Always Love You

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Today’s message. I looked down and this was there, telling me what to do.
Always love you.
Some days it’s difficult. Some days it’s easy. There have been days when it was impossible, and I couldn’t see past the pain, yet I am still here, with more hope and love in my heart than I’ve ever known. That’s because it was more painful to think about giving up. That’s it. I wasn’t willing to let go and managed to find that ray of light to hold on to.
We all have our personal trials and hardships. Some are visible, and some are not. Much of it is placed on us by others, but we need to find a way to rise above that.
We cannot change what we were born into, or what has happened to us at the hands of others. We need to find our value and want to do what we can to forgive those who have wronged us, so we can free ourselves. We can then move on to create change for ourselves, and those who are suffering, those whose struggles we know all too well.
If you can’t see past today, or can’t find a reason to love yourself, please hold on and know that you matter. You are not alone. If you need to, message me and know that you will be heard. Your words, your story, are safe with me.
We need to work together to create genuine connection, to create hope. It starts with seeing and listening to one another. From there, we can lift one another up with love and purpose.
What can you do today to take a step towards this? It can be as simple as getting out of bed and looking out the window. Feeding yourself something nourishing. Taking a walk outside. No one said it was easy, but it’s worth it. You are worth it. ❤️

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The Missing Piece

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Copyright 2018 – Kelly Keigwin

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” – Rumi

When you’re looking for that missing piece, the thing that will make you feel whole, complete, and happy, know that it’s there, waiting to be discovered. You may not see it today, but keep opening yourself to life and your journey, and you’ll find it.
This is what I’ve found through my journey – it’s you. It was me, the entire time, holding myself back from feeling at peace. The light, the joy, and the “missing” component is within you. Healing, finding peace within the chaos of life, and appreciating the privilege of whatever time we have here, lies within us.
No possession can give you that, no matter how much you collect or own. No matter what your status. No person can give us happiness, and once we see that, we can then walk into relationships and friendships without needing others to fulfill that role. Relationships then exist from a completely different place, one of selflessness, mutual love, and respect.
You are enough and you deserve to be happy. Please know that. ❤️

It’s Okay to Be Different

 

It’s okay to not be doing what everyone else is doing. It’s okay to not want the same things everyone else wants. It’s okay to live your life in the way that feels right to you.

Judgement, bullying, and responding to others without hearing what they’re saying is easy via social media. It makes us feel small and defeated. More of us feel like we are alone in the world than ever before.

We want to fit in and be accepted, and trying to make that happen in a world that screams for conformity forces our emotions down. It creates overwhelming emptiness, and a disconnect from our true feelings.

It causes us to create relationships based on false realities. This is one reason why we can so easily talk over and dismiss others. When you’re disconnected, you don’t empathize with others. You are able to name call, mock, and decide who is or isn’t worthy in your eyes. We need to change this, starting with ourselves.

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In this moment, quiet the voices around you. Tune out your to-do list, the television, the voice in your head telling you you’re not good enough. Give yourself the gift of ten minutes of “me time”. You don’t need to check your email or to see how many people liked your last post, to be happy or fulfilled. Just breathe and enjoy the moment. Think about something that gives you joy.

It’s not about buying things. It isn’t about promotions, money, or even control. It’s about listening to your gut and your heart. It’s about getting back to the wonder of simple things. It’s about what you tell yourself you don’t have time for in your daily life. Ask yourself this – What you would do if you didn’t have to worry about a paycheck? How would you invest the time you have on this planet?

That is your path, and it’s what we neglect when we get caught up in the expectations of our daily life. What would happen if you chose to slow down? To get off of the fast track? What if you let yourself play more? Rest more? Breathe and laugh more?

It’s okay to be different. We are caught up in the cycle of what we are told is acceptable, but when we quiet that voice, and tune into our inner calling, we find happiness. True joy and fulfillment lives there.

Be different. Be gloriously imperfect. Embrace it and let your light shine. The world is waiting to love you, just as you are.

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

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This is the reality of trying to take a selfie outside of your childhood home, in the desert sun. My eyes watered for ten minutes after I attempted to get this shot.

I love seeing outtakes and real life. We are all so busy trying to look like whatever we want to convey on social media, we often miss the moments of seeing one another being imperfect.
Real is charming, unexpected, and rare.

