Hello, all. I know, I know. If you want to know about me, you can just go read my bio, but as many of you may know there’s only so much you can fit in a bio. And they’re so formal, aren’t they? Let’s just have a chat and I’ll try and have you get to know me a little better. Of course, I won’t fit a whole lifetime in this one blog here either, but there are some things I want to get off my chest about this year alone that I think will give you some valuable insight to me.
Let’s begin with how my year started. New Year’s Eve 2017, before heading home for the countdown, I spent my night in the hospital by my father’s side, just as I had spent Christmas the week before. In 2016, he was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer, which is a story all on its own, so we’ll skip ahead for now. My dad was hitting some serious complications over the holidays, which lead to the talk I prayed to avoid every night before bed. Once he was finally let out of the hospital, we had to discuss the possibility of my dad not living very much longer and make some difficult decisions as a family. As much of a nightmare as I pictured that conversation being, there was a peace inside of me that kept me present and hopeful. I didn’t know how I was going to head into my last semester of college, which was set to begin less than two weeks later, but right here, right now, my dad was still alive and physically present in my life. If there was anything his journey taught me, it’s that absolutely ANYTHING (good or bad) was possible. Again, we’ll talk plenty about my father and his cancer at a later time.
I have general anxiety disorder and also come from an extremely close family unit, so in order to try and keep my head on and not let fear take hold of my life, I tried to take control of what I could. I started researching alternative cancer healing methods, desperate to participate in my dad’s health and my own. I don’t preach what I don’t practice. I recalled my therapist mentioning Kris Carr to me and dove into her books and methodologies head first. Carr has had an extremely rare stage IV cancer for 15 years, and has been progression free her whole journey, certainly due, at least in part, to her holistic view of health. Her practices and wealth of information she provides resonated with me and lit a fire under my ass. I wasn’t done fighting this battle. Cancer will not win, even if it would take my father away from me.
This led to me transitioning to the pescatarian lifestyle in February, with a concentration on trying to eat mostly plant-based foods, and committing myself to it completely in early March. (I originally committed to vegetarianism, but due to the grief I was about to experience, I would develop memory issues and brain fog. My therapist later prescribed to me that I add fish back into my diet as an attempt to keep me off medication. I did not end up needing medication.) I was feeling great off meat, and sharing my new education with my parents. The problem, unfortunately, wasn’t trying to get my dad mostly off animal products. The problem was my dad was nearly incapable of eating anything, including liquid nutrients. Things were worsening, but I never gave up. My passion for my dad’s health and my own helped keep me motivated and focused so I could get through my semester. If I slipped for a moment into the “what-if’s,” I would have been completely derailed. I had no choice but to make it to graduation. I worked so incredibly hard to get my degree in three years, and there was nothing my parents wanted more from me, especially my dad.
Spring break came around and I was doing it. I was focused and getting it done, despite being completely burnt out by all I had been through in my college career and what was then going on in my personal life. (My college story is another story that we will also get to.) I found out my dad was taken to Memorial Sloan Kettering, his main hospital in Manhattan, the day before I was set to come home, and I wasn’t getting very much information from my mother. My aunt had to frantically pick me up from the airport because my mom could no longer come get me in Boston. My aunt was the first one to give me a full update on all that was going on.
For the purposes of this blog, we are again skipping through a little, my full spring break experience to be told at a later time. To sum it up, these would be the last days I spent with my dad. I slept nearly the whole week in Memorial Sloan Kettering. I don’t remember taking a full breath once. The anxiety was numbing. But this was one of the most beautiful weeks of my life that would be frozen in time forever. I wish there were any other way to replicate the most stripped down, vulnerable form of love that you experience losing someone you love so deep, it is engrained in every fiber of your being.
