About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas is not just a magical time of year filled full of bright lights, candy canes and gifts we receive under the tree. Christmas is a sacred time of the year. Those who are not spiritual in nature still hold the Spirit of Christmas sacred. Even if you are not one to celebrate the birth of Christ most of us honor the meaning of Christmas, the spirit of this blessed season through the giving of ourselves and of our time. Sacrifice is the main ingredient in this season of holly and mistletoe and though we may not always have much to offer most of us find a way to make what we have go a little farther, to bring joy to others and those we love.

Christmas in our home has always been a bit of homemade love, sprinkled with joy and the opening of our home to those in need of hope. As a little girl Christmas was filled with wonder … dancing lights, a sparkling tree, a warm beautiful glowing star with outside lights paving the way for Santa. I have always loved this time of year and all the festivities that come with it. One of my favorite things is to place a wreath on our door, a welcome to all who enter our home, a symbol of our unending love for one another.

Looking back our hearth has never been much but it has always brought warmth, love and harmony into our lives. We have never turned anyone away because we did not have enough. In truth I grew up in a home that knew no stranger. My parents always felt no matter how little we had we had a responsibility to share with those who had no home. I grew up learning the real meaning of charity. Though my parents never gave away hand outs, they did give to those in need, many times doing without themselves. They rose to the challenge more often than not and yes they did go without many times, but they always gave with a servant’s heart.

Our home was always open, and no one was ever turned away no matter how little we had. I can remember many times giving my bed up so someone else who did not have one could sleep warm in a bed for the night. I grew up in a home with kindled hearth, warm and full of joy, where I was taught this love of life and charity should be shared. So as I look toward this Christmas, I feel am blessed to have my family by my side to share these beautiful festivities no matter how big or small with each of them.

We have had bountiful years and scarce years, yet through each of them I have never felt as if we did not have enough to share. I have watched my parents sacrifice and honor the Lord in their lives on a daily basis. I have seen them offer all they have including their home, their vehicles and the food on their table through the years. Yes I have seen some judge them, look down upon them and condemn them because they have not responded with an iron fist to those in need of God’s grace and mercy. Yet in spite of it all, I have seen the love of God in their lives shine through even the darkest night. Love, mercy , grace and charity, all fruits of the spirit, growing bountifully in their lives, bringing hope and joy to those whom many see as hopeless.

This year, in keeping with the tradition my parents began, we will open our home and our hearts to those we love. We will sit down to a bountiful meal together surrounded by family and friends we hold dear. We will offer our humble home and give thanks for the many blessings God has given us this year, including the roof over our heads, , the blessings of a table to gather around, the food offered upon the very same table, a place to rest our heads and the gifts under our tree, but most of all for the very breathe we take on Christmas day.

So this Christmas my friends, I offer up this prayer for you: May you find peace, happiness and joy in this season. May you know God’s peace, a deep, internal joy which comes from selflessness and sacrifice. May you rest in His hands, knowing each day we are given is a gift. May you hold the gift of the Magi in your hearts and embrace today my friend holding true to the Spirit of this Season each and every day of the New Year.

~ Christina

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When The Fates Step In...

When the Fates step in, they can bring many things our way...beauty, joy, sadness, death or a mixture of emotions for that matter.  We may feel she has not been fair to us, given us the short end of the stick or maybe we are left standing on green pastures rather than infertile land. Maybe they bring goodness and kindness our way today rather than the fear and worry of yesterday. Either way, if we are relying on the Fate alone to chart our path, then we are gambling with our lives and with our joy, happiness and the inner peace we find in knowing our lives are in God’s hands.

Now does this mean we are always happy where God is leading us or some kind of angelic peace takes over the worry our lives create? Nope, not at all, life is tough. No one is given an easy road even if they are born into what appears to the outside world as perfect. Money, material things and beauty are not the answer nor are they the key to finding happiness.

Happiness, true happiness comes from another place, a deeper, sometimes darker place we don’t like to enter. Sometimes, we have to lose it all, feel the cold on our face to feel the warmth inside our heart burn.  Happiness is not a place; you cannot set your sails in a set direction and expect to find her there. No happiness is a way of life, a way of looking past the harsh circumstances surrounding our lives and still finding a reason to smile.

Is this an easy thing to do? Oh no, it is most certainly not! I know because I often have to remind myself to stop daydreaming about the what if’s.  I am not always thrilled with how my day has turned out or even how my year has gone BUT when I stop, take a moment to look at the love, the hope and the joy not only surrounding my life, but actively partaking in my daily living I realize how blessed I truly am.

Yes cancer has taken a toll on us.  The beast has grabbed us by our throats and squeezed as tightly as possible.  She has striped us of many things including the certainty of the future we thought we had ahead of us. Yet, this has not been such a rotten deal in all because what fate has allowed, God has used for the good. I am a blessed today to say I am a breast cancer survivor. I am alive, I have today, I have my family, and friends who stand beside me, a home, not just a house, and a life I was never guaranteed. Seriously friends if tomorrow does not come my way, if I did not wake to another day, I would meet my God, not fate, embracing His peace knowing I have lived in the fullness of His grace.

Yes when the Fates step in our lives are typically turned upside down, but with a little faith, hope and contentment our lives can turn around in ways we never knew possible. So my friends, when times get tough, when life seems to pull you along a bumpy road, when you wade through the mud, the muck or high waters know this: You are not alone! Yes the Fates may be weaving their threads, ready to cut what appears to be your life line, making every part of your life appear lost on the surface. You may feel hopeless but  if you can step back, look a little further in the distance and let your heart burn strong, stroking  the fire within your spirit and allow God’s grace to engulf your soul, you will find a personal peace like none else. 


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Life's Tangled Mess

Over this last weekend my parents treated the whole family to Disney’s Tangled. After checking times and deciding which theater we were going to Johnny and I made our way with kids in tow to meet my parents at our local mall on Sunday. Truthfully it has been a while since we have all been to the movies so I was very excited about this little adventure of ours. You know how it goes… the giant movie posters lined up in a row, the smell of popcorn and the excitement of grabbing the best seats in the house makes going to the movies a real adventure for most of us.

So with our tickets, popcorn and drinks in hand we found our seats and waited for the lights to go down so we could be transported to a land far, far away.


Alright you are tangled up in Tangled right? You are asking yourself, with two boys, seriously, a princess movie? Well truthfully it’s not so bad allowing the men in your life a movie from time to time where the hero trips over his own feet, learns a little humility, some loyalty and finds sacrifice is worth the cost of finding your dreams along the way.

Honestly this was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Yes we could have been watching a shoot’em up, chase them around the block, knock’em out blockbuster, but why? Our little fairytale was just our speed in a day we were driving in the slow lane. As we watched the story unfold we were all laughing, giggling, and awing, though I was the only one crying at the end as I always do. Just one look in my boys direction and I got the “MOM” look and a tissue handed to me.

I have this knack for getting lost in movies. I get wrapped up in the emotion because no matter what the situation is I am able to apply it to my own life. I can see the parallel, the twist and the reflection in my own world. I can see how each and every story has something to teach me in my own life. So when the big scene came with the lanterns I was blown away.

