Monday, July 30, 2012

More on getting stronger

*This is a sponsored post, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are mine!

I mentioned before that I was taking some classes at The Dailey Method.
I've already talked about how it makes me feel stronger, which is something I'm craving for sure.

But the cool thing is that I walk out of class feeling taller. I get the same feeling when I do pilates. It's a nice feeling. I catch myself slumping during the day and pop back up.

But there is also a big emotional component to it for me. There is something that feels so good about being in these classes and being able to do them. Even when my legs are shaking so much I feel like I'm going to fall down (which I have to add, I believe it was Melisa who told me that's just my muscles saying hi. Apparently, I haven't chatted with them enough before LOL!)

I can't lie, cancer has left me feeling beaten and weak and like my body is broken (more on that coming soon - it's been on my mind a lot lately). I was just talking to another woman who went through breast cancer who is feeling the same way. We are often held up as "strong" and "heroes" and often people around (with the best of intentions) shower us with these compliments. But the truth is these compliments feel wrong to us because often we don't feel an ounce stronger. Some of us feel broken. We feel like our body has betrayed us. We feel like we are undeserving of compliments that so many want to shower us with.

And most of this is a broken spirit. Emotions that are left so raw.

Going to these classes is not only getting my body stronger, but it's helping on the emotional side of things too. There is something powerful about getting to the end, even when your muscles are shouting HI to you ;-)



Disclosure: I was given a one month membership to the studio in exchange for telling you about my experience. As always though, all opinions and thoughts are my own

Friday, July 27, 2012

UFO Update

Things this week went a little slowly. Okay, I take that back. This week was extra hectic with a lot to do, so progress on the UFOChallenge went very slow.

However, I fixed 2 pillows. For the first time in several years, my two couches now have all four pillows they came with. This has made all of us very happy and has eased the fighting over who gets the pillows LOL!

couch pillows

This means, I've officially finished one thing on the list (Mend five items). Although the pile is still pretty big, I'm happy with being able to cross that off the list. However, I hope I can keep this momentum up and maybe fix a few more things and maybe, just maybe get that particular pile gone!

I did some work on the photo project .... I think it will be finished soon and that makes me VERY happy. I've been working on this for an extremely long time - several, several years.

I also cleaned out my UFO box and got rid of a few projects I know I'll never go back and finish. That is a good feeling for sure. One less thing to carry around thinking about how I should-of finished.

pile of fabric

Even though I didn't finish much this week, I still feel like this challenge is exactly what I needed to get some things crossed off the list. And that feels wonderful!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


On Saturday I headed downtown Chicago and attended BBSummit12.

This was no small feat since Friday night I was in tears telling my husband that I was just too tired and I didn't know how I'd even be able to survive {last week was a rough week and we've hit some small bumps with my health and the biggest side effect is lack of energy}. Every day last week (and this week not including Saturday) I've had to nap to just get through the day. But I really wanted to go, so we made some adjustments - I decided to take the train instead of driving. And figured in the worst case scenario, I would just leave early.

Thankfully, taking the train was the smartest decision I made. And I didn't have to leave early. I think the excitement of being there, around all those wonderful people kept me going. Because BBSummit12? Was, in a nutshell, Ah. Maze. Ing. Seriously. Some things need to be noted. A. It's my first blogging conference ever {I know I can't believe I haven't been to one yet either.} B. I know the organizers and they rock so I knew it would be fabulous. C. I knew I'd see a lot of friends there, which stems my social anxiety by a lot. {Yes, I get nervous going to groups and meeting new people, especially a lot all in the same day. And I forget how to have conversations when my anxiety creeps up, so I end up being one of those people where you are like "Hi! I'm Sarah! So nice to meet you. How are you?" And I'm all "Fine." I know, it's awesome and by awesome I mean not.}

Anyway, all of this rambling to say that I had an amazing time. I learned some wonderful things, walked away with some great tips, met some new people, didn't embarrass myself too bad, and will try to get back to it next year for sure. And oh, did I mention I won something? I did. A new motorola Xyboard tablet (thanks Verizon!).

