More love jars ready!

Although time consuming to make, I just LOVE seeing another bunch of Love Jars ready to go! These gave me something to focus on this week while I anxiously awaited the phone call to begin radiation. The plan is to start Monday or Tuesday of next week but I’ll know for sure tomorrow as they are finalizing my plan today.

Special thanks to my incredible friends for their help in making these Love Jars through time, support and supplies. Love you all!!  💗💚💗💚💗 Team Red Phoenix!


Wednesday blessings

I have been fighting a cold / sinus infection for a while now and it started to get the best of me the last few days.  Thanks to some medicine and rest, I am finally starting to feel a little better.  I hate not feeling well!  Today, I am grateful for:

  1. The ability to rest and take it easy while recovering from this illness.  As antsy as I am to start radiation, I am relieved that I have not had to fight through a sinus infection during my first days of it.
  2. The incredible husband that I have.  He is such an incredible supporter, in more ways than I could ever list.
  3. My upcoming birthday.  I feel incredibly blessed that I am able to celebrate it and that I am cancer free for it.  This means so much to me.

Tell me, friends, what are you grateful for today?  I am sure there are a lot of things so let me hear it!

Life is precious

Today I am reminded of how precious life is.

I learned this morning that a woman I met at the CHHO in November lost her battle with breast cancer last night. As I stared at the picture of her, I could feel my heart begin to ache. I remember hearing her introduce herself and sharing that she had a son. I remember the way her voice cracked as she said she was Stage 4 and that the cancer had spread to her bones. I remember the way my heart ached for her that day, as it aches for her again now. Though I only met her once, she left an impact on me.

As I thought about what her family, her friends and her son are going through right now, I broke down. I cried, a lot. There were big sobs and heavy tears and a lot of yelling despite being alone. I cried for this woman and her family and I cried for me and mine. I cried because cancer does not discriminate. I cried because cancer is selfish. I cried because I hate cancer. I cried because it was all that I could do.

And then I stopped. I wiped the tears from my face and stood up tall. I reminded myself that I am blessed to be here. I reminded myself that I need to continue living the life that I want to live. I need to follow my dreams and make every effort possible to make them a reality. I need to love hard, embrace every moment and let go of the things that cause me worry. I need to live. Because that is what I am here to do.

This is the only life I have and I want to make it the best life that it could possibly be.

Rest in peace, Traci. I pray for you, your family and your friends to find peace.

Easter blessings

Growing up, Easter was typically spent at my grandparents’ house. They would spend the days prior to the holiday preparing for dozens of grandkids to come participate in an egg hunt. Looking back, I realize that they must have bought hundreds of eggs for us kids, so that we could all find plenty. They owned a good amount of land and would hide the eggs all over it. All of us grandkids would gather after church and search for the eggs after we ate a big supper at noon. Our baskets would all be full of the bright colored eggs by mid-afternoon, when we would open them up and see what goodies we found. My grandparents were so good at hiding the eggs that we sometimes found one or two eggs in the weeks after the big event.

When I was a bit older, I was lucky enough to help them prepare for the hunt. I recall a large bag filled with tons of coins that would be used to fill the eggs. The amount in each egg varied and some of them were filled with sweet treats too. A few lucky kids would even find a one dollar bill in their egg. I have many wonderful memories of these events throughout my childhood.

In recent years, Joe & I have done different things to celebrate the holiday. Sometimes we would host dinner, sometimes we would go to his parents’ house and sometimes we would do something different. This year, we decided to start a new tradition for our little family of three. I bet you can guess what it involved…

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After Jacob woke up and found his basket filled with books, shirts and coin filled eggs, he ventured outside in search of eggs filled with grapes. This little man loves his grapes! Next, each coin was carefully placed in his piggy bank and each grape was plopped in his mouth or fed to one of us (a new favorite pastime of his). Then we packed a cooler and headed to (you guessed it!) the beach.

Our typical go-to spot was taken so we tried our hidden spot number two, which was also taken. Uh-oh. Spot number 3? Yup, taken. We thought for sure we were ahead of the crowds! Although not entirely prepared for our next go-to place, we found it was pretty deserted and set up there. It worked out perfectly; the rain that had been threatening all morning focused its energy around us and only landed a few cool drops on our heads.

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We spent the day fishing, collecting shells and playing in the sand. The tide was going out and Jacob had a blast running in and out of the shallow waves as they formed a little pool for him to play in. There were lots of birds for him to chase and the wind was strong enough to play ball with him. His giggles filled the air all day long. It was a warm day with a cool, humid breeze that only Florida can offer. It was relaxing and fun – a perfect combination for us. We ended the day snuggled up together, thankful for the blessings that Easter brought to us.

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Livin’ on a prayer…halfway there!


The other day I was chatting with my friend and she asked me how many Herceptin treatments I had left. I responded that I didn’t know. She was surprised, expecting that I had a countdown going like I did with my 6 aggressive treatments. I explained that I hadn’t counted them because I felt like there were a ton and didn’t want to feel overwhelmed. She was understanding but offered that I might feel better with the countdown, like I did before.

