You Are Magical

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Don’t lose sight of yourself, even when life takes you down side roads. Let go enough to learn what you’re supposed to, and find value and beauty in the detours, but never let it take away your magic.

Detours are where we find some of our best life lessons. The key is to learn how to flow with these “distractions”, and know that they’re happening for a reason.

Perhaps we are supposed to learn how to handle ourselves differently in stressful situations, or we are supposed to completely change direction with our lives and find our purpose where we least expected it. No matter how small or large, there is something to be learned in the “tricky” happenings in life.

I look at my cancer journey as something that has not only helped me find my purpose, but has had a ripple effect for others. If that is what needed to happen to bring about change, I can find peace in that. I will not allow myself to be angry and live in that space. Instead, I have let myself open up and I’ve discovered my personal magic.

It’s not an easy place to be in, and of course I wish things were different, but I am learning to be at peace with what I can and cannot control in life. That also allows me to focus on my purpose and not fear stepping out and walking through doorways that open up for me. I was always playing small and didn’t take opportunities that came my way. I let fear affect my life choices, and letting that go feels so darn good.

If my journey helps you step out onto your path in some way, I’ve fulfilled my purpose. If I share something that makes you laugh or cry, or think, I’ve fulfilled my purpose.

Don’t let yourself become lost in the things that happen to you. Remember that you are not what others have done to you. You are not what they say you are when they try to tear you down. You are not your bank account, your pant size, your family, or your chronic illness. You are only you, and that is magical. 💜✨🦄

Thank you to Amber Iberreche for the image and inspiring words.

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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. ❤️

Supporting Yourself Nutritionally with DoTERRA – Step One – Lifelong Vitality Pack

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These supplements are key to my survival.
People talk about supplements all of the time, but there is a major difference between brands. You can choose to believe me or you can believe science, or you can listen to both and make your own decisions from there.

I started taking this combination of supplements after my first go around with cancer. I was depleted, foggy, toxic, had no energy, and wasn’t sleeping well. I would not be able to fall asleep until after 3am and no matter how much I slept, never felt rested. I could barely get out of bed or off of the couch, let alone feel motivated to do anything productive.

I started on these supplements as the skeptic I am and every day felt the same as I had before. I’d tell myself they weren’t working, because, you know, we all want a magic pill that works immediately.

After 3+ weeks, I woke up one day and did my usual move to the sofa to watch Netflix. I realized I wanted to get up. I wanted to go outside. I did go outside and I sat on the deck listening to the world around me. It was a small shift, but it was wonderful. The next day, I felt the same. After a few more days I decided I wanted to make something. I started painting on a few things I had laying around.

This pattern continued until I reached the level of wanting to create and interact with the world more. I began to realize I was thinking more clearly. I wanted to eat more food. I was beginning to feel tired around midnight and sleeping deeper. My body aches were lessening. My feelings of depression lessened. Basically, I was given my life back.

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At my oncologists office, or when I spoke with others who had experience with cancer treatment, they couldn’t believe how good I looked and how quickly I was moving on to new things. I kept hearing it takes a year to detox after chemotherapy, yet I was thriving after a few months. The only thing I did was to add these supplements and a few other essential oils to my daily routine.

I can tell people how my life has changed and they can choose whether or not to believe me. If you know me, you know I am not someone who tries to convince people to buy things unless I’ve been convinced. If you don’t know me, I will tell you I am a diabetic who has survived both a major head on collision, and chemotherapy. I’m not some super healthy human specimen, who defied the odds. I am someone who was desperate to feel better and found something that works. It isn’t one magic pill. It’s a whole food, sustainably sourced, bioavailable, nutritionally balanced set of supplements that feed your body what it needs to function at optimal levels.

Now, if I run out and stop taking them for more than 3 days, I feel the difference. I don’t sleep as well and my aches and pains come back. As soon as I start them again, I get back on track. I am not taking ibuprofen like I was (3 times per day) for the residual issues from my car accident. I also took these my second time through chemotherapy, and am convinced they kept me nutritionally balanced when I often didn’t want to eat more than a protein shake. The systems of the body are supported and nutritional needs are met, even when you can’t take the time to eat well. These supplements make up for the lack of nutrients in the average diet, as well as what we are lacking in the soil we grow food in today. I don’t know anyone who can’t benefit from taking them.

