Gioie della Tavola

Tuscany

For Italians…the dinner table always serves as reminder that we’re connected to each other and to life itself.

Evoking feelings of nostalgia isn’t a hard task. One scent, one picture…or even one smile can drift you back to that sentimental place or time in the past. After a recent conversation with my Mom, I took a little nostalgic journey back in time, back to a period in my childhood where the “Council” existed. The Council, as it was known, was a regular gathering at my Great Aunt Rita’s house—made up of mostly Italian women—who would congregate around a large dining room table and talk and talk…and talk (usually in debate-style) about life, love, family, politics, memories—all while naturally being encouraged to mangia, mangia over the Italian yummies laid out before them (and yes…I can recall the redolence of anisette in the air from those fresh Italian cookies).

When it comes to Italians or Italy, let’s face it, the first thing people usually think of is the warmth, joy and utter magic created around the dinner table. It’s well known that Italians are accomplished in the gioie della tavola, or “the joys of the table.” In fact, the dinner table is one of the most steadfast images and emblems in Italian art—celebrated in our paintings and films, from the Renaissance to present day.

If you were an outsider looking in on those gatherings of the council, you’d likely be dizzy with confusion—because just like many large Italian families, all gathered around that table would not only talk at higher than normal decibels, but also all at the same time…and don’t forget the hands, which also spoke volumes. But it was there at the table, where hearts would open, and life’s greatest celebrations and sometimes even dramatic battles would unfold.

We all seem to crave time that will create nostalgic memories, like our winter bones crave the warmth of summer. Time with family. Time with friends. Time to reconnect to oneself. Just. More. Time. Yet the irony comes during the week when all we wish to do is speed that time up…a magical fast forward to Friday, where the challenges of the week can be left behind.

For me, with work and school dominating our days, and homework, sports and activities dominating our evenings, there often seems to be little room for creating memories as a family around our dining room table—but they’re a necessity. My boys crave “family nights” in the dining room during the week and they always become the high point of any day. There we connect. We laugh. We pray. We share our struggles and joys…and ultimately we strengthen the bonds of love and friendship.

There aren’t many members of that beautiful Council left on this side of Heaven, and though the table is still there in my Aunt Rita’s house, all you can really see is what is not there anymore. I guess a table is not simply an object in a room, it’s the people gathered around it that bring it to life.

Time is short and precious. Embrace more moments in gioie della tavola…appreciating the magical synergy that is created when the joys of conversation and intimacy commingle with the pleasures of amazing food and drink.

“What must be broken apart in order to bring a family close together? Bread, of course.”

Promises Live on the Other Side of the Rain

Rainbow

There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.

Aeschylus

I’ve been sporadic at best in blogging, but in all honesty life has been anything but mundane.  In fact “blur” is the only four-letter word that could adequately describe the past month and a half—well perhaps not the only four-letter word.

My family is still reeling from two harrowing losses, only three days apart—my Grandmother, the matriarch of our family and her youngest daughter, Dolores, my Aunt who was only 53 years old.  The shock is still fresh—with the chaos of funeral arrangements and such, making it both easy to compartmentalize the grief while simultaneously making it hard to focus on the heart’s cry.  I often feel like my life is sadly akin to my drafts folder—those half-articulated writings I fully intended to finish and publish, but instead they sit, waiting hopelessly for my procrastinating hand to press send. My drafts folder in life seems to consist of the many thoughts and pain, those areas I’ve started to deal with, but instead put them on the mental back burner.  I guess some things are just too overwhelming to take in all at once.

Rain.  I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the rain.  It can be the very sound of comfort and nostalgia, rhythmically helping me relax and sleep at night. Yet rain, when you’re seeking solace under the warm sun—becomes disheartening at best.  Though we can’t predict the weather, I can always predict disappointment when you wake up on your first day of vacation, to grey skies and the sound of rain pouring down on the roof.  Over Spring break I arose to such a morning on the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  It may sound childish, but inside I had a bit of a mental temper tantrum.  I so desired some long overdue down time for the entire family—sunny opportunities to escape the responsibilities and realities of daily life as we know it.  The rain was killing my buzz.

