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Life

Health Update

Silvia

Hello lovely folks,

Finally, a long overdue post! Below are updates on the happenings from the last couple of months. If you are a skip to the end kind of person, there are a few prayer requests at the bottom to check out.

Much of this year has been spent in a renewing phase if you will. Backing away from the chatter of media, social and otherwise, and the unnecessary while decluttering the things that grow to make the heart heavy and mind weary. Replacing old rationalizations with new promise. Honing in on my most vital of necessities... intimacy with Maker and man… love… rest… gratitude.  On occasion, the slightest phrases and events temporarily displace me from what is being cultivated, but I find myself more promptly rebounding to the place, the One in which my heart and belief must abide.  All the while rediscovering just how beautifully and swiftly gratitude unlocks doors of hope.

HEALTH UPDATE

Surgery:   Surgery went well, and I actually listened to doctors and have been taking it easy these past couple months. Pathology showed cancer in the fluid around the heart and the piece of the pericardium they removed.  

PET/CT Scan:  In mid-March, I was finally able to get the scan that had to be postponed the previous two months for various reasons. Part of the right lung lit up, but we were grateful the report came back negative for distant metastases and no cancer in the bones.  

Fluid:  Earlier this year I was blessed to go over two months without any fluid collecting in my chest but have recently been drained a few times. For now, I will continue to be monitored every few weeks via ultrasound and get drained as needed.  I would love to again become the anomaly, have all excess fluid stop collecting on my chest and see my doctors once again in awe of what they consider not medically possible in my situation. It's happened before, and I believe it can happen again!

Care Changes:  My oncologist of three years took another job, so we used this opportunity to search out additional medical opinions and as a result moved my care to a hospital system in Cleveland. So far we are very happy with this decision and it immediately opened up options and testing we did not have access to previously. Also, they have been flexible to allow me to get more routine blood draws, procedures, etc. done at local facilities not necessarily in their hospital system but that are still covered by my insurance.  Win-win!

Tumor Markers:  The most recent set of tumor marker testing is super encouraging. In just a few weeks it has gone from 112 to 86!!! The closer we get to zero the better.  I am so grateful for everyone's prayers so please keep them coming as we continue to believe for what some say is impossible!

As long as tumor markers continue to decrease, my doctor prefers to avoid chemo which is ok by me.  They tell me the liabilities of chemo outweigh the benefits right now.  I'm on a hormone inhibitor which has caused some extremely uncomfortable side effects, including added difficulty breathing, and they are switching me to a different medication.  There is also a potential clinical trial I may qualify for that we are hoping to get more info on soon, it's been a slow process.  In addition, we continue doing our best to boost my immune system naturally.  Many, many thanks to those who gave to the fundraiser.  We still have some funds which I use for nutritional IV’s (Vitamin C, HCL, etc.) as I can get them.

We choose to celebrate life, every good report and each step forward believing that God continues to work out seemingly setbacks and inconveniences for our good.  We are thankful that you have taken the time to read updates and surround us with love, and we would be most grateful for your continued prayers for the following:

  • Tumor markers to continue to decrease / a cancer-free body
  • The accumulation of excess fluid to cease 
  • My ability to breathe with ease would increase
  • No negative side effects from medication

XOXO,

Silvia

Redding, Redwoods and Rainbows

Silvia

Hello folks, there is so much to catch you up on!  

After enduring multiple doctor appointments, tests and procedures the first week of this year, hubby and I decided we needed to get away for various reasons including we didn’t like what we heard diagnosis-wise nor the options for treating (not curing) that diagnosis.  We headed out to Northern California to the Bethel Redding Healing Rooms to get prayer and do some sight-seeing.  We just needed some time away by ourselves to step outside of the situation and gain a new perspective. I received a lot of prayer while away and I know so many of you continue to keep us in prayer, so thank you!  We did notice that as time went on, I was feeling better and could do a little more physical activity each day which was exciting.  Stay tuned for even more exciting news below.

  A leisurely stroll along Sundial Bridge. A gentleman was taking pictures of passerby's shadows and he kindly took ours.  I would give him photo credit but sadly did not write down his name.

A leisurely stroll along Sundial Bridge. A gentleman was taking pictures of passerby's shadows and he kindly took ours.  I would give him photo credit but sadly did not write down his name.

I do have to do one shout out.  We did not ask for assistance, but there were a number of folks who very graciously and generously donated to us, and it covered almost to the dollar the expenses for our trip.  You know who you are and we’re sending you all big virtual hugs!

  Beautiful sights we were gifted with.

Beautiful sights we were gifted with.

We learned that it rains a lot in Northern California in the winter and we were blessed with one sunny day, so we decided to drive to Mount Shasta and got to see a volcano, how cool is that?!  And since I’m a sucker for the ocean, we also took a day to drive to the coast and visited the Redwoods National Park. I “encouraged” hubby to hug a redwood. He was not near as thrilled about doing that as I was. I felt like a kid exploring a magical forest. Hubby may or may not have gotten video footage of me acting like a kid in a candy store. 

  Elk, eagles and redwoods, oh my!  

Elk, eagles and redwoods, oh my!  

Ok, now for the really cool news. Last week I got the flu, and no, that is not the good news.  But when I went to the doctor for the flu, she listened to my chest and was pretty convinced the fluid had re-accumulated so she told me to rest last week and go for an x-ray on Monday.  They called me with the results yesterday…  “NO EVIDENCE of recurrent pulmonary effusion”.  

In case you’re not sure just how awesome this news is, the pulmonary specialist, oncologist and cardiothoracic surgeon all told me this was essentially impossible for someone with the diagnosis I received.  They each warned multiple times and attempted to prepare me mentally that I would continue to need to be drained and eventually the fluid would collect on a more frequent basis.  They all recommended I get a radical surgery that could potentially leave me in constant pain to attempt to keep the fluid from re-accumulating.  Folks, this is a miracle and an answer to our prayers!!!  I had done no natural remedies during this time as we were waiting for a couple more test results before I resumed vitamin C and we determined what other holistic options we may be able to throw in the mix.

The not-so-great news from the x-ray is that the flu turned into pneumonia.  Hubby actually got hit with the flu worse than I did.  I’m having slight problems breathing off and on now, but it is from pneumonia and not fluid buildup.  Being sick these past two weeks has forced me to push out the PET scan until I recover from pneumonia.  I go back this coming Monday for a followup x-ray to check progress.  Oh, and guys, you know I love you so please don’t be offended if I choose not to be super huggy while we’re still in flu and cold season. Trying to avoid a repeat of the last couple weeks.  Super grateful for everyone’s understanding!

For all of my praying friends, please agree with us on the following:

  • Silvia and hubby will recover from pneumonia and flu (respectively) with no complications
  • For all cancer to be destroyed
  • An excellent PET scan report.  I will let everyone know when it gets rescheduled.

Thank you for your love, support, prayers, messages, cards and encouragement.  We are blessed beyond measure to be surrounded by such amazing family and friends, and we love you all so much!

XOXO

Silvia

New Year, New Challenges, New Possibilities

Silvia

Hello friends and family!  As is usual for Ohio, I think we’ve experienced three seasons in a matter of 24 hours.  Hoping everyone experiencing this weather is safe and warm.

Typically, I would have been out during the fresh snowfall making some images, however, we felt it was best for me health-wise to stay inside this weekend.  As many of you know, I was hospitalized in mid-December due to shortness of breath.  They found fluid had collected around my lung causing it to collapse.  Unfortunately, due to some delays, it took much longer than expected to receive the results of the pathology of the fluid.  We received a report that the fluid drained from around my lung contained cancer.  The last thing I wanted or expected to hear going into 2018 were the words malignant and metastatic. 

I started to have problems breathing again, so they had to go in and remove additional fluid about a week ago and this is happening due to the cancer.  At times it can be challenging to breathe and do some normal activities.  A recent CT scan also showed a mass in the lung and fluid collecting around the heart, so doctors believe the breast cancer has spread to those areas as well.  Despite the fluid, they did say my heart is healthy and we are currently waiting on approval from insurance for another type of scan that is supposed to provide more information.  I also have an upcoming appointment with the M.D. at the local holistic clinic.  I get tired easily and occasionally have pain but overall I’m feeling pretty well. 

