New Year, New Me!?

Wow! It has been a while. I have been busy with so much. So much. New doctors, new career goals, new energy, new meds, new strength and direction! It has taken a remarkable amount of time( I really had no clue) to feel better, really feel better! I am still dealing with my cancer but I am feeling better all the time. I was in remission for a little while. And wouldn’t you know it, when I really started to feel good my tumor markers started to go up. I don’t know if tumor markers are all they are cracked up to be but the doctors monitored them closely. I am grateful for all that. I found a new facility that offers a more wholistic approach and the doctors there are wonderful. But the best thing is… I only have to go once a month! You wouldn’t believe what a difference that has made for me. I drive 6 hours, all my tests and treatments are done in one place so after a day or two there I drive back home and basically don’t think about cancer, or disease, or doctors, or tests, for another month! It is very liberating! I get to be a normal person for a little while! While I am there I see a nutritionist, a naturopath, a mind body counselor, a chiropractor, as well as my oncologist and, the best part is,  they all work together! And on my behalf! I feel confident in the things they are doing for me so that frees me up to think about other things, most importantly, my life!

That’s me in the black!

I am living my life and following my passions. I was hired to cook and be a chef liaison for four days at New Years, working for a celebrity and all that that entails. I was able to push my fatigue aside and get it done and I had a great time! Thats not to say I wasn’t tired and sore for a few days following. But I was still happy to be able to do it at all! I am learning to trust my body again, its not quiet what it used to be, but its getting there!

I have started my riding school back up and I am teaching children how to ride and take care of horses. I have two new ponies in the barn, thanks to some wonderful friends. The barn work keeps me pretty busy but I love it. I have started riding my mountain bike again, not very far, but still! I am starting to feel like me again! Doing all these things gives me purpose and my confidence is coming back. I may have cancer, but I am not cancer!

Star Seed Salad

Just a little bike ride?

5FFC9C53-E95E-4D63-95BE-1056B4ADCB46Sunday I went for a little bike ride on the greenway. It has been years since I had been out there. What an amazing place, practically in our back yard. People come from all over the country to ride the mountain bike trails there. I went with a few friends, we didn’t go far, but I was thrilled! I am starting to trust myself again, and it feels good!

I think that sometimes when things happen to you and you feel out of control and/or overwhelmed your mind kinda shuts things off. Like I can’t deal with all of this right now, check back later. Last year was kind of a blur for me. People would say things like “Oh you are so strong, what a fighter.” I never understood what they really meant by that? I didn’t have a choice. I had to deal with it. I had to leave it to professionals that, hopefully, knew what they were doing. Uncomfortable tests and needles and poisons (chemo). Bone marrow tests, and the constant blood transfusions. Crazy steroids and medication with terrible side effects. Feeling so weak and almost passing out in the beauty salon, embarrassing and scary! I never thought I would or could ever imagine myself here, doing any of this! At the time it was either do it or die! Not much of a choice! So you just accept it and deal with it. Your hair falls out, you don’t feel like yourself, you don’t look like yourself. It seems you become a shell of who you were. Your thoughts and dreams are put aside, you are just hoping to survive. It is all pretty overwhelming. Not to mention, regular life is still going on with all its own trials and tribulations.

Of course, I tried to stay positive, but I’m not gonna lie, things got tough sometimes. Its also hard on your family and friends who don’t know how to help you or deal with you. The hair comes back, your face becomes familiar again, the constant doctor visits subside, you start to feel reminders of who you were before. I think I am beginning to understand the whole,” you are a fighter” thing now. As I mentioned before, my recent test results have been coming back good. Now is the time you have to be brave, brave enough to fight and take your life back! For some reason, actually many good reasons, my mental fog has lifted! I am alive and I am going to be stronger than before. I have new perspectives, I have a new appreciation for life. I didn’t want this article to be about my cancer, I wanted to share with you how a small shift in my attitude, my mental state, made a huge, HUGE difference! This happened last week and I can tell you for the first time in a very long time I feel like I can breathe! Now I have choices and I choose to take my life back into my own hands. I am pushing myself, working out harder, hiking, being disciplined, eating healthy again. I bought myself a new pair of hiking shoes instead of some slippers! Taking care of MYSELF the way I know how! My aches and pains have almost miraculously diminished!

