That’s the big question right? Let’s just say it’s been a journey to figure this out and at the age of 38 years old I mostly know the answer to this question. I guess the point of this blog is to share some of that journey with others. Between fighting for my brother’s freedom and fighting cancer, there were days that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. But here I am, almost 4 years in remission and feeling the best I have felt emotionally and physically in a loooong while. I hope I will get to share a little of who I am, my thoughts and my journey with you all and I hope to get to you know you as well. So please feel free to leave comments!
Although I am closer to my 40’s than I am to my 30’s I only recently felt like I finally grew up. Yup. I grew up. Like literally two weeks ago, I finally feel like I have arrived into adult hood. The journey has been a struggle but I am happy to report.. I am here.
This is what I realized. For the last 10, 15, dunno how many years, I have been going through the motions of being an adult- all the while feeling like I have no freaking control over anything and I have NO idea what I am doing most days AND I am an emotional mess. But I gotta keep going and going like the little Energizer Bunny… because that’s what adults do. Right?
Turns out- NOPE! That’s not what real adults do. They don’t just stay on the treadmill. They actually allow themselves to hit pause on their lives! Like OMG! I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW YOU COULD FREAKING DO THAT!
I just learned of this concept. At first I was totally confused. Like what are these crazy people saying?
And then it just made sense. It made FREAKING sense!! That’s the exact moment I grew up.
I learned that if you don’t have the answer, maybe it’s not the best time to make the decision.
I learned how to tell my brain to take a break from all the thinking and endless going around and around in circles in my head about all the stuff. When I was able to tell my emotional brain the same thing, life changed for me in so many ways.
First, I found my patience again.
Second, I started bonding with my husband better.
Third, I was able to better take care of myself and my needs. I stopped looking for other people to fill those needs- that’s a losing battle right?
And lastly, I am setting a way better example for Gianna.
So what do I mean by this? Well, at any given time there is so much on my plate that I feel like I am in constant decision making process. I started feeling like I had to make all the decisions but you know what? Some decisions aren’t mine to make! Sometimes, just being quiet and patient, helps those around us to make the changes we always prayed for. living with intention. I kinda understood that concept previously, but now, me and living with intention are best friends.
It really does make an impact on how my day goes. I feel like I have wasted a lot less time overall, and I am able to do so much more without feeling rushed, panicked or stressed.
I cannot take all the credit. I have chosen to work with a group, a network of amazing people and a Productivity Coach to help me organize and manage my time so overall I can be more effective and actually be able to live the life I have always wanted to.
As some of you may know, while I was going through cancer and chemo, I was also (and still am) fighting for my brother’s freedom. R was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison – all for a crime he did NOT commit.
My brother is almost 8 years younger than me and he is my best friend. He is the person I turn to for advice on anything and everything and he is the person that consoles me when I am down and lifts me up when I need some motivation. We help each other and through this ordeal, the strengths of our relationship has had an opportunity to truly shine.
With R’s help and guidance I was able to start Justice IQ. JIQ is a non profit that is solely focused on JURY REFORM. We feel that if we can have better and more educated juries, the number of wrongful convictions and judgements could be reduced.
If we had a more educated public, those who know their rights as citizens then maybe just maybe we could reduce the number of people who end up in our criminal system. And especially those who are wrongfully convicted because they just “didn’t know better” and they thought that the “truth would come out.”
Those of us with experience in this broken system, we know that is not the case. It all comes down to who can tell the best story. The jury then gets to decide the fate based on that story. BUT what if those Juries were educated before serving. What if they knew as much about the case as the defendants did? Wouldn’t that be closer to “Jury of your own peers.”?
The more I thought about it, the more I felt strongly that we needed to do something..ANYTHING to make the system a little better, a little more fairer.
Please take a look at JIQ.. I would welcome your feedback and support. I am open to ideas. I just feel very strongly that something needs to change. This is my small contribution to making that change happen. I hope you will join me in supporting Jury Reform.
Which, coincidentally was also the day my brother was born. Friday the 13th. October 13, 1989.
So that’s how I remember that day. How could I forget? I had received a call from my doctors office a few days ago to schedule an appointment. I thought it was just a follow up from the routine laprscopic surgery I had gotten just days before. The procedure was to remove a cyst we found on my left ovary and had monitored throughout my pregnancy with Gianna. As she grew in my belly, the cyst also grew. Once she was born, it seemed like all was well as the cyst began to shrink but about a year after Gianna was born, I was told that the cyst had grown substantially.
