Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

5 tips to relax and enjoy life October 15, 2017

5 tips to clear your head_blogheader

It’s been an odd weather week in southeast Michigan. Dreary, downpours, high winds, then sunshine, humidity and warm temps, then back at the wet, gray again. So when the sun glimpsed out, I quickly pulled on my cycling shorts and jersey, grabbed my gear, loaded my bike and headed to my favorite rails-to-trails. I needed fresh air, quiet trails, sun on my face (with sunscreen, of course) and the feel of my muscles moving.



It was a shorter ride, just under 30 miles, but, oh my, did it feel good to be on my bike after almost two weeks without cycling. Glorious, really. I just haven’t had the chance. And I felt it. Mentally, physically and emotionally. Between my recent trip to Boston, the wet weather, work (where I’m temporarily taking on part of a colleague’s responsibility), unexpected bumps of ‘that’s life,’ volunteer projects and trying to maintain the “expected” social life of an active, single woman (ha!), life has been moving at a brisk clip.


It’s also been challenging the past few weeks for the people in my life. We unexpectedly said good bye to a woman who’s been a second mom to me for 40+ years. A friend received the stunning news she has breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Another friend decided to end a long marriage. I was asked to mentor two young adult females recently diagnosed with bone cancer. And a few weeks ago a biopsy revealed melanoma in a small mole, requiring additional surgery on my arm.


Life hasn’t been all stressful though. There are always positive, smile-inducing moments in every day. Thank goodness for that knowledge! My good friend who experienced a medical emergency during our RAGBRAI trip is recovering like a champ post-surgery. Another friend got engaged after meeting her now fiance at a conference last year. Another friend got a clean bill of health after a grueling cancer treatment. I made positive strides on some career decisions and my second biopsy revealed clean margins (no sign of additional melanoma) so I only need to remain vigilant with follow up. My beautiful nieces and nephews are healthy and enjoying life.


In the midst of the chaos that sometimes bullies its way into our lives, it’s important to take some time to relax and clear your head. At least it is for me. And should be for you too. Stepping away from our day to day routine or away from stresses help provide a different perspective or opportunities to simply distance yourself from what’s causing you grief, demanding decisions, and overwhelming your thoughts. We all need moments to clear our head, take a breath before making decisions or determine if what you’re feeling about a situation are valid emotions or possibly from overthinking that situation (um, not that I EVER overthink situations! Nooooo.).


Here are a few of my go-to areas when I need to clear my head.


Get outdoors. You all know I love to be outdoors. Fresh air, blue skies, sunshine. Oh my. I sometimes like to simply sit on my deck, a park bench by the lake or blanket on the grass. I mostly enjoy being active, hiking, biking, geocaching, backpacking and more. Combining nature with physical activity almost instantly relieves stress, anxiety, mental exhaustion. Some days I almost immediately gain a fresh perspective on a situation, other days I don’t think at all except about the activity at hand and how much fun I’m having.


BooksRead. I like to read a LOT. I mostly enjoy reading fiction for the simple fact that I can escape to so many new neighborhoods, stories and people. While most of the books are fiction, the good ones enable me to relate to characters and feel a myriad of emotions. But the plots are unrelated enough to me so that I can close the book and leave their drama behind!


Dance and/or sing. If you only knew how much I sing and dance in my house, or even office (door closed of course)! All.The.Time. Some people prefer the television on for ‘background noise.’ Not me. Give me music any day. I was raised in a house filled with music – my parents often had music in the background of our lives, or center stage as we sang and danced through the living room, kitchen, garage, wherever. It’s amazing how music can move us emotionally. There really is a song for every situation! From joy to heartache to anger to anticipation to determination and more. I think that’s why I enjoy Zumba so much. After a busy day at work, it feels awesome to dance and sweat away any work or life stress!


Spend time with children, family and friends who make you laugh and enjoy life. When I made a big life transition a few years ago, I also made decisions on the type of people I want and need in my life. Particularly ensuring there were mutual respect and mutual efforts for the friendship/, after recognizing not all of my current relationships had those. I made changes, some not easy at all, and I’m incredibly happy in my life right now. I’m blessed and fortunate to have many amazing people in my life. People who make me laugh, listen, support and love. There is nothing better than spending time with these people, going on adventures, talking openly, being silly, able to be yourself, laughing and more.


