Identity Theft

A year ago today, I returned home from the spa (that’s how people refer to a long term stay at a medical facility, right?) I can’t believe that an entire year has passed since then and I’m still discovering so much about myself and the world in which we live. It was all so simple when I was trapped at home for those nine months, on figurative and sort of literal house arrest. I pretty much spent the time at my leisure – taking morning walks with Jax and catching up on reading, writing, drawing, etc. Put it this way, had I been a bit older I like to think I would have qualified for the Red Hat Society. Then January came and with it was the possibility of returning to work and an abbreviated life. It was awesome to hear the “all clear” and once I walked back into the halls of the high school where I work, it was like I never left.

Nearly five months have passed since then and while some things are exactly the way they were pre- transplant others have left me feeling like I’m in an episode of the body snatchers (that’s a thing, right?) I look in the mirror and am not quite convinced that the woman with the thick curly dark hair is me (I’m pretty sure I had fine straight blondish hair for pretty much ever). I’m also not entirely sure of when I entered the world of hot flashes. I’m pretty sure I’ve been living in my own personal summer for months now, so the advent spring was not nearly as exciting for me. Now it just means that my current system of limited clothing, one leg sticking out from under the sheet and constantly flipping to the cool side of the pillow will have little to no impact. On the plus side, I recently applied the patch and my personal summer is more like summering in northern Canada. So figuring out the middle aged thing at thirty is definitely new, despite having just turned one year old based on my new stem cells. (My friends threw me an awesome first birthday party complete with bibs, baby bottles, a smash cake and even a photo booth. It was really awesome and proves how lucky I am. It came on the heels of my real birthday which also brought great celebrations. So clearly, April is my most favorite month – with two birthdays and a vacation week!) But add the body snatcher elements to my new energy level – think the tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare and new perspective on life; I’m like a whole new person, a happy person but definitely new.

That must be why someone opted to steal my identity, because who wouldn’t want to be me, right? I found out a week ago that someone stole my identity and bought some stuff. Luckily, I’m one of those crazy people with alerts on everything and found out pretty quickly. I have to say that it has been a hassle to deal with, but in the grand scheme of my life definitely minor. I don’t blame them, my life is pretty awesome! I spent this past weekend showering one of my favorite people with love to celebrate her upcoming nuptials, reconnecting with an old friend who lives across the country, chatting with another friend for hours on the phone, arguing over a comforter set in Target with my fiancee’ (like a real couple, we haven’t had the opportunity to do much of that in this past year other than our long weekend getaway a few weeks ago). My “new” life is as full as my last one, only now the future seems less scary in some ways. That’s not to say that the scars from Hodge have all disappeared because they haven’t, now they just serve as reminders of how far I’ve come. The new me definitely exudes more confidence, looks at the world in awe, (I honestly spent quality time watching a weasel play in the garden at the cancer center today) and makes sure I appreciate everything! So I hope the party that pilfered my identity gets those qualities and not just my money (of which there isn’t a whole lot, so jokes on them).



The Friend Connection

As I was catching up on my magazine subscriptions, of which there are so many, I came across an article about how to live longer. The article toted expert advice from “really” old people around the world and what they had to say was profound, comedic, sensible, and sometimes crazy. In other words, it was exactly as it should be. There is no formula that guarantees we get to be one hundred and twenty two like the oldest person on record, even if we do swear by a Mediterranean diet. We could go out and an exercise everyday and focus on low inflammation, heart healthy diet and still not exceed fifty. Life has zero guarantees and that my friend is 100% accurate. Sure people don’t want to think about the fact that we all eventually die, but we are the only species who seems to constantly reflect on that fact. And while it is most definitely true, so what. I still think I’ll pass on Tim McGraw’s vocal wisdom to “live like you were dying” because I think making hasty choices with that in mind is equally as ridiculous as hiding from the possibility. The magazine article didn’t have any definite plans for longevity but suggested that people live longer when they live in a state of happy.  Now that doesn’t mean one should be so optimistic that they overlook potential issues but nor should a person be so anxiety ridden that they stress them selves out to the point of creating issues.

