You know, I wish I could tell you that I have cured myself of ever worrying or being stressed since I was told "you have cancer". I will admit that I am MUCH better at trying my damnedest to live in the moment and not worry and to always realize what is "small stuff" but I do not always succeed.
I came up with an "IDGAF" test to help me prioritize and just recently it hit me hard in the remaining boob as I almost could see it going another way. You see, my "IDGAF" test is to envision the worse news possible, as I received it in November 2016, the news that I had cancer. I can remember vividly BEFORE hearing those words and after how much I wished for the problems I had had the day before instead ofthis disease.
So I try to think through every current situation with the grain of salt/wisdom that "it could always be worse" and realize that as long as we are all "healthy" (and again, I put that in quotes because who the heck really knows if they are healthy - our bodies are a mystery but lacking an active diagnosis, I side with "healthy" always) then the rest will just work itself out.
Recently, I felt very woozy and almost unable to stand - I was standing though and walking and able to talk but I felt just OFF and of course I immediately thought, "This is NOT good." But then I realized that I was missing my allergy medicine for a week and that the symptoms I had come on me (gradually for a few days until this bad afternoon) were potentially due to missing my allergy meds during the height of allergy season and maybe not, you know, a brain tumor.
I am still monitoring myself as we who have had cancer all know the drill - any weird symptoms that remain for more than 2 week (or severe symptom that happens like God forbid passing out or still for me fever due to my clinical trial meds) must be brought to the medical team's attention.
It does not make much sense but I still do feel as though my dx was longer ago in the past when it was only 1.5 years ago. I look back on who I am now and what I am doing and how I am (trying) to help others and it seems like more time must have passed. This month is my one year blogging anniversary and it really is my lifeline, my way of getting it out. Sometimes, though, I have to remind myself that I do not blog anonymously and that with over a million pageviews and 57k+ unique visitors, people are reading this stuff - but I still share and I still go there and I am not ashamed to share it and I hope you reading it helps you or someone you know...
Lately, I have been working so hard on my nonprofit and also on my small business, I sometimes feel scattered, accomplished, not good enough, overwhelmed, in charge, ready to help so many people, worried I will not help people enough and just everything in between. I also worry about the regular stuff - my house, bills, husband, kids, mom, dad, etc etc but I have had to shake it off time and again.
No matter what, I cannot get pulled under or back into the fears and worries of before - there is no solution to that and it is no way to live. Recently, I saw pictures of me from last year at this time, still bald, swollen and ashamed and then I saw pictures of me from the year before that (June 2016) before I was diagnosed and I knew in my gut looking at that face of mine that although I was smiling and had not yet been told I had cancer that I was not happy.
So my plan or goal is to keep on swimming- to focus on today's joys and try to get to today's deliverables all the while knowing there is always tomorrow and that so long as I am on this path of NED and can stay that way, nothing else should matter. The bills, the house, the craziness of family, being a mom, trying to stretch myself too thin - those things have to just be let go and the moment lived in.
This is what I do in the time between.
Today is my first "Cancer Survivor Day" - last year on this day, I was still hiding out under my covers going to radiation and pretending like I did not have a story to tell and now here I am, a year later, living this day and dreading it and also focusing on the word "survivor" and despite knowing I could make this post ALL ABOUT my nonprofit initiative and what I can do to help people embrace their survivor life with work training and resume help and whatever, I won't.
(Well, in a way I did because I am a marketing person through and through but it was just an intro - here's the meat of the story).
Sometimes, when I am walking around perpetually smiling and thankful that I am still alive because YES I am a super smile-y happy kind of person now inside and out - before just on the outside ... well while doing this, sometimes, it hits me that there are people all around me that:
A- have no clue I was ever so sick that this was in question and
B-have never experienced "cancer" or an illness that could lead to them wondering these things chief among them the kneejerk"why me..." question.
In the beginning, I thought this way entirely TOO OFTEN to sustain life - I trained my brain to not think this way and to just change my life motto from "things happen for a reason" to "it could always be worse". Inside, I do not think I got cancer for a reason - there is no reason for ANYONE to get cancer. Despite that fact, more and more people of all ages are being diagnosed and either embracing this day or hiding under the covers as I did last year.
Cancer is something that once you have it, you ALWAYS have it - either in the front of your mind in fear or way back in a back file cabinet ready to jump out on a moment's notice. So, I have a headache - is it nothing or is it cancer? So I have a back ache - is it nothing or is it cancer? Cancer is one of the most insidious of diseases - you do not have a clue that it is there sometimes until BAM it is too late. For all of my times that I struggled with this diagnosis, I always was HAPPY that I found it before it had become WORSE.
