It is the eve to New Year's Eve and I am reflecting on the year that passed and what is ahead - I am praying for continued health above all - the rest is just gravy (good or bad, it is still gravy).
This Christmas has been magical and also full of good and bad, just like life. I made the holidays work with a wing and a prayer - without working full time and with only one client left of my small business and a few initiatives with my nonprofit, it was a tight squeeze this holiday season but I made it work - which is a blessing. My kids do not care too much for material things after the past few years but of course they did need stuff like clothes and a few things for under the tree as "presents" and though it was less then previous years, it was still a great haul for them!
I was even able to get my husband and family members meaningful stuff - and I am so happy everyone was happy. For me, I got the exact things I needed/wanted - love, togetherness and a new fitbit! My mom was sick for Christmas with a bad cough so she did not visit - with my clinical trial drug, I need to be careful for infections / germs and her medical doctor told her to just stay alone for Christmas so as to not infect everyone!
Christmas, my dad did not look too good. He was barely able to keep his eyes open - my youngest brother lives with him and brought him to the hospital that night. I went the next day directly to the hospital to see my dad - he was released the next day when I was at Sloan for my mammogram and sonogram on my remaining breast.
A stressful time but much less stressful for me and my breast - I kind of had my scanziety under control UNTIL I was getting the mammo and sono done - then I freaked out but minimally... I got the negative reading on the mammogram - which is good and then met with surgeon's office for a follow up. I was told I was being discharged and did not need surgical follow ups anymore - it was bittersweet as I love my surgeon and the staff there (Liza for the win) but it was time for me to move on and say goodbye, God willing forever because I would only need to go back if there were an issue and we don't want issues...
Then just last night, my mother in law got taken to hospital by ambulance and she is still there. It has been a lot of up and down lately and it all reiterates the belief that health is everything.
I have to say that 2018 was a learning experience for me - living post treatment, on clinical trail for 18 months (of 24) and preparing for an international trip in the beginning of 2019 and just staying focused on sharing my story, being focused on my nonprofit and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I have found a way to balance out my fears and stay focused on the TODAY and not worry about yesterday or tomorrow - no easy feat but with meditation, hypnosis, self care, writing it out and being as close to me and what I need in life and what I have to do to care for myself have been key for me.
I do hope I can get to Italy in February and that I continue to grow, learn and make up my mind for my "plan". I pray to remain NED and to finish the trial and be able to God forbid run fever without having to run to the hospital :). What are your plans for 2019? Let's do it! Healthy & Happy 2019 for all of us! XOXO
Hi, I am Super Mom (supermombc.com) – your friendly neighborhood superhero who brings you the real truth about being a one-boobed mama who has survived cancer but cannot handle homework with my 8 year old! Let me tell you more in this piece all about being a parent AND cancer patient...
My original life “plan” was to consider getting married and having kids when I turned 40. If I had followed that path, I would not have been able to have children as I was diagnosed at 39 years old with estrogen and progesterone positive breast cancer. I know so many people, though, who were diagnosed younger than my age at diagnosis and were able to have kids miraculously either naturally, adoption or fostering and I know others who have resigned themselves to not having children or who did not want children - there are so many permutations of life as a woman.
Having children is one of the most amazing, hard, terrible, magical, life-changing things in the world. For me, being a mom is what defined me – it became my only identity, for better or for worse from the day I delivered my daughter in 2007 and my son in 2010 (one natural delivery, one C-section, both sucked except for the end results - oh and in between 2 miscarriages).
I was alone with my children more than I was with my partner, my much beleaguered husband, or anyone else. I spent years carrying, balancing, running and being the be all and end all for the kids because there was no one else to do it and I had lost myself, anyway so what difference did it make if I did not do anything for me - what did I matter anymore now that I was a mom?
I left my 6-figure a year job in NYC to be with my kids. To being an entrepreneur, balancing it all ONLY when my kids were at school. Being a mom was all I had time to do – for better or for worse.
When I had to sit them down and tell them mommy was sick, they were 6 and 9 years old and I was their whole world. I did not do this maliciously or because I wanted to be the best mom in the world (at least, not consciously) but because I did not see any help in the world – period.
I learned during my diagnosis, treatment and beyond, though, that there were people who wanted to help, who could help and that I never would have opened myself up to because I was “mom” and I had to “do it all”.
