Wednesday, December 28, 2011

5 New Scars Later...

Well it has been a little over two weeks since my surgery and I'm beginning to become more and more mobile each day. While definitely not my first surgery, it was my first robotic procedure. The healing has definitely been different from my open surgeries. My abdomen is much more swollen this time around, which surprised me. Maybe from being pumped full of all that air? Not really sure. My scarring is definitely better though... just 5 small incisions. I joke with David that they look like shark teeth :)

Had some set backs/ complications after surgery. The procedure was on a Monday and I ended up going home on Thursday, though apparently most people would have gone home on Tuesday (I'm special). But I was actually throwing up on Tuesday. The nausea was the one big difference of this surgery vs my other ones. When I did go home I was incredibly nauseous and as soon as I got to my house the vomiting started all over again. But this time it didn't stop. Close to once an hour for the next 24 hrs I was visiting the bathroom. And I hadn't eaten anything since Sunday night. Come Saturday morning it was so bad that I ended up returning to the hospital. The IV fluids helped tremendously and eventually we figured out that this was all being caused by my nausea medicine (ironic huh?). They had put me on Reglan to help my nausea and apparently that medicine tends to cause intestinal paralysis (NOT something I need to be taking since I already have so many intestinal issues). So basically my digestive system stopped working, causing everything to come back up. I'll spare you further details.

So I stayed in the hospital until Tuesday morning. Once home I threw up one more time but then I was able to start eating some. I have been progressing ever since and each day is better and better. I go to the doctor in the morning for a check up and to get the pathology report. We are pretty confident that the mass was benign... the doctor believes it's just Endometriosis (not a great diagnosis, but better than cancer). He moved my ovaries away from my anastamosis site so that nothing on them will effect my remaining colon in the future (this time whatever it was, was wrapped around my intestines). But overall the surgery went well... glad it's over though :)

We had a great Christmas! We bought a house, David got a job after a VERY long time of looking, and we were able to spend lots of time with family. I should also mention what an awesome husband David was while I was sick... never did I ever think that a man would take such good care of me to the point that I could tell my mom I was comfortable with her not staying at the hospital. He waited on me hand and foot, wiped my face as I threw up, and constantly told me I looked beautiful even though I hadn't showered in days and looked like a hot mess. I couldn't ask for a better man. So blessed to have him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One Week till Surgery

So the timehas come... surgery is just a little over a week away. While this is my 5th surgery it is going to be very different from the others. Up until now, each one has been an "emergency", but this one I actually scheduled and I have had time to prepare for it. I've located all of my girly DVDs, acquired new books to pass the time, and printed out some articles to read for school. Still working on laundry and organizing my clothes and such. Also doing a meal plan for post-surgery so that I don't run straight to junky fast food or other bad "treats". One positive of having operations (and trust me, it is vital to look for positives) is that each one brings a new wave of weight loss, and since I have been trying so hard lately to lose weight and to little avail, I don't plan to gain it all back post-surgery by shoving cheeseburgers down my throat. At least I say that now...

I've had people ask me if I'm scared. That's a hard question to answer. I guess I'm supposed to be scared... that would be normal. But oddly I don't really feel scared. A little nervous. And maybe dreading it a little simply for the pain factor and having to spend my Christmas break in bed basically. But I'm not scared of what might happen or what they might find. If something is there, then I hope they do find it. It is what it is. That is all I can say. We can't spend our lives in fear or constantly worrying. And I have enough normal things in my life to worry about (i.e. finances, school, job, etc). I don't need any more than normal.

I'm ready for it to come and go. I think the waiting is the worst part. I hate that I've had to wait so long to do it... well partly had to, partly avoiding it. I've been trying to wait it out for 2 years, hoping I wouldn't have to have it removed (it being whatever it is on my ovary). Then, in September when I found out I had to do it, I then had to wait for the school semester to be out, making December 12 the first day I was able to schedule it. So that is D-day. Appreciate any and all prayers. I know God will take care of me :)

So here is my reading list (not that I will read ALL of them... these are just my choices)... if you have any books or movies to suggest, send the comments my way! It would be super helpful!

