From “Fuck You” to “Thank You Cancer”

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Six months sober, and divorced… A few days after my final goodbye to my four year old son, I hit my knees.

the second cocktail of chemo drugs caused a reaction and hair loss

 No, I wasn’t praying.. I was in so much pain that my body collapsed into a ball without much thought.  One minute I was texting “sweet dreams” and by the time she responded I wrote back “I think I’m going to the hospital”.  I felt like I was going to DIE; like a gremlin and the monster from the Alien were doing the monster mash right there in my gut.  I panicked, not only because of the pain but because I lived alone.  What if I got worse before I could alert help? One of my fears of being alone coming to life.  I called my friend asking her if she could please take me to the hospital.  She asked what’s wrong and I told her “please just come quickly.” I debated calling an ambulance but I didn’t want the attention of the street.. My self consciousness still winning, even in an emergency.

  By the time she arrived I had slithered down the 18 stairs from my raised house and was sitting balled up on the bottom step counting the hour long milliseconds that it took for her to arrive.  Once at the hospital, it took 45 minutes to be seen, and another 30 to get any kind of pain relief.  They wanted to do testing first.  I can’t say I blame them, I’d hit every emergency room in the area in pain at one point or another, seeking pain medicine to get high. In the moment tho, I hated every last one of them.  Restraining myself from punching holes in the wall felt impossible.  Laying waiting in our little cubical of the ER, I felt the mess starting to kick in.  The edge of the cliff began to get distant, and the doctor came and asked my friend to step outside.  She returned in tears, the doctor behind her looking somewhat apprehensive.  They told me they had found a tumor… A 19cm tumor wrapped around my left ovary and Fallopian tube.  It was the size of a 5 month pregnancy.  I remember the doctor looking at me like I was crazy.  “You didn’t have any symptoms before now?” He asked.  I thought about it and told him that I did have an increase in pain but I assumed it was because I was sober, and I could actually feel pain now, or maybe because I had started walking and my body was adjusting.

Pictures from the initial surgery

A symptom of PTSD is unmanaged dissociation.  Everyone does it on some level whether it’s entering auto pilot while driving,  and you end up wherever you are going but you don’t remember getting there.  That’s the mild side of the unmanaged dissociation spectrum.  Extreme sides of the spectrum are cases are dissociative identity disorder or DID (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) where the psyche completely splits into separate identities to perform various roles to the host.  There are many stops along the way of that spectrum, and I fall in at about the 60-70 range.  If you want to know more on this feel free to ask!  The point is,  my ability to separate from the feeling of physical pain was so fine tuned that the magnitude of the symptoms weren’t registering.  There was a disconnect.

  So, back to my story.. It’ll be a miracle if this blog actually tells the story I opened it to tell!
  From there I was rushed into surgery, the tumor was removed, along with my ovary and Fallopian tube.  A week later I found out that it was indeed cancerous.  Another fear.. Both my gran and my mother were killed by cancer on my mothers side, and my dads mother was also killed by that monster, and now it had me.  I won’t go into all the specifics.. Maybe another blog piece, but that was where my faith really began.

It wasn’t in a foxhole prayer, “God, please save me… ” it was real faith.. It was where I stopped bartering with the “if there’s a God” and started accepting the current moment exactly as it was.  I had been working on my third step in AA, “we made a decision to turn our will and our life, over to the care of God as we understood him” and I was almost all in.. The only reservation I had about staying sober was “if I lose my son I’m getting fucked up” and then I’d lost my son, and stayed sober.

Truth be told, I was secretly in love with another recovering alcoholic and I wanted to prove how committed I was to sobriety.  She had so many years sober, and I had only months.  I thought if I could tackle these monsters of reasons to drink, without drinking, we could bypass the “sober for a year rule”.

  I fought, every day, well almost every day.  There were some days when I couldn’t fight, and I had to lay in bed and just rest.  I remember feeling so much anxiety and panic when I would try to lay down and rest.  This video pretty much depicts that part of the fight (i record and document everything because my memory isn’t too great, and i lose time a lot… a big part of my recovery has been trying to piece together and accept that these things will happen, but looking for ways that i can take care of myself to make them less intrusive)

I was so scared that while I was resting, the cancer was taking over. No imagined it to be like a black cloud that I’d dispersed with my light of my sun, but crept back over when I wasn’t looking.  If I stopped, my body would get weak and I’d lose the fight.. And that just wasn’t an option.  Most breakdowns actually served their purpose in bouncing me back for the next round…

I spent many manic nights awake.  I began painting.  I didn’t want to watch tv, and so I started painting and found that I could paint! I had no idea.  I was pretty amazing at it too!!