I didn’t know they had to biopsy everything they took out of you. So, I had no idea that my cyst was being biopsied after it was removed from my ovary. So, I had no idea what I was walking into when I entered my doctors office that Friday. The first thing I was asked by the kind lady who escorted me into the doctors office (Barbara, I still remember her and the look on her face), was that if I was alone. I said yes, I was alone… should I have brought someone. She looked very worried. That’s when I started to worry.
A few minutes later my doctor entered the office and told me that they had biopsied my cyst and found it to be cancerous. And more bad news was that since my latest surgery was done lapriscopically, the chance of the cancer spreading had greatly increased. Basically, in order to remove the cyst, they make 3 incisions around my belly and kind of burst the cyst inside of me before pulling out through the small opening. This means that if the cancer was the aggressive, spreading kind, it was really bad news for me.
I was devasted. Stunned. Shocked. Angry. How could this be happening to me? To my family? Especially given what was happening with my brother, how could my parents suddenly have both of their children fighting for their lives? We were good people. Why was this happening to us.
Then I thought about Gianna. Oh my god. Gianna. Was she going to grow up without a mother. I was reeling. The doctor asked if I wanted to call someone.. I did. Ross. I called him. I don’t really remember if he answered. I think he did?
Then I called my mom. I could tell she was trying not to faint. She immediately got in her car, got my aunt and met me in the hospital. The doctor had ordered immediate scans to be done.
5 years later as I write this, I can still remember that day. Sitting in the waiting room, drinking that gross white berry flavored drink that they give you before CT Scans. My stomach was already in knots and I was expected to drink this gross tasting stuff. I remember between the haze of my mind that I drank it. My aunt encouraging me to drink so I drank.
Just going through the motions. All the while thinking – what if this was it? What if this was the day that my life ended? I would never grow up to see Gianna become a woman. Or be there the day that my brother finally won his freedom and came home. I was going to miss so much.
I got through that day with the help of my mom and my aunt. Ross was with Gianna and was waiting for me when I got home that night after spending the day undergoing tests.
We just sat and cried together. There was anger but mostly an overwhelming grief that enveloped out little family. The thought that this was all going away was something that neither of us could shake. I think the worst part is the unknown. Not knowing if you are going to be alive in a few months or years from now. Not knowing was way worse for me than I could have ever imagined. But we wouldn’t know how bad the cancer had spread until my staging surgery. When they went in to remove my ovaries and give me a full hysterectomy- so after I lost my ability to have children I would find out how long I had to live. Great deal huh?
Luckily, thanks to my aunt, I had one of the best surgeons in this area and he did a wonderful job. I remember being at the hospital with my mom. I remember lying in the bed ready for surgery. And then I remember waking up after surgery. It was done. The stuff that made me into a mom wasn’t there any more. Those parts of me that I took for granted were gone. Forever. I would never again be able to get pregnant or to experience the joy of another child. I was totally overwhelmed.
During this same time, Ross started working at Verizon. A part of me was and is so angry with him for not being with me through the next few months- I mean really being with me- but I also understood that he needed to make sure he had steady work- just in case I wasn’t’ around to help with our finances. I know look back and realize, that was Ross’s reality. He was wondering how he was going to be a single dad AND support our baby by himself when I had been the primary bread winner for our family for so long. The pressure he must have felt was immense.
Even years later, although I am grateful to be in remission, I also know that everything could change in a heartbeat. I wake up every day knowing that my Cancer could come back. And just like that, I will be fighting for my life again. Praying that I will get to see my beautiful child grow up.
Sometimes I read stories of others who have lost to Cancer and I am always overwhelmed with what could have happened to me. I am then grateful that it didn’t but then I am reminded that it could always come back. Cancer it seems is always lurking around the corner- especially if you have already had it once. It’s there, waiting.
Cancer. It’s such a heavy word but I had no idea how heavy until I had Cancer. So far I have been able to beat it and am currently in remission now 4 years. But I am forever changed as a result of that word.
In so many ways I lost my identity that day. I became a cancer patient. That’s all. Before that I had been a Mother, a Friend, a Daughter, a Wife, a Sister. But that day I became another stat and someone who had to fight for her life. Cancer.
Even to this day, something as harmless as a TV show will send me deep in thought, taken back to when I found out and the terryifyingly difficult months that followed. Many times I skip through the cancer scenes in those shows because I am still not quite ready to see it and read about it in such a casual way.
I know a lot of you have been through this experience and I know I am not alone. But in some ways it’s still a very lonely and personal experience.