Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dreams...or Should I Say 'Nightmare'

Have you ever had a dream where it shakes you to the core??? And after waking from that dream, it takes you a little bit to process and think, maybe even say it out loud 'it was just a dream'. This is how my morning started.

My body is still reacting to this dream, or should I say NIGHTMARE??? I'm shaky because of the adrenaline coursing through my body, the shock of the dream and all the past emotions that I've gone through with my initial diagnosis and relapse.

I'm exhaling in relief and even shedding some tears because I know it was just a dream.  I was so frightened to turn my light on to even look.  When I found the courage to turn the light on, it created shadows and for a split second I thought my dream became reality.  Thankfully, it was just shadows and there were no huge, bluish purple bruises covering my legs (and body).

The heaviness that was weighing down on my chest was lifted, however my nerves are shot.  My hands won't quit shaking.

I realize I had a dream but that ugly fear (of cancer) is always lurking in the shadows. And as much as I continue to move on, it always creeps out to remind me it's there or it jumps out so unexpectedly that it scares the holy shit out of me!!!

It has been a rough couple of months with losing some fellow warriors with their battle and also hearing of a relapse of another. Things are fresh on my mind and because of this, I'm telling myself, is the reason for my current nightmare.

I'm going to continue taking some deep breaths and begin putting this nightmare out of my mind. I'm going to move on and enjoy this Christmas season with my dearest family and friends!!!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Keep Moving and Rocking On \m/

"Keep moving and rocking on" is my new motto.

Life after cancer isn't quite the easy journey I thought it would be, at least for me.  I begin to feel well enough to try something new with diet & exercise and the diet is easy but the exercise becomes the battle.  It starts off great then I hit that wall a couple weeks into it. This has become an ongoing battle.  So what am I doing wrong????

I'm not a quitter, I'm too stubborn to quit.  I'm searching my brain looking for that common factor in my journey for a better, healthier self, and I'm not coming up with anything. I start out slowly to help my body acclimate to the change. Once I feel that my body is ready, I add a little more resistance and the intensity of the workout. After this change, is when I crash physically.  Then mentally.

It's said that after a stem-cell transplant your life will never be like it was before. There will be things different with your frame of mind because of the experience you went through and there will be changes with your body that you will need to adapt to. Thus, your 'new normal'. 

So, I'm thinking three years later 'don't you think I would have it figured out by now'???

I'm not whining and I'm not complaining. I'm just trying to figure out what my 'new normal' is especially with my health & fitness. Putting it in written form allows me to look back and find if there is a pattern during my journey's in obtaining a 'fitter' self that I keep repeating.  And, even for those of you who read my blog, you may see something that is so clear that I'm missing because of all the other things going on in my mind I'm trying to cope and heal from, that you can assist me in combating whatever barriers I'm not seeing.

I'm thinking I should have asked this a long time ago. I'm also going to be speaking to my oncologist in a few weeks in regards to my fitness and also some other chronic gvhd issues I continue to experience.

The answers are out there somewhere and I'm not going to give up.  The warrior in me will not allow that.  So, I'm going to continue 'moving on and rocking on' in my search for a healthier, fitter self. \m/

Image source:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/150941024983043566/

Saturday, December 14, 2013

December Snow

Enjoying the beauty of the freshly falling snow...appreciating the wonders of nature and embracing and living life. :-)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bump in the Road

Well, another bump in the road.  It seems any time I begin anything physical to help strengthen my body or to regain lost energy, my beginning is successful.  Then after a week or two, my body crashes and has difficulty keeping up.  This time around I consciously listened to my body and knew when to slow it down and not overdo it.  But my body still gave out.  I had difficulty with my knees and legs after the walking/jogging combination. The pain at times became so bad I could hardly walk around my house (i.e. from the couch to the kitchen, etc). And as always with any exercise regimen my breathing becomes an issue and my coughing fit begins either during the workout or after.  One of the most frustrating things is feeling the need to take a deep breath and unable to get that breath.

So, now I'm trying to decide  my next step.  What am I doing wrong?  I can't give up and I won't give up with trying to become more fit and healthy.  It's just so completely frustrating when going into something new with such good intentions and good morale, then to be met with resistance.

The past few weeks have been a very emotional time for me.  With the anniversary of my stem-cell transplant and now, I feel, another failure in my journey to health and fitness, I'm not sure what I need to do next.

I'm trying to learn from these difficulties and I'm trying to adjust my life because of them but most times I feel it's a lost cause.  I'm three years post-transplant and I'm wondering is this just going to be the way it is?  And that no matter how easy things were for me prior to cancer, that my life after will never ever be the same.

I am constantly comparing the success of others and seeing their accomplishments with diet/exercise, including running, marathons, etc.  So what is my deal?  Why can't I get there?  Why does it seem to be taking me longer?  I don't understand.  I don't want to be held back.  I want to keep moving forward with my life but these barriers/obstacles keep popping up.

Each day continues to be a battle, some better than others.  The only thing I can do is 'hope' for a brighter and more successful tomorrow and continue to keep the warrior in me fighting for its next battle, whatever that may be.

Image source: http://thefabweb.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/jbkgn.jpg

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Emotions Never Lie

The above quote couldn't be more perfect.  Everyday I need to consciously tell myself, 'this is another great day'.  Each day the fear is lurking, but I rationally tell myself, that I'm doing well.  I have no symptoms to be concerned about, to keep my head held high and keep moving forward.

Lately, I have been training for my first official 5K and its going fairly well.  However, currently, the weather is not cooperating so I have been forced to the elliptical.  But at least it's something.  I'm keeping myself motivated, but when I slow down for a moment, that's when my true emotions surface.

The past two weeks I have been very emotional.  I could cry at any moment and would become angry with myself when a tear would creep down my cheek or several would begin to fall.  I would mentally tell myself to stop and quit being so weak.

This morning I realized it's an accumulation of things. Firstly, this month is the anniversary of my stem-cell transplant and that alone carries so many emotions.  Secondly, I'm training for a 5K for a little warrior princess recently diagnosed with leukemia, and thirdly, a gentleman lost his battle with leukemia after his stem-cell transplant.  And finally, as I was watching the TODAY show there was a short documentary piece of a young girl who battled leukemia, relapsed, had stem-cell transplant and relapsed again, it's just too much to take in and process.

There are so many levels of healing after cancer, emotionally, mentally and physically.  I am taking each one and dealing with each one individually and sometime, all at the same time.  I'm happy to say, that I have been doing really well, but today it just became too much.

But I'm not going to wallow in self-pity or sadness.  I'm going to allow the tears flow.  I'm going to allow all of the negative feelings and thoughts to exit through those tears and move forward.  I'm going to continue to count my blessings and I'm going to continue to be thankful that this is another year, another day, another moment in time, that I'm able to share with my family and closest friends.

Image source:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In Memory...

Today's post is in Honor and Memory of Jason W.  He passed away today as a result of leukemia and an unsuccessful stem-cell transplant.

My heart is breaking for his wife, children, family and friends.

I have been following his page on FB for quite some time.  I've been praying for his strength to fight and succeed in battling and beating leukemia.

