I turned 40 today. And I woke up this morning feeling…conflicted.

On one hand I am overflowing with gratitude for being alive despite all that I have been through recently. Not only did I dodge cancer earlier this year, less than two weeks ago I got into a horrific car wreck that left two vehicles totaled.

No major injuries thankfully, mercifully, beautifully. But I find my ego and my sense of confidence have been shaken furiously, calling me to question my self worth.

So this morning, I also woke up with a sense of anxiety about the bigger picture of my life.  Why was I spared? What is my higher calling? Am I doing everything I was meant to do?


I can only imagine that this feeling of conflict is something I share with so many other survivors. I feel as though I have this pressure to make something of my life; this urgency to do something significant with the time I have been given. I have been given an awareness of the how truly lucky I am and how wonderful and sweet life can be and I shouldn’t WASTE IT.

I seem to be repeatedly shown how precariously close one’s life can come to the edge of oblivion. And when I am yanked back from the edge and told “you survived,” I am expected to simply ease back into normal, everyday life.

But life after trauma is anything but normal. And I for one find myself longing to figure out “the big picture” and my role in it.

I feel like the clock is ticking to do something worthwhile; something BIG; something that will ripple outward and onward long after I do end up leaving this Earth.

Talk about pressure.

But what if our purpose is so much simpler than that? So much smaller, so easy, so seemingly insignificant, we overlook its importance and its true gravity?

What if I already had it half right this morning when I woke up simply…GRATEFUL?


That’s it. No catch. Just find at least one thing to be grateful for each day and latch onto that and let your gratitude radiate outward.

No matter how dire your situation, no matter how tough you believe life is, no matter what punches are thrown at you, I GUARANTEE you kind can find one sweet beautiful thing that you love in this world.

And your joy for that one thing? It can become contagious. Anger and negative energy might catch and spread like a disease, but gratitude and love and happiness spread doubly fast.

Imagine an entire population of people living up to their tiny purpose: gracious and loving people who can find the good in all they encounter; who find the blessing and the joy in every single day. True peace and serenity would indeed be possible.

So there you have it. You have one job in your lifetime; one tiny purpose: find your gratitude.

My name is Tiffany and I’m so grateful to have reached my 40th year. I hear that’s when life’s purpose snaps into focus.


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My husband and I just returned from a trip of a lifetime to the spectacular Canadian Province of Newfoundland & Labrador. Similar to our trip to Croatia last year, when we would tell people our travel plans, we would invariably be met with quizzical expressions and the question, “Why did you choose to go there?”

And I must say, even Newfoundlanders wondered why we would choose to spend our vacation days on an island so far in the North Atlantic that we found it difficult to find stars (because the sky was only completely dark between midnight and 3:00 AM).

Newfoundland has become close to our hearts through the music of Great Big Sea. And through that same music and a certain little dancing video, the locals seem to have embraced me as the unofficial ambassador of happiness and cheer in the face of chaos, sadness and despair. I have received tons of messages and emails and notes from Canadians (many from NFLD) who were following my story from afar. I have made friends with some good people there. Seemed like a perfect opportunity to visit such good people in person.

Rick and I also love exploring places neither of us has been before. And if we are the only Americans for miles? Even better. We love to mix with the locals. Be charmed by the brogue of their accents. Ask about favorite restaurants and attractions. Learn the local history.

We stayed in a charming fishing community called Petty Harbour (just South of St. John’s). We read, we relaxed, we hiked, we zip-lined, we iceberg-hunted, we bird watched (saw my first Puffin and 5000 of his closest friends), we whale watched (from the SHORE no less), we were “screeched in” (a ceremony involving black rum and kissing a codfish). . .

Newfoundlanders call people from out of town “come-from-aways.” Although Rick and I do indeed come from a ways away, we now truly feel connected to NFLD and now consider ourselves unofficial locals.

Newfoundland is called “The Rock.” For good reason. It’s an island consisting entirely of rock formations, some created from volcanic eruptions half a billion years ago, others left behind from landmasses clashing during continental drifts. As a result, Newfoundland has some of the oldest rocks in the world. And some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever witness. It’s a geologist’s dream and a nature lover’s paradise.

But I’ve been thinking more and more about those rocks these days since returning home — and I think we can learn a lot from them.

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Much of Newfoundland originated as a volcanic eruption under the sea somewhere south of the equator, and over millions of years floated Northward to its landing spot today at the Easternmost point of North America. We learned that the island’s movement is slow: the same rate as growth of our fingernails.

Now, I know I don’t have millions or thousands or even hundreds of years to accomplish all of my goals. But when I think about how I push myself to complete something before it is (or I am) ready, or stress over the big picture, incapable of making a decision or any movement because the task seems way too big or insurmountable, I need only remind myself that great things take time. One step at a time — even if that step is only the length of a fingernail — is all that is needed for today. It’s motion forward, not backward.   And it will lead to great things. Perhaps not according to my preferred timeline. But great things will come nonetheless.

