When I began to take photos of myself each morning (well, my husband does it, not me), I had decided that not only was it good for me, but that it’d be good for my daughter as well. As a six year old, who just loves princesses, it’s my duty as her mother to remind her as often as possible that skinny doesn’t automatically mean beautiful (you know, like the princesses). I want to be sure she realizes that beauty is more than just how you look, but also that beauty is what you make it to be. (Along with that, we talk about being smart, getting good grades, being nice to people, sharing, and all the other “good parent” topics.)
But as a woman who has had weight issues her entire life, even when I wasn’t *actually* overweight (I’d like to thank my dad for always reminding me I didn’t need that extra helping of food), I’m hyper conscious about my daughter feeling that way as well. My hope is that in 20 years, when she’s a grown woman, living her life, she will know and understand beauty, and feel comfortable being herself. I also hope that she’ll look back fondly on our relationship, and how I loved her, and how I loved myself.
That seems weird to say, but honestly, I don’t want her to write a post (or actually a book) like the one Kasey Edwards wrote titled “When Your Mother Says Your Fat.” I highly recommend you read it, as it will help to understand what I don’t want to do. I want to be nurturing, and help my daughter understand the importance of eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise. But my goal is to never make her feel bad, or ugly, or unimportant, or unloved because she’s not thin. I was going to make headway on this goal, by making sure she realized that even though, I’m big, I’m still beautiful (as she actually says to me often.)
Now, this morning, my daughter was having a play date with a couple friends at our house, and then heading to a birthday party in the afternoon. But for some reason she was throwing down some real attitude about everything. At one point while her friends were over, I asked them to stop running in the house before someone got hurt (you know… as you do as a parent). All the kids got a little grumpy about that and mine walked over to the front door and said, “I’m outta here!” We all just looked at her, because there’s a kid-proof doorknob it, and she can’t get out… I may have even smiled knowing she couldn’t go anywhere. But what came next from her, I simply couldn’t have prepared for.
“You’re not that skinny, you know!”
Her friend looked at me with huge, astonished eyes, then back at her.
“Wait, what did you say?” I asked, wanting to be clear of what I’d heard.
She gasped and immediately started bawling. She ran to her room yelling how sorry she was, and cried on her bed for a while. I didn’t actually know what to do. I was in shock.
Since this morning, she’s apologized several times, and she often tells me how beautiful I am (perhaps as much as I tell her). I’m not actually upset with her at all, I’m finding that I just keep questioning myself, my motives, and trying to figure out what she meant exactly.Did I do something that I didn’t realize, that made her say that (even when it seemed so random)? Does she see through me saying I feel pretty, knowing full well that I really don’t like the way I look? Does she think, that I think, that I’m skinny? Does she simply know that I worry too much about my weight, so she knew my weight was an easy target when she was angry?
I don’t really know the answer to any of these questions, I’m not totally sure I want to know the answer. But, what I do know is that the things I do, say, and feel… affect her as well. She picks up on things, and sees through me, and reads me. I’m pretty sure she knows if I’m bullshitting her. So I need to work harder on getting myself together, because she needs me to, hell I need me to.
It was just about a year ago, when I was lucky enough to visit South Africa for the third time. I went with a group of co-workers for an event called Mozcation, and spent the first week with them hanging out in Cape Town. We went on a tour of the cape, walked to the V&A Waterfront, took a boat to Robben Island, and rode the cableway to the top of Table Mountain. But one of the things I always enjoy most while traveling, is shopping at local markets.
On my last day in Cape Town, before I was headed to spend a week with my best friend, Melissa, and her family in Durban, a group of us went to Greenmarket Square in CT. I had been there before, and remembered buying quite a few necklaces and other jewelry on my previous trip. Now, in a perfect world I could shop for beautiful clothes, and not have to always focus on accessories while I travel. But, that’s usually not the case because it’s tough to find plus size clothes ANYWHERE.
However, on this excruciatingly hot day at Greenmarket Square, I ran into this gorgeous woman, selling hand-made dresses that I simply couldn’t pass up. Being a bit embarrassed about my size, I shyly asked her if she had any in extra large, and she started showing me these dresses that would actually fit. I’m pretty sure I was beaming, but when I asked about the price, I realized I didn’t have nearly enough cash to buy one. I told her I was sorry, and walked away. *sad face* I didn’t even have enough to bargain with her.
I found my way back to Erica and Geraldine, who had been haggling with a tea pot/cup vendor for at least a half and hour, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that dress. It was at that moment that I had the brilliant idea to have them come look at the dress with me, and asked if I could borrow money to buy it if they thought it was actually worth it.
