I’m just me.

I updated the “Me” section of this page today. Reading what I wrote mid-February was hard and yet rewriting it today felt right somehow.

It’s hard to believe that this blog has been around since August 15th of last year. I started it in the hopes of sharing my story, my journey, with breast cancer. It was a chance for me to express myself – my highs and my lows. It was an opportunity to be me and share my updates & experiences with the world. I had been procrastinating on starting a blog for years and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that. So I started.

The last year has been one of the hardest, most challenging and yet most rewarding experiences of my entire life. I have grown as a person, a friend, a mother, a wife and so much more. I have cried more than I thought possible, felt worse than ever and sat up worrying about the future. And yet, those tears have been filled with more love than I have ever felt, I’ve made my body stronger than it once was and I no longer live in fear of the future (well, I try!).

This last year has taught me more than I learned in my 30+ years of life. I have laughed harder, smiled bigger and hugged longer than I ever thought possible. The love that I feel wrap itself around me on a regular basis is nothing short of amazing. It is nothing short of a miracle. This experience, this blog, this journey…no, I did not ask for any of it. But it is here. And it is mine. And I will embrace it for what it is and make the very best of every moment that I am granted.

I often hear people ask me about being brave or inspirational. My reply is simple…I’m just me. I am the me that I thought I once was and yet am somehow completely different. I am the me that I feel I am in my heart. I am the me that is true to myself. I am the me that I once dreamed of being. I am the me that will continue to be brave and strong and inspirational. But I am just that – me.

I hope you all continue to follow me and my journey. I hope that you find my posts to be inspiring or insightful. I hope that you all continue to inspire me, the way that you have continuously throughout this last year. We don’t know what the future will bring us but what we do know is that we can love hard now and always. Keep spreading that love, friends. It is what keeps me – and the world – going.

Rise & shine!

Happy Monday, friends! This week is packed with work, life and appointments for our family of three. I am sure you can relate! I’ve been up since 4am (dang steroid), but lunches are packed up with all fresh, organic fruits and veggies to keep the “hangry” at bay. 😉

We are embracing this day and all that it brings. I am so grateful for:

1. The incredible outpouring of love and support that we have received. From the calls, texts, letters, packages, prayers and love…I know I’m not including everything but know how much every word means the world to us!

2. The blessing of life itself. Each day is a gift and I am so grateful for what each day brings. Regardless of the fight that we have in front of us, we will continue to battle and pray with all that we have inside of us.

3. My family. I know this is not easy on Jacob and Joe. I actually can’t imagine what goes through each of their heads. Though Jacob may not know the ins and outs of what is happening, he knows that something is up. And yet each of them support me and love me unconditionally. They don’t question that love and they continue to embrace me, my struggles and every day that we have together. To say that I am a blessed and lucky woman would be an understatement. I am so loved.

Spread the love, my friends. Today and always!

Hello, world!

Here I am! Life has been crazy, as always. I’m making progress with appointments and the month of August is set to be a crazy one! I’ll enjoy this weekend for what it is before hitting the ground running next week.

I visit Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa on the 11th, Dana Farber in Boston on the 12th, Emory in Atlanta on the 19th, Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville the 25th and Sloan Kettering on the 1st of September. It’s a LOT of travel and the logistics themselves are exhausting when mixed with radiation but we will get through it for sure!

Long story short, I have not yet begun radiation to my chest. There have been a lot of tears and frustrations but at the end of the day, it is what it is. I am awaiting “approval” to begin. It sucks that I’ve been spinning my wheels for over a week but I trust that there is a reason and a method to this madness. The pills and radiation are supposed to have intense effects together so I will take it as a blessing in disguise and focus my time and energy on things that I can control.

The steroids have been keeping me up at night so I’m not sleeping as well as I know I should, despite being tired. Waiting to confirm that melatonin is safe to take with my pills, in the hopes of trying a natural remedy.

The pills themselves have been relatively uneventful in terms of side effects, so that’s exciting! I am a week in today so I am remaining optimistic that they are hard at work inside of me, fighting this awful disease. 

I continue to be amazed at the incredible outpouring of love and support that my family receives. We are blessed beyond measure and grateful for each and every person that crosses our path. Whether you know it or not, we thank God for you each day.