HH_GaylordDockTake some me time. I had some free time recently when I was at a conference in Boston. It was a great opportunity to step back from my day to day life, thinking about how far I’ve come and what path I want my life to follow. I think it’s important to live for each day, yet also look to the future. While I believe that things happen for a reason, I also believe you can nudge your life in a certain direction. It helps me be certain I’m making decisions for the ‘right’ reason, not because I think someone else wants me to or tells me I should. I need to do what I think I should and want. I encourage you to take some me time to revel in how far you’ve come, and think about your future. And don’t you dare feel guilty about me time. Everyone needs some time alone.


I hope you are all having a beautiful weekend and have had an opportunity for ‘you’ time to clear your head. If not, do it! You deserve it, you amazing person!


19 years (and counting) June 27, 2017


One of my favorite family pics taken 19 years ago after treatment.

Today marks 19 years since I finished treatment for bone cancer. Nineteen years since I walked out of the hospital, on my own two legs. Bald and skinny. Alive. I still vividly recall breathing in the fresh air, lifting my face to the sunshine….and bursting into tears. Tears of relief at being done with the hell treatment, tears of anxiety at what my new life would be, tears of joy at being alive.


I had no idea what my new life as a cancer survivor would bring. I was 22, on the cusp of starting my adult life. Worried about a career, wondering if any guy would like me as a cancer survivor, anxious to figure out what activities I might be able to participate in, ready to “feel healthy” again. I really wanted to get in a car, head home and never think about cancer again.


But that wouldn’t happen. Because I am a cancer survivor. Thankfully. And while I admit I spent several months post-treatment trying to move away from my cancer journey and pretend I was my pre-cancer young adult self, the blunt reality was that cancer had changed me. Good and bad. And so I had to figure out how to embrace the new me and my new life. The past 19 years have been full of challenges and accomplishments. Heartache and laughter. Disappointments and fun surprises. Sitting on the couch and exploring the world. I’ve been…..well, living life.


A fellow cancer survivor and I recently discussed how cancer has affected our lives. In so many ways. Most significantly, it’s the one thing we think about every single day. It’s of course hard to forget I had cancer. If the memories of weeks of chemo and the harsh side effects weren’t so vividly embedded in my brain, the titanium rod acting as my left femur and part of my tibia  provide a daily attention grab.


But each day is about so much more than my story. I think of my dad’s fight with the disease and never-closed hole in my heart as I miss him. I think of Sara, Josh, Mikki, Alex, David, Michael, Chuck, Travis and too many others who don’t get to breathe in fresh air or feel the sun warm their faces. I think of Andrea, Terry, Jeff, Amy, Samantha, Lauryn, Cassandra, Kay, Mary, Jonny, Elizabeth, Luke, Tim and millions more who also appreciate life after facing cancer.


Ready to explore each new day.

When I am scared or nervous to do something or share my emotions with someone, I remember I faced cancer. Nothing can scare me more. I have stared at a monster, fallen down terrified, and stood up to stare back. Cancer has taught me to search for the good in my life and in those who I welcome into my life.

My life has been so influenced and changed by cancer. How can it not be? It struck me recently that I have almost lived longer as a cancer survivor than not. Yes, I am blessed. Forever grateful. Because cancer brought me:


Courage. Strength. Opportunities. Laughter. Friends. Motivation. Gratitude. Awareness. Kindness. Appreciation. Joy. Achievement. LOVE.


Some of the best lessons:

  • Do not let life pass you by. Enjoy every day.
  • Share your gratitude by helping others.
  • Do  not turn away from love, even if it doesn’t lead to the path you intended. It doesn’t mean that path is wrong. Embrace every opportunity for love in your life.
  • Know when to let go of the wrong people and hold tight to the right people.
  • Feel joy, every day. Share joy.
  • Breathe in the fresh air, breathe out your fears, hesitations and regret.
  • Open your heart and mind to the possibilities a new day brings.
  • Sing. No matter who is listening. Sing. Dance. Laugh.

