A Little Encouragement

The last few weeks have been nuts.  
I kissed Tom goodbye, moved out of our lovely little home in the Tender-Nob, and headed over the hill to move in to a gorgeous apartment in North Beach with two incredibly beautiful and hilarious women. 
It feels good to be in a new place that doesn't remind me of sickness, nausea, heartache, medicine, and, well, cancer. 
I've been struggling with my recent breakup and move, and while these kinds of things are never easy, I've been doing what I can to move on. It has been trying at times, as I have a million billion different thoughts every day where I am questioning the break up, myself, my life...everything under that small (just kidding) umbrella. Today, I was tidying up my room when I came across a cut out from a magazine that someone had slipped in to my medical folder. The quote is by Martha Beck, PHD and I realized these are THE words I have been needing to read/hear while going through this post-cancer, post-love phase of my life : 

"When you've been through an unexpected change, the old you dies and a new one is born. And therefore you must allow yourself to be a baby. Get emotional and moral support any way you can. Give yourself a limited time each day (at least an hour) to do nothing but focus on this adjustment. And don't make big decisions until you've got your legs under you. You don't even know who the new you will grow up to be, so postpone large commitments, giving yourself time and love. Everything else will take care of itself"

After I read this, I felt a serious weight had been lifted off my shoulders. This last month, I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off because I was too afraid to stop and face myself, because I don't really know exactly who I am anymore, which is quite terrifying. Often, I have dark moments and the only way to make those go away is to pop a Xanax or go out with the girls for a night out on the town. I have now learned that these "darkness cures" are not emotionally or physically healthy, nor are they good for the wallet if you know what I mean. I was on a path to serious self destruction and bulldozing everyone over who stood in my way. 
I know for a fact that I will become familiar with Amanda again but I think what Martha Beck is saying about slowing down and really taking the time to treat yourself with gentleness and patience, is incredible. I have been through a (few) crazy trauma(s) that have changed me in to a new person, who I am now excited to shape, and give life to. Stay tuned for Amanda 2.0

Papa and Baby Amanda 

Papa and Baby Amanda 

...1 year later

It has been a year since I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer, and holy hell what a year it’s been. It feels like time has flown by, but all the same has crawled past slower than a 100 year old tortoise named Kitty, going for a grape.
The seemingly speed up of time was caused by my crazy-packed schedule : hospital checkups, chemo treatments, radiation, hydration appointments, blood draws, MRI’s, surgery, support groups, ER trips, and the list goes on. The feeling that time was standing still was because of the nausea, loneliness, and heart break I experienced while trying to fight this cruel disease.
As I reflect on the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I’d lost and the things I’ve gained. I lost all my hair, my boobs, some weight, my period, a few friendships, 2 big toenails, my sense of taste, the feeling in my fingers and much more….
I gained some incredible friends and support, a new outlook on life, a better understanding of my body and a big poofy afro that I refuse to take scissors to (and along with that, I should include that I’ve also gained about 10 different jars of hair gel).
I want to talk about the heart break and loss of friendship I faced while being sick because I think it’s a very real and important thing that happens, and not a lot of people talk about. When I was first diagnosed, pretty much every single person I’ve ever known reached out to me, whether it was through social media, hand written notes, phone calls or texts, and it felt incredible – I felt like it was my birthday! I was energized and excited about the support I was receiving from so many special people, and looked to my upcoming treatment with my head up and a brave attitude. As time went on, the initial shock of my diagnoses wore off, and I slowly stopped hearing from friends and certain family members. I can’t blame anyone for this, because everyone deals with sickness differently. I always thought to myself that if I had a friend that was going through this instead of me, I would have NO idea what to do or how to support him/her.
I was talking with my BFF, Amanda S. the other day, and she informed me that I was quite the “stubborn b*tch” while going through chemo and I am so grateful she told me that, because I had kind of felt a little abandoned by my friends. It felt so good to be honest with each other about what happened and how we both felt. She told me that she wanted to be there for me, but didn’t know how, and my unresponsiveness to texts and calls left her in the dark, and also feeling like she didn’t want to bother me, when in fact, I was at home, in bed, wishing that someone would come hold my hand and lay with me. I WAS being so stubborn! I didn’t want to ask anyone for anything because I didn’t want to be a “burden”, which is INSANE. I also didn’t want anyone to see me at my most vulnerable, most bald, most throw-upy state….
Now, with a clear head, I know that I should have asked for help because Amanda S., along with many of my other friends, would have been by my side in 2 seconds flat, and my quality of life would have been so much better. It’s hard for most people to ask for help, especially when you’re young and experiencing something that only 1 in 2,000 women will experience at the age of 28. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, asking for help is hard, but necessary!