I went for a little bike ride on the greenway, what a marvelous day!

Almost Over

I’m not sure what I think about 2017. It was a tuff year for sure. It had it’s ups and downs for me. People just seem so tense and there is drama at every turn. I think I will be happy to leave it behind.

For some crazy reason I carry this dread around, I have cancer. And it makes me do strange things. I think that I put it out of my mind but, its always there lurking in the back of my thoughts.  Why is this hurting, what is that from? Will I ever get stronger? Will I just have to live with this pain in my back, thigh and shoulder? I think we all know that we are going to move on one day but when you have a diagnosis like cancer it brings it a little closer to home. Maybe I should pamper myself more? Maybe it doesn’t matter if I get back in shape? Maybe I shouldn’t  push myself too hard, I might hurt myself! Damaged goods, etc., etc., etc. NOT ANY MORE!!!

This December has been a a month of tests, medical as well as personal. I am coming to some conclusions. This month I had a Pet Scan, mammography, ultrasound, X-rays, blood work, more physical therapy, and a new medicine, zometa. The medical results are in, and I am happy to report that everything looks good! Weeks of test results coming back good, more and more reassuring! This week I went to an orthopedic oncologist, the last of the tests and consults for this year. Besides his findings that most of my aches and pains can be reversed, the most important thing this man said to me was, “Live your life, if you don’t, cancer wins.” Just like that! That was all I needed to hear! This was the icing on the cake! I came home feeling revitalized, like a new person! I am not a patient! I am not cancer!

That evening I got Liz back! I started really working out! I decided to quit physical therapy, although it helped, I can do the exercises and stretches at home without wasting so much time driving to PT. I am hiking with my dogs again! I am eating right! I even pulled the old mountain bike out! I feel like me again and its only been a few days! I am looking forward to kayaking and riding the trails again. The weather here has been amazing and I will be spending a good portion of my time outside, living my life!

Dream On!

Finally the weather is beautiful! The air is crisp and clean, fall has finally arrived. It is so rejuvenating! I feel alive! I am so grateful! Breathing in the clean fresh air makes me want to run in a million different directions! I want to do this, I want to do that. I have so much lost time to make up for! There are not nearly enough hours in the day! Sometimes I get so frustrated with my body and feel like I am not making enough progress physically as I would like. I want to keep pushing and get back to normal again. Somedays my body just says NO! Slow down, take it easy. I have to keep reminding myself that last year at this time I was literally dying. I couldn’t even roll over in bed! I have been working out everyday to get back in shape. I have been going 3 times a week to physical therapy for my shoulder. Slowly, very slowly, there is progress. I have to keep reminding myself that these things take time. Next week I am finally getting in to see a neurologist about my thigh, I hope they can do something! The nerve pain in my thigh is annoying and hard to deal with.

Last week we got to enjoy a wonderful Halloween Party. We dressed as Day of the Dead characters. It was so much fun! I did Jerry and Scotts makeup as well as my own. Probably took around three hours to get everyone dressed and ready to go. I also made appetizers, mummy meat loafs and jackolantern bites. I couldn’t have done all this last year! And then actually enjoy the party! Then on Sunday we took my jeep to Jeeptoberfest, a fun jeep event where you get to drive over all these cool obstacles and just jeep out! I haven’t driven my jeep for a year so this was very exciting!

The next chapter. As I was telling you in my last post, I have a new business that I am creating. I am designing a sacred space for people to come to unwind, heal, and relax in the beauty of nature. I am so excited to get this going! This is a healing journey for me as well.

Just a little update

Yesterday I had to go to get my blood work done and have my port flushed. It is always a yucky reminder of my illness, this cancer thing hanging over my head, ugh! I really try to focus on the positive and how lucky I am. My blood work looked great! Gets better every time I have it checked. But every month there is a little apprehension leading up to my appointment. I am feeling better but, I hope everything is ok, I hope the tumor markers are staying low, etc. I think this will all get easier as time goes by. Everything was good yesterday!

