About Me

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2 time ovarian cancer Survivor, Advocate for ovarian cancer awareness & research, Teacher of Zen Method Tai Chi, Blogger, sharing the wonderment and power of essential oils, proud fan of Cathe Friedrich's workouts, Reiki practitoner, A Course in Miracles student, paper crafter

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Not Forgotten

Dear Blog,

I haven't forgotten about you. I've just discovered this thing called a life. It's a good life, but it's been keeping me busy. I'll get back to showing you some word love very, very soon. I promise!

Meanwhile, enjoy this holiday picture from my last fabulous spa night at Healing Planet.

Connie the Elf

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Birthday Month!!

It's my birthday month, yay!! I'm excited about celebrating my birthday this year, because each birthday from now is a big win against cancer. It's precious to me to be alive. Here's to more birthdays for all us!! This year I'm celebrating (off and on) all month, and I'm starting this weekend with a road trip to Atlanta with my Mom.

Over five years ago I read an article in some newspaper about this aquarium that was going to be opening in Atlanta- the largest aquarium in the world. The Georgia Aquarium. I want to go to this aquarium as much as a child wants to go to Disney World. Seriously!! I tried and failed for 5 years to make that dream come alive. Then about a week ago a new door opened and my amazingly wonderful Mom offered to open that door a little wider so we could go the Aquarium. I'm beyond excited!! There's a whale shark there, a real life whale shark! When else would I get the chance to see a whale shark?!? Maybe my old dream of becoming a marine biologist will reawaken? Probably note, but one day I'll tell you about the time I went to marine biology school in the Florida Keys.

We are spending Saturday at the aquarium and will probably also do a little shopping. And eating, too! If you have any Atlanta suggestions, please send me an email or post a comment!

Sunday morning we are going to one of Mom and mine's favorite stores- Trader Joe's. We're bringing 2 big coolers for our frozen treasures and a special packing materials for the fabulous and very well priced wines that we're planning to stock up on. Do you have any Trader Joe's favorites? Share them, please!!

I'll be checking out a few business meetings in Atlanta on Monday, then driving to Indiana for more meetings and a visit with my cousin and his family, and flying home from the exciting city of Dayton on Wednesday. I've packed my warmest clothes and I'm bracing myself for the cold in Indiana.

I'll be doing a lot of walking and standing over the long weekend which means I'll be rationing my 'feet energy' wisely. (Oh how I wish this foot neuropathy would go away already!!) Unfortunately, this means cutting down my workouts during my travels. I've got a walking workout on my iPod along with 2 Cathe kick-boxing downloads to use as I find time and 'foot energy' though.  And I will keep a hand-written food journal and not 'eat like an idiot', as my dear friend and mentor, Curt, often says.

I'm hoping the hotel's business office will allow me to blog about my aquarium experience!

On with the celebrating....Georgia Aquarium, here I come!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Officially Trained

My first personal training experience was fantastic!! Thank you so much, Jessica!!

I felt a little out of place when I first got there, but everyone at the gym was very nice and went out of their way to chat with me. The gym, Wellworx, is HUGE! And they have indoor tennis courts! I think I drooled a little when I saw them, but thankfully no one seemed to notice. I miss tennis SO much! Wah!! I met Jessica's husband, James, first (he's a trainer too) and he showed me around and started my warm up walk. The floor felt so nice and squishy to walk on, definitely a nice benefit of a gym! Jessica brought me over to the recumbent bikes and we warmed up a little more while we talked about my goals and experiences.

She showed me how to make squats more comfortable for my chemo-ed and achy knees. In fact, she showed me 3 varieties of squats. Hey, Jessica, I just realized that I did 6 sets of squats tonight!! She's sneaky, and smart! She guided me through Arnold presses, push-ups using a wall, a total body move that doesn't need equipment, and showed me some excellent stretches. She also helped me with my form in chest flys! I've struggled with shoulder pain during the exercise for years, and she was able to show me the adjustments I needed to make the move more comfortable and more effective. Whoohooo!!

Then she actually took the time to sit down with me and talk about nutrition. She even had copies of recipes for me, how cool is that?! We discussed lowering my carb intake a bit, and eating most of my carbs before dinner-time. That was an AH-HA moment for me. I'm pretty much been doing the opposite- eating lighter earlier in the day than the evening due to my sleep schedule. That's something that's fairly easy to correct. She had lots of great info along with a folder to keep all the papers in, too!

What a wonderful first personal training experience! I learned a lot, found fresh motivation and inspiration too. Thanks, Jessica. You rock! Best wishes on your half-marathon for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital this Saturday!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

From Spa to the Gym

This evening one of my prayers will be answered- by a personal trainer! I love how God connects the dots in my life, it's so amazing and beautiful. I met Jessica, my trainer, at Healing Planet's spa night for women fighting cancer in mid-November.

This spa night is fabulous! It's in the artsy part of Memphis, known as Midtown, and it's actually inside of Painted Planet, a beautiful art gallery. The gallery owner, Donna, is a Survivor herself and knows how to host an awesome spa night. The once a month spa night starts with a delicious soup, wine and other yummies. I mingle (yes, me- mingling with strangers!!) and admire the art surrounding me while I eat and try not to spill all over myself. Then women with various care-giving talents donate their time and expertise to pamper women fighting cancer. The past 2 months I've gotten divine massages, energy work, facial, hand massage, and a Yoga session from Jessica.

