I’m Done.

I had my very last cancer treatment this week.

I’m all done.

I know there are people who have been through, and who continue to go through, much worse that what I went through but these last 15 months have been really exhausting, emotionally draining and difficult. To be able to say I’m done feels amazing.

It was funny because everything hit me while Matt and I were eating lunch right after my port removal surgery. All of a sudden I looked at him and said “I’m done!” and I started laughing hysterically and then crying. It was overwhelming to think of all I had been through and that I was finally finished.

Emotionally it’s been tough. It’s difficult to keep your mind in the right headspace when you’ve been through something so traumatic. Your mind wants you to be scared, to constantly wonder if it will come back, to worry. It feels almost like tempting fate to say “I’m done.”

There’s always a fork in the road when these major life events happen. Right now I have to choose between being happy and proud that I’m done and filled with hope that I’m going to be fine, or I can go down the road of fear and worry. I refuse to live in fear. Even though it would be totally normal and acceptable, I just won’t live like that. So I’m choosing to go down the road of happy and proud and hope.

So that’s it. 15 months of surgery, chemo and radiation finished. I did it. I made it.

Now on to life!! I know there will be bad days, days where I get a headache and wonder if it’s cancer; I know, for me, it’s a long road emotionally of dealing with who I am now and who I want to be. But I’m ready for it. Totally ready.

I CAN. I DID. END OF STORY.

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Spring Reads

The flowers are blooming…it’s staying lighter later in the day…spring break is upon us…and summer is right around the corner! You know what that means? Books, books and lots of books! I’m getting pickier and pickier the older I get. I’ve started quite a few books lately that I didn’t finish because they just didn’t grab me. I want to be counting down the minutes until I get back to my book, you know?

Here’s what I’ve read lately:

What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell

This is a riveting story about a cycle of mental illness and how it is dealt with through three generations of a family. Olivia, her mother and her son all have bipolar disorder and all handled it in their own way. Olivia was often left neglected and alone as a child when her mother would have her bipolar episodes. The story starts as Olivia is embarking on a family vacation to her hometown, post-divorce with her teenage daughter and her young son, who is also bipolar. When her son disappears as they are enjoying shopping on the boardwalk by the beach where Olivia spent her teen years, she gets lost in memories of her childhood. The story alternates between Olivia’s memories and her current situation. I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick, easy read with interesting characters. I found the common mental illness thread to be very unique and fascinating. Olivia’s mother handles her mental illness very poorly; Olivia tries so hard as an adult to handle it so much better. However, she’s really struggling to parent her son through his mental illness. The author does a great job of making you really care for Olivia and what happens to her and her family.

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

I loved this book. I want to know if you read it so we can talk about it! Charlotte “Charlie” has just lost her son and her marriage and is really struggling to even get out of bed in the morning. After her sons death, she begins having visions of children in trouble; these children are either being abused or murdered or a serious accident. She then discovers that these were real when the situations she has visions of come true. Charlie has a disturbing vision of a boy with a chipped tooth named JoJo who lives in Lousiana and needs her help. At the same time, she gets an offer to write a book about a boy who was kidnapped over 30 years ago in, you guessed it, Louisiana. Charlie desperately needs a change of scenery to help her with her grief so she goes to Evangeline to research her story. There are many intriguing characters, lots of twists and turns and surprises in this story. You will love it! (P.S. It’s really difficult for me to write book reviews without giving away plot twists…so that’s why mine are so short!)

The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle

I just happened upon this book while searching for another book by this author that my Mom recommended. (I’m reading that one next!) Let me put it this way…as soon as I finished this book I texted my BFF and told her she had to read it ASAP…that’s how good this book is! Sarah is a widow struggling to keep her life with two boys together. When her dear friend’s son is involved in a terrible tragedy, she finds herself in welcoming another child into her home and in the middle of a nightmare. It is a riveting story but I will warn you it involves major child abuse that is upsetting. But the story and the way Sarah and her boys handle everything is soooooo good. I keep thinking about them as though they are real people…that’s the sign of a great book!