So I pulled out a calendar and counted out every three weeks until September.  In my head, there were at least 20 and I probably didn’t have enough wall space for all of that. To my surprise, I didn’t even have 10 left!  What?!  Ok, so I’ll be printing out new Red Phoenix symbols to start this countdown after all…  (how does she know me so well?!)

Today while Jacob and I were playing outside, I turned Pandora onto the Bon Jovi station. (My go-to station…well, aside from my 90s love songs station ;)) “Livin’ on a prayer” by Bon Jovi started playing and Jacob & I danced around the yard.  While yelling out the lyrics together, I found myself getting excited each time the chorus came on. “Whoaaaa, we’re halfway there!” As I picked up Jacob and spun him around, (Joe’s been practicing for the weddings we have this year!) I realized something.

We’re halfway there!  It’s been 8 months since diagnosis and I have 8 months until reconstruction. I’m halfway through it all! I mean, I know I’ll have recovery from reconstruction and eventually my port will need to be removed but the “big” phases of this journey are halfway done!  How exciting is that?!

I guess I should dance around outside more often.  :);)

Treatment day blessings


On this treatment day, I am grateful for:

1. An afternoon appointment that allowed me a morning of play with little man before the post treatment fatigue.
2.  A break in the crazy rain storms to get some fresh air outside.
3.  Slight overcast skies and all this hair growth so neither of us need a hat today!

I am truly too blessed to complain. How about you?

The beach


Beach 032416This week has been odd. I didn’t have a ton of appointments like usual. I made sure that there wasn’t a whole lot to do since I thought that I was starting radiation and wasn’t sure how I would feel, especially driving to and from the appointment every day. It’s not crazy far but considering the entire appointment should be less than 30 minutes, the 45 minute each way ride seems like a lot.

So, I spent the week somewhere in between not really being sure what to do with my time and feeling like I could do about 100 things a day. I was able to get some things done and yet I was still able to rest when I needed to. I was starting to get a little antsy but also feeling guilty for having a few days to just…be.

When sharing this thought with one of my very best friends since forever, she replied with a reminder that I have been through a lot this year and that it’s ok to take some time to relax. She also reminded me that it was only a few short weeks ago that I beat cancer. It helped to hear that and know that it’s ok.

So today, I went to the beach. With me, myself and I. I indulged in a sweet treat outside while watching the water, the clouds and the sun. I people watched while the spring breakers chatted all around me. I sat out by the water and stuck my feet in the sand. I walked the ocean and felt the cool waves on my feet. I read my book, wrote a little and chatted with the fisherman who setup next to me.

But mostly, I just was. I let my mind settle while the wind drifted away with my thoughts. And although I missed my boys hanging out beside me, the day was wonderful, peaceful, freeing.

My happy place. It was exactly what I needed before tomorrow’s treatment.

Our fruit trees

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A few weeks ago, I was sitting outside enjoying the sun shining on my face while I read a book and dreamt about life. The wind blew and a sweet fragrance filled my nose. I glanced up and saw that the plum and peach trees my mother had surprised us with last spring were blooming. I smiled and snapped a picture for my mom. They were beautiful and filled with buds. These buds were filled with the promise of fresh fruit in a few months.

Today, I walked outside and looked at those same trees again. Most of the flowers are gone and in their place are baby fruit. The once pink flowers of the peach tree are now filled with green fuzz-covered peaches the size of a quarter and the once white flowers of the plum tree are now filled with smooth green plums the size of a dime. They are magnificent.

As I watered the trees and watched them sparkle slightly in the afternoon sun, I thought back to when I first planted these trees. It was a warm weekend afternoon in late spring of last year. I pulled back my long curls with a hair tie and bandana, put on some active wear and stepped into my sneakers. Putting on my sunglasses, I ventured into the backyard to do some yard work. Prior to our neighbors putting up the fence, I had always wanted to spruce up the plants that lined our backyard but I wasn’t sure how the politics of backyard easement worked. Once they put up the fence, I was excited to spend some time and energy on this part of the yard.   My mom buying us two fruit trees was exactly the motivation that I needed to get started.

With Joe spending time inside with little man, I spend the entire afternoon sweating in the backyard. I raked up tons of leaves, pulled apart thorny vines from overgrown weeds and swatted bugs. I filled bag after bag of lawn debris. Eventually, I cleared out the overgrowth enough that I was ready to plant the trees. I grabbed a shovel and dug deep holes, wet the soil and planted my new trees. Standing back, I smiled at my accomplishment. A few hours of work and I had cleared some land and planted new trees. I was proud of myself and excited to watch the trees grow. The thought of little man picking his own fruit in our yard excited me greatly.

The next day I woke up sore, as I expected. One of the areas that I was sore was under my left armpit. I figured I pulled a muscle and tried to take it easy on that particular arm for a few days. The pain never went away and eventually I learned that the pain was not from the yard work, though the yard work may have triggered the pain.

Looking back, life was simpler then. Breast cancer rarely crossed my mind, and when it did it wasn’t because I had it. Life was a series of daily routines, random struggles and a predicable future – or so I thought.

