Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Anna's 5 Stages of Dealing With Disappointment

I am no scientist. I like to read science-y things like research and theories and stuff, but I did not do any of that before typing this blog. I don’t know if someone else has developed a list similar to this or not and I certainly do not claim to know that everyone will experience disappointment in this way. All I can say is, this is what I have discovered about myself, and my goal is to move from initial disappointment to the final stage in as little time as possible. I almost always get there, but the length of time depends on many variables.

Stage 1 – Sadness and Self-Criticism

Disappointment effects people so differently. When something doesn’t go the way I want it to, I am immediately sad. I typically welcome sadness when needed, so it isn't a surprise that this is my initial reaction. Next I turn inward and beat myself up. When my 8yo experiences disappointment in a missed soccer goal or a poor video game outcome, he lashes out and says how unfair the world is and expresses anger. I turn inward and criticize myself and the many ways I allowed myself to mess up or contribute to the disappointment. This coupled with the sadness I feel for things not turning out as I hoped is a dark place for me.

It might be easier to illustrate this by using an example. Let’s take a recent race, which did not go as planned. I was cruising along feeling really strong (while ignoring some knee pain) when at mile 8 I realized I had to stop running. The realization that this race would not end the way I hoped brought me to almost instant tears. I then immediately began berating myself for a variety of things I was certain contributed to this disappointing situation in which I found myself.

Totally faking it and smiling through the knee pain.
Photo Credit: Janzow Photography

Stage 2 – Pity party, Why Me and Poor Me

After sadness and beating myself up over the initial disappointment, where I hate to be but can tend to stay for a while, comes the big ol’ pity party. I start feeling really sorry for myself. I think of all of the other disappointments that have come my way and wonder why nothing good ever happens for me. I feel like I am the only person in the world who has ever had something disappointing happen to them and I am so sorry for myself. Boo freaking hoo. I might even have some anger here at those I view as never having to face a challenge like whatever it is I am dealing with.

In relation to the race, I kind of went back and forth between pity party and sadness during the actual race. I was able to finish albeit hobbly, which definitely made things feel more positive, but as my knee pain persisted throughout the weekend so did the feeling really sorry for myself and my injured POS situation.

Happily, I don’t usually stay here very long. This is an important place for me to go though, for if I don’t go to this place, I can’t access my thoughts and feelings surrounding why this story I am telling myself is not the truth. If I don’t spend at least a little bit of time here, I can’t get to Stage 3.

Stage 3 – Gratitude

This is where I think of the many people in the world who have it so much worse off than me. My mind goes to my friends who are strong and fierce and who have disabilities that do not allow for them to experience the beauty and rush of a trail run. I think of the people I work with who have a debilitating disease that would love nothing more than to be out living their lives as opposed to being trapped in so many ways by the disease. It is here where I find my grateful heart and can appreciate all that life offers me, even in the times when what is happening might not make the most sense.

This stage initially happened during the race, which is why I could finish at all. In the race example and I imagine throughout lots of examples in my history, I spent some time dancing between these 3 stages. Sadness and self-criticism, poor me, why me, wait I’m grateful, this sucks, people have it worse than me, I’m sad. Eventually though, without a doubt, I move into Stage 4.

Stage 4 – Problem Solving

I know I am a creative problem solver. It is one of my superpowers and I take great pride in my ability to think of creative ways to solve problems. In times of disappointment though, I forget this is my power. It takes me a while to get here, and I often need to ask for help. I have people in my life I can reach out to who will remind me I am strong, who will build me up and help me see that I nearly always hold the key to my own success.

I know the root of my knee problems that keep derailing my racing goals is my gait. I know this, and began trying to problem solve on my own after the race and became quickly overwhelmed and discouraged. I tried to do it by myself and had not yet remembered my superpower. I reached out to a friend who reminded me of my strength and who helped me sort through the ridiculous amount of information, which is where the planning happens. I need to have a plan when things don’t go the way I hope they will. Problem solving and planning have to happen before I move into stage 5.