This a very sad day and today my run is in his memory.  Good bless you Jason, may you be at Peace and now may you be a Guardian Angel to your wife and children.  My thoughts and prayers will continue to be with you and your family.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Couch to 5K, Week 2 Day 3

I'm back...I know I didn't post anything Thursday or Friday, but I was recuperating.  On Thursday, I had a work conference in Philadelphia.  Overall driving time was a little over 8 hours and the conference began at 9 am and didn't commence until a little after 5.  So in other words it was a long day, but a great one too!!!  By the time I got home, the plan I had didn't last long.  I had previously thought I would commit to my planks and P90 100 abs, but obviously that didn't happen and I was way too exhausted.

Yesterday, I had a busy morning taking my daughter to the doctor and picking up my little buddy who I babysit periodically through out the week.  Fortunately, I was able to meet up with my bestie for a run during lunch.  I am noticing that I am having a much easier time for each training session.  The sessions are slowly becoming easier, not much, but enough that I can notice.  At least it's a start and I'm going to continue my training, I can't and won't give up.

Cancer is not going to stop me.  I have allowed myself enough time to rest and recuperate but I can't do it forever.  I will continue to monitor how my body responds and will give it the time for rest and recuperation it needs when necessary, but I won't give in.  I will continue to push and not give in to every tired moment. This is part of the healing process, knowing when to push yourself for the better but knowing when to take a break for the better.

So I'm going to keep moving and rocking on. \m/

Image Source: http://seasonitalready.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/couch_to_5kpic.jpg

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Couch to 5K, Week 2 Day 2

Today was another great day.  I worked at Curves and while I was working I completed the circuit while incorporating some Zumba.  It's always a good time and having such a great group of ladies to do it with is even better!!!

After work, I met up with one of my best friends who decided to try out the C25K training.  It was a very cold night, I think it was the coldest night of the year.  But we didn't let it stop us.  We went to a local driving park that was decently lit, at 7 o'clock at night, and we completed the entire 30 minutes.  I think she enjoyed it and is willing to do it again of Friday.  Yay me!!!  I'm so thankful to have such great friends to laugh with, hang out with and even exercise/train with.

I have a long day of travel tomorrow.  All of the staff from Curves has a conference to attend and we will be on the road for a total of 7 to 8 hours, plus participating at the conference for several hours.  I doubt I will be able to get any workout in tomorrow.  I'll just need to do a couple more planks and two rounds of P90 100 abs to make up for it.

So I'll leave a little food for thought, even though you day may be endlessly busy, even taking 5 or 10 minutes to better your health and conditioning your body will keep you 'moving on and rocking on'. \m/

Image Source: http://seasonitalready.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/couch_to_5kpic.jpg

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Couch to 5K, Week 2 Day Off

Today is my off day from running.  However, just because it's my off day, doesn't mean that I lay around and not do anything.  I pre-planned my meals for the day, which makes life a little bit easier. And, I went into Curves and completed my Xtreme workout on the circuit and I feel very fulfilled with a sense of yet another day of accomplishments.

Exercising and running has become the best addiction and high.  I'm already thinking about tomorrow and planning my schedule to assure that I get my run in.  I spoke to another best friend of mine tonight and I think I have her on board with running with me tomorrow evening.  I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with her.  I hope she enjoys it and becomes just as addicted to it as I have.

So in the words of Jillian Michaels, when your exercising or running, just keep thinking "Your legs are not giving out. Your head is giving out. Keep Moving"!!! and Rocking on!!! \m/

Image Source: http://imkristina.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/day-off.png

Monday, November 11, 2013

Couch to 5K, Week 2 Day 1

Another great day!!!  I was anxious to see what this week would bring in my training.  Now I will continue with the 5 minute warm-up and cool down, but now will be jogging 60 seconds and walking briskly for 90 second intervals over a 20 minute time-frame.  With this change, I began to struggle for the first half of the training, however, I found my pace mid-way and had a much easier second half.

After my C25K training, I was feeling so great, I decided to get my circuit workout in at Curves.  Now I feel even better.  It's so great being able to accomplish the goals that you have set.  My long-time goal is to complete a 5K while jogging the complete course.  My short-term goals consist of these minor changes and increases of time to slowly condition my body for the overall goal.  I'm feeling hopeful and optimistic that I will meet this goal.

Tomorrow will be my day of rest from my C25K training, but will continue to workout at Curves.  I haven't taken any measurements yet or have weighed myself, I may just wait until the end of the week to do that. I'm hoping to see a difference. I have already seen a difference in my attitude and my energy, and the rest will come.

Remember it's never too late to pick yourself up off the couch, it may not be a 5K training, or running a marathon, but just getting up and keeping your body moving is the best way to keep moving and rocking on. \m/

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Couch to 5K, Rest Day

Today is the day of 'rest'.  Every workout needs it and every 'body' wants it.  'Rest' days do not need to be lazy, unless you really want them to.  There is so much you can do to take advantage of your 'rest' days. Reflect back on your week.  Think about you goals and the ones you have achieved and the ones you still need to accomplish.  If there was a goal that you didn't make, don't get down on yourself, but get motivated and tackle it for the week ahead.

One of the things I learned so far with my training, is that my body still isn't quite caught up to my mind in how much I want to accomplish.  I know from past experiences that if I push myself too hard, my body begins to shut down and I get really sick.  I just need to keep telling myself that just because I'm taking it slower than I would have before cancer, doesn't mean I'm weak or being lazy now.  I'm just adjusting to my 'new' normal and taking it one day at a time.

This day is not only for reflecting on the past week, but a day of a little meditation.  I'm going to steal a few quiet minutes and cleanse my mind, prepare for the upcoming week and keep my head in the game.

And I'm going to keep moving on and rocking on. \m/

Image Source:  http://www.dailyhiit.com/hiit-blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/rest.jpg

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Couch to 5K, Week 1 Day 3

Week 1, Day 3....can I say, BRUTAL?!?!

This was my Saturday to work at Curves, I got up early to get in early so I could have a nice quiet workout. I completed the circuit and my third day 'plank challenge', as well as, my P90 100 abs. Felt completely energized and ready to take on my run on Rails-to-Trails.

I think I overdid it.  I wasn't at my best.  I was able to do the 5-minute warm-up and cool down with no issues and the 90 seconds of brisk walking, no problems either.  The difficulty I faced was the 60 seconds of jogging.  I was able to complete the 60 seconds in the beginning but midway I was only putting in about 50 seconds.  Yes, trust me, those last 10 seconds are brutal.

But one thing remained constant through out my training today, my ambition, my drive, and my motivation.  I didn't give up and quit.  I kept going.  I didn't stop to take a breath or a drink of water.  I kept moving.

I'm very proud of myself.  I will keep moving on and rocking on. \m/

Note:  Thanks 'Avenged Sevenfold' for your song "Scream"...that's exactly what my lungs were doing today but it motivated to keep moving on. ;-)

Image Source: http://seasonitalready.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/couch_to_5kpic.jpg

Friday, November 8, 2013

Couch to 5K, Week 1 Day 2

Well, I just finished my second day of training.  I wasn't able to get my run in this morning, because I slept in and I began babysitting around 8 o'clock this morning until a little after four late this afternoon.  But, I was very excited to begin my second day.

