Farewell to cancer

I haven’t written about cancer for a while because, let’s face it, life is short and there are better things to do than waste your time thinking about potentially fatal illnesses. There are books to read (I’m on my 30th so far this year), albums to listen to (I’ve racked up at least 219), new tattoos to acquire, and so many other endeavours worthy of my time. I pretty much only think about cancer when I run into someone I haven’t seen for a while and am asked for a recap and status update. Even as I stare in the mirror at this crazy new bedhead that has been appearing lately and fight the temptation to put the clippers into action once more, I don’t really reflect on the fact that cancer is the reason I shaved my head to begin with. I itched for a year and doped myself up with chemo for another six months, and yet I almost have a big blank spot in my memory where the lymphoma should be. For better or worse, I do remember everything from that period, so it’s not as though I’ve had some sort of protective selective memory shielding me; it’s just that I find cancer boring to ponder. I had it, I got treatment for it, I’m now in remission and hope to stay that way. Time to move on.

Or, I should say, almost time to move on. It feels wrong not to provide some closure to the cancer adventure, so here I am with a few last comments–a sort of eulogy for the lymphoma in order to bid it adieu.

I’d like to start with a few graphs that I whipped up to explore the changes in my blood work over the course of my treatment. I’ve been pondering whether it is narcissistic or just nerdy to create graphs from one’s own medical data, and all I can say is that you can take a girl out of academia but you can never take the academic out of the girl. It’s hard to say no to a good time series. Let’s start with haemoglobin, shall we?

haem

Haemoglobin is the protein in your red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen; anaemia is a condition that results when you have too few red blood cells, which is common in cancer patients for a variety of reasons. As you can see from my handy graph, there were a couple of times when I was nearly anaemic, but, overall, I was in pretty good shape throughout my treatment.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t keenly feel the loss of my friendly red blood cells. Lower haemoglobin levels can result in a faster heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty engaging in athletic activities. I experienced all of those symptoms at various times, sometimes panting after just a few steps on a staircase or after summiting the tiniest of crests. I tried to distract myself from the struggle by imagining that I was an adventurer acclimating to altitude at an exotic base camp somewhere high in the mountains.

leu and neu

Leukocytes, otherwise known as white blood cells, are an integral part of the immune system, earning their keep by fighting off infection. Neutrophils are a particular type of leukocyte–the most abundant type, to be exact. The neutrophil count is derived from the leukocyte count, which is why the curves in the graph above mirror each other so closely; the neutrophil values are merely a percentage of the overall leukocyte numbers. As you might guess from the general pattern above, chemotherapy kills off white blood cells, which is why my counts drop precipitously after my first treatment and then rise exponentially after the last. I’m not sure about the cause of the increases and decreases in the middle, since I can’t think of why my white blood cells would rebound roughly every month despite the fact that I was getting chemotherapy every two weeks. Something to ask about at a future consultation (more on which below).

Having such low leukocyte levels–though mine didn’t ever fall too far below “healthy” levels–can result in an increased susceptibility to infection. For this reason, I was told to buy a thermometer so I could keep track of my temperature and immediately respond to a fever. There were signs all over the haematology clinics advising patients not to enter if they were ill (particularly with gastroenteritis), and I subsequently became the most obsessive-compulsive hand-washer that ever was. Despite being convinced that I would wind up catching every cold, flu, or gastrointestinal bug that made the rounds in my department at work, I actually never had a single transmitted illness during chemo. Go figure.

plate

Platelets, or thrombocytes, are responsible for helping blood clot. My platelet count took a nosedive after the first chemo session and still hasn’t recovered. However, “normal” levels are anything from 150 to 450, so I’m not exactly in the danger zone. Having a lower platelet count can cause you to bleed for longer and bruise more easily, but I can’t really comment on whether I suffered these side effects because I don’t normally experience much bleeding or bruising except when prodded by phlebotomists and subjected to cannulization. *ahem*

All of these counts were done before each chemo session to ensure that I was healthy enough to receive treatment. Sometimes the levels drop so low that chemo can do more harm than “good” (it’s all relative here but you know what I mean), and a patient needs to reschedule. That never happened to me–in fact, my doctor told me that my values were frequently better than those of a normal, healthy person–but I did encounter some folks for whom this was a recurring problem.

