Thursday, October 16, 2014

Say What?!


It's OFFICIAL! 
I am 28 months in REMISSION! 
Lab-free til January, scan-free til June!
{I'm #outofthewoods} ;)

love&lyrics, 
- LISA - 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Times They Are A'Changin'

     Hello my friends! How are you? I hope you're summer was amazing & you were able to create lifelong memories. We are now entering my favorite time of year...FALL! College football, changing leaves, & Halloween...oh my!
     One of the things I love most about living in the "dub-V" {better known as West Virginia} is that we truly get to experience every season. We sizzle in the Summer, freeze in the Winter, start to bloom in the Spring, & our hills get even more breath-taking in the Fall. 
Blue skies & country roads forever have my heart.

     Chad & I took advantage of the changing season & snuck-in a date at the WVU Arboretum in Morgantown, WV. The last time I remember being there was circa 1997 when I {graciously} borrowed a few materials for my 7th grade leaf project {totally got an "A" if you're wondering!} so getting to create & share a new memory with my love was so rad. 
...almost heaven...

     Health-wise - on my end {inadvertent rectal cancer pun!} - all seems to be going well. {side-note: I started this post last week & then got hit with a stomach bug...I must have jinxed myself!} I'm still slowly losing my chemo {Xeloda to be specific} weight. The day I hit 139.8 was pretty exciting! Taking into consideration the crazy surgeries I had, my ever-present menopause, hyperthyroidism, & the fact that I topped-off around 185lbs I think I'm moving along - not as quickly as I want but patience has never been one of my greatest traits. To be honest, I'm still incredibly insecure with body but it's something I try to work on everyday, physically & - especially - mentally. My weight was never an issue before I got sick; I had a high metabolism, was always on the go, &, of course, had ovaries & a uterus that helped maintain the natural hormones of a "normal" twenty-something so this whole world of diet, exercise, & body-image issues is tricky navigation for me. Luckily I'm surrounded by incredibly supportive people who keep my spirit motivated & always remind me that maybe I'm being a little too hard-on myself

...the times they are a'changin...

     October, as I'm sure you know, is "Breast Cancer Awareness" month but for me, a "young adult Rectal Cancer Survivor", I like to remind people, especially women, {even more especially younger women}, that colorectal screening is just as important as breast cancer screening. I totally support the "pink campaign" when I feel it's being appropriately used however when stores or companies start slapping on a pink ribbon on something that, very-obviously, has nothing to do with awareness, that is when I get a little frustrated. Number-wise, CRC is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. And yes, now would be the time I break-out the numbers: 75% of women are up-to-date with breast cancer screening while only 55% of women are in-the-know of their colorectal health. {source} Why is that? Is it the stigma of colonoscopies?  I'm not sure butt 
[;)]  I do know I would not be alive had I not had a colonoscopy; my mom wouldn't be alive had she not had a colonoscopy, & my dad wouldn't be alive had he not had a colonoscopy. 3 out of 3 lives is pretty damn good if you ask me.
     So, fueling my ongoing love for all-things-booty, this month I not only support BCA, but also the Colon Cancer Alliance's "Screen This Too" campaign.

Think pink & stay true to blue!
     
     Hmm, what else? I've been writing a lot; it's something I try to do everyday...it's definitely my version of cheap-therapy. Usually my thoughts end-up in my journal in some form or another or I work on my "novel" which is totally overwhelming, daunting, & exciting at the same time. It's something that may never come to fruition but it's also a project & process that I truly adore. It's amazing how I can lose myself, my worries, & my daily stresses within a world that is created entirely from my imagination. That's something I think we unfortunately lose as we "grow-up": the power of our imagination. So I've been consciously allowing myself to daydream &, then, doing my best to develop the ideas that already exist in my mind. Again, it very well may lead to nothing but a girl can dream. :)


October FYI's:
{aka things I'm ridiculously excited for & feel the need to share with you!} 

Alexz Johnson - "Let 'Em Eat Cake"
-Full-length Album
-Headlining Tour
By now you know I'm a HUGE Alexz Johnson fan! I'm so excited to let you know her 2nd, full-length record "Let 'Em Eat Cake" officially comes out Tuesday October 14, 2014! Adding to my excitement is that I will be seeing her LIVE {again! The 2nd time in 6 months} at the end of this month at the Hard Rock Hotel in Pittsburgh, PA! 
AJ debuted her lead single {of the same name} live during the "Say Max" tour over the summer & I'm super-stoked about the final, studio-mix. She is an "artist" in every sense of the word, especially as a songwriter. She's someone who doesn't compromise her integrity or vision when it comes to her music;something that has led her to turn-down what people would consider "major" record-deals to, instead, independently release music her way. 
In her own words: 
"Let ’Em Eat Cake’ feels like my biography up to this point,” Johnson says by email. “It’s an honest album written during a time of overcoming heartbreak and a heartfelt reflection of my journey as an artist in an ever-changing industry.”
{source}

Taylor Swift - 1989


 October 27, 2014 marks the day T. Swift is releasing her 5th studio-album! This marks the first "TS" era that I am cancer-free! A pinky-promise has been officially made - I am taking my niece to her first concert this summer!

