Friday, April 7, 2017

Remembering how I got here...


Yesterday I was at the the ortho office because I was afraid that I had injured my weak hip working out.  I wasn't there because I was afraid of the chondrosarcoma coming back, more that I didn't want to mess it up more than it already is.  I wanted to know that I could do and what I shouldn't.  Then Ryan said something that made me think...."It's hard to tell because there isn't a lot of research in endurance exercises with those with pelvic resections...there's not that many of you."

Sarcomahelp.org states that chondrosarcoma is "a rare cancer that accounts for about 20% of bone tumors and is diagnosed in approximately 600 patients each year in the United States."  I remember when I was first diagnosed and started researching chondrosarcoma.  Because of the rarity of it, there was not a lot on the internet and some of what I read was scary.  I remember sitting at my computer while reading how pelvic chondrosarcomas have a poor prognosis and was convinced I was not going to see 45 years old.  Thankfully, I found some wonderful people at the Chondrosarcoma Support Group on Facebook and was able to see that coming back from chondrosarcoma was possible. I tried to maintain a positive attitude through my diagnosis, surgery, and recovery, although there were some bumps along the way.

Sometimes I question why I still blog.  My stats show that not many read it...hell, besides my hubby, I don't even think my own family reads it, but I always try to remember what it was like searching the internet, scared that I was going to die of a rare cancer, and the blessing of finding my warriors to connect with.  Now, I will never have the presence that Elizablest at the Chondrosarcoma Support Group has as she has built and maintains an amazing community of survivors and family members, but I always want to be there for the person who is searching, who is scared, who feels alone.  Mountains can be moved, scars can heal, and, in this world, you are never alone.  

I remember how I got here, and it's why I do what I do here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nothing wrong with your before.....

Ah, the before and after culture.....it's so prevalent on social media, especially Instagram.  I've even done it myself....taking the photos before so I can brag about the after, like somehow I am better in the after because there was something wrong with my before.  That seems to be the mindset, right...always trying to improve, to be your best self? 


Don't get me wrong, I am all for self improvement, of pushing through old wounds, hurts, unhealthy habits....moving on to a place where one feels content and at peace with oneself and the universe.  It's how we find enlightenment and self actualization.  What I don't agree with, however, is the mindset of the after. 

"I'll be happier AFTER I lose 30 pounds!", "I'll be better WHEN I get the body I want!", or, sadly, "As long as I look like this, I cannot be me."  I think about how much of my life I have wasted on the After.  All the times I went to events and didn't have fun because I thought I looked "lumpy" in my dress or the times I have compared myself to others and felt like a rhinoceros.  Raising my boys, I was so frequently thinking of the after that I missed the now.  I remember the times I covered up because I thought my body was gross.  

But then something happened to me, something bad that actually was a gift to me and that was my diagnosis with chondrosarcoma and the surgery and recovery that followed.  At first, I admit, I saw it as my body turning against me...again, but after the surgery, I saw what an amazing machine it was.  I saw how my body healed itself, how a surgical incision 11 inches long, cut through skin, fascia, and muscle....how the removal of a pelvic bone and the reattachment of muscles in places they weren't originally meant to be (shout out to Dr. Timothy Damron, orthopedic oncologist ROCK STAR) , can close up, can get strong, can be functional again.  The longer process was the psychological healing that came, but even that was wondrous in that I learned to be more grateful and honest with my life.  It was a bumpy road, and I can't say I did it with finesse or mistake free, but at the end of it, I became a more enlightened version of myself....not better, just more. 

Just so we are clear, once again, I am not knocking improvement,  I am only stating that we have to stop living for the after, we have to embrace the now...what we are, where we are, who we are, in this moment, in this now.  To see our befores as beautiful stops on the road that is our life.  
This morning, before I started writing, I was reorganizing and updating my blog. Adding, changing, and removing things....and I clicked over to the list of links on the Cancer Blog Directory and was looking through the blogs that I share listings with.  It was an eye opener.  Some of the bloggers are gratefully living cancer free, some are fighting again, and some have passed on.  One of those was Kaylin Andres, who was an artist, a fashion designer, and 31 years old when her 3rd bout of cancer took her on November 21, 2016,  Five days before she died, on her Cancer is Hilarious blog, she wrote this:

"So I think it's finally time to say I'm dying, really-- I'm moving back to CA on the 22nd to be with family. I can no longer even get up on my own anymore so being alone in this apartment is pointless. There is no more that they can do for me as far as radiation or palliative chemo-- it's spread throughout my bone marrow at this point. I'm just done and I have to wait to die and I don't know how long that will take. 
I'm so sad it's happening so soon. It seems like every day and week my body gets worse so much faster. And I have so much within me that I wish I could get out. So much. There is just no time."


