Cancer Grad

Check me and my friend Aniela out over at our new blog and organization, Cancer Grad!


I moved!
If you are here to check in on my cancer progress-first off, thank you! My friend and fellow Cancer Grad (Aniela) and I have teamed up to provide you with fresh content, including the tips, tricks, cheat sheets and stories relevant to making a cancer diagnosis a little less painful. Check us out and sign up for our monthly newsletter on our new site!

Check us out online at www.cancergrad.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CancerGrad/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/370645289943353/
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaOWDkzW8U6oFFMuxnu-SXQ
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cancergrad/

Let Go and Let Dog

I took my dog, Levee, for a long walk in the woods today. Rather, my dog Levee took me for a long walk in the woods today.

I woke up this morning thinking about what I wanted to accomplish- what my intentions were for the day. One of those intentions was to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and get outside into quiet nature with Levee. I wanted to connect with the trees, my dog and myself. So I went about my morning routines and then loaded the dog into the car and headed out to Harms Woods, in Glenview, IL. 

Levee seemed pretty excited for another adventure. This past weekend, Kevin, Christine and I took her out for a 5 mile walk in the woods and she totally dug it, so I figured I'd take her for round two on the same peaceful, wooded trail. At first she was in to it- sniffing new smells underneath leaf piles and curiously watching the squirrels scurry by. But then, not even a 1/4 mile into the walk, she hesitated. I would convince her to follow along with me for a few steps, and then she would proceed to sink her head and then put on the brakes. This game kept up for at least another 20 minutes- I'd try to lure her along the trail, she'd take a few steps and then stop, throwing her version of a doggy tantrum. I grew increasingly frustrated. 

How my dog says, "NOPE!"

How my dog says, "NOPE!"

Finally, Levee put the proverbial paw down and refused to advance on the trail. My dog is about as stubborn as I am, so in many ways I have met my match. I kept tugging on her collar, but she wasn't having any of it. I started to get pissed. I kept trying to convince her to follow me down the trail. By the way she looked at me and the way she froze, you would've thought I was trying to lead her off of a cliff.  The whole point of the walk was for Levee and me to connect (and get some exercise) and she wouldn't budge. Again, I got very frustrated. Then I got the hell over myself.  I had an epiphany that the whole point of the walk was to connect with my dog, and here I was not listening to what she wanted or needed. I was trying to force her down a trail in which she had no interest. 

I looked down at my dog and said, "OK, Levee. You lead the way." Automatically, with a wagging tail and a a new pep in her step, she led the way down a wooded trail that I had never taken before. Both of us became much happier as soon as I let go of my control issues. We walked together for an hour next to a winding river, through the trees and through the quiet of the forest preserve. So, essentially, I went for a walk in the woods where I connected with my dog, nature and myself. I got exactly what I intended this morning. 

A much happier version of Levee.

A much happier version of Levee.

If I had ignored my dog, I would've missed this view today.

If I had ignored my dog, I would've missed this view today.

Sometimes we have a picture in our heads of what we want (and how we want it), and when it doesn't show up in the package we imagined, we miss the beauty of what is right in front of us. We can get caught up in the details, the minutia, and not step away to look at the beauty of the big picture. Today , my dog reminded me about the big picture. My dog schooled me in a life lesson- to have a plan, but to be flexible and fluid.

Thanks for the reminder, Levee.

Are we cool now, Levee?

Are we cool now, Levee?




 

The Courageous Leap

Ernest Hemingway once wrote "courage is grace under pressure". I've been thinking a lot about the meaning of those words lately.

When I was first diagnosed, my friend put me in touch with his high school friend named Aniela, who was going through treatment for breast cancer. Aniela reached out to me to check in on how I was coping with chemo and from there a friendship formed. There is no manual on how to navigate through a cancer diagnosis, so I found it very helpful to speak to someone who was going through a very similar experience. Aniela is strong, honest, funny and so courageous. I quickly learned from her that I didn't have to hide away in my misery. I wanted to be as open about my diagnosis as I felt comfortable to help other people who were struggling with a similar experience. I could take a high pressure situation and go for my triple lindy.

Have you ever seen the movie "Back to School"? It contains a hilarious moment where Rodney Dangerfield attempts the "triple lindy", an intricate dive that begins with him diving off of the high platform and then flipping onto 3 separate spring boards before perfectly entering the pool to a crowd that erupts into roaring cheers. Throughout moments during this year, I have felt like I have been standing on top of a diving platform, and wasn't sure if there was a pool beneath me. Life snuck up from behind and shoved me right off of that platform. One lesson I've learned is that when life pushes you off of a platform, you can make a decision- you can either decide to panic and land an epic bellyflop, or you can aim to land the triple lindy with grace. Always go for courage. Always go for the triple lindy.
 

What's In My Chemo Bag?

A friend of mine reached out to me last week because her uncle was diagnosed with cancer and was scheduled to go to his first chemo session. My friend wanted to know what she could either buy or do for him to make him as comfortable as possible. I shared with her what I learned to pack in my chemo bag to make a miserable experience as comfy as possible. Hope this helps someone going through chemo to make a miserable situation a little more comfortable.

 

  1. Kindle: Great for keeping me occupied during long infusion days, or for when I'm waiting around for my appointments.
  2. iPad: Especially great for games and white noise apps for when I want to try and nap, especially after being dosed with Benadryl. My favorite white noise app is Noisli
  3. Chargers: for the Kindle and iPad.
  4. Good ol' fashioned book: for when the Kindle runs out of battery life.
  5. Sleep mask: Black out for infusion naps.
  6. Hard candy: (these were a gift from a friend- delicious handmade candies from Paris).
  7. Lemonheads: I use hard candy for when the nurses flush my IV. When they flush the IV, the patient will often get a strange taste in their mouth that resembles rubbing alcohol. It tastes kind of gross, so sucking on candy helps disguise the taste.
  8. Earphones: blocks out noise and listen to my white noise apps, music, etc
  9. Blanket: Sometimes the air conditioning is too strong, or an infusion makes me cold.
  10. Neck pillow: For the days I'm in a chemo chair and not a bed.
  11. Zip up Hoodie: Comfortable, easy to take on and off while hooked up to IVs and the hood is key for a cold, bald head.