If you want to feel better, support your body and brain health to the best of your ability, and are sick of over the counter medications that are bad for you and don’t fix anything, try these supplements. Invest in living the best life you can by loving your body enough to try these for 60 days. Two months is when your body is said to be using the supplements at their optimal level. Aren’t you worth that?

Please ask me if you have questions. I’m so glad the science is coming out about how great this product is, and proving the results I achieved are consistent.

Find the most recent study results here.

You can purchase them here.

You Are Beautiful

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A thought for today, and every day.

When you open your heart and share who you really are with the world, you will find connection with those who resonate with you. This is where you will find genuine beauty and happiness. They are found in letting go of society’s expectations and embracing the truth of who you are.
The pressure to conform makes us harden and protect ourselves from being different or standing out. It’s crippling and kills our opportunity for happiness and self-love. How can you experience real joy when you’ve buried who you truly are?
We are all shining stars, and are interconnected with those around us. When you let go of hiding, hating, shame, and acting out of fear, you soften and people see who you really are. That’s what true beauty is – being authentically you and shining brightly in a dark world. Step out and be seen. Know that you will find those genuinely attracted to who you are through your vulnerability.
What steps would you like to take to move in this direction? What is stifling your voice? When you look at people you admire, what attracts you to them?
Confidence? Bravery? The things they create or the words they say? That they’re not afraid to admit their flaws? Or talk about tough things honestly?
You are seeing yourself reflected in them. Embrace those qualities in yourself and let that guide you into using your voice to inspire others in your own way. You have that within you.
You are beautiful.
It’s not about makeup, your weight/body type, the things you own, or the right clothing/styling. It’s about loving yourself enough to be who you really are, and to say what you need to say, without fear of repercussions of others. Would Beyoncé or even Brené Brown be where they are if they hadn’t stepped out and allowed themselves to be seen?
I’m 50. It’s never too late to start this process. Take baby steps if you have to, but do this, for yourself and those who are waiting for you to connect with and inspire them to do the same. Let your beauty and light shine through.

✨🦄✨

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. ❤️

You Are and You Can

Are you familiar with Celeste Barber? I love following her work, as a comedian and social commentator. This delightful woman knows no fear when it comes to looking ridiculous and sharing it with the world.

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An example of Celeste’s work.

It’s time for women to stop worrying about looking silly, or not being polished and perfect. We burp and fart and eat and poop. We have pores and body hair. We are human. We have become so airbrushed and photoshopped in every representation we see that it’s impossible to achieve what society tells us to.

It’s time to be us, by embracing our wrinkles and muffin tops and scars and grey hair. That’s where true beauty lies. When we see women we admire, like perhaps Meryl Streep, or Kathy Bates, or Celeste, ask yourself why. I often hear, “I wish I could do that”, or “I wish I were brave enough to do that”. You are and you can.

You can take baby steps and start small or you can shave your head and stop shaving your legs. You are you and that is a beautiful thing. Embrace that.

•Dance without caring what you look like.

•Go out without makeup on.

•Take a day when you’d clean the house and stay in your bedroom with snacks and a journal.

•Take a nap, even if you have to cancel that non-vital meeting or appointment.

•Eat toast or cookies in bed without worrying about crumbs.

•Let your dog cuddle on the couch with you.

•Order the hamburger (or veggie burger) and eat it when you go out to a restaurant without worrying about people judging you. (I love salads, but too many women feel they have to appear to be eating tiny portions to “maintain their figure”. Just say no, unless you’re craving a salad.)

•Treat yourself to a desert when it sounds good.

•Don’t say, “but I couldn’t”, about anything you really do want to do/eat/achieve.

•Take time for yourself and things that feed your soul every day. Even five minutes will increase your joy.

Remember that you have one life and if you can’t find joy or peace in your existence, you need to step back and reevaluate. Simplify or step out of your box more. One thing I’ve learned is that once it’s over, there are no do-overs. When facing your mortality, please don’t find yourself saying you wished you’d done it all differently. Don’t wait. And definitely surround yourself with images of women like Celeste, who are doing it their way and succeeding. ❤️

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Another example of Celeste’s work. “Don’t Stop Believing” – perfection.

Where the Heck Have I Been?

I’m sitting in the chemo room at my oncology office. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I haven’t shared what’s happened with my last go around with cancer. I simply went quiet here. I have a private Facebook page for my friends and a public page under Fear is a 4-Letter Word, but I’ve neglected everything but my personal page for too long. It’s time to get back to writing and sharing with the world.

