Mmm…cake!

Although slightly better, I still spent the day in bed. I cannot seem to escape this dang headache though thankfully the new medicine keeps it at bay for a few hours. As soon as it wears off though, it creep back in. Ugh. It seriously sucks. 

I went to bed feeling pretty good LAST night but woke up every 4 hours, presumably when the medicine wore off, in tears and unable to sleep until the medicine kicked in. There’s been a lot of prayers for relief and thankfully God has been answering them with quick relief of the medicine kicking in.  This morning was rough but the medicine allowed me to make it through my draining without issue – another 600 ml there.

My husband made me chicken noodle soup – Ms Gras – which I can’t give up. Every time I have a cold or don’t feel well, that is my go-to soup. I know, I know, it’s probably horrible for me and filled with sodium. It’s what my momma always gave us and I just love that golden nugget. 😉 Of course he knows that I like to cut the water in half-ish and eat with some saltines. It felt so so good to eat a meal again and I chowed down. Yummy!!

Unfortunately, my stomach wasn’t happy that I ate as much as I did and it came back up. Sigh. Well I tried, right? Back to bed to sleep that away.

I do have an appetite today though so I had Joe grab some bread and jam in the hopes of adding that to my repertoire of crackers and bananas. I have also been seeing commercial after commercial for this particular cake at the local grocery store and I couldn’t get that out of my head. One of my coworkers introduced me to the Chantilly Cake at Publix during a potluck a few years ago and my goodness, is it worth every calorie-ridden delicious bite!!

So for dinner tonight, that is what I enjoyed! And ohhh, was it magnificent. I only ate a little because I don’t want to upset my tummy and so far it’s settling in nicely. And frankly, with the way my appetite has been lately, I’m just glad to keep something down.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful week and has great plans for the weekend. Though I’ve spent the week in bed, I hope to regain some sense of normalcy, energy and no flipping headache pain this weekend. I also plan to ship out the Meghan’s Cross orders – yay!!!

Thank you kindly to everyone who has checked in on me and prayed for me this week. And to those that I owe a response to, I appreciate your patience and I’ll get to it as soon as I can. 💚

Keep spreading the love, my dear friends. Much love to all of you! 😘

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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!

A larger version of myself

Four years ago, when my little sister traveled to Florida to participate in the first ever Brown-Hall-Rivers- Thanksgiving-Extravaganza, Joe & I learned that Rachel makes the best fried chicken and mac-n-cheese. Not having ever tried hers, she offered to make it for us. Whoa, it sure was amazing!! With her visiting again, I asked her ahead of time if she would make it for us while here. She gladly agreed – yay!

When first diagnosed, I had a vision of pants falling off of my hips and sunken eyes…basically a scary, sickly version of myself. A version that screamed – I have cancer! The version of myself that I wasn’t expecting, was the one that has a hard time buttoning her pants. I did not anticipate the weight gain.

I figure there are at least two reasons behind this.

  1. It’s no secret that treatment makes me much less mobile than I normally am, which is why one of my goals for this year is to be more active. Treatment is exhausting, especially the two weeks following. As my body recovers, I gain more energy each day but I still find myself exhausted at the end of the day. It’s challenging to find a balance between the things that I want to do and the things I have the energy to do.
  2. I think we all know how much I love food. The 7 – 10 days after treatment, it’s hard to eat. I am so hungry and yet it’s hard to enjoy food because of the food aversions and metallic taste. And why not make up for that deliciousness in between treatments by overcompensating? I literally dream about which foods I want to enjoy once my taste buds are back – and then I indulge in all of that fabulous food the moment that I can!

I am sure there are other factors, such as my body focusing on other (more important) tasks like killing this horrible disease. But either way, I am continuing to find a balance between enjoying food, moving regularly and not exhausting myself in the process. Plus, I don’t want to invest in a new wardrobe to accommodate an expanding waist line.

All that being said….my sister made her famous food tonight for dinner and let’s just say, I might need to rely on the old pregnancy trick of using a rubber band to expand your pants slightly. The chicken was oven-fried and I walked my mile today so that counts, right?

Oh, and Mom’s cooking tomorrow….mmm…

Merry Christmas!

