Heighten Your Awareness. Take Charge of Your Life

couchI just launched a one-month workshop geared towards women in their 20’s/30’s who want to strengthen their life skills so they can learn to make choices that empower their life. My inspiration for this workshop has boiled inside me for the past couple of months. Back in May, I launched a Tap In female journal group that proved to be inspiring, healing and motivating for participants. Women loved the forum where they could connect to other like-minded women who shared similar experiences and feelings in life. Watching and personally experiencing this dynamic energized me to create my new workshop. I am taking the Tap In journal experience to a whole new level where, instead of women just using their journals as a way to explore what is going on in their world, I will be introducing a new dimension to heighten our awareness. We will take our thoughts and feelings and turn them into empowering action. It might feel a bit scary, as change and growth tends to be, however, action is necessary if we want to make every moment conscious and empowering. I love to remind my clients that they are the captain of their ship. No one else can steer, but YOU.

Come play with me and other like-minded women who want to consciously own their life with passion, purpose and direction. Come Heighten Your Awareness and Take Charge of Your Life. Learn how to manage and balance stress, expectations, judgments, dreams, relationships, and your daily levels of energy.

Discover more of what you will learn @ Workshops. #TakeCharge #EnergyShift

Event Information
Dates: 9/24, 10/1, 10/7 & 10/14
Time: 6:30 – 8:00 P.M.
Register: http://wadebrill.com/workshops/

About me….
I am driven to turn my experiences – divorced parents, three episods of cancer in my family (my mother, sister and me), losing my mother to cancer while I was still in treatment, moving to a different country, and starting my own businesses – into nuggets of wisdom.

Wade Brill Life Coaching
wadebrill.com
https://www.facebook.com/wadebrillcoaching
https://twitter.com/wadebrill

Move Ahead, Don’t Fall Behind

Walking pictureIt is hard to believe that the dog days of summer are almost behind us. Each year it feels as though the summer goes by a little quicker. Seattleites have learned to make the most of the sunshine as we all know that it is fleeting. From a fitness standpoint all of us seem to take our fitness routines outdoors during the summer. There are so many options in Seattle to get a good workout, while enjoying the sun: paddle boarding, kayaking, running, etc. The possibilities seem a little more endless when there is sunshine. However, with the fall approaching many people are rethinking their fitness regimens and renewing those gym memberships. The shorter days often affect our energy levels, and it is easy during the fall and winter months to literally fall behind on fitness. At Team Survivor Northwest we offer a variety of fitness activities that allow our members to take their fitness routines indoor or outdoor. With summer ending and fall approaching, we want to encourage our members to keep moving and to not fall behind. Team Survivor Northwest is a non-profit that offers fitness classes at no cost to all female cancer survivors. Unlike a gym membership there are no hidden fees or commitments. To become a member you simply follow these three easy steps:

1.) Fill out a Team Survivor membership form, which are available on our website: http://www.teamsurvivornw.org. If for any reason you can’t download the membership form you can email om@teamsurvivornw.org and a membership form can be sent to you via mail or email.

2.) Send the medical release portion of the application to your oncologist or PCP if you have been out of treatment for multiple years. They will need to sign this form to confirm that you can safely participate in the activities at Team Survivor Northwest.

3.) Fax or mail in the membership form and medical release form. You can fax them to 206.732.0263. You can mail the form to:

Team Survivor Northwest
200 NE Pacific Street, Suite #101
Seattle, WA 98105

Once the office receives both forms they will mail you a Team Survivor membership card. The card allows you to attend any of our programs at no cost!

Team Survivor strives to meet the needs and fitness levels of all of our members through a variety of programs. Below is a list of our fall and winter programs that allow you to keep moving and keep reaching your fitness goals!