Finding a state of happy isn’t easy, but the article boasted one simple way of doing that and increasing both your life line and laugh lines, make friends. And maybe you don’t need more friends, but then you should nurture the friendships you already have. Cultivate your relationship by keeping in touch, making real plans, going on adventures, be congratulatory when it applies and sympathetic when it’s needed, just be a good friend. I thought about it in my own life and I like to think I work hard to cultivate my relationships in an earnest way, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that I can do better. I can make sure to call that friend from college I haven’t talked to in a few months, send an I was thinking of you note to my bestie in California, shoot a text message to my “almost” sister in law and soon to be maid of honor. I can make sure I check in with my colleague who I rarely see even though we are stationed down the hall from one another. Those are the things that matter. Think about how much happier you are when you are sharing an experience with a friend, or laughing about an inside joke that only you and she or he might understand. The other day, I was watching How I Met Your Mother with Josh (and yes I know we’re behind the times) when Barney referenced Terrence Trent D’Arby and I knew in my soul I had to send one of my best and oldest friends, Tammy, a message to let her know about the reference for reasons only she could understand. And she did and then sent me a message when the show she was watching made a reference several days later. It was meant to be. I love moments like that! I love finding secret messages in my mailbox from a high school friend, turned colleague, stating that she’s happy we are in high school together again. Day made, instantly. The friend connection makes even the worst day bearable so imagine how much better it can make an already great day.

I was thinking about these connections and how they come to be. Some people you happen upon, others you chased from a class once so you could force a meeting just a little quicker (Sorry about that Camille, still glad it happened!), sometimes you meet them at work or through other friends. No matter how it happens those connections matter. My most recent connection has been with my donor. I wrote her a letter of gratitude for saving my life several months ago and thanks to some red tape, I just received her letter five months after she sent it, but so what. How awesome is that?! I opened the mail and there was this beautifully penned letter, hand stamped with a gorgeous bird on it. She clearly has my affinity for stationary, which is an added bonus. I learned that she is just an incredible human, which I already knew but now I’m sure of it and I look forward to cultivating that friendship. I already purchased some new stationary to write back. I look forward to the day when I can someday say thank you in person for giving me a second chance at a life I wouldn’t have had otherwise. We are infinitely connected.

I like to connect with people and finding out that it may help lengthen my life makes it even better. Other suggestions were to maintain faith in something, whether that be religious or spiritual or something else. I had a student recently ask my why religion matters and what would happen if it was taken away like Stalin did in Soviet Russia and I said that people would struggle with the absence of hope and find ways to reignite it. I believe that, hope and faith offers solace. It may not fix the world’s problems, of which there are many, but it may offer some comfort to those who believe in it.

So while there is no formula for how to get to be a hundred, I would say that making and keeping friends, having faith in your life, and finding your happy makes for the years you are granted all that much better. I think of Josh’s grandmother who has a social calendar that makes mine look sad. At ninety five, she gets out and walks daily with her furry companion, attends Church services, belongs to a book club, frequents the theater, turns up the volume on the Red Sox, wins pretty much every game of corn hole, still golfs, and sends e-cards and real cards for all sorts of occasions. I think she’s pretty remarkable but more importantly I think she figured out what makes her happy a long time ago. I hope when I’m that age, my social calendar is full and I’m still sharing inside jokes with my favorite people. e781bab51c5b8aa196cfde6b04b6e5a7(1)


