The Reason I Walk the NYC Walk To Beat The Clock

I still remember the first time I walked the NYC Walk to Beat the Clock.  It was September 19, 2009, exactly three months after finishing my treatments and my doctor had given me the great news that I was "cancer free".

So here I was-- cancer free.  You might think I should have been jumping up and down. Right? Well, not quite. I was feeling grateful and relieved.  God had given me a second shot at life, but I still felt numb and uncertain.

Doctors don't tell you what to do next after they have done their job nor is there a manual to guide you on what to do.  You have to kind of figure it out yourself, figure out how to pick up all the pieces and put them back together.

What A Difference A Year Makes - Lab Results

Before      After
As you know by now and I hope you don't get tired of hearing it or reading it - I lost 103 pounds in a course of a year.

Due to being overweight or I should say morbidly obese (according to the Body Mass Index or BMI chart), I developed several illnesses.  I was diagnosed with diabetes type 2, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

I took several medications to control these illnesses and had many warnings from my doctor to do something about my weight. Warnings that I ignored for awhile.

Loving the Pictures of the New ME

 A photograph never grows old.  You and I change, people change all through the years, but a photograph always remains the same. ~  Albert Einstein

The New "ME"
I can't remember the last time I can actually say I liked looking at myself in a video or a picture (not even my wedding pictures). Each time we had to take family photos, I usually ran for cover, meaning I always ran to the back of the group and let everyone cover me just showing my face. If I wasn't looking for cover then I wasn't in the picture at all because I would volunteer to take them. 

Every time I used to see myself  in a picture, it was like getting a glimpse or getting a reminder of the unhappy person I was, even though, there was always a smile on my face. 

My Weight Loss Journey- I Lost 100+ Pounds

Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends entirely on how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them. We are eagles! Lets Stretch our wings. ~ Ronald Mcnair

Before                      After
Let me just come out and scream it : "As of July 11, 2012, I have lost 101 pounds and I'm wearing a size 4!!!!!".  Yaaaahhhhh! for me. It is still so surreal!!!! It took me a year almost to the date.   The first question that everyone asks me is: "How did you do it?"  Well, be surprised,  I had no surgery (not that there is anything wrong with that, if that's what you and your doctor decide is the best possible way for you), I had no magic potion, I don't have a secret or have a special pill.  I did it by just plain hard work known as diet and exercise.  I'm not here to promote any particular program because in my opinion, all programs work.  You have to choose one of the many that will fit your lifestyle, stick to it and make it work for YOUBe Determine, Be Patience, Be Consistent and Focus.

I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds- Part III

The Weight Loss Challenge Group with our Trainer #KillerKetsy and Co-Trainer #LittleTaffyD
*Some of the members are missing from the picture

 I didn't want to title this post the "The Final Part" even though the weight loss challenge has come to an end.  Our journey has not ended, but it's time to move forward to a new phase within our mission.

It has been five months since the start of our lifetime commitment and we have grown in so many ways in this short time. We are not sad that this part has ended because we are accepting it as part of the growth. The knowledge and the tools that have been given to us are priceless and timeless.

Radiation Treatments and Changes in My Body

Once I was diagnosed with cervical cancer my doctor recommended radiation and chemotherapy to have a chance to  beat the cancer. Here is some information on radiation, along with my personal experience to the subsequent changes in my body.

Radiation Therapy

Internal and/or External Radiation is a frequent treatment option for many cancers. It uses high energy ray to destroy the cancer cells. Depending on the kind of cancer and where you received the radiation you will have different side effects. Some side effects take longer than others to show or to go away if they do.

The radiation given to me for the cervix was externally and internally. Doctors tattoo the part of your body where the radiation rays will be given to be precise to hit the tumor and/or cancer cells inside your body. Even though it's precise, there are other organs nearby that can be affected by the radiation treatment.

Intimacy After My Cancer Diagnosis

What doctors don't tell you
I have written about intimacy with my husband after cervical cancer before, so here I am doing it again.  My husband still feels uncomfortable about me talking about our sex life and he rather not read anything I write about this topic.  Today, we have a healthy sex life which has improved even more since I have lost some weight. I guess because I feel lighter and sexier these days, but it took a long while to get us to this point. The key word here is patience.