That does not change the fact that despite my focus on wellness and being in the moment, sometimes, it hits me that I went from a spec on my mammogram in April 2016 to Stage 3A high grade, fast moving cancer by November 2016 with no lump, no family history and no capacity to manage being a cancer patient. I am so lucky it did not spread to my brain, bones, or vital organs. I also know that I have to stay lucky for the rest of my life for it not to rear up and do so - 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 in 3 of those women will become metastatic where the cancer spreads and ultimately die from it or beat the "stats" of 3 years survival rate and live 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years but always in treatment and trying to stay HERE.
I have written in the past how in the blink of an eye you go from worrying about every little thing in your life to realizing just how fucking little those things were and wondering why did you ever spend a moment thinking about them. It happens that fast. And it does not go away - and I embrace THIS as a good thing on this Survivor Sunday. I even have "do I give a f&%k test" that I will write about soon but it focuses on "does this have the capacity to kill me" Y/N if Y worry if N fuck it.
Of course, a really good thing (the best thing even) would be for cancer to be eradicated, cured and that each of us still living in this time between would know that we are GOOD CURED and not worry about the "what ifs".
I mitigate my "what ifs" in a way I never knew before - and a way I could never have done before. My old "what ifs" were the rigid constructs around which I built my life. My rules and living methods were stricter than strict and I could not draw outside of the lines.
My new way of mitigating risks is to just fucking embrace them. Who knows what tomorrow will bring - today I will do what I need to do to "survive". And if that means pouring my soul into my current day and spending it loving my kids (even my husband) and trying to build my nonprofit initiative and working on my small business on the side and NOT thinking about cancer and how fast it enveloped my life, my breast and my lymph nodes well then SO BE IT.
I wish you peace on this day of "cancer survivors" and I hope you feel it in your bones and in your heart. To those of you who have never heard the words, "You have cancer..." you also never learned that the small things are everywhere and worried about and for that I pity you. Ironic, right?
I am sure you pity me - thinking about how I had cancer and maybe you do not understand the disease and you are happy in that and you assume I beat it and why do I continually live it by sharing and talking about it and basing my life on helping others with it... Well, it is what it is. This is me, one boob and all.
I was diagnosed at 39 years old - making me not only the first in my family with cancer but also the dreaded "young" cancer moniker. I do not focus on the negative I spend each day doing
Last week was a very big event - my son received communion! 3 years ago, my daughter received and it was so important to me as my faith has always been a big part of what makes me me. I brought Sofia to mass as a little baby and then when her brother was born, I brought the two of them to mass all of the time - and it was NOT easy. Waking up early as a mom of 2 kids, I would dress them and drag them to mass for 8am. They would often resist and / or complain. I did it anyway - even chasing my son up and down the aisles.
On Saturday May 5, it was the day. I kept thinking each week, “Ok, I have to get through these next few days…” - it seems every week, there was something else to do, some other event to handle between sports, homework, activities - having young kids and a new 501(c)(3) (on-helping-others-as-a-501c3.html) is fun and challenging as I keep trying to balance my need to write, my need to do more with my very much needed life at home.
A balanced woman is hard to be - it seems the kids school days are getting shorter and shorter and between working out and trying to eventually see my girlfriends and spend time with my husband and extended family, it is hard to balance.
Today is mother’s day and it is fitting that I am getting myself more on the “balance” train and trying to manage the many things I want to do and how.
We took photos together at communion and I have just a few of them. I guess if nothing else, we can all agree that I look hella different from 2015 and 2018 (see below).
To think, my daughter’s communion was exactly 1 year and 6 months before my diagnosis of breast cancer at 39 years old. And then, to also think that last year, I was still undergoing chemotherapy until May 1st. I was lucky that my chemo was a year ago and that I was able to kind of have gone through this “metamorphosis” for my son’s communion but really I am just happy to be here, to have been able to sit at his communion with my own hair and my one boob and just be ME.
It crossed my mind only once during the ceremony - the dreaded, "What if?" and I just pushed it away right quick to live and enjoy the moment and not worry about what cancer might do - if it does God forbid spread or come back or otherwise make my life be in danger. Instead, it was with a deep breathe, that I sat in that church and watched my son receive the body of Christ that I exhaled and said, "No what it's, just TODAY."