Painted from a photo of Chicago that I found online
My secret love challenged me to try spray painting after seeing a video of the NYC spray paint artist..


Time lapse Video of 48 hours of learning to spray paint… not bad!

I gladly accepted the challenge, and within 24 hours I was spray painting my way to a masterpiece. 🙂 I remember selling some of those to my friends on Facebook, helping to generate some money towards the mounting costs of prescriptions and co pays.  I delivered pizza part time for Papa Johns in the evenings, and worked the back drive thru window of McDonalds with my AA sponsor and good friend in the mornings.
Having fun on the job 😉
  I bounced between photography and painting when I didn’t have the energy to walk.  In finding the gift of artwork, I saw a reason for being sick.  I would’ve never known I could paint if I hadn’t slowed down.  I remember how I felt the first time I realized that.  I’m crying again now just remembering how intense that feeling of trust in the universe was.  I remember telling the universe that it could’ve been a little more subtle than the big C, but then I thought about all of the times that I could’ve slowed down, and should’ve slowed down, and I didn’t.  Always running running running because I didn’t want to feel, and if I slowed down or stopped then the feelings would come flooding thru me at an overwhelming rate and I didn’t know how to adjust the faucet.  It was stuck wide open and I couldn’t handle all of that so I ran, staying busy.  It’s why I got fucked up to begin with. Thank you cancer.
a dresser from my sons room that became a painting project
  Four surgeries, and five chemos into the fight I began researching what could I do to improve my chances.  I asked questions on Facebook, and you guys responded with juice recipes, plant based diets.. And so I tried it.  I remember I couldn’t eat much at the time, but I kept telling myself “if I’m going to force myself to eat something, it’s going to be something that will help kick this bitchs’ ass! And I’d add a spoonful of peanut butter to a very green leafy disgusting  cocktail, blend it up and drink up.  I remember making music videos and joining the happy days fb group where my newsfeed filled up with all of these reasons people were happy that day.  That’s where I met a lot of you guys!  There was something about knowing people were watching, or at least feeling like they were, that grounded me.  I didn’t want you to see the real me.  I didn’t want you to see the crazy me, so I attempted to hide it, failing miserably with those I got close to, but it served its purpose.  I kept striving to improve, to be a better person, to show all of you how amazing I really am.. Because I didn’t feel it.. And you guys would tell me I am, and for a moment I would feel it… And as a true addict, it felt good so I wanted more.

 I began a bucket list which I named the “remember when list” because it was a list of things I would one day sit on my front porch telling stories of “remember when” to what I’d hope to be, my love.. Sitting next to me, saying “yes dear” 🙂 – that fantasy pushed me.  It set a tone inside of me and I wrote that list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime!! As that list grew, I realized that I didn’t have time to have a job.. Not in the traditional sense.  I started thinking of ways I could make money without actually going to work, and reading nomad blogs, learning how to travel as cheap as possible.  Again the faith came in, as I thought about everything I had already survived, and I saw how each individual storm in my life created a piece of evidence that I would be okay, no matter what.  Dealing with mental illness, never actually killing myself despite many years of feeling that was my only safe place to live mentally… Katrina.. Being homeless.. Heartbreaks.. I had survived  many storms, it’s what I do! In that I found strength and courage.  I saved links, and took notes, learning and forming the vague outline of how I could actually start working on some of these bucket list ideas.  Sure.. I couldn’t go backpacking Europe that day, laying in bed feeling sick as a dog, hurting, and generally wanting to die on some level.. But I could start studying.. Figure out what id need to do.. What equipment would I need? I’d only been camping twice.  I started looking on craigslist, and reading more and more.

What could I sell to generate money? I started painting sand dollars, and furniture, and whatever else came my way.  I sat out on Saturdays at the farmers market, hoping to sell a piece.  I went to galleries and talked to the managers, showing my portfolio.. I read blogs on how photographers make money with their pictures.. And the majority of the money is in portrait photography.. It wasn’t something I felt I was good enough for, having seen others work.  I didn’t have the money for the equipment I really needed, but I took my Panasonic LUMIX camera and did the best I could.. Watching YouTube videos on how to edit portrait pictures.  Touch ups etc.  I had the eye, I just didn’t have the knowledge, but I learned!

Adorable little girl and her mother that responded to a FB ad

I posted questions in fb photography groups, and they came back with all the answers to help me improve.  It provided the money to travel some more, but I didn’t care for it enough to pursue it further.

