Conversations with Strangers

Lately, I’ve been experiencing glimpses into who a used to be. A younger, innocent, more naive me. A me not in my 30’s. Occasionally I’ve attributed this to maintaining long-term friendships and seeing old parts of me reflected back, but I’m starting to think it’s this new thing I’ve been doing.

Last Wednesday, I was at the grocery store to pick up a few things to get us to the weekend, and throughout my short visit I had three meaningful relationships with complete strangers.

The first was the friendly pizza sample lady, aka “the top seller in the region” as she boasted. Who, after a few connections shared some extremely personal health details she is worried about. Another, in the checkout lane was a dark man, wearing a leather hat, with even fewer items in his cart than mine. He asked me to read the price on a WWI magazine to him. From there, we started talking about the civil war and some other facts I had recently learned. Then, as I was checking out, I talked with the cashier, a junior in high school who was stressing about the ACT and starting to face the realities of growing up.

So what was it that lead me to really start talking with these strangers. I think back to my 20’s, and I was so open. So, happy.

I’ve started a new supplement / health program. My first two weeks I shed 10 pounds (and have kept them off). I’ve had more energy to finish chores. I feel sharper and clearer at work. I’ve been more happy and goofy in all aspects of my life, apparently even at the grocery store.

With my health history, I’ve tried several health trends. I was ‘athletic’ through high school and college. I got into distance running in my mid-twenties which led to a lot of knee and hip pain. I switched to a diet containing mostly juice and fresh vegetables when I was diagnosed, which left me weak enough I could hardly play sand volleyball, and led to sharp pain in my joints. I got into essential oils, and found only limited results compared to the prices charged. I have a cabinet of multi-vitamins and probiotics, which never really made me feel better, but did cause my pee to turn neon yellow. I spent almost a year home-brewing my own kombucha, and then read about how dangerous the bacteria growth can be, on top of not really feeling any different. Earlier this year, I was practicing fasting days, which usually involved me curling up in bed by 8 pm with no energy.

Now, just a week shy of starting this program, I can feel and see a difference. When picking out outfits, belts fall from my waist to my hips, skirts I ordered online that I failed to return after deeming them too tight actually fit.

So what is this program? From a high-level, it’s meal replacement shakes 6 days a week, and a cleanse day once a week (you don’t have to strictly adhere to this program). While being able to pull back on calories is a major player in the weight loss side, the program is about feeding your body nutrients to keep it balanced.Many studies are testing the quality of foods we eat now, and finding they just aren’t as rich as they probably once were. This program strives to re-add these missing nutrients. Throughout all my health endeavors, I’ve just never been able to get it right on my own. All these healthy things I thought I was doing weren’t making me feel any better.

The cleanse days are to give your system a rest to detoxify. Every day, there is an “elixir” – a shot of nutrients to feed your system. Sources of nutrients is important to the company, with the back of the bars boasting the products came from “happy cows”. There are bars and snacks to eat throughout the day to stay satisfied.

Are the product perfect? I don’t think so. But they better than me eating pizza and mac and cheese and adding a side salad so I can tell myself I ate something healthy. Do they have sugar? Yes, but less than a single-serve container of yogurt, and many granola bars. Do they taste good? I think so! But I’ve never been one to hop on board with a supplement/shake program like this.

It’s also been a burden off my shoulders to not worry about food. Getting groceries, planning recipes for every meal of the day. Prepping leftovers. Products ship right to my front door on a recurring cycle. I don’t get distracted by junk food at the grocery store, and know exactly what my budget is for the month. It keeps me accountable to not eat snacks throughout the day. If anything, it’s let Blake and I focus on enjoying our one meal a day together. We actually get excited to pick something and cook together, or cherish something new at a restaurant. I savor food, rather than trying to just satisfy hunger.

I would highly encourage anyone looking to feel better to consider trying this system out. Please reach out directly if you are interested!

I do have a website through this company to order from (prepare yourself for some tacky marketing pieces here). But please contact me first prior to ordering anything! I want to help you get the best deal and setup for your first go-round. Learn more and place an order online.

