embrace.

happy new year to y’all. whew. as my husband said ‘well that’s a wrap on the holidays’ as we exited the starbucks line this morning, i blurted ‘thank god’. and i almost apologized for the slip but realized that the holidays felt heavier this year. again, can’t put my finger on why that’s the case. but regardless; we made it to a new year. a new space. a new place. and with that comes picking my ‘word of the year’. last year was the word WHOLE; which stemmed from my immense desire to feel whole. and over the last three hundred and sixty five days give or take- i tried really hard to prove to myself that i am. always have been. that nothing is truly missing. that i am already whole. but i didn’t hit the mark entirely. in fact, i am still waiting for the check mark to appear next to the word whole on just about all my paperwork. and that’s honestly okay. because one of the things that came from this discovery of what might make me a whole ass everything is that i really did discover that everything is already here. the pieces are already here. everything that makes me the person my husband loves, my family loves, my friends love, my students love- those pieces make me a whole damn human. one really amazing human. and those pieces that already exist; well, they bring me to this year’s word of the year.

EMBRACE.

and before i give you a dictionary definition of the word and all the meaning behind choosing it for twenty twenty three instead of revisiting last year’s word; it’s important to talk about the last two years. sometimes it feels like it’s been a lifetime. actually very rarely does it feel that way. more than often, it feels like it was just yesterday. but it’s been two years. not quite to the date but we are closing in on two. and maybe it’s the anniversary creeping up that has me racing like a super human machine to try to be something that i am not. and honestly there is this huge staircase of trauma that i continue to navigate every single day. in just a few weeks, it will be my two year remission date. two whole years of navigating a life outside of cancer treatment. not outside of cancer. but outside of treatment. two years earthside in a new body. just waiting for the other shoe to drop. and over the last two years as a survivor of many things but cancer being the top contender; i have slowly but surely been experiencing the highs and lows of what it’s like to have lived when ya just might not have. and there’s a lot of pressure there- internal and external. to make your second chance pretty legit. but it’s also just a lot in general.

and yesterday at four o’clock in the afternoon, i sobbed hysterically crisscross applesauce in the middle of my unmade bed. as my brain just kept flashing the word ‘unlovable’ across the marquee in my head. just my own insecurities and my own trauma staircase creating an unlovable narrative. one that i hold true. one that i honestly believe is gospel. and so i type out this message to my husband because that’s all my brain can do. put words to paper and see how the world receives it. and here’s what i said- i feel unlovable. this is what i mean. i feel like i am not good enough for you. like my body isn’t what you want or what the world wants. i feel like i am just disgusting and you have to force yourself to want to be with me and everyone is just tolerating this version. but the truth is that even two years later, i feel broken and like i am not a real girl anymore. i worry that you miss the old person i was. i don’t know how to be seen as beautiful or sexy or lovable and in turn, it must mean no one wants me. and i am forever looking at the body that lasts for the rest of my life. because it will never be the same. i will never have a body like before. because it is gone. two years has passed and i am still weeping, full on snot dripping, shoulder heaving sobbing, crocodile tears over the loss of myself. of my body. of my body parts. of my sense of self. of what felt worthy. of it all. two whole years later. and there’s a lot that goes into all of that. things that will never make sense to anyone on the outside of this space. but the last few weeks have been pretty emotional. for some reason, a lot of my worth is tied up in what was surgically removed from my body two years ago. and right now, i am finding myself in a similar place to where i was just days before and days after my mastectomy. and i am deep in this mourning period that surrounds the idea that nothing will ever be the same. that no matter what happens from this moment forward, my body will never be the one that it was when i got married or when i first held my nephew or my niece. it’ll never be what it was when i learned to swim or in any of the photos pre cancer. it just won’t. and while most people like to remind me that i am so very lucky- it’s not about luck. it’s about me. and who i am. and who i am to other people. but it’s also about the sadness that exists from something that was never my fault. never my choice.

and so i cried for a long time last night. and my husband, god love him, held me while i cried. because sure, in two years, a lot has happened. and there is a lot to welcome in a new year. but there is still so much sadness and grief and mourning and healing and trauma that exists inside of me. that even though two years has slipped by, i am still so sad that my life was stolen from me and that my body was changed in ways i will never forget. and i remind myself that healing doesn’t have to be finished nor does it have to be hidden. that there can be ugly and uncomfortable parts of cancer remission out loud and in the open. that my suffering does not have to be silent or behind a closed door. that when the last surgery happens or the last vial is dosed into a port is not the end of the story. there are chapters and pages and sequels and series. there are moments that continue to alter me in remission. and there are moments from my past that still keep me awake at night. and that even in two years of healing and therapists and recurrence scares and boundaries and fighting for myself; there is still so much left to do as a survivor. there is something new to navigate every single day. there is always someone out there who is convinced the past is the past. there is always a bump or a symptom that dumps you right back at the top of the trauma staircase. because it’s never over. it’s never not right here. sometimes, it’s the last thing i think about. and other days, it’s consuming.

and so i guess i am just here to bother you all by saying that my head and my heart are in a weird place right now. they are really having a hard time finding peace and love. two years in the making. and there’s a lot of societal pressure to be skinny and beautiful and financially stable. and quite honestly, i can’t handle the pressure. i can’t handle juggling what i want while trapped inside what i don’t want. what i never asked for. what was never my fault. and i don’t know how long i have to cycle through it. maybe for another two. who the hell knows. but what i do know is that i have reached a point in all of my lengthy healing processes; a point in all my trauma cycling and a point in all my patterns of grief where i really, truly, honestly, one thousand percent do not care to give anymore energy or thought to how people perceive me. whole or half. healed or healing. i am above it. i am not accepting any negativity or gaslighting regarding where i am in all of this. i will not receive comments about my feelings. i will not be reminded of how lucky i am or that i had a good kind of cancer. i will not open myself up to people who desire to alter my trauma staircase or who suggest therapy to me. LOL. because lemme just say this- i am doing everything imaginable to live my life after cancer. and if it exists- i am doing it or i have tried it. and so this year, i am embracing where i am in my healing. i am embracing where i am in remission and the place i stand as a cancer survivor. i am embracing the struggles and the wins. embracing what this new year will bring.