Life with a hint of Lysol

I prefer to think of myself more as a Kate Spade Live Colorfully kind of girl or perhaps even a touch of Chanel No. 5, but alas the scent that lingers is a hint of Lysol. I only say this slightly in jest, because it really does stay with you. The conditions of returning to work came with an emphasis on avoiding germs, especially in the height of the worst flu epidemics in years. Whatever strain is out there is claiming lives across the country and I am unfortunately at a greater risk for being susceptible to it thanks to my weakened immune system. But there is no way to avoid flu season, not anymore. According to JacquelineHoward, a correspondent for CNN, the CDCreported that while this flu season is similar to that of the Swine Flu craze which occurred in both 2009 and 2014. The primary difference is that forty nine states (excluding Hawaii) have reported spikes in confirmed cases of the flu at the exact same time. The hope is that peak season is upon us but in reality the flue has the potential to last from October to May. So no chance on avoiding people for that long. While this is should be a concern for people in general I have to take precautions a little more seriously than vigilant hand washing. Enter Lysol.

My classroom is like every other teachers’ or at least every teacher who hates blank wall space and a drab color scheme. I spend a good chunk of time in that room, so it needs to be inviting for both me and the students. It’s littered with inspirational messages, fluorescent accents, maps, bumper stickers, informative posters, post cards from historical places, and even historical finger puppets. I promise there is no official puppet show time. I Lysollike to think my classroom always had an odor of knowledge if that’s a thing, thanks to the old and new book smell that lingered in the air. Well not this year. If you were to walk in my room right now it would smell like Lysol. The air purifiers with UV may even tone it down some, but the hint of it is always there. I come in early and turn on the purifiers, which really do make the air quality so much better. One even hooks to my phone, so I can regulate with bluetooth. Technology has really come a long way. I should thank my STEM teacher friends more. The children hand sanitize upon entry and at the end of every day I Lysol the space. If I leave my classroom I wear gloves and a mask in some areas. I like to think I’m getting back to my real life with a hint of Lysol as a reminder of where I’ve been (not that I need one). This is my first step toward normal. I still cannot frequent other public spaces without donning a mask and gloves until the year mark in April. It’s something of a slow start. And I’m happy for it.

I actually told my high school students that it felt like I wasn’t working because I was just so excited to have conversations with people aside from my immediate family and a golden retriever who so rarely replies. They may not feel that way considering I assign them homework and make them do ‘teacher fun’ activities. But for week one they seemed happy to have me back and more than considerate to follow the safety precautions. And maybe someday I’ll market a ‘hint of Lysol’ as a fresh clean smelling parfume.


“We know the dirty secret: You don’t battle cancer. You don’t fight it. If cancer wants you, it walks into your room at night and just takes you. It doesn’t give a damn how tough you are. The only way you survive is through a mix of science, early detection, health insurance and luck. Courage has nothing to do with it.”

Josh Friedman :It’s O.K. to be a coward about cancer, Time Magazine August 7, 2017

I read this article article several months ago and dog eared it, then ripped from the spine, and more recently scribbled notes on it. I needed to mull it over, process what Josh Friedman, the screenwriter, was actually saying. He is a self proclaimed coward, one who felt utterly betrayed by his body. And to me that makes perfect sense. I too am a coward who felt betrayed by her own body. I was afraid that death would come from me like a scene out of the Deathly Hallows in Harry Potter. (We just watched all seven movies these past few weekends, hence the reference.) It had come for so many before me without any consideration for the incredible human it may have captured. At no point did I wrap my wrists and put on pink boxing gloves and think I will strike back hard and death will retreat. That’s just not a thing. People tell me all of the time how brave I am or how strong, but in all sincerity I got lucky. I say that with certainty because one of the strongest and bravest people I had ever known didn’t make it. And for that I agree with Josh Friedman ” Because when we glorify strength without showing empathy for weakness, we end up with a toxic version of heroism, one that links bravery to goodness and cowardice to getting what you deserve.” No one deserves cancer and the people who don’t survive it are no less brave than those who do.