1. Professor and the Madman by: Simon Winchester
2. Crazy River by: Richard Grant
3. Sailing Alone Around the World by: Joshua Slocum
4. The Charlemagne Pursuit by: Steve Berry
5. Around Ireland with a Fridge by: Tony Hawks
6. The Professor by: Charlotte Bronte
7. The Emperor of All Maladies by: Siddhartha Mukherjee (appropriate huh? lol)
8. Around the World in Eighty Days by: Jules Verne
9. Getting Stoned with Savages by: J. Maarten Troost
10. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by: Barbara Kingsolver

Monday, November 14, 2011

Losing Focus and Finding a New Perspective

My life has sucked lately. I think way worse than anyone else's.

How many times do we find ourselves thinking that? I know here lately I have been guilty of the "pity party" talk. My life has been pretty full of difficulties lately and it has been all to easy to dwell on them. I lost focus. I should not be my focus. Life isn't about "me me me!". Life is more than ourselves and if we keep our eye on our own problems we will miss all of the other things.

I found myself whining over the past week. Depressed, angry, sad, even jealous. Then today, for some reason, something clicked. I saw myself from a different perspective and I wasn't at all happy with the life I was creating where I wanted everything to revolve around me. How disgusting. I'm mad at myself for even getting to that point. I had reached my lowest point and it certainly wasn't pretty.

It's funny how little things make us change our direction. I wrote something yesterday as sort of a "vent" and I reread it this morning. While it sounded justified while I was writing it, reading it again I saw nothing but "selfish" jumping off the page at me. How could I be so self-absorbed?? Then I watched Extreme Home Makeover (such a sucker for that show) and saw this huge family that was poor and had lost their home to a fire, but while they were on vacation they took the time to write a thank you note to every single volunteer and worker that helped build their house. Again, I felt nothing but selfish and that just showed me that truth even more. Then, the final word from God came while I was having girls night with one of my friends. We watched the movie Soul Surfer about the teenage surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. Well if you haven't seen it, you should... great movie! But I watched as this young girl lost something that could have changed her life for the worse, made her depressed and angry, and forced her to give up something she loved doing. But instead she accepted it, moved on, and became more determined than ever to accomplish her goals. She thanked God for what she did have, she gave praise to him, and she focused on helping others who needed it more than she did. Wow.

We have choices when we are faced with tragedies or difficulties. For the past week (more really) I have chosen to be selfish, isolated, and seething inside. I am normally the girl who sees the positive in everything and clings to reason and hope. For some reason the latest events have knocked me down. But even after knocked down we can always choose to get back up. I am choosing that option now, even if I initially made the wrong choice. I am going to praise God, put others first, and realize that there are more important things than my troubles.

So thank you God, for giving me a bed to wake up in this morning, for allowing me to have 3 meals today, for keeping my family safe, for giving me a night with a friend, for this laptop that I am able to use to keep in touch with people, for the car I can use to go to school every day, for the clothes in my closet, and most importantly today, for waking me up and showing me my misgivings and my faults so that I can correct them and come back to you. My life is yours.

Friday, November 4, 2011


I don't normally share poetry that I write... I'm pretty private about it because I mostly write when I'm having a hard time. Plus there is something deeply personal about poetry... sometimes things end up in poems that we never would be comfortable saying aloud. But I recently wrote two poems back to back and if really made me almost laugh how different the two were. I wrote the first one because I was having a horrible day... to be honest, there is a lot going on in my life right now and I really needed to find a way to express myself and that was all I could think to do. So I sat down and I wrote this poem and I didn't hold anything back. I want you to read it.

Dark Nights

I smell the scent of poetry

Clouds descending down on me

I feel the storm closing in again

A sinking feeling says these black nights will win

Dark clouds, bright skies

Are all I see these recent nights

Inflicting pain upon my chest

Refusing to give me the pleasure of rest

These dark nights they follow me

Creeping, creeping at my feet

Hiding each night inside my dreams

They stalk my mind and I find defeat

Lightning strikes some days, some nights

Others are quieter as I grieve out of sight

Tick, tock, the clock goes slow

How many days I can stand, I don’t know

My eyes watch the ceiling as all others sleep

If they close there is no telling what fate I might meet

Slowly still the months drag by

And as I face yet another day, my eyes invisibly cry.

I love C.S. Lewis quotes (you will find me using them alot to explain points... he just had a way with words) and he once said "no one ever told me that grief felt so like fear". These past few months I must admit I haven't been able to distinguish between the two. This poem is, to me, evidence of my pain. When I finished writing it I felt better but I wasn't done. After I wrote this I immediately began to a second poem because I just didn't feel like I had gotten everything out yet. Please read on.