I love this scene because it reminds me of all the lives touched by cancer, whether as survivor or as loved ones lost to us. The lights for me represented much more than a beautiful scene or a touching moment. No for me those beautiful lanterns called out to my heart, spoke to my soul, and shed light on the journey we take together as we work to overcome the beast. Each lantern was symbolic of hope. With each one lit and set free a journey was etched out across the sky, a loved one remembered, a hope which echoed throughout the night, lighting the darkness and a blazing a trail just for her, leading Rapunzel home. All this was for her, to guide her, to call to her and to ensure she knew she was not alone or forgotten… she just didn’t know it yet.

What about the rest of the story? Well as it unfolds we find our Princess, lost, scared, but she was still strong. She was told she could not rise to meet the challenges of the outside world and yet here she was walking around with a frying pan no less tackling the ups and downs of a world she had only glimpsed through a window. In her escape from the tower this princess had ceased the day, taken the night by storm, fought her guilt and grabbed hold of her own destiny. She didn’t know she was a lost princess, but she knew she was destined for greatness. She knew those lights in the night sky, appearing only one night a year, on her birthday, had a purpose and she was determined to find out what.

You’re asking how this movie can possibly apply to my life well this is how:

We all get tangled up in our own lives don’t we? We plan to go here, to do this, to save a little money for a rainy day or to pick up the phone and call a loved one… one day. But life gets in the way. We get caught up in the day to day living of life and before we know it we are locked away in a tower cooking, cleaning, reading and working while our hair (life in other words) keeps growing further and further out of control.

This poor, poor princess even after she escapes she still gets tangled up in trouble. Yet determined and while still dragging her 20 feet of hair behind her she continues to find hope and strength while overcoming the obstacles in front of her. The point is she doesn’t give up, she endures.

Life is a bit like Rapunzel's hair if you really think about it. We can swing ourselves from one branch of life to another or even help heal others with our tangled mess just like Rapunzel does after she has broken out of the tower. We can even get help wrapping it up; add decorations to disguise our tangled chaos as Rapunzel does later in the film but in the end doing all those things still does not take care of the real problem: a tangled up , out of control, chaotic mess!

Finally a moment comes which grabs us by our hair literally and we are faced with an impossible decision. We are forced to either give something away we love, to sacrifice what we think we need or continue on the path we are on. Cancer is a lot like this situation… take charge of it or let it take charge of you! Be drug off to serve the beast and suffer her wrath or allow your hair to be cut off in order to free yourself from the beast and her chains.

This is the real story, the back story if you like... filled with sacrifice, love and determination. So you ask my friend why Tangled? Well there is always more to a book than her cover is there not? So I would say to you the real lesson my boys took away with them from the theater Sunday was this very thing: hope endures.

 So I ask you now my friend what about you? What will you do with your life, with the tangled knots keeping you from reaching the floating lights on the horizon? Maybe it’s time to see those old fairy tales and children’s stories through a whole new set of eyes.


Monday, November 29, 2010

If This Were Your Last Christmas

Have you ever wondered if this were your last Christmas how you would spend it? Would you find hope and beauty in the time you had left? Would you be content in knowing you had loved and been loved? Would the time you were given to hold those you love dear be enough for them to remember you when December knocked on their doors the following year? In my life this is how I see each and every Christmas I share with my family and friends now.

You see for me December 2005 was the beginning of an adventure I never saw coming.  Five years ago this very time of year I found a lump in my breast which would alter the rest of my life. I knew nothing of breast cancer or the path I was being navigated toward at the time. I did not know death was bidding for my company or that I was about to dive into a wrestling match with the Grim Reaper. I did not know my children, young and impressionable would have to face a journey of fear and worry alongside me. I had no clue the Grim would taunt them, whisper in their ears or stalk them throughout their childhood both day and night.

Yes I had known hardships before; I had faced off with the devil and found my way back home. I had dealt with chronic illness and financial woes before. I had even seen the Grim a time or two around the bend but I had never been in fist- da- cuffs with the Grim Reaper on a such a scale  as this before!

Since my fateful December evening when the tiniest of lumps appeared on the radar screen my life has been a tale of both hope and desperation. I cannot say one does not come without the other because to find hope you must first have a need for her grace. In other words you must be desperate for her gift, for her burning light to chase the darkness away.

Do I find it ironic the longest night of the year, Winter Solstice, surfaces during the month of December? No I don’t! Seasons change, as do our lives. I know there is reason for everything in life just as I know when the Sun rises the following morning she will shed her light and warmth ultimately chasing the shadows of the night away. Why… because there is always hope, there is always a reason to hold on, to embrace the hardships knowing the sun will rise again! I know this personally because even  through the longest, darkest nights I have faced during the last 5 years, I have always felt the sun shine warm upon my face again. I have never gone without love, without joy or without courage even if I have felt the night would never end.

It is now 2010 and I face each December with a grin because I am still here. I know the Grim still waits for me. I see her every morning as I pass by her with my cup of coffee in hand wearing her short black robe (she likes to show off her bony knees by the way), black leather boots and her shinny sickle. Most days she waves back at me with a frown and I just chuckle knowing today is not her day.

But let me make this very clear: I am not over confident in my bravery. I understand I am living on borrowed time. I do know one day she will come for me with her sickle and her chains to drag me away. I also know when this days comes I will be ready for her on my own terms not hers. She may have the satisfaction of cuffing me but she will not have the satisfaction of seeing me beg. When this day arrives, I will not be drug away. No when the papers have been drawn and signed I will go with a big smile on my face laughing all the way.

Until then I will live as if there is no tomorrow. I will hope and dream, I will live and laugh. I will love and I will dance. I will trust my God and keep my faith. I will not give in to the burden of what ifs. I will not allow myself to be down trodden by those who do not understand my faith or my courage. I will not fear the night even if this day was to be my last to behold. Do you want to know why? Well because I know the sun WILL reappear on the horizon for those I love.

So for today I am secure in this very happiness surrounding my life. I rejoice in the miracle of this season, the wonder, the grace and the beauty of December. I embrace the winter and all she offers, all she brings into my life because without winter there would be no spring.

In truth is this were indeed my last Christmas I could not ask for more than these very gifts  before me. Yes, I would find sadness as I left my precious gifts of hope, faith and courage wrapped up in my love under the tree. I would shed tears of sorrow and reflect on all these memories I have been given but I would also return these memories of joy and laughter to my children, my husband and my family for their safe keeping.

Today… I am grateful I have been given 4 more Christmas’ with my family, with my husband and with my children. What about you my friend? What gifts do you have to give this year? Indeed what would you do if this were your last Christmas?


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks In-between a Rock and a Hard Place

I love Thanksgiving! I mean who does not like the over the top buffet, the endless family gathered around the table and cooler weather? What is not to love? Well maybe the heartburn is nothing to get excited about but it is a time of family, giving and a time for gratitude. Thanksgiving has always been one of my most favorite times of the year. Yes I love the turkey and all the home cooked goodness we bring to our table but I also love the idea of giving thanks for all we have been given through the year.