But the best part for me, truly, was getting to meet so many of my favorite on-line friends face-to-face and to get to hug people (both old and new friends). Seriously. Don't get me wrong, the Hard Rock Hotel was awesome, the food was delicious, the speakers and panels were fabulous. But the hugs, were the best part. {Get ready, here's the sentimental part} Over the last year I have had so much incredible support. And so much of it has come from the internet - from twitter friends, from facebook, from blog readers. Many of these people I've never met face-to-face. They send notes of encouragement, virtual hugs, smiles over the good news. It is amazing. It's even more amazing to see these people face-to-face and give them a hug.

I didn't take enough pictures. Okay, so I hardly took any pictures at all, but here are just a couple:

Amy and Rita!
*Note, Rita is wearing a bathrobe ... read why here!

Jen and I

lahleyoo - Fabie de Silva Photography: #BBSUMMIT12 - Hard Rock Cafe Hotel (Chicago Downtown) &emdash;

Melisa, Tracey, Michelle and I

lahleyoo - Fabie de Silva Photography: #BBSUMMIT12 - Hard Rock Cafe Hotel (Chicago Downtown) &emdash;

Jen, Jenn, and I

There were so many more people I met, got to hug, see. It was amazing.
Is it to early to buy next year's ticket? Because I really want to go back! ;-)

Friday, July 20, 2012

UFO: Week 1

So, the first week of the UFO Challenge has come to an end and I feel like I made a lot of great progress so far!

Stuffed Animal SnakeThree stuffed animals were repaired and returned to two very happy to have them back children. However, mr. snakey here developed a new tear in only a few minutes, which I fixed right away to save him from being stuck in the repair pile for another 2 years LOL! I want to mend a few more things next week and get those items out of the way. Truthfully, mending is my least favorite thing to do. And that's why I think the mending projects sit forever.

I also did some great work on the photo project. 90% of the photos were already scanned in (which was a lot of work in itself. I have one album left to finish. Last week I went through 8 albums worth of scanned photos and straightened/cropped them. I'm using a photo scanner, but it doesn't always pick up the photos properly and I don't always feed them straight. Next, I need to go through and label the photos with whatever was on the back of the original photo. Again, this will be my biggest focus until it's all done (hopefully within 2 weeks!)

And I was able to find time to work on my needlepoint project.
in progress needle point

 This is how it looked before I started working on it. At the end of the 7 weeks, I'm hoping to have a picture with a lot of progress shown! Although it did dawn on me, I'm not a fast needlepointer. And if I only do 5 hours of work, you probably won't see a huge difference, but hey, it's five hours more of work than I had before. I probably won't work on it for the next few weeks though. This is a project I can take with me on vacation (we'll have a lot of travel time) and so I need to focus on the ones that won't be so portable! But my son (whom I am making this for) is so happy to see me working on it. Who knows. It might be in his room by the end of the year if I can just stay motivated enough to finish it!

How did your week go? Did you make a lot of progress on your projects? Let me know!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What doesn't kill you ...

Makes you stronger, right? I mean we've all heard the saying and more recently I'm sure most of us has sung along to the song!

I'm not sure if cancer has left me mentally stronger. I suppose in some ways it has. That said, physically, I am weaker than ever. Really. I did not get through surgeries, chemo, radiation, infection, medicine issues very well. At some points I could barely walk ... working out? Not even anywhere on the list of things to worry about. But lately, I've been ready to tackle it. And to get stronger, especially with my right arm, which has suffered the most during all of this. Not only that, but exercising is one of the few items I can control to help prevent recurrence. So I've been thinking about it. 

And lo and behold, just as this was on my mind I was offered a month to try out The Dailey Method. If you are like me, you have no idea what TDM is. Well, "The Dailey Method® is a unique combination of ballet barre work, core conditioning, muscle strengthening, yoga, and orthopedic exercises." In other words: TDM is Awe. Some. 