I admit that I delete the photos I don’t like of myself, but then, as a photographer who documents life, I have taken so many of myself, it would be a bit crazy, and narcissistic, to keep everything I shoot.

The point is this – trying to be so perfect that you’re no longer yourself is harmful. We are all flawed. Perfection is a myth. The more I open my heart and show myself to the world, the more I get back in return. Don’t be afraid to do the same. The world needs you, and your voice.

When we think of icons – Maya Angelou, Beyoncé, David Bowie, Bill Murray, Betty White, Madonna (for example) – how do you think they became iconic? They stepped out, took chances, were authentic to themselves, and blew us all away.

There is a reason people have such strong responses to certain individuals. It’s what we see of ourselves, and who we want to be, or what we want to say, that’s shines through them.

Dare to be you, to use your voice, to express yourself in a society that wants you to fit into its mold. Be weird, imperfect, and different. That’s where greatness lies – in digging in and figuring out who you really are at your core, and being unafraid of what others will think of you. I guarantee you will find more admirers than haters when you show yourself to the world.

We are waiting to love you, just as you are. Show us what you’ve got. ❤️

Gratitude

Most people are celebrating Thanksgiving today. I’ve been reflecting on my Native ancestors and in honoring them, I decided to live today in a place of gratitude. I enjoyed the morning with some of my local community, hugged a number of people who mean a lot to me, gifted essential oils to a friend, had a conversation with my brother about our mom’s health, and now am watching movies and working on pottery. Along the way I also messaged a few people to tell them I love them and appreciate them, and shared a blend of oils I researched for emotional support with others in my life.

I use essential oils every day. I only use one brand, because as a cancer survivor, it’s very important that I know what I put on or in my body. I will not use synthetic products if I can avoid them (in shampoos, lotions, soaps, and yes, scents I wear). I’ve done my research about where different companies source their oils from, who has consistent medicinal value and quality, and which company is not only environmentally responsible (they don’t take more than the plants and land can come back from) and socially responsible (they work with local farmers and families in each region they harvest oils from and are investing in improving every one of these areas for the people who live there), These things matter.

If you’d like to learn more about them, please visit this site. I am also happy to share information and research I’ve discovered and studied. They are the only company that John’s Hopkins, Vanderbilt, Sutter Heath, and other medical and cancer research facilities will work with, because of their quality, consistency, and ethics. I will be sharing more about my journey with the oils and how I’ve improved my health journey, and how we created a miracle using western, eastern, homeopathic, and natural medicine together.

My gift to you all today is this diffuser blend I created last night. It is meant to create a space that will allow you to sit in gratitude for the things in your life – large and small.

What do you have to be thankful for today? What brings joy into your life or allows you to give that gift to others? From having a roof over our heads, to knowing where our next meal is coming from, to a pet that gives us unconditional love, to friends and family who enrich our lives, we all have something to be grateful for.

Gratitude for what we do have is the first step in receiving the things we want more of. Today, or any day you want to reflect on things in your life, and open your heart to gratitude, this blend is a great one to diffuse. 💚

Emotions associated with these oils –

Lime – The ultimate gratitude oil. It helps you begin to appreciate even the little things.

Wild Orange – Helps us taste the sweetness of life. Reminds us that there is much to live for and supports gratitude and abundance.

Frankincense – Helps you see your beauty and value to the world.

Douglas Fir – Teaches us to learn from and value others’ experiences, especially from our elders.

Arborvitae – Helps us find balance in our lives, to know what we should hold close or release. Encourages peaceful surrender, relaxed grace, and trust in the flow of life.

Patchouli – Brings you into the present moment and deepens appreciation for what you have.

If you’d like to connect about essential oils and how they can help support you physically and emotionally, please connect with me. I’m happy to share what I used through treatment, and beyond.

Back in the Saddle Again

Today, I find myself writing this, after yet another whirlwind of appointments, upsets, and harsh realities. My cancer has spread. There’s no easy way to say that, so let’s just get to the point. It’s in the lymph nodes in my lungs and between my lungs. I’ve had a ct scan, a pet scan, a lung biopsy, and one MRI. We are doing MRIs of my lower lumbar and hip areas to determine if the original pain that is located in my SI/hip area is also cancerous. There are enlarged lymph nodes, but we don’t know if the bone is affected. No one wants to hear this news, certainly not someone who has already been through treatment and thought it was behind her.

