Monday, January 1, 2018

Good Riddance 2017!

I am not one to enjoy seeing one year end and another year begin because I think time flies and would love for it to slow down a little, but, this is one year that I am glad to get behind me. I can honestly say that this was the worst year of my life. And Russ will agree. We describe it as the year we walked through Hell, stared death in the face, and lived to walk out the other side. I am very grateful to be moving into a brand new year.

With that being said, I just want to say that we are so very blessed! Even among the hardships of 2017, there were blessings sprinkled all throughout that made the Hell bearable. God has shown us what His love looks like through people. Relationships healed and real friendships shining through the dark. You really learn what is important and just how precious friends and family really are. Russ and I got to spend the first three weeks of 2017 in Mexico. And even though it was for treatments, we got to spend every afternoon and evening together in a beautiful hotel right on the Caribbean Ocean. We had the privilege of bringing our boys to Mexico in April to experience a different culture. Something I always wanted to do. I look forward to experiencing many other cultures with them. Russ is alive and healing after too many close calls. And the sweetest blessing is the birth of our first grandchild, Briar Lauren. She has brought more joy into our lives than I thought possible in the face of such suffering. The fact that Russ is still with us and is on his way to recovering is our biggest blessing of 2017. 

Now to put the past behind us and look forward to what lies ahead. I am going into 2018 with a brand new beginning. I have big plans for this year. It is a year of restoration and renewal. Last year was a year of survival. 2018 is a year of blessings and abundance and excellent health. My focus right now is on our overall health. I neglected my healthy habits of eating and exercise and stress management because we were living in survival mode. But that is over and now for restoration. 

I am also focusing on my business which I had to put on hold last year. I love helping people live a healthier lifestyle and see the positive changes in their life. My business is my joy and passion. I look forward to what is in store this year. It looks like it is starting off strong. I just started a local healthy living support group, "A New You", on Facebook and have several people added already. I am starting a 10 day detox on January 2nd with several people joining me in that as well.

If I could encourage you in anything this year it is to look for the good. Smile even if you don't feel like it. Be kind and forgiving to everyone. Remember, you have no idea what they are going through or what they have been through. And have fun! Life is short, enjoy the time you have.

Here's to a healthy, wonderful, blessed, abundant 2018!

A few snapshots of 2017:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Road to Recovery

Well, the treatments are over! Russ had his last radiation on Tuesday, October 10th. He has to have a pt scan in three months to make sure the tumor is gone and all is well. Until then, he has to start the long road to recovery.

I just want to take a moment to brag on my husband. The last year has been long and difficult for him. There were many times that we didn't know if he was going to live through the night. Things were not looking good. I thought that he was ready to just move on to the next life. But something inside him just would not let him give up. It wasn't his time. So on he fought. He overcame many obstacles and defied the odds. He has amazed his doctors and his family. Russ has been through things that most would find impossible. Most of the time he did this with grace and faith and determination. There have been a few times when he would get down or just want to give up but they were short lived. A lot of times an encouraging card or text would come at just the right moment to lift him up and give him the courage to keep going. We thank you from the bottom of our heart to everyone that sent those encouraging words!

If you ever get someone on your mind, even if you don't know they are going through anything, never hesitate to send a love note to someone. You never know the impact it will have.

So that is all for now. I will be posting some other things in the near future that have been on my mind lately. Until then, don't forget to enjoy the people in your life. You never know how much time you have with them. That is not supposed to be morbid, just a reminder to enjoy every day like it's your last. Then tomorrow, do it again!

Life is a colorful adventure,

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

An Overdue Update on Russ

I have been wanting to write an update for a while now but the timing hasn't been right. Russ is nearing the end of his treatments. He had his last chemo treatment last Wednesday and he will have his last radiation treatment on next Tuesday, October 10th. This has been anything but an easy road. The treatments have been harsh and have made Russ feel really bad. Like I have said before, we would not wish this on our worst enemy, (if we had enemies). Yesterday, Russ started showing signs of pneumonia. Pray that this passes quickly.