As my husband will tease, I have to go and be difficult.  If we were just dealing with cancer spreading they could start chemotherapy immediately since I have a port. However, retaining fluid in multiple locations is making this a bit more complicated because they need to attempt to treat that first.  They have given me three options, and the one they highly recommend is highly invasive with so-so odds and we do not have peace about it right now.  The other two would be more temporary fixes and come with their own sets of pros and cons.  The doctors are wanting us to make a decision before the end of the month. They would have preferred an answer this week or next, but my amazing husband is whisking me away to California in the near future with the approval of my oncologist, of course.  A much-needed reprieve for us both - so grateful for the air miles and hotel points we’ve been saving. 

We do kindly ask a few things during this time:

  • Please communicate positively about the current situation and the possible outcome.  As you can imagine, this has been a very challenging and emotional time and we choose to remain hopeful and stand firm, focusing on the possibilities!
  • Updates will be posted on the blog, or one of my family members will post on Facebook and tag me, so please check there if you are wondering about recent developments. I’m rarely on FB and mostly hang out on Instagram.  As much as I love everyone, I need to save my breath and energy for all things positive and beautiful and lovely, and I am grateful for your understanding.
  • If you are sick or have been around those who are sick we do ask that you refrain from hugging Silvia at this time.  Thank you!

For my praying peeps, this is obviously a serious situation, and I am in need of a miracle or a few.  Please agree with us for the following:

  • Excess fluid production around heart and lungs would cease
  • For all cancer cells to be destroyed
  • Any damage from cancer cells to be repaired
  • Peace and wisdom

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.  We love you all so much!

XOXO,

Silvia

P.S.  The email address associated with the link on my blog is currently not working, so if you send a message and don’t hear from me that’s why!

Grateful & Blessed

Silvia

Hello!  I had hoped to post sooner but in hindsight ending treatment, moving into a new place, starting back to work and holding a fundraiser all within a month was not one of my brighter ideas.  I'm grateful for the grace to have made it through but boy did it wipe me out - whew!  I'm learning I have to pace myself and limit my commitments.

I wanted to again say a huge THANK YOU for the amazing love and support you continue to extend to me and my family!  You guys seriously blew me away with your generosity and words of encouragement!  I'm throwing you all hugs and kisses and heart emojis!!!

The GOT HOPE Fundraiser was a big success and between that event and the YouCaring site, a little over $8,800 has been raised.  This will cover high dose Vitamin C through the end of February and allow me to pay off this last round of out of pocket medical expenses which is a huge blessing since we anticipate that in just a few short months (by March of 2018) I will again meet my insurance deductible and the bills will start all over again.

I am so grateful to everyone who came out for the fundraiser and for so those who could not make it to the event yet contributed.

And again, many thanks to those who helped to make the fundraiser such a fun and lovely time!

  • To Chef Eddie Mundy and your crew - the food and service was EXCEPTIONAL!  You were so much fun and you blessed us beyond measure!
  • To everyone who donated items for the silent auction, we are so super grateful! It was all way more than we expected. 
  • To our lovely helpers Melissa, Kelsie, Jessica, Emily, Christina and Mark -  you rock! Your hearts for serving and jumping in wherever is so beautiful. 
  • To my sister, Johanna, who headed up this entire thing - thank you x1000!  Love you bunches! 
  • Love and thanks to my parents who have taken me to endless appointments and treatments. And my lovely momma who is always doing something kind behind the scenes.
  • Thank you to my rock of a husband who tirelessly looks after me and has enough faith for the both of us - love you to the moon and back babe!

There never seems to be words adequate enough to convey what I feel in my heart for all of you wonderful souls!  I pray that each of you are blessed beyond measure for your generosity and I hope to one day be in a place to pay forward all that has been done for me and then some.  Again, grateful beyond words for the beautiful impact and difference you have made on my life!

I also wanted to give a quick health update.  As I have been telling those who ask, it's all scientific until it's not.  Since this last (and hopefully final) round of tumors were completely undetectable through imaging the doctors feel there is no use in re-scanning to determine the effectiveness of the radiation so they are making evaluations by sight and touch.  They feel the radiation was successful and they will be closely monitoring me over the next several months.  I ask that you would continue to keep me in your prayers as I will have another evaluation before the end of the year.  In the meantime, my husband has been taught to administer the vitamin c infusions at home, I continue with daily supplements, consult with my naturopath and get lots of prayer!

I am blessed with another year to celebrate with loved ones and I am excited for what lies ahead.  Wishing all of you the most joyful of Thanksgivings!  Savor the moments and choose joy, my friends!

XOXO,

Silvia

_DSF6530 grateful.jpg

Link to Donate:  https://www.youcaring.com/silviawolford-910249

 

The Other Side

Silvia

Hello, folks!  I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted and I’ll share why.  First and most importantly, I finished radiation on August 17th!!!  One of the main reasons I did not blog during that time to be real honest is, it was rough.  I was immediately physically fatigued after the first dose and then having 10-12 medical related commitments each week did not leave much time for rest or anything else for that matter especially since some of these would last 3-4 hours each.  I’m super grateful to be on the other side now and for all of your prayers that got me through the tough moments and days.

As if treatment wasn’t enough, our lease came due and we felt it was time to move because they were raising our rent yearly.  Plus, I was only able to work five hours per week during radiation therapy so this move is helping us out financially.  It will free up enough to cover a couple of vitamin C treatments each month.  We were originally slated to move two weeks after radiation was complete but our property manager had compassion on us and gave us an extra month which they aren’t known for doing - favor!  We moved a week ago and were blessed by an awesome crew of family and friends who were some of the hardest workers I’ve seen!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  This is me a couple weeks ago.  Regaining energy and can you believe how long my hair has gotten?!   

This is me a couple weeks ago.  Regaining energy and can you believe how long my hair has gotten?!  

About two weeks ago, I started to get some of my energy back and just in time to pack boxes!  I had an appointment with the radiation oncologist this week and she was so surprised at how well my skin has healed, especially after being badly burned only 15 days into treatment, that she actually asked me what natural things I had done and put on my skin.  Mind you, she actually tried to talk me out of the vitamin C at the beginning of treatment.  Again, I’m so grateful for prayer which I believe advanced the healing process along with the vitamin C, a topical product called Radiation Rescue (emulsified melaleuca) and a couple of rounds in the low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

  Feeling refreshed after breathing in pure oxygen under pressure.  It promotes wound healing and studies have shown it can cause damage to cancer cells.

Feeling refreshed after breathing in pure oxygen under pressure.  It promotes wound healing and studies have shown it can cause damage to cancer cells.

For my praying friends, I ask that you continue to lift me up as I have a followup appointment later this week with the primary Oncologist to discuss outcomes and next steps.

Choosing Joy!

Silvia

 

P.S.  For anyone who may not have heard.  We would love to see you at the GOT HOPE! Fundraiser.

Come join us for some delicious food and fun, and help support Silvia on her healing journey! 

Silvia was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, in 2014. She has undergone a bilateral mastectomy and received two different types of chemotherapy among various other surgeries and procedures. After several months of good reports, a recurrence was discovered in May 2017. She just completed seven weeks of radiation and is incorporating alternative therapies to aid in this fight. Medical bills continue to accumulate and Silvia would like to continue on with holistic treatments not covered by insurance to aid in this healing journey. 

We would love for you to join us for this night of hope, love and celebration! And yes, a dance party may break out!

