International Women’s Day was a big deal in our house. Not necessarily because we were celebrating it, but because my 14-year-old son was challenging it.
My approach to parenting is to support individuality. My children are encouraged to be free thinkers and to challenge ideas and concepts. I believe it is my responsibility as a parent, to encourage authentic individuality and this doesn’t happen by forcing my beliefs or those of our society down their throats. As a result of this approach, my son Noah is wise beyond his years at age 14. And my 8-year old daughter Charlee, well, let’s just say she will likely be the most brilliant lawyer of all times.
But I have to say, this challenge of International Women’s Day from my son caught me off guard. Particularly because other adult forces in Noah’s life were expressing “disappointment” with his “disrespect” for the day. And well, let’s face it – I am a woman, so this one hit me on a personal level. So, I asked Noah to explain his thought process and here is what he said:
“You know, I mean I see all people equal, no matter what race, religion or gender. I just think that having days like these are separating us as a people even more so that is why I think it should be a day for all overcoming these kinds of struggles. I won’t respect you or disrespect you because you are a woman or a certain race. I will respect or disrespect you based on what kind of person you are. I don’t respect, or disrespect people based on their struggles, but rather on how they choose to handle them. That’s just how I think, Mom.”
I was speechless. It took me a moment to really absorb what he was saying and more importantly, to honor the free-spirited thinker he has become. And so, when I thought about how to respond, one very important truth was ringing in my mind; I AM not just a woman. I simply, AM.
- I’m not a pure descendent of any one race therefore I AM white, Hispanic, Italian, Mexican, Native American and probably a touch of many, many more.
- Although I choose Christianity, I apply many teachings of other religions to my life therefore I AM simply a child of God.
- As a woman, I also have a male leading energy (according to an assessment by Tony Robbins) and am a very logical thinker. Therefore I AM, simply a human being with female and male “qualities.”
- I run a business but also have children and a husband therefore, I AM a homemaker who also provides income.
- I have experienced sexual harassment, so I raise my hand for the “Me Too” movement. Yet, I am also experiencing the greatest business opportunity of a lifetime (in a business run by men) therefore, I AM NOT a victim to one person’s primitive existence but rather I AM a productive member of a gender neutral workforce.
The list goes on and on, solidifying that I don’t just fall into one bucket for anything. If you really think about it, do you?
The longer we continue with the black and white thinking, the longer the segregation will continue. What if we open our minds to the idea that WE are not all so different after all. Perhaps our level of respect would change for one another. Maybe Noah is right, maybe all of these concepts that separate us into buckets of human beings should be changed to an ongoing celebration of who we all are as humankind. Maybe, if we truly saw in everyone else what exists in ourselves, all this destruction would end. Because doesn’t the hate stem from separateness in the beginning? It all start with us against them, or you against me.
International Women’s Day is a beautiful celebration of what women have overcome and I don’t want to diminish that in any way, but is it another message to our youth of US against THEM? Every one of these movements over time have been with the intent to bring us together as one. At what point do we eliminate the separateness of these movements?
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I will say this – if I have a 14-year old thinking this way, seeing humans as humans without much regard for gender, religion, or color – our youth are moving in the right direction. My son just can’t grasp the concept of man vs woman or black vs white and trying to force him to see the separation is a step backwards. Perhaps our youth will show us the way with this evolved thinking, because isn’t that what the movements are all about anyways?
Going back to Mayo Clinic today came with a crazy set of nerves. The entire week leading up to today was filled with anxiety, tension and fear. From the first blood draw in March, we’ve received “bad news” every time. So of course our natural expectation for today was, well, bad news.
Today they drew blood to check if the cancer is spreading. When we were delivered the news, we just sat there – emotionless. It kind of shocked me, I figured we would either cry with sadness or jump for joy with happiness, but neither happened.
As I drove home, the tears started rolling. I still couldn’t quite articulate what I was feeling. That’s the strange thing about dealing with cancer…because it’s so unpredictable by nature, it produces the same unpredictability in emotions as well.
After about 30 minutes, I got a silly text from Brien. We started bantering back and forth, lightheartedly and free. My final text to him before writing this was….”It feels good to laugh.” His response, “Yes, it does.”
So here is what the doctor told us. Brien’s PSA level is 0. That means that as of today, he is cancer free.