I am lucky and focused on trying to do the balance - it is hard. I do know that time goes quickly - well, in a “the days are long but the years are short kind of thing”.
So I try to balance and take care of me and the many goals I want to accomplish with my 501(c)(3) along with enjoying the moments, the moments that continue to fly by and change me from a mom of two babies to a mom of two young kids to someday, God willing, a mom of teens and beyond…
Fitting for mother’s day to share that…
This is what I do in the time between...
PS: Happy Momma's Day again :) XOXO
As I prepare for mother’s day - well, yes, we mothers prepare for our own holidays (we get it) lol. We have to clean the house and organize the events and make sure all of the other mothers are getting cards and/or gifts from the family (read: husband and kids) and more.
As I am getting these things "done", I cannot help but think about all of my past mother’s days and the different ways I focused on all of the wrong things, year after year after year and to forgive myself for it.
When my daughter was born in 2007, I was on maternity leave for 10+ weeks and during that time, I felt (as I guess most of us new mothers do) like I ceased to exist. For most women, maybe, this feeling passes or gets less with time but for me, it did not. I continued to feel as though what ever I needed was not even on the list of things "to do".
I worked full time in NYC and made a big salary and I hated leaving her but I also enjoyed a bit of pretending to be able to attend to my own needs at work for a few hours… but then, things got bad.
My husband got sick and by that first mother’s day, I was just clinging on and hoping, praying for a day where keeping my daughter ALIVE did not rely on me. (And yes, it felt that dramatic - there is no, “the baby will tend to herself” and at the time, I had no help officially available to me beyond certain set times…) I just wanted a day to sleep in - it seemed like such a luxury - to sleep uninterrupted without having to get up and do something for the baby, who I loved more than life itself but my body and mind wanted just one day. One day.
Reader, I did not get it that one day. It seems laughable now but at the time and in coming years, I continually held out hope that that random Sunday in May would be the day I could rest and be "me" without having to run around like a lunatic but eventually, I embraced it and I could see no other way to be so even that one day was not one for me to take off but to keep going …
My first Mother's Day 2008
I took this to the extreme even if help did become available, I was not interested in it. I had become a one woman machine - getting diapers, bottles and whatnot - toilet training, removing the bottle, nutrition, activities, homework, etc etc. I was a dynamo. People marveled to my face, “I do not know how you do it.” To my behind probably something more like, “That woman is a control freak!”
I was in this pattern and ready to continue on it - did not anticipate where I could let go or how. I had no clue. I was a bad friend and definitely someone who was not the best of “support” when it comes to my husband but he also had his demons and issues, towards me… So we can call it a draw.
Then, bam, I was hit with cancer. How in the world would I be able to keep doing what I was doing the soup to nuts of everything with my kids and work full time and survive? The main question I had was on surviving. I struggled with what hospital to go to, mainly because of the kids and my own fear of traffic.
Ultimately, I learned slowly and painfully that the old way was dead. That in order to survive, in order to truly live, I had to let go of being the control freak worry wart mother who did not allow sleepovers or play dates where I could not be present (omg, I hated that version of me but at the time it was all I knew how to be so I forgive that version of me and love her again)...
It helped immensely that my kids WERE 6 and 9 when I was diagnosed and not 2 and 5, though it was still hard for them (and me) and it continues to be hard for them to adjust to this new normal, too (and of course, me, too though it should go without saying - this new normal is one you have to adjust to each day, and it is different each day, too). I say all the time that it is not just the patient who gets cancer but the whole family - friends, too as most of them are close as family…
So on the eve of this Mother’s Day, I think to myself, “the kids are all right” part prayer and part belief in it and most importantly, or just as importantly, I am, too.
I have big ideas for the rest of this year and next - I hesitate to say, "plans" because the truth is we never know what the future holds but I have my ideas... I want to focus on my nonprofit 501(c)(3) career after cancer initiative - I want to travel and spread my training and books around the country and maybe beyond. I have so many stories to tell in my fiction writing, even beyond my first publication in the Visible Ink anthology.
I want to spend time with my kids and family, too - first and foremost and I am going to go easier on myself in terms of my “deadlines” and “planning” as though I am a project manager and this organization is my baby, my project but my kids are on the list, too. And every day, they get a bit older... pretty soon, they will be more and more independent and I know I will miss these days.