My assumption was that they would also help me haggle a bit on the price (since they’d been giving this other vendor a hard time right before that ;). But no, they had the same response I had… BUY THE DRESS from this lovely woman!
Sadly, the dress didn’t actually fit all that well, it was too big if you can imagine. So it stayed in my closet for close to a year, because I had promptly forgotten about it after I got home from the trip. But as I’ve recently found my love for fashion, I pulled out and remembered the sweet lady, and haggling, and the wonderful trip with my coworkers, and my best friend. And decided to give it a whirl.
To make a short story, long… Here’s my gorgeous South African, hand-made dress, on cold and rainy Seattle day, almost a year later. The umbrella is my daughter’s, the gloves from Portland, and the beads are also from South Africa. :)
To top off the day, when I got home from work I made curry for dinner from a packet of spices I’d bought at a grocery store in Durban. I’d show you a photo of it, but the entire family had seconds. WIN!
PS. Before I close out my memories of that amazing trip, I wanted to show off a few of my favorite moments.
Thanks for the lovely memories, South Africa, and for proving to me that I *can* find fashion just about anywhere! I can’t wait to see you again soon.
One day, after having been through chemo for eight months, I was driving through the mountains with my family. As I was taking in all the greenery (after four years living in Seattle, I still can’t get over how green it is all year long), and thinking back to how I got to that exact spot, I thought about writing a book. I mentioned it to my husband, he thought it was a great idea. He was quite encouraging in fact, but I couldn’t get myself to take the first step. My thought process always went back to something along the lines of, “Who would want to read my story of dealing with Cancer and chemo… except maybe my family?” I just couldn’t shake the thought that my story wasn’t all that unique.
Yep. I thought my story of getting Colon Cancer at age 37 wasn’t unique… Or that after 8 months of chemo, one day I just couldn’t get out of bed. Or that it took me two months to return to work, after that fateful day. Or that someone I had always looked up to told me (just a few weeks before that day I couldn’t get out of bed), that I was bad at my job. Or that soon after I got so sick, a past co-worker passed away from Colon Cancer.
Obviously there are a million reasons why my situation was unique. But that’s not the point, really. The point was that I was afraid. I was afraid no one would want to read it. I was afraid to share my voice, and show my vulnerability. I was afraid that that person was right, and that I was bad at my job. Maybe I was just an imposter, making all this shit up. Hell, maybe she was right! I mean, I’m not really a marketer… I just play one on the internet, right? Perhaps they’ve all figured me out!
So, I didn’t do it.
After I got intensely sick (and when I say sick I mean I was in a deep depression, but that scares people too much… so I say I was sick), I began posting pictures of myself on Facebook and Twitter, because I was excited to show off the one positive effect of my “sickness”, my weight loss. But as quickly as I started to do that, I felt the wrath of myself. I was being too showy, people didn’t want to see a super fat lady just get less fat (but still fat). People also don’t want to see an almost 40 year old, acting like she has some fashion sense. That’s what you do when you’re young, and thin… right?
So, I stopped posting the photos.
Have you ever noticed an over-weight person call themself a foodie, and think “Obviously.” Or how about when a “plus sized” woman talks about how she eats when she’s stressed… “Oh reaaalllyyyy.” That’s how I felt people thought about me (Ok, I’m sure some did, but those people suck.) I was always afraid to talk about food, because I was big, and self-conscious.
So, I tried not to talk about food.
I could go on, and write about all the things I wanted to do, but didn’t because I was afraid for this reason or that. But the truth is, I’m tired of being scared to show people who I am.
So, I’ve decided not to worry about all that crap… and just be me. It shouldn’t be so hard, right?
Recently, I’ve found that all the stomach issues and pain I’ve been dealing with for years (before, and much worse after my cancer surgery), can be calmed by being super careful of what I eat. I’d already gone vegetarian (mostly, now and then I have fish or sometimes chicken, but don’t tell Erica, she’ll yell at me. ;) Along with this change of diet, I’ve found my love for cooking. In the past, I was too scared to try new things, or I’d worry that my food wouldn’t taste good. But I feel like I’ve found my voice. I’ve become that chick that posts instagram photos of her food. :)
You know what I’ve also found my love of? FASHION. Screw this “40 year old fat women shouldn’t be showing off” idea. I recently signed up for Gwynnie Bee (that’s a referral link, not an affiliate link), which is like Netflix for plus sized clothes. RIGHT?! I love the idea of having “new” clothes all the time, and not having a closet fill up of stuff I only wear a couple times. So far I’ve received three items, and they’ve been great. I’ve posted a few pics on Twitter and Facebook, with great responses. I’ve enlisted my husband to take photos each day (or most days), not just to show of me, but to show that “older” and “plus size” women can be proud and be themselves.
