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“I’ll have the wild blueberry please.”

“Your lunch looks so heavy this morning! Did you pack some for me?”

“Sam I forgot to bring your socks again, I’m sorry.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what it means. I’m scared.”

“It’s likely metastatic.”

 

Lines from recent conversations. Lines from different moments on different days, all of which brought me to tears.

I debated whether to say anything online. This place is usually filled with happy self-deprecation and a deep love for local food. But when you fall apart ordering a blueberry donut, it’s time to admit that life has thrown you one of its wildly unpredictable curveballs.

I called a friend to tell her the news.

“You should say something.”

Openness is both my strength and my weakness. Anyone with a pair of ears has heard about the times when I’ve burnt my food, failed a test, or had too much to drink.

I admit to my faults, and there are many. But I don’t like to tell stories that aren’t remotely funny. They stay deep, dark and buried until the skies are once again clear. When I can talk about them in the past tense. Make light of the situation.

“Remember the time when I walked to the hospital with a cockroach in my shoe? That was funny.”

Health issues – present tense – are never funny.

Cancer isn’t funny.

Particularly when it shows up 14 years after it went into remission.

Too much has happened since then. A husband. An apartment. A dog. Three beautiful kids. A lake house.

It seems unfair. But what is unfair?

Is it fair when another person gets sick? Your co-worker’s child? Your friend’s mother? Your brother? Your sister?

Cancer is a numbers game. There are things that you can do to better or worsen your odds, but in the end, it strikes randomly, and has nothing to do with fairness. It has everything to do with bad luck.

So you try to be upbeat.

You distract yourself. You work. You take the kids to school and drop them off at tennis.

You listen to the conversations happening around you. “Sophie isn’t being challenged. You’d think that after all of these lessons she’d know how to hold a racquet.”

You try hard to forget the news that you were delivered. That more likely than not, you have stage IV melanoma.

I’ve been writing for two years about what life is like on the other side of cancer. It’s full of healthy food, birthday cakes, love, frustration and joy.

It would be inauthentic for me to disappear into thin air, or to provide vague information. “Checking out with some health issues guys, see you in a few weeks.”

I wanted to finish telling the story about that incredible trip through New Mexico with my Mum.

And now I’m giving myself permission to rest. To focus on my health and spend quality time with my family.

Tomorrow I’m going to the hospital for surgery and I look forward to hearing these words when I wake up: “We removed it, follow-up treatment is…, your prognosis is good.”

There’s no reason to believe that I’ll hear otherwise. My doctors have told me that I’m going to be OK. I believe that I’m going to be OK. After a week that involved tearful phone calls, depression and isolation, a strange thing happened. I started to take pleasure in old routines – making myself a nice meal, taking the kids to the museum, reading a book at night. I wish that I could say that I willed myself to this place, but it happened organically. And although I’m anticipating bumps in the road ahead, I know that I have the mental strength to get myself through this challenge.

I promise to update this page as soon as I have my energy back. And I look forward to returning with great news. There is so much good coming our way – another summer at the lake, boxes of CSA vegetables from the Hudson Valley, a recently-planted herb garden that’s already in full bloom. Summer camp for the kids, swim team, trips to the neighboring blueberry farm.

Life is happening around every corner.

Whatever is thrown my way, I’m ready for it.

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UPDATE

It’s been a week since my surgery and recovery, although slow, is going well. As much as we’d hoped that it wasn’t cancer, here we are, stage IV melanoma. Treatment is still undecided, but we’ll learn more in the coming weeks.

I’m in good spirits though. Food has once again become my beacon. It’s my comfort blanket, my shield. There’s “healthy eating”, the kind of eating that I’ve embraced for the past 14 years: joyful eating, everything from scratch, wholesome ingredients, mountains of vegetables, nothing processed.

And then we have its reclusive, tough, and oh-so empowering cousin: “HEALTHY EATING” – no white flour, no sugar, no red meat, no dairy, no regrets.

I don’t look at my list of antiangiogenic foods and think about restrictions. I look at this list and see 150+ ways to beat cancer.

Hippocrates once said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

So I’m gearing up for battle; building my arsenal with weapons such as blackberries, ginger, whole grains and leafy greens.

If you’d like to see the TED talk that inspired this dietary shift, you can find the link here.

For now, you can picture me exactly where I am most days: on the couch, Lauren’s “High School Musical” blanket keeping me warm; Jackson on his back by my side, paws in the air; bowl of kale salad in my lap; ginger tea at arm’s length; kids in costume, making a mess, performing a show…surrounding myself with every inspirational anti-cancer book written since the beginning of time.

There are worse places to be in life.

See you guys back here soon.

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Officially, the first day of spring is March 20. I don’t know about you, but a spring that involves snow in the air, wind chills and below freezing temps is no spring to me.

Spring means blossoms. The kind that look like Malcolm Gladwell tree wigs.

