Saturday, December 4, 2021

2021 Best of Times/Worst of Times

There have been so many times this year when I thought 'I should blog about this'...and then I didn't. So now, I give to you, my craptastic 2021....
In the middle of August I went to my primary physician because I was having some abnormal pain. I know, I know all pain should be abnormal...but this one was weird for me. Due to my history, he sent me for an ultrasound. I chose to get this done at Roswell (because they're the pros) and I figured if this happens to be anything serious, I'd rather start it off there. The next day my oncologist called me and immediately put a plan in place because he didn't like what he saw on my ultrasound results. 

He thinks my cancer could be back. 

Next I had an MRI and the results came back as "concerning for recurrance".  From there my oncologist attempted a biopsy in his office. Then we went to the big guy....the PET-CT. The result? "There is no definite evidence of metabolically active malignancy." No evidence of disease. Not the answer we were expecting, but the answer we wanted!

After all of that, we're hoping everything they saw in the ultrasound and MRI are results of past radiation. They're going to monitor it and I'll have a follow up scan in a couple weeks to see if we're still in the clear.

Now, I was able to sum that up in just a couple quick paragraphs, but if I'm being honest....hello, you know me....this rocked my world for a couple months. Hard.

I didn't want to be sick again. I was in the process of buying a house, I started a new position at work this year - this timing is horrible, I'm happy in life, I'm in love, my kiddos are doing amazing....and now I'm going to mess up their lives by dying. And as great as it is to get good news like "no evidence of disease", it doesn't just shut off all the feelings that have been overwhelming you for the previous 5 weeks. I can't tell you how many times I heard "you must be so relieved". Was I? Yeah I was happy I wasn't sick again but, man, it takes serious time to get out of that headspace. I had gotten back in to planning my funeral. I told my friend that cuts my hair that this was the last regular haircut she'd give me. Let's start planning for when I'm bald again. I had to figure out what happens to my new house when I die. This along with a million other things - the things I got to block out of my brain for the last few years....this brought them back...and just like that it was time to hide them away again.

So, yes, I'm still "cancer free" but this is just one way that cancer is very much still a part of my life.

While I was dealing with that scare, I was also going through the process of closing on my house. When I got divorced, I moved into an apartment and set a goal to buy my own house as soon as possible. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard that the housing market has been insane. We lost out on houses that were going $30k, $40k, $75k(!) over asking. 

Then we found the one. 

It was an estate. The gentleman that owned it had passed away and his two daughters were selling. It was under my budget and had been on the market for over 30 days - that was unheard something must be wrong with it. We looked at it anyway. It was perfect. The inspector couldn't come up with anything major that needed fixing and even said he'd let his kids buy the house. The family selling couldn't have been nicer. At every turn we found new things we loved about the place. And the more we learned about the gentleman that owned it, the more we wanted to honor him by taking care of his home. I keep referring to it as the unicorn house. It's perfect for us. I couldn't wait to cook Thanksgiving dinner in a few weeks in my little kitchen and put this years Christmas tree up in the front window. On October 28th I closed and got the keys....then on November 2nd, just 5 days after closing, I got the call that the house was on fire. It wasn't a big fire but the smoke and soot damage is extensive. We probably won't be able to move in until spring at the absolute earliest. The silver lining is that we get a new kitchen and new windows and light fixtures. But I wanted to work towards that. This is definitely NOT how I wanted to go about it. And I was really looking forward to this being our first Christmas there.

Aaron and I need some time away. Work for me this year has been exceptionally challenging, we had the cancer scare, and the fire at the house. Even if just 2 days. We decided to go to NYC this week to experience the city at Christmas.  Well, believe it or not, we never made it to NYC. Why? We are both currently at home with covid. I hesitate to go into details here because everyone has their opinions on the matter, but we're both vaccinated and we're both extremely grateful for science because I can't imagine how bad we would've been had we not gotten our vaccines. Besides feeling like garbage, we're both quarantined away from our kids and that is shit. We missed seeing Santa and the lighting of the tree in our village. We missed trucking out to the tree farm and cutting down our tree. We're missing Christmas parties together and ice skating lessons. Although there's one perk of divorce - both of our kiddos have somewhere safe to quarantine after being in contact with us and they're safely away when we need to quarantine.

Here's the thing. 2021 was crap. But at the same time it wasn't all bad. Aaron and I rode our bikes across the state to raise money for cancer research and in doing so, we met some of the greatest people that have become so special to us.

In March we said goodbye to Layla but in August we welcomed Sergeant Paddy Barrels to our family. We can't imagine a better fit for us. He's the perfect addition to our crew.