Those are my “I’m going to kick your ass” and “I really *am* nice” looks. ;)
So, I’m just going to go ahead and be me now. It’s time to be less afraid, and just be myself.
Earlier today a friend asked me if I had a cover letter she could use as a template for a job she was applying for. Well the last time I wrote a cover letter was in April 2009 when I applied for an SEO Consulting position at SEOmoz. I hopped into my email and quickly found the letter and resume I had sent to apply for the job. In the end, I did get the job (my role changed though in January 2010 to Community Manager).
While I’m positive that my cover letter and resume alone were not the reasons I ended up getting the job, it seems that you never get a peek into what “got you in the door” to begin with. So with a little prodding from Cyrus Shepard and in the spirit of TAGFEE, I thought I’d publish my original cover letter and resume that helped me to get my original job at SEOmoz back in 2009.Read More
New Year’s Resolutions. meh. I’m really not a fan. I mean I can “eat less sugar” or “read more books” any time of the year, why only start now? For me, my only “resolution” for 2012 is to continue down the path that 2011 set me on. A path of growing and learning. I’ll be honest, this past year has kicked my ass. It has been the toughest year of my life and I feel like I’ve been through a lot over the years. Hell in 2010 I was diagnosed with cancer, but still 2011 even beats that in terms of suckiness.
You know what they say “when the going get’s tough… Jen gets tougher” haha ok so they don’t say that, but I do. :) I’ve learned a lot about myself this past year and after 38 years I finally find myself on a path I’m quite happy with. As I was taking a walk this morning (more on that below), I was thinking about all the good that has come out of this crazy year and wanted to write them down. This is a year I’d like to forget, but never want to actually forget. I realize that doesn’t actually make any sense, but it does to me. :)
So… what have I learned this year (in no particular order), that set me on my path for next year?
I’m not always right.
BOOM. Hard to believe, but quite true. I can already hear my mother gasp as she reads this and can see my best friends’ smiles, since they’ve known all along. This year I’ve learned to be humble and the biggest takeaway for me was that being wrong sometimes is actually ok.
When the doctor says you need to rest, you REST. You don’t fly to Salt Lake City for a big event because damnit I’ll be just fine. If your husband says he’s not sure you’re ready to go back to work yet, but you’ve already made up your mind (even when your body tells you you’re not ready), you LISTEN TO YOUR HUSBAND.
This doesn’t sound like rocket science right? But for me, I had to learn the hard way. I. don’t. always. know. best. Shocker.
I’m extremely hard headed and will fight until the bitter end if I think I’m right about something, or at least I would have. It’s not that I easily back down now, but I find myself taking time to see the other side, understand the situation better. Rather than automatically defend myself, I try to think about the whole picture and what really is the “right” answer. This is fairly new to me, and I’m definitely still working on this one. :)
You all can pick your jaws up off the floor now. ;)
Family really is most important.
Bla bla bla, family is important, yada yada yada. Everyone says this, most of us believe it, not many of us actually act on it. But when you realize that you may not be around forever, all that changes. Strangely it wasn’t when I learned that I had cancer, but when I was going through depression caused from chemo, that this became crystal clear to me.
I’ve always been a family person. Growing up, family was a big deal to me and when I had my own daughter, she always came first in decisions. But when your husband has to take care of you day and night for weeks and your 3 year old daughter has to learn to let mommy sleep, family becomes even more engrained in you. Both my mom and dad would call me every single day to check on me. Aunts, cousins, my brother and sister, they all worried sick about me.
But every day my husband and daughter were there for me. And I will always be there for them.
Many days when I get home from work, I’m tired and would love to just rest. However, when my little girl asks me to play, I say yes (ok, most of the time). We play cards and dolls, put together puzzles and dance around the house. My job isn’t your typical 9-5 job, and while I may still check email and Twitter in the evenings during family time to make sure the sky isn’t falling, I don’t focus on work until after she’s asleep. It’s only a few hours at night that I get to spend with her each day and when I get grumpy and don’t want to play I try to remind myself of those days when I thought I wouldn’t get to play with her again, at all. And I play. :)
But it’s not just about playing. It’s about being there for the Lopez team (as our daughter likes to call us). It’s about being thoughtful of their feelings and needs and being open to change. Spending time with my husband and daughter is more important than anything to me. Without them, I’d just be some lonely lady.