I took on a couple of website gigs, rehashing skills from my earlier years, and hustled flipping a broke down car.

Changing out the brake calipers – gotta trust the Universe to learn this on YouTube!

There’s never an easy answer to “how do you afford to travel” I just do whatever the moment presents itself with, and I am always provided for.  The Universe takes care of me as long as I allow it to.  I never thought I’d be a paid blogger.. $5-$12 a day, but it’s something! Every little something adds up and creates opportunity for more experience, and with more experience comes more opportunity.  It’s an amazing circle of life.

  Now my hope is to use my blog to not only record doing all this with mental illness.. (Which I really want to write about the transition from traveling to home.. I definitely need a better plan for reentry.  The last few days have been rough and I feel very spacey, ungrounded), but not only that and frugal traveling, but I’ve been writing the story of the travels from a first hand perspective as if the reader is the one traveling.  Once the story is written I want to record it and put pictures and videos to it so that the viewer or reader feels as if they are really traveling the world.

Then I want to donate it to everyone fighting a terminal illness, so that they can dissociate into the story and maybe get a little relief from the reality of the pain and treatment that they are going thru.  I hope it inspires them to fight, to really see the world, or whatever their bucket list things are, and if that’s no longer an option, I hope I get to help fulfill at least one of them by having this experience to share.

  Having said that..
I’d like you help me out by clicking on all the ads you see on this page, clicking back to the blog between each one.  I get paid per reader and per ad click.. And that helps fund this adventure.
I’d also like you to shared story if you believe in me and want to be a part of it!
And lastly, there is a box to subscribe to the blog, if you want notifications of new posts to the blog.
With that.. I hope you enjoyed my story.. It’s what got me to where I am today.. This year I have seen 22 states in the USA.. Fallen in love with traveling, seen my nephew for the first time, seen my first concert, mastered camping, backpacked four cities, opened an Airbnb of my own, become a paid blogger, met sooo many amazing new people, and next month I am leaving to backpack Europe! It’s wild!  If this is a dream, I never want to wake up.  Thank you Cancer!
“It’s a perfect day for a perfect day!”
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Recipe For Love? It’s no secret…

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“You attract what you are” – how many times in my life had I heard that?  How many times had I pondered that .. did I want to attract someone just like me? What did that mean? What would be the point of that … I mean, I already know me, right?  Why would I want someone just like me?  There’s things about me that I don’t like.. ohhhh

My journey into the world of self love was completely under protest.  It wasn’t a blissful “ah ha” moment after some downward dog, or during a meditative sunrise on the beach.. it was kicking and screaming, fighting every step of the way.  First of all, I had no desire to be single.  I’d never been single for longer than two weeks, and I had always been the one to leave, once that next step was already in the works.  NOoooooo way was I getting caught out to be left alone in some dark depressing house with nothing but my miserable self! Then she left… just as I had gained all these beautiful tools about how to create everything I wanted to create… with her.. she left.

Well.. there went 50% of the names I had listed under “name the people in your support group”.  Thank goodness for the next question and answer.. “How can I build my support network?”  I went online and sent a couple of messages out to Pathways staff, and looked up the nearest location of Codependents Anonymous.  This was as good a time as any to work on that.  I didn’t really understand how becoming codependent on meetings full of other codependents was really going to help me separate from those behaviors.. Heck.. what if I met a new lover there?  Ha! Man, my brain is a trip isn’t it? 

Today I am overwhelmed with how many people are in my life.  I don’t mean all the people listed on my facebook, although I am proud to say that I interact with a good percentage of them.  I’m talking about the number of friends that I can be completely transparent with.  The number of friends who trust me, and confide in me.  The number of friends that I can do the same with.  The acceptance that these don’t have to fall in both categories.  I am honored that people seek guidance from me, because I take that as a testament of how they see me living my life.  No one would’ve wanted advice on how to sit on my couch and binge watch 2 seasons of a TV show.

The biggest thing that I am grateful for is self love.  While I entered that path kicking and screaming.. the time I spent living alone, and entertaining myself, taught me who I am.  It taught me that I don’t like to watch TV that much.  That occasionally I like to read, and it’s okay that it is only occasionally.  It taught me that I like to dance around the house or record music videos and covers of my own.. that I think I have a decent voice, and I’m not too shy to share that.  It taught me that I don’t fit into a scheduled kinda lifestyle.  That some days coffee may be at 7am.. and some days I may not function well enough to brew it until noon.  Some days I won’t be able to drink it because my anxiety will already be too high.. and some days I’ll drink a whole pot.   It showed me that I could sustain life on my own.  I didn’t need two incomes… I needed to learn how to manage money.  How to stop the waste, and in doing so, I found that I actually had more.. living in the same house, on one income.. those of you that follow me will know that I’m not just talking about the occasional meal out.. I’ve traveled across half the United States.. 9 countries overseas.. funded my love of artwork, photography, upgraded my car, furnished and maintained my home.  Self love made that possible.  Faith made that possible.  Walking the walk, made that possible.

