We’re All Warriors

During the holiday season, there was a holiday card being sold at Dana-Farber that I helped to create. On the back, they credited me as the “artist” and used my ‘cancer slayer’ term that I often called myself. I had approved it but when I saw it in print, I felt a little weird about it – I had always equated being a cancer slayer to being a warrior, and then the thought popped into my head that I was a warrior but I’m not a warrior anymore. I often look at the two years that I underwent treatment and overcame cancer to be two years of my life that I am proudest of, I feel very confident talking about my experience and am always open and empowered to share it with others. But when it comes to other aspects of my life, particularly my career, I feel very sheepish and unsure of myself- I don’t feel like I have slayed the past two years and I certainly don’t feel like a warrior very often anymore.

I had that thought and then I let it fade. But then it came back to me one afternoon during a meditation sitting during my yoga training and I began contemplating the idea that I don’t have to have cancer to be a warrior. I can be a warrior in my everyday life- with every action I take, every compassionate conversation, every day that I get up and go to work, every night when I try being a chef to make a healthy dinner for our family, every time I go to the gym instead of sitting on the couch, every time I do something to accomplish a dream. In so many aspects of life, big and small, I can be a warrior. What if I’m not a just a cancer slayer or work slayer or yoga slayer or pup mom slayer… what if I’m just a life slayer? What if we’re all life slayers?

One of the greatest learnings that I’ve become more familiar with throughout my yoga readings and trainings is to see each human being as who they are and be okay with it. Essentially, to see the warrior inside of everyone. To remember that you never know what’s going on behind closed doors, or sometimes more powerfully, what’s going on in someone’s mind. To remember that everybody has a family that loves them, everybody has a friend that thinks they’re funny or enjoys their quirkiness. Everybody wants the best for their family and friends, their community. Everybody wants to be healthy and to live a prosperous, happy life. Everybody has the same innate quality to feel connected and be included – to “be a part of.” Everybody looks up and sees the same stars, and the same beautiful sun and moon. We all share the same home – we all have different struggles but it doesn’t matter what the struggle is because to each individual, it’s their struggle, it matters, it’s hard, and it takes work to overcome. Yoga, mindfulness, Buddhism teachings have all taught me to remember those common things about other human beings. When someone is particularly annoying or aggravating me, it’s helpful to take a deep breath and realize that I may not know what’s going on in their life and to remember that they have a mother that thinks they’re wonderful, and they probably love the very attribute that I may find annoying. They’re a human, just like me. They have worries and fears and anxiety, just like me. And in one way or another, they are slaying their life. They are slaying the worries that keep them up at night and are a warrior to the personal demons that plague their body and mind. We all are. We all are trying our best—even if to the outsider it may not look like they’re slaying or doing their best—remember that who they are, in this day, is doing their best – maybe they will do “better” in the future, but at this moment in time, this is their best self. We’re all warriors- slaying whatever life throws our way today.

Being a warrior doesn’t mean doing some remarkable achievement—it certainly can mean completing a marathon, or conquering an illness, or beginning an impactful social movement—but a warrior can also be someone that has so much anxiety that their chest hurts and they go to work anyway, it can be the mother that puts their career on pause because they believe in the importance of being home to raise their children—it can be the son or daughter that sacrifices personal growth and time with their significant other to become a caregiver for their sick parent—it can be a person who sees someone being bullied and says something about it—it can be a person who absolutely loathes their job and simply goes to work with a smile on their face because they know that’s what they have to do to get by – it can be a person who’s overweight and goes to the gym despite feeling uncomfortable. It can be anyone because it is everyone.

Everyone, in some way, is a warrior.

Respect that notion about others but most importantly, respect that about yourself. You are slaying life right this second.

Warrior on. 💪🏼

Love & light,

Jessy

p.s. Speaking of being a warrior….. here’s me slaying the winter walk to work

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A New Journey

Yesterday I started writing this blog post but I got cold feet to tell the world my news. My news is this…

I QUIT MY JOB.

(well, gave my notice before the new year. c’mon I’m not an ass hole who abandons responsibility) 

I quit my job and I don’t have a new one. I quit my job and I don’t even know what I want my new one to be.