Stage 5 – Acceptance and Total Domination

Okay that might be a little dramatic but it really can feel this way sometimes. Once I accept that this is my story and I develop a plan that I begin to execute, I feel like I am totally dominating my own life. I got knocked down, but I am back up and better than before. When I face a disappointment or challenge or things don’t go the way I want them to, Stage 5 is when I use that experience as fuel for my learning fire. It is where I grow and become better. It is through these hard things and challenges that I become a better version of myself. When I can say “yes this bad thing happened, and it was the best thing that could have happened for me” I am accepting and I am dominating. I am in stage 5 when I realize that this situation didn’t happen to me, it happened for me.


In the race example, I moved across all of these stages in about 2.5 days. I finished the race Saturday morning and had made it to stage 5 by Monday night. My goal is to move through these stages in as little time as possible. Some issues or challenges take more time, and others it may be lightning fast. 

For an example of fast, say I am on my way to work and I hit really bad traffic. I’m going to be sad and criticize myself because I’ll be late and what does it say about me as a person to be late? How could I not be the super prepared person who knows better than to be late? (Stage 1) Then I’ll feel sorry for myself and say man, this always happens to me and why me and feel like the only person who has ever been stuck in traffic. (Stage 2) I’ll realize in the grand scheme of things how lucky I am to have a job and a place to be and will recognize the many people who don’t. (Stage 3) Then I’ll realize the people I work with are reasonable and will totally understand that things happen. All I need to do is make a call or send a text and it’s fine. (Stage 4) Lastly, I’ll recognize that this traffic could be preventing me from some other type of challenge, like an accident if I were in the wrong place or if I were driving faster (Stage 5). This thought process probably happens in about 2 minutes, if that.

Other times with big stuff, like my cancer diagnosis, I moved repeatedly through these stages and certainly not in a straight line. I can still look back and break that time into the various stages though.
Like I said, this is not based on any science besides my uber observation (read: over-analyzing/obsessing) of myself when I face something challenging. I think it is valuable to understand the ways in which we face challenges and discover the positive ways we cope.

There are some issues I face where I just can’t get past the pity party. I might sit there for weeks with a given situation and until I reach out for help to remind me of my problem-solving super power, will sit there frozen and totally prolonging advancement to the next stage. I feel strongly that the more we understand who we are and how we do things, the better we are as people. I am no expert, but I do feel a sense of empowerment by outlining all of this and being honest about the way I deal with things in my life. 

For those who know me well, let me know if you think I missed anything!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Space Between

About 10 years ago, when BBZ was a baby and blogging was huge, I read a post somewhere called “The Space Between”. The writer was a young mom who described this space as the space between the mother she was, and the mother she wanted to be. She talked about wanting to be the mom that encourages her children to take risks. The mom who knows life is short and the one who wants them to experience all that life has to offer. Meanwhile, the mom she felt she was wanted nothing more than to wrap them up in bubble wrap and protect them from the world we adults know is far from ideal. At the end of her post she wrote something along the lines of, "because the pain of living in a world that once knew them but they then left would be too much pain to bear."

My friend’s 7-year-old son died 5 days ago. He was healthy, then he wasn’t, and then he died. A sore knee and a bad headache was soon diagnosed as cancer soaring through his little body, ultimately causing multiple strokes from which he could not recover. Just like that. He died. Just like every mother I know has envisioned and prayed against since that precious baby was placed in their arms. There isn’t a mother in the world who hasn’t envisioned their child being taken away from them. It is a primal instinct to do everything in our power to protect our children, and we can only do this with the realization that they could be taken away at anytime. 

I had lunch with a social worker colleague recently who has spent her entire career in the field of grief and loss. She shared with me that when she is not teaching at a nearby university, she runs group and individual counseling for mothers who have lost a child. When she said this I immediately balked with the feeling that “I could never do that”. Familiar with this reaction she says to me, “I can do this work because I have a worldview that says short lives have a purpose in this world. My worldview believes that young and little souls have a place here, just as old souls do”.

A worldview. We all have our own way we see the world. Her worldview supports this idea of souls leaving this earth earlier than most foresee, so she is then able to support others who are struggling with how their world has been completely undone. This is not a worldview that many hold, yet it exists in her so she is able to support others. I find such beauty in this.

