2016 Year in Review

mauiprettypic

Playing in the rain on my wedding day

2016 was a great year overall for us. We had our ups and downs as anyone does, but we had so many wins this year it made all the crummy stuff worth it.

Some of the things from our family vision board manifested themselves into reality this year. I’m totally into what many refer to as woo woo; I believe in visualization and I look at my vision board every morning before I meditate. In February we traveled to Arizona for a week to check out potential places to live and scope out the local scene. In December we married on Maui next to the ocean underneath the beautiful palm trees, something we had dreamt of for many years. It was such a fun week celebrating with family and friends on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. If you had told me ten years ago all these things I wished for would actually happen, I probably would have told you, “You’re crazy!”. My life was just stumbling along until I discovered and added in some of these success habits and goal setting techniques. I also began writing my future book about my cancer story and how I recovered from treatments, which I can’t wait to share with you!

This year also marked an important milestone for me. 15 years that I have been blessedly cancer free. I feel like that is a reason to celebrate! I have made it this far with no chronic illness besides my hypothyroidism from radiation therapy. It does not mean much to life insurance companies however, they think I will die soon apparently so they refuse to insure me at any cost. It’s quite unfortunate that you get treated like some kind of defective human after cancer. I can’t donate blood either. I’m just going to keep living as healthy a lifestyle as I can so I can live to 100! (My current goal) I’m still thinking about ways I can help and inspire other childhood cancer survivors that being healthy can be accomplished after cancer, I do not like the current statistic that 80% of childhood cancer survivors have a chronic illness by age 40. I want to lower that number.

mycancer

Myself all puffed up on steroids during treatment in 2001

We’ve also been dealing with the toxic black mold situation that has progressively gotten worse the longer we are living here. It’s such a nightmare to try to get out of if you don’t have a safe place to go and a wedding already planned and paid for with non refundable plane tickets. I have read multiple books on minimalism over the past few years and made it my goal to lose the materialism and stuff that doesn’t bring me joy, but I’ve floundered at it quite honestly. I seriously cut back on buying things, but I felt like I couldn’t ever get rid of enough stuff! Well, now we really don’t have a choice. The universe has brought me a lesson on the importance of minimalism and shedding excess stuff. We can bring what we deem safe and the furniture is all going. A new mattress on the floor in an empty room is better than being ill!

Myself now with my family

Myself now with my family

This next year will be super exciting as more things manifest into our lives from ourĀ vision board. Currently we are packing, selling and donating in preparation to move to Arizona. I’m immensely excited about this as I have dreamt of moving to a warm climate for a decade now. It’s finally happening! When you evaluate your life and gain clarity on what you really want it can happen. Years of hard work eventually do pay off. When we looked at the current environment we live in (weather included) it was not conducive to the type of lifestyle we’d like to lead, so we made the decision to move across the country. It’s interesting how it all came together in the past few years, as if it were simply meant to be. The universe works in mysterious ways indeed. Have a happy, healthy, amazing New Year!

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10 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Cancer Treatments

It’s pretty overwhelming and life changing to hear you have cancer when you’re a kid. It is at any age really, but especially unexpected when you’re very young. Here are my top ten tips based on things I wish I had known then: 

1. Look into fertility preservation. I would have done this for sure if I had known the risks of possibly losing my fertility forever. It gets a mention when you start talking about treatment options but I felt like I was so upset about just trying to make it through treatments the thought of Will I be able to have kids when I’m 30? never really crossed my mind. I also learned later down the survivor road that women face possible early menopause after chemotherapy. I am very fortunate that I was able to have at least one healthy child, but if I could do it over again? I would have spent the money to preserve my eggs, just in case. 

2. Decide if radiation is really worth the risks. I had a relapse after radiation therapy, so if I could do it over again, I would have opted out of the radiation with chemotherapy. It destroyed my thyroid and some of my neck muscles and salivary glands. There are studies going on right now to see if there is any benefit to the radiation vs just chemotherapy. Knowing what I know now, I would have just gone with straight chemotherapy and added healing alternative therapies such as acupuncture and juicing to supplement my body’s recovery. 

3. Really, really care for your oral health. I am now 14 years out from my last treatments for my relapse. I’ve had so much work done to my teeth to try to preserve them that I seriously could have bought myself a house by now. My most recent bridge replacement cost $7400, but I need to be able to eat right? I didn’t realize the damage that all the radiation and chemotherapy would cause my teeth. I’m holding out for the stem cell replacement teeth, but in the meantime I have to keep replacing bridges and working on implants, which are very expensive and time consuming procedures. Your body also tends to not like foreign objects, so I know that I could face side effects from implants as well. There wasn’t much I could do for my teeth while I was in a coma on a ventilator, but before I would have gotten extra cleanings and really cleaned my teeth after vomiting more often. Maybe I would have tried the oil pulling after cleaning my mouth out. I also would have invested in a Waterpik sooner! Making sure to have good nutrition would have helped as well. I was eating things like Doritos, soda, and Taco Bell…stuff that I wouldn’t touch now if you paid me. I really miss my teeth. 

4. Make sure you have a plan for meeting your nutritional needs. Juicing your greens and taking supplements is a good start. Having the proper amount of good fats is vital too, if you look at Dr. Weston A. Price’s work on nutrition and teeth, you can connect this to #3.   I know how hard it is to keep food down sometimes when you are on chemotherapy, but your body can’t thrive without nutrients. I’ve also read promising research on the ketogenic diet with chemotherapy. 

5. Go take a yoga class. I wish I had discovered yoga much earlier in my life. It has improved so many things for me, physically and mentally. I am very grateful to have yoga in my life. I just can’t say enough good things about yoga.  It has made me a calmer, stronger, more balanced person.

6. Try some alternative therapies. I started getting into alternative or natural medicine after my last treatments were long over. I have used acupuncture and essential oils to Manuka honey and colloidial silver. These things have helped me clear up sinus infections without antibiotics! I wish I had known about the power of supplementing your immune system so it could better do its job.  

7. Read as many books as you can. I’ve read so many books now on spirituality, health, self-improvement, how to prevent cancer and live longer. One of my favorites is Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. I also recommend The Blue Zones and The China Study

8. Your mindset is a very powerful tool. If you think you will get better then you will have a much better chance than if you have doubts. Negative emotions create disease so let it go. Forgive anyone who has ever hurt you, and forgive yourself. It’s not your fault, and feeling guilty will not help you heal. I didn’t have the easiest or happiest childhood, and it may have contributed to my own disease. I don’t know, and I never will, but it surely couldn’t have hurt to let a lot of the negative stuff go and forgive everyone.  

9. Get enough sleep. Sleep is super important and I was not taking sleep seriously when I was dealing with cancer. I had partying to do! I think we regularly stayed up till 4am and slept till lunchtime which wasn’t the healthiest thing ever. The body does a lot of repair work at night so make sure that you get plenty of sleep. 

10. Therapy does not mean you’re a failure. Everyone needs help to succeed. The top CEOs have an amazing team in their corner, you need the same. Fighting for your life is the biggest struggle you could ever face, so don’t be afraid of getting some help for your emotions during this stressful time in your life. I wish I had.