I’ve thought about writing this blog for quite some time now. Since my re-diagnosis almost exactly 2 years ago, I’ve changed – I’ve grown. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out who I truly am, how impactful my words can be, how important it is to always let those I love, know how I am feeling. I’ve learned to share my feelings from a place of love and have been very conscious about voicing that love alongside my feelings. With every hit that cancer gives me, I learn something new about myself. I believe it’s an intentional poke from God encouraging me to be authentic, encouraging me keep growing spiritually and emotionally, sharing parts of this journey that while hard, important for others to understand the challenges of a stage iv cancer diagnosis.
So here it is.
Every time a scan comes back with bad news, I face my mortality. Every time I face that mortality again, it gets scarier and feels closer. There I said it. Maybe you don’t want to hear that. Maybe that’s hard to read, however, someone needs to say it. You know that feeling you get when you almost got hit by that semi, or you almost drowned but didn’t, that near death but didn’t happen experience? Yah, that’s what it feels like, but worse, because it doesn’t go away. You don’t just forget about it, be grateful the semi didn’t actually hit you, and move on with your day. The semi just keeps hitting you. Every single day, the semi hits and the battle in my head begins. Jen, you have today. Jen, be present. Jen, be positive. Jen, get out of bed and go do something to keep your mind off of the semi. It’s a constant battle. If I don’t remain positive, I feel guilty but if I don’t allow myself to feel, I feel guilty. I am finding that balance and discovering who I feel comfortable sharing those dark moments with. I am learning to be authentic in a way that is comfortable for me, not for anyone else. I am learning that it’s just as important to forgive myself as it is for me to forgive others.
Forgiveness is a gift you give to you. Read that again.
Do you not realize that we are all in danger of that semi hitting? Though hard, I remind myself of this pretty regularly. Maybe my semi looks a looks a little different than yours, but at the end of day, one day, we are all going to be hit by a semi. One day, we are all going to face our mortality. Do you want to leave this world with things left unsaid? Do you want someone else to leave this world without saying something you wish you could have said? I don’t. I am not sure anyone does.
I vision this as another “gift” I have been given. I can change anything I want to change, right now. I can forgive whomever I want to forgive, right now. I can say whatever I want to say, right now. I can have deep conversations with people, share my feelings, tell them I love them, make and cherish every single moment I have with them. I get to give myself that gift. I get to give others that gift. I have the privilege - THE PRIVILEGE - of living a life that is FULL! A life that checks off boxes most don’t get the chance to check off because the semi hit without warning.
“The trouble is, you think you have time” Buddah
I have struggled with sharing these thoughts because I don’t want those close to me, or those who follow my journey to think my time is coming to an end. I most certainly don’t want to worry or scare the people I love most. I don’t want to put anyone’s mind in a place that holds any negativity towards my journey. If you are reading this, I want you to fill that space you hold for me with only positivity and prayers.
I share these thoughts because since I began this blog over 6 years ago, I have shared the raw and honest truth behind my diagnosis. There will be more of these to come, some not so happy, and some filled with inspiration and hope. The one thing I can promise you, is that it will be my honest truth, my honest challenges, my victories, and my authentic feelings. My mission from day one has always been the hope that no one would ever feel as alone as I did when I was originally diagnosed in 2013. I know my truth can be someone else’s hope. I know my voice can, and will, help someone. My journey, and what I choose to share, while uncomfortable at times, may be exactly what someone else needs to hear or share, because they are too afraid to say it. It may be exactly what someone else needs, so they know they aren’t walking that path alone.
This is what feeds my soul. This is what gives me purpose and defines who I am. Cancer has never and will never define me.
I cannot change what has happened in my life – neither can you. It will have always happened to you no matter how badly you might want to forget that it did. The defining moment will come in deciding if you want to allow it to break you down or build you up. I hope you always choose to let it build you up, to discover the strength that it gave you, the purpose behind it all, and to acknowledge the ways it made you a better person. That, in my opinion, is the greatest gift you can give to you.
I think that phrase really says it all. What more do I really even need to write about?
I’ll start off with asking if you are you ok with NOT being ok? What’s the honest answer to that question? If your answer is 100% yes, I am ok with not being ok, then this post is likely not for you. If your honest answer is no, I’m not ok with not being ok, then I give you permission to continue.
I think the hardest part of admitting you’re not ok, is the vulnerability it takes to let that be known. First and foremost, you have permission to not be ok and you need to give yourself that; there truly is power in giving yourself that grace. No one expects you to be happy and positive at all times, and if you are, then I question how genuine of a person one might be. I am not saying run out of your house and tell the world you aren’t ok. I am just simply saying that you dont always have to have your shit together, and you deserve plenty of forgiveness in admitting this to yourself.
I know everyone is different but I want to share my experience with this battle in my brain. I’M GUILTY!!! (Insert raising hand emoji here) I am aware that many women look to me to shine that ray of sunshine in their lives. What most dont see, are the hard days. The ones where I hide in my closet and cry. The days where it is nearly impossible to get out of bed or the ones where I have to force myself to simply take a shower and put make up on and force some sort of normalcy for the day. Newsflash!!!! I’m not always ok. I’m not always positive. I’m not always traveling, or happy, or giving my all to everyone around me. Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in my own brain with fear and sadness that I become paralyzed and being a wife, mom, and friend are nearly impossible. For awhile, I felt guilty for feeling that way. I put so much pressure on myself to just be happy I was alive and implementing my own practices of being grateful for the simple, small things. That technique doesn’t always work and THAT’S OKAY!!! The art of accepting “Its ok not to be ok” is full of good intent, however, at times, a major struggle.
I wish every problem we had could just be tossed out a window or in to a fire, and it would be gone. Since we all know that isn’t possible, I will go ahead and give you permission to scream and cry at the top of your lungs instead. The chances of that making your problems go away, is probably zero as well, HOWEVER…
I want to be ok for everyone around me. I want to be ok for my kids, for my family, and my friends. I want to be ok for the women who look to me for advice. I want to be ok because I dont want to waste my time here on earth NOT being ok. That is a lot of internal pressure to “be ok”. If I dont give the impression that I am ok, then how does that filter over to everyone else? Will they worry?