The space between. As I have been writing this post in my head I have really been exploring this idea. Do you know what is in that space? Do you know what lives in that space between who we are and who we want to be?


It's fear that takes up that space. I have been trying my hardest lately to embrace my fear, be energized by it and to run toward whatever scares me. It has lead to some really incredible things in my life recently.

I ran on a trail at night for the first time and discovered the exhilaration of running through dark trails with a headlamp and a new found child-like energy. I was scared of night running and wanted to see myself as brave and strong and able to complete night races sometime in the future. The only thing standing in that space was fear. Dealing with a knee injury dating back to October, I completely backed off running and have been going to the gym and even working with a trainer. I wanted to gain upper body and core strength but the gym seemed unfamiliar and scary. For years I have wanted to strengthen my muscles in the gym, yet my fear stopped me.

The space between the person I am and the person I want to be is full of fear.

There are so many things I hope to be. Yet the fear that lives in this space often seems bigger than what I can face. I want to be an exceptional wife who can love and be loved freely, I want to feel in control and caught up with all of my tasks at work, I want to be vulnerable and brave and adventurous in this life, I want to be a good friend, and I want to love myself with all of my many imperfections. Some of the fears living in the space surrounding these hopes will take a lot of hard work. Harder then showing up to a gym or a dark trail, anyway. Some of the fears living in these spaces run deeper than I even realize.

Experiencing this season of life with my friend is heart wrenching. I am fighting with myself to continue to fully experience joy as I am watching as someone I care about copes with one of the biggest fears a mom has - the loss of their child. I want to be the mom who doesn't waste a minute fearing the future, one who stays present and fully experiences each moment with them. Right now though, I am distracted by thoughts of how it would feel knowing they would not make it to the next grade, or of not being able to wash their hair in the bath again, or of walking through the child's section at the store knowing I no longer need to buy their size. These are all fears I have thought about as I envisioned what my friend will experience. The fear held in this space is so strong. 

Yet as parents we take on this role knowing that at any moment, our lives can be interrupted by tragedy. We willingly face the fear of bringing children into this world knowing the risks life ultimately brings. Yet we do it. We face our fear each day we send them into the world without the bubble wrap, with a zest for adventure and a desire for them to face their world without fear. We teach what we know, whether we mean to or not. If I want my boys to be willing to test the space between who they are and who they want to be, I need to approach them without fear. With the realization that if they are meant to be taken before I am ready, that it is the way my story is meant to be written.

We do our best to show up. We face our fears and try to teach our children well, with the plan to release them into the big bad world. If we're lucky, we challenge ourselves to test our own fears and eliminate the space between the person we are, and the person we hope to be.

Unfortunately, I have been to more funerals than I can count. When someone in my life dies, I am made to be face to face with how fleeting life really is. I see the world differently. It is now, in this delicate time where the truth about this precious life is so raw that I can explore some really hard questions...

What do I want?

What do I need to do to get there?

What fear is living in the space between where I am and that place I want to be?

Life really is short, and we don't have time for fear to stop us from being the person we are meant to be. To ourselves and to our children. Thanks for reading, friends.

P.S. Did anyone else sing "The Space Between" song by DMB during some of this post?? I sure did :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


3: to cause an intense and usually negative emotional reaction in someone

Being in the counseling space I’ve heard the word trigger for years. I’ve even used it a few times when talking about something sensitive in an attempt to keep someone from reliving a trauma in reaction to something I am about to say or do. I have even experienced some triggers in the past, but I never really suspected I had anything that I needed to be cautious of related to triggering past trauma. Yesterday and today has me rethinking that.

I had a doctor appointment yesterday to address nagging knee pain that hasn’t really improved since I hurt it during the Rockin’ Rockwoods 53k I ran back in October. I have seen my chiropractor regularly since then, and the knee pain would improve, then act up, then improve, and now 8 months later he and I agreed that we should probably look into what else might be going on (besides the really tight quad and calf that we have been working on).

