Friday, March 30, 2012


hello friday. i have missed you and am so, so happy you are here. it is about time.

am looking forward to...
+++a day off from work (finally) - woohoo!!
+++wine tasting
+++road trip with some of my favorite peeps
+++eating my favorite chex mix
+++a little (or maybe a lot;)) shopping
+++coffee store for some gluten free goodies
+++my mom's wonderful cinammon french toast - my mouth is already watering
+++quality time with my family
+++playing candyland (multiple times i am sure)
+++mailing out some fun easter mail
+++did i mention wine?

have a great weekend everyone...xo.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


today i got my first issue of mamalode - i know that i am going to love it.

here is how i know.

as i was looking through it briefly tonight, i saw the word cancer on one page and stopped flipping pages.

it was an article by libby ryder and i immediately read ever word. some words i could totally relate to.

"it wasn't about a grandmother or a friend's cousin. it was me. my body. my chest. my neck. i was the one with cancer. i had been walking around. living my life. nursing my baby. being a mom and a wife and a friend - and cancer was inside me. rapidly growing without my knowledge or permission. it was surreal. numbing, but not dramatic. not for us. there were tears, but just the slow kind that trickled down my face, not the wet streaming king. simple, genuine shock with a million questions and thoughts, but nothing was said. all i knew was someone just told me i had cancer and i had no idea what that meant."

"but i was justin's wife. ava's mom. what did this mean for him? her? our future? i didn't know where to begin."

"would someone else raise her? would she ever know me? that was not something i could say out loud. not yet. it was too shocking. too real. too scary. too many unknowns."

"the instant i was told i had cancer everything changed. the love i thought i had was no more. instead, it became deeper and richer than i ever knew it could."

"i was scared. but mostly i was in "go mode". i did what i had to do and i suprised myself."

"who would raise her like me? instead of being her mom, i could be part of a story someone told her. pictures she looked at. not even a memory, just a story. people would tell her things like, "you have your mommy's lips or her laugh." the mere thought of it broke me."

it is so good to read words you can identify with. helps with healing.

"every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. a frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job...and onwward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. to be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another - that is surely the basic instinct...crying out: high tide! time to move out into the glorious debris. time to take this life for what it is."
(barbara kingsolver, from "high tide in tucson"

+++ gloria - i got the update from mom today about no radiation/chemo - that is awesome news. we are so, so happy. give larry a big hug for us. also, i am making your chex mix on thursday, will eat a couple of big handfuls for you. xo.

Monday, March 26, 2012

monday, you make me tired

i am tiiiiiiired. i blame monday.

i could totally relate to this blog today from curly girl design. i was thinking about all of the things that i want to do, need to do, have to do and was feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment that i came across this. perfect timing.

i made an appointment for next tuesday to have my dermatologist check out a mole on my head. he has looked at it before but the color has changed a bit over the last couple of weeks. better safe than sorry, right? right. ugh.

sloooooooowly crawling into tuesday....

Sunday, March 25, 2012


wow. this was a fast one, as they always are.

i told you we had a few things to do, and here are a few highlights:
-i found the perfect space in my craft room to hang this new angel from my mom-in-law. it is a kelly rae roberts piece and she said that it reminded her of me because the "tell your story" made her think of my blog. love it. thanks jo!
- we went to our favorite coffee shop for our gluten free goodies, apple juice, and an easter cookie with sprinkles;)

- bike riding in the sunshine
- hitting wiffle and real golf balls in the sunshine in our front yard and at a driving range, i will let you decide who you think hit them at each place;)
- detailed my car, i wouldn't say that was on the "fun" list - more like the "necessary" list - but i am loving it being so clean
- my massage, 90 minutes of heaven - i was a wet noodle leaving there. awesome.
- red mango pomegranate frozen yogurt. yum yum.
- discovering really tasty macaroni and cheese mixed with spinach at flying apron - i think (actually pretty much know) that it could (will) turn into a new addiction. so good.
- girl time in the craft room making cards
- malena decided that she doesn't need naps anymore...another transition begins.
- malena realized that she is an awesome driver (those skills are from her mom)
- i drooled (literally i think) over the new restoration hardware spring 2012 catalog. i tried to convince barrett that we should buy all new furniture for our house. for some reason, he didn't think that was such a good plan. bummer.
- in the catalog, on the first page they had this quote from steve jobs "if you live each day as if it were your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." so true.
- hit jamba juice for malena's favorite mango drink (thanks aunt megan!)
- swim lesson, our last one before malena (our mermaid who is all about swimming and diving these days) moves on up to the next series
- poured over a new craft magazine and got inspired for some new card designs (hi abby!)
- i got my fred hutchinson newsletter and there was a story on the shore run/walk. great statistic - the event has raised $2.5 million for cancer research over the years. awesome.