I would be really interested in comparing the during-chemo data with the values from the blood work I had done prior to my diagnosis, as well as the readings I will continue to get every two months at my follow-up visits…

…which brings me to my second main point: where I am today. Several weeks after my final chemo session, I underwent a CT scan to look for any signs of rogue cancer cells hiding out in my lymph nodes (or anywhere else in my body, for that matter). The CT facilities in Truro were under construction and I hadn’t officially transferred to my new hospital in Devon after having moved to Exeter, so I had no choice but to take the train allllll the way from Exeter St David’s to Penzance so that I could be run through the scanner at the West Cornwall Hospital. The cherry on the top was that the hospital was, at that time, experiencing an outbreak of the norovirus, and patients were being advised not to visit unless absolutely necessary. Luckily, the adventure was worth it; the results showed what my doctor was anticipating, which was that I am in remission.

As much as I was ready to walk out of Treliske and never return, I was sad to say goodbye to Dr Forbes. He was everything you could ever ask of a doctor: charming, kind, funny, honest, intelligent, engaged, reassuring, patient, and just generally wonderful. What do you say to someone who could legitimately be described as having saved your life? How could “thank you” ever encapsulate the full extent of all that you are grateful for? We had an extremely short conversation and then I whisked out of his office, relieved but not surprised, hoping never to see the inside of the Royal Cornwall Hospital again but also wishing that didn’t mean that Dr Forbes was handing me over to someone new.

The handover itself involved a referral letter that triggered a series of other letters and phone calls that eventually resulted in my having a new consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. His name is Dr Claudius Rudin, who is no Dr Forbes but is still someone who suits my personality rather well. He was quite matter-of-fact and willing to discuss everything scientifically and in detail, which is exactly what my inquiring mind requires. He reiterated two things that Dr Forbes had already told me: 1) The follow-up visits are more for my mental health than anything else, since a recurrence is more likely to be detected by me than by blood tests or gland palpations; 2) If the cancer does come back, I’ll probably experience the same symptoms all over again, i.e., the dreaded itching.

Dr Rudin confirmed that the blood tests I get now are, statistically speaking, useless for making any sort of cancer-related diagnosis. This has actually been proven by research, but because haematologists are sadists, he’s going to have me continue to visit the phlebotomist anyway. Cruel. He also said that he’s quite the hands-off doctor and while he’s happy to answer any questions I have at any time, and investigate any symptoms that make me nervous, he’s equally happy to do the consultation over the phone or deviate from the every-two-moth schedule if my calendar dictates. Like Dr Forbes, he was referencing current literature left and right, and that makes me feel very good; I like people who know their stuff and communicate their knowledge plainly. Also, he’s very tall and Germanic, so he’s quite authoritative. You can’t not believe what he says.

I’ve saved the most important point for last. I wish I had an image to accompany this, but there was no way for me to get one because of photography restrictions inside the hospital. So I’ll give you two shots of chemo Caitlin instead:

Wearing all the kit I'd been given to monitor my heart palpitations...which vanished as soon as I was hooked up, of course.
Wearing all the kit I’d been given to monitor my heart palpitations…which vanished as soon as I was hooked up, of course.
Taking the train to the hospital on my last day of chemo, looking exhausted but feeling smug.
Taking the train to the hospital on my last day of chemo, looking exhausted but feeling smug.

Looking at my face–and particularly at my eyes–in those photos, you can see that chemo is not an easy thing. I felt calm and positive throughout my treatment, and I never once had a moment of doubt that I would reach the light at the end of the tunnel, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed the trip through the darkness. Those are serious drugs with serious side effects, delivered in an unpleasant way to tackle an unpleasant condition. Other than finally having an excuse to shave one’s head, there is nothing good about having cancer and undergoing chemotherapy.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t goodness to be found in the situation, and as amazing as Dr Forbes was, as unbelievably friendly and cheerful as the haematology clinic tea cart volunteers are, there is nobody on this earth who can compare to the haematology nurses. Those women are as near to saints as I think I will ever meet in my lifetime, and I simply do not have the words to describe what they meant to me, how indebted I am to them, and how inspirational they are.

Their faces are indelibly etched into my memory, as are the conversations we had during the endless poking and prodding and administration of drugs. We talked about Pilates, birding, deeper meanings of dreams, what it’s like to be an immigrant, British culture, places to go when visiting America…you name it, we covered it. They all learned my name and could greet me personally. They remembered where I liked to sit and which techniques worked best for getting my cannula in. They helped me count down to my final treatment and celebrated when they said goodbye on my last day.