Active Women/Healthy Women

Women of all fitness levels are encouraged to join this certified instructor led class. From cancer patients to survivors, there is an exercise activity appropriate for you. Our instructors will help you assess your health and fitness levels to help you reap the benefits of exercise. The focus is on building strength but classes also include some cardio and stretching. Enjoy the camaraderie of other women in this safe and supportive environment. These classes are drop-in year-round. No sign up is required. Just show up!TSNW Healthy for the Holidays picv2

Current Active Women/Healthy Women class locations and schedules:

Burien
Thursdays, 3pm to 4pm
Instructor: Ann Ford
Highline Cancer Center, Meditation Room: 16233 Sylvester Rd SW #110, Burien, WA 98166

Issaquah
Mondays, 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm – Begins Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Instructor: Annelise DiGiacomo
Swedish/Issaquah, Medical Office Building, Room “Leadership,” Second Floor Conference Center: 751 N.E. Blakely Dr., Issaquah, WA 98029

Seattle/Queen Anne
Wednesdays, 5:30pm to 6:30pm
Instructor: Garriel Keeble
Queen Anne Community Center: 1901 1st Ave. W, Seattle, WA 98119

Bellevue
Thursdays, 6:30pm to 8pm
Instructor: Cathy McNair
Sportzal Fitness Studio: 12727 Northup Way, Suite 25
Bellevue, WA 98005 (Cascade Place II Business Park)

Port Hadlock
Mondays, 4:20 to 5:20 pm
Instructor: Joanna Scheibl
Discovery Physical Therapy: 27 Cowell St., Port Hadlock, WA 98339

Running and Walking

Running pictureTSNW Run/Walk Training
Our run/walk program is exactly that, an opportunity to run or walk with other cancer survivors under the guide of a trained and licensed instructor. The courses are anywhere between 3-9miles, and take place every weekend alternating between Saturday and Sunday mornings at a variety of Seattle locations. The goal of this program is to help you reach your individual fitness goal in a supportive environment. Whether you are training for a marathon, half marathon, 10k, or just want to get and stay in shape this program is for you. Drop-ins are welcome.

Urban Hiking:
Fridays at 9:00am.
If you are new or returning to hiking, this program will get you started and on your way to better health. There is nothing like being part of a group to help motivate you! Explore the parks and neighborhoods of the greater Seattle area, the East side and Mercer Island. We meet at various locations, hike for 3-4 miles and try to get our heart rates up. Plan on up to 2 hours.

Nordic Walking:
Nordic walking is a great fitness workout for people who are looking for a fun physical activity and maximum health benefits combined with convenience. It is not just for those who like to walk, run, or hike. It is for anyone who enjoys activities such as cross-country skiing, swimming, rowing and paddling that engage the entire body in highly rhythmic, flowing, powerful movement. It is performed with specially designed Nordic walking poles (not ski poles or hiking/trekking poles). Compared to walking, Nordic walking can be significantly more effective at strengthening the cardiovascular system and building total-body strength. Because Nordic walking engages the total body in movement against resistance, the calories burned by Nordic walking can be much greater than the calories burned by walking.Nordic Walking picture

Nordic walking is a year-round TSNW program built around instructional clinics and regular group Nordic walks. Persons interested in Nordic walking can take a clinic (equipment provided) to learn the basics. And, then they can participate in group Nordic walks to build upon their basic skills and enjoy Nordic walking with other TSNW Nordic walkers. These group walks alternate between the Westside and Eastside. Currently there are Nordic walks on Thursday morning from 10:30 am to 12 noon.

Survivor Striders
Want to walk with others, prepare for a local road race, or have your sights on a triathlon? Survivor Striders will help you reach your goal.
Survivor Strider Locations

Chimacum Walk
Mondays, 6 p.m.
H.J. Carroll Park

Port Townsend Walk
Wednesdays, 6pm
in front of Co-op

For more information on any of the above listed programs please contact our program manager at pm@teamsurvivornw.org

With all of these wonderful year round programs offered at no cost to members, there is no reason to let the impending fall and winter months be your excuse for falling off your fitness track. TSNW doesn’t just offer amazing programs but they offer a sense of comradery that is formed amongst our members. We have a wonderful group of members who join to stay healthy and reach their fitness goals, but end up making lifelong friendships in the process. Become a member of Team Survivor Northwest and don’t let the changing of seasons change your passion for fitness and a healthy lifestyle!

Blog written by Adrienne Coleman, Outreach Coordinator for Team Survivor Northwest
For more information on Team Survivor Northwest or any of our programs visit our website http://www.teamsurvivornw.org or email our program manager at pm@teamsurvivornw.org.

Share Your Story of ‘Chemobrain’

76353612_22Being forgetful, easily distracted, or disorganized are among the most common symptoms reported by cancer survivors. Research is making it clear that one of the best ways to improve “chemobrain” is regular exercise.