WHEN & WHERE:

Saturday, September 30th from 2 - 5pm

Studio 526 @ 526 Grant Street, Akron

$35 TICKET INCLUDES:

Hors-d'oeuvres, Made to Order Mac & Cheese Bar, Assorted Desserts, and Beverages

Food will be designed, prepared and served by award-winning Chef Eddie Mundy and his team

ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES:

Silvia’s photography will be on display and available for sale

50/50 Raffle

Basket Raffles and more

TO PURCHASE TICKETS:

1) Purchase your ticket online by donating $35 on Silvia’s YouCaring site and enter “Ticket” in the notes. You can choose to remain anonymous and the administrator will be able to see and pass on your name and donation.  www.youcaring.com/helpsilvianow

2) Or contact Johanna Wilks: wilksjojo17@gmail.com 

or Melissa Gilchrist: melsymgil@gmail.com

If you cannot attend the fundraiser but would like to contribute, please go to: www.youcaring.com/helpsilvianow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Stretch

Silvia

Hello lovely people!  I know I've been slow in posting updates but I did not anticipate being sooooooo fatigued from treatment.  Nor did I expect to have 10-12 appointments each week including daily radiation (Monday-Friday), doctor follow-ups, physical therapy (due to the radiation) and hydration and vitamin c infusions. Numerous miles have been logged traveling multiple counties these past eight weeks.

The good news is I only have three more radiation sessions and I will be finished this Thursday!

 This is me doing the radiation is almost over HAPPY DANCE

This is me doing the radiation is almost over HAPPY DANCE

My final eight days of treatment consist of what they call a “boost”.  The daily radiation that was administered to various locations and at different angles is now being given in one dose to one location, where the biopsy was performed back in May.  

I was quite distressed in July when I wasn’t even half way through treatment and I was burned so badly that I had to take an extended break.  I am so grateful to share that I truly believe it all worked out for my good.  Miraculously, my skin is healing extremely well and the pain during this “boost” has been either manageable or hardly noticeable at times.  My biggest struggle as of late, besides the fatigue, has been staying hydrated.  No matter how much water I attempt to drink, I find myself at the infusion center weekly for extra hydration.  Ironically, my doctor asks me every week if I would like a prescription for pain killers (which I’ve not yet had to take her up on) but I have to almost beg for a bag of saline. Things that make you say WUT?!?!  The wonderful nurses in the infusion center tell me this is normal (me being dehydrated, not having to beg for saline) and a number of them remembered me from two years ago when they administered chemo to me so it has been great to see familiar faces.

The big question I receive daily has been, “so what happens next?”.  They tell me the radiation will continue to do it’s thing for up to six weeks and at that time they will re-check me and re-evaluate next steps.  Until that time, I will be most thankful to not have to make the daily trip to the hospital and hopefully catch up on some much needed rest.

Prayer Requests:

  • A cancer free body
  • That my skin continues to stay intact
  • No negative side effects (no damage to vital organs, etc)

Choosing Joy!

Silvia

Healing Journey

Silvia

Over the last year or so, I’ve kept a low profile on social media. I found that resuming life as “normal” was a challenge after all I had been through.  I learned I had to make a few less commitments due to energy levels and I tried to be intentional about soaking up and celebrating life’s beautiful moments with my people.

As much as I wanted to have a nice and tidy ending to my healing journey, I find myself walking through a door that I had hoped I would not have to return to.  A little over a month ago, I discovered multiple tumors and the pathology confirmed the cancer is back in the chest wall/lymph nodes (original site). I am told the recurrence rate is high with inflammatory breast cancer but we are grateful that multiple scans are showing no evidence of metastasis.  As a result, radiation therapy is the recommended form of treatment and I am scheduled for 33 sessions. Today marks number nine.  

The oncologist gave me my choice of receiving two radiation treatments per day vs. one per day, with their recommendation being the former.  Neither my husband nor I grew comfortable with the thought of two treatments per day as radiation is known to be harder on one’s immune system than chemo.  After the first day, we knew we had made the right decision.  I was told I would most likely not experience any side effects for about two weeks. Apparently, I am not average because within two hours of the first treatment I was so drained I couldn’t stand up or stay awake. So much for that two-week reprieve. Needless to say, I have had to drastically cut back on work.  Also, since they cannot give us definitive answers and much of this is a "wait and see" game, we will again be incorporating a number of natural therapies which I will touch on in a future post.  

I had wanted to share this with everyone sooner but this has been a very emotional and challenging time for me and my loved ones, yet we are full of HOPE!  I will use this blog to post updates on my healing journey.  Plus, as I learned going through this the first time, I really do need other people.  

For my praying friends, here are a few requests. Treatment is daily, Monday through Friday at 10am EDT.  We are believing for:

  • No damage to organs (heart, lung, thyroid), bones (ribs and shoulder) and lymph nodes
  • No skin damage
  • No lymphedema (swelling) in my right arm/chest
  • More energy and less fatigue which in turn will help my eye site.  The physical fatigue causes fatigue in the eyes, potentially worsening current vision issues.  I've already noticed I'm struggling to see with my current prescription. 

To be honest, I really don’t want to walk this road again, but I’m not usually the type to bury my head in the sand for too long at least. I continue to stand steadfast, contending for the miraculous and I just can’t help but believe something pretty amazing lies on the other side of this trial.  Here I go, one step at a time, choosing to celebrate each morning that I wake up with breath in my lungs and call each day blessed.  Everyone has been so wonderful and I thank you all in advance for your continual outpouring of love and support!

Choosing Joy!  

Silvia

Greece Test Update

Silvia

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t be more thrilled to finally see signs of spring in Ohio. I was outside yesterday soaking up some vitamin D and it was amazing! 

I want to once again thank everyone who gave toward the YouCaring account and who has purchased a Brave tank or tee. I am beyond grateful for your part in helping me to get the Greece Test and the valuable information it provides. Well, my blood went to Greece and all I got was this lab report. Unfortunately, the test did detect cancer cells in my blood. Obviously, this is not the news we wanted to hear, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad news. Just because cancer cells are detected doesn’t mean they're trying to form a tumor or that I will have a reoccurrence. I now have to have additional blood tests to look at cancer growth factors and these tests along with the Greece Test results will provide a better overall picture. If growth factors come back elevated it means there is potential to fuel cancer growth. If we can keep my growth factors at normal levels it is very rare to have a reoccurrence. I’m waiting on the new blood test kits to come in the mail and will let everyone know when I get results which will be at least 3 weeks out from now if not longer.  The really good news is the Greece Test was able to tell me a number of natural substances such as Agaricus Blazei Murill (mushrooms), high-dose IV Vitamin C, Lycopene, Aromat8-NP, Curcumin/Turmeric and Quercitin among others that caused death in the cancer cells drawn from my blood. This information will allow us to be much more targeted in our approach as we modify my natural treatment plan.

I have to admit it was much harder than I expected to hear that cancer cells were found in my blood. I was blessed to be surrounded by a bunch of friends the morning I got the news, and I’m so grateful for those who reached out to encourage me over the last few days. Thank you for loving me and walking with me through this!

So, what do you do when you realize your battle isn’t quite over?!  You shed a few tears, hug a few friends, treat yourself to an ice cream cone (dark chocolate with peanut butter) and get back up and run, because this race is far from over. You restore your roar and choose to fight from a place of gratitude and thanksgiving because you are a survivor! You are victorious!

For those of you in the thick of the battle...

Thank you for your continued prayers!  Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

Off to Greece

Silvia

Well, at least part of me is. After receiving a test kit with special syringes but no needles and learning we needed to make a special trip to Cleveland since local shipping stores would not accept a package with biological substances, my blood is now departing Ohio and on its way to Thessaloniki, Greece. Results will come in approximately 2 weeks. A very sincere thank you to everyone who donated to help with this very expensive test not covered by insurance and a special thank you to my sister for initiating the fundraiser. Asking for help has been one of the hardest parts of walking this road. As a reminder, the Greece Test measures circulating cancer tumor cells and cancer stem cells. Obviously we are praying and believing no cancer is found. I greatly appreciate your continued prayers!

Brave tanks or tees are due to ship next week - yay! Again, thank you to everyone who purchased a top. I hope you enjoy wearing the shirts and sharing their encouraging words with others.

