As a photographer, and self proclaimed artist (smile) my biggest coping mechanism has been taking pictures. Even as a child, I would stock up on disposable cameras and drive my grandparents crazy to get them developed for me.
I documented everything about my father's cancer journey in pictures. From the day of the diagnosis, to the emergency hospital stays, the treatment, the rehabilitation, the home hospice, and his death.
It's hard for me not to be emotional seeing these pictures. So many different thoughts and feelings that I experianced these last days. His last month of life.
My dad had gotten a cold that winter and it just would not go away. He was stubborn and would not let my sister or myself know just how bad he felt.
For a while his cold symptoms had even seemed to clear up. But by early spring he had developed a terrible cough again. A lump in his lymph nodes on his neck had began to form. He believed they were just swollen because of his cold, so he did not say anything to us.
My father was never the type of person to see a doctor. I was never fully sure if it was fear, or trying to avoid the financial burdens of medical care. He was always like this. As long as I can remember. Stubborn single father who always tried to put everyone's needs above his own.
When he finally let us know what was going on, his lump was as big as my fist. I was terrified, but I tried so very hard not to let it show as I knew it was my turn to be strong for my father.
We went to the ER and left with a recommendation for a cancer specialist. I remember before the official diagnosis feeling so hopeful. I had done a lot of reading online, and originally doctors believed he had hodgkin's lymphoma. A very scary cancer indeed, but it had really good survival statistics. We were ready to fight.
When my father went in for the biopsy he had a lot of trouble breathing and was admitted to the hospital. We waited a week for the results of that test. Rapid test showed he indeed had cancer, and doctors began to discuss chemotherapy with us. But we had to wait for the official diagnosis with the cancer type.
I was still very hopeful. I got to know his oncologist very well over this week. His nurse too. I was bugging them every day to see if they had results as the hospital we were in seemed to know nothing.
This week seemed to last a year. The wait. It was terrible.
I remember getting the call. The call. The life altering call. I was sitting in my friends car outside the hospital. I had been doing over night stays with my dad and was getting ready to go home, eat and shower. For whatever reason, the phone did not ring and went straight to voice mail. I played it on speaker. Right away I knew by my father's oncologist's tone that things were really bad. I had never heard sadness in a doctor's voice before. And he said he was sorry. So so sorry.
Up until this moment we never heard the words Lung Cancer. And I never in my life had heard of Extensive Staged Small Cell Lung Cancer. I knew nothing.
I later learned the 5-year relative survival rate for stage III SCLC is about 8%. SCLC that has spread to other parts of the body is often hard to treat. Stage IV SCLC has a relative 5-year survival rate of about 2%. My father discovered his in stage 4. Some doctors classify anything that has spread past the lungs as "Extensive Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer". It's a terminal cancer with very little treatment options.
I hid in the tiny bathroom of my dad's hospital room, I sat on the floor and I cried. I punched the sink. I felt like I was going to throw up. But I got up, looked in the mirror and said "get it together, Lopez... get it together, Taylor." Wiped my tears away, and went back to sit with my dad.
We agreed to do Chemotherapy to shrink the tumors to help with breathing and extend quality of life. We learned that this would not be a cure, and that they could not even properly give him a true estimate of time. Just that if we didn't do the chemotherapy, it would be very soon.
After chemotherapy, my father almost seemed to be getting better. His growths did decrease in size. And we were all feeling hopeful. We were told perhaps a hospice would be a great option for us. I don't think anybody was ready to hear that.
We were moved to a recovery room on the top floor. It was bigger, private and had a view.
The chemotherapy caused huge painful blisters all over my father's legs. A rare side effect. Something we were not ready for and would continue to worsen and grow until the end.
We were warned about his chances of pneumonia and infection. But were told to remain positive.
He went from the hospital into a rehabilitation center for a while to learn to use a walker and adjust to his new life. Things seemed great at first, but then my dad started to feel really sick.
That's when the ground was ripped from beneath our feet. Our worst fears had came true and my dad had developed pneumonia.
He was tired. He didn't want to fight anymore and asked me to call a hospice so he could come home. He hadn't been home for nearly a month. I think that in part made him want to stop fighting faster. He just wanted to come home. And decided against more hospital stays to treat the pneumonia.