I have been among their first patients in the morning, and was once their very last patient at night, and I can confirm that there is no point in between that they stop smiling or encouraging or caring or helping. They never have a moment’s rest; they sometimes receive abuse from grumpy patients; they have to deal with some of the most unpleasant of bodily functions; they often are trying to help patients that they know are dying despite their best efforts. It doesn’t matter. From the second they enter the ward to the second they leave, they give everything they have to make you feel better. I have never seen such selflessness or positivity in the face of adversity. They are truly remarkable.

I am not the sort of person who thinks that things happen for a reason, so I don’t think the cancer was sent my way to effect some great change in my life. However, there is a difference between something’s having an intrinsic meaning and something’s being found meaningful, and I will readily admit that I have indeed found meaning in this experience. It has shown that people can be kinder than you ever imagined. It has revealed that a positive attitude really can make a difference. It has proven that you truly can eat so much pizza that you lose your taste for it. It has demonstrated that if you write a book about flamingos, everyone you know will send you a get-well-soon card with a flamingo on it after you’re diagnosed with cancer. And, most importantly, it has confirmed the validity of Emily Dickinson’s great observation:

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”

So don’t waste time. Go out and live it while you can.

Resolution

I started 2015 by waxing lyrically on how each day, each hour, each moment offers an opportunity to start again. I was so glad to leave 2014 behind and begin to craft a new year that was happier and easier than the previous one.

Ha ha ha ha ha. *sigh*

Let’s revisit my resolutions and see how I got on, shall we?

1.  Complete two crochet projects by the end of 2015. NOPE! I did start a project, but I certainly didn’t finish it. I’m not too far off, and I have been thinking about it a lot lately, so maybe I’ll get around to that soon… *

The unfinished project
The unfinished project

2. Update my science blog at least once a week. FAIL! I wrote a couple of posts, which I managed purely by finding topics that I could write about as part of my full-time job and then co-opt for the blog. Despite my inability to make much progress with Anthrophysis, I have managed to write several articles for publication in popular science magazines, contribute to an academic book chapter, and review a book for an academic journal. I think I should get points for those.

3. Practice whistling at least twice a week (and learn some new songs!). NOT EVEN CLOSE. Since moving into my new flat, I’ve only whistled once, though not for lack of wanting or having time. The walls here are thin and I hate the idea of my neighbors listening in, so I am reluctant to pick up my instruments. Considering that my hall mates routinely wake me up at 4am by throwing drunken tantrums in the hall, I really shouldn’t be so timid.

4. Continue making one-second-a-day videos to document my life. NO. This project lasted all of one week before I decided that, actually, I was satisfied with my 2014 effort, and didn’t really need to repeat that for 2015.  Making the videos is interesting and fun on days that are full of unusual activity, but it’s a real chore on quieter days or when you’re unwell. I know the whole point is to gather together clips that show how every day is valuable and stimulating in its own way, but I just couldn’t face another 365 days of worrying about this.

5. Take a selfie every day (as done by Justin Peters–for philosophical reasons and not because I’m excessively vain!). NOPE! I started off pretty well and was fairly consistent for the first half of the year, but then my zest for this project slowly faded away because I had more important things to think about. In retrospect, I can see where it would have been interesting to document the whole cancer thing via the selfie project–especially the hair loss–but I opted instead to take photos of key moments rather than every single moment.

Key moment: Caitlin's first turban
Key moment: Caitlin’s first turban

6. Add variety to my workout schedule by doing more Pilates and tai chi. KIND OF. My new flat is tiny and doesn’t leave much room for these sorts of exercises. However, I have managed to squeeze some in, and I’ve been particularly enjoying the 30-day challenges posted on Blogilates.

7. Write e-mails to my family more often. MAYBE. I don’t know that I write the sort of chatty, newsy e-mails I was envisioning when I set this resolution, but I think I probably do send more total messages as a result of firing off a larger number of quick, short updates. I still need to work on writing my grandparents more, though.

8. Go birding more often. NOT REALLY. However, I have had some very enjoyable bird sightings over the course of the year, so perhaps I can go for a quality over quantity argument here. I had some great woodpecker and jay encounters while walking between the train station and hospital in Truro; I have spotted grebes and tufted ducks at Swanpool, instead of the standard fare of mallards, coots, and gulls; and I had a delightful time watching acrobatic long-tailed tits during a lunch break on campus. There were also some kinglets and bullfinches sprinkled across the year, and those species are always a treat.