For me Thanksgiving symbols a change in the seasons, a time to appreciate the beauty of nature, let go of the warm, comfortable season behind us and prepare for the winter ahead. As I come to the table this year I bring a lot of worry with me as I also bring hope and faith with me as well. I do not know what the winter will bring our way, what hardships we may face or if the snow will bring us to our knees this year. But I do know as I sit down at our table giving thanks for ALL I have I will find my family and friends. I will take part in lively conversations, laugh, cry and experience deep love and affection. I will fill not just my belly but my heart with hope and memories which will warm our hearth even during the coldest night of the coming winter.

Most of us are living through hardships right now. The times we are living in are not easy. We are all struggling, fighting for each breath, each day and because of the worry we face we may tend to forget the beauty in our lives. I can definitely say these hard times are not my cup of tea but a little gratitude can sweeten up any day.

Look around you, what do you see? I know in my own life even with all the loss we have and are facing I can still see the wonder and beauty of life. I look around myself and I see 4 years I was not guaranteed, I see a loving husband. I see my boys growing, thriving full of life and laughter for each new day. I see my parents, both here with me, caring for our needs as they see them without a thought of themselves. I see every reason despite the debt, the medical concerns or the pot holes in the road before us to give thanks for our blessings.

Yes I am even thankful for the financial struggles we face… the tie me up in a knots, bite my nails, pull my hair out, bang my head against a wall, not just cook but eat my goose for lunch kind of days! If not for these how would I appreciate the blessings of family, the hopes and dreams I long for or the very breath I take in this moment?

Yes most days catch us between a rock and a hard place. I have found I have a permanent residence between the two but I also know deep down without the struggles I would not know the real meaning of hope, of thanksgiving and of gratitude. So as we look toward Thursday, as you bring your turkey to the table amongst oohs and ahhs and as you hold those you love close remember true gratitude without charity is meaningless. Real Thanksgiving comes from our heart, from the depths of our loss and gift of our sacrifice.

Knowing the sun will shine again as winter turns to spring is a blessing, knowing this we can truly give thanks even as we take cover between a rock and a hard place my friend. So I pray you will be blessed this Thanksgiving with family, a bountiful table and love. May you know the peace of genuine thanksgiving. May you tuck it away for the harsh winter ahead as you count your blessings each and every one until spring breaks through on the other side shining her warmth on us again .

~ Christina

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Karate Kid!

Just a few nights ago we watched the New Karate Kid together. I have to say it was rather good. As we watched though I found myself looking over in my boy’s direction realizing they are my very own Karate kids. Both Joshua and Micah have been through a match of their own with my breast cancer over the last few years but I know Joshua, as the oldest has carried a heavier burden. If would ask him what has happened in our lives, I am sure his response would be breast cancer, that’s what happened!

There is a great quote in The Karate Kid. In many ways I see can see Joshua saying this very same thing. Dre Parker looks at Mr. Han after he has been hurt, after going several rounds in battle with the enemy and says: “Because win or lose, I don't want to be afraid any more. And I'm still afraid!” As Joshua has grown up on this battleground of the beast I have watched him live with fear but I have also watched him make the decision not to afraid as well.

He has been his brother’s keeper in many ways, even when he has been scarred to take the first step he has always believed he could step out on the water without sinking! Joshua has always been the one to reach out for the falling sky first, to hold it up before it could crush us.

Today is Joshua’s 14th birthday. I sit here today wondering where the time has gone. Just yesterday I was holding my baby in my arms protecting him and now he is protecting me! His dreams are so far and wide, his hopes secure in his faith, his courage keeping him moving along even in the dead of night. I marvel at his strength every day for even when the sky seems to be falling Joshua carries this flame of hope inside him that pierces the dark. He travels into the darkness shining his light for all of us to see in many ways I think he is the strongest warrior of us all

Even when it feels as the world has turned its back on us, Joshua can see past the worry. He knows God has a perfect plane, understands we all our worry but Joshua seems to know there is everlasting hope. He has the wisdom to embrace God’s plan which includes waiting for His timing. It’s just a matter of waiting, of praying like a city on her knees, of keeping his faith. Joshua in many ways has grown into a man already his voice rising up in a crowd so awesome in power proclaiming victory even if he is afraid!

Look around you today and ask yourself where you stand. I know from my own life if you let doubt overtake you it will drown you without mercy. So what do you have to lose? I have tried to instill in our boys how great our God is but it is Joshua who has truly taught me that it is not my will but God’s will be done. Who are we to worry when He has us cradled in His hands? We honestly have nothing to lose if we are faithful to hope. Joshua has taught me everyday not to be afraid to move, not let fear take root in my life.

The truth is we can run away but where does that get us? Honestly we have to stop running from our insecurities. Life is a challenge, but we can’t be afraid to move or to live our lives through the pain we suffer. Life is beautiful even if the clouds roll in dark and gray. And yes what about the rain? There is peace, beauty and true reflection to be found as it falls. When the clouds pass over us we see the sun do we not? There is freshness in the air; the horizon is beautiful as we look out across the sky is it not? What of the promised rainbows which appear after the storm?

We may feel all is lost, we may feel broken beyond repair and yes we may possibly think we are lost even if we are home. But this is the truth: as long as faith and hope serve as our compass we are never lost. All we do, everything we say, all we are comes from a greater place than ourselves. We are children of the living God who has made us strong in His grace. So today I stand in awe of my son, Joshua, today he is my miracle. As Mr. Han says to Dre in The Karate Kid: I say to Joshua: You have taught me a very important lesson, Life will knock us down, but we can choose whether or not to stand back up.

If we stand on solid ground then we cannot be moved…. so leave the worry behind you and rise up above the fear my dear friend. We have today yes? So take this gift of grace and hope choose today as a new beginning, cease it my friend, embrace it and walk out on that water!

Happy Birthday Joshua! Your mom loves you; your spirit is beautiful beyond measure, your courage enlighting and your faith bold! You are truly my very own Karate Kid.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Driving With One Headlight

I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I had not been diagnosed with breast cancer. Would we have been as happy, as close as we are now? Sure I know cancer is nothing to jump up and down about, hoot and holler while shouting how wonderful it is to the world BUT cancer does throw a learning curve.

I would much rather have my old form back, two breasts and not just one nipple. Seriously who likes driving around with one headlight? But it can be done if it is your only option right? Trading in an old Model T with 2 headlights for an old run down motor cycle with one headlight may not always be the best option but it is sometimes the only option. Yes in theory it sounds cool, I mean who doesn’t want a new motor bike even if it needs work right?

What about a boob job, seriously doesn’t that sound wonderful? Trade in the old ones for new ones, raise those boobies from the grave, and take them back from gravity? Well if it were really that simple everyone would be asking for this extreme makeover right? Women would be in line, pushing and shoving, trying to get to the front of the line first. Though breast cancer does give you an extreme makeover, it is anything but thrilling. Living with one breast, driving with one head light can be terrifying honestly because it is new, unexpected and nowhere in the plan! Just like when your hubby comes home with a brand new motor cycle, convincing you how fantastic it is and how you are going to love it. Well living with one breast changes everything, it takes some getting used to honestly.

It is not that it can’t be done because I am living proof it can! It is just a matter of perspective, of how you see yourself, your idea of a perfect 10. Once you can see past the scar in front of you and see the beauty within yourself screaming to get out well then driving with one headlight becomes almost natural.