Let life happen.
Within a matter of days, I went from feeling like I was on top of the world, to being so tired I had to take a nap at work. Not long after, I was at the park with my friends and family one day, and the next I couldn’t get out of bed (and didn’t for many weeks). Life happens quickly and for most of my life I’ve fought for things to happen the way I wanted them to go. But you know what? Life doesn’t work that way.
When I finally learned to let life happen naturally, without me trying to push and shove it a certain way, I began to actually enjoy life more. Now, this doesn’t mean I just sit back and not take charge of my life. But it does mean that when a curve ball is thrown my way, rather than try to make it straight, I go with the flow.
Of course I’m not perfect, and I’m still in the process of learning how to let things happen rather than force them, but overall my life has improved because of these changes I’m making.
Exercise is a wonderful thing.
For almost four months now I’ve been going for a walk every single day (I only miss every now and then). All my life I’ve wanted to make exercise a priority but for some reason I could never do it. There was always a nagging voice (that oddly sounds just like my dad) in the back of my head constantly telling me that I should get my butt moving, but for whatever reason I just couldn’t do it. But when you’re faced with depression and possibility of getting cancer again, you make changes in your life.
Each morning as I’m on my walk, I always have a song in my head. Sometimes it’s a song from one of my daughter’s shows, and lately it’s been different Christmas songs. I laugh at myself as I hum the tune in my head and begin to get my mind ready for the day. It’s my one time of the day that’s all mine. I’m not only walking for my body’s health, but for my mind’s health as well.
My dad asks me every time we talk on the phone (which is several times a week) if I’m still walking. At first I was getting annoyed that he kept hounding me about it, but then I realized that he probably is still in shock. For 38 years he’s been trying desperately to get me to take exercising seriously, how can I expect him to believe me in only four months. I like proving my dad wrong on this one and continuing to walk and lose weight.
One thing I’m proud of is that or most of my adult life I’ve worn plus-sized clothing. I couldn’t shop at regular stores because an XL was always too small. This year for Christmas my husband bought me a gorgeous new running (walking) jacket since my old one was three sizes too big. But do you know what was the most exciting part?? It was a size Large. Just large. Like regular… large!!!! I’m pretty sure I almost peed my pants when it fit. :) Now just look how cute I am when I go out for my walk!
I can handle anything.
Cancer… check. Chemo… check. Depression… check.
What else do you have for me life? I’m ready for it.
Over the past few years there has been lots of discussion about whether local check-in services like Foursquare were worthwhile. From a marketing perspective I can see why a business would want to have a profile set up, create some campaigns and generally use it to market their business. But personally I’ve struggled with finding a reason to use it.
A couple years ago I first signed up, added a few friends and started checking in to places. I thought it was interesting to read the tips and fun to see where my friends were, but it also felt a bit creepy. Plus I never wanted to be that chick that checked in at Applebees (or some other horrifying place) and told the whole world about it. You know those folks who feel it necessary to share on Twitter and Facebook every step they take each day. So I never hooked up other social sites to my Foursquare account. As someone who works in social media every day this may seem a bit odd, but for me it just didn’t seem right to scream to the world every place I went.
Then several months ago, I lost my phone (ok, actually it got flushed down the toilet but that’s another story) and never even bothered to add the Foursquare app to my phone. I went on my merry way, living my life just fine without checking in to places. I thought about it a few times and had several occasions where a friend would check in and have a good tip or something along those lines. But I never really saw the point.
Until one day this summer while I was going through the end of my chemo treatments and dealing with a deep depression where I didn’t want to leave the house. Literally I spent weeks inside my house, not even wanting to go outside to get the mail. It depressed me even more to think that I couldn’t go to the grocery store, or to a restaurant without horrible anxiety.
Then I started going on walks each day sometimes to the Ballard Locks close by, other times to the beach. One day my husband, in his infinite wisdom, mentioned that perhaps I should start checking into places on Foursquare. He thought it might help me feel like I’m getting out and doing things if I had a “record” of it. So that’s what I started to do.
It’s not like I was going many places, but if I checked in to one place each day I felt pretty good about it. After a month or so of walking to the Locks every day, I got a notification that I was 9 days away from being the mayor. Woohoo! I wasn’t sure why but that message elated me. So I kept walking, every single day. I didn’t care if it was raining or dark or cold or hot or whatever, I wanted that damn mayorship. I needed to prove to myself that I could get out of the house. Then after those 9 days (I think it actually only took 7 days, which I haven’t quite figured out how) I checked in one morning and VOILA I was mayor. I think I did a little dance right there at the Locks. “Oh yea, I’m the mayor, Oh yea, I’m a baddass” is what I sang to myself.
