Changing Seasons and Letting Go




As the first weekend of fall rolls in, I thought it would be timely to share how the 'trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.'

The change of the seasons is the perfect time to change your mindset and let things go.

We can all benefit from ridding our house of unused items and clearing out our minds of insignificant worries. But if you are like how I was pre-diagnosis, you would agree that it can be easier said than done.

The phrase "let it go" used to really irritate me because I didn't know exactly how to do it, and sometimes I still struggle with doing so today.

As an analytical person, I need visual aids and practical steps to help me understand and accomplish something. It's the 'Virgo, college student with a type-A personality' in me.

My preference of concrete ideas tells me that to let go is to take your hands off of your child's bicycle when teaching them how to ride without training wheels, making it very difficult for myself to detach my mind from the negative thoughts lingering in my head.

The kind of letting go that involves a conscious choice versus a physical action, however, can be extremely challenging and scary at first.

But holding on to pain doesn't fix anything, replaying the past over and over again doesn't change it, and wishing things were different doesn't make it so.

Truthfully, you can only accept how it is/was and then let it go, especially when it comes to the past. That's how everything changes. Thoughts are only thoughts and what you chose to do with them can make or break you.

The more we watch our thoughts come and go without attaching our identity to them, the easier letting go will be. Even if it feels impossible, your new reality is just around the corner.

This first year after treatment has really taught me a lot and changed me as a person. My internal dialogue and external conversations have changed. My values, morals and aspirations have shifted. What was important to me before is not was is important to me now.

Let me also say, I am not an expert in letting go whatsoever. Most of my readers have a few more years on me and could've been practicing the art of letting go well before I was even thought of. To be honest, the paranoia of cancer recurrence is on my mind quite frequently. I can sit there and question why so-and-so got cancer, or why I lived and this other person didn't. But you know what? I try my best not to ruminate and instead let it all go. Can you imagine the life I'd be living if I harbored all of those thoughts every time they popped up?

Nonetheless, after all that has occurred, I can honestly say that with or without a significant lifestyle change, anyone can live their best life if they change their mindset  it all starts with understanding how to let go.

Letting go is releasing all doubt, worry and fear about a situation, person or outcome.

It's releasing anything or anyone that disrupts your peace and no longer serves you or your happiness.

Letting go is making the choice that you will no longer ruminate on what you cannot control, and to instead channel your energy toward all that you can control.

Letting go creates space for fresh beginnings: stripping you of what happened yesterday and opening the doors of new opportunities right now.

It involves much more than just saying you have to let go. It's an internal process that must happen for you to truly feel better and get on with your life in a healthy way.

Whether it is a physical task, emotional thought process, or a lingering friendship, letting go of what no longer serves you or improves the quality of your life can be one of the most liberating gifts you can give to yourself.

Lately, I have been decluttering my room, bathroom and closet of all the items that no longer bring me joy. Cleaning and decluttering is a cathartic process for me, and the end result of a clearer space helps me appreciate what I already have. (Let's be real, I need the room for fall decorations, too!)

Having the ability to express your emotions in a healthy way is key whether it is for physical or emotional purposes.

For me, decluttering my mind and letting go of stress and toxic behavior looks like putting all my thoughts on paper to help process them before deciding to let them go. The same goes for friendships and relationships with the outside world. As a writer, this is very important to me because writing serves as a form of catharsis and creative release.

It's all about finding what works for you, and then following through with it.

Talk to a friend. Chat with me! Donate your unused clutter. Learn to forgive others who aren't even sorry. Accept the apology you are never going to get. Journal your stream of consciousness. Accept the past and stay in the present. You owe it to yourself to be more kind to yourself.

Start small, and let your progress snowball. Leaves are just as pretty when they let go!

So tell me, what will you do to let go?

Take care of yourselves,

Abi



Teal Trot 5k Walk/Run


This weekend, my dad and I participated in Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance's Teal Trot 5k walk/run.
The Survivors' bell

The event raised over $65,000 with 1005 participants and 628 people walking and running overall.

