The Jouney Continues…

Hi all!  Thank you for continuing to follow my blog.  I know I don’t post as often as most bloggers, but I promise I’m working on it.  This post is all about transition.  Whether or not you are a survivor’s spouse, you all experience transitions every day.

One of the hardest things about being a Survivor’s Wife is the transition into this role from being the Patient’s Wife.  All of a sudden, you’re no longer juggling single parenthood with work and countless doctor appointments. You’re not nursing a patient through night sweats and living on 2 hours of sleep a night.  You have 5 minutes to sit back and reflect (or nap, depending on your priorities).

Our son was born 4 days after my husband completed his last radiation treatment.  The whirlwind that was our life didn’t really settle into a new normal for about 6 months post-cancer.   When I look back now, it took me a long time to be able to finally appreciate our healthy family.  I had to force myself not to worry every time someone had a fever.  I had to stop making myself crazy over every PET scan.  One of the most rewarding things I have learned through this whole process is that I can’t control everything.  Bad things are going to happen no matter how much effort you put into trying to stop them.  We all need to make the best out of the time we have because nothing is a guarantee.

Last fall, when my husband saw the oncologist for his final 6 month check and was given a clean bill of health, I found myself getting restless.  Patient who have been treated for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are considered “cured” after 2 consecutive years in remission.  We were no longer living our lives in 6 month increments.  Now we get to go a whole year without seeing our “guardian angel” oncologist.  This transition left me with time on my hands to reflect and re-evaluate.

What I saw was a thriving 2 ½ year old, a well-adjusted 11 year old and a happy healthy husband.  What I couldn’t seem to find was me.  I had been so busy taking care of everyone else, that I just wasn’t a priority.  That needed to change.  I had 20 lbs. of baby weight that my 39 year old body just couldn’t shed.  I hadn’t had a hair cut in a year.  I was working 60 hours a week and raising a young family.  It was finally time for a change.  It was time for me.  My last post talked about getting my family healthy.  This one is all about me and my journey.

I hate to sound corny and I promise, no one is paying me for this, but Advocare has changed my life.  I purchased their 24 Day Challenge through a friend and was instantly hooked.  I’ve tried every diet out there, with little to temporary success.  Diets that achieve quick results are impossible to maintain.  The restrictions just aren’t realistic for daily living.   Advocare isn’t a diet – it’s a lifestyle change.  The program teaches you how to eat healthy, lose weight and how to maintain it.  It’s not a weight loss gimmick. Not only have I lost all 20 of my post-baby pounds, I’ve lost an additional 5 and been able to keep it off.

The 24 Day Challenge was the hardest part for me. I had to commit to learning how to make better nutritional choices and I had to convince my family to get on board.  No more fried chicken parmesan.  No more nightly desserts.  This plan is all about clean eating.  We now eat grilled chicken with tomato slices and melted fresh mozzarella.  We substitute spaghetti squash for pasta.  We eat fresh fruit daily.  I have never felt better.  My family has never felt better.  We are so committed to this lifestyle that I have become an Advocare life coach.

I’m sure my next few posts will continue to be a chronicle of my family’s journey post-cancer.  Now, that journey will be a healthier one.  In the meantime, if you would like more information about Advocare, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email at thesurvivorswife@yahoo.com.

See you soon!

Cameron

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A Long Overdue Return

Good afternoon all!  I would like to start out apologizing for my absence.  The snow we are getting here in the Northeast has turned our lives upside down.  Some days, the logistics of navigating a city with 4’ of snow is exhausting.

I’m happy to say that, in my absence, we have survived another oncology appointment with a clean bill of health.  We are adjusting to a winter season of our new “normal”.  Other survivor spouses out there know that there is a new normal for everything.

This year, I have noticed that I appreciate the life that I have a lot more than I used to.  I appreciate that the stolen moments alone with my husband, even though they are few and far between in our busy life.  I see how much our daughter, who will be twelve in a few weeks, is growing into a beautiful young lady.  I even appreciate the joys of potty training our almost 3 year old son.  Who would have thought anyone would find happiness in that?

Aside from the pleasure I’m finding in the mundane, I am pleased to be able to tell you that our family is continuing our successful quest to live a healthier life.  I am cooking almost every day.  We are making much better choices on the rare occasions when we dine out.  We are using our YMCA membership regularly.  So far, I have lost 10 lbs. and my husband has lost 15 lbs. Disclaimer:  I started out much lighter than my husband and all of my fitness savvy friends tell me that the more you weigh, the easier it is to lose.

In addition to the obvious benefits of looking and feeling better, we have discovered a perk that we had not anticipated.  We have found another way to bond with our children.  Our daughter is a competitive swimmer, as we both were at her age.  She loves spending an hour with one of us in the pool…and has even beaten me in races more often than I care to admit.

Our son loves to sit in his stroller while we walk or run in the neighborhood.  Admittedly, we haven’t been doing much of that lately, but the weather has to get better sometime, right?

Lately, I’ve been cooking in the crockpot a few nights a week.  The cold weather makes me crave stews and I love way it makes the house smell for the whole day.  This weekend, we had one of my favorite new recipes.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Winter Comfort Chicken Stew

1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 lbs. butternut squash, cut into cubes

1.5 cups of fresh cranberries (our grocery store has them year round in the frozen fruit section. Just thaw them out.)

