(un)Known: Am I Going To Die? (+ also less morbid talk about passion projects + hair obsessions)

I'm back!

And I have more to say then I did in my last post. I'm sorry (and also not sorry) for that. I'm trying to apologize less. In a good way! Just apply a little less pressure on myself and do what feels right. I needed a little break to unwind after treatment #3 and the holidays, but now I am forewarning you (yet again), that this is a massively long post! If you're down for making that commitment, grab a tea and settle in.

Chemo number 3 has treated me really, really well. It has been the easiest one to endure by far. I have a few theories on this...

1) I prepared like CRAZY this time. I made no plans the day before, I went for a delicious brunch the morning of, and I made sure I did not go into this appointment tired.

2) I draped myself in every single "good luck" charm, necklace, cross, article of clothing and pendant that has been given to me throughout this entire journey. Although I must have looked a  bit ridiculous, I didn't care.

3) Throughout my treatment this time, I spent a lot of time focusing on healing. I'm not completely sure if this works, but heck - why not try. I closed my eyes and focused on my tumour growing smaller. I repeated to myself, over and over and over: 6 cm. It will be six centimeters.

I was feeling off for about a week, but this time, the day after I was able to get up and walk to the coffee shop with my mom. I didn't sleep much, and I was a little out of it, but I also wasn't sick so that is a win to me. It's like being in a haze. Last Tuesday I woke up, and it is really out of nowhere... the haze is lifted. Since then, I'm just taking advantage of feeling good until I go in for my next treatment. Here's a few highlights:

  Squeezing in time together before work. Brunch is our specialty. I also got quite a few laughs out of my new trending hashtag: #lumberjeff

 Birthday dinner for Jeff's dad at the Keg 

Day after chemo and I am up and walking! And eating snacks.

 Chemo groceries.

So here's the real reason I deleted my last post. I have a really hard time talking about the "red" chemo drug they give me (also called epirubicin). When I got to the point in my last post where I started talking about my chemo, I erased the entire post. That's how bad it was. It's not that it makes me feel nauseous while it's being administered, but when I was sick the second round, all that came up was... red. Sorry for that graphic. Now, when it comes to thinking or talking of chemo, I absolutely cringe. Almost 2 weeks later, I still have a hard time with it. It was hard to sit there, seeing it dripping into me, so while the red drug was being administered, I focused on healing instead.

Epirubicin. My enemy. (Note: I found this picture on the internet but wanted you to have a cringeworthy visual).

Healing has been the theme of chemo #3. I have had so many people tell me what they think will heal me. I've read all the stories: the man who juiced his cancer away, the power of water, the power of various spices, what you should and shouldn't eat.

My mom told me a story that I originally didn't think much of, but ended up being the one that stuck with me the most. She had a woman come into the restaurant that told her that she too was fighting breast cancer. She told my mom that she repeatedly thanked her breasts and kissed them - that's how grateful she was to them. She was grateful her cancer was found in her breasts, where she was able to feel it, catch it and notice it before it was too late. I immaturely laughed at the visual of kissing your boobs. But, I have thought a lot about this story since then.

I have met quite a few people so far that have told me they didn't catch their cancer until it was too late. A lot of times, with cancer in other parts of the body, there are no real side effects until it gets too far. My cancer doesn't hurt me, but the lump I found was more then noticeable. This allowed me to seek out all the necessary treatments and now I have a really positive diagnosis. For others I've met, they aren't as lucky. So, I've decided I'm choosing to be grateful for my cancer: I'm grateful it was detected early, I'm grateful we have drugs that allow me to live a somewhat normal life during my treatments, I'm grateful for my body and it's ability to tell me that something was wrong.

I'm talking about this story now, because it's helped me get through a very real side of getting diagnosed that I haven't spoken about yet on my blog. That is the total paralyzing fear that comes with cancer.

I have received so many e-mails and messages at this point applauding me for my positive attitude and it's true: cancer isn't my life. I am so much more then my cancer. I still do normal things. But, I'd be lying to you if sometimes at 3AM I didn't have a good cry that came out of a place of total fear.

When I found out I had cancer, I immediately thought: Am I going to die?

