As some of you may know, I just returned home from a three-day women’s retreat to the amazing Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, MA. My trip was sponsored by Heather Thomson, a reality star whose claim to fame was her 3 year run on The Real Housewives of New York City. As those that know me well, it is a show of which I never missed an episode, and despite the fact that she is no longer on the show, I have continued following her life through social media. I’ve always found her to be an inspiration to women and I love when anyone famous uses their platform to help motivate people to be a better version of themselves. To all inquiring minds, Heather is so much more than a reality star. An amazing mom, wife, friend, and entrepreneur. She’s incredibly charitable and seems to always be thinking about others. Regardless, I won this trip. This amazing, life-changing, timely trip…all because I voted. And when Josh and I went to our city hall that morning, the truth is…I had zero intentions of voting. Without getting too political, I’m a disenchanted voter and being new to the state and having very little time to actually research any of the candidates…I didn’t want to vote. But when we walked in that morning, a little, old, sweet lady really pushed me to vote and made the process easier than we were anticipating…so I did. And obviously, we took a selfie with our “I voted” stickers…because if you don’t do that, did you actually vote?
So then we were off to my radiation planning meeting. And after spending entirely too much time there, I went home and I was in a mood. I was crabby, exhausted, really considering not proceeding with radiation (dumb idea) and completely and totally burnt out. I was only a week and a half out from my last chemo and wasn’t at all ready to start radiation a few days later. Naturally, I do what every other SAHM mom does…and I started scrolling Instagram attempting to procrastinate life. I came across Heather’s post (screen shot below) and thought to myself “man I could really use a trip right now”…and figured what the HECK. I have nothing to lose, everything to gain and I literally never win anything. Five days later some annoying “solicitor” was calling me from New York all morning and as I sent the 6th call that morning to voicemail, a text message popped up “Hi Annie, it’s Heather. I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all morning long…you won the trip to Canyon Ranch!” Enter chemo brain. I’m like who the hell is Heather and what trip did I win? It’s like those annoying solicitors that tell you that you have won a trip to Disney? I’m like suuuuuure Heather. And then all of a sudden a little light bulb went off…and just to be sure I wasn’t being scammed, I picked up the phone and redialed the number that had been calling me all morning. Heather picked up. It was crazy. I was in total shock. She was so sweet and was so excited that she had picked my name…and all I kept thinking was “there is no way I can go, I start radiation on Monday and have my port removal scheduled for Tuesday”. I was just getting ready to tell her that when instead I told her how grateful I was for this win because I had just finished chemo after battling breast cancer all summer…and she cried. And in that moment, I knew I had to at least try and go on that trip. The only reason I was starting radiation so soon was because of me and my crazy ass plan to get everything finished before Christmas. In fact, my radiation oncologist mentioned several times it was a quick turnaround from chemo and that I might want a longer break between the two. So I made some calls, cleared it with Josh and our au pair, rescheduled everything and told Heather I was in. Somewhere shortly thereafter I had a complete freak out because I said yes…I was releasing this insane grip I had on everything I could control about cancer and it scared the crap out of me. Also, going on a trip with 8 other complete strangers doesn’t necessarily fall within my wheelhouse of “things I do that I’m comfortable with”. I have struggled with pushing myself outside my comfort zone, pushing in areas where I’m not confident. I know this is a normal feeling, but in one sense I recognize the need to do it, but have a hard time finding the right channel to do it. What better way than a trip to a resort for a few days with a reality star?!
Flash forward to our first night there, where after an amazing dinner with a private chef, we had our tarot cards read. This is something completely new to me, and I was so nervous she was going to be like “ohhhh yea, this breast cancer is going to come back and kill you”…honestly, that was my biggest concern and where my mind is at sometimes! I know everyone tells me I can’t think that way, but how can you not let thoughts like that seep in every once in a while? When you have so much to live for, worry in any aspect of our life can be debilitating. And when you have something like cancer to deal with, it can become even more so, especially for someone that has dealt with anxiety issues both past and present (see my first blog post here). (I still have LOTS of work to do on the whole “survivorship” piece of this!) Anyway, we picked our own 5 cards (see below) and then the reader helped us understand how they applied to “where do I want to be at the end of this experience”. All of my cards led to such amazing and positive things. It truly felt like the reader took my brain and dumped it on the table. I am ready to be done with cancer and move on with life. I am confident with the decisions I have made for my family over the last 6 months and I don’t need other people’s approval. I need to embrace the opportunities that come my way and start saying yes more. I need to let go. Let go of the reigns I have on my life and my kids’ lives and try and just live more. And I need to take care of myself better.
Letting go. It was a theme that came up again and again throughout my entire retreat experience. Having great control of my life has always been my thing. Because if it was too hard or something I didn’t want to do, I just ran away or figured out another way around. Until I got cancer. One of the hardest things I’ve had to accept about having cancer is the lack of control I have over most things. I end up angry at the wrong people when another obstacle presents itself and instead of being able to bolt, I need to go through it. But something I have learned over the last six months is that when I let go and actually let myself experience something, whether it is a positive or negative experience, is when I really change the most and when I experience the most rewarding joy I have ever felt. One of our last group experiences during the retreat was a “Rite of Passage” fire ceremony (pictured below) – a ritual that helps an individual create or move through a significant life change, choice, passage or transition. It was powerful. In that ceremony, I released it all. All of the resentment, anger and sadness I had been holding on to since my diagnosis, from the diagnosis itself and everything I have physically endured because of it, to people that have disappointed me throughout the process.
Letting go, while still uncomfortable for me, feels good. Letting go doesn’t mean putting it out of your mind. It also means embracing the reality that you are in and accepting it. I feel myself changing for the better. I sense something big around the corner for me and I cannot wait to get there. 2019 is going to be a fresh start for me and my family. And I am so ready.