The ‘battlefield’ of cancer is difficult to navigate. There is no right way to deal for the patient, their loved ones, caregivers, friends, colleagues, etc. and yet it feels like their should be. Like maybe someone needs to write a What to expect when your expecting cancer handbook. One that outlines how each party should respond. What to do or not to do. What to say or not to say. I don’t have those answers. Even in the aftermath, I have absolutely no idea. What I know is that it’s never over. Cancer will forever be part of the life you have. And it may manifest as scanxiety at yearly appointments, ptsd, depression, brain fog, physical disabilities, etc. Or may be a shift in thinking, a new zeal for life. Regardless of the good or bad, it exists. The fear of dying doesn’t just one day disappear. If anything you make peace with it and pray that you have the ‘invisible cloak’ that keeps death from finding you for a very long time.

I think it’s important to say out loud that it’s okay to be a coward about cancer. It’s okay to full fledge panic when you hear those words applied to you. It’s okay that the experience sticks with you. No one else has to understand it. You hope others empathize, but sometimes it’s inconceivable unless it’s happening to you. I think the true test of courage is in your resiliency. Can you face crushing disappointment time and again and still find a way to keep pushing forward? Were you able to be thankful for the life you had even when the future seemed improbable? Those aren’t easy things and I commend anyone whether they have ever had a life threatening illness or not who is able to do that.

I guess I needed to mull over this article to acknowledge that no part of this experience has been without cost. And no part has been without fear. And even so, every single time I hear the lyrics:

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song

I want to shout them at the top of my lungs. (Maybe I would have said sing if I wasn’t tone deaf, but I can’t really be sure about that.) But I think it’s important to note that I am no braver or stronger than anyone else. I did what I had to do and thankfully it has worked thus far. I had my nine month scan, with minimal scanxiety attached, and had no evidence of disease or lymphoma progression. I got my first set of vaccines and was cleared to return to work with the understanding that I had to remain vigilant about keeping a distance from sick people and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. More on how I accomplish that in the future. I know that I am grateful for my resiliency but I am equally grateful for having an opportunity to grow emotionally and spiritually as a result. I can ask for help, something I struggled with in the past. I can tell people no, because I no longer need to please. I can relax. I can love fiercely. I can be a better friend.

So it’s okay to be a coward, it’s okay to fight, it’s okay to be numb, it’s okay to feel too much. It’s up to you. Cancer doesn’t decide.

A Quick and Easy Guide to Happiness

In my quest to be Hallmark Happy in 2018, I’ve been taking mental notes and literal snapshots of suggested ‘happiness tricks’ to try out. So we are fourteen days in and here is what I have discovered thus far: happiness is a choice and by making that choice you are choosing to do things that you believe will make you happy. And that may look different to everyone. I cut out this quick and easy guide from Time magazine and thought why not…

IMG_2027Write a thank you note. No problem. I write thank you notes all of the time. Possibly because Emily Post has sanctioned it as proper etiquette or because I have an affinity for stationary and all things pretty paper or because I like this old fashioned form of communications. Regardless of the why, it really does make me happy to thank others for their kindness and generosity. Real Simple recently said that the thank you note was obsolete and that maybe so, but I think it’s unfortunate. So maybe you shouldn’t expect to receive one in the near future but at the very least considering writing one because it could make you just a little bit happier.

Snap a Smart Phone Photo. Don’t mind if I do. I am by nature a documenter of life. I know that it’s important to be present and in the moment instead of behind the camera, but as someone who has feared having a finite number of moments it has been increasingly more important to me to document them. A very close friend once said to me that she wished she had more videos, more photos of her loved one because they’re all that she has left of them now. Plus why wouldn’t you want to capture all those great moments in life. Just this weekend I snapped photos of every smile I could at our cake tasting, family gathering, dog playing. Do it and print them. Surround yourself with happy moments of your life. Sometimes the little things really are the big things. I recently read an article written by a 27 year old who didn’t get the chance to beat her cancer and her words definitely resonated; appreciate the life you have!

Drop (almost) everything. Easy doing at this current juncture. I would have sworn to you nine months ago that I was completely incapable of this. I was anxious getting a facial for the ten minutes when she told me to relax, because I felt like their were other things I should be doing. But not anymore. I appreciate the down time, the opportunity to just be. Maybe that means spending an afternoon unexpectedly napping, take the dog for a walk, watching a movie you may have already watched; just taking some time to unwind. I’m mastering it now and worry about how to get back into the swing of my harried work schedule.

