Dreams of Britni

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Last night I had a dream about Britni. I very rarely dream about Britni anymore which I have taken to be a good thing. I think it means that I have made my peace with her death and that I am emotionally well adjusted. When I was grieving her loss I did dream about her and in those dreams she was always comforting me.

Last night’s dream was markedly different: it was me who was comforting/helping her. In my dream I was healthy and strong. She was in hospice and I came to help. At one point I started directing some nurses and people started making comments about my “take charge” demeanor in a positive way. I laughed it off and made some comment about being from NY.

I only saw her briefly. She was lying down on a bed looking very sick and asleep. The last time I saw her in my dream she looked completely healthy with her long, gorgeous auburn locks. I’m not sure why last night I had this dream or what it means. Saturday I had a training for the American Cancer Society that lasted all day and was very positive and then I saw my parents. Sunday I watched the walking dead finale and fell fast asleep.

Overall I think it is interesting that in this dream I was healthy and vibrant. I don’t think I’ve had a dream where I was as healthy or strong. I think it’s progress that I’m starting to unconsciously see myself like this. I’ve been feeling strong lately and take great pride in my volunteer service with ACS (American Cancer Society).

Even though I may not talk about her quite as much anymore, she is definitely still in my heart. She is one of the primary, driving forces for my volunteerism and knowing her changed me forever. She taught me valuable lessons and I miss her.

I’ll see you again sometime Brit.

Vote For Me!

I know I haven’t been posting as much as I would like lately, but I promise, it’s been all for good reasons.

In between working full time and going to school full time, I’ve been volunteering like crazy for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and will be attending the OMG cancer summit in Las Vegas next month. I have been nominated for the Get Busy Living award by Stupidcancer.org and I would REALLY appreciate your vote.

You can vote for me HERE.

The Get Busy Living award is for those cancer survivors that embody the philosophy of getting out there and living after cancer. I have tried to do that to the best of my ability since being diagnosed and I plan on a lot more!

You may ask – why should I vote for you? What are you doing to get out there and live? Allow me to plead my case…

Top 10 Reasons You Should Vote For Me

  1. I’m going to school to major in Cancer information management so I can become a cancer registrar to help compile data to analyze cancer statistics.
  2. I volunteer for the American Cancer Society and have raised almost $1000 so far for them. I sit on the committee for the Relay for Life and have facilitated several businesses to donate their goods & services all in the name of helping those diagnosed with cancer.
  3. Two weeks after my diagnosis, I started Cancer Babes. While fighting my own disease I tried as hard as I could to be there for other women with cancer.
  4. I have become a resource in my community for fellow cancer survivors. I regularly call, text, email and facebook survivors I know to see how they’re doing or to dispense information.
  5. I spoke at a press conference for the rollout of the affordable care act on behalf of cancer survivors and the importance of adequate medical care and early detection
  6. I write this cancer blog!
  7. I beat cancer!
  8. My dog is really cute!
  9. Cuz I’m a nice person ;)
  10. uhhh……did I mention my cute dog?

So there you have it – 10 thought out and compelling reasons why you should all vote for me, Sarena Perez, to win the Get busy living award. I sincerely hope you will all vote for me and please share on your social media. This award will only help to advance me to assist other people with cancer so it’s not just for selfish reasons I want this. Even though I would win a special day, honstly, I really want it because it would look great on my resume as a cancer advocate. The main reason I am going to the OMG cancer summit is to network and take all their advocacy classes. I honestly think about cancer, cancer, cancer 24/7 and how I can contribute to the fight.

I hope you’ll vote for me :)

ACS Bake Sale

If any of you don’t know by now, I am the team captain for Cancer Babes in the Relay for Life in Albany, CA happening later this year. I am responsible for leading my team and motivating everyone to reach their goals and our team goal of $1,000.

We had a bake sale over the weekend and my goal was to raise $100. I would have been ecstatic to raise $200. Want to guess how much we raised? $345!!

That put us at $700 raised in a $1,000 goal. We still have 4 months left so I am very confident we will reach our goal and then some. We are also still holding on strong to our title of top fundraiser at this point and I am very proud of that.

Here are some pictures of the bake sale :

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We were only at $350 dollars before the bake sale. It was fun coloring it up to the $700 mark!

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My mom had a wonderful idea for the white box she made above : we were asking contributors to write the name of a survivor they knew or in memory of someone they lost. People were hesitant but we did get some people who memorialized their loved ones on our team fundraising box. Great idea mom! I also had a picture of Britni there because I wanted her to be there in spirit. I am walking for her and she helped me start cancer babes by being my first cancer babe to join. RIP Britni.