Who do you feel the need to be ok for? Think about that: take a moment to think about the burden you’re putting on yourself by acting as if you’re ok all of the time. The overwhelming feeling of constantly bottling the reality of your feelings and struggles inside. It’s a ticking time bomb and one that will inevitably explode. Unless you’re in the business of firing off bombs in the middle of the desert with no one around, this isn’t good for anyone, especially you.
IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY! Repeat that until you believe it. Repeat that until you accept it. Let yourself feel all of the feelings necessary to move through that and give yourself permission to move forward. I have learned that when I’m holding on to my feelings, it manifests anxiety, which then turns to guilt because I know it’s holding me back from being the best version of me. However, there is something to be said for accepting that you’re not ok. It’s the first step in allowing yourself to move forward in whatever manor you feel is best.
Give yourself that privilege. Give yourself some love. You owe yourself as much,if not more love, than you give others. Don’t forget to internally verbalize that love while your accepting that you’re not ok. Sometimes, a little self-love is all it takes to realize that underneath all of that mush, is an amazingly beautiful and loving wife, friend, mother, and human being.
You are human. You are not perfect. Perfection shouldn’t be a goal. Patience, grace, acceptance, and happiness should be. These are all word that I constantly have to remind myself of. Acceptance that it’s ok not to be ok. Patience in allowing myself to process whatever it is that I may be holding on to. Grace in knowing that may take some time. And the most important part, in my opinion: happiness. The simple privilege that I owe it to myself, YOU owe it to yourself, to feel happy, to feel at peace, to feel ok again. That time will come, and there is no timeline that anyone, not even yourself, can put on that.
I grant you permission to give yourself permission to not be ok, and I encourage you to love yourself enough to be ok with that. The sun will ALWAYS shine again, and everything will once again, be ok.
The word perspective has come in to mind a lot lately. It’s an intention I have taught myself to learn over the last 6 years but even more so after the last 2. I truly believe our perspective in any situation, can completely change the way we cope and move forward. How I cope with and perceive my situation is what impacts my level of depression and anxiety. If I can manage to put things in to perspective, it provides a sense of calmness within my mind.
That being said, I want to write about that today. Perspective. For me, when things seem really bad, I’m able to center myself on how I choose to perceive that moment in my life. I want to be clear when I say that I would never wish what I have gone through the last couple of years on anyone! My hope is that I share a new perspective with you, from someone you know, from someone whose story you have possibly read, from a 30 something year-old who was relatively healthy despite having cancer. What might seem like the worst possible thing to happen to any one of us, doesn’t have to be if you have the ability, or take the time to simply change your perspective. I am, by no means, a master and at times I fail royally at doing this, however, when the effort is put forth, I find it incredibly rewarding for my mind, body, and spirit. Asking myself why is this happening FOR me, instead of why is happening TO me, is a daily conversation I have with myself. Why did I get cancer? ME? WHY ME? I can dwell on that or I can answer the question with a perspective that only radiaites positivity. Why did this happen to me? It happened to me because I was meant to experience a life altering illness, to learn who I am, to share that experience with others, and to help others who will walk that same path. It happened so that I could create a platform for so many women to connect, to bring a community together, to empower other women. Thats why it happened. It didn’t happen because God was mad at me or because I did something wrong. I am a firm believer in the saying, “positive perspective, positive outcome”.
I can only imagine we are all processing what is going on in the world much different than the person sitting next to us. While many of us are trying to figure out a new routine, others may be trying to figure out a way to stay busy, and others may be taking this time to slow down. Many of us might be experiencing anxiety which can easily filter over to depression. I have personally had my own moments there. I feel anxiety knowing that there is something out there that could kill me other than cancer. I feel anxiety knowing people are out there spreading a virus and wont listen or acknowledge the orders set forth. I feel anxiety knowing I cant control those people, and those people, who I don’t even know, might be responsible for my own health. I feel anxiety knowing that the things I would normally do to cope with my anxiety aren’t available to me right now. Not being able to cope with my anxiety in the ways that I have taught myself to, is a slippery slope, and one that I am doing my best to avoid. This is where I choose perspective.
There have been several moments in my life that I was sure it couldn’t get any worse than it already was. When I had cancer the first time, I thought I was dying. I specifically remember laying in my bed one night and my heart was racing so fast from all of the meds, and I was sure that was it; I prayed, and simply said I wasn’t ready yet. At 105 pounds, bald, and sick, I thought that was as bad as it could ever get, but just a short of 5 years later, I’d realize it was about to get much worse. In all honesty, I tried really hard to stay positive and tell myself it was a slipped disc from all the working out I had been doing. The pain escalated so quickly and in matter of days, I’d be paralyzed. I can very truthfully tell you, that the pain I was experiencing was so incredibly awful, that I almost didn’t care if it was my time. There truly are no words that could express the level of pain and fear I experienced. Imagine going through all of that, and then being told you have an incurable disease. Looking back, I’m glad it wasn’t the end and I’m obviously very blessed and happy to have recovered. To say that time in my life was life changing, is a complete understatement. It was a moment in time. From start to finish, it was about 8 months of not being able to do much of anything between the pain and chemotherapy. Life: the life that I enjoyed, the life that I knew, the life that I did my best to create, was all taken away from me in a matter of a moment.
In some ways, I very much relate that experience to what we are all experiencing right now. Life, as we knew it about a month ago, has been, for lack of a better term, “taken away from us”. Many of us can’t work. Many of us are being forced to slow down. Many, if not, all of us, are very scared for what the future holds, whether it be the fear of life never returning back to normal or the fear of getting sick. I wake up every single day and I am reminded I have cancer. It’s not just a nightmare, its real, I have an incurable cancer. Imagine that for a moment. Imagine how that might impact the attitude that I go in to every day with. We are all waking up right now with the fear of the unknown, the fear of this virus. We are all making adjustments and the hardest thing for us to accept is the idea that we have no control. While that may be true in some ways, it is not all true. What we DO have control over, is how we choose to perceive what is happening and how we choose to move in to the next moment. By moment, I mean, the very next moment, minute, hour, or day. It’s as simple as saying, “I don’t want to feel this way anymore. What can I do to feel differently?”
