Wildfire Magazine – Changemaker’s Article – December 2021

Ahhhh! Here it is, I am PUBLISHED! I am so beyond honored to be a part of Wildfire Magazine’s “Changemakers” issue! I wrote about my cancer journey, where it has taken me and what cancer has taught me.
I still have so much more to accomplish, but this has inspired me to keep on working, writing and telling my story. If I help one other person who goes through breast cancer, then I am a success!
Thank you April, Emily, Monica and the Wildfire team for creating this amazing community, for those diagnosed young, to share their stories. 💗

One Year

How has it been ONE YEAR?  Technically in 9 days, but I felt like getting all of this out NOW, today, I had to write.  I have not written anything in a year as well.  A correlation maybe?

Life has been drastically changed by something which was only imagined in movies and books.  But it happened. A global pandemic which has taken the lives of over 500,000 people and almost 30 MILLION people were infected in the United States alone.  WHAT. THE. F&*K.

Our day to day lives now consist of hand sanitizer, masks and social distance.  Honestly, I am sure that I have spent hundreds of dollars on masks.  In the beginning, it was the run on toilet paper and I still don’t understand that part, but it is a meme that will live on in infamy when talking about 2020. Now it is double masking to actually go in a store or ordering everything for outside pickup or delivery.  And if you see someone you know when you actually go in a store, there is that awkward moment when you want to hug them, because you are desperate for human connection . . . you try to bump elbows or lean in oddly before remembering and stepping back.  Anyone could be asymptomatic and transfer it without intention. One of my dearest friends gave me the best hand sanitizer which says it all. “I mean . . . I can’t even . . . It’s like  . . . Just ugh.”

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, I was out to dinner with my husband and son at Claim Jumper.  We had heard about the virus which started out in China and on cruise ships and had hit New York and Washington state, but we were not super concerned.  Yet.  Then I got a text message from a friend that the schools were going to be closed “early” for spring break, starting on Friday, the 13th.  Oh how ominous it was.  I ordered a second glass of wine, hopeful that it would just be a long break from school and things would go back to normal ASAP.  My son was thrilled because he had no idea what was coming. None of us did. We went to Target after dinner to “stock up on wine” and prepare for what was to come.  There is truly not enough wine for what we have all been through.

357 days later, life is definitely not normal. As I write this, my son is inside his Taekwondo studio, in a mask with limited kids and I am sitting in the car because of restrictions. I am so thankful that it is back open; it gives him a much needed break out of the house and allows him to be physical. He has been doing distance learning for a year.  A YEAR!  Bless all of the educators and administrators out there.  They are doing their best to make an impossible situation better.  I am thankful that my kiddo is a good student and likes to stay in his PJs all day while being on video calls with his class, but it has not been easy on anyone.  I am not built to teach common core long division.  Period.  Spring break is around the corner, and I am looking forward to a week of no schedules or checking assignments or asking why something did not get submitted and “no, get out of bed while you are on video with your class.  Because I said so.”

Anxiety and depression have skyrocketed for many, myself included.  The fear of the unknown.  “What will the ‘rona do?  Will I get it? How bad can it be?” I have a very close family member who had COVID-19 and spent almost a month in the hospital.  I cannot express the fear we all felt when she was given a 10% chance of survival. Thankfully she is home and on the mend, but waking up every day and thinking the worst will truly damage your soul.  We are much luckier than many.  My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones.  I do feel that we as a country are moving in the right direction and hope that the numbers will go down as the vaccinations are given. But for many, vaccinations are a whole other discussion which I cannot even wrap my head around.  All I know is that I am getting mine ASAP. To protect myself and my loved ones.  But you do you.  No judgement here.

