In the Necessary

A couple of posts back I referred to my transformation as having its setbacks, mainly the depression and grief I’ve been going through recently.  But I realized this isn’t a setback at all, it’s a ginormous step forward.  Progress can be painful, but worth every moment, otherwise we don’t grow.  The pain pushes us to face our demons.  We can’t do that while stuck in a numbing state.  It’s time to let go of these old demons and take back control of my life.  I fully admit I hate this stage of the process as being the hardest, loneliest and most mundane–a lot of time being pensive.  It’s fully necessary though.  I’ve stated this before.  At times, you have to be completely broken down before you can be built back up.  It is a process of highs and lows, but maybe that’s the beauty of it.  I must be like the caterpillar wrapped in its cocoon in metamorphosis, and know this is the biggest part of my journey.  I’m grateful to be aware of this, however hard it may be.

I noted about a recent rejection in my last post.  I can’t tell you what a powerful catalyst this has been for me.  Truthfully, exactly what I needed!  I am grateful for this too.   Though I felt the full weight of rejection and it still stings a bit, I realized that maybe I liked the idea of this man more than the real thing.  Even though part of me tried, I never would let it go further than just an idea, which could possibly be part of the rejection.  But it was a nice idea and in truth kept me going through a majority of all my recent cancer stuff.  Maybe that was its only real purpose and now it had to come to a natural conclusion.


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Stuck in conversation with George

It’s taken me a while to think of a title for this post.  I feel like, particularly recently, my head space is in up and down, mostly negative states, but also very revealing–So much clarity.  This is where I’m at though.  I can’t deny that.  This is a massive part of my journey.  In fact, the most important part, and I’ve been struggling deeply with this pain.   I don’t particularly have any friends named George, but I wanted the title to at least present as a little more positive than the rest of the post, so I decided to give my “emotional pain” a name.  George is a good name. 

This has been a time of serious grief, sadness and overall pain for me; not just for the major events I’ve just faced, but a lifetime of heartache that I haven’t allowed myself the opportunity to really grieve or work through without tearing myself down in the process.  I’ve placed so much shame and unworthiness on myself.  Instead of knowing how to parent myself through chaotic events, I allowed a side of me, an enabler, to grow stronger.  If it felt bad, my enabler would say, “it’s okay, have that piece of pizza or cheesecake, smoke that cigarette or have those 3 or 4 glasses of wine.”  How cunning this enabler became. 

I’ve had weight issues most of my life.   Although I was a thin and athletic as a child, the weight problems started while my mother was in and out of the hospital going through cancer treatments.  I guess I was around 10 or 11 when it became noticeable.  I was just a little chubbier than the other girls.  I was 12 years old when she died.  I remember people bringing casserole after casserole to our house.  Our fridge overflowed with them.  From out of these events my addiction to food was born.  I’ve spiraled between thin and fat (mostly fat) ever since.  I don’t think I’ve even recognized myself in a mirror, or in pictures (and those are the worst at giving you a reality check), in 10 or 15 years, maybe more.

Throughout that time more life-altering events occurred–hard, heartbreaking events, and George got fed.  George grew stronger and gorged himself whenever possible, and my addiction festered.   What a lie, a joke I played on myself for so long.  As if food was my comforting friend and my fat a wall of protection from everyone around me.  What cruel deceivers.

I suffered what I believed to be a fairly major rejection this past week, but one that I needed to happen, and the timing of it was quite perfect.  Honestly, I set myself up for it, likely intentionally.  I’ve noticed I tend to do that when things in my life are askew, which is all the time.  I basically acted like a complete, desperate jackass.  I always created an awkward atmosphere around this particular person, which had more to do with everything I’ve been going through; but, it wasn’t something I ever communicated to him.  I know my awkwardness made him uneasy.  Luckily, the rejection forcefully knocked me back into reality.  Though it was a crushing blow to my fragile ego and amplified George’s existence, it ultimately was the exact thing I needed to push me into recovery.  I’m not saying I’m cured or have it all figured out, but for me, the past week or so has meant 10 thousand steps in the right direction–extremely painful, yes, but necessary.  Adversity truly is our greatest teacher.  Everything in life is Teacher, remember that!