My daughter was 9 and she processed everything in a matter of being a soldier – she asked me right away if I was going to die and I, of course, told her “No, no doctor has said that I will die, I am ok.” She guessed that they would cut off my boob as I told them I had a boo boo there. My son was more emotional and upset – the day of my first chemotherapy, when I came home and went right to bed, he sat beside my bed on the floor crying. (Sorry kids when you are old enough to read this, I am sharing your secrets).
Once my treatment was over, though, my daughter had to learn to process her feelings of fear, anxiety and the biggest fear of all – that of, “Will my parent die?” When I was a child, my mom was in a life-threatening car crash and then she left my family (sorry mom) and I could understand the fear of losing a parent – even now, I am lucky enough to have both my parents still alive and of course I worry if they were to die even now at almost 42 years old.
We are all learning how to navigate this world of unknown – I hope to continue to be NED but my diagnosis was less than 2 years ago and I know enough about breast cancer to know there are no “guarantees” though my children need to have them -they ask often to confirm that I am well and healthy – and for now, I can continue to tell them, “yes”.
The impacts of cancer is that of continual ripples – I recently decided to remove my ovaries to help keep my hormones in check and the realization that I will not have any more children sometimes hits me and I feel gluttonous as I am so so lucky to have the two that I have. I am one of 3, though, and my paternal grandma who raised me also had 3 children. I am resigned to the fact that with or without cancer, I was lucky to have gotten my 2 children as I had two losses in between those pregnancies.
I hate thanking cancer for anything but I do know that without it, I never would have stepped down from being the Type A control freak uber-mom to knowing that if I am not taking care of myself, no one is going to be ok and instead of being guilty and doubting myself, I know I am a kick ass amazon mom (or at least, the best I can be.)
I posted this last week then took it down - after making some edits, I am ready to share it - it’s raw and I hope you can read it and be kind. Thanks ...
On our first date, we saw the movie "A Beautiful Mind" and I had no idea how prescient that movie choice would be for our lives together. I do not know if I did know if I would have walked away. Me, who never wanted to get married or have kids, wound up meeting, falling in love, moving in with, marrying, having kids with an Irish looking police officer - of all things. Not at allll what I thought I would do, wind up with or even consider.
For many years, I dealt with his issues with ANGER - hot, white, extreme anger. I did not want to feel the pain - the pain of loving someone who is their own worst enemy. The fight, the losing battle against a mental illness that is too strong to win against. The meds that "work" but cause havoc on so many things and lastly, the paranoia. The fixed paranoia that will never, ever go away...
Most of the time, it is controlled but when it is not, when it flares up like a malignancy and wrecks his abilities to function, to be present, to be the man I love - well when that happens after I no longer built up my walls, after I gave up the anger, after I came to understand that this man - who though not by any means perfect or well - helped me survive cancer and did always love me and still does despite my faults - I recognize that all I feel is bereft, sad, scared and so so afraid for him. Not of him. Never of him. He is a gentle soul - he would not hurt anyone or anything.
In this country, mental illness is maligned and blamed for every bad thing that happens. I get it - I was very ashamed of his issues and also unsure of what this future would entail as for us, in sickness and in health was a vow we took on shortly after our marriage. It did not begin with cancer. It does not end with cancer.
For many years, I took care of him and handled all of the things that he could not. Those things have come back to my domain since I finished my cancer stuff. There are things that still are not done - do not judge my backyard when you come over as the garbage was not taken out for a few weeks - he literally cannot do it and I struggle with being out in the cold and touching garbage while on a clinical trial pill. Do not judge him for being spacy and confused - or for sleeping often during the day - he is struggling with a disease - just like I did with cancer - but his disease is not understood, is feared, is reviled, makes people not want to know him when he lets his guard down, makes people judge him, take steps away from him as though he smells and manipulate and abuse him, too.
He is a trusting soul and the beginning of his biggest downfall was from trusting the wrong person many years ago. He went from being a police officer in the biggest city, busting bad guys, to having to defend himself against someone who tricked him fully into a faulty business arrangement.
For many years, his medical team told me to expect nothing from him, that he would never recover. I moved around him, I tried to include him but when I could not, I took on the role of mother and father and anger. Anger was always inside me, the "unfairness", the trump card that was mine - having married someone who could not function, who could not live up to the basic tasks that are needed to survive - to bring the car to the shop, to clean up after themselves, to take out the trash regularly, to help raise the children, to care for his mom in her old age, etc etc.
