Thankful For So Much

When I was growing up, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Thanksgiving. I was a picky eater. I focused on the fact that I didn’t like the food. If you don’t really like vegetables and you’re not into turkey, good old T-giving can be a tough day. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized what an incredible day it really is. I’m happy to say that now that I consider myself quite the foodie, I absolutely love all the delicious food I get to stuff my face with BUT I love even more to have a day that’s specifically dedicated to giving thanks. It’s a day focused on being grateful for all you have and to be with those you love and reflect on all that you have together.

Since being diagnosed, I have found true strength when I count my blessings. When I consciously think about all the things that I do have in life, no matter how hard the day, my mindset is always helped. It helps ground me and helps put things into a necessary perspective. So today in honor of this amazing day that is completely dedicated to being thankful, I am going to list out everything I feel so lucky to have in my life.

I am thankful for…

  1. My Michael
  2. My family
  3. My Phoebe
  4. My friends
  5. My incredible doctors (especially Dr. Mandy & Dr. D)
  6. The most amazing and caring nurses (especially Andrea, Rachel, Margo, Deb, Kristen!)
  7. To be a patient at the most amazing cancer institute in the world— Dana Farer
  8. To have a job
  9. Having a roof over my head
  10. Having food to eat everyday
  11. Being an American
  12. Living in New England
  13. Being a Patriots Fan
  14. Being able to practice yoga
  15. Sharing a home I love with a person I love
  16. Music!!!
  17. My under desk bicycle
  18. Having a safe car
  19. Dancing
  20. Technology
  21. Fresh flowers
  22. Queen B
  23. T-Swift, in particular, “Shake It Off”
  24. One Direction
  25. Buddhism
  26. The ability to opening my mind to alternative ways of thinking
  27. Clothes & Shoes that I love
  28. A working pancreas
  29. Good food and being able to eat it!
  30. Buffalo chicken
  31. Strawberry strudels
  32. Being in remission
  33. Having hair again
  34. Soft, fuzzy pajamas
  35. Last but certainly not least, I am thankful for this blog and most importantly thankful for all the supportive and wonderful people that have followed my journey. I’m thankful that you’re part of my life and thankful for everything your support has provided me throughout a challenging portion of my life.

I hope you all have a beautiful day, and remember to truly give thanks to all that you have in your life. Even if you’re going through a tough time, try to think of at least one thing that you can feel true gratitude for — whether that is as important as another human being in your life or as simple as being able to have a glass of wine. Whatever it is you’re thankful for, be truly thankful, down to your core.

Happy Thanksgiving, loves!

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Lots of love & light,

Jessy

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The Cutest Daily Affirmation

Sometimes Tuesday mornings are rougher than Monday’s so I decided to do a pump-you-up Tuesday video! This clip came out a while ago but I thought, if you haven’t seen it, it’s a must and if you have, it’s worth rewatching! It really is the tri-fecta: makes you laugh, makes you smile and makes you think… if we could all be more like little Jessica.

I LOVE EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!

Lots of love & light,

Jessy

Finding the Happiness 

Yesterday, I was in a funk. My body was sore and I had a headache under my eyes that wouldn’t go away. I grumpily stumbled my way downstairs to sit down with my coffee, open my laptop and almost instantaneously get bombarded with instant messages and “high priority” emails. Too many things unexpectedly popping up and I started to slip into a mental abys of stress and negativity. As much as I like to tell myself, “I’ve got this” and that this whole working and getting chemo thing is easy-peasy, sometimes, to be honest, it’s not easy. Sometimes, it’s hard. Really really hard. Sometimes trying to balance working full time and having the effects of treatment weigh me down is, a lot. Yesterday, as I sat at the table ferociously pounding on my keyboard, I began to panic thinking about everything that I needed to get done before heading to the hospital. How much time was I going to lose while I was driving over? Would there be too many distractions at the Dana to get what I needed complete? I just didn’t have time for “this,” today, I thought. “This” being my time at the hospital. “This” being my treatment. “This” being what’s saving my life.
Shit.

Maybe I do have time for “this.” Maybe everything else is just going to have to take a back seat. 