There was no intimacy after my cancer treatments even when the doctor said it was OK to have sex. It took my husband and I awhile to reconnect. We were both afraid, anxious and worried to even try. We first had to open communication and start slow. The doctors do not give you a manual as to how to go about these things.

Three Years After Hearing Those Horrible Words......

It has been three years since I heard the most horrific three words "YOU HAVE CANCER".  My world as I knew it stopped and everything became dark.

My cancerversary happens to be on May 5th also known as Cinco de Mayo.  Yes!!! A day many people celebrate, so in my mind they are also celebrating with me.  I didn't want to write this post until I saw my doctor and had my pap test results come back.  So last week results were in and I'm a OK.

A lot has happened since that unforgettable ugly day, but I can honestly say that I'm healthier, happier and enjoying life more than before I had cancer.  So take that and shove it CANCER.  You chose the wrong DIVA this time.  I fought you, I conquered you so I'm telling you now Don't Ever Come Back!!!

I Won Ketsy And Lost Pounds- Part II

It's been four months since I started with the "weight loss challenge group" after working out on my own since last July.  I must say  it has been quite a journey so far, at times hard and exhausting.  I have gained much knowledge in many facets like: nutritional, physical, and emotional.

It is amazing how emotions play a role in this journey and it is not only doing diet and exercise but also understanding the whole process and accepting that this is a new lifestyle.  Even during the journey there are many adjustments to be made as your body and mind changes.

Personally, I'm glad I was given this opportunity to be part of this group.  I really don't think I would have been able to have done what I have done so far without the support of this group beside the support of my husband and family.  There are days that I just want to give up but my girls, as I call them, (Robin, Kat, Diane T., Diane P., Lara, Mara, Ruthie, and Zoe) won't let me.

We support and encourage one another and cheer every single milestone as small as it might seem.  #KillerKetsy (our trainer) and  #LittleTaffyD (our co-trainer) are right there too.  I have cried many of times on both their shoulders and get re-charged afterwards.  They don't let us give up and for that we love them.  
Our hard work has paid off.  All of us have had excellent results.  It has been worth all the tears, the sweat, and the pain that we have shared.

Our new friend "The Scale"
My results these past 4 months are as follows:

1st Month ~ Lost 8 lbs and 5 inches
2nd Month ~ Lost 5 lbs. and 8 inches
3rd Month ~ Lost 8 lbs  and 12 inches
4th Month ~ Lost 7lbs and 4 inches
Grand Total so far ~ 28 lbs and 29 inches

Our journey is not over yet, but we'll continue and we are confident that we will reach our goal.  Our motto is :  Health and Strength is the New Skinny. 

"I'm not losing weight. I'm getting rid of it. I have no intention of finding it again" ~

Related Links:
 I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds~Part I
 I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds~Part III
Zumba and Spinning for a Newbie
Running Like A Diva

Running Like A Diva

OK~ so here is the thing, I'm just going to come out and say it, "I really really DISLIKE running".  I don't like to use the word HATE, but I might have to when it comes to running.  I still remember when I had to run at the Police Academy every day, I used to get anxious and have anxiety attacks. Thank God for my BFF, Cathy, for always supporting me when we ran next to each other in the academy's gym almost holding my hand. I give her credit for helping me make it out of there.

I often wonder what do marathon runners or any runner think about while they are running all those miles???  Besides feeling the pain on their legs and feeling exhausted what goes through their mind?  I just can't imagine.

So now, that I said all that about running, guess what I'm going to be doing?  Yes!! I will be running. I want to step out of my comfort zone again, and challenge myself to run a 5K on October 7, 2012. 

I had to choose a 5K run event from so many out there.  So I thought, if I'm going to run, I'm going to do it like a Diva.  This is the reason I chose "Run Like A Diva" and registered.