If the emotions that consume you are ones of anxiety, depression, confusion, anger, sadness, etc…those are the emotions that are going to determine the day ahead. I’m not saying don’t go there, I’m asking you to not stay there. Feel it, physically let it go, and come to a place of acceptance that this is where we are right now. What can YOU do to change your perspective? What can YOU do to find the positivity, or the silver lining if you will, in this? Personally, I have found SO many. I hate being locked up like this. It sucks! Its not me and I’m even more angry that I can’t just go live my best life, travel, visit my friends and my family, and that I am completely quarantined, while I’m battling cancer. Now I have to sit here and do nothing??? Yes. Will I? No. I choose to change what I am doing. I choose to make the best of these new and current circumstances. But what does that look like? For me, it looks like going on a bike ride outside, learning to play my ukulele thats been sitting in my closet for months, spending good quality time with my husband, and having awesome conversations with so many amazing friends.
Perspective: a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.
We are not suffering, we are growing. We are not being tormented, we are being taught. Are we being taught patience? Are we being taught how simple it might be to feel happiness amidst the chaos of our every day routines? How can we take this time to grow? Is it learning to slow down and spend more time with the ones you love? Is it realizing how important, how special it is, how MEANINGFUL it is to have conversations with our loved ones that we may have been too busy to have otherwise? Is it having the time to take that 5 minutes to feel the wind blowing, or watch the water flowing, or your dog rolling in the grass and the simple happiness that brings him. Why is it so difficult for many of us to find those simply joys? It’s times like these that we are forced to come together to help one another, to love one another, to truly appreciate one another. How incredibly amazing is that???
I’m not preaching. I’m teaching you what perspective means to me. This is what I’ve learned the past couple of years. I do not enjoy what is going on right now, but what I do enjoy is that we have all been given this time to slow down, to look around us, and to acknowledge and feel how simple life can be. Happiness is simple if you allow it to be. It doesn’t have to be complicated. We make it complicated.
My hope is that when this is all over, we are more connected, more patient with ourselves and one another, and that we live a life full of simple gratitude. I hope we can learn to feel the serenity of being present and knowing that most of this life we are blessed with is beyond our control. I hope we have shared stories and so much time with our families that it becomes our new routine. I hope we find comfort and acceptance within ourselves. Most importantly, I hope we can all take this time to give ourselves the privilege of seeing this life we have been given with a new perspective. You owe that to yourself. You owe yourself happiness. You owe yourself peace. You deserve it. We all deserve it and we are all capable of it. Trust me, one day you will look back at all of this, and realize it was just a moment in time, a blip on the map of your life. Perspective: Do you see a weed, or do you see a wish? Perspective: Is this storm here to disrupt your life, or clear your path? Perspective: Is this happening TO us or FOR us?
What I love the most about perspective, is that it’s MY choice. I get to choose and control what that looks like for me. I get to choose how I will move in to the next moment of my life, and I implore you to do the same. I encourage and challenge you to seek and find hope in knowing the sun will always shine again.
I have a lot to say. This week has been tough and I am not sure that I have made it completely clear or obvious just how hard it has been on me - for many reasons. The circles that go around in my head are pretty overwhelming and confusing at times. It's a battle. A battle of guilt for not being positive all the time, a battle of put a smile on your face and pretend everything is ok because I don't want anyone feeling bad for me, and then a battle of these horrible dark thoughts that I have convinced myself are probably pretty normal.
I don't like to acknowledge or admit or even say it out loud that metastatic breast cancer is essentially a terminal diagnosis. Im 38. How the hell did I get diagnosed with a diagnosis that has no cure? Lucky me. I don't know if getting these thoughts out of my head will make them go away. I feel like there is this little apartment in my brain that is cluttered with junk. While everyone else is busy decluttering their closets, this is my attempt to declutter my brain. Its also my attempt to be honest because I cannot imagine I am the only person with this diagnosis that feels this way. Before you continue reading, I am going to warn you that this may not be an easy read. Specifically for those that are very close to me, but I am going to preface this with letting you know this isn't going to be the butterflies and rainbows of blog posts.
So here goes - and my plan is to just filter through these thoughts as they come out so please excuse the randomness that might ensue.
I am scared. I’ve mentioned that before but I’m really freaking scared. I am scared that if my current treatment isn't working, that I will be left with options of clinical trials which really just makes me a statistical lab rat followed by endless dr appts, scans, bloodwork, etc. Fact of the matter is, I am already there. Im a human pin cushion - to the point that I now have to count to 10, 3 times a week, and inject myself with a shot in my stomach to boost my white blood cells (WBC). Currently my treatments are on Mondays and each Monday we sit there, with this super conflicting uncomfortable feeling of..."Well, I hope I can get chemo today". Meanwhile, the majority of the world is just hoping they can survive their usual case of the Mondays after the weekend. I mean, who HOPES they can get chemo and feel like shit for 5 days after? Apparently....my husband and I do...because if I can't - then what? Then the cancer grows?
I can’t do much of anything I used to do before. My BFF was in town this weekend and while it was awesome to just chill and watch TV, talk, decorate cookies, and hang out...at one point I wanted the old me to jump off the couch, bust out some old school 90's, and in Jen fashion...moon walk, Roger rabbit, running man, and display my best attempt at possibly twerking. Because if you know me well...you know thats a "Jen thing" to do. My back pain, on top of my WBC shots, on top of my chemo side effects...just don't let me do that. Last night I went to bed...I couldn't sleep knowing I had to take my best friend to the airport in the morning. The ugly thoughts wouldn't stop. When I dropped her off, I said what I had been thinking about all night and what kept me up until 3AM. I didn’t want to say it but I did. "I hope this isn't the last time I see you". I wondered if she felt the same but in true Heather, always optimistic fashion, she replied with “you will”. We cried and hugged - and neither of us wanted to let go. I’m not sure I’ve ever hugged my best friend of almost 20 years that long and hard. We looked at each other, attempted to laugh at ourselves for crying, hugged again...and that was it. I love you bestie, and even though I struggle to accept that maybe our crazy shenanigans may be limited, we adjusted well by decorating ridiculous llama cookies together. I’m not ashamed to admit - we even named them and I may have discovered a new way of meditating through art.
As far as my family goes...I feel like a complete burden. I feel like everyone is putting their normal life on hold for me. I don't like that. I want normalcy but the fact of the matter is...this isn't normal. Life isn't normal right now and I wonder if it ever will be again. I don't feel like a wife or a mother. I feel like a cancer patient. I cant keep up with simple daily tasks and while my husband has been more than amazing...the roles he has absorbed, that were once mine, are what made me feel like I was a contributing member of my family. Now Im just proud of myself if I can pick up the clothes off the bathroom floor and put them in the hamper. I’m not lazy, I’m just in pain.