I am but a desperate fool

Nothing I am resides in you

Tonight I come, weak and small

Asking for you to change it all

At my lowest I ran from you

Tried to fix things on my own

But I have seen my flawed approach

I know you have blessed me with so much

Thank you for the roses

That I smell in the morning

Thank you for the books

That I read at night

For the people that I love the most

And the ones I’ve yet to meet

I’m so thankful

So very thankful

For all you’ve done for me

As I wake up, in someone else’s house

It’s easy to get upset over all that I don’t have

But I’m thankful anyway

Thankful that you gave me another day

And I’m sorry for the times I left you

You are all in my life that’s true

So thank you for the thunder

That puts me to sleep at night

And thank you for the wind that blows

Through my hair just right

For the moments that make me

Forget all pains

I’m so thankful

So very thankful

Every time I touch a water source

Or stand on a beach in silky sand

I see your touch in every natural force

You are the only one who knows who I am

So thank you for your sacrificial grace

For naming me before I had a name

So thankful

So very thankful

For all you’ve done for me.

Just so you know, when I sit down to write a poem I never title it until the end of the poem because I never start with an "idea" in mind of what I want to write. It is therapy for me because I literally write exactly what is on my mind, no filtering it. So when I realized that I had gone from writing about storms and dark moments in life to about how thankful I was, it shocked me. I honestly wasn't feeling thankful, but nonetheless I really was thankful deep down, even though I wasn't feeling that way. It's amazing how God can change your demeanor even when you are so set on being upset, angry, or depressed. I actually went to bed happy that night despite all that was going on because I was reminded of how much I do still have to be thankful for. Everyone has their problems and difficulties... whether it is cancer, an impending divorce, a dying family member, a lost job, a sick child, or other family problems... we all are going through something. No one's life is ever perfect, even if it seems to be. But God is there for us and if we seek him, we will find joy even through our pain. And through writing that poem I found joy, and in a way, I found God again. It comforted me and made me feel almost silly for being upset when I do indeed have so much. The pain will fade away, but God remains forever. I just need to remember that thought.

I saw a new C.S. Lewis quote today that seems relevant to this and wanted to share it and see if anyone had an opinion about what it means. I have my thoughts but wanted to pose it as a question.... so what are your ideas?

"Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ. " -C.S. Lewis

Friday, October 28, 2011

Schedule surgery? Check.

So I have just scheduled my next operation, having yet another piece of me cut on and removed. I sometimes wonder how many operations I will have throughout my life. I know many people who have had close to 10 abdominal surgery, some maybe more. This will be my 5th surgery and my 4th abdominal surgery (this is not counting my wisdom tooth surgery this past February) since I turned 22, just 3 years ago. If I am having 4 surgeries in 3 years then will I have 8 surgeries in 6 years? Ugh I hope not. But I am thankful that my doctors are so rigorous in screening me. I'd rather have surgery when I need it than need it and not have it.

So anyway, I have scheduled surgery. I have been avoiding this specific surgery for over a year but it is finally inevitable. My GI doctor demanded it so I consented. I have had several CT scans, 2 MRIs, and multiple ultrasounds and like I'm sure I've mentioned in posts before, they have found something on my left ovary. Actually, it was there when I was diagnosed in 2008 but they thought it was just a cyst. It might still be a cyst, but it has gotten bigger and is now connected to my uterus as well and they are now wondering if it could be something else. So, considering my history and my risk for endometrial and ovarian cancer it would just be safer to check and see if it's malignant or benign. My gynecological oncologist will be performing a robotic surgery, removing the mass from my ovary if possible (if not he will have to remove my left ovary) and testing it, biopsying a cyst on my right ovary, and testing my endometrial lining for pre-cancerous cells. That is best case scenario. Worst case scenario, they find cancer and have to do a total hysterectomy, removing my uterus and both ovaries. But I'm not going to worry about that unless it happens... there is such a small chance of it. Have any of you had a similar surgery?

Not that I think I have this, but ovarian cancer is often misdiagnosed or caught too late, so in light of my upcoming surgery on my ovaries I wanted to post symptoms of ovarian cancer. But often, like colon cancer, the most common symptom is no symptom at all. Ovarian cancer needs to have more awareness too!

  • Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
  • Pelvic discomfort or pain
  • Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
  • Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full
  • Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
  • A persistent lack of energy
  • Low back pain

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cope, Learn, Overcome by: Emily Walsh

Cope, Learn, Overcome

Aside from the physical affects of cancer, the emotional affects can be equally as devastating. A diagnosis can invoke a plethora of worries. "What will treatment be like for lung cancer?" "How do I talk to my family about my breast cancer?" "What is my mesothelioma life expectancy?"

You are not alone in your anxieties. Walk into any cancer survivor support program and you will hear these same questions and worries expressed. You will also hear advice and personal stories from survivors. Cancer support networks also offer an opportunity to talk about your own feelings in a safe and comfortable environment. A great source of camaraderie, strength and knowledge, cancer support networks and programs are an invaluable resource for anyone affected by the disease.

Getting a diagnosis of mesothelioma, colon cancer, skin cancer or any other form of the disease is never easy. You may experience a range of emotions right after your diagnosis, as you begin treatment or even as you go into remission. Talking about your feelings at a support group is the best way to deal with these complex emotions. You will discover that your emotions are normal and that you are not alone in your fight against cancer.

The American Cancer Society sponsors a number of support groups for those diagnosed with the disease. You can even find support in your own home with the society's online Cancer Survivors Network.

The Cancer Survivors Network offers discussion boards, email and a chat function that put you in touch instantly with thousands of other survivors. The boards are filled with messages of hope, advice and questions that may be similar to your own. Writing about your thoughts and emotions can help you overcome your anxieties and cope with the various stages of your battle with cancer.

Joining a support group, whether in person or online, is an important component to your recovery. Hearing stories of survival can give you hope when you need it the most and knowing you are not alone can give you new strength to continue in your recovery.

Emily Walsh
Outreach Director at Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

Friday, October 14, 2011

StyledOn is Raising Money for F*** Cancer!

Today StyledOn is trying to raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and with our help, F*** Cancer (sorry, trying to keep it PC) could get a big check to help their cause!

F*** Cancer began with t-shirts, and now, according to the website, has become a movement. While they don't fund research they do reach out to the younger generation, hoping to not only reach young people but also through them, their parents.

So what do you have to do? It's super easy! Go to the StyledOn Facebook page and write your favorite fashion faux-pas on their wall and they'll donate $1 to F*** Cancer! I know you've seen their t-shirts so show them some love!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kissimmee Please!

I've always believed that our cancer "check-ups" shouldn't be a negative experience. We have to have them, so why not make it a fun thing? I personally visit the doctor every 6-8 months for the dreaded (by most anyway) colonoscopy, blood work, and CT scan. Getting a colonoscopy actually doesn't bother me... contrary to what the general public likes to portray, it's really no big deal. No, it doesn't hurt, and sure it's a little embarrassing but really what doctors appointment isn't? At least you won't be awake for it! I get an early appointment, stay up the night before watching movies, and then I get put to sleep and get a really amazing nap... no big deal! But, since sometimes it can make us cancer people anxious about the results, I make vacations out of my check ups.

When I was fighting cancer I was treated at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD (LOVED it and would recommend it to anyone! Such a great experience and I loved my doctors). My first time up there was for surgery. The first week we did tests and the second week was the operation. Two days before my surgery I was in DC seeing museums, doing research for a paper I was writing, and loving spending the day with my mom and my best friend Eunice. The day before my surgery we all went to the Aquarium in Baltimore. It made some really great memories... so much so that I have forgotten many of the bad ones. And since then every 6 months or so I make the trip back up there, always remembering to take a day trip to DC.

Eunice and Me at the Inner Harbor before visiting the aquarium the day before my surgery.

Me and Eunice in DC (Chinatown I think) 2 days before surgery.

David (my husband), me, my mom, and Eunice visiting DC in 2010 when I was in Baltimore for a check up.

