Radio Days And The Boob Bubble

young breast cancer radiation therapy

Outside. Directly opposite. Big Ben has chimed a big fat 9 am.

St Thomas’s radiotherapy unit. This is my home away from home for the next 23 consecutive days – excluding weekends – cancer doesn’t do weekends – thus resulting in my appointments being drawn out and clashing with my beloved Glastonbury Festival. Nooooooooo. To go during radiotherapy or not to go? That is the question.

I look around me at a sea of white hair. Bloody hell. Everyone’s so old. I don’t want to get that old. So old some of these patients look like they’ve been wheeled in from the set of Dr Who. Fossilised and mute. Why are you here?! What’s the point of prolonging your life?! What quality of life are you going to actually have? Yeh the heart’s still beating but everything else is buggered. I’d just like to reach 50 please universe. No more, no less if that’s not too much to ask. As I contemplate this, I notice an elderly patient smiles at me…. and doesn’t stop smiling at me.

Bridget is 80. She’s a sweetheart and there to have her pelvis done. She tells me her ENTIRE medical history, then lowers her voice to almost mouth the words…

“Once my radiotherapy finishes I have to stick several medical objects up my…….!!!!”

Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.

Her eyes light up, “I’ve never used a vibrator before.”


Say something Lara!

“Well….. better late than never.”

Bridget gets called to her appointment.


It’s been two months since I finished chemo. Three weeks after chemo I had a re-excision – usually it’s meant to be 4 weeks but my surgeon fast tracked me so I had a chance of making it to Glasto. Priorities man. I love my surgeon. A re-excision is basically more surgery to remove a bit of skin in my boob that was touching the tumour. This is called the ‘margins.’ Imagine my tumour is a fried egg sunny side up. Which is appropriate really, seeing as my tits look like a couple of fried eggs. The tumour is the yellow yolk and the margins are the egg white. Everything has to be removed. The surgery is done using the naked eye. My dear surgeon thought he’d removed the whole fried egg in my first round of surgery (I had a lumpectomy.) But the pathologist (who’s job is to cut and examine the juicy lump of tumour tissue) found he’d only removed three quarters of the margins. So he went back in there and cut the last bit of the quarter out. The results came back clear. No traces of cancer. Boom.

Three weeks after the re-excision I go in for my radiotherapy pre-assessment. I lie on the measuring table. The nurses tattoo 3 tiny dots (the closest I’ll ever get to being cool.) One in the centre of my chest and the other two either side of my boobs. This is so the measurements are completely precise. Radiation is hardcore. It’s so strong that not only will it kill any cancer cells, it also kills the healthy cells and can potentially damage my ribcage and my lung as it zaps the shit out of where my tumour was and the area directly around it. It kind of reminds me of a microwave nuking my insides. This is why the radiotherapists don’t want to damage any more of me than is necessary, hence the exact tattooed measurements.

“Have you had an implant?” asks the nurse.

I snort.

“Do you think my boobs would be this small if I had implants?!”

The nurse titters “Yes you have a point” and carries on the examination. A confused look comes over her face.

“Mmmm there seems to be something in there. But don’t be alarmed.”

(Riiiiiight.) I smile. Nervously.

She proceeds with my CT scan.

“OK Lara. Just looking at your scan, it appears you have an air bubble stuck in your breast.”


“Is that normal?”

“I’ve never seen it before. It must have got trapped in there after surgery. I think it’s best you get it seen to before you start radiotherapy as it could effect things.”

I get dressed and have a good feel.

Yep, there’s a large air bubble in my boob. Not dissimilar to a giant freaking piece of bubble wrap.

I book an appointment with my surgeon. My breast care nurse comes along for moral support. The three of us sit there. And giggle. Neither of them had heard of anything like this before. After sticking a syringe in it (I didn’t deflate like a balloon whizzing round the room sadly) the doc shows me what he’s drawn out. A tiny bit of red goo. Barrrfffff. But the bubble’s still there.

