Sunday, July 29, 2007

Simple Celebrating

Birthdays used to be the only day of the year I would celebrate my life. I really never thought about feeling grateful, celebrating life or anything else for that matter the rest of the year. This always created a huge sense of pressure for things to be perfect. I had to find the “perfect” way to celebrate. In the end the pressure for perfection always outweighed the actual moment. The celebration was tainted somehow.

Yesterday was my 38th birthday. I look at my birthday so differently now. I was dx’d with cancer at 31 and feared I would never even see this age. So while other girls getting up into their late 30’s along with me are whining about new wrinkles and grey hair, about their ticking biological clocks I am feeling just grateful to be “older”. It no longer feels like the curse it once had felt like. Thats not to say I am not surprised to be this close to knocking on 40’s door, I can’t believe I am this close! But age has now become a milestone I long to achieve. It reminds me of my survival, it reminds me I am still here.

My husband and I spent a nice quiet day together, went out to dinner and had cake for dessert of course! We came home and then watched a movie. At the end of the nite we shared a toast… good health, long life, happiness, and love. We try to do that more, not just on the special days to be celebrated but to celebrate all days. There was still the pressure from others asking “What are you doing for your birthday?” or “Doing anything exciting on your birthday?” which made me feel like I was somehow not living up to the challenge. The challenge I would be creating for myself based on others perceptions. Not realizing that the celebration could be simple. That simple could be great! If you are doing something you love, no matter how big or small it can still be a celebration.

These days I feel like celebrating so much. I no longer want to wait for the birthday, anniversary, or holiday to roll around to express my happiness for those around me. I want to celebrate life every single day in all that I do. I want to soak up the “moments”. Moments alone or moments spent with those I love.

You know that feeling you have on your birthday? The excitement for the celebration, the attention from those around you making you feel like the day is all about you? I want to feel like that everyday. I think I deserve it….

I think we all do……

Friday, July 20, 2007

Finally Getting "It"

Before cancer I really didnt think about moments. I just lived my life or what I thought was “living”. I moved along at a fast pace not taking much notice of what was going on around me. I never thought about savoring the moments I experienced. It almost felt numb. I think the numbness began when my husband died.

Over the years since his untimely death I think of him often. I think about all the things he missed and the things I miss about him. I think about how sad it is that he only lived to see the age of 26. But then I think about how much living he crammed into that short time. I longed to be like him. I wondered how he could so easily live in the moment. He taught me many things in a short time. And then cancer would teach me even more.

The rock music was vibrating the floor as well as my body last nite at the Def Leppard concert. I held onto Lou as we danced and screamed out the words to “Rock of Ages”. With every vibration I felt from the music and the energy of those around me I savored all of it. I thought about how lucky I felt to be there, how lucky I was to hear the sounds and see the sights, and feel the power in the arena. I thought about Paul as a tear fell from my eyes. I wondered what he would think, knowing how much he loved Def Leppard but never had a chance to see them live in concert. Something else I never got to share with him, something he never got to experience in his life. It felt like part of me was living it stronger because of him. I learned from his death not to take things for granted. I learned even more facing my own death.

I had a blast at the concert and can say I truly enjoyed every moment. It was like nothing else was cluttering my mind. The only thing playing in my head was the music and the only thing I felt in my heart was such gratitude and love. Love for Lou and gratitude for being alive. The worrisome banter was gone for those few hours and was replaced by the sights and sounds of the future. The hope became palpable as the fear began to fade.

For that moment anyway……

Friday, July 13, 2007

A New Kind of Happy Hour...

Last nite my husband and I went to the Taj Lounge in NYC for the “Stupid Cancer Happy Hour”. If you aren’t familiar with the term “stupid cancer” then you probably haven’t met Matthew Zachary. Matthew is the founder of I’m Too Young For This! an organization focused on the needs of young people with cancer. Matthew knows all too well about stupid cancer….you see he is a young brain cancer survivor. His organization hosted the event, the first of its kind!

