Tips for fighting stress!

We’re already halfway through the first month of 2018! Along with a new year comes new opportunities as well as the opportunity to look back on the previous year, providing the opportunity to reflect on both all of the good and the bad.

2017 was a fabulous year! Our family of four traveled together, I enjoyed the last 6 months of my last maternity leave, Julien and I had a getaway to Banff, my sister moved home from Vancouver and we spent lots of time with our family and friends.

Like most, 2017 also presented us with some difficult times. Just before Christmas 2016, we lost my grandma. Lucky for me, mom and I were with her when she passed. I’m honoured that I was able to help granny through her last day on earth but this experience was both stressful and heartbreaking. Granny was my only grandparent present in my life and meant so much to my mom, sister and I. I could dedicate many posts to granny and all of the things that we did together and how much I/we loved her. She literally dedicated her entire life to her children and grandchildren and I will forever be grateful to her for that and all of the memories we have.

A few weeks after granny passed, Mom was diagnosed with stage 3B ovarian cancer and less than a week later, underwent major debulking surgery, two days before her 59th birthday. She spent quite literally the rest of 2017 fighting her cancer. For anyone who has had a parent diagnosed with cancer you know how difficult this can be and how helpless it can leave you feeling. For those who know me, you know that my mom is my world and quite literally my first love! She, like granny, has dedicated her entire life to her babies and I’m SO lucky to have such a present, loving and fun mom.

So, now it is 2018 and I’m happy to report that December 2017 was mom’s healthiest month since her diagnosis. She hosted an amazing Christmas dinner as well as NYE with her friends and she’s had more energy than ever. She’s been able to snowshoe, keep up with her grand kids and spend lots of time with family and friends. She’s even been working out. What a champ! She’s a real life superhero :)!

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Three peas in a pod!

Even better, mom had her regular 3-month appointment this week with her oncologist and she received positive feedback 🙂 our family couldn’t have asked for anything better. Her chemo worked really well and her cancer remains in remission. F*uck you cancer, you messed with the wrong mama!

Like most, the love that I have for my family is immense. I wouldn’t be who I am without all of them so when mom was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer, 11 years after she fought breast cancer, I was devastated. I was half-way through my maternity leave and was heartbroken. It was one of my biggest nightmares. Although I had SO much good going on, I felt as though I was drowning in pain over this. As though I couldn’t cope with mom’s diagnosis and our new reality. It just wasn’t fair…of course, like many, I learned that life isn’t always fair.

Lucky for us, mom is strong and recovered from the insanely difficult surgery and recovery, her painful chemo and is living each day to the fullest. She is positive 95% of the time, allowing herself to have the occasional pity party day, understandably. Because of her strength, I try to encourage myself to show the same strength and to focus on all of the good that we have going on in our lives!

Since the end of her chemo, she see’s her oncologist every 3 months at which time they tell her about her markers etc. This process has been quite stressful. The first two months we’re all happy and well 🙂 we focus on all the positive and try not to think about the cancer but as we approach the third month we become more and more anxious. I don’t know about you but I’ve never experienced real anxiety until this year and sometimes it can be quiet overwhelming. I think that it’s directly linked to the lack of control that I have in this situation. So, I’ve decided to share with you some of my tips and tricks for dealing with stress and anxiety 🙂 I’ve only recently (2017 onward) started practicing these activities and although they weren’t easy to do at first, I’ve come to love each of them.

As I’ve noted before, I used to be a major cardio junky. This changed, in the last year, as I really needed to slow down, relax and breathe. Here are my tips for staying calm anytime and especially when you’re feeling anxious or stressed:

Incorporate yoga into your weekly regime, including conscious breathing:

As previously mentioned in my post about our family trip to Florida, yoga really helped reduce the stress that I was feeling at the time. I started practicing with my father-in-law and really helped reduce my anxiety, around mom’s diagnosis, when I was on maternity leave. Being a runner, I loved nothing more than intense workouts. Yoga can be intense but the conscious breathing, holding of poses and reflection at the end are medicinal. I swear tears literally fell, quietly, at the end of many classes as I lay there on my mat, practicing mindfulness and gratitude.

