My Ted Talk

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Sometimes, when I'm in the shower, I like to pretend I am giving a Ted Talk. It’s one of those secret dreams of mine I haven’t shared with anyone.

Yes, one day I want to give a Ted Talk and I often practice in the shower. It goes a little something like this. 

I’m introduced and eloquently float out and take my spot center stage. I stand before an audience of hundreds waiting for me to speak. To bare my soul, share my truth and change their lives in some way.

Then maybe all the pain I've experienced in mine will finally have meaning. 

I pause and scan the audience as the nerves settle in my belly. And then I begin. Words flow gracefully from my lips as I deliberately and meticulously speak. 

Line after line, I stand before the audience with grace and ease and pure poetry escapes from my mouth and I feel alive. As if I am finally living in full alignment with my purpose.

And this is what I would say:

When I was a little girl I was desperate to be accepted and loved by everyone. 

I learned early on that if I said and did the right things, molding myself to every person in my life, I would always feel a sense of ease and acceptance. 

I would always feel, loved. 

But that really wasn't the case. 

As I grew older, trying to create that sense of peace started to be become like draping individual chains over my shoulders. Eventually the stories and facade became too heavy. I hit a wall and could no longer continue carrying that weight around. 

This was about the time I stumbled across my first personal development book. It was a few months after I turned twenty and I had just made my very first big life decision all on my own. And I was scared as hell to go down this new path. 

I had made the decision to drop out of college. 

This decision proceeded a massive nervous breakdown in the middle of a raging frat party. My friends found me sobbing uncontrollably, wrapped in a tiny ball sitting on a bed in the basement. They couldn't console me. I was unconsolable. In shock.

They took me home and called my mom. It was 2 am. The next weekend I was driving back to Seattle to tell my family I was leaving school and in that one decision, I felt one of the weights release and fall to the ground. 

This decision changed the course of my life. It sparked something deep within me that would take years to turn into a full fledge fire. 

You see, it was the first moment I realize that I am not going to be for everyone and neither would my decisions and I had to be okay with that. It sparked the courage to finally explore what  I really wanted and ask some really big questions. 

Years later I stand before you with one message and one message only. I truly hope you take it in. 

Under no circumstances, whatsoever, are you going to be for everyone either. And that is okay. 

It's easy to get caught up in what other's think of our lives and it's really easy to paint a pretty picture that we have it all figured out and that our lives are picture perfect.

We do this because we are all longing for the same thing; to be loved and accepted. 

But here is the thing, no matter how hard you try, I promise you, there will always be someone who is just itching to find your flaws. To point out your mistakes, bring you down to 'reality,' burst your bubble and keep you feeling small. 

Certain individuals will look your life and criticize and judge no matter how perfect you paint it.

So drop the act. Lighten up your load a little. 

There are always going to be people who have so many opinions about YOUR life because they are too afraid to step back and address the areas they are unhappy with in their own.  

Caring too much what family and friends, acquaintances, and strangers think is a paralyzing behavior. It will prevent you from serving your purpose and doing those things that your heart desires. 

I've realized that when I get caught up in thinking about what I should say and do with each and every person in my life I’m actually deeply neglecting my own needs, wants and desires. I'm completely out of alignment and in some place in my life I am not giving myself the love I deserve but rather, judging myself in some way. 

As cliché as it may sound, it took a year of dealing with a rare cancer diagnoses to get some real clarity into the trajectory of my life and accept this one very crucial and important thing; I will not, under any circumstance whatsoever, be for everyone.

I may not even be for people in my very own family and I'm learning to be okay with this too. 

Every single day I have to fight the urge to crawl back under the covers where it is safe and warm. Where people can't see me. Where I can play as small and feel as safe as I want to. 

Why? All because I'm scared of what other's think? 

I’m not perfect. I’m a work in progress and I still find myself grasping for acceptance and the idea that to be loved, I have to say and do everything in accordance with everyone else.

 I still fall short of my best self every single day.

However, I often think about those who conquered great things in their lives didn't do so by playing small or spending too much time caring about how they looked to others. If they had, they would have never done the thing that helped the person that changed the lives. Now would they?

And in the great words of Oprah, this is what I know to for sure:

You will not, under any circumstance whatsoever, be for everyone.

You will not, under any circumstance whatsoever, be accepted by all.

And you will absolutely, under no circumstance whatsoever, be able to make everyone happy.

And you will absolutely, under no circumstance whatsoever, be able to fit a square peg in a round hole. So stop trying.

So please, I ask this of you with so much love in my heart, just be you. Every single beautiful part of you. 

If we continue living our lives for everyone else, we will never truly know what we are capable of creating. Your purpose is in no way shape or forms the same as any other person's in this lifetime. When you step back and look at it that way, maybe you can find the strength to act in accordance with your own self, your own desires, your own needs. 

I want to leave you with just one more thing before I go.

Before you open your mouth to speak to anyone, pause for just a moment and ask yourself this, "Is what I am about to say imparting my own judgments onto them? If so, don't say it.  

When I have nothing more to say I turn off the water and dry myself off. 

Then I go back to my life and leave my dream in the shower for another day. 

Hello Old Friend - The Return

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Ladies and gentlemen. I have an announcement to make. 

This morning, one of the most wonderful things happened to me. 

It has returned. 

My period. 

Is back. 

Holy. Shit. 

Miracles. Do. Happen. 

Let the celebrations commence! 

Bring out the marching band and champagne cause Aunt Flo has come back to town and she likes to get turned up!

Actually, Aunt Flo likes to put on her cozies, crawl into bed by 8 pm and binge watch The Bachelor but hey, that's kind of like getting turned up in your late thirties, right? 

I have never, in all my life, been more excited about the presence of swollen boobs and cramps and I'm fully relishing in both. 

I don't even know where to begin.

About a week ago I started noticing old familiar things happening within my body. I cried relatively out of nowhere. Nothing too new here however, that coupled with sore ta ta's and puffy, swollen appendages and face, lethargy, brain fog and feeling like I wanted to eat all the chocolate in the world (side note: I don't even care for chocolate anymore), I couldn't help but feel as if my body was on the verge of starting her cycle. 

But it couldn't be. I was 100% convinced that radiation sent me into menopause. 

So I brushed it off. Couldn't be. Both my oncologists were pretty certain that because they had to alter my treatment and my right ovary was exposed to radiation scatter, I was more than likely going to lose the function of both ovaries, thus, go into early menopause. 

The funny thing is, when my radiation oncologist and I met way back in August right before my last treatment, I had asked her when I'd know if radiation sent me into menopause. She looked back at me with wide eyes and sighed, "Oh you'll know. Right away.  Within the month you should start getting the symptoms." She said.  

But nothing happened. No hot flashes or night sweats. No trouble sleeping, No huge change in sex drive. None of the normals signs of menopause were happening. 

And I was confused. 

So confused. 

However, I had my mind made up. My ovaries were crispy marshmallows and thus, I mourned and let go of a dream

The funny thing was, something deep inside of me wasn't sitting well with this. You know, that tiny voice we don't like to listen to. Let's call her Gut Feeling. Intuition. Home Girl. You get it, right? 

I kept getting these visions or whatever you'd like to call them, of one day waking up and realizing I had gotten my period again but kept brushing it off because I really didn't want to get my hopes up. Something deep inside of me knew though. 

So waking yesterday to her wasn't a total shock but at the same time, was. You know what I mean? When something happens that you knew was going to happen but then you're like, how'd that happen?

Yeah, that's exactly what happened. 

You see, I mourned the hell out of her this past fall. I cried, and let myself feel the feels and said goodbye way before I was ready to. I mourned all the dreams that having a period brought. Mainly, just my fertility and sex drive but I was never one of those girls who dreaded my period. It always made me feel connected to my sense of being a woman and I kind of like witnessing my cycle throughout the month.

But now it's back and I'm never going to take her for granted again

Claire Baker, and adorable gal whom I went to IIN with, has a whole program called Adore Your Cycle where she teaches you to look at your cycle as a gift rather than a burden. I'm kind of stoked to do this now. 

You see, we've been taught that our cycle is this dreaded thing that happens for a few days once a month because so many of us have had horrible experiences with it. However, your cycle actually holds so much information. It's quite powerful really. To be clear, when I say cycle I am referring to the whole calendar month. That is your cycle. Not just the three to seven days you bleed. 

There is a wealth of knowledge out there about the various phases of your cycle. Again, Claire has a wealth of information on this you can find here. And by the way, she has no idea I'm even linking to her. I've just always admired her work and have been leaning into the idea that we women are incredibly powerful, cyclical creatures. Think about what we could do and create if we learned to work with nature instead of against it!

Anyway, I digress a bit. 

So yes. It happened. This thirty-seven year old is back in action. Bring on the chocolate and rom coms because day two of aunt flo is in full effect and I need some Meg and Tom in my life! 

But in all seriousness, I still have a lot to think about. In a weird way, going into menopause early would have made my decision to have a hysterectomy easier. I still want to wait until I'm forty at the earliest but if I'm still flowin' then, I wonder how I will feel about having to decide? 

However, I'm incredibly grateful for a little more time to reconnect with the deeper meaning of my cycle. To explore how it influences my creativity and drive and see how it can teach me to love myself even more. 

I hope, if anything, that if you are a woman and reading this it's sparked a little curiosity within you. 

And now you officially know way more about me and my period then I bet you ever thought. 

You are welcome. 

 

 

10 Subtle Ways to Feel Different in 2018 and Keep the Momentum Going

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It's a new year. Doesn't that feel so good?

The beginning of a new year always seems to be full of so much hope and clarity. It's an opportunity to begin again. Start over. Do things differently. 

We charge into January with so much intention, so much motivation, so much gusto. 

We are moving and shakin' our bodies. We are eating clean and healthy. We are in a state of gratitude and practicing some big shifts. We are on a roll. We are abundant!

Then, slowly, it starts to taper off. We skip the workout class to meet friends for happy hour but on the drive there, promise ourselves that tomorrow we will move our person once again.

But we don't. 

We crave pizza and cocktails and tell ourselves that it is just this one time. Tomorrow we will eat well again. 

But again, we don't. All of those things we wanted for ourselves start to slowly slip away. 

We find old thoughts and behaviors creeping in slowly and before we know it, it's as if we are back in 2017 all over again. 

Nooooo!

Kidding. 2017 wasn't that bad. 

Again, I kid. 2017 can take a big old hike!

Okay, okay,  it wasn't that bad. I had some pretty incredible things happen in 2017 too. But I am rather happy to flip the calendar on that one. 

I know I'm not the only one who is happy to say goodbye to 2017. It seems a lot of us had a bit of a difficult year and were more than happy to say peace! See ya later! Sayonara! 

But you see, the thing is, I really don't ever want to wish a year away again. The years are moving faster and faster and well, we are only allotted so many of them and I hope to make them all count. 

Be it a "good" or "bad" year,  all of it has an offering for us. This is coming off a year that more times then I care to admit, had me wailing on the floor in the middle of my living room.

So much of it made no sense to me.

However, I am starting to see things a bit clearer and although I may never say that it all happened for a reason, I am starting to see more clarity in how I can take those crappy moments and turn them into something really meaningful. 

And damn it feels good to feel optimistic again. 

I have something pretty awesome and big things in the works. I'll be so excited to share it with you soon. 

Until then, I spent New Year's Eve in a deep reflection, thinking about the previous year and drawing my biggest learnings from all the events that happened and the conclusion that I came to was that 2017 was a catalyst for some pretty intense personal growth on all levels

Physically, emotional, mental. You name it and 2017 challenged it all. 

Parts of 2017 really did stink. However, even those hard events have created new ways of me wanting to be with myself and in the world. 

This year for New Year's Eve, I decided to forgo the usual get dressed up, find a party, drink too much and feel like utter and complete poop the next day for a quiet, reflective night at home by the fire.

I'm not going to lie, my FOMO definitely kicked in. (Mom, FOMO means, fear of missing out.)  But if I have taken anything away this year it's getting really honest with myself and asking what it is I truly need.

I needed to end 2017 in the most positive, intentional, loving way I know how. 

That involved getting quiet, playing my favorite tunes, making a fire, diffusing my favorite essential oils, and then answering some really honest questions I'd been avoiding for, well, ever. 

2017 may have had some doozy experiences but my ability to draw goodness from those happenings is what gives me confidence for 2018. 

And from the events of this past year, I realized that as much as this space is an outlet for me to share, process and heal, I want to get back to a place of offering you something more. 

So I took the last year and I came up with ten subtle ways to feel different in 2018. Use them, don't, use one or two, use none. 

Overall, I hope you too can look back at your 2017 with kindness and love and take exactly what you need to make this year the best.

10 subtle ways to feel different in 2018 -- and keep the momentum going.    

1. Take stock of what is and what isn't working in your life. 

If you've been reading this blog for awhile you know I am a big fan of having my "come to Jesus' moments. These are those sometimes painful, sometimes liberating moments when I stop hiding and get really honest with myself about the various areas of my life that aren't working. Or are working. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Those things that aren't working are merely catalysts to create change and go down a different path. A lot of the time you have to experience the pain to get on the right path. And those areas that are working -- well celebrate it! We all could probably use a little more celebrating in our lives. 