I say that, as I sit here and think about it, but in the heat of the day, somehow my priorities had left me. That was, until my mom called to tell me that it had been exactly one year since we were together and I was rushed to the ER for pancreatitis. At that moment, after instantaneously beginning to cry, I was slapped in the face with the reminder that, today, as hard as it felt in the moments before, was NOTHING compared to what I went through that day. That day was hard. That day was scary. That day was stressful. That day stuff that really mattered happened. 
The thought of last year and the reality of the day at hand seemed too much to bear all of a sudden. I was sad. I was sad, and there didn’t feel like anything I could do about it.
Days like yesterday remind me that, as much as I try, not everyday gets to be sunshine and rainbows. Not everyday even gets to be a good one. But it’s important to try to find a little piece of happiness, even in the smallest of ways, every single day. So as I pondered on my way home about what would make me happy, I landed on cinnabun rolls and coffee ice cream and boy, was that a great decision. I giggled to myself as I sat on the couch and licked my fingers full of frosting. So was yesterday a fun-filled day? That answer would be no. But it still had a moment that made me smile so I will be grateful.
Here’s to hoping that you all find a little piece of happiness in each of your days. Even if it’s the teeeeeeensy teeeeeensy tiny, find the happiness. 
Lots of love & light,

Jessy 

Days full of sunshine & happiness 

Well, what a 6 days it was. It has been two years since Mike and I stayed in Portland and it was that trip that we “discovered” Peaks Island….  
That weekend was really special, not for any reason other than the fact that we got to relax and explore a new place together. The day we spent on Peaks Island, biking around the small village, looking at the beautiful ocean views off the cliffs and watching ferry boats come in and out as we ate and drank beers, is one of my all-time favorite days ever. During difficult and painful procedures throughout the past year, the doctors or nurses would tell me to try to relax and imagine I was in my favorite place in the world. Every time, I found myself on Peaks with my Michael. This unplanned, quick visit of a small island on the outskirts of Maine has brought me so much peace of mind and strength when I’ve needed it most. So to be healthy enough to be back there, with Mike, was magical. What’s more magical is that this trip was made possible because of the kindness and generosity of other people. Because a group of team members at HomeGoods started a pool last year and made me this beautiful booklet (that’s what happens when you have an incredibly talented art director heading up the project) to explain that they wanted me to “go back to peaks” for some rest and relaxation to make up for our cancelled Domincan trip in March 2014. This is from a team, I actually no longer get to work with at TJX, as I had been transferred to our Marmaxx division before getting diagnosed. But they came together to do something out of the kindness of their hearts just to make me smile. How lucky am I? These are the people who will ALWAYS be my TJX work family because they truly care about me as a human and not a number or just another employee. It’s a true blessing to have this type of connection and bond with people at work, so although I do not get to work with them regularly anymore, I will always be grateful of the relationships I was able to cultivate during my time with the most fabulous brand in all the land, HomeGoods.

With all that said, I want to share a few pictures with you all of our much-needed days away in Maine.

It started with a lake house with friends on Friday…

   
 
Then we headed to the beach near Portland where we went for long walks during the day and stayed at the Portland Harbor Hotel at night. I treated myself to a bath for FOUR days in a row. How much more relaxed does it get than that?! We ate at some of the most delicious restaurants, including Holy Donut. Wow, is Portland a winner for foodies! 

   
    
    
    
 
Then we packed it up, and took the ferry over to Peaks Island and stayed in a gorgeous little Inn. We started off by renting golf carts to explore the island where we found an old war cave/gun storage thing that is now completely full of graffiti but there’s such a beauty to it. We also spent time walking on the beach and making rock castles on a cliff with about 100 other “castles.” It’s like a natural version of Jenga, so cool!

   
    
    
    
    
   
We spent the next day riding our bikes, laying in the beach and HORSE BACK RIDING! Something I’ve wanted to do together for so long so it was so amazing to make it a reality. 

   
    
   
    
   
   

Yesterday it was back to reality. It was back to the hospital (but my numbers all look great so there’s nothing else I could ask for). 

   
   
And today I headed back to the office. However, I’m refusing to let my outdoor adventures cease so I headed to a state park across the street from work after I got out and rented myself a paddle board which I took out for almost two hours– paddling and stopping to do yoga on the water. How amazing! Now I’m sitting on the little beach here, watching kids splash around in be water and writing this post. Looks like even work days can be transformed into good days. 