Again, it still didn’t really mean anything. But to me, it meant everything. It meant I had gotten out of the house 43 days straight. It also meant that I had gotten exercise for 43 days. Woooohawwww!
At some point along the way, I went back to work (after two months out). I slowly started going back to the office, sometimes just one day a week, and now I’m back to full time. Again, I started to check in at the office (when I remembered). And today, I became the mayor of the office as well. :) Which I think is pretty damn good for a gal who was out for two whole months in the summer. :) Of course this probably just means that my coworkers don’t check in, but that’s ok. To me it proves that I’m getting better. That I get out of the house and into the office full time. It means I feel normal again.
So yea… I’m damn proud of my mayorships and now it gives me something to hold on to. It may sound silly, but some days when I don’t want to get up and go for a walk because it’s pitch-fricken-dark out there, I remember my mayorship. And I’ll be damned if someone is going to take that away from me.
Tonight I’m sitting here trying to keep my mind off the CT scan I’m getting in the morning. It’s a routine scan for a 6-month check up to see if there’s any sign of cancer in my body. Ugh, the c word. For the most part, I’m feeling pretty positive about it, but I can’t seem to get my mind off the past year and especially those ugly summer months. (I should warn you now, this post is long and you’ll see a side of me you’ve probably never seen before.)
I’m lucky to have so many people who care about me, asking how I’m doing and wanting an update. But most people have no idea or at least don’t understand what I went through over the summer. It’s been hard for me to talk about it really. The last time I wrote about this I was just realizing I had to go with the flow. Unfortunately, I figured this out too late and my body took over for me.
Just a few days after I wrote that post, I was sitting at work one day and I couldn’t stop crying. I was dead tired and felt an anxiety about being in the office that I had never experienced before. Every email I opened created more tears. I was overwhelmed. I took a cab home because I could feel that I needed to get home quickly, then proceeded to sleep for the next several hours. I felt like the rest helped.
But the next morning came, and I literally couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t get out of bed. I also couldn’t stop crying. I was scared.
My husband emailed my boss to let him know I wouldn’t be in… little did we know that I wouldn’t be in the office again for another 7 weeks.
For the next three days I slept and I cried. My husband would force me to get up and brush my teeth and make me eat a peanut butter sandwich. I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to drink, hell I didn’t want to get up to pee. I wondered if I was depressed or something, but somehow that scared me even more than having cancer.
After several days I finally called the doctor. Yes, I was depressed. I was going through shock and mourning after finally realizing what I had been through the previous seven months. The doctor called it an “adjustment reaction.” Oh. Shit. So what did this mean? He instantly put me on anti-depressants but explained that it would take at least a couple weeks for the medication to kick in. I was absolutely horrified. How could I be like this for the next 2 weeks?! It was hard on me and even harder on my husband and daughter. Pfft… if only it had been 2 weeks.
The worst part though was my own mind. I couldn’t stop thinking. I thought about work and worried and cried because I wasn’t there to answer people’s questions about Mozcation Brazil. I was getting emails about MozCon and all I could do was forward them for someone else to handle. I couldn’t do anything and it was killing me. I was worried about every little thing. I thought about high school, college, my first job, living in Mexico and Costa Rica. Literally all I did was think, and it was scary in my head. I felt sick that someone else was having to do my work for me on top of their own job. I just wanted to feel better, and I wanted to feel better NOW damnit. The doctor said 2 weeks, so I should be back on my feet in 2 weeks right? Right?!
We had been planning a trip back home to Denver for months and unfortunately it came along just a couple weeks into getting sick. I was scared I wouldn’t even be able to make it on the drive to the airport, let alone a 3 hour flight and all that goes with traveling. But I was bound and determined to get home. I wanted my mom. I wanted her to take care of me. And that’s what she did. For the 10 days I was home, my mom would give me massages every day. She would sit next to me and tell me it was going to be ok, that was I was going to be myself again. The entire time I was there I left the house twice, once for a quick drive and the second time to go to dinner on my last day. It was a disaster. I came home and cried. I couldn’t even go to a restaurant?! And why the fuck wasn’t this medicine working yet? It had been two weeks. I felt the same. Why? Why? Why?
