Category Archives: Inspiration & Thoughts

We could all use a little encouragement every now and then!

Our Final Chemo/Radiation Treatment!

Mom's Last TreatmentYesterday marked Mom’s very last chemo and radiation treatment!! I’m going to let that sink in for a bit.. It’s a really big deal…

I haven’t been able to do a full update on Mom lately, but rest assured that we’ve been fighting hard over here in My Neck of the Woods.

Here’s the quick version:

  • We spent a week in the hospital – dehydration, low blood pressure, dropping potassium levels, mystery infection, and a host of other and much more harsh symptoms. She’s a trooper though. (She got out just in time for Matthew and I to leave for Thanksgiving in Nashville.)
  • She spent Thanksgiving week recovering from the long and tough hospital stay.
  • We had a really good week.
  • Insurance required her to try another version of her medicine, which made her treatment symptoms rush back in full force.
  • We had a really bad week.
  • We got the medicine switched back and are currently working on getting her leveled out again.

RadiationBasically, this whole experience has been a series of ups and downs – a roller coaster of feelings, symptoms, and emotions. Every single day was/is different. Some days she felt great…others were bad. The worst part for me has been watching. I suppose it’s sort of like having a sick child…you see that they’re hurting and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. This is particularly hard for me because I’m a “fix it” kind of gal.

As things got tougher and tougher on her, I’ve had to steadily remind myself that this is cancer. Cancer. It’s not a pretty thing. It’s not easy. As a matter of a fact, it’s hard. I can’t fix everything because this treatment plan is unavoidably hard.

RadiationNo matter how hard the last week has been, there is always a silver lining. Now, we can celebrate her being DONE with these treatments. This amazingly strong Mama of mine has knocked out 8 weeks of chemo and radiation! (It was six weeks of treatment, 1 week in the hospital, and 1 week of rest.) She’s still not feeling well, but they say she should start feeling more normal within the next 3 weeks or so. I’m optimistically hoping “normal” comes a lot more quickly than that. Honestly, I’m hoping that each passing day of not going to treatments brings with it a slight improvement for her.

What’s next? We will follow up with both her oncologist and radiation oncologist in 3 weeks. The current plan is to let her rest and recover for 6 weeks and then follow up with the surgery to remove the rest of the tumor after that. The surgery will take place in Shreveport and should have a week-long recovery in the hospital there. We will know more definite details once we follow up with the surgeon.

RadiationAll in all, we’re making good progress. In my opinion, the hardest part is over. We knocked those treatments out! She’s not completely out of the woods yet, and she’s certainly not feeling herself. However, progress is progress and we’ve made a huge leap towards the finish line. Please keep lifting her up and sending well wishes and happy thoughts our way. She appreciates every comment, prayer, and message that you send. Feel free to leave a comment here. She is my most loyal reader, after all!

The above pictures are from the radiation treatment room. You can keep up with the process with the #JoycesJourney on twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Also, read the most recent Mom updates here.

Be Thankful.

Thankful flowers

Thankful flowersToday I cried. With the way my emotions have been running wild this week, that’s not necessarily a surprising thing. (If you follow me on Twitter, you know a little about what I’m talking about.) However, this morning’s tears are different. I just received an email that touched me to my very core. There’s something about getting that shocking dose of perspective that’ll really send you heading in a new direction.

You see, this morning I was beginning that downward spiral where I was letting one relatively small thing really bring me down. It was only 9:00 am and I was already feeling like this day was a lost cause. I was trying hard to pull myself out of my second “funk” of this week but was being rather unsuccessful. I sat down to check my email and read something that nearly broke my heart.

I’m going to try to be as vague as possible here for the sake of discretion. I received an email from an industry partner thanking our company for donating a couple of heaters and an electric blanket to her and her husband. Apparently her husband is terminally ill, and they’ve been in the hospital for over a week. They were coming home yesterday but would be doing so to no heat. I’ll spare you the details of the story, but rest assured that it was heart wrenching.

