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Product junkie

Over the years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy products free of harmful chemicals. This was prior to my breast cancer diagnosis in 2016. Since then, I’ve amped up my efforts to live a healthy lifestyle by way of foods I consume and products I use to take care of my body.

On my social media page, I post a lot of my healthy food choices. There’s a push for buying all organic, but that can get expensive. I would love to get to a point where I can buy organic meat, but it’s not cost effective for my family. I find myself considering when I’m at a place like Costco. However, I end up going conventional when looking at my budget. What I do buy organic is produce noted as the dirty dozen. I need to add to my routine to go to a farmer’s market on the weekends. I’ve heard this is another cost-effective option for buying organic.

Dijon dressing ingredients. LPC

I’ve gotten more vigilant about ensuring my physical environment is free from harsh chemicals. In my quest to be healthy, as much as I work to control the things I can, I don’t believe any of us can control everything. Just in our home, it can be overwhelming in considering all the possible places of chemical exposure: carpet, paint, insulation, toilets, new clothing, etc. However, one small thing I’ve done is make a commitment to refrain from purchasing any more scented oil warmers and refills.

Scented Oil Warmers. LPC

I’ve read how harmful scented oil warmers can be for the environment because of inhaling harmful chemicals. I’ve collected so many oil warmers over the years and don’t want to waste them. I found a hack on Pinterest where I replaced the liquid with essential oils, but it hasn’t worked for me. The oils and liquid won’t diffuse, so I may end up trashing all my oil warmers anyway. Bummer!

When I shop for soaps, facial products, and hair, I purchase products free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oils, and other harmful chemicals. I look for products that have essential oils, shea butter, and other healthy ingredients. As part of my self-care routine, I love to give myself facials, so I’m always on the lookout for affordable masks and scrubs. I’m the type of shopper who loves to take my time reading ingredients and touching the product. I do online shopping on occasion, but I prefer to go to my favorite specialty stores to buy what I need.

We’re all going to die at some point, but I don’t see anything wrong with living a good quality of life. In the quest for health, I think we all just need to keep things in perspective, control what we can and let go of what we can’t, and make healthier choices that make sense for our budgets. As my husband says, you’ll either pay for it now or pay for it later in poor health and medical bills. Again, I want a good quality of life, so we’ll do what we can to pay for it now.

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Never too busy to go to the doctor

I’m back. Listen, this lady (ummm…me) has been busy! What else is new? You know that about me already. Despite my busy life, I really strive to be as grounded as I can by doing the things that bring me joy, make me relax, calm my nerves, and bring me peace. As an introvert, I need to recharge often. Yesterday, I got in the bed as soon as I got home and stayed there for the rest of the night. My husband was kind and warmed up my dinner (I’m on a 21 day vegan cleanse). I ate, scrolled through my email and social media, drank tea, and pretty much stayed in the bed until it was time for “bed”.

For the past month, I’ve had a couple of health issues that have been begging for my attention. The first had to do with my teeth. I’ve decided to schedule the appointment to get my 4 wisdom teeth removed. I had another flare up that I couldn’t ignore. As I was discussing my pain with my team members one day, one of my employees kind of jokingly said something to the affect of “You, of all people, should be attending to this as part of self-care”. The blogger who writes about self-care has been putting off dental work for a year. Touchet…touchet, mon frere!

The thing is I’ve always hated going to the dentist. I’ve never really needed anything major done to my teeth. It’s a miracle that I’ve kept up with teeth cleanings all these years. Last year, I started getting some specialized cleanings as a result of some wear and tear from low levels of calcium.. probably as a result of getting older (as “they” like to remind me). I had been able to get away with keeping my wisdom teeth because they rarely bothered me, but one got inflamed last year and I was told then, to get it removed. I did not.

Next week, I have an appointment to get all four wisdom teeth removed. I’m not excited about it, but I’m proud of myself for finally making it a priority. I’ve had another health issue creep up that resulted in me calling my gynecologist yesterday and leaving work a little earlier. I’ll spare the details, but let’s just say my menstrual cycle has gone “rogue”. I have to be careful because as part of my breast cancer treatment, I’m on cancer medication that may increase my risks for other cancers. It could be the medication. It could be perimenopause. It could be my uterine fibroids. It could be stress. Whatever the case, I’m not taking any chances. I have an appointment to see my gynecologist and to do some testing next Tuesday.

I admit I don’t necessarily like that my work takes up a huge space in my life, although my job is rewarding. I mostly work long days. I don’t have as much time to do simple things like check my personal emails and voice mail like I used to. I don’t talk to my family/friends as often as I want. I usually have to spend my whole Saturday recovering from the work week. However, I have limits, especially when it comes to my health.

I will continue to take care of myself by eating well, exercising daily, praying, and socializing with the people that mean the most to me. I’m on the vegan cleanse for the health benefits and I enjoy participating on the Facebook group. My health is very important to me and my family, so I’m not going to ignore it. I’m never too busy to go to the doctor when I need to.

