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Face your fears

It finally happened. I literally faced my fears and got my 4 wisdom teeth removed on Thursday morning. I’m here to tell you that I not only survived the experience, but I’m healing better than I thought.

The anxiety had been building up since Monday, and before I knew it, it was Wednesday night. I was on this mad dash to make a bunch of green smoothies and healthy snacks since I was in the middle of a vegan cleanse and didn’t want to totally undo my progress. I’ve done this cleanse before, which you can read about here in a blog post I wrote named “Glowed Up”. In “Glowed Up”, I go into more depth about what the cleanse is and what I gained from it.

For my recovery, I knew I could only eat smooth and pureed foods the first week or so. I already had planned to mostly drink my green smoothies and some pureed soups. It hadn’t occurred to me to do an online search on recovery foods until a couple of people at work told me I should plan to be eating ice cream, jello, pudding, and milk shakes. Sure enough, those foods popped up as recommended foods for recovery from wisdom tooth removal. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you my jaw dropped and my eyes grew bigger in disbelief. OH NO NO NO!!! The devil is a LIE because I’m not messing up all the work I’ve done on this cleanse for 11 of 21 days. I was laughed at and told I picked the wrong time for a cleanse. We’ll see about that.

Because I slightly panicked, I did go to the grocery store when I left work and bought some no added sugar organic applesauce, coconut yogurt, and a pudding with the least amount of sugar I could find. I looked at the ingredients in jello and just couldn’t do it. I spent a long time in the ice cream section reading labels and finally landed on some organic fruit popsicles with low added sugar. “I can do this!”

I was up late Wednesday night prepping my green smoothie army and other comforting foods. I made 3 different smoothies, two of each, and I chose kale as the “greens” because of its powerhouse nutrients. A member of my cleanse Facebook group gave me a recipe for avocado mouse. SWEET! I didn’t want to waste my avocados. I pulled out my hand mixer for that one because I wanted an extra creamy texture.

I strained the broth from a zoodles recipe. The reserved broth is full of nutrients from all the vegetables steeped in the liquid. I was looking forward to drinking that one. All in all, I had pretty solid options for healthy eating while recovering from dental surgery. I have yet to eat the applesauce, yogurt, or popsicles. I’ve mostly been eating my green smoothies with a spoon, vegan soups, and some pudding. On Day 2, I had two chicken meatballs my husband made and some mashed potatoes.

Day 1 was the most traumatic, judging from the picture, but it wasn’t even that bad. I took my medications and slept off and on all day. I only used the ice cubes once when I was supposed to do it every hour for the rest of the night. I had soreness and some swelling, but not what I imagined in my mind. One of my sweet cats, Beignet, stayed in the bed with me most of the day and my husband Bryan took care of me by switching out the gauze, getting my medications, and food.

Day 2 was more of the same in the morning, but it turned out to be such a beautiful day, that my husband and I went out to run some errands. We even did a 30 minute walk. My appetite increased throughout the day, but there is only so much I can eat. I did sample some products at Costco (LOVE this place!) like macaroni and cheese and lasagna. The lasagna was a mistake….a little more difficult to swallow. I found a recipe for pureed asparagus cauliflower soup and made that once we got home. I was really tired last night and thought I could get away with taking only 1 of my pain pills, but I was wrong. I ended up taking the other eventually. I could feel the pain building up.

Day 3 is today and I feel a little groggy, but I’m up blogging. I plan to do some dancing and may start on meal prep for next week. I can’t really partake of the snacks from the cleanse because they’re mostly crunchy and chunky. I will make more green smoothies and soups.

Overall, after all the horror stories I’ve heard, and fear built up in my own mind, this experience hasn’t been that bad. Sure, there was the IV, blood in my mouth, and some pain, but with following doctor’s orders, resting, and eating well, I’m getting through it. I do believe my healthy choices in foods are helping me heal faster.

Light lesson: Sometimes, we make FEAR bigger than it actually is, giving it more power. I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t put off things because of fear. You could be shaving more time off your life than necessary. You will find yourself asking why you put something off for so long and allowed it to take up so much space in your life.

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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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This is for you, my ❤

A whole lot can change in a year! On this day in 2017, I was trying to get through to Bryan’s (my husband), neurosurgeon’s office. After watching his decline for the past several months, but especially over the pre-Christmas weekend, I decided we were going to see his doctor that day, the day after Christmas, instead of waiting for the scheduled appointment in two weeks. He needed an adjustment to the shunt inserted in his brain in 2016. I had been telling the physician’s assistant and doctor about his symptoms for months, but his lab results kept coming back “normal”. They didn’t listen to me and suggested he see a neurologist for the memory loss.