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Newfoundland is the result of volcanic eruptions and storm surges and tidal waves and collisions of continents and divisions of landmasses. Its terrain is scarred and battered and beaten by glaciers and ocean currents. And it is stunning. Captivating. Breathtaking.  Smooth in some places, jagged in others. Covered in moss and wild flowers. A mosaic of greens and blues and browns and greys. Wild and unkempt and clean and crisp.

The best parts of me, the most beautiful parts of me, are the result of tragedy and loss and pain and heartache. Chaos leads to beauty. Jaw-dropping, show-stopping, heart-rate-inducing beauty. I have been scarred both emotionally and physically. I have had my extreme highs and my intensely depressed lows. I have been explosive. I have been implosive. And the result? Beauty. Raw and real beauty.

And my beauty may not be everybody’s taste. That’s okay.  And you may be so close to your own beauty that you are not able to see it or appreciate it. But trust me . . . it’s there. Embrace it and share it with everyone around you. The world will be a more vibrant place for it.

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Newfoundland continues to move Northward. Very slowly of course (again, at the rate our fingernails grow); but each year it changes.  The raging Atlantic Ocean changes the coastline by dumping huge boulders or dragging old ones away. We visited a tiny cove that had massive boulders that been delivered by the ocean just this winter. 10-ton rocks that were picked up and placed on the shore as if they were pebbles. And erosion from wind and storm and snow breaks down the landscape and smooths the rough edges of the cliffs, and the relentless tide continues to polish the small stones that wash up on the beach.

If an island the size of New York State is never done with its self-work, then why do we ever think we will be? Why do we long for a day when we will be perfect; when we will be finished with that diet; when we have gathered all the information we need in life? We are never done. Never. We are a work in progress. Change is normal. Change is healthy. Change is awesome.  Change should be welcome.

And when we are pummeled with life’s storms and tidal surges, we are being invited to become everything we are supposed to be.

I love rocks and stones. I always have.  But I never knew I had so much to learn from them. Thank you to “The Rock,” for showing me the way.

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What is YOUR Cancer?

Wednesday, May 7th marks one year since cancer entered my life. One year of the highest of emotional highs and the lowest of depressive lows. A roller coaster of scans and surgeries and infusions and injections and research and laughs and tears and fears and celebrations and joys and soul-searching. It’s been a truly awesome year. I’ve learned so much about myself; my resilience, my strength, my pain tolerance, my body’s ability to heal. And I’ve learned so much about the goodness in others – loved ones and friends and strangers alike.

So as I celebrate my very first cancerversary, nearly 3 months since being declared “cancer-free,” I find myself living in a strange space in my head. Cancer had become a part of my identity. An identity I certainly didn’t ask for, but since it was handed to me, I decided to make the very best of it. And I found that the more I embraced my situation, the easier the whole process became. Petty worries fell away. My purpose and place in life became crystal clear. I was happier. I was calm. I was peaceful. I felt this glow of contentment that I had never felt before. I had been bestowed a grace: the grace that is gifted upon you when you accept your situation and yourself right here right now.

But here I am three months out and I feel somehow ungrounded. I’ve lost my identity. I am no longer the girl with cancer. I am now the girl who had cancer. And what does that mean exactly? I’m unsure of myself and not sure where to focus my energy. I feel like a tiny boat drifting out into this vast endless sea with no sail and no rudder and no anchor. Aimlessly drifting. No direction. Just floating away. When I had cancer my only purpose in life was to do whatever I needed to get well. I was living each day moment to moment. Staying in the present moment is a heck of a lot easier when it’s all you have and it’s you can handle mentally or physically.

But now that I am on this side of it, I feel like this wide open expanse of future opened up for me and I am feeling stuck and paralyzed, not sure what to do next but feeling this intese urgency to just do something. I’ve been given the gift of life, I better make the most of it and live, damnit!

But make sure you live right! Don’t waste it! Don’t make the wrong choices!   Don’t waste time!

I am placing some seriously high expectations on myself. That little slave driver in my head is cracking the whip and pushing me hard once again. I find myself right back where I was before cancer. Negative self-talk which leads to feelings of inadequacy, sadness, depression, and anxiety. Self-abuse like this holds us back from enjoying life and truly living freely.

And it dawned on me…

Self-sabotaging behavior in itself is a certain type of cancer.

Let’s ponder that for a bit…

The definition of cancer according to is “any evil condition or thing that spreads destructively.”   Miriam-Webster says that a cancer can be “a practice or phenomenon perceived to be evil or destructive and hard to contain or eradicate.”

Cancer, in a sense, can then be seen as something that can happen to you AND cancer can be something that you can create.

