Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random Thoughts About My Future

This may not be that "deep" but it is what's rolling around in my foggy chemo brain. Pardon the stream of consciousness... I am just going to spill out what's on my mind.

First and foremost, one thing I have learned about breast cancer is that some women beat it and some women don't. It sounds simple but it's not. Some women thrive for 20-plus years and then have a recurrence. Others convert to a vegan lifestyle, practice yoga, run marathons... They do absolutely EVERYTHING they are supposed to do and still end up with metastatic breast cancer.

The harsh and simple truth is, unless a woman was initially diagnosed late and started at Stage IV -- EVERY women out there who is Stage IV started at Stage I or II or III - just like me.

Receiving a diagnosis of Stage I or Stage II is not a guarantee that I will sail through this and not have to deal with this again. There are no guarantees. Yes, my chances are definitely better with early detection and being at Stage II. I would rather have had no lymph node involvement. I would rather have had just a lumpectomy and radiation and skipped the chemo altogether. But that is not how it turned out for me.

Now I am beginning to understand why so many women tell me not to focus on my stage. Stage really means very little.

Surviving and thriving means everything. Living a healthy, balanced life and being happy is what is most important. Being of service, contributing, getting involved and making a difference in someone else's life is important. Being grateful is important.

So what does this all mean? I am not exactly sure but here are some thoughts:

- Get through chemo and rest up over the holidays.

- Get back on green juices.

- Start working out again, slowly, taking babysteps to build up my stamina.

- Eat healthfully but also enjoy eating.

What does this mean for me? I realized I cannot go all the way with a raw, vegan lifestyle. It makes sense to me but I really wouldn't enjoy it. Remember, I want to focus on living a balanced life. Part of that means also enjoying what I eat.

This doesn't mean I am shutting the door on raw, vegan meals. I will make a concerted effort to eliminate more meat from my diet. I can easily eat two vegetarian meals a day. But I still want to enjoy an occasional steak.

This leads me to wine and alcohol in general. I have needed to cut down on my alcohol consumption since before my breast cancer diagnosis. This is a fact. Breast cancer or not, I am working on limiting my alcoholic intake. I am definitely doing better but I have a way to go. Again, moderation and balance while still enjoying my life.

And then there are the things I want to do, the places I want to go. Here is a quick list. I refuse to call it a bucket list. I am not kicking the bucket anytime soon. These are places I have wanted to see and things I have wanted to do for years.

- See Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier and Denali National Parks

- Rent a cottage on the coast of Maine for one or two weeks for summer vacation, eats lots of lobster and read lots of books

- Try horseback riding

- Join a yoga studio, develop my own practice and maybe start a yoga studio of my own

- Finish my Masters degree

- Hike as many trails in the Shenandoah National Park as possible and get to know the park system well

- Find a cause for which I am suited for volunteering my time

- Get back in shape so I can plan a hiking trip to the Grand Canyon and stay at the Phantom Ranch

- Take more three-day and four-day weekends to visit my friends and family

- Go on a WindStar Carribean cruise

And that's just the beginning. I know, I need to hit the lottery!


  1. You have some very high goals Jen and with your commitment you will succeed.I am stage 3 but I do not let anything get in my way of fulfilling everything I want to do. None of us know how much time we have left and I will darn well live my life to the fullest. I have done a lot of travelling between treatments and surgeries, hiking in Arizona and other places. From the time of my diagnosis I swore that I would not let it get the best of me.The only thing it has done is to slow me down because I do get tired easily now.

    You definitely seem to have an upbeat attitude and that will see you though the rest of your treatments and on your way to fulfilling your goals.

    Sending you lots of gentle hugs.


  2. I wanna go with you on most of those trips, Please!
    You KNOW I have always wanted to do a big Grand Canyon trip! Lets plan that please.
    Love the lobsta trip --- thats a good one.
    Suggestion for the wine thing: Always drink from a wine glass EVEN if its just sparkling water. And start cutting your wine in half by adding sprite or ginger ale. You will not notice that you are not drinking the full strength stuff.
    I love all your ideas and I know you will do all of them. You are motivated, determined and strong.
    Love you and miss you. Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. You are still very early on, and it becomes a struggle when you are done with treatment. I was Stage II who went to Stage IV within 2 years of dx. The one thing I've learned is you cannot do a damn thing about it.

    You should eat healthy sure, but brownies are delicious. A bottle of wine a night won't make you feel better and may hurt you, but a glass on Friday tastes good and is relaxing. Living a full, happy, balanced life is more important than one designed to beat cancer. Simply because it cannot be done.

    When you are done with treatment, and don't see a doctor that often, you may start to worry about aches and pains, and imagine it is mets. While it may be, despite my story, it is unlikely. And, you will have to mentally find a way over that fear, and I like your plans. Make a plan board, with photos of your list, and when you get freaked, tell yourself "no, I'm going to Arizona." You, as a cancer patient, will get normal aches and pains, maybe more because you had chemo. You will wonder if they are something more serious. Please take it to your doctor then let it flutter off your fingertips like butterflies.

    Every minute you spend worrying about mets, or researching a pain, will mean you are not doing something of value. If you got mets, it will reveal itself and there is no benefit to finding out early. You have a list of things that you value right there, so you have a headstart on many.

    So vow now, to learn to leave a normal life again, and that list will help you. And yeah, you'll have to learn it, everybody does.

    I wish you much love.