On 12/26/17, no one answered the office phone and there was no answering service. Plan B was to take Bryan to the emergency room, but I didn’t know if I would be able to convince him to go. A slight panic was developing inside of me, but I am calm under pressure. He had been very lethargic the whole weekend and complained he was tired when I said something. I knew we were up against the clock after I had done some additional research on his symptoms on Christmas day. Thankfully, he agreed to go to the emergency room, but another problem ensued. He couldn’t get out of the bed. I noticed his eyes were glassy. He tried over and over again to get out of the bed, but I could see that his nerves wouldn’t allow his body to do the simple action. I called to our son, Caleb, to help and nothing. Thirty minutes later, I moved to Plan C which was a call the paramedics. He couldn’t walk. He wasn’t oriented to time. He thought it was July 2008.

Seventeen days later, Bryan returned from the hospital. He was released from the intensive care unit after the second day, received a shunt adjustment, and was eventually moved to the rehabilitation center within the hospital where he had cognitive, speech, and physical therapy. Following his hospital admission, he had another four months of cognitive, speech, and physical therapy.

Whew!!! Typing this post is stirring up all the emotions I experienced at the time. Our lives were totally disrupted again. You can read my previous blog posts to learn more about our journey. Somehow (update and more precisely…by God’s doing), I managed to get a promotion through this latest ordeal, which I needed because Bryan was not able to work. I managed to get my kids through it and keep our family’s day to day schedule going. However, this blog post is not about me, but of the sheer strength, will, and resilience of my husband.

We’ve been married for twenty one years so it goes without saying I love my husband, but I’ve gotten a whole new appreciation for this guy. His life was totally disrupted. He suffered a great deal. This is a college-educated man, who embodies being a provider for his family, and is faced with the prospect of never working in his profession again. For most of 2018, he’s been recovering while battling depression and coping with his disorder. Yet, what I’ve seen from him in these last few months has been amazing.

He started feeling better later in the summer while embarking on our long walks around Austin. I could tell he was better because he started planning and getting back involved with the kids’ schools. He’s always been the school and homework guy. If there’s a problem with the administration and/or treatment of my kids in their respective schools, then I’m the tough person they will answer to. I don’t play around. In November 2018, against my advice, Bryan applied for some seasonal work. It was all physical and what I witnessed was an improvement in his overall cognitive function and mood.

For us, Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birth and being grateful for our blessings and family. Due to Bryan’s efforts, we were able to have a Christmas with gifts. I get paid well, but enough to cover our living expenses. Living in Austin is not cheap. He even surprised me with my gifts. In fact, for the first time ever, Bryan did almost all of the Christmas shopping. Granted, I work long hours, but he said it was the least he could do since I was doing everything. I don’t see it that way. Working isn’t the only way to contribute in a marriage/family, but I’m married to a manly guy, so his esteem is rooted in providing for his family. I’m working on having him see it differently. Whatever the case, he came through in a big way and when you’ve been married as long as we have, you don’t keep score. There have been times where he’s carried me. Our job is to carry each other when needed. And for the record, I don’t really see myself as carrying him. I’m grateful I’m able to support my family.

At the beginning of 2018, I was hesitant about creating new goals because I wasn’t sure what life would throw at me. Heck, he didn’t get released from the hospital until 1/12/18. My main goal at the time was to get him out of the hospital. Between my health and his, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride since 2016. Upon witnessing Bryan’s healing, I’m inspired. I’ve prayed a lot for his healing and so have others. We still don’t know what’s in store for his future, but we’re in it together and can overcome anything.

All this to say, I had a FABULOUS Christmas and am looking forward to 2019 thanks to my ❤.

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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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Spicy escapade

I love to buy most of my spices in bulk from Central Market. I don’t go to Central Market often, so when I do, it’s a treat. There’s a turmeric tonic drink I have on rotation in the early mornings for its healing and detoxification properties. I ran out of turmeric. I had a stressful January. February wasn’t looking much better. On this particular day, I took advantage of being in Central Market’s vicinity and went on a spice shopping spree. Mind you, at that moment, I was feeling overwhelmed with life, but I enjoy grocery shopping. I’m the type of person that studies the sales flyers, peruses through the isles, and reads ingredients for every single item. Two communication exchanges occurred during this shopping trip that made me really appreciate the impact people have on each other.