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Some of the delicious offerings we made. I stayed up til almost midnight that Friday night making sugar cookies, Hershey kiss peanut butter cookies and brownies. My mom brought cupcakes and Lexie made Gluten free cupcakes. My sister made whole grain, organic mini zucchini bread loaves that were also very popular.

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This is the table we made with me mugging next to it. Had a great time!

We are still looking for people to walk with our team in May so if you live in the bay area of CA and want to walk with our team PLEASE CONTACT ME! We only have 4 walkers currently and we need at least 10.

Will we see you there?

Two years ago Today

Two years ago today, I was being rushed to the emergency room. Two years ago today my life changed forever.  Two years ago today I was told I had cancer.

Now, last year I did not think I would make it to see this Christmas.  I thought I would be lucky to see last years. Each doctors visit I was waiting for them to tell me my cancer was back. But it hasn’t happened that way. I now see a future for myself. A future that is bright and hopeful. I am making strides in the cancer community and slowly turning myself into an advocate. My team is the top fundraiser in our Relay for life event. I have 5 girls coming to my next cancer babes meeting. I had a great interview to work in the cancer field. I’m in school learning all about cancer. I feel really hopeful things will turn out well for me.

To juxtapose how much has changed within me – Last Christmas was me just dealing with it all. I was still in horrendous pain from the chemo and doing everything I could just to deal with the near constant ache in my bones. Last Christmas was a celebration of one more year with my family. Funny thing is, I don’t actually remember last Christmas day. I’ve been trying to and I cannot recall it. I remember making Pannetone french toast for breakfast for my family and that is it.

This Christmas eve I am sick once more. But this time it’s just with a lung infection. No hospitalizations necessary. Just some medication and rest and the doctors think I should be good as new again. This sickness is in some ways my fault. I got a cold about a month ago and kept working straight on through it. Working 7 days a week. And now, I’m sort of being forced to rest. But I appreciate rest and can concede that I need it.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Join us in the Relay for Life!

My group Cancer Babes is walking in the Albany, CA Relay for Life event taking place on May 17, 2014.

It’s fitting that it is on my birthday. As an event to benefit the American Cancer Society, their slogan is “proud sponsor of birthdays”. My birthday in 2012 I thought would be my last. My birthday in 2013 was all about celebrating cancer free. For my birthday in 2014, I want to spend it walking the walk (literally!) and raising money to help other people who are suffering from cancer.

You can donate to our page here. Our fundraising goal is $1,000. If you can donate even $5 or $10 it would help us immensely. Your money would be going to helping cancer survivors and patients get the information and care that they so desperately need. When I was in the thick of my cancer battle, the American Cancer Society was a strong resource for all the research I was doing. They also have a free ride program to get people to and from their doctors appointments. While I never had to use it, it was always comforting to know it was there so I didn’t have to inconvenience my family.

We also are looking for people to join our team. If you would like to walk with us we’d love to have you! You can sign up to walk on our team here.  Click the orange ‘join our team’ button.

On a more personal note, I dedicated a luminaria to Britni. I welcome everyone out there to dedicate a luminaria for someone you love that has died of cancer or is fighting. Let’s light up the night!

The Return of Cancer Babes

Last week, I got a little inspiration to work harder on becoming the leader and advocate I see myself as being. I was contacted by the Dr. Oz show to be a contributor on a show about cancer. While they weren’t able to utilize me for this particular show, It was a wake up call. It made m realize that people DO see what I put out here and people are hearing my message. So, to kick up my game I restarted my cancer babes meetup group.

You can visit the group here : http://www.meetup.com/Cancer-Babe/. I invite any and all young women who have cancer to join the group – even if you aren’t located in the Bay area. My goal is to have leaders across the nation leading cancer babes groups and to turn this into a national organization. If you’re interested in attending one of my bay area groups please feel free to contact me at cancerbabesgroup@gmail.com or visit our meetup site to join as a member. If you’re a woman between the ages of 18-39 and are interested in leading a group in your area please also feel free to contact me at the above address. I’ll walk you through all aspects of creating a group in your area, promoting the group and lend you use of the cancer babes name. You will NOT be alone in leading the group! You have my full support!

While I may not have the opportunity to spread my message on TV now, I am afforded the opportunity to become an even more powerful  voice in my field before I reach millions of people on TV. As anyone with cancer knows, time is valuable and I am getting a little more of it now.

I shall not waste it.

