Life After a Cancer Dx

Life after a C diagnosis.

Sometimes you look out the door and think “Damn, it’s a beautiful day.” And sometimes you look out the door and see a blood draw chair in the ER hallway and think that it seriously resembles the talking chair from Peewee and you begin to question everything.  

Days like that, a general “What the fuck?!” is usually my first question. Next comes “Will I freak out over every ache and pain until my last day on this earth?” And specifically last week- “How will I pick up my kids if I’m in the ER for several more hours?” ” But really what the Fuck is this chest pain?” “Am I having a heart attack?” “I guess I’m in the best place to have a heart attack but really, is this what a heart attack feels like?” “Will this pain ever go away?” “Am I going to freak myself out to the point where I actually end up having a true heart attack?” and finally “Why is all my time-off from work spent in damn hospitals?”

Wait, what? I know- total word vomit. Let me backtrack a sec…

Last fall I was feeling really great- physically, emotionally, mentally and I told my doctor that I was ready to be weaned off of my anxiety/depression medication. I had been on it for about 4 years this round because, let’s be real- not my first depression med rodeo- but I felt confident that I was ready. So we very gradually weaned me and by Christmas time I was completely off. If you read a few posts back, we had a pretty chaotic holiday and by the time we got home, I still felt good so I thought “Yup, I made a good decision.”

But about 3 weeks into January, I felt myself slipping back into hopelessness. I was not ok and I knew it.  So I asked my doctor to put me back on a low dose of my previous med. Shortly after starting up again though, I began to have consistent indigestion and a lingering feeling of something stuck in my throat and chest. Cue all consuming anxiety and fear because after C, indigestion isn’t just indigestion. It opens the mental flood gates to all possible awful things. 

Could it all just be related to being back on the meds? We didn’t know, possibly. Indigestion and heartburn are listed as side effects… but was it likely since I’d spent the last 4 years on it without issues? Again, not sure. Was it stress? Who’s not stressed?! Was it C? Per my onc, she had very low suspicion but per me- it was time to freak the fuck out.

So between my oncologist and my primary care doctor- the tests began. I tried Prilosec first, no help. Then had blood tests and a barium swallow test which showed nothing. A couple of days later I ended up in the ER with what felt like either a pulmonary embolism (like I had while pregnant) or a heart attack. While there I had more blood work, an EKG, and chest X-rays all which showed nothing. And on the following Sunday I had a CT scan which I found out today was – THANKFULLY – clear as well. 

But it all comes back to this, life after a C dx is confusing as fuck. I still don’t have an answer as to what’s causing my chest pressure, indigestion, throat issues but I did get to totally freak out about it possibly being a reoccurrence or metastasis for several weeks. I know- a solid freak out doesn’t help the situation and most likely stress and anxiety are to blame in the first place but it’s hard to maintain a clear head sometimes. Of course, I try to practice what I teach- affirmations, yoga, journaling, exercise, quiet time… but anxiety and fear are stubborn assholes, you know?  

After all the tests, I am grateful for my health and clear scans even if there is not a clear reason as to why I feel this way. I am grateful for a medical team that takes my concerns seriously. And I am forever grateful for a partner who lifts me up when I feel I can’t go on during it all. In my gut, I believe that stress and anxiety are the root of my issues (but I’m a crazy person and needed to have medical tests performed to rule out the shit possibilities) so now it’s time, it’s time to take better care of me… for me.

Soul Seeds // Kickstarter

Today. Is. The. D A Y !

The Soul Seeds // Affirmation Deck is officially live on Kickstarter! So what does this mean? Basically, this campaign will allow me to see how many people are truly interested in the work I’ve done. On the Kickstarter page, there are several ways for people to help support and fund the project and it’s also a way to “pre-order” the deck. Once the project gets fully backed, I will be able to send the cards to print and that’s where it gets super exciting! All these months of hard work, learning, starting over… and over, loss of sleep (to be real, I don’t really sleep anyways), will all be worth it!

NOTE: If you choose to support this project, you will not be charged until the the end of the Kickstarter campaign, only if the the goal is met.

So, now you might be asking- “Why Affirmations?”

Positive affirmations have had a great impact on my life over the last several years.  And I’ve found that repeating positive phrases with intention and trust has ultimately helped get me out of some seriously shitty head space… losing my parents, a cancer diagnosis while pregnant, persistent anxiety… and most recently, preparing myself for a sudden appendectomy.  It wasn’t an overnight success but speaking kindly and supportively to myself eventually became natural and comforting. {As it should be, right?!)  And it turned out, all of these difficult moments became the inspiration for Soul Seeds // Affirmation Deck and created a tangible way to be able to share this inner magic with others.

Top Left: The Day Before Diagnosis, Top Right: Mid-Chemo Treatments, Bottom: Gang's All Here
Top Left: The Day Before Diagnosis, Top Right: Mid-Chemo Treatments, Bottom: Gang’s All Here

Initially, I tried to get someone else to create this deck.  It didn’t cross my mind that I would be capable of learning Photoshop & Illustrator or get past the fear of being vulnerable enough to really put myself out there.  But hell, here we are!

HOW I USE AFFIRMATIONS

I tend to write affirmations down that serve me in that moment (that moment being an hour, a day, a week, a month… whatever- you get it).  I carry them around in my purse on sticky notes, create reminders on my phone which pop up at random times, scribble them in my planner, I repeat them in my head and often use them as intentions during my yoga practice. I also love offering affirmation cards at the beginning of each yoga class I teach to remind my students just how rad each individual truly is.  Of course, there are no hard rules for positive self affirmations- only what works and feels right for you. 

