Joy is not circumstantial…

About a month ago the Reddaway truck driver that used to have our route was covering for the new driver. He knew that I had been fighting cancer but hasn’t seen me since the surgery and public announcement. He simply said  ‘your smile is still here’ All I could think was ‘of course, joy is not circumstantial’

There is a difference between joy and happy. Happy is a temporary emotion generally driven by our circumstances and current surroundings. Joy, joy on the other hand is deeper than that. It is sincere, planted deep within and doesn’t fade. Joy is not about our circumstances it is about our choice to find and keep it, to nurture it, to not allow it to starve and disappear.

There are many things that make me happy that also feed my joy.

Working out with heavier weights. Having my cousin Craig do the dishes better than anyone, ever. Picking cherries with the littles. Texting friends first thing in the morning to start the day off right. Mysterious reprieve from the night sweats. Half a pound less on the scale. Hair growing back even if it is all gray. Hugs. Going all week without a head covering. Planning for the future. Hitting my Fitbit goals. Creating new memories. Easily forgetting the drama and stress at work. Discovering my own inner strength. My own inner love. My own inner peace. My own inner drive.

I know those are all circumstantial. Yet they are making a lasting deep impression and adding to my joy. I have always been a firm believer that love is a decision. I have argued this point often. Feelings fade. Decisions should last. I honestly believe that joy is also a decision. You make the choice to be joyful. You can’t hope that others make you happy. They won’t. Maybe for a short time but people never stay the same and can never be the source of joy or love.

I am preparing for more surgery soon. I am preparing to see Paula from @neveradullbling. I am preparing to pursue my joy. I am preparing to grow as a human with a bigger heart, more compassion, overflowing joy and kindness. It is work but it is worthy work.

What will you do to fill/fuel your joy? Run? Write?Volunteer? Give? Share?

Have a joyful day my friends. ❤

Cuckoo

The other night my son came over and we had a movie night. I was in the mood to watch ‘The Wedding Singer’ because at work the song ‘Love Stinks’ came on and we all started talking about the movie. It is such a fun movie.

There is a scene right after he is stood up at the altar when the nephews are teasing him about being cuckoo and needing to go to a mental institution. The voice of the child is still rattling around in my head. Cuckoo cuckoo.

Last night a friend messaged me and told me I was her hero. That with all that I am challenged with I still keep going. I am not a hero.

I am a girl. Who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Who had surgery and chemotherapy to put the cancer in its place and control it. Nothing more nothing less.

It did however get me to thinking. When you get the call that you have cancer you suddenly become a deer in headlights. It is overwhelming and scary all at once. You are bombarded with doctors and insurance and bills and advice and un-welcomed suggestions. Forming a plan of action. For me surgery, reconstruction, chemotherapy. It is put into motion and professionals are helping you meet that plan of action. You do what you need to do and trust those you need to trust. It is really not that hard because you do not know better.

What is hard is the mental battle. Your emotions are all over the place, often controlling you like a puppet. You wake up ready to face another day and suddenly your brain starts telling you don’t forget you have cancer. People die from cancer. Cancer is your fault. You must have done something really wrong in this world to get cancer. Only bad things happen to bad people. Cancer is eating your body right now. You will never feel normal again. Don’t forget to have a pity party. It flat-out can make you feel like you are cuckoo. Not for cocoa puffs, just cuckoo. It mentally slaps you, hard.

How can you be a hero when you are cuckoo? You can’t. You just get up and go. Go until you exhaust your thoughts. Go until you can finally prove to yourself you are not cuckoo. Go until someday the thoughts will no longer haunt you.

I am a girl. Slightly nuts before, definitely crazy now. Ready to embrace this new sense of ‘normal’ and accept that cuckoo is not really a bad thing. It can’t be. And besides, it was really funny and almost cute when the 5 year old said it in the movie…

 

Today is better….

I was so discouraged the other day. The day I wrote about ‘I can’t’

It was the first time that I really thought I can’t since that fateful call on Nov. 3rd.

My poor husband. I came home on Wednesday and he made the mistake of asking if I was okay. Okay!?!? NO! No I am not okay as I lay crying in a lump on the bed. What was your first clue? I was so tired. I just kept telling him I can’t do this. I can’t do this.

He picked me up and said yes you can you are just tired. He then told me that he will feed me Taco Bell and then I should go to bed. I think it helped. I know the Taco Bell did.

They told me that the last round of chemotherapy will hit me the hardest. Knowing it and living it are two different things. No matter how much I braced myself for it I was not mentally prepared. The fatigue was harder, the dry fingertips are unmanageable , the flat taste in my mouth and dried tongue are worse. Then to top it off my asthma started kicking my ass, er lung I should say. So not sleeping from night sweats, chemically induced fatigue and a cramping right lung truly left me discouraged. It left me at I can’t.

Today, today is so much better. Now my mind is wandering and wondering.

Thinking of things like the following:

Are chemically induced hot flashes worse than when it happens naturally? My vote is yes.