9. Try a new baked goods recipe at least once a month, and take the fruits of my labor (assuming they are edible!) to work to share with my colleagues. NOPE! I think I managed to do this only once–when I made an apple cake that I didn’t want to eat all by myself. That said, it’s not like I baked and didn’t share; it’s more that I didn’t bake at all. I have, however, continued to cook, so I think I still get some culinary points there.

10. Read at least 30 books. YES! Hallelujah, I actually achieved one of my goals! In fact, according to Goodreads, I read 42 books. Go, me!

My 2015 reads
My 2015 reads

Out of ten resolutions, then, I only managed to fully and definitely accomplish one; if you give me credit for partial accomplishment of a couple others, then perhaps–if you are feeling generous–you’ll allow me to score myself 2/10. That’s still a pretty abysmal record, and a failing grade.

But you know what? I don’t feel like I failed, and that’s because, for everything here that I didn’t do, there was something else that I did do. I went to Key West and Portugal for the first time. I saw my book Flamingo published. I was nominated for three professional services recognition awards at work. I put together a puzzle for the first time in a decade. I shaved my head. I rented a car and drove myself all over Cornwall. I chatted with friends I haven’t been in touch with in years.

I was active–I just wasn’t active in quite the way I envisioned I would be. This may sound a bit like post hoc justification of what I did and didn’t do in 2015, but when I look back now on my resolutions, I can’t help but think that I might have had a less interesting, and perhaps even less fulfilling, year if I had doggedly pursued all those goals I set in January. They involve a lot of regimentation, a lot of box-ticking, a lot of work. Yes, they also involve things I love, but would I continue to love them after forcing them on myself in such a strict way? Perhaps not. I don’t know that I want to perform the experiment and find out.

I also don’t like the idea of limiting myself. For every task that you chisel into the stone of your yearly calendar, there are other activities that you may be rendering impossible by pre-emptively robbing yourself of the time and energy needed to pursue alternatives that serendipitously fall into your lap. You limit spontaneity and whimsy. Could resolutions, therefore, actually prevent you from enjoying life more fully and growing as a person? Wouldn’t that be counterproductive?

Spontaneity: visiting with an unexpected guest
Spontaneity: visiting with an unexpected guest

I don’t have answers to these questions, but I do know this: In 2015, for the first time since I was a little girl, I allowed myself to have whole days that weren’t planned in advance, on which I sometimes achieved nothing tangible at all–and I liked it. I enjoyed letting go and being less rigid and just…going with the flow. I enjoyed living.

I am, of course, only one person, and what works for me may not work for the rest of humanity. However, I can tell you from experience that you can get an awful lot out of your time even without a massive to-do list perpetually hanging over your head and reminding you of what you should do and how you should do it. Whatever you decide is right for your personality and circumstances, just go for it. Now. Don’t waste time. Every second is precious, and each one is an opportunity. Seize it.

*Update: As of 6:45pm, the crochet project is finished! Also, I remembered that I crocheted a small gift at Christmastime. So, actually…I think I did pretty well here. Woo-hoo!

Looking good, feeling better

Over the last few months, I have probably received more compliments about my appearance than I have during my entire adult life. I haven’t yet figured out whether I’ve somehow managed to suddenly start looking amazing, or whether I simply look better than people expect of someone who has cancer.

Blue Steel, daaaahling.
Don’t be jealous of my gorgeousness, daaaahling.

I suspect it’s the latter, combined with the fact that I looked absolutely dreadful for the several months during which my first cancer symptoms were keeping me awake half the night; compared to my haggard appearance back at the beginning of the summer, I look like Gisele Bundchen. If it’s the former, however, I have to give thanks to a couple of local experts from whose wisdom I have greatly benefitted–at a very tumultuous moment in my life.

The first is Katrina from House of Colour Cornwall. Along with three of my friends, I visited Katrina this past spring in order to have my colors done. Being stubborn, skeptical, and not really all that interested in fashion or beauty, I felt sure that the assessment would be a waste of my time and money. After pronouncing me an Autumn, Katrina sent me off with three new lipsticks and a little wallet of color swatches to help me weed non-autumn colors from my wardrobe and more efficiently shop for new items to replace the ones I’d just culled.