The Outer Banks was my escape plan.  When you receive a cancer diagnosis, everyone in the family receives a cancer diagnosis.  There, I planned to be still and enjoy beach life, while also taking a bit of time to reflect on the past year and a half—the challenges of treatment, and the challenges and triumphs of balancing family, work, life … and cancer.  I was excited for my entire family—even my sweet German Shepherd, Miles—to finally get away from our chaotic daily routines and instead enjoy sun-filled, fun days … away from it all.  My disappointment was soon turned around as the weather became sunshine and blue skies, blessing us with beautiful days amidst a surreal backdrop of fantastic beach and dunes.  The promises and desires for that Spring family holiday lived boldly on the other side of the rain, and I will forever cherish the memories made.

Unfortunately, it was during one sunny day on our Outer Banks’ adventure that the phone call came in from Maine, informing us that both my Grandmother and Aunt were brought to Maine Medical Center, both in critical shape.  We learned my Aunt had been brought into surgery to help stabilize blood clots that had formed around her lung and heart.

In the few days to follow, they managed to stabilize my Aunt and she appeared to be doing well enough to leave the intensive care setting to a regular hospital room.  My Grandmother, however, had reached a point of finality in her long journey with Leukemia & rare blood disorder.  After two and half years of (often weekly) blood transfusions, she was worn out.  She informed her doctor she was done with treatment.  We all knew some day ‘that day’ would come … but it’s never easy when it does.  We all stood coping with the realization that Grammie would decline quickly without her transfusion and would now be entering Hospice care—in a long-term care facility in Portland.

Two days before my Aunt’s untimely death—Michelle, my Sister, captured the phenomenal rainbow pictured in this post, outside my Aunt’s hospital room window.  My Aunt was fascinated with its beauty and in a short call with me and my boys that same evening, she said, “Just think, I’ll be going home, good as new on Tuesday.”  I believe in my heart, that is just what she did.  As the ambulance arrived to move her to rehabilitation Tuesday afternoon, amazingly to the same long-term care facility my Grammie was in, my Aunt coded. Gone at 53 years old.

She did go home as good as new that day to a place where she will run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint … have a clear mind—no longer battling bipolar-depression.  Physically and mentally, free at last.  We all joined together around my Grammie in those final days still trying to exhale the shock of my Aunt’s death.   My Grammie went home to be with the Lord three short days after her baby girl.

We celebrated their lives in one service together…as they always were—together, for the past 53 year.  Our hearts ache, though we find comfort in the knowledge that they are forever intertwined in Heaven—free.

My sister and I gave the eulogy at the service, and though difficult, we felt compelled to share our hearts even though we knew without a doubt we would fail to perfectly articulate the immeasurable and indescribable Mother, Aunt, Grandmother, Sister, Cousin, Great-Grandmother, Niece and friend found in the two beautiful women who have been an integral part of our family our entire lives.

Grief is the price we pay for love, just as it is impossible to capture the rainbow without the rain.  Though I know I will find myself searching the crowds for their faces for years to come … the truth is I am blessed for the love and rich memories I will forever hold in my heart.

I am honestly not inviting you to a pity party, but my life has been seemingly under torrential rains since the dreaded day I heard the words ‘you have Stage III breast cancer.’  Tomorrow, I face the long reconstructive surgery exactly one year from the dreaded bilateral mastectomy.  Though I would be lying if I said I’m not a bit nervous to undergo such a big operation … my heart’s desire is that it will bring me one step closer to seeing the beautiful promise only a rainbow can bring … on the other side of the rain.

Your thoughts and prayers for a seamless procedure and recovery are greatly appreciated.

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

Ezekiel 1:28

The Gift of Living Well

candles

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.

Voltaire

Last year on this very date I sat in a room … a room with a view, in fact.   Sitting 9 floors above the hustle and bustle of city life, instead of celebrating my birthday with a view from a hotel suite, my view was in a chemo suite at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  Bald and weary, I sat with an IV drip—on my 7th week of chemotherapy.  I clearly remember thinking:  Wow, how is it that I’ve complained about birthdays … while only dancing into my 30s … and now I’m not so sure I’ll live to see 40.

So though I don’t typically like to toot my own birthday horn—if getting through this past year has taught me anything, it’s that I cannot afford to be casual or glib about birthdays ever again.

So my birthday wish this year when I blow out those candles tonight will be all about a prayer to live well … seizing each day … moment to moment … hour to hour.