One more piece of good news... I just contracted with a company to work 1-2 days a week as an Executive Assistant, something I did for about 15 years prior to going all artsy. I get to work virtually from the comfort of my home as an independent contractor. I’m still making photographs and selling prints along with the Brave tees and tanks. The flexibility with this job is perfect for me right now as I still have a decent number of doctor/follow-up visits and it allows me to continue to pursue photography. Grateful.

 Thought my far-away friends would like to see my crazy curly springy hair. I was super excited at the prospect of wearing it in a faux hawk as it grew in however it now seems an impossible feat with the current texture. We shall see...

Thought my far-away friends would like to see my crazy curly springy hair. I was super excited at the prospect of wearing it in a faux hawk as it grew in however it now seems an impossible feat with the current texture. We shall see...

I decided to do something a little different with the grateful list this go-around. What I’m thankful for...  love. life. family. friendship. laughter. fun. health. humor. joy. peace. encouragement. support. growth. freedom. contentment. adventure. wonder. nature. beauty. art. energy. rest. moments. eternity. hope.

Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

Berkey and Breakfast: My Favorite Green Juice Recipe

Silvia

Happy Thursday to you! I get a lot of questions about healthy dietary changes I’ve made over the last year so I thought I’d start by sharing what I prepare for breakfast. 

The first thing I do upon waking in the morning is to drink 16-20 oz. of water. I always prepare the water the night before and keep it on my bedside table. Some days I squeeze fresh lemon in it, some days I use a couple drops of doTerra lemon essential oil and some days I drink it straight. Let me start out by saying our tap water is gross. It smells super chlorinated and leaves such a bad white residue on everything. I have to scrub down our sink every few days just to get rid of the build-up. Needless to say, we were buying a lot of bottled water. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer a little over a year ago, I immediately began researching things I could do to improve my health, and one of the most obvious I learned was to remove harmful contaminants both going into and onto the body. At this point we were purchasing large jugs of water which were creating lots of waste, the jugs were plastic and there were always questions as to the true source and processing of the water. 

One of my favorite discoveries last January was the Berkey water filter, which actually meets such high standards they’re rated as water purifiers. The Berkey removes hundreds of contaminants and is now saving us money on water. The cool part (other than clean water) is it’s gravity fed. It does not need electricity or water pressure to work. You just lift the lid, pour in your water and let it flow through the filters to the bottom chamber and whalla, you’ve got clean water! The Berkey even claims it is capable of purifying both treated and untreated water. All of you disaster-preparedness folks, there’s your solution. Bam! The best part is my water tastes really good! I was not given a Berkey filter nor was I paid for this endorsement. I really love my Berkey that much.

  The Big Berkey

The Big Berkey

Now onto breakfast. I’m still on a slew of supplements which is a whole other post in itself. Once I’m actually up and out of bed, I take a bunch of supplements and have to wait 20-30 minutes before eating. In December 2014 upon receiving the cancer diagnosis I began juicing as a way to deliver large amounts of nutrients to my body quickly. I juiced daily for the first six months after diagnosis, and since then have juiced off and on. This month I decided to start juicing again for a couple reasons; 1) I feel better when I do it and 2) I’ve been gaining weight ever since I was medically thrown into menopause so I’m trying to make the best decisions I can to get my body back into a healthy place. Depending on the day, I will drink 16-32 oz. of juice and space it out drinking 8-16 oz. at a time. I’ve played around with all of kinds of veggies and found that this recipe below works best for me. 

The best way to store juice is in a glass container (I use mason jars) and fill the liquid all the way to the top. You want as little oxygen in the jar as possible to slow down the oxidation of the juice. It’s always best to consume the juice as soon as possible as it will have the most nutritional value but it can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

You may have to play around with the amount of each veggie used depending on your likes and dislikes. If you're concerned the juice won't hold you over until your next meal, add some protein powder. Let me know if you try this recipe. Enjoy!

Things I’m grateful for:

  • Encouraging notes and texts from friends
  • Creative friends who are not afraid to use their gifting and share it with others
  • An uneventful day

Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

Surgery Update

Silvia

Hello friends! Keeping this post short and sweet. Today I was supposed to have pre-op testing for surgery next week to remove extra skin as a result of the bilateral mastectomy completed a year ago. After consulting with multiple doctors and my physical therapist I’ve decided to postpone surgery until later in the year. I’ve had four surgeries within the last year and my body just needs a break. I’m still recovering from the bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (fancy way of saying removal of both ovaries and tubes), and I just completed four weeks of physical therapy. And those four weeks were just to get me started. They tell me it will be a few more weeks before I even start seeing the slightest results. It’s a little disheartening to exercise for four+ weeks and not yet see results. Not to mention, I’m just plain tired after this past year. Grateful but tired. My plan right now is to continue to rebuild my body, eat healthy (most of the time) and re-evaluate at the end of summer regarding surgery. 

Since that's settled, here's some Monday motivation for everyone to whom 2016 is a year of new beginnings. I may have had to start and restart a few times already this year but that’s ok. Preaching to myself...

Things I’m thankful for:

  • Beautiful flowers from a beautiful friend
  • To finally learn that after searching all over the internet and calling multiple congressmen and senator’s offices that legislation was indeed passed that will save our family $4,000-$5,000 in taxes. My shoulders just became a whole lot lighter!
  • This past Saturday! Spring in February! Breathing fresh air for hours! Need I say more?

Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

 

When in Northeast Ohio...

Silvia

Happy Tuesday! So, I’m supposed to get blood work done this week but I’m still trying to shake some sinus stuff and since I don’t want potentially skewed results I may have to wait another week. Sad face. I’m a little fatigued from this congestion and a long weekend but feeling well overall. I have my final physical therapy appointment this Friday and will be re-evaluated. Honestly I don’t feel much of a difference right now but we’ll see what the measurements say. For those of you not local to me, my hair is growing in nicely and seriously curly. Yes, my hair was wavy/curly before but now we’re talking tight thick curls. In fact, when I brushed my hair out (which I now know never to do again) I was told I looked like a poodle. I promise I will work on getting pictures to post soon. 

It just so happens to be Fat Tuesday today so I’m living it up here and ate a Paczki with Bavarian creme. Oh yes I did and it was so full of yummy goodness! I truly love the ethnic diversity in Northeast Ohio and all of the amazing food that comes along with it. We are part of the protestant faith, however the last few years I’ve found observing Lent to be particularly beneficial in my own life. Since I wasn’t in a mental space to make big commitments last year I’m diving in full force this season. I’m choosing to cut out out meat, gluten, dairy and sugar (other than naturally occurring sugars such as in fruit) which is basically getting back on track with the lifestyle of eating I started last year and what I’ve not so successfully been attempting since the beginning of this year. I know it sounds crazy but it really does work for me. I’m also letting go of what I call fluff entertainment to make room for an extra devotional and creative endeavors. Anyone else observing Lent this season?

I now have Brave tanks and a tee available for pre-order. What this means is 25 tops need to be ordered before the shirts can be printed. The tops will be available and shipped within 2-3 weeks of meeting the 25 orders. Each night I will update the Home page on GraceInDeepestWaters.com with the total number of tops ordered to date. Images of the tops are below, and you can shop or find out more about them here. Please email if you have any questions. Profits help with medical costs after expenses are met for Grace In Deepest Waters and Option 5 Studio LLC. Thank you to everyone who has purchased a tank or tee, and please feel free to continue to share the link to the tops on any of your social media sites.

Stay tuned, I’m looking to add a few more items (not apparel) to the Grace In Deepest Waters shop this Spring. 

Things I’m Grateful For:

  • Enjoying a big mug of rooibos vanilla tea given to me by a friend. Seriously, this tea is like dessert in a cup. It satisfies my cravings for sweets and I don’t need to add anything to it.
  • An evening out with one of my nieces. I love being closer to family.
  • A weekend with my mom, sister and a lifelong friend spent learning, catching up and laughing so hard I was doubled over and in tears often. All good stuff for the mind, body and soul!

Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

Live Healthy, Create Travel or Something Like That

Silvia

Me again! I’m writing as I sit here sipping my detox tea with dandelion root. It’s supposed to support the liver and kidneys which seemed like a good idea since my liver functions came back a bit high.  Most likely due to all the acetemenephine I was on after my last surgery.  In case your wondering, It is an organic tea called Everyday Detox by Traditional Medicinals which I purchased at Earth Fare when it was on sale. No clue if it’s working yet but it keeps me warm and I feel good when I drink it. Note: No person or company has given me this product. I’m just sharing because it’s what I do. :)

I'm thrilled to say I'm feeling really good. The chemo caused awful brain fog and often left me searching for my words and thoughts. I’ve had a number of days these past few weeks where the brain fog lifted and I can think more clearly and just feel better overall. I’m so grateful because I forgot what it’s like to feel “normal”, and it was marvelous! The not so fun part is I’m having edema (swelling) in my chest which has flared up as a result of my most recent surgery. I will be in physical therapy for the next month in hopes of bringing down the inflammation. They tell me once you’ve had lymph nodes removed and you start swelling it never truly goes away but I’d love to prove them wrong. Commence mission to reduce inflammation. This may mean having to move out even further the surgery to have the extra skin removed from the mastectomy, but that’s ok. Also, I was supposed to have extensive bloodwork drawn at the end of December but due to the infection and medication I was on, that has been pushed out until the end of January. 

You have asked about the brave tanks, and yes, I will be setting up a second tank color and one or two t-shirt options for purchase. It will be a pre-order situation, and 20 items will need purchased before the print order can be placed. More details to come early next week.

You may or may not be excited about this next part, but I've decided to branch out with the blog and share more often. I’m aiming to post at least once a week and here is what I will be adding...

Health. Under my life tab, I will post about my health interests alongside my physical updates. I’ve had a number of you ask about my diet and lifestyle changes so I will share more about my ongoing journey to becoming healthy and disease-free. The plan is to post about supplements, exercise, recipes and more.   

Create. I’m adding this as a new tab to the website. I like making stuff and one of my goals this year is to create something new each week (spending nothing or as little as possible) and share it with you. Although photography is my love, I’ll also be dabbling in digital design, craft projects or perhaps a personal interior design challenge. I'm excited to experiment with different mediums and even pulled out and semi-organized my art supplies. Can I share something??? I heart colored pencils, extra-fine tip pens and mechanical erasers! It's time I stop storing them and put them to good use. I’m using art as both therapy and as a means of stretching my creative capacity and hope to approach projects with playfulness and an open heart. I will try my darnedest to trade in my need for perfection and realism for freedom and a new sense of wonder and adventure through art. You can read about my week #1 project here and week #2 creation here

Travel. Last year I wasn't in much shape to travel. Right now we unfortunately don’t have the financial means to travel like we have in past years due to medical bills but I refuse to let that stop me. That means the majority of my explorations will be local. We’ll see what adventures can be had in the great state of Ohio this year. Is anyone else as excited as I am about dropping gasoline prices?!

Things I’m Grateful For:

  • Those who have contributed to the YouCaring fund or passed it along. A big THANK YOU and virtual hugs! Some folks sent checks directly to my sis (you can contact her through the site to do this and they don't take out the 3% processing fee) and the fund is currently at $1795 so we are over halfway there! Once funding is reached I will be able to get the Greece test which you can read more about here. Asking for help has been one of the hardest and most humbling things I've had to do this past year. Your kindness and generosity overwhelms my heart! 
  • Laughing until my cheeks hurt. Laughing really is the best medicine!
  • Healthcare professionals, especially in light of all I went through in December. They've made and continue to make great sacrifices to help us heal.

God bless you if you made it through this long post! Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

 I saw this quote last week and felt I had to share. Unfortunately I saw it posted to Holley Kitchen: And the Cancer Lifer's Facebook page where it was announced that Holley passed away from metastatic breast cancer. If you frequent the internet chances are you saw a video she did that went viral where she held up cards to "Fight Song" bringing attention to metastatic breast cancer. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Life is short, make it count. Bloom where you are planted. Grow deep roots. Produce fruit. Give it away.

I saw this quote last week and felt I had to share. Unfortunately I saw it posted to Holley Kitchen: And the Cancer Lifer's Facebook page where it was announced that Holley passed away from metastatic breast cancer. If you frequent the internet chances are you saw a video she did that went viral where she held up cards to "Fight Song" bringing attention to metastatic breast cancer. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Life is short, make it count. Bloom where you are planted. Grow deep roots. Produce fruit. Give it away.

The Best is Yet to Come

Silvia

Happy New Year! I’m feeling so much better now that I’ve finished antibiotics and can move again. I find that after walking a bit I have some pain so I’m trying to take it easy and hoping to be like new again in a couple more weeks. I’ve completely thrown my clean eating regimen out the window this past month and I’m looking forward to getting back on track in a couple days and plan to share more of that type of stuff with you very soon.

This has been such an emotional week for me. Last year, just a few days before Christmas I received the call that the initial pathology reports from the breast biopsies showed cancer. All I remember wondering was, “What does all of this mean?” and “Will this be the last Christmas I celebrate?” Then on New Year’s Eve I received a call from my doctor with all the details regarding the type of cancer and staging. The month of December 2014 and the first few weeks of 2015 became a complete blur. I was thrust into a “breast cancer club” I wanted no part of. I’ve had to do a lot of things I didn’t really want to do this past year, but I’ve learned I can do hard things and more importantly, I can do all these things while keeping a genuine smile on my face and peace and joy in my heart without which I would be one big hot mess. 

I know I’ve written about this before but I feel it’s worth another post since one of the things I hear over and over from others is “How do you choose joy?” First, everyday I practice gratitude. Before I ever get out of bed I thank God for breath in my lungs, a new day where anything is possible and for a cancer free body. This immediately puts my focus on the positive and the possibilities. I choose to create a world with my words even if it hasn’t been proven just yet. For instance, my doctor hasn’t ordered a scan yet that can prove NED (no evidence of disease) but I say out loud what I believe to be truth. This gives me hope for a better day which increases my faith. It’s no secret my faith plays a big part in my outlook, but leave out the faith component and you will find much research to back up the effects of choosing a positive outlook over negativity. It’s training ourselves to look for the beauty even when so much seems broken. Trust me, it can be the smallest of things that will fill you with joy when you begin to see with new eyes. Try finding three new things everyday to be thankful for. Write them down or use an app on your phone. I think the hardest part is slowing down long enough to be present in the moments to see the beauty in them. We have to choose to search for them in what seems like the mundane cycles of our daily routine. I promise you’ll be surprised at all of the amazing things, big and small, that take place each and every day.

So, I have made it through this year, celebrated another Christmas and though we never know what tomorrow brings, I hope to celebrate many more! This image below speaks to how I feel about the cancer diagnosis. To the cancer: you were just a visitor and an unwelcome one at that. Sorry no long term parking for you in this body because I’ve got dreams, a hope and a future, and my destiny will not be cut short. I’m parting ways and breaking up with you as I enter 2016. I declare 2016 to be a year full of love, health and creativity. The best is yet to come!

Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

Donate to Silvia's Health Fund

Christmas Miracle

Silvia

Wow! What was supposed to be an easy 10-14 day recovery from laparoscopic surgery turned into four of the most painful weeks of this year.  Six doctor visits, one ER trip, four CT scans and one emergency procedure later I am now on my way to recovery. I ended up with an infection which was hard to detect because I had no symptoms other than swelling so they thought I was just developing a seroma. A week ago a drain was inserted which stayed in until its removal on Tuesday. Last week I told my husband all I want by Christmas is to be able to walk without limping and pain, and to be able to sit in a chair and eat dinner with family. Up until now I could only stand for 5 minutes max and spent most of my time in a recliner or bed because I couldn't sit up due to pain and swelling. I got my Christmas miracle! It's amazing how much better I felt within 24 hours of the drain removal and after a few days on antibiotics. I can now walk without pain and I sat at the table and ate dinner for the first time since Thanksgiving. Thank you for the prayers, thoughts, calls and text messages! Needless to say, I was not able to get my final surgery done this year and will be postponing until spring 2016.