On March 28th, 2018 at 7:02am- the morning of my third day back in Boston after returning to finish the semester, like I promised him- I lost my father. I don’t know where to begin when it comes to losing a parent, especially when you are very close and very young. I promise to tell you all I thought of him as a man and the man who raised me. I can tell you the first thing I did was call my boyfriend (of 5 years as of now), tell him to come over, and rent Zombieland on Amazon. Why Zombieland? I don’t know. But I NEEDED to see it.
I was grateful to happen to have my therapy appointment that day. I love her. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that, but I love her a lot. I was so conflicted on whether I was going to go home or not. My dad specifically said to keep going. He wouldn’t allow himself to be a distraction. I was to keep living life day to day and succeed, despite everything. But I am human. I needed my mom. I needed my two younger sisters. They needed me, although my mom was also conflicted because she also felt that my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to come back home. My therapist convinced me to do what I felt in my heart, and I needed my family.
Going home was the best decision I could have made. Unlike my sisters who thrived on normalcy and going about their normal schedules, I couldn’t bare going through my daily routine like nothing had happened and I needed the respite. I think we were all grateful to shut off the world for a few days and lock ourselves in the house to be together. It helped me feel happy for all I was given, especially the father I was given and the time I had. I was looking for him everywhere. When I looked at his face in photos I could feel him, and it made me happy. This came as a pleasant surprise, because I didn’t know how I would step into my house prior to that. I can’t say that all the time. Sometimes when I see him, it brings up the trauma. It depends on the day. What can I say? I’m a little girl and I want my dad back.
I think Kino MacGregor (IG: @kinoyoga; CEO/founder of Omstars.com; one of my favorite yoga teachers on the internet) has said it best: “Resilience comes from a place beyond the material world, a peace that passes all understanding, a transcendent grace.” Kino herself has gone through a lot of loss in the past year, including losing her father, and for that and many other reasons, I hold a lot of respect and admiration for her. I couldn’t have described this feeling better. I can’t explain what held me up as I desperately tried to scramble to finish my semester. There were a lot of bad days once the initial, mysterious softness had started to fade. I have so much gratitude for my support system and those friends who were up to the task of standing by me. You certainly find out who your friends are through tumultuous times. I give myself credit for holding steady, too. My capability to cope in the past 6 months has far surpassed the skill I’ve had in doing so in the rest of my 20 years of life. Inside of me, on my worst days, there was always a stillness deep in the center of my heart. I KNEW I was going to be ok. It was like part of me was in the present moment and part of me was lightyears ahead in the future, healed and whole. How I graduated was a blur, and I wasn’t sad when my dad wasn’t there to share my happiness and pride, because he, in fact, was there.
I took a well deserved break after graduation and have spent a little time traveling (travel blogs to come?). I still cringe every time someone has the audacity to ask me what’s next. Give me some space and prepare to be ignored if you do. I have no tolerance for niceties and social contracts these days. I’m going with the flow, and I don’t care if that answer doesn’t appease anyone. What I’ve been through and what I’ve accomplished this year is PLENTY. Talk to me in 2019 about my “plans." I lost my dad, graduated college summa cum laude, graduated a 200hr yoga teacher certification program, and I already have my first yoga teacher job lined up, all before turning 21. Yes, music is on hold. That doesn’t mean my dreams are dead- something i have to remind myself of often. Long story short, music college did suck the life and little confidence I had out of me. (Thank you to the professors who had faith in me. You kept me going.) I’m finding my voice again, and it will come. I’m not in a rush to live my life. I’m excited with the future holds, even though some days choke me with the fact my dad won’t be by my side to share my accomplishments and hardships. Cherish your supportive parents if you got ‘em.
If you were to ask me about 2018, I wouldn't call it the worst year of my life. I don't think so. I've witnessed a lot of miracles, had a lot to be grateful for, and have grown beyond my wildest dreams. To put it in the same exact words I assured my father with, I'm going to be somebody. To add on to that, I'm excited to meet her.
And that’s been my 2018 so far. Here’s to visiting more places, creating more music, singing more songs, and teaching more yoga classes!
Until next time,