  
I hope you have had a wonderful week and just think, tomorrow is FRIYAY!!!!! F

Lots of love and light,

Jessy 

Ponytail Bliss

GUYS!!!! This is BIG! Today I was able to put my hair in a ponytail. It may be a Cindy Loo Hoo ponytail but it’s a mother effing PONYTAIL and I could not be more excited! It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been able to use a hair-tie and getting to use it today literally made my heart jump. 

That is all, I just needed to share this milestone! WOOO WOOO! 

XOXO,

Jessy

  

Grateful for the Now

So much of our lives are spent wishing for the next thing. When you don’t have a boyfriend, you wish you were in a relationship. When you have a boyfriend, you wish you were engaged. When you’re engaged you can’t wait to get married and have all that stressful planning done and over with! It’s always on-to-the-next and I’m fully guilty of this. Certainly, I am guilty of this lately — I think almost daily about how much I can’t wait for this time period of my life to be over. How I can’t wait until I’m “normal” again. I can’t wait until I can have drinks again. I can’t wait until I don’t have chemo treatments every week. I can’t wait until this damn port is out of my chest. I can’t wait to have a dog. I can’t wait to get rid of my commute.
I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait.
I’m literally wishing away my life because it’s “hard” right now. Then I sit and think about it and I realize that it’s always going to be hard. Life is always going to have bumps in the road and obstacles to get over… you don’t go over one big wave and then have smooth sailing the rest of the ride. Navigating those rocky waves is part of being human. So although my hope is that this time in my life is particularly difficult, I need to stop pretending like this is the only difficult thing that I will experience in my life. What I really need to do is start living in the now and appreciating the day in front of me. I feel like this expression, “life in the moment,” is so overused and rarely ever acted upon but it’s the only way to say it. You truly have to embrace each day and feel grateful to be in it. Because as wonderful as tomorrow looks today, who knows if you’ll ever get there? That sounds bleak but it’s the truth. Tomorrow isn’t promised so if you spend all of today looking forward to tomorrow, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine that’s beating down on you RIGHT NOW.
Saying this and living this are two different things. It takes practice and a lot of actual effort to truly feel happy, to whole-heartedly embrace the day. I’ve realized that being happy isn’t something that just happens, you have to make a conscious effort to attain it. I believe that having gratitude for the things in your life and being grateful for the many blessings that you have, really helps in feeling that true joy we’re all looking for. I’ve been putting a conscious effort to act on this lately and have found that a few easy practices, have helped me take on each day with a better mindset.
that I have found helpful is meditating for a few minutes in the morning before I get out of bed. My type of meditating doesn’t consist of any “om-ing” or special rituals that take a considerable amount of time. Rather for just a few minutes before getting out of bed in the morning, I sit up straight with my legs crossed, close my eyes and think about how grateful I am for this day, how grateful I am for my life and the people in my life. Doing this starts the day off on a positive note– it is a reminder to feel thankful for simply being alive and getting to live this day.
Another thing I’ve been trying to do more often is to take deep breaths. I know this sounds so simple but it can be so impactful. It physically calms your body down when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Breathing deeply in through your nose and slowly out through your nose, can help reduce anxiety, which I think we all so desperately can use. While I’m doing this, I often say to myself, “I am strong. I am loved and I will get through this.” These three sentences have sort of become my mantra that I’ve been saying in my head since about February 21, 2014 but yours can be whatever you want. Whatever makes you feel more at ease, gives you confidence and makes you feel like you can get through whatever life is handing you. And the beauty about pairing deep breathing with a personal affirmation is that it can be done anytime, anywhere.
The last thing that I’ve found helps to ground you and bring your mind to the present moment is to look up at the sky. Really look. Throw your head back and look up at its beautiful openness. See how big it is. Think about how small you are in the world compared to it. It’s a humbling feeling and I find that it helps to give you a sense of much-needed perspective.
That being said, I don’t want to act like I don’t see the importance of planning ahead or being excited for the future. Being excited for what’s to come is what motivates us and gets us to push ourselves to be the best we can be so our tomorrow can be even better than today! It’s just important to remember to be grateful for the now, TOO. Be grateful for THIS moment. Even if it’s a hard moment, be grateful for it. It might be tough but it’s making you stronger. Be grateful for that. Simply said, be grateful for your life — it’s a beautiful one.
So, just like my gorgeous little Leni bear, I hope that every day you stop and take time to smell the flowers blooming right outside your window.
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Lots of love and light,
Jessy
p.s. I’ll probably have to reread this tomorrow when I’m sitting at work, wishing for the weekend. But hey! It’s all about making the effort.