I am feeling stronger all the time, mentally as well as physically. Sometimes I am amazed at how far I have come and other times I am disappointed that I am not 100% yet. I know these things take time. Cancer is rough. Chemotherapy is tough. It is all very hard on your body. I am having trouble with entire body aches and pains in my muscles and bones. And the hot flashes and night sweats SUCK, especially in this heat of Florida that I live in. These are side effects from the medication I have to take. I could go on and on about how all this sucks. I could sit back and whine and complain all the time. I could accept this as my new normal. I could get on disability. NOPE!!! Not me! I will never give in. I think you create your own reality and I am not going down without a fight!

Somedays its hard to get out of bed, but I find that I get better with movement. As always I am taking it upon myself to make the best of my situation. So I am trying to exercise every day. I am back to my mile long walks with the dogs, yay! And on days I don’t get to do that, I am practicing Tai Chi. I can go a little further all the time! Soon I think I will be adding some weight lifting back in to regain some muscle that I have lost. And I am hoping that by the fall, when it cools down a little outside,  to get back in the saddle again. So I know I am getting better. I am trying to support my body in any way that I can to help with my healing process. First and foremost I try to have a good positive attitude. Somedays this is easier said than done! Second I try to eat healthy nutritious food. Don’t get me wrong I indulge sometimes, thats just part of enjoying life, which is very important! I do take supplements.  A good whole food multivitamin, just because. Iron to help support my blood, I still can’t believe how anemic I was. Vitamin K

to help support calcium absorption. Calcium to counteract the Xgeeva injections. Vitamin E to help with this painful burning neuropathy in my thigh. I am also taking Turkey Tail mushroom, there are lots of studies being done on this right now for fighting cancer. And I just found out about Lions Mane mushroom for nerve pain, I just ordered some! I will let you know how it works out.

Here’s to a healing journey! Listen to your body, support it and help it heal!

Underground to Outerspace

This morning I wake up pretty sore and achey but after yesterdays adventures I am feeling confident. Yesterday was quiet a challenge! Today we are headed for more. Our first stop is the Camuy Caves. A huge limestone cave system carved out by the Rio Camuy, the worlds third largest subterranean river. As we head through the park gates a few people give us some flyers for a couple of nearby restaurants, interesting but effective marketing! Since I’m sure we will be hungry when we are finished exploring these caves.

Thankfully, a tram takes us down to the opening of the cave. It’s huge! Again we are walking on a very slippery damp cement path. There are some rails which you really don’t want to touch because they have guano (bat poo) on them. Just as our guide says, “Be very careful, the path can be slippery.” Jerry goes down, oh no! He was my support, the person I grab onto if I feel unsteady! Apparently the sneakers he wore do not like the cave floor at all, he is slipping and sliding everywhere! My boots seem to be ok. When it gets steep I grab Scott for a little support. We navigate pretty well. Although Jerry is slipping, he doesn’t go down again. The caves are beautiful. Large stalactites (hang down from the ceiling) and stalagmites (grow up from the floor) they are everywhere. There is a gigantic stalagmite 17 feet tall and 27 feet in diameter. Strange shapes and shadows are around every corner, an indian, a witch. Looking ahead out of one of the cave openings I see what looks like gold shimmering or maybe fireflies floating to the ground. It is beautiful, mesmerizing. Our guide says it is leaves falling from the top of a sinkhole and the sunlight is catching them just right. It is amazing. I wonder what life for the Taino Indians, the first Puerto Rican inhabitants, must have been like? We see bats, there are thirteen species of bats in this cave. They are much larger than our Florida bats, about a 12″ wingspan. They are sleeping now. I can’t imagine what this place looks like when they are all flying out for the evening!

We finish our tour and I am feeling strong. I had no problems with the slippery, treacherous walk. As I anticipated, we are hungry. I grab the restaurant flyers and we start driving. We pass on the first one and pull into the next, El Taino Restaurante. A handsome white haired gentleman greets us at the door. “Hello, welcome!” he warmly shakes our hands. He introduces himself as Juan B. Santiago. He shows us his biceps and we realize he is in very good shape for a 77 year old man. He tells us he goes to the gym everyday and he only eats when he is hungry. He reminds me of Jack La Lane. He owns the restaurant, his family works there. He is quiet a character, he seats us and sits down with us. He tells us all about his life and shows us pictures of him at all different ages, that are hung around the restaurant. We order our food. I have a seafood salad with fried plantains, Jerry had a crusted grouper, and Scott had a shrimp stew or something. It was all delicious but the entertainment was better! Mr. Santiago was a pleasure. He sang us old american classics from the 1950’s. He was very well spoken and said he loved words. We enjoyed talking with him very much. As we were about to leave he gave us a warm embrace and a lovely napkin holder portraying a scene from Old Puerto Rico. It was pouring down rain outside, he grabbed an umbrella and walked Scott to the car so he could drive around and pick Jerry and I up from the door. What a lovely gentleman! To be continued…