Thank you, God, for giving me the gift of life.  Forgive me for all times I’ve squandered precious moments and opportunities to live it well.

Today I celebrate the gift of life.  I’m alive.  Thank God.

Nicole

The Doors In Between

Door to Nowhere

There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors.

Jim Morrison

After visiting the Greek islands, not only did I walk away with a deeper appreciation for the architecture—amazingly beautiful structures that all spoke of bygone eras—but somewhere among the thousands of incredible little cobblestone alleyways and whitewashed streets, I got caught up obsessing over the doors.  The mystery and allure of the rustic and charmingly seductive doors in Santorini are in many ways akin to passageways within our own lives—some invitations to great, even sheltered opportunity, while others yet signifying isolated imprisonment, an escape, or even bitter closure. To me all doors seem to speak of the powerful knowns and unknowns encountered in life—perhaps the very reason why I’m so intrigued by them.

Recently, when asked why I haven’t written a post in some time, I realized I couldn’t really blame my hiatus on a lack of inspiration.  After all, I earnestly recognize the daily miracles all around me, including the abundant joy that my three amazing boys deliver—all opportunities to ignite a spark of inspiration to flow on paper.  Instead, I think the heaviness on my heart these last months has been the source of the ink drying in my pen.  As many of you within the breast cancer social media community know, we’ve recently seen several women reach new passageways in the realm of cancer.  While some have opened doors to the unknown dreaded territory of metastatic disease (stage IV), others in the community are at the end of treatment options and have entered the doors of hospice care in preparation.  Saddest still, are the beautiful young women who recently closed their final doors on cancer and are now journeying beyond this world, leaving loved ones gripped with grief behind.  As Jada so beautifully wrote one day before her untimely death at age 36:  “Y se me va la vida….and my life goes away….”

Every three seconds in the US, someone is diagnosed with breast cancer.  All of these people share at least one common thread that ties them together—they are a statistic.  Regardless of stage at diagnosis, we all walk through the unknown door of breast cancer with a 30% chance of going on to develop incurable metastatic disease.  Now I know statistics may seem mundane, but when you’ve been touched by cancer, those numbers are painfully real.  As a “statistic,” I have a vested interest in educating myself and others about this terminal disease and urging people to support research that helps those with advanced breast cancer live longer.  So though the town may be painted pink every October and beyond, and while some in the world perceive breast cancer to be the “good” one, the richly funded one, or even the easy one—the somber reality is that in the US alone this year, we will see an estimated 40,000 deaths from breast cancer.  Yes, that’s one woman every 13 seconds—gone.  So it’s safe to say that though I’m grateful for heightened breast cancer awareness that has come from pink campaigning, this disease is not good—in fact, just like every cancer, it sucks.  As the second leading cause of cancer death in women behind lung cancer, breast cancer is a fierce adversary on the cancer brigade.

Going through photos of my visit to the pearl of the Mediterranean—as Santorini is so deservedly known—awakened that odyssey of cherished memories that live in my heart … memories all scattered in between the doors-galore.  Everywhere stood phenomenal, colorful doors:  doors within doors, doors with seemingly no purpose at all, and my favorite by far, those charming and dreamy “doors to nowhere.”  I get goosebumps thinking about them.  My obsession with these doors was in large part because they were like an unlimited gateway into my imagination, allowing me to see what my mind’s eye envisioned to be on the other side.

My prayer is to find my door to nowhere on this walk, one where my eyes will be fixed on the Lord and my trust in His plan and purpose for my life regardless of what lies before me.  On December 26, 2012, I was evicted from life as I knew it and had to close the door to my pre-cancer existence.  You realize fairly quickly entering this brave new world that you’re forever changed, always wondering where this narrow passageway will lead, one where you feel like one inch in any direction—the walls on either side will come crashing down around you.   In fact, it’s often hard to talk about those feelings, because it’s easy to feel guilty while there are countless other women who have current goals—like seeing their children graduate from High School or even Kindergarten. These women with incurable metastatic disease are part of the 30% to enter Stage IV or advanced breast cancer, and though some will live in treatment for some time, the reality is when you are stage IV, you will die from or with breast cancer.