2. Go slow

I think one of the keys to creating lasting change in your life is going at it slow. This is speaking from years of experience. I'm what is called an Activator. I get an idea and wham! I want it all to fall into place right now and will do whatever is necessary to get there. Then I lose steam and move onto the next thing. I forget that sometimes, slow and steady wins the race. So my advice, and only because I've learned this the hard way, treat your idea, your dreams, your goals or whatever you call it, like a houseplant. Take all the precautions to allow it to grow big and strong. Good, organic soil, water, light, time to root down, and slowly but surely, it will in fact grow. 

3. Start small

You know that saying, Rome wasn't built in a day? Well, why the heck do we think we can take a lifelong habit and wish it away overnight? Patience is pretty important when it comes to making lasting change. And kindness. To yourself and others. Baby steps my dears. Just put one foot in front of the others and before you know it, you've walked a mile. 

5. Build self-trust

Every time we make a new goal or want to change a way we do something we have the opportunity to build self-trust. A healthy sense of trusting yourself is imperative to create habits that last. However, every time we don't follow through, we are breaking that trust with ourselves and others. We may be able to brush it off, but again, speaking from experiences, it starts to compile over time and feels like a big heavy weight on your shoulders. It doesn't feel good at all. So this is why going slow and starting small is really important. 

6. Live and breath your values

I remember one day I realized while talking with someone that I really didn't have a clear idea what my values were. That made me sad. Then I remember thinking if I don't know what I stand for, how am I ever going to get the things that I want? So I came up with a list of my top five personal values and I wrote them out and posted them on a board in my room. I base all my decisions, er, well, I try to base all my decisions off of whether or not they are aligned with those five values. I truly believe if you do this, you'll feel so much better about how you make decisions in your life. 

7. Say goodbye to those that aren't a fit anymore

You'd think this one was a no-brainer but it's amazing how many people we tend to keep in our lives without really taking a good long look as to why. I've had to silently say goodbye to a few friendships this year and mostly within the last few weeks. Not because I don't care about them deeply but because it wasn't healthy for me to keep them as am active person in mu life. It was what was best for me to propel forward on my path. I knew it in my gut. Holding on to them was like holding onto a giant weight. I felt like I couldn't get any forward momentum.

It's okay to say goodbye. It's hard. It's not always black and white but most of the time you know, deep down, that it's the right thing to do.  

8. Let go of expectations

Expectations are a huge killer of happiness and joy. When we expect a certain outcome, we limit ourselves from the possibility that life could offer us something so much better. When we have expectations, we are often met with great disappointment when life doesn't unfold how we think it should. Sometimes it can derail us. Often it will prevent us from moving forward with our goals, hopes and dreams. And thus, we get stuck. Really stuck. 

I know it may feel totally unrealistic to never have expectations but I think as we learn to adjust them we stay in the organic flow that is life and our let down isn't as extreme. We allow life to redirect us and from personal experiences, the redirection is usually better then anything I could have crafted had I forced my way into fruition. 

What's that saying? Oh yeah, let go, let God. 

9. Give up the ego labels

I learned this lesson big time this past year when I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that had no known origin. I found myself feeling really confused and lost, like I didn't belong. People would ask what kind of cancer I had and I'd just stare at them blankly. "Um, well, I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of an unknown primary."

I'd be met with blank stares and looks of confusing and I'd want to reach out and say, "Yeah, I'm confused too."

Eventually I had to find a way to just stop caring so much about the label and focus on other things. This made me think about all the other areas of my life I am attached to certain labels. Labels help us compartmentalize ourselves into little boxes.  However, I think that sometimes what we identify ourselves with can cause overwhelm and internal chaos in our lives. I find myself feeling this way a lot. Especially being a 'jack-of-all' trades kind of gal. But when it comes down to it, I'm just me, Amanda, and feels so much better.

10. Get a Dog. Seriously. Or a cat. Or both

Okay, this really has nothing to do with feeling different in 2018 but Rocky kind of changed my life in 2017 and so if you are teetering on the line of deciding whether or not to get a pet, I say do it. 100%, get the dog or cat or pet. As long as you can responsibly take care of them, do it. 

 

It's Okay To Do This

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"And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been" - Rainer Maria Rilke

A brand new year. An opportunity to do things differently, to begin again. 

I hope you remember in this coming year that: 

It’s ok to not be perfect because when you can accept that you are imperfect you will finally realize you are perfect just the way you are.

It’s ok to be disappointed when something doesn’t work out the way you hoped because eventually, you’ll see that this disappointment brought an opportunity that never would have happened had what you wanted actually come into fruition. 

It’s ok to not always be strong or brave or courageous.  

It’s ok to not clean out his closet for days or weeks or years or ever even, if it never feels right. It was a love so deep and for so long, most of us only dream of experiencing that. 

It’s okay to say goodbye to people without actually saying the words. Send them love, or not. Wish them well, or not. And let them go. Close the door. Move on. 

It's also ok to say no. As much as you want, to whatever doesn't feel right in your soul. 

It’s ok to not practice yoga or meditate or journal. You can still be a deep, meaningful, inspired, creative, spiritual person. 

It’s ok to not be over him or her yet. Know that with enough time and distance, you will be one day. 

It’s ok to try a million different things over the course of your lifetime. You're a complex, ever-evolving person and hey, it gives you so many great stories to tell. 

It's ok if you don’t feed your kids homemade organic meals from scratch every night and you opt for a box of Mac and Cheese. 

It’s ok if the house is messy and you move the clothes from the bed to the floor for a week straight. 

It’s ok if you delete friends off social media. And it’s ok if that’s me. 

And it's definitely okay if you decide to delete social media altogether. The world will go on. 

It’s ok if you fall off the diet wagon day two of the new year. And it’s definitely ok to say a big FU to diets in general. 

It’s ok to want to grow and change and shed old skin. Even if you are worried what others may think. Even if it feels scary. 

It's okay to stop caring what other's think. In fact, I highly recommend it. 

It’s ok to go to the grocery store and buy nothing on your list but come home realizing you just bought $150 worth of food. 

It’s ok to start over...and over ... and over again until you find what fits. 

It’s ok if you like to say fuck. It’s really ok. 

It's ok if some days you just want to hide away and turn off your phone and watch twenty-five episodes of Sex and the City. 

It's ok to not have it all figured out. 

It's ok to be different and fully embrace it. 

It's ok to cry a lot. Again, you are a complex human with a ton of emotions. 

It's ok to want more for yourself and it's ok to be perfectly happy with where you are right now. 

It's ok to let go of the need to be a certain size. 

It's ok to stop coloring your hair and embrace the grey and it's ok to color your hair until the day you die.  

It’s ok to be 37 and still single after 4 years. 

It’s ok to eat quesadillas for lunch for a week straight. Quesadillas are really good. 

I can go on and on but the moral of the story is, I hope you go into 2018 knowing wherever you are, right this moment, is perfectly ok. 

Stop being so hard on yourself. 

Here is to a brand-spankin' new year. 

Anxiety, Depression, Loneliness and the Dog That Saved Me (part 1)

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"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." - Gandhi 

It's Christmas morning, about 6:30am and I'm curled up all cozy in my bed, Rocky sleeping next to me with his head resting close to my hip. His breathing is heavy as little snores escape his snout. You'd think he was in a deep sleep but every few moments, he pops his head up and looks at me as if to ask, "Now mom? Is it time now?"

When he realizes I'm not quiet ready to take him on his W.A.L.K, (we never, under any circumstance whats so ever, mutter that word out loud unless you are ready to fully commit) he lets out an annoyed sigh and places his head back down on the bed beside my hip. 

I let out a laugh. To him, this is what he lives for. His small world of happiness looks like food, poops, cuddles and walks. It's as simple as that. 

I look down at his shiny black coat and the green handkerchief I have tide loosely around his neck. Although unintentional, it's quite festive next to his red and black plaid collar.

The loneliness I'm feeling is temporarily filled with a deep sense of love as I think about how lucky I am to have serendipitously found him. How different both of our lives would be had that fateful day of scrolling Instagram  never happened. Rocky would be eight months dead and I, well, in some ways, I suppose I would be too. 

I think about how he came along when I wasn't even looking and filled a big hole in my heart I never realized was there. If it wasn't for him, I truly believe my days would look and feel a whole lot darker. 

I like to joke that I didn't save him. He saved me. As if I even had any say in the matter. 

I'm reminded again that wonderful and unexpected things always come when you are not looking. It's as if something so much bigger knows exactly what you need, when you need it and just how it should come to you.

Huh. Funny how that works.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about this as I've been consumed with this feeling of dis-ease and discomfort. Anxiety has riddled me once again and I find myself grasping for what I can not truly control. I want to force and manipulate those things I want so badly and it seems the happy days are few and far between and I can't seem to figure out why.

Is it hormonal shifts? Is it just this time of year and how it's colder and darker and my skin hasn't felt the warmth of the sun in what feels like forever? Is it that I'm still single and it seems harder and harder to meet a genuine, honesty, caring man? Or is it that I'm still putting way too much emphasis on the fact that I'm still single after four years?

Or is it that I feel unstoppable change coming my way and I'm not sure I'm ready for it?

But then I settle on what I truly feel it is; that I'm trying so hard to hold on to things that never were meant to be mine. 

I can't help but wonder as I watch how simple it is to make Rocky happy, that maybe I still, even after all these year and experiences and learnings and time, have it all wrong?

Upon further explorations, I realized that maybe this dis-ease and discomfort are from holding on to ideas and perspectives, certain people and old comfort zones? Maybe it's time to really, truly let go. To say goodbye to what I want to be mine but what will never be? 

I look up from my computer to find Rocky peeking back at me with one eye open as if to say, "Mom, I can't even be bothered to lift my head if it's still not bloody time to go on a walk." I laugh again and feel the center of my chest fill with warmth. It's a genuine laugh. A genuine warmth. That, that is what I long for. More of that feeling, deep within my chest. 

It's true and real and 100% authentic. It bubbles up from such depths that it momentarily warms my whole body. It's pure joy and bliss. 

It's 100%, without a doubt, happiness and love. 

I throw back the covers and Rocky jumps up with contagious enthusiasm. If he could talk he'd sing with such unwavering and flamboyant joy, "It's TIIIIMMMMMMMEEEE!" As he prances of the bed because now it was, in fact, time for his WALK. One of the most most simplest joys to this bright eyed pup day. 

I slip on my UGG boots and beanie and zip up my black North Face puffy vest and know, without a doubt, that yes, it is in fact...TIME. 

To be continued.

Liar Liar Pants On Fire, The Truth Shall Set You Free

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“Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” 
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

When I started writing in this space almost five years ago, my life was going down a very different path. This blog was called The Savoury Soul and it was where I attempted to talk all things health and wellness.  

I say I was attempting to write about health and wellness but everything felt very sterile and forced. My writing was a mix of how to's and unwarranted 'do this and you'll be happier!' advice. 

What I really should have been writing about, what would have felt way more original and authentic, would have been, "do this and this so everyone you know thinks you have the perfect little life.” And under no circumstance whatsoever admit or even hint at the truth.

All I remember was feeling like the biggest fraud and that I had so much to say, so much to share, but what I was writing about was not even close to being it. 

Instead, I spent a lot of time fluffing up my life and pretending I had it all figured out. 

In reality, what I really wanted to share was the truth. I wanted to scream out, "Hey! I have no friggin' clue what I'm doing here and I want out of my marriage but I have everything I ever thought I wanted so why am I so unbelievably sad and miserable? And why is it that when I look in the mirror I have no idea who the person I'm looking at is? And does anyone else out there feel this way?"

That is the stuff I really wanted to write about. 

The truth.

Real life. Real stuff. Real feelings. 

Raw, gritty, honest to God truth.

I wanted to expose the complicated feelings I was experiencing from being married to someone who had no idea who I was nor really even cared to find out. I wanted to write about how I had no idea who I was either but was desperate to find out.

I wanted to talk about how I had everything I ever thought I wanted but all the stuff in the world couldn't fill the ever growing hole inside. I needed to confide in someone, anyone who’d listen, that sometimes I’d dream about telling my husband that I was going to the grocery store and get in my car and drive away. And just keep driving. 

I wanted to tell the story of how on my wedding day as I stood in front of my family and the two friends I was "allowed" to invite, I wasn't thinking that this was my dream day. I was looking around thinking about all the people I wished were there but weren't because my ex made a big stink about the fact that this was his second wedding and "nobody wanted to come to a second wedding."

"How do you think it makes me look Amanda?" He asked. I remember thinking, "But...it's not just about you. Shouldn't we compromise? Isn't that what love and marriage is about? Give and take? Shouldn't you want to see me beaming from the happiness and joy I feel from having all the people I love at our day? 

 Instead, I stood in front of the twenty people in attendance and said my vows while secretly wondering how long it would be before we got a divorced. Instead of being in ah of this person I was committing my life too, I stood there with a fake smile saying some of the most important words to a man who no more then two weeks later met another women on a business trip.

I wanted to share how the first time I learned of him cheating was before we were even engaged. I wanted to leave then but was terrified because I didn't know what I would do. And then he said all the perfect words knowing very well that I would cave from hearing those words. I'm sorry. You mean everything to me. I will be better. I don't deserve you. I love you. 

He promised he'd change. He'd get help and go to therapy. And I was a sucker for empty promises. I was addicted to the love you think you feel from being told that US was finally enough to create change. That you really mean something. That you are worthy enough for them to change. 