A good friend recommended a particular sports medicine doctor and I was delighted to get in to see him within a week. I met with him yesterday and thought to myself when I got there how typical a doctor’s office is. They mostly ask the same questions and gather the same information. Weight, height, allergies, medications, etc. I noticed two differences this time: first, no one balked at the fact that I am an ultrarunner and have been running on the knee that’s causing pain for 8 months and second, this is the first new doctor visit I have been to in the last few years where I didn’t have to take off my pants. Dealing with a reproductive type of cancer, it seemed that every office I entered had this requirement. I noted this difference and reflected on the other visits I’ve had where I sat in the room for often more than an hour with no pants on and a sheet draped over my waist.

The appointment was pretty awesome. This doctor knows my chiropractor well and noted that if he wasn’t confident in that chiropractor’s care, he’d refer me to PT before doing anything. But because he knows him and is familiar with the level of care he provides to his patients, he was confident that we are past PT and needed to go in a different direction.

They took x-rays and I didn’t have to wear one of those long blanket things to cover my reproductive system because, well, most of it is not there. The x-rays were mostly normal but showed a couple of areas he wanted to look at more closely. He said we could do a cortisone shot which would definitely help, but if something else is happening in the knee, like a tear in the meniscus that he and my chiropractor hesitantly suspected, it will resurface later in life and could be detrimental in not only my running but even my just walking around. Next suggestion: a MRI.

So I had never had a MRI. I really didn’t even know what it was. I set the appointment for 7:45pm last night and googled to see what, if anything, I needed to do to prepare. It looked pretty standard so I figured I’d show up and go from there.

I won’t go into the details of the MRI, instead I’ll just say that I used lots of deep breathing and mindfulness meditation to get through it. The noise was intense and as I left it felt like my face was melted. Something happened in there that doesn’t feel safe, for real. I'm a believer in medical necessity but am also super comfortable with it being a last resort. I know it's supported by science as safe but for real. Face Melted.

Anyway, it’s done and the results are in and while he did see some "fray" on my meniscus that is a bit concerning, since it was only on one vs. the three angles that would necessitate a scope, we opted for a cortisone shot. Holy crap that hurt! I'm not afraid of shots at all. I have had more shots than I can recall over the years working in the healthcare field. Hep A, TB tests, etc. were just a part of the job. This was crazy and unexpected. I guess I should have googled cortisone shots first. Actually, maybe not! It's definitely a better step than a procedure like a scope that would require anesthesia though.

Thankfully this was all good news. What I didn’t expect in any of this was how this seemingly unrelated event would trigger so many memories for me. For the MRI, I had to remove all of my jewelry and place it in a bag in a locker, I had to do that before my other two cancer related surgeries. While the MRI tech at the hospital was quite friendly and kind, he is also there for his job and I am just another person on his schedule. It’s hard to not feel at least a little dehumanized when someone is hooking you up to stuff that you don’t understand. At least I was wearing pants this time, I thought.

Also, waiting for the results brought up so many feelings. For months and months I waited for results from test after test after test. Each one building upon the last that lead up to the final answer...cancer. I was so glad that this new doctor reached out to me almost first thing this morning to call me in for the results. There was no 3+ weeks waiting to find out what I was dealing with. That was a huge relief.

There is one tiny round spot on my MRI that he said something about but said was likely no big deal. Guess what I told myself it was? Cancer. Once it has been somewhere in your body, and the reality that it doesn't just happen to other people, it is a much more common concern. I'm other people to other people. It happens. It did happen. To me. And while unlikely it is a very clear fact that it can happen again.

My experience related to my cancer is something I thought I moved past. Never in a million years would I imagine that all of this would come flooding back to me after a seemingly unrelated doctor visit for a sore knee.

As with all of my past experiences, this is part of my life now. Each experience related to my cancer journey was traumatic in it's own way. The motion of moving from the gurney onto the surgery table scared and unsure of what was about to happen was extremely similar to the feeling of crawling onto the bed thing outside of the MRI machine not knowing what was about to happen to me. I think I have great coping mechanisms and do not feel like I repress these feelings, yet they jumped up out at me like it all happened yesterday. I remember each detail and can't help but find similarities.

Trigger. It's a real thing, even for people who cope really well with bad shit like I do.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Fully Experiencing Joy

It’s been quiet around here on this blog but things in my life have been less than quiet. Things have been joyous, and I have been soaking it up and basking in the belief that this life is so wonderful. It has not been without challenges, by any means. But after facing something like cancer, the definition of a challenge changes. I am incredibly grateful for where I am in this very moment.

