Friday, January 13, 2012

In Loving Memory

My mom passed away this morning after fighting a courageous battle with stage 4 colon cancer for almost 3 years.

My mom was the strongest, most loving, selfless, amazing person that I knew.  She was loved and respected by everyone who knew her.  She devoted her entire life to her family (especially me, her only daughter).  I consider myself so very blessed to have been raised and loved by her for 27 years.  Every single one of my memories throughout life somehow involves her.  She made sure to be there for everything and she knew me like nobody else does, from my childhood to adulthood and all the stages in between.  Because of her guidance and unconditional support, I am the person I am today.

My mom was such a huge part of me.  I now feel this painful hole in my heart that will never again be filled.  I am trying to stay strong and positive, just as she would want me to.  I just know that the angels are rejoicing in heaven because my mom is finally happy and free from the pain of this world.  I try to imagine my mom and my grandma up there smiling and laughing as they watch the rest of our lives.  Please pray for my family.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordless (Sorta) Wednesday

I have been taking a bunch of pictures with my iphone lately (instagram app) and having fun applying the different effects.  I'm doing a photo-a-day photo challenge for the month January, and I found that using my phone is the easiest and most convenient way to just snap a picture at random times throughout the day.  I actually like having all of these little everyday moments documented so that I can look back and remember them later.  Besides, you can never have too many pictures!

Monday, January 9, 2012


This past weekend, I made some dishes from two of my favorite cookbooks, The Kind Diet and Veganomicon.  I have found both of these books to be very helpful in suggesting new recipes and introducing me to foods that I have never tried (or even heard of) before.  These "healthier" foods are a yummy alternative to eating the same things all of the time, and they also leave me feeling so much more energetic.  I never realized how many vegetarian options there are out there (and not just salads!)  I find myself being more excited about food than I have ever been before.  I love putting good nutrition into my body and enjoying the taste at the same time.

*I am not posting the actual recipes because of copyright laws, but both of these cookbooks can easily be ordered off of Amazon.

Red Radish Tabbouleh


This tabbouleh is flavored perfectly and I love how fresh the veggies taste.  (It is much better than the kind that you buy at the store.)  Along with this dish, I ate homemade hummus, carrots, and pita bread.

Pineapple Cashew Quinoa Stir-Fry


I would recommend that everybody try this dish because it is so delicious and sweet that you will forget that you are eating something healthy!  Even my husband loved it, so I will definitely be making it again sometime soon.  The only drawback is that there is a large amount of prep work for this particular recipe, but the end result is totally worth it!

I can't wait to find time to cook some more recipes out of these books.  This week, I plan on making Quinoa with Basil and Pine Nuts from The Kind Diet, and the Spinach Lasagna Rolls and Stuffed Zucchini again from our girls' cooking date.


Friday, January 6, 2012

My Story...

One year ago today marks the anniversary of a devastating phone call that I received right before dinner. The surgeon asked if my husband was nearby, and said that he was afraid that he had some “not-so-good” news for us: My tumor was malignant and I would need to undergo treatments for breast cancer. I had the sinking feeling that my life would never be the same again. I was right.

I remember awaking to panic attacks then desperately wishing to go back to sleep forever because any dream or even nightmare was better than facing such an intimidating reality. I remember lying on the floor, unable to get up because my body felt completely numb and my insides felt empty. Then I felt confused, guilty, hopeless, and terrified, all at the same time.

My mom and husband had to drag me out of bed and then take me to dozens of doctors to discuss the details of my diagnosis and our plan of action for treatment. We learned that I had an aggressive form of cancer that would require both surgery (mastectomy) and a regimen of chemotherapy with extremely nasty side effects. I remember crying when I was told that I would be poked with needles on a regular basis and that I would lose all of my hair. Little did I know then that those things would actually be the easy part of my upcoming year. I truly had no idea what I was up against, but I knew that I did not want to die.