We are wasting no time. On Monday I will get my port and on Thursday I will start chemo again. My oncologist has made it clear that this is serious. My wife and I sat across from him, hoping to hear better news, trying not to cry when it turned out to be worse. He went over everything and a game plan. Upon leaving the room, it was hard to see the staff looking back at me with what I call “cancer face”. It’s that sad face, where people can barely make eye contact, and feel sorry for you. I’ve experienced it before and will experience it again. It just happens, especially when people don’t know what to say.

We received our information for all of the upcoming appointments, walked out to the car, and then proceeded to sit there, crying and hugging each other. We certainly knew it was a possibility that it would come back. We knew it was aggressive and in my bloodstream and could resettle somewhere else. You know the facts, but you feel so good after finishing treatment that you move forward with your life and put it behind you. None of the typical symptoms occurred that would signal something is wrong. I had my checkups, and then something happened that made no sense until it lead to this new cancer diagnosis – pain in the SI/hip area. The pain has been going on for over 6 months now and I attributed it to a car accident I was involved in. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t getting better. The pain happens when I lay down and I have discomfort in the same area and down the left leg the rest of the time. Advil has made it livable, although sleeping has been rough for months now. It’s easy to mistake that for an injury from a car accident.

I’m sharing this because I want people to practice self-care. I want them to be aware of what’s going on with their bodies. Something you keep excusing as nothing, could be something. Now, I don’t want to encourage people to think every pain is cancer. If you have symptoms that are persistent, especially if it gets worse, you should insist on being checked out. I had a chance to have an MRI 6 months ago, but I had to pay upfront for it. I couldn’t do it. If I’d had one then, I would have known what was going on and gotten a 6 month jump on treatment. Hindsight is 20/20, but it does no good to think that way. “If only I hadn’t eaten sugar”, “If only if I’d changed my diet sooner”, “If only I’d said something sooner” – none of this kind of thinking will heal you. It’s self-destructive and I’m putting it behind me.

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Feeling reflective

Now is the time for throwing everything at this. I’m at a crossroad and have to decide if I want to do everything I can to stick around, or if I want to half-ass it and hope for the best. If you’ve followed my journey thus far, I’m pretty sure you know what I’ve decided to do. I am starting back with chemo. I tolerated it well last time and the hope is that it will knock the cancer cells back. We now know it didn’t kill them off entirely last time, so I’m also starting the keto diet now. It’s a big switch from being a vegetarian, but the research I’ve done says it is the way to go. A side benefit of that is that it will knock down my blood sugar, which is awesome for any diabetic. I will be starting back with acupuncture, hypnosis, reiki, and massage. I am already using a combination of essential oils and supplements that will support my body, much like last time, except I’m increasing quantities. I’m going to be using hash oil and edibles to help with my appetite. So many things. It seems overwhelming at times, but trying everything together will leave me with no regrets.

At this point, I am only thinking of knocking this back and staying around. I am thinking about my nieces and nephew and my desire to watch them become fully functioning adults. I am thinking about the good things to come and my desire to be a apart of it. I am thinking about the plans I have with my wife and what I want to create through our artist’s studio and doTERRA business. I am thinking about the plans I have with my friends and wanting to establish our shared dream, Green Mountain Collective. At the end of the day, this project is my legacy. It encompasses my dreams and ideals and also benefits good people and our local community. I am thinking about what I have left to see, build, and experience, and the moments that take my breath away and make me appreciate being alive. I’m ready to keep fighting and you’re welcome to join me on this new, yet familiar journey.

Being a Life Line to a Cancer Patient

It is very humbling when others dealing with their own cancer struggles reach out to me. Being allowed into an individual’s personal space when I have never met them before is an honor and also is daunting. I don’t have answers for everything, not even close. I can only do my best to listen, empathize, do some research via Google or tell them what worked for me and hope for the best. There is no “one size fits all” answer. I do get personally invested to an extent, because I care. I hate to see people suffer and I hate to see those who love the person with cancer have to sit by the sidelines and hope they will beat it. It’s brutal for all involved. This is why I’ve tried to deal with my cancer by keeping my sense of humor and by being very open about it with those around me. That is what has worked for me, but I definitely am not the average patient, just ask my doctor. Thank goodness he “got” me and the way I, my friends, and my wife handled my time in treatment.