But, the big news for me personally and spiritually is my trip in February 2019 back to my second home, Rome. The home I left 20 years ago. Where I grew up. But listen, do not tell my kids yet - they do not know! It’s a trip I am taking without them.
I am not just going to Rome but also to see San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio is - I feel as though I am being called to go and so I am going. More on that in another post. This is what I do in the time between.
Slideshow of Mother's Day Past :)
PS: Happy Mother's Day to my golden girls in Heaven and of course to my mom who always has my back and yells at me only sometimes and to my mother in law, too, who also has my back. I am a lucky girl & my kids are lucky grandkids!
Me & Dad at my 2005 wedding :)
So you would think that going on vacation after breast cancer dx and treatment would pale compared to vacations of yesteryear -- but you would be wrong!
Why is this and what is wrong with your writer? Simple - the word for it, I guess, would be “anxiety” - or just “fear” or just “stupidity”. When I think back about all of the things that I worried about when in reality, I had nothing to worry about I really do want to have a flux capacitor to go back in time to kick my own ass.
So summers past getting ready for vacation would boggle my mind - I would pack everyone and panic the whole time, thinking about the ride to wherever we were going and whether or not there would be traffic. Yes, this girl, who lives in the most densely populated area around had an anxiety disorder around being stuck in traffic.
It was something that creeped up on me little by little over the years - my world got smaller and smaller but not overnight - over years. I went from traveling the world, living in other countries and states and even doing the 27 hour flight to Singapore without a thought. It was just “living” and I did a lot of it - I mean, I used to fly to Rome for the WEEKEND. For the weekend! Crazy.
Then, little by little, I got less and less adventurous. I started to really think in terms of “No, I cannot do that!” Before my “real” wedding (after we eloped alone) was my first inkling that I was developing an issue.
All of a sudden, I could not take the subway anymore. I had taken the subway ALL OF THE TIME but now, I got the intense feeling that I would need a bathroom during the times when the train stops and waits - at times this could be 4 minutes or 4 hours (ain’t nothing like the good ole’ MTA). What a weird, random thing to worry about but it consumed me for many years - this fear of needing a bathroom when there was none…
Looking back at when it all began was around the time of my church wedding. I was really worried about my wedding - we had eloped, yes, but had planned an semi old fashioned church wedding with party for a few months after our elopement.
All of a sudden, I was convinced that something bad would happen at my traditional wedding. My dad, who had raised me as a single dad, and my mom were basically still at war even then almost 15 years after divorce and my mom would be at the wedding with her new-ish husband.
My dad had hated the fact that I lived in “sin” with my husband before marriage and I just did not know what would happen at the wedding - would he not be willing to walk me down the aisle? Would he be angry at me? Would my mom do something crazy?
It was all a “loose cannon” opportunity to someone who had been raised hearing ALL OF THE TIME about how my mom’s dad refused to walk her down the aisle and how this meant she had no family and that the marriage was cursed, etc etc. Now, here, was the perfect opportunity (down to the same CHURCH) for history to repeat itself.
My mom was to be my maid of honor - I had been hers more times than I could count (ok, twice, two times, two different marriages) so I figured it was her turn to do the same for me. I had no real “fears” about her doing her job - she had been in enough weddings as a bride to know what to do (lol).
Leading up to the wedding, I knew something was “off” so I went to a therapist (not a new thing for me, I began therapy in high school just through my school and college, too) and walked out when she blamed my fears and anxieties on my childhood and my parents. I do not abide by that - not just because I am a parent myself staring at the precipice of childhood trauma with my cancer diagnosis - but I just feel that anything going on with me in my late 20’s though maybe jiggled into place by a fear around history repeating itself at my wedding is not anyone's FAULT but mine for how I see the world.
(Also, at the time, I struggled with even pinpointing what my issue was - it is only now with present’s 20/20 hindsight that I can figure out what it was…)
Oh and see that picture above of the 5 of us, my "core" family - it was taken in 2005; the last such picture I have of that group is from my college graduation in 1998... so was stress really that much of a surprise?
The wedding went well, my dad walked me down the aisle, crying audibly the whole way - weird as he is not really someone who has even been “emotional” - and the party was awesome but the fear and the nerves did not go away.
Shortly after my wedding, I turned down a travel requirement for my job and told my boss I did not feel comfortable flying for the short term. He looked at me like I was nuts - me, the girl who hopped on the plane to Singapore without saying “boo” who flew to Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Italy etc was asking to sit out the next flight. And the next. And the next.
