Posts tagged ‘colon cancer’

It’s OK to go Quiet

I recently renewed the domain name to this blog and realized I’ve not written one post all year. ALL YEAR!

team-in-dc

With my team in D.C. for our 8th annual Call-on Congress

Part of that is unintentional. Working at Fight Colorectal Cancer means that it’s “go time” right when January starts. For two months we work nonstop in preparations for March – Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. And then once March hits – we’re in a flurry of activity. I’ve ridden in more airplanes, subways and taxis the past three weeks than I have in my entire life.

And every second’s been worth it.

So, I’m just now slowing down after a crazy few months and personally blogging again. And while my activities have taken up the majority of my time, my schedule isn’t the only excuse for not blogging lately. There’s another reason.

Not all of this journey is public. And honestly, I didn’t feel like it.

If I’ve given awareness to anything over the years, I hope it’s a few things:  colorectal cancer in general; a hope that faith can carry you through anything; and, the realization that this disease has many layers and can hit you in different ways.

At the One Million Strong Kickoff in NYC's Grand Central Terminal

At the One Million Strong Kickoff in NYC’s Grand Central Terminal

The KC Star ran my story in January through a full-page spread in the FYI section and an AP-syndicated story that followed. It was certainly gracious of them, and unexpected by me. I had no idea my little birthday bash would soon become a headline story across the U.S. (or I guess the world, since an Australia newspaper picked it up.) For the past several months I’ve seen my face behind The Colossal Colon in many news feeds and articles on a nearly daily basis.

Between my job at Fight CRC and the publicity of my birthday party, I’ve had more doors open to share my story than ever before. Hospital newsletters, Sirius Radio, colon cancer walks, the Today Show… just to name a few. And while all of this has been amazingly awesome… I’ve not blogged about it much.

Because not everything is public.

db-mikey-carmenmarcvalvo

At the Blue is the New Black party to celebrate One Million Strong kickoff

No, there are no secrets I’m hiding. My marriage is great. Daughter is amazing. All-in-all, things are going really awesome here. But in the midst of a crazy few months, I’ve taken the slow moments I do have to soak it all in and process how I’m feeling – and not through the Internet. Sharing links to social media are easy. Writing blog posts about the experiences – not as much. While this blog is an amazing tool to share my life and my thoughts with others, I’m learning it’s OK to not share everything. Or at least right away.

There are some moments reserved just for me and my family. Some experiences that I’ve wanted to process and think through before posting about. Some days that weren’t ready for the headlines. And I’ve come to let myself be OK with that.

image (2)

At the White House, receiving a copy of the presidential proclamation for March 2014 as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Some who go through cancer or really, hard times in general, speak out right away. Others take a little while to get there and find their voice. And for me, I’ve gone back forth depending on the season. Sometimes I’m ready to say a lot; other times not so much. And what I’ve learned over the past three months of my “blog silence” is that it’s all part of the journey. God uses our experiences to help others when we’re ready. But sometimes that takes a bit of time to get there – or at least some time to process things personally before they inspire others publicly.

There’s no one way to fight or survive cancer. The different layers and phases are all part of the journey. Sometimes I speak out and blog about what’s happening. Other times, I don’t. Going quiet is OK. But, as this blog post shows, I don’t stay quiet for long.

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March 22, 2014 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

Carried

I met with my mentor a few days ago. I always walk away from the coffee shop where I meet her much more caffeinated. And, full of great perspective. She’s a wise lady.

She asked a common question, “How’s life?” and it wasn’t until that moment had I slowed down to really think about it. Life’s been really, really busy. And I’ve been going from one thing to the next for about two months now. But, in the midst of it, life’s been really, really good. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes:

Framily Vacay

metropolis-superman-statueWe took off the first of September with two of our great friends and had an all-out 10-day road trip. We ventured to Wilmington, North Carolina by way of Knoxville, Tennessee and had stops in Nashville, Asheville and Evansville along the way. Ten days in a van with a 3-year-old and great friends was splendid. Honestly. We saw the beach. The mountains. A huge Superman statue. And a big house (Biltmore.) It totally rocked.

I ran a 10K

It goes to show that I’ve been a tad bit busy since I never actually blogged to say that I DID IT! I ran the Plaza 10K in the middle of September and met my goal:  I survived. I had a great time. Got an awesome medal. And most importantly, conquered a fear that I’d never be able to run that far. What a journey God took me on through training and amazing people he used to get me to the finish line.