I never thought that I will be paying to run a 5K (3.1 miles) and be doing it on purpose.  I would have paid anything NOT to run at the Academy all those months. There's to show you how things can change.  I feel blessed that I have the ability to do it now and will be going from cancer to a 5K.  I might even get more ambitious and try for the Divas half marathon next year. Unbelievable!!!!  But one step at a time, just like anything else in life.

I'm in training right now and doing pretty good so far.  Thanks to the support and encouragement of my weight loss challenge group (my girls, as I like to call them) and lets not forget our trainer, #KillerKetsy and co-trainer #LittleTaffyD.  I'm confident that I will be ready for October and will be giving it my best shot.

If anyone wants to join me, you are more than welcome.  I will be running for all my cervical cancer survivor sisters and for those that can't anymore.  My bib will read:  "CCSURVIVOR DIVA"

"The miracle isn't that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start." ~ John Bingham

Related Links to My Weight Loss Journey:
I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds - Part III 
I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds - Part II 
I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds - Part I
Zumba and Spinning for a Newbie

Nothing to be Ashamed Of...

Welcome guest blogger and friend, Malenis Hollaway-Nazario

On October 13, 2010, I had gone in for my yearly Pap smear a few months late. I was as carefree as ever and went in prepared for what I thought was going to be a normal pap. That all changed when I received a phone call from my doctor. My Pap results had come back abnormal and the HPV test came back positive.

I was floored; I went through all of my formers partners and started to mentally check off which ones could have possibly given “it” to me. HPV and I were not on a first name basis; I barely knew anything. So when my follow up pap results came back abnormal again, I decided to obsessively do research.

During my wait for my colposcopy, I asked my peers and students of the Community College, where I am employed, what they knew about HPV. I was completely shocked with the results. How could all these young women and men know close to nothing about HPV?

Trying to explain to my friends and family was difficult at first. I was 27, unmarried and Latina; the first thing that people think when you tell them that you have HPV is that you are “sleeping around”, you are tainted, a “sucia”.

 So, prior to discussing my situation with everyone, I decided to get facts. I was research crazed; I joined every online HPV/Cervical cancer forum and read articles and studies, I even emailed my doctor daily. I discovered I had friends who like me, were afraid of what their families would think of them. I realized that there were so many other women that were going through the same thing; I wasn’t alone.

According to my last test results, I am in CIN II (pre-cancer stage). I still need to take care of myself and go to my follow-up appointments on time, but I do not have cancer.

I wanted to share my story with you all because there are so many in the Latino community who know very little about HPV and Cervical Cancer.  Hermanas, don’t be afraid to talk! We have to educate ourselves, be aware of what’s going on and do our part as a community to raise awareness on HPV and Cervical Cancer.

My latest follow-up was this past Thursday, and I went into it with my head held high. I will not let this take me over.

"Where shame is, there is also fear. ~ John Milton

 Malenis Holloway-Nazario resides in Chicago, IL. At the age of 27 she was diagnosed with HPV and hopes to be able to share her story with others as her part in raising awareness of HPV and Cervical Cancer.

Editor's Note: I want to thank Malenis for sharing her story and showing us that there should be NO shame if you are infected by the human papilloma virus. Lets toss away the misconceptions that there is about women who have HPV.  Wishing her the very best and much health.  Gracias mi Hermana!!

Memories Without Photos

No Pictures
Many cancer patients document their journeys either by writing in their journals/blogs or by taking pictures of themselves while going through treatments.
An ex-boss of mine always used to say "document everything because if it is NOT documented, it did not happened."

Well, I have to say, I didn't do neither. I didn't write about it nor I took pictures of myself while in treatment. Yet, I know it did happen. I have the memories and the scars.

Until recently, I didn't think about it. It was until my friend, Rebecca Aguilar, asked me if I had pictures of me at the hospital while getting chemotherapy and radiation. I had to think for a second, and it dawned on me that I had none.

Three Photos

Picture #1~ Wristband
I went through my photo albums and I found only three pictures documenting the most horrible dark time in my life.  I found a picture of the wristband that was given to me every time I had to get radiation treatment, which was everyday for seven weeks.  I have exactly 35 wristbands.

The second picture I found really warmed my heart.  It was a picture of my husband  in the waiting room of the hospital, where he sat everyday for 35 days waiting for me to get my radiation treatments.