It was my first time meeting Matthew and I must say that I am in awe of his dedication and enthusiasm. It was also my first time being in a room full of young cancer survivors. It was truly a unique experience for me. For the first time in the 6 years since my diagnosis I felt a sense of belonging that had been missing for so long. I met some great people and we all had something in common…….”stupid cancer”. It is the club none of us wanted to join and yet the camaraderie is something very unique and unexplainable. We shared stories, shared smiles, laughter, and even some hugs. My husband who is not a cancer survivor but has unfortunately been affected by cancer within the family also felt his own sense of belonging. He told me that he has never been to a bar for happy hour where the people there were genuinely “happy”! He said it was hard to put his finger on exactly what “it” was but he could feel it in those around him and see it on their faces, like nothing he had ever experienced before.

Over the years since my own cancer diagnosis I have not really been involved in any fundraising, running (maybe cause I hate it), or walking for the cure. I have felt guilt about it, have wondered why I just wasn’t motivated to get involved. Then when I found out about Matthew’s organization I was suddenly drawn to it. I feel very strongly about it and will continue to spread the word. What I really love and find unique in it is that the focus is on how to help young people “live” after cancer. There are many organizations out there that focus on money for research to find a cure not that research isn’t important, it absolutely is, but what about all the people living with cancer? There are many more young people surviving that need the support of others and help to figure out how to get back to living.

Matthew Zachary has certainly begun a revolution. He has created a positive place for young people to come together and laugh in the face of cancer. Now is the time to hop on the Matthew train. I am not sure where it stops next but what I do know for sure is that it will be a fun ride!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

For The Love of Chocolate

Ok I’ll admit it…..I am a chocoholic! Every since I was a kid. Anything with chocolate from icecream, to candy, to cookies, and cake. That was my downfall. Grandma always had the candy stash at her apartment in the secret cabinet. The cabinet my brother and I knew to run to as soon as we arrived for a visit. It was a virtual candylovers playground. She knew all the things we loved. From the Hubba Bubba gum (which was impossible to chew with braces btw) to the colorful, sweet, and creamy m&m’s. I don’t know about you but back when there were only 2 kinds…plain and peanut I was a plain lover. I would put some in a small dixie cup (like I needed a way to eat them any faster), so that I could pour them into my mouth. Don’t forget the hershey’s kisses in the oh so pretty silvery wrapping. Back in the day I used to slab some peanut butter on them when I couldnt get my hands on my other favorite, Reeses peanut butter cups….a match made in heaven!

Before I got off on that flavorful trip down memory lane the point I was going to make is related to health. I am sure everyone has heard about the health benefits of dark chocolate or “cacao” which is the actual cocoa bean used to make chocolate. Dark chocolate has antioxidents as well as heart healthy benefits. In my quest to become healthier since having cancer I have changed my diet in many ways but the hardest has been giving up some of the things I love. I think that we still need to have those foods we crave as long as it is in moderation to be successful at our diet and healthful eating habits. So I was happy as a clam to find out that dark chocolate was good for me!

Cacao is now pretty easy to find as an incredient in most dark chocolates out there. The labels will read “60% cacao”, “70% cacao” and that is what you want to look for. Cacao is the unprocessed chocolate straight from the bean. It is the main ingredient used to make all chocolate. I have also used raw cacao in recipes as that is the most healthy, unprocessed, pure stuff as far as chocolate goes although it is quite bitter to eat on its own. You can purchase it in a powder form which makes it pretty easy to use. I use it to sprinkle on vanilla icecream and it tastes great! I also use it in smoothies for the chocolate flavor as well as the health benefits.

Any other chocolate lover’s out there? What is your favorite way to enjoy the cocoa bean?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Letting Go

Its never really over
That which starts within
It begins with a whisper
Then begins to scream
When we listen we can go places
The places we feared
The places we dare not go
By showing up we are strong
Putting our best light forward
For as long as we can hold on
In strength we finally learn to let go…..