because we are entirely made of the pieces of our lives. of our traumas. of our experiences. and those pieces- they make us whole. and for me, it is time for me to EMBRACE all of the pieces of me.

xoxo.

joyful.

that’s a wrap on the holiday season of twenty twenty two. it came & it went. all in what felt like a blink. some years, it feels like the magic lasts a lifetime. other years, it feels like it literally drifts in and out in the same breath. for whatever reason, this particular season didn’t feel a certain way for me. i tried for weeks to put my finger on it. maybe i needed some time off from work. maybe i needed to sit in a quiet space for like an hour. or maybe i just needed like fifteen minutes of free time to gather my thoughts. either way, my winter break started off rather chaotically and quickly became very overwhelming. my mental health and my brain were just kinda spiraling. i kept plugging in the word ‘holiday’ in an effort to try to trick myself into some kind of better place. but the reality is that i was unable to really get out of this funk. this space that felt all too familiar. one that i had spent some time in during the earlier days of chemo and even in the immediate moments after my mastectomy and sometimes even just on a random thursday in survivorship. there’s this immense invisible pressure; to have a plan. to have all these things checked off and figured out. i always feel like i am in this race against everyone. this societal game where i need to have more and more figured out every single time the calendar starts ticking down the days til january first. a new year. ugh. there is something about it that just doesn’t feel like a fresh start. that this massive weight is bearing down on me. that at thirty four- i am still navigating everything. finances, relationships, goals, my health, my brain, cancer, my brain, survivorship, friendships. and all the roles that i carry- making sure they are all fulfilled and satisfied. that i am not letting anyone down; even if it means letting myself down. it’s a lot. and i know, i know. you’re probably thinking it’s as easy as just saying no or just letting stuff go or my favorite- not filling your plate so much. but the reality is that everything on my plate and in my brain is important to me. it’s mine and it’s valuable and it’s not as easy as just layering it into some other basket off to the side. or neglecting it altogether. that’s not me. that just isn’t who i am. and the past few years have held a lot of growth. measurable in my opinion. and there is much realization in how much i have done in these past few years. but it’s hard for me to say the same about twenty twenty two.

and it is really easy to be hard on myself as this year comes to a close. because i didn’t accomplish any of the shit on my original resolution or goal list for this year. not a single thing. and i really mean that. this was the year that it was all supposed to come together. a surgery. better health. picking up the remaining pieces. but in reality, as we finish out the remaining few days of this year- i am feeling like a failure. and not just because of some weak resolution list that’s buried in a landfill at this point. but because i didn’t feel that incredible spark that typically comes when a new year is about to begin. it’s usually this massive opportunity to start over again. and maybe it’s because my brain is just feeling like it’s on overload. or maybe it’s because the joyful holiday spirit just kinda fell apart this year. maybe it’s because i still feel like this world isn’t mine. that i wasn’t built for this. for all the stuff that i still wanna do but have to do it in this body, with this brain; and this stamina. maybe it’s because i keep trying to catch up and it feels like something always comes to undo all my hard work. i feel so pressured to lose weight, buy a house, invest in the stocks, join a gym, find a hobby, make a career leap, make more money, pay off debt. but in reality- i just wanna clean out my closets and organize the cheese drawer in my fridge. i want my dog to come home when i call for him and i want a private chef to make dinner every day. i want this new doctoral program to be manageable and for everyone to stop asking about how i can make it into a career. i want the pressure to be lifted. that existing is okay. no. more than okay. that being here, right now, in this moment is actually good. because that’s what works for this brain of mine. after being in a trauma induced space for so long.

it needs to be okay to just be present. to just be here. not in twenty twenty three making astronomical plans. not in june, planning what might be my greatest idea yet. not in five years from now. just right now. relishing in the joy that is getting to today. getting to this point. getting to a place where it’s okay that my savings account went to the veterinary emergency room last weekend. that i have five hundred and twelve dollars worth of southwest flight credits but they are not the vibe right now. that i am feeling overwhelmed by my own possessions and don’t know where to begin in the decluttering. that i am not sure when i will be able to own a home. and that i am still paying off medical debt. that it is okay to be in a place where- well, where things just aren’t one hundred percent figured out. or one hundred percent packed with joy. to be in a place where the spirits didn’t feel as bright this time around. to be in a space where the anxiety was a little high and the coping mechanisms were a little weak. where things just didn’t go my way. and that’s okay. and it’s also okay that i am not really jumping for joy at the freshness of a new year. because it comes with a lot of other pressures. and right now, i just want to be happy and settled in this space.

twenty twenty two had its highs and its lows. i even wrote them out in an effort to push my brain into a bigger gratitude space. because the big picture should include the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. weather forecasts are not strictly sunshine and rainbows. so here’s the highlight reel of twenty two:

january: welcomed twenty twenty two in nebraska with my bestie

february: one year in remission! got my first nose piercing!

march: five year wedding anniversary ✨

april: recurrence scare number three but all clear!

may: girls weekend at the lake!

june: summer break! reunited with my bestie!

july: twelve day road trip with amazing friends & our five year vow renewal! bestie graduated nursing school!

august: surgery is rescheduled. year 12 in the classroom starts!

september: peppa pig surprise! COVID19 booster shot

october: recurrence scare number four but all clear! celebrated my thirty fourth birthday

november: accepted to a new PhD program!

december: new position at work in leadership and blessed to work with an incredible team after a tough start to the school year. harley caught pneumonia at school. missing my bestie as my nebraska trip was cancelled.

it was a busy year. no doubt. filled with lots of everything. it was busy. it was disappointing. it was fun. it was wild. it was expensive. it was full of love and friendships and traveling. it was filled with emotion and lessons. it was a turning point in a lot of ways. it forced me into uncomfortable places and scary spaces. it was filled with more health navigating and more scans than i would like to see in twenty three. it was a year. i didn’t hit any major goals. i didn’t check off any major milestones. but i did okay. and it’s okay that it wasn’t the most joyful of years. it’s okay that it felt a little less fireworks and parade filled than other years. and it’s definitely okay to just be feeling okay about the new year approaching.

