Speed-Dating vs Chemo

Okay, so I had been in a bit of a dating rut for a while. (Now I am with the man of my dreams)

But at this point in time it was easy to forget that I was a regular female.
Anywho, I decided to go speed dating. Now at first I thought there would be a weird stigma attached and the people who only come out at night would be there. But, I was pleasantly suprised to see a pretty normal group of people. At least the ladies were. Lololol
Upon getting there I wanted to run and that is mainly because I am a chicken who is very shy when in a situation where she is not surrounded by back up.
I found myself having polite conversation and shared even a few laughs. There was also the element where I felt as I was giving life counseling to some of the young men there.
Overall, it wasn’t the worst experience of my life but I’m not quite sure if I would choose it for myself. Now I’m sure some of you are waiting for the chemo part to come in.
Well, for me when I first began going to chemo it felt kind of like going speed dating.I would be alone and had to prepare myself to be open minded. I had to talk to different people many times repeating my cancer story as a form of polite conversation. On a good treatment, I would leave with a few new friends or associates.
All in all, its not a situation I would by no means choose for myself but it definitely help serve a purpose. Chemo to help work on saving my physical life, and speed dating to help save my mental sanity.
Speed dating actually broke up the day to day monotony of just going to work and coming home.
So, all in all I will take my experience and I will use it with other tools to keep myself going.

Unhealthy Over Appreciation

I think its extremely hard to thank people who are there in the rough times. When people do something amazingly awesome for me (that hinges on me having cancer) I have this tendency to over appreciate and give them a pass to do anything they want. I consider this over appreciating which sometimes can lead to a path of long lasting unhealthy servitude

There is nothing wrong in respecting the fact someone took time out of their day to go above and beyond for you in a time of need. But that does not mean you have to spend a lifetime returning the favor. It ends up making you want to go it alone since you don’t want to pay the associated cost.

I cannot begin to count how many times I have fallen into this cycle. It is a tad bit harder for me because I tend to have a hero complex. If I could save everyone either from them self or stupid situations I would. So, this jacks me up when I simply can’t do something for myself.

Sometimes it has even caused hard feelings amongst friends. Because the ones who are always there feel slightest when someone who did one thing seemingly gets shown more appreciation. Or they watch when I begin to get walked on because the one time giver becomes a taker.

All these things can cause stress.

The bottom line is that the principle art of friendship is giving/taking. There should be no tab of kind deeds or attempt to keep up with what someone does (this does not mean staying complacent in friendship either).  Allow people to help, that may be their own personal healing technique in them understanding the changes happening to you. But don’t allow anyone to begin to take advantage.

Family Vacation vs. Real Vacation

I love the concept of family. I get warm fuzzies and I enjoy feeling a somewhat unconditional love. but when it comes time to go to vacation it is a bit different for me.

Vacation is about relaxing, doing whatever the mood hits you to do when or if it hits you. You would be surprised by how different this is for everyone.

When traveling, some people must do everything that is in the brochure. Others, sleep as if they are trying to compete with Rip Van Winkle. Still there are some who try to do everything they don’t get to do during their week.

I feel I am a combination of all these things. So its hard to find the ultimate travel companions. And this usually does not mean a single family member.

The Wonderful World of BLAH

Blah is a word we sometimes used to describe our emotional state. Its not necessarily sad, or even bad. People sometimes use the phrase “It is what it is” to describe the state of blah.

There are many ways we can feel blah. After we plan something big, such as a party, event or trip, we get so caught up in all the details but then when its over we feel lost or even a bit lonely. This can help us take a quick ride into the world of blah.

Working on a project at work and being told it’s not great but it’s not bad after putting hours in it without direction can make you feel blah. Or getting not necessarily bad news in the grand scheme of things can trigger blah. For example, when I go to treatment and testing the good news is the cancer didn’t move. For me that is enough to have a party even though I’m sure some people think I’m nuts. Sometimes that same news can also just make me feel blah.

Therapy for me is finding downtime to just sit in an old pair of sweatpants and watch reality tv, catch up on an book or even eat a buffet (which is me going to every restaurant I like, ordering take out and eating till I pass out).

But that is okay. For every high there is a low. Feeling blah doesn’t have to mean you are being negative (sometimes referred to being a “debbie downer”).  It just means you simply feel blah.