Lessons to help survive life December 5, 2016


The road of life has taken me through many ups and downs, and even some potholes, in the past 20 years. From a cancer diagnosis and treatment to my dad’s treatment and death to my own side effects from cancer to losses of family members and friends to the end of my marriage, life has certainly presented some challenging ‘life events.’ (and yes, I am much older than 20, but the early years didn’t seem so challenging – no doubt owed to good health and awesome parents.)


When you go through challenging and emotional situations, such as cancer, the loss of a parent or even the loss of a job, it’s easy to get bogged down with the negative or overwhelmed with the transitional phase. I’m a planner and caregiver, meaning I like to be organized and help others long before I focus on me. When a challenging life event happens to me, all of my plans change and I have to learn to care for myself. Whew. Weird. You think your life is moving in a forward motion, then it stops. Then a new chapter begins, which can be scary and uncertain….and exciting if you focus on the new opportunities, happiness, hope, love and simplicity that will greet you in this yet to be written chapter.


This has been a transitional year for me. As emotionally and mentally draining as it’s been at times, it has surprisingly been filled with….lots and lots of hope, optimism, love, happiness and laughter. So much more than I expected. Opportunities have arisen that provided me with new adventures, unexpected happiness and so many amazing people to add to my life. I was anxious to start this new chapter, yet instead I now am so excited to add to the pages of my life.


Here are some lessons that I’ve learned, not just from this new chapter, but every one that’s been written so far:


Get some fresh air to clear the mind.

Take me time. News flash: Taking time for yourself is not selfish. So often we put others first and worry about how others are faring while we lose sight of our own happiness and well-being. As challenging as it is to focus on me, I’m making myself do just that. If something or someone makes me happy, I’m going to embrace those moments and people. I’m also finding comfort and relief at having some time to remember or figure out what makes me happy. I checked out several books from the library to escape into fictional stories. I hiked many miles on the nature trails alone to clear my brain and simply enjoy quiet. I bought a new road bike that gave me freedom to explore new areas and trails to feel the wind on my face and strength in my body. I spread a blanket at the park to listen to the birds. I turned the music loud and danced in my living room (I do this fairly often!). I sipped a glass of wine on the deck watching the sunset. These things bring me peace and joy.


Spend time with people. For the first few weeks after I filed for divorce, I wanted little to do with people. I couldn’t figure out the myriad of emotions that swirled in me, let alone figure out how to be the supportive, kind, smiling friend I always try to be and still really wanted to be (it’s good that I have kind people in my life who regularly checked in). So I sort of hid out after work, taking a lot of me time to process. The me time wasn’t bad and I did work through many questions and emotions. But then I crawled out of my blah time to realize I missed people. I missed laughing and being silly as I am when hanging out with family and friends. I started accepting invitations for drinks and movies and games and more. I joined a new outdoor club, book club and social club. I enjoy spending time with people who share the same interests, kind hearts and zest for life.


Embrace new opportunities. I’ve learned that when one event happens, it often sets in motion another series of opportunities. Sometimes we ignore these opportunities because they’re too different, new or unknown, and those things can be scary. Life is about taking chances, whether on situations, people and even ourselves. When you’re entering a new chapter of life, there can be a lot of newness around you. It can be overwhelming…..if you let it. Or it can be exciting and satisfying. I’ve always loved new adventures and meeting people so I’m trying to include these whenever the opportunity (or person) presents itself. What I discovered the past few months is that I am much more carefree and ‘go with the flow’ than I ever have been. I worry less. I laugh so much. I have conversations with random people all the time when I’m out. I admittedly am still a planner, yet lately I’m ready to follow fate. We only know where the road leads if we follow it. And who knows who we might meet along the way to enjoy the journey with us.


Don’t lose faith or trust in yourself. We all have that voice inside that waves red flags or yells warnings, and we all at times have pretended we don’t see the flags and ignored the voice. Then we sometimes regret and lose trust in ourselves. I certainly have. I wonder if I’ll ignore the voice and red flags again, if I’ll make the right decisions, if I can trust my own opinion.  But the thing is, we all at times make mistakes. And maybe what we think is a mistake is really a step on the path that we’re supposed to be on. I have to believe that many things in life happen for a reason. I don’t always like it – for instance, I would prefer not to have had cancer, instead be a ‘normal’ physically able, healthy person. But I survived cancer when others have not so I believe I’m here to help others and make a difference. If I didn’t have my cancer experience, I wouldn’t be able to relate to and support cancer survivors, and people in general, as I can now. I wouldn’t have experienced the many positive opportunities and adventures that my cancer journey led me on. And I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people who have crossed my path.