I am an extroverted introvert. I love people on my time; I love being social as long as I can go home and recharge.  But my god, I never asked to recharge for this long!!! We love to have parties for any and all occasions. Nope. Not now. Not being able to just hang out is miserable. Zoom and FaceTime are great, but the video fatigue has set in.  Human beings crave connection, and it is not the same over a screen. I think we have all spent more time with our immediate families in our homes than many past years combined.  Screen time has skyrocketed for all of us; movies, binge watching TV (Tiger King anyone?) and playing games so we don’t have to think that we should just stay home and isolate. Because for so long there was no place to go.

Oh and, did I mention that my husband was laid off in August?  7 months with no major income.  I DO NOT RECOMMEND.  I work for a small non-profit and my monthly paycheck covers our car payment.  I am SO SO SO thankful that we had savings and that my marriage is strong because this was just a wee bit stressful.  We are ecstatic that he started a new job this past Monday; we will not have to move in with any of you. But I would like to visit ALL OF YOU!

Another thing I have been struggling with is reaching out to my friends.  I have the BEST friends, hands down, and I am so blessed.  But do I pick up the phone?  No. I know that 100%, I could call any one of them at any time to cry, vent, laugh or share, but I have not wanted to burden them with my issues.  Then I feel like a flake because we say “Oh, let’s talk this weekend” and it doesn’t happen.  I don’t even return phone calls. 🙁 This on top of not being able to see more people, get together for a play date with our kids or go into my office to work with our full team.  It stinks and I am not dealing well with it all.  Instead I play a ton of Phase10 on my phone.

One thing which has kept our sanity, somewhat, is the connections we have kept.  Close friends live 2 blocks from us and together, we decided that we were in all a “pod” from Day 1.  Weekly dinners back and forth, kids being able to play, seeing people that do not share my last name is amazing! As is not having to cook every damn meal. Another saving grace has been amazing friends of ours that bought a travel trailer last year.  We were able to spend so many fabulous weekends away with them, while being safe and outside in our trailer. I have another friend who I see for coffee and compassion; she and I share so many similarities in life and her hugs make me feel better.  #QuaranteamsfortheWIN

I try to remind myself, there were some great things about 2020:

–  In August, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary by renewing our vows in Cabo.  Originally we had hoped for many friends and family to join us, but we had a small group of 8 and it was perfect. 

– We bought a Peloton bike to attempt to stay in shape. I am not a good “worker outer.” It has never been my thing, ever.  But, now that we have had it for a while, I am feeling much stronger and have more endurance.  If I don’t get on every day, I feel guilty and miss it. I have successfully developed the habit and will keep going. We are connected with friends and are accountable.  My favorite coaches are Robin and Cody, FYI. Love them!

– Daytime and nighttime PJs are a HUGE win in my book.   

– We welcomed a new puppy in December; Thor is a black lab, and he is super lovable.  Apollo is finally happy with him and we are one big happy two dog family. My house is covered in dog hair, but it’s OK because only my Quaranteam sees it and they love us anyway.

But I digress.  I have a lot of feelings right now, but I KNOW things are going to get better.  This year has been SO HARD.  It is important to remember to give yourself a lot of grace.  No one expects perfection or even anything close right now.  I am at the point where I consider each day a success if we all go to bed still liking each other, fed and have showered within the last 48 hours.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene

I am doing my best; it may look different every day, but I never stop dancing.




I have not written on my blog is over a year.  Why? I can think of many reasons, but the one that pops to mind currently is “fear.” If I keep writing on a consistent basis and work toward writing my book, then it would go out into the world, people would read it and then have opinions on my story, which is terrifying to me.  As much as I love being the center of attention, for some reason, this is different.  I blame it on lack on time, how tired I am all of the time and the pain that took over my body in 2019, but if I really look deep, it is the fear of the future.

I think that fear is encompassing many of us right now with what is going on around us.  COVID-19 has sparked a mild panic and became an internet sensation (and created an immense need for toilet paper apparently); the 2020 presidential election has all of is in fear, no matter if you are red or blue, or a nice shade of purple and there are so many more things we all worry about every day.  I personally am I giant ball of anxiety most of the time; the rest of the time I am asleep.

