Another Crazy Christmas in France

I love going to my in-laws in the French Loire Valley for Christmas, which is a sacred familial time for them.

This year getting out of Nashville was a bit exhausting due to all the normal get-out-of-town craziness and preparations for my last Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT) which is scheduled for this week (January 9-12). I’ve been feeling good, but I was definitely burning the candle at both ends. Even so, I was a little surprised that my therapy clearance blood work showed my red blood cells and platelets plummeted. Sure, it’s not unusual for this to happen and there’s a good chance I even sabotaged myself.

I’d been hearing so much hoopla around the ketogenic diet, including that it is good for cancer patients since it starves cancer cells of the glucose they need to grow.  BUT, as it turns out, guess what red blood cells need to reproduce? If you guessed glucose, then you are correct. Oopsy!

Fortunately, the counts were still well above the therapy minimums and gave me a self signed permission slip to reinstated carbs, which would’ve been an epic failure (and just all together wrong) in France and Italy anyways.

Enough cancer.

Flying to Paris and arriving was a shit show but no more than usual. Travel in Europe is a physical work out, but I was happy to arrive to my beloved village of St. Cyr en Val to be greeted by droves of family. Also, it was extra fun this year since my friend from Nashville joined to experience a French Christmas.

We spent the first few days getting adjusted to the time, visiting Chateau de Chambord and locating a few Camino shells throughout Orleans, a potential stop for those walking to Santiago from Paris.

img_5213

In the hot seat!

Christmas Eve was the big event! This is when 50 of my crazy french in-laws drink oodles of champagne, sing, dance and eat platters of oysters.  This year the chaos was amplified by a photo booth, introducing them to white elephant/dirty santa and CLR….until 4am. It was really fun and I can officially say that I am completely acclimated (it only took nine years). We even ventured off to midnight mass where Father Jean-Baptiste called me to the pew for a little interview. I was throughly embarrassed, but also touched since I know he prays for my health often. Last year he blessed me and this year he expressed excitement about my trip to Rome to see his boss, Pope Francis.

The following days after Christmas Eve shenanigans were filled with gifts and visits and food and drinks and naps. I was tired and my brain hurt from french but I think it was my favorite Christmas in a long time.

On the 27th, we were off to Paris for a couple of days. Day one was spent walking around Galerie Lafayette, seeing the sights on a Bateaux Mouche, a comedy show and a long, late dinner at a tapas restaurant. My Nashville friend also had a great time with the exception of the last night where she was hit with food poisoning and spent the whole night sick. With her night reminding me of the months I spent laying on the bathroom floor I felt so bad for her having to travel all day feeling like that. Fortunately, I don’t leave home without  a couple Zofran, which helped her make it home after a looooooong hard day.

img_5268As she soldiered through, my husband and I got to experience something really special at the Paris Zoo. His cousin is the giraffe keeper and invited us for a private visit with her 15 giraffes. We got to feed and pet them and take pictures. It was incredible and it took everything I had not to steal one. With the day spent fawning over giraffes, we walked around the Champs Elysées and met an old friend for dinner. We haven’t seen him in seven years and wow a lot has happened and changed. Satisfied with a wonderful time in France, we went back to our friends tiny apartment for a long sleep before jetting off to Italy in the morning.

Cheers to many more Christmas celebrations in the Loire Valley!

See…they cray!

Advertisements

The Season of Grief, Gratitude & Compassion

87WSyMSm

As featured on curetoday.com

The last few years fall has been a season of challenge for me. In 2014 I was recovering from a distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy after my pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor diagnosis. In 2015 I was recovering from a liver resection, months of chemotherapy and a serious case of PTSD. In 2016 I had a surprise surgery due to a bowel obstruction, a complication from my previous abdominal surgeries. And this year, I am undergoing an experimental treatment, but overall, doing well and grateful to not be watching leaves change through a hospital window.

I admit I tiptoed into autumn holding my breath with optimism I would exit without a traumatic event. While there are still a few days of the season left, I, personally have been spared, but others have not been so lucky, creating a new kind of trauma.

Between September and today, there were four people in my circle who died from cancer. They were all young and all women, making their deaths too close to home. One was a young mother I met in a luncheon in New York City who had a very similar case to mine. We exchanged emails regularly and I got scared when the messages stopped coming only to find my fears realized when I logged onto Facebook after a hiatus to see she had passed away. Another was Beth Caldwell, who died from neuroendocrine breast cancer. I only knew her from social media, where she was revered for changing the advocacy game. And most recently, a friend of friend, who died from pancreatic cancer.

Another one of these new angels was a fellow Cure Magazine contributor, Jen Sotham. I also never met her, but enjoyed reading her blog and being Twitter friends. I always thought she sounded pretty cool and someone I’d be friends with in real life even if we both didn’t have cancer. When I read her last blog, Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, I could not help but smile and be sad at the same time because she did it – she won. She didn’t die while still living and she didn’t let the disease break her to the point of bitterness. In fact, Jen got to say goodbye, in a pretty cool way.