This did not go away even when I changed jobs to my big step to being a VP and a big salary. I still had this “issue” - some days, I could not even make myself commute to work and instead worked from home.
It was debilitating and yet, I did not realize it or would not realize it. So vacations past were a hotbed of anxiety, fearing the road trip - me who used to live in Boston and drive to NY on weekends just for fun - could not fathom a trip to Pennsylvania without worrying and fears and being a nut.
So, facing cancer, if it does nothing else for me, made me realize I cannot live in FEAR. Commuting to NYC for my initial appointments, stuck in traffic on the FDR, I looked at my reflection in the cab’s window and said, “You have cancer - you cannot be afraid of anything anymore. Your worst case scenario came true - this is what fear breeds, disease, illness, death. It is OVER.”
And, for some reason, after years of journaling (is that a word?) and worrying and thinking, I felt it let go. When it tries to come back, I remind myself, “I faced cancer, I can face ANYTHING.”
I just wish I had been able to learn this lesson without the potential life threatening illness BUT I non friga nienta because at least I learned it. So if you ever see someone peeing on the side of the road, it’s me and I do not care :). This is what I do in the time between.
A few minutes before walking down the aisle, this is the face of "oh shit, please don't let this be a disaster!"
What is it all about? Life, love, relationships, fun, etc... what is it that we all want to be/ do? For me, sometimes, it is to shirk off my responsibilities (of which there are many) and be on my own and just write and/or enjoy my time - time without cleaning, feeding, caring, loving, etc etc...
As a mom, I guess I should feel badly about that - but I do not. My kids are amazing little people but they are draining and still unsure in the grand scheme of things if this new mommy, this one who has only one boob and less patience, is here for good or if I will die or if the other, rounder more singularly focused mom will show back up one day.
I feel for them, I really do - especially because I know what issues can be fraught within a mother/child relationship. I know that they see me as being the ultimate caregiver and that there is not anyone else in the house or the land who can compare to what I do and how I do it. I know they know that the extracurricular, the events, activities, etc are all somehow orchestrated by me and that I ultimately am the captain of their ship/lives/etc.
It is overwhelming for them and for me. It is also making them want more from their dad who God bless him is only able to do what he can do. I knew from the get-go that he was no Mr Mom and although he stepped up amazingly so during my illness, that time has passed.
All things considered, I had spent many years contemplating divorce and being a single parent as most times, I did feel as though I was one anyway. Now, with my new perspective and interest in expanding my role from just "mom" to you know, "Lisa", it is still hard to get others to play nice and handle the otherness of being the caregiver, even for a little while.
I have started letting my kids sleep out, something the old me would have never ever done. It is a luxury for me as we do still struggle with the bedtime routine and getting everyone settled so Morpheus can come and take me away - and as a breast cancer survivor, it is even harder to get that much needed rest.
I am realizing how much I had been depriving myself before I got cancer - how much I put myself lower than last and did not think I mattered at all besides being the person to clean up and take care of everyone. I do not want to be that person anymore but I still have to fill those roles so it is a very hard dichotomy in my soul and in my life.
If I had more help at home, I might be less tired and less irritable (occasionally). I might be more able to manage the grand ideas and schemes I have in my mind that could help our accounts go from negative to positive. I might but then I might not.
I might just use the time to sneak away as I did now just to write down the things that are inside my soul, that bother me, that make me want to spend this time, writing it out, getting it out of my head so I can then go back downstairs to the cleaning, the feeding, the caring, the "mom" role that I cannot bring myself to reject or to hate as my life really is contained within these walls - if my kids are ok, I am ok...
At times, though, I recognize they are not "ok" they are still scarred, still scared and waiting for someone, anyone to convince them that all will be all right and I see my own childhood traumas and scars in them... This makes me feel even worse - and guilty no matter how much my analytical brain knows that I did not cause my own cancer and that therefore, none of this could be my "fault", I still feel guilty. I think being a mom is full of guilt and pure love of self and others but it is mainly, at times, guilt.
Guilt at being the one who has to put the quash on any big plans - I am currently dreading the upcoming spring break because too little money + two little children + 10 days off = DISASTER no matter how many ways I try to spell it. I have to get on planning play dates and other low cost alternatives to the potential of having to drag them out every day to tire them out when the weather is crap and the finances are even crappier.
Yes, though I promise myself to let go of the finances that does not mean than everything is suddenly free.