I wanted to share that not much about US worked and I wondered if others were living in marriages that felt like living in a glass house. Just one more lie and everything may shatter around you.

 Were others drawing the drapes closed tightly at night to cover the truth of their relationships too? Were others as desperate to keep their lies tightly sealed just like I was?

I wanted to write with such brutal honestly that when I reached the end of the page I would feel empty, cleaned out and purged of all the lies I was telling others and myself. I needed to shed the excess weight so I could stare naked in the mirror and see Amanda for the first time.

But I couldn't. Instead, I filled these pages with boring facts that made me feel inauthentic. All because I knew that once I shared, there was no going back. Once it was out there everyone would know I, Amanda Whitworth, was a big…fat…lier.

So I just kept quiet and kept writing about boring topics because I felt called to write but was too afraid to write about what it was I felt called to share. 

Those thoughts and feelings, those would stay buried deep within, folded into the layers of my heart.

But the truth will set you free they say and freedom was what I was longing for. So once I had a reason that was good enough, once I had been broken and beaten down just enough, I got up the courage to say "no more!"  And I ran 1200 miles away to a little beach town so I could give myself the space and time to finally open up my heart and share what it is I'm suppose to share.

The truth.  

And the most interesting thing has happened with being brutally honest. Every time I open up and share a little bit more of my truth I feel free.

I have given myself permission to peel back the layers and get down and dirty with the God honest truth and it’s become harder and harder to lie to myself. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes it really sucks having to referee the battle between my head and my heart and make a decision that I know is best for me but I don’t want to make. Sometimes that decision brings about it’s own pain. 

I’ll tell you one thing though, the feeling I get when I’m honest with myself and take action upon that honesty is almost indescribable.

No amount of sex and drugs or food and exercise or shopping or anything else that temporarily fills those holes and stuffs down those lies can make me feel as high and full as the way the truth does.

And that, my dear, is why the truth shall set you free.

So that you can be.  

Saying Good-bye To A Life-Long Dream + Update On What's Going On With My Health

"Acceptance of one's life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes and injustices." Paul Tournier

When I was a little kid I use to gather the family pets, usually a dog and two cats, and pretend they were my children. I'd reenact what I thought it meant to be a mommy, usually based off of what I witnessed from my own mom, who was an incredible mommy by the way (still is!). I'd spend hours in mommy land cutting the crust off their imaginary peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

All I knew back then was no matter what, I was destined to be a mom.

I thought by twenty-two I should have been married and on my first child because that was what I knew. That was how it worked and that was how it happened for my mom. When that time came around and I hadn't achieved that I felt lost and like I had failed. 

As the years crept by and that story was nowhere near what my life looked like, the sadness got thicker and so did the feeling of failure. Then one day I met my now ex-husband and a twinkle of hope ignited within and I thought, "Yes, this is it. I'm finally going to be a mom."

When I couldn't get pregnant after two years of trying I once again found myself feeling as if I had failed and as if life had failed me too. Deep inside, in that place not many of us really like to go, I thought maybe there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Maybe I had made God really mad and I was somehow being punished and undeserving of having my own children. 

When my marriage crumbled at the age of thirty-four a little part of that dream went with it. I started to see the clock tick faster then it was already ticking. When doctors advise you at the age of twenty-four to have a full hysterectomy, your clock becomes more like ticking time-bomb. You are constantly feeling as if it's gonna blow. However, I was still hopeful that I had time. I had time to meet someone, fall in love and get the white picket fence and the family to go with it. 

I had to because I wasn't quite ready to answer the question, "If I wasn't going to be a mommy, who was I going to be?" 

But life is an interesting loop of mysterious experiences that sometimes just don't seem to make sense. 

Over the last four years I've experienced several big disappointments and have had to dig beyond my comfort zone and begin asking those harder questions. And now, as my body begins this next process induced from radiation, I have no other choice to begin finding the answers to the one question I've been avoiding the most. 

What I'm finding is an honesty and a resistance I really wasn't ready.     

I'm realizing that it's time to start saying good-bye to that life-long dream and life has quite literally thrown me into it. Ready or not, too bad!  

And as much as I tell myself all the optimistic things like, I really enjoy my freedom and I enjoy doing what I want, when I want to, I realize that I need to honor that life-long dream and mourn the death of it properly. 

I need to stop pushing down my feelings and thoughts and face them head on. 

I need to acknowledge and mourn that:

I'll never experience the excitement of peeing on a stick and seeing the pink positive slowly begin to form and I'll never nervously get to share the news with my partner, eager to see the smile form on his face and the joy twinkle in his eyes. 

I'll never know what it's like to feel the first flutters of life growing inside of me or watch my belly swell as I transition from normal clothes into maternity. 

I'll never know what it's like to rush to the hospital mixed with fear and excitement as I wait for my body to start a process that it was literally created for. 

I'll never lay in the hospital bed, exhausted and tired, waiting for the first sounds of my son or daughter's life echoing around me until they are safely in my arms, meeting for the first time. 

I'll never experience those first moments and that is a thirty-seven year long dream I have to mourn properly. And at times, that feels like a pretty heavy burden to bare alone. 

One of the shitty things about illness is you have no control over the wake of destruction it creates in your life. It rips through taking out whatever it damn well pleases and you sit back and just watch it do so. It's a little surreal if you ask me.

Yes, we do have control over how we perceive things and our attitude towards them. We all have those choices. And believe me, I practice these things daily but I'm human. A very emotional and deeply feeling human who can't paint away my pain with affirmations and positive quotes. If I don't feel this experience fully, I, Amanda Whitworth, will disappear into a numbness and fog that I couldn't live with. So, I choose to lean into the pain, hoping with every ounce of my being, that it's the true answer to healing.   

I also recognize that I always had the choice to walk away from radiation treatment. However, to live with that fear of whether the cancer had already started creeping up my lymph nodes into my lungs wasn't something I could live with. Radiation was, in my opinion, the lesser of two evils. Just how great of an evil well, I'm only just now learning the truth of what that means. 

But now, as others get to share their first images of the black and white outline of what's growing inside their womb and welcome their brand new babies into the world, I'm having discussions of a hysterectomy with my oncologist and wondering how many nights a person can go without adequate sleep due to a pain that wakes her every hour, before she loses her mind. 

And I know, believe me when I say I know, there are other ways of being a mother. I also know I am so lucky to be alive but please, I beg you, stop saying this to me. I know it's out of love and support but all it does is make me question my own emotions and feelings. It riddles me with guilt. It makes me feel like I need to hide the truth and that makes me feel ugly. That makes the anger I'm feeling inside bubble out of control until sometimes, I'm shaking so much I scare myself. 

I find myself keeping to myself a lot these days because I'm scared of sharing this pain with others. I see their discomfort with it and how no one wants to really talk about it or how they just want to fix it with saying things like, "There are so many ways to be a mom!" Or, "At least you didn't have to have Chemotherapy." Or, "It could have been worse!." 

Don't ever say these things to someone going through something like this. We already know this. Believe me. We are dealing with the guilt and confusion every minute of every day. 

But I'm determined to find my way back out of the darkness. It's just going to take a little time. But I'll find my way back, I promise.  

I just need to spend some time saying good-bye and getting use to the idea that I'll never get to have my own kids. I've got to find a way to make peace with that. Real peace. And that will take time. 

And that means some days I'm going to be angry as hell at everything and some days I'm going to cry so much that my body hurts but that is okay. 

This has been a dark few months for me but I've still been able to see glimmers of light along the way. 

On the heels of losing two wonderful human beings in one week to this horrible thing called Cancer, I know just how lucky I am. But that doesn't mean I don't get to mourn my own loss. That doesn't mean I don't get to feel my own feelings for what I'm experiencing. It doesn't mean that I don't get to feel the deep pain as I adjust to my new world, my new reality, in a body that is riddled with pain all the time now, one that doesn't feel like mine at all. Because I do. I do get that. 

I will find my way back to optimism. I will find my way back to believing in the good of all circumstances and believing that maybe this is happening so I can do something with it to help others. I will find my way back to doing some of the things I loved doing before even if it looks and feels different now. I will find my way back, I promise. 

But right now I get to properly say good-bye no matter how dark I go and I beg you, please let me. 

So what is next?

Being diagnosed with a rare cancer has been an interesting experience. It's really hard to know where you belong when you still don't even know where this started. However, we did narrow it down to being related to Lynch Syndrome. 

Back in May I underwent genetic testing and my results came back positive for MSH2 gene mutation which is what we expected all along. It's one of two possibilities with Lynch Syndrome (Hereditary Non-polyposis Colorectal Cancer) and kind of a scary reality to deal with. (click here for more info) 

So what this means is I have a higher lifelong chance of developing colon, rectal, uterine and ovarian cancer as well as stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder duct, upper urinary tract, and brain. 

Given that this is my second experience at such a young age, my doctor is taken this search very seriously and I am most grateful for him and his determination. I will always be vigilant and on top of my screenings and tests because after meeting a women in the waiting room of my oncologist office who was diagnosed with the same thing as me but much further along, a tumor had already formed in her Vagina and she underwent Chemotherapy and radiation, and none of it worked. Her tumor is resistant to treatment. Last week they attempted to do radical surgery to remove her uterus, ovaries, bladder, anus and colon however, when her surgeon opened her up, he discovered that the tumor was too close to her pelvic wall and there was nothing he could do. And it scares me to think that this could one day be me. 

Radiation has left the left side of my body riddled with pain and I'm trying to figure out what to do now as it's becoming a bit debilitating and chronic. I'm trying to find others who are experiencing similar issues so I don't feel so alone in this because most people who've had radiation that I've come across in real like have bounced back rather easily. As the weeks go on, I'm having a harder time walking and now, sitting and lying in bed. 

I spent my Halloween meeting with a Urologist at Moore's Cancer Center to discuss a procedure I had on Tuesday afternoon to look at lining of my bladder and then in the evening, I had my CT scan. No signs of cancer in my bladder.

I had my PET scan yesterday and now, I just wait for the results to see if this pain is a result of radiation or if the lymph node in my sacrum was actually cancerous and now has grown. 

I will say this. Radiation is no joke and comparing it to Chemotherapy as if it is a lesser evil isn't fair. It is all horrible and it all comes with experiencing great loss. 

Every morning I wake up in a body that feels eighty and it takes me all day to feel like I can move somewhat normally again. The pain in my back and hip are unbearable. I have a whole new perspective for those who have lived a long time with chronic pain. So much compassion and love to you because this alone could make a person crazy. Throw on how tired I feel all the time, like I can't get enough sleep, and the hormonal changes I'm experiencing, well, feeling a bit crazy doesn't even do it justice. And it's not something to joke about because to those of us who are experiencing it, it's really traumatic and scary and very isolating. 

And now a lot of my thoughts these days are of trying to come to terms with and accept the decision I'm making to have a hysterectomy because I'll tell you what, not having to worry about Uterine and Ovarian cancer on top of the rest, would be really nice. 

However, I have to fully come to terms with this on my own and in my own time. But I know one thing for sure. I don't want to die from this one day. I don't want to make the wrong decision only to have it come back to bite me in the ass. (No pun intended...okay, I had to throw in a little humor!)

I know all of this is leading me to something. I'm starting to see that light again. In between all the messy and dark parts I'm still experiencing, I see the twinkle in the distance and it's beautiful. 

 

 

 

 

 

On Waiting For What Is Next

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“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next."

- Gilda Radner

Today, September 25th marks one month post treatment. One month of slowly healing the physical, mental and emotional wounds of the past six months. 

Both my radiation burns, the one in my groin and the one on my left butt cheek (I didn't know I was going to get that one) are almost nothing more then a faint outline and a patch of dry skin. I remember starring at my naked body in the mirror wondering if those burns would leave scars. It's nice to know they probably won't. Physical ones that is. 

I've started moving my body, slowly finding my way back into my physical sense of self. However, even that looks different. My body looks different. It feels different and I'm trying to work with those changes the best I know how.

Limited range of motion on my left side, random nerve surges down my leg, a strange tingling sensation in my groin, a slight limp, extra weight, scramble egg brains, lethargy, massively swollen boobs 24/7, which I imagine are hormonal changes triggered from frying my reproductive organs. All new enough to make me feel as if I'm living in a different body. 

I laugh now at the memory of talking with my mom three weeks into treatment. "Mom!" I say in my most dramatic voice. " I swear, I can literally feel my left ovary dying." It's funny now though, because I really do feel them dying. I feel them taking their last long, slow, deliberate breathe  and I feel this longing for just six months ago when my periods were like clock work and the womanly feeling I had each month at the sight of Aunt Flow. 

Now what? What do I do now? 

When most women spend so much of their time desperate to rid their lives of her, I'm desperate for just a few more months or years with her.  

I can't help but picture my left ovary as a puffed up burnt marshmallow dripping off a stick over the hot flames of a backyard fire pit. All from five weeks of a few minutes each day on a cold, sterile table in the basement of a hospital. 

How is it that I have to lose so much from something I never asked for? For something I had absolutely no control over? And then I hate that I just said that because I still have so much to be thankful for. 

All in all, changes are happening and it's safe to say I am not the same person I was only a few short months ago. I do believe, it's even safe to say, I am not even the same person as I was yesterday. 

And now I find myself in waiting. Waiting to see what happens next. How do you anticipate the future when there is so much riding on past events? I guess that is why you live in the moment.

I worry though. 