An ultrasound later (that doc had never seen anything like it either) I carried on my merry way with the advice “it should eventually absorb back into your body.” And sure enough, a week later, it did. Bubble tit drama over.

So, back to the radiotherapy unit. I’m lying dead still. All Saints ‘Never Ever’ is playing. Never ever as a 14 year old listening to that song did I imagine myself lying here half naked looking like Sigourney Weaver in Alien about to have my tit nuked.

Brrrrrrrrr it’s always so cold in here. They crank the air con up to keep the equipment cool. My nipples are like pistols. I almost expect the radiotherapist to halt dead and stick her hands up on entering and seeing them!

The lovely radiotherapists walk in.

“Ooo it’s cold in here,” one of them says.

“Hang on a minute. I’m half naked. At least you’re all wearing clothes! My nipples are like bottle openers!”

They all chuckle. I am quite funny.

“Ok Lara, see you in a moment.”

The radiotherapists dash out of the room – they can’t be anywhere near the machine when it’s in action. I mean who wants to be near a machine that transmits radiation and can potentially cause cancer?


As I lie there on my back, arms stretched up over my head, nipples you could hang a coat on, I think about how at ease I’ve become with being naked in front of all the nurses and Doctors. At least this is a flattering position. It’s certainly the most pert they’re ever gonna look.

The 23 days are a jumble. It takes more than cancer to stop me from going to Glasters. Friday morning straight after rads I set off with my wellies and sequins. It was the best weekend ever, spent laughing and dancing with my wonderful friends who surrounded me with LOVE. I’ve never done Glasto sober before. Who needs alcohol and narcotics when you can have vegan sushi and a gong bath?!

On Monday, full of happiness and my yearly Glasto rebirth of life (I promise you, no narcotics) I drove straight from Worthy farm to the hospital, covered in glitter and grinning from ear to ear in time for my LAST radiotherapy session.

The perfect way to end active treatment.

This post originally appeared here.

Paper Chain

writing group

I cleaned out my room today, getting rid of old clothes
most of which are too big for me now
as I’ve shrunk to a skeletal version of myself.
Gathering under my bed along with old chapsticks
and safety pins and crumpled receipts
were several hospital bracelets.

I’ve been saving them for over three years now,
hoping to make them mean something at the end of this-
a bracelet chain so I can count down the days
to the 5 year word:
or an art piece displaying the excessive usage of labels and
an ID number I’ll never forget: 612212
or proof for the future me that this really did happen
or a finish line I can break through–

I find them everywhere:
in drawers, coat pockets, the bottom of my purse and car
folded in my wallet
and under my bed
I have probably 200 of them

I plan to make something out of them eventually
I have a one-woman show in the works and I’ve been taking
copious notes of all the things that have happened
“ice bag boobs” after the highest fever my nurse had ever seen
“7 liters”: – my record-breaking peeing in a single day
“No, it wasn’t breast cancer, I just have really small boobs”
I don’t even need to explain that one.

There’s a lot of comedy, truly. And there’s a lot of white.
white room, white bandages
200 white stamps
200 white plastic wishes and fears
200+ white handfuls of foamed Purell

I plan to make something out of them
even if it is just a bonfire
to simultaneously burn away Cancer Girl
and offer up incense to the sky
Praise you stars, that I am still here
and I can still make things burn.

image via

Finding Courage, Facing Cancer

facing cancer

My story with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma begins “officially” on the morning of October 25th 2014, when I began to feel the familiar stabbing pain in my chest. The pain that would drain me of all my energy and knock every breath out of me. One of my many symptoms, unbeknownst to me. Each pulsating shot more debilitating than the last, left me weakened. This morning, when I attempted to lift my head of my pillow and failed, was my turning point. It was after 7am and I could already hear shuffling just outside my bedroom door. I reached out my arm for my phone, tucked beneath my pillow, I’ve read in articles it could kill you, should the phone overheat and start a fire. But then, I’d come to find out, I had much more to fear.