If fuzzy thinking are part of your cancer recovery journey—now or in the past, we’d like to hear from you. Do you have trouble with your memory, concentrating, or planning ahead? What helps you cope?

Please share your experiences and tips for an upcoming article on ‘chemobrain’ in Thriving, our newsletter for cancer survivors.

Send email to contactus@seattlecca.org.

Here is a past blog posting on Chemobrain if you are interested in reading and learning more about the University of Washington Memory Health Research Program.

Call for Research Study Participants: Prioritizing Patient-Reported Outcomes in Quality Improvement in Breast Cancer Surgical Care

????????????????Dr. Sara Javid, a breast surgeon and researcher at the University of Washington, is currently conducting a research study to gather input from patients as to what they think are the most important physical, emotional, and psychological issues that they face leading up to and following breast cancer surgery. Women who have undergone mastectomy, either with or without breast reconstruction, within the past 2 years are invited to contact Study Coordinator Leon Chan at (206) 685-8509 or chancp88@uw.edu to learn more about taking part in this research.

Participation in this study involves attendance at a 90-minute in-person focus group discussion and completion of 2 surveys, one before the focus group and one after the focus group. Input from patient focus groups will be combined with feedback received from care providers to build a new breast cancer survey tool that can gauge how well patient-prioritized areas are being addressed before and after mastectomy. Results from this tool will drive efforts to improve the quality of care given to future patients undergoing breast cancer surgery.

If you are interested in learning more about this study, please contact Study Coordinator Leon Chan at (206) 685-8509 or chancp88@uw.edu.

Cancer For College Event with Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell
Event Information:
Friday, September 19, 7:30 p.m.
Meany Hall for the Performing Arts
University of Washington
4140 George Washington Ln NE
Seattle, WA 98105
Buy Tickets

FAQ
What is this show all about?
It’s a sit down interactive interview featuring comedy icon Will Ferrell and his friend, two-time cancer survivor /double amputee Craig Pollard conducted by local King 5 newsman Dennis Bounds. It will feature clips and behind the scenes stories from throughout Will’s career while shedding a spotlight on Craig’s inspirational story. There will also be an interactive portion where fans will be able to ask questions. You will laugh and you will cry, but you will mostly laugh!

How much are seats?
Tickets range from $75 up to a $500 VIP ticket which includes a signed gift from Will Ferrell (It’s a cowbell) and access to the private pre-show beer garden for complimentary food and drinks courtesy of Eureka!.

Can I pick my seat?
Yes, click on the ticket link and select your seat. There is a limit of 6 tickets per purchase.

What time does the show start?
Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the show will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Can I Meet, Take a Picture or Get an Item signed by Will Ferrell?
Unfortunately, there will not be a time for the general audience to meet Will. With that in mind, we will have a variety of movies and cool items that have been autographed by Will that will be for sale in the lobby the night of the show. All the proceeds from the sales of those items will benefit the charity Cancer for College.

Can I ask Will Ferrell a Question?
Yes, there is a chance you could ask Will a question. During the show, there will be microphones in the audience and Will is going to be taking questions. If you’ve ever wondered if he likes a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich or if he’s ever worn an alpaca sweater, now is your time to shine. Look out for the microphones during the show.

Why is Will Ferrell coming to Seattle?
Will is a huge supporter of Cancer for College, a charity that provides college scholarships to cancer survivors. This event benefits cancer survivors either from or attending school in the Pacific Northwest.

Contact for more information:Cancer for college logo
Abby Houck
Manager, Pacific Northwest
abby@cancerforcollege.org
425-445-4772

Create the Reality You Want

faceshot with sunlightWritten by Wade Brill
Wade Brill Coaching
wadebrill.com
https://www.facebook.com/wadebrillcoaching
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Chemotherapy and radiation pump enough poisonous chemicals through your veins. You don’t need anything else in your life that drains your system.

When diagnosed with cancer, it is a scary time where a lot of sh*t is going on inside your body that you cannot see or control. However, what you do have control of are your thoughts. As Albert Einstein said: “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality.” Our thoughts, our surroundings, our food and the people around us are all energy. If we want our reality to be a certain way, then we must learn to consciously create our thoughts, consume food and surround ourselves with people and environments that support the reality we want.

