Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patty's Day

Ahhh.... when I was but a wee Colleen I knew my roots well. I were an Irish Lass without question. No, really, I am! Not just today but every day I'm reminded of my "Irish" roots, with a last name that verifies without question if I were "truly" Irish!

This is the one day of the year we can all get a little rowdy and enjoy some "greeneries"!

Today, I'm having family over for some Reuben's (for those unaccustomed to some traditions a Reuben is a corned beef sandwich with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese on rye - toasted to a perfect crisp and drippin' with goodness!). Being on weight watcher's I'm, of course, doing it WW Friendly (not really that hard to do) with a good, lean cut of corned beef in the crockpot and using some low cal bread. I found a great fat free thousand island dressing for on top and will use the Laughing Cow baby bel cheese (Swiss), which is point friendly!

For an entire Reuben it should be quite friendly using the proper ingredients! I'll post pics later!

I have some running to do today, shopping for the bread, perhaps some more Swiss and of course some pickles to go with the sandwiches!

Mom's making a green pistachio pudding mixture that I can't wait to try! Of course, we're staying "on program" for the festivities! It's amazing how easy that can be really. I suppose it's the biggest reason why I love doing "Weight Watchers" as opposed to other "diet" plans. I really hate to even call it a diet because that immediately conjures up images of starvation and doing without. On the WW Plan there's nothing I can't have, honestly!

I'll take a run "downtown" for a few photo ops of the crazy St. Patty's Day crew here in Erie! We have a bunch of Irish Pubs that just scream for partying on this very special day! I used to love when I worked in the downtown area because my window looked out over the main street, State Street, and I'd spend hours laughing at the green haired goofs going from pub to pub. Many are completely "out of it" by as early as noon!

It's a holiday tradition to start the day at one of the local Irish eateries for some green eggs and ham. I always pass on this tradition. For some reason "green" food just doesn't appeal to me unless it's SUPPOSED to be green! But I will relish later in my tradition of Reuben sandwiches with family! The corned beef is slowly cooking as I type and it's a matter of time before we pop open just one Guinness to wash down that delectable sandwich.

Of one thing I'm sure, The Irish sure know how to enjoy life! I relish in my Irish heritage and roots and hope that those not lucky enough to be born of our breed can enjoy a day of pretending to be one of the luckiest blokes around!

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I sit here feeling as though a Mac truck has hit me and came back to see what it hit, running me over again! But somehow I can say this is still one of the most glorious days of my life! Why?

Yesterday, yes Friday the 13th, I was scheduled for a heart cath. Monday of this week I had gone in for a stress test, "just to be sure", while getting radiation for a cancerous nodule on my first rib area. The doc wanted to "rule out" anything with the heart that may be causing my discomfort while breathing but we were pretty sure it was just the lump.

I show up at St. Vincent's Heart building at 6:30am on Monday. The lovely (sarcastic) greetings there made me oh so anxious to be poked and prodded by these people, but I sucked it up and went in anyways. Never in my life have I experienced such nasty, angry people in a work atmosphere. Out of EVERY contact there, I met ONE person that was pleasant and kind. Thankfully she was one of my nurses for the "chemical stress test" I was scheduled for,which was one of the tests that upset me a bit due to the "chemically induced heart stress" part. After about 3 1/2 hours I was done and told "don't worry if you hear nothing from your doctor because if there's nothing upsetting we generally just send him a letter and he forwards it to you. Only if there's a problem will we contact him, by this afternoon, and he will then contact you too".

So I was set. I "obviously" wouldn't hear from the doc as there was no real reason to think I had issues with the heart, especially since I was there "just to make sure". My father's side of the family has heart issues and all have died by age 65 or before but I've never had issues, not even high cholesterol. High blood pressure was being treated and not really an issue for me. Heck since my weight loss has begun I've even had times when I'm at the doc's and he says "your BP is awesome! or even too low! Don't take the meds today". So I left pretty confident I'd hear from the doc in a few days or so with a quick post card that says "everything's fine".


I got a call that afternoon from my doctor's office saying the stress test came back and it seems that I have a blockage. I was scheduled immediately to return to St. Vincent's for a heart cath. I quickly told the nurse that I did NOT want to return to SV's for the cath. They were rude, nasty and I simply was not going in for something this frightening to a place like that. She was amazed at this and apologized immediately. She told me to pick any place I wanted to go to and I said another local hospital here, Hamot, which is actually very highly rated nationally for their Heart Institute, would be fine. I had an appointment for Friday, the same week.