I think this is a pretty common reaction. And, sometimes, it can't help but creep into your thoughts. Will this be the thing that kills me in the end? Even when this is all over, am I going to wake up every day and think, is today the day the cancer comes back? This time, will my prognosis not be as positive?

I spend a lot of time alone (secretly, I love it! So much time to read and craft and colour!). Recently, I've spent a whole lot of this time thinking and reflecting: on my work, my relationships, my life as a whole. Recently, I can't stop thinking: Who else gets a wonderful opportunity like this at the age of 24 to take a year off and really prepare to have a truly fresh start?

I have obviously contemplated the question of "Why me?" as in: Why did I have to get cancer? I'm pretty healthy. Why me? But more recently, I can't stop thinking: Why do I get to have this fresh start? I get to make changes to my life I would never have had the opportunity to make in my old life.

I'm going to be honest with you and myself. I wasn't taking my life in a good direction before this past November. I was working 65 hours a week. And, trust me, this is not Chapters standard. At my last job, working for the salon, I worked similar hours. At first I thought it was the job, and when it happened again at Chapters I realized... it was me. And, I didn't really see it as a problem. Everyone was concerned about me: I was voluntarily working 9PM-9AM for a full month (no, not the other way around: overnights!). No one was asking me to work these hours, and in fact, one time my boss actually told me: Sam, there is no pride in working these hours. You don't need to do this to impress anyone.

Truth is, I wasn't doing it for a promotion. I don't even think I was doing it out of desire for perfection. I just truly love working.  I get really, really invested in my jobs and I'm really passionate about business, growing people and creating dynamic teams, figuring out how to make things work efficiently. I'm lucky I get to do something I'm really passionate about every day. In fact, when they ask me to think of my "happy place" before I go for particularly stressful procedures at the hospital, I close my eyes and put together book tables and displays in my head. Some may find that sad, but I find it really relaxing and I consider myself really lucky.

But, my life was NOT a full, well rounded life. All of the above sounds great, but here was the reality: I ate Starbucks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was working 5:30-4:30PM most regular days. My health suffered because of this and so did my bank account. I was ALWAYS exhausted... like so exhausted, I would have nervous breakdowns. It got to the point where those extra hours I was working weren't productive: I was too tired to be productive. My relationships suffered: when I wasn't working, I was responding to e-mails, calling my work to check in, talking about my work. I wasn't really "present". Jeff suffered most from this, naturally. I could count some days where I did not drink ANY water: my skin suffered so badly for this. I was breaking out like crazy. I was gaining weight, and ultimately, I wasn't actually very happy.

In retrospect, I think I was on the fast track to becoming a workaholic. And I got mad when anyone told me that: I thought they weren't supportive, and that's how business "is".

I see now how that was not sustainable. I would not have been able to work like that forever, but I wasn't planning on stopping any time soon. I worked so hard I let my health card expire, and I let my then (very small) tumour go unchecked for months. We all know how the rest of the story goes.

When I was talking to the Ottawa Sun, they asked me what my hobbies were: what did I like to do? I was like uh, well. I like to work? That's generally when I knew something was wrong.

I have a point to this, I promise I will tie it all together! Since I've gotten sick, I've had a couple huge eye openers.

Hobbies are fun. I thought to myself once, a few months ago, on a day off: what do people even do when they aren't working? Well.. they scrapbook, they learn a new craft, they take enjoyment in cooking and taking care of their bodies, they excercise, they spend time with their boyfriends and watch movies and read books. A whole big life out there I have been missing out on!

When I think to myself: Am I going to die? I try to counteract it with, I could die in a bus accident tomorrow. I could fall off my balcony. There is always the risk of dying, cancer or not, and the truth is: If I am going to die, what do I want to do before that time comes? (Side note: I'm obviously not going to die anytime soon, duh. I need to go to Disney World atleast 6 more times before then. But, you get what I'm saying).

In this article, a nurse writes down the top 5 regrets that she heard most commonly from the dying. What was among them? "I wish I hadn't worked so hard". Dying has become a reality to me. If I died tomorrow, do I really want it to be following a 65 hour work week with bad skin and having eaten a Starbucks roasted ham breakfast sandwich as my last supper? (I mean they're good, but they're not THAT good).