The hair on my head that is growing back is like a brillo pad. It is coarse, gray and sticks out in all directions. Soon it will poke straight through my hats and wigs. When I showered the other day I used conditioner on it hoping it will soften. I think it is a logical conclusion. It didn’t.

Vanilla seems to be the saving grace for my coffee with the tongue/taste bud issues. Is it wrong that I am drinking extra cups of my froo froo sweet vanilla coffee because it actually tastes good? Probably, but right now I am still too tired to worry about calories and dehydration. I will just drink more water inbetween cups, yeah that is totally logical.

Why isn’t being naked at work and in public acceptable? The moment I put clothes on I start sweating. Granted I don’t think people would appreciate all of ‘this’ (pointing to my body) naked.

Do all the hot flashes and night sweats smell, or is it just in my head? I have started spraying my clothes down with my signature scent just in case. It worked for the French.

I am ready for life after chemotherapy. I am searching for my new ‘normal’ I will find it. One cup of coffee and douse of perfume at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

A little personal…

As I am navigating this new journey that life has handed me, I realize how much uncharted waters there really are.

Changes in my body by surgery. Changes in my diet, exercise, daily living. Learning that not all change is good. Accepting that all change can be turned into good if I focus it. All the mental challenges of the diagnosis itself. Reminding myself that I have revenge goals that I damn well want to meet next year.

I tested a wog yesterday when I took out the trash. It was from the garbage can to the front door but I feel like I can do it. I tested lifting heavier weights in a private workout and feel like I can do it. I tested a new sleep combination/blanket and feel like maybe I can do it. Started taking my hair, skin and nails vitamins yesterday and feel confident I will have hair again. It is all these little things that are making me stronger. That I am choosing to make me stronger.

There are things I didn’t think about having to navigate through. Like yesterday. A new challenge confronted itself.

I was at a friends thirty-two hot to handle birthday party at a local Irish Pub. Excused myself to use the restroom. No big deal. I get to the public restroom and put down the thin potty seat protector (I used to never use these things but germs  concern me because of the chemo) I sit down on the toilet and do my business. Not really thinking it through. I was having a hot flash. When you have a ‘flash’ your whole body becomes a sweat pool. THE WHOLE BODY including the backs of your thighs! The part sitting on a thin piece of paper that is now officially stuck to you. Not all the paper, bits and pieces of the paper. So you catch yourself peeling chunks of ‘protective’ paper off your flesh and trying to get it all in the toilet without making another kind of mess.  Oh there are other messes. Trust me.

 

I found this today in FB I think this should be a law. 13260170_1173613056005518_4980833294891281579_n

And now I must go. The laptop is making me have a hot flash as I type! At least you now know what to expect if you are starting menopause and have to use a public restroom. The germs are probably less annoying than the paper sheet stuck to your thighs.

Living paycheck to paycheck….

Many years ago, when I was much younger, freshly married and a new mom we truly were living paycheck to paycheck. It was frustrating, exhausting, and worrisome at times. How were we going to make it?  There are bills to pay and needs to be met with a new young mouth to feed. Somehow we always found a way to make it to payday.

Life has a funny way of repeating itself. The circumstances are different yet the reasons are just as noble.

I catch myself watching my bank balance. My husband makes a decent living so he pays the majority of the bills. I am in charge of groceries, the phone bill and paying for my fitness lic. and continuing education expenses and miscellaneous things.This usually leaves me with a cushion in my bank account before each payday. Until recent events.

The cancer diagnosis was  a life changer for sure. A very expensive life changer. Bills coming from everywhere, even with insurance our out of pocket expenses ate up all our cushion. Now we have met all the out-of-pocket for now and there are no extra charges, just co-pays. Yet, I catch myself still living paycheck to paycheck.

This is why, I have started living. I no longer put off the things that I didn’t do because I couldn’t afford them. I just do it. I have loved ones that I want to send something to, so I do. I have pictures that I had developed from an October Zumba fundraiser that I have not framed. Not anymore. I want them framed and put up to enjoy. I want to send flowers to a friend, an extra card in the mail to a loved one, donate to a charity I believe in, try growing an herb garden, go out and laugh with friends. Get it?

Life is too short to wait and do the things someday. If you are not living now, then when? Enjoy what you have. Enjoy it now. Enjoy the things that make you happy. Give until you can’t give anymore. Give of yourself, give joy, give time, give money, give devotion, give peace, give encouragement. Just give and you will see that you are really living, paycheck to paycheck. Surprisingly though your life will feel fuller and richer than ever before.

Today is my last round of chemotherapy. Soon I will be living even more. Stay tuned.

 

 

A moment…..

As I was making breakfast for dinner last night I had a moment.

A moment that felt trapped in time.

A moment that was as real as I am.

A moment that I tried to capture with a picture.

I don’t know if it was the bright evening spring sun shining through the kitchen window. Or  that I was making breakfast for dinner. All I know is in that moment I felt normal. Normal like there is no cancer. Normal like there was never a surgery. Normal like I am not in chemo. Just me being me and feeling normal.