As one of the largest ovarian cancer awareness events in the Southeast, its goal was to provide a morning to celebrate, honor and remember ovarian cancer survivors and patients, their families, caregivers and friends. Proceeds from the event went to support and expand the statewide GOCA Education & Awareness and Patient Outreach programs.

My dad and I chose to walk the course, which I'm glad we did because it was very hilly and walking let us see the beautiful park it was hosted at. The dogs in attendance and festive participants were fun to watch too!

As I was walking with my event shirt on and the teal 'survivor' sash around me, I saw a few people who looked and even mouthed the words "wow" as if I was too young for such a diagnosis. Scary enough, I actually saw a girl younger than me - maybe even younger than a high schooler.

Nonetheless, there were kind souls there that day cheering others on and celebrating with all they could. One woman pat me on my back saying, "Yay, survivor!" and another man, a police officer directing traffic around the course, nodded at me and said "Glad to have you here with us today."

This walk was the first cancer-related event I had ever been to, even counting support groups. I had never been in the spotlight or surrounded by others with a similar diagnosis like mine. The event was an eye-opening and fun experience that put personal faces to the statistics and helped me feel the connection to local families going through similar experiences.

My one regret is not being my creative self and coming up with a more festive look. Various people and teams were wearing teal tutus and tiaras with teal nails and shoes. There was even a teal Wonder Woman!


Overall my first walk for awareness and fundraising opportunity was a huge success. I want to thank my boyfriend's parents and grandparents for donating to my team, Abi's Allstars, and also my dad for attending the event with me.

As far as future events go . . .

In October I will volunteer as a model for Best Strokes- Hadassah Bares All for ART (Awareness, Research, Treatment), an event put on by Hadassah Greater Atlanta, the metro Atlanta chapter of Hadassah. The event has local artists body paint the torsos of breast and ovarian cancer survivors, with the finished masterpieces photographed and auctioned off at a later event to raise money for research.

Members of HGA come together to raise funds in support of their projects in Israel and the United States to promote issues of women's health and family well-being, to study, to educate, and to have fun. Future blog posts and pictures are to come!

For now, enjoy some of the other photos from the event, and as always . . .

Take care of yourselves,

Abi

My dad and I mid-course
Festive tutus!

The finish line!
1 mile down
Teal Trot registration


22 Things I've Learned in 22 Years

My brother and I supporting the Packers in the Super Bowl!

There was nothing special about the night of September 10th, 1996, other than the man who jumped the curb of the Hwy 45 on-ramp and went on the grass past all the traffic to get on the freeway. That man was my dad and he was on his way to the hospital when he thought his second child was about to be delivered in rush hour traffic. Traffic was terrible, but luckily my mom's mean doctor was slightly behind in her own vehicle.

To be clear, I was not born in my parents' car. But according to my mom, once she made it to the hospital, I refused to come out. And not much has really changed since then. "It's been Abi's way or the highway even before she was born" - My dad

All jokes aside, it's been a crazy 22 years and I've learned a few things along the way. I could write a nice novel about it, but instead I'll sum up a partial list in no particular order of some of my favorite life lessons:

1. Do what you love, do it often & do it unapologetically.
2. Help others as often as you can.
3. Pay attention to your thoughts. What you're thinking is what you're attracting to your world.
4.  You cannot avoid offending others from time to time. When you don't mean it, apologize. When you do mean it, accept the consequences.
5. Your mom is usually right.
6. Self-doubt will be your creative downfall.
7. Not everyone thinks the way you think.
8. It is not illegal to turn on the little light in the car when someone is driving.
9. Timing has a lot to do with everything.
10. Your feelings are always valid. You're allowed to feel them & take as much time as you need to heal.
11. The best things in life aren't things.
12. Spend as much time as you can with the people you love. You never know when you won't have them.
13. Never stop learning and growing.
14. Certain things will never go back to how they used to be & that's okay.
15. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
16. Enjoy time alone & believe in yourself.
17. Travel as often as you can.
18. What you give power to has power over you.
19. You can't find happiness in other people.
20. Don't let the opinions of others dictate how you love your life.
21. Never apologize for how you feel.
22. Don't waste a single moment.