Before I go too much into what I’ve been up to, I want to bring a concept up that sits in the back of my mind and reminds me to feel the joy I feel deeply, without foreboding. 

I have shared many times that Brene Brown is one of my very favorite public figures to follow. Her research-based approach to people and how we interact with the world around us has been life changing for me. One topic she discusses frequently is foreboding joy. She describes joy as the most vulnerable feeling humans can experience. The best example she has shared is that feeling of looking at your child sleeping, and you’re in awe of how much you could possibly love someone and how incredibly happy you are that they are in your life. Then immediately you imagine something awful happening to them. Basically you imagine your incredible joy being ripped away from you. In that moment of foreboding joy, we interrupt the full experience of joy out of the fear of losing it. That is the vulnerability associated with the feeling of joy.

Brene also explains that the antidote to this as gratitude. In those moments when I am snuggling with one or both of my boys and I breathe in their sweet smell and cannot imagine what my life would be without them, that feeling tries to sneak in, but I don’t allow it to. Instead I think about how grateful I am that they are in my life at all. I genuinely cannot imagine what life would be like without them, but I can promise that I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve had with them for anything in the world. If my story would include losing one of them, I wouldn’t do anything different. I would never go back and choose to NOT have them even if I knew I’d lose them. I, and the world around me, is a better place because they have been here. I am so grateful for every minute I have with them, and I will not waste one of them imagining something that hasn’t yet and very likely will never happen.

So all of this to say, I am fully experiencing the joy that is in my life right now. I have a job that is challenging and makes me work hard. N and I are adjusting to his new schedule and are enjoying the quiet life we have built for ourselves. The boys are strong and healthy and happy. I am running more miles and feel stronger than I maybe ever have in my life.

N bought me season tickets to the Broadway series at a St. Louis Theater for my birthday, so I saw some awesome musicals this season.

We added this handsome boy to our family.

I completed another 50 kilometer ultramarathon.

(Photo credit: Mile 90 Photography)

I ran the color run with this incredible group of ladies. They are strong and supportive and my own unicorn tribe.

I was invited to speak at the hooding ceremony where I went to graduate school.
From that talk I was invited to speak at another upcoming event.

I raced a 10k race and set a 2-minute PR.

I have made friends with a group of trail runners who I connect with in a deep and beautiful way. They make me laugh everyday and have offered to change my dirty socks during a run. Now that's friendship.

My heart is happy and full.

Life is good and I am enjoying it as much as I can. It’s funny but as I write this I feel how vulnerable it feels. As though since I am putting this happiness out there it is somehow going to curse me and make something bad happen. Isn’t that crazy how we do that? It’s the knock on wood theory, right? If you say something hopeful out load you have to follow it up with an understanding that it might go away. How crazy is that?

It’s the fear of fully experiencing joy, and I won’t entertain it. I will practice gratitude and recognize all who are hurting right now. I am not hurting, so I am not going to waste my time worrying that I might hurt later.

The new job I started earlier this year is going so well. I work with people with ALS, which is a terminal illness. There is no cure, and there are very few treatments. ALS causes a series of losses that slowly but surely take away all physical abilities from a person, ultimately including the person’s ability to breathe. I work with people in their homes and at their doctor’s office. Sometimes, I am the first person they see after they are told they have this awful disease. 

Can you imagine that for a moment? Seriously. Read this and then close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to sit in a doctor’s office and be told that you have a disease with a prognosis of 2-5 years. A disease that will take your ability to walk, to talk and eventually to breathe. Pause and try to experience what that might be like. Who would you call? How would you tell them? What would you tell your friends and family? What would that pain be like?

I have sat with people who have this disease and I have looked them in the eye as they face their pain. Seeing this kind of pain makes the rest of the world look pretty bright. Being invited into this intimate moment of their life is an honor. Not being able to fix it feels helpless. I cannot fix it, but I can sit with them and assure them that I will not look away. I will not look away from their pain and leave them there to hold it alone. Being able to give them this is one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be in the position I am in to be able to do this. It feel like it is what I am meant to do.