make a list. or don’t make a list. set goals. don’t set goals. do whatever works for you. survive. thrive. do what makes you happy. don’t be so hard on yourself. this year was hard. trust me, i know. but remember that joy is not a requirement. it’s not a checklist item. it’s just something that comes and goes. and it’s okay if things are just okay right now. there is joy to come. there is joy in the next season. we can create it. we can manifest it. we can be our own joy.

happy new year babes.

xo.

phases.

man, what a week. actually, what a season. i know for a fact that i am not alone in the idea that this time of year feels overwhelming. there’s so much to do and so much going on. and it feels like the hours are literally slipping through my fingers like sand. it’s this immense season of gratitude and peace. it’s this season where you’re doing and going and moving. shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, planning. balancing the roles and responsibilities. working long days. waking up when it’s dark and getting home when it’s dark. and for me, today just started off on the wrong foot. my dog has pneumonia. and spent the better part of last night coughing and sneezing and throwing up. so when i was still up scrubbing my carpet when the first alarm went off, i just knew. it was gonna be that kinda day. and of course, it was still raining when i walked out of my house at quarter to seven. mother nature never asks me for my weather advice, especially when my hair is straightened. i spill coffee down the front of my shirt; the one that i have to wear all day at work. juggling a zillion things in my hands as i am running on the coffee that isn’t on my shirt and about sixteen minutes of sleep total. i am already regretting wearing uggs and a long sleeve shirt as sweat is upon my brow. and in case you’re curious, teaching on the day of break requires a monumental amount of rest, patience and the ability to juggle one thousand things at a time. and of course, i love spending time with my students. but it’s also pure chaos. and it’s overstimulating and loud. it’s a million things and a million questions. but also a to do list before break that’s a mile long. it’s not having my disney plus password so we can’t watch the grinch. it’s hot chocolate that becomes lukewarm chocolate because of my time management. it’s clorox wipes and overflowing trash cans and scrubbing desks. it’s last minute gift wrapping and carline duty. and the sighs of relief when the morning ends. and i am so grateful for the season we just ended as a school community. one that felt very sad and chaotic and lonely at times. it felt like a sigh of just weight leaving as the break became within reach.

but the bigger picture is this. that i came home and anxiety flooded me. that my sick dog is very sick. that my grand plans for a relaxing weekend are slowly disintegrating. that the common cold has struck my house and the mountain of laundry still needs to be tackled. everything thing feels large and overwhelming. my to do list is pages long and my energy level is lower than low. there are still gifts to be wrapped and i know i forgot things on my grocery list for sure. the cleaning lady is coming on friday but nobody can be in her way so there’s that. planning an escape for my husband and dog. i just cancelled my flight to see my best friend. and it has me in tears. because there is just too much happening. life is just throwing a lot at me. and it’s hard to juggle everything at once sometimes. people ask me all the time- ‘how do you do it’ and the simple answer is ‘i honestly don’t know’. i am usually heavily caffeinated and very tired. i am usually wearing one of the last clean items i own or eating a bag of raw veggies that was shoved in my lunchbox last minute. four days this week, i ate pretzels for lunch. just loose ones in a bag in my desk. pure chaos i promise. the outside looks way more put together than the inside. and in the scheme of mental health; this week was definitely tough. the loss of stephen twitch boss as well as receiving the sad news of my friend chelsea. the world felt a little sadder and the notion of taking care of ourselves and of one another became loud and clear. and today, i found myself wanting to just shout to no one in particular- ‘when can i have a break from looking after myself?’ and i mean that in the most sincere fashion. that there are days when the invisible workload hits different. when i become so tired of planning meals, washing clothes, cleaning the fridge, making beds, making returns, mailing bills, stripping sheets, ordering dog food, buying birthday gifts, stain treating a tshirt or wrapping a christmas gift. but here we are- overwhelmed and overworked. overstimulated and overtired. the gifts that keep on giving.

but i find myself reminding myself that the moon has phases too. sometimes it graces us with a sliver of light. just enough to get by. other nights, it’s full out. showing the whole damn thing. fully participating in the night sky situation. and there’s a lot in between. waxing and waning and going through the motions. it’s a whole thing. and i can be a whole thing too. a range of emotion. a range of situations. a drastic difference from one day to the next. and sure, we can sometimes call mental health into question. but sometimes, the phases are just part of this life. just part of figuring it out. and the phases- whew- they deserve to be judgement free. they deserve to be received as they are. a phase. a passing moment or two. a stretch of time where it might be bright or it might be a bit faded. regardless, a phase. not a forever. just a moment or less light- maybe a time for pause. or grief. or sadness. or being overwhelmed. or all of it.

the moon moves in phases. offering us a glimpse into its full emotional state of being. sometimes we get the full show; and other times, just a sliver of light.

both still bring the dawn. xo.

becoming.