So, what happened to me? Well, I will try to summarize it for you. I completed full chemotherapy in June and waited for my doctor to order a PET scan to see what was going on in my body. We knew back in January/February that things looked grim. I was told to hope for a miracle.

It was the kind of news that is depressing, paralyzingly, horrifying, life-altering, and makes you want to scream and cry. Check to all of that. There’s much more attached to that news and how it affected my life, but I’ll write more about that later.

For now, let’s focus on that PET scan. I was expecting news that we had knocked back the cancer, but that it was still present. My wife did too. I’m not even sure what my doctor expected the results to be.

He called me on July 4th, while I was at a friend’s house. When I saw the name of the oncology office pop up on the screen, I thought it was just a reminder call about an appointment, so I didn’t answer. He left a voicemail asking me to return his call, that he had news for me. I was in the car on my way to see my wife when I listened to the voicemail. I started crying. I knew he wouldn’t call to give me bad news on a holiday. We were on speaker phone with him when he gave us the news, “You have no active cancer in your body”. We cried more and celebrated.

I have stayed on one chemo drug since June, as a preventative. Every three weeks my blood and urine are checked and I am given an IV with 30 minutes of the drug. My hair has grown back, although I’m now more comfortable with a shaved head. I don’t have nausea anymore, but I do have headaches. It’s tolerable and I’ve learned to manage/live with it.

I have returned to a somewhat normal life, although I have less energy and other physical issues that are taking a while to improve, mostly due to muscle weakness from so much inactivity. I have good and bad days. I was suffering from serious memory issues, but I’m regaining more ability in that department now. I am fortunate and am able to work around the remaining issues I have.

All of this has allowed me to focus on what I want to achieve with my life, and to lay the foundation for those things. I know what statistics show, but we achieved the miracle my doctor told me to hope for. I will not give up my life to worrying about this disease. If I expect it to return, what kind of life is that? I am staying positive and maintaining my natural health plan (more about that soon).

I am a survivor and am here to share my story and my journey. I have another chance and I’m going to use it.

❤️Love & Gratitude❤️ Kelly

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THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO GET A CLEAR SCAN.

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.

This is Why I March

Yesterday I participated in the Women’s March in Portland, Oregon. They estimate 100,000 people attended and it was an amazing sight to behold. There were people of all genders and ages, everywhere you looked, holding signs, playing drums, chanting, and parading around in impressive costumes, pussyhats in many colors, and rain gear.

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I chose to carry a sign I made that addressed the reality of losing my healthcare through the ACA, aka Obamacare. 18 million people, including myself will lose health coverage in the first year if the ACA is repealed. This includes children, elderly people, and some of the most vulnerable among us. The new movement in our government to eliminate rights and protections from those who are not wealthy goes against what our country was founded on. It certainly doesn’t represent the religious values those same politicians keep saying they represent. Jesus did not turn away those in need. He did not call them moochers and tell them to “get over it”. We are at a crossroads ethically and spiritually.

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This country is a place built on welcoming immigrants, lifting up the oppressed, and offering opportunities to those who are seeking a better life. The most well known quote from the Statue of Liberty sums it up:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Emma Lazarus

Yesterday, around the world, women and those who support them, gathered, marched, and shared a message of hope and unity. Since November 7th, many have felt lost, alone, frustrated, and angry. The message coming from the GOP and especially from the newly elected President has been one of aggression, division, exclusion, lies, oppression, and all under the threat of violence and repercussions for speaking out against the new rule. The people that gathered were strong, proud, determined, and most of all, supportive of one another. They also were happy. Happy to be out expressing all of the frustration and emotions we had been suffocating under since November.

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There were so many signs, saying so many important things – everything from “women’s rights are human rights” to “viva la vulva” to “black lives matter”. There were men carrying signs that said, “It’s time for white men to listen to women”, “feminist”, and, “I’m with her”, the words surrounded by arrows pointing to others around them. Children carried signs they made themselves, one of which said, “I’d make a better President because I care about ALL people.” The feeling in the air was joyous and emotional, and the crowd seemed to be endless.

We were towards the front of the march and when we reached the end, we stopped and stood and watched the crowd walk by for over an hour. As I kept holding up my sign, many people’s eyes met mine and I could feel the moment of recognition of me being a cancer survivor. There is something in the faces of those who see me as a cancer survivor, a softness, an empathetic look in their eyes. It’s emotional, seeing those faces looking back at me, acknowledging me and what I’ve been through. There is a strength to being seen and acknowledged.