I worry with each passing day that there is a monster still lurking inside me, breeding, hunting, stealing from me, desperate to latch on and feed off every part until I no longer can breathe, suffocated by it's mere existence, and then, just like that, I'm gone. 

That is what keeps me up at night. That and the night sweats and vivid dreams and thoughts of how God chooses. You live, you die, you get to have children and you don't.

Then there is the sheer panic of not knowing how to exist in a world that doesn't really want to know how you are truly doing. A world that wants your diluted pleasantries instead of your God honest truth. 

"How are you doing?" They ask. 

"I'm great! I'm feeling more and more like my old self every day." I say with a fake smile. When what I really want to say is that I'm okay. I'm taking it day by day, moment by moment and coping the best as I know how. But sometimes I spin out of control and wonder where the last six months went. I wonder how I move forward relating to a world that has no fucking idea what I just stepped in. How do I smile and cheer on one more women who tells me they are pregnant and suck back the sobs when I see the reminder of what I will never have as they rest their hands on their swollen belly.

It's funny how bad you want something when you are no longer able to have it.  

So now I find myself in this place of ambiguity, both longing to close off from the world and needing to be seen. To hide away for just a short while longer as I sift through the dust and debris of this messy matter and tend to my heart. Yet, I long to be given new opportunities and people and to spread my wings and grow so wide that the world can't stuff me away into a little box labeled cancer or survivor or menopause or woman. 

I balance my worry and anxiety with meditation and writing, yoga and New Moon Circles and it helps. 

I've asked the world to bring me new people and situations aligned with where I want to go, with my goals and dreams, and it has. It's funny what happens when you set out with a fierce determination and deep clarity. I will not let this experience ruin me. I will do something great for the world with it. 

And then I spend my time with those in my life that I already value so much. I'm slowing down, just a tad, to give myself more to others. To be their shoulder to cry on, their comfort and support in their own turbulent times because one thing I've learned is that life isn't easy for anyone and everyone is doing the best they can. 

So now I wait. I do all this and I wait for what is next and I do my best to live my life and to figure out who I am after all of this. 

Then the call comes from my oncologist who was revisiting the tissue from the slides they created from the tumor they removed and he tells me I have to go in for another procedure to rule out bladder cancer and I laugh and say, "that sounds like fun."  And he nudges again about a hysterectomy and more searching for this monster. 

So I'm really not done yet. It's as if life is laughing at me and says, "buckle up Amanda...it's about to get bumpier."  

And I just sit here waiting telling everyone that I feel more and more like my old self and I feel like a big lier. 

What's Love Got To Do With It?

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"If you are searching for that one person that will change your life, take a look in the mirror." - Unknown

The other day I was Skyping with a friend who's current situation eerily resembles mine almost three and a half years ago. As she shared her fears and worries, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of empathy and compassion for where she was. As she nervously confided in me about her decision to leave her marriage of two years, I wanted to wrap my arms around her and say, "It's gonna be okay. I promise. One day it will be even better then okay." 

I wanted to tell her everything I had learned over the last three and a half years about love and how sometimes loss leads you to discovering some of the most magical things about yourself and about life.

I wanted to share how a lot of the time, we think the love from someone else is enough but it isn't. What is enough however is having the courage to do what is in your heart which isn't always the easy thing.

 But I couldn't, it wasn't my place. I knew all these lessons were ones she had to come to on her own. All I could do was listen and hope that she felt my love and support from thousands of miles away. 

It got me wondering though, how many people are married or coupled up who have done so under the same false pretenses I did? The one that says the right person will come along and save you. They will love you enough so that you won't have to learn the very thing that WILL save you; loving yourself.

 I also wondered how many people were staying in relationships that resembled the very one I was in because it felt safe or because they felt it was something the should do. Those damn should's. 

I grew up believing in the fairy tale. The one that had my prince charming riding in on his Technicolor My Little Pony and rescuing me in some way, shape or form. Hey, these were my fantasies and regular horses bored the hell out of me. My Little Ponies were what my romantic dreams were made of. 

He’d trot in with his perfectly parted Ken Doll hair because what young girl doesn't adore Ken. With his sparkling blue eyes and his big, bronze muscles, which were just a little stiff if you asked me, and he'd scoop me up with his arms that barely hinged at the elbows and we’d ride off into the blazing sunset to live happily ever after in our Barbie Dream House. The one with the white picket fence, the perfect career making the perfect amount of money, the 2.5 kids, and a friggin' partridge in a pear tree.  And that wouldbe our "The End".

Fast-forward to real life and one painfully failed marriage and a handful of brutal dating scenarios with openly emotionally unavailable men and this single thirty-seven year old has finally realized that love looks a little different then what my youthful (and delusional) dreams were once so naively made of.

It's taken me a long time to admit to myself that real love isn't the stuff that Blockbusters and fairytales are made of.

It definitely isn’t a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie.

It isn’t black and white.

And absolutely, under no circumstance, can real love sweep in on a brightly colored pony and save you. 

Entering any partnership under these pretenses is bound to fail you at some point.  

But let me start from the beginning. Let me tell how I came to realize that I had it all wrong. That my idea of real love was nothing more then a deceptive idea passed down over time and adopted by a girl who just wanted a happily ever after. 

Let me tell you what love isn't

I remember waking in the early hours of a cold February morning in 2014 from another restless night sleep. A fresh layer of white snow covered the bare vines and steep rolling hills of the fifty acre farm and vineyard I had called home for the past four years. I pulled the covers up close to my chin and in the stillness of the early morning light left over from the moon, I looked to my left at the silhouette silently sleeping next to me and my chest tightened. The heaviness returned from its eight hour break and once again, I wondered how I had allowed myself to get here. 

That had become the norm. I was thirty-three and found myself in a manipulative marriage of less then two years that had become more about constantly trying to change each other then acceptance, support, encouragement and love. I found myself constantly wondering if this was really it. Was this really what love and marriage were? Deception, lies, dread and control? 

Was I really that desperate to be coupled up that I had sacrificed my own personal happiness to do so? 

What about the fairytale? What about my prince charming and my technicolor pony ride off into my rainbow color sunset? What about my happily ever after? 

I slipped out from beneath the covers, quiet as to not wake my then husband, desperate for a few more hours to myself before I had to face my very own Jackal and Hyde. I tip toed down the stairs into the bathroom on the main floor and flipped on the light. Instead of avoiding the mirror as I normally did, I stood, staring down the reflection.

I looked tired and defeated from the daily disappointment and heartache of what I had allowed my life to become. I had no idea who the women in the mirror was. I had broken a promise I made to myself a long time ago after growing up with parents who's marriage resemble the one I now found myself frantically treading water in.

"How did you let this happen? This can't be it." I whispered to the girl in the mirror. For the first time I allowed the words to bubble up and before I knew it, slip out my lips and into the hands of the very thing that could save me, my own.  

It was as if I had broken some kind of spell and I snapped out of the delusional fog I was in. I made a promise to  myself that I would do whatever I had to do to live this one precious life the way I knew, in my heart, I needed to live it. Not chasing down the love of someone else but rather figuring out what that meant on my own.

The events that transpired over the next two months were heavy and heartbreaking but perfectly laid out for me so that I had no other choice but to leave.

In mid-May, just days before what was to be my second wedding anniversary, I found my car packed with all my belongings as I drove north back home to Seattle wondering how I was ever going to put my life back together. However, in my heart I knew a life stumbling solo was far better then being coupled up in something that was abusive and neglectful and lacking any sense of what I believe to be true love

So what does love have to do with it anyway?

Not to sound incredibly cliche, but one of the greatest lessons I learned from walking away from my marriage was that love between two people just isn't enough. You have got to love yourself first. Unfortunately, I had no idea what that looked like and had a long road of hard and repetitive lessons ahead.

How we learn to love ourselves looks different for all of us but I wholeheartedly believe that until we learn to do just that, our lives are going to be full of a lot of pain and suffering because we are going to be constantly looking for that love from others.

The greatest step I ever took was finally listening to my heart and walking away from something that was safe, comfortable and familiar for the complete and utter unknown. It was in that moment I cracked a little piece of the puzzle and realized that this was the way to the truth. This was the way I was going to learn how to love myself and step into a life that felt like me. 

The moment I drove away from comfort I knew I had started a wild and crazy journey into the depths of my own heart. Something I had only ever dipped my toes in. 

I said yes to something big and scary and I have kept saying yes to things that terrify me because I know they will keep leading me to deeper parts of myself. 

So what does love have to do with it? 

Absolutely everything. 

Love with someone else may not be enough but you better believe the love you feel for yourself is. That is the answer. Until you know what that looks like it is going to be really hard to invite in the kind of love you deserve and want with someone else. 

The path isn't always paved perfectly and those bumps and challenges are usually leading you to discovering another part of yourself that needs some love. That's what all those hard, often repetitive lessons are meant to do. They are supposed to shine light on the areas that need more of your own love. 

That is where I'm at now, facing many of the same lessons over and over, slowly realizing I have the choice to love myself enough to say not again.

I'm learning to love myself by leaning into those parts of me that are unfamiliar and choosing to do things differently. I'm creating the life I want that feels like the truth even if it doesn't make sense at the time. And I'm just going to keep doing this. Day in and day out. I'm going to wake up every day and continue to make choices, easy or hard, that are based around doing what is best for my heart, my path, my journey, my life.

I'm going to continue to say goodbye to people, places and things that do not serve my heart and allow time and truth to cultivate the space for those things that do. 

So that hopefully, one day, when the right man walks into my life, I can let him love me just that way too. 

 

 

Turn the page

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"There comes a day when you realize that turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book then the page you were stuck on."

- Taryn Malik

Today is my last day of treatment. 

Six weeks have come and gone and here I am, hours away from laying on that cold and hard table, tucked back in the vaulted room in the basement of the cancer center for the very last time. EVER. Hands tightly wrapped around the squishy blue oval ring they give you to help keep you still, eyes closed humming quietly to myself to pass the time and not think about what is actually happening. 

Mostly I feel excited and very loved as texts pour in with congratulatory words like "YOU DID IT!" "YOU ARE A RADIATION ROCKSTAR!" "LET THE CELEBRATION BEGIN!" And I smile and think, "I DID do it." I just did the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life and I definitely plan on celebrating tonight. 

 I'm more then ready to be done as I don't think my poor hip could take much more. Where once was pink and supple skin now resides a four inch, dark leathery purple-red burn that has started to peel and causes discomfort when I wear anything tight. And I'm ready to have back those precious five hours a week dedicated to treatment. 

Overall, I'm ready to have my life back. I'm ready to have the strength and energy to do the things I love but mostly I'm ready to turn the page and start a new chapter.  

I have made the choice that if menopause is near I am okay with it. Despite the rollercoaster of emotions and pain and all that is still unknown, I'm going to wake up tomorrow and just live my life the best way I know how. If I am meant to be a mom that baby will find me in whatever way is destined to be. And I know that this experience will make me an even better parent. 

I've come to a place of feeling peaceful with the direction this is taking my life because I have been reminded of some really important things. So to the Universe and God I say thank you. Thank you for reminding me how precious this one life is. Sometimes those reminders come on the coattails of something traumatic like cancer. 

This experience has reminded me that life is short and as cliche as that may sound, I'm tired of wasting emotions and worries on things I can't control and people whose actions don't align with their words. I'm turning the page and this next chapter is going to be something pretty epic. I feel it in deep within my bones.  

Over the last few months  I've learned three very important lessons that I'd like to share with you now. They weren't easy. There were many tears involved but now as I look back, I'm happy it all unfolded the way it did. Life is pretty interesting and you better hold on tight because it's most definitely always mix of wild and bumpy. 


Your vulnerability is a gift

I've very openly shared my journey and I don't plan on stopping. I truly believe it's far better to be vulnerable and share what you are going through, especially when you feel alone and need the support, then keeping it to yourself out of fear of what others may think. 

There will be people that judge or unfollow or roll their eyes but honestly, that's okay. You don't really need those people in your life. Remember, life is very short. Kindly and lovingly send them on their way.

More then anything, share your story because someone out there needs to hear it. We like to think we are the only ones experiencing the very thing we are going through but I guarantee there is someone out there needing to hear exactly what you have to say.

Every time I was open and honest, especially with the really scary stuff, I was met with an email, message on Facebook or text from someone who needed to hear my words on that particular day. Knowing that my journey was helping someone else, that's a gift I never knew I could give until now. 

Asking for love and support isn't a weakness, it's the greatest thing you'll ever learn to do

Given that my family is 1200 miles away, there were many days where I felt really alone and scared. So I'd post something on social media because I knew that I would be met with the very thing I needed most, love. I really couldn't have gotten through this without all the words of encouragement, thoughts, love, prayers, and so forth.

I used to think that asking for love and support was needy and weak but through this experience, I've learned that it takes a lot of courage and strength to say, "Hey, I'm really struggling today and could use a little love." 

On the days when things were really bad, I'd go back over my feed and reread all those messages you sent me and it would lift me up so I could get out of bed and not only face the day but live the day.  So please know that it really did matter to me and I will forever be thankful.

Balancing your needs with those of others

This is something that hasn't always been easy for me. I'm a constant work in progress. The hardest lesson I've learned through this experience is that even though I'm going through something heavy and hard, so are a lot of other people I love and care for deeply. 

