A Path to Healing

IMG_8066.jpg


The path to self-growth is not linear. It is a meandering journey through mountains and valleys, and occasionally there are more lows than highs. But it is a journey ever onward, and it is our light—that same light that exists in every one of us—that guides the way, if only we allow it to shine. -Rachel Grayczyk

It feels like often it takes something big happening in my life to point out the areas that need to be addressed. The areas within me that I’ve been running from or that seem too painful to really stop and take a good look at and heal.

A breakup or divorce, losing a job, losing a friend, getting sick. I’ve experienced all of these things and what I know now is that they are all messengers. They come with profound knowledge and insight. But they also come with a lot of heavy emotion that I often like to dust under the rug. Pain, sadness, heartbreak, anger, regret, resentment, fear, abandonment, betrayal — these emotions aren’t pleasant. At times they can feel like the most painful thing in the world. Who hasn’t experienced a heartbreak we thought we’d never recover from?

But what I also know now is that THOSE are the golden nuggets. Those are the moments and experiences that gain the wisdom. Those emotions are the messages waiting to be peeled back and dove into deeper. Those nuggets are actually the path to true peace and happiness.

We are all incredibly intuitive beings and already have the answers to the questions we seek within. Who said that originally? Rumi? Buddha? Whoever it was, I fully believe it to be the truth.

Recently I developed a massive rash all over my face. To some, it’s just a rash. To me, it means something more.

It looks a lot like acne but it’s not. I know it’s not. It is hot, very inflamed and itches. And that it seemed to get inflamed when I eat certain things like coconut. And I know enough, I’m intuitive enough, to know that it means something.

This rash, to me, is a message. I know, that sounds a little woowoo for some but I really believe that our bodies are incredibly smart and so many of our ailments are messages from something deeper within. Wake up calls trying desperately to get us to address the deeper issues that are in a way, holding us back.

I know on a deeper level there are several reasons for my rash. One, I’m consuming something my body doesn’t like and I need to pay closer attention to what I eat and drink and how i feel after. Do I experience a reaction right away or is it delayed? I’ll get into this more in another blog post.

Two, there is a huge emotional component. I’ve been hiding from some things in my life that need to be addressed and my body seems to like to get me to wake up through body ailments.

The traumas of my past are finally speaking up and asking to be dealt with. All that hurt, resentment, anger, it’s been bubbling up quickly the last few months and I feel my body is asking me to look at it for real this time.

I was also dating someone for the last six months whom I adore and love. However, I knew he and I were in different places and wanted different things but fought against that inner knowing and tried to fit this square peg in a round hole.

These things combined created a toxic environment inside of me, always questioning, always frustrated, always sad or questioning, “what’s wrong with me?” This triggered the only way I would listen — a horrible skin rash on my face.

And this is why I love the body. Because it never lies to us. It’s always seeking to show us the truth, get us to listen, get us to show up for ourselves, through messages.

I believe we can heal ourselves in a multitude of ways if we just stop, get really still and listen for the answers. Listen to those little pings, those nuggets of truth, those whispers that say, “he’s not good for you, or don’t eat that, don’t take the job, don’t say yes to the thing even though it “looks” good on paper — just wait.”

I would like to point out that that’s not to say I don’t believe in taking action. We have to take action. But maybe we need to pause a bit more, give ourselves space and time before we react? At least I know I sure do.

I also believe in western medicine. I do. 100%. I thank it daily because if not for it I would be dead. I know this. But I believe too many of us use it as a bandaid. A quick fix. At times, myself included. But sometimes if not most of the time a headache simple means you are dehydrated and need more water. Sometimes it is signaling you need rest or to actually look at something you’ve been avoiding. Taking a pill is a quick and easy fix but often we are reacting with the quick fix instead of addressing the issue. What would happen if we pause and just ask ourselves what we need instead?

If we just took the time to explore more of what our body, our heart and our soul are trying to tell us, what would happen in our lives?

This is what I’ve been thinking a lot about since the last time I wrote. Writing has always been incredibly therapeutic for me. It’s been a catalyst for discovery, exploration and ultimately, what paves the path to my own growth and ultimately, my healing.

Lately I’ve been called to share where I’m at in a different way. Cancer took a toll on me physically, mentally and definitely emotionally.

The last two years have been extremely challenging in a multitude of ways for me but the amazing thing is, I’m finally at a point in my growth where I can look at challenge in my life and see the parts that are getting me to stretch beyond my comfort zone and grow.

The dance for me is and always has been to learn to balance my emotions, to not be so reactionary, to let go of all the stories I took on for years, and honestly, find my voice and figure out who the heck I am and fully embody that. Even if it means others in my life may disapprove.

