Always Daddy’s Little Girl?

My dad walked me to my bus stop this morning. Let me repeat this. My dad… walked ME to my bus stop this morning! He and his girlfriend are in town for a few days before the holidays. I know he’s been wanting to check up on me and see how I’m really doing. It’s a dad (parent) thing to want to see what your child does every day and make sure they’re safe.

But I’m 37 years old (yea yea all you youngins out there, I could probably be your mom). I was ready to walk out the door this morning to catch my bus into work and my dad wanted to walk with me. On the short walk we talked about how I’ve changed my diet (not ON a diet, just changed the way I eat), about how I didn’t have to walk far to catch the bus and about my treatment later that day. Then the bus came around the corner, and he said “wow, I guess the buses are really on time around here.” To which I responded “errr, I have an app on my phone that tells me when the bus is going to come.” *Stunned look on dad’s face* Hehe, to which I giggled, said goodbye and hopped on the bus.

I felt like I was 8 years old again, being walked to school (I lived 3 blocks away so I didn’t take the bus back then). When I was little he would make my lunch for me every day too and he’d always leave me a sweet note on the napkin. I’ve always wished that I had saved some of those notes from my “daddy.”

Today was #chemohour (as I hashtagged earlier and appalled Joanna hehe) and having dad around made me feel like a happy kid again. :)

#love #hugs #daddiesrule #heart

A new father-daughter tradition being born :)

A Few Things I Learned In Spain

A couple weeks ago I traveled to Spain to speak about SEOmoz tools at Congreso SEO Profesional, put on by Miguel Lopez. Not only did I get to spend time meeting some geeky Spanish counterparts, but I was able to spend some much needed girlfriend time with one of my oldest and best friends, Fabiola. With all that has been going on in my life, it may have seemed like a crazy time to go, but it was a huge win-win on both a personal and professional level.

During the week I was traveling and conferencing, I learned a few things about Spain, SEOs and Spaniards in general.

1. It’s tough to be a vegetarian in Spain

I have been to Spain before so I knew how difficult it would be to eat (mostly) vegetarian. In fact, I really only had one meat-free meal the entire time I was there (possibly excluding breakfast). I had decided to eat no red meat and less white/lean meats for health reasons, but luckily I still like the taste of it. If I didn’t I would have missed out on the wonderful ham, duck, pork loin, beef, salmon, ham, anchovies (eek I could only eat a little) and did I mention ham? It really was all quite fabulous and I’m glad I didn’t skip any of it… but vegetarians beware!

Our one vegetarian dinner
Our one vegetarian dinner, which Fabiola liked but said she couldn’t eat all the time. hah
Ham! You see these cured hams hanging like this in restaurants and markets.
Lovely dinner with Gianluca and his wife. We finally got to meet. :) Holy deliciousness of food!

2. Freaky = Geek

It started at the speaker’s dinner when I noticed everyone talking about “freakies”. I didn’t want to sound stupid so I didn’t ask right away what it meant. After a couple days I finally figured out and verified that calling someone a “freaky” is like calling them a “geek”. WHEW! That I can handle. But the first time Miguel called me a freaky I’m sure I gave him a funny look. :) Speaking of freakies… it was nice to know that SEOs in Spain are just as geeky as SEOs anywhere else.

Miguel Lopez
You can always tell a “freaky” by the t-shirt they wear ;)
Look familiar? It was an excellent conference!
The Last Supper – with the other speakers

3. The architecture is amazing

As I mentioned, I’ve been to Spain before but I hadn’t really seen any modern buildings. Obviously in Madrid there are many but what we saw in Valencia just blew me away. Everything from old cathedrals to the gorgeous L’Oceanografic, left me wishing desperately that Rudy was there to take photos as mine obviously don’t do it justice.

Yea, I have no idea what this building is but it looks pretty… eh?
This is the gorgeous L’Oceanografic (aka aquarium) in Valencia

4. Girlfriend time is necessary

Spending time with a girlfriend makes everything seem ok. I had a few rough days when I wasn’t feeling very well, but being with Fabiola made it all ok. We’ve known each other for years (we met while we were in college in Guadalajara, Mexico) and we don’t talk all that often. But when you’re with a best friend, it doesn’t matter when you spoke last, it’s all about today. Thank you Faby!

In Valencia – Damn we look good!
A gorgeous, yet cold day in Madrid

5. Nothing beats coming home

I had an amazing time at the conference and spending time with Fabiola, but in the end the best part of the trip was coming home to my sweeties.

A Heartfelt Thank You

On Friday night I found myself sitting on the couch, crying like a blubbering idiot and I blame it all on my good friend Joanna Lord and the amazing SEO community.