The good news is the tumor has shrunk considerably and has broken apart. The tumor will continue to die several months after treatment has ended. We are still believing that in the end, Russ will be cancer free. Through all of this, the doctors continue to be amazed at how well Russ is doing and at his lab results. His body and organs and immune system have remained in great health despite the treatments. I have no doubt that it is because of the healthy supplements we have been taking throughout this ordeal. There are some things Russ will stop taking when this is over and other things we will take for the rest of our lives. We want to prevent this from happening again in our family.

The season of treatments has almost come to an end. Next comes the season of recovery. Russ has lost all of his body fat and muscle mass. He will have to build up his muscle mass and strength. He will also have to have therapy to get his throat and swallowing working again. It will not be fast or easy. But we see light at the end of the tunnel.

It is like we have been in a long, dark winter that lasted way longer than it should. It is not over yet but we are beginning to see the early signs of spring. We are looking forward to warmer, sunnier days ahead.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Update on Russ

I realize that a lot of people have been wondering how things are going with Russ. It has been quite a year. If you want to know the full story from the beginning of Russ' diagnosis with throat cancer, you can read the post, "Our life with cancer/ past and present". So this update is for this year.

In January, we went to a clinic in Mexico called "Hope for Cancer". Russ seemed to do well while we where there and it seemed that the tumor slowed it's growth. He felt better as a result of all of the therapies they did. However, it was not enough. The tumor did not die and is still growing. Slowly, but still growing. It has really interrupted his ability to eat, swallow and open his mouth. He has been on mostly a liquid diet all year. I have been making him meal replacement shakes. This summer, it became almost impossible for him to swallow and get enough nutrition and water. He ended up severely dehydrated and malnourished. His heart went into atrial fibrillation on Wednesday July 26th. He ended up in the hospital for 3 days. On Thursday the 27th, he had a stomach peg put in so he can get enough water and nutrition.

All of that leads us to the present. Russ has decided to go a more traditional route to kill this cancer for good. We have succeeded in preventing the cancer from spreading and boosting his immune system which has kept all of his organs in great shape. Until he became dehydrated and his heart decided to act up. Anyway, we got that under control and we will continue to pump all of the healthy stuff in him that his body is used to and that will aid him during this next course of treatment. Russ had his first round of chemo on Monday of this week. He will have another round in three weeks, then one more after that. He will start radiation treatments next Monday the 21st. He will get 7 weeks of radiation 5 days a week. We are confident that this is going to put this cancer behind us once and for all.

I have said in a previous post that I would not change what we have done. All of the decisions we have made were the ones we thought were right at that time. I do wish we would have done the stomach peg sooner to prevent too much weight loss but you can not go back. Only forward. If we did not go to Mexico when we did, we would not have met all of the wonderful people from all over the world that we did. I wish them nothing but the best on their healing journeys.

I will close with this. I can not stress enough the importance of prevention. This has not been an easy road for Russ or the family. I would never wish this on anyone. I will be writing another post soon on how to prevent cancer to the best of your ability. It might not be what you think either. I have learned a lot on this journey and I am sure there is still more to learn. But that is what life is about, the learning as you go. So until then, may your adventures be much more fun than ours has been lately. But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we will be rejoicing when this is all behind us.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Seasons of Life

We live our lives in seasons. There is a season to be born and a season to die. There are many different seasons in between. The season of childhood. The season of being a teenager. The season of adulthood. But it is more than that. There are seasons of planting. Seasons of storms. Seasons of reaping what you sow, whether good or bad. Seasons of testing. Seasons of growing. Seasons of fun and excitement. Seasons of heartbreak. Seasons of joy. These are the things that make up your life. Seasons.

