fast though. And it's dark and curly. Although I think the curls will fall out and it will lighten up the longer it gets. I guess what bothers me is that it is at the point where I can't do a thing with it. I have a horrid cowlick right in the front so I either have to wear a headband or pin it back with some bobby pins. Honestly, it was easier being bald than having short hair. At least then I could just throw on a wig or a scarf and go. Now I actually have to take time in the morning to do something with it. I still wear a wig when I feel like getting dressed up and going out. I think I rock the short hairdo pretty well but I just feel more girly and more like myself with long hair.

To be honest, it's probably about time for a haircut. I have had it shaped up in the back a time or two by a friend but never had it properly cut. After having no hair for so long, the thought of having anyone actually cut some of the length off gives me serious anxiety.

This was taken on my one year survivor anniversary :) As you can see, I have to wear a headband or pin it back to keep my cowlick in check.

Researching how long it takes to grow back to a decent length has become sort of a hobby of mine. I take biotin to help speed up the process and I recently learned about a shampoo product called Nioxin which is supposed to help so I plan on getting that to try out. I recently came across a blog where the author did an amazing job of documenting every part of her hair regrowth journey, pictures included. You can check it out at if you are interested. She also had the chemo curl!

Monday, September 16, 2013

9 Things Cancer Has Taught Me

It's finally here! I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer on September 17, 2012. So as of tomorrow, I am so excited to say that I am a survivor of ONE year! I say "officially" because I already knew when I got the phone call. And yes, it's true that nurses make the worst patients. There are people who I went through chemo with who have already passed away. So I feel incredibly blessed to feel healthy and strong.

Looking back on the past year, I have realized that my life has changed in so many ways. I have lived more, learned more, and loved more. So here are nine things I have learned about myself and my life in the past year. Why nine you may ask? Because that's how many I ended up with when I finished typing. Duh :)

My AMAZING friends and family at the THINK PINK walk right after I was diagnosed.

Right after I had my head shaved.

First time going bald in public :)

1. I AM BLESSED. Bad things happen to everyone. But God will never put you through anything that you can't handle. He often uses our deepest pain as a launching pad for our greatest calling. When I look at my life, I don't think of myself as a victim. I look  at all the people who love me and all of the great things I have in my life and think, "Wow! I am so blessed!" Yes, a lot of the things I have been through have sucked. But there are people in this world who don't have food, or a place to live, or shoes on their feet, or any of the million things I have. There are people who would love to have my life. I can honestly say I did not view life that way before cancer. It has taught me that life is a gift from God, and it is never to be taken granted because the things you may take for granted may be the things someone else is praying for.

2. TAKE CHANCES. We have all heard that saying a million and one times. You only live once. And as annoying as it has come to be after being posted and repeated a million times, it is true. It is so easy to get bogged down with day to day life and day to day decisions that we tend to take the easy road a lot. But life is all about decisions and even though the right road may not be the easiest road, it could lead to something greater than you could ever imagine. It may be scary at times. But you'll never get there if you don't learn to take chances. Never let your fear decide your fate.

3. FIGURE OUT WHO YOU ARE AND BE THAT PERSON. We all have those times in our lives where we just feel completely and utterly lost. Some people go a whole lifetime feeling lost before figuring out who they are. And that's long as you are actively searching to find that person you were meant to be. Sometimes when bad things happen, it can make you reevaluate your life and help you to realize things you might not have realized before. Getting sick did this for me. It helped me to see how blessed I am. And it helped me to realize what things in life were important to me and to learn to value those things. And for those people who may still be trying to find themselves, consider this. Sometimes, the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

4. NEVER STOP DREAMING. For a few days when I first got sick, I felt like my life had stopped. What was the point in dreaming about the future and the things I could do when I might not even be here to do them? This mentality didn't last long. I soon realized that no one knows what the future can bring except God, so you can't stop going after what you want, no matter what. In the past year, I have gone back to school, bought a condo, and dreamed of what my life will be like five or even ten years from now. Cancer was not the end of my life. If I would have resigned myself to doing nothing just because there was a possibility that I may not make it, then I wouldn't have the amazing life that I have now. We could all be gone tomorrow. But that won't stop us from making plans and going after our dreams today.

