A Purple November.

One of my class assignments this week was to write an op-ed about anything. I chose to write about pancreatic cancer. I know, I know. You’re probably like AGAIN? Well, yes… again. I hope to bring light to Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and bring awareness to one of the deadliest cancer killers. Here we go… 

——————————————————————————————————————————————–

I can clearly remember the night when my dad gathered my siblings and I around our quaint living room. It was a summer night, I was a 16-year-old teenager and the only thing I cared about, even at that moment, was what plans I had for that night.

Then came the dreaded words: I have pancreatic cancer.

First the shock set in because nobody ever expects that cancer will ever affect them so closely, but then my naivety took over. My father was in great shape, always ate his daily servings of vegetables and even worked in the oncology field. He’d be fine, I told myself. I mean, I knew a couple of people who had breast cancer and they all survived so why would he be any different? Well it was different, extremely different.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth deadliest cancer in the world and it isn’t expected to stay there. According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, it is estimated to jump up to the second spot, just behind lung cancer. Of the estimated 46,420 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, 39,590 of them will die. And about 75 percent of those deaths will be within the first year following their diagnosis.

With over a 90 percent mortality rate, it is hard to believe that more efforts aren’t being implemented to attack this silent killer. In fact, for over 40 years the survival rates of pancreatic cancer have remained in the single digits. Yet research funding provided by the federal government for pancreatic cancer has been practically non-existent.

Fortunately, awareness, research and funding for this disease have increased in the past ten years, but is nowhere near where it needs to be. In 2007, breast cancer received $572.4 million for government research, while pancreatic cancer received a measly $73.3 million. Only garnering 2 percent of the governments $5 billion research budget, it’s even justified to say that pancreatic cancer research is merely an afterthought.

This is not a new cancer. This is not an unknown cancer, and it certainly is not, nor should be, an afterthought.

A concerted effort toward pancreatic cancer can bring about many changes – specifically awareness. There are many ways to participate in the fight against pancreatic cancer not only throughout the year, starting with a simple color adjustment in your November wardrobe. With just a little help of every person, pancreatic cancer will eventually have a purple reign over November, like breast cancer does October.

November 13 is the first-ever World Pancreatic Cancer Day, so make sure to deck yourself out in purple, pin that ribbon on your shirt and advocate for all those we’ve lost who can’t advocate for themselves.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, one of the nation’s leaders in the fight against pancreatic cancer, also does yearly walks- Purple Stride– in several cities across the nation. These walks not only spread awareness, but are put on by volunteers and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the research that is so desperately needed.

Granted, ending the pancreatic cancer epidemic will take far more than the displays of purple ribbons throughout November. But wearing those ribbons create curiosity by the unaware, and that curiosity brings about education. When we educate the community about pancreatic cancer- the symptoms, its effects, and its increasing desire to take down thousands of people – then we are more likely to create awareness. And the awareness brings conversations. And the conversations bring motivation to participate in the fight. Don’t wait until you’re affected to become a part of the cause, so wear those ribbons now and get to talking.

Stage IV pancreatic cancer was my fathers death sentence, but it doesn’t have to be anybody else’s. Wear purple this November, advocate for a higher survival rate and demand the attention for pancreatic cancer that is so desperately needed.

XO,

mamaGoogz.

 

Advertisements

Life is hard, but it is beautiful.

Today I met up with someone who I haven’t seen, nor talked to, in almost five years. It was like we never missed a beat.

Unfortunately, our reasons for reuniting weren’t so great.

After overcoming a drug problem, she was finally clean and even landed an awesome new job. A couple months ago she got pregnant, but was convinced by her boyfriend (of 8 years) to have an abortion. He said it wasn’t the right time. Two weeks ago she found he had been in an ongoing relationship with her BEST FRIEND for the past year. This same friend was the reason the (now ex)boyfriend wanted my friend to have an abortion. Last week she tried to take her life.

I can’t even imagine the kind of hurt she is going through, and I hope I never have to.

 

Listening to her made me think about so many things in my life. It is so easy to get caught up in how shitty your own life is when you’re constantly surrounded with people portraying their  perfect lives via social media.That’s all it is, though; a portrait. A portrait of the perfection that 99.99% of us will never achieve.

Life is hard, man. It is so hard.