I literally could sit here all day and be afraid.   Not focusing on the life going on around me,   wondering if COVID-19 is going to affect my life or someone that I personally know.  I will not look past any headlines about the coronavirus; my husband and best friend tell me what I need to know. If I research it, I will spiral and decide that we are never leaving the house again and be thankful for Amazon Prime.  

Our family is headed to Disneyland in a few weeks.  It is literally one of my favorite places in the world.  It might actually be a close second to Italy (but we definitely can’t go there at the moment)!  I have been super excited about this trip for months.  The kids have not been in years, J does not remember it as we went for his 3rd birthday, and I could go every 6 months and be thrilled every time.  Yet, should we be going?  I am afraid of what could happen.

A friend and I were headed down to Los Angeles last Thursday for a Young Survivor’s Coalition conference.  She and I decided to not go; the last thing we would want is to bring back a virus to the immunocompromised women we work with.  Two days later, the entire conference was canceled by the YSC to protect the health of attendees.  It was the right call, but man, I was really looking forward to a fun and informative 4 days away.  My oncology group was also hosting a talk on March 17 about updates in breast cancer.  This was also just cancelled to protect patients health.  Now I sit here and wonder.  How afraid should we be?

The adult in my says: “Stay home.  Go later in the year when it was less crowded.  Space Mountain will always be there.”  The kid in me says: “WOOHOO, maybe a lot of other people WILL stay home and the lines will be shorter!”  I have made plans to meet up with a friend while we are there and I had texted her about it.  Her response when I said that I was waffling about cancelling and that I had been reading the news from Disney: “Um – what f*#$ing news from dland?  Cuz I ain’t cancelling either!!”  I guess that settles it.  

And then I fear that I am not being a good wife or parent because the pain from medication is back.  My hands, feet and all of the other joints either hurt, feel like they are on fire or just don’t work.  I do everything I can with my family, but I know it affects my mood when I can’t do something or it just hurts when I get off the couch.  Not asking for sympathy and I am forever grateful that I am here to feel the pain, but chronic pain stinks.  

So what I am saying is that right now, fear is in the air on many levels.  But I am going to not let it rule my life.  I am going to do my best to write more, because it is so relaxing for me, however chaotic my first post back may be.  I am going to Disneyland (unless they close it!) and I am going to do the best I can to live my life and enjoy every minute of it.  A friend just said to me that 2020 is the year of doing things that make her happy. I am on board with that and throwing fear out the window.

Mastectiversary – Year 2

Two years ago on this day, at this time, I was heading into a very long surgery to remove my breasts and start the reconstruction process.  I have been thinking a lot about it as one of my friends is going in today for a lumpectomy to remove her cancer.  I am so thankful for her; it was found early and her treatment is appropriate.  But she still had to hear those awful words, “You have breast cancer.”  Life changing words which will forever alter her perspective on so many things and her body in so many ways.  But she has the most amazing attitude and has tremendous support; those will go a long way in her recovery.  I am blessed to have her as my friend and sending her all my love today.

As for me, what a difference a year makes.  While I am still in pretty constant, mild pain from my meds (Letrazole) and have a lot of fatigue, my life has moved forward quite a bit.  My breasts have amazing tattooed nipples, and I have beautiful cherry blossoms over my scars.  Now, I am not shocked when I look in the mirror or afraid that I will scare little ones in the changing room at the gym.  Well, I don’t actually make it to the gym enough yet, but I am working on it!  The husband and I are also changing our eating habits.  We started Keto (not sure quote what the proper way is to say that? The Keto diet? Trying to be in ketosis?  Whatever, you get the idea!) last week and I am down 5 lbs.  Having cheese and avocados on a meal plan is ahhhmmaazing!  I still miss bread and pasta, but I want to be healthier, to live longer and enjoy my life, see my son enjoy a good life and be a grandmother to his kids.  Having all of that is worth cutting down on the carbs and sugar!   Plus, you can still have vodka.  Win!