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

There’s no way you can call this book “good” when it’s about something so horrific. I can’t really say I enjoyed it because of it’s awful subject matter. I will say it was fascinating and scary and upsetting and I’m glad I read it. It hurts to read it so you’d definitely have to be in the right frame of mind. I also think when you read it you have to remember that the author is one of the killer’s mothers and to read it through her eyes and her opinions and memories, which may not be “the facts”. As a mother, I found it very disturbing to think you could raise someone and love someone so deeply and yet have no idea that they were so angry, suicidal and homicidal. But then I think of how little I truly know about my own kids and what they think and feel and I start to understand. That, my friends, is super scary to me. To think that your child could be hurting so deeply and not share any of it with you, to think that your child could be planning to murder and commit suicide and you had no idea, is really upsetting. According to Klebold, they were a loving, tight-knit, typical american family and had no idea what their son was up to or planning. It’s astonishing and, yet, to anyone who deals with or loves a teenager, somewhat understandable that they had no clue. I also had never thought of the tragedy through her eyes and how she lost a son to suicide. All of a sudden, after the tragedy, she was the mother of a murderer, a monster who didn’t know what horrors were going on inside her own house, instead of being a mother who was allowed to grieve her son. It’s a terribly dark, sad story but worth the read. By reading her story with her hindsight, it’s helpful to see clues to his pain that you could also look for in your own children or family members. Like I said, I wouldn’t say it’s a good book…but it was worth the read.

Right now I’m reading The Shining by Stephen King because I haven’t read it in forever! What are you reading?

 

 

What It’s Like Raising a Teenage Boy…So Far

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The other day, he asked me to play basketball after school. I had plans to go to the gym but, of course, I abandoned them quickly because you just don’t say no when you’re almost-14-year-old son asks you to do ANYTHING, but especially a “guy” thing.

So we go outside and bounce the ball around and I ask him “Is this a joke? Are you videotaping me for a funny Vine or something?” And he looks at me like I’m crazy and says “No! I just want to play basketball with you.”

And that is exactly what raising a teenage boy is like, for me, so far. I felt like Josie Grossie in Never Been Kissed. All excited that a boy asks her to prom only to find out it was a cruel, cruel joke.

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I couldn’t believe that he actually wanted to spend time with me. On purpose. Because he likes playing basketball with me. His dorky old mother. Of course it had to be a joke. But it wasn’t.

I’ve never had so much fun playing basketball in my life! It was freezing and I couldn’t feel my fingers, but I didn’t care. He even tried to let me win. We laughed, we played and then we came inside and made dinner. We’ve played a couple more times since then. I never say no.

And it continues. I’m like the smitten teenage girl in the corner at the dance just hoping and praying that he’ll notice me. Only it’s my son. I miss him so much it hurts, yet I’m glad he’s growing up and has his own existence. I try to find cool songs, funny memes, awesome soccer videos, scary movies, make yummy dinners, ANYTHING that I can to connect with him. If we end up hanging out together, that’s a bonus.

Sometimes he comes in my room before bed to say goodnight and we always exchange “I love you”s. Sometimes he even says it first. He’s taller than me now and I notice it when he lets me hug him. Most of the time I make him hug me back and he squeezes me extra tight like a joke. But I love it. I wake him up each morning by kissing his head because that’s the only time of day he’ll let me. I watch every single video he deems worthy of showing to me even if I don’t “get” them. I listen to every story, every joke. I laugh in all the right places.

His voice cracks one minute and is super deep the next. He sleeps late. He forgets to brush his teeth but always does his hair. He wears cologne and deodorant and cares about what he wears. He’s had a girlfriend for 9 months. He’s constantly watching videos, watching Netflix, playing FIFA, drinking slushies, playing soccer, playing basketball, blowing off homework, messing up his room, being a teenage boy. The next minute he’s holding Olivia’s hand while we walk through the zoo, he’s picking her up and spinning her around in the driveway, he’s offering to push her wheelchair, he’s showing Matthew how to do that one juggle trick for soccer, he’s jumping on the trampoline with Matthew and his friends. Olivia and Matthew beam like the sun is within them when he’s extra sweet to them. I totally get it. I’m sure I do too.

I guess I would say that raising a teenage boy, so far, to me, is just really strange. You simultaneously want to strangle them, have them cuddle with you and squeeze them tight. I feel like time is running out for me to teach him all of the important things I’m supposed to teach him, yet I feel like he’s got to learn a lot of it on his own. I want to protect him and have him at home with me, yet I want him to socialize and hang out with friends more. I want him to get all A’s because I know he’s capable, but I don’t want to constantly nag him and pressure him. It makes no sense, yet it makes perfect sense.

I guess that’s raising children in a nutshell, huh? It makes no sense, yet it makes perfect sense.