During the warm-up and initial run, I was feeling motivated but once I had to increase the pace I wanted to quit.  My legs felt weak, my breathing became heavy and my heart was racing.  I thought to myself, "this didn't happen yesterday".  "Yesterday felt great".  I began having doubts on whether I could even finish Day 2 which wasn't any different than yesterday.  It consisted of 5 minute walking warm-up, 60 secs of running, and 90 seconds of brisk walking, and alternating that for 20 minutes, with the last 5 minutes being the cool down.  Piece of cake, right!?  Yeah, I thought so yesterday, but I have to say, I had to push through and motivate myself to continue.

This is the hard part of starting an exercise regimen.  I guess anyone could relate to this  But for me it's frustrating because I never had to struggle to get through a 30 minute workout.  My body lost so much muscle during my days, months, etc in isolation, at home or in the hospital, that it takes more energy, spirit, and motivation to get through it.  Add on top of that my diminished lung capacity as a result of my stem-cell transplant and an overactive heart rate due to the chemo and transplant, it takes some getting used to and adjusting.

But, I am happy to say, I fought through it.  I didn't give up.  I pushed through the work out and completed it.  I know that as time goes on, I will begin to rebuild what I lost.  I may have a few more health barriers than I did before cancer, but it doesn't mean that I can give up.

I just keep telling myself..."I'm doing this for me, I'm doing this for all those fighting their fight and I'm going to keep rocking on". \m/

Image Source: http://seasonitalready.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/couch_to_5kpic.jpg

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Couch to 5K, Week 1 Day 1

Today is a New Day!!!

I had my "low" day yesterday and one thing I learned about low days, they MOTIVATE ME!!!  I can only allow myself so many low days.  It's not to say that I won't continue to have them, because I will.  I know myself enough to know that I'm an emotional person and I can be very affected by my life's circumstance/encounters, good or bad.

Yesterday, while I was at work, one of my best friends told me about an app to help motivate me to run a 5K in March in recognition of a little princess warrior who is fighting her fight.  So, here I am feeling so lucky to have such an awesome friend that keeps me motivated and has given me the incentive I need to become more fit & healthy, and all the while doing it for that sweet little girl.

I was hesitant to begin, but last night I posted on FB my plan to hold me accountable to begin this journey.  It was a little slow in the beginning and I wasn't quite feeling it.  But once I got into it, I didn't want to stop.  Afterwards, I felt so alive and exhilarated. It was a good training and I already can't wait for tomorrow to continue.

Today was the first day of my "Couch to 5K" training.  I walked a total of 10 minutes and ran 20 minutes, broken up in intervals.  During my training, I broke down crying for so many reasons and I can't even explain, other than it was for my circumstances with cancer, Livi's circumstances, and all the others so personal to me who keeps fighting or has lost their fight.

This training is not only for me, but for all those others who are fighting or who have lost the fight of the dreaded "C".  I will be posting daily, my feelings before, during and even after my training.  I hope that my high's and low's may motivate someone out there who just needs that little push and motivation.

Below is my 'playlist' for today's training.  Music motivates, and for those who know me, there is nothing better than some hard rock for a hard workout.  Rock on \m/

Todays Training Playlist:

1. Egypt Central - Kick Ass (this song was my theme song for fighting cancer and now gets me motivated)
2. Metallica - One
3. Hollywood Undead - Undead
4. Skillet - Sick of It
5. Avenged Sevenfold - Scream
6. Halestorm - Here's to Us
7. Rev Theory - Hell Yeah
8. Deuce - America
9. Nirvana - Lake of Fire

Image Source: http://seasonitalready.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/couch_to_5kpic.jpg

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Having an emotional morning.  Many thoughts running through my mind.  This time of year many people think about the "holiday" season.  Some think of Thanksgiving and the traditions that come with it.  And following Thanksgiving, it's all about the Christmas season.  For me that is part of it, but mostly November becomes the anniversary of my stem-cell transplant.  I know that its been almost 3 years since my stem-cell transplant, and even though I still suffer from mild forms of GVHD, overall I'm doing really well and have much to be 'thankful' for.

But there are times when something occurs or the anniversary date of a particular incident through my battle of cancer that triggers a not so fond memory.  It's just not a memory of remembering, its a memory filled with all the emotions of what I was feeling at that time.  Being scared, being weak, even the feeling of being a burden.

Recently, I have learned of another whose young life has been recently affected by cancer.  Hearing all of the same terms or familiar treatments hits close to home.  Also, a close family friend is struggling with the 'will' to survive.  His form of cancer is an aggressive one and from the people who have been with him through his ordeal are seeing his will to survive becoming less and less, which also is all too familiar.

With the best of intentions, some people say to me to not allow that fear.  Not to look at the negative.  To remain positive and see the strength within me.  And I do allow the positive and the strength each and every second of each day. But, occasionally, more some days than others, I have those low moments.

Today is one of those low moments.  Combined with knowing a few individuals fighting their fight and the anniversary of my stem-cell transplant, it's all building up inside me right now needing to be released.  I've said this before, but one of the best emotional releases for me, is through my blogging.

And, yes, I know I'm in remission.  And I may be stronger (physically) than I was even a year ago, but  it's still a daily reminder.  Every day when I get up, I'm putting on that disguise, the wig.  It's such an oxymoron of feelings.  It allows me to feel more normally with my appearance, but mentally, its a burden too. With or without the wig, I still haven't dealt with who I am and how cancer has affected me.

I find my strength through blogging and writing.  There's just something therapeutic to see my thoughts and my feelings in written form.  Maybe it's the acknowledgment from others who have had a similar experience and tell me they feel the same way, which helps me feel more normal and not such a 'head case'.

This month may be a month of many postings, while I try to process where I am now, and where I was 3 or 4 years ago.

Emotionally and physically, I'm still 'healing'.

And I'm grateful and thankful for the love and support, and of course patience, of the family and friends who continue to offer guidance in my 'new' journey.

Image source:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Livin for Livi"


Olivia is 17 months old and is just beginning her journey battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Please help SUPPORT her and her family in this time of need.

You can offer your support through a donation by clicking on the PayPal link below ...



Thursday, October 3, 2013

Down With the Sickness...Again

It's that time of year, AGAIN!!!  Flu and Virus season...ugh!!!

Each year after my stem-cell transplant, I tell myself that this is the year that I will be strong enough to fight whatever flu or virus is going around.  Well, it's only September and I have already been laid flat twice.  Will this ever get better???  I keep hearing it from other stem-cell warriors, from my doctors, etc. but I seriously question it.

Some people may not think there isn't a battle because I'm in remission, but its still a battle every single day to stay strong and it can be exhausting. Every day is an emotional roller coaster.  Some days are going great then, whoosh, I'm falling.  Each day is full of peaks and valleys.  I'm not complaining and I'm not whining, it's just the reality of my life.