It's easy to get caught up in your own drama and think that what you are going through is so grave and deep but everyone is fighting their own battles and to them, what they are experiencing is quite possibly the hardest thing they have ever had to go through. 

The love, sweet and thoughtful gifts and random acts of kindness I have received throughout this time have quite literally blown my mind and I only hope that moving forward, I can be more selfless, thoughtful and think of others more often then I think of myself. 

We are a world longing for connection and to feel seen, heard and supported. I just want you to know I SEE you, I HEAR you and I'm committed to being here for you in ways I may have not be able to before. But I'm ready now. 

So with bated breath, I turn the page. What lies ahead is unknown and my darling, isn't that what makes life so exciting? 

 

 

 

The Great Lesson I Learned From My Dog

“Dogs teach us a very important lesson in life: The mail man is not to be trusted”  -Sian Ford

Somewhere between the 421st and 422nd sniff and leg lift I lost my cool on Rocky.

“Oh for the love of God Rocky! Come on bud, stay focused. We are on a walk so please, JUST. STAY. FOCUSED! You have literally smelled every shrub, fire hydrant, bush, electrical box and fence post within a one-mile radius of home. And you smelled them ALL yesterday! Come on already!” I cried out. 

Rocky starred back at me as if I had just told him he was actually born a cat. He lowered his head and preceded to walk on, tail tucked between his legs.

My shoulders sunk and so did my heart. I just lost it on my seventy-pound Pit bull who can literally make even the surliest of people smile. What has my world come to?

As we pressed on, I did my very best to gain his forgiveness and make up for my most imperfect quality. I let him happily smell and saturate every single thing he fancied until his big, beautiful heart was content. As we walked on, I thought about how if I couldn’t find joy while on a peaceful morning walk with my dog, what else was I not enjoying in my life either?

I'm always rushing everything; relationships, experiences, moments, TIME! Nothing ever moves quick enough for me. What in the world am I in such a hurry for? To die? 

Later that morning as I washed some dishes in the sink I thought about my ridiculous outburst and started to cry because I knew that one day when Rocky was long gone I’d really miss our long morning walks where he not only stopped to smell the roses, but every single thing that crossed our path.

I dried my eyes looking out the back window as the sweet hummingbird that visits each morning sat on my clothes line to have his morning think. "I bet the hummingbird enjoys just sitting there on the clothes line." I said to myself. Right then and there, as I watched the hummingbird quickly flutter away, I promised myself that not only was I going to take more time to stop and smell the rose, but like Rocky, I was going to smell every damn thing along the way.

And I sure hope you do too.   

photo credit: Stephanie Cristalli Photography

The Dangerous Place of Maybe

"The way to develop decisiveness is to start right where you are, with the very next question you face." - napoleon hill

There is this dangerous place people seem to live in these days. It's that place between yes and no; that one called maybe. We roam from here and there, drifting amongst this indecisive and delusional place because it makes us feel as if we have choices, as if we are the ones in control.

But it's an illusion I tell you. A big scam full of lies. I know this because I've lived there for a very long time. 

Living from maybe is dark and lonely. It makes us feel as if you are strong. It's convincing at times but really, its noncommittal and makes you feel complacent. It's delusional and dark and leaves you thinking you are free but really, you're a prisoner of indecisiveness, bleeding with regret and longing for those things that your maybes let slip through your fingers. 

Be a yes or no person. 

You see, real power, the one you can truly hold yourself up on and feel good about, comes from having conviction. Real power comes from knowing yourself so well that deciding comes easy because most of the time, you already know before you are even given the choice. 

There is no lingering, no wondering or questioning what is right or what is wrong. There is a deep knowing, a trust that only comes from journeying into those dark and lonesome places of questions most of us try to bury with compulsive sex and drugs and iPhones and material things that leave us starring numbly off into space. We feel a momentary high only to find ourselves empty, never knowing who we really are or what we really want. 

You see, this place of yes and no comes with doing the so called work. I'll tell you this though, it's not gonna be easy. What is easy is living in maybe. Yes or no is hard. Understanding who you are is hard. Yes or no takes commitment but most of us are so afraid of this dreaded 'c' word that the idea alone sends us into fits of panic, feeling as if we are a trapped animal beating ourselves against a rusty cage, desperate to escape. 

But I promise you, you want to be a yes or no person.

Commit. Do the work. Dig. Stir it up. Question everything you were taught when you couldn't think for yourself. Trust yourself, even when it may not make sense. Stand firm in what you want. And figure out who you are. Choose. Believe deeply in something, anything, please. Even if the very thing displeases others. Have position and for Gods sake, please have passion. 

Don't spend your life teetering in between yes and no. Don't be a maybe.

Be a yes or no person.

 

12 Realizations from a Solo Road Trip

I asked life, "Why are you so difficult?" Life smiled and said. "You people never appreciate easy things."

Driving 1200 miles by yourself in two days, twice in one week gives you a lot of time to think. A lot of time to think.

Not that I really need any more reasons to think. I think, a lot. All day long. That’s why my RBF is near perfect. That’s Resting Bitch Face for those of you that don’t know the acronym. It’s not that I’m actually mad about anything that would cause my face to look that way. I’m usually deep in some analytical query, trying to solve the major problems of the world. Or more realistically, the major problems in my life.

However, a good long think in a car for seventeen hours all while being hot boxed by the horrific farts of a seventy pound Pitbull is sometimes necessary.  Especially when youre trying to find meaning in a few big things that have happened in your life in a small period of time. The past four months had flown by and the intensity of them hadn't really sunk in until 4:30am that morning when I got on I-5 heading north, towards Seattle. 

As I drove further and further away from Encinitas, I felt myself breath deeper and the tension melt away from the muscles in my back. And then it happened. Without any prompting, the tears flowed like wine. I say wine because well, I love wine and when I drink it, like Rosé, it flows pretty darn quickly down my throat. Crap, now I want some wine. 

Anyway, I digress.

I started, and proceeded to bawl my eyes out intermittently for the rest of the trip.  

As I watched myself feel the feels of the past four months, singing my heart out to my 'Seattle Road Trip' playlist, a list full of sappy love songs and melancholy top forty tunes, I felt tears run down my rosy (not rosé) warm cheeks and I gave myself room to be comfortable with everything coming up. Some of it surprised me, most of it didn't. 

I spent four days in Seattle which is always a mix of too long and too short of time and on the day I left to come back to Encinitas I was ready. I love that feeling, knowing you are exactly where you are meant to be. I'm always excited to get back to my life in Southern California.

This road trip didn't come without some big a-ha moments. Not surprisingly, the creative floodgates opened and all of the sudden I found my words again. That's been a consistent theme here, hasn’t it? I'll go weeks, if not months, without writing anything. Sometimes I get so busy and distracted in my life, I forget to make the time. Other times there really just isn't anything there, nothing is ready to be born and no matter what I do or how many times I sit and stare at my computer screen, nothing comes out the way I want, the way it should. 

However, as I drove down I-5 headed heading home, the words were flowing, once again, like sweet Rosé running down my throat, that I had to pull over and write out two separate posts. 

I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this list. I know, for a fact, that a lot of us struggle with the same things, and I hope, that you'll feel a little more understood and connected by reading it. 

12 Realizations from a Solo Road Trip

 

1. I'm enough, right here, right now, just as I am.

I've always struggled with feeling like I'm never enough. I'm never enough for the world, enough for my job, enough for my family, enough for friends, enough for a potential partner (This one is a dozy and probably a post in and of itself) However, slowly, over the last year, I've been really focused on letting that idea go and coming to a place of feeling enough as I am. Complete in all my chaotic, messy and imperfectness, right now.

I've been leaning into the idea of loving all sides of me. It hasn't been easy and I've definitely been met with one or more tests along the way, but every day I go to bed and practice this little thing called self-forgiveness and remind myself that tomorrow is a brand new day. I get the opportunity to try once again. 

2. Living from a place of love is far better then living out of fear. 

This is another extremely hard one for me. I've been hurt so many times over the years (who hasn’t?) that it has been easy to build a strong wall around my heart. I'm constantly battling between what my heart (my true self) and my head (my ego) thinks I should do. My heart wants nothing but to love and be loved in return. I really am one giant lover once you get past the rough exterior. I want to love no matter how someone else shows up, my heart wants to meet them wherever they are and beam them with love.

My head is like FUCK THAT. This person is a total and utter shit. Come on Amanda, let's push them away and run for the hills! Back up, back up, back up! This person is bound to break your heart or hurt you or break your trust. Back away and run. Save yourself woman!

I know that love is the way to go. In the end, love is all that matters, the world needs more love. and love always wins. The Beatles said it best, “All you need is love!” But it's hard for me. I'm ridiculously guarded at times, most of the time really, and it scares me to really let myself go and love. I'm a work in progress but aren't we all?

3. Worthiness is a birthright -- not something anyone should ever have the power to take away.

Ironically, my name, Amanda, literally means "worthy to be loved.” This makes me laugh because I'm pretty sure I popped out of the womb feeling a lack of worthiness and it's been a constant battle for me. Even with how much I've grown over the years, I find myself constantly being tested in this area. Worthiness goes so deep. 

However, on the drive it hit me, I've spent so much time letting my worthiness be dependent on external things. What other's think of me, how much money I make, how perfect I look on the outside, how skinny or fit I am, how people receive my art and the list goes on.  But listen to me closely as I whisper in your ear: WORTHINESS IS A FRIGGIN' BIRTHRIGHT! 

We give it away so easily though. We allow people and situations to determine what it means when really,  no one truly has the power to take your sense of worthiness away.

I was born worthy. I am worthy. And by God, so are you. 

4. Balance is everything. It's ok to love organic green juice AND whiskey neat. Even when you have cancer.  

When I was first diagnosed with cancer in March I got super strict and removed pretty much everything from my diet and a funny thing happened. At first I felt totally empowered but then I felt miserable. It reminded me of the days I struggled with a horrible eating disorder and was super controlling over what I ate and when I ate it. I hated that time in my life and I've come so far to be okay with feeling that way again.

I removed some of my most treasured rituals and found myself irritated that I felt I had to let them go. I tried everything to replace them with other, "more healthier" ones but I wanted my coffee and whisky neat. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm still very healthy. I love living that way. But after my surgery I realized that life is friggin' short. So I start my day off chugging a full glass of green mineral lemon water and then I have a cup of joe. I eat as alkaline as I can but I still give myself permission to have a cocktail too. And I know not everyone is going to agree with this but I'm ok with it and that brings me to my next one. 

5. Not everyone is going to like me, what I have to say or what I'm doing with my life -- I'm learning to give no fucks. 

I've lived way too long in the land of caring too much what other's think of me and my life and now I'm learning to not care so much (in a kind and loving way of course) and it is pretty freeing. 

I'm setting better boundaries and then fully owning what it is I want for myself without letting others influence my decision. I hope in the end, the happiness I'm discovering as I "give no fucks" is an example to others to own what what they, go after it and give no fucks too. 

And you know what, sometimes I like to cuss. I'm #givingnofucks.

6. Dogs may be slightly superior to cats-- but I will never let Oliver know. 

Considering my dog is currently drinking out of the toilet bowl, I'm reconsidering this one. 

7. No matter how lonely your path may feel, there is always someone waiting to help -- just ask. 

Asking for help is the best thing you can learn to do. Enough of this stoic bullshit.  People want to help but most of the time they have no idea what to say or do. So tell them already. Please, for the love of God, tell them. For you, for them, for me, for everyone involved. You’ll all be better off if you just speak up and say exactly what will help. Especially in times of need. 

8. I'm a vacationer, not a traveler. The truth shall set you free. 

My days of trekking from country to country, running from plane to train to automobile with only a backpack are coming to an end. I'm not even 100% sure I really enjoyed it to begin with. Give me a pool or beachfront, a good book and cool Mai Tai and I'm just about as happy as can be. 

Ah, it feels so good to be honest. 

9. Living in the place of maybe is a dangerous space -- more coming on that soon.  That's the other blog post. 

 Living from a place of maybe is dangerous. It lacks commitment. It's flakey. It's complacent. Too many of us live from this place now instead of one of yes or no. To live from this place you really have to own who you are and what you think you deserve and what you know you want. 

To be continued. 

10. Pain and hurt are great teachers. One of the best actually. 

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Yeah, I know, pain doesn't feel so good but honestly, it is one of the greatest teachers you will ever haveThis I know to be true from a lot of experience. You may grow a bit when you are all happy and in la la land but the real growth comes when you are down on your knees begging for it all to stop and then; what feels like out of nowhere, you find the strength to pull yourself back up slowly and you feel different, stronger from that experience. 

I'll write more on this later...

11. It’s okay to feel sad or mad, angry or disappointed and it’s definitely okay to cry about it.

It's okay to feel like shit sometimes. To sit there and just feel it. You really need to feel ALL of your emotions or they will fester inside and create a lot of turbulence in your life. You can't always affirm it way. Honestly, I've tried. Sometimes you have to really feel it first. 

 This allows for you to truly heal. Crying is actually one of the biggest stress relievers. Seriously. It’s science.

Personally, I went many years without really letting myself cry. I’d start, only to stuff it back down, feeling weak for allowing myself to surrender to a perfectly natural and healthy emotion. Now I cry a lot. I mean, a lot. It’s become the complete opposite. Allowing myself to cry makes me feel a sense of freedom when the tears dry up and I find it brings ease to whatever it was that was building up inside.