I've had the chance to take 3 classes now. And I Love it. Yes, Love with a capital L. 

Here's the thing: I am still technically recovering from my last surgery so I was a bit nervous about trying this out. I suck at following along in classes - historically, I get lost, confused and can't keep up, so I was nervous to try out these classes. And I feel so weak from everything that I was nervous to try out these classes. To sum up, I was nervous! LOL! 

But it went so well. Every class I've been too so far, the instructor comes around before class and introduces herself and asks if there are any injuries/issues she needs to be aware of. This is awesome. I explain (a streamlined version) of all that's going on and right from the beginning, they tell me: don't use weights when we go into that portion. Don't do this position when we get there, do this one. This has been invaluable to me. Truly. It's nice to start the class knowing ... I don't have to be nervous we'll get to something and I have to debate in my head can I do this or should I not

Not only that, but during the entire class the instructors walk around and reposition you if you need it (I need this often). If I get confused, the instructor comes over right away and helps me figure out what is going on. This is priceless. I don't have a big history of working out and so sometimes directions that seem simple enough to those who are used to them make no sense in my head. I think, wait, tilt what? What does that even mean? LOL!  

And during class the instructors are awesome at giving modifications for those who need it - whether it's one you need because you are new and still learning or because you are a seasoned pro and ready to take it up a notch. And they are very keen on reminding all of us in class to LISTEN to our bodies. They are great at reminding you to do what you need for YOU, not to worry about what others are doing. 

Overall, I love it. I'm so impressed.


I highly recommend trying it at least once - which is perfect since you can try a class for free! There are 8 locations in the Chicago area, but they are also all over the US. If you get the chance, definitely try it!

Disclosure: I was given a one month membership to the studio in exchange for telling you about my experience. As always though, all opinions and thoughts are my own

Monday, July 16, 2012

Just Imagine

For a moment, I'd like you to close your eyes and imagine the scenario I'm about to share. Okay, well don't really close your eyes because then you couldn't read this, but play along with me anyway!

A doctor's office. A man sitting. The doctor walks in "I'm so very sorry to have to tell you that you have testicular cancer."
The man, is stunned. Confused. Terrified. Testicular cancer didn't run in his family, he wasn't overweight, he thought he was too young to get it.
The doctor continues, kindly but while throwing information at him: we'll need to do further testing to check things out, we need to set you up with a surgeon, I'm very sorry but you'll need to remove your testicles. But we'll also set you up with a plastic surgeon to discuss reconstruction issues. You'll meet with an oncologist to discuss chemo and you will need radiation too. blah, blah, blah

The man can hardly concentrate. He leaves the doctor's office and begins the daunting task of sharing with his friends and family. They are all shocked with him. They all promise to be there by his side. The phone messages, e-mails, facebook messages come rolling in:
Whatever you need, let me know
I'd like to bring you some dinners, when I can drop them off?
How is your wife doing? Your children?
I'm thinking of you. Please, let me know how I can help.
Hey man, just heard the news, I'm here for you whenever you need it.

That's how most of them are, but not all. The messages continue to pour in:
So, um, will they have to cut both your balls off?
Well, it's a good thing you got the good cancer!
OMG! I'm so jealous. You are totally going to get a free nut job!
You know, you're really lucky. It's not like you need testicles to live or anything. And the plastic surgeon can fix you up, probably with something better!
So do you think you're going to get bigger testicles now? I mean, since you can, you should!
Hey, good thing you got this cancer and not another one. Dude, I don't think people even die from this anymore! 

People start buying him purple things, with purple ribbons all over him. Purple tools, purple cell phone covers, food wrapped in purple! His house quickly fills up with purple.

His loved ones are great, they want to rally around him and show support. So they go to Testicular Cancer events. They wear cute shirts with squirrels on them "Save the nuts!" People walk around with speedos over their clothes "Check your balls!" "Screw the whales, save men's junk" "Protect the family jewels!"