I also know there is no "perfect" life for anyone.  Everyone experiences stress and battles through each day to be where they are now.  There are, however, people that tend to struggle or battle through each day more than others.

Even though my battles are daily, I know that my stubbornness will not allow the weakness to set in.  I guess this is one positive of being stubborn and unwilling to change my way of thinking. So what started out as a sick one, is now becoming a victorious one.  Head ache is gone (without any medical aid), nausea is gone and my energy is returning.

Another battle fought, another battle won...and the "warrior" in me will be ready to fight another day!!!

Image Source: http://www.thecampuscompanion.com/2012/11/09/how-to-survive-getting-sick-in-college/i-feel-like-complete-shit/#.Uk1KxtKmjTo

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I Sincerely Apologize...

I "sincerely" apologize to anyone who has sent me a private message on Facebook that has been unanswered.  I wasn't aware that when someone sends a message to a non-Facebook friend that those messages do not go into the regular "Inbox" but another folder labeled "Other".

I made this discovery today.  I have now responded to all those messages and would like to encourage you, if you are still interested, to continue sending those messages.

Now that I'm aware of the "Other" folder, I will respond as quickly as I can.

To all of you who have sent me messages, Thank you for your kind thoughts and words and for your support.  If I can offer any support, please don't hesitate to message me.

Thanks Again!!!
Deanna Coudriet Graham
(Facebook Name)

Saturday, September 7, 2013


A flower starts deep under the dirt and has to fight against gravity in the darkness before finally breaking free and opening its bloom to the sun. You may feel like you're in darkness and everything around you is muddy, but keep pushing toward the Light and when the time is right, you will burst into blossom. - God Wants You to Know

This morning, I came across this daily devotion.  It struck me on many emotional levels.  I'm not sure if its because of the anniversary of my relapse or if this is just the natural path of coping after experiencing such a life-altering ordeal, but my thoughts and emotions have been all over the place.

I feel as though I'm this flower, that is pushing forward and slowly growing with the goal of breaking free into the fullness of the Light. I'm not sure if what I'm feeling is just the 'normal' emotional aftermath after experiencing cancer or if its based on the 'relapse' of cancer.  

I feel as though I have days where I'm growing and moving toward that light.  And other days, I'm immersed in shade and struggle to grow because of the fear of darkness setting in again. Even though its been three years since that abrupt darkness, having it thrust upon you so quickly has been difficult for me to cope with.  

I'm tired of carrying that burden of 'fear' of the possibility of the return of cancer, but I'm also scared of moving forward.  Sometimes, I feel so powerless.  I need and want to regain control of my power.  I'm tired of living in the shade, metaphorically and realistically. I want to immerse myself in the light and allow myself to blossom in "Life'.

Image source:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Another Glimpse From My Perspective

Well, I must say my morning started out well.  Enjoying my cup of cappuccino and reading on my Kindle.  Enjoyed a simple breakfast and watched my morning show.

Afterwards, I decided that I lounged around enough and began my daily resolutions.  After hopping into the shower, I soon discovered another simple bruise.  Even though bruises are not uncommon, something as simple as a small dime-sized bruise can send me into a panic.  I began running through a list of questions in my mind to determine source of bruise.  Did I bump anything with my knee yesterday?  Was there a time where I was kneeling that could have resulted in a bruise?  Did I rest my knee on anything that could have resulted in a bruise? And as I was going through the list, I thought of other questions.  Anything out of the ordinary with my overall well-being, other than being tired lately, nothing else was going on.  No mouth sores or ulcers, no bleeding gums, no change in taste, etc.  Therefore, I just concluded the bruise means nothing other than a normal bruise that anyone could get and began thinking about the rest of my day.

And that is when it hit me.  Oh my God, this is the anniversary of my relapse!!!  Three years ago, I received a call from my doctor stating that the leukemia had come back.  He stated he wanted me in Pittsburgh that night and I refused.  I refused because my daughter, age 6, was going to cheer for the first home football game and I was not going to miss that.  Which leads me to today.  My daughter will be doing the same thing tonight.  It's like deja vu' but with knowing what comes next.  It's so completely overwhelming.

I begin to panic again.  My heart begins racing, my throat feels as though its closing up and my eyes begin to water.  I start thinking, "this is the anniversary of my relapse".  Oh my God! Please don't let this happen again.

I close my eyes and begin taking deep breaths in order to calm my nerves and calm my thoughts.  I quickly tell myself that this time is different.  I have healthy cells now due to my donor.  Those cells are fighting the fight and keeping any leukemia cells at bay. My circumstances now are quite different from my circumstances three years ago.

I begin to calm down and realize that, yes, I will experience those so-called 'freak-out' moments and that is okay. It' just a part of my 'new normal'. And that those 'freak-out' moments have become less and less, which shows that even though the steps may be small,  I'm beginning to heal emotionally, mentally and spiritually from the affects of cancer.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Blog Updates & Changes

Don't be alarmed if you notice the look of my blog has changed. Somehow I lost many of my blog photos. Unsure how this happened. I will be working on site, updating and making changes.

If your new to my blog, please don't hesitate to check out my posts. And, if your an ongoing follower, THANK YOU for your ongoing support...more to come!!! :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

One Perspective from the Eyes of a Cancer Patient


What do you see when you look at these two pictures?  What similarities do you notice?  What are the differences?

From the average, normal person's perspective, you may see a medical professional and the other, may be a professional that handles toxic chemicals in some capacity.  From my perspective, being a cancer warrior, they are one in the same.  

As I was reading another warrior's blog today, I was reminded of my days in the hospital when receiving most of my doses of chemotherapy.  The image on the left is what actually was approaching me but in my mind's eye, I saw the image on the right.  I'm not sure if other people who have suffered from cancer have ever felt this way, but this has been my perspective.

I have heard the words "toxic" and "lethal" prior to (and sometimes after) the drugs were being administered into my body.  Chemo is really a frightening concept. Because of no other treatment options, other than death, your sitting or lying there allowing this toxic chemical into your body.  You realize and understand that this toxic chemical not only destroys the cancer cells but also the good cells.  The reality of your situation becomes so clear when the nurse administering the chemo has to put a protective gown on, use special hazardous chemical gloves, and mask their face.  You're lying there thinking..."holy shit, this is really serious".  You begin thinking and second guessing if this is really the best way to do this? You're constantly thinking of alternatives but sometimes it's the only option.

At times, even though the doctors and nurses, tried to minimalize the experience of receiving the chemo, it felt as though that person in the "hazmat" suit was approaching me and performing some kind of scientific experiment on me.  It felt as though so many people were hoping this would be the chemo regimen that would work.  And if it didn't, it would need to be something else.  
So now here I am after the experience, of cancer and transplant, thinking of those several months following my initial diagnosis that consisted of weekly chemo.  And then, of the week prior to transplant.  Chemo levels that were so toxic, they labeled it as 'lethal'.

Its so scary.  Your taught that long term exposure to chemicals can be life threatening, but yet here you are allowing certain chemicals into your body.  Its such an oxymoron. 