Picture #2 ~ My husband Freddie
The third picture was of the office of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the NY Presbyterian Hospital.  A place that became like my second home for 35 days.  I got to know every doctor, every nurse, every receptionist and every technician.

Memories for a Lifetime

I guess these three pictures tell a story, but memories of my journey are embedded in my mind and in my heart. I remember what it took to get out bed every single day, I remember every machine used on me, I remember every needle that went through my body.

Picture #3 ~ Dept. of Radiation Oncology
Looking back now, I kind of  regret that I did not take any pictures, but at the time it wasn't even a thought.  I was fighting a battle.  Pictures, journals, blogs can be destroyed or lost, but your memories will live with you for a lifetime.

"For some, life lasts a short while, but the memories it holds last forever." ~ Laura Swanson

Zumba® and Spinning® for a Newbie

One of the requirements of being on the "weight loss challenge program", that I've been a part of since January, is to participate in several exercise classes every week. I've never been a fan of exercise classes, I've only worked out by myself either on the treadmill or the stationary bike.

I found myself forced to go out of my comfort zone and called myself a "VIRGIN" since I've never taken any of these special classes before. Keeping an open mind, I had to set myself out to go and explore the different classes they offered.

I'm sure everyone has heard of Zumba®.  Zumba® is a Latin dance inspired fitness program that incorporates hip hop, samba, salsa, merengue, mambo and some martial arts.  So I figured I'm Latina, I like to dance, how hard can it be??  Needless to say I found out real fast.

Arelis Ramirez
Here comes Master Zumba®/Toning instructor, Arelis Ramirez.  I have heard she was 50 years old with five children (I'm sure she doesn't mind me sharing these facts).  At first glance she is a small framed woman that does not look 50 years old and by no means a mother of five.  So, we start the class, and in about less than five minutes this woman is moving parts of the body that I never thought you can move. She becomes an electric human showing her passion and addiction to this kind of workout.  At this time, I'm forced to introduce myself to muscles I didn't even know I had and at times it becomes brutal. 

As fun as it may seem, Zumba® gives you a great cardio workout making you sweat your butt off especially when you have someone like Arelis frequently screaming, "move those hips!!!" and whose favorite sayings are: "Don't move in this class, like if you're shopping at the supermarket." "Eso!!!"

Like I said before most of my workout had been on a stationary bike.  So I thought I had an advantage if I took spinning. You do spinning® on a  bike, right?  Boy was I wrong!!!

The Spinning® bike is not just any bike! It isn’t like your exercise bike that has been collecting dust in the basement or that you use to hang up your clothes.     The spinning® bike might look like any ordinary exercise bike, but the big difference is the tension knob, which allows spinning® to be an aerobic exercise routine.

The instructor for this class is Master Spinner #KillerKetsy (I have written about #KillerKetsy before) who is also my trainer.  Let me be brief as to the experience of being on the bike for the first time by just saying it treated me exactly  like what I had called myself ~ A Virgin.   After the class was over I didn't know what part of my butt hurt the most and my legs failed to hold me up.  I must say the first time it's an unforgettable experience of pain and exhaustion.

Many people have told me that they find Spinning® boring and feel like they are not going anywhere.  Well, I have to say to those people-- Duh!! It's still a stationary bike-- but you have to use your imagination and imagine you going up and down hills on a beautiful day listening to the beat of the music that helps you ride towards your goal.  Boring??  Then, you have not taken a class with #KillerKetsy (my special name for my trainer). You don't have time to feel bored because you are too busy feeling the pain of her workout. 

Zumba® vs. Spinning®
I must confess that after my initial impression of both of these classes, I have fallen in love with both of them.  Each one gives me a feel of a different accomplishment.  Perhaps it has something  to do with the instructors that I am fortunate to have.  Not only do they care, but they show their dedication and radiate their passion of their tool to help us accomplish our goals.

I am hooked now.  I take Zumba® twice a week and do Spinning® three times a week and love it and most important I'm seeing the results.  But at the end of the day, like Richard Geer said to Julia Roberts on Pretty woman describing opera, "people either love it or they hate it.  If they love it, they will always love it and if they hate it, they'll learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul." 

