Monday, June 5, 2017

I Have This Hope

When someone you love has cancer, people try to tell you to be positive. They encourage you to live your life to the fullest, to cherish every moment, to take one step at a time. And for the most part, you can do that. You can take a deep breath and move forward, living life as normally as you can, accepting that cancer is just a little extra burden that you have to carry around.

But, because cancer is unpredictable, sometimes it decides to sucker punch you in the gut. You lose your positivity. Your strength starts to fade. You can't imagine how you're going to take one step forward, because you're so damn tired. And you try so hard to be positive, to look on the bright side, to hold onto hope, but cancer puts a dreariness over your world that you didn't even know was possible.

I've said before that cancer is a rollercoaster. One minute things are fine, the next you're going downhill fast, until someone or something sends you back up again.

My family has been on the cancer rollercoaster for almost four years now, and frankly, I hate it. We seem to have jumped ship to an even rockier, scarier rollercoaster now. I never asked for that, thank you very much.

It's been about 4 weeks since we found out that my dad's cancer had spread to his spinal fluid. He was put on chemo, which (we think) sent him into a weird state of confusion/unresponsiveness. He has pulled out of that now, but the poor guy is very weak, and very sick of being in the hospital. Of course, we know must also decide how to proceed, if he truly cannot handle the chemo. The medical team is running more tests and discussing options. While that's happening, we wait. We sit by his side and try to keep his spirits up. We test his memory. We support each other. We break down into tears, or fall apart laughing over the most ridiculous things.

I'm used to riding this rollercoaster with my family. But this time around, I told my coworkers, and basically anyone who will listen, that I need everyone to jump on with us. We know how serious this diagnosis is, and that it can be extremely difficult to treat. We have no idea what the next days, weeks, months will bring, but I am certain that they will bring a whole lot of emotion with them, and I am not going to lie and say that we can do this alone. We need prayers, hugs, etc.

Oh, and I'm getting married in just a little under 4 months. So on top of the journey with my dad, I am preparing for a life long commitment to my best friend, and planning for a celebration of that marriage. I have had a few people make suggestions for how I should handle my wedding (or ask what I am planning to do). I really didn't feel like I could write this blog without addressing the elephant in the room. So I will say this: My dad and I have talked. Tom and I have talked. We've got it covered. Trust me, the emotions I feel on this subject are quite intense, but I assure you all, everyone over here on my end is on the same page. I think that's really all anyone needs to know.

I will close this by saying thank you. Thank you for the prayers- if anyone is ever doubting the power of prayer you just need to come hang out with us for a while. Your prayers are working, and giving us both the grace and comfort that we need to power through. Thank you for the sweet texts, cards, messages, etc. Thank you for stepping up when we need someone to fill in for us. Thank you for the meals, treats and snacks. Thank you for being such wonderful, compassionate, beautiful souls. Thank you for everyone who sees me in Church and takes the time to ask how I am doing. Thank you for my coworkers for the coffee dates, encouragement, hugs, and for working so hard to put an end to this disease. And finally, thank you for hopping in a cart and taking this ride with us.

So, so, so much love. Like, an insane amount of love.

Oh- one more thing- of all the emotions I have been feeling as of late, the greatest of them all is hope. I have gotten a lot of that hope through all of you and your stories and your empathy. So thank you for giving me hope.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Carry You

I am not going to go into the whole long story about what is happening with my dad, because I assume if you are reading this you already know.

The short story: My dad's cancer has spread to his spinal fluid. This is a very serious diagnosis. Tomorrow he is having surgery to put a shunt in his brain, and from there he will get chemo through that shunt directly to the spinal fluid.

How did this happen?

My animated answer is that cancer is a bitch. (Excuse the language). You just never know what cancer will do.

The (sort of) scientific/medical answer is that cancer cells can go rogue, nearly impossible to detect, and they spread to other parts of the body. After 4 years of surviving Stage 4 Lung Cancer with Brain Metastasis, my dad's cancer cells have decided that the spinal fluid seems like a fun place to live. So they broke off from the brain and traveled to the fluid.

Like I said, cancer is a bitch.

A lot of people are asking how we are feeling, how we are doing, what we need. I'm going to try to answer these questions as best I can, right now in this moment. Be warned, this is me unloading my stream of consciousness. Also, I speak only for myself, not for other members of my family.