The following week was MozCon and I was supposed to speak about Community Management. This whole time I kept telling myself that I was going to be well enough to make it to MozCon. I had been looking forward to the event all year since the previous year I missed most of it because I had just found out about the cancer. I totally fought myself. I didn’t want to be sick, I wanted to be well. I wanted to go to MozCon and see my friends and meet the community. I wanted to do what I love!
But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t leave the house. I was scared. I, Jen Lopez was scared to be around other people. I thought often that I would be like this forever now. That I’d never be myself again. That I would lose my job because I couldn’t do it. I was depressed and I was embarrassed to talk about it. I couldn’t let people see me like this. My mind just kept thinking all these things.
All the while my boss was telling me that it was ok, to take my time, that everything was under control. He was amazing and very kind and understanding. As was my husband and my doctor and everyone else really. But I was still a mess. I was fighting myself and couldn’t seem to go with the flow like I had tried to learn earlier.
Oh, I should also say that some time during this whole mess I decided I couldn’t proceed with chemo. I had 1 1/2 rounds left, which would have been another 8 weeks. When I told the doctor, he completely agreed and felt that my body was telling me it was time to stop. WHEW! At least that was out of the way. The day I found out I for sure didn’t have to go back for chemo I was overjoyed. I tweeted about it and posted on Facebook. It was so great to tell everyone the news and get such positive feedback. :) Unfortunately, the next day I felt horrible again.
Mornings were the worst. I would wake up and it felt like my heart was racing, but it wasn’t. I had this incredible anxiety and it would often take me until noon or so to actually get out of bed. It was frustrating. Not just for me but for my husband who all summer had been taking care of our daughter full time while she was out of school and taking care of me full time because I was a fricken mess. He hates when I say this, because it was hard on him, but he’s a saint. He was sweet and understanding when needed, and forced me to get up off my ass when I needed that.
One morning when I was complaining about feeling that horrible anxiety he said “maybe you need to exercise a bit to get your heart pumping and get rid of it.” He literally forced me to do situps and pushups. I was so pissed at him for “being mean” until I realized I felt better. WTF!??? I felt better after exercising a bit. This was new to me. The next day (or maybe the day after that, who knows anymore) he made me go for a walk around the block. Then I went for a walk around two blocks. Finally one day I walked to the Ballard Locks and was hooked. I felt great! Ok… let’s not lie, I felt pretty good which at that point meant great.
So I started to walk every day.
The walks help me clear my mind in the morning and obviously get some exercise. They also make me feel like I’m prolonging my life. My friend Mike recently passed away from colon cancer. He was too young. One time after he found out I also had colon cancer, he emailed me about how walking for an hour each day had helped him go into remission. He was feeling great at the time and was passing along lots of great advice. Now when I go on my walks I think about Mike and how if those walks prolonged his life to help give him another year with his wife and sons, then what could it do for me?
I walk so I can see my little girl grow up and grow old with my sweet husband. (Oh! Also because I’m now the mayor on Foursquare. ;) )
After 7 very long and very dark weeks, I attempted to go back to work. It was a complete disaster. I wasn’t actually ready, but again I forced myself. It had been too long, I needed to be there. I walked in and my coworkers right away gave me lots of hugs… and I started to cry. Those damn tears were back. I made it about 2 hours, then had to go home. I slept the rest of the day. I was exhausted and being there had sent me back into that depression. Now this scared the hell out of me. If I couldn’t be in the office, what was I going to do?!
I finally, after 7 excruciating weeks, gave in to my body and mind. I stopped fighting. Ok, fine, I’m depressed, I feel horrible, FINE. I kept going on walks and started working from home. Little by little I was finally feeling better. Over the next few weeks I slowly worked myself into full days and am now back to work full time.
At this point I mostly feel like myself again, other than the fact that I’ve lost a ton of weight. :) It has been a long road to get back here and I’m definitely not done. But I’m glad to be out of that dark place. I’m scared about two things now: depression and cancer. And honestly, while the cancer could actually kill me, getting depressed like that again feels worse.
So as I sit here wondering what the scan tomorrow will bring, I’m content. I have a wonderful husband, the sweetest child anyone could ever imagine, and I feel pretty ok. I’m thankful for my family and for the support of SEOmoz and the entire community. No matter the outcome of the test, I know one thing for certain:
I’ll be going on a walk tomorrow, as if my life depends on it.
** update 10/28/11 – Talked to the doctor today and the CT scan came back clean. woohoooo!
Have you ever had someone tell you to relax and “go with the flow?” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always fought this concept. It sounds easy, but the actual implementation is quite difficult. Plus, let me be honest here, I like things to go my way. Why should I have to change my ways to accommodate something or someone else? Why? No seriously… why?