I practice something similar at home. My LBZ is 7.5 years old now (WHAT??), and he is what I would call a very emotional little guy. When he feels something, he feels it with his entire self. He wears his happiness like a colorful cape that follows him around and shines in the sunlight. His fear and pain come out in bursts of uncontrollable tears and yelling. He is full of big and beautiful emotions.

While he is mostly happy, occasionally he is overrun with sadness. It often happens at night, and his little tears flow and he tells of all of the horrible things that happened in the last few months that feel like they happened in the last twenty minutes. He wraps himself up into a ball of tears and sadness and it can make me feel so helpless.

In these moments though, he doesn’t need me to fix those things that happened. He doesn’t need me to problem solve or tell him that everything will be okay. What I say to him is always the same:

“You are so sad. Everything feels sad. I am so sorry that you’re feeling so sad. I am going to stay here with you so you do not have to feel sad by yourself.”

Isn’t that what we all want when we are feeling sad and overwhelmed? We don’t need someone telling us how to fix it, that only communicates that the person giving advice is better at life than the person struggling. What we want is validation and the knowledge that no matter how bad things get, the person will not turn away from it. It’s a gift we can give someone, to be willing to sit with them and their pain.

So my job is a unique combination of holding space for feelings and helping them to solve the problem. I need to be able to do both, which is a nice fit and combination for my personality style. One of my favorite things to do is problem solve. A man I work with loves to cook but gets very tired when he stands in the kitchen and was looking for something to help him conserve his energy and allow him to keep doing this task that he enjoys so much. We talked about a wheelchair but he doesn’t need that yet. We decided to try an office chair that he can perch up high and roll around from the kitchen to the dining room. I’m excited to see if this works.

Another man I work with explained that he felt incredibly tired after his last doctor appointment because of the long walk from the garage to the clinic. We talked about a manual wheelchair and he is resistant to doing this because the wheelchair means that things have declined. This is a very common issue for people who need adaptive equipment. They see a cane or a walker or a wheelchair as a sign of decline. I work with people to reframe their outlook on the equipment and to try and see it as an avenue for independence, not a sign of things worsening. If he uses the manual wheelchair, he will have the energy to make it through the doctor appointment with a clear and fresh mind. Although as we talked we decided it would be much cooler to have a golf cart driving around the doctor’s building giving people rides. That was a fun discussion.

I know firsthand what it’s like to sit in an office and get news that I didn’t want to hear. My disease had a treatment. My disease had a cure. I can honestly say I have put it behind me, although I do feel a loss I didn’t expect. While N and I were clear that we didn’t want more children, there is a big difference between choosing not to have more children and being unable to have more children. It is a loss I didn’t anticipate that shows up as sadness occasionally. Sadness for what might have been had things been different.

Not that I really wanted more kids anyway. Starting all over with an infant would be SO HARD! 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

My World After Cancer

The world looks different after cancer.

It's a bit hard to explain but I’ll try. First though, while I consider myself quite lucky since I didn't have to go through actual cancer treatment, I still feel that I faced something most of us fear - the potential loss of the dream we have of a long and healthy life.

I find myself feeling the need to justify the impact this experience had on me since my experience was pretty mild compared to what many people facing cancer go through. I am going to try and just speak for what this has been like for me, without comparing it to the experiences of others. It is difficult for me to talk about something being bad for me when others have it so much worse. I also feel that I need to honor the impact this experience had on me so I can own it and move forward.

Being off work for 7 weeks after my surgery was absolutely wonderful. I loved being home, having no deadlines or requirements, and basically just managing the day-to-day operations of my home. Once I gained my strength back I went on walks, cooked lots of meals, followed up on all of my doctor appointments, and most importantly, I met the boys at the bus stop every day.

I have always done the morning drop-off and while hectic, I love the extra time with the boys in the morning. Getting them off the bus though, with their big smiles and huge hugs and desperate need to talk over each other in an attempt to be the first to tell me about their day...that is the stuff of life. Seeing this part of their day was so wonderful. I was really, really sad when this ended.