Make It Good

What a difference a day makes. So funny how good news can cheer you up. There is waaay too much gripeing, complaining and negativity out there. We do it to ourselves. We are force fed it by the media. Our closest friends and relatives can push it on us. We must not give in! Our time on this earth is limited and precious and we need to start living and loving more. Sure bad stuff happens and we will certainly have bad days but it just seems that negativity and drama are so rampant in our society right now. I have decided to avoid the news for awhile. I want to focus on me and what makes me happy. That may sound selfish but I am not buying into all of this craziness. I have enough trouble just taking care of me right now!

It has taken a while, much longer than I thought, to get back to feeling like myself again. I have started painting again and walking more. I just ordered some Tai Chi DVD’s and I am trying to eat clean. I am going to start taking a supplement called Turkey Tail Mushrooms, it is supposed to help boost your immunity. A very trusted and knowledgable friend told me about this. I did some research and my doctor said it was okay, so I ordered some last night. I like taking care of myself, it is something I have always tried to do. Until this cancer thing tried to take me down, which makes you feel helpless and out of control. I am taking my control back! It is empowering to feel like you are helping, supporting your body to heal itself. It is amazing the abuse our bodies can take and if only given a chance they work so hard to repair the damage. I had a wonderful visit with my doctor yesterday. My PET Scan results were great! REMISSION! I do feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I was a little anxious leading up to the test results, everything seemed to be hurting a little more and I felt a bit more tired. I think it is a mental thing, you start worrying and your mind takes over and fills in the blanks!

My doctors visit yesterday proved what I really already knew, I am so much better. My tumor markers have gone from 145 at the beginning of my treatment to 30, which my doctor says is normal. My blood work looks great and I am getting stronger. I could focus on the negative. I am still not allowed to ride, bummer! I am getting Xgeeva shots because my bones are still fragile. I will never be considered cancer free. I still have lots of aches and pains. I have this annoying neuropathy in my thighs. Night sweats and hot flashes. But I don’t want to live like that! So I will put my attention into what is good and makes me happy. I am still here. I have so much more living to do. I am thankful everyday. I have an awesome husband and great friends. I have a wonderful place to live with amazing animals. I feel so lucky, life is what you make of it…make it good!

Finding Passion

What is your passion? What is it that you know you just couldn’t live without? What is passion? Merriam-Webster says, passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. All my life I have been driven by passion. For a very long time it was working with and training horses, that was my life I was totally consumed, I literally lived and breathed horses! The sounds at the barn, the stomping hooves, the snorts and whinnies fill my soul. The smell of hay and freshly bedded stalls, liniments and leather are some of the greatest smells ever! Horses, I just can’t imagine my life without them. Ever.

Then I got involved in art and it quickly became another passion. Painting and creating every day. It just felt like something that I must do. If I’m not creating something I just don’t feel right. I love experimenting and trying new techniques. I think I live a creative life. Everything I do from cooking to gardening is creative on some level. Right now I have been enjoying a new, for me, creative outlet, music! Well I have always loved music. I actually work my horses to music. But lately I am learning to play the cello and just recently I am starting to play the drums and I am loving it! It remains to be seen if I will ever be any good at it but I sure am having fun learning!