My husband recently reminded me of this idea of going with the flow, and I fought him on it (not the first time). But damn it, he was right. It’s time for me to let things be, live and let live and not try to force things to be the way I want them to be.
So what has lead me down this path? Well… as you may already know, I had colon cancer and am in the middle of taking chemo treatments. I’ve been known to call my treatment “chemo light” as the drugs I get are often the base of much more aggressive treatments. Since I started chemo back in November 2010, I’ve had a few bad days, but honestly life has been pretty good. Ok, and by good, really I mean pretty great (relatively).
Life has been a bit harder, but that just means I’ve had to work harder. Since the time I started chemo I’ve:
- Traveled to Spain, NYC (twice), San Jose, Salt Lake City & Denver
- Been to 5 conferences and 2 meetups
- Spoken at 4 conferences (soon to be 5), 1 meetup & helped with several webinars
- Been interviewed once and have been mentioned in several other posts
- Written one guest post and have another one in the works
- Commented on countless blog posts
- “Talked” with hundreds of people via Twitter, Facebook, IM, email, etc.
- Had countless team meetings
- Essentially… done my job
None of the things listed above are all that extraordinary. These are all aspects of my job, just a part of what’s expected. The point is that I’ve been able to keep on keepin’ on with only a few bumps in the road. On the other side, I should put these into perspective with some of the things I’ve been doing in my personal life too. Since September of 2010, I’ve had:
- Major surgery
- 3 CT scans and 5 X-Rays (literally the X-Ray & CT people know me now)
- 2 Colonoscopies, 2 Endoscopies, 2 Flexible Sigmoidoscipies and have had my colon stretched 3 times (eww)
- 45+ various doctor’s visits
- 25 weeks of chemo (only 11 more to go!)
Yea, I’ve been a bit busy.
But whatever, life goes on and you deal with it. Ok I say that all nonchalantly like it’s been super easy. It hasn’t been, my husband has been my rock and has helped me through every single day. SEOmoz & my team members have been open and understanding through everything. Without the support at home and work, life would be much more difficult! But back to the chemo…
This chemo bullshit hasn’t stopped me though, until recently. Around the time of SMX Advanced, I caught a nasty cold. I had already been running myself a bit ragged but the combination of chemo + cold + conference + quick trip to Denver, left me so fatigued I could barely move. Literally one day I was sitting in a meeting at work and had to talk myself out of falling asleep. Right after the meeting I went and took a nap in our video room. That’s when I finally called the doctor (mainly because my husband said “call the doctor, or I will”) to see wtf was wrong with me.
For the past six months I’ve been chugging along as usual, perhaps even pushing myself a bit more than normal. When I think about it now, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t considered “that girl.” You know, the one that had chemo and made a big deal about it. The one that couldn’t be Wonder Woman through it all. The one that made everyone else suffer because she was suffering. “That girl” sucks. But so does being so f-ing tired that your body feels like it’s been run over by a truck.
So you know what the doctor told me?? He reminded me that I’m taking chemo. That I’m putting poison into my body and that it’s cumulative. So all those 25 weeks of treatments are finally adding up… and apparently kicking my ass. Well fuckity fuck. He also told me I had to slow down. Wait. What?! Didn’t he know what industry I’m in?? Doesn’t he know that internet marketers don’t slow down for anything, not even chemo? Bah.
He also told me my husband was right (literally he said “your husband is right,” Rudy is still rejoicing over those words). He reminded me that when my body says “you’re too tired to work” then I stop working, rather than trying to push through. He reminded me that I need to learn to say no and not put more work on my plate (eek.. what?!). The doctor told me to take a couple days off work and sleep.
This was getting serious. So… I’m taking it into my own hands to “go with the fucking flow.” Yea. I cuss. So what? I’m taking chemo right now, and I’ve earned the right. I’ve also earned the right to sleep and to ask for help. So that’s my point. I’m tired, chemo is kicking my ass and I’m going to just go with it rather than fight it. Oh… and my husband was right. :)
Over the past year, ok really over the past 6 months, I’ve gone through some major changes in my life. Lately I find myself measuring myself to the past. Now I know that’s not the best way to live… always thinking about the past, but with so many things changing I feel like I need a way to measure the changes.
