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 -

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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

#tbt Remission Round #1

"The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it."
 - C.C. Scott

#tbt
Oak Island, NC 
May 2011
Remission Round #1

See ya soon.
love&lyrics, 
- LISA -

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Beauty Despite Cancer" Entry #2 {link}

My 2nd blog entry for the amazing "Beauty Despite Cancer" is up & at 'em. 
Follow the link for "Ready or Not - Time For War"
I'm SO honored to be a part of #teambdc!

Continue down for my latest "GDHC" entry 
'love&lyrics".

-LISA -

Monday, May 5, 2014

"love&lyrics"

    My life is never one to disappoint when it comes to the dramatics; to say it would make one hell of a Saturday night Lifetime movie would be a gigantic understatement. However, somehow, I choose to look at that fact as a "catch-22". On 1 end of the spectrum I have a life where I can never get too comfortable; anytime I've fallen into the comfy-couch of life, something - as if right on cue - starts digging into my side. For example, my latest tumor-marker spike. I walked into the cancer center that day without a care in the cancer-world & by end of day, everything had changed. Suddenly, 22 glorious months of remission could be washed away with 1 simple scan & I would be starting over from scratch.
     Now, on the other end of the spectrum, I have a life where I can never get too comfortable. Yes I know, it's the same exact reason - just hear me out. Losing my brothers, having to watch my Gram slowly dissipate from Alzheimer's until she passed, my cancer journey, losing Sis & Jim (my Mom & Dad #2) the day after my 2nd surgery, & my mom's cancer diagnosis all by the age of 29 is pretty heavy. It's not the stories you read about growing up or the movies you watch when everyone lives "happily-ever-after"...my life is REAL life. I've learned there are incredibly dark days, darker than I would wish on my worst enemy (I'm talking about you, Tom Cruise!) ;) but each & every situation taught me a very abrupt, in-your-face life lesson. I know that any day truly could be your last & that tomorrow really never is a promise. I know that no matter how much we love someone, inevitably it will come to the time when they will no longer be there...sometimes without warning. I've learned that family, above ALL things is the most important anchor of life. I've learned to never leave without telling someone I love them. I've learned that life is hell of a marathon & no matter how many times you fall, run out of breath, or lose faith in yourself, you always have the option to get up, dust yourself off, & prepare for the next hurdle because, believe me, the next hurdle will be waiting for you. 
     When this particular hurdle came in the form of a substantial tumor-marker spike I was, initially, surprisingly calm. The thing is, I don't fear cancer...nor do I fear dying from this disease. What I do fear about cancer is the ramifications it puts on my husband, my parents, my sister, & my niece & my nephew. I despise the fact that this disease can put an entire family into crisis-mode within seconds & that is precisely what it did. Hearing "this is concerning" from my oncologist paled in comparison to the look in my mom's eyes when I had to sit-down & explain to her what was going on. "Oh my God" she said with a heavy sigh - the type of sigh a child never wants to hear - let alone cause - their mother, who is their hero, to have. She wrapped her arms around me & whispered how much she wished she could take this from me but, in all honestly, I would have cancer everyday for 1000 years to protect my mom from any form of negativity, as I'm sure that's what she meant in that hug. 
     As the week wore-on & the more I allowed my mind to fester on the thought that my tumor-marker was 5x what it was 4 months prior, I progressively began to freak out a little bit more with each passing day. By the time the weekend before my scan came I was in full-fledged stressed-out, emotional-mess, "scanxiety"-overload...at least on the inside. As I did my best to emotionally-prepare for a potential battle with cancer round #3 I did what I think a lot of people do during times of life "eh's" & turned to music. 
     For some reason around late February/early March I started listening to a lot of Nirvana...I can't even remember how or why it all started. Now, if you know-know me, my musical taste is ridiculously widespread. I love Dave Matthews Band, Alexz Johnson, NKOTB (I'm forever a "Blockhead") The Grateful Dead, The Beatles...however Nirvana is a new one for me. I was around 8-10 when they were outragelously "famous" (sorry Kurt, I know you despised that word) but I remember pretending to understand the punk-rock angst with my brothers when they would lay around listening to "Nevermind" or "Bleach" in their room. For me it was more about spending time with my big brothers who were, of course, the coolest guys in the world to me at the time. Fast-forward 20 years & here I am...therapeutically listening & absorbing the same music (a'la-world-wide-web) my brothers did all those years ago. At some point during that weekend I brought up the topic of listening to Nirvana to my mom & said something to the effect that I wished we knew what happened to the long-forgotten cd's of my brothers'. After she thought silently for a second she said, "I think they may be in a box somewhere but I couldn't even begin to think where". I went back upstairs & within 5 minutes my mom was flashing our light - which is our "doorbell" to our upstairs sanctuary. "You're never going to believe this" she said with a look of "what the..." on her face. I made my way down the steps & from behind her back she pulled out 2 Nirvana cd's: Nevermind & Unplugged in NY - no cases, no booklets, just 2 cds I thought were long-lost. "I think maybe someone wanted you to have these" she added. As I physically touched them for the first time, tears immediately began flooding down my face. I knew what this meant & whether you believe in things like this or not...at that EXACT second, I knew my scan would be clear. 
     2 days later, exactly 4 years to the day I was diagnosed, & strangely-enough, the day before my brother John's birthday, I got the results I knew were coming. A PET-scan of my entire body showed absolutely NO evidence of active malignancy & my tumor-marker, which was at 2.3 just 2 week prior, had dropped to 1.7. My big brothers; my two, extremely-handsome guardian angels had hugged me from Heaven with that fluke of leading my mom to a random box in her room where the cd's were just waiting to be found. Call me crazy or dramatic - say I'm looking too much into things, do whatever you wish...but I know my brothers & I know what they did for me that day. They gave me relief, peace, & understanding....but most of all, they gave me love & lyrics when I needed them most.