Jessica is a Survivor, too. She's amazing in many ways, and I liked her right away. We became friends on Facebook. I like to post my Cathe workouts on Facebook, as many other Cathletes do. It's a cool way to stay motivated and get support each day. Jessica noticed all my workout postings and we talked... and here I am getting ready to get personally trained tonight!

I'm excited because to get help with my form in a few exercises after all these years of home exercising  Also, now as a Survivor my body needs special treatment and I know Jessica will understand and help me work with it and around it because she's been there herself. I'm hoping Jessica can help me devise a fat burning workout rotation/schedule that's just the right amount of challenge.

I've only been to a gym a few times in my life. I liked it just fine, but the money ran out and since I have a large collection of Cathe DVDs and home exercise equipment it just made more sense to keep working out at home. I'm a little nervous about being in a gym. I'm still afraid someone will make fun of me, or tell me I shouldn't be there. Those fears are pretty small, though. I'm so thankful for this opportunity and excited about finding new and wiser ways to workout this body! I've prayed for the opportunity to work with a trainer. And today I will!! Very cool!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yes, Grapefruit!!

My fresh approach to weight loss by way of healthy eating and exercise without over-focusing is really working for me. I'm still keeping a food journal, I'm still exercising regularly, I'm still eating my fruits & veggies. What's changed is my perspective and attitude. My long term goal of preventing a third occurrence of cancer is fueling my shorter term goal of losing weight. Eating healthfully, mindfully and focusing on anti-cancer foods  along with exercise will eventually get me to my goal weight. Somehow it's clicked in my mind and I'm able to make it my lifestyle with more ease and a lot less stress. That's helping with my emotional eating issues, too. It's all connected- inside and out.

I got excited about grapefruit recently which is weird because I used to hate grapefruit. That was looooong before cancer entered my life and loooong before I made a commitment to improve my health. I fell in love with eating grapefruit three years ago when I lived in Naples, Florida. I found the yummiest grapefruit (and other fruits and veggies of all kinds!) at the Farmer's Market on Marco Island. I would buy a 5 pound bag fresh from the orchard, bring it home and section it all up so I could easily and quickly add it as part of my breakfast.

One of the medicines my oncologist prescribed to help manage one of my chemo side effects (my oh-so-fun foot numbness) isn't supposed to be taken with grapefruit. I was bummed, because I thought that meant I couldn't eat grapefruit at all. However, when I re-read the all that tiny print that comes with every script I was delighted to find out that I can eat grapefruit in the mornings!! Yes!! I can eat grapefruit again!! I just can't eat grapefruit around the time I take this medicine, and since I take it right before bed it's all good. Yippie!!! Grapefruit just belongs to breakfast in the winter for me. My world makes sense again.

So, I got some grapefruit. I had it for breakfast this morning along with 2 scrambled eggs, 1 piece of whole wheat toast topped with Earth Balance 'butter' and half a cup of Organic Serena blend Starbuck's coffee. I don't drink coffee often because, honestly, I don't usually like it. But I love this organic coffee!! It's smooth and rich and just yummy- plus it's organic. I love it when there's organic food in the house!

Who ever thought I'd be excited about grapefruit?!? What healthy food to you love now, but once hated? What new fruit or veggie have you tried lately?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Embarrassed by Embarrassment

I've been avoiding my blog for the past few days. My fellow blogger and e-friend, Jasmine said it best in her blog Eat Move Write a couple weeks ago. Check it out here. She got quite a few comments from other bloggers  with mouthy blogs. I'm so glad I'm not alone, thank you Jasmine!!

The day after my last post I weighed myself. I was down almost 5 pounds. Yay!, right? Yes, of course, but I realized right away that I had over reacted to the 'false gain' and then wrote all about it. On top of THAT, I also recalled an earlier post that shared my reasons for wanting to lose weight and why I wouldn't put too much focus the scale. I was embarrassed about my embarrassment, and then my blog kept talking smack.

I spent the long Thanksgiving weekend decorating the house, Black Friday shopping and enjoying the company of one of my sister's and her 2 kids. It was our first weekend without my other sister and her 3 Peeps. It was so strange without them! I miss them very much. The TX Peeps are enjoying their new home complete with a cove to ride their bikes, a nice cement area in the backyard for toddler roller skating, and big grassy area in the backyard to run around in.

Through the weekend, I didn't focus on or obsess about what I ate, even though I ate mostly healthfully. My family celebrated Thanksgiving 2 weeks early this year so I didn't have to deal with those deliciously rich foods. I was active in real-life ways even though I only did 2 formal workouts. I was enjoying being home to decorate with my Mom, to shop with my sister, to look at our beautiful Christmas tree while holding my youngest Peep (he's almost 6 months old now!), and to color with my youngest chickie Peep. Cancer didn't have to be part of my thoughts or holidays this year. I'm in remission, and it's starting to really sink in now. Remission!! Whoohooooo!!! I enjoyed relishing in my remission and counting the hundreds of little blessings and joys in my life for the holiday weekend. I'm thankful for life, love, and being home every day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Empowered and Embarrassed

I haven't lost any weight. In fact, I've gained weight. This has happened to me before, and it's always a signal that I'm not committed enough to losing. Scientifically weight loss is about burning more calories than I consume. That's the nice neat way of thinking of weight loss, and it makes the whole thing sound very easy. After defeating cancer twice I think that losing weight is harder than surviving cancer for me. During my cancer treatments I wasn't in control, for the most part, and just had to survive the treatments. Weight loss is all about having control over myself. It forces me to choose between emotional eating or obeying my body's hunger. I have triumphant moments when it's easy to recognize emotional eating and stop it in it's tracks. Yet I still have moments when I'm eating to make myself feel better in some way. I do it knowing that it doesn't really help ease any sadness, fill any voids, or help me in any way. In fact, eating emotionally does harm to my mind and my body. Perhaps it's a form of self-punishment...?