In my phone, I find my husbands number on the recent calls list and hit send. He’s a Drill Sergeant in the U.S. Army and has been working a 24 hour shift, poor guy, he must be exhausted. I hardly hear a breath and I’m already speaking and he’s listening, “I can’t take this anymore, can you meet us at the hospital?” He’s concerned and tired, I can hear it in his voice, “Wait for me sweetheart, I’ll pick you up and take you.” I don’t wait. I text him as I’m leaving,  I’ve mustered up all my strength to get out of bed and round up the kids, 5 and 9, a feat in-and-of itself. To this day, I have no recollection of the drive there.

My memory picks up in the ER, I’ve already been seen and I’ve had both an EKG and X-Rays done. My husband and two kids sit beside me, the kids are sitting quietly on the floor, keeping themselves busy on their daddy’s phone. Just then, a pulmonary specialist walks in, I recognize him almost instantly. I saw him for the first time 6 months ago, here, at this very hospital. At the time he told me I had inflammation in the lining of my lungs and had mentioned an anomaly in my X-Rays, his voice echoes in my memory. “Speak to your primary physician” he had said. Today, he seemed disappointed. “I told you to see your doctor.” I had, I did. I cried to her in panic, begged her to do something, she insisted it was my anxiety. “I’ll double your dose.” Angry, I demanded she take X-Rays of her own, or request the hospitals. She was reluctant but agreed, that same day I had more images taken, I didn’t hear from her again. Even after I phoned her and left messages. Nothing.

“There is a mass, roughly 9 by 11cm attached to your right lung” he formed a circle with his hands, fingertips touching, “about this size, like a grapefruit.” A mass? Like, a tumor? “We’ll conduct a “Fine Needle Biopsy” to determine what exactly it is.” He continued.

My next memory is going under and waking up. Now, a couple hours have passed and another physician enters the small room. An oncologist, who was to become, my oncologist. “The FNB was too small a sample but we’re fairly certain it is indeed ‘Hodgkin’s Lymphoma’ we just aren’t certain of the type.”

This can’t be happening.

From the corner of the room I see my husband look up from his phone, his eyes glazed over, he’s trying hard not to cry. “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma? Cancer?” He says inquisitively.

“Yes.” She responds, it is here that my journey begins.

A Different Kind of Self Care

self care

Through everything that’s happened this last month, the constant that I’ve heard from people is the need to take care of myself as well as my mother. I’ve been trying my best, but self care can be a broad, vague undertaking. What does self care mean? Is it as simple as making sure you eat and sleep? For me, my self care has consisted of binge watching Netflix when I’m physically drained, or cleaning my apartment, which is still a post-wedding disaster. Neither of those are helping me feel cared for, in fact my self care has mostly meant ignoring how I’ve been feeling through all of this.

That’s beginning to drain me.

I work really well in crisis. My mother broke her wrist a few years ago when we were in Ireland, and I didn’t lose my cool and got her help. I can go and go through stress, because it tends to make me work harder and be more focused. I have an inner strength I’ve discovered that I draw on in crisis, and I’ve been using it nonstop since we got her diagnosis April 13th.

It was that strength I had when sitting in the surgery waiting room for over six hours with my father, watching a board that only rarely updated itself on how her surgery was progressing. The strength I had when I was sitting awake and exhausted several nights in a row in the recliner beside her as she slept, because my dad and I couldn’t stand to leave her alone. The strength I had to advocate for her when the nurses were rushing her recovery, pushing her beyond her limits and she couldn’t speak up for herself. The strength I’ve had in giving up a job I loved so that my schedule was free to take care of her, while also planning my wedding from her hospital room as she was finally able to eat for the first time in weeks. The strength I had while watching her struggle to walk around my wedding two weeks later as everyone told me again and again, “Well she looks fine, so she must be recovered,” until I wanted to scream at them all.

That strength is finally beginning to wane.