Cancer has done many things to my body, to my spirit and to my soul. Yes it has taken many things from me as well, including my breast and my idea of perfect. But what cancer has not taken from me is my worth. She has made me stronger, more secure in who I am, comfortable in my skin, even if it has been cut up and torn by the beast within.

She has also not taken my family from me. We may be an odd little band of warriors to some but what we are is a family, we are survivors. As a family we embrace the struggles, we don’t back away from the fear or see evil around every corner because there is grace to be found too. I don’t believe we really stop and think about how bad it is or how bad it may become one day. Maybe we view things differently than others, but we just don’t see our situation as ever being that bad, as being so terrible there is no way back.

There is always hope, always another door to open, a window to crawl through, another corner to turn around and another path to trod upon. Truly it all comes down to perspective and attitude, sure you may prefer two headlights, but at the end of the day driving with just one may not be as bad as you think!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Living with the Monster

I never thought I would ever say I have a relationship with Breast Cancer, but the truth is I do.

Did I dream about walking down an aisle, pretty in a torn pink dress as a little girl, nope I sure didn't. Did I ever daydream about looking the beast in the eyes and saying" I do"...absolutely not BUT in a way that is exactly what I did!

I entered into a marriage of sorts with the pink monster the day I lost my breast to cancer. Unwilling , you bet, but for better or worse I am married to the beast. I came to the alter of cancer kicking and screaming, hands bound and breast removed but none the less I was sealed to this beast, this monster in February 2006.

Do we see eye to eye? No we don't, but by making this relationship personal, I am able to understand her presence in my life a little better. I know she is afraid the day will come when these chains are broken on my terms and not hers. I know she needs me to thrive yet I know a cure is waiting, and she will be unable to stop it. She may see me as her pet, a silly girl with a crazy plan I realize the truth: I may not be the one to cut these chains but one day some one will!

I have those why me moments, especially when I see pictures of my breasts staring back at me. Somehow seeing my mess of a chest in a picture makes this battle even more real to me. I did not chose this fight, but I do chose the life I lead, and I did make a vow to the beast when I said I do... to live my life with courage and hope. Seeing my breasts captured by both light and color is a wake up call reaffirming who I am and the journey I am on this very moment.

I honestly do not notice my scars on a daily basis. I know they are there, I do look at them, but they have become such a part of me, I am blind to their presence. Yes I do look into the mirror, but I see through the looking glass in front of me. I am aware my breasts are not the beautiful well shaped bosoms of my youth but I am not ashamed of their lope sided, scar seared and unseemly sight when I see their reflection. What I am is a Breast Cancer survivor. I am a woman who has found the real me in the journey. I am a mother, a wife and a daughter. I am loved and I am thankful for each day I am given. I am not brave, but I am stubborn and I am committed to finding a cure.

I have come to realize my journey, my one on one time with this beast , the monster in my life, has made me who I am today. No I am not defined by breast cancer itself but I am surely defined by the battle I wage against her daily! My strength, my courage. my hope comes from a deeper relationship with this monster. She has touched me in a way nothing else can. She has scared me for certain and she has shaken me to the core yet she has not stolen my joy, my heart nor my faith! These things she can never take from me.

The truth is for now I am living with the monster. Each day I wake I do so to a monster waiting to greet me. I roll over and she is the first face I see. She follows me to the mirror, smiles and laughs in her most sinister way. She makes a pot of fear and leaves her dirty footprints across the floor. Yes, she growls a lot and at time she even brushes her painful scales across my body while touching the very scars she herself imprinted upon my chest. BUT she also knows I have entered into this relationship with the knowing one day I will break free from her chains!

Yes, she may have taken my breast and along the way she may have even chipped away the years I have here with you, but she can not take away the hope from I have within me. My life is a tapestry of experiences, some for the good and some for the worst, of love, laughter, of tears and of my personal journey through them all.

~ Christina

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sitting Down with the Mad Hatter

Its tea time in Wonderland… have you received your very UN-birthday invitation yet? It’s time to pull out the mismatched tea cups, the sugar bowl and the Hatter’s Topsy Turvy table of surprises.

Tomorrow night, Saturday, October 16, 2010, I will host, along with Christina’s Breast Friends, our annual Tea’d at Breast Cancer event. This is an evening to celebrate life after breast cancer and a time to honor those who have lost their lives to this terrible disease.

As we roll out the chairs, throw down the table clothes, cut the cake and toast one another we will be doing more than just raising awareness. No, we will be coming together and taking back a piece of our lives from the beast.

Sitting down for tea with the Hatter is about as crazy as playing croquet with the Queen of Hearts, but in the end each event brings us closer to a new day, a new hope and provides another guided pathway back home. You see if we but dare to hope we are able to overcome, to rise above the chaos and to light the way for those who follow behind us.

Yes, I am but one woman, at times a bit lost, a little tearful and many more times a bit too noisy living her life out loud but I do not sit at this table alone. True I may sit down for tea with the Hatter, yet as I look around myself I can see the wisdom of years sitting here, the rally of hope and the gift of true friendship at this table with me. I cannot explain why my voice has not fallen on deaf ears or fallen upon blinded eyes for these few because I simply have no answer but for reasons known only to those sitting at this table; they have willing followed me down the rabbit’s hole to have tea with the Mad Hatter.

Why do I choose to reside here in Wonderland? Well, it is not really a choice for those who have come face to face with the beast. This is where our journeys have taken us like it or not. Life after breast cancer is like a choreographed tango, a well thought out plan of action and on some days a much unorganized tea party. Some days the beast takes your defenses from you and on others you push her back taking the higher ground. But mostly it is power play for tomorrow, a battle of wits and a struggle for hope.

Yes tomorrow night we take back Wonderland from the Red Queen and her beast…even if it just for one night. So today I offer you an invitation to enter Wonderland, to sit down for tea with not just the Hatter, but with those who are on the front lines battling the Queen’s beast. We will leave the pathway lit for you; all you have to do is follow us down the Rabbit’s hole.

~ Christina

Christina’s Breast Friend’s Second Annual Tea’d at Breast Cancer Silent Auction

Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 6’oclock in the evening

West Memorial Office Park, 8584 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas 77024

Proceeds benefit Houston Komen. Both Silent bids and raffle items available.

Venue provided by: Commonwealth Title of Houston

Decorations by: Journey Kreations

Entertainment provided by: Brian Ring,Music Man Entertainment

Cake provided by: CakeSweetCake

Food provided by: Panera Bread, Ci Ci’s, and Fazoli’s

Special Appearance by: Cody and Cory Lombard- Performing a tribute to Elvis

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Normal is Overrated

Have you ever wished life would get back to normal? Back on track, turn around and just let up during a stressful time? Have you ever thought this is just crazy? Well I can relate to all the above with one exception: I have stopped waiting for normal to walk back through my door. I have accepted life as it is, crazy, un- predictable and completely uncertain, not that I like it all the time but it is what it is right?

As my kids say, normal is completely overrated! But then I guess growing up in the world of the beast, where breast cancer lurks around ever corner, one would develop this opinion. Seriously when you live in a world full of uncertainty, where a beast roams freely, and the color pink seems to define your way of life normal just becomes overrated.