I have also become a full fledged volunteer of Breast Friends, the emotional support organization.  It is my home away from home, and I have found a place where I belong.  I send out hats to women who have lost their hair from chemo, call them to check and see if they received it and how they are doing and provide continued follow-up.  Hearing how much they love their hats and so appreciate the support warms my heart.  I have also spoken twice at Breast Friends events and last week I spoke as a representative of Breast Friends at St. Mary’s Academy during their Breast Cancer Awareness Night Basketball games.  I was honored to share my story and remind the young ladies how important it is to do self-checks, talk to their doctors about anything odd and put their health first.

I have not moved forward on my book; life is just very busy.  Trying to fit in my time at Breast Friends, weekly volunteering in J’s classroom, walking the dog, taking care of a house full of people, fitting in a yoga class, having time for the husband and friends and also watching “A Million Little Things” and “This is Us” is a lot.   I did decide that I want to start my own non-profit organization where myself and others can take their therapy animals to visit those who are going through chemo at home and could use some cheering up and comfort from animals.  The first test animal will be our Golden Retreiver, Apollo.  He helped me during my treatment so much and I want to help others.   I mean, who would not love this face?

All in all, I am so thankful that time does heal wounds and you do move forward.  I cannot wait to see what the next year will bring in my life!  Being on “Ellen” to talk about my therapy no-profit (I really need to name it) is one of my goals; that may take a couple of years, but I’ll get there.  It’s good to have dreams.

Be Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving, a holiday known for excess eating of traditional food, a houseful of family or friends and possibly some football or card games.  It started out as the first celebration of the Pilgrims coming to the “new world” in 1619 and is also known as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest of the past year.  For most of us, it seems to have veered far from the early traditions.

For me, it is a day to remember that I am blessed with LIFE.

But this year, I am tired.  The thought of making a big diner with a turkey, stuffing, etc. was just too much.  We checked in with the kids and the in-laws, and decided that we were bucking tradition and having pizza for Thanksgiving dinner.  And it was awesome.  I did make a salad, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie, but it all went with 3 pizzas from Papa Murphy’s.  Prep time was minimal, dinner was great and clean-up was quick and I felt just as thankful as I did last year after shopping for, making, eating and cleaning up a full multi-course meal.

I am blessed in my life; I have a wonderful family and supportive friends.  We are going on an awesome vacation next week with good friends (and no kids!) to Disneyworld and Universal Orlando.  I am able to be a stay-at-home mom to my son and volunteer in his class and for his activities.  I give my time to an organization which supports women emotionally who are going through breast and ovarian cancer.

But most importantly, I am alive.

Cancer has invaded my body TWICE, yet here I am.

I have extra to be thankful for.  That my cancer was caught early and treated quickly.  I am currently NED (no evidence of disease) and my prognosis for living a long life is good.  Yet, why me?  I have met many people who have not been so lucky and have or will lose their lives to cancer.  That may happen to me someday, but today is not that day.

Every morning that I wake up is Thanksgiving day to me.  I am thankful that despite the pain that I endure from my medication, my breasts are not natural and the range of motion of my left arm is limited, I am alive and healthy.  I am thankful every day.

I am a speaker!!!!

I had the honor last Saturday of being the keynote speaker for the Breast Friends Survivor Luncheon!  I am so blessed with the support that I have in my life and that I have found my voice and know what I want to talk about.  The majority of the speech is here and soon I will have a better copy.  The beginning is cut off, so here it is:

Thank you, Sharon, and also to Breast Friends for letting me tell my story today.  Welcome to all of you: survivors, those living with cancer, family and friends.  I also want to thank my family, who all traveled to be here, my daughter Lily, who during the course of my treatment, whenever I needed anything said: “I’ve got you Shell” and she did and my husband who is my biggest supporter.  Last year, I was sitting in the audience: depressed, angry, in a lot of pain and having no idea what was going to happen in my life.  Now, I am here on this stage speaking to all of you with a new perspective.