Update – The Swollen Nodes

I posted earlier this year about my CT Scan results not being great. I set an appointment with my general practitioner earlier in January. Since then, I’ve gone through several follow-ups, and they found abnormal cells in my cervix, which hopefully explains why those lymph nodes were swollen in my scan – they were fighting off these new cells.

I had those cells frozen, using Cryotherapy. Literally, they put a tool inside of me, froze me for 3 minutes, rest for 3 minutes, and then re-freeze again for 3 minutes. The second round wasn’t as painful, all the cells were killed during the first round. I’ll have a follow up in 3 months, but this procedure has a 90-95% success rate.

I’ve been healing for the last 3-4 weeks. It’s a pretty routine procedure; I drove myself there and home, no fasting, no prep. However, it’s affected my spirits much more than I thought.

This condition is common in women who went through menopause – which I did when elected to take protective drugs during chemo. It’s also common in people who have immune deficiencies – which I did when my immune system was destroyed by chemo. I’ve had to carry extra “supplies” with me this entire time, reminiscent of my colostomy bag.

Since the procedure, I’ve had several dreams (nightmares) where I had a colostomy bag again. In all occurrences, it was leaking. I was re-experiencing the horror of seeing my human waste saturate the sticky bandage on my stomach, the sting of having stomach acid sit on and erode flesh, and the panic of not knowing where to get more supplies.

Old memories since have haunted me, specifically one of the first times I went back home to Lincoln after surgery. I hadn’t quite gotten the routine of managing my colostomy supplies, and early one Saturday morning I had a catastrophic leak. With no pharmacies in Lincoln carrying supplies, I had to jump in my car with a roll of paper towels and drive an hour to Omaha to my parents house. By the time I got there, my bag wasn’t even stuck to my skin any more because the bandage had gotten so saturated. I had wads of paper towel held to my stomach to collect the constant stream of shit spewing from my stomach. I knew my parents were out of town, but we hadn’t realized the garage pad on the house had run out of batteries. Frantic, I ran around the house testing all the locked doors, before having to punch a hole in the front door screen to get in.

By that time, my waste was uncontrollable. I had shit running down my body, soaking my shoes as I ran from the back of the house to the front.

Trama.

This recent minor procedure put me in a situation where I just feel sick again, my body is failing, and my own cells are trying to destroy me. I wonder if I hadn’t had cancer, if I would have had this either. If the side effects from chemo didn’t align to cause this abnormality.

Although I’m only 3 years out from finishing treatment, it feels like a world away. Then things like this happen, and cause me to question if my body will ever be recovered.

My general practitioner follow up is in June, where they will repeat a pap. My next oncologist appointment is in July, where they will have me do an MRI to track my nodes. The timing works out well; if these new cells where the problem, and my pap is clean, my nodes should return to normal.

If my pap is clean, and they have’t returned to normal size, or worse, grown, that might be a problem.

FDX Update… 2018!

Hey everyone! It’s been awhile, enough so that people have stopped asking about my trip. So I thought it appropriate to post an update!

In January, a few of the First Descents 2017 trips were posted. There weren’t as many as I was hoping, and the only one I was semi-interested in was to the Northern Italian Alps. I researched the agenda, continued to check the page, and ponder it for about a month. It sounded great, but not as exotic as I would have hoped, and like a trip I could take on my own. Though I couldn’t define exactly where I wanted to go, this one just didn’t quite feel right.

After about a month, with no new trips being posted, I talked myself into signing up for this trip to Italy. I could start planning, and start getting excited. I went to the website to sign up, and it was full!

A little disappointed, a little relieved, and a little panicked, I had to resolve that it might for the best, and something more appropriate would be posted later in the year. I resigned myself back to routinely checking the page for new trips.

A couple weeks later, there were still no new trips posted. But an updated sentence that they are actively planning a trip in 2018 to New Zealand! I jokingly emailed the organization, asking if I could get put on a wait list for this 2018 trip. Sure enough, they have one started!