I do not consider any of these seasons good or bad anymore. They are just life with all of it's ups and downs and all it has to offer. Don't get me wrong. I do not enjoy the bad seasons. I do not wish them on anyone. I do not consider them bad. Just a temporary phase that you have to live through to learn from and grow as a person. But without the hard or trying times, there is no growth. Without the pruning or some parts dying, there is no room for new growth. No room for learning. No room for gaining new insights. For meeting new people that you would not have met otherwise. No chance to help new people along the way.

Now anyone that know me knows that I like to have fun and laugh and play. My blog name is All About Fun. And I do like for things to be light and fun in my life and around me. But that does not mean that it is that way all of the time. I used to hate the times that felt heavy and hard. I do not like to see anyone or anything suffer and I try to avoid that at all cost. But sometimes in life, you have to face it. Like what we are going through now. It breaks my heart to watch my husband and family suffer through this cancer. It not only affects the person with it but the family as well. Life is changed, altered. I would never have chosen this path for Russ. I would never wish this path on my worst enemy. I don't think I have enemies but you know what I mean. I thought that if I could go back, I would change things. Do things a little different. But thinking about it now, I probably wouldn't. We made the choices we thought were right at the time and there is a reason for it. A reason we are living through this. I believe it is for many reasons we are living through this. Not just living. But learning and growing and learning more about ourselves than we would have if this did not happen in our family.

One of the things I have learned through all of this is that Russ and myself are much stronger than I ever imagined. I have done things and faced things that I never thought I could endure and Russ even more so than myself. I have witnessed such a healing in Russ that it blows me away. A healing from within. Funny how facing death puts things into perspective. There is no time for hatred, bitterness, blame, unforgiveness. Petty differences seem to fade away. No time for regrets or holding on to things that don't matter. I have seen Russ repair broken relationships and get closer to his brother than he ever has been. It has been a beautiful transformation. Would these things have happened without cancer? I do not know. Maybe sometimes, we need a swift kick in the ass to get us moving in the right direction. To grow and learn a new way of being.

Another lesson through all of this is to enjoy every day that you have. You never know when it is your last. Even if it is enjoying just a moment in an otherwise very stressful day. Find the good in people and things. I have learned that people have a lot of good in them. Sometimes it is buried deep but it is still there. Have patience and compassion with everyone you meet. You do not know what they are dealing with. The more love and compassion you put out, the more comes back to you. We have seen this over and over. When Russ was in the hospital, we would be laughing and cutting up. We were kind to the nurses. It really made an impact on the staff. They were blown away with how we could be happy even in the darkest of times. But that is how we choose to live. Yes, we choose it. We could go around moping, and whining and thinking poor pitiful me, but that would not serve us. Nor would it serve anyone else. We are supposed to be a light in this world, even when we do not feel like it. Does that mean that we do not have bad moments? No! We do. And sometimes we are not shining that light. Like when Russ is in a lot of pain. But we manage it and move on.

There are many more lessons that we have learned and will continue to learn along the way. We see a clearer picture of ourselves. The good and bad. We see the things we still need to work on. But that will come with time. For now, we will do the best we can with what lies before us today. Not worry about tomorrow. Today, we will find the joy in simple things and in good moments. We will not hold onto prejudices or hatred or any of the negative emotions that do not serve us. We will choose kindness and happiness.

I refuse to live with regret or "what if's". I refuse to live like a victim. I refuse to blame God for these things happening and spend my time in misery and self pity. There are no accidents. Every thing happens for a reason. It is for our benefit and growth. We just have to find the nuggets within each trial and triumph and always move forward. This season of our life will end and a new one will begin. I believe the best is yet to come!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Mexico in April

I wanted to write about our latest trip to Mexico so I didn't forget about all of our experiences. Russ and I were so glad to take the boys with us and let them experience a different culture.

We started out in Cancun so Russ could visit the cancer clinic. Most of our time here was spent at the hotel enjoying the amazing beach and pool areas. We did a few extras like going to an amazing Italian restaurant and going to our favorite grocery store, Selecto. Going to a grocery store in a foreign country is an adventure in itself. Here are a few pictures from Cancun.