It was so challenging to be immobile for a month. This past year and especially this last month has helped me realize how much I've under appreciated the value of rest. I still fight it at times which seems so silly when I look back. I'm learning I can't, nor do I want to live life at warp speed. There's good reason why many other cultures value longer holidays, adhere to strict work weeks, and enjoy long dinners with friends and family. They understand how to relax and enjoy life. It's not just physical rest I seek, but mental, emotional and spiritual rest as well. We’re taught we have to strive for everything but rest grants me the ability and capacity to see life and circumstances through a new lens. Sometimes all that's needed is a fresh revelation about ourselves or our circumstances. I seem to find just that when I slow down and choose peace.

A huge thank you to everyone who has given to the health fund my sister setup. I wish I could hug each and every one of you but unfortunately distance separates many of us. Please know I am so grateful for your generosity and beautiful words of encouragement. I'm hoping to be able to take the Greece Test at the end of January.

Wishing all of you a very merry and restful Christmas! Love lavishly, savor the moments with your people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

Little Pink Retreat

Silvia

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. It’s been a whirlwind of a week. We returned home from Florida, I had surgery the following day, throw in Thanksgiving on painkillers, and a week of recovery and here we are. I finally made a turn for the better on Monday becoming more mobile, however now I think I’ve overdone it. I’m grateful for my followup appointment tomorrow and I’ll let you now what the good doctor has to say.

This week I also received the results to my most recent round of blood tests. This test looks at numerous growth factors that can feed and cause cancer to grow. The good news is three of the growth factors that were elevated have returned to normal ranges, however now there are two new growth factors that are elevated which are slightly concerning because they have never been high this past year. It doesn’t necessarily mean that cancer is growing but if left unattended, it can provide the right environment to help it spread. My naturopath has and is still recommending that I have the “Greece Test” done. The Greece Test, where blood work is actually sent to Greece, tests for circulating tumor cells against 51 natural substances (such as turmeric, B17, mistletoe, etc.) and it assess which substances are killing off the cancer cells, weakening the tumor cells and what can slow down the growth of the cancer cells. I’ve avoided getting this test to date since its $2,500-$3,000 and not covered by insurance, however now we’re getting to a place where it would be beneficial to create a more targeted natural treatment program based on these results instead of continuing with the current hit and miss approach. Unfortunately, my medical oncologist refuses to rescan after chemo because it will only show tumors or masses and not circulating tumor cells that chemo may have missed, nor does she administer or trust the current breast cancer blood marker tests. It would seem like this is the next logical step in getting useful information to continue on this healing journey. More decisions to be made in the near future.

Now that all of the informative stuff is out of the way, I can’t wait to share with you about our Little Pink Houses of Hope retreat! Words cannot even begin to express how grateful Stan and I were to be chosen to go on this retreat with seven other families. Miraculously out of 2,600+ applicants we were given this extraordinary gift, a week long trip to New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Gracious donors provided each family with a beach front home/condo and local restaurants and a farmer’s market donated all of our meals for the week. 

 Jumping for joy! Grateful and loving life!

Jumping for joy! Grateful and loving life!

From the moment we arrived, we were embraced with hugs and unconditional love from none other than the Little Pink founder herself Jeanine Patten-Coble, and her team of volunteers aptly referred to as Volunstars. Their smiles, hugs and love never seemed to wane or run out all week. 

 Top Left: On the beach.  Top Middle: New beach bods. Bottom Left: Hydro-biking in a lagoon with one of the Volunstars who also happened to be a lifeguard. Notice my life vest?! I have yet to learn how to swim, it's on my to-do list.  Right: Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, Florida's tallest lighthouse of which I climbed all 203 steps, Whew!

Top Left: On the beach.  Top Middle: New beach bods. Bottom Left: Hydro-biking in a lagoon with one of the Volunstars who also happened to be a lifeguard. Notice my life vest?! I have yet to learn how to swim, it's on my to-do list.  Right: Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, Florida's tallest lighthouse of which I climbed all 203 steps, Whew!

They provided morning and evening activities and each family could decide how much or how little they wanted to participate. Some of the fun events they prepared for us were; a beach day, stand-up paddle boarding and hydro bikes, a boat tour, an afternoon of hair and makeup, date night, an art activity, a lighthouse tour and a mini photo session. Stan and I participated in all of the above missing out on a couple other activities only because I needed a little extra rest. 

 Left: Me with Little Pink founder Jeanine. Such a privilege to meet and spend time with her! Top Left: Stan with Doris (aka "New Smyrna's Google" according to Stan). Top Right: Me with Paula, our family's Volunstar. Loved getting to know her! Bottom Right: All the awesome Volunstars!

Left: Me with Little Pink founder Jeanine. Such a privilege to meet and spend time with her! Top Left: Stan with Doris (aka "New Smyrna's Google" according to Stan). Top Right: Me with Paula, our family's Volunstar. Loved getting to know her! Bottom Right: All the awesome Volunstars!

There were so many amazing things about this trip but there were two things that meant the most to us. First, the people. I enjoyed connecting with other women who understand what it is to be given a breast cancer diagnosis and to conquer all of the crazy things we and our families had to endure in recent months. I am proud to stand along side these women declaring hope for our futures and that we are survivors and thrivers. Then there are the Volunstars. These men and women (many of whom are breast cancer survivors themselves or their loved ones were affected by breast cancer) lavished us with love and extravagant generosity for an entire week. These folks actually raised funds to participate, how cool is that! Second, Stan and I were so grateful for the opportunity to just relax and make memories while leaving the weighty decisions, procedures, tests, financial obligations, etc. of this past year behind us for a week. A cancer diagnosis can be exhausting so it was a blessing to not have to plan for housing, meals and entertainment affording us extra time to focus on each other and just living. It was an amazing gift to feel "normal" for a week and live present in each moment. We are thrilled to have connected with such beautiful strangers who are now our new Little Pink family. Thank you Jeanine for pursuing the Little Pink Houses of Hope dream God placed in your heart! We made memories that will be cherished for a lifetime! One of my future goals is to return as a Volunstar and pour into the lives of other families.

 From our mini photo session at Ponce Inlet. Photo credit: Gabe Fernandez.

From our mini photo session at Ponce Inlet. Photo credit: Gabe Fernandez.

Some of you have asked what breast cancer organizations I recommend to those wanting to give financially. I tend to answer with organizations that make a direct impact on families and/or that are local, so now I am happy to add Little Pink Houses of Hope to the top of that list. Also, while shopping this season you can select Little Pink Houses of Hope as the charity to support through Amazon Smile.

As always, I’m doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

Just Another Surgery or Two

Silvia

Hello friends! Life has been feeling a bit crazy and busy lately. I just finished a few weeks of physical therapy for some fullness and swelling around my mastectomy incisions and to help build up my core. I have very little core strength left after treatment and sitting on my behind for so many months and now I’m slouching horribly. I’m giving all of you permission to tell me to straighten up. Overall I’m doing well. I’m still dealing with fatigue, struggling to stay hydrated, some dizziness and some hormone fluctuations. I keep gaining and losing the same 5 pounds rather than losing the 15 pounds I had hoped to be down by Thanksgiving. Thinking I will need to up my activity level eventually.

Speaking of hormone fluctuations, I will be having a laparoscopic bilateral salingo-oophorectomy (removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes) the week of Thanksgiving in an effort to decrease estrogen and progesterone production. I tested ER+ and PR+ (estrogen receptor positive and progesterone receptor positive) so the hormones were unbalanced and helping to fuel the cancer. My doctor highly encouraged this surgery in my case since I’m choosing not to do radiation therapy or tamoxifen (a hormone inhibiting drug) at this time. And, as if four surgeries in one year were not enough, I will be having yet one more procedure the week of Christmas (yes, great timing I know) to remove extra skin left behind after the mastectomies. My breast surgeon has suggested I wait two years before getting any type of reconstructive breast surgery which does not bother me. I feel like my body still needs time to heal and honestly I’m not sure what type of reconstruction, if any, I want right now. I will be spending the next few months recuperating. Hopefully you have far more exciting activities planned this holiday season.