i sat down tonight with this desire to put pen to paper and write something. something transformative. or maybe even something that felt big or important. but this season of life that i am in really doesn’t hit the mark on any of those. it’s a season in which i feel like i am still becoming someone. someone who doesn’t really know what life is supposed to look like. someone who has experienced an immense amount of trauma in a short timespan. and the exposure to that trauma has left this massive hole that is supposed to be able to be filled with experiences and some sort of transformation. but instead, my life is feeling a little lonely. imposter syndrome is often swallowing me whole. i find myself drowning in a lot of anxiety about the people around me and what they think. i am always worried that i am too much. and i am always worried that people might leave. because the truth is, there is a lot of trauma that i experienced that hasn’t been talked about or said out loud. that being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer kinda stole the show. but so much was happening in my life at that moment. and so many things continued to chip away at an already broken heart. and a lot of it i kept behind closed doors. because my whole life was crumbling in front of me. the pieces of myself were literally shredding in front of me. my arms couldn’t hold all the parts of me that i wanted to save. and in turn, so much of what i was going through, went untouched. and here’s the part of the blog where you are probably rolling your eyes & saying ‘oh gosh, here we go again’ but no, this isn’t one of those moments where i just dump the super, overflowing luggage out onto the middle of the floor. no. it’s more about figuring out why the luggage is still packed; thirty months after the disaster began. and there was a lot happening all at once and not much has changed in that regard. i prefer to keep myself busy and my plate a little full. some see it as problematic and others think i am crazy. but the truth is, i am best when i am not sitting. when i cannot give my mind the opportunity to overthink or to fall into these wild patterns. where i cycle through all the terrible moments and memories. a toxic trait of mine. because there are untold tales and really awful moments. and there were days where it just didn’t entirely make too much sense to keep going. and finding the strength to take a step each day; to wake up each day- man, it was a lot sometimes. and as a person who puts mental health pretty high on the priority list- i can for sure say that my sanity was tested regularly. and between being diagnosed and announcing my leave of absence from a job i absolutely loved to watching friends walk out of my life and having a third of my body amputated- there were moments there that i didn’t even know were part of my becoming.

becoming what exactly? what a loaded question. and something happened this week that really sent me into a sad space. it was hurtful and made me question every molecule in my body. made me spiral into old moments and put my character on the line. it had me questioning who i am and who i have become. and for me, that’s just unraveling some of the work i have been diligently doing for years. and i spent hours thinking about who i have become just over the last year or so. not even the whole span of my life. just recently. and sure, maybe my edges have become a bit sharper. maybe my ability to speak up has become a little louder. sure. i am willing to take ownership of the shape in which i have become. i own how much my experiences has moved me and molded me into what stands here now. i not only own it and recognize it but i am okay with it. because for the longest time, i was holding back. i was doing and saying and moving in ways that suited everyone but me. i was so hyper focused on becoming something that worked for everyone else. looked a certain way for everyone else. was accepted by everyone else. but the truth is, cancer stripped me of everything i ever knew. it made me vulnerable and uncomfortable. it scared me and shook me. it broke me and built me. it forced me to look at everything without the rose colored glasses. it showed me everything, clearly. and this week- i questioned my character because of something someone else did and said. and after i sobbed for what felt like an entire day, i began to unpack the whole experience from start to finish. that what someone says about you says more about them than it ever will about you. and it made me come back to the word

• becoming •

that in the last thirty four years, i have been in the process of becoming something. whatever it was at that moment. becoming a good friend. becoming an advocate for myself. becoming a wife, a person in the world, a teacher, a human being. becoming someone who is worth fighting for everyday. becoming someone who deserves respect. becoming someone i admire. becoming someone everyone else admires too. it’s always about becoming someone. becoming someone who has healed and processed and healed some more. becoming someone who has raised hell but also walked through it. gracefully, might i add. and now, in this season, i am still working on what is yet to come. what i have yet to become. obviously, the regular antics continue. but there is something rooted deep in my soul that desires to manifest an even bigger becoming. one that stems from the biggest healing. one that has grown from the best boundaries. one that has been watered by my own traumas and experiences and healings. the biggest becoming.

one that is built by yours truly. for yours truly. one that shows you exactly how far i have come. and exactly how incredible i have • become •

xoxo.

woven.

one of these days, i will open the notes app on my phone and the first thought will not be that it’s been one of those weeks. but honestly, it has been. the kind that makes you cry before you go to bed. the kind that hurts. the kind that crumbles your decent mood. the one that causes you to basically abandon your meal preps, your routine, your schedule. it was one of those weeks where i sent an email on a thursday that literally started with ‘happy friday!’ well this is awkward. i felt drained at two pm today. and i went to bed at eight last night. and if you know me, then you know sleeping is just one of those things that doesn’t come easily. and today, i took some shortcuts to make my life easier. i ordered my homeroom more pretzels via amazon; even though they sell those at the grocery store. i also abandoned all dinner plans and ate french fries in my car in traffic. some might call it chaos but really, it’s just what’s working for me right now. because for whatever reason, this season of my life isn’t necessarily harder than other seasons but it’s definitely not easier. i am in a place where different pieces of myself have been laid out before me. and i am trying to weave them into a nice, beautiful finished product. but it’s not going so well. well first of all, some parts of me are pretty broken. and before you get mad at me for saying that about myself, i am allowed to say whatever i want about myself. so some of the parts of me are exactly that- pretty broken. some are missing. some don’t make other people feel all that awesome. and some are overwhelming. some are old parts. and some, extremely new.

and as if the universe felt comfortable enough to loosen the reigns; i found myself saying goodbye to my psychiatrist after twenty three years together. we met when i was eleven years old; literally crying my way through middle school and having panic attacks about sleeping. she held on through the angsty years- when i would legit slump in a folding chair in her office in high school sweats and a tie dye shirt and refuse to make eye contact. she diagnosed me with bipolar disorder just weeks before i turned twenty. she walked me through my multiple medication changes and self medicating days. she cried when i was diagnosed with cancer. and gently carried me through chemotherapy and remission and my surgeries. and today, we said goodbye. as she enters retirement and i continue to navigate the ups and downs of whatever this is. remission. survivorship. life. twenty three years. almost a lifetime. i have sobbed in her office. i have screamed in her office. i have had every emotion in front of this person. and today, we parted ways. before we hung up, she said something to me that i realize i have been waiting my whole life to hear. she said, ‘alix, you amaze me.’ whattttt! me? couldn’t be me. amaze?! feels a little big and unnecessary. but she laid it all out for me in the final minutes of our call. that she has been amazed by my resilience. by my growth. by the transformation. in twenty three years and in the last twenty three months. and that even though the universe dealt me one of the shittiest hands, i took all of those moments; all of those lessons; all of the heartache and sadness and grief and resentment. all of the unfairness and misery. all of the missed moments and opportunities. all of it. and i wove it all together. and i created something that made me comfortable in starting over. in resetting my whole life. and as she’s saying all of this to me- it begins to make sense. that it wasn’t for nothing. even though sometimes it feels that way. the hard parts were the final pieces. the final stitches. the way i was finally able to weave all of this together. to come to this place. nearly two years in remission. to be in this place of healing; not healed. healing.