Regardless of what is going on in your life there needs to be a balance. There is no rule that’s says you must walk on cloud nine every day. The only danger of the world of blah is when we try to out stay our welcome. Meaning we start sliding into a new world called depression. It is a very sneaky world because most of the time you don’t even realize you are there until its almost too late. Most of the time you do not jump into a state of depression, it sneaks up on you like tax season.

That is when we should try to identify and evaluate how did blah take us to that point.
Maybe desperate measures are needed such as prayer and devotional time, speaking to a therapist, a phone call to your best friend, starting a new exercise class, requesting that your boss let’s you take an class to learn something new, a mini vacation and the list goes on.

As long as you accept that the occasional blahs are okay but making sure they are stay kept in check I think we will be okay.

Alone with Your Thoughts

Have you ever actually been afraid to be alone with your thoughts for whatever reason? I sometimes get into this mood where I will do whatever it takes to distract myself to make sure that I won’t have a chance to have a clear head. My most common escape is work. I cannot begin to count how many times the word workaholic has been used to describe my behavior. Which is a lot easier to let someone believe than to just say I work because I’m afraid to let my mind wander. I also try charity work which is why working on the PinkforPam foundation has been beyond awesome. Sometimes, the most therapeutic solution in helping yourself is to help someone else.

Regardless of what you do whether its reading a book, watching reality tv, and a list of probably a zillion other hobbies. You still at some point have to deal with your thoughts at some point.

Prayer for me is powerful. I actually pray for the day my faith will allow me to believe to the point in moving a mountain. But sometimes even that seems scary to do. And It begins with the fact that I don’t want to have to admit what’s in my head to myself. As always, I think the main thing to remember is that… It’s normal.

And I personally know that even a tiny thought/prayer; “Help Me” has equal power as to a two hour concentrated prayer fest. Its definitely about quality and sincerity, than quantity. My most recent time of getting to this point, I ended up visiting a friend and I slowly just found myself talking about death and admitting to how I think about it more when things are going well rather than when things are going bad. It’s as if I will have to pay a price for the blessings and moments of happiness. It was if God put that person in front of me and gave me the okay that I could talk without freaking anyone out (this has happened before; I ended up having to cheer the other person up).

Whatever thoughts you may have, just remember your not the first, and your not the last. Just don’t allow yourself to not become a slave to the negative ones.

TERAHpeutic Relief: Staying Healthy During the Winter

Most people would say that it is impossible to stay healthy during the winter. I have this perspective because I have battled with terrible bronchitis every winter for the past five year. After doing a ton of research on how to prevent this, I have found some awesome tips that can help anyone stay healthy during the winter:

RULE #1: Stay hydrated. The majority of your body is water. It’s just science. In order for your immune system, among other things, to run properly, everyone should drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day.

RULE #2: Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and reduce carb and sugar intake. By eating fresh foods you are reducing the number of chemicals and preservatives in your body. By reducing carbs and sugar intake you are allowing your body to not have to break down as many nutrients.

RULE #3: Take a multi-vitamin. Everyone should take this anyways because it ensures your body is getting the vitamins it needs to run properly. Ensure you take one a day during the winter to help build your body’s immune system to fight infection.

RULE #4: Don’t stress the small stuff. Stress can put your immune system at risk which causes your body to fight bacteria and viruses less effectively. Viral infections, arthritis and certain allergies can become worse based on your body’s stress level. Not to mention, those “stress headaches” and back and shoulder cramps from stress will add to the misery of being sick.

RULE #5: Break a sweat. While exercising, your body produces antibodies which fight bacteria and viruses, thus making your body less susceptible to sickness. Also, by breaking a sweat, toxins escape the body and your metabolism increases. All in all, exercising is a win-win situation.

RULE #6: Catch up on those Zzz. You cannot physically catch up on sleep, but you can increase the amount you get during the winter. Getting six to eight hours of sleep a night probably sounds impossible with our crazy lives, but to prevent sickness it can really make a difference.

RULE #7: Keep your hands clean. The thought of all the germs on a hand makes me cringe. Wash your hands. Carry hand sanitizer. Be more self-conscious about what is touching your hands. In the long run, it can prevent the spreading of germs.

RULE #8: Don’t smoke. Smoking damages the lungs which leads to breathing problems. It is very common for winter sickness to include coughing or throat irritation. By sucking in smoke, you are putting your lungs and everything along the way at risk. Either way, no one should smoke. It’s a terrible habit that leads to more problems than not.