Getting through the week was horrible. I'm dealing with cancer for the 5th time and then was slapped with this. It just wasn't supposed to happen like this! I was finally taking charge of myself, eating properly and losing weight. I was feeling better. I was trying to move a bit more, not an easy feat with 8 herniated discs from neck to tailbone, and really starting to feel better about my own overall health. What a joke, eh?! My kids were frightened. I am all they have. Their father is pretty worthless. He physically abused my/our son, punching him in the face and reopening 52 stitches from a snowboarding accident he had, literally the day before the idiot punched him! He was pretty much not in their lives any more so it wasn't like they had any "parents" other than me. I've been the only one here through most of their life, even when I WAS married. So they felt as if the only person in the world that had been there for them or COULD be there for them, may be taken from them just as easily.

Of course, they were wrong in many aspects. My parents and sister love my kids like they were their own and would die for them. There's no question in my mind that my children would be well loved and well cared for should I ever leave this earth. But we all know, there's nobody like your own mother.

So Friday, the 13th, comes and we all trudge to the hospital. Another 6:30am appointment (do these people never sleep?), this time at Hamot Hospital. I would be lying if I said I wasn't afraid but yet I had a bit of a calm about me also. My ENTIRE family came with me.... my 3 kids, my mom, dad & sister. I was not only well loved but had God on my side. I was sure. While I had questioned him on Monday for what he was doing to me.... I came to grips with myself and realized that I was not to question but to follow as he directed me. It not only gave me relief but comfort to make this decision. We prayed, as a family, before we entered the Heart Cath Lab area.

Friday's visit was the exact opposite of Monday's visit to SV. Hamot's personnel were above and beyond the call of duty. They were not only pleasant but helpful and very, very comforting. The head nurse, a male, treated my family like royalty. Joking with them, making them a fresh pot of coffee and giving them updates often as to what was going on. I was allowed 1 family member with me in the beginning and later, when things became just a "waiting game" so to speak 2 were allowed back. I'm not sure what time it was but I'm guessing about 9ish they came to take me back to the operating room.

You are fully awake for the heart cath, although somewhat groggy from the drugs they give you to keep you "calm". My cardiologist, Dr. Kang, was amongst the top 25% highly rated heart specialists in the nation. I felt good about this. He was so thorough that he not only checked my heart but decided to do an entire body scan with the dye.

End results were wonderful. There was absolutely NO blockage in the heart! The stress test readings had a "false positive" from perhaps an echo. His exact words were "Your heart is wonderful, marvelous and very strong. You have no blockages what so ever"! He also confirmed that the cancerous nodule on my first rib was no longer there. This happened in a matter of 4 days! I was cancer free! He also confirmed that nothing had entered the lungs. The only slightly "bad" news was that my kidney was sort of messed up (from birth though) and this was probably the reason for my high blood pressure. No big deal!

So for me, Friday the 13th, was nothing but GOOD LUCK! I was pronounced with zero issues in the heart. My cancer was gone! AND.. top it all off, I had to "weigh in" before it all started on Friday. I lost another 4.2 lbs!

So can I simply say..... It has been a GLORIOUS day for me... actually GLORIOUS GROUP OF DAYS!

I can thank the dear Lord for his blessings. While he may have allowed for some stressful moments, these moments served a purpose. From the moment I realized that my stress was over I knew that it had served some purposes. It made many pray, pray hard and long. Many who haven't prayed in a while, I'm sure. It also brought our family even closer, as anything stressful does in my family. It showed us what our true priorities are. It helped me see who my true friends are.... people who called me, prayed for me, even offered to come to the hospital for me. It also reminded me WHY I had made the decision to change my lifestyle, join weight watchers and take control of my eating habits.

Thank you to all my friends, family and internet acquaintances who took the time and effort to include me in their thoughts and prayers. It means a lot to know that there are people out there that care and love me! And Thanks most of all to God... for protecting me, reminding me of what life is truly about!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Probably The Worse Day Yet in My Life!

I apologize ahead for the whine fest. I will serve cheese to those who listen! LOL

Simply put, things aren't well for me.