Now, I could take this story in the direction of how blessed I am to work for such a giving company. This is only one story of them/us giving back, of course. However, that’s not what this was about for me. Instead, it was a very sudden and harsh realization that my bad moods over the last week were very selfish and indeed pointless. While every little thing hasn’t gone my way lately, I have heat. I have a home to come home to everyday that’s filled with plenty of nice things…food to eat…and people that love me. Who cares that I couldn’t find the perfect outfit to wear this morning?! Who cares that every little detail of life isn’t going my way right now?? Practically every small thing that I’ve been upset about and fretting over the last few days is SO incredibly trivial. The fact of the matter is, I have a MILLION big and small things to be thankful for. Heat, for example.

During this month of thanks, I find this scenario even more heart-breaking. Each and every one of us passes someone on a daily basis that has troubles ten times more difficult than our own. Each and every day, we meet someone who we could help in even the tiniest of ways. However, most of the time we don’t. We don’t even know what’s going on in these people’s lives, and we do very little to reach out and actually make this world a better place.

So here’s my challenge. First, I challenge you to look around you and see what you can do to help. Whether big or small, you CAN do something to improve the lives of others. You don’t have to have a ton of money or time. Sometimes it’s as simple as a smile. Sometimes it’s just a kind word. There are no excuses for why each and every one of us aren’t doing something to reach out and help.

Secondly, as practically everyone I know is posting what they’re thankful for daily this month (I’m working on a similar blog post that’ll post this Friday.), I encourage you to really be thankful. It’s not enough to post something random on facebook every day. I really want you all to sit and think about how different your life could be. Sure, it’s not perfect. And sure, there are a million ways that each of our lives could be better. However, if you really sit and think about it, and I mean really think, you’re probably pretty lucky. You can probably think of at least 10 people who aren’t as fortunate as you are. So this next challenge is to, while we complete these daily posts of thanksgiving, try to really notice what all you have to be thankful for. Try to consider how infinitely worse your life could be. Try to be unequivocally grateful for having so many things to be thankful for.

Whatever you do throughout this holiday season, just don’t forget how lucky you are. Pay attention to ways that you can help your fellow man, and let’s do what we can to make this world a better place…even if it’s one person at a time.

Mom on a Scooter

It’s been a little over one week since Mom began her chemo/radiation treatments. That means one whole week down and just five more to go!

The first few days were pretty uneventful, with Mom hardly feeling any different. As last week neared its end, we noticed she wasn’t feeling quite as good as before. We’re not sure whether it was just an average dip or if she was seeing some of the side effects of treatments. Both doctors said they didn’t expect her to realize many of the troublesome side effects like nausea and fatigue, especially so soon, so we’re really hoping those couple of days were just coincidental. Either way, Mom was very happy to have the weekend off from treatments.

Northeast Louisiana Cancer Institute

As of right now, her main complaint is having to set an alarm to get up and dressed every morning! She certainly isn’t a morning person (neither am I), so she doesn’t particularly like having to be somewhere at a certain time. However, I must commend the Northeast Louisiana Cancer Institute for being the most punctual doctor’s office that I’ve ever been to! Our appointments are at 10:15 every morning. (Yes, Mom doesn’t like having to leave the house by 10:00…that’s too early!) We arrive a little after 10:00. They call her name promptly at 10:15, and we’re headed out the door by 10:30! That is simply amazing!

In addition to being amazingly quick and on time, the staff is also the most outstanding group of healthcare professionals that I’ve ever come in contact with. Every single person that works in this office is genuinely sweet, caring, and uplifting. Each person you come in contact with offers a smile and friendly greeting. I’ve seriously never walked into an office that radiates so much positivity. There’s usually at least one bad egg in the bunch, but not here. We are so lucky to have such an awesome team taking care of Mom right now.

Mom in front of Bayou ChocolateWhile Mom had a few bad days last week, the past two have been pretty good. She’s felt much better and more energized, allowing her to be more active. On Tuesday, we ran a few errands that included a trip to Target. As many of you know, Mom is awaiting a knee replacement (which is actually how we found this tumor), so sometimes it’s a bit tough for her to get around. I finally convinced her to try one of the scooters to spare her some knee pain. If anything, the experience provided us both with enough laughs to cause pain in our sides, and everyone in Target knows to stand clear next time they see Joyce Bryant coming! On a semi-serious note, it’s a good thing that Targets clothing racks are on wheels…they scooted this way and that way as Mom tried to navigate those aisles! We may or may not have almost rolled one over a lady in the baby department. Needless to say, she wasn’t nearly as amused as we were.  I mean, a sense of humor must be hard to come by these days. In Mom’s defense, that scooter was rather bulky. However, I wish I had a video to share with you guys. After all, you deserve a good laugh too!