So what do you do when you start to come down with something despite the fact you too all preventative measures? Here are a few tips to help you get over your cold:

  • Stop drinking. I know this can be difficult, but you will heal quicker without alcohol in your system. When alcohol is in your system your body loses most of the vitamins and minerals which reduces the effectiveness of your immune system. Not to mention drinking dehydrates your body which is counterproductive to RULE #1.
  • Eliminate eating dairy. Dairy has bacteria and if you are taking antibiotics, it’s counterproductive.
  • Take Vitamin C and Zinc. Vitamin C and Zinc improve the immune system and help fight against bacteria and viruses. Try Airborne® or Emergen-C® to boost your Vitamin C intake and a Zinc supplement to help your body fight.
  • Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! I know we already discussed this, but in order for your body to recover, it needs to be at peak hydration.
  • Reduce the amount of food that you eat. The less you eat the less time your body has to break down the food, which gives it more time to fight against infection.
  • Sleep seven to eight hours at night. The more you sleep, the more down time the body has to fight against whatever is cycling through your body.

Either way you slice it, there is always something that someone can do to help their body fight infection. As long as you see your primary physician when you start to get sick and you don’t let the bacteria and/or virus fester in your body for too long, getting over a winter sickness can go smoothly. I know that this year when my inevitable sickness comes knocking at my door, I know that I did my best to prevent it. I also know that I’ll be running implementing the six additional tips to get over my sickness as quickly as possible. Will you?

The Cheating Vegan: It’s Not Easy Being Green, Right Kermie?

I remember when I was a teenager and the biggest environmental issue was our use of aerosol cans. It was imperative that we stop using them because we had pretty much made a doily out of the ozone layer. Perhaps it was just the media’s way of getting us to stop teasing and spraying our bangs up 12 inches. But either way, they convinced us to put down our gallon cans of Aquanet.

Now it’s all about our carbon footprint, hybrid vehicles, recycling, bringing your own bags to the grocery store…just when you think you are at your greenest, they come out with some new green product that’s a must-have. Cleaning products, using landfills to generate green energy, energy efficient light bulbs. They say that green is the new black.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about being green. I’m a vegan, recycling, tree-hugging hippie myself (I draw the line at Berkinstocks though). And I often wonder how long being green is going to stick with us. Is it just a trend? The newest scheme to get us to redirect our money from gas-guzzlers to fuel-efficient models?

Never have the words of our green friend, Kermit the Frog, been so true: “It’s not easy being green.” You’re right Kermie, it’s pretty darn exhausting.

If you’re thinking, it’s all so overwhelming and expensive, you’re right. But I recently came up with a plan that I think might work for me. Each time I do a big grocery shopping–about once a month–I’ll trade one of my products for a more earth-friendly one. That way, I won’t feel the financial impact all at once.

Let’s take, for example, something basic like toilet paper. I’d usually just buy whatever is on sale, but this month, I’d switch it out for recycled. Or produce. If I usually buy whatever fruit is in season, perhaps I can opt for the organic instead. In a year, at just one product a month, that will be twelve earth-friendly products that are now in my home.

One of my students recently asked me if I thought I was making any difference at all. What difference does it make if I switch from the store-brand coffee is to fair trade organic? I don’t know, I told him honestly. But I do know that some of my daily habits are hurting my planet, my home. And the only actions I can control are my own, so I will try. Perhaps through my example, one of my students or friends will learn, and they too will try to be greener. They might talk to their friends–and just like any great fad–it may spread.

Either way, negative or positive, what we do has ripple effects around the world. One only needs to remember the ozone layer crisis to know that the decisions we make together really can impact this planet. When’s the last time you heard about holes in the ozone layer? And when’s the last time you thought using Aquanet was a good idea? Probably around the last time you thought a perm was a good idea, right?

I’m so glad that some fads die (um, 80’s hair…) Being green though, I hope this is trendy for a long, long time.

My Street Cred Never Changed

Most of you know that last month I was honored to participate in the nationally broad casted, star studded, humongous Stand Up 2 Cancer telethon.

Some people told me that I looked nervous but the reality is, I wasn’t. (How could I be nervous when after having a zillion hot flashes my hair stayed curled and my makeup stayed on).

It would have been easy to be intimidated. Especially after I found out that I was the only non-celebrity to take the stage on eight major networks and whose broadcast was considered bigger than the superbowl (just sayin’).

