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? 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 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.


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 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!
- LISA -

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