Although we will continue to monitor every 3 months for the next couple of years, for today we got what we’ve been waiting and praying for…..a dose of good news.
I have a mad love for the number zero right now.
Thank you to The Tee-Shirt Shoppe of Anthem for creating our awesome T-Shirts!
I’ve written several posts over the past few months about our experience with cancer. It’s true, this situation catapulted my gratitude for my husband to new heights, but it does not define our relationship or why I love and appreciate him.
Today is our 9th wedding anniversary so I can’t think of a better time to reflect on our union and just how magical the journey has been.
Brien and I starting communicating online via Match.com in the Spring of 2005 . Neither of us was really looking for anything serious. I was just a year out of a divorce, while Brien was about 3 years out from loosing his daughter (Jordan) at birth and wife (Marci) to cancer. When I got the request to chat from him, I thought, “why not…he lives in Phoenix and I live in Albuquerque, this will not lead to anything.” I was intrigued with his profile – he was very handsome, but had a gentleness about him too. I didn’t suspect an ounce of arrogance in the way he presented himself and I was really impressed with his open love for God. We started chatting and before I knew it, we were a real live version of the movie, You’ve Got Mail. He quickly became that person I wanted to talk to every day, my best friend.
If you ask Brien, he will tell you that I grilled him on every subject imaginable. I wanted to know his thought process and what made him tick. We had such easy conversation and because we were in different states, neither of us was trying to impress. We were being our true selves and found that we connected on a deep level.
After about 9 months of a strict email relationship (with maybe 1 or 2 phone calls), we decided to meet. I worked in pharmaceutical sales at the time and had a meeting scheduled in Phoenix. I knew Brien lived in Phoenix, but wasn’t sure where. When I found out he lived in Anthem, the same community I was staying in with a friend, I realized that I was starting to see a series of signs that this might be more than an online friendship.
I remember the night we met like it was yesterday. It was December 2005. He was wearing jeans and a black jacket. I matched him well in flared black capri’s and a two toned silk blouse. He brought flowers for me and a bottle of wine for the friends I was staying with. I felt at home with him right away. From his fresh smell and clean, organized car, to his respect and thoughtfulness with every move – everything about him was just classy. We went to dinner at Tonto Bar & Grill and from that night on, I knew I was in for something special.
He came to visit a couple of weeks later for New Year’s. It was the first time he met Noah and he showered him with belated birthday gifts. Bringing some cute Nike outfits and a tiny Nike soccer ball for my boy who had turned 2 in October, was just about the sweetest thing he could have done. Noah was a reserved child. It took him time to warm up to people and I don’t ever recall him giving a complete stranger a hug, much less a hello. But with Brien? Well, he ran right into his arms and acted like he had known him forever. We later found out that Noah was conceived the exact day that Marci passed away. Coincidence? We don’t think so. We are big believers in great cosmic experiences.
Without going into the fine details of all the challenges we faced over the next year, I will just say there were ALOT. The cards were stacked against us but God had a plan and against all odds, we ended up together when I moved to Phoenix in October 2006. I will never forget how scared I was leaving my family, friends, job and everything I knew to move to Phoenix where I knew only one person other than Brien. I remember driving with that U-Haul and my 3 year old son knowing that I was doing the right thing, despite my fears. We moved in with Brien in his small house in the Anthem Country Club and began our new life.
The next couple of years we learned each other’s patterns and navigated the waters of merging our worlds and the baggage that came with them. Brien went from being a full-blown bachelor to suddenly having a live in girlfriend and her son. We found our way.
We got married on September 14, 2008. We had a quaint wedding in Sedona with immediate family only. It was my fairy tale wedding, with horse & carriage and all. I had the honor of having my Father give me away and my son carry the rings down the isle. The pastor from our church traveled up to Sedona to marry us and we had every member of our immediate family there as we exchanged vows at the Chapel at Tlaquepaque. It was the perfect day.
The day after our wedding we decided to go see a psychic, because well – that’s what you do in Sedona. On the way to see her, I mentioned to Brien that I really like the name Charlee for a girl. He agreed that it was a cute name but reminded me that he absolutely did not want any more children. When we got to the psychic she immediately told us that a little soul was wanting to come through and encouraged us to not stop her. She looked Brien straight in the eyes and said, “Ready or not Daddy, here I come.”