Ask for help. I’m probably the last person to be suggesting this because I have a hard time asking for help. I’m much more comfortable supporting others and offering hugs and kindness to strangers. Which makes me appreciate those people in my life who have offered help without me asking. Whether phone calls, texts, cards, getting drinks, road trips, bike rides, hikes, dinner invites, simply checking in, whatever. It means the world to know there are people supporting me. The times I have reached out to someone for support, I was not disappointed by the love provided to me.


Learn to let go and relax.

Learn to let go and embrace your new opportunities and new chapters of life. Many times since my cancer diagnosis I have had to let go of the plans and ideas of what my life should be like. Whether it was from cancer, my dad’s death, relationships, jobs or seemingly simple decisions that I made on the fly, my life has curved a little unexpectedly. And that’s okay because I believe overall my life is great and I have learned some very valuable lessons about love, faith, determination and myself. I will share that every time I’ve started a new chapter, something good has come from it. Maybe I didn’t recognize it at first, but over time it has been blatantly obvious that I embraced what was in front of me, consciously or unconsciously, and ‘ran with it.’ I could say ‘what choice did I have?’ But we do have a choice in how we react to situations.


People often say that God only gives you what you can handle and these things make you stronger. Some days I believe those statements. Other days I think He must have mistaken me for someone else because I’m tired and not sure how much else I can handle. But then I wake up, wiggle my toes, feel my own two legs, take a deep breath and count my blessings to be alive.


My optimism and positive energy thankfully continue to poke through even the toughest situations that I have faced. I guess it’s just who I am (some days I have to dig a little deeper for the strength). I am so very optimistic about this next chapter. I’m ready for to go on new adventures, meet new friends, embrace new opportunities, fall head over heels into new love and feel new happiness. I’m ready to be the author of my own life’s book.


Thank you for being a part of this new chapter.


A few lessons from the bike November 27, 2016


Let’s get this ride started!

I can’t believe I’m writing this but…..I went biking today. Outdoors. It’s the end of November in Michigan and I’m biking outdoors. I love it! The reason I’m so surprised is because usually by this time of year I’ve retired my bike for the season, exercising indoors until the snow and ice melt. But Mother Nature has been nice to us this year. The sun is shining and it’s a nippy 45 degrees.


I physically pushed myself today so am feeling doubly happy for the bike ride. I first attended a cycling class this morning at the local Cyclebar (more on this experience at a later date). These classes are intense, sweaty and fun! An hour of this fast-paced spin class burns my legs, and usually causes my knee to be a bit tender. But I walked in with the mindset that I would be going on a bike ride later in the day. So when I got home from Cyclebar, I changed, made a quick protein-packed lunch, rested my knee for about 30 minutes, then headed out.


On a previous walk, I discovered a neighborhood close to me that is fairly quiet with not much traffic. I headed here and was again pleased with the very few cars that I encountered. Once I clocked a few miles, my legs loosened up and my body felt good (I may have been numb from the cold? Ha). For as tired as my legs had felt starting out, I oddly clocked some of my fastest miles. Maybe the cold motivated me. Or the simple pleasure of being on my bike.


Some friends ask why I bike so much alone since I purchased my new road bike. For one thing, there has been great mental freedom and relaxation for me to bike alone. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, the strength of my cancer-surviving body, and clear my mind. It’s been a year filled with new challenges for me as I transition into a new chapter of life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happier in this new life, but I’ve still needed to let go of sadness and hurt, build my confidence, and think about the new paths I’ll be taking. Being outdoors helps me so much. However, I enjoy biking with others and also know I need to get used to biking in a group on longer and harder rides. I’ll get there. But since I bought my bike so late in the year/season, I feel it’s a great opportunity to get comfortable with my road bike and new pedals. I know I need to build confidence in myself and my ability to ride the bike – yes, it’s a physical comfort but ultimately for me, it’s a mental comfort.