So, I'm pretty grateful for my cancer. I'm grateful that I found it early, that it's given me a chance to re-evaluate my life and stopped me before things really spiraled out of control. It sounds lame to say "everything happens for a reason" but I think it's true. It's made Jeff and I's relationship so strong, and I have spent more time with my family then I have in years. I learned to weave and I've set my goal on Goodreads to read 40 books this year. I also realized I really like writing this blog!

When I realized how much I liked writing this blog, I actually started researching passion projects. I want to make sure that when I do go back to work, I am able to find a better work/life balance. I need to make a commitment and habit that I can not break, something I can be as equally as passionate about as I am with my work. A passion project is something outside of your work you do that is something you love: some people decide to volunteer, others just put aside an hour or two to paint, write, or read. Some people take on bigger projects: starting a blog, a book club, etc. It can look a lot like a side business, or turn into one, but in the beginning it should be something that you want to do: not something you need to do. It's fulfilling our inner desires to create and have something to show for our time. It's also a great way to make friends too (a topic I have spoken about with many people now: after high school, how in the heck do you make friends outside of work?!)

I've made a list of a few bigger projects I want to start. With the growing audience made up of you guys - lovely readers of my blog - I've found it really exciting that I can reach so many people while sitting in my living room. I love sharing, writing, and communicating with like minded people. I still can't get over how many cool and interesting people this blogging experience has allowed me to "meet" (e-mail and message with mostly!) so far.

What my days look like.

Naturally, my first instinct was to start a book club. I'm not sure if it would be a club where we actually meet, or something we could do online. I just know I love books, and spend a lot of my time researching what book to read next (as well as keeping informed on what books are up and coming, I can thank my job for this). Secondly, I was thinking of how nice it would be to have something to DO in the evenings that could include my friends and family. Then I started thinking how it would be awesome to have some sort of craft club. I know that I would love to learn to crochet, knit, embroider... I would love to learn to make terrariums, perfumes, and indulge in all of my other DIY projects on Pinterest that I just can't seem to find the time to complete. I feel like this would be a fun way to get everyone I love together, and learn a new skill at the same time.

How I spend my time: colour coding my bookshelves (amongst other things)

Would you be interested in doing something like this with me? Am I crazy? Do you have any ideas for passion projects - or do you have one for yourself? Do you find that it helps you lead a richer life? Comment below or let me know here :)

Now, I wanted to take the time to share where the inspiration for this above post came from. I had lunch with one of my friends, Lindsay, this week. To fully understand the impact of what she has done for me, you need the back story:

Lindsay and I worked as co-managers (she worked managing a salon in Orleans, mine Bayshore). We've kept in touch since we both left the salon (she works for Nordstrom now! So exciting). We bonded over hair care and she is easily one of the funniest and nicest people you could meet. You can't help but be a little bit jealous of Lindsay: nice, smart, and drop dead gorgeous. On top of all of this, what I could never get over is her HAIR. Lindsay has THE nicest hair I have ever seen. She could sell a hair product just by saying "This is what I'm using" and people were sold. It is long, brunette, shiny, strong, healthy, and holds any and all hairstyles: curly, straight, you name it.

My best friend jokes with me all the time how my wig is actually nicer and thicker then my own hair, and part of me is excited to see how it will look when it grows out (after having platinum hair, no matter what I used, my hair was so brittle. Shaving it is like another fresh start for me!)

So, I have major hair envy of Lindsay. In the beginning, I texted her and told her my diagnosis and said: "I can only hope my hair grows back more beautiful then yours".

When I got in the car with her this past Saturday, I saw her and the FIRST thing I looked at was her hair: It was in a ponytail and it was SHORT! I immediately thought: Lindsay got on the "Lob" (long bob) train all the celebrities are doing. She looked at me and said, "Well, because you noticed right away...."and gave me this:

As we hung out in the afternoon, she told me the story of her fundraiser she held for me over Christmas.