Numbing while in Hyperdrive

When you decide to rid yourself of all your numbing vices, reality IS a bitch.  Need I elaborate?  The whole point of numbing one’s self is to escape reality, in particular, the pain of it.   Cancer or not, life can be incredibly painful and you have to feel it at some point.  All the numbing agents in the world can’t make it go away.  Well, I guess they can for a while, otherwise we wouldn’t do them, but in the end they only make everything worse.   Then you find moments of clarity when the question arises, “WTF, how did I get here?”  Like whole blocks of time were erased from your life.  But they weren’t.  You just weren’t paying enough attention.  You were numb.

It’s true, you simply have to move through the pain.  At some point you have to stop, FEEL IT and move through it.  It really is the only way.  It’s certainly a process though–Not a 24-hour turn-around type task.

I’ve been seeing a counselor to help me sort through all of this.  She is also a breast cancer survivor.  The social worker at Texas Oncology was able to get me in to see her through the Flatwater Foundation (  My counselor said I’ve had so much going on for so long that I haven’t had time to grieve any of it.  I’ve literally had one major crisis to handle after another, back-to-back, for the past five years.   And these aren’t like, “hey I just broke up with my boyfriend” type crises, I wish.  These are “I have to think about removing organs from my body or I might die” type crises.   Serious life and death situations back-to-back for 5 years.

In August 2009, my stepmother passed away from advanced melanoma.  About seven or eight months before she died, around January/February 2009, I was diagnosed with a very rare, pancreatic cyst.  My father also needed a lot of assistance during this time with my stepmother’s illness and passing.  Then in the fall of 2009, I also assisted my father in his battle with her four daughters over his life estate in the house.  This was all very stressful and I was way too in the middle of things, a place I really didn’t want to be.  However, at that time I felt I had to help my father.

Upon being diagnosed with the pancreatic cyst, I began meeting with specialists and surgeons and was having tons of testing and blood work done.  Two years of trying to characterize the cyst, this entailed a number of endoscopic procedures and biopsies.  Then came the decision to do pancreatic surgery and finding a specialized surgeon for that (I ended up going to Houston).  In the middle of all of this I finally did the BRCA testing, which came back positive for a BRCA1 mutation.

Once you’re deemed a BRCA mutant, you are automatically placed in the cancer pool and they start watching you like a hawk as it’s only a matter of time in the medical community’s mind before you get it.  I started seeing a medical oncologist regularly.  One of the top in Austin.  Then started the serious breast screening, the first being a breast MRI (it would switch between that and a diagnostic mammogram every six months).   With the first breast MRI came a huge scare from my medical oncologist and breast surgeon that they’d found not one spot, but four in my right breast.  At that time, they all turned out to be false positives, but you can’t imagine what the stress of not knowing and waiting for results does to a person over the space of a week or two.  They nearly called off my scheduled, pancreatic surgery in place of possible cancer treatment for the breast.

2009 and 2010 were a virtual maze of dr. appts, tests, research and decision making.  My pancreatic surgeon also presented me with the option of removing my ovaries at the time of having the pancreatic surgery.  That alone took a good while of serious contemplation, research, decision-making, consulting with all sorts of medical professionals (including finding a gynecological oncologist surgeon for the procedure), talking with other women with mutations, going to conferences regarding BRCA mutations, tons more research, making pros and cons lists, getting advice from friends, digging deep and “going to the mountain” so to speak, etc. etc.  I was only 36 at this time.

After finding out my breasts were okay but still possible ticking time bombs, I then had to make the decision to follow through with the distal pancreatectomy with splenectomy and possible bilateral oophorectomy (mind you, the pancreatic surgery alone is deemed very dangerous.  I was told by several doctors and general surgeons that they are told in medical school to stay away from the pancreas.  My gastroenterologist basically scared the crap out of me for two years, always with a line like, “you’re young, you’ll probably live through it.”).

November 2, 2010, surgery day, this went fine initially.  And then about a week or so after started the massive complications–almost 6 months worth.  I came close to dying several times during this period.  You can’t imagine how brutal this was.  Now I’m considered a Type 1 diabetic and I have a major, complex abdominal hernia and gruesome scar that still need to be repaired.  By the end of 2011, I started scouting various surgeons for the hernia repair and preventive, plastic surgery for my breasts.  My biggest issue being my weight.  All the surgeons wanted me to lose a significant amount before going ahead with the surgery.  Best results are at ideal/goal weight.  I’ll tell you now; this is easier said than done, having battled weight issues since my early teens.