So am I making my body unwell (both emotionally and physically) by engaging in negative thinking? By feeding these ideas of not doing enough and not being enough, am I assisting in the destruction of my own body? At the very least, I know for a fact that when I am in a negative state of mind, I am holding myself back from engaging in life and I feel terrible.

We all have a CHOICE as to how we decide to handle life.

I can continue on this path and allow myself to indulge in the “stinking thinking” and “poor me” attitude.   Or I can push through those feelings and take steps toward positivity.   And if one tiny step is all I can handle right now, so be it. It’s better than heading backward. It’s better than disengaging from life and sitting on the couch in a paralyzed ball of anxiety.

Need help with those steps toward positivity?   Check out Jodi Aman’s suggestions for natural anti-depressants.  One of the suggestions I have recently taken? I’ve ditched coffee once again. After chemo ended, my taste for coffee came back with a vengence.   It quickly became a crutch and an obsession. And the caffeine was surely contributing to some serious hormonal swings of late. Hormonal swings = harmonal swings. I am happy to let those go and I know my liver (and my husband) will thank me for it.

So I ask you, what is YOUR cancer?

Is your cancer a condition or event or situation that was thrust upon you? A divorce? A death in the family? An illness? An addiction?

Or is your cancer something that you have created in your own mind? Anger? Resentments? Expectations placed on others? Expectations placed on yourself?

How have you decided to approach this challenge in your life? What steps have you taken to move forward rather than backward?

Can you resolve to accept yourself and accept your position right here and right now just I was able to when I was going through treatment for biological cancer? The grace that I experienced last year is still there for the taking if I want it.  I just need to find a harmonious way of working through my current bout of emotional cancer.  And that grace is there for you too, if you only reach for it.

How To Protect Yourself From The Post-Chemo Blues (And Other Little Known Side-Effects of Cancer)

Have you ever experienced a let down after a large event in your life?  A wedding?  A party?  A holiday?  A landmark birthday?  A vacation?  A new baby?  An event for which you have been waiting, saving, planning for months…maybe years?  There’s a huge build up of excitement and fervor over this event.  You are completely invested.  Your family is invested.  Your friends are invested.  Your heart races in anticipation of this event.  You are running on adrenaline, moving so quickly and accomplishing so much in the months/weeks/days leading up to the event that you barely have or take time to breathe.

Everything builds to that event.

And then the day comes.

The event happens.

It’s over.


Real life.

Business as usual.

If you are anything like me, the post-event quietude can be devastating.  Once an event is complete, I have nothing to look forward to.  Nothing to plan for.  Nothing to hang my hopes and my happiness on.  I have no direction and no focus and, most disconcertingly, I am left alone with…MYSELF.

The horror.

So here I am, one week after being informed that my cancer is officially in remission, and I am STRUGGLING.  Now don’t get me wrong, I may proclaim to love cancer, but I prefer it not inhabit my body.  The cancer journey, however, was a huge event in my life that received a lot of my time and attention.  And I was a changed person.  I allowed myself to focus on what needed to be done.  I was gentle with myself.  I didn’t push.  If I wanted a nap, I would nap.  I gave myself permission to decline or delegate work.  If I couldn’t keep a commitment, I knew others would understand.  And I knew I could forgive myself for making that decision.

And best of all (at least for this girl), I had a mental vacation from obsession with food.

I have struggled with food my entire life.  I am a compulsive overeater and a binger.  In the last 4 years, I found myself some recovery and began to foster a healthier relationship with food.

But when the cancer treatment began, and nausea and other side effects dictated what food I could or could not eat, I allowed myself a reprieve from vigilance over my food choices.  And it was the right thing to do at the time.  I needed to listen to my body and nourish myself as best I could.  But I allowed the numbers that appeared on the scale to begin to play with my mind.  I would be weighed once or twice a week and because I seemed to lose (or not gain) weight each time I visited the doctor, I decided all was well.  As if the number on the scale was ever a proper indication of a healthy relationship with food.   It never has been and never will be.  At my skinniest (124 lbs on the day of my wedding to my first husband), I was obsessed; restricting entire food groups and allowing myself to binge on the weekends on piles of sugary snacks.

I worked very hard over the years to create a balanced meal plan that nourishes and sustains me and protects me from obsessive food thoughts and behaviors.  And I have worked very hard to accept that my body has found a happy home 10-15 pounds heavier than my brain would prefer it to be.

But here I am now, ten weeks post-chemo, back in the grips of food-obsession and watching the numbers on the scale creep higher and higher.  It’s been an emotional week for me.

I write this to tell you all that just like anything in life, cancer is simply one of many possible life events; an event that we can become obsessed with and allow to take over our lives.  And if we aren’t vigilant about creating mental and spiritual balance around us before during and after this event, we could be left on the other side feeling empty and less than.

