Friday, December 12, 2014

Blogmas #3 - Carpe Diem

     Cancer is a something that is ever-present in my world; even when I'm doing something not-at-all related to this disease, ultimately,  I can {most likely} somehow trace it back to cancer. There are remnants of my disease & it's aftermath everywhere; when I look in the mirror & see the royal-blue streaks in my hair, a sense of pride reverberates throughout my entire body. I was lucky enough to beat cancer not only once, but twice. When I have a new, unexplained pain or ache anywhere in my body, a pulse of fear instantaneously runs through my veins. Could it be another recurrence? When I look around at the people who are - or in some cases, who aren't - regulars in my everyday life, the circumstances of those relationships are inevitably traced back to my cancer in one way or another. I think it's safe to say that cancer affects every single aspect of your life & the lives of those around you. It doesn't matter if you are newly diagnosed or years-out in remission, you are forever changed as a person after your introduction to this stupid, selfish disease. I pride myself on the person I am now in comparison to who I was literally the day before my diagnosis. I'm also consider myself incredibly blessed to have an unspoken kinship with other cancer warriors facing various other kinds of this unrelenting disease. We are family; inevitably connected with what I like to call an "unfortunate fortunate" understanding of one another. I've been lucky enough to personally connect with some incredibly amazing people who continuously awe me with their courage & tenacity. I've also found inspiration, strength, & pride in warriors whom I've watched from afar.
     Diem Brown first danced her way into my world like many others: on MTV's "The Challege: Fresh Meat". She decided to make her battles with ovarian cancer public; documenting pivotal moments that we as a society think we "know" about but are rarely experienced so personally. She shared videos of her hair loss & even blogged for People magazine after she suffered a recurrence with OC. She took her experience of being an insider of the "cancerverse" & created an online registry called MedGift to give other patients a place to organize their wants & needs. She became an advocate for young-adult cancer warriors & even shared a little advice with me on Instagram about dealing with early-onset menopause & post-battle health.

     Diem was diagnosed with cancer for a third time over the summer; this time it had metastasized to her colon & stomach. I remember being all-sort-of-emotional when she first spoke-out about her emergency colostomy, hysterectomy, & how it made her feel like less of a woman. I'm extremely open about my surgeries, which included a complete hysterectomy  & complete vaginectomy (which is the removal of the entire vaginal canal; don't worry, I honestly didn't even know it existed until it became a part of my reality by the time I was 27). I think because I'm so far from my my initial emotions & reactions that I sometimes forget how much of a struggle both of those were for me in the beginning (& they still can be a touchy subject depending on my mood). It took me a moment to step-back & realize that her battle had just taken a major, unexpected pivotal point & she was experiencing it all in front of the world. I then found myself following her story on a daily basis. Her cancer continued to spread to her liver & lymph nodes & she ultimately danced her way into heaven on November 14, 2014. Her death affected me much more than I ever expected it to; perhaps because of our close age or because it's yet another reminder that you can never get too comfortable in life after cancer...or maybe it's just the fact that I am SO sick of this disease taking people away from their friends & families. Bottom line: we need a cure & we need it now.
     Like so many others, I am still inspired by Diem's spirit & outlook on life, love, cancer, & everything in between. I wanted to share a few of my favorite, what I like to call "Diemisms" with you.

  • "I want people to know that the fight is worth it & that's something that's so important for me." - People
  • "Being in charge of who you are, regardless of outward appearances, is beautiful." - Makers
  • "It's my personal perspective that you live as hard & as vigourously as you can." - People
  • "We celebrate the birth of a child with a baby registry. We celebrate the joining of two lives with a wedding registry. But when someone gets sick, the only celebration is when you’re getting better. There’s really no celebration when your’e fighting to get better. I realized how isolating that is for the patient, and even for the people who want to help out. A registry takes the pride out of [the equation when] asking for help, and my goal was to make it as commonplace as it is for weddings or as it is for baby showers to ask for help when you’re undergoing medical treatments." - Hudson Mod (talking about her motivation for MedGift)
  • "I love Mondays bc it feels like a fresh start. So give people you have known a fresh set of eyes, as we all learn & grow from our experiences & mistakes." - Diem Brown
lastly, here is a video from Diem's YouTube channel, which I have watched nuuuuuumerous times & will continue to watch to remind myself that I'm forever stronger.