Mom on Scooter

All in all, we’re still trucking along quite nicely. I expect that we’ll have a mix of good days appreciate everyone continually checking in with us, and Mom enjoys the sweet comments. Please keep them coming!

Read the last two updates here and here.

Ready for Treatments

I posted an introduction to my Mom’s new journey on Wednesday. We nailed down a treatment plan this week, so I thought I’d give everyone an update.

Oncology AssociatesWe met with the oncologists who will be overseeing Mom’s chemo/radiation this week. We were very happy to find out that while she will have to do the chemo through the entire 6 weeks of radiation, she will get to take the pill form rather than IV. I can’t even explain how happy she was about this discovery. Life is all about the small victories, right? The oncologist (Dr. Weinberger) said that we may have to do some intravenous chemo after the surgery but that will depend entirely upon what the pathology report says after surgery. Fingers crossed that we won’t need any additional chemo!

In addition to our small win with the chemo pills, the radiation oncologist (Dr. Zollinger) said she shouldn’t have very many nasty side affects from the radiation. He thinks that a sore, blistered bottom will be the most difficult side effect she’ll face. This won’t be fun (imagine a bad sunburn on your bum), but it could certainly be worse. If anyone has any tips for managing this, we’re all ears. Both Dr. Weinberger and Dr. Zollinger say they don’t expect either forms of treatment to make her nauseous or fatigued, and she won’t lose her hair. Let’s count that as another win!

The appointment with Dr. Zollinger went relatively well. The doctor and nurses were amazing at explaining things, asking questions, and filling us in on all of the details. We weren’t expecting to, but we ended up doing the prep work for radiation while we were there, so we are ready to go as soon as our chemo pills are delivered. (Update: The chemo pills arrived today, so we will be ready to start treatments next week!)

Not Happy MommyThe prep process was a bit tough on mom. As you can see in that last picture, the patient was not very excited about having to have another physical. After determining that she was healthy enough for the treatments, they took her back to set up the radiation process. She had to lay on a weird table with her stomach in a hole (to shield her other organs), and they marked where the radiation will be done. She was rather drained after the process, but she’s happy to be one step closer.

All in all, the past few days have been productive, informative, and primarily positive. We are happy for our small “wins” and a plan. Right now the patient is traipsing around Monroe somewhere. I’ve instructed her to be home before midnight, but she doesn’t always follow the rules.

Happy MommyIf you’d like to keep up with the journey, you can follow along with the #JoycesJourney hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter…as well as checking back here regularly. She loved the comments on the last post, so keep them coming!

(This post was written on Thursday evening after the radiation oncologist appointment. See the first update here.)

Cancer.

Mom and MeThe past couple of weeks have been a little rocky. Unfortunately, we received some not-so-great news about my Mommy Dearest. While at a somewhat routine exam, we found a very large rectal tumor that turned out to be cancerous. The original prognosis was very bleak and had us all quite worried. However, the good news is, the cancer hasn’t spread and the surgeon thinks we’re going to be able to knock this out with surgery and a few weeks of treatments.

The current plan is to do six weeks of radiation treatment with a few rounds of chemo to kick it off. Then, we’ll let her body rest for six weeks and follow up with surgery to remove the tumor. Obviously, my mom isn’t thrilled, but we are pretty excited to have the chance to fight. We weren’t sure we would have that opportunity at first.

Anyone who knows my mom knows that it’ll take a heck of a lot more than a little (or not so little) tumor to set her back. While she might have a tough road ahead, we are a tough family, and this is just another bump in the road for us. We are encouraged. We are positive. And we will win. We will persevere and come out on the other side stronger, better, and ready for the next challenge. No doubt.

Why am I sharing this here? There are a few reasons actually.