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Fantastic 15

My beautiful, precious baby girl is turning 15 today. I know it’s cliche but I can’t believe she’s 15.

I’ve been marveling lately at all that is Olivia and being her mother. I just look at her and think she’s amazing. I look at her and I can’t believe she’s mine. She’s been through so much and come so far. She’s really a miracle.

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I’ve also been thinking about how far I’ve come as her mother. In the beginning, I was so overwhelmed and didn’t know how I was going to be her mother. But I did it. We did it together. Our bond is crazy good. It’s amazing how, in the same day, in the span of just a few minutes, I can simultaneously love her so much I feel like I’m going to burst and wonder how I’m going to care for her for the rest of my life. She’s a lot of work, I’m not going to lie.

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But she’s so worth it.

I have a 15-year-old daughter who says I’m her best friend. I have a 15-year-old daughter who has no body image issues, no self-esteem issues, no friend or boyfriend drama. I have 15-year-old daughter who loves unconditionally and with her whole heart. I have a 15-year-old daughter without a mean bone in her body unless she’s being funny and calls someone she loves a moron. I have a 15-year-old daughter who loves life, who experiences pure joy on an hourly basis and who is loved by so many. I have a 15-year-old daughter who is perfect in her own way.

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I have an amazing daughter. I couldn’t be more proud to be her mother. I feel so lucky just to know her, let alone be her favorite person in the whole world. Even though it’s her birthday, every year I reflect on how she is truly the gift.

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Happy This Week

You guys! I am so sorry it’s been so long since I’ve been in this space. I’ve just been overwhelmed and, when I sit down to write, I have so many things to say that I end up saying nothing. Plus it’s been Vajanuary (Hey Jenni!) and February which I say is the LONGEST month of the year even though it’s the shortest. It’s been gray and dark and busy and overwhelming. But I really miss this space and I’m really going to try and be here more. Even if no one is still reading. I’ll just do it for me.

I had my first mammogram this week since being diagnosed with cancer and it was ALL CLEAR!!!! I was so anxious about it. I was certain it was going to be bad news. But it was perfectly clear!!! Yippee!!!

Three more chemo treatments to go and I’m done!! March 31st is NEXT MONTH YOU GUYS!!! It finally feels like it’s going to happen!

My eating disorder treatment is going really well. I really need to write more about this soon. I love my new therapist and I’m pretty proud of myself for working so hard.

We had a night of no sports, no meetings, no nothing this week and it was amazing! I made a nice dinner and we all hung out together. We typically always have dinner together every night but it’s not always a nice dinner!

My friend, Kelley, brings me coffee every morning. It makes my day every day.

My students are wonderful, for the most part, but it’s been an exhausting year due to a few. I put some new procedures and things in place this week that have really been helping and are making me a much happier teacher!

I went to see my students perform in the musical this week. They were amazing! I also got to see five former students which also was amazing! There’s nothing like their faces when they’re so happy to see you!

I listen to a lot of podcasts (I’m obsessed) and I’ve found a few new ones that I really like. One, Popculture Happy Hour, has a section at the end that’s called “What’s making us happy this week?” They stole my idea!! Just kidding. I love it!

New TV was back on this week, thank goodness! You know I love my TV shows!

What made you happy this week?

 

Happy This Week

The sun was out yesterday!!! January in Ohio is rough with cold weather and gray skies so to see the sun is wonderful. I took the opportunity to go for a walk at a Metropark and it was glorious!

My friend, Kim, and I met on Monday for pedicures and lunch. We do it every January and I always enjoy it!

I got my first hair cut in a YEAR!!! I really missed my hairstylist, Christy, who I consider to be one of my best friends. She’s amazing. It was so nice to have enough hair to get it cut and have a style!!!

Matt and I have been watching a bunch of true crime documentaries that were recommended based on “Making a Murderer”. They have been so good and fascinating. They are on Netflix: Aileen, Crazy in Love, Cropsey and Imposter. Check them out!

We’ve been watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” as a family and the kids are really enjoying it. Matt and I forgot how funny that show is! I love finding something we can all watch together.

I had a manicure yesterday. It just makes me so happy to get my nails done and my nail chica, Sandra, is a blast to hang out with for an hour!

Are you watching Project Runway Junior? If not, you should. These kids are AMAZING!!! It’s almost the finale and I’m so sad it will be over but it’s been so fun to watch.

Matt surprised me with a pair of Sperry duck boots that I’ve been wanting for a while. It was so nice!