Occasionally in my circle of close friends and family, I’ll get the question:  “Why you, Nicole?”  Without thought, my answer has always been “Why not me?”  I am no different than the other 10 million cancer “survivors” in this country all going about our lives with a slight pause in our walks, wondering if the cancer is only hiding behind the next door.   As a woman of Faith, however I try—instead of pausing to stop and thank God for being there, for holding my hand on the journey and seeing me through every step of the way.  It’s easier to rest in hope under the umbrella of prayer and thankfulness.  As I once read:  “Those blessings are sweetest that are won with prayer and worn with thanks.”

In love … and hope …

Nicole

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

John 10:9

Sailing Strong in the Winds of Affliction

Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.

Thomas Carlyle 

On the tender heels of Thanksgiving, my 11-year old, Colby asked to share a bit of his heart from this past year.  I’m overwhelmed posting this … but it’s wonderful to see my 3 beautiful boys holding on and pressing in to the gift of Faith that they have eagerly unwrapped.  I am blessed.

A Year of Cancer through the Eyes of a Child

Colby

Thanksgiving was a really good time for me to look back on my life, including the rocky road of the last year and find all of the blessings that abound.  I truly thank God for my life, my health and SO much more … my family, house, food in my stomach, a free country, my Mom’s health, my education, and the very air I breathe.  I realize that sometimes God throws tough times (tests) at you.   In order to get an A+ on each test, you must remain faithful to Him, and never give up.  Even though this was a struggling time in our family we never gave up on Mom, or God.

So the big test, the journey we never expected to take was this past year.  The test has been the most difficult one I’ve taken so far in my 11 years.  On December 26, 2012 my Mom and Dad called my brothers and me into their room.  As they told us that the call came and a stage III breast cancer diagnosis was confirmed—I felt a sudden pain in my gut.   At that moment I knew it was serious … this was really happening.   My parents were open and honest about everything they knew, and that alone helped to make us feel safe.  Though I know people who have gone through cancer, it’s hard to imagine it happening to my Mom.  It was very hard to believe, and though at first I didn’t want to, I knew that I had to face reality and trust God to take the wheel.

Before that dreaded day, we knew “cancer” was definitely a possibility.  But regardless of that thought lurking days before Christmas, my parents made everything as normal as possible and full of love.  They still showed us the wonder and generosity of the season in the face of such upsetting news.  Shortly after diagnosis, the next challenge was learning that chemotherapy treatment would be the first thing my Mom would experience.  My parents helped to explain chemotherapy and the side effects that would likely happen.  It helped me to know that if and when Mom was sick, it was not because the disease was making her sick, but instead because the medication was attacking the cancer cells with the intent to make her better.

My Mom was strong and worked through treatment.   Every Thursday for 20 weeks starting in January, she would go into Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Though I was not able to go with her every week, my Mom made special arrangements to be sure we went with her at least a few times.   I think my mom wanted my brothers and I to see that chemotherapy wasn’t scary.  The first time I went to Dana-Farber I was a bit nervous, thinking it would be creepy with a lot of very sick people there.  It didn’t take long to learn that my fears were far from the real thing.  Though difficult for the patients experiencing chemo, the people and atmosphere were both warm and welcoming.

Chemo was still sometimes scary for my brothers and me.  It’s awful when you want so much to take away someone’s pain but can’t.  During this time I tried to help in every way possible throughout the house.  Since mom was getting weaker after many treatments, her ability to do all the things she used to do in the house decreased.  I tried to spend time after school doing some simple cleanup and chores around the house.  It felt good to give back to her, especially when she was tired and struggling with a serious illness.  I hated seeing her sick and really loved making her happy. I knew that as tough as chemo was, it was made to help stop the cancer in its tracks.

When my Mom started to lose her hair during chemotherapy, as a family, we gathered and made a family time to shave her head.  I know it was hard for her to lose her beautiful hair, but we helped to lighten the mood with a little “buzz” party.

Chemo was a very difficult time, but we got through it as a family.

Things moved fast.  After Chemo was finally over, Mom was trying to get strong for surgery.  The goal of surgery was to remove any remaining cancer out of her body.   I was very scared for her. Every night I prayed, and prayed that she would be fine. The day of surgery finally came (actually on my younger brother, Logan’s birthday).  My Mom was a brave person on that day.  She was in the hospital for 5 days and we missed her so much.  My grandparents watched us and helped prepare for Mom coming home.  Before she arrived, we made her a big “WELCOME HOME!” sign.   She lit up seeing that and it made us so happy!  When she got home, things were tough for a while.  She was always very sleepy and never felt good.   But, The Lord is good.  He kept her safe through all of this.

