I Love The Snow

It’s snowing outside tonight.  This is about the third snow in as many weeks.  I love the snow and am excited to see it, probably because watching it fall beautifully and blanket the world around me is mesmerizing, almost hypnotic.  It’s calming.  It won’t snow every day, but I try to do something every day that is calming – listening to a favorite song, reading my Bible or an inspirational verse, or watching video that I took of the ocean while at the beach.  The sound of the ocean is even higher on my list than watching snow fall.  We all need things to calm us and take our mind to a peaceful place.  Find yours and try to do at least one every day.

January 28, 2014

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.


The Survivor’s Definition of Doing It All

This Week on the Today Show, Maria Shriver reported on Doing It All  and the toll it is taking on women.  In full disclosure, I didn’t see any segment in its entirety, but got the overview and plan to watch in full this weekend.  I did watch most of a segment highlighting a woman who went from living a high income life to bankruptcy as a result of her husband’s loss of employment and his illness.  I don’t believe she detailed his specific illness, but it got me thinking about what happens to a Doing It All woman, in our Do it All culture of superwomanhood when she suddenly has to add being breast cancer patient to her list.

It’s like a car wreck, you are speeding through life, perfunctorily going through the motions when you crash, turned upside down with your entire life flashing before you.  It can be some of the most life altering news when you hear the doctor deliver your diagnosis .  “You’ve got cancer”.  In addition to your already exhaustive to do list, you now have to add survive which has several actions of its own.  Doing It All must now be redefined after an analysis of everything that you are doing and why you are doing it.

Wherever you are in life, especially if you are in the midst of a survival journey, make a list of why you are doing it all.  Below are a few of mine, but insert your own.

  1. I’m doing it all to survive.
  2. I’m doing it all to be healthy.  (I try to run a few times a week and often tweet about #exercising4mylife because my focus and my goal is to be healthy and I’ll often “miss out” on something else just to get in my exercise.  Alignment.)
  3. I’m doing it all to have a wonderful quality of life
  4. I’m doing it all to live life to the fullest.
  5. And, I’m doing it all graciously accepting unconditional support from my small but powerful A team of family and close friends

When you analyze why you are doing it all, it will change what you are doing, who you are doing it all for, and who you are doing it all with.  And, “all” will take on a new meaning and encompass only the highest priority to dos.  If your life has passed before your eyes, doing it all should have a heavy dose of selfishness and point back to you.  This is not to say that you discount your family and friends because they are surely the fabric in the tapestry of your life that makes it rich and beautiful; but, you are the glue.

Keep your list short.  Keep it close and review it often to keep your priorities aligned and subtract all the rest.   There’s nothing quite like a diagnosis of a life threatening illness to make you quickly assess what are wasteful time busters and what are essential activities.  Doing It All will have a new definition and should yield more meaningful outcomes.

January 17, 2014

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.


Feel No Guilt About Your “Guilty” Pleasure

We often talk in “secret” and “embarrassment” about our guilty pleasures.  The secret and shame stems from guilt that we shouldn’t be doing whatever our guilty pleasure is.  But, we should focus more on the pleasure.  Life can be so stressful that we need to identify and  jump into our guilty pleasure.

I’ve often said that my guilty pleasure is reality TV, specifically food competitions.  I don’t like to cook, that’s no secret, and I know it’s not really real, but I love watching food competitions and can get lost in back to back episodes.  I get so rapt in them that I’m far removed and actually stress free.  I used to work with a powerful executive.  She was a corporate power broker of the highest level.  During a business reception we started talking about TV and she shocked me with the amount of “junk” TV she enjoyed.  When asked about it, she said her job was so stressful that she just enjoyed being able to pull back and get lost for a few hours.

If you don’t have one (or two, or three) identify your pleasure.  Feel no guilt about it if it doesn’t hurt or harm anyone and just focus on the pleasure.  Put it on your menu and indulge!

January 10, 2014

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.


Know Your Strength, Even Through Your Tears

It’s like nails on a chalkboard, hearing someone say “She’s so strong, I never see her cry.”  I have heard this numerous times and, my one college logic course, suggests that crying = weakness and not crying = strength.  However, I know personally that there is nothing farther from the truth.

The physical and emotional pain from breast cancer, as a patient or a caregiver, can be overwhelming and the only release may be a “good” cry or several “good” cries.  And then, there is the reality of a pity party; the lamentation of “why me” that can stir the strongest of emotions that bring tears.  It may be a single tear down the side of your face or a seemingly everlasting waterfall that engulfs you and takes a long time to quell.

The moments of strength are the moments before, during and after the tears where you resolve to fight no matter what, to move forward through the pain and in the face of devastation and destruction while holding on to a sliver of faith.  The moments of strength are the moments where, balled up in the fetal position, you muster up enough determination for that moment and each moment turns into another and the walk forward continues.  The tears can be cathartic and serve as a catalyst for putting some bad moments in the distance and looking ahead to better moments.  Know your strength, even through your tears.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.


Ask For What You Want

If you don’t know this about me already, you’ll get to know it – I learn a lot from my children and their youthful fearlessness and innocence has been a welcome beacon of hope during my survival journey.  They’ve not been jaded by major life disappointments and, consequently, share their vigor with me.   They were very young; my daughter was 19 months old and my son 4 years old when I was diagnosed.  My thin frame and bald head are very distant and almost non-existent memories for them.  But, unknowingly, the support they provided to me during my diagnosis and treatment is irreplaceable, incomparable and invaluable.