- i think that malena would love making these cupcakes
- we are going to take malena to see thomas the train this summer, can't wait! choochoo...
- crystal, beth, kristen - so excited to have you on the team!! woohoo!
- these scones look so good
- love that this designer does all of the small touches on her dolls herself
- excited to check out this blog, saw this recipe from the site and thought that malena would think it was so fun to make those cookies - have to put them on our "to bake" list

we begin again...hello monday.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

hello weekend

so glad that the weekend is here. in some ways it seemed like this weekend took a really long time to get here, in other ways it seemed to come around very quickly because each day was packed. i am happy that it is here and that it looks to be filled with sunshine instead of rain. loving that.

when i wrote about the walk i should have told those of you that are interested in walking with me that i am doing the 5K walk (michelle - excited to have you on the team, hutchinsons/sheehan clan/wallace/jill/meg - thank you for your donations!). you can walk or run 5k or 10k, so if you are going to join the team, you can do whichever you like. the different distances start/end at different times but we can all meet up in the park afterwards for some fun:)

i have thought a lot about my friend jim this week. last year, i walked to support him, this year i will walk in his memory. i have also thought about him because the day of the walk last year was the last time we communicated before he passed away on august 2nd. so i could very much relate to this post and their words about the friends they have lost in the last year.

i could also relate to shannon's words in this post. like her, i too feel on an almost daily basis that something happens which makes me think that i am having a recurrence. on wednesday of this week my right side started to hurt again like it did in the fall when i had to go through all of the tests. when it started to hurt again i immediately thought it was the cancer coming on strong, that they just didn't find it last year. the pain has let up again, but not my worry about it.

i hope that you all have a great weekend, ours is going to include....
+++ a trip to the dentist for malena's check-up, hopefully we don't have to turn her upside down and make her laugh so that the dentist can see her teeth like we have had to do before;)
+++ malena riding her bike
+++ making easter decorations for our family
+++ birthday party for our friend cody as he celebrates the big #2
+++ ordering fairy pictures that we had taken of malena, wait until you see them - so cute!
+++ a massage - so excited!
+++ hitting golf balls
+++making cards
+++going to our favorite coffee shop (or coffee store) as malena calls it for gluten free banana bread and apple juice
+++ checking out my new "mingle" magazine (jill, it will head your way when i am done)
+++ red mango frozen yogurt (yum!)

have a great weekend all! xo

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

time to put my shoes on.....

registration is now open for the 2012 shore run/walk in seattle on june 10th. proceeds from the event, including registration fees, benefit the fred hutchinson survivorship program - a program that i have directly benefited from.

last year i did the walk for the first time with friends and family and it was an awesome experience. although i felt like hell and my legs were aching due to treatments, it felt so good to be doing something. to walk. to smell fresh air. to see the gorgeous views. to put one foot in front of other. to raise funds for a cause that i directly benefited from. to walk next to my family and friends. to make good memories. to feel loved and supported.

so i have created a team for this year's event called "alli's peeps". if you are in seattle, i would love it if you joined the team - you can walk or run different distances, you can choose the right one for you. if you would like to donate, i would really appreciate it. if you would like to send our team good thoughts on june 10th, that would be fabulous as well. all good vibes are much appreciated.

you can go to my personal page (and yes, i know that there are font errors, but i can't figure out how to fix that) to check out my page or to register to be on the team.

healing. one step at a time. here i go.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


100 posts. how did that happen? i remember when i started last summer and thought that maybe i would do it through the end of treatment. but here we are. thanks for all of the support about this blog. i really, really appreciate it. it has allowed me to share things with you that i would not have otherwise - as much as i wish that it would, time would not have let me have 100 conversations with you to tell you all that i have told you by now. i know that i am more healed today for sharing my thoughts than i would otherwise be. for that i am so grateful. you read that words i write. for that i am so grateful.