A woman approached me and told me that she was in the same situation, that she had received healthcare through the ACA just before being diagnosed with breast cancer. If she hadn’t had coverage, she would have ended up homeless. She gestured towards the city behind us, where so many are homeless, as she made that statement. She took my hand and we looked into each others eyes and nodded, “But we are still here and we are okay”, I said and I felt myself getting teary eyed. “May I hug you? I feel like I need to hug you.”, I asked. We hugged one another and then she was off, to chant and join back into the march.

 

A number of people in the crowd stopped and hugged me. Some gave me a hi-five. Others looked directly at me and raised their fist in the air in solidarity as they marched by. Some women stopped long enough to take my hand and tell me they too were cancer survivors. There was such connection there, and I will never be able to describe the magnitude of emotions I felt. Another woman stopped and hugged me tightly, as if she were my mom and she hadn’t seen me in a while. There was such unconditional and genuine caring involved in this gesture that I could feel the tears starting to well up in my eyes. She let go of me and we nodded and smiled at each other. In that moment, a person stopped to ask if they could take a photo of me with my sign. I turned and smiled, with tears in my eyes. Little did they know what they actually captured in that moment.

So, back to the title of this blog, why do I march? I march because girls are learning younger and younger what it is like to be treated as sexual objects by our society, while being told repeatedly that their looks determine their worth and their future. Younger and younger, they are becoming the victims of sexual predators and sex trafficking. Because society tends to blame the victims who report sexual assault of any kind and say they did something to deserve it. Because white males are serving little or no time for heinous crimes against girls and women. Because athletes are seen as more valuable than the girls they take advantage of at parties.  Because even with video evidence and witnesses, judges are giving minimal sentences and saying “boys will be boys”.

I march because I have two high school aged nieces and when I look at Donald Trump, I see a person who was going to court on child rape charges, until his followers used threats of violence to silence the victim. I see a person who has sexually assaulted more women than I can count, and then bad mouthed them all and forced them to back down through intimidation or payoffs. I see a person who has bragged about getting away with these activities and then called the women liars and whores. I see a person who has used fraud as a way of doing business, costing many small businesses to go under. I see a person who has used religion and lies to further a dark agenda against those who are in need and the most vulnerable within our society. I see someone so insecure that he is willing to throw away segments of the population to gain more money and power over his enemies. Someone who uses that power to crush anyone who questions his actions. I cannot stand idly by when this is considered the “new normal”.

 

I march for the oppressed, for those without a voice. I will not watch as a government majority unites against the people, against women, and against minorities. I am speaking up on my own behalf and for those who need and deserve respect. We all deserve to be treated equally. The open racism and bigotry that has come with the election and now the inauguration is frightening. The reemergence of swastikas, the normalization of Nazi worship and the KKK, and the rise of anti-lgtbq and anti-women movements is alarming, to say the least. We need to raise our voices against this new dark direction.

Back to talking about the ACA. We all deserve healthcare. The loss of dignity that comes from not being able to afford healthcare in the wealthiest country in the world is something no one should have to endure. Had I been diagnosed earlier, which I couldn’t be, because I could not afford insurance because of a pre-existing condition, I would not have had to go through chemo. Because getting diagnosed was delayed for years, my cancer spread. Had I gone another year without care, I would have been in “end of life” care with no options. This is the reality of not having access to preventative care.

People seem to think you can just show up at the ER or a clinic somewhere and get the testing and care you need. Nope. You cannot walk into the ER and say, “something is wrong and I think I may have cancer or something else horribly wrong with me.” They will send you home. That is the reality people like me lived with before the ACA and what we are facing once again. There are people who will die without continual treatment for cancer, diabetes, and so on, and this includes children and people of all backgrounds.

I will speak up for them and I will march every chance I get, because it’s what needs to be done. I am still alive and I have a voice. I will stand up for future generations of girls and minorities, who deserve better than what our society offers them today. We need to fight the darkness and stand up for what’s right. I believe in love and I want to make this a better world for future generations. Hope can be restored, if we look for it and work towards it. Yesterday was a good start. Compassion and empathy are the true measure of a person’s character and we are up against it right now. We are being tested. United we can answer the call and change the path we are on. I truly do believe this. Join me?