My baby turned three

princess-maddelenaWelp, it’s official. There’s no baby around here anymore. My little lady turned three. We had a small backyard princess party to celebrate complete with an actual LIVE princess showing up as we chomped on cupcakes and cookies. And while the age of three brings about sass and attitude, I actually love it. I’m forming a relationship with my girl. It’s awesome.

Aunt B’s got a new nephew

My brother and sister-in-law welcomed by little nephew into the world a week or so ago. And what a trooper he’s been – came a few weeks early, has had to hang in the hospital since he had a complication with his lung and is still learning to keep food down. But – he’s cute as a button and I can’t wait to snuggle him soon.

National website launch

I started my new job with Fight Colorectal Cancer in June and was tasked with overseeing our website redesign. Up to this point, my small business had helped with web launches over and over, but the size and scale of building a new national site with about double the content was new to me. But, I had an amazing team and by golly, we did it. And, I’m really happy with how it turned out. Take a peek:  FightColorectalCancer.org

Carried me Through

plaza-10kSo – as I thought about how to answer “How’s Life” this week, memories of these sweet moments and even more I didn’t list came to mind. And I could only think of one thing –

God is carrying me.

Sure, life’s been busy – some would say too busy. Being on the go can be hard. And in the past, with this hectic of a schedule, I’d be so stressed right now. I’d be unable to appreciate the great moments because of the lack of time to stop and process. I’d be sick. And maybe a tad grumpy.

But, that’s not the case. In the midst of the craziness, God’s shown me at every turn, nearly every day, what He’s up to and how He’s orchestrating things. I see Him in opportunities, challenges, relationships – He’s all over. And while that’s nothing new, what is new is that I recognize it.

The last time I felt like He’d picked me up and carried me through a season, I was receiving treatment. Or headed to surgery.

But in this latest season, He’s not carrying me through trial. He’s with me through triumph. I see his blessings all around.

And I’ve gotta say, I could really get used to this.

October 11, 2013 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

Week Two

week-two-10k-trainingLast week I announced to the world that I was training for a 10K. Well, okay – not really the world, but I did mention my training when writing for the Huffington Post. 

It was Week One and I was pumped. In my post, I explained how I wrestled with the initial fears of commitment but finally signed up for an upcoming race. I figured making it public would help me stay on track.

And it did at first. This time last week, I was pretty jazzed. I was on schedule, I hadn’t missed one day. Last Sunday night I ran a little over 3 1/2 miles. For someone who’d been in the hospital three weeks prior, I was pretty proud of myself. Shorts fit better. Mind was clear. Smile big.

And then, Week Two hit.

I headed out earlier this past week to run a quick two miles and struggled. Mentally and emotionally I wasn’t there. It was physically harder than I expected. Everything about the run was tough.

I chalked it up to a bad night and assumed my next run would go better. I was running with my trainer and another gal my age. I thought, “Surely having a group will help keep me going!

But, not so much.

I struggled again. But this time I had some of the fun “I’ve-had-colon-cancer-and-still-experience-side-effects” come up. For anyone else who’s had radiation or colon surgery – you probably get my drift. It wasn’t pretty.

After soaking in the tub to make the sting go away, I decided to take the rest of the week off to heal up. Good timing since I didn’t feel well all weekend. I was physically, mentally and emotionally defeated.

I needed some strength.

I’ve got a couple of close girlfriends who’ve stood by my side (and over my hospital bed) for many years. Hitting a “low” point made me realize I needed help. So I reached out and let them know what was happening.

And, in true fashion, they gave me just the encouragement I needed to hear.

I have the “muscles” I need to get through this. I just need to flex them and put them into play. Not only from a physical sense – but the emotional and mental, too.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been down because I want to feel normal. It’s one of many times my past has affected my present… and my future. I’ve been physically limited because of a circumstance I didn’t choose time and time again.

But through the years, God’s given me the strength to get through the trials. And as they reminded me, if I’m going to get ready for this race, I’ve got to tap into that.

Pressing on.

I see why so many Bible verses use running imagery. “Fight the good fight,” and “Press on to win the race.” That encouragement is no joke — running is hard.