Sometimes, the after doesn't come....so instead of hating ourselves, or hating our bodies, or always striving for the day where we will be better, thinner, stronger, whatever....what if we reveled in the now?  What if, through self-love, self-care, love of our family, and of healthy, soul and body nourishing habits, we learn to be grateful for this life, to love ourselves for what we are IN THIS MOMENT, to see the beauty in and around us, and revel in the passion of purpose??

I don't plan on perpetuating the before and after culture anymore.  I don't plan on comparing myself to an earlier version of myself, making that earlier version looked flawed.  I will remember that it was my process, it was me as I learned and grew.  There was nothing wrong with my before and there's beauty in my now.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

And in that moment, I realized I was a masterpiece....

I have been sick all week.  A week after bragging that I had not been sick all winter, I got knocked down with a hell of a cold where I endured one day feeling like death at work, missed the two following days because I believe in taking care of myself and not infecting my co-workers and spent yesterday well enough to work, but not 100%.  Today was the first day in almost a week that I felt like a human being again, just in time for the hubs to get nailed with it overnight.

After I went out to get him set up for the day and headed to work, I was in my work bathroom changing into my uniform.  I usually get to work fairly early so I generally have the bathroom to myself and having been former Army, having kids, and a major surgery for my bone tumor, I have no qualms about changing in that bathroom in the open.  I mean it's not like I'm streaking...it's just changing from street clothes to my ABU's, but it's a 180 from what I was like in high school and the pure terror I felt changing for gym because I was embarrassed of my weight and my boobs, which came in large and in charge at age 12.

So there I was...feeling about 90% healthy, halfway into changing, and it happens...."Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard comes on the radio.  If you don't know the true power of this song to get you moving, you must experience it at least once.  I start dancing...because I felt healthy, because I was flashing back to when I wore teased Aquanet hair and ripped denim jeans, because the music and joy was in me.  I was dancing there....in my blue jeans and bra....loose, stretch marked belly skin slightly hanging over my waistline....my body, with all it's scars and imperfections, just feeling the joy of the music and the moment.

And I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  Now there have been times in my life where the sight on myself would make me stop dancing...would make me start to look at my flaws and take away my joy.  Today was not that day....in that moment, I realized I was a masterpiece.  Physically and mentally, my body has done amazing things...made babies, healed from surgical and emotional trauma, pushed itself to exhaustion, held my babies, loved my husband....this body.

It always saddens me when I see women tearing away at themselves through comparisons with other women.  Each of us have a body unique to ourselves.  Some of us are thin,some are thick.  Some muscular, some soft.  A wide range of colors, an infinite collection of exquisite uniqueness. All beautiful.

I remembered being that girl that was terrified to change for gym class and in that dance this morning, I think she healed.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pinterest Recipe Success...Cottage Pancakes (Low Carb, High Protein)

I love Pinterest...let me correct that, I am a Pinterest disciple.  I have found so many helpful things on Pinterest, as well as some hilarious shit.  It's been especially helpful with finding exercises, active activities, and healthier food options.  I love pancakes, but I wanted something that had more protein and less carbs.

Kathleen's Cottage Pancakes

I made these this morning and they come from the Fountain Avenue Kitchen blog.  Clicking on the caption of the above photo will take you to the recipe.  The only alteration I made to my attempt is that I halved the recipe, since it's just my hubs and I, but used the same 1/4 tsp of baking soda and I added a little bit of vanilla, because I love me some vanilla in my pancakes.  These turned out WONDERFUL.  They has a great taste and the hubby really like them.  I was so proud of them, I took the photo to record the greatness for posterity :).

This is a great recipe if you still want pancakes, but don't want to heaviness of a traditional pancake.  It comes out very similar to a crepe, but can also be livened up with fruit or other spreads.  Honestly, these were wonderful with just the butter and maple syrup as, even though it didn't have sugar in the recipe, it had a slight sweet taste to it due to the cottage cheese.  Give it a try!!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What's it worth to you??

With my full time job and National Guard drill, this is my first day off in eleven days, so I slept in, laid in bed and cuddled with my pillow for a while, and am chilling at Cafe 407 in Liverpool, sipping on the most exquisite hazelnut cappuccino.