Halloween 
Here's a little throwback in celebration of one of my favorite holiday's!

Halloween 2007
Hulk & Linda Hogan (pre-divorce era}
"Whatcha gonna do, brother?!"

See you soon!
love&lyrics,
- LISA -












Sunday, August 31, 2014

Remember...


Have you had a colonoscopy?
I did & it saved my life.
...remember...
age ain't nothin' "butt" a number.
Get screened for colorectal cancer.

love&lyrics,
- LISA -

Thursday, August 28, 2014

10 Years in Heaven

     John - I can't believe it's been 10 years since you became an angel. The day you were taken from us was the first time I understood what true heartache felt like; it was the first time I realized how much life can change whether you're ready or not. I never got the chance to tell you goodbye; I never got a chance to tell you how much you taught me during our midnight talks about life & love; I never got the chance to tell you that although I always sarcastically denied it - I am so, so proud & honored to be your little sister. Finally, I never got a final chance to tell you how much I love you because - God - how I love you. I carry you with me everyday & I hope you know that whether it's 10, 20, or 100 years from now....you're always still loved. Rest easy big brother.

John David Johnson

April 29, 1980 - August 28, 2004


"Still Loved"
Taken away,
stolen from me.
Though out of sight, in mind.
Brothers in arms, we were brothers in blood.
Heart of gold my friend

...and you know, you know, well I really hope you know
that you're still loved. 


The more you are missed 
The more I shall wish you'll hear this song.
So when we next meet, can we laugh at. my tears?
I'll bring the beers in time.


...and you know, you know, well I really hope you know; 
and you know, you know, well I really hope you know
that you're still loved,
that you're still loved,
that you're still loved,
that you're still loved.


...and you know, you know, well I really hope you know
and you know, you know, well I really hope you know
that you're still loved."

Love you more.
- LISA -

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Summertime Radness" ;)

     Hello friends...I'm back! Please don't take my short absence personal; I decided early on that regardless of my scan results, I was going to take some time away to digest the outcome & how it would affect my life & the lives of those around me. Thankfully - this time - the results were AWESOME {as I posted below} & I am cancer-center-free until the end of September. With my latest CT scan yielding clear results, this means I'm officially 25 months NED {no evidence of disease}! It still seems surreal sometimes; like I'm going to wake-up any moment & discover that all the good has actually been a dream because God knows the past 4 years have been 1 hell of a nightmare. Fortunately I don't have to worry about waking up because this is now my reality; a reality I fought so very hard for & dreamed so very long about & it's an amazing {& slightly overwhelming} feeling to finally be living.
~ ❤ ~
Summer 2014 was off to solid start with no cancer leading the way, but there were also some other kick-ass contributors in making it a pretty spectacular season.

  In late June, I was fortunate enough to be able to check something off my bucket list  & that was meeting & seeing my favorite musician {and actress who you may know from Canada's Instant Star or as the (then) red-headed "nail gun girl" from Final Destination 3}, Alexz Johnson, perform LIVE! No band - just her & her guitar, a back-up keyboardist & vocalist...in a venue that used to be a church....WHAT?! The day I found-out that Alexz was going to be rolling through Pittsburgh's The Alter Bar, I immediately knew I HAD to get tickets. I first fell in love with Alexz's music in 2004 & over the past 10 years her music has served as the soundtrack of my life. In one way or another her music has been with me through some pretty trippy times, both good & bad. She gave me my cancer anthem's {"Look At Those Eyes"/"Nothin' On Me"} & creatively distracted me with her ridiculously-amazing vocals & equally matched talents as a songwriter & guitarist. To me, she's everything that's right about music: raw vocals, honest lyrics, & unwavering passion for her craft. Unfortunately, I think that's something that is fleeting nowadays. Chad & I very rarely agree on music - like serious emphasis on the "very" - but he left the show a completely converted AJ fan. Seeing her perform live & taking that even further to actually meeting her (yes, I'm totally fangirling right now) is an experience I honestly never thought would happen but it did! I'm forever-grateful that I was able to say "thank you" in person to her for lending me her thoughts when my own could not find their voice. 
  I'm forever a fan & I can't wait to catch her on the road again.  
Bucket-list check-off 10 years in the making! 
 Alexz Johnson LIVE ✓
The Alter Bar
Pittsburgh, PA
June 23, 2014

{Source: Alexz Johnson YouTube (Official)}
{btw's - When I tried to upload videos from my phone I couldn't convert their landscape for viewing so instead of having you tilt your head, I'm gonna borrow a video from Chicago's show until I can't figure out how to rotate my videos. Trust me, this one is equally as rad & just as flawless! Enjoy!}