On instagram, he learns there is a group Testigram ... where people can show pictures of their testicles in underwear all in the name of awareness! Ad campaigns, full of images of men in speedos - suddenly it's all he can notice. Maybe it's always been like this and he never noticed it before. Now, he can't seem to avoid it.

There are even speedo parades (come dressed only in a speedo) to bring about awareness and raise money.

He struggles ... he's grateful for all the support, but he wishes that he didn't feel like his testicular cancer were being so sexualized. Where are the images of real mean with scars? Going through chemo? With radiation burns? Why does it feel like testicular awareness is just another excuse to throw a party, or buy a purple drink, or a way to parade men's body parts around. Why does everyone think purple is now his favorite color? He doesn't mean to be ungrateful, but if he gets another gadget that is purple with ribbons all over it he may just scream.


Can you picture it? Can you imagine it? It's hard isn't it. I mean, we don't do this to men's cancers. We don't even do stuff like this to cancers (like lung cancer) that both sexes can get. And yet, somehow, isn't this what we have done to breast cancer? Just spend some time thinking about it.

Please note: This is NOT a reflection of how I've been treated personally. This is a reflection on society in general.

UFO Challenge

Alright. Today's the day. It's time to kick this UFO Challenge off!

So, I've been thinking about what I want to accomplish. And at first I had a pretty long list. But then I had to remind myself, it's only 7 weeks. And during that time I have kids activities, a county fair to help my 4-H'er get ready for, doctor's appointments, vacation and the whole the family wants to eat every day and have clean clothes. So, I kind of had to scale back.

Here are my goals for the 7 weeks:
* Finish photo project - I am scanning a lot of pictures in. I started, oh forever ago. This is top priority to finish.
* Spend at least 6 hours on the rock'n'roll quilt I started for daughter over a year ago
fabric pile
Some of the pieces for the quilt

* Spend at least 5 hours on needlepoint I started for my son
* Mend 5 items
* Finish placemats started something like 4 years ago

Pile of projects
Corner in my craft room that holds items needing to be mended and some UFO's (including placemats)
* Pick 3 items from my UFO box to finish (But I'm not sure which 3 yet)
Yes, I have a box, labeled and everything for UFO's for when I want them off my counter space!

* Speaking of my UFO Box, I need to go through and decide if there are any projects I don't want to ever finish, so that's on my list too.
* Finish 3 baby items I have started. That are so close, but just need to be finished! 

So, what's your plan for the next 7 weeks? Tell me in the comments, or link back to a blog post with the details! And, for those of you on twitter, feel free to use #UFOChallenge

Happy finishing crafting my friends!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On not winning and not losing.

I, as a person who got cancer, went through treatment, and am still here to talk about it, I did not do it because I am a strong person. I did not do it because I am a hero. I did not do it because I am a role model. I did not do it because I have a positive attitude. And I did not win (because if we as a society say someone lost their fight with cancer when what we really mean is this person died of cancer then that means I must have "won").

I did all of this the same way you get through your life. I wake up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other. Granted, I did have some choices. I could have refused treatment and I guess just laid down in my bed and waited to die? But, really, do you know anyone who has done that? Even those that chose different treatment options than me. They did something (even if it looked different than what I did).

Our society likes to hold those who have been through cancer up as heroes. Or as exceptionally strong people. We are "fighters", who have fought a tough "battle" and come out as "winners".

Except, with cancer there is no winning or losing. Some people, with the same diagnosis and the same treatment will have different outcomes. Some will continue to live. Some will not. That does mean those who pass away from cancer are weak. Or have a bad attitude. Or are losers. Not at all. Not one little bit.

I get it. It's a language thing. I don't think it's what we really mean - most of us don't actually think someone is a loser. We are simply using the language we've heard for so long. But some how, some way we must come up with better ways to talk about it, better ways to frame it. We must do this to honor those we have lost. And we must do this in a way that doesn't put people who have had cancer in an awkward position (Seriously, go on, ask people - most feel extremely awkward being called a hero or a role model, some even struggle to use the term survivor).