Lindsay and her friends from her graduating class (about 50) always get together for a potluck. Lindsay messaged everyone in advance, saying she was doing a fundraiser and in turn, she would be cutting off her hair to donate. She told me she was sort of uncomfortable at first about asking her friends for money right around Christmas, and she wasn't sure how it would turn out. She set her goal at $1000. She figured if everyone donated 5-10 dollars that it would be a good start. She started getting messages from friends saying they were sending her $100. When she held the party, she started to notice many of her friends selflessly putting in $20 into her box. Someone came over to her and said: Lindsay, I think you're going to be close to your goal after tonight. One thing she told me that stuck was that "the act of giving was contagious. Once they saw others doing it, everyone was so willing to make a donation". I find this is totally true and we've seen it on grand scales (ALS Ice bucket challenge, etc). It makes you feel good and like you're a part of something bigger then just yourself.

Is it possible she's MORE beautiful with short hair? 11 inches chopped and ready to be donated! Funny story: Lindsay brought the hair with her to our lunch date so I could play with it before we donated it. She seriously knows me so well: this was my dream come true. Creepy? Maybe...

She raised $600 in one night. After that, she shared her story with family and they made up the difference very quickly. Even after she had made her goal, she had a friend donate $50: making the grand total $1050. (I also have to mention Lindsay also sold her ENTIRE OPI nail polish collection on Kijiji and included that in her donation as well. Let's just say at one point in our salon lives we were huge nail polish junkies so I was very touched by this!)

When she gave me the envelope, part of me wanted to cry, but I was too happy. I was also completely shocked: when Lindsay messaged me saying she wanted to "show" me something, I thought I was going to get a little sneak peek of the insides of the new Nordstrom or something. I wasn't expecting this at all. Being overwhelmed also cued an immediate hot flash and we drove to lunch with our windows down (thanks for being a good sport in the -30 degree weather Linds..ha).

I will likely never get to meet or thank everyone that helped support Lindsay and myself, but if you're reading this: Thank you. You are a fantastic person. I am so grateful for you!

Working retail together and coming from similar backgrounds, I feel like Lindsay and I relate well to each other. She listened to me rant on about my work and we shared stories of what we were doing now. It was during that conversation, talking it all out, that I realized most of the above: I mean, I knew my working habits were unsual, but it wasn't until that moment, saying it all out loud, I realized I may have a problem.

So.. Lindsay helped me out in more ways then she may have expected: taking a year off sounds good on paper, but sometimes, it can be frustrating. When I confided about how awkward I felt accepting donations from others, we talked a lot about paying it forward and how the way I affected and treated those in my pre-cancer life is what has brought all of this overwhelming support. She made me feel like I still have value, even though some days I'm stuck sitting on my couch. We talked quite a bit about my diagnosis (sometimes I can't help it), and she made me feel like I had the power to say "no" to situations I didn't want to be a part of and that there was more to my life then just working. I'm seriously lucky and blessed with some pretty amazing friends. When Lindsay is rich and famous, this is me publicly saying: I was friends with her first!

Okay, time to wrap up. I go for my next treatment on February 3rd (time is flying), and my oncologist appointment is this upcoming Thursday to discuss how I am "doing" in regards to me chemo. I still have a lot to say about genetics, fertility, health and diet... but this post has gone on long enough! We'll save that for next time. ;)

 Last but not least, the happiest part of my past weekend. Sporadic jam session at the bagel shop by my apartment. Now I'm obsessed with traditional folk music: doesn't it just make you smile?! (I also want to marry the man with the dreadlocks. Don't worry, I told Jeff this already. Maybe we can pull a Sister Wives or something? ... KIDDING).




101 Cancer Fighting Foods: Chemo Edition

Smoked salmon, Caesars, sushi: my top three food groups... none of which I can have during chemo.

Last night I woke up at 3AM thinking of two things.

1) How torturous and terrible insomnia is (if I'm going to have a year off, can't I AT LEAST sleep in?!). I think it's proven that any thoughts you have after 1AM are never good ones. My friends and I have discussed multiple times how nothing good ever comes after 1AM. Unless you count poutine after going to the bar, and that usually happens after 1AM: and poutine at any time is never a bad thing, right?

2) All of the food that I want to eat (I'm one paragraph in and have already mentioned poutine and I spent an hour making food collages so that's probably a good indicator).

I had written an entire post detailing my chemo and all of my updates from round 3. Then I erased it all.

I couldn't even type, write, or talk about cancer for one more second without wanting to jump off a bridge.