Again, this is only my perspective of my experience. And when reflecting back, it is yet another grain of sand in the hour glass that I need to process and heal as time continues to move on.

Image Sources:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Are You Willing To Sacrifice Your Self-Worth

I came across this quote today and it definitely hits close to home.  I have been asking many questions and have been experiencing many emotions from extreme anger to heart-breaking sadness for some of the most precious people in my life.  I have battled on whether I should even blog about my feelings.  And I realized that this is me.  This is who I am.  I would not only be lying to myself but to the others that read my blogs.

This is the best form of therapy.  It helps me heal and process so many things that run through my mind.  My thoughts and emotions have been in complete turmoil.  The above quote couldn't be more perfect.  It has given me a new perspective on how to look at circumstances that could be defined as stressful or even volatile.  I consider myself a very forgiving person, even in the most stressful situations.  But there comes a time when you have to question whether your forgiveness is worth giving up your 'self-worth'.  At this time, it saddens me to say that it isn't.  My self-worth is more important.  My husband and children are worth it too.  Not only is this enlightening for me, but for my family.  It's another life lesson.

We, my family and I, have been through so much that this is the time for all of us to be rejoicing and embracing life. Sure I'm aware that there will always be a day that will be more stressful than others because that is just the way life is.  But ongoing heartache should not be one of those stressors.

After every thing I have been through, and still trying to process, I'm not willing to sacrifice my self-worth.  It's time to know that some things are, more than likely, not going to change and I need to move forward.

So keep the above quote in mind when you are faced with a stressful situation with someone and ask yourself whether its a time of forgiveness or if your self-worth is more important.

Image Source: http://www.thehiyl.com/2012/04/self-worth-treatment.html

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Giving Back

Recently, my thoughts have been going about a mile a minute due to some more than somber circumstances. A close friend of the family has recently been diagnosed with two different forms of cancer.  One form is so rare that the outcome of the treatment plan is uncertain.  I have spoken to him a few times and have made two visits.  He has even stated to others that out of all his visitors, my visits have meant the most to him.  Is it because we share the experience of cancer and all the emotions, thoughts and fears that come with it?  During our first visit, I just sat and listened to him.  At times, I held his hand.  I understood what he was saying.  I understood his fears and the concern for his family that he may leave behind.

It became clear to me after my second visit, that I became his 'hope'.  His hope of surviving the two different forms of cancer that has violated his body.  I am proof that even though cancer violated me twice, I still survived.  Even knowing I had survived from the help of my donor, I'm still here.

I want to be that beacon of 'hope' for others as well or at least assist those suffering from cancer in finding their beacon of 'hope..  I want to empower them to fight, no matter how tired or lousy they may feel.

When reflecting on my own experience with cancer, I do not look at it as a negative.  It has been enlightening and has opened my eyes to the strengths I didn't know I had.

This is what I want to do.  This is my passion.  This is what I'm meant to do and my purpose.  I want to be there for those who are suffering from the effects of cancer, whether it's the patient, or the patient's family.  This is how I want to give back.

I'm trying to find my niche.  I'm not one that some would consider 'out-going' or the 'life of the party'.  I'm more the type of person to be behind the scenes thinking and planning.  I having been thinking and planning for some time, and hopefully, will be taking the next steps to put my plan into action.

So in the words of Maya Angelou "my mission in life isn't merely to survive; but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style".

Image Source: http://img3.etsystatic.com/000/0/5996810/il_570xN.260993471.jpg

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hello, My Name is...

Do you ever fully recover from a cancer diagnosis? Is it similar to a person who is addicted to alcohol, drugs, or some other form of addiction?It's not about the craving or the need for it, but the fear of its return. This is one thing I learned at the support meeting I attended.  The speaker made a correlation between someone being addicted to alcohol or drugs and trying to live day by day sober.  Well, the same could be said about cancer.  For those of us who have suffered from the disease and are now currently in remission, some of us live each day struggling with the thought of relapse.

Yesterday was the the four year anniversary date of my initial diagnosis.  It's very fresh on my mind.  I had a difficult time sleeping last night because of it.  I tried many times to use 'positive thinking' about where I'm at now regarding my health.  Anytime I began thinking negatively, or became fearful , I found something positive to erase the negative feelings.

Today, I was faced with one of those fears.  I discovered it after I got out of the shower and was getting ready for work.  While I was putting lotion on my legs, I discovered a few bruises on my shin.  One of those was bigger than the others.  I instantly thought about my initial bruising I had when I was initially diagnosed, and then I thought about the bruising when I relapsed.  Each of those times, the bruises, were slightly different.  The bruises today, resembled my relapse bruises.  I reacted instantly by stripping down to the bare and looking in the mirror trying to discover if there were any more I wasn't aware of.  Once I saw there were no more bruises, I began to calm down.  But not enough for my peace of mind.  Once I got dressed and finished getting ready, I went looking for my husband.  I needed his reassurance that the bruises looked normal.  I needed him to tell me it was okay.  But even with his reassurance, I'm still fearful.

I'm wracking my brain thinking of any incident that could have initiated these bruises.  I haven't thought of anything yet, but I'm sure there is a reasonable, healthy explanation. I will be more hyper-aware of my activities until I meet with my doctor in mid-July.  I need to do this because, if it is relapse, time is not on my side.  I will just keep hoping and praying this is just typical bruising and try moving forward with my life.

Image Source: http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/dosecreative/dosecreative1007/dosecreative100700047/7349260-hi-my-name-is.jpg

Monday, June 24, 2013

Once Upon A Time...

Once Upon A Time, four years to be exact, there was a young women whose body was changing.  The changes were not for the better, they were far worse.  She was developing mouth sores, her tastes in foods were changing, her hair was becoming lifeless and dull.  She would go to bed with near flawless skin and wake up to bruises the size of softballs or even larger without any particular incident causing them. She knew deep down that something was wrong and that something was Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

On June 25, 2009, my world completely changed.  My goals were no longer my goals.  My outlook on life was no longer the same.  I had less than 24 hours to make peace with myself and the many people in my life because I wasn't sure if I was going to make it.  I had to prepare my children, who were 6 and 4 at the time, that their mommy was going to be gone for sometime.  I had to explain to them that I would be having long stays in the hospital, sometimes weeks/months at a time, while in isolation.  There were times, I couldn't comfort them with hugs or kisses for fear of becoming sick due to my suppressed and even, at times, non-existent immune system.  All of our lives were uprooted, living between home, hospital and hospital housing that were over two hours apart from each other.  We even celebrated holidays and birthdays in the hospital.

This was just the beginning to our "new beginning".  I wasn't the only one affected.  My family, friends, co-workers, etc. were all affected in some way.  Even though it was a fight and struggle, it taught me so much.

It has taught me to take each day, one day at a time.  It has opened my eyes to the beauty of life.  It has shown me what things are truly important and has made me aware not to worry about the trivial things.  I have learned to stop worrying about the things that can't be controlled because its a waste of energy and time.

I'm still learning what this 'new normal' means. I'm trying to discover what is next in my life's journey.  I certainly know what is my passion.  Now, I just need to figure out how to see it through.