Last week I went for my check up but this trip was different. My GI doctor fr
om Johns Hopkins that I LOVE moved to Orlando and I had to decide what to do. Well, my decision was actually kind of easy. Since I'm from Alabama, Orlando is way closer than Johns Hopkins. And the GI part of my check up is most important... I also have an oncologist here in Mobile that can do my CT scans for me. And since we are way past broke right now (thanks economy) it seemed more sensible to go to Orlando. Plus I had never been! Well, not since I was 4 anyway. Well we made it an awesome trip... we packed a cooler and ate meals in parking lots on the way down like we did when we were kids, made sandwiches in the hotel room (told you we're broke), watched the Alabama-Florida game on Saturday night, went to the Disney Boardwalk and Downtown Disney (the free areas... who knew free could be so much fun!?), and had one really awesome meal at PF Changs. I saw the doctor Friday evening and then had my scope on Monday morning... this time it was a colonoscopy and an endoscopic ultrasound (to check my pancreas since I had pancreatitis not too long ago). The test went fine... one area of inflammation that he biopsied but it's probably nothing. Pancreas also looked fine and I had no gallstones which is good. But after talking with him we did decide to go ahead with surgery to remove a mass that has been found on my left ovary and has attached to my uterus. We think it is benign but it is always better to check than be sorry. It's been there since my diagnosis but has been growing, though slowly. The only reason for any real concern is that my PET scan prior to my surgery detected metastasis to my uterus (but during surgery they saw nothing so they thought the PET was wrong). But some things can be seen on scan and not to the naked eye. So we'll see. I'm sure I'll blog about surgery whenever it happens.

Dr. Giday after one of my check-up scopes at Johns Hopkins. He's awesome.

So enjoy your scan times! Don't dwell on them. If you stay in town, make it a point to see a movie, or go shopping, or have a nice meal, or something else that is unique to your town. Make a new tradition. And don't be afraid to change it sometimes. Cancer brings so much negative... let's try to counteract it with positive! You might be surprised at the fun you have :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

One More Void via Cancer, One More Opportunity via God

There are days when I think my life is over... others where I think it is just beginning. It is one of those glass half empty/ half full things. I'm sure I am not the only one who has days where I just simply want to bask in my misery, blissfully happy with my state of self-loathing. Not every day can be a glass half full kind of day.

And just upfront, today was actually a pretty decent day.

I watched Julie & Julia tonight, mostly because I am reading Julia Child's autobiography right now and am absolutely in love with it. I wish I was in love with something as much as Julia Child was in love with cooking. But that is another blog post. As relevant to this, there was one scene that reminded me of moments that I have randomly, usually daily. Julia Child was at home with her husband when she got a letter from her sister saying that she was pregnant. Julia proceeded to cry, tears she claimed were for joy, but her husband new they were tears of devastation. Julia and Paul could not have children.

Many cancer fighters/ survivors deal with this same issue. We do. It's a constant, daily battle for me. It seems every day someone new announces they're pregnant and I yet again pour through the many thoughts and feelings that it pulls out me. Without explaining in detail our little pity party, here are the simple facts: both my husband and myself have had cancer, he as an infant and me as a young adult in my early twenties. He had chemo and can't have children naturally (we were told somewhere like a 1 in a million chance) and while I didn't have chemo I do have a hereditary cancer syndrome which I would have a 50:50 chance of passing on to a child (if my child had it he/she would have to begin receiving colonoscopies at age 7). Yes we could try in vitro treatments, but would it work? And the price! Yes we could adopt, but are we ready for such a long and emotional process? And the price! There are so many questions, and so many answers that we need to have before making any decisions.

But every day that I hear of someone being pregnant or I spend time with children I feel a slight sadness welling up inside me. I sometimes even get resentful that I am unable to easily have a child if I decided I wanted one. And I begin to feel myself shrinking away and avoiding kids altogether, which is a horrible outcome regardless of whatever feelings I might have. I have a niece and nephew whom I absolutely adore... they are sweet and hilarious (well not so much Bobby, he is still only 3 months old) and I should spend more time with them. I know one day I will regret it if I don't. But I am unsure of how to deal with the things I am feeling. How do I process it? The first time I babysat my niece she was around 6 months old and I only had her for 2 hours while her parents went to dinner. When they came home they found me holding a naked baby and crying my eyes out. Yes, I was a little overwhelmed because I had no clue what I was doing, but to this day they really have no idea why I was crying (and since they don't read this blog they still won't). Honestly, while I was there holding that baby and playing with her it hit me for the first time that I would never hold my own baby. My niece would never have a cousin from me and David, our parents would never have grandchildren from us, and we would never experience the things of life that everyone claims are the best moments that you will never forget. It hit me like a ton of bricks. And then my sister-in-law and brother-in-law walked in. I'm sure I looked a hot mess.