It took me a couple of years to learn and fully digest this lesson. During my six months of chemotherapy, it felt impossible to feel ‘happy’ or believe I was in charge of my reality. I had just lost my mother to leukemia, and I felt lifeless inside. Life was unjust and unfair. What I ended up learning is that I couldn’t feel sorry for myself. I couldn’t let my sad or negative thoughts spiral me into depression. Instead, I needed to discover ways I could heal myself and foster my energy from the inside out in order to create a brighter reality I deserved and wanted.

I heightened my level of awareness and tried to view my world with a brighter lens. I paid attention to what types of food I was eating—making sure I was consuming organic protein and vegetables that would support my immune system. I recognized what type of people or friends I wanted to spend time with. I cut out friends that were toxic or draining because during this fragile period in my life, I didn’t have energy to waste. I also discovered what activities made me feel good. Whether it was taking a spin class, going to the movies or traveling when I could, I scheduled events that awoke my soul. Most importantly, I paid attention to what thoughts or words I generated. I made sure to engage and thank my bus drivers, to smile at strangers and to let my heart center shine. When I filled my mind and body with positive thoughts, I was able to share that energy with the world around me. This fostered a more supportive and healing environment, which is what my mind and body needed. #ownhappy photo

To create positive energy in your life, spend some time answering the questions below. Notice what arises in you—what shifts occur in your mind and body. Learn to take back control of your life and let the positive vibes ripple out and form a blanket of abundance. Create the world you want and glow from the inside out.

Ask yourself: “What do I want to feel?” Open yourself to the present moment; journal and explore your true, desired feelings. Get crystal clear on what those feelings look, smell and sound like. Make those desired emotions come alive. When you start to pay attention to the desired feeling instead of the circumstance, you are able to live life from your heart center and less from your head. Focus in and ask: What’s good in my life? What makes me smile? How do I want to feel when I wake up in the morning? What friends or family members support my spirit? What food helps fuel me?

Once you get crystal clear on those desired sensations, consciously live each moment with those intentions guiding you. Take back control of your life and focus on positive emotions that will help to contribute to the positive energy that will flow into your world and into your body. Remember, “everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality.”

Walking Your Way To Mount Adams

800px-Mount_Adams_US99One of the best parts of living in Seattle is the array of outdoor activities. There is incredible walking and hiking trails, Lake Washington for boating, kayaking, etc., and within driving distance great skiing and snowboarding. Now that the summer is upon us, here at Team Survivor Northwest, our outdoor programs are in full swing. At TSNW we offer fitness classes at no cost to all female cancer survivors. Our hiking groups are two of our more popular spring and summer programs. Both of these programs offer the opportunity to get out and enjoy the short lived sunshine of summertime in Seattle and afford the chance to get back out there and get moving!

Our urban hiking group is a great group for women that are looking to jumpstart their fitness routine or for women who are looking to build up to a more rigorous fitness program. Our urban hiking group is a wonderful group of survivors who meet weekly in various areas of Seattle to simply walk. A great element of this group is that everyone goes at their own pace. There are always those in a group that are going to be the leaders of the pack, and those who are comfortable just going at their own pace. For many women who are still in treatment or just coming out of treatment, being the leader of the pack is simply not an option. This walking group is compiled of a variety of women at all fitness levels, which takes the intimidation factor out of joining. adams

For women coming out of treatment, joining a gym or other organized fitness groups can be too daunting. In my conversations with survivors many have described joining a gym after treatment as too “impersonal” or just plain “scary.” On top of being exhausted, cancer also can also take a toll on a women’s self-image. The beauty of TSNW is that our programs are not only compiled of survivors but they are designed for survivors. They are also made up of all women, which is comforting for those survivors who may be struggling with their image after treatment. The urban hiking group is not just a fitness group, it is a group of women with a shared history and determination to just keep moving!

To the more avid fitness person, walking may not seem like enough. However, there are so many studies out there that solidify the long lasting effects of just walking 30 minutes a day. Taken from CNN.com, below are just a few reasons why we all should get out there and get walking!

1. It’s great for the heart
In a recent study conducted at Duke University Medical Center, researchers found that walking briskly for 30 minutes every day lowers your odds of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors linked to higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Roughly 24 million women in the United States have metabolic syndrome. Don’t have time for a daily half-hour walk? Try multitasking: A British study found that active commuting (incorporating walking and cycling into your sedentary commute) is associated with an 11 percent reduction in heart-disease risk, especially among women.