Our next stop was Play del Carmen. It had a whole different feel to it than Cancun. We stayed in a condo on the water. We enjoyed being close to the ocean because of the cool breeze and the sound of the waves but we didn't get in the ocean the whole time we were in Playa because there was lots of brown seaweed all along the beach and in the water. I mean, a lot. It was just something that we were not used to. You saw mostly locals in the water. I guess they are used to it. I did walk along the coast a few times, That is one of the things I really enjoy doing when at the beach. Especially, in the mornings.The great thing about this condo was it had a pool on the roof. So that is where we spent a lot of time. We were also close to 5th ave which is this street that is miles long that has all kinds of shops, shopping, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and ice cream parlors. It was very lively and a fun place to spend an evening or multiple evenings.

We wanted to do three things while in Playa del Carmen. One was to check out 5th Ave, one was to visit Tulum, and the last was to visit a Cenote. One day we were feeling adventurous so we decided to go to Tulum. Tulum is an ancient Mayan ruin on the coast just south of Playa. So we took a Colectivo, (the adventure part), which is a van that takes people from Playa to Tulum and makes stops in between. There is the town of Tulum which we will have to visit another time. We only went to the ruins. The ruins were very interesting and we were glad we experienced it. I would recommend going really early because by the time we got there, around 9:30, there was already a lot of people there and it was really hot.

Here are some pictures of the ruins.

There are so many wonderful places to see in Mexico. One of the the things that is a "must see" is a Cenote or many Cenote's. They are only found in Mexico. Cenotes are natural swimming holes formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock, which has revealed a secret subterranean world of groundwater pools. Most cave cenotes have fresh water that has been meticulously filtered by the earth, making them so clear and pure that you can see straight through to small fish swimming in the plant life below. Open-air cenotes also have clear water, and often are home to vitamin- and mineral-rich algae that nourish and protect your skin. Each Cenote is different and there are many to choose from and something for all levels of adventure. There is too much to tell about these beautiful places. I encourage you to look them up or better yet, discover them for yourself. The pictures truly do not do these any justice. On our last full day in Playa, we decided we needed to see one of these Cenote's. We decided to go to Cenote Azul because it was above ground. We thought that would be a good introduction to Cenote's. Our only mistake was going on Mexico's Labor Day. The place was completely packed with people. There was hardly any room to walk or get into the water. Word to the wise, do not go on a holiday! Because of this, we only stayed a short time. Long enough to experience the cold water and the fish biting your feet and get a few pictures. I hope to one day see other Cenote's and spend more time swimming and snorkeling. Maybe even get brave enough to do one of the underground ones.

If you ever had reservations about going to Mexico or thought it wasn't safe, I highly encourage you to give Mexico a try. I am sure there are unsafe places in Mexico just like any other country in the world. Also, just use caution and common sense like you would anywhere else. But there are many beautiful and interesting things to experience in Mexico and we have only scratched the surface!

Adventure is out there!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Our Life With Cancer / Past and Present

Warning! This post might get long.

I want to talk about our trip to Mexico and how it came to be. I know a lot of people have asked so I want to share the story and in an attempt to keep the gossip away. lol

As everyone that knows us, knows that Russ has been diagnosed with throat cancer for two years now. We have been treating it at home with holistic treatments. That worked very well the first year. By summer of the second year, Russ started experiencing pain in his mouth and throat area. He started taking over the counter pain medication. That was when we decided we needed some extra help. We have been watching Ty Bollinger's, The Truth about Cancer series and learned about some great places. We chose to go to the Hoxsey clinic in Tijuana, Mexico in July. It was only one day at the clinic and cheaper than going somewhere with an extended stay. When we got there, the doctor was very encouraging with how healthy Russ was. All doctors that run test on Russ tell him that his blood work and organs are in excellent health. He just has a tumor in his neck. With that being said, the doctor felt that Russ had time for the Hoxsey treatment to work. It is a slow working formula but effective at killing cancerous tumors. Unfortunately, it wasn't working fast enough. The diet was extremely hard to follow as well. Russ' pain continued to slowly increase. By November 2016, it was getting almost unbearable and was affecting his ability to work and run his business. One evening, the pain was so bad and his throat was swelling and he thought he was going to die. We called our parents and Michelle and Kyle and our wonderful friend, Mark Bagwell. They all came to the house and prayed for Russ. It was time to make some decisions. Russ told me what he was willing and not willing for doctors to do to him. We made an appointment with his family doctor the next day. He was very sympathetic to Russ' wishes and told him that he has had a great quality of life for the last two years that he would not have had if he had gone with traditional treatments. (As a disclosure here, we do not promote or endorse traditional or non traditional treatments. Just do your homework and find out all of your options before you let any one doctor determine your fate.) He told Russ to get his affairs in order and to let me know specifically what he wanted in case something happened like the night before.