The Definition of Brave

People have often said to me in the past year, “You’re so brave.” And although I am always flattered, I also always think, “not really.” Because the reality is, I didn’t choose this, I didn’t have a choice of whether or not to get cancer and I certainly have no other option but to get treatment. It just happened. The only thing I can do is to keep my head held high and march on. But the amazing men and women of our armed forces cannot say that. They choose to put themselves in harms way to help others. They make a conscious effort to put their lives on the line in order to protect our country and our freedom. They make the ultimate sacrifice in honor of our country, when they give up their lives so that others’ lives can be better. It’s awe-inspiring. Almost unfathomable when you really sit and think about it. I truly can’t imagine. I can respect it to the greatest degree but I will never fully understand what that’s like. The men and women of our armed forces are truly the bravest people in the world. Modern-day heroes.

So as I enjoyed a beautiful few days, away from work and surrounded by friends, family, food and sunshine, I feel eternally grateful to these incredible men and women that have given everything so that I can enjoy things like doing yoga in the park, or reading a book about Buddhism, or writing about whatever pops into my little head on this blog.

Today I feel lucky to be alive, lucky to be given the life I’ve been given and even luckier to be an American.

Thank you to those men and women, a million times over.

Jessy

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a picture my mom took today at the Boston Commons. 37,000 American flags—one for each of the Massachusetts men and women who have died in the armed services, dating back to the Revolutionary War.

Strength from Within

Sometimes I dread working out. I’m not in the mood. I’m tired. I’d rather do something else…like shopping for example (“shopping is my cardio,” anyone?) but once I make myself do it, I’m always happy I did. My whole life I’ve been “an exerciser” but it means more to me now. It’s one of the few times I feel in control. So much of my life right now is out of my control; work, getting a dog, being able to drink (or smoke hookah apparently– just got that put on the banned list recently), and my diagnosis and treatment in general (soooo out of my control). I don’t have control over what’s getting pumped into my body each week. I don’t have control over how I feel afterwards. I should, but I often times lost control over my emotions. My emotions about how my life has changed, how work is going, or “what I’m doing with my life.” My emotions are all over the place lately.

So to feel that sense of control that I’m missing in so many other aspects of my life is empowering. What’s more is that I feel strong when I workout. Not as strong or conditioned as I once was but I’m getting there. Just a few short months ago, I was in the hospital going through physical therapy to regain the strength to walk again. Thinking of that makes me think, damn I’ve come a long way. Exercising also helps clear my mind, I get to listen to music and get out my frustrations from the day. It helps put the worries of my world on hold, even if just for a little bit.

I debated putting up the picture below because my hair has thinned so badly and you can really see it in this shot which I feel embarrassed about but at the same time, I’m doing a yoga pose, called Crow. I’ve been working on and struggling to be able to do Crow. Long before my diagnosis, I couldn’t do it. You can barely see, but my feet are elevated off the floor and I’m balancing solely on my hands. It takes a lot of balance and even more upper body strength. I still need to work on being able to stay there for an extended period of time, but I felt such gratification this weekend when I was able to get into the position a few times. It shows, once again, that if you truly put your mind to something, you can achieve it.

That’s all I have for my lecture today on the benefits of exercising. Sorry if it was preachy but I’m just feeling so grateful to be strong enough again to have this piece of my life back.

Plus, let me not fool myself… bikini season is fast approaching and I’m all about being ready.

XOXO,
Jessy

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Fleeting Moments

It’s been a rough few days, Mike’s mother unexpectedly passed away this weekend.