When I was first diagnosed, I expected him NOT be there - it was all I knew. The night before my first appointment at Sloan, he was "sick" - he could not move from the bed. I knew in my heart that I would be alone again and in a way, as it is what I expected and was used to, I knew how to protect myself and how to propel myself forward. But then, he jumped out of bed and got ready and we went and he did not miss an appointment at all period full stop. I was flabbergasted and I still am - I gave up my hard coating, my self protection mechanisms and now all I am in exposed to emotions - as an "ice princess" I did not handle emotions.
Post cancer, emotions are different - I feel them more, I experience them fully. But here I know I cannot move on - that this disease he has will not go away. It might dissipate when the pressure recedes but it also might not. The past has shown him to be resilient and bounce back from the brink...
Now, though, I just want to figure out how to stop my crying, how to get back into "balance" with the world that he lives in - to know that all I can do is pray and hope and not worry because no one is in control - he has no oncologist (God forbid) planning his treatment and "cure" - there is no cure for what he deals with much like others with mental illness - there is just managing symptoms. Many folks ask me why he can’t focus on getting better or work to take control of his demons but they just do not truly understand mental illness. Yes, there are things he could in theory do but in reality he cannot plan to work out more, to sleep better, to be more involved - he can only stay status quo with meds and maybe someday find a way through to being more proactive... I feel this is like blaming the victim in a way - I could not stop myself from getting cancer and he can’t stop himself from being who he is either.
This is the most raw thing I have ever written - I have tried not to disclose too much about what my husband deals with or tell his story but his story is entwined with mine - we are one I guess right? That is what they tell us during our marriage ceremony. Please, be kind - if you see someone struggling, do not assume they are a piece of shit or lazy - think about what demons people face and what they are equipped with or not - be kind in his name and pray for those who cannot live the life they should due to invisible illness.
I am so excited to be published in the Winter 2019 edition of Cancer Health Magazine. This blog is serialized on Cancer Health here - originally my blog at thetimebetweenis.org/blog was serialized but then I became a nonprofit in Spring 2018 and wanted to focus that blog on the work we are doing to help cancer survivors get back to "normal" - or the "new" normal - and created this blog to be my musings, my confessions and my freak outs and of course my story of survival of trying to balance it all. I was so happy when Cancer Health was still interested in serializing my streams of consciousness and even more thrilled when they asked me to write the article for the issue about my work with survivorship.
When we are diagnosed with cancer and in treatment that everyone is there to help from the hospital to organizations to friends and family. As we move into "survivorship", there is a lack of resources available to help us get back into the swing of things. This article is just a sliver of what The Balance After Cancer Foundation focuses on but it is an important piece to the puzzle. Many cancer survivors, such as myself, lose their jobs during their illness and/or find they can no longer do what they did before or have to continue treatment for life for our stage 4 brothers and sisters do and this is also a part of survivorship. I spent over 20 years' helping people take the next step with my small business (aptly named The Next Step) and do find that work and dignity and life are all tied together.
Having a routine, something you LOVE to do, a passion, a plan is all so important to getting back to this "new normal". With free online courses, books, workbooks and more my foundation is something I am very proud of and hope to help many folks with as cancer is not as rare as you think it is - it is something that within a few years the estimate is over 50% of Americans will experience.
I also want to say that my goal is beyond work - some of my recent mentees had training about positive thinking, relationship building and more - all new initiatives we are piloting.
Keep in touch and let me know what you wish you had to help you with survivorship? Let me know in the comments or at Instagram or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know it sounds crazy but I have always loved getting older and then post cancer, it took on even more of an emphasis.
When I was younger, I remember my grandma was afraid she would die young - and in a way she did as 75 was way too young to say goodbye to such an amazing human - but I digress. She lost her mom when she was a young child - her mom was only 40 when she died.
At that point, my grandma and her sister were sent to the USA from Italy to live with family as orphans. My grandmother was only 6 when she traveled from the only home she knew to live with relatives she did not know. That loss of course impacted her life in ways I will never be able to fathom, though when I "lost" my mom as a young teen, she understood that being with a mom was a tragedy.
I remembered during my 39th year that I was so excited to turn 40 (I had been for years). One of my Golden Girls, my Roe, often said, "Why are you in such a rush to turn 40? Why do you want to get old?" It did not change my wish to turn older but at times during the early parts of my 39th year, I wondered and worried about my great-grandmother's story and IF I would get to turn 40 (nothing like an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, FTW).