He lived exactly one week from the time he came home from the rehabilitation center.
I have a long post about the spiritual experiences I had during the last week of my dad's life, and I will link it here: (Saying Goodbye To My Father; A Lesson In Faith) https://www.sugarygiggles.com/blog/saying-goodbye-to-my-father-a-lesson-in-faith
We had an amazing hospice team that I will forever be thankful for. I am not sure I could have done it without their amazing help and resources.
My father died at home surrounded by people he loved. I wish that we had more time, and that things would have went differently. I remember at one point in the hospital him telling me not to worry, because he was not ready to go yet either.
Not a day goes by that I don't miss him and that I don't think about him. Grief is truly a journey that we will go on forever.
I shared a lot of these images before in a collection, but I did not offer any real context to them. I simply said "my father's cancer journey in pictures". That's it. I really can't believe it has taken me 2 years to make this post. To clarify what all these images mean.
The endless medications, the breathing machines, the hospital stays... all of it. Even now, I feel like I have not put enough weight into my words and that I could do better.
I am posting this to let others going through similar know that they are not alone. That their feelings and emotions are valid. I don't think anybody can fully understand what it is like to have someone you love diagnosed with a terminal disease. Knowing that they are going to die.
We all need to be kinder and gentler to each other. We only get one life. And your time on this Earth is precious.
*Disclaimer; I was not paid or given any free products to express these opinions.
The very first time Doterra was mentioned to me and how I needed to try it was when my father was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. Now I had already been using Essential oils... but this was supposed to be THE brand to go to.
My father was dying and I was desperate to try anything to give him some peace and relief. My bill with them was over $200 for 3 oils. Yes, you read that correctly. Full disclosure, I do not mind paying more for quality. I buy organic vegetables and locally grown from my farmer's market. So I was willing to pay for quality. But even more so...to dig into the way I was thinking at this time. I wasn't in my right mind when my dad passed. I did not have time to do price checking. My only concern was if these oils were real and could get here fast as I could not travel to the place where I normally went. I needed mail order.
They arrived a little later than what the website said. But still a fair amount of time. I take no issues with this.
After my father passed, which had absolutely no relations to the oils. He had end stage lung cancer, oils were for comfort... I started to do a little research on Doterra and their oils.
And again, let me stress... the oils were good quality. But I noticed right away that they were not much different, if any than the oils I already had in my home. So I got to thinking... why were these 2x and in some cases 3x the money?
Their website says: "certified pure therapeutic grade"
That sounds amazing, right? But what does it mean exactly?
"Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils is a Potentially Misleading Claim. No governmental agency or generally accepted organization "grades" or "certifies" essential oils as "therapeutic grade," "medicinal grade," or "aromatherapy grade" in the U.S." (aromaweb)
And the more I researched I found that not only is it basically a meaningless term. Doterra made it up. This next part is from their own website;
"Without an accepted standard for essential oil quality, doTERRA created its own testing process, calling it CPTG Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade®."
I started to feel a bit stupid. I wished I had reached out to other people in the cancer community before spending all that money. But the cancer industry, much like Doterra knows when people are desperate for health and a long life for ourselves or a loved one... well we would do just about anything.
Then I got really curious about their marketing techniques and the way they ran their company. Full disclosure, I despise MLM companies. I think they sell people pipe dreams, encourage bad Karma, and make you sell to your friends and family to be successful. What a nightmare.
The lady I bought mine from was a casual friend on Facebook. She tried to push me to join, and it kinda irritated me at the time because I kept having to reiterate to her that my father is dying. I am in charge of his hospice care. I have no time to join your team.
I also found it odd that she, and other sellers on Facebook insist you give them your email address so that they can further discuss the benefits and uses of these oils.
Why was this? Well I later found out Facebook has been laying the ban hammer on MLM company reps. Especially those who make statements not approved by the FDA.
Come to find out the FDA has been up their bums since 2014. And before you jump on the conspiracy theory train.... The FDA isn't anti Essential Oils. Neither is the National Cancer Society.
Again, not disputing Essential Oils. I think they are AMAZING! And if you want some science to back it up, check out this study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4070586/
My issue is the shady dealings and over priced product of one company. So let's continue....