I wanted to somehow capture it and make it so it wouldn’t be a fleeting moment. I tried to take a picture of the warmth shining through my window. It doesn’t even come close to expressing how it truly was. I stood there embracing the moment, the warmth, the time standing still. Please don’t let me wake up out of this trance.

Then I burned the pancakes.

Reality.

A moment gone not likely to return and I am at a loss how to recapture it.

 

 

Just an update….

I am three days into my chemo. I am very fortunate that I am only on two medications/poisons. My friend that sat with me Thursday was on three. My other friend was on five, five! I feel lucky.

The first of the side effects hit me yesterday afternoon. The metallic taste in my mouth they all warned me about. Everything tastes like my permeant metal retainer has leaked all over my tongue and lips and teeth. I don’t have the best taste buds, because I really don’t have a sense of smell. I was hoping this wasn’t going to bother me. I was wrong. It even makes water taste awful.

So this is my game plan. I made a list of healthy foods that I do not like. Kale, apricots, nut butters, avocados, tomatoes, mangos, etc. I am going to the store to buy them all today! I will force myself to eat them so I can get my fruit, veggies and all important protein!

I have been told that I shouldn’t eat food I like because I will never like them again after chemo. So I figure this is a safe list for me!

I have a secondary list of foods I kind of like but if I eat them now and never want them again I will be okay with that. Broccoli, apples, collard greens, persimmons, oranges and etc.

If I eat bad foods it will be pasta, white bread, white rice, potatoes salad..and things that I should kick the habit of.

I only have one thing on my list to never eat while on chemo…BACON!! I want to still like bacon after all of this…

If I have already said all this I apologize now. My chemo brain is also in full effect. I have notes to myself everywhere in the house! Just so I don’t forget to do the thing later. Seriously, even one that says: Get up and MOVE!!

I know the fatigue is coming. And the inevitable hair loss (which probably won’t happen until the next to last treatment) but if this all I get, fatigue, metallic taste, hair loss, poor immune system I will be a happy chemo camper.

I am still on my quest/challenge to post a workout video each day on my YouTube Channel Cancercize with Renee B. I feel it is so important to document that you CAN workout while going through chemo/cancer/surgery. And that it will help your mental health as well as your physical health. I hope to one day turn it into a real class and offer it to all who need a place to workout. We only have one place that does it out here and it is extremely hard to get into. (closed group) Even with doctor notes you get turned away. This saddens my heart. There needs to be more classes for this. After all cancer is not a respecter of age, health, personalities, or anything. It is growing, and attacking. There are many people who need to have a place to workout safely to help themselves be stronger!

Anyway, this is just an update of where I am today. I know, not very humorous. Just an honest update.

P.S. this is a picture of my feet outside. It was so nice out and my energy was good I walked around the block, TWICE! I am pretty darn proud of myself. A workout video and a walk.

#mylifeisshort #ichoosetolaugh #itiseasiertolove #onwardandupward #atpeace #ventinghelps #youarestronger

No socks? No problem.

Come as you are.

Sometimes it is a party invite.

Sometimes it is how some churches speak and even practice.

Sometimes it is how your friends really feel.

Today it is how the chemo clinic is beckoning.

Come comfortable. Pajamas are okay.

I plan on coming filled with Midol, in my comfy sweats, something with green on so they don’t pinch me any harder and pink slippers, no socks.

Glad I still have a great pedicure in case my feet get sweaty.

#mylifeisshort #ichoosetolaugh #itiseasiertolove #onwardandupward #forthegreatergood #lookingtofindmypeace #mysocksrarelymatch #seriouslymyperiodandchemo #revengelife

 

Hello

Hello my name is Renee. I live in my pajamas. I put on sweats and slip on boots when I have to go out. I eat everything in site. I am not allowed to work out. I am going stir crazy.  I want to read but the meds make it hard to focus. I am totally caught up on Beverly Hillbilly’s and Petticoat Junction. I am annoyed with my uncomfortable drains and breast binder. I am tired of being tired. Life’s curveballs are sometimes really dumb. Being flexible is not always easy.

Complaining over.

nghh..

It has been eleven days since the life altering amputation.

Recovery has involved a swollen arm, constant medication, my mother visiting, husband giving me shots in my abs, doctor visits, stripping lines, measuring drains, and lots of medicating. Did I mention the medications?

When I go to the plastic surgeon she fills my temporary implants. Yes they are temporary and deflated and held in place by a piece of cadaver.

We walked into the office and my husband saw this tray with lots of things on in it. Including two needles the size you would assume an elephant would receive. They are about 7 inches long and about 2 inches around. Each has a very fine needle attached. My husband asked if she was a veterinarian. Dr Hathaway just laughed and poked one straight into my boob. She filled about 100 cc each side.

I have had two drains removed, three to go (hopefully next Monday) and I think two more fills. When all the drains are removed I will be allowed to shower, thank heavens! and sleep on my side if it is comfortable.

A week after I get my last fill, I think February 22nd I will be allowed to wear a sports bra. A bra! I am so excited.

I asked the doctor when I will be allowed to jog again. She simply laughed at me and poked a needle in my boob.

I think it will be a long while before I can jog or teach Zumba again. Nghh.