Life in this world of the beast is not as terrible as some may think. No, it is not a life one chooses but if you find yourself residing within the beast’s borders, life can still be a beautiful journey. Sure your home may be a bit sideways, possibly even upside down with your lights hanging up from the floor and carpet on the ceiling. Doors may open outward and windows inward but what makes the opposite so normal?

It’s all in how you look at things, how you see your life and what you decide to do with the circumstances you find yourself in honestly. If you are striving to find balance in an unbalanced world it can be done. But if you are determined to right side a tilted, upside down world you will never enjoy the life, the journey and the beauty surrounding you. Honestly you will drive yourself crazy and lose your soul to the beast.

Each journey is unique, as is each painful step we take when life has dumped us on our heads, but when you look at normal as overrated somehow life becomes a bit more amusing. The weeds in our lives become a challenge, not a burden and suddenly painting the roses red seems a bit more entertaining than daunting

Living in a land of bald heads, IV’s, ports, scars are just part of the journey, not the destination. I look at my children and I am amazed. Their strength and determination in the face of the Beast is untainted. But then I guess when sitting down to tea with the Mad Hatter or dodging the Queen of Hearts croquet balls are a normal part of your world you could say you are a real child of wonderland.

Life is not a guaranteed straight path from here to there. No it is a journey from normal to crazy and back again. Yes I am a survivor living in the world of the beast yet I know without doubt so are my children. If they can see this world we live in as clearly as they do then so can I, we all can.

What is that I hear? Is it time for tea? Is it time to paint the roses red, no pink, maybe white again? What does it matter really? Embrace your crazy world and no matter what today brings, grab it by the tail my friend just as I plan to do each and every day I reside here in the Land of the Beast.

Normal? Honestly  I have to agree with my boys, it is simply overrated.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Growing Up In Wonderland

Have you ever asked yourself what it would be like to be a child growing up inside the lair of the beast? What if you were just 9 years old when your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer? What would life be like wondering if your mother was going to die from a beast you really could not see or feel when you were just 6 years old? To watch her lose her hair, her breast and all the innocence you once knew? These are the struggles so many children face each and every day. Many wake each morning to face the beast overhead as they watch their mother’s battle breast cancer, their fathers fight to keep it together and as they themselves try to be strong for those they love.

My precious boys, Joshua and Micah, were just babies in retrospect when the beast first came to knock on our door, to drag us down the rabbit’s hole and into Underland. They had no say so in the matter; all they could do was run to keep up. I can’t tell you how many times children are over looked, after all they bounce back right? If you lean toward the old, undeterred, dust covered book on most adult book shelves then children do not understand what is really happening. But I beg to differ and I challenge you to tell that to my boys who still worry even though I am in remission if they will wake to my smile in the morning.

How my heart has broken through the years for my children as I have watched them struggle through the pain, the hurt and the uncertainty of breast cancer. I have seen them struggle with school, with the distance of friends and the ever changing pace of growing up in this odd place we call Wonderland.

The pain children feel is a total different kind of hurt than we as adults feel. We can cope, struggle through the pain and come out the rabbit’s hole possibly in disarray but still we can push through to the other end right? Children of breast cancer sort of get lost in the tunnels. They end up spending all their life growing up in Wonderland because it is all they know. Do they ever adjust? Yes, they most certainly do becoming well adjusted, thriving children but their normal is never fully their playmates normal. The hole dug beside the family tree is only visible to their eyes so most days their playmates have no idea what they see or feel. Sadly no matter how hard these children try to hide the entrance to Underland, to this Wonderland, they still end up falling down the tunnel quite often. After all this is home is it not?

Do they still dance in the sun, and kick the ball around, sleep at night? Yes they do, but imagine if you will, going to bed dreaming of the sky turning black. Maybe think of being on the bus every afternoon wondering what awaits when you get there… no, not daydreaming about what you are going to do when you get home from school but being desperate to know if your mom is going to be alive when you finally do.These are the very struggles many children battle in the face of mothers with breast cancer. They grow up in a world filled with uncertainty, lost innocence and worry. Honestly taking a spin in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups are just part of an average day here in Wonderland as they grow up in this crazy land of the Red Queen. Day is night and night is day, nothing is ever as it seems and these precious children are forced to try and turn things right, holding onto those they love believing it is all up to them to save the day, to defeat the Jaberrwocky.

Precious are their hearts, their tiny lives torn apart by circumstances they have had no control over. How my heart breaks knowing there are days my children have lived with no direction, lost, wondering in and out through the many tunnels here in Underland. True they have had no sympathy from some adults along the way, those who because of their own fear have overlooked them, struck out at them or failed to understand their needs. Yet they have risen above it all, struggled yes to move those mountains, yet I have watched in awe as my own children have grown from lost little ones into strong, compassionate, forgiving young men.

Today I shout to the world my love, awe and appreciation for my boys, Joshua and Micah. You are my strength and you both have brought more joy than you can imagine into my life. I am inspired by your strength, by your undying joy, your unyielding faith, and by your integrity in the struggle. Yes, life may not have turned out the way we envisioned it, but you have given me more joy, more hope, than I could have ever imagined. Growing up in Wonderland may not have been on the map, but you two have sure done a great job at navigating us through Underland.

~ Your Mom, Christina

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Standing Tall

October is here… and for my family it means Breast Cancer Awareness month has arrived. Many of our monthly activities are planned around this Pink Ribbon month from walking side by side in the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure, to fundraising, to just taking the time to celebrate another year I have with my beautiful family.

For many this month is a time to continue the journey in memory of those who have left us all too soon. We walk, we run; we live and we breathe the color pink during this time of the year. All in the name of defeating breast cancer... a worthy cause in deed.

Yes, I am a breast cancer survivor, one of the lucky and very blessed ones who has been given a second chance to raise my voice, to see my children grow and to wear my pink ribbon proudly. Who knew all those years ago as a little girl I would stand here today shouting to the world I had beat cancer. By the grace of God I can shout I am alive, I am in remission and yes it does rock! I know the beast could attack at any time and I could go under water, but for now, in this very moment… I am blessed to have today. I am blessed to have a circle of support and love, to know I am not abandoned to the will of the beast.

Over the weekend I was joined by many dear friends and by my sweet family, as they came out to support me in the Race for the Cure. I always wonder if I am asking too much of these wonderful people to join us year after year, to walk beside me, beside my family, yet still they come. Many who have just met us, a few who have been there from the start yet they all come because they are true friends willing to take a moment to stand tall against breast cancer.

I do not take my days for granted anymore as I once did. Every day I see the sun, embrace my children, lay beside my husband is truly a gift. I am grateful for the love and the support of my dearest friends and family who always seem to be to find their way to my side. Even in my darkest moments I have never been alone. So I want to take this moment to thank you my friends, my family, my fellow bloggers for all you do, for all your love and support through my journey with this beast. I know a day will come when she will be put to rest and a new dawn will emerge. We will shout together, rejoice and remember those we have loved and lost knowing together we have beaten the beast.

Until that day comes….keep on fighting my friends, my fellow warriors, my sisters and brothers in arms…keep on standing tall against breast cancer and one day we will find a cure.