A little over a year ago, I had seen an ad for the Susan G. Komen race for the cure and I remarked to my husband, “I am not being a very good cancer survivor.” (and here is where the video starts):




Race for the Cure

In August of 2017, I had seen an ad for the Susan G. Komen race for the cure and I because I had no desire to participate, I remarked to my husband, “I am not being a very good cancer survivor.”  His response, that still echoes with me today, was “you’re doing a great job at not dying.”

But I was not doing a very good job at “living” either.  Mainly because I was in a lot of pain; healing from multiple surgeries and the deep to the bone pain in my muscles and joints from the letrazole.  My favorite place was on the couch or in bed.  Lying down was all that I wanted to do, not that it completely eased the pain, but being horizontal lessened it.

I was also in a funk.  I tried to not outwardly project the “why me” feelings that were going through my head all of the time and to combat the depression, but it was hard.  Why did cancer attack my body twice?  Or why does it attack anyone?  I have no answers for that and at the time, it was really hitting me hard.  It took every ounce of energy that I had to get up, make sure my son got off to school and to deal with the dog and throw in a load of laundry.  Then it was back to bed for me.  The thought of walking, let alone running, in a 5K was SO not even a possibility in my life.

I halfway participated in a 1K walk with my husband’s company for support of the Seattle Children’s hospital in September, but mostly so I could see where J was when he ran it.  He ran to the end and then ran back to me and we finished it together.  That alone left me physically exhausted for the rest of the weekend.

Then it was deep into fall and winter.  In the Pacific Northwest, that means rain and a lot of it.  I love the rainy weather, but mostly when I can be inside, curled up with a blanket and a book, not out walking or exercising.  Slowly as spring came around, I started to venture outside and go for walks.  My dog and I had both gotten “fluffy” and we needed to shape up!  First it was to the end of the block and back, then to the end of the street.   We live at the bottom of a large hill and getting the energy to even walk up the long, mellow incline was a challenge at first.  Finally, I conquered that and would continue up the hill and around after seeing J off on the bus.   Next, I added walking down to the local field where I could throw the ball for Apollo.  He was in heaven and it was good for me to just move.  As we were walking, I would do the PT exercises to work on the range of motion for my left shoulder, trying to “heal” my whole body.  Slowly, I had gotten a little bit of stamina back.  Not that I will be running any marathons in the near future, but I can walk around the block and do a mile without wanting to take breaks every few minutes.  

This fall, the charity 5K sponsored by my husband’s company and the Komen Race for the Cure were the same weekend and I participated in both.  I walked the 1K for each, but it was a huge accomplishment for me.  It was a crazy weekend, driving up to the Seattle area on Friday afternoon, participating in the event for Seattle Children’s and the 1K on Saturday, touring around the Space Needle area, coming home, up at 5 am on Sunday to help set-up and man the Breast Friends booth with two of my tribe members at the Race and then walking the 1K.  At the end of it, I was a hot mess, but I made it.  I came home and slept for 4 hours that Sunday afternoon.

While at the Race, I helped out at the Breast Friends booth, talking to survivors, women newly diagnosed and family and friends of loved ones that have been lost.  It is so worthwhile to me to be a part of this organization that gives back in this way, supporting women emotionally as they go through possibly the worst time in their lives.  

I almost accidentally tried to walk the 5k that day with friends; I thought they were wanting to o the 1K walk so we started off.  When I realized what their intent was and gauged how bad my leg were already hurting, I chose to turn around and do the 1K when it started.  I knew that I would not make the 5K, as much as I wanted to.  So I walked with another survivor and her daughter and it was great.  To cross that finish line felt amazing.  Emotionally amazing.  Physically, I was in pain, just from the entire weekend’s activities, but I did it.  Seeing the variety of people there, young and old, in support of those affected by breast cancer was amazing.