I have anxiety. Bad. Who wouldn't in this situation? Anxiety makes me shut down. It makes me quiet. It makes me feel crazy. It spirals in to depression and guilt and all kinds of other sometimes irrational thoughts. At times, I’d be happier if I was just completely alone because then I wouldn't feel like Im such a burden. At times, I just want to be left alone in my own thoughts. I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to acknowledge it. I want to pretend none of it is even happening. But it is...and thats when I shut down. I am really doing my best this time around to not do that. Losing my ability to work out doesn't help my cause one bit. It was always my escape, my reminder that I was healthy enough to be on my bike, or strong enough to lift weights. I cant do that right now, and Im not sure I'll ever be able to again. That scares me. The thought of not being able to travel and hike, or walk up a mountain, or sit on an airplane for an extended period of time...it all scares me.
What scares me and hurts me the most is something I really don't even want to say but if Im being completely honest here...Im gonna say it. I want my husband to be happy and live a life that is fulfilling and full of love and I want to be that person to him forever. Id be lying if I didn't say it kills me that there's a chance I may not be. Of course I would want him to move on...but he's MY MAN. He's MY HUSBAND and I love him more than anything. I love his (our) kids more than anything. I want to see them graduate and be a grandma. I want to grow old with him, and travel with him, and be the one who loves him the way we were meant to love each other till death do us part. The reality in my head is that till death do us part...could come much sooner than either of us ever imagined it would.
I don't want to question every time someone comes to visit me if it's the last time I will see them. I don't want to wonder if my niece and nephew are going to remember who their aunt is. I don't want my parents to have to worry or even think about losing their daughter to cancer. I don't want to hope that I can get chemo on Mondays. I don't want to wonder if I will ever have hair again. I don't want to wonder if the headache Im waking up with is a tumor growing on my brain.
I want to live my life the way I had been living it since I completed treatment for my first diagnosis. I want to be the mother and wife I was 6 months ago. I want to continue to help other women who are probably feeling much like I do right now and my plan is to do that forever. I want to surf again. I want to sit on a beach with flamingos. I want to dance. I just want to be Jen again. I live a very blessed life - the life I always dreamt of. No matter what happens...I need to find grace, patience, and most of all...I need to find gratitude in the life that I have lived and am living. I’m not dead, and no one has told me I am. I’m just limited and it’s frustrating.
I don't want you to feel bad for me. I really don't. That is not the purpose in this post. To be frank...this post was for me. This post is filled with the hope that I could get this out of my head and maybe move on from it a bit. Maybe a little bit of this post was filled with the hope that as you're reading it - you might just close your eyes, take a deep breath, scan your body from head to toe, be grateful for your health, don't sweat the small stuff, and acknowledge all of the blessings that surround you. That's what I want from you right now. Just do that...that is what would make me happy today.
I know you see me smiling but behind that smile, I am scared. I am not sure anyone realizes how scared I actually am and Im not even sure I really want anyone to know.
Shaving my head for the 2nd time in my life was no easier than it was 5 years ago. The army you see standing behind me is one hell of a freaking army and I know, this time, I am not alone in this battle. Im surrounded by fellow survivors and fighters, my family, my friends, but most importantly Im surrounded by LOVE. I have so much love for every single person in this photo and I was blessed to have them all by my side.
To be honest, I am not even sure any of this has really settled with me. It's the biggest challenge I have had in writing my blog again. I feel like writing about it again just makes it more real. I want to get this out of my head but I also don't want people to feel sorry for me or as if I am complaining but this fucking sucks. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?????????? WHY? WHY? WHY?
I asked myself that same question 5 years ago and my answer became more clear a couple of years later when I started my non-profit. We've helped so many women and I finally found my purpose in life. Here I am asking that question again. I don't get it. I did everything I could. I ate healthy, I worked out, I stopped drinking alcohol almost completely outside of the occasional glass of champagne or 2. But here I am again...bald. Chemotherapy took my hair again. For a moment, I will forget and then I'll scratch my head only to come back with a handful of stubbles. I'll catch myself in the mirror and it takes me back to a place I was 5 years ago. A place that I am trying very hard not to go to.
Im doing my best to stay positive. It's a weird feeling...I am 3 treatments in and even though I was feeling like complete crap - I had hair. No one knew I was sick. Now...I look sick. Now...Im the girl that has cancer....again. Im the girl when you see me walking in Target you look at and probably feel bad for me. I don't want to be THAT girl. But I also don't want to be the girl that hides this time around. Even as I am typing this, I looked up and caught my reflection in the mirror and its just unbelievable. I know and hope that I will find a new purpose behind this again. I want to believe that its God's way of giving me the true understanding of every single aspect of cancer so I can relate to all of these women we help. The truth is, I am so mad at God right now. I know he knows this. I lack in prayer because I am mad. As I type that I am crying because it just makes me feel guilty - for many reasons. I hate admitting it but I am trying to pray for understanding through this. I have to find that in my own time and on my own terms though. I know that only he knows my heart, and only he knows the purpose behind this new pain.
On September 5th, 2018 I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with liver and bone mets. I have multiple tumors on my spine and other bones and 5 spots on my liver. I will be in treatment for the rest of my life. That is reality. I am bald again. That is reality. I don't know if I will ever have hair again. There I said it.
Cancer won't ever win though. Because of it, I am surrounded by more love and support than I could ever have imagined. Though tears might fall, and fear might consume me at times, I am not alone this time. I am one lucky girl to be surrounded by all of these amazing people, by ALL of you.
4 years ago when Dana, of Ana Ono Intimates, contacted me asking me to write a blog about her bra line, I never imagined one day it would manifest itself on a runway in New York City Fashion Week. My blog has been my outlet to be honest and truthful about every challenge I have experienced since the day I was diagnosed, all while sharing useful tips and tricks for how to get through cancer treatments. Whether I was on a high, or a low, or sharing a bra that made me feel beautiful again, I have always felt the importance in expressing the complete rawness of what it has been like to endure a cancer diagnosis at a young age. Most who know me well, know I wear my heart on my sleeve, I am honest, and I am extremely shy when put in vulnerable situations.