The cancer scare was big. It was a doozy for my mental health. In just a few days from now I'll be 4.5 years cancer free. And then a few days after that I'll have my follow up scan to make sure those growths they saw in September are still "nothing". Next June is the 5 year mark. I can't even put into words how badly I want that 5 years! It's 6 months and 5 days away.

I was so incredibly sad that we couldn't go get our Christmas tree like we planned but Aaron coordinated a surprise with our friends and they showed up with a real tree for us to put up...while I sat sobbing in the window like a blubbering idiot. We seriously have the greatest people in our lives.  I can't wait til the kids can come home again so we can decorate it.

I could easily crawl into a hole with everything that's happened this year. But with each unfortunate event, I had to find the light. It was our friends, family and looking to the future that are getting me through. Next year I'm going to celebrate turning 40. I'm crossing my fingers I'll celebrate being 5 years cancer free. And we're going to celebrate lots of firsts in our new home.

I'm asking one thing of you...

This year has been tough on so many people. Check on your family & friends. If they need to vent, let them. You don't have to find solutions for them. You just need to listen.
Take care of yourselves: physically and mentally. Sometimes it's hard to find that light. And it's also ok to ask for help.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

4 Years Out

Hi. Hello. I think my blog posts have become the equivalent to Christmas Card letters. A yearly update on my life…but in mine, I usually talk about my girl bits. So maybe not the Merry & Bright letters you’re used to.

Today I'm 4 years cancer free. 4 years. Like past years, I've been emotional this week thinking about what I went through and reading old blog posts leading up to my surgery and the horrendous months that followed. I'm so grateful I kept this blog. Thanks, All, for sticking with me for the last 5.5 years. 

 This year I'm in a strange spot. Im happy to have made it to four years, but I'm constantly frustrated with this body. Side effects from my treatments and surgery are worse, not better. About 2 years ago I started seeing a specialist about a problem I was having. At my last appointment with her, she walked out of the room saying she didn't think there was anything else that she could do for me. That was kind of a kick in the ass. But if you know me, you know I'm not a quitter. I went back to square one and started in a new direction. 

 A few months ago I started seeing a physical therapist. Her name is Renee and she's a damn hero. Seriously. I've had more progress and breakthroughs with her than I've had with anyone else. We discuss all the issues I'm having and if there's something she can't answer or help fix right there, she researches and comes back the next week full of information and a plan. I see Renee every single week. Some weeks I'm frustrated and I want to stop because I'm angry that I have to deal with this body that cancer left me with and other weeks I leave in tears of happiness and relief because she's helping me with things no one else has been able to figure out. 

 When you get radiation treatments, a machine basically burns the cancer out of you from the inside out. So as a result of this, all the tissue and muscle from my lower abdomen to my upper thighs and everything in between is the consistency of scar tissue. Some parts I can't even feel. They're not stretchy and healthy - they're stiff and stupid. Renee specializes in pelvic floor therapy. In her quest to help me with other things, she's magically discovered the root of my back pain. I've NEVER had anyone address this with confidence before. I've been given stretches, I've been offered pain meds, but never has someone said, "Oh, this is happening because of these muscles and we can alleviate some of the pain by doing this." The first day she addressed my back I was so emotional I broke down in tears. What a relief - not even a relief of pain, but I've waited 4 years to have someone justify that what I was feeling was real and it finally happened.  
Don't quit. Don't give up. Ever. 

 Speaking of not giving up, Aaron - my better half - and I are riding in the Empire State Ride this summer. We're riding our bicycles, with 250 other people, from NYC to Niagara Falls to raise money for research at Roswell Park. How cool is it that the money we raise could save someone else from going through the crap that I've been through? I keep saying this ride is the hardest thing I'll ever do, but I tackled a monster 4 years ago that kicked my ass, so my scarred hips, my sore ass and I are ready to take this challenge on. Aaron and I will be documenting our entire trip, so if you'd like to follow along, we'll be on Instagram: @redshoeadv and Facebook: @redshoeadventures. You'll see the good, the bad, and the ugly. And if you're in town on Saturday, July 31st, we'd LOVE to see your face as the ESR team rides into Niagara Falls to complete our 550+ mile ride. 

 I'm typing this post as Aaron and I, in our red shoes, take a quick day trip to celebrate the day. We just made a pit stop and Aaron found this at the gift shop: 

Perfect, right?!?!? 

I couldn't be luckier to have Aaron by my side for this day and every day. Life is good. 

There is some sad news to share: Today's post is dedicated to my Chief Support Officer. Layla left us in March after almost 14 years of fluffy love. She was my constant protector and my best fluffy pal. It was ridiculously hard to say goodbye, but she was ready and we were able to be with her, at home in the sunshine, as she passed. If you ever have to say goodbye to a fluffy friend, and you're able to do this, I highly recommend Dr. Dunne at Paws In Your Heart. Dr. Dunne was absolutely amazing and took such good care of Layla and of us! She carefully explained every step of the euthanasia process and treated Layla like she was her own.