Somewhere between then and now, my naïve and sheltered self evolved into a more secure and confident version of who I once was. I developed spiritually as I learned to continuously lean on God for strength. My values and priorities shifted to reflect what I believe to matter: the relationships with the people in my life rather than the accumulation of material items or the concern of how things look from the outside. I know that I am blessed to even be alive today after not only having breast cancer, but also two deadly staph infections, sepsis, blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, and terrible side effects that I won't even mention on this blog.  (I don’t want to scare anyone, since the type of treatments and physical reactions are different for each person). I know that this is cliché, but “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Sometimes hitting rock bottom can allow a person to love and appreciate everything in their life to a greater extent. I certainly don’t expect my life to go smoothly and perfectly anymore, but most of the situations that I encounter won’t seem so bad compared to what I have experienced. The obstacles and challenges are actually what strengthen us.

On my one year “cancerversary,” I feel so much gratitude towards all my loved ones and friends who supported me as I was going through treatments, and also those who reached out to me afterwards. I wouldn’t have made it without my husband. Barry and my mom were right by my side every single day, my best friends cheered me up with numerous visits, and my baby boy gave me a reason for fighting. Ryan deserves to have a healthy mommy that is here for a long time! So many people have sent me encouraging messages and thoughtful gifts, and others have found various ways of supporting breast cancer awareness in honor of me. Thank you all for your support throughout this crazy year, and I will always remember how special and loved that you made me feel.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Since the beginning of a new year is a time for reflection, I have been thinking a lot about where I am in my life right now. This past year, I was faced with some tremendous obstacles that were challenging but also allowed me to grow as a person.

Events of 2011
-I was diagnosed with breast cancer
-I completed four months of intense chemotherapy
-I was hospitalized for infections, sepsis, blood clots, and pulmonary embolisms
-I lost all of my hair, and then grew back about two inches of it
-I had a double mastectomy
-I had a series of surgeries to have my breasts reconstructed
-I overcame my fear of needles and even learned how to give myself my own shot in the tummy
-I was declared cancer-free (!!!)
-I proudly watched my son learn to stand, crawl, walk, talk, and reach so many other milestones
-I met a bunch of new mommy friends, joined two playgroups, and participated in mommy-and-me classes
-I enjoyed learning how to cook and bake for the first time
-I watched my beautiful best friend get married
-I planned/hosted Ryan’s first birthday party and a halloween party
-I started going to church regularly in the church that I grew up in
-I began to focus on the importance of making healthy choices for my body
-I became a vegetarian (and love it)
-I went back to grad school to become a reading specialist
-I made the best of each special moment that I had left with my mom
-I sadly watched my mom’s health decline as a result of her metastasisized colon cancer (she is still currently in hospice care)
-I grew spiritually to love God and my husband and to appreciate the blessings in my life more than I ever have before

My goals, hopes, and prayers for 2012
-Clear PET scans (no cancer recurrence)
-That my mom will find peace and no longer be suffering
-Health and happiness for my child, husband, and all of our other family members and friends
-That my fertility will return so that we can have another baby (and hopefully another one after that!)
-That we will become homeowners (our tiny apartment has become too crowded for the three of us)
-To earn my master’s degree as a reading specialist (or to be almost finished by this time next year)
-To regain my energy and start a regular exercise routine
-To provide Ryan with learning experiences, social interactions, and an abundance of love
-To become better at cooking and photography
-To simplify, spend less on “stuff”, and live fully in each and every moment

I think that it is interesting how much everything has changed throughout the past five years. Each New Year’s Eve seems to be a little more calm, laid-back, and fulfilling than the one before it. The first New Year's Eve that Barry and I spent together was in 2007 when we went on a dinner party cruise with J, K, and their boyfriends.

In 2008, we went to New York City and then had an awkward but memorable bus ride home.

We spent 2009 in Florida at a bar with some of Barry’s friends.

And in 2010, we celebrated with my mom at a restaurant.  (I was actually pregnant at this time and didn't know it yet.)

We didn’t do anything for 2011 because I was still recovering from my lumpectomy surgery the day before. I didn’t even take a picture that year.

For New Year’s Eve last night, I took Ryan to visit my mom at the hospice house (along with my dad and Aunt S) and then we came home to spend some time with Barry and watch the ball drop at midnight.  The boys aren’t exactly “night people” like I am (this was taken at 11:25pm):

I just love these two and I could not be happier than spending New Year’s Eve with our perfect little family.  I love them both more than I could ever describe in words.  Ryan is absolutely the best thing that has ever happened to us!

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