That night, I witnessed something spectacular. As we were lying in our room in Sedona, I saw 3 orbs of lights entering the room. One large, one medium and one very small. I had no idea what it was at the time, but it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.
2 weeks after we were married I found out I was pregnant. Brien had me take a gazillion pregnancy tests because he was in utter shock, but once he saw the word PREGNANT on a digital test, he realized there was no error. I then knew what the orbs were…..two angels delivering the newest spirit to our tribe.
Charlee came into the world on June 2, 2009 and brought so much healing to Brien and our family. We went from a broken, single mom in Albuquerque and a widowed man in Phoenix, to a happy family of 4 (with 2 dogs and a cat).
Has it been easy? Absolutely not. Has it been worth it? You better believe it. You see, before Brien, I had no idea what it was like to have that partner who unconditionally loves you. I had no idea what it was like to have a partner believe in you so much that you could take huge risks like leaving a job and starting a business. I had no idea that you could love someone so much that you would leave life as you know it to start over in the name of love.
When God made Brien, he must have been thinking of me. He is the wind beneath my wings and my perfect match.
So thank you Match.com – for providing the medium for two souls to connect and create their happily every after. Although we are 12 years in with our relationship and celebrating our 9 year wedding anniversary today, our story has just begun.
It’s been 5 months since our #TranscendCancer journey began. My first post was in May, after we found out about the diagnosis of Bien’s prostate cancer, but the journey really began months prior to that when we learned of his elevated PSA levels. From that moment, we’ve been living in the “unknown”. First the unknown of why the levels were elevated, then the unknown of the 2nd set of blood work, followed by the unknown of the biopsy result, on to the unknown of whether or not the cancer was present outside the prostate, then onto the questions about what treatment would look like, followed by the unknown of how we were going to pay for all of this, having an insurance policy that did not touch cancer…..moving into the unknown of what would transpire in surgery – to now, sitting in the waiting room at Mayo Clinic, waiting to see the doctor to give us the pathology results one week after surgery.
And here is what he told us, “It’s worse than we thought. The cancer is an aggressive and dangerous type, a pathological T3B that invaded the seminal vesicle on the left side.”
As a person who prides herself on being fairly intuitive, I missed the mark with this one. I held Brien’s hand on the way to Mayo telling him, “I’m confident everything is just fine – this cancer journey is over.” He, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. In fact – his intuition told him otherwise….so much so that we burned sage through the house after a terrible dream he had last night. He knew.
For at least the next two years, we will be at the mercy of routine bloodwork, testing the PSA levels for any sign of the cancer returning. At our first meeting (with a different doctor), we were told that the removal of the prostate would ensure 100% that the cancer would be gone. Before surgery, we were told that the surgery gave us 85% assurance the cancer would be gone. Today we were told that there is a high chance it will come back…50/50.
Although it feels like I just got punched in the stomach, I have a glimmer of clarity through this. Our new norm is living in the unknown, and when we are in the unknown, we are forced to be in the “now”. There is simply no way we can go the next two years waiting and wondering. So, our plan? Relax, enjoy life and take it as it comes. Isn’t this the way we should always roll anyways?
If you really want to know, not great. “How are you” – it’s such an every day question. One that typically comes with the same response, “Good, how are you?” If you know me, you know I’m a pretty straight shooter and certainly not one who goes for small talk. But most are still seemingly surprised when I give my honest answer of, “Not great” or “I’m falling apart at the seams.” In fact, most seem to not know how to respond. We are so conditioned to our rote conversations that anything outside of “good” seems to be a foreign language.
It’s the middle of the day on a Wednesday and I have a mile long list of things I should be doing including “taking time for me” – as I have repeatedly been instructed to do by my true blue’s. So here I am, writing away my thoughts and feelings in hopes of some reprieve.
Brien’s surgery is Monday….5 days from now. Logically, it will all be ok. He will go in, they will put him under, remove his prostate and the cancer along with it. He will wake up, take some time to heal and we will have our rock of the household back, cancer free. This is the scenario my logical brain follows. But once my heart starts getting involved, the scenario changes.. You see, on the human side of things, we have a situation that has changed everything. Anytime you throw the big C into the mix,, emotions run high. Medical needs change, relationships change and let’s face it, the entire dynamic that “was, no longer “is”. All of the “What If’s” play out like rapid fire constantly. My heart literally breaks on a daily basis at the sheer thought of the fear my husband must be experiencing right now. Every move we make to “prepare” feels like a game of Russian roulette.