2. It cuts breast-cancer risks
Walking, even for a few hours a week, significantly reduces breast-cancer risk, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The thinking is that walking helps reduce levels of body fat, a source of estrogen. The research looked at 74,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79. Those at a normal weight lowered their risk by 30 percent; those who were overweight, by 10 to 20 percent. Younger women may also gain similar benefits.

3. It helps you sleep
A brisk walk in the afternoon will help you get a better night’s sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Experts say that walking may boost levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, which relaxes you. Or, the rise in body temperature brought on by walking may signal the brain to lower your temperature later, which promotes sleep. (Avoid a walk two hours before bed –that’s too late to cool down.)

4. It makes you happy
Walking can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress. Just one 30-minute walk may make you feel better when you’re down, University of Texas researchers found. Head out for 90 minutes five times a week and you’ll get the biggest boost, according to a new study from Temple University. One possible explanation: Walking helps the body produce endorphins, the mood-boosting chemicals linked to “runner’s high.”

5. It protects your bones
Just 30 minutes of walking three times a week does wonders to prevent and treat thinning bones. This kind of exercise, which uses 95 percent of your muscles, actually pushes your bones to get stronger so they can handle the load. “Walking,” Look says, “is not just for cardio.”

These five reasons alone show the many health benefits that can be achieved by simply putting one foot in front of the other. Our urban hiking group is for our beginners, but those wanting more of a challenge we have our midweek or trail hiking group. Midweek Hikes run every Wednesday from April through September with hikes in the Issaquah Alps, I-90 corridor and Snoqualmie Pass area, North Cascades and Mt. Rainier National Park. Midweek hikes are trail hikes in the mountains, which mean you will see some beautiful scenery. It also means that they are more challenging than walking in the city. These hikes are progressive; we start with easier hikes and work up to longer distances and more elevation gain as we get further into the season. If you are thinking of hiking with us, it’s best to start in spring so that you can work up to the more challenging hikes that happen later on in the year.

three-women-walkingA group of TSNW members have a very challenging and exciting hike ahead of them….Mount Adams. Every two years a group of Team Survivor Northwest members climb Mount Adams to raise awareness and funds for the organization. To accomplish this amazing goal, TSNW provides a training program that includes practice hikes, cross-training, and guidance on what equipment that each climber will need. This year the TSNW group will conquer this goal the weekend of July 28th through July 31st. If this seems like an impossible task, just remember that all of our TSNW members started out walking and worked their way up to this incredible goal! This amazing group of ladies is an inspiration and proves that anything is possible when we set our mind to it. Through becoming a member of Team Survivor Northwest you too can start walking your way to Mount Adams one step at a time!

Blog written by Adrienne Coleman, Outreach Coordinator for Team Survivor Northwest

Not ready to conquer Mount Adams with your own two feet this year? Participate in another way through donating to our cause. It is the goal of each climber to raise at least $2000 for Team Survivor Northwest. The funds raised go to provide for guide service and for other programs that Team Survivor Northwest offers without charge to its members. TSNW is always trying to reach more survivors in the community and these donations help us to continue to do so at no cost to our members. To donate please visit http://www.teamsurvivornw.org

Want more information on our urban hiking group, our trail hiking group, or any of our other programs? Visit our website http://www.teamsurvivornw.org or email our program manager at pm@teamsurvivornw.org.

2014 Dragon Boat Festival

close racingWith the summer season comes a lot of great outdoor events around the Seattle area. From a fitness standpoint the summer season is a great time to get outdoors and soak in the sun while meeting your fitness goals. Here at Team Survivor Northwest we have a number of fantastic summer programs to get you outside and get you moving! One of our most popular programs is our Dragon Boat program. The capstone event for our dragon boaters is the dragon boat festival, which will be held on July 19th from 9:00am-5:00pm at South Lake Union Park in Seattle, WA. This is a great community event that promotes diversity, and pays tribute to an event whose origin stems from ancient China. Dragon boat racing’s roots are based in ceremonial tradition. The dragons, according to Chinese culture, are the rulers of the rivers, lakes and seas, dominating the clouds, mists and rains from heaven (Seattle Dragon boat website). The rich cultural history behind this event is felt by spectators as the spectacularly decorated dragon boats zoom through the water, with the drum pounding, making everyone’s adrenaline run high. It is an incredibly exciting and exhilarating event to be a part of as a participant and a spectator.