It was a milestone for me and my goal for next year is to do walk the 5K with a team and fund raise for it.  Maybe one day, I will run it, but eh, I have never been a runner so I don’t want to go too crazy.

A hugs thanks to my friends Joleine Sigler and Jen Wynn for outfitting me for the race and to Kelly Gallagher for running for me!  Love you!


Warning. Whiny post ahead.

I am wiped out.

Why did I think things would calm down when school started?  All of my friends, as we randomly run into each other at Costco or Target since we can’t seem to ever get together due to vacation schedules, camps and who knows what, say the same thing: “Hey, summer has been so busy, let’s get together after school starts and we have more free time.”  HA HA F’in HA.

School started almost 4 weeks ago and I still have not had time to rest.  Well, that is technically not true.  I went back to bed after I sent J off of the bus the first day of school and slept like the dead for 3 hours.  Since then, it has been a revolving schedule of Costco, Cub Scouts, Walgreens, Fall Festival Planning, trying to get out to walk the dog, volunteering at Breast Friends and school activities, laundry, ninja classes and attempting to keep my house in order.  Add in Friday night lights at home football games at Tigard High School and also a few Oregon Duck’s games down in Eugene thrown in for good measure.  Oh and also a 34 hour trip to Seattle for a 5K with a visit to the Space Needle and the Komen Race for the Cure back in Portland the following day with a 5 am wake-up time.

Really, I am wiped out.  Even if I was not trying to get back some sense of “normal” post cancer, I would be wiped out.  Add all of this on top of aching joints like I am 90 years old, trouble sleeping (I wake up every night with hot flashes, not just at 3 am anymore, but now I have added a 1 am wake-up to my schedule) and overall fatigue.  Ugh.  I am surprised that the bags under my eyes are not bigger.

Did I mention that I have a cold?  Probably a sinus infection, but I am doubling down on Sudafed and Dayquil so I can attempt to function. I am leaving a trail of Kleenexes everywhere and am trying not to cough on anyone while washing my hands about 100 times a day.  I don’t have time to be sick or to rest.  It is hard to balance the things I need (sleep and being off my feet) with the commitments that I have made (scouts, volunteering) and the things I selfishly want to do (read books, watch This is Us or Grey’s, have mimosa brunches with my girlfriends and a night away with my husband).  The things I want to do seem to be taking a back seat the other stuff.  The cold will go away, but I will need to find a way to balance out everything that I have to do and still find time for myself.  If anyone has any pointers, I am would love to hear them!

At the end of summer, I had an appointment with my therapist and I made a promise to myself that I would set aside one day a week to write and another to do nothing.  For the past two weeks, I have managed to get some writing in, my bio and outline for and the then first draft of my speech for the survivor luncheon, but I have so many things to get out of my head for INeverLikedPink that I could write for days. Plus I want to start to really work on my book ideas.  This is my first post since July and it is now the end of September.  I feel like I have let myself down.  And a day for nothing?  That has yet to be scheduled.  I have yoga on my calendar for tomorrow morning, but the last thing I want to do is downward facing dog when my head is full of snot. And since I took a break while writing this, now yoga is off the list and I will doing things for the Fall Festival at school.

It sounds like I am complaining about all of the things that I do, and I am not.  I truly enjoy all of my volunteer activities and really believe in them.  Some days though, when I go from the Jog-a-thon to running errands to therapy to more errands, this time with the kid, to pulling together leftovers for dinner before a scout meeting all the while trying to not spread my germs, I wonder, where do I get off of this merry-go-round?  And I don’t even have a paying job!!  I look at many of my working mom friends who are such bad asses that they somehow work full time, manage their kids activities, work out, have a married life and don’t walk around with crazy eyes or a glass of wine in their hands at all times.  I am in awe of these women.

But for now, I need to remember that I chose my merry-go-round and I am blessed to be on it.  Being a two time cancer survivor has taught me so many things, but one of the most important is to not take any day for granted, no matter what I am doing.  We all do the best that we can, and it’s okay to be wiped out.