"hold on to what is good, even if it's a handful for earth. hold on to what you believe, even if it's a tree that stands by itself. hold on to what you must do, even if it's a long way from here. hold on to my hand, even if someday i'll be gone away from you." (pueblo indian prayer)

this weekend was a mix of emotions. quality time with some of my favorite peeps, and down time at home playing match games with malena and barrett. perfect balance. but st. patricks day is always melancholy for me. at least it has been since my grandma josephine passed away on st. patricks day in 2002. i miss her every day. but on st. patrick's day my heart is much heavier. i so wish that malena could have held on to her hand.

i had a brutal nightmare early this morning. i woke up out of the nightmare and it took me a few seconds to realize that it was a nightmare. i was so tired all day from coming right out of that nightmare into the start of the day.

on friday, there was a blog update from melanoma mom and i always read every word she writes. i could very much identify with these words:

"melanoma is a crazy beast who attacks when and where she wants, oblivious to whom she is hurting, blind to the physical and emotional suffering of her captives. she doesn’t care what you want. she is not worried about your nightmares, the constant pit of dread contained in the belly of your family, or if your child will celebrate his high school graduation with both of his parents.  it seems that the difference between who she defeats and who is able to defeat her is almost entirely random."

and these ones...

"now that i am getting better, people keep telling me how great it is that i can get back to normal. i appreciate the sentiment, but the thing is there is no longer a normal and i can never go back. just like you can never go home again and you can’t step in the same river twice, you cannot look death in the face and then pretend you didn’t see it. you can go forward, but you cannot go back. so my new challenge is to figure out who this survivor is and how she is going to live up to all of the amazing gifts she’s been given."

and these ones...

"along this journey i have been extremely lucky to meet some of the strongest, bravest, most determined people i have ever met. i have met people who have been through much greater battles than mine and whose smiles outshine all others in the room. and the fact is treatment success is few and far between."

on friday, i also had a blog update on friday from william libby. his blog is william fighting cancer. although i have not ever met him in person, i consider him to be one of the strongest, bravest, most determined people i have ever met. i can tell that from the words that he writes. on the days that treatment kicked the side effects up a notch, i thought about him and his fight and immediately kicked my you-know-what into gear.

if you are sending good thoughts out into the world, please send some to both of them. also, send thoughts for my friend greta who will finish her interferon injections in july (greta, you are so close!).

another monday rolls around, no clue how that happened since it was just friday, but here we go.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

hour, i miss you so

i am not sure what it is about the time change, but springing forward one hour is rough every year. that one hour feels like ten, i am tired and i feel like i could have got so much more accomplished today if i had that extra hour. ok let's be honest, i could have at least got one more hour of sleep;)

so another week begins my friends...not sure how that is possible since it was literally friday about 5 minutes ago, but here we go.

hope it is a good one.

+++ i have always loved this song, had never heard it sung by a woman until i heard this version from adele. love it.
+++ i am also loving this song these days
+++ wondering if i could make this apple crisp recipe with gluten free flour and have it turn out as good as it looks. yum. might have to give it a try.
+++ my dad and i spent a couple of minutes laughing our you-know-whats off at some hilarious cards from this artist yesterday afternoon. i heard my dad laughing from across the store when he read this one.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

hair today, gone tomorrow

yesterday i got my hair cut and colored. it is still so surreal for me to sit in that chair with short hair. i am still not used to it, not sure that i ever will be.

this picture was taken right after my surgery, you can see my scars healing, and right before i started my treatments.

when i started my treatments, i knew that my hair could thin but was reminded that every patient is different so it wasn't a given. but as was the case with many of my side effects, i tended towards the more extreme end of the spectrum. i clearly remember when i knew that my hair was falling out. it was the week after i finished the high dose treatments. i was in the shower and washing my hair. i took my hands down from my head and i was holding a huge clump of my hair in my hands. i knew in my heart then i was going to lose most of it, if not all of it. i was totally and completely devastated. there were a lot of tears shed in that shower.

my hair continued to fall out until i was left with hardly any hair at all and what i did have was basically dead. so i wore hats every single day. in january, i finally worked myself up to what i knew i needed to do. i went to uw medical and they have an awesome volunteer center where they help cancer patients pick out and try on wigs. they provide the wigs free of cost because they are paid for by the profits of the coffee center at the hospital. so generous.

when my name was called in the waiting room, the volunteer took me back into a private room where they have the wigs. it was such a strange experience to see myself with different wigs on. i felt like i was moving in slow motion and looking at myself in the mirror thinking "yes, you have cancer, you have lost your hair, you feel like hell, you are now doing something you never thought you would have to do, you want to ball your eyes out, but i know you can do this." i chose a straight brown wig. it was different, anyone who knew me was going to know i had a wig. so why not just go totally different and make it obvious that i wasn't trying to make it look like my normal hair?