Now for the heart break bit….
Post treatment life is hard - I will not lie about that. I’m a 29 year old woman, experiencing full blown menopause with the poofiest hairdo you’ve ever seen. My medication causes hot flashes, depression, and an overall feeling of “what the hell, this is not my body”. I had a boyfriend while I was going through cancer treatment, and while we still have a lot of love for each other, a couple of weeks ago, we decided it would be best to go our separate ways. I’m not sure exactly what happened to us, but I do know that this kind of traumatic experience in life can make or break a relationship. Trying to figure out post-cancer life is difficult, and losing the person that was right there through the whole thing is very rough, to put it lightly. Break ups are break ups, but this….this is something else. Together, we experienced things that some people will never have to experience ever, and we did it at age 27,28,29. I must say, I am proud of how we handled the situation together but it’s now time for he and I to venture out, separately, to find our happiness as independent people, and let go of the hurt, anger, frustration, annoyances and stress that we both felt over this last year. I have to thank him for the love and support he provided to me while I was at my worst, and keeping me distracted from the horrible pain that is cancer. Helping my dad and sister figure out my insurance situation, calling the docs when I thought I was dying, keeping my friends informed, watching hours of Netflix with me, feeding me ice cream, making me laugh until I couldn't breathe, and shaving my head. These are all memories I hold close and will cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you to my sweet Tom, you have a piece of my heart forever.
So there you go, ladies and gents. It’s been a year, and what a freakin’ year it’s been. I can’t say I’m in remission yet, but I am looking forward to the day when I can. In the mean-time, I am eating healthy (besides the occasional Taco Bell here and there), laughing as much as possible, attending some incredible support groups and sharing my experiences with others who have been diagnosed with the C word. Life is good and I am happy. I wish the same for all of you <3

The C Word

On December 22nd, Tom and I took off to celebrate the holidays with his family in England, and for the 9.5 hour flight, I planned to sleep, sleep and SLEEP! There was no way I was going to be awake for such a long, boring flight untilllllll.....I discovered the movie "The C Word".
If you haven't seen this movie yet, and have cancer, or know someone with cancer, please do see it. The first part is pretty much my story in a nutshell - 28 year old is diagnosed with breast cancer, is terrified of her hair falling out, starts feeling ugly and unfeminine, experiences basically her death bed from chemo, etc. etc., all while blogging about it. Her attitude is quite positive throughout, but there are moments of very real, raw emotion.
It was interesting for me to watch this because it felt like I was watching myself through a different angle, and it brought up so many memories and feelings from the past 8 months; I was kind of bawling my eyes out the whole time (still not sure if it was because of the actual movie, the two mini bottles of wine I drank, or both, but still...it was a wet face in seat 64D.
One of the things I was thinking about is how much I appreciate the support of my people. I don't know how I would have made it through 2015 without them. There's a part in the movie where Lisa (the main character and cancer patient) is laying in bed and her husband tells her she needs to take a shower because she is a little stinky. She realizes she hasn't taken a shower because subconsciously, she's afraid if she washes her hair, it will all come out. 
Before I lost my hair, every single time I went in to wash it, I came out with a lot less. From there, I would crawl in to bed, start crying my eyes out, and then feel the warmth of Tom's arms holding me and listen while I just cried on and on about my hair, my poor hair. Without those arms of comfort, I would have probably drowned myself in my own tears. 
I really appreciated how the movie showed Lisa's positive attitude and optimistic mindset while blogging about her experiences, but it also showed her curled up on the couch, bald, depressed, and nauseous. As much as we try to show our loved ones and people who count on us for a positive outlook, it can't be turned on 100 percent of the time. I feel like in my blog I wanted to be strong for my family and friends because naturally, I didn't want anyone to worry. But the truth is, during my last 4 treatments of chemo, I never felt more alone in my whole entire life. No matter how many phone calls/texts/hugs/words of support I received, I still felt like I was locked in a dark, cold, lonely box. I didn't recognize my body or know how to make it feel better. I couldn't go out to see friends, or even go for a walk for fear that I would get sick all over the sidewalk. I remember being stuck in bed for 5 days straight, unable to even lift my head because of the nausea, just staring at my bald reflection in the sliding mirrored closet doors thinking "I can't believe this is me" (and I'm pretty sure my dog, who stayed by my side the whole time, was thinking the same thing). Of course I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel with this physical stuff, but now, I've started to realize, I'm not sure where the light at the end of the tunnel is for me, emotionally. I will soon be done with treatment, have another surgery, and finish my hormone therapy, but when does the depression or loneliness stop? Or the feeling of being traumatized by the sudden halt of normal life? OR the utter horror of the possibility of my cancer coming back? I know these are scary things to think about but it's real and alive and I'm facing this scary thing that I'll eventually sort out...