Relay for Life 2018

This weekend, the American Cancer Society is putting on the Relay for Life.  I was asked to contribute a story to a “book” which will be on display at the event.  Here is what I submitted, and I will be walking in the Survivors Lap with my tribe from Breast Friends.  Here is my story.

When I received my 2nd breast cancer diagnosis in January of 2017 (During snowmaggedon week when it had snowed 8 inches at my house in one day.  In Portland. What???), I had no idea that it would change my life for the better.  Yes, 2017 was the worst year of my life; I had a bi-lateral mastectomy with a latissimus back flap, a hysterectomy where everything was removed, reconstruction surgery and daily meds that severely mess with my body.  But in the end, I found my “twinkle.”

I walked into Breast Friends, desperate to do something, anything.  I had just quit a very part time job at my son’s school after 3 days.  I could not be on my feet for the required 2 hours a day in the lunchroom.  I was a mess and thought that maybe I could volunteer and feel useful again.  My body was still in limbo, healing from the multiple surgeries, dealing with forced menopause and fatigue.   All of this while trying to care for my 6-year-old son, teenage step-kids, house, dog and my husband.  I felt like I was failing at everything.

I started to volunteer at Breast Friends and signed up for the Survivor Luncheon and The Thrive Beyond Cancer weekend.  Both of them together helped me focus on my fears about cancer and life, how to conquer them and what I wanted to do next.  I had a private blog which I made public and started to write A LOT about my cancer and my life. I knew that I wanted to share my story with others. I call myself “an over-sharer,” but it really helps when you want to inspire others.  You have to be able to talk about the good and the bad things in your life.  I am going to turn it all into a book to inspire others who have gone through cancer or other life altering events.  I also want to get on a stage and speak to these same people and motivate them to make changes for the better in their lives. I know that I can do this and every day I am one step closer to making it happen.  Without my second round of cancer, my life would not have taken this turn and I may never have found the new path for my life.  For that I am grateful.

Michelle Beck


The Big 30

I just finished my last meal of The Whole30.  J likes to call it the “Big 30,” I have no idea why, but he has stuck with it the entire time, and I do identify with it.  This was BIG for me.  I LOVE food; not that I would ever call myself a foodie, but I so appreciate the things that I love: cheese, sourdough bread, Diet Coke, wine.  CARBS.  I could ditch sweets in an instant, but man I freakin’ love the salty carbs. The Whole30 is intense, but I needed a reset to my body and my eating.  Another fallout from the damn cancer.

Last year, after my mastectomy, I was at a low weight for me.  Then I had my hysterectomy where they took out my ovaries and everything else.  Hello forced menopause.  It is a miserable bitch.  My hormones went nuts and the weight started to accumulate, not just on my butt and legs, the usual culprits, but also on my stomach.  What the hell?? Even after having J, I still had a decent flat-ish stomach without stretch marks and a waist.  Not anymore. The fact that my meds cause fatigue and give me severe joint pain does not help.  The last thing I want to do is work out.  Hence a 30-pound weight gain in one year.  30 lbs. IN ONE YEAR.  I knew that I had put on weight by the way my clothes “fit” or rather did not fit and also by looking at my face.  I would joke that I was now “puffy” even though inside, I felt more like crying than joking.  I truly felt like a marshmallow.

After going to my regular Dr. for a check-up, I saw the listing of my weight over the past visits.  I was appalled and knew I had to make some changes before it got any worse.  I went home and spoke to Nate, “I think we need do The Whole30. Are you up for it?”  He agreed and we started doing research.  I have friends who have done it a couple times and while they say it is a challenge, they have had great results and looked fabulous at the end.  Nate found a website www.realplans.com which helps with meal planning and grocery lists and we ordered the Whole30 book. The following Monday was going to be Day 1.  We took this ridiculously long grocery list to New Seasons.  Lots of meat, a huge amount of fresh vegetables and fruit and foreign things like ghee, tahini, and pretend mayo made with avocado oil.  Do you have any idea what Coconut Aminos are?  Neither did I, but it went in so many recipes. Note: do NOT take your 7 year old on a shopping trip of this magnitude; it will be painful for all.