Watching her struggle with what her life is going to be like for the next year, what she’s already had to go through in just barely over a month…

I’m spent. And I can’t be. I think the worst part is knowing that I can’t burn out now, I can’t give up, because she and my dad need me to continue to draw on that strength I amazed us all with during these last few weeks. But four weeks later, I feel like I’ve used all of it up.

I can’t watch her be in pain anymore. I can’t think about how I won’t be here through all of her treatments like I’d hoped, because I’m moving in October to Oklahoma with my husband. I can’t keep telling people that I’m okay, and that she’s doing great, because I’m not, and she’s not. No, the cancer is not going to kill her. No, it didn’t spread beyond what organs they removed in surgery. Yes, she will get through this and live to visit her first grandchild (born three weeks ago) and see my family grow (whenever we decide to start one).

But you know what? That doesn’t make any of this suck less. And lately, all I’ve needed was some self care. For me, at this moment, this means finally allowing myself to feel it, finally allowing myself to be spent and drained and depressed and overwhelmed and definitely completely not okay with any of this. For now, self care is allowing myself the freedom to give in to the impulse that’s been gripping me recently, the impulse to collapse right where I am and sob until my tears run dry.

And once I did that, I picked myself up, dried my cheeks, and felt a bit of strength return.

Self care is about more than making sure you eat and sleep enough while caring for someone else. It also means allowing yourself weak moments, so that you can continue having strong ones.

The Fork In The Fight: Introduction to Ayurveda

Andrea and G have a lovely history together.  Go here to learn more about them, and to read the first three posts in their first segment of The Fork In The Fight series.

The Fork in the Fight: recipes for restoring our souls and thriving in the face of cancer

Part 3: Introduction to Ayurveda

This is the third post in the second segment of the Fork In The Fight series.  In this three-part segment, we will be sharing a recipe for the soul in finding retreat in creativity, a recipe for the body with a delicious navy bean stew, and a recipe for the mind as Andrea introduces the world of Ayurveda. Stay tuned!  Check out Part 1: Recipes For Calm And Creativity and Part 2: Navy Bean Root Vegetable Stew.

Introduction to Ayurveda

Ayurveda means “Life Knowledge” and is traditional Indian Medicine.

The beauty of Ayurveda is in the shlokas, or chanted phrases, through which the knowledge has been preserved for over 5,000 years. Ayurveda teaches us to how know and love ourselves, to care for ourselves in the way that is unique to each of us.

Based on the five elemental system of ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth, Ayurveda describes three doshas, or biological humors: Vata (ether + air), Pitta (fire + water), and Kapha (water + earth). Each of us is made up of all five elements, and therefore, all three doshas; however, most of us have one or two dominant doshas that characterize our physical and psychological make up. This personal combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha is known as our prakruti or constitution.

A few highlights of Ayurveda’s unique approach to wellness are it’s complete definition of health, use of spices to promote and sustain good digestion, and it’s acknowledgement of our individuality.

Svastha, the definition of health, according to Suśruta Samhita, Father of Surgery, literally translates as: “to be situated in oneself.” The power in this message to me is that my healthy is not your healthy, and it is certainly not everyone’s healthy. We are all situated differently. That said, the full description of Svastha includes not only our present state, but our constitution (that perfectly complete way in which we were created, and ideally, entered the world). Many Ayurvedic Dosha (personalized constitution) surveys invite looking back on our childhood to answer questions about ourself to determine our prakriti. For most of us, our true self has been tossed and turned through our journey of life. For instance, we may recall joyfully playing with our siblings in the yard, and now struggle to maintain contact, let alone connect playfully. We may recall great comfort from a parent’s treasured home-cooking, and now have little connection to what we eat.

Svastha encourages understanding what YOUR “healthy” means.