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Awareness

For the past couple of years, I’ve become inundated with a flood of emotions this time of year for two main reasons: 1) I was diagnosed with breast cancer two days before Breast Cancer Awareness month and 2) my mom’s last visit to Austin was in late October 2016 when she came to support me through my two breast cancer surgeries.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so there’s so much attention on breast cancer on my social media and elsewhere. I like reading the informative articles and the personal experiences of those affected. I’ve also been sharing information about my personal experience and have made small donations to the grocery stores and other places collecting funds for the cause. I like to say I’m a “thriver” rather than “survivor”, but I don’t fully subscribe to the language of how I move through this disease.

I find it interesting to read of people who have or will “beat” breast cancer. Have I beaten breast cancer? My oncologist told me I’m cancer free, yet I will still undergo hormone treatment (through oral medications) for up to 10 years. The reality is once you become intimately acquainted with the disease, you learn it can return. With every doctor’s appointment, blood test, and mammogram, there is a looming fear. This is a fight I didn’t sign up for, but I don’t feel sorry for myself or regret it. I’m simply doing what I do best: adjusting to life’s roller coaster, being strong, and making the best out of it.

I do need to be careful because I’m in a very vulnerable space. Upon receiving the confirmation that I had breast cancer, it was an extremely emotional experience, which I attribute to coming face to face with my mortality. I have children and a husband who need me. I have family and friends who love me. We all know we’re going to die, but when you know you have a disease which has killed many, it does something to you.

I am also vulnerable because my main source of support, my mummy, passed away 8 months after her last trip to Austin to come support me during my breast cancer surgeries. I can still hear her cries when I told her the news over the phone. Breast Cancer Awareness month reminds me my mummy was by side during the most difficult time in my life. I’ve been coping and have grieved her death, but there are moments where I simply miss her and feel sad she’s gone.

So here it is. Through blogging, I’ve uncovered this nagging, unsettling feeling that’s been plaguing me for the past couple of months. I thought I was just tired. Breast Cancer Awareness has triggered some emotions in me. What do I do now with this awareness? It starts with me being patient with myself and removing all judgments. I will extend myself some grace. I will rest. I will embrace myself with an imaginary hug.

Light lesson: Self-love is being kind to oneself in thoughts and actions. I hope you do the same for yourself.

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Cancer Strong

Altough breast cancer awareness month is not until October, I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey lately. The incisions have healed and I can feel the scars from breast reconstruction surgery extending from under both my left and right breast bones. The breast reduction and lift does not hide the dent from the lumpectomy on my lower left breast. September marks two years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. On September 28, 2016, my life changed forever upon learning my fate. You can read about my reaction to the news here.

I’ve been breast cancer free for about a year and nine months and have gone on with my life. Breast cancer is not at the forefront of my thoughts anymore. In reality, I’ve had no choice but to shift my focus because my family needs me considering my husband’s health issues. Back in the fall of 2016, I was totally consumed with researching everything about my disease. The follow up medical appointments that occur mostly every 6 months (medical oncology, radiation oncology, mammograms, primary care) and the medication I’ll take for another 3 to 10 years, remind me that it’s not entirely out of my life or that far behind me. However, it’s a part of my life and I’ve learned to live with it.

The thing about having a cancer diagnosis, at least for me, is it makes you keenly aware of how short life is, which can be a good and/or bad thing. I’d like to say because I’m keenly aware of how short life is that I don’t let things bother me, or say I don’t worry, but that’s not true. Things do bother me and I do worry…after all I have responsibilities. However, I work to put things in perspective daily and practice not being so hard on myself.

I’m physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally strong and that’s what will get me through this journey.

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Health is wealth

In the last 2 weeks I had a health scare…two more tumors showed up on my mammogram and ultrasound, but the biopsies came back BENIGN. Praise God! The results confirmed my commitment to healthy eating. Now, I’ve completed my lunch prep. A big part of my weekend is spent preparing meals for my family and vegan/vegetarian meals for my work week. I’ve found a sweet spot of being mostly vegan/vegetarian during the week day, then eating meat in the evenings and weekends. I may deviate from time to time, but I don’t deviate from my daily green smoothies. 

I was tired today, as usual, but I went ahead and prepped my lunch bowls. I could easily not do this because it’s time consuming. However, I care about my health too much and enjoy eating healthy foods. I haven’t decided if I’m going to have a smoothie as an afternoon snack in addition to having one for breakfast, but I blended two pumpkin green smoothies. Yum!

Pumpkin green smoothie ingredients

Lunch prep: one down, three to go

Lunch bowls: quinoa, sweet potato, egg, sauteed peppers

This week I plan to work on this sweet tooth I developed after returning from Chicago after my mom’s funeral in July. I’ve been on a cookie habit…one or two every couple of days.  I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, but I went months without eating sweets aside from fruit. 

