All I can Do is Smile


Things & Stuff: July Edition

1. Health Status Report
I had a breast MRI last week. Kaiser farms this work out to a 3rd party since they don’t have the right set up (which is to lay face down with my boobs in separate holes, hanging). I forgot how LOUD NOISES MRI machines are, but it was painless and quick, less the IV for contrast. (I almost made it through July without getting poked.)

The results were clear. Yesssssssss. *fist pump*

I spoke with the breast specialist yesterday about the plan moving forward since prophylactic surgery is off the table (for the moment). I’ll do a breast mammogram in December/January & another breast MRI in a year. That way something is being done every six months. It’s scary to know that my chance of breast cancer is still a coin toss thanks to the BRCA1 gene. But onward we march.

Focus on what I can control and release what I cannot. Repeat to self.

2. Read any good books lately?
I recently devoured Love Warrior, though it was sent to me ages ago. Just as in other things in life, timing is everything. I don’t think I was “ready” to read it yet. In any case, it’s wonderful and I, as well as Oprah, recommend it!

You are not supposed to be happy all the time. Love hurts and it’s hard. Not because you’re doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everybody. Don’t avoid the pain. You need it. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you with the fire you’ll burn to get your work done on this Earth.

– Glennon Doyle Melton

Another friend sent me a really fun fantasy series called The Circle of Magic. Four books highlight a different child mage and how they learn more about their unique powers, both individually and together. It’s an easy read (meant for ages 10-15, but so was Harry Potter) and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Any recommendations from you that I can add to my pile of books?

3. Reset button
Kenji and I are headed to Kauai this Friday for 9 days in paradise. We’ve got a beachfront property on the East side of the island, near Kapa’a, and I cannot wait to get on island time. The slower pace of life is just what I need before returning back to full-time work in mid-August.

4. Returning to normal life
That’s right! I’m going back to work come August 21. I am so excited. Truly.

That’s all for now, folks! Will post some photos from HI while we’re there! You know, just to make you jealous keep you informed of the progress. ❤



On life after trauma

I saw this reposted on Instagram, and it’s pretty damn close to explaining my sentiments as I go through this.

From @bymariandrew:

I’ve been trying to draw something about living through a traumatic experience for a while, but it’s a really sensitive and complex topic, so I’ll just focus on this one part of my own personal experience:

The common conception is that you’re just so grateful to be alive afterwards, but that conception implies that you’re the exact same person you were before trauma. Same person, now with a new lease on life.

In fact, living on the other side of trauma feels like being a different person altogether — and a person who doesn’t quite belong anywhere.

It’s isolating, and is often accompanied by feeling of being a stranger even to one’s own body. It’s not the same Mari who is now just happy to still be here, it’s a Mari who has lost some trust in the world and herself and has a hard time talking about it.

In my experience, it’s frustrating to anticipate a swell of gratitude that may take years to set in, and it’s lonely trying to explain that it hasn’t happened yet.

I’m grateful for the wisdom that come with a brief visit to hell on earth, but it doesn’t exactly look like a new lease on life. Post-traumatic growth is certainly real, but complicated. Journaling helps. Nature helps. People help.



30 Days & What Have We Learned?

It’s been nearly 30 days since my last post. I’m constantly amazed at how time seems to pass in the blink of an eye. There’s much to report, so let’s get this party started, shall we?

Most importantly, we met with my oncologist today and are now officially in “wait & see,” or as I’m going to call it “go forth and conquer” mode. My CA-125 levels continue to stay in the normal range. This is a blood test I will get monthly, in addition to another cancer marker, called HE-4. There’s a small chance that the CA-125 won’t be an accurate predictor of cancer volume, however so far, it has been. That’s where the HE-4 blood test comes in. It’s just another marker for ovarian cancer that we will monitor closely. I anticipate getting a CT scan in September (3 months since my last scans in June), where we’ll track any growth (or not) of the cancer in my pelvic area (currently contained within a lymph node). Prophylactic surgery on the breasts is currently on hold, but I’m still working with a breast specialist to monitor that area of my body.

I will likely live with ovarian cancer the rest of my life and it will be treated as a chronic illness. This reality forces a shift in… well… everything.

That’s where the energy of the past 30 days has been focused. It has meant, in my words to Kenji: “no more fucking around.” My diet has to be on point. My exercise has to be consistent. And my mental health has to be under control. These are the things that I have control over that affect cancer’s growth. It’s my intention to do everything in my power to keep that growth at bay, and to learn to let go of those things that I can’t control.

Frankly, it’s hard work.

The past 30 days have had three main goals: eat well (gain weight!), reduce stress, and exercise. I’m proud to say I’ve put the work into each of these areas and am already seeing gains.

The reduction of stress has been one of the more difficult areas of growth. I continue to see a therapist, and I’ve added a meditation practice to my day. I’m using an app called Headspace to help guide me, as well as track my progress. It’s been hugely beneficial and it doesn’t hurt that the voice guidance is an Australian dude. (Sexy voice = more willing to listen. Ha ha ha. Hey, whatever works, right?)


Fitness has come easier than expected. Sure, there are days where I have to drag ass to make it happen, but I ALWAYS feel better afterwards. I started with 10-minute intervals on the elliptical and have increased to 25 minutes. I also began a courtship with the bicycle two weeks ago, first riding 7 miles, and last weekend 12. I can do laundry without needing to sit down for extended periods of time. I can cook a meal. These things I took for granted now mean the world to me.

After my stint in the hospital, my weight was a startling low 117 pounds (a number I can’t recall seeing since well before high school). My diet has been focused on whole foods, reduction of processed sugar, and just plain eating enough each day to sustain my body and fuel my muscles as I increase activity. Because we were already implementing these dietary changes into our lifestyle prior to my recurrence, this has been an easier shift to continue. Honestly, the hardest part when first coming home was simply eating enough. Thankfully, we’ve passed that hurdle.

I have another 30+ days before I return to work full-time, and my intention is to cement the aforementioned habits and refine them (particularly where diet is concerned). Being able to focus solely on myself has been weird, but wonderful. Mostly because I’ve never done so before in my lifetime. It’s a great reminder that when we take time to care for ourselves, we are then able to bring the best version of ourselves to the rest of the world.

I’m treating myself with grace and kindness and finding it to be exactly what I need. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.