But let me go back a bit. You may remember that back in September I found out I had colorectal cancer. Yea.. I know, that’s crazy. But it’s true. The thing is, I had surgery, they removed the cancer and they said it was all gone. However the doctors kept mentioning the possibility of “further treatment.” Although I knew it was always a possibility, I somewhat ignored it and focused on just getting better.

About a month ago though, I finally went to see an oncologist. We talked for well over an hour as he explained to me that my stage 2 cancer made it difficult to say whether I absolutely needed chemotherapy treatment or not. He explained everything to me, the pros and cons, we talked about the psychological aspect… everything. Then he left the decision up to me. I left his office on a Friday afternoon, more scared than I had been when I found out about the cancer. I had to decide whether or not to have preventive chemotherapy treatments for the next 48 weeks (oh yea. fun.). Holy. Fucking. Decision.

That night and the following Saturday, I pretty much sat around and cried all day. I just kept thinking about how hard it would be on my family and on my co-workers. I had just put everyone through hell during and after my surgery, and this would last almost a year!? My husband was absolutely amazing and attempted to reason with me that I needed to stop thinking about everyone else. That they would be fine, and that he was behind me 100%. I suppose I just needed a “woe is me” day to get it out of my system. I knew he was right (and amazing… have I mentioned that?).

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I felt at peace about it and had more or less decided that yes, I would start chemo. It really wasn’t until I had a conversation with my brother that afternoon that I completely made up my mind though. As I sat in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble, waiting for the rain to stop, and talking with my brother on the phone he said to me, “Ok Jen, you’ve explained it all to me, now let me ask you this: What exactly are you waiting for? And why aren’t you starting this tomorrow?” Uhm. Well. Oh. For some reason, those words made sense. From that point on, I never looked back.

I needed to do this for me and for my family. Right now we can handle this! What if in 5 years I get something worse… how would I feel if I hadn’t tried everything?! I would be pretty pissed at myself, that’s how I’d feel.

That same day I also had an epiphany. While I felt good, I was going to take advantage of life. I would run around and play with my daughter, I would kick ass at work, I would make awesome dinners, and on and on. So that when I feel like crap and don’t have the energy to do those things, I wouldn’t feel bad about it.

I’ve now had 3 chemo treatments and honestly I feel great! It’s crazy, but I actually am feeling better now than I have for months.. probably years really. I’ve lost weight, I’m eating super healthy and I’m happy. :) I know it’s going to get harder, but right now it’s good.

Oh wait… now I lost focus for a few minutes there. So what made me cry like a baby this past weekend?? Well Joanna brought me a bag full of goodies. It had everything from healthy snacks to luxurious cremes. But what made me bawl, were the many many letters and cards from my industry friends. It was amazing. I honestly have no words! I’ve read every one of them 3 or 4 times and each time I end up crying.

Reading all the positive thoughts and words of wisdom from my friends just means the world to me. I’ll be keeping these close by my side and will read them on those days when I’m feeling blue. Again, a huge huge thanks to Joanna Lord for pulling everyone together. :) But I’d also like to thank Kristy Bolsinger, Kate Morris, Michelle Robbins, Monica Wright, Dana Lookadoo, Annie Cushing, Lisa Barone, Kenny Hyder, Alan Bleisweiss, Taylor Pratt, Peter Meyer, JD McCartney, Aaron Wheeler and last but certainly not least Danny Dover.

I’ve a very lucky lady to have such a HUGE support group. Thank you my friends, thank you.

Does the Early Bird Get the Worm?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been getting to work between 9:30 and 10am. Which for many of my jobs in the past this would have meant that I was running late. But at SEOmoz, most of the crew arrives a little later than usual. The problem is though that as the Community Manager, my job is to engage with the community… and unfortunately they do not all live in the Pacific time zone.

Just think, when I role into work at 10am, the east coasters are coming back from lunch! Starting my day late causes me to play catchup first thing in the morning on all those emails, tweets, comments, etc. that have happened while I was happily sleeping or sluggishly getting ready in the morning.Read More

I Had Cancer

This seems like a strange topic to kick off my new site with, but honestly it’s the main thing on my mind these days. This post is more for me to get this off my chest and on to “paper” than anything else.  The last 6 weeks have been a complete whirlwind and have changed my life forever. From the time I went to the doctor, to now, it’s been 6 weeks. In that time period I’ve been both diagnosed with and “cured” from colon cancer. Whew. Here’s how it all went down…

Back in March, I saw a doctor because I was having some strange issues (I won’t go into detail due to TMI :). I felt pretty stupid when I left though because his recommendation was that I simply needed more fiber in my diet and sent me on my merry way. I proceeded to feel worse and worse and have more and more issues until finally in August, I got up the nerve to find another doctor and made another appointment. This doctor had me immediately set up an appointment with a gastrointerologist and within days I was telling my stories yet again.