and sure; there are moments that truly ache at the core. there are moments so triggering that when they come back, i can cry on the spot. there are moments that were so painful and losses so indescribable. but there was also a lot to be found. there were so many pieces of myself that couldn’t exist anymore and pieces of myself i had not even found yet. there is one thing that no one ever tells you about making it to the other side of something as big as cancer and infectious diseases. and that’s the notion that it doesn’t happen overnight. the healing. the growing. the painful process of weaving yourself back into place. it doesn’t happen overnight. it’s not easy. it’s not fun. it’s lonely. it’s painful. it’s four steps forward and then eight steps back. sometimes, it’s weeks before you move at all. it’s even harder when you’re also managing other people’s expectations of your healing. and your own expectations. and the world’s still moving. it feels like you’re stuck. but you also don’t wanna move. and you’re afraid of what’s next. but no one tells you any of that. that healing is messy. and uneven. and even unfair at times. but at least it’s mine. and i am slowly weaving the parts and pieces of my life back together. stitching the broken sections. filling in the gaps and holes. making it stronger in some places. being mindful of the frayed edges. reminding myself that it was beautiful before it was torn.

and it’ll be beautiful once it’s all woven together again.

xoxo.

up for air.

just last week, i sat at my mom’s kitchen counter and cried. it had been a rough week. one that was filled with appointments and lab results. a week where a radiology technician told me that the only vein left was starting to become too scarred to use. it meant that the hands and feet would be the only choice going forward. all my veins blew in the icu, just two and half years ago. when your body’s temperature is nearing one hundred and four, you become so internally dehydrated. and all my veins blew. it was a week that held a lot of fear and anxiety. while also teaching the youth of america with a straight face. it was a week that brought good news regarding my most recent scans. news that cancer was not attacking my liver. but in it all remained that my body is still not my body. that i have an auto immune disease. and that stress is causing massive flare ups. that my liver has been damaged by chemotherapy and tons of medications. and that overall, this is my new existence; my new normal. and i shared a few weeks ago that i truly feel like i am stuck in a space where my deepest connection will always be to the ghosts of my life. that because my body was destroyed and taken from me in one of most gruesome and unfair ways; i am instead forced to grieve it forever. and in these intense moments of grief, it truly feels like the most unfair existence ever. it tackles you into this place where all you want is what you had. and all you had is gone forever. and the memories of my life before cancer are slowly sinking into the back of my memory filing cabinet. overwhelmed by the moments from the last two years. and i am dying to upload an album titled ‘finding myself’ but i still find myself searching. frantically. and i remind myself pretty much on the regular that it’s a process. the whole thing. the whole damn thing. it’s a process. from day one to now. from the big c word in a pink wallpapered room alone in a hospital with a woman named allison. to today. to the moment at the kitchen counter just last week. where i found myself falling apart in a way that makes perfect sense but no sense. that right now, my grief pattern is pure exhaustion. it feels exhausting to be alive right now. it feels exhausting to be managing my health while grieving right now. it feels exhausting to try to trust and love a body that also feels like it’s failing and being failed. it’s exhausting to try to explain to people that i hate this part just as much as the other parts. and that my grief is also in other areas. that even though i never wanted to be a mother, i will never, ever, ever get to change my mind. that i brought cancer into my family tree. upped the risk for the women in my life. it’s a lot. just a lot. a lot for a person who just went through a lot.

and i think that i have been afraid to say that it’s been exhausting. that it is exhausting. because everyone is exhausted. and i really try not to look at comparative suffering. that everyone is allowed to suffer. everyone deserves to feel however they feel. and i hate when people compare my suffering to something else happening in the world. like of course my suffering isn’t as terrible as what is happening in the world. but it’s also my suffering. and i take ownership of it. it’s messy and confusing and exhausting. but it really is. exhausting. above everything else. and sure, therapy helps. and medication helps. and support groups take the edge off. but it’s still my reality. my forever. my story. and between navigating survivorship and the recurrence scares that continue to block my path to healing, i find myself simply coming up for air. like when you’re swimming. beating your arms against the surface of the water. you’ve gotta come up for air. even when it’s not the best moment to do so or even when it might be a little too long since you last surfaced. you still have to breathe. and while it’s been six hundred and thirty days since i beat stage two breast cancer, some days it feels like it’s only been six hundred and thirty seconds. there are moments of intense grief and sadness of a life i never got to finish living. of a whole person who is no longer here. of a whole existence that was shed for the sake of survival. and i find myself in the swells of grief and sadness and loneliness. in the swells of an identity crisis that is also a health crisis. in the midst of teaching the youth of america. and i continue to come up for air. only to continue to swim. to paddle against the currents. and it’s hard. and uncomfortable. and ugly. and messy.

but it’s mine. it’s my swim meet. it’s my lap across the pool. and i keep coming up for air. swallowing massive gulps of oxygen before sinking back into it. and it’s not easy. and sometimes i feel more tired than when i started. but i continue to come up for air.

and eventually, i will strike shore. and it’ll only be air from there.

xoxo.

ghost.

frozen two is better than frozen one. again, change my mind. just under two years ago- i published a blog post with that exact first line. UNKNOWN. and today, that was the first word that came to my mind. unknown. and i knew that i couldn’t have possibly made it this far in life without publishing something with a title like unknown. because the last two, almost three years of my life has been laden with unknowns. unknown viruses. unknown side effects. unknown cancers. unknown challenges. unknown recoveries. unknown battles. unknown wins. unknown curves. unknown tears. unknown fears. it’s been just a massive series of all these things that are never announced and never planned.

hey. how’s it going? oh me? nah, it’s a lot. okay fine, i will just go ahead & spill it. my rollercoaster of a life just keeps throwing loops and turns at all angles and points. and this week ahead will hopefully either rule some mysteries out or truly rope me into another set of diagnoses. and then a big, important all day affair of scans happened today. right now, i am trying to understand all of things that are happening to this new version of my body. these new symptoms and issues and hurdles that keep presenting themselves at terrible times. and while it may seem like i am just chugging along- i am actually have quite a hard time with it all. and this week was definitely not my favorite. it was long and tiring. and it felt like every single day had some new bullshit delivery for me. and tonight as i was driving home, the song ‘ghost’ by justin bieber came on. and i found myself pulling apart the lyrics. and replaying the song over and over again. until i was crying, parked in my driveway at ten o’clock at night. dead tired from teaching the youth of america but truly exhausted from just existing. and here they are; the lyrics that just sank me into a place of new found grief.