A while ago, my children and I were at an event for my now 6 year old daughter.  As a reward for her and all of the other participants completing the event, she was given the choice of any flavor lollipop in the bucket.  My 9 year old son, who had not participated in the event, asked if he could get a lollipop as well.  As an immediate knee jerk reaction, I told him that the rules indicated that the lollipops were only for those who had participated.  Nonplussed by this, my son – ever the tenacious young man – decided it didn’t hurt to ask the person responsible for the lollipops.  I guess the teachings of my husband and I do sink in as we have guided our children, not to break rules, but to ask for what they want.  My son asked and was immediately allowed to pick the flavor he wanted.  He and my daughter left the event smiling and excited about the oncoming sugar rush.

I’m never a proponent of breaking rules that will hurt or harm another, but in the new normal, the rules are different and often have to be defined by you as the survivor, and as the fighter.  Old rules, paradigms and frameworks often have no place in the new normal and when causing no harm to others, should easily be broken.  As you design the most beautiful new normal you can have, you have to ask for what you want, work for it and there may often be a sweet surprise involved.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.




Playing the Game, Managing the Clock and Surviving Triumphantly

Have you ever watched a sports game where the score is close near halftime and after halftime unbelievable plays are made, a previously losing team outscores their opponent and shockingly wins the game?  Or, have you ever turned on the news or looked at the cover of a major newspaper or magazine and seen the story of an underdog team that forces a game into overtime, enough time to be triumphant?  One of the consistent messages you’ll hear when the team is asked “how’d you do it?” is “we kept playing, managed the clock and believed we could win”.

As a triple negative breast cancer survivor, a fifth generation cancer patient who has experienced the devastating cancer losses, the words of winners resonate with me.  I’ve often viewed cancer as a formidable and undefeatable opponent.  There is something that I call the dichotomy of cancer, while surviving you can feel at one moment invincible and a moment later feel completely vulnerable wondering if cancer could strike once, could it strike again, harder and with ultimate finality.  I’ll never know what my final outcome will be, but I know that I’ve learned the best way to face cancer, to survive on my terms, is to do what the underdogs do in the Big games, to make the big plays that count, believe that I can win and use all of the time on the clock.

When I was diagnosed at the age of 38, I looked at my life similar to a basketball or football game, with four quarters and maybe possible overtime.  I marked my breast cancer diagnosis as my halftime and decided that I’d do everything in my power to make sure that my next two quarters (or last half) would be played with vigor, that I wouldn’t spend a minute on the sideline, playing every minute of the clock.  However, during my five years of surviving I’ve had a slight change.  Playing doesn’t mean that I have to be physically active every moment of the game, but I do need to be constantly working on my winning strategy that does include time outs (see 1/2/14 blog A Restful Mind and a Recharged Spirit in 2014).  But, I’m now looking at more of a baseball paradigm, a game that has nine innings, a seventh inning stretch (break time yay!) and can go into extra innings.  My strategy is to manage the clock by extracting all that I can out of every minute, prepare for a lot of innings, even force some extra innings and survive victoriously.  And I’ll keep playing hard because I believe I can win.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

A Restful Mind and a Recharged Spirit in 2014

As we start the new year, I want to write about something that is vitally important to us all and something around which we could all make a resolution – get more rest, unplug, restore.  I recently had some situations that provided illustrations of why rest is so important.

Last month, I was driving and my car radio kept blinking on and off.  As a lover of music, I hate driving in a quiet car and love to always have some music playing while I’m driving.  I kept pushing the power button trying to force the radio to power up and stay on.  The more I tried, the more it kept giving me a quick blink and light up as if it was going to come on and then shut off just as quickly.  After a while, I decided it might be pointless to keep trying especially since I needed to focus on the road and not on my radio.  So I just left it off and let it “rest”.  When I got to my destination, I had to turn off the car and get out.  A few minutes later, I was back in the car.  When I turned on the car, the radio came on with no problems and no more erratic behavior.

Last month I also had been having a lot of trouble with my home cable box.  As a lover of movies (music and movies are my thing) I was irked that I wasn’t able to see any good on-demand movies.  I tinkered with my box, doing everything in the troubleshooting guide.  In addition, I also spent a few hours on the phone with customer care trying to resolve the issue.  After exhausting all of my options and those provided by customer care, I was still unable to get my cable box working.  Exhausted myself, I finally just unplugged every single plug (plug going from cable box into TV, plug from TV to the outlet, all plugs) for a while and let it rest.  After a few minutes, I plugged in all the plugs and began browsing the guide to select my next great movie.

All of this was eerily similar to my own life.  When I’m exhausted, I just don’t work well, if at all.  Sometimes I push myself only to achieve the law of diminishing returns.  An all-nighter is no longer productive for me; it only produces irritability for the next several days and no tangible results, achievements or accomplishments.  It’s the voice in my body telling me to rest.

I’ve always been a lover of naps, especially a rainy Saturday afternoon nap.  But more than ever, I love all types of rest and it doesn’t have to be sleep, but just time to unplug and recharge.  There is no way I can overemphasize the importance of rest and how it has been beneficial to my emotional, physical and spiritual healing journey.  So, as you start the year and make all types of resolutions, many that will no doubt require your energy and focus, remember how key a restful mind and a recharged spirit can be to achieving those goals. Happy resolutions.  Happy recharging.  Happy 2014.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.