Developing my tumor two years ago has been the greatest teacher so far. I think I’ll have to tell that story sometime because it was one of the most frustrating and terrifying experiences of my life. Yet, looking back it’s taught me so much. Getting a rare and confusing cancer diagnoses, the whole process of learning about that, surgery, treatment, and recovery from that has felt like one big uphill climb and I just couldn’t catch my breath. My normal disposition is to keep pushing on. To do all the things in the same way I always have. What I’m learning now is I just can’t. I’m not that person anymore. Or, maybe I never was.

I actually need a lot of downtime. I need a lot of rest and relaxation. I need quiet. I need to not over schedule myself or have very many plans throughout the week. I function better on more spontaneity and I definitely need to allow myself the space to make a decision instead of saying yes to everything out of fear of missing out like I normally do.

So, I’ve spent the last few weeks sitting with that and trying my best to get really honest with myself. I’ve been asking myself some really tough questions.

But it’s always when I feel like I’ve hit a bottom that God (ie: Universe, Source, Life) steps in to remind me of the very thing I’m not addressing and if I did, it would change everything. Rashes, breakups, anger and resentments rising to the surface, massive hormonal chaos. All huge messages right now for me.

I find myself in a place I’ve never been before. I’m excited. Almost giddy about what is to come. It feels like the calm before a storm but not a destructive storm like in the past. A tranSTORMation is what I’m calling it. A big one. One that will allow me to peel back even more layers and show up as the real me even more.

So what is next?

Trauma, whether emotional, mental or physically (usually it’s all three combined), doesn’t look the same for everyone thus healing can’t look the same for everyone either. We all have the opportunity to embark on our own healing journey. And that is exactly what I am doing.

As I said to my therapist via text the other day, “It’s time. It’s time to go deeper.”

So that is what I’m doing. I’m investing in me in a way I never have. I’m taking this whole healing thing a few steps deeper. It’s not a one size fits all plan. It’s tailored just for me. I’m looking at all areas of my life and getting very honest and I plan on sharing what I’m doing for myself to heal along the way. I plan to really show up in this space consistently and offer you an experience that may open a few doors of curiosity for you as well.

But please remember, this is MY path and it may not feel right for you. It may trigger you or cause uncomfortable feelings to arise in you. May I invite you to explore that more deeply? It’s just an invitation for you to possibly look at your life differently too. You have to go on your own exploration. Your own journey. You have to try things on, listen to those little nudges and find the courage to step forward on your own path. .

So raise your glass of organic green celery juice (that’s all I’m drinking these days) and cheers with me. Because t’s time to really heal.

Dear cancer, please leave us alone.

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans. - Woody alan

I remember the day as if it was yesterday. I was sitting in my dorm room a few weeks into my freshman year at Washington State University when my phone rang. Well before I had my first cell phone, I picked up the landline, bringing it to my ear.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hi, Mandy.” My mom’s voice echoed in the background.

“Hi, Mom, what’s up?” I asked.

“Mandy, I need to tell you something.” Her voice cracked. And then the three words nobody wants to ever hear, “I have cancer.”

The rest is somewhat blurry as she filled me in on the details. As we hung up the phone I sat, staring at the wall behind my desk and all I could think was; my mom is going to die from cancer.

This was nineteen years ago and a time when all I knew was cancer was a death sentence. And although my mom is still with us, the way I felt when I heard she had cancer for the first time has never left my heart.

And each time one of us is diagnosed, the same feelings resurface. And as much as my family has dealt with cancer, it’s never easy to hear the words.

It was only a few short years after my mom’s cancer that my older brother, then twenty-six, called to share his results too.

“Well Manda, it’s colon cancer.” He said into the phone from Texas where he was stationed as a Captain in the Army.

Colon cancer? Isn’t that…for old people I thought?

Little did we know how untrue this would be.

Less than a year and a half later, on the heels of desperate pleas from my mom, I went in for a colonoscopy because her oncologist was suspicious that this could be genetic. In my foggy haze, I woke to hear my doctor say, “Go get her mom and bring them back in my office.”

I didn’t know what it meant but I knew it wasn’t good.

Although it wasn’t full-blown cancer, the large polyp in my colon was in the last stages of turning into cancer and thus, was treated as if it was cancer. Four surgeries, one deadly infection, an ileostomy bag (which I no longer have), shunts and tubes and drains throughout my body, and almost 30 days total over the course of the year in the hospital and only a few short months later I got another call from my mom…

“Honey…I have colon cancer.”