Some of my autumn hues
Some of my autumn hues

Although it took me a while to get used to the lipsticks–for someone who generally prefers a natural look, they were a bit too obviously makeup–I enthusiastically applied my new color rules, which, literally, brightened up my day. Much of the autumn palette comprises colors I already wore because they are my favorite shades, but there are also other hues that I have always avoided because I thought they didn’t suit me. I have become emboldened when shopping, trying on purples and greens and golds that I used to pass by; on the flip side, I’ve also snubbed quite a few things that I would previously have been tempted to waste my money on. Shopping is more efficient, and, even better, I mix and match components of my previous wardrobe differently, which makes me feel as though I’ve got a whole closet full of new outfits. It’s fun, bright, cheerful, and lighthearted–all very uplifting and positive things at any time, but especially when you are going through a rough patch in life.

The second contribution to my makeover came from Michelle at Sublime Boutique Spa. I consulted with her when I was still awaiting my lymphoma diagnosis, and was suffering horribly from my mysterious itchiness. I didn’t want to slather my sensitive facial skin with the Aveeno cream that I was using elsewhere on my body, so I was seeking some other method of moisturizing. Michelle recommended a quartet of products from Pinks Boutique, a purveyor of “luxury organic beauty products.”  I was initially nervous because of their price but decided to take the plunge because I’ve spent my whole adult life buying more economical products and feeling unsatisfied with my complexion; I figured it couldn’t hurt to experiment with something upscale to see if it made a difference.

Five months later, I’m still working my way through my first Pinks investments, and I couldn’t be happier. My skin looks and feels better than it has in years, and I am not self-conscious about going out in public makeup-free. I started receiving compliments very shortly after beginning my new skin care regime, and have frequently heard the words “radiant” and “glowing” applied to my appearance–which, considering that this has been a fairly tough time, just goes to show the benefit of a good skincare routine.

To an outsider, it may seem wasteful and pointless to dwell on externals like these during a major crisis, but I have found it to be very diverting and empowering and just generally pleasant, during a period when pleasant things can be few and far between. I recently ran across a blog in which the author, Sali Hughes, shared similar sentiments on the relevance of aesthetics; she describes how a friend adhered to her beauty regimen throughout chemotherapy because it allowed her to maintain her self–not just her daily routine and her ideal style, but also the physical appearance of which her disease threatened to rob her. Hughes writes, “During chemo, she drew on brows not because she was remotely ashamed of her cancer, but because she felt entitled not to be defined by it, and to enjoy the same level of privacy. These rituals were vital coping mechanisms for her. She wasn’t vain, shallow or in denial. She was just unembarrassed that beauty – along with literature, music and a hundred other things – was part of who she was, and determined that cancer would not erode both her character and her body.” 

I think this passage helps explain the benefit of  Look Good Feel Better, an international charity that aims to improve the lives of cancer patients by providing them a means to feel good about themselves. At LGFB clinics, cancer patients are given a complimentary bag of cosmetic products and then receive a tutorial on techniques for skin care and makeup application; the ultimate goal is to ensure that each woman feels able to take charge of, and feel confident in, her own appearance, regardless of how cancer may be affecting her.

Contents of my Look Good Feel Better bag
Contents of a typical Look Good Feel Better bag

My nurse signed me up for a session, which I felt a little reluctant to attend because I was very hazy on what it would entail; mostly I was worried I would have to talk to strangers, which, as we all know, is not my favorite pastime. It was, however, a very pleasant afternoon, and I’m so glad I didn’t talk myself out of going. For one thing, I did actually learn some useful information about makeup. Did you know, for example, that it is easier to sharpen an eyeliner pencil if you stick it in the freezer for about 20 minutes beforehand? Or that makeup will last longer if you keep it in the packaging in which you bought it? Or that you can cover your lips with foundation if you’d like to make your lipstick adhere better?

Literature from my LGFB day
Literature from my LGFB day

Anti-social though I may be, I have to admit that I felt, and enjoyed, the sense of team spirit that pervaded the room–a silent acknowledgement that all the ladies there were bound together by a shared life challenge. I never heard anyone discuss cancer outright, but of course we all knew that we were in the same boat, and I think that it engendered a feeling of sisterhood and support. As we all tried new makeup techniques, or acted as guinea pigs on which the session leaders demonstrated application styles, there were lots of compliments and words of encouragement. Everyone helped each other and had nothing but positive comments. The room was full of goodwill, and laughter, and joie de vivre; people were having fun, and that’s not always an easy thing when you’re undergoing treatment for cancer.