Thank you for your support over the years! I see my oncologist in a couple weeks to get official word on still being cancer free, but for now I will celebrate all of my days and forever be grateful for life and love and all the support from family and friends!

And if you'd like to donate to our Empire State Ride, you can do that here: 
Cancer research saves lives!


Wednesday, June 10, 2020


I'd hesitated for weeks/months leading up to this day over whether I'd write about my 3rd anniversary or not. Before Covid I wouldn't had given it a second thought. But since the quarantine started, celebrating seemed selfish. People are dying and I'm going to celebrate that I beat cancer? That seemed unfair. Now the protests and rallies - will I sound insensitive if I celebrate and not discuss those? WTF is the right thing to do?
I don't know. But now here I sit with just minutes left of my big day and I'm finally writing down my thoughts….about cancer. Not politics, not racism, not police brutality, not Covid...well a little about Covid. I'm pulling the selfish card and waving my teal and white cancer ribbon and shouting from the rooftop (not really because my kids are sleeping) I'M 3 YEARS CLEAN OF THE CANCERS!
"Oh my goodness, Lesley, how did you celebrate your big day?!?!" I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat...
Today was a quiet day. Not quite how I imagined I'd celebrate but there's only so much you can do during a quarantine. I worked all day, but I was home to hear the sounds of Nerf bullets being fired in the backyard and the giggles and screams from the kiddos in our little blowup pool. I took a break from work and shared a sushi lunch with my kids then laid on my hammock while overhearing my daughter narrate the lives of her Barbies. 
Later on we chatted over tacos for dinner (it's Taco Tuesday, duh). Then we packed up the car and spent the night socially distanced from several other families who share something in common with us: Cancer. It was Camp Good Days night at the Drive-In. We watched Dolittle (and some fireflies) under the stars and under some blankets. Once the kiddos were in bed, the night was topped off by slow dancing in the living room to one of our favorite songs. Do you do that? If you don't, then you should. A year ago today we were in Cleveland listening to that same song being performed live. That day I sat in the crowd and sobbed big happy tears. Today I smiled and breathed and felt calm and happy.
Today wasn't the perfect day. It wasn't the ideal celebration. But then again it kinda was. These last few months have been quite the experience. Part of being 3 years cancer free this year was going to be riding my bike 500+ miles across New York State in the Empire State Ride, a fundraiser for Roswell Park. That giant organized ride has turned into Aaron and I riding 500 miles on our own during the month of July. I'd be lying if I told you I was ready to sit my ass on a bike and ride that far. Covid-19 for me means Covid+19lbs. I'm not one to throw around the word blessing, but having this ride postponed to next year sure was one for me. Working from home the last 3 months and homeschooling two elementary school aged kiddos while not being able to function normally in society sure puts a damper on your mental and physical being. 
Speaking of mental and physical being….I might not actually be cancer free. Not being dramatic, just stating a fact. I was supposed to go to Roswell for a check up in March around prime Covid time but they moved my appointment out to the end of June. This is the longest I've gone without getting checked. So while I'm celebrating being a cancer survivor today….I don't technically know that I'm cancer free. I mean I hope I am….and I probably am...but NO ONE KNOWS. Fingers crossed.
This isn't how I thought my 3 year update would sound.
This isn't how I thought I'd celebrate.
This isn't how I imagined the summer of 2020 going.
But this is kind of like how cancer works. It just screws with your life and you figure out how to survive and make the best of it. 
I'm surviving. I'm happy. I'm healthy….overweight at the moment, but healthy otherwise. I'm still taking on life one adventure at a time. And I'm still relying on my red shoes and the support of those around me.
Thanks for getting me through 3 years, All.
Cheers to many more! 

St. Louis, Missouri  2020

St. Louis, Missouri   2020
Layla & I
Photo courtesy of Aaron Pike

Palmer Lake Resevoir in Palmer Lake, Colorado  2020
Photo courtesy of Aaron Pike

Camp Good Days - Family Drive-In Night  2020

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Lifesaver

Pelvic exenteration is a radical surgical treatment that removes all organs from a person's pelvic cavity. The urinary bladder, urethra, rectum, and anus are removed. The procedure leaves the person with a permanent colostomy and urinary diversion. In women, the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and, in some cases, the vulva are removed. (Wikipedia)

2 years ago today I walked into Roswell for this surgery. At 35 years old I was going to lose the ability to pee, poop, and have sex like a "normal" person....and I was ok with it...I had to be.

I was ready. I had mentally prepared. I had asked all my questions. So.Many.Questions. I had met with an ostomy nurse. I was fitted for my bags, had my body marked where the stomas would be created during surgery, and even had the schedule for an ostomy support group.  Starting June 9th, 2017, this was going to be my life.