Hands down the toughest year, chemotherapy riddled my mom with pain so severe, she almost quit. But she made it.

And we thought the “cancer years” were behind us after that. We really did. Only a year later we received a phone call from my grandpa, my mom’s dad, and learn that he now had colon cancer.

And then my grandpa, again…bladder cancer.

And then my cousin, Becca, who’s passing on December 8th, 2013, ten short months after being diagnosed with cancer left so many hearts broken.

And then our dear friend Greg. My stepdad’s best friend, who was more like a brother, was diagnosed shortly after that and after three years of fighting, passed away last October 2017.

And then me. Metastatic Cancer of an Unknown Primary source. What does that even mean?

I lay this all out for you to see clearly not for you to feel sorry for us but so you can see why my family is exhausted... It’s been almost two decades of nothing but cancer.

So cancer, please, leave us alone.

But I know better. I know better to cry out such demands.

Because on Tuesday, September 25th I got a call…

“Mandy,” my mom’s voice, hard and stoic, “Honey, I have cancer again…”

So here we go, once again...

And we will keep you posted as she wins this battle too.

Because she's a warrior now.

She has no other choice.

Prayers and positive thoughts welcomed always.

Beginnings, Endings and the Space In Between

IMG_2461.JPG

“Sometimes what you think is an end is only a beginning."

What I know about beginnings and endings goes a little something like this.

Beginnings are euphoric. They hold a mysterious quality that feels like an opportunity. Anything is possible. Your imagination goes wild and the world is your oyster. 

Your heart flutters, you walk a little bit lighter, you smile bigger, your optimism is palpable and it’s as if you could take on the world.

Beginnings are full of life. They make your blood pump and your palms sweaty. You feel unstoppable. You feel, alive. 

Endings on the other hand, often feel like a death.  For many of us, a deep mourning sets in and we wait and feel and sometimes, we can’t figure out why we feel the way we feel or how we even feel for that matter.

And we even go to great lengths to numb those feelings that start to surface. 

The ending, or death, of a relationship, a job, a friendship, a lifelong dream, a hope can impact us all the same.

We must say goodbye to something that once was a beginning. Sometimes it's bittersweet, and other times, it hurts. A lot.

Here is the thing I’m learning about endings; there is an exponential amount of learnings that you can take and bring forth into the new beginning that is right around the corner.

That is not to say that endings are not excruciating and you can't always see or are even ready for that growth. Especially when it involves saying goodbye to someone you loved deeply. I do know from my own experiences, and what I have heard from some people closest to me, that eventually, with time, you start to wade through the fuzzy waters of pain and start to see beginnings again.

It does come, eventually. I promise. 

And you can’t have a beginning without some kind of ending and you can’t have an ending without some kind of beginning.

That's just life. It's cyclical. Look at the span of a year and the beginnings and endings that come with each passing season. You not only can see if physically but you can literally feel it within you. 

This one little notion has helped me wade through some pretty dark waters. After my divorce, even though it was my decision and felt like an empowered one, I was struck by a grief so thick and so unexpected, at times I could barely scrape myself off the playroom floor which was my temporary bedroom. It was one of the most confusing times of my life and some of the most excruciating pain I've ever been through.

And coming off the year I just had, again I found myself in the depths of so much heaviness and fear, at times I didn't know which way was up and which way was down. 

As I felt my way through the darkness, I eventually saw a glimmer of light that gave me hope.

And then, there it was. A beginning...  

But I've been wondering lately if putting that much meaning and weight and waiting for beginnings and endings actually create more suffering? Wouldn't life be more peaceful if we learn to find more balance in the in-between places?

It seems to me we are in love with the beginnings and deeply fear endings. When we are so focused on either, or, aren't we missing the beat all together? Aren't we missing what life is truly about...LIVING. 

Ask anyone who has lost someone by death or someone who they themselves are dying and they all pretty much say the same thing; I wish I would have lived more in the moment, especially with those I love. I wish I would have held their hand longer, watched more sunsets with them, forgiven sooner, let go of more and held their gaze longer. And I definitely wish I would have said I love you way more. 

For me, my current lesson is letting go of expectations that come with new beginnings and not fear unavoidable endings. Because again, life is cyclical. Beginnings and endings will always be apart of all of our lives. 

I'm learning, every day,  to just live right where I am at. And it is not easy. Believe me when I say this. As someone who struggles with horrible anxiety, I have to remind myself of this so many times throughout the day. "Just sit with this Amanda. Just be here right now, Amanda. Take a big breath Amanda You will be okay Amanda."

 I'm learning, slowly, to appreciate every person and experience for what it is teaching me. To trust that whatever is meant to be in my life will be. And not fear those things that feel are coming to an end.