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Agent of the SBCA (Survivors of Breast Cancer Agency)

I woke up this morning as I do every other weekday morning falling out of bed, turning on the computer, crawling my way into the kitchen and into the boy’s rooms. Once my eyes finally open I put breakfast on the table, get back packs in order and stop to pause and kiss my children on their way out the door reminding them to say their prayers. After cleaning up, making beds, washing up the dishes, putting the dog out and taking a deep breath the silence becomes almost deafening honestly. I know I should embrace the quiet and enjoy my orderly house for the day right? I do, really, but I also miss my kids and the sometimes crazy but always beautiful noise they bring into my life on a daily basis.

With all we have been through as a family over the last 4 years you would think I would be tougher than this right? You know the “one tough mama” thing? I may be stubborn but tough… not at all. I am a simple woman, a mother and a wife who sometimes feels a bit inadequate but always tries with her whole heart. I sometimes wonder if I am doing enough maybe too much at times, but always trying right? Maybe I should think of myself as a badge, pink suit and pistol carrying agent of the SBCA (Survivors of Breast Cancer Agency)? I can just see it now…..Storming through doors, running the streets, chasing down the beast, out of breathe saying “book ‘em Boob O” ! I know, I know I could be Captain Breast-less! Yes I can see it now!

Seriously though, I sometimes wonder if this is not how the world sees many survivors of breast cancer. I know it sounds hilarious but many of those who survive become poster children for the Untouchables. Many begin to see us as super strong, invincible and unbreakable but the truth is we are still battling our own inner beast, even if she is just circling at the moment; she is still waiting to attack!

As breast cancer alumni we live everyday with our scars and for those of us who have survived though our battles are different, they are still a daily struggle. Every morning we face the mirror and our scars. Most days they are just part of the background, not the whole picture but there are some days when they are all we see. Many grow tired of the cause, of hearing you talk of your battle and the road which has brought you full circle. You won; you beat the beast right, so move on. Sadly these are the kind of opinions which lead to many survivors pushing away, locking themselves behind closed doors and struggles with their scars alone.

It has four years since I myself lost my breast to cancer. My breast was taken from me in a rather brutal way if you really sit down and think about it. Honestly I envision the surgeon removing and slicing my young, yes beautiful breast up like a piece of cake. Did I jump up and down asking to live as a uniboober in a two boobed world? Not in the least, but it is the hand I have been dealt. So today I ask you as family, friends, and loved ones to take a step back and put yourself in our shoes if just for a minute. Close your eyes and envision yourself in front of the mirror… now think about opening your robe and seeing what we see. Think about losing your breast, of waking up one morning and having it suddenly gone and in your breast’s place a scar stretching from one side of your left chest to under your arm. Now think about the courage it takes to face the world each and every day….

So as we head in to October, I encourage you my friends during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to take the time to dig deep within yourself. Don’t roll your eyes when you see the pink ribbons rolled out or allow yourself a quiet riot inside because your are tired of hearing about breast cancer and all the woes. I can tell you each and every survivor is tired of the fight too. Instead ask yourself how you would face the beast if it were you, your wife, your mother or your daughter, even your son? Why not exchange shoes with those who have fought the fight and appreciate them for just a moment instead of pushing them far and away from your life. Take the survivor in your life seriously, treat them with care, maybe to lunch, pick up the phone and ask how they are doing and really listen this time.

Making a commitment to breast cancer is not just turning in lids though this is a wonderful way to contribute. No, making the commitment is deciding to stay the course with those who you know personally fighting the beast. If we are going to win this battle then we have to climb outside our own windows and get a little dirty. Making the fight against breast cancer personal means we have to get up close with those who have survived and those who are fighting to survive.

I think I will just take a moment now to put on my badge, straighten my pink suit and grab my pink breast cancer fighting pistol making sure my boob is tightly in place before I step out the door today as an agent of the SBCA. The only thing I still need is a partner to cuff the beast… are you willing?


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Life Inside A Shrinking Box

Can you imagine a world where the journey is the destination? Where the sky is turned upside down and the sun has turned blue? A place where the train does not take you there, but where you follow the tracks instead? Maybe a world where there is no normal and the meaning of the word normal is unusual?

I know of a place, a world not too far off the beaten path where the destination is just the beginning… A place where you are who you are from the inside out instead of from the outside in. A world like no other you have ever seen where a promise is the gift we find in our journey instead of the promise we never find at end of the rainbow.

Yes, a place where nothing makes sense at all yet everything makes perfect sense at the same time? Have you ever thought about a world where we could simply be ourselves? Not a world where we are trapped inside a shrinking box?

For me this world well it would be a place where living with one breast in a two boobed world is not just ok but beautiful. Where my lopsided profile would fit in perfectly without the overcast of a sex driven, over crazed perfect 10 shadow of a world?

When was the last time you honestly thought of a beautiful woman having just one breast or with none? Does losing a breast mean I lose who I am? Or that I am incapable of sexuality or beauty? Should I have to retreat to the back corners of the room, inside the darkness of what once was? Or is there a world where true beauty has no size, no mirror image to copy but comes from within, deep inside who we really are and can be? What if there was no normal, no “10” just a rainbow of possibilities instead?

Is it possible to discover a place where the one element the out world deems as a woman’s definition of beauty can be removed and still find her provocatively beautiful? I truly wonder if there is a place like this. If we as pawns in our own game can pull back the shrinking walls of this world we have created for ourselves? I would like to think one day we can.

I am but only one voice for now… trying desperately to escape this box, stepping out one tiny step at a time. Yes the shadows loom over me, reaching out to consume me, to continue to crowd in from behind me as they hiss and hurl their opposition to who I am becoming. But this I know… if I continue with my journey, knowing it is not the destination leading me but the discovery of who I am as both a woman and a survivor one day the touch, the feel of and the absence of a breast will be nothing to fear.

Beauty is not defined by anything but our own imaginations. Having two breasts and a perfect body, long flowing hair and un-stretched skin does not make a woman beautiful. Yes it can enhancer her beauty but it is merely an outward perception to think it completely defines her!

No real true beauty is found in the journey which both gives and takes away from each of us daily. I can’t tell you the thought of being breast less in a world of perfect make believe images isn’t scary or intimidating but I can tell you for the first time in my life I am free. I have found the inner me; the woman undefined not by just a bra but by having just one breast.

I have broken out of that box, the one with four small walls trying to keep me defined by the world’s idea of a woman. I have today, and tomorrow. I have a husband who finds me sexy with or without my breasts and two boys who are learning to view women for their real, true inner worth and beauty and you know what? It really is perfectly ok with me.

~ Christina

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I awoke today with sadness, a heaviness lurking just under the surface. This grief came suddenly yet not unexpectedly. I tried as I willed to push it back, as far away from my heart as possible not wanting to have to face cancer’s long cold stare. But all the same cancer crawled out from its ugly rock and looked me straight in the face. Yes, cancer came to my door today and hit me over the head. You know the one we all see sitting there, unmoving as we dance and walk around it day in and day out?