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Yoga taught me that it’s ok to slow things down. That both my mind and body appreciate it and that practicing conscious breathing greatly reduces ones stress/anxiety. For those who feel as though your days are flying by and that you have little down time, I highly recommend that you give yoga a try. Like meditation, it is SO hard to slow your mind and body down, at first, but with time you will reap the benefits.

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Meditation and mindfullness

Do you meditate? If so, I would love to know which apps or books you follow. If not, you should totally try it out 🙂 Why? Why not? Even before mom’s diagnosis, she tried to encourage us to meditate and I’d always say sure mom lol well, like everything else, she was right. Meditation is AWESOME and has helped me get through the difficult times this year and continues to help me daily.

I love to use the apps headspace and calm. At first, it was SOOOO hard to meditate. All I did was think about all I had to do, how weird it was that I was lying on the couch or sitting on a chair trying to focus on nothing when all I could do was focus on all that I had to do. Well, like most activities, meditation takes practice and, if you give yourself time, and practice regularly, your meditation sessions will improve and bring you much joy.

Like yoga, I started practicing meditation last summer, when mom was undergoing chemo. I figured why not try it out. I’d put our daughter down for her afternoon nap, lay down on the couch, plug myself into headspace and do a 10 minute session. For those who use this app, you already know how intoxicating this guys voice is. You can’t help but hold onto it and try hard not to fall asleep. At first, it was hard to make it through 5-10 mins but now I do at least 10 minutes a day and, if I need it, I will do an additional 10 on my way home from work.

 

 

Presently, I use headspace, once and a while, on my commute home from work and I use Calm before bed. Julien probably regrets telling me about Calm lol because I listen to it EVERY SINGLE night before bed and without headphones. It’s amazing. You can listen to meditation for sleep, relaxation, stress etc and to different sounds. My favourite sessions are those for sleep with rain in the background. Amazing! I swear I’m asleep within the first three minutes. I highly recommend adding meditation to your daily routine. Another benefit is that is allows me to practice conscious breathing and gratitude daily. #grateful!

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Dehumidifer and calming scents:

Last, but not least, my parents-in-life bought us a dehumidifer for Christmas and it has also become part of our evening routine. We like to use it with a variety of amazing scents that encourage relaxation. I like to use it when we are watching a show in the living room and then again when we go to bed 🙂 I set it so that its on for two hours, turn my sleppy time meditation on and I am gone lol is there a better way to fall asleep! We have a few scents now but I would love to hear about your favorite ones so please do feel free to leave a comment with your recommendations.

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So, there are a few of my tips for reducing stress. Tomorrow, after waiting 9 weeks, I will be receiving my BRCA results. I can promise you that tonight, like every night ;), I will be going to sleep with my dehumidifier, and calming scents, while listening to my sleepy time meditation and I encourage you to do the same.

For those who try these tips out, I hope that they bring you much joy. As for staying positive, this is just in my nature. I’ve always been and will always be a positive person. Life is good and I encourage everyone to wake up with a grateful heart. Grateful for their life, their children, health, family and friends!

Hope you have a fabulous weekend! Thank you so much for stopping by and for your ongoing support.

Love,

Ash xo

 

 

BRCA 2 Positive – Now what?

Hey everyone,

Today’s post is more serious than the others. As most of you know, the motivation behind this blog is my amazing mom and being able to connect with others who may be going through a similar situation. In addition to this, my goal is to encourage everyone to focus on the positive things in life. We all encounter difficult times throughout our lives and, although we may not want to, we have to find ways to accept them. I have SO much to be thankful and grateful for in my life and I owe a lot of it to my mom.

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Mother and daughter xo

So, let’s get to it. As many of you know, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in February of this year. Since, she has undergone major debulking surgery, recovery, and chemo. Since her last chemo session late spring, she had an amazing and healthy 4 months chemo free AND at her last oncologist appointment, last month, we found out that her cancer is currently dormant. I’m not religious but I thank whatever power is out there watching over her and our family! Her CA125 cancer markers (the marker used to measure ovarian cancer) haven’t increased and remain well under the normal range. This news couldn’t have been better. I can’t describe how it feels to wait for these appointments. Not knowing what the results will be. The anxiety I feel waiting for the news can be awful but we are SO grateful that the news was positive and that her body and cancer responded well to the chemo they gave her 🙂 !!!