Dragon boating is one of Team Survivor’s most popular programs, and this program has a group of incredibly passionate paddlers! Many of our members have been avid dragon boaters for many years and are incredibly passionate about the sport. Jean Vye, a member and board member of Team Survivor Northwest as well as an avid dragon boater was kind enough to share her experience of the dragon boat festival:

This July 19th, on the south shore of Lake Union, teams from the Northwest and Canada will race for the finish line in the Seattle Dragon Boat Festival, continuing a Chinese tradition started over 2,000 year ago. The beat of the drum pounds out a rhythm as twenty paddles in each boat hit the water in unison, propelling a long boat with a carved dragon head and tail as spectators line the shore rooting for their favorite team.

Of particular interest to many of us are the boats full of cancer survivors who are gaining and maintaining strength through this ancient sport and challenging themselves to become strong and healthy. Team Survivor Northwest and The Club SAKE Dragon Boat Club sponsor the local Survivor SAKE team of 50 women cancer survivors and similar teams come from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia to compete. Teammates gather before the race to do warm up exercises and then grab a paddle and life jacket and head down to the boats for the fast and exhilarating dash with hundreds of spectators of all ages cheering them on. To prepare for the races, Survivor SAKE Dragon Boat Team practices twice a week from March to September. During practices, the Coach helps each participant to develop proper paddling techniques and to modify or adapt the activity to what they are able to comfortably achieve. Over time, the women gain in stamina and strength, not only in their upper body but also in their core and legs. In addition to these benefits, they laugh, have fun and develop a connection with fellow paddlers.

Another great part about the Dragon Boat Festival is that the proceeds go to Team Survivor Northwest. At Team Survivor Northwest we offer all free fitness classes to all female cancer survivors. We offer a variety of programs at no cost to our members. In order to keep our doors open and our programs running, we rely on donations, as well as proceeds from events such as the Dragon Boat Festival to be able offer all of these amazing programs at no cost to our members. The support from the community also allows us to reach more and more survivors in the Seattle area and beyond, which is one of the main goals of Team Survivor Northwest So, this July come out to this exhilarating, family fun event and support the dragon boaters!

Blog written by Adrienne Coleman, Outreach Coordinator for Team Survivor Northwest.

Share Your Feedback: Help Us Improve Our Survivor Newsletter

76353612_22Survive and Thrive is a quarterly newsletter for cancer survivors and people interested in the Survivorship Program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. The newsletter features stories about the latest research, profiles about former patients and staff, and a frequently asked questions column.

Do you like stories about fellow survivors? Want more tips on screenings and healthy habits to help prevent cancer? Do you need information on coping with after effects of cancer treatment?

Please tell us what you want to read by taking our 3 question online survey. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

Decisions

Written by Christine Loria
Paul and Christine’s Journey
3 Year Anniversary Reflection

July 22, 2010 is a date that I’ll always remember. It was exactly 3 months before my wedding and the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 32, newly engaged, enjoying my job, living in New York City and preparing for my future. A few days prior I had just taken the GMAT because I was in the middle of applying for the Executive MBA program at Columbia and NYU. But after the diagnosis, everything I was planning for, changed.

I still remember getting dressed that morning. I happened to pick out a pink shirt, ironically appropriate, I thought to myself, if I were to get the news I dreaded. Trying to think positive, I went about my day like nothing was wrong. But when I didn’t get a call from my doctor that morning, I worried it was a bad sign. The call came around 3pm and the words I had hoped to never hear came out of my doctor’s mouth. I was sad. I was angry. I was shocked. And I was scared.

My doctor proceeded to explain what I needed to do now that I was diagnosed. I jotted some notes down as the tears started to stream down my face. I didn’t even understand what she was saying. I felt this lump back in 2009 and asked her about it, but she didn’t think much of it then. But before my annual visit in April 2010, I felt the lump again and made a point to ask her about it. Her response was “you’re just lumpy.” She said that if I was still worried about it, to come back in a few months. So, three months later, I went back for a visit. I had to remind her that she told me to return if I was still worried about the lump in my breast. After feeling around again, she agreed to send me for an ultrasound. I understand that doctors are not perfect but after this experience, I believe that you really are your best advocate. I’m glad that I was persistent and scheduled another appointment. I knew my body best and I knew that the lump I felt, did not feel right. I could have been wrong too but that would have been fine – better safe than sorry!