“i need more time but time can’t be borrowed;

i’d leave it all behind if i could follow.

since the love that you left is all that i get,

i want you to know- that if i can’t be close to you, i’ll settle for the ghost of you. i miss you more than life.”

i just kept clicking repeat on the stereo touchscreen. to hear those lyrics over and over and over. as this new ocean of grief consumed me. it clicked. this is what it’s like. this is how i can explain it to the people who keep saying toxic shit to me. this is how you can make life after cancer seem less like a dream and more like a reality. these lyrics. everything from my life before is now this ghost. gone. leaving me with just memories. and i can never have my life back or my body back or anything from the former place back. and so i have to settle for the ghosts. the remains. the faintest ideas of what it once was. and i am forced to miss it all. for the rest of my life. and i realize how silly that might sound. but the truth is that i miss all of it. i miss how sure and safe it felt. i miss the security of an undiagnosed body. of a frame that could exist outside of an mri tunnel. i miss all the things attached to that. i miss being comfortable in my own existence. and sometimes i look back on photos and wonder if i would’ve done things differently if i knew i had an expiration date on my body. on my identity. on all of it. and i have been working on finding myself better acquainted with the word WHOLE. it’s been my mission since entering remission. and honestly, it’s not going according to plan. it has not been easy. not very successful. because i have been sitting here; waiting for my life after cancer to be more like my life before cancer. and each day, i come to the realization that it just can’t be that simple. because i am not the same person i was before cancer. and that’s okay, i guess. meh. still on the fence if i am being truthful. there’s this grief and bitterness that still exists. and maybe it stems from the fact that remission has not been even slightly close to how it is painted. it is easily just as hard as battling cancer. yes- surviving cancer is just as hard as battling cancer. and here’s my hot take- when you’re battling cancer, you have a guide. the whole freaking time. there’s a nurse at every corner. you don’t eat, sleep, breathe, swallow without someone there to chart it. and it’s incredible. you don’t feel alone. you have a plan. it’s out of your hands. it has answers. but on the other side- it is suddenly ALL me. and this side, well, it’s a lot. like a lottttt. more than navigating the woes of chemotherapy. more than side effects. more than the big c. it’s living the rest of my life on the outside of myself. settling for the ghosts of the first thirty years of my life. stuck with this massive filing cabinet of memories that are slowly fading. grasping the fact that eventually, i won’t remember the first version at all. that there will be more photos of me in this body than my first one. that this is the body that gets to move on. that it’s just me and the ghost. and part of me feels like there are pieces of me somewhere else. that not everything carried over. that in my trauma filled two years; not everything fully healed. because the truth is- there are nights when all i want is the warmth of the body that held me for years before i was diagnosed. there are nights where my brain refuses to forget the memories held in that body. there are nights where i quietly sob, wishing it was different. and every single day, i worry about being heard, being loved, being seen in this frame. because i worked for what felt like forever in the old body to find peace and love and acceptance. and now, everything feels off. and unsure. and unknown.

and if i can’t be close to you, i’ll settle for the ghost of you. i miss you more than life.

it’s true. even on the best days, i miss you. i miss the body that i was born into. i miss the body that carried me through the darkest times. i miss how sure and safe it felt. it feels so hollow. it feels so empty. it feels so unfinished and unfair and unfulfilled. it feels different and stitched. feels like we are never on the same page. i feel like i can’t get it right this time. i feel like a failure in remission. i feel like i don’t deserve this space. i feel broken. i feel scared. i feel unheard. i feel guilty. i feel like a part of me is missing.

so right now, i am settling for the ghost of everything i have said goodbye to in the last two years.

but particularly myself. i miss you more than life.

xo.

other side.

as always, what a week. it feels never ending; the days when you’re in the process of finding your way through to the other side of a scare. big ones. small ones. ones that come often. lumps. symptoms. side effects. it all kinda runs into one. at this point, i feel like a pro. recurrence is just a word that gets kinda jumbled into conversations with my team of doctors. it doesn’t bother me when someone suggests it or even wants to run imaging at this point. i would rather be safe than sorry. and maybe that just comes from how it all started. how advocacy became the game from the very beginning. how well i know myself from the inside out after literally being stripped of my existence. establishing new norms within myself has been one of the most taxing processes of them all. trying to begin to understand what feels new or different versus what just is reality. because when you sign your life away on dotted lines; both in an intensive care unit for a raging virus or when you’re alone in an oncology office- you become this person. different already. your whole life gets put to the side. you suddenly have to give yourself up to making it to the other side. for others. for your family. for the people who still want you around. for yourself. and it becomes really hard to manage all the emotions that go into saving your own life. and the things you have to do in order to make it out alive. for most, it probably seems really brave or heroic. for others, it’s probably this insane amount of strength and resilience. but it doesn’t always feel like that. it’s kinda lonely. and exhausting. it also feels very spotlight, one woman show sometimes. it feels heavy in responsibility and it also feels a little burdensome. staying alive during the fight for my life was easily the hardest thing i have ever done. and i have done it twice. and sometimes, it feels like even though the big scares and big tumors and big viruses are gone- that every day is another day of fighting to stay alive. that i can’t possibly do it again. that the other side is just as challenging. but it can be really hard to say that out loud. because with it comes the whole damn cheerleading squad. the one that’s laced with “but you already did the hardest part!” or my favorite “the recurrence rate is so low. don’t worry!” or a classic- “are you sure you’re not just overthinking it?” for sure. i am chronically overthinking. that’s my whole existence. but it also is how i caught my cancer strictly by accident. just before my thirty first birthday. with zeroooooo family history and a pretty historically clear medical record. one that is now over five hundred pages long. i had only broken my nose. never had stitches. never been in the back of an ambulance. no genetic mutations. no crazy birth stories. no scrapes on the playground or broken arms off a bicycle. never been in a cast or used crutches. my first, second and third surgeries were for cancer. my fourth will be to fix all the things that make me still feel broken. cancer rules the game. cancer calls the shots. cancer still lingers. bringing all the bells and whistles it can. and sure, i am a pro at getting what i want to clear the anxiety for a few more months. i can call and be in an mri machine before you all have had breakfast.