It has been hard for me to see as I have tried to navigate through the heavy darkness since it rolled into my heart yesterday. The truth is I have been stumbling around in a fog since the dubious rock sitting outside my door brought news of the loss of one of cancer’s most powerful voices. His name was Donald A. Wilhem .

Don was more than an author or another blogger.  No Don was both a friend and cancer survivor as well. In fact Don was a four time survivor and five time cancer fighter. Don had a way about himself that warmed your soul while challenging you to look deeper within yourself. Don continually made me laugh with his outside the box theories on life, balancing life as both a husband and a cancer warrior. Don was a wealth of insight, with a great sense of humor and a real character. He really had a one of a kind charm about him I have rarely come across in my lifetime. Don in just being himself had a way of inspiring those he knew leaving you asking yourself what more you could do for others.

I will be honest with you when I first met Don; I was not so sure of his “take no hostages” outlook on life. Truthfully he startled me, shook me up a bit. He was so bold without fear of what the world thought of him. Don was courageous and uplifting, absolutely not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve or call a spade a spade. I can’t tell you how many times Don left me speechless, with his charismatic ways. But you know the truth is these are all the reasons why I came to love Don so much.

Don’s book, This Time's A Charm", is both awe inspiring and hard hitting. To be honest when I first read his book I was not sure what to expect  as I read from page to page. I would put it down, pick it back up again, keep reading, stop reading and think to myself “whoa, who is this guy”?

But I came away from reading Don’s book a changed person. The one thing I can tell you about Don’s book; “This Time’s A Charm” is that it is not your average hope and inspiration book. I re -read Don's story Monday afternoon after hearing he had gone into hospice, just a day before Don took his last step toward completing this part of his journey. As I read through his vivid and honest story-telling I felt as if I were indeed surviving boot camp... grateful for the experience, thankful for the insight and very aware Don was a force to be reckoned with. He had a way of bringing you right to him, face to face and a way of relating his journey in a very honest way.

Don was indeed very raw, uncut and uncensored about his battle with lymphoma . He held nothing back; he was very explicit in his writing about his own experiences with cancer while encouraging the reader to "go all in". Don was an inspiration and no matter how bad things got he could always bring me back to the here and now, not the worries of tomorrow or the defeats of yesterday but the beauty of today. No matter where life took us Don could relate to the fears, the sadness and the humor cancer brought to each of our doorsteps.

I guess I thought Don was invisible, as I watched him charge the battle field… so today I grieve for my friend, though I know he would not want us to. I know if he could he would tell us to chin up, continue with our own journeys, and carry on with the light life offers all of us.

Saying goodbye is never easy, so I chose to day till we meet again Don. You are my hero; an inspiration though gone will never be forgotten. Don you have one of those beautiful bright shining lights which never die…though you may have passed into the next part of your journey as you said yourself, your light will continue to burn for all to see.

Don, we will miss you… though I dare say I know you will be keeping an watchful eye on all of us from the comfy perch you have chosen to rest upon.


If you would like to learn more about Don, his book and his amazing positive outlook on life please check out his blog and website. http://www.thistimesacharm.com/

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Queen of Wishful Thinking

There are moments in my life when I seriously question where my childhood dreams went wrong. I mean was I the only little girl who wondered what it might be like to travel to distant lands and experience the world through untouched eyes?

What about all those long afternoons spent under the tree of Hopes and Dreams? Didn’t we all steal a moment at least once under her majestic canopy? Do you remember feeling the wind brush your face and the warm kiss of the sun as you lay under her blowing leaves? Oh I do! How I longed and dreamed of dancing everyday beneath this beautiful tree with all her grandeur.

Oh the charming scenes I would play out in my imagination, the worthy king by my side, the smell of the mad hatter’s tea, the glass slipper finally being placed upon my foot, becoming a queen to a handsome, strong king who saves the day? Well as my story unfolded life didn’t quite go so romantically now did it? Nope, not really….

The fall down the Rabbit’s hole, well it was a bit too bumpy for my taste, the glass slipper; well it was a bit uncomfortable, the tea was a bit too tart, causing all my hair to fall out and as for being a queen, well all that got me was the title of “Queen of Wishful Thinking”.

Falling down the rabbit’s hole and chasing after the white rabbit? Dreams of a mad hatter, tea and cakes, talking mice and a fairy godmother, well it’s not that they don’t have some place in our lives… believe me they do! The honest truth is sometimes this dream of ours, these ideas of what we think a perfect life is supposed to be doesn’t really work out. No, it doesn’t mean life isn’t beautiful, because life is a work of art just a very untidy, messed up, chaotic beautiful work of art if you know what I mean.

We are not meant to live perfect lives, no, we are meant to struggle. Why do I say this? Well because the struggle puts life in perspective. If we don’t have to challenge life then we don’t have to embrace it either. It blows me away each and every day I wake up to a new day, the sun rise, and the memories of dreams long forgotten, my husband’s kiss and the touch of my children’s goodbye hugs all bring my struggles into focus. These are the real treasures of life.

We are given the honor of the throne not by right, nor by the perfect fit of a glass slipper. We don’t just fall down a rabbit’s hole, nope we are generally pushed, and frankly become as mad as a hatter along the way. The truth is unending love is found not in the forever after of our childhood stories, but instead in the struggle, the effort of everyday life, in everyday love.

The wild whisper we hear blowing on the wind is just a long lost friend calling us home. Embrace it my friend, take it all in. Explore the tunnel to wonderland, sit down for tea, dance with the fairy godmother and allow yourself to be queen if just for a moment. Go ahead look back with the same childlike innocence you once had and dream again only this time embrace the struggle skipping along beside you.

You know, thinking about it I for one do not mind having the title,” Queen of Wishful Thinking” bestowed upon me. Actually I think it suits me quite well because through all the twisted paths, long journeys and detours life has taken me on and despite all my wishful grandeurs of a perfect life I believe I have finally found my way back home to the tree of Hopes and Dreams, even if it is a little un kept and overgrown, she has after all had her share of struggles too.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

No Ordinary Princess

What has cancer taken from me? Well honestly this is a very loaded question. If we look at just the surface we can find many, many things…like for starters my breast? I can tell you this one was not easy to let go of. Seriously I was not keen on this detour life offered me.

I did not go into the O.R. skipping while whistling a joyous tune I can assure you! It was not like I said yepee and accepted an invitation to Cinderella’s Ball or anything like that. Nope it was more like losing my glass slipper on the way to the ball and walking on broken glass the rest of the way to get there. The truth is I knew if I did not walk through the shattered glass beneath me on my way and let go of my breast I would have had to let go of my life.

Yes I lost my hair, my eyebrows, and my lashes (Not ideal for a princess. I mean seriously how does the crown stay on?) And I lost time with my children…time watching them grow, giggle and laugh through what was supposed to be an ideal childhood. But look deeper and you will also see I lost my fear, my vanity and my idea of what the world told me I needed to be. Truly I lost “the me” I once was and came back through the door a stronger, better me than I ever knew was possible. Far greater, would have been the loss of this knowledge and the friendships I have forged along the way than losing my breast.