Today was probably one of the worse days of my life. I was re-diagnosed with the cancer about a month ago, this time because I had gone to the ER with trouble breathing and sort of pain or pressure in the chest. Being heavy, my first thought and everyone else's for that matter is the heart. At the ER they found nothing wrong with the heart from the EKG and monitoring they did but they found something "odd" in the xray of the chest. Ended up to be a lump that my doc decided that instead of even doing all the other stuff to be 100% sure, a simple blood test for cancer was high enough for him to say lets just radiate and get it gone! Along with the radiation he decided, just to be on the safe side and rule out heart issues, we'd do some testing.

Today was the 1st two radiations (both at once, within about an hour of each other) and the cardiac tests. He ordered a 'chemical' stress test, which because I can't walk well on my own due to my back/spine, is actually done with chemicals that stress the heart. It only lasts about 5 minutes tops but OMG it was horrible! I thought I had a bomb exploding inside my body! I survived it and moved on to the next test, which was an Eco-Cardio (which is not an EKG but more like an MRI of the heart). At the end of it all, started at 6:30am and was out about 10:30am, they said "Ok, well don't worry if you hear nothing, that just means that things were normal and your doc will get paperwork sent to him and he'll advise you. IF there is anything wrong we will contact your doctor by this afternoon and he will contact you. So hearing nothing is better than hearing something so don't get upset when we don't let you know the results".

I didn't really expect to hear anything as the tests were more "for precaution" than anything and I've never had high cholesterol or any problems.

Low and behold, about 3pm this afternoon I get a call from the doctor. Yeah, that was the one that they said I DIDN'T want! The nurse informed me that I had a blockage in the heart and I would have to have a catheter done thru my leg to the heart to clear the arteries & probably a stint put in.

HELLO?! Um, the tests were "just a precaution"... I went in for cancer radiation!? I just went numb. I swear to GOD.... I cannot take any more! I broke down like I've never broke down in my life. I cried so hard I got sick and I just couldn't grasp it all. You know... I am all my kids have. WTF are they supposed to do if die?! My kids need me! That's my first thoughts, how my kids will get through this and "what if".

I'm still in a fog with it all. Within the next few days I should be going in and getting the procedure done, a week at most. I'm just so beat up I can't think anymore. I sat down and just screamed at God. I know it's not my place, I know others have worse situations, etc. but for GODS sake... how much can one person go through in life and still survive? I was angry, hurt, scared, upset and any other emotion you can imagine.

At this point, 11:36pm I'm just existing and deciding that, like the rest of all I've been handed in my life... I'll trudge on and fight like always. Just how much fight is left in me though? The whole incident today was like being blind sided too. I was there for the radiation and "lump" in the chest and end up diagnosed with a blockage in the heart? I honestly was 99.9% sure that the cardiac tests were, as the doc said, "just as a precaution". WTF!?

I guess all I can do is ask my friends and family to pray. Ask God to guide me and to please keep me here for my kids. They say He never gives you more than you can handle but I feel like He's been kicking me when I'm down lately and no matter what... I know I love Him but I wonder sometimes if HE continues to love me or if I've done something wrong or evil, etc. that he feels I need to pay for? I just don't get it, I really don't.

In my lifetime I've survived cancer 4x already, the 5th being now (and I know it's not a huge deal with this one and I can get through it). I have gone from a decent salary job and nice lifestyle to being a single parent with poverty level income. I've always tried to live my life the way God wants me to and, while I'm far from perfect, I'm a good person at heart with a good outlook and always there to help others. I live at poverty level with my kids, I've been dealt a hand that gave me some very poor health issues. I live with constant and such intent pain that sometimes I wonder how I'll live until tomorrow, but somehow I do. I have 8 herniated discs in my neck and spine, a crumbling spine that can't be operated on. Isn't that ENOUGH for one person?

And then I realize that I have a lot more than many. I have 3 beautiful, healthy kids. I at least have a place to live and clothes on my back. We have food and shelter, something many don't have. I have a family that is very supportive and there for me. I have the ability to learn and love God and have been given a chance to do so in a way that I'm comfortable, at a wonderful church that shows me God's way in a way I can understand and appreciate (with The Haven "christian cafe style"). I have friends that are unbelievable, supportive and full of love for me. Most of my friends I've had for many, many years, some since I was a small child. These friends are something that many never have a chance to experience. So I should suck it up and take my punches... yet this time.. I just wonder WHY?

I'm sorry, didn't mean to just unload. I just wanted to share with you what's been going on. The good point is that #1, the pain I was experiencing around Christmas time is basically gone and I'm living "normal", for me, again. Also, I'm lucky that they caught this unexpected "gift" now,instead of realizing as I lay dead on a slab from a massive heart attack that it was something IF they had caught, could have been "fixed".