Does anyone else go through that? I know I can't be the only one... right??

Then there is the part that might seem quite schizophrenic after what I just wrote. I actually don't know if I'd want kids, even if I could have them. Does that make ANY sense at all??? Because usually I don't think so. How could I NOT want kids and then cry when I find out one of my friends is having a baby?? Utterly insane. But still, there it is. I am not sure I am built to be a mom. I have zero motherly instincts, kids drive me crazy, and I am simply too selfish to devote my life to raising a child who might just grow up to hate me, do drugs, or amount to be the very type of person I have spent my life trying to avoid. Plus... there are WAY too many things in this world I have not done yet. I am the type of person to want to drop everything to pick up and go somewhere exotic. Key word there is "want"... I have yet to do this. One more reason not to have kids.

On those glass half full kind of days I think that maybe God is keeping us from having kids so that we can enjoy our lives in a different way than other people get to. Maybe we can devote ourselves to some other kind of good, all the while living somewhere like New Zealand and sailing in our spare time.

It is a tough pill to swallow when you learn that your childhood dream of a family and choosing baby names will never come true, and there are serious emotions that you have to face a deal with. But maybe, just maybe, there are things out there that we will live and experience that we could never have dream of, things that exceeded even our child-like imaginations. That is the life that I am looking forward to. One of mystery, spontaneity, and laughter. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2012 Colondar

This past June I flew to Albany, NY to take part in something that 3 years ago I never would have seen myself doing. When I was diagnosed with cancer, one of the things that I had somewhat of a hard time with was my body image post-surgery. I wasn't prepared for what I would look like afterwards (for example, I found out that I don't scar well). I grieved the fact that I would never wear a bikini again and that I would have to meet someone who didn't care about the huge incision scar on my abdomen AND the huge one on my back (I did meet someone by the way... almost right after I finished my surgeries... he married me a year ago as of 9/18/11). But then I felt stupid for caring about wearing a bikini... hello, I was ALIVE! But I was also 22, and body image was a struggle for me. I wish I had know about The Colon Club ( They produce a calendar every year called the "Colondar" with pictures and bios of young adults who have been diagnosed with colon cancer. The twist: everyone shows off their scars. Had I seen that before surgery I think I would have been much more confidant about the way I looked afterwards.

As soon as I found The Colon Club website I was almost overwhelmed... there were so many beautiful people gracing the pages of this calendar and for once I felt like I looked like everyone else. And the forums were just awesome. It was the first time I had corresponded with other colon cancer fighters/ survivors that were my age. It really empowered me in my journey and I decided I wanted to do that for someone else. So I applied to be in the 2012 Colondar. Who would've thought that I'd actually get accepted! But I did... and this past June, in NY, I met some amazing new people and I did my photo shoot. I expected it to feel a little awkward... I'm not the "model" type and really actually hate having my picture taken because I'm so overly critical of myself... not to mention I have never really let anyone but my mom and my husband see my scar. I was so surprised when I was immediately changing in front of the other girls and walking around in mid-drift tops... I felt normal. And during my photo shoot I actually felt... wait for it... SEXY! Can you believe it? I hadn't felt sexy in years. It was an amazing gift that they gave me. I no longer constantly check to make sure my shirts are pulled all the way down and I've been looking for a tankini, something I would never have considered before. But you see, these are my battle scars. And I began to realize that I didn't look at others weird for having scars so they probably didn't look at me weird for having them either. So, as I'm sure you've seen, above is my Colondar photo. I am Miss December 2012 :) You can buy a Colondar at Thank you for supporting this cause.

I really hope that more people will begin standing up for colon cancer awareness. It is a disease that effects so many people, young and old, and it shouldn't be a taboo subject. Will you stand up? Organize a GYRIG event, help sell Colondars, anything! Thanks for taking the time to read this and for getting involved!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Emergence of a Foodie

I have always loved to cook. I would have been a chef but I thought that I'd then hate cooking at home. And while I love to cook and experiment with new recipes, I'm not the best at it. But I do have a love for food (sometimes too much) and I enjoy experiencing new flavors (though most will tell you, I'm also a very picky eater).