I hope that I have shown others, and especially my children, that we all struggle at some point in time.  Some may struggle more than others.  But those struggles are only temporary and with the right attitude, you can achieve anything you set your mind too.

Image Source: http://calibermag.org/articles/doing-it-for-the-story/

A 'Bucketful' of Wishes

Before cancer there were times when I thought of things I would like to do or accomplish.  At the time they were just idle thoughts and wishes.  However, now, after being faced with my mortality not once, but twice, it has given me the incentive to accomplish the goals I have set for myself.

My 'bucket list' doesn't need to involve any great leaps in faith, by sky diving or putting my life at risk by swimming with sharks.  My list includes things that touch me on an emotional level, that move me spiritually.  I love discovering new places and experiencing that "awe" of seeing something that nature created or something man-made that mystifies the mind.  I love being educated about other cultures and people's lifestyles.  And I love history, history of our own nation, and the history of other countries.

So here is my 'Bucket List', these are my wishes, and even if I can't complete it all, I am, at least, hoping to complete some of the things that will allow me to feel that life just isn't about work, sports, and sitting at home.  Life is about experiencing as much as you can and taking advantage of all that is out 'there' in the wide world we live in. :)

Deanna's 'Bucket' List:

Most Likely to Be Accomplished Bucket List:
  1. Face my fear of flying (so I can accomplish my list)
  2. Meet my donor, Andrea, (in Germany or U.S.)
  3. Experience an up close encounter with a Gorilla (female or Silverback) 
  4. Visit Grand Canyon
  5. Visit Mt. Rushmore
  6. Visit all 50 states 
  7. Go zip lining
  8. *Whale watching
  9. *Disney World 
  10. *Hawaii
  11. A solo trip - time with myself to a place I've never been, some place warm, sunny and bright with color
Note: Items marked with * are things I did before as a child but want to experience with my husband & children

Ultimate Bucket List (with no monetary limitations)
  1. Visit European countries, visit castle ruins, and experience the cuisine, and learn the history that I have read about
  2. See and visit the Egyptian Pyramids
  3. Experience the Outback (not the restaurant) and all that Australia offers
  4. Visit the Aztec/Mayan ruins and experience tropical rain forests
  5. Visit the great European museums and cathedrals

These lists are not complete, more will be added as more things come to mind...these are just a few that I wish to accomplish and experience.

Think about what things move you, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.  You don't need to be near death to do what you want to accomplish.  Start jotting things down and hopefully, your wishes will come true.

Image Source: http://miamarlowe.com/blog/bucket-list/

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Top 10 Blessings

Tonight I attended my first Cancer Support meeting.  It was very enlightening listening to other peoples experiences with cancer and their different forms of treatment. While many of us shared similar experiences, we also had many differences.  With those differences, tonight, at times, I felt rather alone.   It appeared to me that the others have come to terms with what they have been through or are going through.  Others are currently going through treatments and trying to survive.  Even one woman living in fear of wondering will she ever relapse. It's truly amazing how our experiences and even our thoughts are so similar but yet so different.  Even with those similarities, I still felt so alone.  Do we all feel this way?

I am definitely going to continue to attend the meetings.  I created new bonds and hopefully, established new friendships.  I felt empowered by the words of others.  And even knowing each of us has had our own unique experience with the disease, we all share a commonality.  We will forever be tied to one another even after this one meeting.  There is acceptance, no one is right and no one is wrong, there is no judgment.  We are who we are.

At the conclusion of the meeting, I was really impacted by what one woman brought to my attention.   We were familiar with each other due to common acquaintances and, after the meeting, she motioned for me to speak with her after.  When I approached her, she showed me a list she made that she titled "10 of Deanna's Many Blessings" which were as follows:

1. Mom - gave me life and brought me into this world
2. Dad - also contributed in me being here
3. Husband - stay committed & never abandoned
4. Son
5. Daughter
6. Financially Ok
7. Great Dr.'s
8. Cancer (Then/Now/Later)...what it meant then and the strides in treatment now and what it could mean in the future
9. Brain - Intellect, Absorb, Learn, etc
10. Love of Many

I was very impacted by what she had given me.  It was one of the greatest gifts ever.  I will forever keep that piece of paper that she jotted this list on.  In fact, I may even frame it.  Because it is a reminder of what is truly important and the many blessings I have in my life, that even fear can not erase.  So I thank her with all of my heart.  I was truly touched.  

Hopefully, this will give you something to think about.  When in a moment of reflection, what things or who would be in your top 10 of your many blessings???  Write them down and when you are having a moment of weakness or feeling down emotionally, pull out that list.  It's amazing how uplifting it can be.  :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Packing It Away...But Not Forgotton

Well, last night I decided it was time to face the fear and the emotions that come with purging my closets and drawers of what my life consisted of for almost 3 years.

This act of purging wasn't intentional.  I became overwhelmed with what I consider "clutter" in my life.  My closets and drawers held useless items that haven't been used for quite some time.  So I began cleaning out drawers and some closets.  While I was doing this, I came across many items that I tucked away hoping to never be seen again for many, many years.

One of the items I found were the 'consent' papers to allow the process of conditioning my body for the stem-cell transplant.  As I picked up the papers and began reading, I was immediately taken back to the day of signing the papers.  I remembered hearing the words "toxic" and "lethal".  I remember hearing the importance of "fighting" and having the "will to live".  Statements of "lethal doses of chemo" and "destruction to vital organs" of my body.  Bolder and more serious statements of the seriousness of what's next.  I remember thinking to myself, "This is it.  This is the time that I need to decide.  This is the time to live...or die."

And as I'm going through all the papers, medical supplies, cards of support and well-wishes, drawings and pictures, and even gifts, I'm thinking about each moment or memory that comes with them.  It's not a simple thing to just throw away because each thing has left a heavy, emotional imprint in my mind.  Some of those imprints are happy and many are so emotionally draining, I had to stop and move on to something else.

I wish it were as easy as throwing your 'typical' garbage away, such as food wrapping or packaging, or a paper plate, paper towel, or the annoying junk mail.  But it can't just be thrown away.  There are too many emotional ties to each item.

While each of those memories of being in the hospital, or at home with Home Health, were not as draining and stressful as the memory and thinking "I did this before".  "Oh my God, I did this before"!  "I did this 2 1/2 years ago and what happened after"?  "I relapsed".  I kept thinking "I was doing well, just like I'm doing now and I didn't have a clue that my body had lost the battle with Cancer".  "Could this be the same thing"?  "Can this happen a second time"?  I keep telling myself, "This time is different".  "This time its not my cells fighting the fight".  "My donor cells are stronger and healthier and are winning the battle". So, I keep reminding myself of this but it still doesn't take away the small bit of fear.

Will it ever go away?  When will I be totally comfortable without that fear of relapse?  I just keep telling myself to continue moving forward.  There will be times that will trigger an unpleasant memory of the past few years and I need to tell myself that things are different this time.  Before transplant, my cells were not healthy, and now, the cells I have are stronger and are fighting the fight.