The first couple of weeks back at work were really hard. The work I do is not hard, so I don't mean that the tasks were hard. Readjusting to life after an experience like cancer has been really, really hard.

As I struggled with the first few weeks back, I was desperate to figure out why I was so unhappy and what on earth I could do about it. At first I thought that the answer was I wanted to spend more time with the boys. That my life was meant to be defined by how well I raise these beautiful little people who are growing and changing before my eyes. I reached out to my boss and talked about reducing my hours. As I shared with her what I was struggling with, I realized it wasn't just the amount of time I was away from the boys that was bothering me but rather what I am doing when I am not with them.

I have been yearning for something more from my job for a while. As a counselor, I enjoy being with people and helping them grow. As a leader, I enjoy supervising a team and seeing professionals in my charge provide excellent services and grow in their careers. My current job does not allow for opportunities for either of these preferences.

I knew this when I took the job, and wanted the reprieve of this type of job after my last experience that while wonderful, left me feeling stretched thinner than any other job I've had. I also feel like that job I left challenged me more than any other and forced me to grow.

The world looks different after cancer. I am no longer willing to do a job that I don't enjoy. I am no longer willing to spend time away from my boys that is not spent doing exactly what I want to be doing. I am no longer scared of the uncomfortable conversations and conflicts that come up when managing a team. I am no longer unsure of my own strength and no longer afraid of what might happen if I try a new thing.

There’s a running joke in my house that I always start sentences with “I was listening to this podcast”… N even got me a t-shirt with this as my catch phrase.

I love learning new information, and I don’t enjoy reading. Mostly because reading forces me to sit down and I’m not great at that. I am great at taking walks though! Walking and listening to podcasts is how I usually spend my lunch hour.

I listened to two very influential podcasts in November and December that gave me the push to change the thing in my life I seemed to want to change. I started to include some specifics about those podcasts but it is super long and can totally be a post on its own. Stay tuned for that.

Since listening to these two podcasts and doing some pretty serious self-exploration and self-development, I applied for a job as a director, interviewed, easily found six references willing to support me, and was offered and accepted the position.

I showed up to both interviews as completely myself. I didn’t dress up, I didn’t pretend to be something I wasn’t just to get the job. I was me, take it or leave it, and the ED nearly hired me on the spot.

My sister came in town for the holidays, and she and I are both tattoo fans. I got this new tattoo, without really realizing the statement I was making until I was visiting with another survivor friend a few days after I got it. She said, “Doesn’t it feel like you don’t give a shit what people think after you go through cancer?” Man, if that is not true I don’t know what is. It’s like a badge of honor. Every time I look down at my wrist I am reminded that I am exactly who I am, and not only am I free to show up just as I am but I have a responsibility to do so.

The recruiter who worked with me for this job asked for six references. Six!! That’s a lot of people. As I thought back to my previous jobs it was actually pretty easy to think of people to ask. Each of them said they felt honored to speak on my behalf. I have such a strong and supportive tribe surrounding me. Here’s a fun fact I didn’t realize until I was writing the references down...all three of my personal references are women, and all three own their own businesses. I’m surrounded by some pretty amazing women!

I found a job that will allow me to supervise a team, to have direct contact with people who are dealing with an illness, and that will give me access to clinics within hospitals so I might share how to better treat and care for people who are sick. Plus its more money, which is a plus :)

This job is the culmination of the skills built throughout my career combined with my new knowledge of what it feels like to be diagnosed with a disease. I have spent the last 19 years supporting people with various disabilities with only my empathy to help me understand what it must be like. Because of cancer, I now understand disability more than I ever have before.

A survivor friend’s cancer has returned. Once a person finds and rids the body of cancer, a fear it will return always lingers. My heart is heavy for my friend. Not because I feel sorry for him, I certainly don't, his strength is something to be coveted. I simply feel angry that he has to go through this again. Isn't once enough!? His experience also brings up the fear that accompanies the reality that what I went through isn't necessarily the end. Therefore, I will waste no more time being unsatisfied with any aspect of my life. This is the beginning of whatever is next.

My world after cancer.

More beautiful,
more trust,
more courageous,
more open,
more vulnerable…

…and just beginning.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined.
~Henry David Thoreau