While I was prepping with my doctors and my family for my new life I didnt share  many details on what kind of surgery I was going to have on here. This is why. It was a lot. I found that everyone around me took it harder than I did. Also, I hated hearing people tell me how scared they'd be if it were them. I guess my survival mode really carried me through it. But I was as prepared as I thought I could be and I had expected to wake up that afternoon with urostomy and colostomy bags hanging from my abdomen.  I had come to terms with it. In true Lesley fashion, I had found plenty of ways to make jokes about it and make people feel uncomfortable. Like....Hey, it's cool that I won't have to get out of bed to pee...and...I can poo while we're having a conversation and you'll never know!

2nd Opinion...
As I had done previously, I went down to NYC to visit the fine folks at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to see if there was any way they could save my "parts". There wasn't. The funny thing was, when I asked if there was any advantage to having the surgery done at MSK versus Roswell - like maybe a surgeon they recommended - The surgeon at MSK told me that he actually studied under my surgeon at Roswell and that I was in good hands in Buffalo. So back to Roswell I went.

So what actually happened that day in the operating room?  The chance of me leaving the operating room without at least a partial exenteration was slim. Going in, I assumed best case scenario was I only came out with one bag.  According to my surgeon, during surgery they took out the tumor and then they sliced and removed the tissue around where the tumor had been. With each piece they removed, they tested the tissue right then and there for cancer so they knew how far they had to go. It ended up coming down to one last slice - if it had cancer, then everything had to go and the exenteration was on.  Luck was on my side...the tissue had no cancer. They didn't have to remove everything...but they removed a lot of things. In the end I came out with a radical hysterectomy and partial vaginectomy....and one gnarly scar that starts up around my belly and goes almost all the way down.
Radical Hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and the ligaments (tissue fibers) that hold it in place. The cervix and an inch or 2 of the vagina around the cervix are also removed. (
Vaginectomy is a surgery to remove all or part of the vagina. (Wikipedia) you know about my parts - or lack thereof.

Today I'm doing well for the most part. Going through menopause in my mid-thirties is not a real treat, but it's manageable. During my surgery, I suffered nerve damage that took months of pain killers and physical therapy to get through.  As a result, I have some difficulty with my back but I try not to let it stop me from doing a darn thing....except complaining once in a while.

Sometimes - on tough days - it feels like my surgery just happened and I get emotional like I basically was the whole summer of 2017.  Other times it feels like a million years ago and I lose sight of the horrible details.  I'm surprisingly fine with both extremes. The lows make me appreciate the highs and the highs remind me to appreciate all my days.

2 years. 2 years cancer free. I couldn't be happier to be feeling the way I am today and celebrating my life. But I'm a survivor and with my past there's always that worry that it'll come back. We try to keep those worries to a minimum. Life is too exciting to spend all your time on worries. It's an adventure.  Don't forget to live and have fun!

2 Years Cancer Free!!!

A trip down memory lane...
I asked Ben Richey, the photographer at Roswell Park, to take some "before" pictures. He had documented so much of my journey and I thought this was an important part. This was taken the day before my surgery.  The two Xs mark where my stomas would be for my ostomy bags. I thought maybe some before and after shots would help normalize the bags and help other young women who had to go through the same process.  That part sounds silly to me now, but it was one of the reasons I wanted to have this.

The morning of my surgery in the waiting room

The morning after - I survived...and no bags!

Moved from ICU to a regular room - in my red socks

The best flower card

FINALLY out of the hospital

Toby's last day of school was my 10th and final day of having a catheter (Guess what's in that yellow canvas bag behind his back?!? Ha!) In reality it was brutal. I was so uncomfortable from it and in so much pain from the nerve damage....but we didn't know it was nerve damage yet. The pain was a mystery for a few more weeks. Honestly, the first month after my surgery was quite a nightmare. 

Now I hate ending on a bad note so I will add...I got through it. I got through it all. It was by far the hardest thing I've ever experienced but I did my best to smile and laugh my way through as much as I could. Your attitude during bad times makes all the difference. Things will always get better.

Thank you for letting me share my life with you. Cheers to happy, fun adventures ahead.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Doing The Best We Can

Sometimes I wear my red shoes just because I like them....but usually there's a reason. Maybe I have an appt at Roswell, maybe I'm feeling sad and need a boost, maybe I'm nervous and I need their super powers. Yesterday I needed their emotional support. I wore them all day.