What I’m Thankful For

thanksgiving-charlie-brown-snoopyAs Turkey day is upon us, I sit here reflecting on what I am thankful for in my own life. Truly, I am thankful to even be alive. I am hosting my family today at my house and I volunteered to cook the entire feast (minus the turkey since I’m a vegetarian). I am thankful that I am still here to celebrate with them and that I am able to cook this dinner for everyone (in which I will start after I write this post). I am thankful that I have the strength to work several jobs and go without days off. This is genuinely the hardest I have ever worked in my life and it comes after a point in my life in which I was the physically weakest. A year ago I couldn’t even bend down to pick something up. Now, I’m scrubbing floors and working 12 hour days.

I’m also thankful for all the help I’ve received in this last year. From my family and friends to complete strangers who have volunteered their time, truly I am touched. Thank you to my therapist who see’s me at  price I can afford. You keep me grounded and I always really do listen to the feedback you give me. Thank you to Christina, my writing mentor who volunteers her time to help me find my writing voice. You provide accountability and encouragement and I hope to one day meet you in person.

I’m thankful for my parents who have given me their love, sweat and tears. Without them my transition to normal life would not have been as smooth or as comfortable. I’m thankful to my partner who stands by me and makes sure I never go without a delicious meal.

The future looks pretty bright for me right now. In the new year I will be starting school and now a new job. I’m excited at the prospects my life holds currently. I really can’t wait to see where this crazy ride will take me.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone :)

Cancer Babes

britniandmeAs I’ve written here before, one of my goals is to start a non-profit organization devoted to providing peer-to-peer counseling services for young women battling cancer. I’ve started hanging posters and doing what I can to reach out to the community. I’ve been reading a book on starting non-profits. Now I’m at the stage where I need to start asking for help.

So here it is : if any of you out there would like to partner with me to try to bring this dream to fruition I would love to speak to you. I need people who would be willing to sit on a board of directors. People who are as passionate as I am about getting out there on a grass roots level hanging posters, organizing fundraising drives, approaching potential businesses to partner with etc. My ideal board of directors would include perhaps a doctor, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, someone with a financial background, someone with a background in PR or advertising. I’d like to hold weekly e-meetings to discuss important issues and plan.

I would include more information but I’d prefer to discuss the finer details with people on a personal level. I’d love to partner with other cancer survivors who are just as passionate as I am about paying it forward. So if any of this resonates with you, please shoot me an email at cancerbabesgroup@gmail.com.

Why I’m still Team Walter

DSC_0205As all of my friends and family know, I am a HUGE Breaking Bad fan. I may or may not have written about my love of BB before on this blog, but I can promise you – I love my Breaking Bad.

And I in particular love Walter White. I’ve loved him since I saw him in that first episode sitting across from his doctor as he was told he had cancer. I came to love Walter when he was still human, still not yet a monster. I am also in disagreement with the theories that Walter always was bad – I really do not believe the character was written that way. Walter truly was and is the everyman. He is the guy you pass on your way to work. The girl who rings you up at the grocery store. Walter could be any of us. That’s one of the parts of the character that make him so scary. Any one of us could “break bad”.

I saw a lot of myself in Walters experience truth be told. I know the shock of having a doctor tell you your cancer is bad, and might eventually kill you. I saw myself in him as he sat through chemo. As his family cried over his diagnosis and rooted him on. I also saw myself in his choice to break free of what he was “supposed” to do. I have never cooked meth but I noticed after my diagnosis I did a lot more self gratifying activities. I spent almost an entire months worth of disability on some Prada shoes. No one could really tell me how to live anymore. There really is some freedom in knowing tomorrow might not come.

I feel all the main characters in BB are very complex, Walter included. Walter does love his family I feel and he shows it. It’s easy for some to overlook that because they don’t like his character. He snuggles his infant daughter. He spends quality time with his son. Granted, he has a complicated relationship with his wife Skyler but he’s been with the woman for almost 20 years.

This past episode saw him really turn into Heisenberg. But he still fought for family. He lost almost all his money trying to bargain for his brother in laws life. If he truly was a monster he could have easily told Uncle Jack’s white power nazi’s to gat Hank and keep all his money. But he didn’t.

I think Walt feels deeper than what people think. But he feels all emotions more deeply – including the negative ones. With that I can also relate. One of the things people tend to do when someone looks and is sick is sort of white wash the less than savory aspects of your life. All of a sudden you become “Sarena Perez – CANCER PATIENT”. People won’t say anything if they don’t like your behavior usually because…oh yeah, YOU HAVE CANCER!! You get nothing but sorry looks from people. Which are better than the flat out horrified looks when you start looking like death warmed over from the chemo.

So yeah, I’m still team Walter.