5. LAUGH MORE. Seriously, laughter is the best medicine. When I am in a bad mood, I do one of two things to cheer myself up. I either put on some great music or I look at funny pictures and videos and laugh until I cry. Laughing warms the heart and soul. And it is contagious. People feed off of each other. If I went around crying everyday because I had cancer, other people would feel sorry for me and cry too. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. And I don't want people to feel uncomfortable around me. So since the beginning, I have tried to make light of it and keep the jokes coming. My favorite is "These are my fake boobs. My real one's tried to kill me." :) Not only does it give others hope to see you in good spirits but it can heal YOUR soul as well. So surround yourself with positive people who try to see the good and the funny in situations and laugh with them.

6. LOVE MORE. To love another person, is to see the face of God. So love, love, and love some more. And forgive those who have wronged you. No matter what. And let yourself be loved. Without those who love us and support us, life would be empty. One of my favorite bands, Mumford & Sons, put it perfectly, "Love, it will not betray you, dismay you, or enslave you. It will set you free." Remember, "You are loved more than you will ever know, by someone who died to know you. " Romans 5:8

Also, be kind. In fact, be a little kinder than necessary. You never what what storms God may have asked a person to walk through.

7. ACCEPT and RESPECT YOURSELF. The good and the bad. Hair, scars, and all. Accept everything about yourself and learn to embrace it. You were made in God's image so love yourself and treat your body with respect. And always remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. In times of doubt, just step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and where you want to be. You are never as broken as you think you are. Sure, you have a couple of scars and maybe a couple of bad memories, but then again, all the great heroes do :)

8. DON'T WORRY. BE HAPPY. Sometimes what screws us up the most is the picture in our heads of how things are supposed to be. Well I have breaking are EXACTLY where you are supposed to be. So don't worry about it. So maybe you wish you were somewhere else in life? You will get there when you are meant to get there and not one moment sooner. So relax, breathe, and be patient. It's in God's hands. I have spoken in the past about the serious anxiety I have sometimes encountered about the cancer coming back. But in the end, I have to remind myself that there is nothing I can do about it. Worry won't stop bad stuff from happening, it will stop you from enjoying the good.

9. MOVE ON WHEN THE TIME COMES. You have to let yourself move on to the next chapter in life when the times comes, whether it's from cancer, a significant other, a job, a bad place in life, etc. Don't get stuck on the same page.

So there you have it. Nine ways in which cancer has changed my life for the better in the past year. One of my favorite quotes of all times is by Robert Frost, "I took the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." Sometimes great things come out of bad situations. In the past year, I have met amazing people and done amazing things...things I never would have done before. And I have come to love my life and my God even more. And I have learned to take my hardships and use them in a positive way. Life is a beautiful struggle. You just have to have the courage to live it.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Quarter Life Crisis

I know. It has been entirely too long since I have posted anything. And in all honesty, my posts may be a bit more sporadic since I start grad school tomorrow. I have so much to catch up on that I'm not really sure where to begin. I have so many posts about things I want to say started and saved as drafts, but sometimes it takes me a while (even up to a few months) to find the right words. What can I say? I'm one of those people who thinks before speaking and the same applies to my writing. I'm also an introvert by nature. And sometime it takes me a while to build up the courage to post my private thoughts and feelings and things about my life for the world to see. But I always find it to be therapeutic in the end. And as I've said before, someone, somewhere may find healing and answers by hearing my story and struggles. In fact, I frequently get messages and emails from random people telling me thank you for sharing my story or to ask me questions or for advice. So that makes it all worth it. Also I like to live by the Dr. Seuss quote, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." For this post, however, I'm simply writing as it comes to mind. So it may be a bit random in nature.

First, let me give you all an update about the whole cancer thing. I had my six month follow up with my oncologist about two weeks ago. This appointment was much easier than the last. I could definitely feel God's presence with me and His comforting hands on me. I spoke in my last post about very nearly having an anxiety attack at my three month follow up. I was on my way to the cancer center and just the thought of having to go back really made me panic. But I said a prayer before even leaving the house this time and I felt strangely calm the entire time. It went very well. Nothing new to report. I will go back in another three months.