So, I'm faced with a choice between re-committing to weight loss and going forward full force into the holiday season, my birthday, and a week long trip; or focusing on maintaining the weight I am now, appreciating my body for all it's done and accomplished the past year, and finding happiness with my body as it is right now.

Honestly, I'm not thrilled with either one of these choices. I am thankful that my body survived cancer treatments. I am thankful for it's resilience and ability to heal. I'm thankful that I can walk with less pain now. I'm thankful that my body is able to do Cathe Friedrich workouts. I'm thankful that my body is able to grow hair again. I'm thankful that my body is strong enough to lift weights and improve it's cardio endurance. I'm thankful I can move and stretch again.

I'm also embarrassed by my body- the rolls, the scars, the stretch marks. I look at myself and see years of emotional eating and poor choices piled on. I see years of trying and failing to lose weight. My body doesn't reflect the person I am inside, but at the same time it is a result of my choices. It's enough to make my head blow up.

The lifestyle choices that I made in the past caused me to be overweight which played a role in my first and second cancers. The article Obesity and Cancers: Questions and Answers from the National Cancer Institute explains how. I realize that my weight wasn't the only factor in my cancer diagnosis, but it's the only thing I have any control over. It's empowering and embarrassing knowledge. My increased risk of a third recurrence should be enough motivation to lose weight. If I was a hermit it would be easier, but thankfully I'm not a hermit. Okay, so I have some hermit-like tendencies. That's just me, I've never claimed to be a social butterfly.

I will find a way to commit to losing weight despite the holidays, my birthday, my upcoming trip, and the jumble of my emotions and stress. When it comes right down to it, there's no other logical, reasonable, or responsible choice. Cancer is truly my catalyst for losing weight and improving my health. I think I'll make an appointment with the cancer nutritionist soon, too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Exercising & Countdown

Another countdown is winding down and somehow it's still not quite sinking in. My sister and brother-in-law have moved to Texas and by now have probably unpacked just about everything. Their kids, my Peeps, will be moving this weekend. The new branches have budded out from the family root. I didn't realize how hard it is to deal with people in my family to move away! I've been the one that moved away in the past seeking change, adventure and new-ness. However, when I moved away it was just me going, not me + Peeps going. That's a radical difference. I'm (slowly) beginning to embrace this change and turn my focus on a new way of living and the opportunities it opens up. Meanwhile, I'm cherishing every moment, even the tense ones, with 'my' Peeps.

Exercising is giving my stress and sadness an outlet. Plus, I just plain love doing it. I started out exercising to lose weight over ten years ago, and then I fell in love with it. When I exercise I'm choosing to love myself, to increase my self esteem, to decrease my chance for a third cancer recurrence, and to deal with stress in a healthy way. Exercise is also an escape and a retreat for me. I can shut the world away and turn my attention to my workout. I am so thankful I'm able to enjoy all the benefits of exercising again! I couldn't exercise through much of my cancer treatment this year which was really tough for me, but that gave me the gift of refreshed gratefulness when I exercise now.

I've been sticking to the workout schedule I created for this week. This is what it looks like~
Sunday- (done) Rodney Yee's AM Yoga for your Week, the hip opener series
Monday- (done) Repeat Sunday's Yoga and 30 minute Boot Camp from Cathe Friedrich's 4 Day Split series
Tuesday- (done) Full body weight workout- Cathe's Super Sets
Wednesday- (done) 5 interval cycles using a step which takes 30 minutes- Cathe's IMax2
Thursday- (done) 30 minutes of kick boxing from Cathe's 4 Day Split series immediately followed by Rodney Yee's Beginner's Yoga, the 20 minute rejuvenating session
Friday- (planned) Full body weights- Cathe's Push/Pull
Saturday- (planned) Low Impact cardio- either Cathe's Lower Intensity Step or Petra Kolber's Cardio Core workout from FitTV

What does exercise mean to you? How does working out improve your life? What are your favorite workouts? Yes, I really want to know!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Choices, Decisions and Plans

This week is full of toddlers, moments of joy and sadness, and general family craziness. I was tempted to set aside my health and weight loss goals for this week, but I've done that many times in the past and never felt good about that choice. So, I decided that I would figure out a way to be true to my health goals and create balance during this week for myself while still being a loving and available sister, Aunt and daughter. 

I realized last week that it would be wise to have something quick, healthy and well-balanced for me to eat this week. Soup was the first thing to come to my mind! Soup is the salad of winter for me. Unfortunately, I decided this on the fly so I didn't have all the ingredients I would have liked to use. I ended up with a lentil veggie soup that's quite tasty and used up some veggies from the fridge. I used the rest of a container of organic vegetable stock, water, sweet onion, celery, a couple carrots, a can of no salt added petite diced tomatoes, mashed up roasted delicata squash (a new squash for me which I adore!), half a bag of lentils, some thyme, some oregano, and some savory. I simmered it all in a big stock pot until the lentils and carrots were nice and tender. Nom nom!