Things have changed drastically since the day that I planted these trees. My life, my daily routines and my struggles are all different now. There is a new norm and yet I am still in awe of these trees. The way that they have continued to grow, despite my lack of nurturing in recent months, and how they went from just a few leaf covered branches, to blossoming flowers and to now producing an abundance of baby fruit. They continued to grow and change throughout the seasons, just like me.

I can’t help but wonder how I’ll reflect upon these trees when they bloom next spring. Something tells me that there will be a new norm yet again. And this time, it will be an even better one.

Food basics – help!

So I have a slight rant today. This isn’t a typical post but I’m bothered and feel the need to share. I mentioned earlier this year that I wanted to focus on getting healthy, which involves a hard look at the foods that my family consumes. Yesterday I put together my grocery list based on the sales ad, planned my meals for the week and headed to the grocery store. I have been pretty good about not purchasing processed foods and checking out all of the labels for things that I do purchase.

When I was pregnant, I did a lot of research around what foods are safe to eat. I became quite brand loyal for things like milk and eggs, among others. I quickly fell into a routine for the things that I purchased regularly, especially once little man started eating regular food. It occurred to me though, that I haven’t been checking the labels on many of my staple items, especially the things that I am not quite as brand loyal to. This may sound silly, since I check labels on so many of my purchases but I realize now that I have been a little naïve to how tainted food actually is. I was shocked and angered by what I found.

Since I didn’t make it to my local farm this weekend, I picked up my typical fruits and veggies, trying to buy organic where I could. Then I moved on to the meat, which I only needed a little of and opted for organic and grass fed there as well. Yes, the price can add up quickly but after doing some research on the hormones and antibiotics that are often used, it is a non-negotiable for me. I have learned to watch the ads and purchase the organic versions on sale then freeze whatever I’m not using right away. This has been working well so far.

Then I ventured over to the dairy section. I am pretty good about checking out the labels for most things but cheese isn’t one that I have looked at recently. I mean, the ingredients should be pretty basic, right? Um…no. I spent some time googling the ingredients that were listed on a lot of the cheeses that I picked up and was horrified at what I found. There are a lot of unnecessary ingredients and a lot of preservatives. Thankfully, I found a couple of brands that only use the basics and opted to buy those (also on sale, whew!). I headed over to the bread section and felt a little overwhelmed by all of the ingredients on the packages there and actually decided not to even buy bread. I need to do some more research before committing to that. I also opted not to purchase chicken stock because there were so many ingredients listed on the carton. For something that seems like it should be relatively simple, I was scared of the long list. I left the grocery store feeling deflated, as there are so many things that I typically buy that contain a lot of junk.

You may be thinking, what’s your point? Having recently beaten breast cancer and wanting to live a long, healthy life with my family, I can’t help but wonder what impact how big of an impact the ingredients in the food that I consume actually has on having cancer at such a young age. For the majority of my life, I have blindly purchased foods that I assumed were the real thing. It was only a few years ago that I realized maple syrup wasn’t even real unless you buy real syrup. Same thing with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise…the standard things that we have in our refrigerator are full of hidden preservatives, tons of sugar and frankly, crap. Go look, seriously. It’s scary.

If I want to purchase real food, not foods that are full of additives and fake ingredients, I have to spend time researching. And even then, I feel unsure about whether or not I am actually getting the whole story. There’s non-GMO, preservative free, no artificial sweeteners, organic and so many things in between that it’s hard to keep it all straight. As much as I want to get back to the basics, it’s hard to trust what the basics actually are now.

I just feel a little overwhelmed with keeping it all straight. So, I’m wondering what you all do to stick with the basics. Are you brand loyal to companies that you know you can trust? Do you avoid dairy entirely? What about meat? Are there blogs you follow that offer guidance or break it down in a way that it is easy to understand and remember? I’m anxious to hear what tips and tricks you all may have to help guide me on this path to food basics. Thanks for reading and putting up with my food frustration today!

The Love Jars Outreach

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Compassionate Hands and Hearts Outreach event. I was blessed to be a recipient of this organization last year. Each month, this organization supports local women (and men) who are battling breast cancer. The recipients are provided a financial gift to help with their journey along with a gift bag filled with lots of items to help make life a little easier.

When I attended the outreach with this organization in November, it touched me in a way that is hard to describe. These people, these warriors…they’re amazing. They volunteer their time, their minds, their ears and their hearts to help people like myself. They offer support, encouragement and friendship. They understand the battle and have survived it themselves.

I wanted to give back to this organization, for the love that they shown me and my family. Thanks to the support of Team Red Phoenix, I brought Love Jars to the outreach for each of this month’s recipients. They were placed in the gift bags alongside other wonderful items that were donated to help during their journey. Listening to each of these six women share their story, and knowing that they are all right here in my town, brought tears. My heart aches for each of their stories and the struggles that breast cancer has brought them. I can simply hope and pray that through the support of organizations such as CHHO that these women find comfort in their journey.

And perhaps the Love Jars help them to know that they are not fighting alone.  Spread the love.