Roasted Garbanzo beans & spices

All in all, I make healthy food choices. Health is wealth and a large part of being healthy is eating well.  Thank God my latest tests were benign. My oncologist again told me I’m healthy and to keep doing what I’m doing. For a while I have been slacking off a little, but I haven’t veered off course.  The recent health scare reminded me of what’s important in life and reconfirmed my commitment to take care of myself.

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Oh September

September has been difficult for me emotionally. Last September (2016), mummy came to Austin for a two and a half week visit. The whole time she was here, I was undergoing multiple tests to determine what the tumor was in my left breast. I didn’t tell her what I was going through and I wasn’t planning on it until it was confirmed by my doctor. I don’t regret it either. The day she left, my husband and I took her to the airport, then headed to my doctor’s appointment for the news. I already knew. I had been researching breast cancer obsessively. September 28 marks one year since my life changed drammatically.

It’s been almost 3 months since mummy passed away and it’s been a struggle. Most days, I’m well, going through my normal routine and then it’ll hit me. I become overwhelmed with emotion and start crying. It especially hits me when I’m driving home from work because for about 5 years, it was my routine to call her during this time. I miss her voice. My Facebook memories feed also reminds me through pictures that she is gone. I’m glad that I’ve taken so many pictures with mummy when she’s come to visit or vice versa. My sister noted that she and my other siblings didn’t think to take as many pictures with mummy since they all live in the same city and saw each other frequently. I happen to enjoy selfies plus I didn’t have the luxury of seeing mummy often, so I loved commemorating her visits.

On September 1, I had my annual exam with my primary care doctor and it was also emotional for me because the last time I saw her, she told me that I had breast cancer. She was on the verge of tears when she told me. Of course, I was happy to report that I’ve been well and healthy, but I soon found out that I need more tests for some other potential issues. Her words were, “You’ve been through a lot this past year already. There are still some questions.” I had testing on my breasts yesterday and things didn’t go as smoothly as 6 months ago. The radiology technician called me back 3 times for more testing, then requested the ultrsound. This was all too familiar, but last year, I didn’t think anything of it. Apparently, I’m not completely out of the woods yet on this cancer thing. I need a biopsy. The doctors want to be sure about the 2 new spots on the same breast.

I’m generally a positive person, but I don’t want to go down this road again. However, this does put things in perspective in terms of what is important in life. I needed the reminder. The hardest part of all of this is that my biggest supporter will not be around to take care of me for whatever procedures/treatment I may need. Last year, once it was confirmed that I had breast cancer, and after we had met with the surgeons and oncologist, I told mummy of my diagnosis. She took it hard, but was back in Austin by the end of October to be present for my two surgeries in November. How will I get through this next phase of “whatever” without her?

Whatever happens, I will do what I need to do to be alive as long as I can for my family. I am strong and brave. I just wish September wouldn’t be so hard. On the positive side, the weather has changed. The expression, “seasons change”, just rang in my ears and we all know that to be true. Only God knows why I’m faced with these health challenges in this season of my life. I will go through this season with everything in me… like a champ or chump, by fighting hard or barely hanging on, but I’ll get through it with her spirit within me. I’ll get through it with the support of my family and friends. I’ll get through it with God.

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Rest Part Deux 

Today, I succumbed to my body’s cues and spent the early part of the day resting. It was difficult initially because I have a Saturday morning routine of cleaning. I’ve missed writing in my blog, so I finished up a post I started last week. After that, I took a shower, attended to my charred breast, warmed up some leftover chicken noodle soup, and headed back to bed with soup in tow. On my way home from my next to last radiation treatment yesterday, I could tell by the pain and discomfort that it would be best if I rested. I’ve been feeling a little emotional now that I can see and feel the effects of the radiation. I decided that I would take care of myself, not worry about housework considering that there are 3 able bodied human beings that live with me. I’ve been joking that my fitbit has been controlling me, so I thought about my steps briefly. How would I get my steps in? It can become addictive really quickly. I’m even in a work week challenge with some of my coworkers. However, I decided to ignore the fitbit. I’ll catch my steps some other time. I’m finding that it takes less effort to let go and just listen to myself. I cozied up in my bed without any disturbances…not even from the kittens.

At about 2 p.m., I was rewarded with an energy burst. I felt replenished. The hubby had breakfast, lunch and dinner covered and did some dishes. I took on the kitchen….the stove hood, back splash, and floors (not sure what came over me…?) I assumed my role as captain of the ship and commenced giving orders on what else needed to be done to get the house in decent order. Hey, I managed to get over 3,500 steps in a short period. I felt guilty for a bit, but then when I saw them actually doing the work, the guilt subsided. I can’t do it all. At least, I’d rather use my energy doing other things. I’m also teaching my kids to be responsible people…at least that’s the goal. However, I do want to work on my delivery. It would be great if I could only get them to do it without the poking and proding. Work in progress…stay tuned!