  1. I use this space to document my life. This experience has been a big part of the last several weeks and will be an even bigger part of the next few months. Simply put, I don’t feel like I can write about fall wreaths and my favorite skinny jeans without also showing this side of my world.
  2. I truly believe in the power of being positive, even through the tough times. If I can share a positive outlook on such a dreary subject, maybe someone else will be empowered in their situation.
  3. Cancer is hard. Been there, done that. It’s a disease that affects many people at some point or another in their lives. By sharing our journey, I’m hoping to help someone find hope in theirs.
  4. Life is composed of the good, the bad, and the ugly. While I strive to make this space a positive one, I don’t believe in sugarcoating things or painting a false picture. My goal in sharing this journey is to show that everyone faces hard times. I don’t post on bad days, but believe me, they come. This part of my family’s journey is real, and I want to be real with my readers.

All of this being said, I still want to maintain a positive outlook here on My Neck of the Woods. However, we are beginning to fight cancer in My Woods, and I feel like it’s only fair to share. My sincere hope is that sharing this journey will inspire or provide hope to some of my readers. All prayers, well wishes, and happy thoughts are certainly appreciated. I share every message, text, call, and post with my mom, so feel free to leave some encouragement for her here.

(Photo from Mother’s Day 2013.)

On Being Positive..

I should start today by acknowledging the fact that I haven’t been very diligent with my posts lately. Work has been so very busy, which resulted in me neglecting this online space. I made a promise to myself in this post that I would reserve time to develop this blog, because it’s something that I enjoy. Starting a new business has required a lot of my time and brainpower, but I promise to get back in the groove very soon!

That being said, I had such an interesting experience at Brookshire’s last week. (Brookshire’s is a grocery store for those of you who aren’t local.) The man in front of me in line turned around and told me that my face looked like I was filled with joy. I was so caught of guard by his statement, that I could hardly respond. He followed with saying that if things were bothering me, I looked like I wasn’t letting anything get me down.

Be the Change You Wish to SeeI can’t stop thinking about this experience. For several years now, I’ve been making a conscious effort to radiate more positivity. My goal has been to brighten the days of people around me and to see beauty in everyday life. However, I’m not a positive person by nature. As a matter of a fact, my instinct is to immediately think of the worst scenario. When I recognized that this was my tendency, I knew I didn’t want to be that way. I see people on a daily basis that have a negative outlook on everything…people who leave you feeling worse rather than better after being around them. I knew I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to see the best in people…give them room to make mistakes and grow. I didn’t want to be the person always coming down on everyone else. I wanted to walk away from every conversation feeling like I left someone feeling better than they did before I arrived.

Of course, this hasn’t been an easy journey. It’s very difficult to realize that you’re shifting towards negativity and make yourself stop. It’s even more difficult to correct something that’s habitual and a part of who you are. Undoubtably, I’ve failed many times. However, I’ve kept trying. Last week’s conversation with the gentleman in front of me was a huge milestone in this process. I wasn’t talking to him. I don’t even know that I’d looked directly at him yet. He made his comment out of the blue, after being near me for less than 60 seconds. It left me feeling amazing! I felt like all of the times that I made myself think positively have paid off at least somewhat since a stranger could see positivity in me.

Today is a New DayIf you find yourself leaning towards negativity or think of yourself as a pessimistic person, know that you don’t have to be that way. You CAN change the way you think. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 83. If you don’t like how you feel or the impact you’re leaving on others, you can be different! It certainly won’t be easy, but my scenario proves that it can be done. I’m sure this is a battle that I’ll fight most of my life, but it’s certainly worthwhile when someone tells you that you’ve shined a little light into their life.

On top of this conversation with the gentleman, the cashier recognized me. She worked at the Brookshire’s in my hometown and remembered me coming in when I was in high school. I hesitate to say this…..but that was almost 10 years ago! I’ve often been told that I have a memorable face, but how amazing that a man compliments me out of the blue and then the cashier recognizes me from years ago.

Small Acts Change the WorldYou think you can’t make an impact on someone, even a stranger? Wrong. As a matter of a fact, you have the opportunity to make an impact on every single person you come in contact with. What sort of impact is it going to be? Positive or negative? It’s your choice.