That's all I can do.  I need to take things one day at a time and embrace all the loveliness around me which are my family and friends and the many others who have had a positive impact on my life.  I need to keep the positive and extinguish the negative things.  And keep holding my head up high, smile and enjoy this 'third' chance at living!!! :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What is Your 'Motivation'

What gets you motivated?  What moves you?  Is it just one thing or is it a number of things?  I found it is numerous things which affect me differently.  Somethings affect my emotional well-being, other things affect my physical and spiritual self, it can be separately or a combination of the two or all three.

Today, I began asking myself this question, after my morning workout.  This was a morning outside of my routine.  My usual morning involves myself only. Everyone in the house is still in bed sleeping, and most times, still are sleeping when I leave.  But this morning, my daughter was up and ready to join my morning.  I'm usually waiting to the last minute to get out of bed, but having her so excited to go with me to work and see that excitement on her face was my motivation to get up and moving.

It was also a morning of great life lessons of acquiring healthy ways of living and still having fun while doing it.  We enjoyed a full workout.  We shared a breakfast of Greek Vanilla Yogurt with Kashi GoLean Crunch and diced strawberries, which is one of her most favorite things to eat at anytime of the day.

I'm very lucky and blessed to have such a compassionate, empathetic and smart young lady in my life.  Like any of us, she has a day that brings back those memories of me being sick and being so close to losing me.  But I hope that I can show her by my words of encouragement and my actions, that even though we've been through some hurdles, that we can carry on and embrace the 'life' that we have been given. :)

Thanks "A" for being such a wonderful daughter.  You make me so proud and 'motivate' me to be a better person and mother!!!  I Love You!!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Warrior

I am not a 'Survivor'.

I am a 'Warrior'.  I am still fighting.

What have I been thinking?

I just woke up from a not so great dream, unrelated to Cancer, but it was mentioned in the dream.  So, I'm lying here thinking of the dream and just realized “I didn't beat Cancer". It took having to have a stem-cell transplant for me (my body) to beat it. 

I'm scared now.  I really don't know what I have been thinking.  I've been going on thinking that I won the battle.  But, the Cancer actually won because it had come back.  And the only way for it to be completely gone is my donor.  My life-saver, my saving grace...my guardian angel.  If it weren't for her, I wouldn't be here.

I'm not totally clueless that I didn't fight. I fought through the treatments and I'm still fighting the side effects.  I still fight everyday to remain strong to keep the GVHD symptoms to a minimum.  But if I do something that could put my donor cells at risk, my Cancer would be back..

I really don't know where my mind has been with this battle between life and death.  Well, I guess I do.  I was just trying to battle through whatever obstacle came my way.  I'm not a Survivor.  I am a 'Warrior'.  The battle is still being fought.  I will be battling everyday, for the rest of my life.  I will be battling to keep my donor cells healthy and strong so that if that Cancer wants to show its presence again, those cells will be strong enough to 'win' the battle. 

The doctors say that after 5 years, I'm considered 'cured', but am I really?  Maybe if I had fought off Cancer myself I would be more able to believe that.  It's my donor, Andrea, who has help me fight this battle.  She is my armor and my sword.  Without her, I wouldn't be here.  I was grateful of her before I came to this realization so early this morning.  But now, I can't even find the words to describe how much that means to me and how thankful I am.

So now, I will keep fighting.  I will nourish the Warrior inside of me and will remain healthy and strong, so that it can make and keep my donor cells 'battle ready' for the enemy, Cancer, within.

Image Source:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What is "Beauty"

Have you seen those special news programs on TV where they ask a woman to go undercover as something that our society has labeled or viewed as 'against the norm'? (i.e.wearing an obese suit, a face covered by acne or other blemishes or disfigurements, etc) During the program, the TV host reports how that specific individual was treated while in their disguise and how they were treated as they "normally" look.  Usually when comparing the two scenarios, there are many differences between how that person was treated.  I think it is safe to say, that many of us make a decision whether we are going to like or accept a person based upon looks alone.

I have definitely been guilty of making those preconceived notions.  While I was a supervisor for a county agency, we had a lot of rollover with our employees due to burnout, which in return, the management team sat through many interviews.  I knowingly made assumptions about the person being interviewed on that first observation.  I was very critical of those who walked into that interview room.  If they were not dressed appropriately and showed one small ounce of being unprofessional within seconds of the initial introduction, I basically wrote them off.  I thought that if they couldn't take the time to care for the appearance, then their lack of effort would also show in their work.

Even in my personal life, I have been guilty of making quick judgments regarding people.  But my views have changed a lot.  I no longer make those quick judgments.  I take the time to listen and get to know somewhere before I form an opinion.  I have learned a lot through my experience and during the aftermath of  battling cancer.

It has been close to a week since I decided to 'embrace the wig'.  I had been living in denial for too long (2 1/2 years) and had to finally realize my hair just wasn't coming back.  So, I made the decision to either cry on a daily basis trying to have my hair look somewhat okay or I can face the facts and have some fun with 'wigging it'.  After I made the decision, I realized I am living the real-life "fictional" scenario that has been on TV.

Today, I realized I'm the woman in a disguise.  Although, this disguise isn't just a one day thing.  My disguise is going to be a daily thing and that the "real" me will only be seen at home behind closed doors.  I also didn't realize until just today how I am received by strangers as the person in disguise versus the 'real' me.   This realization only applies to strangers because all of my family, friends and acquaintances treat me as they have always treated me, with respect and acceptance.  But for those who don't know me or what I have been through, it has become very enlightening.

During my experience battling cancer and losing my hair, I basically was a walking neon sign.  I usually had a mask covering my face to prevent any germs or infections.  I either had my lucky gray hat, or some other head-covering to hide my bald head.  At times, I was very thin and other times, I was so puffy and round from the steroids,  I didn't even recognize myself.   So I could understand, the quick glances, people not wanting to maintain eye contact, and yes, even the whispering.  Now it's 2 1/2 years later, the steroid swelling has gone down and I no longer need the mask.  I even tried to embrace the fine hair.  But, it didn't work.  My neon sign isn't as bright but I still am not what society deems as 'normal' and I contribute that to my hair.  I came to this conclusion because today I was greeted a couple times by complete strangers saying hello or even commenting on the weather and striking up a conversation which prior to last week rarely occurred.  At times, I would attempt a conversation or offer a brief smile and more times than not, I didn't receive a response or if I did, it was brief with very little to no eye contact.

However, today, wearing my wig, another person initiated a conversation with me at the gas pump about the weather.  They smiled and maintained eye contact and was very pleasant.  While I was in a store, I was acknowledge and greeted and even asked if I needed help with anything.  I had been in that store a few other times, without the wig, and never had anyone approach me.  Is this just coincidence?

This is just a theory.  Maybe people are more likely to approach or initiate contact because before I wasn't confidant in myself and now by wearing the wig, it has made given me more confidence and I feel more like the 'old' me.

Either way, it has definitely taught me not to jump to conclusions.  That when meeting someone new, not to be too quick to judge.  We all have our faults and insecurities and that we really should try to get to know a person and not get so caught up with what society deems 'normal'.

