Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dates that define you

So all my posts start with "I can't believe it's been xx months since I sat down to write".  This one is no different...yup it's been awhile - but it's time for me to write this one so here goes.

There are dates in your life that define you; they are ingrained on your heart and are dates you will never forget.  They are days that alter your course - and force you to grow and re-think who you are.  These are a few of my most life-altering ones:

July 24 - the day I got married; the day that my best friend and I promised to stay together through thick and thin, through sickness and health

October 24 - the day my heart beat outside my body for the first time - the day I became a mom

May 28 - the day I knew what it felt like to have my heart grow another size - the day our family became complete with a second little one

This year I added another date to that list.  November 8 - the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Oof...first time I've put that in writing.  It's hard to say out loud - even harder to write down.  And now that I've written it down, I almost feel like I should stop writing.  What else do I say?  I can tell you it was hard, but that word isn't strong enough.  It was like someone punched me in the gut.  I was in my mid-forties and healthy - this didn't happen to my family.  I was surreal for a long time, but I will tell you it got real pretty fast.

Telling my family and close friends was hard.  To be honest I did most of the telling by text.  May sound like a cop out, but I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud that many times. Telling my girls - well that was gut wrenching.  I was supposed to be the one to keep order in their world so they could deal with growing up - and sitting down to tell them was going to blow up their world.  I hated that I would be responsible for altering their world in this way, but no way I could keep it from them.  Ulisses and I sat them down and gave them the news.  In that moment, I saw the type of children I was raising - compassionate, resilient, amazing.  There were tears and questions - then they asked what I needed them to do.  They asked how they could make things easier;  they asked if I needed a hug.  I honestly could not have been more proud of them than I was in that moment.

After November 8th, the onslaught of appointments and waiting started.  For those who know me, patience is not my forte...the waiting was the hardest part.  I just wanted to know what was next so I could deal with it and move on.  What made it harder, is every time I thought we had a plan, another test revealed we would need to change the plan.  How the hell was I supposed to wrap my head around what needed to be done if it kept changing?  That became the hardest part.  And believe me there was a lot of swearing during that time - thankful my circle isn't offended by a well placed f-bomb LOL

But I learned to go with the flow (sort of) and trust the amazing doctors and nurses that I had access to.  We put together stage one of my treatment plan, and now I'm waiting (again) for results that will determine if there is a stage two of treatment.  Oddly enough, I'm not as worried about what's next, and here is why.

I have always known how lucky I am to be surrounded by family and a circle of friends who were supportive. We have helped each other through life in a number of ways.  But this situation has shown me how truly blessed I am.  In fact I have never felt more blessed.  Odd to say when I'm in the throws of dealing with cancer, but the circle that has surrounded me during this has made having to deal with it somewhat bearable.  Don't get me wrong...I would rather not have to deal with it at all...but given the hand I've been dealt, I'm happy with those I have standing with me as I get through it.  To all of you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

I need to take a minute to acknowledge hubby.  On July 24th, he made a vow to stick with me through sickness and health, but neither one of us could have imagined that this is what lay in front of us.  Without him, none of this would have been ok.  He hugged me when I was melting down, he held my hand when I was scared about what was next, and he told me I was being ridiculous when I let the crazy get the best of me.  He has kept this family running while I am recovering from surgery, and he continues to remind me that this is just a bump in the road...and that together we will deal with whatever life throws at us.  What more could I ask for? (oh he also painted our family room, refinished the fireplace and wall mounted a TV - he is my hero)

I am diagnosis could have been so much worse.  I can't imagine those out there who get this news, but discover it is not treatable.  It must be devastating, and I am grateful that I did not fall into that category.  Mine is treatable, and I will come out the other side stronger than ever.

Now for my soapbox - ladies please do not skip your mammograms.  In fact, ask your doctor if you should have an ultrasound with your mammogram - in my case, the ultrasound is what triggered the biopsy.  You will see pink ribbons show up in my social media feed more frequently, and October will have a renewed meaning for me in terms of raising awareness.  And you will see my new slogan everywhere - Fight like a Girl.  It may even become my next tattoo :-)

I haven't decided yet if I will blog more about this journey - this post has been rolling around in my head for awhile, so I know I needed to write it down. There will probably be more - I just don't promise how frequent.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Our First trip to Cheerleading Worlds

Two years ago, I didn't even know that there was a Worlds competition for cheerleading - heck I had no idea just how big the cheer world actually was!  Now here I am...a couple of years older and way wiser when it comes to cheer LOL.  And this year we were able to arrange our spring vacation schedule so that we could watch the two teams that got invited to go to Worlds from Black Widow Cheer Gym (aka Ally's second home).  Truthfully, I think I was just as excited to go as Ally was!

I heard from others that it was a crazy thing to experience; that the energy was insane, and the atmosphere was like no other.  Believe me when I tell you that those statements are absolutely the truth.  Thousands of cheerleaders, coaches and their supporters from around the world packed into the ESPN Sports Centre at Disney - awesome!

We got to the venue early, and headed to the tent where the Black Widow teams would perform.  As we walked in, we caught a glimpse of the coaches and the teams - watching Ally's face light up as she spotted them is a image that I will keep forever.  It was a mixture of pure joy, awe and excitement - and was the exact reason we even contemplated arranging things so we could be there.

We watched teams from Japan, Australia, South Africa, Sweden - literally from all over the world.  It was pretty cool to think that these were the best of the best from these countries.