this pic was taken in the room when i had decided on the wig, you can still see the tags hanging off of it.

so one of the things you never think about until you have to try on a wig is that they come one size fit all. so if you need the bangs cut, or some other alteration, you have to get that done. i never even realized that until i had the wig's bangs in my eyes and realized that wasn't going work. the woman who was helping me told me that there was a hairdresser who volunteered his time and cuts wigs for cancer patients. she said that his name was jeremy and that he worked at the napolitano salon. i decided in that moment that i should try to get an appointment with him that afternoon if possible because otherwise i might not ever get my courage up again to do it and would therefore never actually wear the wig. so after i left uw i called and by a miracle he had an opening 30 minutes later. 

cue my wig angel jeremy.

jeremy was so nice. he told me that two women in his life had been affected by cancer and they had to wear wigs. when he realized that they needed their wigs altered, he decided to get training in how to alter wigs (cutting wigs takes special skills since they are synthetic so they need to be cut differently than real hair - one of the other facts you learn along the way) so that he could donate his time to help cancer patients. so kind. he was so nice and patient working with me, didn't question me as to why i didn't just shave off the few remaining hairs that i had, and was kind about my wig choice. he worked his magic and you would never have known that the wig hadn't been made just to fit me. i knew that he donated his time, but as i left i gave him some money to buy himself a cup of coffee as a small token of thanks, and could barely even say thank you through the tears streaming down my face. i knew that he knew. being in that chair, having a wig fitted, was one of the hardest things (and being in that room at uw an hour before was one of the other hardest things) i had ever done.

i wore the wig around the house a few times for short periods of time to see if malena would adjust to it and to make sure she didn't have a totally adverse reaction. the day i wore the wig to work for the first time was the next hardest thing that i had to do. but i work with a lot of sweet people so they either didn't say anything (i assume either because they didn't know what to say or because they figured there was no need to state the obvious - either way i was ok with nothing being said) or had positive things to say. i didn't wear it every day because it was not comfortable to wear and i was really anxious about it moving or being lopsided so it was stressful for me to have it on. my dad drove me around to different hair places because i had to find a cover to place over my head in order to be able to get the wig to stay on. the cover gave me something for the bobby pins to attach to so the wig would stay on. those errands were ones my dad and i never thought we would do together.

i never really wore the wig at home because i took it off as soon as i could for the reasons i noted above. when i was home i either wore a hat or nothing at all - and so only barrett and malena and a few family members ever saw how i really looked when my hair had fallen out. one day i decided to wear the wig at home to try and get malena more used to it. we were up in my room and i took it off the wig stand (another thing that you don't know until you have one is that a wig sits on a stand so that it doesn't lose form - seeing the wig sit on that form in your bedroom is also a strange and surreal experience). i put it on and said "look malena, mommy is wearing her brown hair" and she immediately started bawling and begging me to take it off. bawling and begging. it seemed like an eternity, it was probably not more than a minute. i was also now bawling and i immediately took it off.

a moment that she will never remember, one that i will never forget. i never recovered.

i don't think that i ever wore the wig again.

malena would usually pull my hat off when i was home. i think that even though my hair looked different, having anything on my head seemed even more different to her.

as summer approached, i knew that i needed to do what i had put off for too long. the truth is that i just could not emotionally get myself prepared to the point to say goodbye to the remaining strands of dead hair. i had thought about it time and time again, and always ended up a crying mess and couldn't bring myself to make the appointment. i finally did it. i booked an appointment with jeremy and asked him to cut off the dead hair. surprisingly, there was just enough hair for me to have a very short pixie cut with a new color. i never thought i would have short hair as an adult. ever. but, i also now know that you never say never.

jeremy took this picture right after he finished cutting and coloring my hair.

in some ways, it felt like relief because i had carried the weight of that move around with me for a long time and it was painful. in some ways, i was so sad because it signaled the harsh reality that i would never have my same hair again. in some ways, i was scared of how people would think that it looked. in some ways, i didn't really care how people thought it looked. in some ways, i wanted to show it off. in some ways, i wanted to curl up in a little ball and pretend that this wasn't one more thing that would remind me daily that i had cancer.

when i walked in the house that day, my parents and barrett and malena were waiting for me. as soon as i saw my parents, they had tears in their eyes and gave me big hugs and said they loved it. i know it was one of those moments for them too when the reality of their little girl having cancer hit them again. but they had seen what my my hair looked like, so they too knew this was coming. i had cried over this decision with my mom more than once. barrett was of course very supportive too, and malena looked at me and said "mommy got new haircut" and kept going on with her business of playing in her pretend kitchen which was a huge relief to me. i don't think i could have taken it if she hated it. the next day i saw a lot of friends and family when we did the shore walk and everyone was super positive as i knew they would be.

