Five Years

September 11th, here we are again. A date that is impossible to overlook on our calendars. That date became etched in our brains back in 2001, and became extra awful (as if it needed to become so) for me in 2012, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer a month after my 28th birthday.

So here we are again, another cancerversary, another trip around the sun. This one is a biggie, too: five years. When cancer stats talk about rates of long-term survival, they typically are talking about people who live beyond five years. It’s thought that after that point, your risk of biting the big one continues to drop and you can rest a little easier. Obviously there are all sorts of problems with measuring survival like this, as breast cancer can and does recur many years down the road. So it’s not really a clear indicator of triumph. But it’s the closest thing we’ve got, so for now, I’ll take it. Five years, I’m still here. Has a nice ring to it.

I wish I could say I’ve put it all behind me and never think about the big C anymore, but that would be a lie, and no one likes a liar.

I still have the occasional scare, one of which occurred early in my pregnancy that completely derailed me. The stakes have become infinitely higher now that I have my little baby to think about. Before there were all sorts of things that sucked about the possibility of death. Big time. But now that I’m a mom, I can’t even allow my brain to go there. It’s too much. So when something scary pops up, and my mind is forced to go there… it ain’t pretty. And I hate that I still have to live with these terrifying possibilities. I know so many young women who have died of breast cancer, I’ve lost count. Many of them gone in the past year. What makes me luckier than them? Why should my ending be any different? These questions burn inside of me, no matter how hard I might try to put out the fire. But fortunately, I have the most amazing little distraction to keep me occupied and prevent me from obsessing over my worst fears all day long.

And speaking of that distraction, he pretty much takes up all of my minutes and hours of the day, as babies tend to do. So I don’t have much time to flesh out deep thoughts about what this day means to me. I’m too busy feeding and changing diapers and participating in tickle fights and fits of laughter. And really, when it comes down to it, that’s what this day means. It means everything. Because I have him.

Five years, I’m still here.

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Life, etc.

Hello loyal readers! (Or, people who Google searched “cupcake recipe” and accidentally ended up here.)

I haven’t been updating the blog too frequently, but this is not because I have nothing going on, but rather the opposite. I often sit down to write and then quickly get side-tracked doing something else and lose my focus. I could blame it on lingering chemo brain, which I do believe I occasionally suffer from, but it mostly comes down to just being busy. Which is a good thing. Here are the things that have been occupying my time and my mindspace (which apparently isn’t a real word, but it should be).

TELEVISION! I realize watching TV might not be seen as the most fruitful of activities, but there is so much good stuff on right now that I am giddy about. I can talk about TV for hours, so if anyone ever wants to do that with me, feel free. My newest obsession is How To Get Away With Murder which is the most entertaining thing I’ve seen on television in awhile. I also recently watched both seasons of Rectify, which is on Netflix, and deserves way more attention than it’s been getting for its unbelievable performances and gorgeous cinematography. And of course there are all my old standbys: Mindy Project, Parenthood, Scandal, etc. And there is still so much I want to check out (The Affair, The Leftovers, Transparent) but haven’t had time to yet. I LOVE TV SO MUCH AND I CAN’T STOP.

ELLE! If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve started writing my monthly column for Elle Canada magazine called #LIFEREBOOT about discovering life after cancer. So I’ve been busy exploring and writing and doing many fun things, like going on mindfulness retreats and leaning off very tall towers. Every month that I see the new issue in my mailbox, I still get giddy when I turn to my page and see my name and photos and words. It’s been a fun challenge, and I am learning a lot. For February’s issue, I’ll be writing about something that’s been keeping me busy for the past couple months and that I’ve enjoyed immensely but I don’t want to spoil it, so you’ll have to wait and buy the magazine.

ANXIETY! This is nothing new but is simply now a common theme in my life that likely will never completely go away, and that I must learn to live with. I don’t mention this stuff for pity, or for advice, but merely to help non-cancer people understand that us cancer-people live a very complicated existence, often filled with various bouts of fear and anxiety. Sometimes I think I’m in the clear and over “that phase” and then all of a sudden, something new pops up — a new pain, a new ache, a new symptom — and I question my health and my future. I worry about not being alive in 5 years, I worry about my body betraying me in an awful and grotesque way, I think about what my funeral might be like, and who might show up. Again, this is NOT a cry for help. For 90% of my days, I’m living and loving my life and having a ball. But the other 10% is still kind of crappy and that’s just the hand I’ve been dealt, as have many others. And we’ll get through it, because that’s all we can do.