When it comes to cancer, there simply are no winners. And there are no losers. 

Monday, July 09, 2012


Okay, okay, so it's a cheesy play on words, I know.
But, I've been meaning to talk about it and now seems like as good of time as ever.

Last year, in December (after getting through radiation) I started taking tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is something most people have heard of, but if you haven't or you have but aren't quite sure what it does, let's take a time out for a mini-lesson.

Basically tamoxifen is used when people who are pre-menapausal (or postmenopausal women who can't take an aromatase inhibitor) have estrogen positive (er+) breast cancer. If you are er+ this means that your cancer actually feeds on estrogen (it should be noted: you could have breast cancer that was er-, in which case you wouldn't take tamoxifen). In breast tissue, tamoxifen binds to estrogen receptors which means estrogen does not. Which means, should you have any cancer cells still floating around after treatment, they will not get estrogen to feed off of.

So, at the start of December I started taking tamoxifen. The plan was to take it for 5 years. But, December last year was a rough month - I had gotten a major infection and resulted in surgery right before Christmas. Naturally through all of this, I felt like crap. And January came and while I wasn't in so much physical pain, I was still feeling like crap.

I talked to my doctors about it. Okay, I didn't so much talk about it as I sat in the office and cried and cried and tried to explain how I was feeling. So we added an anti-depressant to the mix. Which honestly? Made me feel worse. And so we upped the dose. We added a sleeping pill. And when I was still feeling bad, and still not sleeping, but then stopped eating, we added some supplements because I started to lose weight quickly. And things weren't getting better. I was struggling. Very much so.

So I temporarily stopped taking all the medicines. Yes. All of them. To give myself a break. And in only a few days, I was feeling much better. At this point, we decided to restart the tamoxifen, but to start it out only taking it every other day with the hope it would be easier on me and the plan to take it daily starting in a few weeks. So, I tried it. And pretty quickly things got worse again.

So in March I made (what was a terribly difficult decision for me) and decided to permanently stop the tamoxifen. At that point my doctors switched me to fareston. I was told a)it hasn't been studied in women in my particular case, but it has in other breast cancer situations. B)It's not as effective as the tamoxifen but it's pretty darn close. C)It could have the same side effects as tamoxifen but it could be more gentle.

The first few weeks I was on it I definitely noticed mood swings. And it made me feel on the angry side. But after a few weeks it seemed to taper out.

And now that I'm here? I do not regret for one second stopping tamoxifen. I wish I had done it sooner. The fareston is so much better for me. Today I know we are doing the best thing for me. It doesn't look the same as what so many others are doing, but as one of my doctors said to me back in March when I was trying to figure out just what to do "You have to live your life. Not me, not your family, not your friends. It doesn't matter what others are doing or what others want you to do. You need to figure out what works for your life because you are the one who has to live it. As your doctor, it's my job to support you in whatever decision you make and I feel pretty sure that everyone around you will support you too." {side note: isn't that awesome advice just in general? I think so}

So, there's the story of tamoxifen, no more tamoxifen, and fareston.

Friday, July 06, 2012

UFO Challenge

I've got all these projects, just laying around half-finished. I really need some motivation to finish them. (Because it's so much more fun to start new projects and then I forget about them. So projects tend to pile up!).

I feel pretty confident that I'm not the only person with some unfinished objects (ufo's) laying around the house. So, with that in mind, I'm starting a UFO Challenge.

But, I'm leaving it very vague. You decide what YOU need to do. If it's finish 10 projects, set a goal to finish 10 projects. Maybe you just have one big one you need to work on. Or maybe you just want to challenge yourself to work on some UFO's for an hour each week. Start planning now. We're going to start Monday, July 16 and run through Friday, August 31.