Svastha in full is: One who is established in Self, who has balanced doshas (primary life force), balanced agni (digestive fire), properly formed dhātus (bodily tissues), proper elimination of malas (waste products), well-functioning bodily processes, and whose mind, soul and senses are full of bliss is called a healthy person. In Sanskrit:

Samadosha samāgni ca sama dhātu malakriyaha/
Prasanna ātma indriya manaha svastha iti abhidhīyate //
– Suśruta Sū 15/38

This complete picture of health can and must be approached from all aspects of life. We could have the best diet (not meaning restrictions here, rather consistent practice for food intake) for us, but without a calm, content, and easeful mind while we eat, not be able to process certain foods. We could have perfectly functioning bodily systems, but prevent ourselves from sneezing or using the bathroom when we need to, and end up with UTIs and sinus infections. We could be the picture of health, as some would say, with strong bones and muscles, but without finding ways to rest, joyfully and completely, be putting our future selves at risk for injury.

A few of my favorite recommendations that work for most people will appear in the next five posts of The Fork in the Fight. Please note that the number one recommendation is to meet with an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, Practitioner or Doctor before implementing a new regimen:

Recommendation 1

Food: Make lunch your largest meal, and enjoy it mindfully! Take your time, step away from the screens, and if you are going to have dessert, this is the best time of the day as your digestive fire is the strongest! I like to prepare my food to appeal to all the senses: using my hands to feel the vegetables as I chop and the spices before and after grinding, listening for the soft sounds of beans bubbling on the stove, displaying my dish in bowl or on plate in a way that satisfies the eyes so much, there is no text message or TV show that would better suit, and finally closing my eyes to inhale the healing aroma and allow the taste to permeate tongue and heart. I often sigh deeply after the first few bites of good food when I am paying attention. 😉

A healthy diet is good for your body and your creativity. Have fun with this Ayurvedic recommendation!

With love and gratitude,

Andrea and G

Put A Fork In It! Send us your comments, suggestions and food-fighting ways to support a healing life.

The Fork In The Fight: Navy Bean Root Vegetable Stew

Andrea and G have a lovely history together.  Go here to learn more about them, and to read the first three posts in their first segment of The Fork In The Fight series.  Look forward to reading Part 3: Introduction to Ayurveda later this week!

The Fork in the Fight: recipes for restoring our souls and thriving in the face of cancer

Part 2: Navy Bean Root Vegetable Stew

This is the second post in the second segment of the Fork In The Fight series.  In this three-part segment, we will be sharing a recipe for the soul in finding retreat in creativity, a recipe for the body with a delicious navy bean stew, and a recipe for the mind as Andrea introduces the world of Ayurveda. Stay tuned!  Check out Part 1: Recipes For Calm And Creativity.

The Recipe

We are both soup lovers and this navy bean stew is no exception! It’s perfect for using the last of your winter root vegetables before spring seasonals arrive. Andrea’s best friend, who is vegan, told her this is the BEST recipe she has made her (and Andrea has been cooking with her for 10 years!). Even if you are tempted to substitute in some animal products (like cream or cheese), we dare you to be bold and try it this way first because it’s just that good. 🙂 It’s easy to add more later.

Navy Bean Root Vegetable Stew
(adapted from Gillian McKeith’s You Are What You Eat)

Fresh ingredients chock-full of vitamins and minerals!


  • ½ lb. dried navy beans (or lima beans)
    • This will cook to 1lb. of cooked beans
  • 3 carrots, diced
    • Try daikon radish, red or golden beets, watermelon radishes, or a variety of turnips
  • ½  of a rutabaga, peeled and diced
    • Try jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) for a nuttier flavor
  • ½ a red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp turmeric ground or 1 tsp peeled
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp fennel
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 pinch Himalayan pink salt
  • Handfuls of pea shoots, arugula, thinly sliced kale, or a local green of your choice


  • Prepare by soaking the ½ lb. of dried beans overnight (or for several hours) and cooking in a large pot of boiling water. Perfectly cooked beans are soft in the center but not split on the seams. Remove from heat and let the beans cool in the water completely. P.s. By starting with dried beans, you are eliminating the extra processing and sodium that can be found in canned beans.
  • While the beans cool, you can cut, peel, dice, slice and chop your way through all the vegetables.
  • In a large pot on medium heat, add the onions, bay leaves, and a splash of water, stirring occasionally. Once the onions soften, add the rutabaga, carrots, and enough water (or vegetable stock) to cover. Let boil and then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the beans and remaining spices and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Top with fresh greens and serve immediately with a hunk of fresh bread.
Share this simple, nourishing dish with your friends and loved ones!