MEXICO! A perfect cure for all life’s problems… vacation! We just got back from celebrating our third wedding anniversary in Mexico on the most beautiful beach, where we ate fabulous food, swam in the ocean and read books by the pool. It was divine. I’ve said this before, but since having cancer I am incredibly grateful for any chance I get to just relax and be spoiled. Life is short, and I want to spend as much of it as I can sitting by the ocean and feeling the sun on my face. There is nothing better, in my opinion. Here are some photos if you like that kind of thing.

NEW JOB! Some of you may have heard of an awesome charity called Rethink Breast Cancer and if you haven’t, well now you’re gonna. They support a cause very near and dear to my heart: helping young women with breast cancer and those affected by breast cancer. They provide cutting edge resources, such as their new digital content, including a video by yours truly.


For this video, I came up with my own idea/script/tips. Nothing was spoon-fed to me. This is because the people at Rethink are cool and smart and believe in allowing young women with breast cancer to share their unique voices. My involvement with Rethink will now be turning into my day job, as I begin a new contract position with them entailing the coordination of various online initiatives. My advocacy and concern for issues affecting young adults with cancer has become a huge part of my life, and I’m excited to work somewhere that will foster that passion.

So, there you have it. Lots going on. Lots of changes. Lots of new beginnings. Lots of good stuff. Lots of hoping and crossing fingers for more good stuff. Let the good times roll.

My fear of mice… and blogs

A mouse just ran across my kitchen floor while I was putting groceries away. I screamed “OHMYGAWWWWD NOOOOO!!!!” and ran down the hall shrieking and hyperventilating. There is almost nothing that gives me the heebie-jeebies more than mice. In fact, I’ve even had recurring dreams where I am being attacked by vicious mice. True story.

As I hid in my living room, with the door closed, I tried my usual mantra of calming myself down: You’ve had cancer. This isn’t so bad. It’s not cancer. It’s just a mouse. Nothing can scare you anymore.

As the kids these days say – EPIC FAIL.

As much as I try to employ this type of logic all the time now, it rarely ever works. As I have said before, I am still fundamentally the same person. Sure, I had cancer. But does this now mean I am not completely, irrationally petrified of a tiny little mouse? Have I been cured of all my pre-cancer phobias? Hellz no.

I just got a notification from WordPress congratulating me on blogging for one year. Happy anniversary, blog! What a pal you’ve been.

After I was diagnosed, I had thought of starting a blog where I could document what I was going through. But I put it off for a couple months. Not because I was afraid of exposing myself or revealing I had cancer. Not because I had nothing to write about. But because I was worried writing a blog would kill me.

I had been searching online for blogs written by young people with cancer, to find something I could relate to. But the more I searched and the more I read, the more it started to feel like everyone who wrote a blog about having cancer ended up dying. I can’t tell you how many blogs I found, particularly of young women with breast cancer, whose most recent entry was either about their cancer metasticizing, or an entry written by a loved one informing the readers that the writer of the blog had passed away. It seemed like for every one blog I could find where the person was alive and well, there were ten more where the opposite was true.

So I convinced myself that if I were to start a blog, I would be writing my own death sentence. That my blog would join the many other young adult cancer blogs, with a sudden, abrupt ending, letting down all those who stumbled upon it, looking for inspiration and hope, as I had with so many others. I felt like writing a blog, and having people read it, would somehow curse me, and set my fate in stone.

I’m not sure what changed, but eventually I realized this was a crazy way of thinking, and blogs do not have the power to kill you. At least I really, really hope they don’t.

Writing this blog has truly been a gift to me, connecting me with so many awesome and lovely people all over the world. It has given me a healthy dose of confidence, allowing me to feel both brave and vulnerable, and uninhibited in my self-expression. It has made me feel less alone and isolated during a very lonely time, being the dependable friend I so badly needed. It has forced me to confront some very deep and dark feelings. It has also turned me into some sort of writing machine, where I feel as though I can’t stop, and I won’t stop (to quote the very inspirational Miley Cyrus).

So, happy birthday dear blog, and thanks for all you have done. I will continue to update you and visit you as often as I can, as long as I have something to say. And you can return the favour by not killing me. And if it turns out you do possess some sort of mystical power to decide who lives and who dies, please choose the mouse. Thank you.

Sorry buddy, it's either me or you
Sorry buddy… it’s either me or you.