Young Adult Survivorship / FDX

Thursday I had received the call I’ve had marked on my calendar for months. I have been formally added to the First Descents FDX to New Zealand in January 2018! Not many details have been released, other than the description on the site. I will post more information when I have it!

we’re setting our sights on the magnificent mountains and rivers of New Zealand! The name of our game this time around is primarily hiking and kayaking, both on the river and on the sea.


During my oncologist appointments last week, I found myself standing in front of a woman my age who was pregnant. She complimented my purse. Very conscious that we were two of three people in the room under 50 (Blake was on the other side of the room), I asked if she was there for herself or something different.

She was having a C-section tomorrow and needed to do final blood work to make sure things were in line. I eventually asked what her history with cancer was.

Five years ago, they removed a tumor from her ovaries that was larger than any of the kids she’s had. When they found it, everyone thought she was six months pregnant.

We moved from the waiting line, to the infusion waiting room, and gushed so openly and so bluntly about the details of our diagnosis, surgeries, the unpleasant complications, like we were old friends catching up.

I told her that her initial doctor’s recommendation of a hysterectomy, through her journey to being on the eve of her 4th child, gave me hope that I haven’t been robbed of my chance of having kids.

At 1:59, she had to leave the waiting room to run across the street for an OBGYN final check up. This round of appointments lifted my spirits much more than I had anticipated!

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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.

My Life in Sprints

The good news about infrequent posts, is that I’m not so emotionally distraught that I don’t need to use posting as an outlet for emotions. I just wanted to post a quick update, as well as some great things going on. Life is about appreciating the good, and not just evaluating during the bad!

After my January scan, my doctor decreased my check-ins to every six months, down from every three. This makes my next test in July. I feel like I’m back in full-sprint mode, trying to do so much in the between six months, during which I try convince myself might not be my last span of normalcy. At work, the joke is that I’ve been splitting many of my large projects into sprints, to help make them more easily digestible. Apparently, I’m doing this in life as well.

So, it’s spring, my favorite time of year. I held a Spring’s Eve party to ring in the best season. All plans in the foreseeable future exist in a time of shorts and t-shirts.

I’m excited for my cousin and her fiancé, along with many family members from across the country, to head to Lincoln for her bridal shower in the next few weeks.

My good friend Jenny and I are heading out to southwest Utah at the end of April, and taking on a couple of huge hikes, including one overnight hike. I hope when people ask how we planned, I hope my first thought isn’t, “well, we talked about poop a lot.”

I try to be open here, so let me explain. As a reminder – I have no colon. At best, I have to go #2.5 five to seven times a day. Nights don’t get excluded from this schedule, neither do trips to remote locations. I have spent the last two years since my surgery, researching, purchasing supplies and preparing myself for responsibly managing my waste on camping trips. This means: “Pooping” in bags, then putting said bag back into my backpack, and hauling around with the rest of my gear. While camping overnight, this means several middle of the night trips spent rummaging for shoes, flashlights and utilities, walking a safe distance from camp while not envisioning a sneak attack by a bear or wolf in the middle of the forest. Meandering back, then still being sleepy enough to fall back asleep, only to do it in another couple hours.

Sounds great, right?

I think the scariest part, is how devastated I would be should something go wrong – honestly thinking about pooping on myself, spilling the waste all over, puncturing the bag, etc. I would be horrified, and ultimately devastated that my life is still so impacted about something as minor as poop. It would be a reminder that I’m not normal, and am now permanently physically incapable in some respects.

The trip will be great, and I’m sure once I conquer this very small detail of the entire trip, I will laugh about how nervous I was and how big I built this up to be.

In May, I’m heading to my same cousin’s bachelorette party in New Orleans. I’m so honored and excited to be sharing in such an important time of her life. In June, I head south again for her wedding. I’m really looking forward to seeing my entire family, in such a happy time of celebration. Sprinkled in between it all are all the small things that make a summer – kayak/fishing trips, gardening, hikes and small town visits, and all the random places my naturalist training is taking me.