Tips and Hints

  • If you are have leftovers and want something new, the soup does well with a bit of raw milk cheese and day old bread on the bottom of the soup bowl!
  • While the beans are cooking, you can roast the vegetables! This will bring out the sweet and nutty flavors that make the soup divine. Andrea suggests roasting with coconut oil salt & pepper

BONUS Recipe!

 Antioxidant Supplement ‘Jam’
(from William Siff of Gold Thread Herbs) 

A jar filled with antioxidant goodness.


  • 1 large mason jar with lid
  • 1 cup rose hips, roughly
  • 1 cup of pomegranate or blueberry organic juice concentrate, roughly
  • 1 handful goji berries, elderberries, and/or hawthorn berries
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • Citrus peels, to taste
  • Fresh ginger, to taste


  • Pour the rose hips into the mason jar until half way full and cover with juice.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients and let sit for several hours until it becomes paste-like. If you are using seeded berries, be sure to let them soak in water.
  • Take 1 tablespoon every day! You can add it to a cup of hot water or onto a bowl of porridge.
  • The jam can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 months.

With love and gratitude,
Andrea and G

Put A Fork In It! Send us your comments, suggestions and food-fighting ways to support a healing life.

When Your Mind Says Yes And Your Body Says No

Last week I was sick, not cancer-sick, just regular-sick. My symptoms were extreme fatigue and a mildly congested nose and throat. I took the day off from work and lay down in bed after breakfast. I thought, “I’ll just try to sleep for a short while.” I’m a notorious morning person, and though I’m a good napper, I can never sleep more than a half hour or so during the day. I figured I’d lie down for a bit, then get up and do some writing.

I woke up about an hour later, looked at the clock, and thought, “Okay, that was good, maybe I’ll get up now.”

And my body said, “NO!”

So I let myself get pulled back into sleep. I woke up again about an hour later and thought, “Okay, that was great, but I should really get up now.”

And my body said, “NO!”

This kept happening until I’d slept until almost noon, something I hadn’t done even when I was in college. But my body kept demanding it. It was almost audible, the force with which my body objected to my mind. I wanted to get up. I intended to get up. But my body knew that I needed to sleep, and so it insisted.

I don’t usually let my body speak to me like that. I ignore it, telling myself that I need to work more than I need to sleep, that I need to play with my son more than I need to do yoga. But when I was vulnerable, I had to let my body tell me what to do, and it reminded me that I need to listen to what my body wants. I have to check in often and try to give it what it needs: better food, sleep, a walk outside. I like to think that my mind is “me,” but my body is also “me,” and I can’t just override that whenever I want to.  Sometimes you just need to trust your body.

I’m not someone who believes that diet, exercise and sleep can prevent or cure illness entirely. I was only thirteen when I got cancer, and I was a very healthy, growing girl at that point. But for those of us who are ill, and for those of us who have been so, our biggest concern is prevention: preventing it from getting worse, preventing it from happening again. Our body knows more about that than our minds do. Our bodies know how to heal themselves, how to crave the things we need, and how to signal to us that we need to sleep. We need to listen to them, even when other voices- those of our bosses, family members, society- seem louder.

Trust your body to say “no,” even when you want to say “yes.”

How To Keep Your Sense Of Humor

“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.”

-Bill Cosby

It is the rare person who can hang on to her sense of humor while living with illness or while caregiving. It’s not for lack of trying; it’s just that we wind up sacrificing humor for other things we need more: pride, dignity, a sense of control. But laughter really is the best medicine, because it can make more bitter medicines easier to swallow. Here are five ways to keep your sense of humor during difficult times.