So, unless something amazing gets added to their 2017 line-up, I’ll be making plans to visit New Zealand in 2018! I’m a little disappointed to not be taking the trip while I’m 30, but get to look forward to it for much longer.

Thank you so much again to everyone who supported me on this goal. It’s truly amazing how much love I’ve felt over the last year!

FD Moab Update

I also want to plug in a link to read about one of my Moab Cancer-Camp friends. She underwent her 3rd(?) brain surgery earlier this month, and her husband and her have been sharing such beautiful posts all week. Check it out here!

I saw a bee

In January, over lunch, a bee flew and bumped into my driver-side car window. In January. I can’t stop thinking of the oddity of a bumble bee in Nebraska in January.

I’m one to always say, pay attention when coincidences align, and small details follow you. They are generally trying to tell you something.

In response to my less-than perfect CT Scan results, I retrieved an old bracelet from my dresser and put it back on my wrist. The one that was given to me on my birthday when I was going through chemo. The one the waiter took off his own arm and put on mine as a reminder of strength and love from one survivor to another.

Coincidentally later that week, the string bracelet that was put on my wrist on top of a mountain by another survivor during my Moab First Descents trip fell off. Symbolically, this is supposed to be a good thing, meaning I no longer need spirits to protect me. It should be a sign that makes me ecstatic.

Maybe it’s because of the timing of putting a more permanent bracelet on, which makes it seem like it’s more of a “bringing in the big guns” alignment rather than a cleanse of the added forces that have been following me around.

I had a follow up with my general practitioner about some symptoms I’ve had for a couple months. The CT Scan results pushed me over the edge of being able to put concerns at ease. At first, she brushed off my symptoms as nothing out of the ordinary. After talking a bit more, she wanted me to get an ultra sound to get a clearer view of my pelvic region.

I’m hoping it’s just scar tissue that is continuing to interfere with my body’s normal functions. But I can’t help but think of this scar tissue slowly growing. For lack of a better comparison, taking over my lower region like a cancer.

The day I saw that bee I was between appointments, heading to the women’s clinic for my ultra sounds and to sit amongst all the young couples who are expecting.

A couple quick search results yield mentions of bee’s strong ties to fertility. Making sure your life is fertile by enjoying the “nectar of our efforts”. One specifically calls out:

“Bee reminds us to take the honey of life and make our own lives meaningful and fertile.  In other words, bee tells us to enjoy what we do, whatever it may be”

First Descents announced three of their trips for 2017. One in particular I’m considering; a 10-day, multi-sport adventure in the Italian Alps. The main reason I’m hesitating, is because I was hoping for something a little more out of the ordinary. I could see myself planning a similar trip on my own to a similar location. I wanted my FDX trip to include something that would push my own limits just a bit more.

This Italian Alps trip would land me back in the states with less than a month until my next 6-month check in, which will now include the MRI to verify the size of my lymph nodes.

Maybe all these signs are telling me to embrace these next six months, because my next results might change my life for the worst. With my bracelet set to arm me with beefed up protection (note that it’s a dainty piece featuring several pastel jewels), and the bee to tell me to enjoy the nectar as it flows right now.

Then again, other bee meanings focus on setting dreams high and fulfilling them. The bee tells us to move past our physical limitations.

 

Technically speaking Bee should not be able to fly – it’s designed all wrong aerodynamically. From a spiritual perspective this speaks of our limitations and how to move past them successfully. It’s doubtful that Bee knows it shouldn’t fly – it simply DOES, and so can you.

The bee is here to tell me keep pursuing what I dream of. My beefy bracelet will help remind me of where I’ve been, and that I continue to move past those limitations. I know the survivorship odds, but I will simply BE HERE, and enjoy the nectar while I’m doing it.

The bee is here to represent both of our atypical physical characteristics, and our abilities to go against what science dictates.