 Some updated photos taken by my hubby. Right: Seven weeks of hair regrowth!

Some updated photos taken by my hubby. Right: Seven weeks of hair regrowth!

I have some very cool news to share with you. My husband and I were awarded a retreat/vacation to New Smyrna Beach, Florida through Little Pink Houses of Hope (LPHOH). This organization was founded by a breast cancer survivor and they give trips to women diagnosed with breast cancer who are going through treatment or up to 12 months out from treatment. Their mission statement is: “To promote breast cancer recovery by offering opportunities for survivors to reconnect and celebrate life.” How awesome is that? I love that they call all of us survivors whether we are still in treatment or not. Our words bring life and hope and they totally get that! There will be 10 other families on this retreat along with volunteers or “volunstars” as they call them. Each family will be housed in a home or condo on the beach which was graciously donated while providing all of our meals and daily outings and activities. I feel blessed beyond measure to have received this trip as we would not have been able to afford a vacation like this right now with all of our medical responsibilities. I’m even more excited for my husband to have this trip than for myself as I believe these types of diagnoses are harder on the caregivers than the patient. My guy has taken tremendously great care of me this past year sacrificing so much while helping me contend for life. I look forward to sharing more with you about this experience in my next post.

Ok, time for some gratitude...

  • Thankful for multiple 70-degree days in November in Ohio
  • Grateful for people who think of me, and small beautiful gifts given that carry huge impact. I was given two such gifts this past week. 1) A lovely little teal, heart-shaped rock with the word “Strength” written on it was given to me by a lovely lady with a big, beautiful contagious smile. The rock sits on my desk and it has literally brought a smile to my face everyday this week as I’ve caught a glimpse of it. Thank you! 2) Another lovely lady painted me a beautiful picture accompanied by life-giving, encouraging and energizing words whose timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The words feel like a launching pad and everyone that has come into my home these last few days have been so taken with this painting. Thank you friend for this treasured gift!
  • I’m so blessed to have 10 wonderful nieces and nephews. The youngest nephew made my day recently. His mom typically puts me on speaker phone and when he hears my voice he starts yelling “Auntie, Auntie, Auntie!” Melts. My. Heart.

Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

Difficult Choices

Silvia

Hello! I know I said I’d write sooner but sometimes the unexpected thwarts the best of plans. Just a warning, this is a looooooong post but I promise to break it up with some pictures, sound good?

Almost two weeks ago I ended up in the ER with an infection on one of my mastectomy incisions. Seven months after surgery, crazy right?! They said it was most likely a micro-tear that allowed one of those not so lovely germs that lives on our skin to not play nice. I’m not a big fan of antibiotics but I heartily accepted them this go-a-round. I had a follow-up with my surgeon yesterday and the wound is healing nicely. Since chemo ended and up until this point I would have told you I feel great, but unfortunately this ordeal and the large amount of meds seem to have taken a lot out of me. It didn’t help that I was feeling a little sorry for myself and made the poor decision to consume sugar and dairy. Here’s to a new day and making wiser choices.

On a more positive note, the hubby has been most gracious to drive me around the Cuyahoga Valley National Parks in hopes of capturing a bit of autumn. Due to the infection, fatigue and my inability to lift more than a few pounds he has been hauling all of my equipment. We go out for small bits of time and on short trails which is all I can tolerate right now. I’m so grateful for all of his support and adore spending time in nature with my love. For those of you who have inquired about purchasing prints, if you know what image you would like you may contact me directly for a quote. Otherwise I am working toward updating my website with prints for purchase by November and will post when the site is up.

  October Sunrise at Kendall Lake at Virginia Kendall in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

October Sunrise at Kendall Lake at Virginia Kendall in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Well, back to my health and the radiation treatment decision. I am told radiation is to kill any remaining cancer cells but mostly to prevent local reoccurrence of cancer in the chest wall and lymph nodes under the arm. To be real honest, this has been an agonizing two months and I have wrestled with a lot of fear. During chemo, fear would come but it typically got kicked to the curb in a timely manner as I chose to see and speak life. I really thought chemo would be the hardest thing I had to face during this season but having to decide about radiation threw me off my game as I feared making the “wrong” decision. Mind you my oncologist and surgeon’s preferred protocol includes 7 weeks of radiation and then 5 years on a hormone inhibitor (a pill taken daily). I, however, believe there are viable natural therapies in addition to medical science so there loomed a huge choice before me. I spoke to women who did radiation and they are fine. I talked to women who did radiation and said it was the one thing they regretted most about their treatment. I heard from women who refused radiation in lieu of natural therapies and are NED (no evidence of disease) and yet there were stories of those who did the same and are no longer with us. I can get all the advice in the world but I still have to walk my own path so right now I’m choosing not to get radiation treatment. Here are a few reasons why:  1) Even though the cancer was on the right side, they want to radiate over my heart. It highly increases the odds of developing serious heart issues especially since the chemo can also cause cardio-toxicity 2) Radiation suppresses the immune system even more so than chemotherapy. Half-way through chemo my killer cells dropped to almost non-existent. My naturopath ran an extensive blood panel last month and now all of my killer cells/interleukin levels are above optimal ranges. Do I really want to suppress my immune system again? Right now I would rather it work in my favor 3) Lymphedema is a huge concern since they want to heavily radiate under my arm due to 13/20 lymph nodes being positive for cancer. This could greatly impede physical activity and especially pursuing photography. Granted lymphedema can occur 25 years down the road due to a mosquito bite or nick on my right arm but there is a much greater risk with the radiation. Not to mention they also want to radiate every lymph node in my neck/shoulder area further weakening my immune system. I had no clue before my consults that the radiation would cover such a large area. 4) As I mentioned my naturopath ran extensive blood work and said that in 15 years of practice he has never had anyone have a reoccurrence when all of their blood work #s are in optimal ranges. With the exception of two things, all of my blood work looked great. We added a few new supplements to help with the two areas that are out of range and will rerun blood work in two more weeks and go from there. So I will continue with a strict diet, attempt to exercise as much as I can and take supplements that have proven science behind them. It’s been such a tough decision and it’s scary but I can honestly say I do not have a peace in my heart or mind about moving forward with radiation. There are some days I think I’m nuts for not following the MD’s protocol but in the end the doctors nor their methods (conventional or natural) can provide any guarantees. As a wise friend aptly stated, no matter which treatment I choose to do I am still contending for life. I have to be fully persuaded in the road I decide to travel and move forward with no regrets. The doubts still want to creep in every now and again but they are swiftly sent packing. I would greatly appreciate your continued prayers. I believe the miraculous still happens today. I love the prayer that our Pastors shared with me, “God, may I not live one day short of all the days You have planned for me!”  Our words are powerful, they can be used to create or destroy. 

  I am happy to report I now have eyebrows, short eyelashes and you can no longer see scalp. This is 2.5 weeks of regrowth on top of my head. Folks, it really is the little things in life! Photo credit: Hubby.

I am happy to report I now have eyebrows, short eyelashes and you can no longer see scalp. This is 2.5 weeks of regrowth on top of my head. Folks, it really is the little things in life! Photo credit: Hubby.

  Here's another one where you can see my mug. My hair is coming back a whole lot more gray in the front than I recall. Keeping it real right now, however a bottle of organic color may find it's way home with me before the holidays. Photo credit: Hubby.

Here's another one where you can see my mug. My hair is coming back a whole lot more gray in the front than I recall. Keeping it real right now, however a bottle of organic color may find it's way home with me before the holidays. Photo credit: Hubby.