Radiation treatment came next.  Mom was a little anxious at first, but then she learned that it wouldn’t be as bad as the other treatments.  I was so thankful that she had gotten through the treatments before. Through the house, all of us were asking questions like “Doesn’t radiation give you cancer?” and “Won’t you get burned?” All of the questions were answered, and we weren’t as anxious as before. The family got together and prayed that mom would get through the last treatment. Mom did get some burns, but she took it in stride … nothing too bad.

I love that my parents have been honest with everything going on.  They always make us know that we can go to them anytime with any question and we trust and believe that they will answer it honestly.

I thank God every day for Moms health. I hope and pray that God will always keep her in his healing hand.

My heart goes out to other kids traveling this same road.  My prayer is that they will have Faith and believe that God has them in the palm of His hand regardless of the situation.  Thieves can’t take you away when you’re resting in the palm of His hand.

–Colby

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”      —Ephesians 2:8-9

Taking Flight

Red Balloon

Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.

Hermann Hesse

Nostalgia.  The very real sense of “homesickness” for things or situations of the past can appear when you least expect it.  It can come in the form of a scent … a sunset … a book … or even a song.  Often, I wonder if the chemo “fog” that so magically formed in my brain has instead given rise to a deeper level of nostalgia—more vivid recall of long ago, forgotten memories.  I find it laughable that mid-sentence during a conversation, my brain can lose focus; yet during a morning “solo” jam session in the shower, the lyrics of a song can send my mind reeling down memory lane on a fast track to childhood.  This particular morning in the shower, lyrics from a song brought to mind a recurring dream I had as a child.  It came to me with such clarity, I could actually recall the emotions I felt as a child … awe coupled with fear.  There I stood, holding a big red balloon.  The very balloon I was enamored by in the dream was also the very object that brought me indescribable fear.  Fear of flight.  There was the fear that as I held tight to the balloon—it  would carry me away … while an equally fearful sense that at any given moment my hand could let go of the balloon and it would take off without me.

Life takes us by surprise and orders us to move toward the unknown—even when we don’t want to or when we think we don’t need to.

During my recent trip to Dana-Farber, I was confronted boldly with the ugly face of fear.  Fear of the unknown … fear of new beginnings … fear of letting go.   

Nine plus months have passed since I was plunged into this unknown, unexpected realm of a stage III cancer diagnosis.  My nonstop mission to do whatever necessary to put this thing in my rear view has sent me on a journey filled with lifejackets in a sea of doubt and confusion.   The lifejackets of chemo, bilateral mastectomy and radiation therapy have kept me afloat, making hope an easier vision.  Now I am left to tread these unchartered waters with Tamoxifen, or as some refer to it:  the little poisonous pill—one I will (hopefully) be swallowing daily for the next ten years.  Needless to say, I left my oncologist that day with little comfort as her simple advice spoke angst in my heart.  She advised me from this point forward I need to be mindful of pain that appears suddenly or lasts longer than usual, any shortness of breath or recurring headaches … etc.  Basically, I left the exam room that day feeling powerless, lonely and filled with a new fear—the uneasiness of fear itself.  Will it carry me away like that big red balloon in my dream so many moons ago?

I once read that love is what we were born with, while fear is what we learned here.  When you begin an unknown pilgrimage … you must not be afraid.  You need to have ample courage to make mistakes.  God uses the tools of disappointment, defeat, and despair to show us the way.

Though I feel as though somewhere along the way, I’ve lost myself a bit, I’m growing and learning to accept suffering as a vital life force flowing through me.  I refuse to consume my present and future moments with the fear of the unknown.  Yes—I’m certainly a work in progress, making many mistakes along the way, but I need to let go … sending my red balloon of fear aloft, knowing that letting go will give me victory moment by moment.

I’m beyond grateful for the outpouring of love and support so many have showered on me.  Now more than ever, I welcome and yearn for your prayers and words of encouragement.

Loads of Love … in hope,

Nicole

For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. 

