Dealing With Life's Tough Stuff : A How-To Guide

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Sad but true, I’ve been through A BUNCH of life’s tough stuff, my friends. Let’s start with the cancer thing... I was ignoring intense abdominal pain and bright red rectal bleeding during much of 2014. When I finally sucked it up and went to my PCP, she said, “I’m not speculating on this. I am sending you for a colonoscopy that will tell us exactly how we need to proceed.” I asked, “What do you think it is?” She said, “Most likely IBS or internal hemorrhoids.” After all, I was 43 years old, thin, athletic, a non-smoker, and a healthy eater. I went up to my alma mater, Penn State, for a sorority sister reunion weekend right before my procedure. One of my besties joked, “A colonoscopy on September 11th. What could go wrong?!” Apparently, a whole hell of a lot…

“Cancer?? You’re telling me I have cancer?? How could that even happen?” These were the words I uttered to a shocked medical team that woke me up in the middle of the colonoscopy because the tumor in my rectum was so large that the GI doc couldn’t even get his scope around it. I could not make sense of it at all. I have no history of colorectal cancer in my family, and let’s remember my previous description of myself: 43 (under 50 – the age they start screening you), thin, athletic, a non-smoker, and a healthy eater; all traits NOT associated with colorectal cancer. But, in fact, it was confirmed on September 17, 2014, my 44th birthday, that I had Stage IV colorectal cancer in my rectum, liver, lungs, and lymph nodes. It was the worst day of my life. I thought I was a goner.

So moving on… into the world of a port in my chest and every other week chemotherapy (which I still am going through). It just so happens that I also have a severely disabled son who is one of three in the world with his genetic syndrome. He is dependent on us for ALL of his daily living. He doesn’t walk, talk, sign, feed himself, or sleep through the night – he is a 10 year old baby. I know, what are the chances? Can I hit the lottery already? How in the world was I going to work full-time, care for my sons (I have a 12 year old son as well - he isn’t disabled), and BEAT this stupid thing (that has like a 10% chance of surviving)? Well folks, I AM beating it, and I’ve learned a whole freakin lot along the way. Since I’m a list person, these are a few basic tips I’ve gathered along that way that I wanted to share with you:

1.) Get a solid plan and do everything in your power to work the plan – control the factors you can control; don’t halfway it and don’t cheat. You get what you give, so you owe it to yourself to give it ALL you’ve got with no regrets. It takes discipline and determination, but anything worth having is worth working for. DO IT!

2.) Trust God/positive energy (your choice), trust your doctors, and trust yourself – once you are doing #1, all you can do is trust in the system. Don’t sweat the small stuff and make sure you remove any negativity (friends, situations, etc.) that impedes your path to healing.  People will say the stupidest stuff to you; they don’t mean it - one of my pet peeve questions is, “so when are you going to be done?” Well, I’ll never be “done” – this is my new normal; life with cancer. But I get it – people just want the old Stacy back and they don’t like bad news. People generally mean well, but their comments will make your head spin with absurdity.

3.) Fill your world with “feel goodness” – make your home your “comfort castle” and surround yourself with images and items (within your budget) that make you feel happy. For me it’s music, coffee, chocolate, essential oils, heat, and blingy jewelry. Happiness is healing – they go hand in hand.

I could go on and on, but this should get you started to knowing that you CAN navigate life’s tough stuff like a boss. Life isn’t fair and doesn’t make sense, but it’s all about how you get up and keep fighting after those knockdown punches. Like my latest fortune cookie said, “A focused mind is the most powerful force in the universe.” After what I’ve been through so far, I’d have to say, I most certainly agree.