Monday, May 27, 2013

Wordless Weekend: Louisville

Last weekend we visited pretty awesome, wild, and crazy family in Louisville KY.  We ate, drank, relaxed, and even took home the gold in the 2nd Annual Twig Olympics!  Enjoy !

Thursday, May 16, 2013

3 Months Cancer Free...And Still Crazy

I've always had an extremely active imagination.  For some people, this means dragons swooping down and rescuing them off to an island of candy and sushi, for others, its inventing a wizarding school and an orphaned boy that is destined to save the world and make his creator billions of dollars.  For me, it doesn't mean best selling novels, it just means worrying, lots of worrying.   I've gotten better over the years and for having a disease that has some pretty nasty outcomes, I am impressed with my ability to remain calm, sane, almost normal.  But then check up week came along and normal went out the window.

This is a little story about what happens when a crazy, superstitious lady goes in for her 3 month post cancer check up....

When a crazy, superstitious lady goes for a post cancer check up, she gets nervous a week in advance.  I filled the week up with plenty of distractions but by Thursday I was spent.  I had golf league but all I really wanted to do was go home and hide so that is what I did.  For the record, the patio on a spring night with the hubs, the dog, and a glass of wine is a great way to hide out.  I woke up on Friday with a nervous energy.  I cleaned the kitchen, did some knitting, caught up on an episode of Once Upon a Time and it was still only 8:30am.  When cleaning out the mail tray, I came across this.

When a crazy, superstitious lady comes across a package like this, she hides it at the bottom of her purse.  I knew what this was.  Any other day, I would have happily ripped it open, but not Friday.  Friday I had to face what I had spent 3 months trying to ignore and what was inside of this box could very well jinx it.  So the box was hidden, to be opened in the case of good news only.  In hopes that the words on the box would in fact come true.

 When a crazy, superstitious lady goes to her 3 month post cancer check up, rituals are very important.  Breakfast at Panera is a tradition.  Being late is a given.  We also get on the Thruway at the first Schenectady entrance, not the third.  The last time we went that way Mike almost got a speeding ticket and I got cancer.  So we don't got that way anymore.

When a crazy, superstitious lady goes to her 3 month post cancer check up, she reads way too much into things.  It was busy and I had quite a wait.  The staff, who are so well known to me after all of this, said hello like old friends and commented on my hair.  Each time I analyzed their words.  Did they know something I didn't know?  Were my numbers higher than last time?  If they didn't sound cheerful enough, I was sure something was up.  Any break in eye contact made me worry as to why they couldn't look me in the eye.  Never mind that they are busy with people sicker than me.  I was too focused on the news I would get to think of anything else.

When a crazy, superstitious lady goes to her 3 month post cancer check up and chats with her oncologist about she finally relaxes.  Yes,  we talked about my health, any symptoms I might be noticing, and a lot of gory details you don't need to know.  But we quickly switched gears to yoga, dating, and tulip fest.  We chatted about upcoming 5ks, summer plays in the park, and life that is assumed to be full, healthy, and long.

When a crazy, superstitious lady goes to 3 month post cancer check up, she gains some much needed perspective.  A 3 month post cancer check up is about more than the numbers that come back from blood work.  It is about remembering how far I've come and how truly blessed I am to be healthy right now.  That is truly humbling. It is about getting strength from the courageous women still fighting cancer and hopefully inspiring them as some one who has been through it as well.  Its about the incredible men and women who dedicate their lives to helping us, who cry and laugh with us, deliver that hard news, and empower us meet cancer head on.

When a crazy, superstitious lady allows herself to open that box, put together its contents and put them around her neck she comes one step closer to believing.  Believing that she's made it through, believing that she is cured, believing that she is, in fact, a survivor.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

You Don't Have to be Angelina to Take Charge of Your Health

In movies, Angelina Jolie is pretty bad ass...

Lara Croft film.jpg

In real life, Angelina Jolie is pretty bad ass...