There are days where both you will find that the simple act of getting out of bed presents a struggle. Those are the days where you can literally drown yourself in your own pity thinking about how much your life sucks. Those are the days when life feels dark. But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Always.

It might not be this huge light reflecting off a pot of gold at the end of a vibrant, double rainbow like you imagined it, but it’s still a light. And as long as there is a light, there is hope.

Life is hard, but life is beautiful.

When you give yourself a moment to put all technology away and just sit in nature and soak everything in, you are truly able to see how beautiful this life we’ve been given is. Even in your darkest days you can always find beauty. Whether it be in the toddler who just innocently waved as he passed by, or the sunflowers in your yard (ps there is no flower better than a sunflower), or even in the fact that you didn’t burn the damn coffee today.

There is beauty in everything, always. Just look around and find it.

 

And that concludes my attempt at being insightful.

 

Seriously, though: To all my family, to all my friends, and to all the strangers who are reading this….

Please remember that you are beautiful. You are loved. And you, too, will find beauty in life if you allow yourself to look for it.

 

XO,

MamaGoogz.

 

 

 

Thank you, Dad.

I haven’t posted in quite some time, but with Father’s Day this weekend I figured a post about my father would be fitting. Since I speak of him often I think it’s only fair that I finally open up and speak about his death, and the impact it has had on me over the past seven years.

In July 2007, my dad sat me and my siblings down in our quaint living room, and spilled the news that he had cancer. At first his doctors weren’t sure whether it was colon or pancreatic cancer he said, but after weeks of running several tests, he had finally received his official diagnosis. Stage four pancreatic cancer. My brother, sister, and I just sat together on the couch not making a peep. I had never known anybody who had cancer, let alone knew what pancreatic cancer was. For goodness sake, I didn’t even know how many stages there were. But I recall seeing my mom just quietly crying while sitting at our dining room table, which was all I needed to know that whatever it was, it wasn’t good.

After random questions and several instances of reassuring us that it was nothing to worry about, we all got up from the couch. I can remember immediately wanting to shower. Almost like I needed to clean myself from the shit that was just poured onto my life. Right before I hopped in the shower, my dad slightly opened the bathroom door, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Don’t worry, we got this. I’ll be fine” Then, like always, he gave me knucks- that was our thing.

And like any 16-year-old girl would, I believed him.

I believed him so much, in fact, that when I left the state just a couple weeks later to attend the softball Nationals in Texas, I was laughing and playing pranks with my teammates like my life hadn’t just been forever changed. I actually remember being in the dugout during a game, looking over at one of my closer teammates, and nonchalantly saying, “Oh yeah, I guess my dad has cancer.” She looked at me and said, “Oh my god.” And I simply replied, “It’s cool, it’s no big deal.”

Fast-forward a few weeks to the start of my dad’s chemotherapy. My family (mom, dad, aunts, uncle, etc.) felt it was best for him to be treated at a cancer center they were familiar with, so he did his chemo treatments two hours away in Bakersfield. The weekly schedule consisted of my mom driving him to a halfway point between Long Beach and Bakersfield, meeting my aunt/uncle (they live in Bakersfield), and then they would drive him the rest of the way. A couple days later when his treatment was over, they would bring him back halfway, my mom would pick him up, then he’d come home and sleep most of the time. It became the new norm for our family, and it never even fazed me.

I was entering my senior year in high school at the time. I was so consumed with hanging out with my friends and attending every event our school had to offer, that I never thought that maybe I should stay home and just hang out with my dad for an entire day. I was far too busy living up my senior year, I didn’t have time to just sit around.

So when I had to make the road trip to Bakersfield with my best friend to visit my dad, I wasn’t ecstatic. I still remember- and still regret-  thinking of all the parties and events I was missing out on by spending those few days in boring Bakersfield.  During one of the days we sat with my dad in the cancer center for hours while he received his chemo treatment. My best friend talked to my dad, and I spent the entire time on a laptop going back and forth between MySpace and Aol Instant Messager to make sure I didn’t miss a thing back home. To this day, I still cant fathom how it wasn’t a big deal to me that I stared at a computer the entire time, rather than just enjoying the company of my dad.