There were so many things that needed to be done after the diagnosis – more tests, discussions about my options and ultimately decisions about how to move forward. Since my wedding was in three months, there was a lot to think about. My surgical oncologist agreed to attempt a lumpectomy to preserve my right breast but told me that if it didn’t work, I would most likely need to get a mastectomy. I understood the risks but wanted to give it a try. The lumpectomy didn’t get all the cancer and I knew I would eventually have to get the mastectomy. After the lumpectomy, my medical oncologist recommended chemotherapy but I didn’t want to be bald at my wedding. My fiancé (now husband), Paul was very sweet and said he would shave all his hair off too in solidarity. But that’s not how I envisioned my wedding day – the both of us with shaved heads…it’s just not what I wanted.

We also had to discuss our fertility options. I had read that chemotherapy could affect my reproductive system so I decided to see a fertility specialist to find out my options. Not knowing how my fertility would be affected and not knowing how we would feel about having children, we opted to freeze embryos so that we would have options when the time came to discuss having children. This was a lot to handle two weeks from diagnosis, especially when you consider the amount of hormones I was injecting myself with to prepare for the extraction of my eggs; we were lucky enough to get 13 which resulted in 9 embryos.

The decision about chemotherapy came next. We decided to delay it until after the wedding (which was about 6 weeks later than my doctor wanted) because I really wanted to have my hair for my wedding! I’m glad that’s the choice I made but knowing that the chemo was waiting for me when we returned from our honeymoon was bittersweet. The wedding was such a joyous event but I would often feel the cancer cloud looming over me. The wedding and honeymoon were amazing and I knew, and know, how lucky I was to have found a man like Paul to stand by my side through this whole experience. He was and continues to be my rock.

Paul encouraged me to shave all my hair off before starting chemo so that I didn’t have to experience the loss of my hair in larger chunks, especially since my hair was really long! So, a day after returning from our honeymoon, Paul shaved it off.

hair pic 1
hari pic 2
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Chemotherapy was tough but I continued to work while getting treatment, something I found to be very helpful. It gave me a reason to get up everyday instead of moping around. I eventually lost even the little bit of hair I had but it was less dramatic than I think it would have been. I won’t lie – I still cried.

The worst part of chemo was getting hives – my body was reacting badly to one of the drugs so we had to change my regiment, which meant adding a couple more sessions. By mid-February 2011, I finished chemo and started to prepare for my bilateral mastectomy scheduled for March 2011. The surgery and recovery were extremely tough but the human body does an amazing job of healing. I started taking Tamoxifen and Lupron in April, a couple weeks after my surgery. Despite reading about the side effects of both drugs, I wasn’t prepared for the depression that started. I thought that after everything I had already been through, the fact that I was alive and surviving, I wouldn’t and shouldn’t be depressed. I was grateful to be alive, to be surrounded by the love and support of my husband, family, friends, and colleagues. I didn’t think I had the right to be sad because there are so many more people that were going through the same thing, if not worse than me, and getting through it. I felt unappreciative. But I returned to work in August 2011 and tried to get back into the swing of things. But, for the next 6 months I battled depression. I thought it was just my reaction to everything that had happened in the last year but it turned out, it was the Lupron. My doctor recommended I see a social worker, and then the social worker recommended a support group. But those options just weren’t right for me and I continued to struggle with my emotions. By November 2011, my doctor recommended I stop getting my Lupron shots. Within a few months, I started to feel better.

travelI feel lucky every day that the cancer I had was treatable and that I had health insurance. I often think back to the day of diagnosis and remember the moments leading up to it. I tried for a long time to try and “get back” that feeling (I sometimes still think about this). But I realized that instead of trying to hold onto how I felt before, I should embrace life and create new moments. This experience changed my perspective on life and it changed Paul’s. So in 2012, when the opportunity presented itself, Paul and I left New York City to pursue a life long dream of traveling the world. The first 2 years of marriage flew by while we were bogged down with everything cancer. I wanted to take some time to reconnect with Paul and in a sense, get reacquainted. We were lucky to have had the opportunity to because I think it helped strengthen our marriage. We both changed through this experience and we needed to get to know each other again. After traveling to 27 countries and spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 13 months, I’d say we’re reacquainted.