I walked into the bulk spice section and felt slightly amused and annoyed (they were in the way of me getting my spices), watching a swarm of people navigate the bulk spice section. It was lunch time, which explains the crowd. I walked up and let my eyes scan for turmeric. I didn’t see it and the attentive worker who was managing the section asked if I needed help. I told him what I was looking for and he followed with an unexpected question: “for healing purposes or cooking?” I had never been asked such a question and proceeded to tell him it was for healing, describing my turmeric tonic. He enthusiastically told me about a type of turmeric the store started selling a few months ago and what makes it different from the other types of turmeric. He uses it too. I was intrigued and thankful that I was learning something new. A minute later, another shopper approached me and said, “I’m glad you asked about turmeric because I’m going to get some too”. I bagged a few more spices and walked out of the bulk spice section feeling a little more perky. That was Exchange #1.

I headed towards the produce section for some salad fixings. Central Market has beautiful produce. Then, a thought hit me right in the midst of shopping: “I haven’t had watercress in a while”. I discovered a few years back that not every store sells watercress. One time, I had attempted to make my mom’s Haitian soup recipe…watercress is a key ingredient. After trying several grocery stores, I found the watercress at Central Market. Here I was again, looking for what I couldn’t find. I spotted a grocer unloading lettuce. He was an older, brown-colored man with a very serious facial expression. I asked him about the watercress. He pointed and described where. That’s when I heard his accent…likely African, but from where? I tend to pick up on accents and like to ask people where they’re from. Given his stance and my mood, I decided to spare him. I proceeded to shop. Next up was lettuce. I headed right behind him and picked up a big head of organic green leaf lettuce. I was getting excited about my salad. After placing the lettuce in a plastic bag, I was headed for something else, when the brown-colored grocer, with the African accent, approached me with a giant head of green leaf lettuce. He said, “This one is bigger”, and handed it to me with a smile. I put the other head back and practically skipped out of the produce section. That was Exchange #2.

There are a few key points I take away from this shopping trip. In terms of customer service, there are people that take pride in their work and do it well. In my opinion, customer service has become a lost art over the years. I even wanted to write a book about it at one time. It’s refreshing to see that good customer service is not dead. Another point is no matter how stressful life is, you need to take time to pay attention to and enjoy the little things. And finally, we have the power to impact others every single day with small acts of kindness. So go do that.

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Hospital chronicles

This is Day 6 of visiting my hubby, Bryan, in the hospital. In his hand is a thermos of homemade chicken tortilla soup prepared by yours truly…me. If God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, He must think awefully high of me.  Not to mention, my son has been battling some kind of illness that I’m diagnosing as a combination of asthma, allergies, and a cold. I thought I was going to have a stress-free, cozy Christmas break with my family and add in some time to myself to think about my mom. Nope.

It turns out that Bryan needs inpatient physical, occupational, and cognitive therapy and will likely be here for another 2 weeks.  I’ve accepted it because it’s not in my control. However, I’m frustrated because I have been communicating my obervations to his doctor for months now. As a social worker, I understand how the system works, so I am thankful that I can advocate on his behalf. The hospital believes he needs to be here and I can see he does too. I want him to be safe and as close to his optimal level of functioning as he can be prior to discharge.  Naturally, Bryan wants to come home.

I don’t want this experience to dampen my outlook on 2018, but I’m not going to lie, I’m in a funk.  Bryan wants to be home. I want him to be home. Our kids miss him and he misses them. I miss him in our bed. He wants to sleep in his bed. It sucks to drive out here everyday. I’m exhausted spending half my day at the hospital, then going home to attend to the kids. I feel bad that my son has been sick. I feel bad because I’m spending so much time away, but I also feel bad about how lonely it must feel for Bryan to be in a hospital over the holidays. I feel bad that my kids have spent part of their holiday in a hospital. I feel bad about Bryan’s condition. He has a long road of recovery ahead.

Despite my moaning, there have been some bright spots and moments of grace throughout this ordeal.

  1. As the paramedics transferred Bryan from the chair to the gurnee while outside our home, a lady from my old church passed by, stopped and said a prayer for Bryan.
  2. We have health insurance. 
  3. The hospital ER neurosurgeon told me that Bryan’s doctor should have listened to me. 
  4. The hospital staff have been attentive and professional. 
  5. I didn’t get a speeding ticket after being pulled over on Day 3. I told the officer why I was speeding and he gave me a warning instead of a ticket.
  6. My prayer warriors have been praying for us.
  7. My friend treated my daughter and I to some pampering with a mani/pedi.
  8. Traffic has been light due to most people being off work for the holiday break, so the commute hasn’t been so bad despite the distance.
  9. My leadership at work have been understanding.
  10. WE HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE.

I’ve gotten a lot of calls and I’m not in the mood to talk. I haven’t been in the mood to write either, but I can’t stay away from what comes natural. Writing is therapeutic. I do have faith things will get better.  My current strategy is to take things day by day.


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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.