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After moving to Florida, Christmas was always an odd time of year for me. I was used to the cold weather and my own family traditions from upstate New York, so the first few years were tough. I missed my sister snuggles and the yearly attempt my parents made at pop over perfection (the struggle was real!).

One year, Joe & I were talking about what to do Christmas Day. We had tried spending Christmas Day at home but it felt a little off because it was just the two of us and the weather was warm. That’s when it hit me.

We need to embrace Christmas in Florida. Instead of trying to make it feel like the Christmas I had in New York, we needed to create the Christmas we want here in Florida. Seems simple, right?

That year, we headed towards our favorite restaurant near the beach, only to find out it was closed Christmas Day (oops). Hungry and disappointed, we started driving again and passed a restaurant that we had talked about trying before. We pulled in and grabbed a table. We enjoyed a really nice meal with a wonderful waitress but it just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t quite the Christmas that I was looking for and I felt bad eating out on a day that everyone should be with their families.

After our meal, we headed towards the beach to spend the afternoon. As we sat staring at the ocean, I realized that this was exactly what I was looking for in my search. What’s more Florida than Christmas at the beach?!

And our tradition was born.  For the last five years, we have headed to the beach on Christmas Day. We grab a picnic table or two, Joe heats up the grill and we sit enjoying the ocean air while cooking chicken wings, potatoes and a yummy veggie. Some years we spot Santa handing out candy canes while walking in the sand, while other years there are barely any people around the beach at all. It’s become our “thing” and I love it more and more every year.

Last year, Jacob joined us for his first Christmas Day beach trip and this year our friends joined us as well. Though this was the warmest year yet, it was still filled with fun and laughter.

Though Christmas in Florida is not filled with snowmen or hot cocoa, it is filled with a sandman or two and love. And that, my friends, is what makes this holiday so wonderful. I hope your holiday was magical, no matter what traditions you have.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

New traditions

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Over the years, Thanksgiving has taken on many different forms.  When I was a child, my family would sometimes spend the weekend in Rhode Island & Connecticut with my father’s side of the family. All of the cousins would stay up late the night before, sharing stories and giggles. We would sleep in on Thanksgiving morning and wake up just in time for appetizers at noon. The adults would sit at the main table and the kids would have their own table or two.  We would eat all day, having second and even third dinner, with naps & snuggles on the couch in between.

Other years, my family would spend the day with my mother’s side of the family. We would all gather at my grandparents house for dinner promptly at noon. There were so many aunts, uncles and cousins that we ate buffet style. We would line up with our plates and serve ourselves heaping helpings of food and then sit wherever we could find the room. Sometimes the table, sometimes the couch and sometimes the stairs going up to the second floor.

The first Thanksgiving after I met Joe, he wasn’t planning on celebrating the day because his family was in Florida. Him and his roommate were going to stay home and order a pizza. I immediately invited them to my grandparent’s house and after a little hesitation, they both agreed. “The Joe’s”, as my uncles called them (something they laughed at for years), were welcomed into my family gathering without question.

After moving to Florida, we spend the first few Thanksgivings at my in-laws, with the exception of the year we bought our house when we hosted for the first time ever.

The last four years though, we have taken on a new tradition that has been named the Brown-Hall-Rivers-Thanksgiving-Extravaganza. It started with my younger sisters coming to spend their first Thanksgiving in Florida with the windows open and wearing tank tops. This first year was also the infamous year that I dropped the freshly baked apple pie that my little sister made for dessert. The following year, we decided to head to Georgia and experience a cooler fall Thanksgiving, where we were able to bundle up and snuggle to keep warm in the chilly air.

Last year, my baby sister and her (now) fiance traveled back to Florida to spend little man’s first Thanksgiving with us. Jacob, despite only eating milk at the time, was the head of the table (something that seems rather fitting!).

This year, we caught an amazing sale on plane tickets early in the year and we are back in the beautiful late fall that Georgia offers. Though, instead of celebrating today, we are waiting until tomorrow so that my soon-to-be brother-in-law can join us. Today, he is in uniform protecting this wonderful city.  Tomorrow ee will join his aunt & uncle, who are kindly hosting us in their home for a feast and celebration.