I was starting to get tired of hearing myself tell the same things over and over but felt like finally someone was taking notice. Luckily, she did! She thought perhaps I had a couple things going on and ordered an endoscopy and colonoscopy for a week later, on the same day. Ok, we’re at what, about 2 weeks now? I won’t go into detail about the horror of getting a colonoscopy… essentially the worst part is the day leading up to it. Although I did lose a couple pounds from my liquid only diet. ;)

I was actually feeling more excited than nervous about having these tests done. I just wanted to find out what was going on with my body, and hoped that these tests could shed some light. My worst fear honestly was that they’d do all these tests and still not know what was going on. Well… that definitely wasn’t the case. Almost instantly after starting the colonoscopy (I was awake), the doctor found a growth. A GROWTH. WHAT?!?! A growth. fuck.

The growth was about 5cm in diameter and the doctor said it had to be surgically removed whether it was cancerous or not. Whoa. She said it… she said cancer. Ugh. I could tell by the tone of her voice and the way she spoke that she was concerned, and quite serious. I found out later that she was my same age and I think that freaked her out a bit. She also had me get a CAT Scan that very day. They wanted to see if there were other growths in my body… they wanted to see if it had spread. (breathe… breathe… breathe…) I also set up an appointment with the surgeon for Monday (which was the same day as the beginning of the SEOmoz Seminar in case you were wondering why the hell I wasn’t there :).

That same Monday when I met with the surgeon, I found out that the biopsies were inconclusive but that the doctor felt 99% sure it was cancer. Again with the “C” word. Luckily the CAT Scan came back fine… if it was cancer, it didn’t look like it had spread. Halleh-fricken-luya! I wanted to get this growth out of me quickly. I didn’t want to give it time to live in my mind and grow and become something. Obviously this would just be growing in my mind, as it’s been growing in my body for a while. But I didn’t want to get to know it or to have it define me. So it needed to come out… cancer or no cancer, get the hell out of my body.

The surgery date was set for a week later. At this point I had told my family, close friends and most of my coworkers. But on the day of surgery, I decided to tell the world. I realized that saying it out loud helped me to get rid of it. It was as if every time I told someone about what was going on, I felt a “whew, it’s going to be ok” sentiment. So I tweeted. And I updated my status on Facebook. I wasn’t sure what kind of reactions I’d get, but I was definitely not prepared for the sheer outpouring of love, concern and positivity I received.

My family was by my side the entire time. My husband waited with me until right before they wheeled me into surgery. I was in the hospital for 4 nights and my dad slept next to me every night. While my husband and mom spent each full day with me in the hospital. I got texts and emails and tweets and Facebook messages from close friends and from people I’ve never even met before. Every message I received, put a smile on my face. It meant the world to me to have such a huge support system.

The days in the hospital were pretty rough and I was mostly out of it. I happily pushed the button every 8 minutes to get drugs to ease the pain and drank liquids for 6 days total. On the morning of the day I was hoping to go home, the doctor FINALLY had the results from the tests. I had had stage 2 cancer. The lymph nodes all came back negative around the area, which meant it didn’t spread. THEY GOT IT ALL. He said that. The doctor said that, and I turned around to hug my dad but his face was in his hands. He had tears rolling down his eyes with the biggest smile on his face I’ve ever seen. I was happy and freaked out at the same time. This was the first time they had been able to straight up say what the growth was. It wasn’t just some random growth anymore, it was cancer. And it was no longer in my body. Buh bye sucker!

The doctor said it would take 3-4 weeks to heal but honestly I didn’t believe her. I thought I’d be back working right away. I mean come on, I work on the interwebz. :) But honestly, it kinda kicked my ass. It humbled me. I had to stop and smell the roses a bit. My husband Rudy helped a lot with this. He reminded me to breathe and meditate and think positive. He was my rock.

Now this is about the craziest thing I might ever say… but I think this has been the best thing to ever happen to me. I have a new lease on life. I get a do-over and I don’t plan on wasting it.

All I can say to anyone who happens to read this, is that if you think something is not right with your body, don’t sit around and wait. Get it checked out. What if I had waited? I know that in the future, when I get lax about eating healthy or I don’t want to exercise, I’m going to remind myself of that day when I this thought went through my head: “What if I don’t get to see Eva grow up?” That thought right there will keep me going.

I’m tired and tomorrow is my first day back in the office. I’m going to end this here with a quote I read in my Whole Living magazine: “…healing is less about battling illness and more about nourishing life“. Words to live by. :)