Puzzles & Pajamas

I wrote this post several months ago (as you’ll be able to tell by the fuzzy pajama pants), but I never got around to posting it. However, after a slight mental breakdown on Sunday night, I decided this message was relevant again. I suddenly realized that I haven’t taken a day or even a few hours off, since I started this new real estate career. I was both mentally and physically exhausted, and I didn’t even see it coming. Finally, I realized that I have to be just as diligent in giving myself a break as I was when I was running Salt & Pepper. Therefore, I decided to come back to this unpublished post. It’s as much as a reminder for me as it is to share with you guys. So here it goes…

Puzzles in pajamasI have a habit of putting off things that I want to do in an attempt to accomplish more of what I have to do. Problem is, I’ll never finish everything on that must-do list, which means I’ll never feel like I can let myself have a little fun.In this post, I mentioned several little things that I wanted to do (like this blog) and said I was going to make a better effort to actually let myself do some of them. And I have!

One of those little things was wanting to put together a puzzle. My mom and I did puzzles all the time as a kid, and I loved them! I bought a puzzle probably 3 years ago and haven’t given myself the go ahead to do it at any point over the past 3 years. How sad is that?!

Soooo…I finally decided that life was too short to keep putting things off and made a goal to put my puzzle together. Turns out my BFF also enjoys doing puzzles! (We’ve been friends for almost 8 years. I can’t believe I didn’t know this already.) The puzzle I had was of a man and little boy propped up against a tractor in a field….not very exciting. Needless to say, we ended up with a whole lot of green pieces that all looked the same. Ultimately, I decided that “life is too short to waste time on miscellaneous greenery” and bought a new puzzle. (Amanda will appreciate this because it’s the exact text I sent her when I decided to give up on puzzle #1.)

Matt & I stumbled upon a cool Las Vegas puzzle, and it was perfect because Amanda and I had just returned from Vegas. We needed a good place to start the puzzle (other than my dining room table like before) and we didn’t have a big box or any of the other puzzle tricks, so Amanda jokingly suggested rolling up the living room rug and then rolling it back over the puzzle when we are done for the day. It was one of those moments where we all laughed and then simultaneously looked at each other because it was a great idea!

puzzle piecesfinished productWhile this puzzle story seems a little useless and trivial, it was actually a big turning point for me. A point where I decided that in order to stay sane and enjoy this ole life of mine, I’m going to have to sprinkle in things that I enjoy among the things life requires. Rather than puzzles waiting, clean baseboards can wait. Laundry can wait. It can all wait…and give me the opportunity to have a little fun. I already have my next puzzle lined out, and I will make a diligent effort to begin working on it as soon as possible.

Andy Warhol puzzleAre there any fun things you’ve been putting off? You’ll be amazed at the refreshing feeling that comes after you make a little time to enjoy yourself. What sort of fun activities have you been putting off? Leave a comment!

Taking a Break

It’s almost midnight on Monday, and I’ve spent the last hour and a half working on blog posts and catching up on the latest Bayou Life Magazine.

Bayou Life Magazine w/Duck DynastyAfter a not-so-great afternoon, I spent most of the night cleaning and working on switching my closet over to spring (post coming soon). This Monday has been a pretty tough and exhausting one, and I really needed some time to stop for a bit.

When I finished the project I was working on, I decided to sit in my big, comfy chair and flip though the new magazine. To be honest, I really needed the time to wind down. All to often, I don’t give myself that opportunity, but today it was much needed.

Whatever you’re doing, be sure to give yourself a chance to check out for a bit. Whether you like to read, catch up on a TV series, or knit…it doesn’t matter. You deserve a chance to relax! Plus, taking a minute or two to wind down gives your mind the break it needs to come back refreshed and ready to go.

Salt & Pepper adSalt & Pepper Photo ShootBayou Gypsy AdTonight’s “time for myself” session included reading some great articles and scoping out Salt & Pepper’s presence in the magazine. Plus, be sure to notice the ad for Bayou Gypsy/Bayou Beaux. My friend, Courtney, has some precious things in her store, and you should definitely go check it out!

After taking this time for myself, I’m feeling much more capable and in charge. Here’s to hoping for a productive Tuesday!