Angelina Jolie

When it comes to taking control of her own health, Angelina Jolie is pretty bad ass...

My Medical Choice - NY Times Op Ed

In fact, if there are any doubts of how bad ass Angelina is, they went out the window after reading her piece in the NY Times.  While not the first woman to take these steps, she used her celebrity to amplify this conversation on technology, testing, medical decisions, research and funding.  Many are cheering her honesty and advocacy on this very important issue.  Many are dismissing her courage by pointing out her wealth, support, and the luxury they perceive she had in making this decision.  And many will tell you their thoughts on both sides. 

What I'm here to to tell you is simple.  You don't have to be Angelina Jolie to take charge of your health.  You don't need a fancy place called Pink Lotus to treat your body, you don't need to be able to hire staff, and you don't need Brad Pitt, even though that would be nice...

 You can be just as bad ass, if not more bad ass, as the Tomb Raider herself.  Women are making these courageous decisions every day in all areas of their health.  You don't have to be Angelina Jolie, but you can follow her lead.

Steps to Courageously Taking Charge of Your Health

1.  Get Healthy - exercise, eat, and sleep well.  Yes, it is a daily challenge - rise to it. Angelina claims to not exercise or work out.  So we mere mortals will have to figure this out ourselves.

2.  Know Your Family History - have those tough discussions with your family members.  Write it down and share it with the ones you love (and even the ones you are iffy on).  Find out the type of illnesses, the age of diagnosis, the symptoms and the results. Breast cancer, for example, has 14 different types listed on Do your best to find out the most specific information.  Angelina used her knowledge of her mother's cancer to inform her decision.

Angelina Jolie's Double Mastectomy Inspired By Death of Her Mother

3.  Know Your Body - know what is normal for you when it comes to your menstrual cycle, gastrointestinal issues, heart rate, blood pressure, headaches, sleep patterns, etc.  They are all more connected than we can understand.  Know what is normal so that you can fight for yourself when something feels "off". And if necessary, label the parts...

Angelina Jolie back tattoo

4.  Get a Doctor You Trust and Inform THEM - find a doctor you can talk to, feel comfortable with and that listens to you.   If you don't have a doctor you feel comfortable with, find one.  Ask your family and friends for help.  We often think of doctors appointments as a time to get information, not give it.  If you've followed the steps listed above you are the expert on your health, your history, and your body.  Educate your health care professional.  The more information he or she has the better advice they can give and the stronger they can advocate for you to get certain tests and preventative measures covered by insurance.   Go beyond the borders and really work with your doctor.

Beyond Borders (2003) Poster

5.  Stay Informed About Your Health Risks - once you've identified any risks in your history, stay up to date on that field.  There are a lot of websites and publications out there, search out the best.  If you need help finding valid information, ask your healthcare professional (but please don't use the internet to self diagnose!).  It's not a crime to be curious....

Hackers (1995) Poster

6.  Reach Out to a Support Network - foster relationships in  your family, your community and your friends.  Start a monthly girls night, an annual family reunion, or volunteer in the community.  This will help you build the strong relationships and support networks that are vital to living a healthy life and getting through difficult situations.  Get involved with causes that line up with your family history, both in honor of your loved ones and in order to keep up with the latest news.  Whether its your partner, your best friend, your co-workers, or your neighbors, find people you can take on the world with...

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) Poster

7.  Believe in Yourself - you are strong enough, brave enough, smart enough, and courageous enough to tackle anything.  A quick review of your life will most likely show times you've risen to the occasion, survived tremendous adversity, succeed against all odds.  As trite as it sounds, knowledge is power.  Learn. Believe.  Fight. You have a mighty heart...

A Mighty Heart (2007) Poster

Sure, Angelina Jolie is pretty bass but the truth is, so are you.

 Disclaimer - I am not a doctor or health care professional and this is not medical advice.  I am a survivor, an advocate, and a believer in the strength of the human spirit.  If you know me in real life, you know I probably haven't seen half of the A.J. movies but am totally obsessed with Wonder Woman.