It was initially suggested for me to stay single for a year.  I don’t know if any of you have seen “28 Days” with Sandra Bullock.. Jermiah was a bullfrog… anyway, in that movie it shows the idea that someone getting sober should first learn to take care of a plant.. and then a pet.. and THEN they may be ready for a relationship.  Well.. in 12 step programs, they suggest staying in the relationship you’re currently in, or staying single if you aren’t.  Looking back at the impact relationships had on my previous attempts to stay sober, I thought this would be a good area to follow the suggestion.  I remember coming up on my 1 year anniversary of sobriety.  I was so excited that I was going to be eligible to find a partner.  I had three plants… 2 animals.. and a year of sobriety under my belt!!! I was READY!!! And then it dawned on me.. if I was still this eager to find the love of my life, and be with someone, then I probably wasn’t ready.  If I still felt like finding that missing piece in my life was the answer to all that wasn’t right about my life.. Dang it!! Admitting I wasn’t ready was one of the harder things for me to do.  To live with the intention of being whole, just as I am.. I’m still working on that.  I can say that I have moments where I feel that in its entirety, and it s a pretty awesome feeling.  To know that I don’t need to make more money, have a newer car, a bigger house, more friends, a closet full of name brand clothing, acceptance from everyone and their mother, initials after my name, a “mrs” before it.. a weight that begins with a 1 and not a 2.. or a 3..  I am beautiful.  I am kind, and giving.  I am disciplined, and just.  I am courageous, and strong.  I am peaceful and safe.  I am creative, and intriguingly talented.  I am adventurous and empathetic.  My heart hurts for others’ trials and tribulations, and I still snatch my superman cape from the closet.. wanting to fix it all.. and I still get heavy hearted and depressed when I can’t… and I’ll try three more times before I accept that.. if not more.  I am stubborn.  I should say that again… I AM STUBBORN… and I love that I am stubborn, because in that quality, I never give up… not unless the pain outweighs the pleasure, and then I have learned how to let go, and that I can let go, and I can feel all those feelings that come flooding.. and survive.  I am love.. I am love.. just as I am.

I would love to tell you that I walked this path flawlessly.  I didn’t.  For the majority of these lessons, I loved another, and it was in seeing how I showed up in my love, that I learned what I wanted to be loved like.  It was in the constant desire to improve, and be enough, that I saw how far I was willing to go to be the me that I always wanted to be.. in proving that I could make anything happen, that I saw I could make anything happen.  It was in attempting to prove to her that I was worth taking a chance on, that I learned I am so much more than a chance.  I am a gift.  I see it in the feedback that I get from close friends and complete strangers.  I feel just how loved I am.  I see what I have to offer.. and I began being picky about the person I’d wanna share my life with.  By this time, my life was something I didn’t want to sacrifice in any way.  I wanted to find someone who lives exactly as I live.  I wanted to find someone that was free to roam the world with me, while being self supporting.  Surprisingly, there aren’t as many of those as I thought there would be.  I remember thinking about how I could create that person.. the first thing that always got in the way was a job.. so I started looking for someone who wasn’t employed, and figured I could take care of them until they figured out an avenue of income that would support them.. Yea.. I know .. that wasn’t the smartest plan.. “Hey, do you wanna move in, be taken care of, and travel?” not exactly motivation to get up and do for themselves.  That lasted a month, and again I realized just how unready I was for a relationship.  I was still too desperate for it.