This will bring me up to July, where as fate has it, I have no solid plans beyond. Not even a football game marked on my calendar, or a trip to start planning for.

Just another opportunity to pack full of plans to get me through the next sprint to January.

Tis’ The Season

It snowed last night – a White Christmas. It feels like Christmas traditions are being fulfilled, including my insomnia. Not nearly as bad as years past, but here I am at 4:30 am. A head full of thoughts, and doing my best to off-load the weight.

There seems to be two options for surviving cancer: acknowledge it daily and be grateful, or ignore it for as long as you can. I feel like I’ve chosen the latter.

There are two options for surviving the holidays with cancer: allow yourself to be distracted entirely, or let it loom over your head. I still don’t know yet which I’ve chosen. This is only my second holiday season post-treatment. Tomorrow will be my second cancer-free-anniversary.

While what happened to me will always affect who I am, I won’t let it own me. I remember at the beginning, I read a story of someone who viewed cancer as “something bad that happened this one time” and then their life moved on. I clung to that philosophy through treatment – that some day I would look back at this as an event in my life sandwiched between so many others. I don’t know if I yet can look back, but I have moved on.

At the same time, it’s extremely difficult to swallow that life is average again after such a traumatic event. Applying the diagnosis of PTSD to survivors is common, and it makes you such a raw and genuine person. As I continue to settle back to normal life, it’s a little unnerving to feel that appreciation for life grow distant. Rather than focusing on how incredibly lucky we all are to be here, the tiny pain points in life are beginning to grab hold of me again.

I remember when I was going through treatment how excited I was when I was able to go to work. The first time I was outside in below 30-degree temperature for more than 15 minutes I was elated.

I tried to apply so much meaning and purpose to being diagnosed with cancer, to give myself strength to get through it. It seemed like the phrase “everything happens for a reason” was on repeat. As I grow distant from the experience and revert back to a ‘normal’ lifestyle of hamburgers, avoiding the gym, and less meditation, a part of my soul screams out “you didn’t learn a damn thing.” From my perspective now, I still can’t tell if it’s all bullshit.

I spent 20 minutes in bed this morning looking for a picture I swear I took of my chest when I was plugged into chemo. I wish I had taken more pictures of the bad stuff, of how distorted my body had become. Does anyone really want a photo of a colostomy bag? Of my ring of bruises from my self-injections of blood thinners? Of the giant needle I pulled out of my chest every two weeks?

I do.

So here’s my attempt to start documenting what’s left. To keep it all still relevant, the only things I have left of the remaining ugly: My scars, unfiltered.

Happy second anniversary to me.

Rock Climbing Collisions

I keep getting asked, “when are you writing your Moab blog?” I know, I’ve been dragging my feet.

There is just no good way to put that week into words. Think of your favorite day, and try assigning words to the things you felt, knowing the reader will never be able to fully feel what you experienced. I would almost feel a distancing of myself from the experience when rereading the words I tied together, focusing on my awkward writing, and failure to select words to properly illustrate the beauty of that week.

None the less, at a minimum, I suppose I owe a summary.

As I eluded – “cancer camp” (we can call it that, you can’t) was amazing! I’ve said several times (including to people while out there) that there probably isn’t a thing I could have changed to make the week better.

I hopped on a train from Amtrak to Grand Junction, spending the majority of the ride next to an older man, a traveling musician. When people asked where he was from, his response was always, “everywhere and nowhere.” We didn’t spend a lot of time in deep conversation, but we became companions, as occasional sightseeing spots were shared and we watched over each others possessions when we occasionally left our seats. We casually sent each other off with well wishes, him not sure what my week had in store. Me not minding I didn’t know his either.

I stayed the night in a hotel in Grand Junction and wandered the town the next morning. I stumbled across a church and attended service, whose theme for the week was, “We no longer have to live at the mercy of past disoriented ideas and narratives,” followed by a verse, ” Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

I confessed I had never met anyone that I was meeting to my shuttle driver between the hotel and the airport. I shared with him the purpose of this trip, and he revealed that he too was a cancer survivor, and many other illnesses under his belt. His parting words to me as he unloaded my suitcase from the van, “keep on the fight, and God bless.”