For someone who has never had any experience with cancer, it can be really rough when someone close to them says, “I have cancer” or “my cancer has come back”. We panic, say how unfair it is, cry, get angry, and then once it all has sunk in, wonder what can be done to help that person. I will tell you, having been the person on the receiving end of that news by the doctor, we experience the same emotions magnified by 100. I found myself wondering how it really could be as bad as they were saying it was. Surely I would have had more symptoms? Perhaps it isn’t as serious as they’re saying it is? And then I went through so many scenarios in my brain about what was about to happen to try to save my life, it was nerve wracking. Major surgery? Menopause? Five months of chemo and then radiation? What is going to happen to me? What if I don’t survive surgery? Believe me, the newly diagnosed cancer patient is thinking about everything and wanting to be thinking about nothing all at the same time.

They are facing a daunting task and something they will have to endure alone, even with the best support system possible around them. Physically, you can’t take away the side-effects and trauma the patient is going through, but you can do everything possible to make sure they have no other worries on their plate. Make sure they know you are a phone call or text away and will drive them to treatment, hold their hand, talk with their doctor, and so on, if that is what you both want. Don’t ever force anything, but listen to them. If they say they don’t want you to bother, that isn’t necessarily a no. Don’t push your way in, but don’t give up on them either.

Help set up a meals schedule for their family, if and only if they want you to. Please don’t take it personally if they cannot and will not eat food you make for them. Listen to them. I went through a time when all I wanted was pretzel sticks, fresh fruit, or a smoothie (my wife made one for me every day). I could not eat the beautiful meals she would prepare and I know it hurt her feelings in the beginning, but we then worked out a system where she would ask me before preparing anything. She would give me options and ask what I thought I could eat. We had a time towards the end of treatment when she knew I could eat, but only if I had a few bites from a marijuana cookie. That would stimulate my appetite enough for me to want to eat a small serving. Once we were on the same page, neither of us got frustrated with each other over food again. You also need to keep in mind that something that sounds good one day may seem unappetizing the next. There may be a metallic taste in their mouth that makes consuming most anything difficult. The drugs received in chemo can vary from patient to patient, depending on their cancer, so don’t expect text book side effects or results from treatment.

Sometimes people ask me what to say to people with cancer. I struggle with it because everyone handles it differently. Just make it clear that you are there for them, in whatever form they need you to take. I think the most important thing you can do is learn what NOT to say. Don’t tell them stories about people you know who had cancer unless they beat it and are doing well. Don’t minimize their experience, but don’t act like they’re dying, unless they really are. Try really hard to not make the “aw, you’re a sick person and I feel sorry for you” face at them (that was the worst for me). Don’t tell them you know how they feel, because you don’t. Don’t make grand gestures and then get upset if they don’t fall over themselves to thank you endlessly or aren’t happy about it. Sometimes people don’t know how they will feel in the day to day and showing up at their doorstep with a gift basket might be welcome one day and annoy them the next. If they say they want to be left alone, respect that. It’s okay to send a text or email if you haven’t heard from them to let them know you are thinking about them, or perhaps a quote or meme or cute puppy video you saw on Facebook.

Don’t suffocate them, just perform a gentle acts of kindness and then back away. If they want to talk or see you, they will let you know. Some people cannot ask for help or don’t want to be a bother. I was the later, but also was very happy to let those who wanted to participate in the process into my inner circle, so to speak. It’s my experience that most cancer patients don’t want chemo buddies each week or only want one or two people to experience that with them. Some don’t at all – they want to be alone during that process. Just respect their boundaries. It isn’t easy, especially if the patient doesn’t have a good prognosis. There can be panic and the possibility of regrets. We are all human.

Cancer made me more bold and I see that in others who are currently in treatment. I met others like that when I was still having chemo. For some of us, we want to communicate, let the world in and use that for strength. It was energizing for me to have social media to feel like I wasn’t alone, even when I was flat on the sofa feeling nauseous or waiting to talk with my doctor. I also saw the same people every week come in to get chemo alone with a book and a blanket, or with their spouse by their side. They did not dress up in costumes or make bucket lists or want attention of any kind. We all handle facing our mortality differently. The most important thing I can say I’ve learned is to listen to others. Through their words and their actions, they will tell you what they need or want from you.