I received a message from my friend Liz. Liz and I have so many connections through friends and family that it's baffling how we haven't been friends for 20 years already. The reason we met? Cancer. She was the one that finally got me to join the Young Adult Cancer Program at Roswell. She's one of the people that gets it. We talk about stuff people our age should not be talking about or worrying about. Our friendship is priceless. She texted me yesterday to tell me that one of the members of our group had passed away. Her name is Casey. I didn't know Casey very well. We weren't friends - not because we didn't like each other, but because we just didn't cross paths enough that we had gotten to know each other. From what I've read about Casey in the last 24 hours, through facebook postings from my friends, is enough to know that I really like Casey and we probably would've gotten along great. I read that she was positive throughout her treatment and she was the ray of light that so many people need while they're going through scary times. She was an amazing friend who always wore a smile.

I was sad when I read the news from Liz, but what followed the news was completely unexpected. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I broke down. There are certain things that make cancer real. Casey was my age. She, too, had a gynecological cancer. That's about as real as it gets.

A few months ago I went to my check up in the GYN clinic at Roswell. I remember that day perfectly - as Roswell memories seldom fade. I was in a really good mood. I was feeling great. I was chatting and joking with the women at the desk for a while. We've gotten to know each other over the last 3 years and their happy faces are comforting when you walk in. I remember sitting down after checking in and seeing a woman in the chairs against the windows. She didn't look well. Seeing people like that in Roswell isn't uncommon, but seeing them in that department, having been in rough shape in those same chairs, hits close to home. I remember the man sitting with her looked like someone I used to work with but I didn't want to bother them to say hello. Today I read Casey's obituary. That man I saw? That was Sam. Sam and I used to work together and he's one of the nicest men you'll ever meet. Yesterday Sam lost his daughter. That woman in the waiting room was Casey.

Moral of this story? Cancer is stupid and it makes me angry. Casey didn't do anything wrong. She didn't deserve this. Her family and friends don't deserve this. Another member of our group at Roswell made an excellent point at a seminar recently: we're not battling cancer. It's not a win or lose situation. We're doing the best we can. Casey didn't lose her battle with cancer, she did the best she could. We're all just doing the best we can.

Therapy kicks.

Conversation with Liz.
Forever grateful for my friends.

Monday, July 2, 2018

My First Ride - 2018

To give you a full life update AND tell you all about the Ride for Roswell seems a little overwhelming right now. So I'm going to stick to a Ride recap, but I'll tell you that I'm doing ok. I'm not as great as I'd like to be, but I'm sure as hell doing better than I was a year ago!

Crazy that it's been a year, right? Last year I sat at home on the day of the Ride as several friends rode in my honor. On that day I would've given anything to be able to join them. This year? I rode with tears in my eyes and the happiest heart I could have.

Last week the emotions started the night before the race during the Celebration of Hope. Cancer survivors and their families get together to celebrate the hope that Roswell represents. It's impossible not to shed a tear. Survivors are grouped by cancer type and march together in an opening ceremonies type procession which eventually leads to the lighting of the torch - this torch stays lit until the last rider crosses the finish line the following day. The entire ceremony is very emotional. As I was waiting with the GYN group, I talked and joked with the woman next to me. Turns out she lives close to where I grew up and her husband and I graduated from the same high school. Classic Western New York two degrees of separation! And I've learned over the years that this is classic Roswell Park as well.

While we were getting ready to line up for the procession, I saw a familiar face. Laura and I have been messaging with each other for about a year now. She is an osteosarcoma survivor. For the last year, we've bonded over our cancer battles and how to be good moms to our little ones while we're not feeling our best. A lot of our chats happened in the middle of the night when neither of us could sleep - because of pain or stress or side effects. The funny thing about our friendship was we had never actually met in person...until this night. I immediately recognized her beautiful family, from pictures she had shared, and I rushed to say hello. I'm so grateful for relationships like this. While support from friends and family is important and necessary, having some people who truly understand how you feel is something special.

The morning of the ride was drizzly, but that didn't stop almost 8,000 riders! So crazy! I rode 20 miles with Shannon - one of my Red Shoe Adventures teammates. Last year I couldn't imagine going that far. Frankly, just sitting on a bike last year seemed impossible - I could barely sit on a chair.

I was honored to be one of eight members on the Red Shoe Adventures team. I'd like you to meet the other seven:
Shannon - we've worked together for a few years now and most recently we ran together as part of a Buffalo Marathon Relay team.
Lindsay and her father, Chuck - Lindsay was the reason my son made it through day care. They shared a special bond from day one. Over seven years later and she's still an important part of our family.
MJ, Grady, & Katie - MJ and I worked together about ten years ago and I'm so grateful we've stayed in touch. We were part of the WOTAs - basically a group of kick-ass women. MJ rode with her husband Grady and her daughter Katie was with us in spirit!
Tiffany - Tiffany has been one of my sister's best friends since high school, so she's been a part of our family since we were young.
I'm grateful for each member of the team!

