Tag Archives: Healthy

A Wife’s Merry-Go Round

One of the hardest parts of being a survivor’s wife is living in a world of what-ifs.  What if the swollen lymph nodes are not because of strep throat?  What if that rash isn’t just poison ivy?  What if the cancer comes back?  I worry every day that we won’t recognize the symptoms.  I am constantly on alert.

Even in my heightened sense of awareness, there are certain times of the year that trigger what I would consider to be a near panic.  One of those times is the couple of weeks leading up to a routine oncology appointment.  When the office starts calling to remind my survivor about CAT scans and blood work , my anxiety begins to build.  As the date of the appointment grows closer, my stress level climbs like a thermometer in August.  What if the CAT scan comes back inconclusive and we have to wait for PET scan results?  What if the blood work shows elevated levels?

Even harder than worrying is trying not to let it show.  I’m supposed to be the strong one.  I got us through three years of what-ifs.  I should be able to handle waiting for a little appointment with our favorite doctor. For the most part, I think I’m being successful in managing it all, but then I find myself sleeping less at night and being more short-tempered with the kids.  I have to remind myself that they don’t understand – they have no idea what is going on.  They also survived such a difficult time in our lives, I owe it to them to protect them from the worry.  Sometimes, I just have to take a step back, breathe and enjoy a nice glass of Riesling, all while refocusing my energies on what’s important.

We survived another oncology appointment today with a clean bill of health and for that I am eternally grateful.  Now to tackle the next 6 months as a better person than I was yesterday…

Stronger

 

Finding the right cause for me

I am a big believer in giving back.  There are millions of causes out there, and it’s hard to know which ones really invest in the causes you are passionate about.  There are regular Facebook posts and news reports related to the shady activities of charities that claim to raise money for worthwhile causes.  Some of those reports are more disappointing than others.  I am always disappointed when I see reports of funds being mismanaged by organizations claiming to support veterans and children. I wonder how people can exploit the suffering of others and still sleep at night.  I sure couldn’t!

Of course, over the past few years, I have been much more aware of charities that support cancer research and families who have been plagued by the disease.  I support several of my friends and family members when they participate in various Relay for Life events. can see how these funds are invested back into local communities and supporting them has been very rewarding.

Lately, I have been searching for my own cause to support and have finally found one that not only aligns with my personal mission to help eradicate cancer, but also encourages me to continue my quest toward being more fit in my 41st year than I was in my 31st year.  The Great Cycle Challenge raises money toward ending childhood cancers.  It challenges riders to commit to riding a set number of sponsored miles in the month of June.

Great Cycle Challenge

 

Right now I have committed to riding 100 miles, which is still a little scary to see in print.  Mother Nature is not being very cooperative in helping me to get outside to ride, so for now I will have to begin my training indoors on a stationary bike. I’m hoping, if my training goes well, to increase that number to 150 miles by June 1st.

To learn more about the Great Cycle Challenge or to support me with a donation, please visit https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/CameronGrant.  Even the smallest donation can help to save a life.

Fall Resolution

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Some people make New Year resolutions every January.  Since fall is my favorite season in New England, I have a tendency to make fall resolutions.  As I mentioned in a previous post, last fall I committed to a healthier lifestyle by combining the Advocare products with a healthy diet and exercise.  Although I have used the products faithfully over the past 12 months and maintained a relatively healthy diet, I have not maintained my desired exercise level.

That all changes on Wednesday (Tuesday is my mother-in-law’s birthday and she has requested a dinner that I wouldn’t necessarily consider super healthy).  On Wednesday, I will begin a 10 day Advocare cleanse.  This requires that I return to clean eating and recommit to my exercise plan. No dairy for those 10 days.  Although this might sound like a hardship to some people, I don’t drink milk and yogurt is definitely not on my list of favorite foods.  I will be fine.   The best part is, within 24 hours, I will feel fabulous.  Clean eating always makes me feel like a new person.  I have more energy and never get that too full feeling.  I promise you that this will not turn into a 10 day gripe-fest while I recharge.

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One of the best parts of the Advocare program is that I love it enough to share it.  I do want to be clear that it is not a diet program – it is a lifestyle change.  Even when my cheat day turned into a cheat week, the majority of the philosophies have stayed with me.  This is how I lost over 20 pounds and have kept them off for a year – even through the holidays!  It’s also how I got my family to eat healthier.  Everyone feels better when I sneak shredded zucchini into the hash browns and butternut squash puree into my pasta sauce.  My survivor doesn’t complain when the number on his scale goes down either.