There were lots of highs and few lows through out my weekend in New York. Mainly highs - like highs so high it didnt even feel like real life. I am looking back and realizing that the lows were my anxieties putting a block up. It was my shyness, it was backing myself in to a corner because I was scared or nervous - something I do that most people don’t really understand about me. I have been blessed with incredible, life changing opportunities that have continued to alter my outlook on life. I am constantly reevaluating the person that I am and doing my best to accept I am not the Jen I was before cancer. There are these parts of me that are still very much there - like that introverted girl that I have realized is sort of a hidden gem because its raw and its me being real - and then there are moments like this weekend where I surprise myself.
These are the moments in life, these amazing, unforgettable moments that I wont ever take for grant it. Each one of those moments, I take something away, and I learn something about myself. Sometimes, that old Jen comes out and its refreshing to know that I am still in there somewhere. Most of us who experience a cancer diagnosis go through a grieving process of those 5 challenging steps. There’s denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Denial - did I really just have cancer? Did I really just lose my hair, and my breasts, and WHO AM I NOW? Anger - Why did that just happen to me? What did I do to deserve the hell I just had to go through - am I doomed? Bargaining…if I do this, I will change that. If I eat better, if I pray, if I work out, if I do all these things for others, then surely my cancer wont come back (obviously not the case). Depression. Yah Ive been there a lot. Depression (and anxiety) involves all of those previous thoughts swirling through my head on a daily basis. Sometimes I can take control of them, and others I cant. Sometimes, I lose friends and I have survivors guilt or I wonder when will that be me? My fears are a battle that I have deep conversations with every single day.
And then there is “Acceptance”. Acceptance that we endured a traumatic event in life and how can we move forward living the best life possible. Acceptance that we are discovering who we are on daily basis, acceptance in who that person is, acceptance in being CONFIDENT in the person we are discovering, and acceptance that we have to embrace every single day, and every single moment as if it were our last. We have to find acceptance that our bodies are forever changed and then embrace that change. Most importantly, we accept that we were given a platform to change the way that others see beauty, the way others see confidence, and the way others have stereotyped breast cancer as the “easy” or “pretty” cancer. Acceptance that we are the dangerous ones, the ones who speak up, the ones who advocate for those who can no longer.
I assure you there is nothing “pretty” about any sort of cancer. Breast cancer is not a “boob job”. Breast cancer is not “curable”. Breast cancer is not “easy” and it is certainly not “pretty”. I was asked what this fashion show meant to me and why was it different from the rest of New York Fashion Week. Ive sat on that question since it was asked. What is beauty anyways? Is it the 5’10 model walking down the runway in that expensive designer outfit? To some, yes. Is it the 5’6 woman who has been through hell and back, parts of her body amputated, scars left behind, who can still walk down that runway with confidence? Thats where I see true beauty. Each and every woman who walked down that run way with me has looked at ourselves in the mirror completely stripped of everything…our hair, our eyebrows, our eyelashes, and our breasts. We have had tubes hanging out of us at some point, multiple IV’s, multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, weight gain, weight loss, depression, anxiety, fear, loss. Unfortunately, we have lost too many friends who are not here to share that story…and so we walked in confidence for them all.
What does beauty mean to you? For me, it means standing in a room with women who are REAL with one another, who are HONEST with one another, who INSPIRE one another, who ENCOURAGE one another, who make a DIFFERENCE in the world, who stand in CONFIDENCE with one another, and who ADVOCATE on behalf of the our friends who are no longer here. We all took this opportunity to tell our stories and to make an impact - to change the way the world sees breast cancer. THAT is beauty. There is no judgement in true beauty. There is no comparison or jealousy in true beauty. True beauty is standing up for what you believe in and speaking loud for the entire world to hear. Beauty is seeing past the anger, past the depression, past the anxiety, past the emotional and physical battle wounds, and standing on a stage with a fierce confidence and a genuine appreciation for every single step we were blessed to take on that runway. Each foot forward was one full of acceptance, until we reached the end of the runway. It was our individual opportunity to look at the cameras, to look at the world, tell them our story, showing cancer who's in control with no words...just our eyes and our actions. We accepted our beauty, we owned our beauty, we owned our scars, we owned our cancer, and we ACCEPTED that our past is what has brought us to the present moment. We embraced this as our platform to show the world what TRUE BEAUTY is, what CONFIDENCE really looks like, and what breast cancer REALLY is. Its scars, its pain, its sadness, its loss, its fear, and its women living in strength as ONE, beyond all of that. Breast cancer is not "pretty in pink".
As you read this, please take time to educate yourself on the facts of metastatic breast cancer because the scary facts are this…1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and of those 8….1 in 3 of them will go on to be metastatic. There is NO cure. Donate to METativor, the sole US organization dedicated to awarding annual stage 4 breast cancer research, which is beyond important. Join in the conversation with #Cancerland, who provides a platform to address breast cancer’s often ignored realities. Follow them on social media and do your part to change the conversations about breast cancer. Ask questions, be curious, make a difference, help us do more to save more lives because at the end of the day, we want to end the assumptions and create a conversation based on reality.
Project Cancerland and Ana Ono Intimates provided us with an opportunity to show, not only the world, but ourselves, the reality of cancer. I assure you, this runway was filled with the most beautiful women in NYC - physical beauty, internal beauty, raw beauty, a genuine beauty you are unlikely to find on any other runway in the world. That was not the most important message though. The most important message was the women who were not here to walk that stage with us. The emotional honor we all took with us down the runway as we walked for them was an honor we did not take lightly. The message is in the truth behind breast cancer. The 1 in 8, the thousands of women dying EACH DAY from breast cancer, and the lack of funds that go towards those with metastatic breast cancer. The mission was to show the world the faces behind this deadly disease, to bring awareness to those who may not understand the truth behind breast cancer. It is not the beautiful cancer, it is not the easy cancer. It is a deadly cancer, and WE ARE ONE, WE ARE THE ONE IN EIGHT WHO WILL BECOME THE ONE IN THREE, WE ARE THE TRUTH, WE ARE…THE DANGEROUS ONES.
