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.

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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 our 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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A Joyful Life

IMG_9858About this time fifteen years ago, my biopsy came back positive for recurrent malignancy. I seriously thought my life was over just before my 21st birthday. I made sure I enjoyed plenty of time with my friends and had lots of fun before I went into the hospital. Having cancer is a great teacher, but no one should have to go through such a horrible ordeal to learn these valuable lessons that I am about to discuss. 

“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” -Sam Levenson

I spent way too many years not loving myself. My body was not fit enough, my face wasn’t pretty enough, my teeth weren’t white enough, and my hair wasn’t straight enough. The list would go on and on. I could totally drone on with the things I thought were wrong, but I won’t. There’s nothing but self-love from me now. 😉 I learned the number one most important thing in life is my health, which is why I eat intentionally, exercise regularly, and meditate. You can read my posts on how we eat and how we supplement if you are curious. The second most important thing is living your dreams. If you aren’t happy and joyful most of the time, you can’t be truly healthy.

IMG_9844Recently, we went to visit Arizona for a week to visit different towns and look at places to live. This has been a dream of mine for over a decade now, to move to Arizona. Before this trip, I had only seen Arizona in pictures; so many people are puzzled as to how I just decided I am moving to a place I have never been in my life. Why Arizona? I think the fascination started in two ways. First, my aunt growing up was my role model. She was amazingly smart, beautiful, kind, and always impeccably dressed. She often visited Arizona (sometimes to test missiles) and talked about how she’d love to live there. (She never did get to move there before passing away.) Second, after I survived cancer the second time, I found Dr. Andrew Weil’s books and fell in love with his work in integrative medicine. He told a story in 8 Weeks to Optimum Health about how his car broke down in the desert of Arizona in 1973. He fell in love with the beauty of the desert and never left. For some reason or another, that story really stuck with me and created a seed of vision.

This trip was dedicated to enjoying everything Arizona has to offer and finding out where we’d like to start our lives out there. I have to say, it more than exceeded the expectations I had set in my mind. I felt like I was finally at home. The weather was great, the scenery was beautiful, and the food was amazing! Needless to say, we were all sad to board the plane to go back to NJ, for we had fallen in love with our forever home. We are very excited to make our way out there next year to start a new chapter in our lives.

I hear so many people make excuses for not living their life their way on their terms. When I tell people I want to leave NJ and move halfway across the country to AZ where I know no one, they often have this very similar response, “I would love to leave NJ, but I can’t because my family is here.” Well, my family is here too! I love my family, but do I really want to spend my life not pursuing my dreams to be near them 24/7? Not really. I am most joyful in the summertime, it gives me more energy. Why would I want to stay where it is cold and grey for months every year? If I loved winter and winter sports it might be a great place to be, but I do not.

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We are fools to waste our time, make the most of your time here. If you moan and complain you will only get negative energy back. If you have your health you have all the wealth in the world, you are truly blessed. Do what brings you joy, go live in that place you’ve always dreamt of, find your dream job, your dream spouse. There’s no reason not to, and if you tell yourself otherwise, it’s really just an excuse to stay in your comfort zone. So many of our limitations are self imposed. I heard a great idea, to plan your life backwards from your death, that way you will live in alignment with your true goals. I would say that works as I had to evaluate my life as if it were over any day; it creates a lot of clarity as to what is important.

You only live once; go live your dreams! Have you ever stepped outside of your comfort zone to chase your dreams? What is stopping you? 

A Perfect World

Love

My coworker said something to me today that inspired this post. “You really want to live in this perfect world. That is never going to happen.” Well, why couldn’t it ever happen? I believe it could, but it starts with how we treat each other and raise the children.

I want to live in a world where doctors treat the patient, not the symptom.

The world where dentists do not use mercury to fill teeth, and hand out samples of toxic toothpastes, rather using ozone and nutrition to heal the body, and give out samples of natural toothpastes like Earthpaste or Auromere.

Where drug companies don’t own the government and the AMA, and every other commercial isn’t a drug advertisement for a pill that will cause you more harm than good.

A world where war no longer exists because people love and respect each other enough to leave one another alone when they disagree on their beliefs.

A world where people aren’t out to make each other miserable by gossip or betrayal.

A world where people do not poison their food and pollute the land, air, and water that nourishes them.

A world where people love to read and learn, not spend their lives mindlessly watching football or the Kardashians. (A little television is ok, but the average American spends 15 YEARS of their life watching TV.)

A world where everyone enjoys exercise and the beauty of nature.

A world where there is no hate, no bullying, no greed, no abuse, no homelessness, no one starving.

A world I would like for our children to live in. This world begins with each of us, it starts with controlling our own egos. When we work on ourselves, we create ripples of change that affect everyone around us. Small acts of kindness create great things in our world!

Am I the only one who feels this way? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!  🙂

15 Years Later, a Survivor 

Happy Birthday to me! October is a special month for me, as it is my second birthday, the anniversary of my autologous stem cell transplant. Something many people do not like to talk about is their medical history. I used to feel the same way, it’s almost terrifying to think that you are different, that there was something wrong with you. In my younger years, I used to pretend that nothing had ever happened to me, that I was as normal as every one of my peers. But, your past has a way of following you around, and it reared it’s ugly head again right in the beginning of my 21st year. I had cancer. It was to me, the worst diagnosis one could ever receive. It meant being ill again, losing my hair again, not being able to have a normal life yet again. The first time, I was 16, and I did not yet have a job or any real responsibility. It was much easier for me to just be out of school and have some homeschooling while I went through my treatment. This time was going to be different. I had a car payment, I had bills, I was in college, I had a job, and a relationship. This time, I had to walk away from everything I had started to build as my whole life came crumbling down around me. I had hoped that I could retain some semblance of a normal 20 year old life, but that didn’t happen. I spent my 21st birthday vomiting, but it wasn’t from a night of drinking like the average 21 year old birthday celebration. I ended up spiraling downward faster than I could blink after I finished my final chemotherapy treatments and my stem cell transplant that October. I would go on to be on a ventilator, in a coma, and hospitalized for 3 months straight.

When I was awakened from my coma, I was surprised by my complete paralysis from muscle atrophy. I cannot even begin to explain how it felt. I had to be fed, changed, and sponge bathed. It was painful to try to move, and I had become so sickly thin from muscle atrophy and weight loss. My parents carried me home, literally, right before Christmas. It would take 3 months of therapy for me to learn how to walk again, and I don’t know how long it took for me to feel normal again. Years I think. It was 4 years before I was able to start working at my job again.

But here I sit, 11 years later, to tell my tale. My message to everyone out there who is battling cancer right now. Don’t give up. Ever. It was the hardest battle I’d ever fought in my life, but the one most worth the fight. I know more people now than ever before who are battling this condition, and I feel for them, because I was once there too, and I know the horrors of the treatments that they are given with the promise of a big ‘maybe you will survive this.’ I am grateful to myself for never giving up, for my family and friends for always being there for me, and to my doctors and nurses, who saved my life.

This year, I have graduated college at the top of my class, given birth to my adorable son, and I have an amazing fiancé. I finally feel like my life is starting to go in the direction it was intended to. Happy Birthday to me, indeed.