Then in 2012, I had to make the decision to make a job transition.  Not something I wanted at the time, but felt pressured to make.  This was huge in itself as I’d been working for my previous firm for 12 and half years and could have easily settled in and retired from there, but I was a little restless regardless and my firm started downsizing so I sought work elsewhere.  Right after starting in my position with my new firm, I traveled to Boston for a friend’s wedding and got into a car accident.  Although no one was injured, this in itself turned into a months long, stressful and chaotic situation for my other friend and me as we battled with the rental car company, other driver and insurance companies.

Also within this time, around March 2013, my father had massive, congestive heart failure and was in the hospital and a nursery facility for 6-8 weeks and then needed assistance after returning home.  This brings us to the spring of 2013 and my breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent lumpectomy, 5 months of chemo and double mastectomies, from which I’ve only been recovering since January of this year, 2014.

In February of this year my father fell, fractured his skull and suffered severe bleeding in his brain.  He has spent weeks in the hospital and now doing rehab at a nursing facility.  My brother and I have been sorting through and dealing with his finances and personal needs.  All of which my father has made more difficult for everyone around him–Never thinking ahead, but letting things fell apart and leaving us to pick up the pieces.

In the midst of all of this I’ve personally struggled financially, was failing in the performance of my new job and let all the ordinary maintenance of relationships, home and life fall by the wayside.

Now my counselor says that since some of these burdens have been lifted from me, my brain, heart and body have made way for some sort of extreme grieving process, of which I’ve only started.  It’s very hard and feels like a lot of emotional baggage.  Very saddening and it’s hard to pull out of a depressed state.  I veered off the road at some point and am now lost in the woods.  I am focusing on trying to maintain my new eating plan, daily exercise and I’m back to taking my daily supplements.  However, I currently still feel like I’m mired neck deep in negative, sad, angry and bitter feelings and thoughts.  Almost like I can’t see straight–Just plain screwed up.  I’m trying to find my way out of this darkness as I don’t want these feelings to stay.  I have to find a way of accepting and moving forward.  It’s a bitch to say the least!

All this time I’ve been stuck in hyperdrive, just trying to survive and make it through things.  It’s only when we slow down that we are able to assess the damage.  The loss of what I anticipated life to look like.  The loss or delay of anticipated family and happiness.  My counselor says these things are still possible.  It takes getting past believing it’s all fubar.  Transformation has its setbacks.


Hanging Out In the Self-Help Section–It’s All Good!

Here are some articles I’d really like to retain and believe they could be helpful to me on my journey.  15 Things Mentally Strong People Do from

AND, Attracting The Right People Into Your Life.  Also found on

AND, Stop Resisting: Surrender to Your Body to Transform It and Your Life,
5 Steps to Stretch Your Comfort Zone, Take Risks, and Enjoy Them
Eliminate These 5 Words to Create the Life of Your Dreams
Breaking the Rust: 7 Tips to Move Forward When You Feel Stuck
Think Like a 5-Year-Old to Start Living the Life of Your Dreams
Lessons from Hiking: 5 Ways to Live with Less Stress and More Joy,
How to Stop Limiting Yourself and Feel Fully Alive,
3 Vital Lessons on Living a Life That Won’t Lead to Regret,
25 Ways to Be Good for Someone Else, and How to ROCK Your Rock Bottom and Reinvent Yourself,
all from

Okay, this post totally reads like an intro to the self-help section at the nearest bookstore, but it’s all good. ;-)

The Precipice of Change

On my journey of transformation, a massive, vertical cliff of discomfort and change calls to me.  It says, “come climb my steep, hard surface.  It will be very difficult and perilous, but not impossible.  Here is where the real work begins!”

The past week has been rife with supposed conflict and negativity, and my moods have consistently spiraled downward.  However, if I step back and look at the bigger picture, all of it is pushing me further toward unprecedented change, both internally and externally.  Like a carefully composed opera.  I’m actually being forced to step out of my comfort zone and clearly choose which way I will go on the road ahead. 