I had my last surgery (at least I hope!) earlier this week as far as the reconstruction process goes. And I could not be happier to be done!!! If I never have to been poked or prodded like a pin cushion ever again, it would be too soon. Below is my final "Let's do this!" picture from before going in.

I am still taking the tamoxifen everyday, which I have to take for five years. I've heard people call it the devil drug but it hasn't been so bad. The biggest side effect from it has been the hot flashes. And boy are they intense. I have always been a cold natured person and I still am for the most part. But when a hot flash hits, it's like my skin is on fire. I feel like a woman in her fifties going through menopause as my face sometimes turns red and I have to fan myself. It never lasts more than a few minutes though. And I take the tamoxifen at night which seems to help as I sleep through the worst of it. Other than the hot flashes though, along with my short (and now curly!) hair and some scars, I feel like a normal person. I realize that many people have long lasting side effects from the surgeries, chemo, and medicines so I feel grateful to feel healthy and strong. Other than the tamoxifen, I just take some vitamins, which I have always taken, even as far back as high school. I plan to write a more in depth post soon about the medicines I take and the vitamins which I find helpful so stay tuned :)

In other news, some of you may have noticed that the title of this post is Quarter Life Crisis. Ever have those off days or weeks where you question everything in your life? I know we all have bad days and sometimes even the calmest of people can be a little dramatic (myself included). But I'm talking about those periods in life where you may have some serious and nagging doubts about the road you have taken. Have you taken the right path? Have I taken the right path?

Most of us were raised to expect a certain timeline for our lives. Go to college. Begin your career. Get married. Have kids. And all of these things typically happen in your twenties or up into your early thirties, especially in the South where tradition seems to dictate. But what if those things don't happen as expected? What if life throws you curve balls that seem to delay the normal process of things? Or what if you find yourself not wanting to live your life that way? This is where I have been stuck as of late. I was talking to some friends the other day who are around the same age as me and they say they often have the same thoughts and questions. So I figured I would share my struggles as of late and what I have decided it all means in the end, hence the title of this post.

I am 25 years old. I have a great career as an RN and am starting back in school for my Master's as a Nurse Practitioner. By all appearances, I am on the right track. But I still have my doubts (as does everyone I imagine). And lately, they have really been on my mind. I have an amazing group of friends who are at all walks of life. Around half of my friends are married, have a steady career, and have kids or have kids on their mind. And the other half are single/dating, working on finding their passion in life and the right career, and like to go out frequently. And I tend to find myself somewhere in the middle. And sometimes I can't help but wonder if I am going in the right direction and making the right choices for my life. 

Let's start from the beginning. I recently took a new position as the Patient Care Coordinator or charge nurse on my floor. To have only been a nurse for two years, I consider this to be an accomplishment. I am thankful my peers and bosses consider me responsible and competent enough to be in a leadership position. But I would be lying if I said it hasn't been a tough transition. It's quite a bit more stressful and I find myself missing direct patient care, as I do not always have patients. I am also going back to school to get my Master's as an Adult-Gero/Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, which should take me roughly two years to complete. With this degree, I would most likely work in a clinic somewhere. I love being a nurse. And I have no doubts about the fact that I am meant to do nursing. But if I am 100% honest with myself, my ultimate dream is to travel. And I don't just mean travel nursing, although I would love to do that as well. I want to see the world. To go outside of my comfort zone. To experience different cultures. To help people who don't have the means to help themselves. And to experience God's beautiful creation outside of what I am used to. Traveling and being in school simply do not go well together. So, while I am comfortable in knowing that I want to be a Nurse Practitioner and I want to go back to school, I still question whether this is the right path for me.

Then there is the topic of marriage and dating. I don't date all that much. I've never been one of those girls that has to have a man to feel secure. I do go out sometimes. But to have fun  and hang out with my friends. Not scope out potential boyfriends. 

I guess the ultimate question is am I on the right path in my life? The path God wants for me? Am I where I should be at age 25? My life seems so different than what I expected it to be ten years ago. And this is the concept I have been struggling with lately, as have many people my age whom I've spoken with recently, hence the quarter life crisis.