So, instead, here are pictures of all of the food that my steroid induced brain is craving (steroids for anti nausea make you HUNGRY!). This is me checking in, saying hi, and that round 3 went smoothly, I am halfway done, and I escaped it without nausea! The chemo scoreboard is now Sam - 2 Cancer - 1. 

As a side note, some of my lovely friends held a hockey tournament for me this weekend. I was interviewed by the Ottawa Sun, and next thing I knew my face had a one page spread in the paper.

Can my claim to fame be that I told the Ottawa Sun that I "was happy not to be barfing my brains out" on Christmas? Someone needs to coach me on what to say before I do any more big time interviews....



PS - the title of this post is a joke. Just so, y'know, I don't get backlash for telling everyone that a Kraft Dinner burger and smoked meat poutine cure cancer. ;)


2015: The Best Is Yet To Come

New Years day brunch with my most favorite people. If you want to know more about my NYE, my bestie wrote a post about it here!

Happy 2015!

Admittedly, I wasn't looking forward to this new year at all. Although I have been making the most of my time, all I could picture in 2015 was this: 4 more chemo treatments, major surgery, up to 18 weeks of radiation... bringing me right up to November. While it seemed as if everyone was making new years resolutions, I just wanted to put my head down and power through the next 12 months.

I talked to a few of my friends and family about how I was feeling.. scared, lonely, and dreading the next year. I'm surrounded by some pretty awesome people, so it doesn't surprise me that I got some pretty awesome advice, too. I'm going to share some of their lovely words, because I don't think it applies just to me: it applies to everyone and anyone that may go through hardships in the new year. These people are wise!!

"All I'm going to say is that some dopes may give you "the look" that makes you uncomfortable, but there will be others who will be forever touched by who you are as you live this. No matter what you decide: wig, hat,  no hat, false eyebrows or not, the right people will see the beautiful Sam that we know. You can't help it. Is is just in you. I don't always expect you to always be strong and positive. I know your near future won't be easy but I want you to have many more great times then bad ones."

"This NYE, I feel like we were surrounded by the people that love us most. You were allowed to have a moment of "ugh 2015" but you have to know that I will totally cry with you, be a downer with you, and talk about what bullsh*t this is whenever you need it. But I'm also going to try and recognize when you need to be lifted up. You're so strong. This year is going to be just as fun and beautiful as it is hard. Maybe even more of the former" 

"Happy New Year, Sam! I hope this year brings you so much happiness but most of all, good health. I continue to pray for you and send positive vibes your way. " (I've received quite a few of these incredible messages of goodwill and positivity... when I'm feeling down, they have meant more then most of you know, so thank you, thank you, thank you.)

"I just want yo to know when this will be over, if you really want to... you'll be posting elephant pictures soon too! I know how rough it is, but the importance it to hold on to the tiny little things that make you happy. Trust me... one day you're gonna be like.. what? Did this all really happen? Our cancer journey is a life changing one. It's really up to us to make it a positive one. Lots of health and happiness, and may it be the year you scream 'I AM CANCER FREE!'" (disclosure: guess who wrote me this one?! My hero Nalie! I ordered some hats off of her blog and we've been corresponding since!)

With some serious reflection, I decided I was looking at this year all wrong. 2015 may be the year that I go through some of the most challenging moments I may see in this lifetime, but it is the year that I will (hopefully..no, definitely) be healthy again. When I close my eyes and picture November, I see myself with a cute blonde pixie haircut, back working at the job I love, celebrating my 25th birthday... dancing to Beyonce and surrounded by every single person that has supported me and helped me through this crazy journey. I picture myself so healthy that I'm glowing. Everything that I'm going to go through in 2015 will lead me up to that moment and I am so excited for that day to come. (I can't lie, I just cried even thinking about it)

If 2015 is made up of cozy hats and kitties, I could get down with that.
So, with one week left until my next chemo treatment, I'm just making the best of the days where I'm feeling good. Other then being a bit tired, I've had about a week and a half of feeling as close to normal as I'll come! This is what I'm into these days...

- Smoothies! I have a problem with not eating breakfast*. When Cara was in town, she taught me some cooking basics and we got to talking about how to add veggies and fruits to your day.  I know I'm a little late on the smoothie train, as everyone I've spoken to has said - duh, smoothies are the bomb. So most mornings I'm enjoying some peach/mango/almond milk/coconut yogurt action. Coconut yogurt is surprisingly super tart and delicious! I can't eat anything that could contain bacteria (sushi, smoked salmon, yogurt....cue heartbreak) so I was happy to have this alternative. I haven't been brave enough to put anything green anywhere near my smoothies yet though. If you have any tried and true recipes, I would love to have them!