So I continue this tightrope of not giving in, not falling into the despair of feeling defeated - I have gotten this far and as long as I do not need chemo this week or this year or this decade then fuck the rest. Though, I am hiding in my room for a few hours more if I can - shhhh, don't tell anyone.
This is what I do in the time between...
In keeping with my promise to myself, I have been focusing more on self-care and on being kind to myself. What does it mean to be kind to myself? It means I am not beating myself up anymore about things I cannot control or do much about in terms of finances, stamina and just whatever else can come up.
I do want to do so much and I still plan on doing it but in pieces and much less showy. I also am still very active on my Instagram, despite initially thinking I would not be. Insta is really kind of my lifeline, my connection to others who have walked my walk and who can understand how I feel.
I have been slightly more social of late, too with some parties and events I have attended. That is all great but as we all know, sleep is impacted by the aftereffects and current effects of treatments/medications so I have been more tired and also trying to manage out my time effectively. I want to enjoy more with my kids and focus on all of my blessings - the fact that as far as I know I am NED and that last year at this time, I was just wishing I could survive chemotherapy and be considered "normal" again.
Now, though, is the wisdom that I cannot be "normal" again - though I see myself as still being "me" I am not the me I would have been had my plot twist of cancer not hit me right in the middle of chapter 39 of my book of life. Instead, though, I am starting to love this new me, this creature who knows what to do though I forget often enough that I need to remind me to be nicer to myself, to know what I need to let go of to say fuck it all when my bank account goes red to not fear tomorrow or to think about how to handle tomorrow but instead to enjoy and think about today.
Unfortunately, no one knows what tomorrow will bring but when your yesterdays are full of chemo, surgeries and learning this new vocabulary of cancer, you kind of learn that today is the shit.
So today and yesterday, my kids are home (thanks nor'easter #4 in 4 weeks!) and instead of obsessively planning out my next steps and what I want to do, I have been watching movies, cleaning & laundry (it never ends the cleaning and laundry involved with being a mom/woman/etc) and just enjoying my little people and my family, too.
Wednesday night, I got to fulfill a little dream by being able to walk on a runway for my kids' school. I thought I would be one of many moms walking but I was the only mom who walked. Lately, with my new makeup skills and the use of a makeup artist, i have been feeling glam and fab - but not too big for my britches than to also post photos of me looking ridiculous and spikey!
In between Wednesday night's festivities, I have been home and reading and resting with the kids (or when they are at school, just on my own). That is my solace, my escape - I read and it is like watching movies in my head. I have wanted to write but I have been loathe to get my laptop and start going at it ... today was the first day I had the urge to write.
Last year at this time, I still had 40 days left of chemotherapy treatments... I refuse to get down about anything, though it is a challenge to keep myself focused on the positive...Check out my pics & my video of me on the catwalk and let me know what you think! I had always wanted to model something and this dress was perfect for me and my one boob-situation - you cannot even tell! Some of the women there were telling me how brave I was to model and I was like, "sister, I had a boob cut off, this doesn't take much bravery!" ... This is what I do in the time between...
I feel sometimes like this blog is focused on the same topics over and over again - not in a bad way just in a way that I do think at times I can be repetitive. The topics I share on are so important and in a way helping other women who are also the 1 in 8 so I am committed to continue sharing.
I am someone who is tenacious and I do not give up easily, if at all. I have fought for many things in my life before I was told “you have cancer” so it was not really that big of a deal to focus and get things done in a way that was like “befitting” my fuck it all attitude.
You see, I am irreverent and funny and sometimes just weird but one thing I am not is overly emotional. I am kind of an ice princess and keep my feelings locked away deep down. Why do I do this? I do not know. It is just the way I am.
Maybe because I have seen some shit. Nothing as bad as maybe others have seen but still, I was an adult way before I was 18. I was, I think, born an adult. So I just forced my way through cancer the way I forced myself through some other life experiences. With my eyes open and cringing all the way while keeping it all close to my chest.
Then, I started sharing my story and a lot of things changed for me. I became more open to my emotions, more involved with my story and my authentic self. I am someone who always has tried to help others in ways big and small and now I find myself wanting to help people in even bigger ways.
One of my biggest flaws (and trust, I have a bunch) is that I want to do EVERYTHING at once. I want to rock out my ideas into full blown execution mode right away and as someone who spent 10+ years as a project manager planning and executing on multi million dollar projects and who is licensed in project management (seriously, there is such a thing - it is called the PMP - Project Management Professional and I have been one since 2004!) I should know better that things like this, initiatives, launch and promotion etc do not happen overnight. So why then am I all over myself to get these ideas and stuff out there like yesterday.