Exercising is a major tool in my refining my health. I sat down this morning with my sister, Sally, and talked through an exercise plan for this week. I'm so glad I did!! Just taking 15 minutes to sit and plan out my workouts really helped me think it out. I've got a workout planned every day this week, and I feel confident about being to actually do it! 

Today was a great way to kick off the week. I did Rodney Yee's AM Yoga for Your Week the forward bend series with my 2 oldest nieces (ages 4 and almost 3) and my sister this morning complete with sticky mats in the small living room. Somehow we made it work, had fun, and got stretched out together! Later, we all did a 30 minute Cathe Boot Camp workout. I had fun working out with (and around) the Peeps. They bring a refreshed energy to just about everything.

I feel like I've found a good balance for myself this week. It feels really good to be making plans to help me succeed instead of just medicating my emotions with food.  Surviving cancer has given me a sense of renewal for my health goals, and what I'm willing to do as well as give up to reach them. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Journals of a Journey through chemo

I'm finally ready to share my journals through my chemo. Reading through these journals today was very emotional for me, in fact the past few days have been very emotional for me. As I close the book on cancer treatment and celebrate remission, the countdown to my sister and her family moving to Texas ticks on.

This is our last weekend all together at home, and it just doesn't seem possible. It's happening anyway. The U-Pack Pods are being loaded this weekend, and their family of 5 have temporarily moved in with Mom and I. Even though everyone was tired last night, we sat down together- my two sisters, one of my brothers-in-law and me- to play Scrabble. We are clinging to the time we have left together and doing our best to enjoy it while dealing with the scramble of feelings inside and the wonderful craziness of 5 children under 4 all around us. There's sadness, excitement, nervousness, and perhaps a tad of jealousy. All of our lives will change dramatically once they move, yet I have faith and hope that we will each create a new kind of happiness and peace.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pinky's Creed

My cancer has been a catalyst to many new friendships- much to my surprise. I've never been a social butterfly, in fact making friends has been difficult for me. So, I treasure the friends I have now- old and new. Some of my new friends are Fighters or Survivors themselves and our bond was instant and deep. Other friends are supporters and cheerleaders each special to me  in their own way.  Many of my new friends are Cathletes, fans of Cathe Friedrich and her fun, intense and challenging workouts. One of my new friends, and fellow Cathlete, is Pinky Dakay. Pinky inspires me to work out harder and smarter, and to carry that into the rest of my life in a deeper way. She is one totally awesome woman, and I am thankful for our new friendship. Pinky wrote a Creed recently after reading the article New Form of Yoga Stirring Up Controversy. She's gracefully given me permission to share it with you. 

By Pinky Dakay
What if I tell you that fitness is my religion? When I’m fighting for that last rep or two, I call upon that higher self, who is stronger than I am, to carry me through. That higher self that is connected to something bigger than I am, that power that makes everything possible.

What if I tell you that when I’m squatting more than my body weight and my legs are threatening to quit while I’m down there, I PRAY to get back up? I’m not talking about the Our Father or Hail Mary. I’m talking about keeping the faith. Faith in my own body and the source that created it. I’m talking about taking that leap from “I don’t think I can”, to “YES!” Because you have to BELIEVE, before you can DO. As simple as that.

What if I say that when I cheer a friend on, I am calling upon that sacred part of her to come out and make things happen? Because it’s that part that is most able to create something good. And when I’m rooting for someone and applauding her efforts, we are somehow bonded for a moment, celebrating what has been accomplished AND the bigger possibilities that lie ahead. And isn’t that what prayer is? A connection, a celebration, the anticipation for something positive and life-affirming?

What if I confess that when I’m high-fiving someone, I see every bit of energy she has put into her goals and I feel all the aches, uncertainties, and frustrations that have lain upon her path? It’s almost like saying “Namaste” – I recognize the power and strength in you that is also within me. I greet your spirit that is struggling as much as mine is. I honor that which is holy in you, not because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s the only way to live.

Pinky's Creed speaks to my soul. Her words reflect how I feel about being a supporter to my fellow Survivors, friends who are Fighting disease of all kinds, the rest of my friends and family- and to myself.  This is, also, the spirit in which I have taken all the words and expressions of encouragement and caring from my friends and family through my cancer journey. Indeed, each of us is holy and, and I honor that in each of you. I honor that in myself, too, as I refine my health and restore faith in my body. Thank you, Pinky, for allowing me to share your beautiful, powerful and inspirational Creed. Namaste. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebrating with Cashmere

It's still sinking into my brain and my soul~ remission. What a humongous relief!! It doesn't feel real to me quite yet. I am overwhelmed by all the joyful responses I've gotten from my friends and family on Facebook last night and today. I am over-filled with thankfulness for every prayer, every positive vibe, every strong shoulder, every Reiki treatment, every hug, every card and email, every gift, every friend that helped to hold me up and encourage me along this 14 month cancer treatment journey. A very special thank you to my mom, Sharon. Thank you Mom for your strength and love that reached all way to south Florida at the beginning of this scary cancer journey and that brought me home for the completion with it's sickness turned to joy. Also, thank you, Mom, for all of your many layers of support, kindness, faith, and care-giving. You're a God-sent Angel, I have no doubt!

This is my Mom, my Angel, and I last Christmas. I love you Mom!