Because... there will always, and forever, be another beginning right around the corner. 

One year later - this is what a year of cancer looks like

IMG_2242.JPG

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. - Unknown. 

 

 

 

 

I've tried really hard to find the right words to share what this week means to me but I'm falling short. 

What I really want to say is thank you. 

Thank you for supporting me and holding me up when I was unable to do so on my own. 

Thank you for allowing me to be so raw and authentic and feel safe to bare my soul during this difficult time.

Thank you for laughing with me while I'd find my way out of the darkness and back into my funny and sassy self. 

Thank you for all the notes, messages, comments, flowers, gifts, dinners, prayers, good thoughts, energy, and most importantly, love. 

I truly would not have been able to do the last year without you. 

I don't know what the future holds and to be honest, whatever comes my way I know I'll handle it just the same. 

Often you read that difficult times will make sense down the road. I'm not sure if that is always the case. Some situations just never make sense. However, I know for me, it is. All of this is starting to make just a little more sense. 

Most importantly though, this last year has taught me just how important it is to have faith and to be okay with asking for help. 

I did my best to document the year in photos. One thing was consistent, as much pain I was in, I often found myself smiling. A lot. And that felt really nice. 

To many healthy years ahead. 

This is what a year of cancer looked like. 


A few days after being diagnosed...a love of my life found his way into my heart. 

Cancer1.jpg
Rockyhoe.JPG
tests.jpg

I had a real life Grey's Anatomy experience with a room full of interns...

surgery.JPG
hospital.JPG
drugs.JPG
gettingoutofhospital.JPG
aftersurgery2.jpg
aftersurgery.JPG

I was surrounded by love and friends who give uplifting gifts that make your stitches hurt from laughing...

postop.jpg

Family came to visit and take care of me and I got the most amazing one-on-one time with my sis-in-law...

postsurgery.jpg

And my older bro...never finished that chicken coop though :) 

building.JPG
brother.jpg
radiation.JPG

I had lots of pokes, prods, needles and procedures. So many. 

postsurgery2.jpg
18814523_10213404833654965_2359627346154108052_o.jpg

But I had my first art opening...

gallery.JPG

And a trip to Joshua Tree...

18699619_10213365190943922_1800185657855396554_o.jpg

And a drive north to Seattle...

19059428_10213532312921867_78821172282109542_n.jpg

To be with the three other loves of my life...

19222734_10213594646000155_5514057459312020612_o.jpg
meoncology.jpg

I walked into my first day of treatment ready to face it all...

firsttreament.jpg

And then flew to Miami a few days into treatment and found a few days of solitude...

20247907_10214013954282600_8567194805697125615_o.jpg
20287154_10214054086565882_7522990067825696440_o.jpg

My favorite part was crossing each treatment off...

Treatment.jpg

And just like that, six weeks, five days a week...was finished. 

20785708_10214221594033464_7986963759214097989_o.jpg

And I turned that page...

turnthepage.jpg

And took myself to Idyllwild for my birthday, rented a little cabin in the woods and hiked for the first time since treatment ended...

21318943_10214413730676760_8572614321195968936_o.jpg

Sadly, I lost the other love of my life. 10 1/2 years together and I will never forget his love. 

Oliver.JPG

And I met my women for our Red Tent. I didn't leave this spot all weekend. 

22769918_10214799041549291_7442806606730188101_o.jpg

Spent Christmas with my soul sister...

55254FCE-EC17-4C6B-9453-E9C6400DC345.JPG

And enjoyed life.

27983239_10215851476339503_2881806879159489695_o.jpg

that's a wrap

Hello Old Friend - The Return

B2E2C5BF-7ED2-4B31-85DF-500DC67DD27D.JPG

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. 

 

 

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

AE3EDB6E-F861-4204-B335-1AF972909F84.JPG

"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 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

IMG_0716.JPG

“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

IMG_0002.JPG

“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?

IMG_9929.JPG

"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

630EE88F-2D13-4F13-AB7F-7213904D3036.JPG

"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 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.

 

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. 

 

 

 

Today is the day because don't you know I have cancer?

"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 the spring light kissing the snow capped mountains, 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 structure 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. This makes me excited because honestly, I really stink at meditating and lately its felt more like a violent boxing match 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 feels 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. All I could think was, seriously? Please, not again. I don't have time to put all this on hold agin. 

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 me. I think it’s bullshit sometimes. But I also find a lot of truth to it. I've found myself repeating it often. To myself and others, as a source of comfort. But I don’t know what I believe anymore.

What I feel like saying to God 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 whisper.

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