The last couple of weeks have no doubt been incredibly emotional for many, including myself. As difficult as it has been to watch this beautiful girl be taken so soon… I think we can all agree through all of this we have watched miracles unfold. The range of emotions have been overwhelming but watching all those who came together to show a young woman just how loved she is…is the collateral beauty in all of this. To witness these blessings from God…these miracles…
The miracles in these final days are the memories we hold on to. And though the miracle of healing in Savannah may not happen here on earth…Savannah’s healing will happen in the hand of God. That is the true miracle in all of this. But the miracle here on earth…is the joy Savannah has brought to so many. The miracle of Savannah is something she created through a wish, and through a love of jeeps she shares with her father. The miracle of Savannah is what brought people from all walks of life, jeep owners, motorcycle groups, government officials, neighbors, friends, strangers, people from ALL OVER THE COUNTRY, ALL OVER THE WORLD…came together through the miracle of Savannah. If there is anything I am going to take from any of this…if I am going to hold on to hope…its going to be in the miracles I have witnessed this last week. The miracles that which God brought to Savannah. Each and every person….you are a blessing to Savannah’s life whether you are praying from afar, driving your jeep past her house, sending pictures of your jeeps and signs, decorating her house with lights, or sending her cards. You all made a girl’s final days so incredibly special. But…Savannah…Savannah created a miracle! One that we all had the privilege of witnessing through her wishes, and through her joys. Savannah brought an entire universe together and through a wish, she will now arrive in God’s hands full of all of that love she received here on earth.
I am confident we all learned something from Savannah. We learned what strength looks like. We learned patience. Some of us may have even fallen to our knees for the first time in a long time…to pray. We learned forgiveness. We learned to appreciate every single moment we are blessed with. We learned to hug our loved ones a little harder. We learned how to love a little deeper. We learned how to love thy neighbor in its deepest meaning. We learned to love a stranger, to embrace a stranger, to comfort a stranger. Some of us have even made new friends. These are the miracles of Savannah. I hope she now knows she is never alone. I know she feels the joy in each and every miracle that unfolded this last week. I hope when she is watching down from the heavens…I hope she can smile knowing this was all her. That an entire world came together to show their love and support for such a sweet angel. I hope she realizes the impact that she left here on earth. The stamp that she left on so many hearts. Though many tears will fall when she arrives in the hands of God, the collateral beauty is in what Savannah has taught us. The collateral beauty is in the message that Savannah has spread across the entire world and the awareness she has brought to pediatric cancer. The collateral beauty is that we have seen what the world truly looks like through a child’s eyes in the simple joys that she wanted in her final days. Savannah’s legacy…is the collateral beauty behind all of those tears.
Savannah, sweet girl, we will always remember these moments with you. You have united a community...no...you have united the entire world! You are NEVER alone. We will always be blessed, honored, and humbled to have walked this journey with you. You, my dear, is what the miracle of God is all about. I hope you now know you were never alone. I hope when you are watching down from the heavens…I hope you can smile knowing this was all you. That an entire world came together to show YOU their love and support for such a sweet angel. I hope you realize the impact that you left here on earth, the stamp that you left on so many hearts, and legacy that will live on for years and years to come. Your spirit, your heart, your smile, the simple joys….The Miracle of Savannah will live in our hearts, YOU, our beautiful angel, will live in our hearts forever.
Jen Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pink Warrior Angels
In the last few weeks, these have all really hit me hard. Sometimes you think you are ok and then out of no where you are quickly reminded this is the reality you live in. You realize its not something that will ever go away and that in itself can be enough to send you spiraling. I wanted to write this blog for those that may not understand it. Maybe you have a loved one who suffers from PTSD, Anxiety, or Depression. While I don’t expect this post make sense of it for you…that I feel is impossible if you’ve never experienced it…I do hope that you can find patience and a little bit of understanding as to how frustrating any one of these can be.
PTSD…As you know is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. About 80% of women suffer from PTSD Symptoms after a breast cancer diagnosis. 80%!!!! NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT!!!! Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can be brought on by a traumatic event. PTSD can happen after a life-threatening situation, such as a breast cancer diagnosis or cancer recurrence. PTSD can affect your ability to cope with life’s daily chores and inconveniences and make it difficult to function.
So what is PTSD like for me? I, personally, have triggers. My triggers vary and unfortunately, I have many of them. Discovering a new pain, hearing of a recurrence or death from a breast cancer diagnosis, certain smells, locations, and times of year are all a few of my triggers. This is what happens. Lets go with smell. About 1 year after my diagnosis, it was fall. Halloween to be exact, and I put a sweater on that I hadn’t worn since chemo. At the time, I had just started therapy for my PTSD so I was new to that feeling. We used to wash our clothes with this Febreeze scented Tide. So I put this sweater on and it immediately took me back. I started thinking about everything I had been through. Sitting in the chemo room, the beeps from the different chemo machines going off, the one time I had a bad reaction to the chemo, the weight loss, the fatigue, the stomach issues I had, the loss of my hair. I put that sweater on and I had cancer all over again. It all came back and I was drowning myself in a sea of thoughts. It was like I was being pulled in to an undertow. I didn’t have cancer but in that moment, I had to convince myself of that. I left the sweater on for about 10 minutes because I was really trying to be stronger than my PTSD. I didn’t want it to control me but it did…and the sweater came off. I was upset and in a matter of a minute I went from excited to give candy out and scare kids to I am going to die of cancer. I went through a conversation in my head and even spoke some thoughts out loud. That I was here, I was ok. I was healthy. I touched my head to remind myself my hair was growing back. I had to consciously bring myself back to the present moment and not the moments from a year ago. Without the previous therapy I had been through, I am not sure I would have been equipped with those tools to talk myself out of it. I did though. The whole episode lasted about 30 minutes and our night went on as planned.
PTSD and Anxiety are a very similar feeling to me. It’s basically a flood of emotions that for a period of time become uncontrollable. For me, they go hand in hand. My PTSD causes a heightened sense of awareness to everything around me and the result of that is anxieties about what COULD happen in the future. Anxiety is horrible. To any normal person my thoughts, that swarm like bees in my head, are a bunch of irrational thoughts that make absolutely no sense. Anything can happen and in an anxiety attack….it WILL happen until it doesn’t actually happen and your past it. That waiting period, or the period of time that goes by that your convincing yourself that your thoughts are irrational, can feel like an eternity. Not only are you sitting in these crazy irrational thoughts, that you KNOW deep down make no sense what so ever, you are doing it alone in your mind. The last thing I want to do is try and walk someone through those thoughts, only to sound like some crazy lunatic that just predicted the future in full accuracy. Reality is, none of us know the future. My reality…is not so, though I have done better lately accepting that this life is not in my hands. It is accepting that I do not have control over what is going to happen. The worst part of anxiety is knowing what you are thinking is completely insane and makes absolutely no sense…but not being able to just think that and move on from it in that moment. Typically what happens is the thoughts get worse before they get better. I have found that, for me, I will end up at the most irrational thought possible and thats when I realize…okay Jen…THATS not going happen….THATS impossible. And IF it does…whats the worst that would happen? What IS the worst that could happen? Even if the worst that could happen is death…I would know I am leaving this world confident that I lived it to the fullest, was a good person, and did all I could to help others.