May you forever dance with the angels.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Blogmas #2 - My Christmasography


1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Coffee.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Wrapped...is there any other way?! Fun-fact: Santa used to label our presents by birth number, so all my presents would have a "4" in the upper-left hand corner.
3. Colored lights on your tree/house or white? We have multi-colored on our tree & house, however I am not opposed to white lights. So romantical. ;)
4. Do you hang stockings? No & apparently this makes me some sort of a freak because we never did stockings...do you think that qualifies as child neglect?  
5. When do you hang your decorations up? Usually at the end of November.
6. What is your favorite holiday cookie? Snickerdoodle...yum! Definitely my favorite cookie EVER.
7. Favorite non-traditional Christmas song? "Funky, Funky Christmas" by New Kids On The Block
8. What is on your Christmas Wish-list? As corny as it sounds, I just want my family to be healthy, happy, & together. Cancer has been in our lives for the last 4 years so it will be refreshing to have a CANCER-FREE Christmas! Oh...& the Aldo "Frattapolesine" bag in "Snowy" (thanks babe!)
9. Do you have any traditions for Christmas Eve? We used to go to Midnight Mass &, surprisingly, I actually kind of miss it...the church is always decorated so, so beautiful.
10. Is your tree real or fake? Fake...damn allergies.
11. Snow? Love it or dread it? I love it as long as I'm not out driving in it.
12. Do you believe in Santa Clause? DUH! Of course!!!
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Sure do, behold:
I was OBSESSED with Big Bird & this one TALKED! Mind officially BLOWN!

14. What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you? My family being all together & making memories that my nieces & nephew will always remember.
15. What is your favorite Holiday dessert? Pumpkin Pie, mmmm!
16. What are some of your favorite Christmas pictures? Being with my sister & brothers.
I miss my big brothers so much. 
17. What tops your tree? An Angel!
18. Do you like to wrap? Oh yeah, I can drop a sick beat. Just kidding! But I seriously do like to wrap; I think it's cathartic for some reason.
19. What is your favorite traditional Christmas Song? "Little Drummer Boy", "White Christmas"
20. Candy canes, yuck or yum? Peppermint, yuck. Starburst, YUM!
21. Favorite Christmas Movie? Too many...Love Actually, Serendipity, A Christmas Story, Elf, The Nutcracker, Home Alone.
22. What do you leave for Santa? Milk, cookies, & popcorn for his reindeer.
23. Do you have a Christmas morning tradition? We are usually woken up by my niece or nephew, we light the memory candle for our loved ones celebrating in Heaven, & then it's present time!
24. Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall? Online, fo sho!
25. Christmas letter or Christmas card? Cards.

THE END.

PS - Here is our gigantic front-yard greeter I promised to post!



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blogmas 2014 Entry #1

   
In true "me-form", starting-off 3 days late. :) 

     Well, 'ello there, Mr. December! Are we seriously 22 days away from Christmas?! It doesn't even seem possible but alas...here we are: the lights are bright, decorated tree's are up, & there is a giant, glowing Santa Clause in our front yard gleefully waving to all passer-by's (totally not kidding - I will eventually snag a picture to post for your viewing pleasure). Regardless of it's ridiculously massive size, it does make me smile every time I see Santa's big ol' black mitten make it's way past our front window...& I am totally game for any & all granted smiles around the holidays. This time of year can be tough for my family as I'm sure it may be for some of you who's loved ones are no longer here to celebrate with, so I propose that we lean on each other just a little more, take it day-by-day, & fa-la-la-la-la like a friggen champ.
     I wanted to give you a quick catch-up with my life & see what's been happening on my side of the screen. At the end of November, I was not only able to cross something off my "life-list" (which you can find under my header pic, between the home & deets tabs) but also had one of the most emotional & memorable nights of my life. I was presented with the super-rad opportunity to represent the Colon Cancer Alliance at the "In Honor of Betty Puskar" fashion show benefit in Flatwoods, WV. The CCA is close to my heart not only because it's seriously an amazing tool for anyone dealing with colorectal cancer (from warriors, to family supporters, to caretakers) but also because they are just as passionate as I am about young-adult & preventive screening awareness. (High five, CCA!) This was my first event not only as a representative but also as a survivor in general so right along side of my excitement was a little bit of nervousness, which - in it's own weird little way - was a really refreshing feeling. One of my favorite things as a dancer was those few moments of stomach butterflies you get while waiting in the wings before taking the stage & it was truly bittersweet to experience those tummy-flutters once again before sharing my story with the crowd but I did it...& I hope it's something I will continue to do in the future.
Spending a few minutes with the lady of the night, Ms. Betty Puskar & my (as you can tell) very-proud & supportive Dad.

A hodgepodge collage of the night with my posse! 
A Prostate Cancer Survivor, A Rectal Cancer Survivor, & A Colon Cancer Survivor.
Being a warrior must run in our blood.
My parents are truly amazing! 

   Along with my blogmas posts, I'll be sharing some of my favorite holiday songs, movie scenes, etc so let's start this out like a rockstar!


♫ "....went to the store, sat on Santa's lap, asked him to bring my friends all kinds of crap..." ♫ 
The one & only, Phoebe Buffay

{btw, I don't own the rights to this video!}

See you soon!
love&lyrics,
- LISA -

PS - THANK YOU for helping me hit over 20,000 views!
Insane in the membrane but so, so thankful for my readers!




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.”
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 -