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. 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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? 

 

 

 

A Savoury Soul: Shana LaFore // LIVE La Bella Vita

Many moons ago when I was in my freshman year of college I decided that I wanted to become an art major. There was something so romantic about traveling all over the word curating art at various studios and galleries.  Then it changed to a fashion major and I fantasized about being a buyer at high-end boutiques and department stores all over the country. What I realize now, since I eventually ended up majoring in Psychology was that at the heart of it all, I was just trying to explore my creative, artist side. I always thought that to be artistic and creative you had to know how to draw or paint. What I've learned since then is there are SO many ways of expressing this side of yourself. And that is why I love today's Savoury Soul, Shana LaFore.

Shana is, in my opinion, a coach to the creatives. She helps people who are itching to create in the in the world figure out exactly how to do that. She helps them get crystal clear on what they want so they can actively produce what they were put on this planet to do.

Without further ado....Shana LaFore

Shana LaFore

Tell me more about your business. What was the motivation behind it? Where did it originate from?

There is actually a specific moment when I realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was sitting at a job interview fresh out of design school, and the good old “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question came up. I surprised myself when I blurted out. “Oh, I’ll be running my own business by then.” Fast forward 4 1/2 years ; I was running that very showroom managing a team of designers and sales staff. I looked around and thought. If I can do this for them, I can do this for myself, and I took the leap just a few months shy of my 5 year prediction.

Since then I’ve been running my own art and design business, doing all the things an artist, designer and business person does. It’s been a lot of fun and A LOT of work. I’ve done a ton of research, taken business courses, and learned things through trial and error. Every time I learn something new I want to share it with other artists and designers who are anxious to follow their dream too. I’ve always been a helper. You know the one people recommend when someone else needs advice. “Oh, you’re starting up your art biz? Talk to Shana, she’ll know exactly what to tell you.” I’ve always taken on roles as a mentor and trainer for aspiring artists and designers in the various organizations I volunteer with. The more I help others the happier I am. It just made sense, as I say, “to give myself a promotion” and turn the mentoring into my career. I have a certification in education and taught for several years before going into design, so this simply pulled all the elements of my life together in a way that helps others creatively and allows me the freedom to be location independent and spend tons of time with my family . What sets you apart from other business/creative coaches?

There are tons of talented coaches out there, and each one has their particular uniqueness. I too bring my own experiences to the table. I love working with artists and designers because I’ve been there. I’ve pitched my work to galleries, done trade shows, art fairs, sold my work in person, online, done consulting, managed large-scale design projects. You name it, if it’s art or design related I’ve probably done it. I get how exciting, and fun and tiring it can all be. I’ve also spent hours crafting strategies to get more done in less time, so I can actually enjoy myself. I see so many extremely talented creatives struggling, wearing all the hats, doing it all on their own when a few simple shifts could get them running smoothly, profitably and happily! Like I said, I’ve always been a helper, and if I can help those talented people get their work out into the world and make a good living doing what they love, then I’ve just helped them bring a little more beauty into the world. And that makes me smile. Tell me a little more about your programs? I’m currently offer one-on-one coaching sessions where I help pinpoint what areas of my client’s business needs the most attention and then put a plan of action in place to actual live the dream instead of chasing it. I help simplify overly complex concepts to de-stress the situation so they can turn their passion into profit and live beautifully while creating beauty. I am also writing a sales and business guide called The Little Black Book of Sales for the Creative Type, due to launch later this month.

Okay, Italy?! Tell me more about this incredible offer!

Ah, Italy. My home away from home…literally. I’ve been traveling to Italy regularly for nearly 2 decades and I lived there full-time for 6 years. When I came back from my last stay I’d gained not only a design degree but a husband to boot!

It has been a long time dream of mine to take a group of art and design enthusiast to see the side of Italy I enjoyed while I was living there. I’m planning a mix of not-to-miss events, artsy workshops and of course, to-die-for Italian cuisine, plus off the beaten path adventures to experience the Italian lifestyle as only a local would. We’ll be staying in the Lombardy region and will visit Milan’s Salone del Mobile, the world’s most celebrated design show. But the real fun is “fuori salone” at the fabulous parties that take place throughout the city during the show. I can’t give away too many details just yet, but there’ll be more info announced very soon.

What is FASCINATE TV? Looks intriguing!

FASCINATE TV is a project I'm running this summer where I'm interviewing talented artists and designers as part of what I call the FASCINATE Summer Spotlight Series. I've had such an abundance of interest that I'm extending the series into the fall. There are a total of 16 interviews on topics ranging from building your creative community, how to tackle big projects without losing your mind, and managing your time to get more done to nurturing your creativity. We also discuss what to do when faced with a path altering decision and how travel helps you break assumptions to problems solve like a pro. I have had an absolute blast interviewing some really amazing people. For anyone who'd like to see what it's all about, stop by my blog or YouTube channel and if there's a topic you'd like to see featured in future projects just leave me a comment or send me a message. I'd love to hear from you!

What is A Savoury Soul to you?

To me, a Savoury Soul is someone who believes in living their life to the fullest. Who, as scared as they may be, takes risks to follow their big audacious dream even if it means falling flat on their face. They simply get back up, dust themselves off, and keep on…and in doing so they inspire others to do the same.

Shana LaFore 2Shana LaFore is creative strategist and business mentor. She saves creative types from entrepreneurial overwhelm by giving them fun, easy-to-implement strategies so they can simplify their business, reignite their inspiration and live beautifully while creating beauty. Find out more at www.shanalafore.com