Gratitude List

  • I’m so appreciative for strong women in my life who provide wise counsel. This list is certainly not all-inclusive but these women’s words were particularly meaningful to me this past month. Mom, Taran and Nancy, your insights helped realign me when my thoughts and direction became tangled. 
  • A thousand thank you’s to everyone who purchased tanks!!!!! We picked up the tank top order and they will be shipping out on Friday! If you are local and opted for delivery, I will be in touch with you very soon. It’s been a challenging financial year and a half for us with the hubby getting laid off in Spring 2014, relocating in Fall of 2014 due to hubby’s new job, the cancer diagnosis just a couple months after moving, meeting medical deductibles and co-insurance in December 2014 just to turn around and meet them again within the first eight days of January 2015, my inability to work the majority of this year due to surgeries and chemo, having to short sell our condo this Spring, and then trying to include some non-bank breaking alternative treatments which insurance does not cover. 
  • I am beyond grateful to be so loved by all of you! I truly cannot express the depth of my gratitude for all of your support these last 10 months. I know I’ve said it before but I cannot acknowledge enough all that you wonderful people have done for me whether it be calls, texts, emails, prayers, words of encouragement, words of life, hugs, care packages, gifts cards, personal visits and I’m sure much more that I’m not listing.

Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

P.S.  If you’re wishing that you would have purchased a tank top, it’s not too late. I was able to stock a few extra in all sizes and you can get them here. Remember, if you are local and I know you (or you know my hubby) and you don’t want to pay shipping, contact me through FB or the website and I can manually enter your order without the shipping cost and will deliver your tank(s).



What's Next?

Silvia

Hi there! It’s been a while and I hope this post finds you well and making the most of these final days of summer. I’m excited to be back sharing with you on my new blog site!

I'm now eight weeks out from completing chemotherapy and I’m feeling good. I still get tired easily and I’m dealing with some residual side effects but nothing we can’t work through. The port removal surgery in mid-August went well, I’m healing nicely and can finally sleep on my left side for the first time since the bilateral mastectomy in February - huge win! I finally got back on my clean eating program this past week and I’m trying to walk, lift small weights and rebound (jumping on a mini trampoline) to begin building up endurance, muscle tone and a healthy lymphatic system. 

So, the biggest question on everyone’s mind... what next? You’re going to love me for this (yes, that’s sarcasm) but you will have to wait for my next post which I promise will come much more quickly than this last one. I came down with a sinus infection in August which setback all of the testing I was having done by my naturopath as it may have skewed numbers. I am waiting on one final test result to come back.

In the meantime I’ve been working on something fun I’m excited to share with you. I designed a ladies tank top with truths that I have learned about myself as I’ve navigated the challenge that is cancer. It doesn’t matter what your challenge is, these affirmations describe all woman who persevere and are survivors. Even if we’re mid-process, sometimes we have to speak truths over ourselves a number of times before we see them come to pass and embrace them. There were many times during these past nine months, and still now, I have to remind myself of what I know to be true even though I may not see it visibly just yet. 

I am making this tank top available for sale as a fundraiser to help with treatment expenses. As many of you know, I do freelance photography and was not able to schedule work after the mastectomy, during chemotherapy or a couple weeks after the port removal (my equipment was too heavy to lift). Also, I will most likely be having 2 additional surgeries before the year is out further taking time away from my potential working schedule. If this shirt is something that resonates with you I would greatly appreciate your support. I decided on a tank top because I love layering pieces and this should come in time to add your favorite fall cardigan and then be a great addition to your wardrobe next summer. It feels way too early to be saying this but I will anyway. The tank would also make for a great Christmas gift or stocking stuffer for the women in your life. You can order your tank by clicking here. Please note that this shirt is a “pre-order” item, meaning I will place the order for the tanks as soon as I get 25 pre-orders (my minimum order amount). I will update the bottom of the home page on this website everyday with the total # of tanks ordered to date until we get the minimum order (25). The tanks will arrive 2-3 weeks after the minimum order quantity is reached. 

If you are local and I know you (meaning you are family, friend, thru Facebook, etc and live in the Akron/Cuyahoga Falls area) and you don’t want to pay shipping contact me. I will enter your order removing the shipping charge and will deliver the tank to you when the order comes in. 

Thank you in advance to everyone who purchases a tank top, and even if you are unable to make a purchase I would greatly appreciate it if you can share my post or the tank top link on any of your social media outlets. 

Oh so much to be grateful for! 

  • It made my heart so happy to be able to see so many friends and family these past few weeks and hug your lovely necks!
  • Grateful for new friendships.
  • Tickled to see the teeniest, tiniest eyelashes starting to grow back in.

Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia

No More Chemo Tuesdays

Silvia

Two weeks ago today the electronic pump that sends chemo through my port flashed red and beeped at me for the last time. Eight cycles of chemotherapy have officially been completed! Whoo-hoo! I wore a pink tutu (that I was up making the night before while on my steroid high) to celebrate, and brought treats for the nurses who have all been so good to me. The nurses took turns stopping by my cubby to wish me well. One of my favorite nurses surprised me with a beautiful angel wings necklace and told me she carries some of the patients home in her heart and I was one of them. Of course she made me tear up. I am happy to report many of my side effects have eased up in the last two weeks. Although there are a few foods I will probably never eat again due to chemo, my taste buds are getting back to normal which means I can finally drink water without getting nauseous. Huge win! Now to kick this darn cold/sinus infection I came down with on Monday especially since the oncologist agreed to let me get my port taken out next week. Another huge win!

 Left: Me and my sign. Can you tell I'm excited?!?!  Middle: The tutu. Right: Stickers and blood word. Photo credit: My Hubby.

Left: Me and my sign. Can you tell I'm excited?!?!  Middle: The tutu. Right: Stickers and blood word. Photo credit: My Hubby.

I met with both the radiation oncologist and the medical oncologist this past week. Unfortunately both appointments left me and the hubby with more questions than answers which is not what we were hoping for. What makes the situation most challenging is the diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer. It is so rare and there are so few studies that the medical community’s best answer is to “throw the kitchen sink at you" due to its aggressive nature and hope it works. The hubby and I have decided to take a breather for the month of August. Time to have some fun, get back on track with healthy eating and exercise, do more research, get a second opinion, and most importantly more prayer.

 Left: Me covered in 5 blankets because I freeze during infusions. Right: The pump, my pusher. Photo credit: My Hubby.

Left: Me covered in 5 blankets because I freeze during infusions. Right: The pump, my pusher. Photo credit: My Hubby.

Each and everyone of you are on my grateful list this week! There are not enough thank you’s that can be exclaimed for all of your support, prayers, contact, encouragement and generosity. These past six months have felt as though you have picked me up and hoisted me on your shoulders carrying me, screaming, shouting and cheering me on. I have felt so loved and encouraged, and pray that I will continue to give back, support, speak love and be half as kind to others as you have been to me.

I’ll end with a story and an admonition. Stan and I decided to check out the Haymaker Farmers’ Market in Kent as we heard they have a good amount of organic offerings. Unfortunately, I misread their start time so we showed up over an hour late and most of the produce was gone but we decided to roam the market to see if we wanted to make a second visit. As we walked past a booth I saw the sign “Knitted Knockers" so I had to stop. The organization’s motto is “knitting for those in need" and turns out they provide free, soft, hand-knitted knockers to those who’ve undergone a mastectomy. They’re great for folks like myself who are not an immediate candidate for reconstructive surgery. Plus the chemo and steroids have caused so much swelling in my chest that my incisions are now pulling and not allowing me to wear my light prosthetics for more than an hour or two at a time which means they rarely get worn. So I returned home from the farmers market with a pair of knitted knockers and cucumbers. I met a wonderful group of women using their talents to give to others and I was tickled with my “boobs in a bag" as I called them. Knitted Knockers are at the market every first Saturday of the month and you can check them out online at www.knitedknockers.org. Speaking of breasts, I want to encourage the ladies to do breast self-exams and to get whatever preventative testing you feel is best for you whether it be a mammogram, ultrasound, MRI or thermography. I especially want to stress the importance of the self-exam since I was the one who discovered lumps in my breast in 2000 and 2006. Both times the masses were non-cancerous and surgically removed. And again, last fall it was through my own observation of changes to the skin on my breast that I sought a medical consult which led to the cancer diagnosis. You know yourself best, so ladies, please check your boo-bee’s!

Doing my best to love lavishly, savor the moments with my people and choose Joy!

XOXO,

Silvia