When mom was diagnosed in February, we were told that because she had had breast cancer 10 years ago and now ovarian cancer that she could be tested for the BRCA genetic mutation if she wished and free of charge. Testing for this is very expensive therefore it isn’t available to everyone, especially since only 1.2 percent of Canadian women are at risk of getting ovarian cancer and an even smaller percentage of those carry a BRCA genetic mutations.

Do you know what this genetic mutation is? If not, I will explain but maybe you will remember the (what some call) radical surgery Angelina Jolie had after finding out that her mom, who passed away from ovarian cancer, carried this genetic mutation. Angelina decided to have a double mastectomy in response to finding out that her mom carried the BRCA 1 gene. Why, you may ask, well because those who do carry a BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutation have an increased risk of getting both breast and ovarian cancer.

Being the mother of two daughters, my mom decided to follow-through with the genetic testing. We were told that it would take 3 months but it ended up being close to 6. Last Friday, we had her follow-up appointment. I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I was for this appointment. I knew that there was a small chance that she would carry it and, that if that was the case, my sister and I would have some decisions to make but it wasn’t until her genetics doctor actually said the words “you ARE BRCA2 positive” that everything really hit me. I knew this was a real possibility but until it was actually confirmed, I guess I was hoping otherwise. I understandably burst into tears. Mom, however, felt a sense of relief. Now, she knew that her girls would be tested annually (MRI and mammogram) and that we would be provided with surgical options if we wanted to embark on those journeys. She is the most selfless person I know. Always thinking about us before herself.

What do these results mean for mom:

  • The not so great news is that she is 85% likely to have breast cancer. The good news is that now that they know this, they will continue to monitor her annually which is relieving.
  • Other good news is that because she has a BRCA 2 genetic mutation, they are able to offer her additional treatments for her cancer if it awakens. This news couldn’t have made us happier :).
  • Lastly, the results gave mom a sense of relief knowing that she didn’t just have bad luck. Rather, her cancers were/are the result of a genetic mutation.

What do these results mean for my sister and I:

Well, mom’s results mean that we have a 50% chance of carrying the BRCA2 genetic mutation. As a result, we have the choice of being tested ourselves, free of charge. To some, I’m sure that this would be a difficult decision. For myself, it’s a no brainer since messing with ovarian cancer is no joke. I’ve decided to go ahead with the testing, which involves simple blood work, and it will take between 1-2 months for my results.

So what does it mean if the results come back positive for my sister or I? Well, it means that we will have a 50-85% chance of having breast cancer and 10-30% chance of getting ovarian cancer (compared to the general population’s percentage which is 1.2%). Also, we will have the choice of undergoing a double mastectomy and partial or total hysterectomy now or just prior to menopause (which is what is recommended).

Although scary, all of the above is positive news for my sister and I. It means that we will have options and I’m so thankful for that and being able to tackle this decision well informed. I, like Angelina, am approaching this more aggressively. If my results come back positive, I am choosing to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstruction as soon as possible and a hysterectomy well before menopause. Saying I was going to do this, prior to mom’s results, was one thing, but knowing that this may be a real possibility now makes everything more real. But, if my mom was able to fight and beat breast cancer in 2006 and undergo everything she encountered this year, then I can do this. I owe it to myself and my children who will also have a 50% chance of carrying this genetic mutation if I do. Even our son.

Moving forward, I will keep you guys posted on the results and what happens next. For those of you who out there who are living through a similar situation, know that you are not alone. That you are strong and loved and that no matter what we will get through this. Life is a gift and sometimes we are dealt unexpected cards but we have to be grateful for all that is good in life and enjoy every moment to the fullest.

Today, and every day I am grateful for my amazing life. For my husband and kids. My sister, friends and my mom who made the person that I am today.

 

What are you grateful for? 🙂

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Sending  positive energy and love out to everyone xox