This leads me in to depression. I hate depression. I hate it with everything I have and though I do a pretty good job at managing it, I am frequently reminded that it exists in me. Depression is kind of scary because if you can’t figure out a way to manage it, it can and will affect all aspects of your life. It WILL steal your joy. It WILL send you to some pretty dark places. There was a very short moment in my life where I felt like it would have been easier if I died of cancer vs. dealing with all of this shit. I absolutely HATE to admit that but it is me being honest about what depression is. Its a lot of why me’s and why am I here and whats the point. I haven’t had those thoughts in a really long time and for that I am really thankful. My depression causes me to disconnect from everyone. I don’t talk, I hide away, I don’t really eat, and the best place for me when I WAS depressed, was alone. The last thing I wanted to do was bring anyone else down with me or react to others in anger as a result of my sadness. It is sort of a weird place to be because you don’t WANT to be alone…but its easier. You want someone to come hug you and just let you cry with no words, but you don’t want anyone to see you like that or have to explain yourself. Its just a really odd feeling of confusion and not really knowing what it is you need in that moment. Thought I still have my moments, I am thankful that I have learned how to manage this aspect of my mental hurricane, and not to let myself stay there.
With all of this being said, I am not going to leave this blog with the idea that I am in some dark scary place with made up stories and fears and anxieties. I manage it well and without medication. At times, I do wonder if medication would help balance me completely. I chose the gym and a healthy diet, supportive friends and family, my non-profit that brings me SO much joy in helping others, and I know how important routine is for me. If my routine is thrown off…it can cause me to slip. Fortunately, when I do slip, I am able to pull myself out much quicker than I was able to in the past. It took a lot of work to get where I am right now. I still have those fears, I still experience all of these feelings, but I refuse to sit there. In a conversation with my therapist, she asked with a sort of sarcastic smile on her face…”So how’s that going for you, how is everything else in your life going”. The answer was “Really shitty”. It was that moment that she made me realize I was allowing all of these irrational thoughts and fears…things I had no control over….affect every single day of my life, and everyone around me, in a very negative way. Nothing was good. That wasn’t ok with me. We all want to be happy. Though I know perfection will never be an option, I want to have the best life I can while I am here. I cannot allow those “what ifs” to take away the joys and happiness that exist in the current moment. So I make plans, I have learned to laugh again, that its okay to feel happiness even if it is all taken away from me tomorrow…because none of us have control over what is going to happen in the next minute of our lives. I still have a lot of work to do on myself, but guess what? WE ALL DO!!! This life will never be easy…but I am very fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most AMAZING people. That list goes on….from the women I meet daily, to my family, my husband, my step kids, my 4 besties, my trainer, to everyone who has encouraged and supported me along this journey - I am so incredibly thankful for your understanding and for letting me be me when Im being….ME.
The photo above is of me, in Ireland. It was a bucket list trip for me and I never thought I would have had the courage to get on a plane to fly there...let alone sit on the edge of cliff smiling. This was me...facing my fears. Something I probably never would have done for myself - had cancer never happened.
Everyone has fears. Whether we would like to admit it or not - we are all scared of something. Fear of failure, fear of heights, fear of flying…maybe your fearful of admitting you are fearful because its a sign of weakness. Fear is a normal feeling. It has so many different aspects to it and we all deal with it in our own ways. Some face their fears head on and others run away from it. Some people choose to face their fears. Some of us are literally forced to face fears.
For me, I have always had normal fears…flying, heights, and oddly enough - tornadoes. It wasn’t until recently that I realized the commonality between all of those fears. Death. I am afraid of dying. While most people might agree that yah…death is pretty scary. Cancer changed that fear. Where at one time…it was just a thought that I could rationalize in my head…Cancer made it real. For example: The odds that I will die in a tornado - highly unlikely….falling off a roof…unlikely….flying…unlikely. Im scared of those things…but I do them because ultimately I know its going to be ok. Cancer was not a choice. It wasn’t necessarily a fear that I thought about regularly. While I always sort of had this thought that it would suck to ever have cancer, in my mind - it was never going to happen to ME. Up until the moment I sat in front of that doctor on Nov 7, 2013…until the moment he said “you have breast cancer” and even for a few minutes after….It wasn’t going to happen to me.
In that moment…my bubble had burst.
I say that often but its not well understood. That thought - that bubble that I lived in - the one of “that would never happen to me” it’s gone. I no longer live with the naiveness of that could never happen to me. For me, one of the worst things that could have happened, happened to me. So it opens up this window in your mind…that you are not immune. You are not invisible. It CAN happen. ANYTHING, at ANY moment, CAN happen to you. While I don’t want to create an unnecessary fear in those that haven’t experienced a life threatening illness or traumatic event in their lives, I do want to be honest about the fear that is created within a traumatic life event.
Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Cancer - a disease that causes suffering and sometimes death…happened to me. It causes pain, it was a threat to my life. It was no longer a “belief”. It was a reality. What has happened as a result of that reality has been daily fears of things that are seemingly nothing to most “normal” people. Headaches are not a normal thing for me anymore. Its cancer…Im gonna die. Cramps in my stomach - ovarian cancer (I am high risk for this), pain in my back - cancer. I will obsessively feel lymph nodes in my body and set myself in to a panic. I am no longer rationalizing why its ok to fly, or climb a ladder, or get caught in a bad storm in my car…I am now rationalizing normal pains that everyone experiences on a daily basis due to a life threatening illness that did, in fact, happen to me.