I still couldn't find anything that justifies the increased cost of these oils that use the same exact ingredients and sources as other companies.
And I wasn't alone. Many people and former reps have came fourth with their stories about the extreme costs of these oils. Many felt guilty for selling these products to people with limited income because they knew that there were cheaper alternatives out there.
(I will link some of those stories below)
One thing I keep hearing over and over is all the good this company is doing for people. How amazing their oils are for people. But if the average person can not afford the oil, what good are they actually doing?
I am a firm believer in this:
So exactly how much more money is Doterra to other companies? Let's break it down.
Doterra Lavender: $28.00 for 0.5oz
Eden's Garden Lavender $10 for 0.5 oz
Plant Therapy Lavender $6.95 for 0.5 oz
How about something as simple as Basil. Here are screenshots from their websites;
These are huge differences. And if you research just these two companies I used as examples (Eden's Garden & Plant Therapy) you will see they have absolutely outstanding reviews.
The big difference? 30% 40% and in most cases over 50% cheaper. Their blends are double and some go for over $100 for 15 ml. Why in the world is that?
I am not here to bash the quality of Doterra. Again, I purchased my own oils from the company in 2016. I was happy with the oil... but I felt I was cheated with the price.
Is Doterra a scam? In my honest opinion, all MLM companies are scammers. And most people will not make the money they are told. In fact, most could earn more getting a part time minimum wage job.
And their oils were not any better than most of the leading brands you can buy on the market. Including those sold in Walmart and other major retailers.
But ultimately this is a decision you have to make for yourself. And YOUR Karma.
Do you honestly feel it is morally right to sell people who may be struggling financially oils at 3x what other companies charge for the same quality oils? Because again, let me stress... the oils were good quality. But I noticed right away that they were not much different, if any than the oils I already had in my home. So why 2x and in some cases 3x the money?
Do you think it's fair to take advantage of people who are already paying HUGE medical bills? People with cancer? People with chronic illnesses?
Do you want to push products on your friends and family to make a little extra income?
People who trust YOU to help them make an important choice.
That is for you to decide. Personally, I can't lie to people just to make a quick buck.
If you found this blog post because you were worried about Doterra and heard some of the things I did... And now you're like crap, then where do I buy my oils?
Here are a few alternatives that I use. I encourage you to do your own research and make the best decisions for you and your family. There are MANY others out there. You could probably even find some small local person who makes their own blends as well.
Other blogs discussing Doterra:
Lover when you don't lay with me
I'm a huntress for a husband lost at sea
If I had you here, we were here together
I'd be boy and you'd be girl, beautiful
Calling moon and moon
Shoot that big bad hand
It'll drag me to your door
Now I won't see you no more
(Moon and Moon - Bat for Lashes)
Ashlie, Poppy Marie, and I pulled some universe cards and picked out our favorite crystals so they can be charged by the full moon tonight. We added some pinecones and simple earthy rocks we found on our hike over the weekend. We are trying to make this a mother / daughter tradition. It's really nice to have this to share with them.
The full moon means a lot of different things to different people. Some use it as an opportunity to remove the things that no longer serve us and to complete things we need to do.
Many cultures and people believe in following the cycles of the moon. One complete cycle of the moon takes exactly 28 days to complete. Similar to a women's menstrual cycle.. which is why some cultures believe the moon to be female. And a full moon being the time to embrace the feminine, emotional, creative and nurturing aspects of our lives.
I personally notice I am a bit more anxious around this time. Sometimes a bit combative. Whilst I have heard others experience happiness during a full moon.
Lots of different rituals are done on a full moon. Some really neat group meditations and gatherings. Beautiful candle ceremonies. Moon baths. Making alters.. Charging your crystal and pulling cards from your favourite decks. Some people make full moon teas and healing sprays (full moon nights that rain).
I love to focus / meditate on the things I need to work on, and the things I need to let go of. I keep a simple journal of monthly goals and I go through the ones I still need to complete and work on.
I plan I going for a hike this evening to really take it in. I am hoping it doesn't rain. Happy Harvest Moon. 🍃🍂🌾🌻🌕
Last night I dreamed about fishing at the lake with my dad... the lake off Webster ave in Pelham, NY. I often wonder how it looks now and if I am remembering it right and how much has changed over the years. One of my favorite things to do was see how much the trees grew in photos from the year before.