When I was diagnosed 2 weeks before my 4-0, it did not seem that far fetched, if I am being honest with myself. It was still terrifying and shocking but I guess I had been waiting for a shoe to fall for a decade and change... Not that it was a prophecy but it was, I guess, where the wind was blowing. I had been under tremendous stress and often pictured myself as a puppeteer controlling the strings and the lives of all those around me - yeah, I do not think that anymore. It was like being in a plane and believing your being awake would make the plane fly straight and have no turbulence - impossibilities.
Experiencing breast cancer as a "young" patient and being the only person I knew with this type of disease and being a mom and a wife and working was so very hard - I continue to share and write because I am sure that my words help others (via emails and social media connections all the time based on the shared story of cancer...oh and also seeing the amount of visitors to this blog and my others also shows, I guess, readership who are helped - or haters or family who knows … lol).
I will never thank cancer for anything - I instead focus on enjoying my life in all of its ups and downs and recognizing the hard lesson that NO ONE controls their lives - we are all on a ride and might as well find something to smile about each day, if we can. What made you smile today?
*My great grandma did not die of cancer.
Tomorrow is my birthday!! I have always loved my birthday but even moreso now of course after the whole cancer diagnosis thing... who can blame me? This is what I wrote last year www.balanceaftercancer.org/blog/its-my-birthday-thisis41.
This year has flown - full stop.
This year, I made moves, got certified, decided to go to Italy, formed a nonprofit, wrote 4 books (at least), launched an online course, got new clients, spent time with my kids, friends and loved ones and more.
I worked on my fitness, kept going on my clinical trial and got speaking engagements galore ... tonight on the last day of my 41st year, I am resting up for a jam packed next few days of dinner engagements, Net Basketball Tickets, Harry Potter Exhibit, friends and family get together and more.
Happy early birthday to me! May God continue to bless me and my family and to many many more years in good health! Amen!
I have noticed lately that I am not being kind to myself and my health / abilities. I keep thinking, "I am not well" at certain high pressure times and I want to change this internal dialogue and censure myself from being so negative.
This is strange because in all ways, I have been super positive and light but my knee jerk reaction when pushed is to say, "Well, I am not well.", or "I am tired." or, "I cannot do this." Instead, I want to say, "I am well." or, "I am not too tired to do that." or, "I can do this."
In everything else, I think, "I am healed" but when it comes to the day to day, nitty gritty, I fall into negative thoughts and speech patterns.
Just thinking about my December has me shuddering in the corner - but I have to literally shake that off and think instead about all I can do and not what I "cannot".
I have already moved through so many things I did not expect to accomplish. I had ovaries removed and survived Thanksgiving in November. September and October were spent hibernating and resting and before that the summer was crazy.
I just completed the 17th month of my clinical trial of the drug Ibrance and that has held me back in some ways because I know if I run a fever, I have to go to the hospital to be checked out. There is a total of 24 months to this cycle so now I am thinking about how much my life might change when the trial is over - how much I can maybe expect to be less tired and hopefully continue to stave off progression and continue to be NED.
This month I have the following things / events to handle including basketball games every weekend, my birthday, the Nets tickets we won (at a holiday fair), my BIRTHDAY, Christmas, New Year's, 9/11 Monitoring Program and Sloan follow ups, and work and other initiatives and more.
I will admit that I am tired just looking at that paragraph but that I can do it, I will do it and I will work on how I talk to myself and about myself. I am healthy, I am able and I am restful during the evening and able to function during the day.
How do you talk to yourself?
Right now, I am terrified BUT I am doing it anyway. In just under 60 days, I will be embarking on a big trip and leaving my kids, my puppy, hubby etc and I am really, really scared.
Recently, I was with my son having a special day for the two of us (I had done a day with my daughter a few months ago and my son realized I had yet to have his special one on one day and he was NOT happy so we squeezed it in last week) - and at exactly 2:10pm, my alarm went off to "remind" me to pick up my daughter from school (yes, I let him have a day off). I turned off the alarm and said, "That is so I do not forget to get sissy." He looked at me and said, "You would never forget to get either of us... now daddy, on the other hand..." and he shook his head.
My kids' whole sense of schedule and security is from me. Despite going through stage 3 breast cancer, they still recognized that I was helping and giving directions in the background (weakly as I was SO not able to do what I normally did, but whatever, they recognized I was still "in the know"). My husband, bless his heart, struggles with the day to day and so much is happening right now with him that I CANNOT share that it is a constant struggle at times.