Another important part of the team has been all of you. When I first set up my donation page for the Ride, I set a goal of $1000. It was a lot for my first ride, but with all that Roswell Park has done for me, I felt I needed to do something big in return. The day before the ride, when I checked in, I found out that I almost TRIPLED my goal! Incredible! You all are incredible. And our team total? $5,292!

I owe one special donor a gigantic thank you for making that number possible. One of my fundraisers for the Ride was to sell t-shirts with my red shoe logo on them. I had asked my friends on Facebook for recommendations for affordable options for t-shirt design/production. As always, my pals came through with plenty of ideas. Then I got a private message from someone I haven't spoken with in almost 20 years. A high school friend and swim teammate. He offered to buy all the t-shirts I needed so I could sell them for 100% profit. Completely unexpected. Brian Davis - from the bottom of my heart, Thank You. That was incredibly kind and generous.

One of the special touches to the Ride is the finish line. Painted on the pavement is the name of every survivor participating in the Ride. Crossing the finish line in any race is a big moment, but crossing the finish line at the Ride For Roswell and seeing all those names - the names of the people you're riding for - including your own - it's indescribable.

After the ride, a woman found our team tent and presented me with this hat:
This kind woman had marched, the previous night, with my mom in the breast cancer group at the Celebration of Hope. The two of them had struck up a conversation and my mom had told her my story - about my red shoes and my blog and the team. My mom had been wearing her red shoe gear. She happened to come across this hat that was for sale at the Ride and bought it, remembering my story from the previous night. She hoped to track me down and give it to me.
Why does this hat say Red Shoe Adventures?
I'm not sure how far this dates back, but each year, there is a giant piece of fabric that riders/patients/survivors can sign. Then New Era takes the fabric and uses it to make hats. The thing is, this was my first Ride - so it wasn't me that wrote that. I messaged a couple friends to see whose art work it was, but no one claimed it. The next morning I was checking the "On This Day" memories on Facebook and this is what I see:
My friend Liz drew this at the 2017 Ride For Roswell and she had posted this picture on Facebook last year for me to see. Liz and I had met just a few months prior to the 2017 Ride at our local YMCA where we were doing the Livestrong program together. Livestrong is a program to help cancer patients and survivors build strength after treatment.
The woman who bought the hat had seen MJ, who was wearing her Red Shoe Adventures team shirt, and that is how she found our tent.

Spring 2017 - Liz and I meet.
June 2017 - Liz draws Red Shoe Adventures message at Ride for Roswell
July 2017-June 2018 - New Era makes message into a hat
June 22 2018 - Fellow breast cancer survivor learns of my story from my mom
June 23 2018 - The hat made from the fabric that Liz drew on - a year ago - is delivered to my team tent.

Can you believe this story?? What a special gift from the weekend. Thank you, my friend!

I know this post is a little late but thank you, friends and family, for your support - both emotionally and financially during the Ride. Thank you for your donations to Roswell Park and more importantly, for your words of encouragement leading up to the ride.

Here are some more pictures from the weekend:

The crew at the Celebration of Hope

Cheering for the torch lighting

Sparkle shoes for a special occasion

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Cancer Made Me A Bad Mom

This post is brought to you by the bags that live under my eyes.

I know it's been a while since you've heard from me. As usual, I think I've started this at least a dozen times. Maybe this one will stick.

I'm not sleeping so well. Before the stupid cancer, I was a championship sleeper. For real. But by the time I felt like sleeping last night, my clock said I had about four hours until I'd hear my alarm. Awesome. I was thankful for a busy day to keep me going today. After work I made dinner, helped little dude with his homework and BAM it was bedtime. The tired mommy kicked in when the kids thought it was perfect timing for wrestlemania instead of getting ready for bed..aaaand I kind of lost my shit. Why must mom's have to scream like psychos in order for their kids to listen sometimes? Why does this happen?

I know that last part isn't specifically related to cancer. If you're a mom and you haven't lost your shit a few times....then you're mom-ing wrong.

There are certain things that bring out a little PTSD for me. I'm not using that term to make fun - it just seems like the most relatable way to get my point across. When I was going through treatment and then for the few months immediately following my surgery, I felt like a super shitty mom. It was so hard to keep my cool while I was feeling like garbage. And I was always tired and cranky and sad. I didn't feel like going on adventures and doing fun stuff. So many times Toby told me he just wanted things back to normal. He wanted me to have hair again and he wanted to go on adventures and have a happy mommy again. He didnt want me to come to his school or go out in public with him unless I was wearing a hat. It made my heart sad. As my hair started to grow in, Lainey asked me if I was a boy because my hair was short. In her little 3 year old mind, that made sense. She wants me to have long curls like hers. Curls have super least we think so. Lainey recently turned 4 which means I've been sick for about half of her little life. That crushes me. I feel like I've missed out on so much. When I'm feeling up to it, I'm packing in as much fun with these kiddos now as I can.