And for me sometimes, faith is hard too.

It’s hard to use the muscles God’s given me to power through sometimes. But, if I’m going to run a 10K, I’m going to need that strength. And if I’m going to make a positive impact on others because of my story, I’m going to need to press on.

We’ll see what awaits me on Week Three.

August 5, 2013 at 8:00 am 3 comments

In the Hospital… Again

I  don’t really use the phrase, “It’s like riding a bike” all that often. I think it’s because I don’t enjoy riding bikes. I know — gasp.

The seats are hard. I don’t like helmets. I can do it, but it’s not really my favorite activity. In fact, I don’t own a bike.

But if I got back on a bike — I could ride it. I’d know how to balance and pedal without training wheels. I’d just get it done. (And if truth be told – I’d probably have some amount of fun along the way.)

So if you asked me how’s it going — day #2 in the hospital after an unexpected trip to the ER the other night?

Well – it’s like riding a bike.

 

photo(35)The doctor suspects that the little flu bug that bit cute, innocent little children (particularly a two-and-a-half old one with an adorable fro and mischievous smile) made its way to me this week.

But rather than hanging around for a few pukes and then scurrying away after 24 hours – my bug decided to set up camp inside my small intestine this week. Apparently, my itty bitty, beat-up bowels offer great accommodations for little GI viruses.

So, this little virus, infection, bug — whatever it is — made itself at home and reared its head late Thursday night. Searing abdominal pain throughout the night gave me an indication something wasn’t right.

photo(33)My amazing husband who’d worked past midnight every day of the week came home, tried to do everything he could (I’m talking 1am foot massage, heating pad, wet wash cloths, back rubs, etc.) to make it go away.

Yet to no avail — the pain continued. The puking started. So we visited the ER.

That was a few days ago and… I’m still here. A CT scan showed my small bowel is extremely inflamed. Dehydration and very low blood pressure are also of concern. The doctor said it’s a good thing I came in when we did – we caught it early. If there wasn’t already one – a small bowel obstruction was on its way. And as those familiar with this stuff know – we just thankfully adverted some not-so pleasant happenings like surgery. Please pray that we stay on course and avoid it!

photo(34)So, I’m hanging out in a suite … I mean hospital room (These St. Luke’s East rooms are niiiice.) I’m once again surrounded by a squad of strong supporters. I started to eat food again today. We’re trying to get my blood pressure up. And we’re making the best of it. I mean I can’t complain too much – I’ve gotten to keep my underwear on the entire time. (Sorry – probably TMI.)

As all would have it — I started a new full-time job this week. Part of why I freelanced for so long was the fear of “what if” I’d need to be in the hospital while working for someone else. So I am shaking my head at this. But thankfully, my new team at Fight Colorectal Cancer has been extremely awesome and supportive. Of all people – they get it. I’m unbelievably blessed.

So – there’s the story. I’m hoping I’ll go home tomorrow. And while there’s a million other places I’d rather be, at least none of this is foreign to me. I’m used to the drill. It’s all very familiar and routine these days.

It’s sort of … like riding a bike.

June 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm 1 comment

Jesus Doesn’t Fix Everything

hope-and-faith-through-cancerI was “officially” diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome last week. At first, it didn’t phase me. But as the days went on and I took time to review the paperwork, it began to really sink in.

The implication of living with a known genetic disorder is enlightening yet heavy. It’s good on one hand – aggressive monitoring for me and preventing disease in family members is a plus.

But it’s also hard – loss of a ‘normal’ doctor-free life and a reminder of a journey paved with loss also knocks at my door.

I’ve taken the past week to let it all sink in. Rather than brushing it to the side as if it’s “no big deal” (my pattern in the past), I’ve really tried to be introspective with my feelings.

Especially my faith.

And then today, a sermon came along and stopped me in my tracks when the preacher said:

Jesus Doesn’t Fix Everything – But He Does Help us Through It.

Come to Me All Who Are Weary

I grew up in a Christian community that like it or not – carries unspoken rules on how we handle trials in our lives. It’s part of the gig – which I would never trade. But, there are a few things I would change.

It’s typical for us to respond to trials thinking if we pray hard enough or have enough faith, Jesus will take away our situation and fix everything. As Christians, we put a smile on our face and say we’re trusting God without really letting ourselves grieve.