In biking alone the past few weeks, I’ve been able to pay close attention to my body and the bike. It’s been helpful to have this time to make adjustments and learn. For instance, here are a few lessons that I’ve recently learned:


I am finally feeling comfortable with the new clip pedals, which is a great accomplishment as I didn’t think it would happen! I sometimes am startled to realize that I unclipped from the pedals without thinking as I come to a stop. And then I smile.


I’ve discovered that I am much more comfortable turning right and taking tight right turns. I’m sure this is from being less confident in my left leg with the titanium rod and knee. So I found an empty parking lot and a cul-de-sac where I circled left again and again and again and….well, you get it. First, I circled with my left foot unclipped from the pedal in case I wobbled, then after about 20 circles, I clipped in and kept practicing. I feel pretty good about left turns now!


I notice that I use my brakes too much on turns and downhill. I’m not talking about when I’m going really fast and need to slow down (because I’ve also learned that I need to have more confidence in my ability to be safe and fast), but kind of all the time. So today I made myself ignore the brakes a few times and, guess what? I survived the turns and the downhill ride on the way home.


All of these lessons will add up to more confidence in myself, which will lead to more exciting times on my bike. And who knows? Maybe today wasn’t the last bike ride of the year for me. That thought excites me!


5 ways to focus on feeling gratitude November 23, 2016

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Grateful for this family.

I always start seeing lots of posts on social media relating to gratitude and blessings as the holiday season approaches. And, of course, Thanksgiving is a great time to focus on being thankful. But why not express gratitude all year long?


I am so thankful for so much. From my amazing family and friends to my good health to a good job to being alive, I thank my lucky stars daily for all that I have in my life. As positive and optimistic as I am, I too have moments/days that sometimes make me just feel….yuck, blah, blue, you name it. You know what? It’s okay to feel these emotions. I acknowledge and embrace these emotions sometimes as much as the happy and loving emotions because it allows me to address what in my life is making me feel these and perhaps change a situation if I can. Acknowledging these emotions also makes me that much more grateful for the people and circumstances that bring me joy and contentment.


If you’re feeling in a funk or having a blue kind of day, here some suggestions for moving your mindset into a positive mode.


Think of three things to be grateful for from your day. Every night as I lay in my bed, I recall three good things from the day. Even if it didn’t feel like a good day, there is always at least one good thing you can think of for the day. Maybe it’s simply that you lived through another day. Once you think of one thing, I find that the others come to mind. Sometimes my items are simple (being alive, saying no to Dr Pepper, etc) and other times a bit more complex. Recalling these items reminds me of the good in my life, as well as helps me relax before falling asleep.


Pictures. I love taking pictures of my adventures, time with family and friends, and any other fun moment that I can capture. And while I do store a lot on my smartphone and computer, I still print many pictures to place in frames around my home. I love walking through rooms, glancing at a particular picture that brings back happy memories. I am grateful for the opportunities and people in my life.


Write your gratitude.

Journal. I love to write and am an admitted journal collector (sounds nicer than addict!). I see a pretty or inspirational journal at the store and buy it. And use it. I have multiple journals in use – one for writing my gratitude lists, another for blog post ideas, another for article notes, and….you get the idea. Writing down my gratitude, goals, and positive moments helps me stay focused on the good feelings. I also love to go back and read what I wrote, particularly on days that I can use a bit of optimism.


Tell people how you feel. I never used to be very open about my feelings. I felt awkward sharing how I felt, especially if it might come across as mushy or sentimental. It’s still not super easy to share but I have learned how important it is to let someone know how you feel because the opportunity may never happen again. I want people to know they are appreciated, loved, cared for and valued as a part of my life.


Live it. If you really want to feel happy and be positive, then you have to live your life in a positive way. Believe it or not, it’s pretty easy to do that. Instead of focusing on the negative things happening in your life, think of the good (remember, at the very least, you can express gratitude that you woke up and are alive). You attract what you share so if you are always speaking negatively, thinking pessimistic thoughts and expecting less than stellar things to happen to you, chances are that those things may happen. We all have moments, even days, of feeling blue. That’s okay. It’s how you pull yourself out of those blue feelings that can make all the difference in your life. Start by saying thank you to someone. Smile at a stranger (and even yourself in a mirror!). Do a kind act for someone. Give a hug. Send a card. Volunteer. Offer to help another.