For me, fear has amplified all of my feelings. I have a heightened sense of awareness to everything around me and everything in me. Its almost like I am constantly being chased by something. Most recently…I was stung by a wasp. For 2 days I tried to rationalize the fact that it was okay my finger was practically blowing up beyond the capacity of my skin…I kept thinking its fine because I didn’t want to be dramatic about it. I then ended up in urgicare at 2AM for putting it off…with a dr telling me how impressive the swelling was in my finger…and leaving me with the idea that if it didn’t improve in 24 hours, I would have to go to the hospital because the circulation in my finger might be cut off. NO! Just NO! I don’t want to hear worst case scenarios. Worst case scenarios are worst case realities to me. I absolutely HATE thinking this way. It is a constant battle within myself. I do not want to live with this fear for the rest of my life. Not of wasps - of horrible things happening to me. (For the record - I am now afraid of wasps - HA!) Sadly fear is a daily thought that I have to rationalize. It is usually done with me reminding myself that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow and I am not going to find out I have cancer today so enjoy the day, live in the moment, and do what makes you feel happy. Put your trust in God…believe that he has a plan for you. Believe that that plan is going to lead to something greater than yourself. Pray. Pray your fears away because we are not in control.
I cannot tell you not to be afraid of this awful disease and the realities of what it has done to us. I cannot tell you to not worry about the pains you feel on a daily basis. What I am going to tell you - is that you absolutely have to live your life. One thing I learned about myself in therapy, that I wasn’t ever going to be okay with, was that fear was taking away my ability to enjoy anything in life. That wasn’t acceptable to me. I was letting my anxieties, my fears, CANCER…I was letting CANCER steal my joy. At times, I slip and I allow it to still happen. Sometimes for days. Sometimes the people around me have no clue, sometimes I make it very obvious. Sometimes pretending its all okay is overwhelming in itself. Unless you know me REALLY well…you would never know that I sit with these fears daily.
While I would love to know what it feels like to still live in that “bubble”, that is not my reality anymore. My fears have taught me to be patient with myself. I have now allowed those minor fears of flying, and heights…motivate me to do things I wouldn’t have done pre-cancer - like sit on a cliff in Ireland. In the last 2 years I have experienced some of the most amazing moments. Fear…and cancer…have given me a new perspective on life and what’s truly important. I faced a life threatening disease that did its best to destroy me…but I am still standing. My appreciation for life, my desire to find simple joys in every day, the amazing people I have met on this journey, the life experiences I have had since my diagnosis…have all left me feeling so incredibly lucky and fortunate to just simply have today. I want to leave you with this thought. If you are going to allow yourself to feel fear or sadness, you owe it to yourself to allow yourself to feel happiness and joy as well.
“Holding us in place is simply fear….of whats already changed” Sara Bareilles
Im partially writing this in tears and typing as fast as I can to document this feeling I have.
I have spent the last month raising money for our gala. I had these goals in my head and I wondered if I was setting myself up for failure with such high goals. It scared me because I don’t want to let anyone down. I honestly did not realize how much I would learn about myself in the process. As I sit here right now, for the first time in a really long, I feel good and I feel really proud of myself.
I speak to women all the time, I visit them during their chemo treatments, I make pillows and drain bags for them, I offer my advice, I do the best I can to make someone else’s journey a little easier. In my mind, if I can save them from making a mistake I made, or helping them cope with a side effect they might have, or just simply being there for them in a way that I did not really have…then it brings me a sense of joy.
That sense of joy and happiness that I feel never really registered until this last week. On Friday, I had intentions of visiting a couple girls in the chemo room and ended up meeting 4 other young survivors randomly. I have been told more than once how incredible it is what I am doing. I guess I just never really saw it that way. I guess I just looked at it as something I needed to do and something that I was meant to do. I really don’t know what else I should be doing - as if this is just what my current purpose is. I am honored on so many levels that these women welcome me in to their journey and they find trust in me to carry them through their journeys as best I can. I know I can’t help everyone and I can’t do everything, and I have learned thats ok.
Im emotional because of all the times I have been thanked, or given hugs, or have been told I am a gift from God to someones journey…A gift from God??? All of those amazing compliments I received, it never really hit me until now. I am not sure how to explain it because it is just who I am. Who I have pretty much always been. I was raised to give more than I receive so it has always just been embedded in my blood. I am confidently no longer asking why did this happen to me. I feel blessed to have found purpose in all of this. It is an interesting feeling because there are days that I struggle and I am so angry at how cancer has changed me. But when I am able to to sit away from myself for a minute…and I am able to acknowledge everything that I am doing because of cancer touching my life. It all starts to just simply make sense in some crazy way.
God has made his presence and I have seen his hand at work so much through out this process. From the people he has placed in my life, the stories that have been shared, the opportunities that have been placed in front of me…none of this is by coincidence and it really just makes me feel (deep breath)…….safe.
I never expect anything in return for what I do but the support Pink Warrior Angels has received is so far beyond any feeling I could ever put in to words. I guess it is a feeling of validation…knowing people believe in our mission and trust in what we are doing for those currently battling this horrible disease. As much as I would love to save the world and never have to watch someone struggle through this battle, I know that will never be a realistic goal. The fact of the matter, is that breast cancer is fearfully becoming more and more common, especially in younger women. It comes as a complete blow to your life. Some of us face infertility, have our careers taken away from us, have children we have to explain a disease to, and various other challenges. It’s sad, it breaks my heart, and for the most part, I cannot believe that I have had to face all of those challenges. I believe it is why I have been able to relate on so many various levels to other women.
There is clearly a lack of attention and support to how much breast cancer affects the lives of everyone involved from warriors to co-survivors and everyone in between. I am so incredibly proud of where Pink Warrior Angels is headed. Putting together this gala has really showed me that anything is possible as long as you put your heart, your soul, your passion and your determination in to it. This Gala and Pink Warrior Angels, is all of that to me. April 8th is going to be an incredible evening. It will be emotional, it will be a celebration, It will be a night filled with honor to all of those affected by breast cancer.
For the first time in a really long time, I feel proud. Not just proud of myself but proud of New Braunfels and San Antonio for rallying behind Pink Warrior Angels. I feel proud of the relationships I have made through out this process and making friends who have embraced our mission, shared their ideas, and have set off on their own missions in the process. Friends who I feel I have known for a lifetime but really its only been 2 weeks. I am lucky to know them. I am lucky to be surrounded by so much support…and though this post may not seem as though I am speechless….there are no perfect words for the love I feel from each and every one of you. Thank you all for reminding me and showing me there is a world and a life full of so much good.