What made you happy this week?

 

 

Winter Reads

I’ve read quite a few books since my last book post…and I’m excited to share them with you today. I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting a couple…but they must not have been that good if I can’t remember them, right?

Troublemaker by Leah Remini

I am a pop culture fanatic and find Scientology extremely interesting. If either of those adjectives apply to you, you will LOVE this book. It is fascinating, sad, heartbreaking and interesting. I didn’t know Leah was a lifelong member of the “church”. Her story is riveting and she tells her story well.

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

Eh. I skimmed most of it. Too fluffy and flowery and not enough behind the scenes tales for me.

Time’s Divide (book 3) by Rysa Walker

I loved, loved, loved the first two books in this series. This one? Not so much. It was way too long and tedious. I felt as though Walker was stretching it out to make a third book. I thought the end was anticlimactic and disappointing. I was really bummed too because of how much I enjoyed the first two. Oh well.

Make Me by Lee Child

I really enjoy Child’s Jack Reacher stories. This was the most recent one of his Reacher tales. (If you’re not a Reacher fan, start at the beginning!) Reacher decides to stop in a town called “Mother’s Rest” simply because he wants to know the origin of the name. He finds himself involved in a serious problem simply by stopping in this town. He meets a woman who is looking for a missing coworker. They team up to find out what is going on in this town and they team up in the bedroom! You won’t believe where this story takes you and what is going on in this small town. I really enjoyed it but thought Child could have wrapped up the story a little more quickly.

The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel

Oh how I loved this book. Promise me if you read this one, you’ll immediately follow it with The Nightingale (see below). I just happened to read them in this order and it made both books so much better. You’ll see what I mean if you read them. In this book, Hope is the owner of a bakery and a divorced mom to a teenage daughter who is struggling to keep her little life in Cape Cod together. When her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s, in a rare moment of clarity, asks her to go to Paris to uncover family secrets, Hope finds more than she ever imagined. There’s a little love story mixed in, family drama and amazing plot twists. I don’t want to tell you too much more or I’ll ruin it!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I usually really enjoy Hannah’s books and this one was by far one of her best. I absolutely loved this book. It is such a great example of bravery and female power during one of the most horrendous times in history, World War II. The story focuses on two sisters. Vianne is the responsible older sister whose husband just left for the war. Isabelle is the rebellious younger sister who is itching to do something to help with the war. It is a beautifully told, riveting, absolutely heartbreaking story of how these two sisters survive the war. You will love it but it will break your heart.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Slaughter is one of my all-time favorite authors. In fact, if I had to pick just one, she would be my favorite. I wish she would write faster because I want to read one of her books each week! I will warn you up front that this is probably the most gruesome and upsetting books she’s written. But it’s SOOOOO good. Claire and Lydia are sisters who haven’t spoken since their sister, Julia, disappeared over 20 years ago. Their lives are complete opposites: Claire is the trophy wife of a millionaire and Lydia is a single mother who struggles to make ends meet. Suddenly, because of one major event, they are back in each other’s lives and, finally, discovering what really happened to their beautiful sister. It is dark, it is scary and it is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. My BFF recommended it to me after she stayed up until midnight to finish it…which if you know her is crazy because she’s always early to bed! I was glad I was reading it over Christmas break because I couldn’t put it down! One day, Emily Coleman, leaves her family. She disappears without a trace. She moves to a new town and starts to live a new life under a new name. But why? What happened to her to make her leave? You will want to read faster and faster to find the answers to these questions. Be forewarned, when you finally find the answers, they will break your heart. It’s so incredible. You’ll love it.

What have you read lately??

 

 

 

 

Incredibly Loved

In tandem with my previous post about how much having cancer sucks, I will tell you that over the past year I’ve never felt so incredibly loved. I struggle with feeling loved. I really do. I always think I love everyone so much but don’t feel worthy of their love in return. I always think they don’t love me as much as I love them.

This year has taught me that I am, indeed, incredibly loved.

My friends have brought meals. They’ve made t-shirts for fundraisers. They’ve held a kick-ass fundraiser event. They’ve sent cards. They’ve dropped off treats and flowers when I was feeling down. They’ve sent texts just to check in. My family has done laundry, cleaned the house, cared for the kids, gone to the grocery store. My friends and family have rearranged their schedule to take me to chemo. My family and I have been included in an immense amount of prayers. It’s been overwhelming in a wonderful way.