So go ahead, be a cry baby. It is good for you. 

12. There is an inner guidance that knows the way, listen to and follow it.

I know, the woo woo shit. I love this stuff. So here it is.  Everyone has had those moments of ‘gut intuition,’ where something inside of you told you to do this or not do that. That’s a good place to get used to living from. That’s the truth. When we allow our mind to take over and dictate what we do and do not do, that is when things get messy.

All my big decisions have started from me listening to and trusting that voice inside.The path isn’t always clear. In fact, it’s usually NEVER clear, but if I know anything to be true, whenever I’ve listened to that gut feeling, it’s always led to the very thing I’ve needed. 


And hey, if you enjoyed this post, share it, love it, comment below. I love hearing your thoughts. It gives me an opportunity to know YOU more. 

Dear Cancer, You Are Stealing From Me

**WARNING: I recently took a yoga class from my dear friend and her words penetrated deep. "Let the world see who you really are, where you are really at. It's not always pretty and perfect." So here is to a messy, raw and wildly authentic post. If you have an aversion to cuss words, well, maybe skip this one.  

"Everybody's got that chapter, of dark and darker days. Saturn seems to be returning and his essence can't be tamed. Some may like to fight it, try to plan a secret attack. But the more you push it the more it's pushing you back. So, you can't rush your healing. Darkness has its teachings. Love is never leaving. You can't rush your healing"

- Trevor Hall

I learned the hard way to not put out into the Universe the very thing you fear most because it will likely be presented to you at some point in time. The Universe will most definitely say, "Oh yeah, well I think you CAN handle it," and then throw whatever it is in your lap like a ton of bricks leaving you gasping for air. Sometimes life just isn't fair like that.

Shitty things happen to really great people. Beautiful and kind and amazing individuals are taken away from us way too soon. Disease happens and people lose things they never realized were valuable to them. Little kids get sick and die and horrible criminals live well into their nineties, unscathed.  

There is an imbalance in life and I don't think we'll ever really understand why. 

People often say, and I've been guilty of this myself, that everything happens for a reason. All of these things happen to shape and mold you, to help you grow into the person you are suppose to be. I've said that a bunch too. I laugh now and can't help but wonder if most of it is a crock of shit. That maybe life, sometimes, is just really unfair. 

Tragedies rip through lives stealing precious people and moments right before your eyes and you spin in circles trying to make sense of it and suddenly, "don't worry, this is all happening for a reason," sounds like a big pile of steaming bullshit. You wait and wait and wait to see things clearly, to understand why but nothing comes. No sense is made and you wonder, well then what was the fucking point? 

That is where I was last week when I learned that radiation was more then likely going to put me into early menopause and at the very least, leave me, infertile. Ouch. 

I want so badly to remain in a state of optimism, to lead with grace and kindness, to continue to believe that everything is happening for a reason and that life presents things to me so that I can evolve into the best version of myself. Except, I really don't feel like this experience is doing that at the moment. At least not right now and maybe that is the point. Maybe over time, this whole mess of an experience will make better sense and I'll be better because of it. 

Last week I fell deep within a cloud of bitter haze though as I sat alone with this news. I found myself throwing on fake smiles and diluted pleasantries to make everyone else feel at ease around me but the reality was, I was spinning from the feeling that cancer is stealing something mighty precious from me and I can't do anything about it. And I keep wondering, what is the bloody point? 

The funny thing is, I knew the highs and lows would come like a chaotic whirlwind. I've been through this before after all and I learned a huge lesson that time around. I knew that once the dust settled and life moved on and time went by, I'd feel all the feelings that come with this wild rollercoaster. I knew that I'd, at times, feel lost and forgotten. I knew I'd feel angry and scared. I knew I'd feel confused and baffled and even happy and peaceful by what I'd been given and I definitely knew unexpected things would happen that would change the course of my life forever. 

I knew my faith and sense of optimism would be tested like it never had before. 

What I didn't realize however, was that my life wouldn't even look like my own anymore. That everything would change and I'd feel like I was standing in the middle of Time Square staring at everything moving a million miles an hour all around me and I'm just watching and waiting for everything to make sense to me once again. Yet, none of it does.

And so I sunk. Deep and dark I went. In all honesty, if it wasn't for a few things that happened that helped distract me from my current reality, I wonder if I would have continued sinking? I felt somewhat balanced. 

Then the news came last week. News that made me feel out of control and helpless and I found myself facedown kicking and screaming on the floor and I realized how distracted I had been. I wondered how much of this reaction was from this news and how much of it was the aftermath of time and not truly processing the magnitude of what I was going through.

This news however, opened up that dark pit once again and I sank. 

But as everyone knows, time changes things. Even in the span of a week. This week has felt lighter and I see how much I have actually grown over the years. I have tools and resources now and the greatest advantage possible; perspective. 

I've been thinking a lot about perspective and our attitudes towards traumatic things that happen to us. How we think we lose our power by situations and circumstances that are out of our control, then it hit me, it's our attitude and perspective that GIVES us the power. 

Last week, as I watched a lifelong dream slip through my fingertips, I also let my personal power melt away with it. Demons surfaced, ones that whispered lies to me, ones that created chaos in my mind, ones that I've worked tirelessly to quiet over the years. 

Then this week something radical resurfaced out of a choice; faith and hope. I realized that as unfair as it may feel, I do have a choice. I can allow cancer to harden me, to add a bitter layer, to feel helpless and anger towards life, OR, let it continue to soften me, to add depth, and an openness to relate to and be there for others in a way I never have been before. 

I know very well which attitude I want to cultivate. But it's not always easy and I know the demons will try again and again and I'll fight back with everything I've got because I'm committed. I've chosen which side I'm on and I really want to do my best every day. I'm committed to living my life with purpose and waking up daily and reminding myself that I GET to live life this way. That I've chosen faith and hope and love over the dark side. That, in the end, I DO have all the power and I DO believe that something mighty wonderful will come out of these dark moments. 

So maybe cancer can come in like a thief in the night and steal a precious experience from me, one that feels like a birthright really, but in the end I get to choose how I react to it. I get to process it, move through it and ultimately, live it the way I see fit. 

So in the end cancer, I win. 

 

 

 

How My Life Feels Like a Racy One Night Stand

My mom called me this evening to share that a few of my "fans" back home are waiting with bated breath for the next installment of, "What the hell is happening with this damn and entirely bizarre cancer stuff" and I'm trying desperately to find the words to please them. To give them the very thing they want but they just aren't coming and oddly enough, I don't even really want talk about cancer anymore. I've actually gone a whole couple of hours completely forgetting that I still have it. That I am still in the middle of being diagnosed and I still have a long road ahead. 

Surgery has come and gone and on Wednesday, May 31st, after weeks of more insurance issues, I am finally having the other lymph node biopsied to see if it is in fact, cancer.  This will dictate my treatment protocol, something I'm still wrapping my head around.

There were actually three lymph nodes that lit up in my PET scan, one has already been removed when I had my inguinal lymph node dissection on April 20th, and the other two are in my pelvis/sacrum area. They can only reach one because the other in my sacrum is too deep. This requires sedation and a big long needle going directly into my pelvis. All I can say is, THANK GOD FOR DRUGS. As much as I am a purist at heart, eating organic, using organic and natural products on my skin and throughout my home, I am so grateful for those wonderful and glorious drugs that will knock me out for this procedure. 

But like I said, I don't really want to talk about this. 

Lately I've been thinking about how much has changed in my life over the course of three months. Right before I was diagnosed I had this crazy feeling that I was on the cusp of some pretty major life changes. There was an anxious energy in the air and being the highly intuitive person I am, I knew cha cha changes were around the corner. Have you ever known your life was about to drastically changed right before it did and then it does and you feel like you are spinning in the middle of a tornado and you can't get proper footing? That's pretty much what happened to me and it's how I have felt ever since.

Everything is the same yet nothing is the same. It reminds me of that t-shirt you see EVERYWHERE in SE Asia with the words, "Same same but different" printed on front and I feel like I need to own that shirt because that is now my life.

I stare in the mirror every day and see the same women yet hardly recognize her. Has cancer really changed me that much so soon or am I just going through one of those periods in life where you have a massive internal shift that just so happened to coincide with a tragic life event? 

To give you an idea of what has changed over the last three months here is a rundown: 

* new roommate
* cancer diagnosis
* massive amounts of art made and sold/art opening
* surgery  
* MANY doctors appointments
* MANY visitors (mom, sister-in-law, older brother, both my best friends from Seattle)
* fostered a dog but have totally fallen in love and have decided to keep him
* something else I can't quite mention yet but it's BIG
* got a new car
* met some new friends

Now I'm totally aware that most of this stuff, minus the cancer is pretty amazing but change is change and the processing is always interesting and sometimes presents its own challenges. Especially when you are creature of habit and a women with many daily rituals as I am. There are moments when I am craving the familiarity of life right before everything changed but then I realize that real change, the internal stuff,  happens when your life gets thrown upside down. That's when you see what you are made of. That is when you see if all those other millions of lessons in your past and all the learnings you took away have really stuck. This is when you are forced to see just how grounded and sane you actually are.. or just how crazy.  

So yes, most of these changes are exactly what I've needed but they still cause me some pretty significant anxiety and make me feel like I'm stumbling around drunk and naked in the dark looking for my clothes after a racy one night stand. I've actually never had a one night stand so I don't technically know what this looks or feels like but I imagine it is a mix of "oh shit oh shit oh shit, what did I just do and F*&K yeah, I just DID that!" as you run out the door giggling as quietly as you can as to not wake them and have the awkward, "Well, that was fun" exchange. 

And that my friends, has me thinking, maybe I SHOULD have some racy one night stands because if all of this has taught me anything it's that life is entirely too short and anything can happen at any moment and I'll be damned if I go down without feeling like I've truly lived. Then again. I'm not so sure that a racy one night stand will make me feel like I'm actually living but hey, I'm sure as hell going to figure out what does. 

So that is where I am at. Trying to figure out what exactly I need in my life to feel like I'm not wasting any of this precious time on things that weigh me down and contribute to my own personal suffering. 

So my new motto, the one I'm going to live by from here on out is, "Does this make me feel like I'm having a racy one night stand?" 

If yes, I'm on the right track.

Maybe we all need to think of that one thing that terrifies and excites us all in the same moment. That one thing that will help us gauge if we are truly living. What is that for you? What is that thing that is going to make you feel alive. Maybe it's not the idea of a racy one night stand. Maybe it's a double cheese burger with extra mayo when you swore you were giving up meat for the last time. Maybe it's jumping out of an airplane when you are terrified of heights. Maybe it's falling so deeply in love after your heart was shredded in a million pieces. Maybe maybe maybe...

I don't know what it is for you but for me, it's the way, I think, a racy one night stand would make me feel. A bit terrifying and extremely freeing with a good dose of uncontrollable giggles. 

And really, isn't that what we all need more of anyway? 

More giggles.

 Get your mind out of the gutter. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't wait. The Time Is Now.

"I know the rain is cold my dear, but dance in it a little while you wait for the sun." - a.j. lawless

It's been two days since my surgery and I'm home, resting somewhat comfortably on my couch with my legs up on top of a pillow. Aches and pains fill my left side and pelvis from the procedures they performed. One was the inguinal dissection of the left lymph nodes and the other was a D & C (Dilation and curettage) which is a procedure to remove tissue from inside my uterus. Basically, my doctor scraped out the first layer of my uterus  with a rake-like medical devise. There's a mental image for you. 

I had no idea what to expect from this surgery and I did too much of the very thing you shouldn't do and research way too much and totally freaked myself out. I've only really ever known surgery to be excruciating. When I had part of my colon removed in 2005, complication arose and I got extremely sick and was in a tremendous amount of pain. I had a pic line and drains and an ileostomy bag and was very sick. Naturally, I figured this surgery would bring about similar pains. It's funny how our mind does that to us. 

Given the nature of that surgery and the complications that arose, its safe to say that I developed a good amount of PTSD. However, this surgery hasn't been nearly as rough but I imagine, and I'm prepared for, its own set of hardships.

I did have to leave the hospital with a drain connected to the area where they removed lymph nodes which I'll have for a minimum of two weeks. I have to empty it twice a day which was similar to my ileostomy bag. I also left with some mighty good pain meds but I hate being on them. They make me nauseous and I feel like I'm floating out of my body. They also make me feel like I"m having a panic attack and I can't think. So I'm trying very hard to not take them. But I think I may cave today as I overdid it this morning and now am dealing with more pain then I had since the surgery. 

My mom went to run errands and my roommate left to go volunteer with some of her students so I have the house to myself for a bit. It's an eery feeling. I haven't really been alone since finding out the results of my PET scan which were worse then I had hoped. Apparently, the cancer was in multiple lymph nodes along my left side and had spread to a pelvis/sacrum node as well and I can't help but wonder if that is why my lower back has been hurting so bad the last few months. I can't help but think back to a lot of my so called symptoms and wonder if that was the cancer the whole time. 

They still don't know exactly where the cancer started. They don't know how to diagnose me and my oncologist even said that this case is very rare. It's not normal. Here is the thing about me though; I'm all for not being normal and being unique but in this case, I'd actually prefer to be a little more mainstream. I'd actually prefer my cancer be a little more black and white. I'd prefer to know exactly what to expect but I don't and that is a hard place for me to be. 