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(Sorry for the not so clear “before” image.  It best depicted how I looked)

So, for tonight I will enjoy one of my daughter’s sugar cookies while I watch the Big Bang Theory and prepare myself for a healthy fall.

A Little Bit of Fun

Now that school is back in session, our weekends are usually filled with errand-running and other busy activities that give us very little time to just relax and spend time together.  Today, we decided that puttering around the house was a great idea.

Our 12-year-old daughter’s idea of relaxing is baking.  She definitely did not inherit this talent from me.  I loathe baking.  All of that measuring and waiting just drives me crazy.  I am a much more organic cook – a little of this, a pinch of that, a smidge of this.

Today she decided that she would relax by making sugar cookies from scratch.  I love baking when all I have to do is put the dough on the pizza stone and take it off.  Unfortunately for my healthy initiative, they turned out great!!!

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In case you are a baking-lover like my daughter or just want to try your hand at these great cookies, here is the recipe:

Sugar Cookies

2 2/3 cups of flour

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1 cup of softened butter

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 375 (350 if you are using a dark or non-stick cookie sheet)

Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder into a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla using a mixer.  Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until completely incorporated.  Roll into golf ball sized balls and bake for 8-12 minutes.

Tips: If you don’t know how your oven runs, cook one cookie first to determine timing.  This way you won’t ruin a whole batch.

Also you can definitely bake these on a cookie sheet, but we prefer the texture created by cooking them on a pizza stone.  Not only does the stone pre-heat in the oven for more even cooking, the bottoms are a little crispy and the rest of the cookie is nice and soft.

After they are baked, you can definitely get creative!  Dip 1/2 in tempered chocolate or frost them with your favorite icing.  The possibilities are endless.

Enjoy your cookies and the weekend with your families!

Survivor Perspective

I have been thinking about this blog post for several days.  There’s something I really want to share, but not at the expense of offending anyone who we are fortunate enough to call a friend or family member.  One of the hardest things about being a survivor’s wife is learning a different way of communicating.  The Big C is a scary topic that most people don’t understand.  I know that questions are not being asked and comments are not being made maliciously, but I want to give a little perspective on the emotions and memories that those questions and comments can provoke.

On Monday, we attend a wake.  One of my husband’s very good high school friends passed away.  This was especially difficult for him because this friend was diagnosed with Leukemia around the same time he was diagnosed with Lymphoma.  They had a special bond because they endured months of chemotherapy at the same time and could commiserate about the experience.  Not only was my husband devastated by the loss, he also carried a certain amount of survivor’s guilt – the “why me” of remission.  Although he was determined to attend the wake and provide whatever comfort he could to his friend’s family, he also harbored the fear that people would look at him and silently ask “why did you survive when he didn’t?”.  I’m sure it wouldn’t have been intentional, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have done it had the situations been reversed.

We also knew that this would be the first time my husband would encounter some classmates and former friends since being diagnosed in 2011.  Everyone would want to know how he was doing.  Their concern would be genuine, but they would have no way of knowing that he couldn’t talk about it there.  Too many emotions were already swirling around in his heart.  He really didn’t have the ability to keep his emotions in check while discussing his own condition.

The moral of the story is, if you ask someone who has or has had a potentially terminal condition of any kind how they are doing and their answer is short, please do not be offended.  They greatly appreciate your concern, they are just unable to express their feelings.  My survivor does the best he can to talk about it when asked, but it is a difficult conversation for him.  The best gift you could give any survivor (or survivor’s wife) is compassion and understanding.  They will appreciate it always.

In the meantime, it is important to remember that life is precious; it is also very unfair at times.  No one should lose a spouse or a child or a parent at the young age of 42.  Treat every day is it was intended – as a gift.  You never know when it will end.

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Swapped Roles

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I’ve known my husband since I was 8 years old.  Although we drifted in and out of one another’s lives for the first 28 years, the man who I married was not much different from the boy I met in the 2nd grade.  He would give anyone the shirt off his back.  He always thinks of others first.  He has always been a risk taker.  Prior to his back surgeries, skydiving and dirt biking were two of his favorite activities.  The world has always been his oyster and that balanced out my serious, studious nature.  We were always the yin to the other’s yang.

In the face of dealing with the re-diagnosis of several friends, I have watched my husband transition from a free spirit to a much more serious person.  He has become more reflective and sadly, fatalistic.  Today, in speaking about a friend he lamented that “my time is my time”.  I know this is his way of dealing with the reality that if people he knows can relapse, so can he.  I am now the positive thinker that believes with all my heart that we have beat the Big C for good.  Essentially, we have switched roles.  He needed to come to grips with his own mortality and I need to believe that we have a lifetime ahead of us.  I didn’t realize that I loved him until I had known him for 27 years.  Life is not cruel enough to take him away from me before we have the opportunity to make up for lost time. I am going to continue to believe that – and I have enough positivity for both of us.