Honestly, I don’t remember much of the first night. “Glazed over faces” was one reference to the campers that night. By the end of night one, all 20 of us were united under one roof – nine ‘campers’, three climbing guides, two program representatives, two chefs, a camp mom and dad, a journalist, and a photographer. We all were given nicknames – and I’m still adjusting to seeing these foreign normal names show up on my feed – except ‘Coconuts’, who finally jumped on the social media bandwagon solely for the reason of staying in touch with us all.

We spent the next four days climbing, consoling, confiding, and celebrating. “Casual” conversation topics kicked off when Coconuts realized that poop schedules would be the least personal of the things we would share with each other during the week. Micro families formed around roommates, vanmates, and regions we originated from (I was the loner in this category, the only one not from a coast). We each told our stories as we felt comfortable, showing our scars, giggling over life after cancer, and learning about the journeys we had all taken and what still lies ahead. We were from all stages in life – I was the second youngest, with other singles, spouses and moms. I think I will always remember the conversation on the back patio the last day – it seems like everything was left on the table. So honest. So brave.

Climbing was much more fun than I predicted. I’m very jealous of everyone who was able to return to places… not flat. This is the description of the third google search result for ‘rock climbing Nebraska’:

“Welcome to Nebraska’s page at RC.com. Nebraska has been blessed with flatness. Unfortunately there is not much natural rock to conquer, but we do have some indoor gyms. If you are on your way through the state or watching our exciting football team, then check out some of those indoor gyms to keep you in shape. Keep climbing high!”

The second day of climbing, I had my a-ha moment, the one where I could feel myself falling for the adrenaline of pushing myself further than I thought. I could trust my feet to support my body only by gripping onto ledges only about 1/3 inch wide, and didn’t mind the tips of my fingers burning from clinging to any minor crevice. On day three of climbing, I wanted it all; I climbed until we had to leave. The last day we did a multi-pitch climb, finishing at approx. 350ft from the base, and finishing with a 180ft free rappel. I was later told by one of the guides, “you were really scared. We hadn’t seen anything like that from you all week!”

So many lessons were learned for each person, whether it was to trust other people to catch you when you fall, or in my case, to trust myself to be in control. We all agreed that the mixture of conversation and climbing was a complimentary combination of vulnerability and power. The journalist, Peanut, shared that she had emailed home a few days in and asked her mom, “what have I been doing with my life the last 27 years?”

So what does it all mean? What am I taking away from this?

I rode back with one of the campers to Denver to meet Blake. Though all the tears from saying good bye to everyone at the cabin and then the airport was over, I couldn’t help but think about all the other people I’ve said ‘good bye’ to recently. The good news is that most of them have been choices, either on my end or theirs.

In the last four months, I’ve said good bye to three of my closest constants at work, all of which had been there the entire duration of my job. My supervisors last day at work was my last day at camp, which I am happy worked the way we did. Neither of us are criers or ones to get too emotional, but it was really tough the last two weeks.

I said good bye to my grandma. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for almost 10 years. It was time, but I was still caught off guard by how hard it was.

Friends moving out of town, getting married, having kids. All different ways I’m saying good bye, not necessarily to them, but to the way of life I had with them.

I’ve recently been thinking of life as a timeline of intense bright flashes from other people colliding with us (Jupiter’s love for astronomy must be rubbing off on me), which is measured by the strength of impact, not necessarily of longevity. Eventually the flashes dim out and are replaced by another series of impacts and flashes. It doesn’t matter when or why people leave our lives, it doesn’t affect how long their glow stays with us. I will never forget these parting words from my executive director – appreciate every day you get to spend with people around you. You never know when that will change.