That’s all for now. Back to the grind and spreading the love, my friends! 💋💋💋

Spreading the love…

Imagine yourself walking down the beach and finding a decorative stone or two. You look at it and smile – the sentiment bringing warmth to your heart. “Believe”, “Wish”, “Love”. You keep walking but leave the stone behind. A few feet further and you find another. The color catches your eye this time and you can’t help but pick it up. Perhaps it’s the Red Phoenix (😉). Perhaps it’s a heart. Maybe a beautiful word of “Hope”. Whatever image is there, you hold that stone and stare deeply at it. You feel the love that went into each stroke and the tears begin the fall. Walking away, you take the stone with you…feeling it’s presence, the love that it filled you with. It is exactly what you were looking for that morning. It was exactly what you needed to find.

My aunt and her family have started creating these amazing stones. She walks regularly in a beach up north and finds beach stones along the way. Her family collects them and brings them home to paint and leave behind at their next visit. She even recently started making small chemo bags out of burlap sacks and painting rocks to match tick-tack-toe boards to give away.

Such an incredible gesture of selflessness, kindness and pure LOVE. I wanted to share this moment with you all. It brought me to tears and I love seeing the pictures of her and her family creations. They wrap themselves up in the love that they find each and every single day. I don’t think I could be more proud. Team Red Phoenix! 💚

Day 2, dose 1

I set my alarm this morning to prepare for day 2 of chemo pills. I don’t typically eat breakfast upon waking up so this is a new routine for me. Food almost immediately, followed by 30 minutes before I take this morning’s dose. A reminder helps tell me to stop what I’m doing and eat before taking my pills.  Little man had a rough night for some reason and I awoke with a decent headache but I can’t complain. It’s hard to believe that just a week ago, I was preparing for brain surgery. I am so incredibly blessed with my abilities to heal. Yes, there is a long road ahead but I am so thankful for today.

I have received a lot of requests about how to help during this time. I don’t do well with these questions and I shy away from the answer mostly. To be candid, any and all help is appreciated more than I could ever express. Your words of encouragement, concern and prayer do not fall on deaf ears. They are felt and heard all the way across the world. I feel your LOVE.

My friend Seema set up a booster campaign, if you are interested in t-shirts – https://www.booster.com/teamredphoenix?share=7131469753615390&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=mobile-campaign-page-share&utm_medium=social&ref=facebook_social_mobile-campaign-page-share&utm_content=teamredphoenix&type=1&side=front

And lifelong family friends have also set up a fundraising event – on Facebook as 💚 Rallying for Red Phoenix 💚 – that includes wrist bands!

My sister, Sarah, who you can also find on the I am Red Phoenix Facebook page is organizing other ways to help and is simply a click away from any questions that you may have for me.

As I type this, I can’t help but cry. This disease will not define me or my family but it is absolutely a part of who I am and my journey in life. It takes an entire village and I feel the Team Red Phoenix army forming around me. I have such love and admiration for each and every single one of you.

As for me, I am going to take my 2nd morning dose and enjoy this beautiful day that God has gifted each one of us. Spread the love, my friends. Always.

💚💗💚💗💚💗

Some updates and a question, please…

My chemo pills are set to arrive today by mail. I will take 4 pills, twice per day with breakfast and dinner. I am debating on beginning tomorrow and starting the day with them, rather than half a day today. I will do 2 weeks on and 1 week off indefinitely. Not sure of the effects for me just yet but time will tell and I am optimistic! 

The radiation machine is down so I have not yet begun. I will call today to check on the status. As of now, the plan is to hit my lymph nodes (center chest, right axillary, neck and clavicle) with radiation for about 4 weeks. We will reassess as needed. If the pills are not working systemically against my disease, then we will also redirect to hit my chest skin as needed. I’ll see her weekly so I am confident that she has it under control.

I will see the neurosurgeon in about a week to have my stitches removed and to discuss radiation directed at my head, where my surgery was. More to come, but for now I continue to heal. They are doing a biopsy on what was removed and I am awaiting the results. I will have repeat head CT and PET in about a month. I will continue those regularly forever to track possible progression. I am unable to have an MRI due to tissue expanders. More to come on that in the future.

I am currently being treated where I have been, however I am in the process of obtaining appointments elsewhere as well. MD Anderson in TX won’t see me unless my current regimen is not working. I will take this as a good thing! Hopefully they won’t be needed. 😉  I have tentative appointments in August with Moffitt, Sloan Kettering and Emory. I also have calls out to Johns Hopkins, Mayo and Dana Farber. What I anticipate, is that each center will likely tell me to continue my current course of treatment and to contact them if needed. I also suspect that they will discuss any potential clinical trials for me. I am hopeful!