Several names came and went on my radar of possibilities.  I’d always find a reason why it wouldn’t work out.  I was in love with a married woman who lived a thousand miles away, and I was comfortable.  That’s actually a lie, because if I had been comfortable then my closest friends wouldn’t have gotten sick of hearing me cry over it, but I was in denial, and just knew  that if I waited long enough.. she was the one.  Sure enough, the time would come where she would sound like she was ready for us to be together, and I would freak out!!  What would that look like?  Would I have to share my home? Would she wanna redecorate? Would I be able to stay as laid back with her in person as I was thru a screen?  I hadn’t written about us in “our” journal for over a year.. I hadn’t drawn or painted.. or even written a poem.  Everything that had come to life when I felt the love flowing had stopped.. long ago.   I didn’t look at my phone in the morning to see if she’d said Good Morning.. because I knew she hadn’t.   I’d stopped telling her all about my days.. we still talked every day, but never about anything.  If anything, I purposely didn’t tell her about my day, waiting to see if she would ask.  I’d entered the world of tests.   I’d taken a step back, and tho going through the motions of it, I was watching the cycle.. our cycle.. and seeing the insanity of it.  My anger felt forever present.  I wrote and wrote in my blogs about my struggles, and never once did she ask, because never once did she read.  Not that I expected her to read everything I ever wrote.. I know I write a lot.. but I had alerts set to tell me when she posted things to multiple social media outlets.. I wanted to know.. because I wanted to know all about her.. and in watching myself come to these realizations, I learned how I love, and how I want to be loved.

So here we are, full circle.  NOW I wanted to attract who I am.  It finally made sense.  I wanted to be loved and respected, the way that I love and respect myself and others.  I wanted that love to inspire me to grow, and create.. just as it had before.. but I wanted it to bloom, and be reciprocated.  I wasn’t really looking for it anymore.  I had moved my attention to traveling.. and seeing the world.  I’d fallen in love with life.. and life was busy loving me right back.  I’d fallen in love with my faith in the Universe.. and boy was the Universe loving me right back!  I was pretty content with my life.. and then it happened.  I was introduced to someone new, and all I wanted was to know more…

  
I can’t tell you how many smiles have graced my face since I met her.  My favorites are the ones that come when she does or says something that I would say or do.  I find myself drawing her.. getting lost in the details of her face… writing poems or blurbs so that I can capture the moment, and the new feeling that I am feeling.  I feel twitterpated. J  I also feel cautious, determined not to float with the same river of relationship pasts.  I want us to carve our own river.  There’s no rush.  It’s healthy for me to miss her.   We both have completely different lives.. lives that have been such a blessing.   The travel life doesn’t allow much in person time because I am always somewhere else.  It’s the perfect breeding ground for creativity.  Exploring the obstacles of distance, and appreciating the time together so much more.  Next month we will meet in Cincinatti and roadtrip together to Florida.  Neither of us lives in either of those places.  J It’s exciting.  Every day is a new lesson.. a new area to work on.. or growth to be celebrated.  It feels good to be growing again.  I didn’t realize how stagnated I had become.

So yea.. you really do have to learn to love yourself before you can truly love another… and then you’ll attract what you love. 😉

What about protein?

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Lunch – I made bean soup last night.. And didn’t bother to make rice because I realized.. I only eat rice when it’s a meal that’s “supposed to have rice” .. And I’d much rather save the carbs for something I desire than a “just because”. I added hot sauce and it was good .. But it wasn’t like WOW factor!!!

Today I put some on a tortilla made of organic whole spelt .. On a bed of spinach topped with olives and tomatoes..


Note to self: black olives didn’t taste like they belonged in that one..
If anyone has some bean recipes.. I’m all ears!

#whataboutprotein

Celebrating 18 months of travel today while getting ready to leave for Greece!  Mentally, I’m not where I was when I left for Europe last year, but I’ll be in good company.. Positive thinking.. Picture what I want it to look like.. Getting out there and doing it… Haven’t been wanting to leave my house, so this feels a bit like a mountain.

 


Breakfast was a slam dunk!

 

 I just feel so hungry all the time.. And thirsty.. Sooooo thirsty!

Plant based “bread”!! Thank you Airbnb!

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I love the things I learn from the guests that come thru my home.  Last week I had guests from the mountains of North Carolina.  Seriously.. They are practically living off the grid, and were on a vacation from that lifestyle, into our lifestyle of Netflix with a side of beach.  Diane was so excited to find yucca root here at a bargain price.  

  
I’d seen it at the store, but had no idea how to cook it, or eat it, or what it was! She peeled it, and juiced it to bring the pulp home for tortillas the next day.  

So I decided to try this stuff out for myself..

  

I peeled the root and it produced the juice, the pulp, and a floury consistency inside the blades..

  
Then I made patties with the pulp, and added the floury stuff while heating up coconut oil in a pan.

  

   

Used another pan to heat up my last sneaky chickpea and carrot burger…  

Spread creole mustard on each yucca patty, added spinach, and pickles (I have a lack of mushrooms, and other toppers available at home right now)

Cut it into quarters.. And voila! A complete meal made out of vegetables, roots and beans! What!?!