Lastly, be sure to ask the loved ones of the patient how they are doing and make sure they have support. I actually wasn’t concerned about my well-being, but wanted to make sure my close friends checked in with my wife. I knew she would be tending to my needs constantly and I wanted her to feel supported and to have back up. It was so nice for me to know that she had a support system and it wasn’t just people wanting to know how I was doing. It’s much easier for a patient to focus on recovery if they know those close to them are okay and not stretched too thin. Enough for now. I’m sure I will have feedback about this from others and I will write more about this subject later. ❤

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A big chunk of my support system. This is us after I finished treatment. So much love!

Yoga and Continued Healing

It took a little while after finishing treatment for me to feel like doing much. Even though I had endured chemo and radiation without too much drama or sickness, my body decided it wanted me to spend some time on my sofa, watching dvds, and not doing anything productive for a while. It felt good and I really enjoyed the quiet time without having to think about nausea patterns or doctor appointments. I don’t really have any obvious residual issues, other than my scar from my port still hurts at times.

Eventually, I knew I needed to do something with myself and decided to try taking some basic yoga classes. I did decently well keeping up, but it became very apparent that I was weak and my muscles would shake during any pose that required balancing or holding myself up on all fours. I took a break during the chaos of holiday sales season with the intention of returning once things calmed down.

During that time I was offered the opportunity to do cleaning at a local yoga studio in exchange for classes. I said yes. When I started looking into which classes I wanted to try I came across a yin restorative class. Reading the description, I knew it was the class I wanted to try first. It is a class that takes place down on the mat and involves holding very doable poses for longer periods of time. Transitions are slower and the emphasis is on deep stretching, or opening, affecting joints and ligaments. It is ideal for someone recovering from an accident or injury, or someone slowly trying to get back their strength and flexibility (or all of the above, like me). By the second class, I was addicted.

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Supported child’s pose, when done by a unicorn. Yes, I drew this. 😉

My instructor closes the blinds, dims the lights, lights candles, and plays music that is a combination of relaxing and gently stimulating. Before class, most students lie on their mats, quietly letting go of their day and the outside world. The mood is set. We use props and slowly move through poses as instructed. After class I usually feel as if I’ve meditated while enjoying a gentle workout, mixed with stretching away my sore muscles and stress. As cheesy as this may sound, I never, ever want to give it up. I kind of want to swear my undying devotion to my instructor as well. Yeah, I’m in love.

One of the things my instructor talks about with new students is the tendency to have emotional experiences during class. The work done can release stress or tension held in various parts of the body. Each person experiences the class differently, but for some it is very cathartic. Personally, there have been two or three classes where I found myself having intense emotions and was slightly tearful at the end. I actually didn’t want to get up off of my mat and just wanted to savor the moment as long as possible. I always am left feeling transformed in a way, but I can only describe the emotions I experience during these classes as a mix of happy, sad, connected, grounded, transported, joyful, and oh so very grateful, for everything in my life.

This is the white board in class, so we know what to put next to our mats before each class. Feeling the love. <3

This is the white board in class that tells us what to put next to our mats before each class. Feeling the love. ❤

We are always in such a hurry – to finish our to do lists, to get to work, to make appointments, to make money, and so on. We rarely slow down during our day to day and most people are never able to get out of their head, even if just for an hour or so. It truly is a gift to be able to attend these classes and to let go of physical, mental, and emotional stress. I feel as if yin restorative yoga was the perfect activity for me and the connection I’ve made with my instructor is priceless. I feel stronger, happier, and more focused and relaxed than I’ve ever been. Yep, it’s a keeper.

Long Time, No Talk

I know I’ve been gone for a while and haven’t posted anything new. I’ve mostly been re-adjusting to life after treatment and was trying to get caught up on creating artwork and pottery for the numerous holiday sales I usually sell at, from November through December. It was a crazy roller coaster of productivity and it felt good. So many new ideas and a new outlook on life pushed me to get back into my creative groove and express myself. By the end of December, I had worn myself out a bit, but it made me feel alive.