The came the time for BW Love to perform.  As I watched this team take the stage, I was a nervous wreck and was teary eyed - and I didn't even have an athlete on the stage!  I honestly can't imagine sitting there as a parent watching their child compete on that stage - I'm not sure my heart would be able to handle it.  They performed well, and you could feel the BDub pride as they left the stage.

Next up was BW Ice.  This team holds a special place in my heart - they truly are a group of girls I would define as role models.  They love their sport, they are committed and hard working, and they never bat an eye when the younger girls want to "help".  This was their first time at worlds - they didn't have the run they were hoping for, but heart swelled with pride as I watched them go through their routine.  It was a beautiful thing to experience.

We decided to hang out for the rest of the day (awards were around 3:30 and we figured we'd hang out to see where the teams placed) - we watched other teams, Ally tumbled on the ESPN field and, of course, we picked up some swag.

Turns out staying allowed us to witness something even more incredible - we were there to watch Love move on to the Worlds Finals.  They came top three in Canada - no small feat.  For me, I got to watch the parents go beserk when it was announced - and I got to watch Ally cry tears of joy and pride. Absolutely an experience we will not soon forget.

For me, I'm not sure how else to describe the experience.  I've used words like amazing, incredible, proud, excited...all accurate but don't go far enough.  I think one of the things that warmed my heart the most (other than watching BW teams do their thing), was how much the coaches and the girls thanked us for coming to watch them.  They seemed truly grateful that we were there, and it made the essence of BWFamily even more real.  That day, those girls, Ally's reactions - all are things that will be ingrained in my memory for years to come.  Pretty sure the only thing that will top this is when I'm back in Orlando to watch Ally compete - I have no doubt one day we will capture the picture below with Ally in her uniform, ready to take on the World :-)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Another Nationals in the books!

So if you follow any of my social media accounts, you know that this past weekend was the National Cheerleading Championships in Niagara Falls (I posted lots this weekend!).  This competition officially marks the end of the 2016-17 cheer season - and I couldn't let it pass without somekind of a post :-)

This year has been a little crazy - Ally was on 2 cheer teams - a youth level 3 team where she was a base (SuperYumberry) and a senior level 2 team where she was a flyer (Freeze).  For anyone who is wondering, you hold your breath during every performance whether they are flying or catching the flyer.  Both are equally as nerve wrecking!  And there were challenges that munchkin had to deal with - a mental block with her tumbling, learning to be a flyer, a concussion and moments where fatigue took over.  Watching her deal with it all was tough - but I discovered what a tough kid I'm raising.  And I discovered what an amazing gym we are part of - Black Widow Cheer Gym helped her through each of these.  They were patient with her block, they pushed her to get over her fear of flying, they made her sit out until she was truly ready to come back after her concussion and they reminded her how great she is whenever they saw her struggling.  They also cheered her on loudly every time she needed it.  I know...I'm gushing again, but the coaches at this gym always make me want to gush.  They are awesome!

Now on to Nationals - 3 jam-packed days of cheer teams from all over Canada vying to become National champs.  For us cheer parents, it means 12 hour days at the venues listening to cheer music in two and a half minute counts; it means heading to the swag area to load up on Nationals gear; it means lots of hairspray and blue glittery eye shadow; it means pep talks, hugs and lots of pictures; it means holding our breaths while they are on the mat; it means screaming like mad when they hit.

For the athletes, it means taking everything they have worked hard for over the past year and putting it out there, and leaving their hearts on the mat after every performance (each team performs twice at Nationals).  It is a truly crazy experience to be a part of.  

For Ally, both runs on day one were not ideal.  They worked really hard, but both teams had bobbles, and it wasn't what they were hoping for.  We spent some time Saturday night chatting about what to do day 2, and then the girls went for a swim.  They needed to just chill out and get ready for Sunday - so that's what we did.

Day 2 was magical.  I cried after both of Ally's teams were done.  I hugged every girl I could find. I jumped up and down on the sidelines, and I lost my voice from screaming.  The first team up was SuperYumberry - and they hit better than they had all year.  They had a zero deduction run, and came off the mat with their heads held high (well they actually bounced off as 9-12 year olds do).  They ended up placing 6th in a division that was crazy hard!  And this one was extra emotional for me - it was Ally's last time at Nationals as a youth yes I cried.

Then came Freeze - oy vey!  This team went through lots of ups and downs this year, and we all really wanted them to do well.  The girls were fine - the coach and us team moms were a wreck LOL. They hit the floor - and they nailed it.  Like really nailed it!  A zero deduction run for them too - and yes I cried when they were done. This team came 2nd - was an amazing way to end their season.  Needless to say this mama was drained after Sunday - but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now comes the gushing again - I started this post out with saying how amazing BWCG was, and how awesome the coaches were.  I can't tell you enough how over the moon I am that a friend convinced me to bring Ally there to try it three years ago.  We have found a place where she feels supported, challenged, pushed and loved.  I've watched her grow as an athlete, and this year she started helping out with the little ones - and I watched her take everything she has learned from her coaches and impart them on the littles.  It made for some proud mama moments.

And don't get me started on how amazing the families are.  Parents who are as dedicated and as crazy as I am - and who I now consider part of my circle.  And to the athletes - know that I'm always a cheer mom you can find if you need anything.  #BWFamily is a real thing!

Now on to getting ready for next season - but first, we get to take Ally to watch Worlds in Orlando so we can cheer on the two BWCG teams who are there competing.  Truth be told, I'm as excited as she is to watch these girls hit the mat at the Worlds stage.  Bring it on!!