     I have amazing friends, like super-amazing friends; the few that stuck by me during my hurricane of a cancer battle are truly part of me. No matter how long it's been or whatever circumstance it may be, when you bring us back together it will be like no time has passed at all. However, I didn't really know something, or someone I guess I should say, was missing from my life until I had the chance to reconnect with an old friend over the past few months. Franki & I have known each other since we were kids; for the majority of our lives we had mutual friends & would often find ourselves hanging-out in the same circle. We have lots of memories that include each other in some form, some of which are a little fuzzy (aka the college years - sorry Mom!) but for the most part, they all revolve around a group setting. She actually gave me my first touch of my - now -always present "Colorectal Blue" hair streak. We eventually lost touch over the past few years; not because of a falling out or anything specific but because sometimes that's what happens in life. Around March I reached-out over Facebook & as they say "the rest is history". Just kidding! You know I LOVE to talk! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we now live literally less than 5 minutes apart so I began visiting. It didn't take long to discover how much we have in common & how much fun we can have together. Our visits quickly evolved from every-so-often, to once-a-week, to a few times-a-week, to pretty much everyday! It seems like I so often mention the relationships/friendships that I've lost since my diagnosis, so it's incredibly refreshing to finally be able to tell you about this incredible friendship that is - now - such a huge part of my life. We can spend hours talking about anything & everything & it will feel as if only minutes have gone by. She has a beautiful (almost) 11-month-old baby girl who will (& did in my case) steal your heart within seconds. I'm so, so proud of the mommy she has become. Sometimes I catch myself just watching her watch her beautiful baby girl; it's truly a special connection you can literally see with your own eyes. Our bond is truly something I hold close to my heart & our friendship is something I hold very sacred. Maybe it's because Franki & I have known each other since we were little; I remember the days of CCD classes before Sunday church services like they were yesterday or maybe it's that fact that she took the time to see the person I am post-cancer; the person who knows life can change with 3 simple words & the person that refuses to leave a room without saying "I love you" because maybe, just maybe if you get in that car & drive away, we may never get to see each other again. Whatever it may be, I truly feel so fortunate to be able to watch her daughter grow & learn from day-to-day & to be considered a part of their family.  I'm so thankful we "found" each other again because I honestly can't imagine my life without my 2 girls. :)
 

     One thing we love to do, weather permitting of course, is to go on walks which is awesome because having someone else to help keep you motivated is a great way to stay on track. Now that my body is fiinnnnallly at a point where I can actually do light exercise, I'm definitely, well let's be honest, I'm attempting to take advantage of it & trying to go on walks as much as I can. I guess I didn't realize how much of an effect the removal of muscle & tissue from my left thigh {from surgery #2 in 2011} truly had on my body until I started using it more. My left leg definitely tires much more quickly & much easier than my right, so I need to continuously work on my strength & stamina. {Oh, quick FYI - if you're an Android user & don't necessary don't want a pedometer with a GPS, I absolutely recommend "Walkdroid" for your cell; it keeps track of your steps, your time, your distance & then keeps it all in a log which you can review at any time. It's such a simple, easy-to-use app but gives you such a sense of gratification when you can actually see how much work you are doing for your body.} 
     We've also recently started making jewelry (with plenty other projects in mind) & may, perhaps, be coming to an Etsy shop near you sometime in the future...you'll just have to wait until see. Until then, here a few sneak-peaks at some of our "Peace By Peace Creations". 
Necklace & Bracelet set a'la Franki

Brown-beaded, leather wrap-bracelet a'la me.

Close-up of an Colorectal Blue-inspired wrap bracelet. 

     Finally, the last thing I am super-excited about this summer is that I am, officially, about to start training to become a "Community Health Advisor" (CHA) for The American Cancer Society! I'm such a believer in the saying "everything happens for a reason" & I whole-heartedly believe I was given & survived this disease for a reason; perhaps sharing my story even further than on this blog will help me find & understand that reason. If it doesn't, well at least I'm putting my story out there & maybe it will resonate with someone...and for me, I consider that a win.


love&lyrics,
- LISA -





Thursday, July 17, 2014

Happy 1 Year in Heaven Talia Joy!



1 year ago - on July 16 2013 - Heaven gained a beautifully brave & wise-beyond-her-years angel. Talia Joy Castellano, known on the web as "taliajoy18", fought cancer for 6 of her 13 years; within those 6 years she would not only bring mainstream awareness to childhood cancer but she would also meet, touch, & impact the lives of millions around the world...including mine. I found Talia during my own battle & although it was from afar, she taught me how to be a warrior - in life & in fight (not to mention that she taught me to always, always fill in my brows!). She reminded us all to #justkeepswimming, especially during those times when it seemed like we have nothing left. She taught use to embrace ourselves, our flaws, our situations, & our dreams. She taught us to smile & to dance; to laugh & to truly live every day that we are blessed to be on this Earth. 
We miss you T. 
Fly high & rest easy.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A day at the office...(update!)

2-month precautionary CT scan of chest, abdomen, & pelvis.
Fingers-crossed! 

**UPDATE**

BIG SIIIIIIGH!!!
Almost 25 months NED {no evidence of disease}!
Time to make my dreams come true.

Talk to you soon!

love&lyrics,
LISA