A blog recently surfaced and gained a lot of attention in the cancer community, regarding “dying with dignity.” While everyone else is scanning for celebrity gossip and sports updates, these are the things that fill my newsfeeds. The article details a young female who will use medical resources to end her life Nov. 1. She is using these months as an awareness drive to bring to light her struggles to gain ownership of her remaining time on Earth. She explains, “I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it, and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. Being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.”

I couldn’t help but think back to a conversation we had the last night at camp. One of the girls, who was diagnosed with the exact same cancer and staging I was, had recurred in her lungs. For those of you new to my situation, that’s basically the end of the line. As she painfully shared, “I wanted to have a career by now, I can’t die while I’m at this job…” She finally put so bluntly her and my worst fears, “I don’t want to drown in my own fluids, and the doctors said that’s what’s going to happen.”

Of everyone in the group, she’s been one of the few to not stay connected. Has her bright flash already dimmed? Did she say her final, “good bye” to us, moving on to her next collision? That was almost three weeks ago, and I’ve already met so many new people… the cycle continues. Never forgotten, but already dimmed.

When I got home from Utah, I unpacked a bookmark I forgot I found on a train. I jotted a quick note, explaining I had found it in my seat in Lincoln, and addressed it to the person whose address was on a sticker on the back of the cloth. Last Thursday, I opened a letter than man wrote me back. He explained that he lost this bookmark, after his book disappeared from his seat when he left to grab a snack. The bookmark belonged to his late father. He, his brother, and his son were traveling across the country together. He concluded, “Never expected such kindness from a total stranger, of course, reaffirming our faith in America and our many unknown neighbors.”

It’s the strength of the collision that determines the brightness of the flash.

Things you’re not supposed to do in church.


Sunday morning. There’s a 30-60% chance of whose house I will wake up in. Though, every once in a while there is a curve ball morning and I find myself in foreign territory.

This week followed the norm as I woke up on my friends couch and I was confronted with a common dilemma. I want to go to church, but it’s obvious I’m still rocking an outfit from the night before.

Do I not go simply because I’m not fulfilling the “Sunday’s best” outfit expectation? Or, do I go because church is important to me, regardless of my knee-high boots covered in dried dirt, jeans that at one point had as little as one full cup of beer spilled on them, Nebraska jacket, ponytail and whatever makeup is still clinging on. I rarely even leave the house this sloppy.

I went for it. She gave me a ride back downtown and dropped me off at the church, I had two minutes to spare. I sat in the back, I walked quickly to and from communion.

We talked about lasting positive impacts when someone remembers us, and leaving the places we go with a lasting “good thoughts”. This is also why I’m deciding I will go on the road trip in a couple weeks. I hope we can figure out how to get to New York.

The main reason I decided to go to church was because my philosophy on what a church is for. Churches are like hospitals. Being free of sin is being “healthy”, healthy people don’t need to go to a hospital. Sinners go to church to get better. Churches heal.

However, there are other expectations in church, some of which I feel cause people to not go at all. If you want to go, there should be no reason you don’t. It’s people that drive us away. Here are a few examples of expectations:

1. Never show up late. My family struggled with this growing up. Showing up late is like saying, “I don’t care enough about God to leave my house on time.” Obviously false. Sometimes things come up. Some people just have different struggles.

2. Dress your best. I understand that wearing nice clothes implies respect. However, when it comes to religion I believe in “come as you are.” Spirituality isn’t something you do once a week that forces to put on a show and act out of your norm. Churches shouldn’t expect this either.

3. Never bring food. I live on coffee during the week. Nothing would make me happier than sitting in a beautiful building, thinking about theories of how to make myself a better person, and drinking a hot latte. But I won’t.

4. Don’t sit in the front row.I think there is a false precedent that sitting in front must imply you think you are ‘in front’ of everyone else, because no one ever sits up there. Maybe it’s because we don’t like to make eye contact with the pastor. Maybe it’s because we don’t like a hundred people staring at the back of our head for an hour.

5. Put your tithe in an envelope. That way no one can see how much you are giving. I’m not a member. I usually put in whatever small bills I have left in my purse from the night before.

