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.

"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!'"