Since I got sick I have had to put some of these things on hold. I was physically and mentally unable to do much of anything for a while. I felt kinda like a zombie. As I am recovering from my treatment my mind would get ahead of what I could physically do. I was a little worried that my life would never be the same. I worried that I would never be able to do these things that I loved. But I think my body is finally catching up now. My doctor really doesn’t want me riding because my bones are a bit fragile at the moment. But I’m not sure how much longer I can wait. My “horse fever” is calling me down to the barn! Every day the urge gets stronger to get back in the saddle again. I am also feeling a crazy creative pull. I have to get my life back, I have to get going!  I have so many paintings in my head!  I am feeling better every day. I have been working on getting my house organized and in order. I have been getting my puppy, Tallula, settled into the routine. I have been getting back into hiking and enjoying nature. This is kind of a spiritual getting ready. Getting ready to start again. After being laid up for a while, every day is special. I am just happy to be alive, walking in the rain, gazing at the moon, eating delicious food, enjoying good friends! I feel it coming back, my passion is knocking on the door and I’m afraid I can’t hold it back much longer! I have a painting in my bedroom with a horse on it titled Unbroken Spirit. I was a little worried for a while but my spirit or my passion will not be broken!

What now?

We had a terrible storm pass through last night. Woke everyone in the house up at three am with loud thunder and quiet the light show. I think we may have even gotten a bit of hail. I have always enjoyed a good storm, the power of nature is amazing! And we sure  needed the rain. As I lay in bed, wide wake, I was thinking it is spring a time of renewal. This spring storm is bringing much needed energy to all the plants and animals here. Things are getting greener everyday on the farm,  babies are being born, flowers are blooming, a new beginning, for me too! It has been a rough few months and I am ready to be over all this cancer drama and move on. Finally I fell back to sleep.

So I wake up refreshed and renewed. Knowing that I am five weeks out from my last chemo treatment, knowing my body is healing and repairing itself, I know this because I feel stronger every day. Ready to move forward and get motivated for whatever wonderful adventure is next. Ready to face a new day. Wait! What is this I see in the mirror as I am brushing my teeth? My eyebrows are all but gone! Like little wooly bear caterpillars they marched right off my face while I was sleeping! You gotta be kidding me! I knew they were kinda sparse but I thought I was done losing hair, I thought things were getting better!? Isn’t it bad enough that I am still almost bald? At least the hair on my head is trying to make a comeback! This absolutely SUCKS! So now I am feeling better but looking worse! This just isn’t even funny! Come on already haven’t I been through enough!? What more does this stupid cancer have to take from me? As an artist maybe I can paint some on? But if you see me walking around looking like a clown just don’t say anything, I know, I know…Oh no! I wonder how long my eyelashes are gonna hang in there???

Well…I’m not dead yet! Part Two

So as you know, if you follow my blog, my father passed away in August. I had a love/hate relationship with my father, he was kind of like dealing with a porcupine! Caused a lot of stress in my life, but there is still a strange emptiness with his passing.

August is almost a blur and soon turns into September. My back pain comes back, this time radiating into my left hip. I’m thinking that I should get an X-ray because this “pinched nerve” thing just won’t go away. Pain is getting pretty bad, like I can’t roll over in bed. I have to use my arms to get out of bed. Breathing is getting more difficult with any exertion. So off I go to the chiropractor, Xray shows some need of adjustment. With some adjustments, ice therapy, and a back brace, I thought I might be feeling a little better. However this breathing thing was getting worse and now I developed an annoying cough that of course was hurting my back!

September slips into October my favorite time of year, so much to do! Art festivals, cookouts, Oktoberfest, Halloween parties, pumpkins to carve! The weather is wonderful. I am feeling tired and run down, it was a struggle to do anything! I manage, just barely, to make our costumes. Went to a few art shows, walking around I would start to feel weak like I was gonna pass out and would have to sit down, awful! I was having trouble sleeping because of the pain of turning over and this cough. A few more treatments at the chiropractor. Then I started getting chills and running a low grade temperature? Well a pinched nerve does not cause a fever! So I am thinking maybe, just maybe I have a kidney infection…back pain, fever?

Ok so I make an appointment to see my primary doctor, the same place that gave me a glowingly clean bill of health about a year ago. My blood tests all came back great, I was so proud! Just to remind you I have always been a healthy active person so this was no surprise. Things had changed. I am feeling weak and when I look in the mirror I look pale. I have no energy and get out of breath just getting dressed. I felt so weak and generally awful, I could hear my pulse. One day I told Jerry that I feel like I am dying. I had no appetite and was basically just eating fruit. At the doctors office they asked me for a urine sample and they see a little bacteria so they put me on an antibiotic for a week. Fever came back every evening. I started taking iron supplements and B-12 anything to have a little energy. To be continued