As the dream went on I started to remember my dad's Lung Cancer....I wonder why he isn't sick and why we are back in NY. Then it hits me....
My grandfather walks up to me, and we are both watching my dad fish.
I said to him, "he looks good, huh?"
He smiled at me...
I then said... "I know I'm sleeping."
His face dropped and everything around us went grey. Just a big empty space. My grandfather and I are the only two people there. I then said...
"It's ok. Thank you for letting me come here."
And he hugged me. He hugged me so tight I felt it and I swear it was real. I woke up feeling content.... and calm. Many times I dreamt about my dad or my grandparents it hits me that I am dreaming, but this is the first time I ever told them I knew.
My new sleepless night routine is listening to the old 1950s Scifi radio show X Minus One. I am obsessed. The story telling is great. A lot of it is predictable, but there are some surprises. I was very surprised at the quailty. Sounds as good as it did when it first aired I imagined.
I think it's also a cool way to connect with my dad as this was one of the shows he listened to as a kid. I find a lot of enjoyment in doing the things he loved. I truly believe that our loved ones live on through us. Doing their hobbies, listening to their music, telling their stories.
If you can't get out the house to see a therapist, or don't have health insurance. I highly recommend www.betterhelp.com
They have a ton of promo codes for free sessions floating around the internet. I am not sponsored by them, so sadly I don't have a promo code... but if you google around, I am sure you can find them. Their website is full of licensed therapists and you can even shop around until you find the one that works best for you.
Video chat, phone call, text / email. As often as you need. Whatever works best for you and your budget.
I personally use them.
((***edit I recently found out they have discounts for low income families. I am not sure how this works, but worth an inquiry. ))
Struggling a bit financially but still need someone to talk to? https://www.7cups.com also has licensed therapists, but also offers a FREE community with tons of resources and communities + FREE peer to peer chat. So if you're looking to talk to someone dealing with something similar, they are a community of really awesome people.
If you need help right now in this very moment, the national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255
Or if you are like me, and talking on the phone with strangers gives you a bit of anxiety...
Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.
I also can suggest some spiritual coaches and peer support groups if needed. Just shoot me a message here or on fb.
“Dear Universe, May I now be permitted to clear this space so that my intentions can flow clearly from my heart onto paper. So be it, so it is.”
#NewMoon #MoonRitual #NewMoonManifesting
I don't think anxiety is the same for every person. And I believe there is this huge misconception that one can simply turn it off like a light switch.
Sometimes my anxiety makes me feel like everyone hates me. I mean... everyone. Honestly if you've been in my life the past ten years, I have felt this way about you at some point. Maybe you took too long to answer a text. Maybe you were busy and didn't answer at all. The littlest things can trigger these thoughts. And it's nothing anyone did wrong. Life happens. Rational normal thinking me gets that.. I do. But anxiety me doesn't.
Sometimes at night I stay up until six am thinking about an awkward moment I had with a friend a week ago. Maybe a year ago - or ten? The time and space between an incident really doesn't matter. I am still going to think about it. I am going to worry about it. Despite knowing the person it involved probably doesn't even remember what happened. I still care.
I take everything personally. Even if I don't outwardly show it. I often think that I am being annoying, or that I am talking too much. And I rarely text first because of my overwhelming fears of rejection.
Even though I know all these thoughts are not rational, simply telling me "don't think that way" doesn't work. It does more harm than good because it's just frustrating.
Anxiety becomes so overwhelming for me at times that I feel like I can not breathe. Like a hugs pile of cinderblocks have fallen on to my chest and then someone sat down on them.
Some days everything feels so overwhelming that I can't even get out of bed. I feel physical pain. My body hurts. I feel sick to my stomach. Sometimes I even throw up. I get headaches that bring me to tears.
People with anxiety aren't pretending to have an illness for attention. Most of us don't even talk about it because it's embarrassing and we are misunderstood. It makes us feel out of control with our own lives. With our friends, our spouses, our family, our children.... We don't want this life....
And just because we have irrational fears at times doesn't mean we aren't logical and critical thinkers. As I said above, I know the thoughts or feelings aren't usually true. But that doesn't stop my mind (and body) from going through the motions.