I am personally beginning a regimen of detoxification for my body. I have been focused on non-GMO, no preservatives in the past but I am stepping that up a bit. I will be eating a diet of primarily fruits and veggies. I will also seek out a nutritionist to ensure I cover all vitamins and minerals. I am determined! My family is forever a top priority and while they will assist and support me in full, I expect them to eat as organic and natural as they have been. 💚

From this point forward, I will never be cured. What I will be – with God’s good grace – is NED or No Evidence of Disease. We will hopefully get a handle on this disease and allow me to live my life while it lays dormant. Yes, this is scary. Terrifying, really. But I am determined to LIVE. I am determined to enjoy all that my family and friends have to offer. I am determined to love HARD, snuggle like crazy and laugh until my belly and cheeks hurt.

That being said, if anyone knows of any organizations that help people like myself, I’d love to hear of them. I want to set myself and my family up for success as best as possible. Wherever you are in the world, if you happen to know of a local or large organization that helps people like me, feel free to share! I will absolutely look into each and every single one. We will have a lot of travel upcoming and I don’t know what the future holds in terms of work and employment so I am grateful for all of the organizations that are available to us.

Much love, my friends. Stay strong and keep spreading the LOVE!!!

Much love!

Well, surgery went well today! I am still on bedrest but so far all of my neurological tests are coming back with no defects!!

I am quite tired, so about to head to bed. Just wanted to thank each of you. Your prayers, love and support is appreciated more than I could ever express. Love you all!!

Friday blessings! 

1. Grandma brought Jacob to visit and we had lots of fun on our little nature walk! We saw fish, birds, turtles and even a helicopter! He had a blast!

2. My oncologist came to see me this morning and I learned that my new chemo drug will NOT cause me to lose my hair! Yay!!

3. I am loved. I feel it, all around me. From each of you, my family, my friends, my little man and my amazing husband. We will beat this, Team Red Phoenix!!!

Tuesday night blessings 

Tonight as I reflect on the last 24 hours, I am reminded of the many blessings in my life.

I am grateful for my boys. My husband, who is forever by my side, and this sweet boy whose giggles make the world a better place. Together, they melt my heart.

I am grateful for the ENTIRE Red Phoenix army, who rose to support me without question and who I know will be by our side continuously. 

I am grateful for today. Though it had a few moments of stress, it was a day that I was gifted. It brought new connections, new friends and new hope.

Gnight all. Spread the love, always.

Do it.

I’ve mentioned a few times throughout this year that I continue to be amazed at the chance encounters and serendipitous moments that I have had over and over again. You’d think by now that I would realize it happens so frequently for a reason and not be shocked each time. I should come to expect it.

That being said, there are many times where I have received a note or a message or a call from someone and my immediate thought was “I have been meaning to talk to you!” or “I was just thinking about you!” All too often, I find myself saying or thinking those very words. Why didn’t I reach out when the thought occurred to me? Why did I let the thought fall to the backburner? Yes, I am just as busy as the next person and yes some things truly can wait…but what if it can’t?

So today, I am here to say….do it.

Is there someone you have been meaning to check on? Do it.

Is there someone you desperately want to visit? Do it.

Is there a play date you want to have? Do it.

Let’s take it a step further…

Is there somewhere you want to explore? Do it.

Is there an activity you want to try? Do it.

Is there a trip you want to plan? Do it.

Is there a hug you want to give someone? Do it – and make it a BIG hug.

Is there a book you want to read? Do it.

Is there a book you want to write? Do it.

Is there a meal you want to make? Do it.

Is there a garden you want to plan? Do it.

So often, I find myself saying things like “I’ll get to that someday” or “One of these day I want to…” or “Eventually…” or “When life slows down…”. Do we ever accomplish those elusive tasks? Or do they sit out in the universe somewhere, floating about in the hopes that we someday remember them? Are these tasks hoping that we will stop making excuses and reach out to grab them and all of the wonderfulness that they encompass?

Whatever it is, big or small, that is on your mind or in your heart – DO IT. Right now. Today. Go. We don’t know what tomorrow may bring.