HOW SWEET IT IS! 



My Angels. <3
{notice the *only* ornament on the tree is the 1 angel between them.}


love&lyrics,
- LISA -




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tailspin

     I think the 1 thing I detest most about cancer is how in just 1 tiny little second it can, time & time again, throw your whole entire life into a tailspin. Unfortunately, this is where I find myself once more: in the midst of a cancer tailspin. 
     On Monday afternoon I walked into the Cancer Center for scheduled blood-work & to have a catch-up with my incredible oncologist, Dr. K. The sun was shining, I had lost 3 lbs, & my favorite CNA pulled my chart which meant girl-talk during blood drawls!!! We talked about her handsome little man who, unbelievably, is already 2, I boasted about reaching my 22-month remission mark, & we quickly hugged goodbye before Chad & I were taken back to our exam room.  Dr. K, who is by far the most incredible oncologist I could ever ask for (making the transfer after my recurrence was one of the best decisions I ever made) entered the room with a smile, as she always does, & then made my day by telling me I always have the cutest style when she sees me (shout-out to my F21 bowler hat!). We waited for about an hour hoping that my CEA, or tumor-marker, would come back from the lab. When it didn't, we set-up a game-plan to have my next CT in June (which would be 6 months from my last in December), hugged, & said our goodbyes. I knew someone would be calling with my CEA count so it was no surprise when I saw "Cancer Center" on my celly ID while shopping around Target with Chad. The information that came next literally knocked the breath out of me. My tumor-marker, which measures a specialized protein in Colorectal patients to show signs of possible disease, had been steady at 0.5 since June 2012, however on Monday, it had jumped to 2.3. 
     My heart sank & my hands began to tremble so much that Chad took the phone to hold it still. Because it was such a sudden, substantial jump, Dr. K ordered my CT scan to be turned into a PET of my entire body & also to have it moved from June to sometime within the next few weeks. I'm trying my damnedest to think positive but I'm also preparing myself for a potential round #3. The strange thing is when I had my recurrence in 2011, I knew it was coming. I had spine & tailbone pain for weeks prior to my scan; I just didn't feel quite "right". However, as of now, I don't feel like anything is wrong. I feel...dare I say healthy? 
     Regardless of what the outcome of my upcoming PET scan may show, it is what it is. I've beaten cancer twice & I know I can do it again if need be. If it's nothing, well...I guess that's life reminding, once again, anything & everything can change in a matter of seconds...or in my case, in a matter of a tailspin.
I'll keep you updated. 
love&lyrics,
- LISA -

...just because..