P.S. -  I have started taking Yoga® and Meditation classes- so stay tuned......

"We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion". ~ George Hegel

Related Links to My Weight Loss Journey:
I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds - Part III 
I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds - Part II 
I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds - Part I
Running Like A Diva

The Story that Touched My Heart

As a cervical cancer survivor and having been involved in the cancer community for a couple of years, I have heard and read my share of inspirational stories from amazing survivors.  I have also shed tears for the ones taken by this horrible disease. 

Everyone tells a different story, none of them alike, yet you hear and read the emotions that bond us.  The emotions that we all share, the fear, the fight, the uncertainty and the hope.

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon a blog post from an awesome lady named Terry.  Terry is a cervical cancer survivor, but unfortunately the cancer is back and now it has metastasized to her lungs. I don't know Terry, but after reading her story I feel like I do and it moved and touched my heart in a very special way.
Terry writes: "This cancer is incurable.  I am, apparently, going to have cancer for the rest of my life. I can only hope this treatment will put me in remission for a long time. How much chemicals can a body take before it starts kicking back?  I realize miracles do happen and I’m hoping that some of these tumors will be eradicated by the treatment."

Reading her story, I see her inner strength, her fight, her uncertainty, but I also hear her hope in every word she writes.  She has not given up, she is ready to fight again.  I believe that miracles do happen and I pray that God keeps her healthy and well for a long time to come.  Terry, I will  always keep in my prayers...

More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones. ~ Mother Theresa

Read Terry's Blog post HERE

My Hard Work Has Paid Off....

As many of you know, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes about a year and a half ago and I was put on oral medication for it.  I was also on high blood pressure and high cholesterol medication.

My doctor gave me a firm warning about my health.  The path I was on was leading me to jeopardize my life.  The fact that I write about health on my other blog was making me feel a little bit of a hypocrite since I was not practicing what I was preaching.

 I had to take responsibility for myself and make a U-turn.  I realized that I was the only one that needed to take action and I had to make the right decision.  I'm a cancer survivor and I love paying it forward by being an advocate for cervical cancer, but I was forgetting one important thing.  I was forgetting about the gift I'd been given, a second chance, a second shot at life.

Since last July I made the decision to take care of myself by eating healthier and exercising.  It has been hard at times, nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but consistency and dedication pays off.

Due to my diabetes, I see my doctor every three months and on my recent visit my doctor gave me the good news that he was taking me off all medications. My blood glucose has been under normal range, I don't have high blood pressure and my cholesterol is normal.

"Health is the state about which medicine has nothing to say" ~ W.H. Auden

Wow! I couldn't believe it. It can be done!!! I did it!! This is not the end of my destination, this is the beginning.  I have to continue on the path and make these changes my new lifestyle.  The difference on how I feel is amazing, and feeling good gives me motivation in itself.  I still get checked every three months by my doctor, but I have learned to be accountable for own health and destiny.

"A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings" ~ Hippocrates

Related Links to My Weight Loss Journey:
I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds - Part III 
I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds - Part II 
I Won Ketsy and Lost Pounds - Part I
Zumba and Spinning for a Newbie
Running Like A Diva

I Won Ketsy And Lost Pounds!!! ~ Part I

About six months ago I made the conscious decision to make a U-turn regarding my health.  I started eating healthier and exercising.  

To help with my mission I joined a health club (Whitehall Club and Health Spa).  I have been doing pretty good the past 5 months exercising on my own and seeing results, but I have gotten to the point that I needed a bigger challenge. I needed to step it up a notch.

In December, I notice a flier on the club's bulletin board where they were announcing a "Weight-loss Challenge" starting in January.  To enter you had to submit your name, show commitment and bring a note from your doctor stating that you were OK to participate in this kind of challenge. They were choosing only 10 names out of a hat from all the entries.  So, I thought, I never win anything, but like the lottery, to win a million dollars you have to be in it to win it.
The "chosen" were getting a trainer, taught what to eat and what not to eat, how to food shop, and be a part of a support group. So, I submitted my name and waited not expecting to really be one of the ten names.

