Live well.

Rooted and Whole

We are rooted, we are whole.

How would our days unfold if we treated ourselves as such? That we are complete, just as we are.

What could you do to love yourself from the inside out? Is it a satisfying meal, a hike up a mountain, reading a book to a child?

A good night’s sleep with lavender misted across your pillow and your dogs keeping you warm by your side?

Do you need to increase your heartrate and feel your body move against the Earth?

Can we slow our days down just enough to step into the rhythm of this mysterious life as it was given to us, not as we think it ought to be? Trusting life, our inner voices, and accepting ourselves as complete.

We are Love, we are Loved. We are Rooted, we are Whole. Let us care for ourselves and for each other as such.


I wrote the above on April 27, 2017 with the idea of this blog being a place for me to share my passion for life, nature, food and wellness. On May 24, 2017, I was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer.

As someone who takes self-care very seriously, this diagnosis came as a shock. Rooted and Whole was going to be a place where I could inspire others to eat well and live well. I am young, I have two  young children, an amazing husband, I run, hike, practice yoga, grow a garden, commune with God, on and on and — what? Breast cancer?

The long awaited call came five days after my biopsy. “Mrs. Howard, we did find some cancer cells in your biopsy…,” said some man on the phone who I had never met.

Cancer? Breast cancer?

I called my husband in shock and told him the news as I began to fall apart.

Strangely, my mother had just arrived five minutes before I got the call. After waiting anxiously by the phone for days and wanting to be alone when I received it, I got the call moments after she arrived and before she even had a chance to bring her bags in after a long drive from NC. I had wanted to be alone so I could process the good or the bad news in my own way. Maybe God knew what I needed more than what I wanted. I drug myself down the stairs to where she stood on the deck and told her I had breast cancer.

She was visiting for my nephew’s high school graduation the following day, Thursday. My Dad remained in NC because, well, just because.  My son’s fifth grade graduation was on Friday.

I plowed through the next couple of days and these momentous events with a smile on my face. I got dressed, fixed my hair, put on makeup, purchased and wrote in congratulatory cards–

Happy graduation! Good luck in your future endeavors! I hope you don’t die of cancer right as your kids are coming of age and need you the most!

What a cruel trick. Take me right up to my son’s elementary graduation, show me flashbacks through those tender years, and ask me to get through it all knowing in the back of my mind things are about to change, fast.

This is how I felt those first few days.  Blindsided with fear and grief. Devastated. Angry. Resentful.  It’s not that I’m absolutely afraid of dying, but I’m afraid of leaving my children. Terrified is not even an adequate word to describe how tumultuous those days were for me.

The company left, school wrapped up for the summer, and I had a day or two to rest and process. I told a couple of friends but still could not quite believe it myself. I went through the motions of one more graduation party – trying to talk with friends and appreciate everything around me.

Friday was my first appointment with my breast doctor/surgeon. Tuesday was my appointment with my oncologist.  Friday was an MRI. Sunday was another MRI because the first one glitched. One scary thing after another, one feat after another conquered. Women doctors I was meeting for the very first time and trusting to treat and heal me.  Women who are very smart and very capable and who began breaking my fears down, one by one, as we began to formulate a plan.

It’s now been twelve days since I got the phone call. There are still many unknowns and many fears. But I’ve come to realize a beautiful thing: I am not alone. Having two doctors I trust instinctually, a husband who supports and loves me unconditionally, the pure and innocent love from my babies, many caring friends and family members, even strangers who have walked this path before. In some strange way, this will all be OK. I’m trying to relax and let go and trust. Trust these amazing doctors. Relax and enjoy the time with my family like I never have before. Knowing that today is “enough.” Trusting God and the universe to take care of the details I cannot control. Let go and live in the present moment with everything I have.

This blog has taken a different turn before I even made my first post, but the underlying goal is the same: take care of yourself and the ones you love – there is truly nothing more important or a greater gift.

~Gretchen

P.S. – For those interested in the details, my infiltrating ductal carcinoma is between Stage 1 and 2, well-differentiated, has a low growth rate, estrogen receptor positive, progesterone receptor negative, and HER-2 negative. MRI and genetics testing results are pending. I couldn’t be more pleased with my team of doctors and have full faith that this will be an obstacle that I will fully overcome. I’d also like to encourage my lady friends to do regular breast exams and keep up with your yearly mammograms. I found this small lump in my breast and knew it was something that needed to be checked. My mammogram in March 2016 was normal.

 

 



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