1. Partner With A “Tigger.”

In her book Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin writes about the Eeyore-Tigger relationship: when one person speaks and acts gloomily, the other instinctively reacts by trying to cheer him up. Most people are the Eeyore in some of their relationships, and the Tigger in others (though some people simply tend one way or the other). When you’re living with long-term illness, it’s almost impossible not to be the Eeyore at least some of the time; it’s natural and understandable. But it doesn’t have to be your permanent state of being if you find a Tigger to partner with.

I’ve been lucky enough to have two “Tigger partners” when I needed them most. My best friend from high school got me through long hospital days by cracking one-liners, playing dirty mad libs, and one memorable time, making out with a balloon (until the nurse walked in and caught her). Nowadays, as I deal with sick family members and my own occasional “cancer returning” scare, my husband takes on the role. From inappropriately dark jokes, to puns, to prodding me not to take myself so seriously, my husband keeps my spirit going.

2. Monitor Your Media.

This is not the time to binge-watch hospital or prison dramas, or read dark fiction designed to provoke moral dilemmas. Put yourself on a diet of funny, and vary it by delving into different types of humor, from I Love Lucy to old SNL-cast movies, to raunchy contemporary comedies. Read memoirs by Tina Fey and Ellen DeGeneres, and lighthearted YA or romance novels that you know will end happily. If your body becomes what you eat, your brain becomes what you read and watch.

3. Take A Cue From A Child.

No one knows how to let loose and find the light in life better than a child. If you don’t have one, borrow one. Set the kid in an environment made for play and exploration, and then, no matter how silly or embarrassing, follow his lead. If she wants to crawl through tunnels and slide down slides, do it. If he smears ice cream all over his face, do that too. It won’t take long before you find your fun-loving inner child. (If you’re unable to physically do what the child does, that’s fine, too- just watch and live vicariously.)

4. Fake It Till You Make It. 

Laugh. Right now. Just laugh. It’ll start out fake, but eventually it’ll turn real. Laughter is contagious, and you can infect yourself. Once you’ve found how well it works, plan it into your day. Make a “laugh break” whenever you need it most. Schedule it on your calendar as “LOL” and then really laugh out loud.

5. Make A Humor Habit.

Add bits of humor into your everyday life. If you find a page online that consistently makes you laugh, whether it’s LOLCat or Damn You AutoCorrect, make it your home page. If you like a particular comic in the Sunday paper, cut it out and stick it on the fridge. If you always laugh and relax with a certain friend, ask her to call or email you on a regular basis. There are plenty of small ways to add humor into your day; little rays of sunshine that can add up to serious day-brightening.

What are some other ways to keep your sense of humor during difficult times? Feel free to comment and share! 

Welcome Leanne! – No Longer One In A Million!

Lacuna Loft is excited to continue introducing some guest bloggers!  These great folks represent a variety of perspectives on the myriad of topics covered here at Lacuna Loft.  Before everyone starts really getting into the nitty-gritty of all they have to say, we wanted to introduce them a bit.  Without further ado, here is Leanne!

“You’re literally one in a million.” That was what my doctors told me, when I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer at age thirteen. My terrible odds were due to several factors: my young age; the aggressiveness of the cancer; the relatively low rate of thyroid cancer at the time (though it’s now one of the few cancers on the rise in the United States). I liked to think “one in a million” also referred to my amazing personality, but my family was good at dispelling any ego I might have had over that!

I fought for four years, through multiple surgeries, radioactive iodine treatments (a treatment unique to thyroid cancer) and the process of stabilizing my thyroid hormone dosage. At seventeen, I was given a clean bill of health, and I’m happy to say I’ve been cancer-free for fifteen years, though there has been the occasional lymph node scare, and the fluctuation of thyroid medication is never-ending.