A Recent Reality Check

Lucky is not something I have been especially feeling lately.  We have stumbled over a few roadblocks and things haven’t been going very smoothly.  I’ve definitely slipped into a rut.  It is very easy to feel sorry for yourself – and much harder to pick yourself up.  I try my best to emulate the old adage “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”, but it can be difficult to be the strong one.  Sometimes, I want someone else to pick me up.  Fortunately, the positive, strong side of me knows that eventually things will turn around.  I hang my hat on the theory that everything happens for a reason and I have only been given challenges that I can overcome. Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone.

Social media has become a great way for us to keep in touch with people who we don’t get to physically connect with often.  Whether we live near or far, we are all busy and struggle to find time to spend with everyone we would like to catch up with. This has made it is necessity to reach out via news feeds and photo sharing.  I love seeing all of the August posts filled with back to school photos and end of the summer beach happiness. These posts lift my spirits at a time when I am watching our first baby prepare for 7th grade and our last baby heading toward what he excitedly refers to as “big school” (and I breathe a sigh of relief that it is only pre-school).  Days like this make me realize how fast life moves and how luck I am to share each and every day with my soul mate and best friend. Cancer did not beat us and for that I am eternally grateful.

At last count, I could count 11 cancer survivors in our extended circle of friends and family – and that’s without really thinking about it.  I’m sure, I could come up with a few more who have been in remission long enough that I rarely use the term survivor to identify them any longer. The number alone is a shocking revelation of how significantly “the big C” has changed my life and my friends.

Social media has also become a way for us to share sad news with our extended network of friends without having to do so face-to-face.  It gives us the ability to prepare the delivery and we can avoid saying the wrong thing or reacting in a way that the person is not prepared for.  Lately, that has happened to us far too often.  Of the 11 people that we do, and always will, consider survivors, four of them have recently received the news that they are no longer in remission.

In addition to feeling horribly for their families – I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through – these diagnoses scare the living daylights out of me.  I know my husband saw the oncologist in the spring and continues to be in remission, but this provides me with the reality check that there are no guarantees in life.  All of a sudden, the memories that I have suppressed of holding hands during chemotherapy sessions and  long nights in the ER have come flooding back.  The fear that every day would be the last has crept back into my sub-conscious. I see the moments of fear in the eyes of my husband that he is going to be next and that’s when I remember that I need to be strong.  I have 3 very important people counting on me.

In the grand scheme of things, we are only here on Earth for a short time.  We need to make the most of it.  Take the life that you have been given and run with it.  Hug your family and friends and be good to one another.  Make memories that will last more than your lifetime – they will be your legacy.

A New Beginning

Hi to all who continue to follow! Although it has been a busy 6 months for me, I’m happy to announce that I will now have more time to dedicate to this blog.  After 2 years of constant classes and homework assignments, I have recently completed my Bachelor’s degree.  It’s long over due, but I now hold a BS in Healthcare Administration.  This would have never been possible without the love and continuous support of my husband and children.  Working full-time, being a mom and going to school can be challenging, but if I can do it, anyone can!  I highly recommend online learning as a way to complete any degree program to advance your education.

I went to New England College, which has a traditional campus in Henniker, New Hampshire.  This allowed me to actually walk across the stage at graduation.  It was an experience that I will never forget and an experience that I’m glad my daughter was able to witness.  At 12 years old, she is very impressionable and I want her to understand how a college education can be – and I selfishly want her to be proud of me.

Screenshot_2015-05-16-19-35-41_resizedFor more inforamtion about online degree completion, visit http://www.universityalliance.com/

Of course, while all of this was happening, I continued to be a Survivor’s Wife.  My husband had a second spinal laminectomy as a result of chemotherapy-related vertebrae compression.  We have now been told that he will be permanently disabled and will never return to work.  This has definitely been a blow to his ego, as he has always done his part to financially support our family.  Until this final determination, a part of him had held onto the hope that some day our life would return to normal.  Well, it may not be our old normal, but, as survivors, we know that this will become our new normal.  To be honest, I’m a little bit jealous.  He will get to continue to stay home with our children while I am at work, something I have never had the opportunity to do.  This is just another change in a constantly evolving life.

Until next time, I hope you all are well.

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

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!