Hazelnut Goodness at Cafe 407

I guess I could have gone to the gym.  I will go later with the hubby, but right now, after 11 days of work, only three of those eleven without some sort of workout, I decided to relax and take a break.

Don't worry, I am getting to my point.  I see frequently on Pinterest fitness boards, on Instagram, on Facebook these resounding messages...."No excuses...you'll do it if it's worth it to you....fat lasts longer than flavor"....yes, I get it. To be healthy, we should exercise, we should eat healthy, but have you ever looked at some of these pages and wonder how much of life is being led?

The hubs and I are still going strong on our new lifestyle of eating healthy and exercising.  We are seeing ourselves get stronger, having more endurance, sleeping better, just overall feeling like badasses. We are not waivering in the slightest, but we also love to live life, to experience the world around us. It could be a life thing.  Many of those that are on Instagram are young, they feel like they have their whole life ahead of them, all the time in the world.   My husband is 50, I am 44, and I have had a brush with cancer.  We don't see our life as an infinite set of days...we understand that our time here is precious.

Now I am not going to go into some existential life and death thought stream and I am not knocking those that try to motivate others to be their best selves.  I guess what I am asking the fitness community to remember is to live life outside the gym and eating plans.....

Is it worth it to me to put off or not enjoy a surprise visit from my oldest son because I planned on going to the gym? Nope...
Is it worth it to me to not enjoy the box of Ferrero Rocher that my hubby bought me for Valentine's, worrying about the sugar and calories involved? Nope....
Should I feel bad when the hubs and I end our work weeks with vodka and sodas, having deep discussions, listening to Rush, and laughing our asses off? Nope....

Will all of this slow down my progress? Probably.  It will take me longer to get to what I am working towards, but I would rather enjoy the moments.  Those moments are NOT going to ruin my progress and in the end, when we breathe our last breath, it's not going to be the workouts or eating plans that we remember.....

It's going to be the wonderful moments.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A little over one month in and who cares what the scale says...

I believe society, women especially, are brainwashed with numbers...the number on the size of our jeans, the number of likes a post may get, the amount of calories in ice cream, the number on the scale...always the number on the scale.


I started on yet another attempt to lose weight the last week of 2016.  In the past, I've had mixed success in losing weight.  One time I got down to 135 pounds and while I looked good, I wasn't strong like I wanted to be.  Then I was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma and spent a year and a half at a very stressful job and put it all back on.  Back to the last week of 2016...I decided to get serious, to get strong and to heal...not only from the stress, but from the toxic body image that has plagued me from my teen years.  I started off strong and posted almost every workout, most of my meal prep, and I'm pretty sure I generally overloaded and annoyed my Facebook and Instagram friends. 


On the outside I was looking empowered, but on the inside, I was still worried about that number on the scale.  For two straight weeks in the beginning of strength training and eating well, I not only didn't lose weight, I gained weight and it set my mind on this cyclical nightmare of overthinking and damning my metabolism.  Here's the thing...I was still kicking ass and I was feeling pretty wonderful until I saw that number.  Sometime within that time, my hubby and I went to breakfast at Café 407 in Liverpool. I went there for the food, because I love me a good coffee shop, not knowing that the café itself funds a bigger project called Ophelia's Place.  I picked up one of their brochures and saw this....












When I got home I checked out the website, learning more about their mission. It really spoke to me. Mulling it all over, I realized that I STILL wasn't working out and eating well because I loved my body and wanted to nourish it, it was because I hated it, felt like it was flawed and needed to be fixed. Want to know something more amazing? I realized that my weight, that number on the scale, has affected my body image far greater than anything else. Far more than having children (I loved being pregnant) and far more than even my partial hemipelvectomy for chondrosarcoma. Let that sink in....cancer affected my body image LESS than my weight has.


There was no going back at that point. I took the scale and I put it in the closet. I went to the gym and I worked out like I honored my body, not hated it. I ate better because I wanted to nourish it, not starve it. My husband and I became consistent in our new lifestyle and branched out to try new things, like the new Suspension Trainer we now have in our basement.


Today, I stepped on the scale only because we were in a new month and guess what? I've lost one whole pound in a month of going to the gym, sometimes twice a day, hitting the treadmill, lifting heavy, lifting light, jumping on the mini trampoline, doing yoga trying not to fart, tabatas in the basement, working and sweating my ass off more than I ever have....one pound....