It took a few hours to get to hear the word 'remission' from my Gyn Oncologist. I started with a blood draw, which happens every time to go The West Clinic. Then we moved to a waiting area and I answer questions about how I've felt the past week using an e-Tablet (which is pretty cool because it saves paper and is more efficient for the clinic!). A few minutes later a Tech comes out and gives me a bottle of water and kindly tells me to drink it and they'll be ready to scan me in about 20 minutes. I was a little confused about the water, because when I've had CT scans in the past I have to drink 3 big bottles of this chalky barium. I'm thankful for the water, though, and drink it up. Another Tech comes out 20 minutes later to bring me to the scanner, and I cautiously tell her that I haven't had any barium drink yet. She tells me that the medicine they need for the scan was in the water, it's a new and much easier way. Whoohoooo!! The CT scan went smoothly and as usual I kept my eyes closes and allowed my brain to bring me to a happy place. The Techs came back in and that was it. The easiest and friendliest CT scan ever!! 

Then it was upstairs to my Gyn Oncologist's waiting area. We waited for a couple hours, but somehow Mom and I stayed fairly relaxed about it. Mom has a Droid with lots of fun Apps so that entertained us while we waited. Finally, at almost 5 o'clock, it's my turn. The nurse is very friendly and answers my questions. A few minutes later my oncologist comes in. We talk for a couple minutes and then it's exam time. Ouchie!!! Thankfully it was over quickly. I asked the rest of my questions, and am happy with the answers. My oncologist turns and does some stuff on the computer that's in the exam room. Then she says, your scan is Good, no signs of cancer anywhere. Mom and I both tear up with relief and joy. The onc finishes up, gives me a high 5 and leaves the room. Mom and I share a big hug and a few tears. And just like that this long 14 month cancer treatment journey comes to an end. It blows my mind! 

We celebrated by going out to dinner at Colton's Steakhouse. It was deeeelish! Then we got down to the serious celebrating and went to one of our favorite stores, Kohl's!! I've been eying their cashmere sweaters for a couple years. So when I came across a beautiful teal cashmere sweater that just happened to be 55% off I just HAD to try it on. It fit very nice and looked quite good, if I do say so myself. As I took it off I commented to Mom that it was fun to just try it on. And she said that she would buy it for me in celebration of my remission!! My Mom is totally awesome!! (My youngest niece, who is 2 and half has a shirt that says the exact same thing!). What a fabulous way to celebrate!! 

Here I am wearing my celebration cashmere!! Look how much my hair has grown! And I even have some eyebrows again!! Thank you, God, for remission and for all of the thousands of other blessing in my life. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Final Countdown, Part 1

One of my countdowns is just about finished, I go to my cancer clinic tomorrow afternoon for a post-treatment CT scan and an exam. It's hard to believe that it's been almost 2 whole months since my final chemo treatment! I'm regaining cardio stamina and strength at a good pace, and I'm feeling pretty darn good. My feet still have numbness which varies from barely noticeable to very uncomfortable, and I'm thankful for the improvement. 

I'm feeling a bit anxious about the CT scan tomorrow. I've been using a couple different techniques to deal with the anxiety. My mentor and dear friend, Curt (who has 30 years of counseling experience) taught me the value and power in replacing my negative thoughts with positive thoughts. So when my mind thinks about how extremely unlikely any cancer recurrence should have been for me I consciously stop that thought, and I choose to think about how I did during my most recent Cathe workout or I work up a vivid mental picture of the powerful chemo drugs and radiation killing off any 'loose' cancer cells in my body.

I've also been meditating and praying before I get out of bed each morning. I am thankful to have to a very flexible schedule right now that allows me to meditate for 30 minutes and exercise when I want to right now. Meditating and exercising are major parts of my healing and recovery process, and I deeply appreciate the gift of time to focus recovering and healing. 

My Cathe workouts have played a big role in stress reduction over the past 7 years. I love how Cathe challenges and encourages me through each of her workouts! Lately, I've been focusing on circuit workouts. I love how I can push myself a little harder in the cardio segments when I know a cardio break is coming soon in circuit workouts. Then I get to lift weights in the next segment. I totally love lifting weights! Over the past 2 months I've worked up to being able to do a few Cathe workouts all the way through without using premixes (many of Cathe's workouts come with condensed version of the workout to save on time or focus on cardio over weights etc). I still have to modify the intensity and/or impact. I'm very proud of myself!!  Today I did a circuit workout called cathe Intensity Series: Imax 2 + Cardio & Weights DVD workout dvd Cardio & Weights- the whole 60 minutes! My feet are tired out and a bit achey tonight, but it's definitely worth it! I burned off some stress and calories, and created some very good feelings about myself. That's a good trade off in my book. 

I came across an inspiring article at CureToday.com titled New exercise guidelines for cancer survivors. Since my cancer history is gynecological I liked the article even more!! I would have loved to have clear guidelines to have followed during my treatment as well as post treatment. This article helped push me to get back to regular exercise, and I'm very grateful!

Tomorrow is the 'big' day, but I doubt if I will get the full results from the CT scan right away. More waiting which means more exercising, meditating and thought shifting for me, but I know without a doubt I won't be alone. My family and friends are great supporters and caregivers with strong shoulders. I couldn't be more thankful for each and every one! Despite a bit of understandable anxiety, I truly believe that this scan will prove to me that my body is free of cancer and is healing well. I'm looking forward to hearing my oncologist tell me that I'm cured, or in remission, or whatever label she will use. I already know that I'm a Survivor!

My next entry will be about the amazingly wonderful spa night for cancer Survivors and Fighters that I got to attend on Monday night...