and my world continues to march on. and inside, i silently grieve the life i lost. the time i lost. the patience that’s thinning. the anxiety that’s just under the surface. the grieving of friends who continue to fight their cancer battles. and the immense grief when one never wins the war. the burials of five friends over the last two years. the survivor guilt. the pride. the advocating. the brushing off of the “i knew it was nothing!“ the arguments with the insurance company. the medical bills. the paper trail that has to exist in order for certain tests to happen. the shame. the worry that i worry too much. the worry that my story is too much. the worry that every scare is too much. the fear that there will one day be a scare that isn’t just a scare. the fear that my life could be uprooted and stripped away again. that this process- this whole building it all from the ground up thing- will be even harder next time. that my soul is kinda tired. and that every time i mention the cancer’s potential dreadful return & i am wrong- i feel ashamed. for causing a scene. for bothering anyone. for suggesting it need any thought or attention. because the other side- well for a while, it felt like this far away place. and once i made it here after a gruesome battle with cancer and an eight day stay in intensive care; well, it never felt right. it never fit. never filled my soul or healed my wounds. it’s been rocky and uncomfortable. it’s been lonely and painful. it’s been ugly and heartbreaking. it’s been this constant shedding of different parts of an old identity. it’s been this transformative time. one that feels a little never ending. it hasn’t been a good time- which i think is what is often expected. it’s been a lot of growing pains and a lot of work on healing. it’s hard to say it but it’s still not finished. after all this time. it’s still not healed. my heart still feels like it’s a little broken. my body still feels incomplete and not finished. my soul feels tired and each time i feel something off, it takes me back to the very beginning. waiting for the other side.

and i know that the other side has a lot to offer. and i know that the other side is pretty beautiful. and i know i am meant to be here on the other side. and believe me, i know it’ll someday feel like it fits me perfectly. this is the other side. and sometimes, the universe likes to shove me back to the other other side. and both have their drama. and both are sides i have visited.

and right now, i am just trying to build a home on this side. and it’s taking longer than i would like. and it feels shameful. and embarrassing. and lonely. and full of emotions that just cannot be understood. but i am here. with my tools and hard hat- just trying to build something beautiful and secure on this other side.

xoxo.

expectation.

the last few days have been thick with emotions. it feels like a lot of my blog posts start that way but i am starting to realize that my life is just a really emotional place to be. and if i am being honest with you and even myself, a lot of this emotional stuff simply comes from having high expectations of my life after battling cancer. and i know, i know- cancer and my journey and everything that has happened in the last two years feels like all my brain can spell out. and right now, the expectations of life after cancer; welllll, they aren’t hitting like i thought they would. and don’t get me wrong- it’s a pleasure to be here. for sure. but it also feels kinda lame that the hard work and pure hell of cancer led to a pretty lame medical existence afterwards. and today was supposed to be the end of it all. the end of this messy, uncomfortable and ugly hell that started with an infectious virus and led to this snowball of events- cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy treatments, losing my hair & shaving my head. becoming malnourished and entering home hydration treatments. which meant delivering hydration through my port, by myself. saying goodbye to the body i had been in for years and entering a hospital alone to have my breasts amputated. waking up alone. entering survivorship alone. with my surgeon standing over me. learning to look up in the mirror after being open at my eighteen inch surgical incision for nearly sixteen weeks. to now. the day of a planned revision. to hopefully take some of the pain away. to erase some of the horrific memories that come with the jagged lines and poorly healed pockets.

but yet, it’s been delayed. and not because of my surgeon. because of me. and my post cancer body. we aren’t getting along. we aren’t understanding each other. recently, i spent a good chunk of time on the phone with a friend; someone who battled cancer at a young age. someone who has been pivotal in where i am now. i met her in march of last year. i was about six weeks into surgery recovery and could not make it through the day without crying. my husband was back at work and it was just me; unable to lift a laundry basket, bald, on long term disability and angry with the universe. update: still a little angry at the universe. but anyways, this friend and i met when the days of survivorship were early and every single day felt endless. i remember sobbing on the phone the first time we spoke. i didn’t even really know her that well. let alone well enough to have snot running down my face as i sobbed into the phone. and she graciously helped me navigate those early moments. where i felt trapped. in this weird space in my identity. where i looked and felt like a breast cancer patient but the world was looking for me to make my next move. and the next move had to be outside of that space. hell, even the disability agent was calling every week. but i couldn’t find my place. everything felt big and overwhelming. and so this week, things began to feel big and overwhelming. and it pushed me back into those moments where everything about surviving cancer felt immense. unbelievably difficult. impossible. lonely. messy and filled with doubt as well as fear. i remember crying every single day. after having beat stage two breast cancer. i still cried every single day. so this mountain of triggering emotions as well as six doctor visits and poor numbers coming in on the bloodwork; i leaned into that same friend. because i knew that she could meet me where i currently am. which is this place where i am still in a heated argument with the universe. a place where this still feels unfair. a place where i feel like i continue to fail this body and this body continues to fail me. and right now, there’s a lot going on. and i have not been super open about it. probably because there’s a lot of shame happening. but also because i hate telling the same thing over and over again. but also because i feel like everyone is looking at me, and silently asking me to be less. that my story and what happens to me are too massive. too attention seeking. too dramatic. but the reality is- it’s just bad luck. and when i went to appointment one this week, things felt rather manageable. and appointment two didn’t bring me to my knees in sobs either. but last night at quarter after five; i found myself in overwhelmed mode. because, today was appointment three and next week is the big appointment. number four. and each day that comes with more waiting while battling symptoms and side effects and a terrible rash- i begin to fall into these wicked cycles of triggers and post traumatic stress. and maybe it’s just easier to spit it out. hi. my name is alix and right now, i am going through a lot. more specifically- i am going through my fourth recurrence scare in eighteen, almost nineteen months. and this one- well, this one is a little bigger than the ones before. and i will spare you the webmd doctor google details. but there’s just a lot happening. and if you’re reading this and this is the first time you’re hearing it- i really am sorry. sometimes the last thing i wanna put in a text is- “hey. how’s your week going? oh mine? just casually trying to rule out cancer. nothing major.” it makes me feel like i wanna be the star of the show. when in reality- i would love for the universe to cast somebody else! but there’s no point in wishing the universe would pick on someone it’s own size. so, here we are. feeling like i did two years ago. surrounded by appointments, figuring out how to manage my stress, my anxiety, my roles in life, my career and my sanity- all while trying to respect the boundaries of a body that was so graciously gifted to me by a team of surgeons just eighteen months ago. and i guess, i am just modifying my expectations as i go. which is literally so annoying and quite honestly- just as exhausting as the rest of all this. it’s becoming a regular thing. for things to rarely go by according to the plan. so here i am. just hoping i can accept the fate. change the expectation. begin to expect less. narrow down the window of disappointment.