So here is what I have come to realize about all of this. My life is not my own. It belongs to my Creator and it is in His hands. This verse brought me comfort earlier this week.
Jeremiah 29:11-13
New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

God has a plan. He has a plan for me just as He does for you. And things happen on His time. Not ours. When the time is right, we must have faith that He will present the right career choices for us. And when the time is right, He will introduce us to the perfect person with whom He wants us to spend our life with. We simply have to have faith in His plans and allow Him to guide us along the path He has chosen for our lives. Don't worry about the rest. So you may not be where you saw yourself ten years ago? Maybe by unforeseen circumstances you couldn't go to college or finish school. Maybe you haven't decided what you want to do with your life yet. Maybe you got cancer or lost your job. Maybe you don't find yourself wanting a "normal" life. Or maybe you had a kid before planned or did things out of the expected order.  So what? It's God's plan for you. And He doesn't make mistakes. TRUST IN HIM. Let go of the past and seek Him. The rest will work itself out. Besides, in the grand scheme of things, 25 is very young :) And you have plenty of time!

I read this post somewhere online earlier today and it sums up my thoughts perfectly.

"We as humans tend to conform to the ideas of what we were taught life should be like and find ourselves disoriented and feeling lost when it doesn’t actually look like that. We were all spoon-fed idealistic falsehoods about what life would look like, and I don’t think anybody (or very few people at least) have really lived it out, so don’t worry about it. It’s okay to go off track, you’ll probably find a different path that leads you somewhere better. The comfort zone you know now was once a place you were probably afraid of. Move with the flow of your life, let it take you places you’re unsure of. That is where you find things you couldn’t have imagined. Get married when you want, don’t get married when you want, have a kid when you want, or don’t. It doesn’t matter. People like to put ages on things that are really subjective to each person. Don’t feel bad if you do or don’t want to do something within the age bracket that people have assigned to it. You do you. There will be someone who loves you for what you are, but you know what that doesn’t even matter, because the peace you find within yourself once you are really being who you are is more than enough."

Be who you are. Do what you love. Have faith in God's plan. And let the worries and stress about the way you feel your life "should" be go.

Love always,

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Life is an adventure

Life is a miracle. It's a blessing. It's a gift. And it's an adventure. And we should all live it to the fullest. Take every chance you get and never let fear stand in your way.

There is a country sing by Tim McGraw that sums up my thouglife right now pretty accurately.

He said, “I was in my early fortiesWith a lot of life before meWhen a moment came that stopped me on a dime”

”I spent most of the next days, looking at the x-raysTalking ‘bout the options and talking ‘bout sweet times”

I asked him when it sank inThat this might really be the real end”How's it hit 'cha when you get that kind of news?Man, what'd ya do?”He said

”I went skydivingI went rocky mountain climbingI went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man ChuAnd I loved deeperAnd I spoke sweeterAnd I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'”

And he said, “Someday I hope you get the chanceTo live like you were dyin'”


This is something I have learned in the past year. And in the few short months I have adopted this philosophy, I have accomplished so much! For example, I recently went skydiving! SKYDIVING PEOPLE! That is something I never thought I would do much less had any desire to do! I have also taken on kayaking! And I never pass on a chance to go do fun things. I bought a season pass to Six Flags and White Water and have already been a few times this summer. I am playing tennis frequently and finding time to read more books. And I went yesterday to play some laser tag with my brother and friends. 

In short, I have been staying busy this summer. Which is also why my blogging time has been cut short as of late. Sorry! But I am loving life and all the adventures it has to offer!

I am now a little over 5 months out from being done with the chemo treatments. And I feel great! I am eating cleaner and working out regularly. I hardly ever think about the C word. And I sure as heck don't view myself as sick or in need of pity. In fact, I feel sorry for every else who doesn't have the capacity or the ability to view life as I do. A gift from God. And one in which I plan on living to the fullest.

This picture cracks me up every time I see it!

Live more. Love more. Never give up. And never let anyone tell you that you can't live your life the way you want to.