Monday, February 19, 2018

Big Hugs. Big, Big Hugs

“These are a few of my fav-or-ite things…..” Sing it with me now….who doesn’t love The Sound Of Music and who doesn’t sing, weep, and dance with joy when watching it? Why? Because it is a true story about hope amidst evil and sorrow. It is a story about beauty emerging from the ashes. Today’s blog post is a quick health update, followed by a list of some of my very favorite things (mainly organizations) that have been instrumental in giving me hope and healing amidst the horrible evil of cancer.

First, the health update. If you follow my blog regularly you know that I am still “chasing cancer.” My oncologist is monitoring me through monthly bloodwork panels which check for something that in lay terms is called a “cancer tumor marker.” A person without cancer growing in his/her body has a level of 0-3. Since September (after my lung surgery) my markers have been going up about two points per month, and I am now up to level 17. After surgery my numbers should be going down, so this number is NOT GOOD. However, in my January scan (from brain to toes), there was NO DETECTED cancer tumor anywhere.  So I continue to go in each month and pray the levels will go down (they haven’t) and then wait for the next scan (probably every three months) to see if we can detect where the cancer is…..and continue as always to pray for a miracle. The good news is that I feel strong and healthy most of the time.

I can’t pinpoint why, but lately I have been extra emotional and sensitive. It might be the anxiety of knowing there is cancer somewhere and waiting, waiting, waiting. Or it could be that I am just so damn grateful for each new day that God gives me. It is in this heightened emotional state that I have been reflecting on “these favorite things” that have really helped me and blessed me throughout my five year battle with cancer. This list is from my heart—no one paid me to endorse them, I promise. I could (and maybe I will) write a blog post about each one, but for now it will be a simple list with a link so you can check each one out on your own time. So here you go…a few of my favorite things that have helped me battle the beast.

Moore’s Cancer Center…there really is a place where everyone knows your name (besides the Cheers bar). It’s not a good thing that everyone knows my name at a cancer center, but the fact that the employees (from the front reception, to the lab techs, to the surgeons, doctors, and infusion center nurses) greet me by name shows the love and kindness that is poured into every patient from everyone who works at Moore’s. I have spent hours upon hours at this place over the years and while I don’t want to be there, I am surrounded by the most dedicated, compassionate people who don’t think of me as a number or a patient, but as a whole person. Everywhere there are big signs that say HOPE or WISH or BELIEVE, and there is always a smile, a kind word, and a blessing when you arrive and when you leave. And hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.

Eco Chateau Spa
This spa has two locations in San Diego and both are adorable—appointed with shabby chic and vintage finds—I walk in and feel like I am in a warm, inviting home. My friend Amanda nominated me for a program this spa offers called “TLC for the Big C.” The spa offers free monthly membership for people going through cancer. This includes one service per month of your choice (massage, facial, body wrap), plus four infrared sauna sessions and a few more perks that you can look up when you visit their website. Since I have been going there and focusing on my wellness, I have never felt better since the day I was diagnosed.  Every employee is kind, knowledgeable, and compassionate. And hugs. Lots of hugs.

Studio Sweat
I have been working out at this spin studio for years, even before I was diagnosed. I love how this studio works—you can buy classes by the class pack (10 or 20 at a time) and you sign up for your class which means you need to show up because your bike is reserved. ( No flaking, no rolling over in bed—take your fitness seriously people). But if you do have to cancel (as in being a cancer survivor gives you some really sucky days), there is certainly compassion and understanding (shout out Bethany). The trainers are well educated in the fitness world and at the same time, extremely personal. They know each person in their class by name and give us encouragement as we ride. They have helped me throughout my journey by knowing my story and helping me modify where needed, especially in those days when I returned to spin after my post surgery recoveries. I love how I feel after a spin class—super sweaty, energized, and ready to tackle a new day. Plus, the community there is like family. We ride strong together. And hugs. Lots of hugs. Sweaty ones. And fist bumps too.

Explore Solutions
This community based organization helps teens and their parents find the best college fit. They first meet one on one with your teen to help him/her begin to navigate the college process.  Then, through their large group sessions, high school juniors and seniors explore the many options out there for the college decision making process. They help you understand finances, applications, essays, tours, test taking, and so much more. Since I was in the thick of my cancer battle when Noah was going through the college process, this was a true godsend to me. Maureen, Gail, Cynthia, and Daniela are truly passionate about what they do. They are helpful, personal, funny, truthful, and honest. They give amazing guidance. Through this, I have formed a friendship with Maureen, (who loves and knows everyone so I am grateful that I get to call her friend). Maureen is also a cancer survivor who gives back to the community in many ways.  And hugs. Lots of hugs.

Stitch Fix
I love this personal stylist company! I started getting my “fixes”—boxes of five personalized clothing pieces sent to your door.  I know a lot of people think I like to shop because I love fashion and accessories, but truth be told, I hate to shop. I hate trying on clothes (and those ugly lights in dressing rooms). On those days in my battle when I wanted something new but didn’t have the energy to shop or even think about what to wear, knowing I had a box of clothes arriving made my day extra sweet. It’s really a fabulous concept. There is something super awesome about getting that perfectly assembled box with new surprises that kept me uplifted during my battle. (Cyber hugs sent to my stylist.)

Farmgirl Flowers
I love gardening and all things flowers. I will let you explore the website to read about the heart behind this California based company which uses American farmers/growers and recycled coffee burlap bags to wrap their bouquets. I have used this company to send flowers to friends who have done so much for me in my battle. When I purchase a bouquet from Farmgirl, I know it is not a stuffy looking floral arrangement that looks like it was purchased from a Hallmark site. The bouquets are lovely, full, flowy and organic. The company gives back with their “With Heart” campaigns-- like this month they are partnering with She-Can with their mission to help train women in leadership from post conflict countries like Rwanda and Cambodia. Check out their site. I am telling you, giving and receiving flowers is such a boost, especially when it is a surprise. Flowers are hugs. Big hugs.

Thrive Causemetics (note the spelling)
I came across this company on FB when I saw a post about an eye brightener.  I love make-up and being dramatic with it and dressing up and looking my best. When you have cancer, there are many medications (including chemo) that wreak havoc on your skin. Many times I have felt tired, weak, sallow, and just plain blah, so I am always on the hunt for something that helps me feel and look better. When I went to the website to check out the product, I found that this company is much more than a cosmetic line. I love their mission statement: “Beauty with a Purpose” and helping “women thrive through cancer.” Gosh I have always said that I am a survivor, but a “thriver” sounds strong, powerful and hopeful!  I am thriving!! For every product you purchase, the exact same product is sent to a woman who is thriving through cancer or domestic abuse. Check out their website to hear their heart and philosophy. I love their blog too. I went back on the site and purchased more items and am excited to try them. I can’t wait to reach out to them and tell them how thankful I am that they are making such a difference with their products and their desire to help women.  Big hugs to companies with a purpose that is so much greater than making money!

Risen Church

I saved this one for the end. My heart. My family. My joy. Remember when I said I was extra emotional these days? Well I am weeping just typing these sentences as I think about the family that is my church. I mean it. Family. The way God intended family and community to be. The way church is intended to be. This place. Authentic and real. Imperfect people who love a perfect Christ. I am restraining myself from going on and on. Because-- So. Much. Love. Without my God, my Savior, my faith, and my church family, there is no way I could have made it this far in my journey. And hugs. Big hugs. Big, big hugs. So many hugs. 

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