So today, though we won’t have turkey and fixings, we are thankful. We are thankful for all of the amazing Thanksgivings that we been blessed to have, for the incredible family & friends who love and support us more than we could ever have imagined, for it being a “good” week that allows us the ability to travel and eat well, for this gorgeous fall weather, for each other and for each year that brings a new spin to our Thanksgiving traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy this beautiful day with loved ones! I’d love to hear what traditions you share!

So. Much. Love.

When I was a little girl, I loved to write letters. In between visits, my cousins and I would write back and forth to each other. During summer breaks, my closest friends and I would write to each other every few days; often making our own envelopes out of another sheet of paper. Sometimes we would fill them with confetti, which would cause quite a mess when opened! We would even look up the address to hotels and send letters to each other during family vacations. I remember excitedly checking the mail each day in anticipation of the arrival of a new letter addressed to me. There is just something so wonderful about receiving mail.

Although Jacob doesn’t know it yet, I’ve started (try) to pass along this love of letter writing to him. Each holiday, and every vacation, we send him a letter or post card. The letters usually have $1 in it and we share with him a few thoughts, words of wisdom or an event that occurred. We address it to him and mail it out – many times from our own mailbox. They are sealed and stored in a memory box for him to open sometime. We even did this when I was pregnant – addressed to “Baby”.

Where we live now, there aren’t mailboxes (in the typical sense) at each house but instead a large, metal mail box at the end of each road for all of the houses on that street. Typically, it takes a few days for us to check it because it isn’t right in front of our house. Since beginning this journey though, it has become a nightly tradition for us – something that I look forward to doing together. Jacob is strapped into his Radio-Flyer tricycle and we take a family walk to the mailbox together. Most days, that metal box is filled with a letter or a card or a package. Someone reaching out to send their love, their thoughts, their prayers or a surprise gift to let us know that they are thinking of us and that we are not alone in this journey.

Twice this week my husband returned from picking up little man with a gift for me; the first a gift basket filled with goodies from coworkers to remind me how strong I am and today an embroidered tote from daycare filled with goodies to keep me comfortable during treatment. This week, which is the hardest one for us, we have also been given a meal each night so we don’t have to cook.

And the list doesn’t end there – the calls, the texts, the fundraiser, the visits to see us, the prayers. So. Much. Love.

Writing this out, I can’t help but cry. I like to think that words come easy for me when writing but I don’t think I can properly express how much all of your kindness means to us. This is, by far, the most challenging, life-altering journey that we have ever been on and you have all done so much to help us through this. Each and every one of you. We are so humbled and so incredibly blessed with all of your love. There are so many different ways that one can demonstrate kindness, love and support…and I feel like we have seen every single possible way.

A dear friend said to me, “Our prayer is that this helps you and your family, even if it’s just a little.” Oh, but a little it is not. It is so much bigger than that.

Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

A little food and a little wine…

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I love food. I love wine. I love food and wine at the same time. During the time following treatment, there isn’t much food that I find appealing and wine isn’t an option. I take a lot of medicine to try and curb the nausea but the food aversions are quite strong. I still have an appetite, which makes eating especially challenging because of how unappealing everything is. I have consistently been able to eat cheese, eggs, crackers and popsicles. Lots and lots of popsicles. Water is a challenge too but I work past it because I know how important water intake is to flush my system.

Today, we spent a few hours at Epcot with Grandma and Grandpa exploring the Food & Wine Festival. Despite the heat, which has been getting cooler and cooler each day, it was such a wonderful day. We visited many countries around the world and shared different appetizer sized plates and small beverages. Since it has been a few weeks since my last treatment, I am able to eat pretty regularly. And I did just that today. I savored many delicious treats.

I’ve been to the Food & Wine Festival before but this visit was a little more precious. Every moment with my family is precious. Seeing Grandma & Grandpa smile while little man dances to the music in Morocco makes my heart smile. Enjoying the fabulous food around the world, knowing there will be a time again in the next week where the thought of food is completely unappealing, makes me grateful for each and every bite while I am able to enjoy it.

While I sip a glass of red tonight, I am savoring the moments of today. The carefree joy of time with family, the ability to relax and the spirit of innocence while my little man met Mickey and Goofy…makes for a memorable and amazing day. Happy Friday, my friends.