So PTSD. Where does that fit in? Losing my cool - having a short circuit - it's not like me. It takes me back to cancer days and I don't like it. Seeing pictures of when I was bald - they're starting to bother me. I was completely fine with it while I was going through it...but now seeing those pics makes me sad. A lot has changed for me. A simple thing like going to the bathroom - not the same anymore. Normal sex life? Ha! Nope. Ugh.

I had lunch with a friend recently who has been in the same boat. She said while you're in the middle of treatment, you're in survival mode. And I was. I just never thought of it like that. There was so much going on that all I had to concentrate on was keeping my adventure going. Now that THAT part is over, I feel like it's all catching up to me. At the time, people would make comments about how they don't know how I do it and how I stay positive - I was just staying alive.  I was making my way through it. It's what I had to do. Now I look back and I'm like WTF?!? Do you realize what I did?! How did I do that?!? My brain is finally catching up to everything my body went through.

When I started to lose some of the pain after my surgery, I was given the ok by my physical therapist to work out again. Due to certain circumstances, I think lengthy runs are a thing of the past for me, so I tried something new. Eager to get back to "normal", I pushed too hard and did too much. Getting hurt scared me. After the horrible pain after surgery, the pain of this injury stirred up those old feelings. There's an underlying fear of that nerve pain just magically coming back. I ended up taking a few months off and now I'm slowly easing into exercise again.

What does slowly easing into things mean? I bought a bike and I'm training for the Ride for Roswell. Ha! I was in no shape to do it last year, so this year I've started the Red Shoe Adventure Team. I'm working on being able to sit on a bike for 20 miles. I may end up with one of those giant comfy seats or a bum that's super sore, but dammit I'm doing this race.

This blog is therapeutic. I never want people to feel bad for me - That should never be a thing. If you know someone who has cancer or had cancer, know that "cancer free" doesn't mean their life is back to normal. It never will be. And sometimes recovery and learning how to live with the new normal is harder than the treatment and the cancer ever were. For me, I don't think my new normal is a bad version of just feels completely different and I need to get to know this new version. I really feel like a completely different person. That's something hard to share when you look "healthy" and "normal". I'm learning who the new me is one day at a time and I hope you'll stick with me as I find out. I think it may be time to hang up the old sneaks and break out a new pair of red shoes!

Cheers to new beginnings.

Shameless plug: 
Join my Ride for Roswell team or donate HERE.

My new ride!
Thanks to Campus WheelWorks for the help with picking out my new wheels!

Family adventure weekend!
Glass floor at the CNTower in Toronto

Family adventure weekend
Niagara Falls, Canada

Lainey turned 4!

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Happy Thanksgiving! I pretty much have everything to be thankful for. Im alive. Theres that. My family and friends who have supported me this past year - I've been horrible with thank yous. To everyone that has sent cards & messages, gifts, dinners - even if I failed to say it out loud or write it, I appreciated every bit.

To everyone at Roswell - goodness, everyone there is amazing. To my doc - shout out to PF - thanks for saving my life again. That was kinda great. The staff in the GYN clinic - I'm sure they're sick of me by now, but I'm grateful each time I'm in there that they're the ones helping me. And everyone else - I won't list everyone as I think I've visited almost every department in that building - thank you.

To my husband - I don't always give you the credit you deserve. I'm thankful for you. Everyday. The kids and I are so proud of your hard work toward your dream - all while working full-time, putting up with me, and being an amazing dad.

To my children - Your hearts are so big and your smiles and giggles are healing. I'm so grateful to be your mommy and to watch you grow. You're going to do great things and I'll love you forever and ever.

To all of you - There are so many of you that I don't even know - yet you support my adventures. I'm not even sure how that happened but I'm grateful for each and every one of you.

To my family and friends (again) - I love you. Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives.

To my red shoes - my mental and physical support. You give me peace and you make me feel safe.

And now a list of random things that I'm thankful for that don't always get the acknowledgement they deserve...

My pups.
Public bathroom stall doors that open away from the toilet instead of towards it.
Dark chocolate.
Red lights on the way to work so I can do my makeup.
Comfortable pants.
Plastic spoons with rounded edges so you don't feel like you're cutting your mouth open on every bite.
When the Christmas tree lights are the only lights on in the house.
Nice people.
Looney Tunes.
The Village of Kenmore for giving my family the small town feel I grew up with and for having giant recycling totes. 

Happy Thanksgiving, All!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Can't Make This Stuff Up

The coolest thing happened tonight.  

Let me explain.

I made a promise to myself during all this cancer crap that I was going to start doing things that scared me, or things that intimidated me. Big things to little things. It's on. 