I took a leap of faith, a leap far larger than I ever have in my life. I’ve taken risks and chances before but there was always a next step, always a plan; I always knew what the end goal was. This time, however, is way different. I don’t know what I want my career to be or even what I want my life to look like. My cancer experience and over a year working for people that have been given 2-5 years to live taught me one thing- life is short and you’re not promised to live till retirement. So, you’ve got to live life in the present moment, be thankful for what you have, and really try to enjoy your days, not just the weekend days. Unfortunately, I also am not an idiot and I fully realize that you need to make money to survive. And even though I love to tell Mike that I could, I have accepted the fact that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be one of those people on HGTV living in a “tiny house.” In my dream world, I would be a mom to more than just Phoebe, I’d live in a home on or near some kind of body of water, I’d have friends and family nearby that I could have glasses of Rose with on Sunday afternoons, I’d like to have enough time and energy to cook healthy meals for my family on a regular basis, I’d like a deck outside to do yoga on, and a fireplace to snuggle up with Mike on at night after a long day. That being said, I know my dream will cost money; kids, a house, a dog, frequent purchases of wine and buffalo chicken, yoga classes– it all costs money. But as of right now, I don’t know how to get to those dreams or how to contribute financially to making those dreams a reality for myself and Mike. 

So I said screw it, I’m taking a chance on myself and going to figure it out as I go. Three years ago, if I would’ve heard of someone doing this, I probably would’ve judged them because I thought that being equal in a relationship means making equal money. But today I am deciding to try to think differently. I’m trying to retrain my mind to believe that making a lot of money doesn’t equal a successful life- for me. For some people that may be what they want, but I don’t think it’s what I want anymore. I want to spend more time with my family, I want to spend more time learning, I want to be outside everyday and not in an office building for 10 hours. I want to help others. I want to be creative. I want to have enough time and energy to cook a healthy meal for my family. I want to go to bed with a smile on my face.

Today, I walked with Phoebe along our favorite path and looked at the beautiful blue sky and an almost-frozen river filled with ducks and geese and thought, “what the hell am I afraid of?” I already jumped. I wrote the letter of resignation. I signed the papers. I paid the first month of COBRA healthcare. I packed up my office. I played ‘Freedom’ by Beyoncé (obviously) when I drove home on Friday. So what am I afraid of? I’m afraid of being judged by others. I’m afraid of people talking about me behind my back and saying things like “what is she doing? this isn’t a smart decision” I’m afraid of outsiders thinking I’m a leech to Mike. I’m afraid of, basically, what everyone else in the world thinks. To the point that I specifically told Mike not to tell any of his friends and family because I didn’t want them to know and judge me. Then there’s the social media aspect– it creates a pressure to feel like you need to tell everybody everything you’re doing all the time. I’m guilty of it. Shit, I’m doing it right now. And I kind of hate that. It’s the same guilt that you feel when you know you’re not being honest. And with today’s media, I get the icky feeling when I’m not being upfront on my ‘social channels’ when I don’t share what’s going on in my life. It certainly creates an unnecessary level of stress but it also helps me open up and put my feelings out there for the world, which after the fact, always ends up making me feel better. Because of this form of media, I have been able to host this blog which has proven to be a therapeutic place for me to go to put my feelings into words. I like that, if I want to ramble, like I’m doing now, it’s okay because it’s my space. 

Im anxious about what’s to come in the next few weeks and months but I’m also excited. I’m hopeful that this could be a big turning point in my life where I discover my passion and start being happier, more fulfilled and generally more content on a daily basis. An additional feeling I have at this very moment is freedom. Freedom to not be afraid anymore of the possible judgement or misunderstanding because once I hit “publish” it’s out there. Love it or hate it, embrace it or judge it. It is what it is and I’m proud of the path that I have just embarked on. I hope that you will follow along with me on this new journey – a journey of self-discovery, taking chances, living in the moments and hopefully, inspiring others to do the same.  

Lots of love & light, 

Jessy 

here’s a pic of the Phoeb’s trying to get to the ducks today. img_0307

Motivational Monday

_Keep your fave to the sun and you will

My goodness, how is it already the last day of August? I can’t believe September is almost here and the days of sunshine are getting shorter and shorter each week. But even though the sun may be shining less in the upcoming months, it doesn’t mean we get less sunshine in our lives. Lift your hearts up to the sun, your sun, and let the dark shadows cask behind you. It’s a new week, about to be a new month, soon to be a new season. Let this new week be filled with passion and sunshine that lifts up your spirits and brightens your day!