There are so many simple, free ways to live a life of gratitude. Start today. You’ll be grateful that you did.


My reminder to appreciate the little things October 5, 2016


Hiking in Cuyahoga Valley

I tend to be a naturally optimistic person. I like to be happy and enjoy life (don’t you??). I’m going to be frank, though. Every so often I get in a funk and get frustrated with some of my physical limitations, thanks to cancer.


When I was diagnosed 21 years old with bone cancer in my femur, there was a very real possibility that I might have a leg amputation. It was terrifying. It’s sadly not uncommon with my type of bone cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, I was diagnosed fairly early (it was stunning to know my tumor had been growing for almost a year!) and the horrible chemo did its job by killing the majority of the cancerous tumor in my femur. The tumor shrunk enough to be removed and save my leg. That meant the lower part of my femur, knee and upper tibia were removed and replaced with titanium.


I work hard to keep my leg in strong shape. I work out at least four times a week, sometimes more. I have always enjoyed exercise and being physical so it makes it less ‘work’ for me (I know many people feel like working out is a chore). During Michigan’s warmer months, I get most of my exercise outdoors hiking, biking, and more.


The challenge with the titanium rod is that I have to be more cautious than the average person with regard to injury, impact and twisting of my leg. A wrong move or fall could break my remaining bone, the pin, etc. One of the bigger blows that cancer gave me was having to stop riding my beautiful horses (too risky if I fell). I also can’t run (too much impact) or ski (too much twisting), and can only play tennis if my opponent can serve pretty close to me so I don’t have to run (uh, yeah, so I don’t play much; no offense to my family and friends!). Over time, I’ve picked up many other activities that I now love and enjoy. My regular readers know my love of hiking, biking and Zumba. I usually try to shove that caution to the back of my mind and throw myself into enjoying everything I can.


Sometimes, though, that always present caution and tiny anxiety in the back of my mind get a little louder and cause me to get….well, cranky and frustrated. Because I don’t want to always be cautious and anxious. I want to ride a horse, run a marathon, sky dive, bike without any cares, teach my niece to play tennis and not say no to joining my friends in an activity.


My annual check up with my oncology surgeon arrived just in time with my blue(ish) mood (this sounds so much better than saying I was feeling sorry for myself) so I decided to express my frustration with my limitations. I am so fortunate to have my cancer care team. My doctors always devote every minute in the room to just me and my concerns. They listen, talk and share. Never have I felt rushed or silly for bringing up a topic.


Climbing to the top of a sand dune – very rewarding!

My surgeon asked me to share what activities I do or have done since surgery. I listed biking, hiking, Zumba, yoga, rock climbing, weight training, dancing, etc. She kind of chuckled and asked what don’t I do? I started to list some of my ‘restricted’ activities but stopped. I sort of saw where she was going with her questions. Then I recalled a past conversation when I complained that during a hike on a glacier field in Alaska I had to turn back after a few miles because I was worried about falling on the slick footing. “But you hiked a glacier field in Alaska! Even a few miles is an awesome accomplishment that most people won’t or can’t do!” was the reply. I know this is true. From hiking in Montana, Ireland, Oregon, Hawaii and elsewhere to rock climbing in Canada to biking miles and miles without an ache in my knee, I am a fortunate bone cancer survivor. I accomplished these things on my own legs. My healthy body allowed me to push myself physically and enjoy these amazing moments.


She eased my mind quite a bit about how long my hardware (medical jargon for the titanium rod, plastic knee, etc.) should last and my activity limitations. She reminded me that I know my body best and basically said as long as I pay attention for certain pains, then I could appreciate the many activities I can do. And she’s right.


I share all this not to brag, because I know most of you can do all these activities and more, but to share the lesson I was reminded of today. Sometimes we all need a reminder of the good in our lives and all that we can do so we focus on the positive rather than allow the the negative to drain too much of our energy. Not every bone cancer survivor has both of their legs. Not every bone cancer survivor who has their two legs can be as physically active due to complications. Some walk with limps. Some are in chronic pain. So, yes, I am fortunate. I can do so much and love every minute that my body is moving. It’s freeing and a reminder that I’m alive. My example is being a bone cancer survivor, yet I am sure that each of you has a circumstance where you can appreciate what you can do.


