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.

So Basically

Back in January 2012 I made a promise to a friend. In order to support her dream of doing a Warrior Dash 5K obstacle course/run, I agreed to do it with her. Note that I had never been running in my life. I was also the heaviest I’d been in my life. With the race not until September, I knew I had time to figure it out so I did what I always do—procrastinate. When I lost my job that March I decided that I no longer had an excuse and it was time to get my butt in gear. I started researching programs that teach you how to run and started the Couch to 5K plan. Within a few weeks I noticed that I started looking forward to my afternoon walks/runs. Soon they became morning walks/runs. I love to sleep in, so this was a shocking development. As I saw my pace jump from a 15 minute mile to a 13 minute mile I started to get excited. Each week I was shaving time off my pace. I was liking running! I knew I was hooked when one day I went out in the rain because it was a run day and therefore I had to run. Needless to say, I have become someone who runs. I even ran in a wet, snowy, slushy storm and in temps that had a “real feel” of zero degrees. (ZERO DEGREES! Yes, I may need a mental evaluation.) I’ve had an injury or two and life distractions come up. But one of the ways I try to keep focused is to have a race to look forward to. We did the Warrior Dash (with a bad ankle and almost two months off just before the race for PT it took just over an hour). I have also completed five 5K since November 2012. Each race I get a little faster (except this last one, but that is my fault to allowing life to get in the way of running) and am up to a pace of less than 12 minutes per mile. I hope to get down to a 10 minute mile soon.

One added benefit of my new hobby was a 20 pound weight loss and the joy of dropping a couple pants sizes. I made no change to a diet—I eat fairly well already; just added that elusive thing called exercise. Not only is it fun, it is the best stress relief I have ever experienced. You know those times when people get on your last nerve but you know that smacking them is not an option? I hear you can get arrested for assault, and well, I don’t look so hot in horizontal stripes. Those are the times I hit the pavement and run it out.

Another thing to know about me is that I am an unapologetic sci-fi geek. While some of my friends roll their eyes when I talk about the latest show on SyFy or BBCAmerica (those Brits do great sci-fi). In the past I’ve been enamored with shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Primeval, Firefly, and Torchwood. And of course I love Doctor Who. I credit my father and grandfather for this love. I remember watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my dad while we folded laundry. One of my early childhood memories is watching Doctor Who with his big ol’ scarf with my grandfather on WGBH when I visited them. I am counting down the days to the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. I can’t wait to see David Tennant back in the trench coat. Mmmm. But I digress. “What does all of this have to do with running?” you ask. A dear friend who is well aware of my obsessions passed on a link to a DW 50th anniversary themed virtual run. There is a pretty medal and the proceeds go to the One Fund for the Boston Marathon victims. I knew I had to sign up. Now I am hooked. You make your donation, run your distance when it fits in your schedule, and you get a medal. I’ve had so much fun I decided to host my own virtual run. And what better cause than PinkForPam? To find out how to get in on the action and take a peek at what the medal will look like head over to the FB event page (https://www.facebook.com/events/410061642433095/). Since this is a first for me, I figured we will start small and open it up to 50 participants. You can also get in on the action by clicking the paypal button here. All net proceeds benefit PinkForPam:

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.

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.

Like it or Not, We are All Politicians

I have a horrible confession. The first time I ever voted was the 2008 Presidential campaign. Even when people used to say, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain,” I just wouldn’t complain. At the time, I belonged to the group that felt as if my vote didn’t make a difference.

I’m so disconnected from politics that I don’t even know my local congressman.

When originally diagnosed with cancer I didn’t feel empowered. I had no experience with the craziness of cancer so I decided to go with the flow of what my doctors said to me. I would not recommend this as one of my smarter ideas even though at the time it seemed to be very logical.

This line of thinking took me through a path of hardships that I might not necessarily have had to go through. I was too shy to disagree with a doctor if th

ey said something that didn’t make sense or I didn’t agree with. I never questioned any portions of my treatment plan. I felt trapped, as if the only way I had a chance of survival was by listening blindly to any person who had a title in front of their name.

But once I was diagnosed the second time, I thought, if I did it your way and it didn’t work, I need to try things differently. That is when I decided to elect myself as my own advocate. I am the primary person who should be aware of the treatment plan and be able to argue what does or doesn’t work.

That means asking questions, researching and taking a vote with yourself on what the next plan of action should be. This has caused such a big change in my life. I have found there were more options than what I was aware of from the beginning.

It is a well established fact that no one will take better care of yourself than you. So, for those who like to leave the politics to someone else, please think again when it comes to your own personal well being.

TERAHpeutic Relief: Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month

80,000 women in the United States alone are diagnosed with uterine, ovarian and/or cervical cancer each year. Out of those women, 50,000 are diagnosed with uterine cancer and 22,000 are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. An even scarier statistic: about 11,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year will die because of a late diagnosis, and that doesn’t include those who are diagnosed with uterine or cervical cancer.

September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month.

Cancer is a scary thing for anyone. It’s like an unwanted predator lurking about in the dark night, waiting for its chance to pounce and feast. It is a thought that almost everyone has at some point – What if I get cancer?