A Day of Reflection (You Only Turn 48 Once)

Today is my birthday. The birthday wishes started last night via text and social media. I woke up to 68 birthday wishes on Facebook, which has now jumped to 127+. Seeing all of the well wishes and comments, and feeling the love, it’s priceless. It is beautiful, uplifting, and makes me realize how fortunate I am to have so many wonderful people in my life who want to reach out to me today. This day also reminds me that my doctor told me that if I hadn’t been diagnosed and rushed into treatment, I probably would not have survived another year. Above all things today, I am extremely grateful.

Last week I found myself trying to answer the question, “What are you doing for your birthday?” I looked at my calendar and realized there was nothing planned. It was a bit odd, to not have anything to do, after the crazy cancer fundraiser/birthday party that was planned last year. In contrast, today has been a quiet and uneventful day, which has made me reflect on where I was last year and how much things have changed.

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My 2014 birthday party.

I look back at the photographs of me, bald and smiling, being embraced and held up by my friends, family, and community. It makes me realize how fortunate I am, both for the people I am surrounded by, but also to be here today, feeling relatively healthy. I am asked often by people, when the subject of my treatment last year comes up, “Are you in remission?” or “How are things?” (which usually leads to people asking if I’m done with treatment). I welcome these questions and know that it simply means people want to know how my health is. I look at their faces and see how awkward it is for them to ask me about it. I see the worry, the concern. I tell them, as I’m now telling you, my doctor says my type of cancer, aggressive endometrial cancer that had traveled out of the uterus to the lymph nodes, will usually come back within 2-3 years if chemo didn’t zap all of the remaining cells. If I make it past the 3 year mark, it probably won’t return. I finished chemo in September of last year. I’m looking forward to celebrating my one year anniversary and every time I see my oncologist for my 3 month checkups, he says time passing without any changes is what we want.

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2014 birthday love from friends and family.

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Making a wish and blowing out the candles.

I should tell you that I am rare, both for being diagnosed with endometrial cancer so young and for not having any blood markers. That means they cannot draw blood to check to see if the cancer has returned. Instead, I am the gauge. It scared me a bit when my doctor told me that. If I start to feel “off”, I am supposed to report it immediately, so a CAT scan can be performed to see what’s going on inside. We are trying to avoid exposing me to more radiation, unless necessary, so we are erring on the side of caution. To be honest, I really don’t think about this on a daily basis. I don’t want to. If I did, it would affect my life and my peace of mind. Instead, I choose to wake up and be grateful. I look for what makes me happy and I focus on that instead. Focusing on the possible return of a cancer diagnosis seems like it would be exactly what cancer cells would want. I won’t give it to them.

Simplicity is something I appreciate these days. For my birthday my wife asked what I wanted for brunch (blueberry pancakes, veggie sausage, and fresh peaches). We took the dogs for a little ride in our new/used car that has made my life much less stressful. I went and got a haircut. For dinner we shared my freebie birthday veggie burger from Red Robin and a vanilla milkshake and then went to a place we hadn’t been in a while and enjoyed a soak and sauna under the stars. While I was there, sitting in silence and staring at the big dipper, I tried to make a list of things I’m grateful for in my head. I came to the conclusion that it would take an entire blog post to say everything I would want to say and even then, I’d miss something and want to revise it later. Instead, I will just say that I am grateful for everything around me that makes up my life. You can’t have the good without the bad or the light without the dark. To me, the point of waking up every morning is to keep breathing, trying, learning, and moving forward.

Today I am 48 years old. I am married to someone who would do most anything to make my life better or easier. We know what unconditional love is and appreciate one another. We know what it is to endure a life-threatening situation together while keeping each other smiling and sane. I run two businesses doing what I love – creating art and helping people with health and nutritional support. Both things make others (and myself) happy and I get to work with people I genuinely like. I “beat cancer”.  I am surrounded by love and compassion. People in my life are constantly rooting for me and that feels pretty darned good. I feel comfortable in my skin for the first time in my life and I like who I am. It’s taken me most of my life to get here and I am not finished. We are all a work in progress. I believe we have to do the work to accept ourselves, to find our purpose, and then to give of ourselves with kindness and gratitude. The rest will come.

I will never take for granted that I am still here, alive and kicking. I’m thinking today of two beloved friends we lost to cancer. Both of these people contributed so much to our community and their presence is greatly missed. It’s hard to process it all. I really wish we could be celebrating together today. Cancer is a jerk. I am painfully aware that every day is a gift. I am thankful that they graced this world with their presence and left a mark on so many hearts, including mine. Happy Birthday indeed. ❤

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Birthday self-portrait, 2015