Yes looking at the whole picture, cancer has stolen many things from me, robbed me in many different forms, yet she has also given me many wonderful opportunities as well. For one I am no ordinary card carrying princess and I am ok with that. I can be a lope sided, pieced together, broken, glued back together, bent tiara wearing kind of gal without fear of how I look to the world. I have never walked this path alone; each step has been taken knowing I have the grace of my faith and the love, support and encouragement of those closest to me. I have been given a second lease on life, a new standard, a way to live my life without the rose colored glasses. I am free to be me, a woman with one breast and happy to be so. I know you may be hearing this saying yeah right, rolling your eyes, thinking you are out of your mind lady! But seriously having a matching pair of boobies does not make me a woman nor do they define me as one either! Living life one breast at a time is not just a challenge but actually a great way to live life with humor, action and grace. I know you are thinking to yourself, better you than me, and you may be right there, but the honest truth is I am not ashamed nor am I embarrassed by my one boobed chest. I am who I am, a fighter, a mother, a wife and a survivor. My battle scars are just that, scars, proof of life, reminders of this battle we call breast cancer and of the life I did not have to forfeit.

Broken glass, well it is in no way my idea of a fun day at the park, yet with each mark, each cut, and each suffering I have felt along the way I really have found the deeper meaning of life. All the pain I have been allowed to feel has come with a promise, a hope and yes a price. Has it been easy? No way, not in a million years but even with all the broken tomorrows I was promised when this journey began I am tied to this journey, to see it to the end. Nothing is worth gaining without struggle. I see the struggle of living as a gift, a reward meant to empower each of us.

So I sit here today knowing I am a testament of life’s struggles, of the beast’s wreckage and of hope’s calling. I may have fallen at the beast’s feet many times during this battle yet I know in the end I will overcome either by death or a new day. Wishful thinking won’t keep the ship from sinking… honestly the ship will sink! One person with only one bucket in hand, bailing out water of a sinking battle worn ship, well let’s be honest here… the ship will sink to the bottom depths.

But… with the right tools, some push and shove and the strength of humor, determination, numbers and team work you realize you just may have a fighting chance! This I know, I may be one soul, but I am surrounded by thousands, all part of the effort, the cause and the voice of hope we call survivors. In the end, after you have walked across broken glass, taken off your rose colored glasses and arrived fashionably late for the Ball you learn the greatest part of this journey we call life is not the destination, but the detours along the way!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Being Ordinary

I have been asked many times what does it feel like to be a survivor? Did you ever really feel as if you were dying; did you ever want to give up? Well truthfully I am never really sure how to answer those questions. I guess if I had to break it down I would first say I am just an ordinary woman, there is nothing special or incredible about me, the only thing that may be different is that I have fought a lurking beast hiding in the shadows for the better part of the last three years.

I have never really felt exceptionally brave about going head to head with this breast cancer beast. In all honesty I have been more like a crazy; I don’t think so kind of gal in the whole the beast vs. me battle. I have just never been one to give up, toss my glove in or hand over the hope I cling too. I was taught to be a fighter, to be an optimist and through growing up in and out of the refiners fire I guess I always felt tomorrow would come either here on earth or in the glory of the heavens. Either way I have hope for tomorrow and I guess looking back that is the way I have always looked at it.

Have I ever run from a battle? Sure I have. Sometime you have to, but just because you run does not mean you can’t overcome the enemy. It just means you will return another day, at another time to beat the beast with a better strategy. I have had those moments sure when I was ready to throw down my sword, head into the nearest cave and just cry it all out. Did that make me weak? I really don’t think so. What it made me was human, ordinary and you know what? I like being ordinary and human, I like knowing I can cry and fall down and still have the ability and the courage to get back up and join the fight outside.

We are all just human beings, we are not perfect, we do not have super strength and we cannot take down any beast alone. We need each other, each of us ordinary people, coming together to beat this monster we call cancer. When we hold each other’s hand, pick each other up off the ground and rally for a cure we are a force to be reckoned with! We can beat the beast, win not just the battle but the war against breast cancer and all the havoc she brings with her if we just embrace this ordinary life we have been given.

So what does it feel like to be a survivor? Well it feels like a second chance, a new lease on life. Being a survivor means I am blessed to have today, even this moment I am sharing here with you now is one more than I had before. I have a voice now, one I never knew I had before the beast came for me. I have a bigger family than I ever knew was possible because I have each and every one of my co- survivors, my sisters and brothers, each beautiful and strong.

The bottom line is I may never walk onto a real battlefield, nor may I ever win a Nobel Prize but this I do know: I am a survivor come what may. I am a simple, ordinary woman with a crazy streak a mile wide, a deep love for life and a heart filled with hope for a day we can eradicate breast cancer from this planet all together. The real honest truth my friend is that being ordinary is better than being a super hero any day of the week.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Life in the Cheap Seats

Over the last couple weeks I have been rearranging our home. Moving this and that, upstairs no downstairs… believe me it has been an adventure. You may be asking yourself what sparked all this? Well I guess it was the 5th anniversary of our home.

I could not believe it myself but it has truly been 5 years since we bought and moved into our home. After nine years of marriage Johnny and I had finally been able to buy a home of our own. We were so excited because it had taken us a long time to be able to come to the table and sign those scary yet wonderful papers. We moved in on June 30, 2005, my thirty-second birthday. Little did we know this year would bring so many changes to our lives? We celebrated with a great family vacation that year, had friends over every weekend and enjoyed the prospect of good things to come. In the six months to follow the changes we wonderful…a new home, a new school for the kids and In December just six months after we moved in to our home I found a lump in my left breast.

Life came to a sudden halt as we celebrated our first Christmas in our new home. All those hopes we had for redecorating, painting, new furniture  even organizing well they faded away. Honestly those things were just that, things. None of those things were as important as fighting my cancer, as living in the face of the beat or making memories with my family. So they were all added to the back burner, ideas for another time and another place which is where they have stayed, that is until now.

So finally after five years we are organizing. It is a start anyway. Yes we are still recovering from Johnny’s job loss last year. In fact it has been exactly a year since we began this particular struggle, but like any other struggle in our lives we have faced it head on and by the grace of God we are still standing. Our home has never been hi- tech and no we don’t have a flat screen TV anywhere in our home but you know what we do have? I will tell you…We have each other, a family strong and sure with a foundation to support us through the life quakes and landslides. We have memories, so many wonderful memories etched into our hearts. These are the things which matter the most.

Sometimes we have to live through the storm, except the cheap seats to realize just how wonderful our lives really are. Yes there are times we have to rearrange our homes and our lives, but in the scheme of things all these changes bring us closer to those we love. When I look back at where we have been and from where we have come I am amazed by the grace we have been given in the face of so much. Do we still struggle, worry where the money will come from to pay this or do that with…you bet ya! But the truth is I have learned life is what you make it and if you see it full of sorrow and misgivings then it will bring those things to you. Yet if you see those things and choose to rise above them life will surprise you with hope. So I try (though I have my off days) to embrace the wonders life offers me, the joys, the happiness, the tears, the pain and the mistakes I make from day to day because when those things come my way with each new, precious day I am given I am able to experience each one and that in and of itself is a miracle.

So celebrate today my friends, rejoice in the miracle of life you have today, never fear the rearrangements life has in store for you and enjoy life from the cheap seats. You might just like the view from up here!