I did not know at that time that 6 months later I would face breast cancer, I did not know how challenging it would become to juggle working, building a new non-profit and managing breast cancer all at the same time. During the first few months of my diagnosis I took a step back and thankfully Community Navigators was in a good place for me to take a step back for the time being. Goes to show you that even when you think your healthy and have all the time in the world to make your dreams come true; you never really know what the future will bring so YOLO! (You only live once)
Before breast cancer decided to impact my life, I worked a lot but I didn’t mind. I personally have known I wanted to help people with disabilities since I was a young girl. Unlike my friends in college who did not know what they wanted to do when they grew up, I knew what the track was for me.
I attended Southern Connecticut State University to study Therapeutic Recreation with a focus on disability studies. Including people with disabilities within their communities was always something very important to me. After gaining experience in different aspects in the field I knew for me to be truly happy I would probably need to break off and start my own agency to help individuals with disabilities and their families. In 2014, my boss passed away to cancer and I knew it was time to jump and take a risk. By 2015, I gave my notice and announced the beginning of Community Navigators, a non-profit driven to help create inclusive opportunities in individuals own communities.
Now that i’ve been battling breast cancer for over a year its time to try get back into the groove of life and work. CNI means a lot to me and my husband left his trucking business to fill my shoes while I was in treatment. It confuses people why i’m a volunteer CEO, well treatments make you tired, my hip can make it very challenging to help people when its flaring, I am not where I was physically before cancer and I can’t always anticipate when I can assist.
Many of us woman & men with metastatic breast cancer look good and healthy. Many of us put on a phenomenal act to continue to live in the world everyone else lives in. I struggle feeling guilty not being able to do more. I’m learning how to make compromises with life. Life keeps going and its moves very quickly. You see friends and others growing in their professions. You see other thrivers working like they are not sick. All of this makes taking it easy and taking care of yourself very challenging because you don’t want to be left behind. But the biggest reality is I (we) can not rely on generous donations forever and in order to keep a roof over our heads working has to happen. Disability is helpful but it doesn’t pay the bills.
Most people you see lately who get struck with cancer their go-fund me pages help them through the worse part of their journey. All the help we realized definitely helped during the initial part of my journey and couldn’t not be more thankful for all the love and support! But we cannot depend on everyones generosity until my cancer ultimately wins.
Some of my best friends have intellectual disabilities and they stood strongly next to me during the beginning of my journey, so I never stepped away from “work” and i’m lucky I don’t view spending time with people with disabilities as work but as time with my friends. But when I try to jump back into everything the biggest battle working is doctors appointments, fatigue, bone pain, chemo brain and insecurities of cancer; makes it a serious challenge. I rarely work alone, Martin or someone is usually with me. Not because I can’t work alone but it gives me a sense of support. I’m happy my knowledge and years of experience keeps me needed and included. Yes, keeping my mind off cancer and doing something else is wonderful but hard to keep balanced. I’m a go getter so its hard for me to stay on the side lines and my body tells me very loudly to stop and slow down. I’m learning how to listen to my body and not be super woman.
I am very confident but nothing prepares you to explain all the time I don’t feel well there is no way I am get up. Its even harder because you know you look healthy.
Want to know more about the type of work I do? Feel free to check out CNI's website!
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God I remember this day! One year ago today I had my double mastectomy! I remember waking up nervous like anyone else. But I knew I needed to be positive. At that point I changed my eating around. Exercised religiously. Prepared my body for recovery. I was strong and I actually felt the strongest & healthiest ever in my adult life!
This would be my first trip to Hartford Hospital for my cancer journey. It was really busy in the check-in room and I didn’t know what to expect. The nurses who helped prep me said that I was really calm for having surgery... I was scared out of my mind but I repetitively repeated my affirmations:
Then I would visualize the words 'cancer' on a flower and blow it away. 'I will wake up cancer free’.
I had downloaded weeks before ‘Cancer: Discovering Your Healing Power’ by Louise Hay. When I started to feel myself drown in fear I put my headphones on and listened. During College I had to read a self help book for a class. I hate reading! So while I was at the book store looking for a book to meet the requirements I stumbled upon ‘You Can Do It’ by Louise Hay. It was a small, short book and I thought perfect it even comes with a CD so I don’t even have to read it. This short book changed my life then and has supported me emotionally through cancer too. Louise Hay is a cancer survivor herself and she still gives me hope. I listened to ‘Cancer’ before and after my double mastectomy. I remember waking up in my room in so much pain, I turned her on and got up from my bed. It can take some woman over a 1 day to rise from bed because the pain knocks the wind out of you, but like Louise Hay says; I Can Do It! I was a told I would spend 1-3 nights in the hospital or until I could walk down the hallway. I was so driven to leave I left the following morning. I was in the hospital for 24 hours and the doctors said it was contributed to my physical strength. If your preparing for a big surgery like a double mastectomy prep your upper back and leg muscles you will depend on them!
That day in the hospital I believed I would walk in with cancer and leave cancer free. I mean I spend hours on the elliptical weeks leading up envisioning the doctors sitting me down to tell me, ‘Larissa we have wonderful news for you, your cancer free’. That day didn’t come as many of your probably know, but I still believe in affirmations and the universe. Things don’t always happen like you plan but the good you attract can still shine into your life in different ways.
I cannot believe its April 7th and I can’t believe I'm approaching April 27th which will mark 1 year since my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. I guess you can say April is a sad month or I could say its the month that woke me up!
Here in New England Sunday could remind you of Spring, Monday could be freezing, Tuesday typical, Wednesday Summer, Thursday Blizzard, Friday Fall and Saturday 50’s.
Well most people say ‘Larissa you look so good’ or ‘your walking so much better’.
Well, New England and I are twins!
Sunday I can feel 31. Strong. On the move. Healthy. Days like this I can almost forget I have cancer for short intervals!
Monday I can feel anxious and nervous and I go back & forth about seeing a psychologist. Mondays can be predictable because no matter how used to chemotherapy I get, I still get nervous the night before.
Tuesday, oh my emotional, bittersweet Tuesday. Tuesdays are soooooo much fun! I get to feel almost every sense of emotion within a matter of a few hours. Anxious and desperately doing everything I can to prep for chemo while not forgetting to apply my numbing cream. Tuesday mornings if I walk out the door and forget my numbing cream, then for the next hour or two my anxiety is through the roof until they access my port. Then I usually have 1 or 2 hours of party time. My oncology nurses are very sweet women and if you’re slightly down somehow have the power to lift you up from it. They can make you feel brave and strong. Not sure what they eat at home but we all should eat whatever they eat. Then I leave, and start to wait for the side effects.
Wednesday usually sucks. If you see me out and about on a Wednesday, I’m pretending to be well. (I have many days where I put a smile on my face and try to keep looking forward to avoid possibly accidentally throwing up on someone.)
Thursday can usually feel the same.
Friday i’m bouncing back. Well, unless New England is about to get a storm or I’m having bad luck and my hip tumor starts to flair. And if my week turns unlucky I’m forced to relive what it feels like to have the feeling of satan slowly breaking my hip bone. And my husband has to fetch my cane and I suddenly appear 90.
Saturday on a week after my Lupron shot can become a brutal summer day. It’s so hot! It doesn’t matter how cold it is outside. I’m sweating. I can’t tell you how many times I contemplate laying naked in the snow just to get a relief. This isn’t just on Saturdays. My hot flashes can be all day everyday but a few days out from Lupron we have a monthly party us two. I always know to prepare for a fun day or two of the worst hot flashes that are so bad they make the rest of them for the month look like a walk in the park.
Then it’s back to Sunday and who knows what to expect.