*being too lazy to make breakfast

 My "morning" smoothie (I woke up at 1:45PM...)

- Podcasts! I mentioned in earlier posts that getting cancer made me really, really anxious. In the beginning, I couldn't focus on reading or even watching TV or movies. My days felt so long that it became torturous. When I found Serial, I listened to all 12 hours in one day. When I was younger, I used to have my mom read to me. I can remember listening to her read me the first Harry Potter and being entranced. So, it's no surprise that I quickly became a huge fan of podcasts. Since Serial, I took note from my bestie and started listening to StartUp (click to learn more/download). It's the BEST. It details a radio journalist turned entrepreneur as he builds his podcast company from the ground up. It's hilarious (choosing a name for his company had me laughing till my gut hurt), heart wrenching at times (he cried when reading The Giving Tree to his son), and so... real. I love Alex Blumberg's podcast "style" - honest and transparent - and look forward to listening to his company's newest show, Reply All, about how the Internet has shaped people.

- Headbands! The thing I hate most about having no hair, is that I actually used to really love styling hair! I enjoyed waking up at ungodly hours to get ready in the morning. My showers now last less then one Justin Timberlake song, and with a wig or a hat I can be out the door in 15 minutes. That's awesome and all, but I've been missing all of my favorite hair accessories! My headband collection is absolutely massive (I used to work at 5:30AM in my pre-cancerous life...headbands were the most convenient for unwashed hair) and today I found out they look pretty retro when paired with my wig!

- Weddings! My aforementioned best friends wedding to be specific. Somehow, my being off for a year has turned into a MOH dream come true. So much time for DIY acivities. I can't share too many details (or even my secret wedding Pinterest boards), but we are so excited and amped up to be planning the most whimsical and beautiful wedding anyone will ever see. I am not even joking. Down to every last detail, this vintage meets glam barn wedding is one everyone will be re-pinning!

Sorry..no peeking until July 25th 2015!

- Reading. Sometimes all it takes is one book to get you back in the game. I thought once I started working for Chapters I would read more, but I actually ended up reading... less. Much less. Funny how that goes! Now that I've had some time to adjust, Jeff and I have settled into a cozy winter routine: something yummy for dinner, an episode of whatever our favorite show of the moment is, and then I read until all hours of the night. Because, as Jeff's mom put it for me: "it's not like you have to wake up in the morning". And since I have a hard time sleeping... why not?  I am over halfway done Unbroken (click for the trailer..I hate to see movies before I've read the books!), and all I can say is.. Wow. What a story. I haven't read anything like this in years, if ever. Highly recommend.

Cozy nights in. Shameless plug for Indigo and how much I love all of their mugs (when you walk into my apartment you may be confused and think you walked into Chapters...)

So that's it! The rest of the week, I'm hoping to cram in some baby snuggling, craft making, bridesmaid dress shopping, sister-seeing, hot chocolate drinking (CACAO-70!), lunch dates, and sign-making (a bridal shower for a very special friend next weekend!). Maybe somewhere in there I'll vacuum and Jeff will change the cat litter. Maybe.

Pyjama party NYE celebration 

When I did make New years resolutions, I found it helpful to share them. It always used to keep me on track! I don't have very many this year other then "get healthy", and instead want to develop a routine to make my days feel productive. I think my ideal day will look like this:

Wake up and answer all of my e-mails and messages (this is the closest I'll ever feel to being a celebrity! Ha. But seriously, answering my messages is by far the brightest part of my day), try to do one project a day that will teach me something new (whether it be cooking something new for dinner, doing a new craft or DIY for my home, add to my scrapbook, or just watch a cool documentary on Netflix), nap, read, have dinner with jeff (or spend some time with friends or my family).

If you told me this would be what my life would look like 3 months ago, I would have called you crazy. Things can change in an instant!

If you want to share your New Years resolutions with me (or smoothie recipes!), I'd be so happy to hear from you. Or, if you just feel like chatting, you can e-mail me here.