I know I can help people and I know how to do it and why I am doing it but I need to lay off myself on the insane timeline I have in my head. My focus is on rolling out content specifically for our cancer survivor (and thriver) community for building their careers after cancer. This is my big pitch to fulfilling a need that I do not think is quite met yet even with the various resources already in existence. Oh and I will be offering this training for FREE.
Here is why I think I should do this:
1- My experience is more specific in that I have been a career expert, having written books on being entrepreneurial in your job search, career readiness and having provided training, seminars and helping individual clients that the next step in their careers. I have another blog all about careers (check it out at thenextstep1234.com/blog). Oh and it is more specific also because I have been trying to get back into a career post cancer and it is all so recent.
2- I have the platform and technical know how to share my message beyond the written word - I mean, the books I have are all helpful but not really specific around our issues of having new bodies, new hair, new perspectives and needs post cancer. I know how to present and how to teach having been an educator since 2003 - I can break down lessons into easy pieces and launch training via the web using video that feels like one on one help.
3-I can also provide one on one help to really work through the issues of confidence, preparedness and career planning that are so unique to our needs.
That #3 is so important - those topics of confidence, preparedness and career planning are the subtopics of my first webinar - I have created the slides already!
Next, I need to record a test run to see if I really know what I want to say. DO not laugh but I had to re-read the books I wrote because I feel like I am so far removed from what I wrote (even though it was just early 2016 that I wrote and published the books- a lot has happened since then - mainly chemo).
So I am just plugging along and thinking and trying to be kind to myself and my new priorities - I want to be able to still have my “me” time - exercising, resting and recovering while also finding work and building out this outreach capability utilizing my skills and talents to help us all get our career after cancer game on point.
What do you think? For more info, check out my page on this initiative here -> Work Readiness for Cancer Survivors.
I am a very lucky person - in general... I pretty much "sailed" through chemotherapy (comparatively speaking in terms of some of the stories I have been learning about since I started sharing my story). No one can "sail" through it as the 8 rounds I did were really one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. But, during these rounds, I did not have to go to the emergency room at all during chemotherapy, which I am counting as a big win. I almost had to go once but thankfully I did not run a fever despite getting dangerously close.
After chemo came radiation and I did a pretty good job of being "healthy" during that process. (Note: I put "healthy" in quotes because as I was diagnosed with stage3A cancer, I just do not know when/if I will ever be called "healthy" again without quotes...) Then once I was done with treatment, I began my clinical trial of Imbrance for the Pallas trial and just kept on chugging along - losing weight, exercising, looking for work, starting to be an entrepreneur again and being a mom, wife and friend... you know, the usual.
At 7months into my clinical trial, I got hit with something. It came out of nowhere and next thing I know, I had a fever of over 101. It knocked me flat on my ass. I was absolutely shot and it happened so quick. On Valentine's Day, I was all over NYC getting my Lupron shot, hanging out in my office space on Wall Street and working hard then I got my kids, took them to Perkins and still felt pretty good. I woke up Thursday feeling like I got hit by a bus.
I could not move and the fever, my head, everything ached and hurt. I called Sloan and for the first time, it was hard to figure out what I needed to do (which could very much be due to the fact that I was sick and unable to think straight). I had to call a few times to find out what to do and then I was told that the Urgent Center at Sloan was at capacity and that they had been told not to send any other patients there. I took a gamble, though and decided to go to the Sloan hospital, anyway. The reasons for this is mainly that a) I am on a clinical trial drug that only Sloan would understand and b) my local hospital is often really crazy and full of tons of germs vs Sloan being a cancer hospital is focused on types of patients like me - ones who's immune system is compromised and not quite normal.
When I got there, I was ready to wait and I guess I did but the time flew because I listened to Paige_Previvor's mom and streamed The Marvelous Mrs Maisel while I was there and the time flew. I was there only for 4 hours total but during that time, I had blood work done for cultures and CBC count, blood pressure and vitals and because I had a small cough, a chest X-ray!
I was good for everything, even the chest X-ray, though in the back of my mind was the fear, the scanziety, the "what if". ...
After a while, a doctor came to find me and asked me to meet with him in a private room. I was already on edge, quite suddenly, convinced there was BAAADD news. I followed him to one room and another as we could not find an empty one. When we found an empty one, he walked in, I sat down and he looked at me. That was it - he did not speak, he just looked at me from across the room. At this point, I am petrified to ask, but I have to ask.