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Thanksgiving Miracle

My Thanksgiving celebration this past weekend was truly wonderful! The food was delicious and I am very thankful to be home to have the honor of helping Mom prepare the feast. Our strategy this year was to prepare most of the side dishes a day or two in advance which meant trying out a couple new recipes. It worked out beautifully!!! We chose Herb-Rubbed Turkey with a Butterball bird this year. It came out juicy and yummy! My family's traditional mashed potatoes were replaced with this make-ahead Luxurious Mashed Potato recipe. Divinely smooth and, yes, luxurious. Definitely a splurge worthy recipe for a holiday. We exchanged the traditional green bean casserole for this make ahead Spinach and Cheese Puff recipe. These 2 recipes were a HUGE hit! We also baked then mashed the acorn squash and sweet potatoes two days before The Meal.

That left us with the turkey and the gravy to cook on The Meal Day.I'm very proud to say that my gravy talents continue to improve each year. The White Wine Gravy turned out silky smooth and delicious! The meal was completed with cranberry sauce, my brother-in-law's Aunt Barbara's heavenly rolls, and 3 bottles of wine. This year we decided to try a Gewurztraminer, specifically Chateau Ste. Michelle, and we were all pleasantly surprised with how well it complimented the meal. We have a new family favorite!! We also had Barefoot's Sauvignon Blanc, which I used to make the gravy, and a bottle of Yellowtail's Merlot.

My family has a long standing Thanksgiving tradition of going around tables and sharing what we are each thankful for this year. It's been a tough and dramatic year for my family and for me personally, but you wouldn't have known that if you had heard the touching tales of thankfulness from each member of my family. We all took our turn sharing, most of us with tears in our eyes. It's very clear to me that this family truly loves and appreciates one another, and that's something to be treasured.

We feasted and later that evening we feasted on the leftovers while playing Sequence. We feasted again for lunch the next day. And that brings me to my Thanksgiving Miracle. I didn't gain an ounce!! Unbelievable, but true and that's a Thanksgiving miracle in my book. This week, I'm aiming to see a loss on that scale!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Turkey Eve

It's Turkey Eve in my world, so Happy (early) Thanksgiving! My family is celebrating Thanksgiving early this year since my sister and her family will have moved to Texas by actual Thanksgiving. We've celebrated early for 4 years in a row now, the past 3 years we did it to fit my former work schedule in south Florida. Personally, I love having Thanksgiving early. It's my second favorite holiday, and this year, though it's been a tough year in many ways, I am filled with thankfulness. I'm thankful to be home, I'm thankful to be done with cancer treatments, I'm thankful my hair has started to grow back (even my eyelashes and eyebrows!), I'm thankful for the unconditional love of my family, I'm thankful for the joy my nieces and nephews bring to the family, I'm thankful for the opportunity to start over, I'm thankful for my Mom, I'm thankful for this blog and all my readers, and I'm thankful for all the wonderful and inspirational friends I've made through cancer. That's just the tip of my thankfulness mountain!

I'm thankful to be able to refine my health. I was officially cleared by my oncologist to start losing weight last weekend, and I've used this week as a transition. I've started using SparkPeople to keep daily track of my calories and goals. I love that I can keep track of everything in one spot! There are many things that I'd like to refine in my life, so I made a list and narrowed it down to these 6 goals to start off:
1. Self-Reiki treatment every day
2. Yoga 3 times a week
3. Eat less than 1800 calories a day
4. Eat at least 5 servings of Anti-Cancer diet recommended fruits and veggies each day
5. Work out 4 days each week
6. Only 4 cans of soda each week

I didn't include drinking at least 8 glasses of water, or eating whole grains instead of simple carbs because those are things that I've already made a part of my lifestyle. I mention this just so you know that I know that those things are very important in refining my health. *wink*

Aside from helping me lose weight, all of these goals also will help manage my stress and give me a sense of control over my health and life. Gotta love that combo!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Wings

This is the front of the angel wings shirt. It's the first shirt of the BancorpSouth Team's fundraiser for the 2011 Fayette County Relay for Life in Tennessee . My sister, Heidi, is on the executive committee again this year. Thank you, Heidi! The ribbons on this shirt are pink in honor of breast cancer Survivors and Fighters. The ribbon on the next shirt will be 'Relay for Life purple' to honor all cancer Survivors and Fighters. 

In the picture I'm at a Halloween party for kids at my church last weekend. My Mom, sisters and I took my 3 toddler nieces who dressed up as Princesses or Fairies, depending on which one of them you asked. Adorable and precious are the best words I have to describe them. We shared lots of (bitter)sweet moments!

This is the back of the shirt. Awesome, right!? If you're interested in buying a shirt to support BancorpSouth's Team in the Fayette County 2011 Relay for Life send me an email, greeneyedlefty74ATgmail.com. The short sleeve shirt is $10, the long sleeve is $15 plus whatever it costs to ship it to you. 

Here's a silly picture of me carving a pumpkin in the angel wings shirt wear my princess crown. My oldest niece was sharing her costume with me, isn't that sweet? My sister, Heidi, is in the background showing the back of the shirt. There is no writing on this shirt at all, see? 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Countdowns Part II

Countdowns are a part of most people’s lives. We countdown until the weekend, a vacation, or a holiday. Some people, a-hem ME, also countdown to things that aren’t so much fun such as going to the dentist. During my cancer treatment I counted down to surgery, then the end of radiation, then the end of chemo with lots of little countdowns in-between. I, also, counted down to moving home so I could continue treatment surrounded by my family. I mixed fun countdowns with the not so fun ones, and tried to focus on the positives.