Get some sun. So years ago when all of the self help guides suggested getting out in nature I scoffed and now I know that I shouldn’t have. I should have wanted to go out chasing butterflies in the yard and letting the sun shine on my face, soaking up all the Vitamin D I could get. I may have arrived late to the party, but I definitely got there. Now most days I jump at the chance to get outside and take a walk, photograph the landscape and the wildlife. It’s peaceful and helps me feel grounded. I can’t wait to hit the hiking trails in the spring and am still considering some winter activities.

Jot down what you are grateful for. I love the concept of a gratitude journal or even just writing down a positive note from the day like the Happiness Project suggests. It really does help you reflect on the good things rather than the less than perfect things we tend to dwell on. I stopped journaling when I got sick a few years ago, maybe because I just let myself be too busy or I was bogged down in what I couldn’t control, but I missed it. And since getting back into it, I find it meaningful. I want to look back someday at the year I was engaged and remember singing Champagne Supernova in the car on repeat.

Think about doing someone a favor. I have always enjoyed doing things for others. I pay attention and surprise them with that gift they mentioned once upon a time or drop a note in the mail when I’m randomly thinking of someone. It makes me happy to make others happy. I have been finding little ways to show people in my life that I care and I’ve been doing more of it since the New Year. I read an article about a couple who committed to doing 365 days of acts of kindness and the impact it had on their lives. They claimed 2017 was their best year ever as a result, they did so many unexpected things and met so many unexpected people. They were living their best lives and became even more incredible humans. We are living in a world that seems to lack empathy and compassion, so why not be part of a bigger movement that showers strangers with kindness. I’m hoping to find ways to demonstrate kindness that exist outside of my network.

Do a mini meditation. This one was a little more difficult for me. Meditation is an interesting concept but it’s pretty much foreign to me. I had to put some additional thought and energy into this practice. I started by using the meditation setting on my fitbit and would use it when I was in the car waiting for someone. Then I added the headspace app on my phone and would occasionally add that. The quiet was nice but I’m not sure that I feel as though it made me happier. I did however decide to be mindful about the practice and built it in to my morning stretching and sun salutation routine. Verdict is still out for me on this one.

Buy tickets to events. I’m all about experiences. I think about my annual summer vacation with one of my closest friends, we have experiences. We go to the movies, 5 Wit escape rooms, and so more. Those are the things I remember. Same with one of my oldest friends, we made a resolution years ago to do new things and it took us to great places, even to Philadelphia to run the MFA steps like Rocky. In thinking we definitely need to bring that resolution back. I haven’t had the opportunity to buy any tickets primarily because I’m still not suppose to frequent public spaces for several more months, but once I can I’ll be sure to add this to my list.

These were just a few suggestions, but I’m glad I tried them. I choose to be happy and have been consciously making that choice since my cancer diagnosis. Life is what you make of it, better or worse. You choose.



Hallmark Happy

As 2018 kicks off, I’ve been thinking about what I hope the coming year will bring. There is always so much hope and promise in the new year. It’s a new beginning, a fresh start and I think people need that or at least I do. And I know that you can begin a new every single morning that you are blessed enough to wake up to, but for me that just gives me way too many chances – 365 to be exact. I need a hard and fast start date. So for me, January 1st has always been it.