So, I'm TRYING... dear Lord I'm trying... to accept it all and deal with it. So, just pray for me. Pray for it all to end well, pray for me to have the strength to keep going.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Changing a Lifestyle

It's fairly obvious to anyone who sees a pic of me that I have constantly struggled with weight. The odd part is, I'm not overly "conscious" of my weight as an issue and I am being straight when I say "I am quite beautiful even with the extra bodacious bootie and ta-ta's!". I honestly feel like I'm not only a beautiful woman on the outside but more so on the inside. I don't care what others think, to the most extent, and will never dress or look a certain way to please others.

BUT... I am human. It does bother me that sometimes a man wouldn't even bother to speak to me because he can't see past the weight. It bothers me that others will assume they know the type of person I am, simply because I'm heavy... I must be lazy and do nothing but eat and sit around. In that same sense, it allows me to weed out the close minded people that I'd rather not associate with anyways.

I'm far from perfect but I do think I'm "real". I'm me, plain and simple. I have faults, just as you do. I am human. I am overweight. Until recently I just accepted it as "that's me and always has been".

Enter my decision to change my lifestyle. I'm not going to say "diet". I could care less if I change my lifestyle and don't lose a pound.. .okay, maybe not.. lol.. but what I mean is that I'm doing it for ME. I'm doing it to feel better. I'm doing it because at 45 I've fought cancer 4x and have once again been introduced into the ring to beat it's ass again. I'm doing it because I want to be able to move around like I used to and I know that it's not possible until I do get healthier and lose the weight. The healthier lifestyle will give me benefits, which include a healthier weight, more energy and simply feeling better.

I am following the Weight Watcher's (TM) Plan and I'm seeing a whole new world before my eyes. I'd like to share this journey with you, posting certain recipes I try, sharing ideas about making healthier choices and simply sharing my journey to living longer. I hope you enjoy my blogs and follow them to see the changes in my life. This is truly a journey for me and I know I'm in the right mind to do it, finally.

Tonight's dinner: Oven roasted Cajun turkey breast with red roasted potatoes. A simple yet delicious, gourmet tasting meal created in an oven roasting bag with very few ingredients! THIS is how dining should be!

I love to cook and will share many of my recipes and pictures of my meals. I hope it inspires others to create healthier versions of the foods you love.

So far I've lost weight every week on WW, with the exception of last week when I stayed the same. I kind of "fell of the wagon" a bit, eating a lot of fast food (which I counted in the program so it was a choice I made and perfectly "legal") and my end result was a zero weight loss. That's ok ,it showed me that I AM in charge of my own life and I CAN have anything I want but with certain consequences. Yes, I know.. that's logic for most people, but for me I tend to just ignore the fact that I have options and choices! It's so much easier to grab a fat, greasy burger, fries and drink then to think out and plan a better for me dinner! But not any more!

My weight loss so far is 5.6 lbs. It's not a lot but I truly am happy with it. My end results are that I know I'm in charge and feel so much better. Tomorrow I weigh in again and will have another loss, I'm certain! I love the program and what I feel like on it.

Tomorrow I also start my radiation, which means it's going to be a busy day. BUT... that means I have to plan and be in charge of my life! And that's JUST what I intend to do!

Here's to another great day on program and a lifestyle that just oozes control and happiness!

Hope to see you all back here soon to share more aspects of this journey. Hopefully we can do it together!


First Time Blogging

In about 24 hours I'll be starting a round of radiation and battling cancer for the 4th time. I haven't said much to others about it, not really for any reason other than I have this verbage I stick to that says..."If you ignore something... it's not there".

Perhaps it's why I love dogs so much, they seem to think along the same lines! "If I can't see you, you can't see me!"

As I was sort of reflecting earlier today I started to wonder what I did to "deserve" this. It's human, a typical reaction when we think life is being unfair. My answer.... perhaps nothing at all. Perhaps what has happened is God is trying to bring me back to life. He seems to think he has to remind me every 4 years or so that life is worth living. Perhaps that's where I am right now?

Perhaps he's reminding my family how special I am to them?

Perhaps... there's not any real REASON at all.

I know one thing.... it's ok to say I'm scared but it's also ok to say I'm not really. Deep down I'm not afraid. I don't have many choices here. I either fight or give up. I choose to fight. It's in my blood.

So for anyone out there not sure what they should do with their life... let me tell you from experience


........ until next time....