Until next time!!

xx, Sam


You'll Never Walk Alone: Christmas 2014

I really love Christmas.

I am the person that tells everyone "I LOVE WORKING RETAIL CHRISTMAS!" (who says that?). It's always been my favorite thing: I love a busy mall, a busy store, a long lineup, helping people pick out gifts for their loved ones. I had been collecting vintage Christmas brooches and earrings to wear at my store throughout the Christmas season before the c-word (sometimes saying cancer is way too shocking) decided to try and ruin my holidays. I wanted to try and do it all since I finally had a December where I wasn't working (seriously though, when will I stop thinking I am the exception? You are not invincible).

Luckily, I was able to partake in most of my favorite Christmas traditions before my treatment on the 23rd. I have had more then enough time on my hands to recreate the most Pinterest-worthy gingerbread house, dozens of handmade coconut and oreo truffles, and went to extreme lengths with my extravagant wrapping.


One of these things is not like the other: When making our gingerbread log cabin, my mom and I went a little snack crazy on the box of triscuits thinking we would have more then enough to do the roof. When we finished off the last panel, however, we realized we were one. triscuit. short. Hence, one lone graham cracker panel. Because that's life, right? Nothing is perfect. I think it gives our little house personality. And what can I say... we love our snacks. 

The other thing that has marked my holidays was the fact that I am now almost bald. So I guess I'll talk about my hair, as losing it was the biggest "milestone" I've had to overcome since this whole thing started back in November. Jeff had a family party on the 20th, and I was so determined to make my hair last until then. It started falling out on the 18th, and when it started to go, oh did it start to go. It started with a few strands and then it got to the point where if I touched it, clumps would fall out. I ended up not showering for 3 days because I simply didn't want to see it go. I would have to clean out my brush 4-5 times after a shower just to get rid of all of the hair I was losing.

I ended up making it to the party (Jeff and I call this event my hair's "last hurrah"), and I think I was more at peace with the fact that I buzzed it off two days later because it had lasted much longer then I thought it would. I made it to the party, but not without my sister in law having to follow me around and pull clumps of hair off of my back because I was shedding like crazy. By the time Monday, the 22nd, came I was holding on to what was left of my hair in a baby's hair elastic (& I had fine hair to begin with!).

 I cried my eyes out the entire way to the salon where I ended up shaving my head, but I left with a feeling of such relief (For those of you following: my oncologist ended up recommending I NOT shave my head myself, in case I knicked my scalp and started bleeding. My blood is pretty thin right now so I can't really be at risk of cutting myself!). I can't even explain it, but it feels better to be bald then it did to be shedding and devastatingly watching it all fall out. By the end of the day, Jeff looked at me and said "I don't even notice you don't have hair anymore. It's normal already". You think you are going to be this alien person, that I would feel such shock and embarassment to walk around my apartment without a hat or wig. I don't feel that way though: I still feel very much like "me". In the end, I realize I wasn't as attached to my hair as I thought I was: I still look in the mirror and see Sam. I don't look alien.. yet. (Eyebrows and lashes still holding on strong!)

The last hair hurrah, feat. my lovely family. 

I loved waking up to this lovely surprise on my pillow... not. & If you think cat hair on dark hardwood is annoying, try long blonde/pink hair! We'll be vacuuming hair for weeks.

Benefits of having no hair: well...there's the obvious, in that you have no hair. No body hair. This is amazing (and also inconvenient apparently, because as Jeff pointed out, he was at a loss to fill my stocking this year without a razor and shaving cream). I also used to spend A LOT of money on hair products - no need for that anymore either! If anyone needs Moroccan oil, hair masques and shampoo galore ..hit me up, because I'm your girl. I have hair products by the gallon. You can also shower in under 3 minutes and throwing on a wig takes no effort at all and you always look done up. Also, funny story (you'd think I made this sh*t up, but I swear I don't!): my hairdryer broke the day before I buzzed my hair. Like, started smoking. Some kind of freaky sign, or what? (This could be a great time to embarrass Jeff about how he needs to get his own blow dryer now for his amazingly thick hair but I'll avoid doing that...) ;).