I just wanted to share with you that cancer, as funny as I've shown it to be at times, and as important as it is to try to see the silver lining and stay positive, it actually, in reality, really really really sucks, and I'm kind of starting to realize that now, or maybe I'm finally just FACING it now for what it really is. 
As I reflect back on this past year, I look forward to the year ahead with curiosity - no expectations, just wonderment. So here's to an interesting 2016 dedicated to emotional healing, mindfulness and gratitude. (And hopefully some hair growth)
Thanks to everyone who reads my blog, I don't know what I would do without all of you.

xx
Amanda

VERY first doctor's appointment after being diagnosed, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. I loved their robes. I miss them. 

VERY first doctor's appointment after being diagnosed, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. I loved their robes. I miss them. 

Drying my freshly chopped locks

Drying my freshly chopped locks

It was a good hair day for the BOTH of us!

It was a good hair day for the BOTH of us!

My sweet man on a sweet hike to this sweet lake.

My sweet man on a sweet hike to this sweet lake.

Sissy Sleepover Party

Sissy Sleepover Party

A/C injection during chemo. If I never see one of those again, it will be too soon. 

A/C injection during chemo. If I never see one of those again, it will be too soon. 

Feelin' like shit inside, trying to spaaaaarkle on the outside :) 

Feelin' like shit inside, trying to spaaaaarkle on the outside :) 

There's no sparkle here

There's no sparkle here

Best Frands  

Best Frands

 

Sissy's wedding. 

Sissy's wedding. 

Family 

Family 

Dads. and socks given to me by Amanda C. Love you <3

Dads. and socks given to me by Amanda C. Love you <3

Not feeling particularly well. 

Not feeling particularly well. 

GAH Girls!

GAH Girls!

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Lovely Friends

My friend, Lisa Williams, (soon to be Bühler) is the definition of chic, creative, beautiful AND thoughtful. Lisa has been there for me through my sick and non-sick days, supporting me in the most special of ways. She has an online shop called Lisa Says Gah - www.LisaSaysGah.com
in which she featured me last October in the "interviews" section, where she typically interviews artists, designers, writers etc. This interview was for Breast Cancer Awareness week, and if you ask me, I think it came out pretty darn amazing!!!
You can check out the interview (by Olivia La Roche) and awesome photos (by ANNA-ALEXIA BASILE) here : http://www.lisasaysgah.com/amanda-niello-thanks-i-have-cancer
*And don't forget to shop her beautiful collection of clothing, accessories, shoes and intimates :)
The most flattering part of this whole thing is that Lisa and her team recently included me in their "A year of Quotes, Advice for a better 2016" email. Thanks ladies, you are too good to me.

I have a family friend, Caterina Mellinger, who writes for a column in the Contra Costa Times. She recently did a special article on my journey through cancer.and I want to share it with you all. 
Thanks so much Cat, Love you <3
http://www.contracostatimes.com/my-town/ci_29299712/around-alamo-native-turns-serious-topic-into-lighthearted