Thursday, April 3, 2014

"Beauty Despite Cancer"

I'm so very, very excited to be able to share some super-rad news with all of you! I am now officially part of the "Beauty Despite Cancer" blogging team. 
I'm so honored to have the opportunity to not only share my story but also to learn from all the other incredible women who contribute to the BDC team.
Whatcha waitin' for? Check it out! :)

"Beauty Despite Cancer: Home"

My first post:
"Superman's Cape"
Photo credit to "Beauty Despite Cancer"


I, of course, will continue to blog on GDHC which will always be my home sweet home. <3

See you soon.
love&lyrics,
-LISA-

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Let's MARCH together!


March is OFFICIALLY "Colorectal Awareness Month" so this particular time is when I work my booty off just a little bit more than usual to get the word out & about. 

Upcoming FYI's:

*Wednesday March 05, 2014 - National "Colorectal Survivor's" Day
*Friday March 07, 2014 - National "Dress in Blue" Day 

See you soon.
-LISA- 


I HAVE to represent the CRC community & Sinful Colors #105 "Midnight Blue" polish does the job.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

#WisdomWednesday

I'm fairly new to the world of hashtags so, occasionally, I get a little mixed-up with which trend coincides with which day; however "wisdom wednesdays" & "throwback thursdays" are actually super-fun for me. So, here is this week's #ww, created by your's truly. :)


John Diamond's quote is BY FAR my favorite cancer-esque quote I've ever come across & it actually became part of my day-to-day life during my battle. Everyday I would look into the mirror, look myself in the eyes, & literally utter the phrase "cancer is a word, not a sentence" because my diagnosis nor my prognosis was a sentence; I wasn't going to let it be. 

Keep those heads held high & fight the good fight. 
- LISA -

Friday, February 21, 2014

29, 1 Last Time

     I seriously can't believe how quickly 2014 is flying by.  Valentine's Day has come & gone & tomorrow I, officially, turn the BIG "3-0"! I'm actually really excited & so ready to leave my 20's behind. It's been a hectic decade but I'm here; I'm healthy, I'm happy, & I'm loved - I really couldn't ask for much more. I don't want to say anything to jinx this unusual (& very-much appreciated) wave of calm & normalcy that has been kindly lurking around my family BUT...things have been going really well for all of us. 

Chad & I just shared our 11th Valentine's Day together which still seems surreal to me. In 1 sense, it really does feel like yesterday he was the "gorgeous lost-control guy" at work with the most beautiful blue-eyes that made my ability to say a simple "hi" without stuttering impossible. Then, in another sense - it feels like we've been connected our entire lives. Yes, things have most-definitely not been the easiest for us; we've been tested (& tested & then, tested again) but somehow, we've managed to find our way back to the core of who we are: 2 people who fell-in-love & decided to take on the world together & what a journey it has been thus far. Where will it go next? Who's to say...but I do know who's hand I will be holding throughout it all.
A little collection of our Valentine's throughout the years.
I was able to spend some much-needed girl-time with my bff''s, Ashley & Natalie (who also happened to be my & Chad's matchmakers 10-years-ago) & it reminded me just how lucky I am to have them in my life. We've seen each other go through so many different stages of life & no matter what the circumstances might have been - good or bad, we were & continue to be there for each other. We've watched each other fall-in-love & get married. I watched them become moms & they watched me beat cancer. These girls are what true friendship is all about - unconditional love, support, & making each other laugh so hard it makes your stomach hurt. <3

Natalie, me, Ashley, & the little ones.