Since I was a teenager when all of this happened, I didn’t process the experience as well as I might have done as an adult. I’ve spent the last several years thinking and feeling through it all, and one of the things I’ve learned is that I don’t want to be “one in a million” in any sense. Those odds are much too isolating; I want to be part of the cancer fighter and survivor community. I’m excited to be here at Lacuna Loft, where I can get to know the amazing “cancer club” here, as well as members of other long-term illness “clubs.”

Speaking of other long-term illness, my life has recently been touched by chronic Lyme disease, which my sister and mother have both battled over the past few years. In addition, my best friend, the one who sat at my bedside after every surgery, contracted breast cancer last year. Long-term illness is a big part of my and my family’s lives, a fact I’ve accepted but not necessarily embraced.

One thing I’ve learned is that I can process all of these life challenges through writing. I have my own blog, Words From the Sowul, where I think deep and search for meaning in life (some might say “philosophize”) from a cancer survivor’s perspective. I’m also currently writing a book about living life with a cancer survivor’s/fighter’s perspective, which Mallory (Lacuna Loft’s proprietress) has graciously agreed to be a part of. If any other cancer survivors are interested in sharing stories of positive life gains associated with cancer, please contact me at

Thank you for welcoming me into the Lacuna Loft community! I look forward to getting to know you all!

What I Bring To Chemo

So today was my 5th chemo! Only 7 more to go. I finally feel like I’m starting to get the hang of this chemo thing. It’s anywhere from 3-5 hours in the chair for me. And I always have a nice big bag packed full of goodies. And I always have some company.

Snacks. Now I like to eat. And I like to eat frequently. I definitely nibble constantly throughout the day. Lucky for me, chemo hasn’t destroyed my appetite (my surgery actually lessened it). I always make sure to have a water bottle, a coconut water, and various snacks. Included in my rotation are honey roasted almonds, vegan lemon fig bars, chocolate almond energy bar, rice cakes, veggie chips, and cherries. (Yes I’m vegan, so any food related suggestions will be based on what I eat, but I promise you, I get all my needed nutrients).

Reading material. Sometimes I’m in the middle of a great book I can’t put down, and sometimes I’m flaky and indecisive on what I feel like reading. Therefore I always have a book, a magazine or two (Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, US Weekly, and Bust are my favorites), and my laptop in case I feel like looking on in some news, Buzzfeed, Twitter, Think Progress, or Pinterest.

An extra blanket. Yes I know that the hospital provides me with a warmed blanket once I arrive, but the blanket doesn’t stay warm, and is a really thin, not very soft blanket. Therefore I bring my super soft, fuzzy, leopard print blanket. I bring one that is my style to make the place a little more mine.

Games. UNO & other card games tend to work best at my center, although I wish I could bring Bananagrams. They make it fun & keep me alert.

Mementos. I have received some meaningful mementos from various people during my cancer journey. I received a hand knitted shawl from a woman in her 70s who is a breast cancer survivor at a support group I went to. I received a medallion with one of my favorite quotes from a woman I met through the online support boards on the Young Survival Coalition website. I wear the birthstone owl necklace my boyfriend gave me for our one year anniversary (this past May 28th!), which he bought for me because he wanted me to have something pretty to wear while he knows I’m feeling constantly down about my looks (chemo induced hair loss, acne, & bloating really takes a toll on your psyche). Having these things with me make me feel powerful, loved, and supported.

While I sit there and poison runs through my veins – poison that the nurses have to wear scrubs to administer to me – having things that matter and keep me happy and distracted is important. Now everyone’s list may be different, but the key is to find things that make you comfortable. For me, the last thing I want is to be stuck in the chemo chair hungry and cold. I have hunger induced grumpiness and cold induced grumpiness, and there’s no need to make chemo harder than it already is (both for me and for my chemo buddies). Now I feel silly because the large dose of Benadryl they give me just makes me pass out quickly, but just in case, I am prepared to make chemo a mini relaxation day.

So my advice is to make it YOU! Have fun with it and be prepared. Know what works for you. And try to make it fun. If you’re going to be stuck in a chair with an IV full of poison be injected into your body, try to enjoy your time there and look at it as a mini get away!