2 Timothy 1:7

Sponge Diving Our Way to Authenticity

The Sponge Diver

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.

Henry Ward Beecher

We all have a narrative, a unique story to tell.  As individual collections of life experience unfold, we see before us a dramatic self-portrait form, a picture based on the very peaks and valleys that make up life achievements as well as life challenges.   Often times we sit back and view the painting through a foggy lens, one cluttered with learned behavior, tradition, societal expectations we feel compelled to align with, and so on.  The question surfaces:  Is there really such a thing as an authentic self, a bona fide me?

Pure art.  I once read that every good painter paints what he is.  Every so often one is blessed to experience something that leaves you spellbound.  I honestly didn’t expect a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts with the boys over the summer to  render such a state, but this particular visit was so pure, so meaningful … I’ll never forget it.  While exploring the unique handprint illustrated on every piece that day at the museum, I felt an intimate connection, a momentous view into the heart and soul of each artist.  I envisioned their hands at work, powerfully expressing their life narrative, with the purposeful strokes of a paintbrush.  Taking in the world around us, we often find relatable links to our own lives through the canvas of creation’s powerful pull.  For me, words are my art medium …writing my paintbrush.   Though not nearly as beautiful as a masterpiece hanging on a wall, my words become an artistic expression of my heart.  When I’m silent, I’ve usually failed to claim the peace that comes from tapping into creation’s “voice” all around me.  Recently, my silence has stemmed from allowing exhaustion to dominate my narrative.

I just completed the next “installment” of cancer treatment—30 rounds of radiation therapy.   Similar to chemotherapy’s bittersweet end, my emotions took me off guard.  Suddenly my head began to buzz in a sea of rhetorical questions:   What now?  Will I have the strength to not let fear dominate my existence?  Will I fail at keeping hope close?   I guess you could say treatment in some ways becomes supplemental courage. The poisons of chemo, the removal of body parts via mastectomies, and the cancer-causing beams that make up radiation—all contribute to a (false) sense of security.  The truest test of faith comes when you have nothing else to rely on … but the very faith you entered this ride with.  The past couple of weeks I’ve had a weighty question tugging on my heart:  Who am I?  Have I allowed this “life circumstance” to take over the pre-cancer me?  Coco Chanel said it best:  Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.   

When I encountered The Sponge Diver by Winslow Homer that day in the museum, I became instantly gripped by its beauty and authenticity.  I envisioned myself there in the Bahamas, watching from a distance as a sponge diver emerged from a “naked dive” to the ocean floor, surfacing with his prize.  I thought of the rich history attached to sponge diving and the remarkable courage of early divers—always equipped with a readiness for sacrifice and a willingness to take risks.  In the old days when the skin diving method was used, divers went out to sea in a small boat, often using a glass bottomed object to search the ocean floor for sponges.   These authentic divers used simple methods … relying solely on their God-given bodies and their own natural breath-hold ability—historically performing at levels rarely attained by contemporary divers.   As time progressed, greed took over sponge diving and divers began using large, hard-hat diving gear to take on longer dives at deeper levels.  What resulted was a great deal of death and paralysis among divers.  The history of sponge divers shows us two faces of an empirical approach to life:  allowing the want for more to influence you, compromising everything; or staying focused on your God-given unique qualities that will not only get you the prize but without the compromise.  Fortunately, the beautiful centuries-old tradition Winslow Homer captured in his watercolor personified the original glory of sponge diving in its naked form.  Homer once said “You will see, in the future I will live by my watercolors.”  I’d like to think he pondered the authenticity of the scene set before him while painting this masterpiece.

Thursday, I have my next visit with my medical oncologist and the plan is to begin Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen hormone therapy designed to stop the growth of cancer cells that may be present in the body, while blocking the effect of estrogen on these cells.  The plan is to have me on this for the next 10 years.

Isn’t it funny … as a child, we just want to be like everyone else.  As we get older, we desire to beat to our own rhythmic drum.  As we further mature, the connecting events of life further complicate our sense of self.  A diagnosis of cancer has made one thing crystal clear in my life:  I desire to be defined by nothing more than God created me to be.  My “now” plan is to be satisfied with my Creator’s design … the authentic, unique me.  It is only after taking off the dangerous diving gear of the world’s pull on us that we can find freedom like no other.

Nicole