I’m a fairly stubborn person (to a fault and in all the wrong ways) and, even in misery, have become quite comfortable in my own situation.  It’s not even close to being the life I desired for myself, but it’s been familiar and comfortable.  I settled into what I believed I deserved.  Now, something out there, or in here, wants to quash those believes.  It doesn’t want this same existence for me.  God, the Universe, that inner seed–Once it starts growing, there’s no stopping it.  The seed of change has sprouted!  Now, I must love it, water and feed it, and call it George :-), so that it will flourish. 

I’ve had to make some incredibly hard choices in recent years, and more to the point, heavier, heartbreaking sacrifices–but they didn’t kill me.  Write it again–They didn’t kill me.  I choose whether my life will be diminished by these events or not.  I can’t kid myself, some days are undeniably hard.  Some days I can barely get out of bed, but I do.   Now I’m trying to face those days while looking through a more open and honest lens.  It doesn’t always work.   

I think some people may think that I’m done with the bad stuff–the hurdles, I survived the cancer.  I’m good now.  But that’s so far from the truth.  Yes, I’ve won that battle for now; but I’ve been seriously wounded and still standing in the full midst of the war.  Like a storm still in full force.  Yes, I survived that massive wave.  It didn’t take me under, but I’m still being rocked this way and that with an, at least perceived, ongoing threat of capsizing. 

Time to climb the precipice.


Local Austin Natural/Organic/Eco-Friendly/Healthy Living Stores, Restaurants and Juice Bars

If your ever in Austin, here are a few, mostly local-grown places to check out:

Eco-wise has been a local ma and pop in Austin since 1990 and has just about everything eco-friendly from rain collection barrels and composters to non-toxic cleaning products and organic bedding, baby gear, toys, socks and underwear.  Great, local place to shop!  It’s located right next to Vulcan Video on W. Elizabeth and right behind Guero’s Taco Bar on South Congress.  I’ve been shopping there on and off for years.

The Herb Bar is an Austin original since 1986.  They sell herbs, essential oils and all things healing and are located on W. Mary Street just off of South Congress.  This is where I used to buy my Dandy Blend (alternative to coffee made from dandelions).

Since 1993, The Natural Gardener has been Austin’s premier natural, organic gardening store and is located off Old Bee Cave Road.  Great place for a natural gardener to purchase organic seeds, plants, dirt, etc., etc.!   Time to get back to container gardening this spring! 


Wheatsville Food Co-op is a local, full-service, natural foods cooperative grocery store that’s been serving Austin since 1976 and now has two locations (Guadalupe St. and South Lamar).

PeoplesRx is an integrative, holistic pharmacy that has been operating in Austin for 30+ yrs with five locations (including a wellness center) throughout Austin.

Beets Cafe
– Raw foods restaurant off 5th Street as you’re entering downtown.

Mother’s Cafe and Garden - Vegetarian and vegan fare.  Off of Duvall St. close to UT campus.

Mr. Natural 100% Vegetarian – Unique Mexican vegetarian dishes.  I love to get their vegetarian tamales at Christmas time.

Eastside Cafe – Manor Road – American, Vegetarian, Organic fare.  They have a garden in back where they grow all their veggies.  The food is super yummy!

Casa de Luz Austin – On Toomey Rd. close to Barton Springs – Vegetarian, organic cuisine with open seating.

Java Dive Organic Cafe - Lake Travis Area off 620.

Blenders and Bowls – Austin’s First Açaí Cafe (East 4th Street between Brazos and San Jacinto) and healthy foods truck (on Austin streets).

The Soup Peddler Real Food and Juice Bar (aka the JuiceBox and Soup Peddler) – 2 locations – West Mary and South Lamar.  Their ‘Edamame and Arugula soup’ and ‘Green Apple Muenster grilled cheese’ rock and so do their juices!

The Juice Bar – West Slaughter Lane.

JuiceLand – An Austin original with locations throughout Austin and Lakeway.

Daily Juice – Three locations in Downtown/Central/South Austin.

The Juice Spot Austin – 100% organic fresh juice – N. I-35.  Site shows ‘Coming Soon!’