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Earthly blooms, bursting with color and pollen.

Long walks outside with shoes that don’t cover my ankles.

The absence of hot chocolate.

Skirts with no tights.

These things rightfully don’t happen in March. Unless there’s a freak warm weather system that gets Chad Myers’ underpants in a twist.

But April. We expect more of you.

Prolonged warm spells, not just pockets of heat.

I’m not offended by a pocket though. The weekend, for instance. Sandwich it between workweeks and the weekend is thrilling. Exhilarating. Titillating? All of those at once.

Imagine this: if every day were a weekend day, where would be the joy in approaching a weekend? Which may be a sensation even better than the weekend itself.

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“Mom, I had a nightmare.”

“What happened?”

“There were three little squirrels trying to claw their way under the covers.”

“That does sound scary. But don’t worry lady, we all have nightmares. I had one last night too.”

“What happened in yours?”

“Well, we’d just flown back from a family trip and were at home unpacking our bags…when I realized that we’d planned another family trip for that very same day. It was a huge rush to repack everything and get back to the airport. And on top of it all, I had to write a blog post.”

“Um….that was your nightmare?”

Yes, my dear, as you age, nightmares become less about monsters, more about things like perfectionism and overcommitment. But maybe that’s just me.

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Fortunately I don’t have nightmares about the blog too often. And when I do, it’s not about the work that I have to do, but about the standard that I try to maintain. As I look back at earlier blog posts, it’s wonderful to see an evolution. Which, in a sense, is what keeps me going.

I’m my own biggest critic, so when I see improvements – whether it’s within the writing, or the photography – I become excited to do more. To write more, to take more pictures, to develop a style that feels distinctly my own.

I read an article in The New York Times that said that blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants. Causality seems clear. People get caught up in the metrics – their pageviews, unique visitors, press mentions, and number of social media followers. It can be frustrating when you’re not getting as much exposure as you think you should.

I know this from prior experience. I was spending hours each week throwing myself into this new hobby, which somewhere along the line became a legitimate job – taking pictures wherever I went; writing at odd hours of the night. And I wanted to know that people were reading it. If not, what was the point?

Recently I wrote about perspective. About shifting your view, even by an inch, and suddenly the world looks a whole lot different. Yes, I was talking about Starbucks and grits, but the rules still apply.

Year 2 was about taking this new perspective.

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Oh, who was I kidding…I really don’t do anything besides dress myself in well-worn knits and cook food all day. That trip to the Farmer’s Market that I posted last week? Aliens abducted me, bandaged my eyes with banana peels and forced me to walk, one foot after the next, until I reached the outskirts of my block. Which was terrifying and exciting all at the same time, but it’s nice to be back on the home front again.

Becauuuuse, it was Spring Break this week! Woohoo! And unlike my friends who surprised their children with trips to Disney, etc etc, I surprised my kids with this: “pack your bags kids, we’re heading up to the lake. Again.”

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School weeks are tiring enough without having to race around town getting prescriptions refilled and purchasing mini toothpaste sets. Who’s with me? Why travel when you can have fun in this glorious snow?

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Besides, we didn’t just have snow over Spring Break. We had days upon days of record-breaking lows. Which, mind you, when you’re situated right upon a lake, results in lows much lower than those horribly bad lows. These are the kind of lows that keep you trapped inside all day (win!) but that freeze your pipes (:(((() For the record, that was a quadruple frownie face, and until they replace my keyboard with emoji, we may have to put up with more of those.

This wasn’t a total destruction on par with last year’s freeze. Fortunately, just the kitchen pipes froze and eventually thawed. Which for 3 days meant no dishwasher, no running water (kitchen only), and a mounting pile of dirty dishes in the sink.

So let’s focus on what we could do last week. Because my glass is half full with the lemonade that I made out of those Spring Break lemons.

First up: Christmas.

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More nesting. I apologize. But these are particularly good nesting moments that needed to be shared. They happened post-Christmas, which was technically part of the same vacation as the last post. But I couldn’t bore you with 60 images in one sitting. Or you’d never visit this site again, and that would make me so very sad.

You may recall from the last post that I’m working on obtaining my PhD in nesting. Some of you also may know, from experience, that getting a PhD – whether it be in biophysics, mechanical engineering, or the art of relaxation – is hard work.

I spent the first day of 2015 ingesting healthy foods. Which is challenging when someone with a horse tattoo is trying to steal your spiced pumpkin seed garnish.

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And I’ve been working on strengthening the mind/body connection with my spiritual guru. He’s an industry leader, having developed a patented set of progressive methods to induce relaxation. Furthermore, he’s published numerous papers in several relaxation journals, and is frequently cited by Psychology Today as one of the great minds of the 21st century.

Let me introduce you:

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Central to his theory of relaxation are 1) find a comfortable spot, preferably an off-limits bed and 2) follow a rigorous set of stretching, snoring, and other breathing exercises.

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