What a heart attack taught me

I had a conversation recently with someone who had a heart attack five years ago. Stan Pool is the eternal optimist, making it a point to always be positive and happy, and to create that same feeling for others around him. He is always laughing and trying to make you laugh. After his heart failed him, he decided to be even more keenly aware of just how precious life is and how wonderful it is to be alive. He said that now he considers every day a “BONUS DAY.” He told me about playing racquetball with his wife and son earlier that day and how fun and wonderful it was. He paused, and with tears in his eyes, he told me, “that was a bonus day.” Seeing him emotional made me cry, of course. I love Stan. And I thought of how cancer, like his heart attack, has changed my perspective on life. I explained to him that I felt the same way. Every day is a bonus day. It’s one more chance to spend with our loved ones. One more chance to grow and learn. One more chance to start all over again and try to be better. One more chance to enjoy other people and bring light into their lives. 
 

This was a rainy October day in 2015 when we lived next to Lake Tahoe. It was an adventure going on a bike ride in the pouring rain and hiding under a tree to stop for lunch, but I loved it! It was a bonus day that I don’t want to forget.

During our Christmas vacation in Midway, we spent an afternoon at the swimming pool with our friends, the Roberts. Fletcher was done swimming, so I held and snuggled him in a chair on the side. (That in itself was a bonus for me because he usually doesn’t sit still long enough to let me snuggle him.) As we watched from the sideline, I noticed that everyone was laughing and having a great time together. In that moment, my emotions got the best of me. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of it being a bonus day, just like Stan explained to me days earlier. I felt truly lucky to be alive and to witness that moment with my family and friends. 

Swimming in Midway, Utah / Christmas 2016

 
Since this conversation with Stan, I have tried to make it a point to remember that each new day is a bonus. I want to be more like Stan. I want to laugh more and create joy for others, just like Stan does. I want to appreciate my time with my husband and kids more. I want to consider my time with them as a gift. Every night when I go to sleep, I want to look back on the day and confidently declare, “today was a bonus day.”

My First Mastectomy (part II)

On the day of my mastectomy, my mom and I arrived at the hospital at 7am at the University of Washington hospital, and I wasn’t taken back for surgery until probably after noon. Let me just say that the anxiety was building all morning. To keep me calm, my mom gave me a box given to her from her friends which included handwritten notes from women at my parents’ church back home. Some of these women I know, and some I don’t. But I really appreciated that my mom’s friends, who I consider to be my friends as well, would do such a kind thing for me. This helped pass the time and I felt so blessed that so many people took the time to write notes to me. One note in particular stood out, quoting Friedrich Nietzsche, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” Cancer has changed HOW I live my life, but my WHY will always be love. Love for my family. Love for my friends. Love for READ MORE

HELP FUND MY BUCKET LIST

These shirts were created to promote my message of living life to the fullest and also to help fund my bucket list. Click HERE to buy a shirt. To simply donate instead, click HERE. Thanks for your support!

JH-2014-SS-Crew

 

My First Mastectomy (part I)

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of my first mastectomy. (Yes, I had two). I wanted to share my thoughts from that day. This was written a few weeks after surgery, during Preston’s last semester of law school in Idaho:
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“My mastectomy surgery was successful… As far as I can tell… because I wasn’t really there for it…. Or was I? For all I know, they could’ve had a dance party during my surgery, cut off my boob, and called it good. Which is actually what I wanted to do pre-surgery. I called ahead to let my doctor know that I wanted to have a dance party to Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” (get it?) in the OR room right before surgery with the OR team. Going into the OR, I was already connected to an IV and because I’m pregnant, they seemed to think my krumping skills would not be good for the baby. So instead, we compromised with Enya as I fell asleep under anesthesia.

mastectomyday

This picture was taken by my mom hours before my mastectomy. Bald, pregnant, and extremely anxious about surgery, I was so glad my mom was there to comfort me and ease my nerves.

As I was being wheeled into surgery, I honestly felt the strength of all of you- my family and friends who have been praying and thinking of me. I really appreciated all those who reached out to me that day through text message or other means to comfort me. I actually felt a… READ MORE

My Bucket List

Ever since the day I was diagnosed with an incurable cancer, I have given a lot of thought to my so-called “bucket list.” I have been trying to think of all the things I want to do or things I would regret not doing when I leave this earth. I think the general population, when considering their bucket list, would include mostly trips to beautiful or interesting places around the world. While I would absolutely love to travel to every continent and see the world (after all, I majored in Geography), I realize that I could die happy without doing so. Plus it would take more time and money than we have. (Although I’m totally a fan of what The Bucket List Family is doing and wish there was a way we could do that). With my limited time left, I’m more concerned about the impact I have on people than visiting distant lands.

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Summer 2014

Before I die, I want to directly (if I live long enough) or indirectly (through writing) teach my kids certain things. For example, I want them to know how important it is to treat ALL people equally and fairly. I want them to stand up for equality. If they hear a racist joke, I want them to READ MORE

Why I Didn’t Celebrate My Clear Cancer Scan

MugaScan

Most of you don’t know that my last scan was actually clear, meaning that no cancer was found. That’s because I stopped telling people after I had too many confusing conversations about… READ MORE

Why I named it Five Years To Live (FYTL)

I’ve had some negative feedback on the title of this website and blog. Some of you have expressed your displeasure for the title, Five Years To Live (FYTL), because you associate the title with my personal battle with cancer, and you may be concerned that I am depressed and have given up on life. While I understand where some of you are coming from, let me explain myself.

My blog is called Five Years To Live (FYTL), but that does NOT mean that I believe I only have five years to live. Doctors have told me that I have between two to five years to live, that five years is possible, but ten years is not likely. But I am not hung up on the amount of time I have left. That is not the point of this blog. The title is relevant to my particular situation, but my vision for this website is much more than my personal story. My hope is to provide resources for people like me who are terminally ill, but it is also to inspire others to live life to the fullest.

The night I found out that my cancer had metastasized and that it would eventually kill me, I felt a desperate need for… READ MORE

Pioneer Day got me like…

For those of you who don’t live in Utah or who are not Mormon, today is Pioneer Day. It is the day that Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers entered Utah’s Salt Lake Valley over 150 years ago. Growing up Mormon in California, I didn’t give much attention to this day other than to say, “Hey, it’s Pioneer Day. Aren’t Pioneers nice?” Just kidding. But seriously, we may have had a picnic with our local congregation and for sure, some discussion about pioneers during Sunday services. But most Mormons, residing outside Utah, probably can’t even tell you on what day this holiday falls. Just don’t tell my… READ MORE

Never Thought I’d Say These Words

I can’t believe these words are coming out of my mouth: WE ARE MOVING TO UTAH! Never thought I’d say that after I left Utah 12 years ago. But here we are. A week away from loading up a moving truck in Nevada and unloading it all in a storage unit in Utah.

I am devastated to leave northern Nevada. I fell in love with this area the moment I saw it. I’ll never forget the first time I… READ MORE

Time Line

I will continually update this, but here is an overview of events since being diagnosed with cancer:

June 20, 2013     Breast Cancer Diagnosis (Stage unknown due to pregnancy, but at least Stage IIIB) in Moscow, Idaho (while husband interned in Colorado for the summer)… READ MORE