But me and my punkish ways knew I honestly had more of a reason to be there than most of the celebrities did. Why pray tell? Because I stand up, sit down, turn around, do flips to cancer every day. Some of the celebs are fortunate enough to never have to think about cancer again unless they look at their free t-shirt.  I join the other millions who stood up to cancer when they get out of bed and decide to breathe.

The only street credit we need is to decide to either fight cancer or support someone who already is doing so. Here is the reality: the people behind the stage were the celebrities of the day. Most donated their time to be there.

Here is another fact: one day I will hit the popularity of Oprah (and possibly beyond) but nothing will change except that I will have paid off my student loans, bought a yacht to travel the world, ended world hunger, provided money for anyone who has a chronic illness to get not just their needs or wants. The main thing is we have to live and own our street cred. We got this!

Is Cancer a Good Wingman?

Some of you may have watched the movie 50/50. There is a scene where they go to the bar and use cancer as a method of picking up girls. For some people, that might work, but I think generally for single people with active cancer, dating is difficult.

First of all, there are the questions:

  • Is it fair to try and date anyone?
  • How quickly in the dating process do I need to let them know I have cancer?
  • Can I handle someone being freaked out if they either see or feel any battle wounds on me?
  • Will they be the type who likes to take on “projects”?

There are a dozen more questions I can come up with, but for the sake of the story, I’ll move on.

I once wrote into one of the speeding dating agencies and shared that I thought it would be cool if they have one for people with cancer (if you can have a speed dating even for people who have red hair, why not?). Needless to say, they didn’t get back to me.

The dating world as a whole is scary especially for those of us who are not dating savvy.  It can be like navigating through a corn maze. So WHAT THE MESS do I do now with this monkey on my back of cancer and loneliness? I have tried a few of the big name online dating sites because I have heard so many success stories. I decided to drink the Kool-Aid and jump in. But for some reason, even before this sickness, I have always had nut job magnetism; all the nuts try to find me. So I had my doubts that it wasn’t going to work out well for me. **Disclaimer – I know quite a few married couples who have met in that world and they’re doing well. So I believe online dating works for some.***

I promise to share some of my nightmare dates another time.

Right now, it’s been a bit easier to focus on God, myself, friends, family, work and sharing my story. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t hold my two precious godchildren and wonder about my own future as a parent and the fact that I will need to look into options such as surrogacy, adoption and foster parenting since I didn’t think to freeze my eggs before treatment began. Or even the thought of not having kids since I’m still sick.

So, that brings up another question: will that person understand that we may not be able to have blood related children together?

Until I can face myself in the mirror and answer these questions, I am not sure it’s safe to attempt to bring someone else in the mix. If I need to keep hope about overcoming a sickness, why not apply that same hope that the right person will be there at the same time. All those questions that I am assuming I need to answer will most likely get thrown out the window with the right person.

The Cheating Vegan: Defined

Veganism (n.) the practice of abstaining from and adopting a philosophy against the use and consumption of animal products.
I remember in 7th grade someone asked me if I was a prep or a guido. I looked down at my New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) sweatshirt (don’t judge, it was the late 80s) and thought, are those my only two options?
I guess I’ve never been much for labels. And as you get older, the labels just get more pretentious. Are you a vegetarian or a vegan? An ovo-lacto vegetarian? A pescatarian perhaps? How about just a plain old carnivore.
I was a vegetarian off and on throughout college and then I moved to Europe where vegetarian meant not eating red meat. I went with it. I did a stint as a strict vegan: no eggs, no diary, no honey (I never quite figured out what the whole honey deal was though). I’ve learned by trial and error. Truly more error than trial.
Like the time I went in search of non-diary creamer for my sacred cup of morning coffee. Let me say here—for all you soy consumers—that I am a big fan of soy. Beans, milk, sauce. Healthy, animal-friendly. What’s not to like? So, I thought, soy creamer—awesome. With high hopes, I put on a fresh pot, poured in the milk-like substance and…it tasted like a sock.
Do your homework. Make informed decisions. Know what is best for YOU. You don’t have to justify your choices to anyone. I ate milk chocolate today after buying soy milk. I own leather boots but don’t have a mink stole–mostly because I don’t know where I would ever wear a mink stole but also because fur just seems more animal-y to me than leather. It is not.
So, maybe I am a cheating vegan. Or not even a vegan at all. But I have learned that I need to be making better choices for my body and they don’t have to be the same ones you are making for yours.
Who am I to judge? I liked NKOTB. I clearly don’t get a vote.