At the end of the session, I felt happier and more relaxed, simply from spending a couple of hours thinking about something other than cancer and chemotherapy. A few months ago, I would have said that a two-hour makeup tutorial was a frivolous way to spend an afternoon; now, I recognize that frivolity is all in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes you have to use whatever tool you can find to help you achieve happiness and a feeling of strength.

Post-makeover. I'm not sure the auburn-ish eyebrow pencil was quite the right shade for me...
Post-makeover. I’m unlikely to ever wear this much makeup in real life, but it was still fun to put on.

This is the logic behind the sartorial routine I developed for chemo day. When I was preparing for my first treatment, I decided that I needed a ritual for my fortnightly visit to the hospital–something that would express my feeling of defiance while also cheering me up and making the day more bearable. I decided on two simple rules: First, I would always wear a dress or skirt; and, second, birds would always feature somewhere in my outfit.

En route to chemo
En route to chemo, wearing a fab turban given to me by fellow vintage-lover Regan Early

Of all the things to be worrying about on the eve of pumping my body full of toxic chemicals, it seems a bit ridiculous to spend so much time and effort contemplating fashion, doesn’t it? And yet, every minute that I spend staring into my closet and picking out the perfect jewelry and ironing my clothes, I’m not fretting about cancer. Or feeling like a victim. Or thinking, “Tomorrow is going to be so awful.” Instead, I’m reveling in the opportunity to wear new shoes or whip out a hat I haven’t worn in five years or sashay around town in a flamingo-print dress. I am laughing in the face of lymphoma.

When I was standing in line before one of my first appointments, the woman behind me complimented my multicolored hat and approvingly said, “It’s good to wear something to brighten this place up.” I was so pleased that someone else recognized, and appreciated, what I was doing. It’s not like I see myself as some sort of hero–that would be the nurses and doctors who patiently tend to a horde of patients each day. I just wanted to take a cue from the folks who are willing to go out on a limb and be the only ones to wear a costume to work on Halloween, or commit to the craziest Christmas sweater during the holidays, or dress up like their favorite character for a movie premier–the sort of people who fully and un-self-consciously throw themselves into crafting a certain look simply because it makes them happy. I’ve always admired those people, and they’ve always brought a smile to my face–but I’ve never really been brave enough to be one myself. I figured this was as good a time as any to give it a go, and I’m pleased with the outcome. The receptionists have referred to me as “the one who always looks so glamorous,” which is great for my self-esteem; even better, I see people smiling when they see me, and sometimes I end up chatting with fellow patients about where I got my shoes or how best to pair a hat with an outfit–and for a few minutes, none of us is thinking about cancer.

For some reason, all the beauty stuff reminds me of this cartoon:

Source: http://www.lunarbaboon.com/comics/powers.html

There are all sorts of things that can make even the worst day better–listening to a great song, reading your favorite poem, giving change to a busker out on the street, wearing your brightest scarf. If it lifts your spirits, then it’s worth doing; if it also benefits someone else in some way, all the better. Even the littlest things can quickly add up and foster a sense of happiness, and that happiness invariably spreads from one person to the next. This is true not just in the best of times, but also in the worst–maybe even especially in the worst, when it’s otherwise all too easy to sink down under the weight of worry and fear and a feeling of helplessness. You may not be able to control the larger situation, but you can tackle little bite-sized portions, and that modicum of control may just be enough to give you the hope and energy you need to keep on going. Who knows what a different shade of lipstick and a dashing new hat can help you achieve?

In all seriousness, and to return to the theme with which I began this post, I have no idea what it is that people are seeing when they compliment my appearance. It’s true that the Pinks products and Autumn colors are great, but they can’t be that great. If there really is something different about me, it’s the fact that I feel much less inclined to waste time worrying about unimportant stuff; a cancer diagnosis does have a tendency to put things into perspective. There were hundreds of little niggling thoughts that used to plague me on a daily basis, but now I just shrug them off. I refuse to waste time and energy on anything other than healing and getting as much out of life as possible.

I wouldn’t be surprised if my new, more carefree attitude has removed some furrows from my brow and added a sparkle to my eye. I’m just ashamed that it’s taken such a drastic and traumatic life event to help me prioritize better. All the same, I’m pleased to have the opportunity for a reset–from the cellular level on up! I feel a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning…only with more makeup and some very fashionable bird-themed accessories.