Nate spent about 4 hours doing food prep that Sunday afternoon, making veggie egg cups, bacon, grilling chicken breast and chopping vegetables.  With all of that and the meal planning from Real Plans, we were set.  The first morning was a rude awakening.  I love my coffee full of creamer and sweetness to enjoy it in the morning while I wake up.  I have been using Stevia for a while, but that was not even approved.  I knew I needed coffee for the caffeine so I braved on, using a “creamer” called Nut Pods with some cinnamon.  It was not what I wanted, but bearable.  Then came the eggs, SO MANY EGGS!  My saving graces for the month were bacon, avocados, and salsa.  If you put enough salsa on, most things taste a lot better.   When I sat down to eat my first lunch, I automatically went to the frig to get a Diet Coke.  UGH, nope.  Water is just not the same, but I powered through.  The first week was HARD.  Yes, cancer is hard, major life changes are hard, but it is all relative.  Cutting down the caffeine and sugar, I was a pretty big bitch and cranky, hangry and anything else that can describe a very hungry woman who just wanted her comfort food back.  Yes, this was my idea and I hoped that I could make it through, but each day was a new challenge. There was so much cooking involved, new meals almost every night.  My kitchen floor was filthy because apparently I am a very messy cook.

We used to go out to eat a lot, which was part of the problem.  It was my escape out of the house and I really enjoy eating in restaurants.  I like not having to plan meals, shop and cook. It gets so tedious and boring so Nate knows that I need those nights out.  We did go out a couple times just for a change, and I have a lot more willpower that I thought as J ate an entire basket of tortilla chips and we just watched.  I even brought my own salad dressing to Red Robin.  We did go to the movies a few times; once in the first week where there was a plethora of free popcorn, candy, sodas and cocktails.  I wish that I could say I enjoyed the sweet potato chips that I snuck in to go with the bottle of water, but I didn’t.

Throughout the month, Nate was doing great and had SO MUCH energy.  He was meeting with a personal trainer weekly and back at the gym.  I was not.  I was still dragging and having cravings.  Every day when I made J’s bagel with real, delicious butter for breakfast, it was a struggle.  I was stabby at lunch times when I would drive right by Taco Bell and go home for turkey slices and raw veggies.  When I opened up the giant package of fresh cookies from Costco for the Cub Scout family picnic, I almost lost it and put one in my mouth.  One the 10 hour drive yesterday down to my mom’s in California, I was dying for gum or candy to keep me busy.  We stopped at 7-Elevan so J could have a slurpee; I saw a woman getting a Big Gulp full of Diet Coke, and I almost gave in. “What’s the difference between 29 days and 30 days?” I said to myself.  I quickly paid for the slurpee and got back in the car.

But I made it. I did not cheat, other than weighing myself, which they say is a no-no by the true Whole30 guidelines.  I did it though, every couple of days to motivate myself.  It is not supposed to be about the weight, but more about changing your lifestyle and eating habits.  As of day 26, I had lost 13 lbs.  Now, at my mom’s, their scale needs a new random battery, but I know I am down more weight the past 4 days with an upset stomach and less food.  I figure it is about 15 at this point which I am good with. It’s a huge accomplishment to know that I made it.

They say it takes 21 days to make new habits and now after 30 days, I hope that I will make some better food choices.  I am not saying that I am not going to have bread and cheese and wine tomorrow, because I am.  But I am going to try and stay away from the Diet Coke and lots of carbs.  I am also planning on getting to the gym when I get home and walking the dog more and on longer routes.  I am definitely not going to let these 30 days go to waste.  Bye bye, Big 30, hello the rest of my new, thinner life.