recognize that this shit is just how the universe works. and that i sometimes have to expect that it’s all gonna go wrong. and someday, it’ll all go right.

xoxo.

fine print.

it’s a bit before midnight and i am in the middle of a full mental breakdown. my husband is obnoxiously snoring beside me and honestly, it kinda just further fuels my current state. but right now, the spiral is what’s flowing through my stream of consciousness. the spiral. the one where everything begins to unravel. pretty challenging to see the beginning or end of it right now. but the main theme- it’s failure. super. there is just something in my brain right now that is firing off all the neon letters in the word ‘failure’. that word. it’s just firing on all cylinders. i can’t seem to get it out of my brain. everything feels like one gigantic mountain of failures. everything happening in my life just has me feeling like i am behind or stuck. and i guess i just keep falling onto this feeling that i should be further than where i am. that even though time felt like it stopped completely for the time i was trapped in my own personal hell; the world marched on. and now, i am back to square one. figuring it all out. who i wanna be. where i wanna be. who i wanna be around. and it falls hand in hand with this other feeling. this massive feeling of defeat. because earlier today, i cried for twenty two minutes in the parking lot of a grocery store. i knew it was gonna happen. it almost felt calculated. like it had been building up the whole ride there. and honestly, the defeated feeling is coming from a post cancer medical debacle place. where you signed on the dotted line to have your life saved but the fine print was too much at the time. but the fine print is important. it’s the part that no one talks about. the fine print is how your life is never the same. your body is never the same. your organs, your skin, your body temperature are never the same. you’ll never sleep again. you’ll never be free of it ever again. it destroys your whole body in an effort to tack on years at the end. you’ll spend hours on end trying to combat the numbness in your feet. you’ll buy six sets of sheets in the hopes it’ll cure your night sweats. you’ll start putting tylenol in every bag and bin. one in your car. one in your purse. one for work. might as well buy acetaminophen in stocks. nothing is the same. nothing will ever be the same. and the damn fine print. it’s raging right now. i have sat on a medical exam table five times this week. had three different doctors touch my chest. four tubes of blood drawn. two injections. a freaking ekg or whatever letters.

and one stupid voicemail. ‘your surgery has been cancelled. call me to reschedule. the doctor has a ten month wait list’. i cried for twenty two minutes in the parking lot of a grocery store today. before the voicemail came. i already knew she would call. i got a text with my lab work and i just knew. that the fine print continues to remind me that there is still so much further to go. and that things will never be the same. and the body that i live in now- is not the body i fought for. it’s this messy, post cancer disaster. it feels unfit for survivorship most days & leaves me feeling defeated. it feels broken and misshapen and half finished. and i know no one else can see that. but the fine print is the hardest part. living now; lucky to be alive but unlucky still. and it’s this ugly balance between cancer and the fine print. trying to understand that this is it. this is survivorship. and it’s lonely and scary and it’s exhausting. because i just wanna scream. IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS. sorry, caps lock. probably shoulda warned ya. but in all seriousness, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. it was supposed to be easier. it wasn’t supposed to be this mountain in front of me after just descending freaking everest. it’s probably stupid to be complaining about it all. but my life is just not meeting me where i was. everything feels massive and overwhelming. and every doctor or therapist just tells me that it comes with the territory and to hang in there. but i am feeling trampled by my own health. i feel small and broken. i feel like a failure and some days, i feel like giving up. all these appointments and medications and phone calls make me feel like it’s impossible and like i can’t do it. that every suggestion or remedy leaves me one step further behind. that i am eighteen months into remission and into a life in a body that i refuse to claim as my own. the fine print. i didn’t read the fine print. i didn’t sign up for more heartache on the back end of this.

and i keep trying to remember her. the body before. the one that was amputated and destroyed last february as the only measure to make sure i could be here right now. i miss her. i miss how sure she made me feel. i never questioned her or how she made me feel. she was strong when she needed to be and held me in weak moments. she went through a lot and she couldn’t be saved. and that breaks my heart everyday in this body. this broken and unfinished piece. i feel defeated. and i feel like i am failing. i feel tired. and i keep pedaling. i feel overwhelmed. and i keep climbing. and the mountain is still there. looming. and i should’ve read the fine print. although, it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

the fine print. the smallest words. it will never be the same. and that’s true. it’s not the same. it never will be. and maybe that’s the universe’s way of telling me that after this mountain, it’s just valleys.

xo.