I’ve also now had my three month checkup with my oncologist. It was really good to see him and the usual happy people I’d gotten used to visiting with every week, although it did feel odd to return to the clinic. Dr. Rushing greeted us like old friends and he immediately hugged me. We wore tiny rainbow colored hats and matching bow ties. He, of course, posed for a photo with me wearing them. It was great to catch up, even when I had to remind myself I was there as a patient who had finished treatment just 3+ months earlier. When we got around to talking business it was a sobering reminder of how cancer will always be a part of my life and of a dear friend whose cancer had returned and put him back into treatment. Yeah, cancer is an inconsiderate jerk.

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Dr. Rushing and I

Dr. Rushing told us that because I did not have blood markers before my surgery, the higher than normal numbers that indicate that something is wrong, we will just have to keep doing basic exams and I will be the gauge for knowing if something seems abnormal and I need further testing. That’s a lot of pressure, to not have an easily identifiable way of knowing if the cancer has returned or spread. He doesn’t want to put me through a cat scan every 3 months because of the radiation levels, so we will only do them if I feel like anything is off in my body. It’s a scary thing to think about, having to wait until something is clearly wrong before doing in-depth testing, but I trust my doctor with my life and it’s gotten me this far.

I’m facing it as I have everything else that has come my way this past year, with a positive attitude and the determination that I will not let cancer win, especially when it comes to negative thoughts, dread, or fear. That does nothing but hold me back and leave me waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. I have been moving forward, starting to write more about my experiences as prompted by others, and am working towards promoting nutrition and the regime I followed during, and now after, treatment. Speaking with others about an experience like cancer validates the person who is/was going though it and also tends to give that person the feeling that they have some form of control over it. It’s empowering.

I’m doing work with a circle of friends as a Wellness Advocate, promoting the positive benefits I experienced because I started taking doTERRA essential oils after my surgery, around the time I started chemo. A kind friend gifted me my first 3 bottles and it has changed my life. We did a lot to keep me healthy and to keep my body from becoming malnourished. I will write more about that later and will put together exactly what I consumed so I will be able to share it with others.

I’m currently working on that and our pottery business. I told Sam after I finished treatment that I wanted to do things that make me happy versus taking the first retail job I came across to pay the bills. I am fortunate enough to have a wife who has taken 3 part-time teaching jobs in order to pay the bills while I pursue business goals and keep up with my newly invigorated creative drive. She really is the wind beneath my wings.

I’ll be better about writing from now on. The break was good, but it makes my heart happy to be back at it. Life is good.

Embracing Full Nudity and the Art of Chelsea Rose

I should have posted sooner about the day we collaborated with our friend and artist, Chelsea Rose. I got so caught up in my radiation treatments and everything else and let it slip by. Today I want to re-visit it and share the experience with you. Chelsea is a painter and has been working on her “Goddess” series, which involves her painting on fully nude models and then photographing them, either in nature or in a studio setting. I had been tempted to volunteer to model for her for a while, but once again, let my fear of my body image get in the way. It’s been there for a lifetime and yes, I’m working on it, but these things take time.

Okay, I’m fat. I’ve always been chubby or plump or had baby fat or whatever else you want to call it. I’ve never been skinny. I’ve always had a belly and was always made to feel ashamed of it. When I look back at myself now, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Because I was made to feel bad about it, I hid and ate more and got bigger. I had a long-term relationship with someone where eating was how we bonded. That and watching tv. I ended up weighing over 300 pounds and felt horrible about myself. In my late 30’s I started realizing I had to change things. I stopped eating fast food, stopped drinking any kind of soda, and started doing more exercise. It was a start.

Because I had been on diets from childhood, I decided I would never again be “on a diet”. It was a lifestyle change and I was going to take things slowly. Weight did start to come off gradually. That was around 2006 and now my total weight loss is around 74 pounds. I did lose 13 pounds after my hysterectomy surgery and during chemo, but everything else came of gradually and I’ve easily kept it off. I know we are all looking for the quick fix, but it doesn’t work and doesn’t last unless you are willing to do the work on yourself and figure out why you are using food as a way of comforting yourself, instead of to feed your body. I was that person. I still am, but now I make sure I get enough nutrition to be as healthy as I can. I am in no way eating the way I wish I was, which would be lots of fresh veggies and plant-based protein. I feel amazing when I can eat that way, but I admit that I am lazy and the time it takes to prepare meals often gets in the way. I do my best and that is all we can ask of ourselves.