my hair has started to actually grow now, though it isn't the same texture or curly or the same color. but i could let it grow and see what would happen. but i am not sure what i want to do so i will keep it short until i know what to do next. i don't really like it short, but long hair belongs to the person that existed on july 15th 2010. not the person who is writing these words for you to read. i like my hair when i look in the mirror, i really hate it in pictures. i think that maybe the pictures bring the focused reality of looking different than i do in the other 35 years worth of pictures that i have. there are now the pre-cancer and post-cancer pics that are easy to tell the difference between because of how long/short my hair is. that doesn't mean i don't like the pictures, i do since they document a moment i am present in, but i really hate how my hair looks in them.

when someone compliments my hair now, my right hand automatically goes up to the back of my neck. i can't help it. i think that it is just my way of reminding myself that my hair is short, and that i feel the back of my neck, instead of my long curly hair.

i  recently donated my wig back to the cancer care facility since i hadn't used it much and so it can be cleaned and used for other patients. i wanted it to help others, i had no use for it anymore, and i couldn't have it in the house anymore. even when it was put away, i thought about it when i walked by the closet and it was hard on me.

there are still times that i cry because i really miss my hair. there are still times that i have flashbacks of those moments with malena crying. there are still times in the shower that i think about the grueling endless days of holding my hair in my hands in the shower. there are still times that i get sad because of how my hair looks on my camera screen right after i take a picture. there are still times that i wish that i didn't get upset as much as i do sometimes about my hair.

but there are also times that i remind myself that i held my hair in my hands and bawled my eyes out in the shower, i tried on wigs, i put on and got a wig trimmed in public in front of others, i wore a wig in front of people i knew, i wore a wig in front of people i didn't know - and knowing that they could tell i was wearing a wig was not easy because you want to tell them how damn hard it is and that yes you know they can tell you are wearing a wig, i had the remaining dead hair on my end cut off in public in front of others, i have tried my very best to embrace a new haircut that symbolizes a ton of hurt.

but there are also many times that just like my scars - both the physical and emotional ones - my short hair reminds me that i have survived. 

and during those times, i don't think my hair has ever looked better.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

birds on a wire

i am officially sick of being sick. i might crawl my way back to the land of the living tomorrow. we will see how it goes.

in the meantime, i thought that i would share the artwork that i had made for our 5th anniversary. i decided to have a piece made that would mark the date of our anniversary, but would also mark where we are now with malena in our lives. perfect. couldn't be happier with how it turned out.

i sometimes look at the piece and wonder if there will be a second bird in that tree someday. the decision on whether or not we will have a second child remains unmade at this point but i still carry it with my every day. but with my next rounds of scans coming this summer, it is a decision that will wait until we see what results come our way and how we move forward from there.

there is not a day that goes by that i don't think about the unknowns that the future holds.

but i try hard not to dwell on those unknowns for too long.

i know the answers will come in their own good time.  some days that is a little bit tougher to remember.

one day at a time. one day at a time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

down for the count

i have been sick for the last couple of days with a cold that is kicking my you-know-what. so i spent most of the weekend sleeping (thanks to cold meds - which also apparently get rid of nightmares - awesome side effect that i am currently loving). i am grateful that barrett didn't get sick so that malena had one functioning parent who could feed her and play with her. i am home sick from work today as well, and about to curl up into a little ball for another cold meds induced nap, but thought that i should drop a quick note since my crazy work life and this cold kept me from writing much last week.

besides cold meds that allow me to actually sleep, here are a couple of fun things to start the week....
+++super excited to dive into this awesome magazine with malena (thanks ann!) to see what great artwork we can create
+++just subscribed to this magazine for moms - read good things about it in my latest "where women create" magazine (jill - i will be sending the new wwc your way later this week, in addition to marshall's bday present, i hope that he won't hold it against me that it will be late since i am sick)
+++if i am ever in columbus, ohio i am so going to detour to this store
+++i am in total (i mean 110%) love with this chair
+++this site is pretty cool because they have illustrated recipes, very fun;)
+++kelly rae roberts has new artwork in her shop - and i recently purchased this one so that it could be the first thing i see in the morning and the last thing i see at night

hope you are all happy and healthy;)