It’s hard for me to believe sometimes that everyone has done this for me. For us. But I am very blessed to feel so incredibly loved. I’ll never be able to pay it back. I gave up writing thank you notes the first week in. I sent texts and Facebook messages but I’m a handwritten thank you note girl. I felt bad about it for a while and then I just let it go. Because it wasn’t possible for me to keep up. So my plan is to pay it forward. I’m planning on 30 random acts of kindness to pay it forward. I’ve had two surgeries, by the time April 2016 gets here I will have had 25 chemo treatments and I had 26 radiation treatments so I rounded up to 30. It will in no way shape or form pay anyone back for everything they’ve done for me and the way they’ve loved me and my family so deeply. But it’s something small I can do to pay it forward.

Thank you, everyone, for making me feel incredibly loved over this past year. I love you too.

 

Breast Cancer Sucks…There. I Said It.

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To all of you cancer warriors, or loved ones of cancer warriors, I would like to announce that I’m calling BULLSHIT on this quote and other quotes like these. I read these and I think “What the hell is wrong with me? I don’t think my cancer is a blessing. This has been a terrible year. Am I weird?” The answer to that is no. I’m not wrong, or weird, or abnormal. I know, I just know, I’m not the only one who doesn’t see having cancer as a blessing.

It’s been rough on my marriage.

It’s been rough on the kids.

It’s been rough on my Mom, my sister, my BFF, my friends.

It’s made me feel even more alone.

It’s made me gain 20 pounds from the meds.

It’s made my eating disorder rear its horribly ugly head again.

It’s made me feel like shit for the last year. Every day.

It’s made me face my own mortality and be scared shitless about it.

It’s made me bald and feel ugly.

It’s made me use a hell of a lot of sick days.

It’s made me do a lot of lesson plans for subs (which if you’re a teacher you know is a GIANT pain in the ass).

It’s made me miss out on so many days and events and happenings.

It’s given me acid reflux and hot flashes and a deformed left breast.

It’s given me so much worry that it might come back and with a vengeance.

It’s made me feel like “bizarro Tiffany”…not anything like myself.

It’s been a giant pain in the ass. I’ve hated every minute of it. I don’t see it as a blessing.

“Oh! But didn’t it make you appreciate life and the small things?”

I already did that, thank you.

“Oh! But didn’t it make you realize how strong you are?”

I already knew that, thank you.

So to all of you cancer warriors, stand up with me and say “Having cancer sucks big time” and don’t feel one bit bad about it.

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Happy This Week (or the last two…)

Where in the world did December come from?!?!? I can’t even believe it’s the end of the semester and almost the holidays. I’M NOT READY!!! Actually I have almost all of my shopping done…thank goodness for online shopping!

Matt and I were able to go out on a date over Thanksgiving weekend. We hadn’t been on a date in forever. We went out to dinner and saw The Martian. Very good movie! We were up until midnight like teenagers! LOL!

We had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Very relaxed and chill. We definitely needed that type of weekend. I had treatment the Friday after Thanksgiving so I felt like crap Saturday but it was only one day of a five day weekend!

We are all decorated for Christmas. I just love Christmas decorations!

My Mom, Olivia and I went to see Disney on Ice. She just LOVES those shows. She just shakes with excitement the whole time.

The boys went to Columbus today to see the MLS finals so Olivia and I were here alone. We had a Christmas movie marathon and stayed in our pjs. It was a perfect day!

I’ve been in a workout rut so I’ve been doing a 30-day make-fat-cry challenge from Betty Rocker. It has been awesome. Exactly what I needed to get out of my rut.

I got to hang out with my BFF and her family over Thanksgiving weekend…and then again this weekend!

I have one more treatment for 2015 and then only 5 MORE TREATMENTS LEFT!!!! The countdown is on baby!

I think I’ve got enough hair now that strangers don’t automatically think “OH CANCER!” when they see me. (I know this because I saw someone at Disney on Ice that I haven’t seen in over a year, and doesn’t follow me on FB or anything, and he said “When’d you get your hair cut so short?”🙂 I was all…a while ago! Can’t wait for my hair and eyelashes to be totally back to normal. It’s taking A LOT longer than I anticiapted.

Matthew is in choir and had his first concert on Friday. It might have been the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

The boys started soccer again. I love how much they love it!

Buddy the Elf is back in our house and the kids are still loving it. We’re also doing the advent calendar with little treats or an activity each day. It’s been very fun!

What made you happy lately?