Lots of love & lights,

Jessy

p.s. my Grammy is in surgery this morning at the Brigham to help heal her, I would so appreciate all the positive vibes, prayers and energy sent her way.

Count On It

I was looking at my Instagram account this morning. Flicking through picture after picture and quickly, I got to “BC” pics, or “Before Cancer.” I’ve looked at old pictures a lot in the past three months, there’s a sense of such warmth and goodness to looking at smiles on my friends and family faces. And smiles on myself, reminding me of a life that I was living and loved so much. However, today when I was looking at these pictures, it felt like a previous time. Like a past life. A time that I’ll never get back. Because the truth is, I really will never get it back. I’ll never be the same girl I was when I rang in 2014. But in all honesty, how could I ever think I would be the same person? It wouldn’t make any sense. As with anything difficult in life, you can’t go through it and stay the same person. Isn’t that the whole point of the journey? I remember ringing in the New Year and thinking about just how amazing 2014 was going to be. I had just moved in with Mike a few months before and things were going swimmingly. I had just gotten my first promotion and would be beginning to work on a new brand, doing new and exciting things. I had an adorable 4 month old niece who I loved more than I knew was possible. I had amazing friends and an amazing family. I was feeling truly at the right place at the right time. I was feeling like this was my time. Things were falling into place and years of hard work were starting to come together. I could see clearly of where I was headed, what I wanted to do. And then January 14th I woke up in the middle of the night with the feeling like a tractor trailer was crushing my tailbone. It would take over a month to figure out what that crushing feeling was exactly but I think of that moment now as so symbolic. Symbolic of how quickly life can change. How quickly things can completely take a different turn. Logically, I know that that wasn’t the exact moment that the leukemia hit my blood stream but in my mind, I think of it like that. I think of it like I went to bed on January 13th a normal, healthy 24 year old and I woke up, on January 14th with my life being crushed and ran over by the leukemia tractor trailer. What’s even more symbolic is the fact that I would be struck by this disease, by this horrible, horrible disease on the very day that person who has saved me through all of this was born. January 14th is Mike’s birthday. Mike has made me laugh when nobody else can. He’s made me smile when I’m grumpy. He’s given me hugs when I don’t want to be touched. He’s kissed my forehead when tears are running down my face. He’s made me genuinely happy…happy in a time when I could never have imagined being happy. He truly is my angel. And so it feels fitting that my modern-day angel would be born on the day that I began to truly need him, to depend on him in all the ways a person can really depend on someone other than their self.

As I’m sitting here at my kitchen table writing this post, I’ve lost all sense of my emotions. (it’s probably not helping that Florence & the Machines are on in the background and it’s raining heavily outside). But I can’t stop crying and I don’t really know why. I’m having such mixed emotions. I feel so physically and mentally exhausted today. But at the same time, I feel sharp. Recounting in my head all that I’ve been through and thinking about all I will continue to go through has brought me to a sense of clarity. Maybe it is still my time after all.
The question “Why me?” has gone through my head a thousand times. I’ve probably thought it 10 times just sitting here writing this post. But it suddenly dawned on me that I should stop questioning “why me” and try to feel grateful for being “chosen” to go through this journey. If I view it as something I was chosen for rather than something that just unfortunately “happened” to me, it gives this whole experience a bigger purpose. So why was I chosen? Why me? Because I can deal with it. Because I am so much stronger and better than this disease. Because I am blessed with family and friends that are so much better and bigger than this disease. Because I will walk away from this disease and be a better person. A stronger person. A more caring person. A more giving person. A person that helps others and makes a difference in the world. “AC” Jessy will be so much better than “BC” Jessy.
Count on it.
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XOXO,
AC Jessy