When I first met Michael, he was living with his mom. I remember when he told me why, how taken aback I was. Here’s a successful 29 year old, putting his life on hold to be there for his mom in more ways than I could imagine. To make her dinners, and keep her company. To get up in the morning and do aerobics with her to keep her active. To watch football games with her and just chat. It amazed me how selfless he was. But Michael wasn’t alone in this effort, never for a second. His brother and sister were right there with her every step of the way. Giving every part of themselves to help their mom. Giving everything they had to help her live a better life — those three, together, are a true inspiration.

Rosemary lived a hard life. She struggled severely from mental disabilities, some that were inaccurately diagnosed which led to additional issues. I only knew her for three years but I felt for her, as so many of her issues she was unable to control. She was hard to understand at times but there’s a few things I knew about her for sure — she loved shrimp cocktail and italian cookies, she loved watching football and she loved her adorable granddaughters. One last thing I know is true is that she raised three amazing children. Three people that are strong, smart, beautiful, funny and caring. The three of them stick together through thick and thin and are always there for each other, no matter what. She raised a true family.

Life is but a fleeting moment. Moments strung together in the memory of your mind. Moments that define you, moments that shape you. What makes those moments magical are the people in the memories. The laughter, the silliness, the joy, the tears, the hugs & kisses, the smiles. With every moment in life, we are tested, some times much harder than others, but always tested. And with every test, we should grow, we should learn and we should become better people. When you lose someone important to you, who’s made an impact in your life, it can be difficult to remember that life is good, as you feel the pain that surmounts atop you and pushes down on your chest. You’re reminded how short life is, how nothing should be taken for granted and that tomorrow is never promised. With such a harsh reality, sometimes it’s hard to stay positive. But those moments strung together, those life-altering memories, are what can help pull you for air, just when you need it most. So remember the moments, cherish the memories. Because after all, memories are one of life’s biggest gifts.

To the woman that gave me the love of my life, thank you. I am forever grateful.

XOXO,
Jessy

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The New Normal

For eleven months, all I’ve been dreaming of is getting my life back— in particular, going back to work and being able to have a drink. I’ve said it time and time again, and that time is finally here. And it’s really, really….weird. Going back to work last week was overwhelming and exciting all at the same time. I was so thrilled to be back in the “real” world (however I’d argue that my life has been pretty real this past year) but I had forgotten that the real world isn’t exactly what I had cracked it up to be. Back to cube land, back to meetings, back to traffic, back to getting up early and getting home late, back to work clothes and no pajamas. I had gotten very used to my life revolving around cancer, revolving around being as healthy as I could be, focusing solely on myself and getting better. My days were lonely and boring but in a way, I had grown accustomed to it. So getting back into the grind of working is proving to be more difficult than I had expected. Everything just feels different. Physically, the day tires me out much more than it ever has and since I’m still going through chemo, there’s things like achey-ness and headaches that I have to learn how to just push through. What’s more is that my mindset has shifted so much from where I was a year ago. I feel so lucky to be here, so grateful to be alive and able to go to work. However, this feeling like I’ve been given a second chance at life is a bit overwhelming. I want to make a difference in the world and help other people as so many people have helped me. Instead, I do social media for a company that makes billions of dollars a year, so in reality I’m just helping the rich get richer. I am so grateful to still have a job but I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around going back to a work life where nothing has changed while everything in my life has changed so drastically.
The beauty, however, of the working world is the pure bliss that the weekends give you. After one short week, I was quickly reminded of just how rewarding a Friday night on the couch with a glass of red wine feels. Wait, wine?!?! Yup! I am able to have some drinks again and it feels ahhhh-mazing! Saturday night we went to a bar for Mike’s birthday with a bunch of friends. As I was dancing around in the bathroom while I got ready, I realized how excited I was to go “out.” How just the act of doing my hair and makeup, something I’ve often complained about in the past, was making me so genuinely happy. I hadn’t gotten to go out like a normal 25 year old in almost a year and that night, I was getting to do that. It was SO fun to have fun.
The past week and a half has been a whirlwind of old experiences with a new attitude. And that attitude is gratitude. Gratitude that i’ve made it this far. Gratitude that I was able to go back to work, to have a drink with friends, to workout at the gym, to exercise at all, to eat normally again…that I’m able to have a life again. i’ve still got a long road ahead of me and a lot of work to do but I’ve come a long way. I’ve got myself a new normal and I’m just going to have to get used to it.
XOXO,
Jessy