In the midst, we have a business to run and it happens to be a highly involved one that doesn’t allow us to pause (think deadlines). The kids started school today – my boy’s last year before high school and I felt like a cloud hovered over this day that would have made me emotional in and of itself.
I try not to hide my cloud, which is why I’m honest when people ask me how I’m doing. It’s been months since I’ve said, “Good, how are you?” Yet, I feel somewhat guilty answering truthfully. Every time I do, I seem to get that “deer in the headlight look”. I can practically read their minds; “Oh crap, what do I say, what do I do?”
How do I know what they’re thinking? I’ve been on the other end. I’ve been on the other side of someone struggling and it IS uncomfortable. That feeling of wanting to help, wanting to say the right thing but just drawing a blank. It doesn’t feel good to be on that side of things either.
So for everyone who I’ve recently encountered – you simply asking, smiling, hugging, joking or being kind – it’s enough, and it’s appreciated.
My very closest friends keep telling me, “don’t be afraid to ask” so here is my request:
- Positive thoughts and energy
- Prayers for strength and healing
- Compassion & understanding
- Love & kindness
If everyone who reads this shares these 4 things- even from afar, I am confident we will have all we need to get through this experience. And for my besties who are holding my hand every step of the way, you have no idea how much I appreciate and love you.
Thanks for loving us. We love you back.
It’s that time again. The therapeutic time to write from a vulnerable and transparent place. Why do I do it? Because it’s cathartic, and because many of our beloved friends have been asking for an update.
To each person who has continued to reach out during this time, we cannot tell you how impactful it has been. Not one message, text, email or phone call goes unnoticed. Each one adds to the mounding strength we are needing to draw upon.
Prostate cancer is a tricky thing. Physically, Brien is fine. He really is not feeling any symptoms nor would anyone know he has cancer just by looking at him.
It’s the mental and emotional roller coaster that can take it’s toll. With the looming surgery date of August 7 just over a month away, things are getting real again.
I’m a busy gal…always have been. I get more busy when I don’t want to focus on something. Some people eat, some people drink, some people check out completely. Me…I “do”. So if I seem extra busy right now, you can understand why. The thing about it is – all the busyness in the world can’t change what is on our plate right now. So I find myself in unchartered territories. I can’t “busy” my way out of this one.
Fortunately, food, alcohol and checking out don’t work for me either, so I guess I have but one choice – to be present, to accept our situation and to pull that strength from deep within. Not only for myself, but for my family who is all going through this too.
Brien is my hero. I can’t even imagine how scary this must be for him. Just having cancer is enough, but the fact that he lost his wife (and daughter) 14 years ago to cancer must create some intense emotions. You would never know it though. He continues to be the emotional rock of our household. He is working diligently to ensure that everything will be taken care of when he is out for surgery. And you know what? I haven’t heard him complain once. He’s taken blow for blow this year but continues to uplift me and our family, reassuring us all that everything will be ok. So for everyone asking how Brien is doing….he is amazing, true rock star status.
There you have it, my update in a nutshell. I can say one thing about this journey; I am learning so much about myself….my strengths, my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities – so many blind spots unveiled. And as for what I’m learning about Brien? Well, I always knew he was incredible, but I now know without a doubt, (thank you Jerry McGuire) – he completes me. Even through his own trials, he is helping me grow and become a more real version of me. My knight in shining armor will be just fine, because he has to be.
A dear friend of mine, someone who I connect with at a soul level, told me to keep writing….every thought, every emotion. Well, I’m not sure if can get everything down as these thoughts and emotions run deep, but I do find it therapeutic to journal the journey.
I’m not the one with cancer. It’s something that should feel like a relief, yet it’s quite the contrary. I feel guilty at times for the toll it’s taking on me. This is my husband – he needs the love and support, yet I feel like a walking lunatic many days. Plain and simple, it’s unconditional love. Like my children, he is a part of me. He owns a large portion of my heart and soul. I have that longing to do anything to help and comfort him through this process, yet I am helpless. Prayers, pleads, bargains – all the stuff you never imagine yourself doing as an adult with the ONE in charge, they are real. Always wanting and trying to control things has finally proven to be pointless. I have zero control and no choice in any of this. There it is, that darn lesson that has been hitting me over the head ever since I can remember.