Moving on – I have spent a lot of time working on my body image issues. Meeting Sam was a big deal for me because she doesn’t have body issues and hangups like mine. Our relationship has been the key to me moving to the next level in facing my fears, getting out there to enjoy life, and learning to love myself more and more. She loves all of me. She passes no judgements and has never once made me feel awkward or like I “just need to do… and she will love me more.” It truly is an unconditional love. I know how rare that is and I am grateful for it every day. It has enabled me to do things I never would have done before and to face things from a more confident place of strength and happiness. I’m not “cured” and certainly am still self-conscious about my body, but, I am doing a better job of living my life and if I died tomorrow, my regrets would be few.

It is a BIG deal for me to place my trust in someone to 1. See me fully naked while they paint my body 2. Allow that person full control of the photographs that would be taken of my fully naked body and 3. Be okay with whatever she chooses to do with those images in the future. Once I was diagnosed with cancer and survived surgery, I decided it was time to ask Chelsea if she wanted a “bald, cancer lady” for a model. She immediately responded and our mutual excitement grew. Sam offered to be a part of the photo shoot, which was wonderful because Chelsea hadn’t worked with a couple yet. I was excited and nervous as we planned the weekend and location where we would spend the day doing this.

Chelsea often spends 3-4 hours painting just one person, in fine detail. You can see her work at www.chelsearosearts.com. We were dealing with two people and entering fall, so the sun was setting earlier. It was going to be a race against time. We picked Chelsea up and headed to the beach location we had decided on. She set up and we took off our clothes and she began painting – first Sam’s face and then mine and back and forth until we were both fully covered. It took around 4 hours to complete. Because of the time constraints, she used more bold lines and fewer details, but I think the emotion and feeling we wanted to capture is just as significant. We are a couple brought closer together through cancer and this was a great way to honor that. Chelsea did a great job with the photographs and having us relate to one another. Seeing the finished images blew my mind. She converts them to black and white and the effect is striking to say the least.

Yes, I am naked and I am learning to see these images in a way that helps me to look  past my shape and the fact that I am aging and sagging. I am trying to embrace the fact that I have earned every wrinkle, stretch mark, and imperfection and that I have survived everything that life has thrown at me, so far. I can now joke about the fact that I have lost most of my weight in the lower part of my body, leaving me with what I call an “old man butt”. My hips and butt have disappeared, yet my stomach has lost nothing. Having naturally large breasts means they will sag. I am who I am and this is the package that it comes in. Learning to accept that in a society that shames everything about everyone until we have little girls talking about diets and criticizing their bodies, is hard. I am so much further down that path than I ever was before and that is something to celebrate. I am also honoring myself as a survivor and this body that keeps on ticking. I’ve been told I am a warrior. I don’t know about that, but looking at myself covered in Chelsea’s paint sure makes that seem more real to me. Thank you again Chelsea, for celebrating us in this way. It is a day I will never forget. ❤

02

Me, in the beginning.

01

Sam, just getting started.

Sam, almost finished.

Sam, almost finished.

Me, almost finished.

Me, almost finished.

I took this image of Sam as Chelsea was finishing painting on me.

I took this image of Sam as Chelsea was finishing painting on me.

In the woods.

In the woods.

I can't wait to see this in black and white and to hang it on the wall at home.

I can’t wait to see this in black and white and to hang it on the wall at home.

My view of Sam during the log photo. <3

My view of Sam during the log photo. ❤

Relaxing together.

Relaxing together.

Finished black & white images, selected by Chelsea.

Finished black & white image, selected by Chelsea.

Another selection by Chelsea.

Another selection by Chelsea.

My favorite of the Chelsea selections. This sums us up pretty well.

My favorite of the Chelsea selections. This sums us up pretty well.

After we got home, Sam and I orchestrated this photograph in her chicken coop.

After we got home, Sam and I orchestrated this photograph in her chicken coop. An awesome collaboration.

All images copyright – Chelsea Rose Arts or Kelly Keigwin, 2014. These cannot be re-used for any reason without the written consent of the artists and models.