Tuesday update: I obviously planned on posting this earlier today and didn’t. However, I still found it relevant. As a matter of a fact, I took a little extra time for myself again tonight (Tuesday). After cleaning up from dinner, I sat on the patio and painted my nails while watching the latest episode of “Nashville.” (Yes, I’m addicted!) Both my Monday & Tuesday night “breaks” have been ordinary, run-of-the-mill activities. However, they’ve both been things I don’t usually give myself the free time to do, and actually doing them has made me feel like a new person. If you haven’t planned to already, make a point to do something special for yourself this week…Pamela’s orders!

Musings of a Monday Morning

Go confidently..I woke up this Monday morning at 3:30 am. This is NOT normal for me, as I’m the farthest from a morning person as you can get. Here’s what I thought about as I laid in bed for several hours wishing I could go back to sleep:

1. Our role: You should be the type of person that you enjoy being around. Furthermore, you should be the best version of yourself possible. There is always someone looking up to you and learning from you, whether you know it or not.

2. Outsourcing: Everything that I’ve read about being a successful, productive person says that you have to learn to leverage other people. I struggle with passing tasks off to others, and the fact of the matter is, I’m going to have to learn to delegate and let go of things that other people can help me with. This is going to be especially important as my life takes on a new look in the upcoming months.

3. This blog: A lot of times I hesitate to post things here for fear of what other people will think/say. I can only hope that other bloggers felt this same insecurity in the beginning. However, I’ve decided that this is a place for me to clear my head. It’s a place for me to share my experiences and journal my place in this life. Certainly a few people will read along, but it’s primarily a place for me. I know I’ll continue to struggle with it, but I’m hoping to make some progress in not being so afraid.

4. Life in General: I’ve come to the harsh realization that life almost never goes according to plan. The things you plan on happening, don’t. The things you don’t plan on happening, do. The people who you know won’t hurt you, do it over and over again. The dreams you never thought you’d have, suddenly you can’t stop thinking about. This life never ceases to amaze me. You just never know what to expect. As for me, the girl who always had a plan, I’m not doing that anymore. I don’t know where I’ll be in 5 years. I don’t know where I’ll be within this next year! But what I do know, is that I’m along for the ride. “What will be, will be.”

Big Things

Little things are big things journalSince Matt & I have been married, I’ve been in search of the perfect journal to keep notes about our adventures. Both Matt & I have pretty awful memories, so I’m afraid that we will eventually forget about a lot of the great times that we’ve had.

I’ve literally searched for months, looked practically everywhere, and not found anything that felt right. (Plus, Matt vetoed most of them!) I’ve even looked at genuine leather, custom made books that were hundreds of dollars and still didn’t feel like I’d found the right book. Well, this week I stumbled across this little fella at none other than TJ Max and thought it was perfect! And to make it even more exciting, it was only $5!

What do I plan to do with it? I don’t plan on actually journaling the events. I won’t write detailed accounts of everything. Instead, it’ll just be quick notes about what we did and why it was special. For example, I’ll include things like this: May 2012 – the time that we sat on the floor in his living room and talked for 4 hours.

This was a turning point in our relationship and the day that we both knew there was something different about our relationship. There are several little things like this that I don’t want to forget, and I know there will be hundreds more. Now, we have a cute little book to jot them down in to provoke our memories if we start to forget. I think this will be a treasure to have one day when we’re old and gray. It’ll also be useful on those days when we won’t really like each other! We can use it as a reminder maybe??

See why this book is so perfect? It will be full of “little things” that are actually big things for the two of us. Be sure to celebrate these little things in your relationships. They’re often the most important.

Blank pages waiting to be filled
Black pages for writing lots & lots of special memories.

This type of book would also work well for jotting down special memories of your kids. They’d love to read it later on! If you have kids that are older or you’re years in to a relationship, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve missed too much already. No way! It’s never too late to start. Even if you’ve missed several years, it’s better to have something to look back at rather than nothing. So, go ahead…get started! Find a little notebook like this one and starting jotting things down. You’ll be happy to have it later and so will your loved ones.

Anyone already do something like this?? I’d love to hear about it!