A friend recently asked me if I had any resolutions and normally I have a list a mile long, but this year I don’t have any.  Resolutions are a firm decision to do or not to do and this year, I want nothing more than to be Hallmark happy. I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, like maybe I’ve had one too many sips of eggnog while watching Christmas movies at the end of the season. But really take a moment and think about it. The Hallmark Channel sells us joy in the form of romanticized feel good movies, that yes are targeted a female audience; but still, who doesn’t want joy? We spend a considerable amount of time in our lives working without play, worrying, stressed, tired, far too busy, watching and reading dramatic “joyless” stories. Doesn’t it make sense to want to be Hallmark happy? I spent the last week of 2017 into 2018 predominantly watching Hallmark, spending time with friends and family, and being grateful for my beautifully messy life and I felt completely at ease and at peace with myself. I feel like that’s something we so rarely say because there is always something we should be running off to do. But what if we could balance it all just a little better? So I didn’t make a resolution to do a set number of things, instead I resolve to be Hallmark happy and that starts with gratitude, reflection, and love in all forms.

In my opinion, the world needs more Hallmark! Would it really be so bad if people conscientiously practiced self care and mindfulness; if they were genuinely grateful for what they had, even if it isn’t everything they wanted; if they showed compassion and empathy to all, even strangers? Just a thought as I go into 2018 with a light heart and a new year full of hope, possibility, and the prospect of creating my own Hallmark Happy. Happy New Year!




In 2007, Springsteen recorded Radio Nowhere about his frustrations regarding music in the digital age and I completely understand why. We live in a world where we are inundated by media on every social network that exists, every morning and evening television program; and still there is something missing. “This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?” For me that something missing is how we interpret what we see, read, forward, retweet, #hashtag, share, etc. I am guilty of getting information via facebook when my eyes are barely open at 5 am and zero caffeine has entered my system. I read and am generally appalled but mostly I’m skeptical. Is what I’m reading real or the infamous “fake news” Trump is always yammering about. He’s not wrong in that sense there is such a thing as fake news, it generally isn’t what he wants us to believe is fake, but it does exist here in America and around the globe. Leaders across free nations are taking it very seriously, as they should. And the reason why is because people have always taken what they read as truth without further consideration and often pass it along almost automatically.  Because it is in print is must be real. However, what is real is not always true or accurate, nor is it without personal bias. I admit to you I’m drawn toward liberal based news, partly because I find it more accessible to the reader. The difference is that I am aware of my biases and am aware of the fact that I am addicted to print.

Once I’m done browsing facebook for who knows what (to potentially see the next terrifying insect or reptile to emerge in the Down Under), I move on to Flipboard a news app suggested to me by the author David Sedaris when I met him some years ago when he was promoting Squirrel Meets Chipmunk, then I skim the Skimm which offers up some highlights of the day.  I also get what’s of interest in BBC news thanks to Josh’s am texts. In terms of television news, I just can’t stomach any of it really regardless of the network. Josh and I prefer to get our television news in comical snipets like SNL and John Oliver, completely bias and hyperbolic and still I love every minute of it. And while it may be those things, it can still be poignant. Take the “Welcome to Hell” skit addressing the ongoing sexual harassment allegations, it was an anthem to accompany #MeToo. I think I just tend to appreciate the ‘in your face’ appeal, if it’s out there in the world; let’s open up a dialogue about it.

That’s it for me in the digital realm of news, what I really love is print magazine subscriptions. I am full fledged addict. And it has gotten so much worse over the last eight months of my medically related house arrest. I actually spent the better part of the last two days reading and reading my magazine subscriptions which include Nat Geo (the normal one and the History one), TIME, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, Real Simple, Prevention, Martha Stewart Weddings, Shape, and InStyle. It’s insane. I need to find a magazine addict support group. I clip articles that I can use for school, topics I want to blog about, fitness routines I want to try. I make lists of what books I want to read, movies and tv shows that might be interesting to me, and potential music downloads. These all move to my planner so I can streamline where to find all these tidbits of knowledge. And there you have it, the proof of my addiction piled high with post it notes covering what I may use it for. And for those of you concerned about the environment, this may not be a huge help but I then use what is left of the magazines after I tear out the articles I want for projects for my students. So at least they do not go to waste.

Are there others out there who do this? That need a printervention? Just wondering. And if you were wondering this is partially how I occupy my vast amounts of free time at the moment.



Humor is necessary when battling Hodgkins Lymphoma at the ripe old age of 32