I hope you'll play along. On the 16th share what your goals are and then every Friday we'll show off what we've accomplished that week.

I even made a button (and no, I've never done this before so it's a little less than perfect!). And if I've done this correctly, there will be a code for you to grab it as well and put it on your blog (but only if you want to) =)

Well, I'm going to take the next week to try to organize my things and figure out what I have and what I want to work on! Hope you'll join me!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden Last Friday, the kids and I were invited to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Now, we have never been before but I jumped at the change to take them!

When we got there, we headed to the Children's Growing Garden. This is a great garden for the kids to run around and explore. And, my kids were thrilled with the spray bottles they have there for the kids to water the plants with. We did some stamping with vegetables ... who knew, not only are they yummy to eat, but you can make some fun art with them as well! The kids planted some marigolds in biodegradable pots that we got to take home (and they immediately planted them when we got home!). And they mixed some herbs up to make some herb butter with. Basically, we hung out and just had a fun time!
digging dirt
vegetable stampingspraying water

After spending some time at the Children's Growing Garden we were going to head to the butterfly house, but mother nature had other plans for us! A storm was rolling in, so instead we went to the visitor's center to wait out the rain. It turned out to be great timing because everyone was hungry so we ended up getting some lunch. The food there was SO delicious (I will add though, it was a bit more than I would usually spend on lunch for the kids and I). I was happy to learn the produce used is grown locally by students in the Chicago area through the Green Youth Farm program, which I think just sounds like a fabulous idea.

Butterflydaisy flower

Luckily for us, the rain passed after not too much time and so we headed back to the butterfly house. Now, no lie when I tell you I could have sat inside the butterfly house for hours. The butterflies are gorgeous. And they just fly around you. The kids were in awe too ... I heard lots of "Come see this one!" "Oh mom, you have to look at this green one!" "Here's some more". My 6 year old wanted to photograph all of them I think too. I told him next time we come, we're going to bring two cameras since we were kind of fighting over the one I had with me ;-) Frankly, I love this. I loved how excited they were, even if it meant I had to share my camera!

pretty butterfly on red flowerblack and red butterfly

We can't wait to go back and explore even more of the gardens. There are 25 different gardens here (and 4 natural areas), and we only saw two of them!

Disclosure: We were given complementary parking passes to come visit the gardens. But as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, July 02, 2012

A lovely celebration

My family with cake
What feels like forever ago, but was really just over a month ago, my husband and I threw a big party.

Husband and I on giant slide
coming down the giant slide
I started planning this party last July. That's right.  In the midst of chemo, when I wasn't feeling well, I asked my husband "Can we throw a big birthday party for me next year?" My wonderful husband, what could he really say except of course. And so, on days when I wasn't feeling well I'd talk about the party. And we have to have a cake. And where will we get the food from? And music, there has to be music! Because there were moments where I just needed the distraction. And there were moments where I needed something to look forward to. It sounds silly, but it was more than a party. It was me saying "Eff you cancer. I have a future and I'm going to plan it. Even when I'm terrified that I might not have a future because you reared your ugly head in my life."

fabric bunting
fabric bunting I made
Time marched on and plans were made. Some back in January (that is when I originally started to compile the play list to use at the party). Some, the week before. Like the fabric bunting I decided I needed to make. All 160 feet of it. And the rides, which were planned a few days before the party (and were generously gifted to us). 

She came out from WA! How sweet =)
And the party? Was perfect. And lovely. I even had a friend come out here (to Chicago) all the way from Washington state! I had an amazing time ... husband and I both agreed that it was really a once-in-a-lifetime party for me. I feel blessed to have such an incredible celebration.

climbing rock climbing wall
Climbing a rock climbing wall
I don't know if you knew, but back in January (during a twitter talk) I said my words for this year were: heal, enjoy and celebrate. Those were going to be the words to guide me through 2012. Sometimes it has been so difficult to keep these words close to my heart, but this party seemed to be the perfect meeting point of all of these words.