Unfortunately, cancer wasn’t the only grim reaper to make an appearance this fall. There was a tragic death of a friend of a friend whose family was already grieving a huge loss. Also, my husband came home one day with terrible news of a colleague that passed away, from a massive heart attack leaving a wife and two daughters. He simply left in the morning to go hunting and didn’t come back. I think of both these families and am heartbroken to think they are left replaying last, perhaps mundane, meaningless conversations and without “I love yous” or important words said. It definitely makes me ask, where is the justice?

With each death I lit a candle and sat for a quiet few minutes processing my feelings. Of course there was sadness, but more than anything there was appreciation for my own life and the people close to me. I feel gratitude for still being here, having an excellent quality of life and for the warning cancer gives.

These losses also have me treading into the holiday season with renewed compassion as I encounter angry traffic, tired crowds and over booked schedules. Knowing the chances are high that the person in front of me experienced loss and hardship this year. I find myself pausing, slowing down and truly appreciating, like never before, the intangible gifts of life, family, friends and my fellow-man. My only wish this year is the same realizations for everyone (hopefully without experiencing death and cancer). And may we all take a moment to light a candle for those empty spaces in our life and the lives of others.

For some inspiration, watch the Jen Sotham’s TEDx talk here, which she gave days before passing away:

Check out my other articles on Curetoday.com

Can-Sur-Thrive No. 2

Welcome to a segment in my blog where I’ll share podcasts, books, videos, products, etc. that (I feel) help me not just survive, but thrive along this crazy road called life.

Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story
Feeling sorry for yourself or having a bad day, week month or year? Then you need to watch this documentary (available on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube or Amazon). ‘Charged’ tells the story of Eduardo Garcia who was electrocuted while hiking in 2011. I don’t want to spoil the film, but what the trailer below doesn’t reveal is that while recovering from being electrocuted, he was also diagnosed with cancer. So, yeah, talk about a rough go of it. Instead of wallowing and playing the victim (which no one would’ve blamed him for), he chose to do the opposite and live his best life. After watching this, it made me wanna get up and go do something. I’m also proud to share that he’s a fellow First Descents surfing alumni. And if you’re like me and can’t get enough of Eduardo, listen to him on Lance Armstrong’s Forward podcast here.

Emily McDowell cards and gifts
The perfect gift or card for someone who needs some love, but who rolls their eyes at Shakespearean sonnets, Bible passages or cliche-y-isms. I am putting several stamps of approval on Emily McDowell cards. Here is a sampling of my favorites:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

10 Regrets Too Many People Will Have in 10 Years by Marc Chernoff
I don’t know where I came across this listicle, but I saved it because it was too good not to share. You should definitely read it all, but here are the highlights:

  1. Not spending enough quality time with the right people.
  2. Not expressing your love openly and honestly with those you love.
  3. Basing a significant portion of your self-worth on other people’s opinions of you.
  4. Being too busy impressing others and forgetting about what matters to YOU.
  5. Letting uncertainty paralyse you.
  6. Focusing on failures instead of opportunities.
  7. Holding on too tight to every ideal, and then missing out on real opportunities.
  8. Playing the victim for far too long.
  9. Waiting, over analyzing, and never taking the necessary steps.
  10. Being too busy to appreciate your life.

‘Friends From College’ on Netflix
If laughter is good medicine, then ‘Friends From College’ must be the cure to cancer. It has been so long since I laughed this hard at a TV show. And just when I thought my love of Fred Savage couldn’t possibly be greater than seeing him in ‘The Wonder Years’, Friends From College made him a gay, literary agent. Swoon! There was one episode in particular (No. 5, Party Bus) that reminds me of my friends and I so much that I wondering if one of them is ghost writing the show. Anyway, if you are a 30- or 40-something, I must insist that you watch this show. I’ll wait…

89446bfb227738793bc03c7488a21fac--headspace-app-appsHeadspace App
I seriously struggle with my meditation practice. I know I should do it and that it’s good for me, but still, I always find a way to talk myself out of it. Headspace has given me some consistency. The app gives ten days of ten minute meditations for free and offers a paid upgrade to access packs addressing anxiety, stress, sleep and cancer. You may even want to check with your hospital’s patient services department, support group or a non-profit you support since they may provide a free one year subscription. I got mine through First Descents.

Previous Can-Sur-Thrives:
No. 1
Mitch Albom: The Dying Know the Secrets to a Good Life, Super Soul Podcast
Tony Robbins: Overcome Suffering and Live in a Beautiful State, Super Soul Podcast
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Soul Analyse
What Really Matters at the End of Life, TED Talk by BJ Miller