However, my relationship with food has changed a lot over the past few years (thanks cancer) and I'm having to learn to readjust my eating habits. Right after I was diagnosed I had a total colectomy with an ileoanal anastamosis... which is a technical way of saying I had my colon removed. When your colon, aka your "holding chamber", is taken away food stays in your body a much shorter period of time. That means I absorb less nutrients, less fluids, and if I eat the wrong kind of food I will be having a not so fun night. My surgery was about 3 years ago so you would think that I would have it together by now, but really the opposite is true. About a year ago I was hospitalized with pancreatitis... it came on very suddenly and I was sick for about a week and a half. Normally it is caused by alcohol (I don't drink) or gallstones (which I don't have), so they have concluded than mine was caused by oxidative stress from my abdominal surgery.

Normally pancreatitis is acute and doesn't effect your daily life but mine has become chronic. It's something I haven't really let my family in on... they have so much to worry about in their own lives. Plus I try to hide my medical issues when I can because I know it is disrupting... they like to go out to eat, cook southern food, drink wine... all things that I can't (or shouldn't) do. Though I must admit I give in to temptation way too much and I definitely pay for it. After eating out for days I tend to start having issues and about a week ago it started getting really bad to the point I almost left school (did I mention I'm in school again studying molecular biology and cancer genetics??) and went to the hospital. Every time I eat I am in a tremendous amount of pain. It's hard to even describe but it's a combination of sharp pain and cramping pain that travels from my upper abdomen to my back and down to my lower abdomen. There are times I just have to curl up in the bed or retreat to a public restroom to cry and wait until it subsides. So why am I doing this to myself??? I have complete control over whether or not this gets better, yet I keep allowing myself to kill my body. I have to change my habits and my thoughts about food. Regardless of whether or not it will inconvenience someone else I have to choose what is right for me and what is healthy or me, especially because I know that no one in my family would want me to do any different.

So I'm going to try to start sharing some recipes that are yummy and are great for those who have had colon resections. Though I am also trying to stick to a diet to help pancreatitis which includes low fat foods, nothing fried, no caffeine (oh this will be the hardest...), no spicy foods, no eggs, and no red meat. So here is my first recipe that I happen to love.

Caribbean Black Beans and Fried Plaintains


· 2 large ripe plantains

· 3 T Olive Oil

· 4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed

· 2 15oz cans of organic black beans, drained and rinsed

· 2/3 cup orange juice

· 2 T freshly squeezed lime juice (or ½ a lime)

· Salt (optional)


Cut off the ends of the plantains and then peel off the skin with a sharp knife, trying not to cut the flesh. Discard the peel and slice the plantains into approx. ½ inch circles.

Heat 2 T of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add plantains and cook until browned but not burnt, approx. 6-8 minutes. Repeat on both sides. When they are done, transfer them to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Add 1 T of olive oil to pan and sauté garlic. Then add beans, orange juice, and lime juice. Stir often until the beans have absorbed most of the juice, approx. 4-5 minutes. Then add the plantains and toss. Serve hot. Sprinkle with salt if desired.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My First Descents Journal: Day 1!

After my first FD camp my life changed. Not because of circumstance, but because I was a different person than when I got to that camp. I learned things about myself that in any other situation I wouldn’t have learned and the people I met touched my heart and made me a better person. So this year, as I return to camp, I am anxious, mostly because I’m worried that nothing can top the previous year. Not to mention the anxiousness I feel about kayaking on the Flathead River. But I was nervous last year too, and I overcame every obstacle. I have never been more proud of myself as I was then. I’m hoping this year leaves me feeling the same way.

Last year I just wanted to answer some questions I had about my life after cancer so that I could begin to move on. I spent the week in a lot of solitude just writing and thinking about things. I needed that time to process my emotions. This year, there are still several things I am hoping to get out of camp. As far as kayaking, I’m hoping that I will leave camp with a solid roll and feeling confident that if I flip over I can get myself back up… it would be nice to be rid of the constant nagging voice in my head telling me to just focus on not flipping over. I want to feel more comfortable on the water. Second, I really want to make some solid friendships that I will actually maintain. I’m bad about keeping in touch with people but usually it’s because we never really made a real connection. This year I want a relationship worth maintaining. Third, I really want to discuss fertility with someone. That is the one thing I’m struggling with right now… I really desperately want to be ok with not bearing my own children. Not that I’ve ever been huge on kids, but that is for another post.