BFF birthday cake. YUM!
In other news, I've started outlining & writing my 1st fiction-based novel entitled "Pieces of Me" (absolutely no relation to my prior posts with the same title) & when I've finished with 4 or 5 chapters, I plan to send-out some "feelers" to publishers to see what happens. I'm also SUPER excited to share something else with you but I want to wait until it's "official" so hopefully I will be telling you about that very soon in a future post.

...finally...
Since I don't really have any juicy news for an exciting update, I thought it would be fun to share a hodgepodge of things that have recently made their way into my heart. Things that I love, things that make me smile, & things that I just think are pretty rad & thought you might enjoy. I hope you likey. Feel free to tell me about your latest love-affairs!
- tunes -
"Lovers" by Beech 
Beech is, without-a-doubt, my favorite newly-discovered band & there is no better introduction to their level of epic-ness than this song. 
"cause I was just a half until I found you..."<3

"Dream" by Priscilla Ahn
 
I'm such a sucker for a solo acoustic-guitar driven song & raw, honest lyrics, so when those 2 are put together, I'm all in. "Dream" is such a light, beautiful song supported by spot-on vocals...and the cherry on top? Priscilla brings in the harmonica at the perfect time to put that little extra ache in your heart. 

"Stay" (cover) by 30 Seconds To Mars
I looooove me a good cover & I probably would have missed this one had my hubby not been a fan of 3STM for years. Jared Leto SANGS (yes sAngs) his cancer-free-ass off on this Rihanna-cover. I know "on paper" it doesn't seem like a good fit but 1 listen & I guarantee you this version will be the only version of "stay" getting action on your playlist. 

- this & that -
Black & Gold
I don't know what it is but I have been having quite the love affair with all that is black & gold lately. I love the contrast between the 2 colors especially with jewelry & this Charlotte Russe chain-strapped purse that I got on SALE for $10!

Midi-Rings
I was hesitant when midi-rings (knucklerings) first started becoming "trendy" a while ago. Then, one day, I was breaking-down old jewelry for parts (other people do that, right?) & came across a pair of earrings that were 3 stacked rings that got smaller with each level. I initially thought I would just use the largest ring for my index-finger but decided to experiment with the smaller rings too & wallah...my love for midi-rings was born!  And yes, I'm also on a black nail-polish binder; after the past 3ish months of stress they took alot of abuse so I'm back to the "growing-out" stage.

...Oh-la-lilac...
I'm so in-love with this Maybelline Color Whispers in "Oh-la-lilac". It's so smooth, hydrating, and pigmented! The color is stunning & it's build-able so it's perfect to wear alone or to put on top of another lipstick. 

Books

The Lauren Conrad Beauty Book was published in 2012 & is a collection of tips & tricks "LC" has learned mostly from her time in reality tv on MTV's Laguna Beach & The Hill's.  It covers topics from proper skin care & hair care, recipes for DIY treatments, make-up tips, common mistakes, in-depth demonstrations, Q&A's, & everything-in-between. I'm only about a quarter of the way through but it really is pretty informative & is a fun read for anyone who's in beauty, make-up, skincare, & all that jazz.


A really fun book Chad recently got me is the "Wreck This Journal". It's insane! It's designed to well...wreck. It's purely for fun & to take you out of your norm by doing different task on different pages. My niece, Brea, & I had some fun on 1 of her many snow-days. We completed the "crack the spine" page (she was pretty excited to walk & jump all-over-it), & the "smush page" with all of our different lipstick colors that we applied & kissed. Other tasks include decorating a page with coffee spills, pressing leaves & flowers you collect from outside, writing one word (of your choice) over & over to cover an entire page, to collect & put all fruit stickers on 1 page, to add your own page numbers in any order on every page, & so on. It's unlike anything I've ever seen (or done) & as ridiculous as it sounds it's pretty damn entertaining. 

What new loves have you discovered lately?
Talk to you soon.

- LISA -