I’ll have my post-chemo CT scan and physical exam in 9 days. I’m truly expecting positive news from this scan. I’m a bit anxious about talking with my oncologist, because I don’t want to forget to ask any important questions and I don’t want to hear any answers that I may not like. After over a year of waiting, tests, and treatments I feel like I’m finally getting some control over my body and life again, and I don’t want to hear anything that would change that from my gyn oncologist. I want to get on with getting on with my life!

I’m also doing a different kind of countdown. My youngest sister, her husband and 3 of ‘my’ Peeps are moving to Texas in 19 days. I am happy for them because the city they are moving to is a wonderful and beautiful place for a family. I am happy for them because the job my brother-in-law got is a fantastic career opportunity. I am heartbroken to lose them from my daily life, as are my other sister and my Mom. I feel as if I just got them ‘back’ when I moved home 5 short months ago. Each moment we share together between now and then is bittersweet. My middle niece, who almost 3, snuggled on the couch with me last night and was delighted to watch me blow bubble after bubble with my gum. It was amazing how much joy we both got out of those few minutes. I am heartbroken to countdown to this change and can't imagine not having those Peeps here with us. Yet, I know that change is the only true constant in life and that we choose to make the change better or worse by the energy and attitude that we put into it.

Pauline R. Kezer once said, “Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.”

The continuity of my family has always been unconditional love. We live in it every day no matter where each of us are physically or emotionally. We appreciate it, silently depend on it, and recognize that it’s precious. However, a root by itself is pretty boring even though it’s strong. Roots are meant to hold up and feed it’s branches. As my sister and her family move a new bud of change is pushing itself out of the family’s root and is stretching into Texas. The Connie-branch has a new bud of change, too. I’m changing from patient to Survivor, from a life on hold with cancer to a life free of cancer. May both new branches stretch and grow healthfully while rooted in love and powered by positive thoughts, words and energy.

The countdown continues....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Experimental Food Blog

I made the broccoli soup yesterday and decided to pick up the camera to try out food blogging. Here goes!!

Broccoli Soup from Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific (original) cookbook:

The Goods:
4 cups fresh broccoli florets
1/4 cup water
1 onion, chopped
2/3 cup all purpose flour (not shown)
1.5 cups skim milk
28 ounces fat free vegetable broth or chicken broth
1 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp dried thyme

Cook broccoli in a microwave dish in the water, cover for 8- 10 minutes or until tender (mine were tender in 6 minutes). Drain and set aside.

In a large pot coated with cooking spray, saute the onion over medium heat until softened, about 3- 5 minutes.

Broccoli and onions are great cancer fighting foods!!

In a small bowl (or measuring cup) mix together the flour and milk.

Stir the flour and milk mixture into the onion. Gradually add the vegetable broth (impossible to photograph since I was home by myself) and the broccoli.

Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly *this is important!*, for about 5 minutes, or until thickened.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender, puree the soup, and return to the pot over low heat.

Three cheers for food processors!!!

Be careful!! Hold on to that blade! Don't let THIS happen to you! Okay, so it wasn't really that traumatic. I didn't hurt myself at all, but it was a pain to have to fish out the blade from the hot soup. Try to avoid it.

Add the cheese, salt, pepper (another cancer fighting food!), and thyme, cooking until heated through and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Or you can do what I did, leave it on low heat and stir it every few minutes until everyone is ready to eat.

Somehow I didn't get a picture of the final product. Bad food blogger, bad bad!! So here's a picture of the leftovers. It's a very yummy soup! Give it a try!

The nutritional info: Serves 6- 8.
Calories 121, Protein 9g, Carbs 15g, Fat 3g, Calories from fat 24%, Saturated fat 2g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Cholestrol 9mg, Sodium 576mg
Diabetic Exchanges (I love that Holly Clegg includes this!): 0.5 lean meat, 0.5 starch, 1.5 vegetable

Since I was in the kitchen anyway I decided to roast the squash for future use. The butternut squash is for the Butternut Squash Enchiladas that we'll eat for family dinner on Sunday (along with a Taco Pie for those members of the family who require meat). The acorn squash is for something else, but I'm not going to tell you what just yet. Hehehe!!

Oh winter squash you roast up sooo beautifully!!! 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Yummy Plan

I did one of my favorite things last night. I surrounded myself with issues of Clean Eating  and Eating Well magazines along with one of my favorite cookbooks Trim & Terrific by Holly Clegg and put together an eating plan for next week. I also ended up throwing in a Vegetarian Times  recipe that my Mom found last week.  After 2 hours I had a plan and felt that ol' familiar feeling of control over my eats. I like it a lot! 

The part I love the most about Clean Eating magazine is the chart of 2 weeks worth of meals and snacks in every single issue complete with a shopping list and nutritional info for each day. Isn't that awesome? It's simply brilliant!! It helps for planning, of course, and it also helps on days when my mind has gone blank and all I can think to eat for lunch requires mayonnaise. You can check out a free 7 Days of Clean Meals chart on their website, click on the menus and recipes tab.

On a side note, I do not receive ANY income or benefits whatsoever from the products I talk about in this blog. I'm just sharing my humble opinion.