So today, after leaving Mobile yesterday at 2pm and making the 5 hour drive to Atlanta, sleeping in the Atlanta airport, and then flying out of Atlanta at 7:30am, making a connection in Minneapolis, I am now in Kalispell at 1:30pm. It’s been a long trip and I’m exhausted, but it has been great to see everyone. Clicks and Johnny from my camp last year are here with me again and it has just been great to reconnect with them. Especially Johnny. She really gets to me… I don’t think I have ever met a better person. I don’t know how to even explain it but I just sense her spirit is truly beautiful. She has a really good heart and is one of those people that I wish I could be more like.

There are a lot of people here that I can tell have a ton of kayaking experience so I’m a little nervous about tomorrow, but I keep telling myself it will all be fine. It always is with FD J

Friday, July 8, 2011

Becoming Pickles

The word "pickles" has never evoked a positive feeling in my core when spoken. Normally I get queasy and my nose scrunches up more than slightly. This is because I have a phobia, or so I've been told. If you want to know what I ate at the previous meal just put a pickle near my nose and you will find out. Never did I think that I would associate this word with adventure, laughter, friends, or healing, but I do. And for the same reason that I now get excited to hear the word pickles, I get excited for summers, like a schoolgirl that no longer has classes to look forward to but seemingly endless weeks of freedom. This, to me, is amazing considering many adults hardly know summer from winter due to jobs and hectic schedules, of which I have both. But in spite of my adulthood I have discovered a very new reason to look forward to summers. Every summer there is one week out of the year that I transverse from Reagan to Pickles... one week that I get to attend a First Descents camp.

Pickles is my nickname, specifically given to me at my first "FD" experience when others found out I have a phobia of something that most kids eat at baseball games. You see, everyone gets a nickname. I'm honestly not sure why but I believe it is used as a way to be someone else for a week, someone healthy, someone adventurous. At least that's what it is for me. We are all young adults with a cancer history, some current, some distant memories, but all dealing with the aftereffects. My first camp was nothing short and everything more than eye-opening. I can point to that first camp as the week I was emotionally healed of my scars from cancer (as much as anyone can truly be emotionally healed from such an experience). I've written about First Descents before, describing the details of my whitewater kayaking experience down the Colorado River, but more than a fun week that camp genuinely returned me to myself. I felt whole for the first time in years, as if my soul had somehow been returned to my body. I suddenly understood the feelings I had been having all of this time and realized that I was no different than anyone else in that room. For the first time since probably high school, everyone understood me, cancer and all. It was an indescribable feeling really. To hear near identical stories of people never feeling satisfied with their accomplishments because nothing seemed like enough to justify their life being spared, or an account of friends turning their backs to a "situation" that was too inconvenient to deal with, or people being more afraid of pain than death... I felt as if I was hearing a recording of myself. This coming week I will be attending my second FD camp, this time in Kalispell, Montana, and I am so excited about it. I know that it will be another great and life changing week. I will be posting my journal entries when I get back. Praying for another amazing FD experience.

Monday, January 10, 2011

C.S. Lewis Knows My Struggles

"We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be."
C.S. Lewis

I can not tell you how many times I tried to put this into words both during and following my bout with cancer. I never doubted that God had a reason for what I was going through (and I was blessed enough that He did eventually show me "why") but I did and do constantly struggle with how far it would go, how bad it would get. How much pain would I go through both physically and emotionally? There were so many things I feared, things I never thought I could deal with... would He/ will He give me more than I can handle? I know he says he won't. I guess my real question is does he know I can handle more than I currently think I can, or more than I want to?

"Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
C.S. Lewis
"God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way."
C.S. Lewis

Yes yes I know... and I agree. I remember how much God spoke to me when I was sick... I learned more in those four months than I think I had in my whole life. And I never felt closer to God than in those few short months. I really thank him for those moments because I have never been more convinced of his presence than I was then. I think we all need those moments. It brings us back to where we need to be. Yet still, pain is pain, and while reason might exist it does not heal the wounds.

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."
C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

I love this. There is not much else to say. Custom homes are always the best :) It's encouraging to think of trials this way.

"Miracles do not, in fact, break the laws of nature."
C.S. Lewis (Miracles)

And this is where I let my heart rest. God puts us through trials but he is also the creator of miracles. So I will live like "This moment contains all moments." C.S. Lewis
"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting..... 'WHAT A RIDE!'"