Who cares that I sometimes decline an activity because it’s too risky for my leg? So I can’t run anymore. I hike downhill a little slower than others. I stand on the sidelines during a volleyball game. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy many, many activities. Or stand on the sideline cheering on my friends, which also brings me joy. I simply embrace the accomplishment in a different way than others. I no longer take for granted that I wake up every day and walk on my own two legs. Neither should you take that for granted because you never know if someday the ease will disappear.


The fact that I even wake up every day, breathing and cancer-free, is always the biggest blessing I count. And sometimes that’s what I focus on for that day. Because I’m human and have ‘those days’ that I feel a little down and frustrated with myself. But I allow myself those days because it brings me back to these grateful moments.


On a side note, the really happy news for me is that my surgeon pretty much gave her blessing (with a few caveats) for me to attempt to ride this ‘little’ bike event across Iowa with Team Livestrong next summer. I’m super excited to have something to train and focus on as I think this would be the ultimate accomplishment for me as a bone cancer survivor. Stay tuned for more on my new bike and adventures!


What are you grateful for today?


41 reasons to love life September 12, 2016

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 1:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,



Birthdays have always been kind of a big deal in my family. My parents made sure every new year was celebrated, particularly the ‘big days’ of turning 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, etc. When I was diagnosed with cancer at 21, birthdays took on a very special meaning and milestone for me, and my family. I recall spending my 22nd birthday in the hospital, sick from chemo and disappointed and frustrated to be sick on my birthday, yet my parents made sure to throw me a small party with family and my nurses packed into my hospital room so I could feel joy and love. It was awesome. Since that day, I welcome and celebrate every birthday. I’m so grateful to be alive!


Love my family so much!

Many moments and people stick out over the years that have helped make life grand. And while I certainly could fill a few pages with the challenges, hurt, sadness, losses and failures that I’ve faced in life, all of those moments and emotions helped shape me into the person that I am today. I’m okay with that woman. I feel great joy in knowing what I have overcome to be here in this place.


So on my birthday, I wanted to share 41 items (in no particular order) that are my reminders of what makes life so awesome for me, in the hopes of spreading some optimism and love to each of you. And if you really want to help me celebrate this special day, I ask you to share a smile or act of kindness with someone you encounter today.


1. Being alive.

2. Feeling content in the moment.

3. Amazingly loving and supportive parents.

4-9. My nieces and nephews who I love like my own children and make me smile daily.

10-12. My sisters and brother in law who always have my back.

13. Fabulous friends who love and support me for me.

14. Giving back to the cancer community that saved me physically, mentally and emotionally many times during and after cancer treatment.

15. Walking, dancing, hiking and more on my own two legs after bone cancer.

16. Waking up every day with strength, courage, optimism and freedom to enjoy life.

17. Riding a bike.

18. Hiking in the woods.

19. Camping under the stars.

20. Dancing in Zumba, my kitchen and anywhere!

21. Loving and trusting my body’s strength (strong enough to survive cancer) and


Staying strong to stay healthy – and have fun!

abilities to be active. When I get frustrated at what I can no longer do because of cancer, it reminds me of all that I can.

22. The comfort of a strong hug.

23. Excitement of seeing someone special.

24. The beauty of a horse and the true peace these animals bring to me.

25. Fresh, bright flowers that bring cheer to the day.

26. Happiness of appreciating simple things in life.

27. A good book.

28. Opportunities to emerge myself in new adventures that create great memories.

29. Learning and trying new activities.

30. Working with other cancer survivors and volunteers to make positive change in the fight against cancer and helping others.

31. Watching the sun set and knowing a new tomorrow, filled with new possibilities, is on the horizon.

32. Smile-invoking memories of moments with family and friends.

33. The promise of a loving, fun, supportive friendship/relationship.

34. Laughter, the kind that makes your stomach hurt.

35. Music that strums to your soul.


Appreciating every day and excited for tomorrow!

36. Quiet time alone to reflect on blessings.

37. Facing fears, sadness, frustrations and challenges with optimism, smiles and hope.

38. Being loved.

39. Falling in love.

40. Confidence in yourself and your decisions.

41. The exciting anticipation of what’s to come – the people who will join you, new adventures to experience, and days filled with love, laughter and good health.


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