SO WHAT IS A POSITIVE AFFIRMATION?

Simply put, they are positive words, phrases, and statements that are used to challenge negative thoughts.  They can motivate and boost low self-esteem or encourage an overall positive shift in your life. They can help to decrease stress and increase feelings of self worth.  Affirmations are designed to alter the beliefs we have about ourselves so that we think more positively. Personally, I truly believe that our thoughts create our actions and our actions create our reality. Because, if we’re constantly inundating ourselves with negative thoughts, we will take negative actions (or lack of action)… thus creating our reality. So just imagine the beauty that can come about from speaking kindly to ourselves.

ABOUT THE DECK

  • 52 Card Deck
  • 90mm X 90mm Square Cards
  • 400GSM {The Thickest Cardstock Offered}
  • Matte Lamination
  • Sturdy Two-Piece Storage Box

A FEW WAYS TO GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR CARDS:

Feel It

Connection is key.  You don’t want to just grab at any affirmation. Or jack your pal’s affirmation of choice if it doesn’t really speak to you. You feel me?

Say It As If It Already Is

The most important part of this practice- at least as I believe- is that your affirmations are worded in the present- as if they/you already ‘are’.  For example, if you are wanting to channel inner strength, you would say “I am filled with strength and courage” instead of “I will be strong”. 

Short and Sweet 

Keep it short and to the point so that you’ll actually be able to remember and reference back to it.   

Let It Happen 

If you try to force it, you may resent it.  Not just affirmations… but so many things in life.  Let the practice of affirming become a natural and organic part of your day.  Trusting in the process and repeating them daily will help to reprogram your mind in a positive manner. 

Think Positive

Be specific to what you do want instead of what you don’t want.  Our subconscious tends to skip words like not, don’t, won’t. An example of this would be “I radiate positivity” instead of “I won’t be a total bitchwad today”. 

Trust

If you are pulling an affirmation card from a deck, close your eyes and take a couple of breaths.  Trust that whichever card you pull is the card that is meant for you in that moment. If a card ‘jumps out at you’ trust that you are absolutely meant to have this card.

Breathe. Affirm. Repeat.

Give yourself a moment to quiet the mind and connect with your breath.  Read or say your affirmation out loud, paying close attention to each word, how they resonate, observing any emotions or sensations that arise. 

Above are only recommendations as to how you can work with your affirmations but the truly joyous part is that YOU get to choose what works best for you!

Checkout the Kickstarter campaign here!

**This project would never have made it this far without the help of my friend Blaire. She believed in me from the very beginning (aka when I tried to convince her to make this deck) and continues to believe in me and guide me throughout this crazy creative process and project. Blaire- there are never going to be enough words for me to express my gratitude. Other than- bitches do indeed love nebulas.

***Fun Fact: The night I texted to Blaire that I thought she and another specific friend should make an affirmation deck, she immediately responded that her and said friend were actively working on an oracle deck- which turned out PHENOMENAL! You can check it out here: The Threads of Fate

T H R E E YEARS!

Today marks 3 years since I got the call confirming what I already knew… And what we all now know.

What I didn’t know at that time was- What would happen to the baby growing inside of me? What would my husband and 1 year old do if something happened to me? How would I choose to handle the news? And I definitely did not comprehend how dramatically my life and outlook on life would change.  

That call obviously shook my world and the world of my family and friends.  And I often wonder if baby Wyatt could feel it too.  But after speaking with my team of doctors, my first concern was addressed.  The baby in my belly would be perfect… and he is. Sometimes a perfect pain in the keister but still perfect.

And thankfully I am still here to witness the great father John is to our little humans. And I get to see Harlon growing up to be an amazing child. AND it turns out, I handled the diagnosis and what followed pretty OK.  Of course, I had and continue to have my shit days.  And my complete shit days.  And my “I’m never leaving my bed because life isn’t fair” shit days. But I try to keep a positive outlook as often as possible (while giving myself permission to throw the occasional pity party). And I remind myself that I get to choose if I walk around miserable and mean or if I want to choose to look at the positives and radiate joy.

This way of thinking is not for everyone, I get that.  And I have never tried to push my views on life onto anyone else.  I mean, we all get to walk our own paths.  But I remember reading a quote by another survivor right after I was diagnosed which said “Breast cancer can change you, but the change can be beautiful”.  I have tried to wholeheartedly embody that idea by looking for the beauty even when it seems to be pure shit surrounding me.

I know I don’t post very often about my story anymore.  But it’s not because I am “all better” or “over it”, but it’s because I am busy living this life I’ve been blessed with, spending my time with the people I love and who spark pure joy in my heart.  This disease has taught me what is important and what is not, where I want to focus my energy and where I can let go.  I am busy with my family, teaching yoga, supporting others who’ve been diagnosed, working on projects… all with the goal to leave the world better and more joyous than I found it and to be the light for others when the darkness tries to consume them.

Truthfully, anxiety still haunts me, as it always has.  And I’m not sure if I’ll ever get past the feeling of ‘running out of time’.  But life continues to be put into perspective and it’s nice to know we are all in this together…

So cheers to many, MANY, M A N Y more years to come!