I'm tired. More tired than I can ever remember being before. Before Tom and I left the house this morning I asked him "Why am I so tired". He just sweetly said "Babe, you're stressed". Right. Duh. I'm stressed. That explains the tiredness, the headache, the craving for carbs and sweets. I'm scared. I'm afraid to see people who I'm close to because I think I might just sob. I don't always know what to say so I make awkward conversation. I'm hopeful but not too hopeful. I'm trying to be strong, but I have moments where I break down, and then I feel guilty because everyone just keeps telling me to be strong and to think positive. I want to spend every minute at the hospital and yet when I get there I just want it to all go away and go back to "normal". But, despite all of this, I am ready. I am ready to keep going. I am ready to fight alongside my dad. I am ready to take on each challenge. I am ready for the breakdowns that will come.

My sister said it best when she told a friend of ours "we are prepared for the worst but hoping for the best". From here on, that is my mantra.

We are not a family that gives up and you will not see us quit no matter what is thrown our way. We may stumble, we may take a time out, we may wonder how we will keep going, but we WILL keep going. For each other.

I love you all, I appreciate the prayers and well wishes and acts of kindness more than you know.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Maintenance Update

I cannot believe how incredibly quickly March has flown by. It feels like we were just watching the Superbowl and celebrating Valentine's Day, now we are just days away from Easter.

March has been a stressful month for me. I was really sick in the beginning and had to take a few days off work. I never felt fully caught up (and still don't) from just those few days. In fact, I just blocked my Friday to be a "catch up" day.  On the days I was working, things were super busy! I had so many meetings, events, and projects starting in March. It's all super exciting stuff, but also super time consuming, and requiring a lot of careful follow up.

Also, looking ahead, I know how busy May and June will be. So part of my stress is anticipatory.

That being said..... the stress, combined with too many carbs, backing down on my workouts a bit and slacking on my water= I gained a little weight. By little I do mean little, 5 lbs to be exact. I'm still at my goal weight (exactly at it). I just enjoyed being 5 lbs under that weight. It gave me some flexibility. So it's nothing crazy, and certainly something that can be expected during stress and changes.

It was a little painful to see it on the scale, at first. I felt badly about myself, guilty, and immediately started planning for what I can do to lose 5 lbs. It wasn't a great feeling.

In the days since, I have calmed down. I've realized it's okay. I don't need to do anything crazy. I could certainly change some things, like less bread (oh my gosh, after the stomach flu all I ate was bread!), more water, and more consistent workouts (back to 4-5 days a week). I can do this, it may take a while, but I've certainly lost more than 5 lbs and I know I can do it again.

I'm writing this because I don't feel like you often see people talk about the maintenance phase of weight loss. I lost over 130 lbs. I've kept that weight off for a year and a half. That is a LOT to be proud of. And I am proud of it. But it's not always sunshine and rainbows. I still get down on myself. I still worry that I need to lose more. I still feel guilty if I eat a piece of cake. It's just the reality. I don't believe that maintenance is "the hard part" (so many people told me it would be). Losing the weight was much harder. But keeping it off certainly takes discipline...and also understanding, which I am slowly learning.

I can do this and I will do this. 5 lbs is nothing. And I'll gain those 5 lbs back again sometime, and have to lose them again. It's part of my life now. I just have to know that, accept and embrace it, and keep moving on through life without being to obsessed with a number on the scale.

Whatever goals you have, please do not beat yourself up when you get a little off track. There's too many other things in life trying to bring you down, your own self talk should not be one of them.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Being Brave

I have found that the times I am most proud of myself are the times when I was brave. For me, it's not always about the wins, numbers, or titles in life. It's about those moments when I don't think I can do something, and then I do it anyway.

I try to practice my bravery every single day. I try to do things that I am scared to do: make that phone call, send the e-mail, ask the question, make a suggestion, speak up in the meeting. These are all things that seem small, but can sometimes be incredibly difficult for me. But I do them anyways. It may not seem like much on an average day, but the little things encourage me to try bigger things. To be just a little bit braver and bolder.

My constant fear, one that has been there for most of my life, is one of being wrong. It's why I almost never raised my hand in class growing up. I am almost 30 years old and slowly learning that it is okay to be wrong. It's not a fault or a flaw, it is merely a chance to learn from it, ask more questions, gain understanding, and start fresh. There is no need to be embarrassed to be wrong. We were meant to be wrong sometimes. We were meant to trip so that we can get back up again.

When you start to learn that it's okay to make a mistake, you can begin to be a little bit braver. You no longer are paralyzed by the fear of someone disagreeing with you, so you speak up.

It's a slow process for me. I still doubt myself quite often. But man, in those moments where my bravery shines through, I sure feel proud. And I recognize when others are showing their bravery, too. I know this life isn't easy for any of us and that so many of us wrestle with self doubt and worry. So know that when I see you stepping forward, speaking up, and standing out, I'm incredibly proud of you.

Not every day is going to have a monumental moment of bravery. That's not the point. Be proud of the little things, and know that every single day that you are putting positive energy and good things out into the world, you are making a difference.