Since my treatment ended, despite me wanting to keep my lessened role of Type A uber parent I have to still be the one who orchestrates the schedule, the pick ups, the drop offs, the lunches, the homework … etc etc. I love doing it because I CAN and this, I know, is a great privilege and not a chore or a bad thing. There are days and weekends where I am zipping back and forth, here and there and running around like a lunatic and it hits me that there is always a worst case scenario and THIS IS NOT IT (thank GOD).
Now, soon, I will be getting on my first transatlantic flight since having children. The flight in and of itself is not a HUGE deal - I used to jump on these types of long haul flights for shits and giggles over a long weekend. The true issue or change is that I will be leaving my children for 10 days. I have to keep picturing the goodbyes, the sitting on a flight and NOT BEING ABLE TO TURN AROUND if God forbid I needed to do so.
This is absolutely scary for me - I remember one time, I was en route to Europe and my brother got hit with a high fever and I called from the place (using the phones connected to the seats this was pre-cell phones) and being so worried that he was so sick and I was on my way out of the country. Of course, he is not my son (but for some intents and purposes, at times, I had been a motherly figure for him).
Now, the thought of going away is scary but I also know I have to do it. This trip is so important for me and it is such a big way to be clear that I am "Lisa" and not just "mom". I also am traveling for a specific purpose -beyond returning to my home away from home, Italy, where I lived as a 21 year old Grad student and to reunite with some old friends and my goddaughter who I last saw when she was 1.5years old... almost 14 years ago but also to visit San Giovanni Rotondo and Padre Pio. This is a pilgrimage for me -and my dad. We are going there because (I feel) we have been called to go.
I just need to do it and pray, hope and don't worry. What have you done that scares you? Is it weird that I was less scared of cancer then I am of this trip? Just in my head? … If you were a betting person, would you bet I do it or chicken out? Part of writing this is to force myself to not be able to chicken out!
Why do I do what I do?
I do not know truly - I do know that helping people is super important to me and the main reason why I formed a nonprofit to help other cancer survivors get back to "normal".
For many years, I taught college and K-12 and saw firsthand how difficult it is for kids' today to be college and career ready. Then I wound up becoming a cancer patient and meeting many folks way younger than I who are dealing with both cancer AND having to be a student or a young worker and it just boggled my mind with the difficulties facing them.
Many years ago, before cancer (feels like a lifetime ago but was early 2016), I wrote a book on college readiness pulling from my 13+ years as a college professor in the NYC area coupled with my 5+ years as a K-12 teacher and built out my lessons and help into a book. Now, though, knowing what I do about young adult cancer and how a diagnosis derails one's life, I decided to take my lessons and apply them specifically for the student who has undergone a health crisis.
I designed and published the workbook and am working on the online course component to go with it. I hope to have it all ready to launch before Christmas.
As a new nonprofit, I still struggle with funding and trying to get my head wrapped around how to move forward. I also had a few months of inactivity trying to get myself moving again... Now that I am moving, I am happy to be back in action but also know I need to keep myself in Balance and not get overwhelmed with comparisons and trying to do it all at once. Slow and steady is also a great strategy.
How can I help you get your Balance After Cancer?
A new month hit me unaware - for the past several months, I have been writing down my "manifestations" or "wishes" for the month in a notebook I carry around sporadically...
I had not realized it was a new month although I did post about my birthday month - I forgot to write my "wishes" or "goals" for this month and because of that (and since I am too lazy to walk upstairs right now to find my notebook), here are this month's intentions:
1) Health (I go for a mammography this month - my yearly - on my remaining breast but health is always my first item on any list, of course).
2) Family Health & Happiness (including me, but I know if I go down, others will suffer, too so I always put my health first)...
3) Good works - to help others. I am working hard on a new online class available to cancer survivors and a workbook all about being college ready after dealing with cancer - wish me luck!
4) Income - I mean, hey, who does not want income? Especially for me as a small business owner / nonprofit founder - income is something we need to survive and also to get through the holidays' with
5) Girls night outs - I want to schedule some more of these - very important to me
6) Writing & Sharing - always important but now that I finally got around my block, I want to do this even more
7) Joy in the season and faith in what's next
8) Show my love
9) Lay off social media :)
10) Special times and memories with the fam & friends
What's on your list for this month?
Super Mom BC Eradicator - connect with me via the icons above :). Thanks! XOXO LISA (my secret identity ... )