Just Keep Going

It’s Tuesday after Memorial Day Weekend which is always a bummer. A long weekend long awaited for is over. And even though I’m not currently working I still somehow feel the “Monday blues” (or in this case the Tuesday blues). Weekends I’m not alone, I’m not in the hospital, I get to “get out” and do things. So with or without work, I’ve learned that weekends are always the best. This long weekend seemed extra awesome— I felt so grateful to be feeling strong and getting to spend time with my love, my friends and my family. What more can you ask for?
This Sunday, Mike and I did something we never really do… we went to church. My Grammy had mentioned that the Old North Church in Boston (“One if by land, and two if by sea” church) still holds masses so we decided to go to the 11am. History and a little spiritual pick-me-up… not a bad combination. Plus, today’s a big day (stilllllllll anxiously awaiting to hear from my doctors) so I thought putting in an extra prayer in the big man’s house might not be too bad of an idea. After scurrying in at 11:05, we sat down in our own pew (which in this church is like your own little penalty box. Big fan). I always dreaded church growing up, couldn’t get myself to pay attention (gotta be honest, still have a hard time), and never really understood what they were talking about. But this time felt different since I chose to go myself. So as I sat there in a little pew right next to the windows, in a place that I don’t think has been updated since 1772, I was surprised as I realized how much I was enjoying myself.
The minister gave a quick homily as there was a baptism also during this mass.  To be honest, I don’t exactly remember what the whole homily was about but I do remember this: she told a story about how Jesus had said to his disciples to just keep going (regarding what, I have no clue. Exhibit A of my attention span). She looked out to all of us, and urged us too, to just keep going. That line rang through my head the rest of the mass, “just…keep…going.” I felt like she was speaking directly to me… I felt like I came to this mass specifically to hear those words. I needed to hear those words as those three words are exactly what I have to do. I need to keep pushing on, keep moving forward, keep keeping my head up, keep being positive, keep being happy, keep being thankful…. I need to just keep going.
The past few weeks have been hard. I’ve been so anxious about whether or not the leukemia has come back that I’ve felt like I’m sitting on pins and needles.  But at the end of the day, the results I’ll get tonight or tomorrow are out of my control. Letting the “what if’s” take hold does nothing but bring me down and cause chaos in my head. Those fleeting moments, however, create a feeling like I can’t keep going, like this is all just too much. But then I do things that make me smile, like going for long walks, doing yoga, dancing around by myself to One Direction, accepting nightly back rubs from Mike (he really is the best), or even taking out my aggression on a Bozo the clown blow-up doll. Those things, as trivial as they are, make me feel good, they make me feel alive, and rejuvenated. And because of those little things in life, I’m able to realize I can absolutely do this. That this is A LOT but it’s not something I can’t handle. I can keep on keepin’ on.
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I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend and are able to make it through the work week. But if you’re feeling the Tuesday Blues right now, remember…JUST.KEEP.GOING.
XOXO,
Jessy

Until Next Week

LK;ADKFJAD;LAJD;LKJA;LKJDF;LKJ AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

 
That, my friends, is how I’m feeling right about now. Today went NOTHING like how I thought it was going to be. I had planned to write a post tonight from my hospital room, instead here I am sitting at my kitchen table again. I’m home with a packed suitcase and another hospital stay pushed off. Good news, I didn’t get the bone marrow biopsy. Oh wait, that’s just because I’m getting it next week instead. Today I got a better understanding of what my doctor didn’t “like” last week. Basically, when my blood’s been drawn the past two weeks, things called “blasts” have appeared which indicate that the leukemia could somehow have come back (could, keyword there). Luckily, although still there, that number has decreased since last week and all my other counts were in the normal range. So both my doctors are leaning towards that these “blasts” are just immature cells that my bone marrow has produced while it’s been replenishing itself. However, the possibility of the leukemia coming back is real and therefore, until we know exactly what’s going on, we can’t move forward with my planned treatment. 
 
As my doctors were explaining everything, I started getting emotional… I was instantly overwhelmed, I felt like a ton of bricks had just fallen on my shoulders. Consoling me, Dr. Mandy talked to me about how healthy it is to get “out” my feelings and said something that really hit home. She said, “You’re dealing with death, 50 years earlier than you should. You have the right to feel the way you’re feeling.” I hadn’t thought of it like that until this moment. I had been coping by categorizing this in my head as a “sickness,” a sickness that is awful and unfair but something I would get through and undoubtedly live to tell my kids about. I’ve done a good job telling myself that the ‘d’ word is not an option. And I really still don’t see it as one. (I have way too much to do in my life to let it be an option.) But the fact that it’s ever even mentioned or considered is terrifying. The reality is, this most likely is all just a big scare; the hope is that I’ll go in next week, get this bone marrow biopsy done and find out a few days later that everything is fine and continue on with the action course we’ve had planned all along. But the possibility, as small as it may be, that the results could come back next week and things could get “more serious” than they already are leaves me a little speechless. I am, however, reassured that if the results don’t come back the way we want them to, there are still different treatment options we can try, all of which are of the goal to cure.
 