My lifetime food goal is to eat more vegetables. I'd like to average at least 5 servings of veggies each week for right now. So, I'm always looking for recipes that include veggies and, therefore, find myself making all kinds of salads. I like my salads to have it all- whole grains, protein, just the right amount of healthy fat and vegetables. It's just easier for me to make whole-meal salads than to figure out how to make 3 different foods work together. Sometimes salads start out as one thing, and then transform into something else. That's a different post, though. 

The salad I chose for this week is called Merrill's Tuna Rice Salad from Clean Eating's Nov/Dec 2010 issue. It's a simple chop and mix recipe:
2 6oz cans of tuna, in water, drained
1 stalk of celery, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeƱo pepper, chopped (I'll probably only use 1/4 of a pepper thanks to chemo-induced heartburn)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 T low-sodium soy sauce
2 T 100% apple juice concentrate
1 tsp dried basil
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 8oz can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
2 large carrots, grated
2 cups cooked brown rice, cold
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 T minced fresh parsley
Combine all the ingredients. Refrigerate several hours. Enjoy! Makes 7 one-cup servings. 

I'll also be making Butternut Squash Enchiladas and a Broccoli Soup recipe from Holly Clegg's original Trim & Terrific Cookbook. I've also got hard boiled eggs, non-hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal, raw carrots, apples, dried cranberries & blueberry mix, bananas (per my oncologist's orders), my favorite reduced fat lactose free yet somehow still delicious and rich tasting Cabot cheese, a couple cans of healthy low sodium soups, frozen green beans and spinach, natural peanut butter, frozen tilapia, walnuts, organic flaxseeds, nitrate free low sodium ham, and frozen organic chicken breasts to create a healthfully clean cancer cell killing week of eats. I'll be sharing how I put it all together next week. 

Do you have an eating strategy for next week? How many veggies servings do you average each week? How do you do it? Share with me!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hairy Sprouts

Fight like a Girl!! I'm still doing just that, just in a new way now. My sister, Heidi, gave me this inspirational shirt last year. She's a member of the executive committee for BancorpSouth's Relay for Life team.  Every woman in my family has one, and we all wear it proudly. It's meant a lot to us this past year. I'll share a picture of one of this year's shirts in another post. Stay tuned, it's really really cute!

The front of the Fight Like a Girl shirt. From left to right, my Mom, my sister Sally, my sister Heidi and me. There's a funny glare on one of my front teeth, I assure you that it's NOT a gold tooth. 

My head is sprouting new hair! Yesterday it seemed like there was a little growth happening, but I wasn't really sure until this morning. My hair has started to grow back! Whoohoooo!! This picture doesn't do it justice, but it's not all that visible yet. So far it's coming in dark brown, but don't tell my nieces. They tell me it's purple and then laugh like crazy. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Countdown Part I

In 6 days I will be healthy enough to start losing weight again, according to my oncologist. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time! I’ve successfully lost weight in the past, so I know that planning and tracking work best for me. I love looking at charts, tracking my eats and exercise, and the numbers for each day. It gives me a sense of control and accomplishment, though I’ve learned that I can only control so much in weight loss, cancer treatment, and life.

This weight loss journey is different from ones in the past because this time I’m a cancer Survivor. My body has changed dramatically. Losing weight is not going to be easy right now and perhaps now isn’t the perfect time to dive in. I’ve debated putting it off until the end of November, or even January. The truth is that there is never a ‘perfect’ time to start losing weight. I have to start now, there’s an urgency inside me.

That urgency comes from a long held desire for stronger health and a stronger body. I want my body to be able to kill off any loose cancer cells that may be running around! So, those are going to be my main goals instead of focusing on the scale. Scales can be sneaky liars. I will use my tools of charts, food tracking, exercise DVDs, and water bottles to strengthen my health and kill cancer cells.. My favorite site to help me keep track of everything while providing motivation is SparkPeople. Also, I will use the eats guidelines from the book Anticancer: A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. That will be a powerful combination!!

This week I’ll be making plans, gathering recipes, designing a Cathe rotation, and updating my SparkPeople info so I’m armed and ready when Sunday rolls around!!

Share with me! Are you a Survivor who lost weight after treatment? Anyone who has lost weight, what’s your best piece of advice? What’s your favorite way to kill cancer cells?

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Post and Re-Growth

I dedicate this blog to all the Survivors, Fighters, Caregivers, and Preventers out there! My hope is that my stories, journals, and post-cancer health refining journeys will inspire YOU to live healthier cancer cell killing lifestyles.

It's been 5 weeks and 2 days since my final chemo treatment. All my hair is gone, except for 3 eyebrow hairs over each eye. I could easily be a ghost for Halloween, ha! BOO! Although I have gotten used to being bald, I am ready to start seeing some new hair growth. Losing my hair was traumatic and fast. Growing my hair back is going to be a slow process with it's own challenges. This just occurred to me last week, and I was thankful for my hats, skullcaps and wig all over again! I think I'll be shy of showing my head as my hair is growing back. I don't think the transition period is going to be very pretty, so I plan on it keeping my head covered up. I've always thought that my hair was my best feature- thick, curly long and brown. So I am hoping that it comes back at least as good as it was before! My 3 toddler nieces want it to be purple. That would be cool with me. One of the fun things of post-chemo treatments is betting on what color your hair will be when it grows back. I've talked to a few other Survivors and everyone claims their hair came back thicker, stronger and overall better. I'm anxious to find out if that's going to ring true for me!

Are you a Survivor with a hair re-growth story? Share it with me, I'd love to hear it!
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