My world feels a little foggy right now and this surgery is only the beginning. I have a long road ahead of me and I have no idea what is in store. All I can do at this point is hope like hell that what they find isn't as serious as I feel like it may be. 

 I'm grateful though. I'm grateful for all the love a support I've received. From my family, my friends, strangers. Thank you. 

Thank you to all those that have shared with me that I am on their prayer lists and their aunt's church prayer lists and so forth. I know I have an army behind me. I know I have some mighty good connections to the big G.O.D so I feel safe and in good hands. But I'm still scared.

I don't want to have cancer. It's a very strange feeling to know that there is something inside of me and it's very job is to seek and destroy every last part of me until I take my last breath. It wont come to that mind you. I'm stronger then this beast. This beast doesn't quite know what it's dealing with and I'm trying very hard to not show it my fear. 

But I'm scared. 

Words like more surgery, radiation and chemotherapy have already been dropped and that scares me. That scares the crap out of me. I don't want to lose my hair. I don't want to pump my body full of poison or fry my reproductive organs under a machine. 

I keep repeating conversations that my old roommate and I had about what we'd do if cancer came back into our lives. We are both rather holistic and I always thought I'd fight this with natural medicine but here I am, now faced with that choice and I'm scared of the decision I have to make. I don't know what to do. All I know, without a doubt, is that I want to live and I want to live in a mighty big way. I know that I have a lot left to do and I also know that this experience is part of that plan. But I still don't really know what to do regarding this cancer that I am facing right now. So I'm thankful for this time of the unknown. This time of not having to decide anything. 

Why does it take something bad happening to remind us of how bad we want to live? Why does it take something like this happening to remind us of how lucky we are or how much we still want to do with our lives?

I hope I remember when this is all said and done, to live like I've never lived before. To take even more risks and be even braver in my choices. To say yes more to the things that light me up and no to those things that are petty and bullshit. 

I hope I forgive more easily and love even bigger. 

I hope I tell those I love them every single time I talk to them. 

I hope I close more doors that no longer deserve my time and attention so that other doors, doors that are waiting to be open can do so. 

But then again, why am I waiting for all this to be over to do so. Screw that. The time is now. Live like this now. Don't wait. Don't you dare wait for the right time because that time IS right now. Take it from me, when you find out something like this, you have a moment when everything flashes before your eyes and you wonder why you aren't living the way you believe you should be.

So from here on out...while I fight this fight, I'm also going to live this one precious life of mine exactly as I want to. 

Wild, free and full of purpose and adventure. 

I hope you do too. Live your life they way you've always wanted to. 

 

 

 

Single Female Seeks the Butterflies

"Fuck butterflies. I feel the whole zoo when I'm with you." - Unknown. 

The other day I was swiping through Bumble in an effort to totally and completely distract myself for a few minutes when I started cracking up at the irony of what I was doing. I wonder if I should change my profile to say, "Single women with cancer of unknown primary source seeks tall, dark and handsome man. I laughed out loud. "Fuck that!" I thought to myself.  What she actually seeks is a kind, compassionate, empathetic and incredibly patient man who will hold her hand through the scary and shitty parts of life."  I laughed again as the smile on my face started to fade and the unavoidable reality settled back in. 

Single woman with cancer seeks kind, compassionate, empathetic and patient man who will hold her hand through the scary and hard parts of life. 

I know this should be the very last thing on my mind right now but for the last few days it has been all consuming. I think it's because I'm craving the endorphins that comes with happy newness and right now everything is so unknown and scary. But what I want more then anything, is to get tangled up in matters of the heart. I can't help but wonder if all this would be easier if I had someone walking by my side every step of the way. Someone who says sweet things like, "Babe, we'll get through this together." Someone who I can rest my head on his should and cry. Someone who, despite everything, sends me into uncontrollable fits of laughter. 

But I don't. And that's my reality right now. I don't even have a crush on anyone at this moment in time. Zilch. Nada. No one. Not one single person. There isn't one single guy out there that gives me butterflies. And for this overly romantic heart of mine, that makes life a little boring. From the time I can remember, I've ALWAYS had a crush on someone. 

I'm sure there is a reason behind all of it. Surely, there is a reason I'm going through this without a person to call my own. Surely I need to be reminded (once again) just how strong and capable I am. (yes, that's sarcasm you hear)

But then again, who's gonna want to date a gal freshly diagnosed with the big "C?"

Can you imagine a first date right now? 

"So Amanda, tell me about yourself?" says potential suitor. Yes, the question sounds like one you'd get at a job interview but aren't first dates kind of equivalent to that? 

"Well, where do I start?" I say. " I'm super active, I love being in the mountains and outdoors in general. I make bad ass wood art and I'm in school for Graphic and Web Design. Oh, yeah....I totally forgot. I was also just diagnosed with cancer and they can't seem to find where it started in my little old body." I pause, taking giant sip of my organic green juice. "This was fun. Wanna go on a second date?" 

I can see the remnants of dust as said suitor peels away quickly in his car, frantic to get away from the girl with the big "C."

I imagine a lot of these feelings have to do with the fact that my family is 1200 miles away and the initial dust has settled and I'm alone here in my little home in Encinitas...with cancer and everything feels like it's going at a snails pace and all I want are the friggin' butterflies and to not think about cancer and instead, think about the man behind the butterflies. Is that too much to friggin' ask?

Yes, I do believe a lot of the feelings of loneliness are circling about right now because I am so far away from my people. We talk daily but I'd give anything to be in the same room as all of them right now. I'd give anything to be back amongst the green trees of the Pacific North West enveloped in snuggles and hugs. 

So my reality is just feeling a little dark right now as I move from one stage of grief to the next. Out of shock and denial into pain and anger. It's as natural as taking a breath and I'm fully committed to honoring this process but I can just as easily honor this process with butterflies in my belly as I can without. So throw me a friggin' bone God, will you? Give me the butterflies!

 I imagine that my obsessive thoughts about dating stem from wondering if I'd feel as lonely if I had a partner to fight along side me, holding my hand through all the scary tests and decisions I'm about to face? 

I haven't once asked why me but the last few days I've been feeling that questions peak up from deep down. I know the 'why' doesn't matter. The 'what I will do with all of this' does. I know what is important is how I let this experience move and transform me. How I allow this process to give me what I need to help others down the road. 

But hey, can I please have a side of butterflies too? 

 

 

 

  

Today is the day because don't you know?

"Being ignored is a great privilege. That is how I think I learned to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I simply looked at the world, not really prepared for anything." - Saul Leiter
 

It's 6:30am on a Thursday morning, almost two weeks to the day that I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of an unknown primary source. 

I thought I would have heard from them by now. The oncologist at UCSD Moore Cancer Center.  I mean, it's been over a week since they received my case. How can they possibly still be reviewing it? Don't they know I have cancer? 

Thoughts circle my mind like a whirlwind of chaos as I sit up and attempt to settle into my first meditation practice of the day but all I can think about is the big, goopy cup of coffee I so friggin' want right now. I'm missing some of my old rituals.

 As committed as I am to eating and drinking things that only promote alkalinity in my body, I just want to be sitting at the base of a big mountain in the early morning, with the soft glow of spring light kissing the snow caps, sipping on cheap, instant goop. I wonder if I'll ever be able to drink coffee again without feeling guilty. 

I'm growing frustrated with the system as I wait on more information. I'm starting to feel like I've been swept under the rug, once again.  Over the last few days I've noticed a certain irritation, an impatience for myself and with others, bubbling up from within. My type A side is feening for more ridgity and order yet my wild and free spirit is enjoying the unknown. I feel like a total conundrum. My head is spinning. 

I take a deep breathe and focus on my breathing, doing my best to attempt to let go of any linger irritation and chaotic thoughts. 

"Just focus on your breathing, Amanda." I quietly say to myself as I place my left hand on my chest. "Let all that other junk fall away. For now."

I come to from my trance-like meditative state and realize I actually meditated! I'm kind of excited because lately its felt more like a violent battle between the competing thoughts in my head instead of a mediation practice. Screw the silence, let's just see which ones I can keep at bay the longest! That alone felt like a success.

"Today's the day!" I say to myself as I slip out from under the covers, resting on the edge of the bed as I pull on my fuzzy white Penguin socks. The ones my mom gave me for Christmas two years ago. 

Today is the day they'll call. Don't they know I have cancer

I prepare my warm lemon water and stand staring out the kitchen window at my back yard, I look at the garden and a smile forms across my lips as I imagine the harvest we will have in a few months. I think about the conversation my housemate and I had yesterday as we were cleaning out the garden, getting it ready for planting on Saturday. How empowering it was going to feel to grow our own food. I laughed and told her that I'd rather be hands deep in dirt and soil then out partying any day. 

I'm shaken from my memory by the sound of boiling water. 

Today is the day they'll call. Don't they know I have cancer

Earlier this week I joked with a friend and said, "they better figure something out soon cause I'm already bored with cancer. I'm bored of talking about it.  I just want to get back to my life."

So that's what I decided to do. Get back to it. Because despite this recent diagnosis of mine, I must keep moving forward. 

When I first realized my gut feeling was becoming my reality, I immediately thought of all the stuff I was doing. I am only half-way through my first semester of school. Last time, twelve years ago, I had just completed my first quarter back at school. Seriously, not again. I don't have time to put all this on hold. 

So today, they have to call. They have to because don't they know I have cancer. 

And my art. I have momentum. I have plans. I don't have time to put all this on hold either.

I wonder; why is it that right when things feel good, right when I feel like I'm going down a path that feels so friggin' good, life throws a giant curveball? 

I've been mulling over something for a few years now, something I think people often say to provide comfort but I wonder, does it? 

"God does not give you more then you can handle."  

I've been turning it over and over in my head because it bugs. Yet, I've found myself repeating it often. To myself and others, as a source of comfort. But I'm not sure that I believe it. 

What I feel like saying is this:  

"I'm good God. I think I've had my fair share of challenges to learn and grow from. I mean, it's not that I can't handle it. I KNOW I can handle this. I am one strong bamajama. There is no denying that. But God, I'm good. I think I've had my fair share."

And then I hear God laugh in the far off distance. And I give him my most perfect glare and eye roll. 

Today they'll call. They have to. Don't they know I have cancer. 

I get ready for school and call Brooke, my best friend back in Seattle. We catch up, both sharing our latest frustrations with the medical system and then we encourage the other to call our doctors and insist on moving forward. "Be your own advocate!" I cheer and laugh into the phone. "We are women, hear us roar! The sounds of claps and cheers fill my head and I cheer on my best friend. 

I hang up with Brooke and silence.

I feel weak, forgotten and powerless as I call UCSD. 

I'm transferred to a gal named Wendy and she informs me that my case has, in fact, finally been approved. I can't help but suddenly feel like dollars signs are hanging over my head.. 

"April 10th is the soonest I can get you in to see one of the oncologist." says Wendy. Tears well up in my eyes. I clear my throat and try to compose myself. " But that's over a week and a half away. You don't have anything sooner? I've already been sitting on this diagnosis for two weeks. I'm also losing my insurance at the end of April and there will be a lapse until I can get private insurance. I kind of need to do whatever it is I need to do before that" 

"You mean surgery? Oh well, we are already booking out into the middle of May for that anyway. I'm sorry. We are just really busy." She replies. This fact alone is just depressing in and of itself. They're just "really busy." 

"But wait!" I want to shout. "Don't you know I have cancer?" 

"I guess just put me down for that one." I say as nicely as I can. I know I can't take out my frustrations on her but I surely want to. "Can I get on a cancellation list?"

"You can call back Monday and see if anyone's cancelled. It does happen every now and then." Wendy replies.

"Okay, thanks."

I hang up the phone and give myself a few moments to cry in the drivers seat sitting in my car in the school parking lot. 

Because don't they know, I have cancer? 

 

 

 

 

Ah, Cancer...it's been awhile.

"I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us." -- Anne Lamott

Well, I'm pretty sure the title of this post says it all but just to be clear...

On Friday, March 17th, I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer with an unknown primary source. 

For those of you who are a little uncertain what metastatic cancer means, it is cancer that has spread from a primary location to another location in your body. 

Yeah, it's still a little hard for me to wrap my head around too. 

However, if I'm honest, it really wasn't that shocking given the golf ball size swollen lymph node in my groin. Hearing the words come out of my doctors mouth was still, needless to say, disheartening. 

For me, the last six weeks have been filled with doctor appointments, antibiotics, ultrasounds, CT scans, a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, biopsies and waiting.

A lot of waiting.  

And you probably want to know the story, where I'm at and how I'm moving forward with this very strange and unfamiliar diagnoses. 

I've been debating on whether or not to share and how much to share because there is so much unknown still. Part of me wants to keep this tightly wrapped in my protective bubble of a handful of family and friends because it makes me feel safe. Ultimately, I think there is great power in vulnerability. I think there is a power so mighty and fierce in the collective whole, and that in some strange way, that by sharing, something great will come from this. 

In some strange way, from the moment I was diagnoses, I've felt this, in an almost unexplainable way, was a gift that will unfold with time. And part of my purpose in this life is to share, with the hopes that someone reads something that may help them. 

So here is the story, where I am at with all of it and what I am currently doing about it. 

THAT LYMPH NODE IS HUGE!