Other than those first few days, emotionally this was definitely one of the hardest/scariest days. But, just as they were there to comfort me in those first few hours and days, my doctors were there to comfort me and be honest with me…to let me know exactly what’s going on and in terms a marketing major can understand. They make such an incredible team and are so unbelievably knowledgable about this disease. I trust their decisions, whole heartedly and completely. That’s a priceless feeling. Beyond all their brilliance, however, they are caring, kind, compassionate people, and those qualities have continued to make all the difference for me. When I look in their eyes I can see how much they want this too, how much they truly care about me, almost as if I’m a loved one of theirs. I’m not though, I’ve only known them for 3 months. But they care about me a lot and they take care of me to a level that I can’t describe. I am and will forever be grateful to Dr. D and Dr. Mandy– best doctors a person could ask for.  
 
So my update today wasn’t the brightest of ones. Today was a tough day. This week will be a tough week… my mind is inevitably going to wander and I’m going to have to try really REALLY hard to stay focused and positive. I never thought I’d say the words “I’m excited to get a bone marrow biopsy” but I’m excited to get a bone marrow biopsy. I want next week to come because I want to know what we have to face. Once we know what we’re facing, we can map out our plan of attack and get back to kicking some cancer ass.
 
But before I get back to kicking some ass, I’ll take a few extra prayers this week if you’ve got ’em. 🙂 
 
XOXO,
Jessy 
 
p.s.  a shoutout to my shitty friend leukemia— go eff yourself. 
p.s.s. another special shoutout to my lovely grandparents and great aunts and uncles– apologies for my cursing. 

Good Days Making the Bad Days Harder

It’s the night before another hospital appointment and most likely a five day stay to begin the next round of chemo. As I had mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a great few days. A great week, in fact. My energy, and spirit, has been high and I’ve genuinely just felt happy. I’ve done a good job at putting tomorrow “off” in my mind and just enjoying the time away from the hospital and off the chemo. But as tomorrow nears closer, I know I can’t put it off any longer and I’ll be in that hospital room before I know it. I’m anxious for multiple reasons…I have another bone marrow biopsy tomorrow, one that was not planned. So I’m nervous about the physicality of the procedure as I know how uncomfortable it is. I’m also anxious about the results of the biopsy as my doctor is doing it to double check that nothing has come back due to a something he saw in my labs last week. He’s “almost confident” it’s nothing but obviously wants to be sure. And “almost confident” makes me nervous. Really nervous. I’m anxious about how I’ll respond to the next round of chemo as with each new type of treatment I get there’s always the possibility that there could be complications. I’m anxious about simply being in the hospital for five days— the bed’s not comfortable, I can’t stand the food and the little beeps and noises all night drive me crazy. So basically, I’m just anxious for it to be one week from tonight. 

 
Last week when I thought I was going in for the five days I wasn’t nearly as bummed out as I feel right now. Since I hadn’t felt “good” in over a month, it made me have a little bit of a “who cares” attitude. But tonight I feel much different than that, I’m bumming hard over having to go back tomorrow. I feel this way because I know that starting back up with the chemo means that my body will be knocked down again. While I logically know that this is what my body needs and that it just means one step closer to being cancer free, emotionally it’s been so freeing and exhilarating to feel like myself this past week. And I just really, really don’t want that feeling to be taken away from me. I don’t want to feel sick, or nauseous, or tired, or have another month-long headache. I think since I felt a sense of normalcy the past week, it makes it that much harder to say “bye” to it tomorrow. Correction: it’s not goodbye but just “see ya later” for a little bit. One day all these crappy days are going to add up to one healthy, happy life. And that makes it all worth it. 
 
For now, I’m enjoying a bowl of ice cream (addicted), watching The Voice and enjoying my last night at home for a few nights. Thinking some good thoughts for some good outcomes tomorrow. 
 
XOXO,
Jessy