I start off easily asking how my bloodwork was and he said the blood was good. I then asked, "How was the chest x-ray?" though asking this question took all of my strength and bravado and he said, "Oh, it was fine." OMG I could not breathe until he said that... what an experience. He then said that he would check with my oncologist and send me home.
Then, a nurse came to me in the waiting room and told me there was a bed available for me and I was like, "Huh, what.....I think I am going home." Then, I got to go home!
It was interesting and again I was not 100% normal during any of it and then I came home and continued to vegetate for a few days. I also had no appetite for those days and could not eat due to pains and aches - man once I began to feel better, I had to build myself back up.
It was tough to feel so sick again and it did "trigger" me to think back to chemo and feeling that run down and sick... Also, the scanziety was short but vert intense.
How did you handle getting "sick" after cancer? This is what I share in the time between...
So I do not know if I will post this or not - I just am in a bit of an existential crisis, NBD.
I have spent the last decade of my life being a MOM capital letters needed. I did not have any help and I had to keep pretending I did not want to do anything other than be a mom because I felt I HAD to do it. My golden girls kept telling me to stop and to slow down but did I listen NOOO (my-golden-girls.html).
My husband, bless his heart, has struggled with issues (no nothing as cool as addiction <sarcasm>, just garden variety cray cray) and I was the person in charge of everything at home and the children and even taking care of him, too. We went out to lunch recently and once he removed the sharp knives from the table, he told me that he does not want me to work full time because he is not "ready". My mom, who I have written about here a-tale-of-two-novembers.html is often pressuring me to "think of the children" when she, you know, kind of didn't. And to round out the trifecta, my mother in law who is also kind of "anti-working full time" for me.
I get it, it is coming from love and they partly do not want to see me get sick again and also partly know I do a lot for my kids, the house, my husband and whoever else in my family I wind up helping as I am kind of a surrogate mom for everyone in my life... though I am trying to scale that back BIG TIME taking-back-control.html.
I recently had a job interview (one of like a handful I have been called for despite looking hard for a job since September 2017 but like that is a post for another day worth of bitching...) and I was very excited about it. Now for other reasons, I do not think this job is going to work out but still it was a great fantasy to think about having the support, the infrastructure to go back to being "executive" and having the budget to live on and so on and so forth. BIG BUBBLE POPPED though re no support...
So here I stand, in New York City today, Valentine's Day, because I needed a shot in the arse (my Lupron shot to keep my ovaries off) and I am now in an office that I can use for the day on Wall Street, my old haunting grounds - where I worked when I was young and free and focused and driven and wanted to be the CEO of a major company. That seems like another version of Lisa long gone...
This me, (hi!) is very much alive and in flux and also in this weird world of "in between" I believe I am cured but I have no proof of it - it is just something I believe in my heart until I am told otherwise (God willing never). Let's be real, anything can happen over the next 2, 5, 10 or even 20 years but I will not let this bitch of breast cancer fuck me up anymore than it has. I have scars mentally, physically, emotionally but I am ready to bounce them and to keep living to keep trying to do more.... but I am still confused over what that means.
I do know my budget is in shambles and real talk, we are broker than broke. BUT also another real talk confession, we have been this way since I stopped working full time in New York City in 2009. What makes it worse now is that, quite frankly, I do not want to have ANY stress in my life and finances, particularly when they are broken, are stressful.
I also see these women owning it, walking around in their matching bags and shoes and I lust after it, I really do. I wish I could be those women - I am sure of them many are moms, some are also the 1 in 8 who have dealt with breast cancer, but I do not know if that is where I need to be, either.
I am someplace in between (pun intended), I want to assert myself, be kick ass again, make the dollar bills BUT at what cost - what am I willing to give up? My kids just got used to the fact that I won't die (they have no other option but to think this way, too) do I want to uproot them further by going to a full time job and not seeing them except on weekends? I KNOW other people do it and they are amazing and making big and huge trade offs daily (I remember, I did it for 2 years after my daughter was born) but for me particularly, I do not want stress in my life - so which is the most stress? Having to scrimp and save to pay bills or to have the finances on point and instead miss your kids?
I know women can have it all and they can balance but I do not know how to do it or if I want to do it... It is a choice, always a choice. I did not choose to get cancer but I can now choose how my life post cancer will be... Now can you tell me what that should be? Thanks! :) XOXO Li
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