Negatives of not having hair: Not knowing when you need to shower (... kidding, but not really.) I had oily hair so this would force me to get out of bed and have a shower in the past! Now it is just so easy to get up and go! Then there's the obvious, which is that going out in public gets you some weird stares. Wigs are also a little itchy, but as I've dabbled in hair extensions in the past, I'm getting used to it for days when I feel like looking "normal". Also, I feel like I scare people. I don't look like myself anymore, and I'm so worried this will change how everyone sees me (it was easy to pretend I wasn't as sick as I actually was, because I looked fine). More so to the little people in my life, it's hard to explain why all of a sudden I have no hair anymore.

Appropriate choice in clothing for Chemo round #2!

I've read blogs upon blogs about cancer, chemo, and how to cope with side effects. Everyone seems to have a strong stance on wigs, so here's my input: having my wig has given me a sense of relief. Some people may say it feels fake, but to me it gives me a sense of normalcy. I may not be used to it yet, or think it looks like "me" when I put it on, but I felt relieved knowing I could go to a wedding this winter, or to a New Years party and look somewhat myself.

The day after I shaved my head was the 23rd, my second FEC chemo treatment, and it came creeping up on me. I wasn't actually dreading it, to be honest. In fact: I chose not to think about it at all. I had gotten a ton of good news from my oncologist, so I actually chose not to acknowledge that I could be sick over my favorite holiday. So you know what I did? I planned a small Christmas party at my apartment after my chemo session. I ate Pot-of-Gold, candy canes, and mini appetizers. And for four hours, I felt totally fine. Prezzies and good memories all around.

(I can't lie, remembering what happens next still makes me nauseous).

To spare you all details, my party came to an end very abruptly, and I was really sick. No other way to put it. After a few hours, I gave in and the home nurse came to my house and gave me a needle that relieves nausea and puts you to sleep. She scared me a bit by telling me that once you're nauseous, it usually sticks around. She told me to call and book her back in 8 hours from now because I would need it. Luckily, when I woke up 8 hours later, it had subsided. Lesson: I completely overdid it. Next time, just eat some dinner, drink some water and put yourself to bed.

What was left was what I've described before: I am weird. I'm just not myself. I stare at the wall for hours at a time and it's like no one is home. I'm tired but my sleep isn't restful. My head hurts. The neulasta shot (which my mom administered to me like a pro this time - good job mama), has made my body so sore that if you touch me, I'm sure I'll bruise. I'm dizzy and short of breath and just...not myself. But! Despite all of this, I had a really wonderful Christmas. Your prayers and thoughts helped immensely, because I was able to have Christmas dinner with my family (the steroids give you appetite!), and snuggle with my puppy and sister and Jeff.

Cozy Christmas. My new favorite hat!

It's now Dec 29th (edit: I wrote this post a while ago and was way too lazy to add my pictures at that time..so, here it is!), and to be honest, I'm frustrated because I'm not feeling a whole lot better (edit #2: I actually woke up on Tuesday feeling so much better!). It's so much easier to be positive when you're not feeling so.. sick. I think this relates back to Maslow's Hierarchy or something (I wish I had listened better in school): but, when you're hurt, sick, hungry or tired... sometimes it feels like nothing else matters. You need to fulfill your basic needs before you can entertain any idea of New Years Eve plans, potlucks, and social activities. They physically exhaust me: and these are normally things I live for! Today I'm sitting at Starbucks with my mom and, like Jeff said (he's usually right), getting up and out of bed has made me feel more like a regular human.

You'll never walk alone: One of my close friends shaves their head in support of my hair loss. Thank you, Marty.

I have continued to receive an outpouring of support and kind holiday wishes from you all, and I swear your prayers and positive thoughts are what is pulling me through this. Today, I'm officially 42 days into my year: I'm one third done my chemotherapy. My hair is gone. I have celebrated my first holiday touched by cancer. Like they tell you when you start this journey, you will experience extreme highs and lows but it's your outlook that makes all the difference. Thank you for helping me see this Christmas in such a beautiful light: it's the best gift I could have received. I hope you all got to spend time with your family and friends, eat lots of delicious food, and scored some wicked boxing day deals for me (too many germs with that many people in the mall.. but Boxing Day 2015.. I'm coming for ya!)


The (un)Organized Mind + Blog design by labinastudio.