Over the next couple of months I partied, hung out with friends, and missed chance after chance to spend time with him. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how consumed I was with petty things and events, and how many times I passed up an opportunity to be with him. I could have simply sat with him, talked to him, or just laid next to him, but I didn’t. I kept justifying my actions by the thought that I only had once chance at my senior year, but an entire life to spend with my dad.

On November 4, 2007 I was getting ready for work as usual. I worked at a sports restaurant and, as you can imagine, Sundays during football season were hectic. My dad, who had gotten increasingly weaker as the chemo treatments progressed, was so happy and just walking laps around the house that morning like nothing happened. It was crazy, but I wasn’t surprised. So I left for work.

I can’t even remember what I said to my dad. I don’t know if I hugged him, if I kissed him, or if I said, “I love you.” I’d like to think I did, as it was my usual ritual when I left the house, but I’m really not sure.

Ten minutes later I was at work dealing with a line out the door, and all thoughts of my dad had fallen into the back of my mind. After the madness of Sunday morning football had settled, the phone at the host desk started to ring. I picked it up and recited into the phone, “Thank you for calling Cirivellos. This is Cheyenne. How can I help you?” Then I heard someone on the other line frantically trying to spit words out. It was my sister.

“You need to come home NOW,” she said. “Dad’s dying.”

I froze.

I froze, and I couldn’t move. Then a flood of tears took over. My manager happened to walk by, I tried to spit some words out while practically drowning in my own tears, and all he said was, “GO. JUST GO.”

So, I went.

I drove to my house, picked up my brother and sister, and took off to the hospital. Now that I think about it, I don’t even remember the drive, but we got there a lot faster than was probably legal. We ran into the ER waiting room scrambling to find out where the paramedics took our dad. They told us to take a seat. They told us to wait.

Can you imagine? Getting a phone call while at work that your dad is dying, and then arriving to the hospital only to be told to wait. Pffft. But if they weren’t freaking out, and they weren’t rushing us in to see him, then that must have meant it was just a scare. I still (naively) believed everything was going to be alright.

We sat in the waiting room for what seemed like hours. Our family and friends trickled in and made attempts at comforting us. I can remember just wanting to be alone. All I wanted was some information on where the hell my parents were, and when I could see my dad.

A nurse finally called our names and led us down a long hallway to a room; and by room I mean a hospital bed with a curtain around it. My mom was sitting there holding my dad’s hand, and my dad was just peacefully laying there. He looked like he was taking a nap. I can recall looking at him, looking at my mom, looking back at my dad, then back at my mom with a “he’s okay, right,” look.

She shook her head, and started crying. My sister ran out of the room. And for the first time I can remember, I saw my brother cry true, heart-breaking tears. I bawled my eyes out, too.

I didn’t want to believe it. It felt like such a dream. More like a nightmare, actually. But it really felt surreal. Like I was going to wake up and realize none of it had actually happened.

I don’t think I can ever get the memory of that day out of my head. I’ve tried many times, but I don’t think it’ll ever leave. And, honestly, I don’t know if I want it to leave. It’s the last time I ever got to physically be with my dad, and I don’t want to let that memory go.

Since that horrible, heart-shattering day (almost) seven years ago my life has been a roller coaster. A roller coaster that I thought was only full of lows for the longest time.

I went into full on denial mode immediately following my dad’s death.

I drank. I did drugs. And I partied almost every night to reassure myself that I was happy and everything was okay, but it wasn’t. And it hadn’t been for a long time.

Every time my dad’s birthday, the anniversary of his death, or Father’s Day would come, I would purposely try to drink so much that I would black out. I was trying so hard to forget about the guilt that was overflowing inside of me. Guilt from spending more time worrying about what my friends were doing rather than how my dad was doing. Guilt that when I went to visit him, I sat there focused on technology, and people who didn’t matter, rather than simply enjoying his presence. Guilt of not knowing if my last words were, “I love you,” or if I walked out of the house without even saying goodbye.

When this type of guilt consumes your entire being, it is completely overwhelming, but I didn’t know any other resolution than to party and drink until I couldn’t feel anything anymore.

I became the girl whose only worry was where the next party was. I became the girl who had tons of acquaintances, but very few friends. I became somebody I didn’t even recognize anymore. I was blinded, and I was lost. But I didn’t care; not even the slightest.