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

1 white onion, thinly sliced

1 cup of low sodium chicken broth

2 Bay leaves

2 tsp. Herb de Provance

I always start by spraying my crockpot with non-stick spray.  It saves time on clean up.

Place the cubed butternut squash in the crockpot.  Place chicken on top of squash.  Add 1 bay leaf and 1 tsp. of the Herb de Provance.  Add the cranberries, apple, onion and remaining spices.  Pour chicken broth over the top and cover.

Cook on high for 2 hours and low for 1 ½ hours.  I serve this with roasted red potatoes, but it would be great over rice too.

See you all soon!

A Healthier Life

I think sometimes people who have not experienced cancer first hand do not realize that it changes the way you live your life forever. My husband has developed several conditions from the treatments associated with cancer.  He now has a heart condition, so he can’t exercise the same way he used to.  Walking on the treadmill for ten minutes leaves him winded.  The chemotherapy has caused his bones to not heal after an unrelated surgery. Life is never the same after cancer – even in remission.

Healthy eating is one of the things that makes everyone feel better, post-cancer or not. If your spouse is anything like my spouse, one of the most significant changes that we needed to make in our lives was the adoption of a healthier eating plan.  I’ve always eaten fairly healthy – by balancing my fried food weakness with an equal portion of veggies.  My husband, however, is strictly a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  He could eat carbs, in the form of pasta, every night.  At first, I really struggled to incorporate healthier options into our not-so-healthy- diets. Then I learned how to use healthy food to my advantage.

My current fall vegetable obsession is butternut squash. I have found ways to hide it in just about anything. Here is one of my favorites:

Not so ordinary red sauce (serves 6)

1 – 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

2 T tomato paste (I use a tube that can be stored in the refrigerator. Less waste)

½ cup low sodium chicken broth, divided (substitute vegetable broth to make this dish vegetarian)

½ yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 lb butternut squash, cut into 1” cubes*

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small pot, steam the butternut squash by bringing 2” of water to a boil. Add squash, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Squash should be soft enough to mash or puree

In a large pot, sweat onion and garlic in 1 T of olive oil until onion is translucent – about 5 minutes. Add Crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1/3 cup of the chicken broth and stir well to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste (Easy on the salt.  It’s usually in the crushed tomatoes).Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

When squash is done, mash well with a fork or puree in a food processor/blender. If you use an appliance, you may need to add the remaining chicken broth.

Add mashed/pureed squash to red sauce mixture. Depending on the brand of tomatoes you use, you may need to thin the sauce out with a little extra chicken stock. Serve over your favorite shaped whole wheat pasta (another healthy substitute)

*Shortcut alert: Precooked butternut squash is available in the freezer section of most supermarkets. Follow the package directions to thaw and skip right to the mashing/pureeing step.

This sauce only has 92 calories per serving and only 1 single calorie is from fat! (According to my calorie counter app). You’re also getting 2 servings of vegetables in every portion. That’s a win-win!

A Survivor’s Loss

One of the first experiences I had after my husband became a survivor was of loss. In the traditional sense, we very rarely associate surviving with loss.  As a survivor’s wife I did not experience the same loss as I would have had my husband lost his life, but I did lose something nonetheless.

In 2012, when remission was confirmed and life started to go back to “normal”, I realized that what we both had lost was our optimism. Gone were the days of long-term future planning.  I saw us living our lives from PET scan to PET scan.  It was as if we were afraid to believe that he was healthy. Our lives had become so consumed by cancer; we didn’t remember how to live without it.  His initial diagnosis was so unexpected and so sudden that we were sure that the next time he went for testing, it would be back.

We have come to realize that our children not only deserve, but thrive off of our optimism. We owe it to them to give them a positive childhood.  Although our son is only 2 ½, he is visibly responding to the change in our behavior.  Our daughter, who was 9 when her dad was diagnosed, is becoming a much less serious young lady.  We hate that she had to grow up so fast at such a young age.  This is the time for her to have fun.  We need to lead by optimistic example.

It has been 2 ½ years since my husband went into remission and we are finally starting to come out of the fog. We have already made plans for our summer vacation next year.  We talk about the future.  We are still very aware that life is full of uncertainty, but understand that it cannot control our lives.  Now, we take the time to appreciate the things in life that too often go unappreciated – the colors of the fall leaves, a spontaneous hug or a chance encounter.  Whatever those little things are to you, enjoy them in the moment.

Welcome to my life

I am a survivor’s wife.  In 2011, we were leading the storybook life.  We had just purchased our first home and I was pregnant with our second child.  We had finally achieved the American Dream.  Then, coincidentally, on October 14th, our lives changed in an instant.  The love of my life was diagnosed with stage 4A Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  My first thought was “I’m going to be a single mom”.  Then I realized that this was my time to be the strong one…the caregiver…the rock.  My family needed me more than ever and I would not let them down. Seven Chemotherapy and thirteen radiation treatments later and my husband was in remission – and not a moment too soon.  Our son was born 4 days later.

I honestly believed that our life would go back to the way it was BC – before cancer.  I could not have been more wrong.  The husband I have now is not the husband I had three years ago.  He is the survivor I love and I am a survivor’s wife.  Welcome to my journey.

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