Everyone's levels of anxiety are different. So are our ways of dealing with the stress. A lot of my friends don't even understand the depth of mine because they don't think they have ever seen me in a panic. But at parties, out to lunch or shoots I feel it. It's happened with every person I know at some point or another..I will toon out mid conversation. I sort of stare into space thinking about different things to ground me in that moment.
Lastly, despite all this.... I acknowledge that I have it easy compared to other people. I have found ways to live with my anxiety. Although I still have some really bad days... most are manageable. Not everyone with anxiety is this lucky.
I wish we as a society could look at mental illness differently. I am not asking anyone to treat me with the kid gloves... but to acknowledge that it's real illness like anything physical. And just how you need self care for the flu or a cold... we need self care for the mind.
*** Disclaimer I am not a medical professional and am purely speaking from my own experiences and from things people in my peer support groups have shared. I am not self diagnosed. I am under the care of a medical professional / therapist. Treatment varies for different people. What works for me is talk therapy, kind and understanding friends and family, meditation, grounding exercises, aromatherapy, music, and physical activity like walking or dancing. I am not anti medication. I am not on meds, but believe everyone has to do what is right for them.
There are some things (and honestly some people) that just no longer mesh into your life. Sometimes it's not just enough to ignore the situation, you have to pick up and leave. I spent ten years in a city I hated. I thought it was perhaps simply the people I associated myself with making me so unhappy, but it was so much deeper than that. I was living for change and peace around me but was surrounded by hateful people who were going no where. Just going outside, walking the streets and over hearing the conversations of strangers. I could not escape it. I had to get my family and myself out of there.
Change is good. Whenever someone says I have changed, I see it as a wonderful thing. I am constantly learning and growing. Society is always shifting. As I learn new things, my opinions and outlooks on life change. I am not the same person I was two years ago. And I am definitely not the same person I was 1 year ago. I don't even think I am the same as six months ago.
I keep saying this, and I will continue to do so.... LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO BE UNHAPPY. Don't wait for change, make the change. Cut all the negative out. Don't let it hold you back one second longer. Not everyone has the will to or can drop everything and leave. I understand that. In my personal life I am adapting to a minimalist lifestyle. That isn't everyone's jam. But for me it made leaving everything behind so much easier.
You can set your own goals. Come up with your own plan. Go as fast or as slow as you need... but don't stand still. It's scary. It may even feel impossible, but if I can do it. Trust me. Anyone can.
I get a little tired of people who assume that just because you have kids, you are automatically completely uncool, and that all your time is spent wiping babies from head to toe, giving spit baths, criticizing their every move, volunteering for PTA, blogging in your spare time, clipping coupons before crock potting a pot roast, ironing the clothes, bleaching the whites, mopping the floors, harvesting your eggs, sewing for your etsy shop, scrapbooking the little things, taking pictures of everything they do, saving for college, reading Dr. Suess, socializing at the bus stop, sweeping the floor, laughing over coffee with your jogging stroller, wearing your birkenstocks and listening to Baby Einstein.
Just because I DO THESE THINGS OCCASIONALLY.
Does not mean for one second that sometimes I don’t just want to be a kick ass girl with streaks in her hair, a ring in her nose, a tattoo on her arm, concert tickets in her purse, vodka in her fridge, a leather mini-skirt in her closet, her best single friends and a standing reservation for Las Vegas once a year with a don’t ask don’t tell policy, and the desire to just once be seen as more than the mother of 5 kids. Sometimes I just want to be seen as a “Maggie”. A “Maggie” with an extremely adorable set of children… (I joke, but sometimes it's hard to over come labels. )
Married + 5 Children
Born in New York
Living in Chicago Land
Italian + Mexican American household
Published Photographer + Artist
Lung Cancer Activist + Advocate
Social Media Enthusiast
Openly in Grief Therapy
Believes in Freedom Of Religion
Studied Animal Science
Backpacking + Hiking
Crystals + Meditation + Yoga
Writing + Scrapbooking + Blogging
Foodie + Cooking + Baking
Tropical Fish Keeping
Coffee + Coffee Shops
Travel + Road trips
Okkervil River + Good indie bands