My 3-Year Scan Results

Wanted to send out a quick post on my CT Scan yesterday. While it wasn’t the good “everything looks great here” conversation that usually happens, I’m trying to keep a rational head.

Several lymph nodes in my pelvic region had increased in size since the last scan. It wasn’t enough to order immediate follow up, but it was concerning enough that they will have me so an MRI in July rather than the standard blood work results.

Sometimes lymph nodes get inflamed when they are fighting an infection or other bad stuff in the budy, so I’m convincing myself that my system is just doing what it’s meant to do to knock out something existing in my body.

From a cancer perspective, often time lymph nodes are the first indicator cancer has spread, as the cancer cells get into the nodes and start growing. So, growing lymph nodes could mean growing cancer.

I’ll simmer on this for a while, if I do start feeling very sick or tired like I’ve experienced in the past, I can ask for a MRI sooner to make sure things aren’t getting out of control.

So, not the best news I was looking for, but nothing life-altering here.

#nodapl

How You Can Help The Standing Rock Sioux Fight The Dakota Access Pipeline: view the Huffington Posts list. 

I was awake from 2-4 am last night – the second time since Nov. 8 – feeling scared and disheartened for the future climate of the country. The North Dakota Access Pipeline has been weighing heavily on my mind; there’s so much that I should be doing to help but don’t know how.

Does anyone else remember the series of social posts that have moved through our feeds which defended Native Americans earlier this year? Andrew Jackson removed from the $20 due to his actions toward Native Americans, and the sudden out lash at Christopher Columbus Day due to his role in claiming America for white settlers.

These inhumane, unforgivable, and unjust actions are no longer history – they are happening right now. The Access Pipeline a continuation of centuries of European settlers going against their word to Native Americans. Selfishly taking what they want and forgetting their promises. Here’s a USA Today article of the history of this land, the several milestones that have occurred and diminished land promised to this tribe.

I would like to believe that in 2016, our country can respect the promises we’ve made. That we will choose people over profit. Respectability over power.

I look at our upcoming leader, who from what I can tell, is the exact opposite of these qualities. I fear that the outcome of this situation is only a glimpse of the major step backward from the humanitarian progress our country has made. Between the Nazi-like actions and words tied to our president-elect, and this taking and destroying land promised to Native American tribes, I ask again as I had so many times this month, how did we get here?

As we look toward the holiday weekend, please consider the irony of us gathering around to celebrate the settlement of America, as we are continuing to take more and more from the reservations that barely have anything left. As we curl up with our computers or haul armfuls of “good deals”, think about the people sleeping in tents, being soaked in freezing water, fighting for the little they have left as our greed continues to take more. “Our country is so in debt, this will bring jobs”… at what human and moral expense? We look toward thievery to fulfill our “money problems”, on the same day known as the biggest shopping day of the year. Shame on us all.

Consider taking 10-20 minutes out of your day to take action. Click over to their Amazon wish list, which asks for things like gas-masks and mats to sleep on. Make a call to a representative, or simply make a donation.

Read what you can do here – we can all do something.

First Descents Founder Nominated as CNN Hero

CNN is hosting a voting competition for ten selected ‘2016 heroes’. The winner’s charity will receive $100,000.

Brad Ludden, the founder of First Descents, which I am currently fundraising for, is one of those top ten. Here’s an exert of his profile, read the whole story here.

In kayaking, a “first descent” is when someone successfully paddles a section of river that no one has ever paddled before.

By the time Brad Ludden was 18 years old, he had attained close to 100 of them.

“Every time you come around a corner, you’re the first person to see it from that perspective,” said Ludden, now 35. “You feel a lot of personal transformation and growth through that process.”Today, Ludden is giving that life-changing experience to young adults with cancer—helping them face down their fears and realize they’re not alone.

“When you’re a young person with cancer, it’s so isolating,” said Ludden, who watched his own aunt battle cancer when she was 38. “All your friends are getting married, having children, starting jobs and living life. Here you are fighting for yours.”

Read the whole story and vote for Brad here.