Image Source:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Having Some Fun

I recently posted on FB my frustration with my hair and have gotten many responses on and off FB.  I truly appreciate the kinds words everyone has given me.

I thought I would try to put in perspective what exactly this experience has done to my 'self-image' psyche .

For anyone who truly knows me, I have always had an insecurity about my appearance and body image.  I have always set a standard as to what I felt was adequate and comfortable to me...and I believe we all do that in one way or another, with some of us having bigger issues.  So after going through the transformation I have gone through,  it has definitely interfered with those standards.

Let me go back a few years to my initial diagnosis and the months of chemo.  Initially, when I began the chemo, my hair didn't fall out on the pillow and I wasn't waking up in a pile of hair.  The reality of losing my hair came when I would use the brush. At first, it was a few strands more than what a normal brushing would be for someone.  Then one morning, the hair completely filled the brush.  I remember staring at it thinking 'oh my God, this is really happening...what am I going to do?' Silently, I thought about it all day and finally said to my husband and mom that I'm just going to shave it.  It was harder to see a brush full of hair every morning than to shave it all off.  So I made the decision to shave it off. I told the nurse Patti that I wanted this done and even though it was at the end of her shift, she did it. 

I don't even know where to begin or how to describe the emotions of such an experience.  To go through it once is emotionally draining and the second time is even more.  It felt to me that I was being partially stripped of my identity, of who I was, but it wasn't just about my appearance, it was internally.  That's the part that does the most damage.  Many people have said they see the same Dee and that they don't even pay attention to the hair which really surprises me because that's all I see.  I want to see what they see so badly but it's the internal 'emotional storm' that is wrecking havoc and preventing me from seeing what they see.  

Before my relapse, I actually loved my hair. It felt fuller and thicker and was wavier.  It was my most favorite style. Surprisingly, after several months and at the end of my chemo treatments, my hair was growing back.  But after relapse and the transplant it became the exact opposite. Is it because of the toxic, lethal doses of chemo, or my current medication , or is it a combination of both? Whatever the reason or reasons, after 2 1/2 years post-transplant, my reality is that it's not coming back.

And this is where I am now.  Realizing my life will more than likely be a life of hats and wigs.  And I can continue to pretend that maybe this will be the day that my hair will be grown-in, or I can face the truth.  I've been swimming in a sea of denial for a long time and now it's time to face the shore and journey toward my land of reality.

So, here I am now, searching for my new 'do' with thoughts of having some fun... fun with styles, fun with colors, and knowing I may never have to face a 'bad hair day'. :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

'Wigging' Out

Yep...going to try the wig again.  My hair just isn't growing in. It may be getting longer but as for fullness or thickness...it just isn't there. So either I continue my life in hats or I finally succumb to the wig. 

May as well have some fun with it. Going to try different styles and colors.  Plus the wigs will help protect my scalp from the sun. I would have to wear hats or head coverings in the summer anyhow ...so going to start checking websites out on the internet and have some fun.

Check out my before & after below...let me know what you think ;)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How Are You Doing?

"How are you doing"?  Wow, that's a loaded question.  If you mean right now at this moment, I'm here. I'm breathing. I'm with my family (husband, children, etc) appreciating that we are able to be with each other. So, to answer your question, I think I'm fine. So am I???

It's quite difficult to answer.  I assume people are still concerned or want to know how I'm doing health-wise and all I can think is, "today I'm cancer-free". I'm here. I'm free. So today is a good day.

But it's more than just being "cancer free".  There are days where my emotions are extreme and I either want to cry or I want to explode with anger and frustration.  Sometimes, I want to do both. Or it can be I'm having a good day and something occurs that strikes an emotional chord with me that I feel a whirlwind of emotion that I don't feel I have control and either I tear up or vent in anger.  Then after the episode, I become angry at myself for reacting the way I did and I beat myself up over my reaction, because I do have control. But for some reason, I'm not using that control.

Right now, it's 5 o'clock in the morning, I've been lying awake for an hour or so.  I'm coughing and congested again feeling sorry for myself.  With that sorrow comes the anger. Angry at myself for yet another weakness.  When will all of this get better? It seems the only thing that is better is being cancer free and being able to be with my family and a few of my friends.

Maybe I thought that at this time, 2 1/2 years post-transplant, I would feel close back to normal. I knew I would never truly be back to where I was but I at least thought I would be a closer version than what I am right now.

Some people may think, "she thinks too much and just needs to enjoy being alive". Oh boy, how I wish it would be that easy.  I did at one point in time feel that way.  It was before my transplant, during my short time in remission.  I was so happy, carefree, enjoying so much of life and being thankful for having a second opportunity to live.  Then I relapsed.  It was such a blow to my emotional/mental state.  How do you recover from that???

The fear is always there.  I know I have no control over it but it doesn't take it away.  Like I said before, the emotional impact of my relapse was more devastating than my initial diagnosis.  So what happens now? How do I move on from here? It seems when I try moving on, there is always some setback.
My blogging really does help.  It helps keep all my thoughts in some form of order.  And I've chosen to make some of my most private thoughts public, with the hopes of providing comfort to someone in a similar situation.

So I guess that is what I need to do.  Keep blogging my thoughts and feelings, and utilize other healthy forms of therapeutic intervention, and just keep taking things day by day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Sense of Freedom

I began my journey to Pittsburgh this morning knowing that I had my breathing test today.  What I didn't realize was the rush of so many emotions when walking outside toward the hospital doors.

I didn't realize until this moment on how much the days, weeks, and months of isolation affected me.  I didn't commit a crime, I didn't steal or even murder anyone but my life was like an incarceration.  There may have been no bars on the windows or doors being locked down.  There may have been no cuffs or no security patting me down.  But it didn't stop the feeling as though I was a prisoner. A prisoner to cancer.  A prisoner to the hospital, to my room, to my bed.  Even though there were no cuffs or shackles, my cuff and shackles existed in the pole I had to cart beside me while it pumped the necessary drugs into my body. 

When I was given permission to go outside, it was like a reward.  Something that may be comparable to a prisoner being given a reprieve to go outside for 'good behavior'.

During that time, those were not my thoughts, I was just living in the moment taking it hour by hour, day by day. But now, having and feeling the 'freedom' I have now, I didn't realize how isolated I felt.  Although I have no idea what its like to be incarcerated, I'm sure it could be very close.  I had no choice and had no control of my situation.  Cancer created my incarceration.

Today, as I got out of my car and began walking toward the hospital, I breathed deeply. I tilted my head back, closed my eyes and soaked up the sun's rays which was something I couldn't do before.  I relished in my sense of freedom.  I had no mask to cover my face.  I had no pole attached to my body.  I wasn't limited to my room, to the hospital halls or the hospital 'gardens'.  I was free to go wherever I chose to go. I remember during those isolated days, sitting in the garden, and watching my family come and go freely and how I ached for the moment that I would be able to do that again.

So today as I experienced those feelings, I became very emotional knowing that I have what I ached for. My ache has been soothed with my freedom. A freedom that I will never take for granted.