Tonight I started a new adventure. It involved going to a new place and meeting new people and doing something that intimidates me. Use your imagination. This new adventure is kind of a secret for now.

During tonight's adventure I made a new friend. Ha! It sounds like kindergarten class. We introduced ourselves before the adventure and ended up chatting for a bit after. As we were getting ready to leave, she changed her shoes.  What did she put on? Red chucks! Come on! I asked her if I could take a picture of her shoes and quickly gave her my story. She probably thinks I'm a lunatic...but...well...that's my life.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's About Time

I think I've started to write this entry at least a dozen times over the past couple months. So here we go again...

Hi. It's me. My name is Lesley and I'm a two-time cancer survivor.

"Hi Lesley"

My summer vacation came to an end a few weeks ago. 4 Months of relaxing poolside while downing mojitos...obviously. What a dream it's been.

I'm back to work. My return was exhausting both physically and mentally. But it's nice to be back in a routine and talking to adults everyday...nothing against my 3 year old.

I can't explain how great it is to be feeling better. I'm not 100% but I think I can get there someday. To be honest, for a while, I didn't think I'd ever get to where I am now. I had some low points last year during radiation, but this....this was a whole 'nother ballgame. That f*cking pain was unbearable. I literally could not function at times. I ugly cried. A lot. I said the words "I just can't do this anymore" more times than I'd like to admit. I got mad at everyone around me because they couldn't fix it and they'd just stare at me like I was one of those sad puppies in the Sarah McLaughlin commercials. Ugh. It was shitty. Beyond shitty. BUT....hopefully the worst is behind me. I'm working on getting better everyday. No clue what my new normal will be, but I'm eager to find out.

I'm confident I've taken more drugs in the last 4 months than I have in my entire life.  Before they discovered the pain was from nerve damage and got me on meds that worked, I couldn't take enough pain killers. My friends would come visit and I'd have to time my dose just right so they'd kick in when they showed up. I was so eager to get out of the house that if we were invited somewhere I would double a dose just to get through an event. Proud? Nah. Desperate? Like you wouldn't believe.

I was lucky enough to have a ton of friends and family join me at Roswell so I could ring the bell and celebrate being cancer free. Im so grateful for that day. The sea of red shoes is something I'll never forget. This was one of those events though that I had to time my drugs just right for. I was in so much pain that day. But I was determined to make it special. Afterwards at dinner I was so uncomfortable that I barely moved from my chair. Here all these people were there to celebrate and I couldn't even get around to visit with everyone. It was heartwarming yet frustrating as hell all at the same time.

The thing about the drugs was....I hated every pill. If one more person said "but that's what they're there for", there was gonna be a battle. Before all this, I didn't even like taking ibuprofen for a headache. I had to be hurting bad. And here I was, constantly checking the clock to see if I could take another dose. I think this is where I was most thankful for my stubbornness. I was gonna find a way off those pain killers and no one was going to stop me. Luckily over time I was able to wean myself off - even before my pain docs gave me the ok. I wanted to be done and I was fine with some suffering. I won't share my pharmaceutical details, but we'll just say my house is a lot less attractive to druggies now.

Mentally I've been doing a lot better. I'm lucky to have my family and friends, that's for sure. Last week I had a PET scan. My first since the surgery and by far the most stressful scan I've ever had. I knew and trusted that my doctors got all the cancer out like they had said but there was still that chance of it showing up and having the last 4 months of hell be pointless. Having the confirmation from that scan was everything. If you saw me the day I got the results, you would've thought I had won the lottery. It was the mental boost I needed. I still get in funks here and there but I think a big part of it is that I'm not as active as I used to be. I've been in physical therapy but I haven't attempted to go for a run yet or head into the gym. It scares me a bit and I'm just so sick of starting over. But I think once I can get back into a workout routine I'll feel better about myself. I feel like my body is deflated. And goodness that scar has my bikini bod (ha!) all kinds of messed up.

This is a confusing post, isn't it? You're probably thinking, "Is she sick? Is she healthy? Is she strong? Is she off her rocker?" All of the above.

I'll try and do a better job of keeping you updated. It's been very hard to find my voice and to find the right state of mind to write. I want to be honest and open but because of the nature of my surgery, there's so much I'm not willing to share. Which is sad for you because some of it I've found makes a damn funny comedy bit....but it's not ready to be released to the public yet. Stay tuned.

Bell ringing day. July 14, 2017

I'm incredibly lucky.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Vanderlinde

This was so cool! 
Photo courtesy of Roswell Park

Bell ringing & birthday dinner. 
So much love.

These are my people.

You work a little harder when little eyes are looking up to you.

Starting to feel great after physical therapy.
Photo courtesy of random woman walking down the street. Yup. This happened.