I replaced friendships with people I loved for friendships with people who only wanted someone to party with. I looked for affection in the arms of strangers because I thought that was the only way to fill the void in my heart. I totaled my car after a night of drinking, avoided a DUI because of the nice cop that was on duty that night, then landed in a pair of handcuffs for the same thing less than a year later. I made mistake after mistake, and it made no difference. There was no end in sight. I was so consumed by guilt, and by denial, and by pain, that I tried to mask the shame I felt with anything and everything I could get my hands on. There was no way I could ever forgive myself for not saying all the things I wanted to say, so the only solution was to drown out those thoughts with a bottle of vodka.

I was an embarrassment. An embarrassment to my family, my friends, myself and, most importantly, my dad.

And then one fall day- after a summer full of drunk nights and irresponsibility- I found out I was pregnant. I thought this news was finally my rock bottom, but it turned out to be my saving grace. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God knew the gift of a child was the only thing that could save me from destroying myself.

It’s been a long road since then. Some days I’m so happy I even surprise myself, and some days I cry myself to sleep thinking of all the things my dad has missed- like the birth of his first grandchild. Or even all the things I see my friends doing with their dads that I won’t ever be able to do with mine- like having him walk me down the aisle. I’d be lying if I said most days are easy, because they’re not. But the days I struggle with are also the days that have given me the strength I need to continue the work I’ve started. Those hard days have made my good days even better. I have finally been able to find happiness in things that can’t be found in the liquor aisle. I have finally started to figure out who I am- the true person, not the party girl. Most importantly, I have finally been able to forgive myself and let go of (most of) the guilt.

This is only because I can finally feel what a parent feels; an eternal love that will never falter.

My dad loved me from the day I was born to the day that he died. He loved me more than he loved himself. And that- that love- is why he always gave me knucks. He wanted me to believe that everything was going to be okay because my happiness was more important to him than anything in the world- even his own life.

I can never repay him for his selflessness, and I can never repay him for his undying love, even when I was so undeserving of it. How can you ever repay a man whose only priority was to love you, to care for you, and to make you happy, until the day he took his last breath? It’s not possible. All I can do is thank him.

So thank you, daddy. And Happy Father’s Day. I hope I’m making you proud.

I love you forever, I love you for always.

I love you forever, I love you for always.

 

 

 

Motherhood- not always easy, but always worth it.

 

 

Image

I celebrated my first Mother’s Day yesterday. It was everything I could have asked for and more. It was beyond expectation, and I am so grateful. 

Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be celebrating Mother’s Day at just 23-years-old. Being pregnant at such a young age was not something I had planned, nor had I asked for. In fact, I immediately thought my life was over. How could I, this crazy party girl, ever be a parent?  It was crazy, and it was shocking, but, as always, God knew what he was doing.

I’d be lying if I said my pregnancy was an easy time, though. I lost a countless amount of friends; one’s who I imagined by my side on my wedding day. I got into arguments with my boyfriend because sometimes the stress of becoming a parent was too much to bear. Sometimes I even found myself kneeling on the floor, crying, and asking God why he chose me to be a mother. For goodness sake, I had never even held a newborn child, how did He expect me to raise one?

It was hard. It was so hard.

But the moment I heard her first cry, I knew that every single hardship I had faced, and every single struggle that was to come, would be worth it. It was at that moment that I finally understood what a mother’s love truly was. It is simply indescribable. All I knew was that I loved her, and that I would spend the rest of my life doing whatever I could to show her.

Motherhood is not rainbows and butterflies like everybody thinks, though. Sometimes waking up ten times a night, every night for months is beyond exhausting. And sometimes hearing that piercing cry is enough to send you off the balcony. And sometimes changing diaper after diaper is so damn annoying. But, more often that not, that exhaustion is met with a toothless grin. That diaper change turns into you admiring how darn cute their tiny butt is. And that piercing cry is met with comfort in knowing that you are the only one who can make it better because you, their mother, are their protector.  

Motherhood is not easy, but it is worth it, and I am so grateful for the journey.

I look forward to many more cries, many more exhausting days, many more diaper changes, because all of that means that I will also be witness to the toothy grins, the potty training, and the many years of cuddles from my nugget. 

 

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all.

And cheers to the many more to come.