Rejoicing, encouragement and joy through trial is certainly part of the journey. God meets us in our despair and provides hope – so I’m not saying this doesn’t happen.

All too often though, Christians spit out quick verses like nicotine patches, hoping they’ll take the deep grief away. But ask any smoker – those patches don’t always work. And sometimes, our loss or sorrow is so deep, we need more than a quick devotion or verse to get us through.

Jesus says, “Come who are weary…” not “Come … although you’ve got yourself already pulled together.

Struggling with Faith in the Midst of Trial

Jesus wasn’t immune to grief or sorrow – in fact he was surrounded by it. So while he might not “fix” everything, he does provide what we need to get through it.

A holy perspective on any trial will change everything.

Today, “Terror in Boston” is scrolling across my television screen. I have friends suffering from marriages falling apart, children getting sick, deep depression taking hold, and checkbooks bouncing.

Lots of tears. Lots of cancer. Lots of pain. Lots of fear.

Trial is something we will all deal with at some point.

If you’re looking for hope or guidance on how to get through trials, I suggest taking an hour and listening to the sermon below. There comes a point when reciting verses and plastering on a cheery smile won’t hold you through some of the darkest days.

And hearing that it’s OK – and how to still have faith in the midst of it – was a game changer for me today. I pray that others will also find this extremely encouraging and helpful.

No, Jesus doesn’t fix everything. But, he loves us and will help get us through.

Trial & Jesus
1 Peter 1:3-9
Mark Driscoll – Mars Hill Church
Listen to the audio here: http://marshill.com/media/trial/trial-and-jesus

April 19, 2013 at 10:28 am 3 comments

My Yearly Pink Soapbox – Reposted

blue-is-next-pink

Blue is the next pink! Check out this graphic 2013 Colondar model Dawn and The Colon Club’s designer Troy Burns came up with!

Each October, I still have one or two Facebook friends post “pink parade” things on my wall. It’s not because I am a breast cancer survivor. It’s because of the post below.

In 2009, I had just re-entered the colon cancer game after 8 years in remission. At age 25, I was facing cancer yet again. Thankfully, only surgery was needed. But the emotions that came with it hit me harder than ever before. So when October rolled around that year and everything came out pink, I tried to funnel my opinion into the nicest way I could put it. And below is what came out (on my old blog.)

I wanted to make sure this post made its way to the Semicolon blog, so here it is re-posted. Also, it gives me goosebumps to see that at the bottom of the post, I had linked to a fellow Colondar model’s blog – Becca’s blog – where she wrote about the same topic. I had forgotten this until tonight. She passed away 6 months ago; I hung out with her mom this weekend. I re-post tonight in her honor. I met her only once, but her legacy ripples throughout our community.

I will say it again – I fully support breast cancer awareness. But I also support the other cancers. And hopefully one day, other organizations, sports teams, manufacturers and marketers will catch on too. Hopefully.

So with that – here it is. My yearly pink soapbox.

My Yearly Pink Soapbox

(originally posted Sunday, October 4, 2009)

Most of you’ve heard this rant before. But this year’s outrageous display of pink EVERYTHING has fueled the fire. It seems even more hyped this year. And it’s just Oct. 4th.

I’m not a cancer hater. Obviously, one is closer to my heart than the others. But I genuinely want the world to be rid of them all. I will state for the record, I support breast cancer awareness. I’ve got family and now two fellow ’09 Colondar gals who’ve fought it. But I support it just as much as I support lung cancer, skin cancer, colon cancer, etc. Anyone have an idea what month brain cancer awareness is? Know what color represents lung? Understand the severity of pancreatic? Realize it’s just as important for MEN AND WOMEN to get frequent colonoscopies, especially after age 50, as it is for women to get mammograms? Shocker!

Maybe I wouldn’t be so turned off by the ridiculous pink ribbons on every product lining super market stores if I didn’t have a marketing communication background. I hardly believe it’s a coincidence that the target audience of most of those well-loved store brands are moms who manage the household and do the grocery shopping. How convenient, slap a pink ribbon on your product and give a few pennies to breast cancer research and you’ve got a loyal customer to your brand and more money in your pocket. As much as I’d love to believe it – I don’t think the pink’s there for the cancer stuff as much as it is the brand loyalty of the female customers. If that was the case, there would be blue stars all down the toilet paper aisle come March. But butts aren’t as fun nor pleasant to hype up than boobs, let’s face it.