About six months ago I went to the doctor for a swollen lymph node in my left groin. It was big enough to be concerning and it was painful and also coincided with another infection but my doctor didn't seem too concerned. Even when in my gut I wanted to press for more tests, I ignored it and kicking and screaming, got on the antibiotics she prescribed and the infection and lymph node went away with a seven day dose. Two weeks later, I was climbing Mt. Whitney and my swollen lymph node was a thing of the past. I didn't really think much of it other then my initial gut feeling of, "Something feels off here."

Then at the end of January I developed another infection and the lymph node became swollen once again and started to become extremely painful. I decided to go back to my doctor and see what she thought. However, this time I went back to my OBGYN instead as I had a better relationship with her and I knew she would be fully on board to do anything to get to the bottom of this. 

 We decided to put me on stronger dose of antibiotics for 14 days because there was a chance that if this was again an infection, it could be contained in the lymph node. So, again kicking and screaming, I started this gnarly dose of antibiotics but when nothing changed, we both became concerned and decided that we needed to explore this further. 

The following week I went in to have an ultrasound which showed that there was definitely an abnormal growth. Duh. I'm no medical professional but the golf ball size lymph node in my groin was a pretty good indication that something was abnormal. 

Then came the biopsy; which, let me just say, I've been poked and prodded so many times in my life and I usually barely blink and eye, but this one got me good. More so emotionally then anything.

And then it was back to waiting. Lots of waiting. Which is always the worst. 

Then on Friday, after an emotional week of doctor calls and waiting, I got the call from my doctor with the final pathology report:  Metastatic Cancer. I had cancer, it had spread to the lymph node and we have no idea where it started in my body. 

hey, what's up your um....?

Serendipitously, I had already had my annual colonoscopy schedule for March 21st and my mom was flying in March 20th to take me to my appointment and spend a little quality time with me. My colonoscopy is a part of my yearly screening for colon cancer, which I had when I was twenty-four. 

Part of me thought this was going to be it. I was almost sure of it. But after my upper and lower scope showed no signs of stomach or colorectal cancer, I was rather shocked (and relieved). We could cross those off the list. Can you see the excitement in my eyes right after my procedure. ;)

Then on Thursday, March 23rd I got a CT scan with a barium contrast to indicate if the primary cancer was anywhere from my lungs down to my reproductive organs. Other then the lymph node in my groin, the scans revealed nothing. No masses or tumors here either. 

This super 'delicious' stuff is what you take before a CT scan. I kept saying it was my "banana milkshake" to my mom while singing, "my milkshake brings all the boys to the ground..." as I chugged the chalky paste down. 

So now what? 

An interesting thing happens when you are diagnosed with cancer. You want answers and you want them RIGHT NOW. You want to know exactly what you need to do right this very instant to make this thing go away. 

Time stands still yet everything else is moving so damn fast around you. 

Its like in the movies where the main character is standing in a busy intersection and everything is racing around them at lightening speed and you are just standing there staring. How can life really be going on around you when YOU just found out you have cancer? 

The big "C" word consumes your every waking moment. If you are extremely proactive like myself, you are researching any and everything you can. From possible forms of cancer that metastasizes to this specific lymph node, to holistic and natural treatments and protocols I can start incorporating right now to get the body ready for whatever may come, cancer is on the brain at all times. 

More then anything though, this has been a huge exercise in seeing how far I've come and leaning into the unknown. I've been forced to dig deep and bring forth everything I've learned over the last few years about coping and thriving through the unfamiliar waters of the unknown without completely melting down. 

And throughout this all, I've felt a sense of calmness and peace I've never felt before. As if, everything tool I've learned, from mediation to self-love and forgiveness, to eating in a way to support my body through this, to asking people for exactly what I need, has armed me with everything I need to get through this patiently. 

Because unfortunately, there is a lot more waiting ahead of me. 

And that is where I am at now. 

My case has now been turned over to the Moore Cancer Center oncology department at UCSD and is being reviewed by the oncologist on staff. I hope to get an appointment with them in the next week. 

But for now I wait. 

I imagine next will be a PET scan to indicate potential hotspots and possible surgery to remove the lymph node.

So now the big question. How am I emotionally with all of this?

Initially it was hard to hear that once again, cancer had found it's way back into my life. Being faced with it at such and young age and watching members of my family and friends go through it for several years, I'm no stranger to cancer. But here's the thing, no matter how many times you hear the word, it's still just as shocking when someone says, "You have cancer."

Then throw in the word metastatic and it can send you into a bit of a panic. 

However, after the initial shock wore off and as my colonoscopy and CT scan came back clean, I'm optimistic that this isn't as bad as I had originally thought. That hopefully, it's just some weird rare cancer that is confined to my lymph but looks like metastatic cancer.  

In the meantime I've put myself on a super strict Alkaline diet, working with my natropath/Chinese medicine doctor incorporating as many holistic and natural therapies as I can right now to get my body and immune system as strong as possible.

I strongly believe the body can heal itself when given the right tools. I also believe that sometimes Western medicine is needed and this is one of those times. So I'll be using both to heal from whatever is going awry in my body. 

As I wait to gather more information I'll fight like heck to do whatever I can in the meantime to start the healing process. And that looks a little something like this:

Immune supporting therapies
Alkiline, organic diet ONLY
Colonics and enemas to properly detox
Therapy and Reiki
Prayer
Visualization and mediation
Essential Oils (Frankincense and Myrrh) and many others
Laughter - lots of it!
And I'm reading and talking to EVERYONE I can about all my options. I'm not going to rush into anything until I know everything I can. 

Below is one of the books I'm reading. 

And the lemon tree my mom bought me... when life gives you lemons...you drinks LOTS of lemon water for detoxification. 

I know some of you may role your eyes at this but there are countless stories and research out there that support the incredible benefits of Integrative Medicine and that is the only way I'll be comfortable treating this. 

At the end of the day, it's very personal. Although I choose to share openly because I believe sharing and connecting with others is not only healing for myself but could possibly help someone else, this all comes down to one thing; what feels right and the best to me. 

And I truly hope you learn to apply that same idea to your own life. 

In the meantime, I have a favor to ask all of you. Whether you pray, meditate, think positively, climb big mountains to feel closer to your source, please keep me in mind when you are doing all of it. 

Keep me in your thoughts, your prayers, your meditations, your light. When you are doing things that make you happiest, I hope you can radiate that joy my way. I believe in miracles. I believe in the power of the unknown. And I believe, more then anything, that I will get through this with your love, laughter, and light shining my way. 

I plan to document this journey as much as I can through this blog and videos. So if you want to be apart of it, please check back regularly. 

Until then, so much love to all of you. 

Love, 

Amanda

Books to Inspire (top 10 so far)

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Growing up in Seattle, there were many cool mornings and evenings that brought with them plenty of excuses to get cozy curling up with some warm tea and whatever book I was in the middle of. This was probably something I learned from my mom as she was an avid book lover too. 

The redolent enveloped me as I slowly flip page to page in anticipation of whats was to come next, brings with it a deep comfort that only other book lovers understand.

I'm the girl that brings four books with her on any given trip, weighing my bag down by at least five pounds and if you look in my purse at any given time, you better believe there is a book tucked somewhere inside. You never know when you'll get stuck somewhere and need a good book. 

Some books I read with a fiery passion, finishing in mere days, and others, I've been slowly chipping away at for months, taking in only what is needed at the time. Long ago I told myself this was ok. Some books you pick up and the timing just feels off and you find yourself picking it up a year later and reading it in a few days. I'm convinced I'll finish them when the time is right.

Over the years, I have read books that stick out more then others, and a few that I've read multiple times. There have been those that have stayed with me for weeks after I finished the last sentence and others that have inspired me to make radical changes. Some have made me cry tears of joy and ones of sadness and others that have answered questions I've sat with for a long time. But nothing, and I mean nothing, quite feels the same as a book that, long after you've read the last line, still tugs at your heart. 

And because I love to learn of books that have inspired others, I thought maybe you would enjoy learning of books that have greatly inspired me. 

Here are my top ten favorites. 

Enjoy!

1. Bird by Bird  - Anne Lamott 

First of all, this woman and her writing. Gah! I can't even say enough about the way she writes. I was originally drawn to her because of the way she communicated her understanding of God and Christianity and then I stumbled upon this book. 

I had always wanted to be a writer when I was younger. I had wild stories dancing in my head but in fourth grade I started getting pulled out of class to attend a special reading class for students who had trouble reading and comprehending things. Somehow from that I concluded that I wasn't intelligent or creative enough to write. This book changed that for me. This book changed so much for me. 

If you have the dream of writing...pick up this book.  

2. Broken Open - Elizabeth Lesser

When I began this book I knew right away I could easily finish it within a few days. So, I intentionally slowed down to savor every single word. This book is for anyone who has ever been through something challenging that has lead them to a crossroads, a choice, a decision. Will I sink away into the pain, allowing it to consume and eat at me or will the brokenness help me shift and open me up and allow life to change me for the better?

I absolutely believe this is a must read for all. 

3. The Universe Has Your Back - Gabrielle Bernstein

I often find myself saying cliche things like, "everything happens for a reason" and the "Universe/God has a plan for me. I trust what is unfolding." However, I started to realize that I would say these things yet there was an underlying distrust and belief in what I was saying. Naturally somewhat skeptical, I want to believe that we are fully supported by something much bigger then us, yet I've always had the question in the back of my mind of, "Are we really?"

In walks Gabby and her uncomplicated way of teaching us all that the Universe REALLY does have our back. "Stop chasing life and truly live." This is a concept that has taken me awhile to understand. "Let Go, Let God" was another cliche saying I always said to myself and to others but as a natural control freak, I was and still am (although I'm practicing the art of letting go daily now) grasping and clinging on to whatever I thought was right for me instead of really trusting that there IS something better in the works. 

Gabby gives you easy and tangible practices to help you redefine your belief and trust in the process of allowing life to flow. 

Game changer! 

4. Scary Close - Donald Miller

Oh Donald Miller, if you weren't already married I'd hunt you down and propose myself. Oh how I adore you and everything you write. This book speaks to me in a pretty profound way. Donald writes about relationships and vulnerability and about dropping the act and really stepping up and loving yourself and others by showing the world who you truly are. 

He speaks to the process of uncovering your authentic self in a way I've yet read before. 

I think this quote speaks volumes. 

"When two people are entirely and completely separate they are finally compatible to be one." 

You'll look at yourself and the way you are in relationships in a much different and healthier way. 

5. You Can Heal Your life - Louise Hay

This is one of the first books I read that had to do with that infamous quote, "Change your thoughts, change your life." Louise talks about mental patterns and how they contribute to dis-ease in our lives. 

If we can get to the root (out thoughts) and transform these patterns into ones that are based on the truth, we can radically change our lives. Sounds nice, huh? 

It's an easy read with applicable exercise to get you thinking and doing in alignment with who you truly are. 

6. Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller

Christianity has both intrigued me and baffled me all at the same time. I grew up going to Christian camp, hosted Youth Group at my house and attended church on holidays but never really fully understood the concepts behind Christianity and often found myself feeling like a fake because well, I'm totally, 100% human and f&%k up all the time. I never thought I'd be a good Christian or a spiritual person because I was such a sinner. (Can you smell the Catholic influence?)

Fortunately, I have an older brother who has a special way of explaining certain principles and ideas to me whenever I have questions but I started to grow more curious over time and turned to books. Donald Miller and Anne Lamott (see number 1) both have, hands down, the most engaging ways of speaking to Christianity and Spirituality in general. 

I've always struggled with the hypocrisy (within myself and with others) behind religion and both of these authors are incredibly relatable and make you feel like it's okay to be human, make mistakes, swear and STILL walk the path of faith and spirituality. 

If you have every struggled with your path, anything by either of these authors is worthy of reading. 

7. Trust Your Vibes - Sonia Choquette

From a very early age I just knew things. I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm psychic, although I've definitely has my "psychic" experiences, I've always had an extremely heightened intuition. Later I discovered I am an empath which made my life and my extremely sensitive nature make just a little more sense to me.  

This book is all about learning to tap into and trust your intuition in a very simplistic  and authentic way. 

8. Women Food and God - Geneen Roth

WOW. It's been a few years since I read this book but I remember that was my reaction. As someone who struggled with a very long battle with food and my body, Women Food and God opened my eyes to the relationship between how we eat and our core beliefs about ourselves and our own spirituality. This blew my mind. 

Easy, uncomplicated read that is pretty eye opening as well. 

9. Light Is The New Black - Rebecca Campbell

Every so often a book lights me up even before I read the first page. I just know it's going to impact my life in some way and I knew I was going to love this book the minute I laid my eyes on it.

Authenticity is thrown about in many spiritual circles and the word is pretty mainstream now but this book draws your awareness back to the core meaning and opens your eyes to what is important; the true essence of who you are and your souls calling. 

I love any book that reminds us that we already have all the answers inside. 

10. Daring Greatly - Brene Brown

The first book I read discussing the topic of vulnerability. Prior to reading this book I had very little real understanding of what it meant to be truly vulnerable and real. 

Based off of years of research, Brene clearly dispels the myth that vulnerability is not a form of weakness but rather a sign of huge and tremendous strength and ultimately, courage. 

Vulnerability is about being wildly courageous. Putting ourselves out there in a way that allows others to really see us, despite the potential for criticism. It's a magical way of living. 


I could go on and on but I'll save that for another post. 

Now you got some reading to do!