I grew up in a family where all different types of cancer are common – breast, uterine, thyroid, skin, lung and the list goes on and on. It’s a scary thought, but I am convinced that at some point I will get some form not only because of my genes but because of my past bad habits. I failed for a long time to take care of myself. I used to go tanning five days a week, I ate terribly and I socially smoked. I might as well have been asking for cancer. Yes, there are other aspects to getting cancer, but I was making myself more susceptible to the disease. I guess when you’re younger you’re more worried about having fun and enjoying your time than preparing and starting healthy routines for the future.

As I got older I realized that you only live once, so why would I shorten that time just because I liked the way my skin glowed when I was tan? In March I finally finished up my three shots of human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination with my primary physician. It took me 23 years to get that vaccination because I was too afraid of needles. I finally said to myself, you know what’s scarier? Getting your cervix shaved down because I contracted HPV, or as I call it “pre-cancer”. I stopped socially smoking because I realized I did it as just something to do. There was no dependency, no benefit, no gain. And I struggle every day to make the healthier food choice. Obviously I would love to eat unhealthy food all day but I try to eat a salad at lunch or a light and healthy breakfast.

Uterine cancer is linked to excess body fat because of the increased levels of insulin, estrogen and inflammation in the body. At 26-years-old, my mother had to have a full hysterectomy because they found pre-cancerous cysts in her ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. I’m 24 and I worry at least a couple times a week that if I don’t use it, I’ll lose it…to cancer.

Though September is coming to an end, everyone should schedule an OB-GYN appointment to get their assets checked out. Cancer does not discriminate and can come out of nowhere. I go every six months to make sure everything is running properly, and every woman should do the same.

Cancer is not a joke, nor should anyone take the idea of getting cancer lightly. It is “till death do us part” partner you never asked for. Those who survive cancer still live the rest of their lives with the memories of this disease and how it affected everyone they know and love.

Be safe and take responsibility for YOUR life, YOUR body and YOUR FUTURE.

Pole Dancing is Not For Everyone

A few years back after receiving radiation on my hips and pelvis my doctor had given me a lot of precautions. No heavy exercise, no using the treadmill, no high-impact exercises, very minor elliptical and most definitely yoga and water aerobics. This was a bit hard for me to take due to the fact that up until I was re-diagnosed, I was playing soccer on an intramural team. In fact, the day of the re-diagnosis, before I had learned the cancer had metasized to the bones, I went to the gym and started a membership. To me, it felt like a tug of war with cancer; it was holding all the cards and had control. Besides, I am the type of person who just needs to keep actively moving. If I’m not sweating (besides my hot flashes) I don’t feel like I’m doing anything.

When I got the “yellow” light (to this day my doctors have never really given me a “green” light, but have decided to share their heads and recommend I take it easy and be safe when I tell them of my adventures). I decided I needed to find something that could help strengthen my upper body. I am always on guard for lymphodema. So, I thought about pilates and learned about the Reformer machine which I like but is very expensive. I also tried a few different types of yoga (which was okay) but I still needed something more. I found an ad about pole dancing for exercise. In my head it was very logical. I could only imagine that it was a job requirement to have a strong upper body to do things people do on the pole. I decided to sign up for six classes figuring the only way to commit to the workout is to commit my wallet.

Keep in mind, I signed up for the absolute beginners classes which I figured would be a breeze. Back in my hay day, I was pretty good on the monkey bars and I still sear if my mom had let me continue my acrobatic classes after third grade I could have been an Olympic gymnast.

I go to my first class. I didn’t realize there was a wardrobe requirement. My shirt, sneakers and sweatpants weren’t quite cutting it. Next problem was the class for absolute beginners was filled with intermediates since the other class was held too late in the evening for most people to attend. I was the only true absolute beginner. Everyone around me was flipping around, swirling and not to mention wearing heels that by just trying them on would have broken my ankle.

My initial instinct was to run but I figured I had some athletic skill and I could figure it out. I took my spot in the front of the classroom and the class began. Needless to say, it was one of the worst 45-minute sessions I ever lived, which is saying a lot because I have gone through some aggressive chemotherapy.  The teacher wasn’t ready for my level of beginner.

I spun around once and hit my left side, which was still inflamed (I originally had a translap but had to switch to implants due to wanting the breast even after the second mastectomy).  I did a bit of damage to myself, which didn’t hurt, but it’s hard to say when you’re bleeding from your chest “it’s okay. I’m just in the middle of getting my breast reconstructed because of a mastectomy,” and consider myself logical.

When the class finally ended, I ran as fast as I could. I realized I had eaten a seriously big piece of humble pie and had the urge to shake hands and feel the arm muscles of anyone who was in the profession of dancing on a pole. Most importantly, realizing I need to do a lot more research and potentially take a sample class to figure out what would work best for me.

Hindsight is beyond 20/20; it’s amazing how smart I am after an experience. I could have really hurt myself but as my mom always says, “God takes care of babies and fools, which category do you fit into?”