Obviously some of these are really easy to measure, such as losing weight. Over the past year I’ve lost almost 40 pounds. Now, don’t get too excited over that, I’m not on any fancy diet and I didn’t start working out 4 hours a day. I simply eat less and (mostly) healthier. Right now, my body seems to revolt after anything I eat, so I eat less. I don’t recommend this as a weight-loss program, however for now, this is one thing working to my benefit. :)
SMX West 2010 and SMX West 2011
Thanks to my good friend Dana Lookadoo for the pics!
But other changes are a bit harder to track. Like self-awareness and self-confidence. One way I’ve found to see the changes in my self-confidence is to see the differences between my first Whiteboard Friday in February 2010 and my latest one in February 2011. I think it’s obvious that part of it is my weight-loss, but it also is just the fact I have more confidence in myself and with showing myself on video.
It’s a bit painful for me to watch that first one. It was actually my friend Danny Dover’s first time doing a Whiteboard Friday too! (Read more about his transformation on Danny’s blog). The thing is I feel more confident in my work these days, in my presence in the community (er… I’d hope so seeing that I’m a Community Manager :), and as a woman in general.
Dealing with chemo and the crap that goes along with it, just makes other things happen a bit easier. Getting up in front of a camera? Pfft no problem, I fricken had cancer YO! See… everything else jut seems a bit easier. :)
Now… self-awareness, how do you track something like that? It’s more something that I feel, and changes that go on within me that matter. But I’ve also noticed that I’m more thoughtful than I was before (ok some of you may not agree with this, heh). I used to always have these great intentions of sending personalized thank you notes, or making hand-made birthday cards. But I never did it. These days, I’ve started actually doing those things. I do think part of this comes from the fact that so many people have done these very sweet, thoughtful things for me. It makes me want to do better.
In the beginning of the year I started writing a similar type post, but for some reason I could never finish it. Another thing I learned recently is to not push it if something isn’t ready. Whether it’s a blog post that just isn’t ready for prime time, or that our daughter just isn’t quite ready to be a rocket scientist, it’s ok. It will happen when it’s time.
I look forward to continually tracking these changes and seeing the improvements. Luckily (or possibly unluckily) for me, I’m in the public quite a bit. And by public I mean the internet. :) My work is visible to anyone with an internet connection, so I can continue to see my own growth. Plus, the more I put myself out there, the more I want to improve. So there… the beginning of the transformation of Jen. How ya like me now?!
There used to be a time when being “normal” seemed like the right way to go. You know… meet a guy, date the guy, marry him, buy a house, yada yada yada, and live happily ever after. Once you do all these things and follow society’s steps you’re supposed to be happy right?
Yea, well fuck that. Doing things the normal way has never been the path to happiness for me personally, nor for my family. I won’t go into too much detail, but it suffices to say that as individuals and as a family we dance to the beat of our own drum.
For years I’ve struggled with this. I wanted to be normal, damn it. I really fought with the idea that being happy might just mean not doing things the “normal” way. But recently, I’ve really opened up to the idea. In fact after I let my mind and heart relax a bit and not be so worried about how things are supposed to be happen, I found happiness.
In a year where the family moved from Denver (where our support system is) to Seattle, I completely changed roles at work, I had surgery to remove cancer from colon and I started chemotherapy treatments, you’d think I’d be one grumpy lady. But the opposite has happened because I finally realized that it’s ok to do things our own way.
For example, when Rudy first suggested that we turn our dining room into a play area for Eva, I was totally opposed to it. You see, I was holding on to the idea that some day we’d actually sit down at that damn table and have dinner together. I mean, that’s what everyone tells us right? That your family will be healthier and happier if you have dinner together at the table. But here’s the thing, we don’t EVER sit at the table to eat dinner. Ever.
Luckily Rudy could see this and he brought it up again. Once again I put up a bit of a fight but finally gave in when I let myself realize that we don’t use the dining room anyway as it’s intended. So why not give it a shot? Of course it has worked out to be great! [Yes… I’m admitting Rudy was right.] Eva gets to hang out in her play room, while we’re in the living room, and we still feel like we’re all together.
So you might be wondering where we eat our meals if we don’t use the table? Well, we use the coffee table. Or… well… we did. Until we got rid of that too. :) When we got a Kinect for ourselves for Christmas (thanks sweetie!) Rudy rearranged the living room so we’d have room to play. But what we found was that we really liked not having the big coffee table in the middle of the room all the time. It means that we have this huge open area between the living room and dining room Eva’s play room and it.is.awesome.
Plus, now at meal time we sit on the floor and Eva pretends we’re at the beach. Seriously. Who needs a table, when we have happiness instead.
Look mom! No table!