Any time I have taken my husband for granted in the past 11 years is now a regret. Sometimes it takes something big to realize how much you really have. Those little external things that tend to rile me up just don’t have the same power anymore. Nothing holds the same importance as my family. Mama Bear here has two kids trying to make sense of all this too. Mama knows that this experience has changed us all forever. The power now is in gratitude, hope and faith.
And boy have people surprised me. The love and support have been surreal. True colors are blinding. I am in tears every time I get a message from someone just checking on us – offering unconditional support. And then there are the jerks- they are real too, but you know what? They have their own crap. Lord knows I can be a jerk too. We humans have the tendency to get stuck in our own mud and forget that our brothers and sisters are often in four wheel drive themselves.
As much as I would like for the world to pause so we can just take this all in, it doesn’t. Responsibilities are real as ever, but so is the strength we have been blessed with. At the age of 43, I finally feel like a real grown up, experiencing the real world, thankfully surrounded by real, unconditional love.
Two weeks ago we heard the dreaded words, “It’s prostate cancer.” Over the last 14 days we continued the waiting game that had already been going on for what felt like an eternity.
It started with elevated PSA levels in January. After my incessant nagging and finally a call from the matriarch, Judy (yes, I pulled out the big guns and “told on” Brien to his Mom), Brien scheduled the Free PSA test. There was a 2 week waiting period for those results. A level of 7, prompted the scheduling of a biopsy – which was yet another 2 week waiting period. Brien had the biopsy and you guessed it, we had to wait another 2 weeks for the results. On May 1, we learned of the prostate cancer.
So here we are, two weeks later again. Today’s appointment was to learn what the scans showed….did the cancer spread or was it contained to the prostate?
We are beyond blessed to learn it has not spread. Although there is a good amount of cancer in the prostate, it is localized to this gland and can be removed.
And so, another waiting period begins. This time we wait for the scheduling of surgery. Although today’s results left us in another whirlwind of emotions, I know one thing….my husband has a positive prognosis or as the doctor put it, “the results are favorable.” As usual, my mind goes to the big picture of things – but this time it goes to envisioning him walking our daughter down the aisle, giving our son parenting tips, and holding my hand for many, many years to come.
We are blessed. #Transcend Cancer
There is no room for hate….period. Hate is destructive, hate is a cancer in and of itself. Hate is a word we don’t even allow our kids to use in the home. Hate is contempt of the heart.
I know that I write this in the early stages of Brien’s diagnosis, but we have decided to welcome this journey as a way to transcend. This is not something we are looking to fight because when you fight you have a 50/50 chance to either win or loose. If we are open to growth, we never loose. A dear friend of mine and owner of New Direction Coaching, Linda McCarthy reminded me that everything that comes into our lives, comes to serve us. Everything we are faced with is an opportunity to expand our soul.
So do I have moments of anger about cancer? Absolutely! But I can be angry without hate. Brien and I have made a decision that we would rather Transcend Cancer, than fight cancer. We are not going to win or loose, we are going to grow. Will you join us in our journey to Transcend Cancer?
Huge thank you to Bill Windish at Gecko Grafix for the awesome logo.
I write this in blog format because I figure if you take the time to click on and read the blog, we are likely close enough for this to matter. Some have asked, “Why this way? I was shocked you shared via a blog.” Here’s my answer to that….there are so many out there who I know care and who I know will join us in prayer. I simply don’t have the energy to call or text every person I know who will join us on this journey. I believe in the power of positive, collective energy as well as prayer – so anyone taking this journey with us with those intentions is welcome and appreciated.
We know Brien has cancer. We know the doctor feels 99% confident that it has not spread. Brien is having the scans and tests to confirm that. If the doctor is right (and I believe he is), this cancer can be cured.
We are holding on to that and we are loving and supporting Brien every step of the way.
Thank you for all the kind comments on my previous blog. Thank you for the array of love and support on the FB post. Thank you for the private messages, texts and phone calls. Thank you for all of the advice. Thank you to my amazing neighbor for marching over here with a homemade banana bread, giving me a hug and letting me cry. Thank you for walking with us and not judging us for our method of communicating or handling this.
We feel your love and support. Brien is ridiculously strong right now. I know he will #TrasnscendCancer.