Beating the Beast~Giving Up Was Not An Option

Post written by guest blogger and Cervical Cancer Survivor Melissa Martinez Capuano

My life changed in the spring of 2008. I passed out and began hemorrhaging which required a 48 hour blood and iron transfusion. The doctors at the ER were shocked that I had not gone into cardiac arrest with all my blood loss, and I was sent to a specialist to evaluate my condition. At first glance, they assumed it was a fibroid which would require me to have a hysterectomy. During the examination the doctor decided to do a rush biopsy on the "fibroid", and also scheduled the hysterectomy for the following week.

HPV Application

The other day looking through website I stumbled upon an entry regarding an HPV application for your iPhone® or iPad®.  Perhaps you already know about it or perhaps not, either way I wanted to spread the word.

This application is "FREE" and is quite informative.  “HPVsearch” allows users to look up facts about the Human Papilloma Virus, gives information about both vaccines and have patient's  FAQs.

The Fear Never Goes Away

A few weeks ago I had the scare of my life.  I thought that all my fears and  worries have been put to rest, but the ugly monster always manages to show his head.

After my radiation and chemo treatments, I went into early menopause.  What does this mean? It means that I no longer menstruate, I get hot flashes, I get some mood swings and I'm infertile among other things.

So now, I have not menstruated for almost three years.  I have taken a conscious commitment to take care of myself by eating healthier, exercising and doing everything I can to lead a healthy life, and then--all of sudden--I start bleeding.   WTH??? Is it back?!?! Is the cancer back??

Losing It ~ The Book

I've always love to read books.  No matter where I went I had a book in my hands, until I discovered "Audible".

Yes, made my addiction a little bit easier. I just had to carry my iPod®, put my earphones on and listen to someone else read to me. Lazy? perhaps, but when you are on the go, go, go life style it just makes it easier.

So why am I telling you all this?  Well, several months ago an amazing young woman contacted me.  Her name is Danielle Sepulveres.  Danielle is beautiful, an actress, a model and an author. She had written a book with the most catchy title, "Losing It - The Semi Scandalous Story of an Ex-Virgin". Needless to say, the title itself caught my attention.

A Miracle After Dealing with Persistent HPV

Post written by guest blogger and friend, Vanessa Santiago.

The Family ~ Christmas 2011
My name is Vanessa and I'm happy to say I'm a mother of two.  I had my daughter in 2001 when I was 20 years old. At the age of 26 I was diagnosed with abnormal cells on the cervix and that's when my journey began.

The JourneyI've always felt like one of the "lucky ones" because my abnormal cells were found before they became an invasive cancer, but by no means has the journey been an easy one.  In the past five years I've had many procedures done to prevent a cervical cancer diagnosis.  Just to name them, I had one colposcopy, two cryotherapies, three laser therapies, one cone biopsy and one LEEP procedure.  Due to all these procedures the doctors told my husband and I that even thought I can conceive, there was no guarantee that I can carry a baby full term.

No Christmas Tree for Christmas

Mom and Me~ Christmas 2011
I realize that Christmas has come and gone and that we are well into the new year, but I wanted to share a guest post I wrote for my friend Jason Bournesm's blog.

No Christmas Tree for Christmas

Three years ago I was shocked beyond belief when my doctor gave me a cancer diagnosis.  That particular moment is vivid in my mind, but the moments after the words “You have stage IIB cervical cancer” are a blur.  It was mid November of 2008, right before the holidays, Thanksgiving,  Christmas and New Year’s.

A New Camino

"Camino" [cah-mee’-no] meaning road/path.  A New Camino, its exactly what I feel I'm on and I am taking a closer look at my bucket list.  Cancer changes your life completely and forever, nothing goes back to the way you knew it. You have to reinvent yourself and find a new you.

Several months ago I was being interviewed by my friend for a feature on her website and one of her questions was: "When did you reach your norm?"  This question made me think and I had to answer honestly -"I haven't yet."  It takes awhile, its a long road back.