6. Use the buddy system. The first couple years of college, I often wouldn’t go because I would have to go alone. People don’t like doing things without someone, though most outsiders probably don’t even notice. I don’t mind it any more, it’s just exactly who I am: A young, single female making mistakes, learning, and doing what I want to do.

Destroy or be destroyed

It’s been an extremely busy week/month/season. As of yesterday, we’ve already surpassed the most e-mails we’ve sent in an entire month, and we still have a week and a half to go in September. I went into my usual Tuesday morning meeting, and confessed to one of my coworkers/friends, “I am so crabby today.” Instead of throwing me a pity party, she immediately started giving me shit about things from the weekend until I was laughing so hard I couldn’t respond. It’s really good to have good friends at work.

Midway through that afternoon, I decided I needed to do something fun midweek as opposed to the housework I’ve been committing myself to. I decided to see The Words. This is only the second movie I’ve restlessly attempted to sit through since movie night back in May. I was warned that it would make me think, though my biggest problem was that I couldn’t get my mind to shut up.

Before going to the movie, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am now, versus who I had thought I wold be in my mid-twenties. Part of that movie involved this same evaluation, and questioning what you would do get there.

At age 5, I wanted to be a farmer. 10 – an artist. 14 I was exploring modeling potential. 17 – married with kids, being an athletic trainer. 21 – married with kids, and balancing a career as a graphic designer. 24 – just married, no kids, still building my career in advertising. Now at age 25, I haven’t fulfilled a damn thing except land a job.

I also planned on spending extended periods of time outside the country. I wanted to have lived in a tiny apartment in the heart of a big city. There is still time, it just moves so much faster now. Changes now have bigger consequences than they did when I was 10.

So again, who am I? I’m so quick to define myself based on my job, or my friends, or the places I’ve been. I think of the scene in Anger Management – “I don’t want you to tell us what you do, I want you to tell us who you are.”

Parts of the movie tonight centered around why we make the choices we do. (spoiler alert) “love for the words over-powered love for the person who caused them to happen.” What do I love? What drives me? According to my TalentMine evaluation last year, my top driving force professionally is achievement, followed by team, problem solver, then responsibility. I think Gallup hit it closer: empathy, relator, achiever, consistency, ideation.

I like to succeed, and I like to build close relationships.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve noticed being referred to as having a ‘commitment problem’ more frequently. The first time someone jokingly said that, my first response was too brush it off. For every reference to having a commitment problem, I’ve probably proclaimed that I love to love.

Although I’ve been trying to expend ways for myself to, “be better,” so many of my posts still fall back to relationships. Men. I love the quote, “It takes a mighty good man to be better than no man at all.” So how does a person who loves loving, deal with the fact she avoids getting close to anyone?

Then I started realizing my sabotaging the last few men (my apologies if you read this and you are one of these. I’ve kind of been an ass):

  • Ditched him at a bar. From out of town, didn’t leave with his friends so he could stay out with me. Direct quote from me – “You can’t come with us.”
  • Perfecting abrupt exit strategies to leave before they he can ask for my number.
  • Being in communications with men who are ‘unavailable.’ No commitment will ever be requested.
  • The guy I casually dated before kicking him out of my house and have been actively avoiding places where we might run into each other.
  • The guy I had a random two hour conversation with, but then I specifically told him multiple times I wouldn’t respond to texts the next day, just because “I won’t want to.”
  • Kansas city.
  • Avoiding any situation the requires spending more than two hours together.
  • The second date I showed up drunk to.
  • The unfortunate souls who happened to be the first to ask me out, and responded by ignoring any communication for weeks.

Do I have problems, or am I just being extremely picky? Am I giving anyone a real chance for me to get to know them?

How does someone who is driven by loving, but terrified of committing survive? Maybe I keep looking to better myself in other areas but failing is because no one can pick another area that drives you, and expect it to satisfy you in the same way. It’s a temporary fix.