My point is this: if you’re going to support a cause, support it through genuineness. Don’t have strings attached. Don’t stand behind the cancer cause to really make money or fluff up your brand. Don’t go get drunk with a team of people at a cancer crawl and feel better about it because you did it for “a great cause.” People are dying from this disease, it’s pretty serious. I urge companies and individuals to remember this as we use the “cause” to further our own agendas or pleasures. It can be seen as a slap in the face to many of the 10 million diagnosed each year.

You want to help promote cancer awareness? Get screened and tell somebody. Figure out your family history. Meet people who have been through it, and help them find ways to tell their story. Raise money for cancer societies. Wear the t-shirts, the bands, etc. But don’t think slapping a ribbon on something you’re trying to sell is going to cut it. Us survivors see right through it. And we’re not BUYING it.

Want more insight from another cancer survivor? Read fellow ’08 Colondar model Becca’s blog.

October 7, 2012 at 11:45 pm 1 comment

My Colon-Themed Weekend

Sometimes, I let my mind wander back to the hospital bed. I hear the beeps on machines pumping to carry fluids in and take fluids out. I feel the pain in my stomach from a fresh incision. I roll my eyes at the doctor’s voice reassuring me that “checking out” my tumor area will only take a minute. But I try to only let myself stay camped in those memories for a second. Because there are better ones to be dwelt upon.

Making New Memories

This weekend was big for me. And it gave me many new memories upon which to dwell. But these aren’t filled with trips to the bathroom or toilet paper. Instead, they’re full of moments I realized how blessed I am to be a survivor. Minutes I felt so loved and supported. Situations that made me realize I’m not alone. Instances that showed me I am strong.

Over the weekend I took part in several events related to my colon cancer. I shot a national PSA for Fight Colorectal Cancer. I ran in the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K in Kansas City with 50ish fellow team members, team B-Hinds. I had a “Colon Club” reunion with some fellow Colondar models. And most of all – I realized how lucky I am to still be here and going strong.

I’m Not On The Back of the T-Shirt

All cancer races feel somewhat like a running cemetery to me – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. But many times it’s those who’ve lost a loved one that come out for cancer events. Many form a team and rally the troops as a way to have a very personal Memorial Day. T-shirts and signs displaying the years their loved ones lived and the battle they fought are all around. It’s very moving. Especially when you’re a survivor.

At Saturday’s 5K GYRIG race, many t-shirts passed me along the 3 miles listing fellow survivors whose battles have since ended. I realized how fortunate I was to be out in the crowd – running in my black tutu and red beads. My name was listed on the race roster as the B-Hinds Team Captain. Not on the back of the shirt as a beloved daughter, wife, mama and friend.

Survivor’s guilt? Maybe just a little.

Humbled beyond belief? Absolutely.

After a weekend full of great friends, much love and a little sweat (I did run the whole 5K) – all I can really say is thank you. I’m blessed to still be here and have such an amazing community. And Jehovah-Rophe:  God is my healer.

Enjoy some pics…

fightcrc-psa-shoot

Shooting the PSA for Fight Colorectal Cancer – should come out in March!  Photo courtesy of Michael Sola

 

danielle-frank-white-psa

Did I mention that I got to meet Frank White at the PSA?

 

colon-cancer-survivor-family

Me, Mike and little Miss Mae out at the GYRIG 5K

grandparents-5k

All of my parents (also now known as the grandparents) came out for the 5K!

b-hinds-runners-5k

The runners from B-Hinds – we had 4 who placed in the race!

b-hinds-5k-team

Team B-Hinds ended up having around 50 people (including kids!) What an awesome experience!

 

LED-b-hinds

Me and two of my long-time best buds – Em & Leah

ber-b-hinds

My dearest friend Ber traveled over 3 hours with her family and her 9 month old to be on team B-Hinds.

colon-gurl-b-hinds

The Colon Gurl herself came all the way from Evansville, IN for my B-Hind

colondar-models-kc

Colon Club party! Colondar model Belle (Feb ’12), myself, Krista (president of Colon Club) and Colondar model Adam (Sept. ’12)

 

October 1, 2012 at 2:04 am Leave a comment

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