And as always, take care of yourselves . . .

Abi

Part 2 - Inside the Mind of a Chemo Patient


Woohoo! I write this one week away from my birthday!

I feel like my birthday always falls on a Monday or the most inconvenient day . . . but this year, year 22, I plan to celebrate the best I can because this year I don't have to spend my birthday receiving chemotherapy.

On that note, I thought I'd share with you another journal entry today, and this one happens to be from my first day of chemotherapy. The first entry I shared on this blog seemed to be a big hit with many readers reaching out to me with praise for sharing my internal and personal thoughts of a very vulnerable time. I suppose that is true, but I more so wanted to show you the real-time thought processes flowing through my mind for those who maybe aren't familiar with the timeline and capacity of cancer.

For those who couldn't/didn't get to talk to me or join me on my first day of treatment (so, all of you), you can hopefully be entertained and informed of how my first day went from my perspective here in this journal, versus receiving your information from calling my family members or not at all.

Without my traditional tangent before a post this time, let's get into it.
_______


First day of chemotherapy
It's 8 p.m. on Monday night, the first day of my chemotherapy treatment. Today also marks six weeks since my first surgery that led me to this treatment. I just woke up from a nap, so I'm not sure how much of this will make coherent sense by the end of it. 

Today was okay. Really. I feel like my weekend leading up to today really helped ground me and put me in a good space to head to the infusion center at the hospital. 

This weekend I was a complete mix of emotions trying to harness the last bits of freedom while trying to stay excited about these plans knowing I'll have poison running through my veins soon after. 

Saturday I relaxed while my family went racing somewhere in Atlanta and yesterday we went to Atlantic Station and IKEA. 

It was necessary to be home and recover from my port placement surgery on Saturday. My right arm was sore, still is, and feels like I pinched a nerve. I expected soreness like this because the procedure put this port right on a main vein to my heart amongst a couple important nerves and muscles to my arm. I've taken way more meds after this surgery than I did after my big surgery to take out the tumor. 

The worst part of today was also because of this port. Perhaps I should back up a bit. 

Today's appointment was scheduled for 8:50 a.m. to which we waited in a waiting room filled with elderly patients (totally expected). 

Today's nurse took me back to a semi-private section where she gabbed for three hours straight explaining absolutely everything. "This chemo causes this, and this med will cause this. Call us if this happens. Call us if this doesn't happen." She was nice. 

I felt bad I couldn't reciprocate her kindness but I'm sure everyone understood I had a lot to face in front of me. 

Volunteers came up to me with goody bags and donations and smiles, to which I didn't have the energy to once again reciprocate. I didn't put two and two together today that I'd start feeling the effects right away. 
Mom and I: Day one is done

I didn't get home until after 5 p.m. today and was curious as to why I was so sleepy again. I dozed off while watching TV with my family and realized I obviously was feeling the chemo. 

They did a test dose today of one med known to have major allergic reactions toward. I was fine. And the other two medicines took longer, like three hours to pump each one. The IV's they pump in you at the same time made me have to visit the ladies' room more than I wanted to. Getting up, bringing my rolling Christmas tree of hanging poison in front of all of these other patients and families. It was great. 

All of this I have to look forward to tomorrow as well. And the next day. And the next day. And we get it. Every day for nine weeks. 

With that exhausting thought, I'm going to bed. 
______

It's funny re-reading this after the fact. This entry brought me back to that very chair I was sitting in at the infusion center on this first day of treatment. I can hear the nice nurse explaining everything with a smile. I can smell the waiting room that made me nauseous every day and even today as I post this. The associative nausea is seriously the worst . . .

I hope you enjoyed this small flashback into my personal journal. Again, I can't state how grateful and excited I am to spend my birthday and the days leading up to it and after it not in a hospital!

I hope everyone has a great Labor Day and as always . . .

Take care of yourselves,

Abi

Celebrating One Year 'Cancer-Free'

The beautiful flowers Christopher gave me last year for finishing chemotherapy! The time has come to write this post, and I cannot beli...