......and I could give a shit less. For the loss of one pound and the toxic mindset that my body is flawed, this is what I gained:

1. A more positive attitude.
2. Looking in the mirror and seeing what makes me beautiful, not what is ugly.
3. Not comparing myself to everyone as my body is unique to me.
4. The knowledge that life should not be overshadowed by a few pounds.
5. That I am, indeed, a fucking goddess.

For too long, so many of us have thrown away our accomplishments, have been discouraged, because of the gravitational pull of our bodies to the Earth. We forget our hard work and we forget our beauty. I always cringe when I see a commercial or a post on Instagram when a person loses weight and states, "I'm never going back to that person again!" Honey, you're still that person, just in a smaller shell and that bigger shell was just as beautiful as the smaller. Don't get me wrong, I love that in my hard work, my pants are no longer digging into me and I am starting to see just the baby bit of muscle definition, but, even at 135, I was the same person I am now. Weight doesn't change you, life experiences, lesson learned, making mistakes, living life...that's what changes you.

If you want the TL/DR version of this whole post, let it be this....screw the scale, don't compare, don't let others put down your unique beauty or pray on your self-esteem. Take care, love, and nourish yourself.

Here's to Month 2!



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

On Not Caring What Others Think At the Gym....

I've always been intimidated at the gym...the scale of that intimidation falls from highly to slightly depending on where I am fitness or motivation wise.  I was not an athletic girl in middle and high school.  I loved science and reading and music.  Most of my exercise was in marching band.  I was on the track team once, but only joined because of a cute boy and since I couldn't run well, I was put on shot put, an event I came in dead last in our regional meet. 


Needless to say, I wasn't a jock.  While I was a highly active child, string bean thin, riding bikes and playing outside, once I hit puberty, which coincided with my best friend moving away and the death of my grandmother, I put on quite a bit of weight and have been overweight to varying degrees my whole life.  Even when I was in the Army National Guard, I wasn't highly excited about fitness.  I hated running and, admittedly, didn't put in the work to be optimal.  When I got out in 2003, I even said, "The only time I plan on ever running again is if I am being chanced by a dinosaur!"


Sometime in 2013, when I was trying to get back in the Air National Guard and after my enlistment, I started to get pretty excited about fitness.  I think it had something to do with the fact that there were many on this base that took it pretty seriously.  Many were in cross fit, scoring "Excellent" on their Fitness Assessments.  Their attitude was infectious...but I preferred running because I was by myself, at my own pace.  Being in the gym with all those cross fit enthusiasts wasn't very motivating to me.


2014, however, saw my chondrosarcoma diagnosis and subsequent surgery.  If I was intimidated before, it was through the roof when I was cleared to work out again.  For one, I couldn't walk fast, much less run, because I still had a residual nerve damage that caused a transient foot drop (this eventually resolved itself mostly) when I tried to walk fast or run and my floppy foot would trip me up.  In the gym, after doing leg work to build up my right leg, which had atrophied, I would have to grab a hold of something to get myself off of the floor, or limped off the machines.  I let it get to my head and discourage me because I was comparing myself to people.  People who had been working hard and killing it longer than me and people who didn't have to come back from a major bone resection and muscles reattached in ways that still boggle my mind (my orthopedic oncologist, Dr. Timothy Damron, is a rock star).


This defeatist attitude allowed me to stay away from the gym and put on more weight. In 2017, I don't plan on letting it get to me anymore.  Something in my mind is finally clear of all that nonsense.  I walk right up to cables, regardless of the swole bros and gals (I say that respectfully), and get to work, even if that means I'm using light weights or my leg gets wobbly.  I hit the bench press even if I am only pressing 65lbs.  I walk on the treadmill regardless of whether my weak leg makes me walk heavy like Frankenstein's monster or makes me drift like I'm taking a sobriety test. The way I see it, I have just as much right to be there as anyone and I will not slink back into the shadows.


I say this because there are many people who avoid the gym.  You might feel like you are being judged or made fun of. Hell, maybe, in the past, you WERE judged or made fun of.  Maybe you compare yourselves to others.  Maybe you have a significant amount of weight to lose or, like some of my fellow CS survivors, have physical disabilities, or not familiar with the equipment.  We need to stop caring what others think.  We need to own our fitness and not let this intimidation bring us down.  We need to say, "F**k it!" and walk into the gym like a boss, like a bad ass, like a warrior.


Let's do this!!!