So, we had to face some hard realities that no one wants to face. That Russ could actually die from this. It is not something I was wanting to hear. We started researching our options again. Drastic times call for drastic measures. So we looked at some of the places that Ty Bollinger recommended. There was one clinic in North Carolina that you can go to for 6 weeks and then follow up treatments. The cost starts at $50,000. We also considered the Hope 4 Cancer institute in Mexico. They have two clinics. One is in Tijuana and the other is in Cancun. They have a treatment there that is only given in one other place in the world and that is Germany. It is called Rigveer. It is a virus that they insert in you that kills cancer cells, even down to the stem cell, but does not harm normal cells. They use this along with about 15 other treatments. How this clinic works is you go for three weeks. Then they send you home with 3 months worth of supplements and shots and a machine that you use on yourself every day. I cannot remember the names of all of the treatments. You can go to the website if you want to see specifics: The cost is $40,000 for three trips to the clinic and one years worth of supplements, shots, and equipment. It does not include airfare. So now that we decided this was what we wanted to do, we had to find a way to pay for it. We told our family about our decision. My sister started a go fund me page. We were looking at all of our options. Selling stuff, selling the kids, (just kidding!), loan, as I said, trying to look at all of our options. We had heard about some people funding their cancer treatments with their life insurance policy so we looked into that. It just so happens that our term life insurance that we have had for a long time had this accelerated death benefit on it. That means you can cash in on part of your policy and they deduct that part at the time if your death. (It is Lincoln Life Benefit that we purchased through Allstate,(Danny Marcengill) in case you were wondering.) The only catch is, you have to have a death sentence. Meaning, you only have one year or less to live. So we went back to the doctor and talked to him about this. He willingly sent a notice to the insurance company. That was the most sobering of all was when you get an actual death sentence. Not a happy time. But the silver lining was one more chance to fight. We believe everything happens for a reason and there was definitely a reason we purchased that insurance years before we needed it. God is always in control.

After we got the information rolling with the insurance company, we called the Hope 4 Cancer clinic and made an appointment with their clinic for January 2nd. Russ would have liked to go sooner but we had to wait on the insurance company to see if they accepted our request. At first, they were going to send us to the Tijuana clinic. But after we sent them Russ' medical records, they decided that the treatment he needed was in Cancun. Needless to say, we were both happy with that decision since we had been to Tijuana and wasn't thrilled about spending any more time there. So to sum it all up, the insurance company sent us a check on December 30th. Talk about waiting until the last minute! We were getting concerned. We received enough money to pay for our trip and help us when we get home with bills until Russ can start working again.

I want to add here, we cannot tell you how much we appreciate all of the donations that came through the go fund me or given to us personally. That money has gone into funding this trip, as well as helping with our bills in December while Russ was unable to work. We are very grateful for all who contributed and pray God richly blesses you for it.

Our prayer now is that this trip has been the answer we have been praying for. So far, the treatments are going very well and Russ is starting to feel a little relief in swelling and pain. I will post again with some of our adventures while here. Just a trip to the grocery store in another country is an adventure!

Life is a grand adventure! Don't forget to live.
Peace and Love,