Why did it take a cancer diagnosis for me to allow myself a break?  To be gentle with myself?  To forgive myself for not wanting to do something or go somewhere?  Now that life is heading back to “business as usual,” I find myself resisting the urge to push myself harder and criticize myself more.  “No more excuses, girl, back to work!”

This line of thinking is not okay.  I know it.  But I also know that this is not the authentic me.  This is the me that is created from a mind saddled by addiction.  My unhealthy food behaviors creep in and the negative, controlling, critical, impatient Tiffany begins to overshadow the happy, joyous, relaxed and free-spirited Tiffany.

My mind and spirit are trying to find equilibrium again after being pitched so high and so low for so many months.  So I pledge to be as kind and as gentle and as forgiving with myself now as I was in the midst of treatment.  As all of us should be to ourselves, every day of every week.  We are each doing the very best we can with all that we have been given today.  And we should be PROUD of that.

And perhaps most importantly, if we hang our hopes and our happiness on anything in life (event, person, place, thing), we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, depression and resentment. Happiness is an inside job. And you are the only qualified employee.

Has anyone else experienced the post-illness blues?  How about the post-wedding depression?  Or any other PLED (Post Life Event Disorder)?  How are you working on balancing life NOW to prepare for the next life event?   Because it’s coming.  I guarantee it.

The Luck O’ The Irish


“What? Me Worry?”

I had another heavy couple of days leading up to today’s follow-up MRI.  Boy oh boy, scanxiety can do a number on the ole psyche.  But I’ll save that heaviness for another time because I am happy to announce my St. Patrick’s Day gift:


in other words…


I have yet to receive the official report or get a chance to sit down with my doctors to go over details.  For now, we are chalking the false positives up to “post-operative abnormality.”  Or “liver with a naughty sense of humor.”

Either way, I’ll take it!

Let us all breathe a collective sigh of relief shall we?


Breathe in….



I’m feeling very lucky indeed.


We will never win the war on Cancer. And here’s why.

Photo on 3-11-14 at 4.34 PMWe wage war on a daily basis on many different perceived enemies.  War language is so pervasive in our culture, we don’t even notice it anymore.   Type “War on” into Google and see what pops up.  We have a “War on Drugs,” a “War on Terror,” a “War on Poverty.”  Heck, we even have a “War on Christmas.”  We can’t stop ourselves.  Our culture sees everything as a fight that needs to be won.  As a battle that needs to be waged.  We must have a winner and a loser.  We cannot let down our defenses.  We will never surrender.

But at what cost?

Every war has casualties.  Every war has pain and heartache.  Every war creates residual misery and trauma.

I was diagnosed with cancer in May of 2013.  For me, the most difficult part of this entire journey was that first few weeks.  You walk around in a bit of a daze, just on the edge of holding it together, ready to burst into tears at any moment.  You are bombarded with paperwork and information and appointments and scans.  You weigh treatment options and interview doctors and figure out how to tell friends and family.  How are you going to work?  Are you going to work?  How will you keep friends and family informed?  Will you keep friends and family informed?  How are you going to pay for this?  Are all of your doctors in network?  Are you making the right decisions?  Are you making the best decisions?  Have you researched enough?  Made enough calls?

So many decisions to be made in a very short amount of time.  Enough stress in a few short weeks to last an entire lifetime.

But once I had decided on a course of action, once I was settled on a treatment protocol, once wheels were set in motion to get the show on the road, the whole process got easier.  Sure, I was receiving chemotherapy between a series of surgeries, but I had a plan and I was moving forward.  My life had simply been re-directed.  I was living a new normal.

I soon found myself not only accepting my new life, but enjoying it.  My cancer diagnosis made me grateful.  For the first time in my life, I could appreciate completely with no “ifs” “ands” or “buts.”  I was finally able to accept others and genuinely love and accept myself.

So it didn’t take long before I began to consciously reject the traditional language of cancer.  I found myself bristling when my journey was described as a “fight” or a  “battle.”   Those words felt wrong.  I wasn’t battling anything.  In fact, I had stopped battling for the first time in my life.

I have lived through decades fighting my weight, hating myself, demanding more of myself, battling injustice, and hanging onto resentments.

Cancer snapped the world into focus, prioritized life and melted so much negative thinking away.  I now walked around in a giant euphoric love bubble, reflecting and radiating the love from family and friends that had encircled me.

I finally achieved an inner peace.   How could I possibly speak about this gift in negative terms?

Language is powerful.  We must choose our words with intention.  If I were to call my relationship with cancer a “battle,” or a “fight,”  my body and brain would simply follow suit.   I would seize up and harden and I would be less likely to recognize all of the good that has flooded into my life since my diagnosis.  I would focus on what cancer has taken from me, not all that cancer has given me.

When we get into a car accident, our instincts tell us to “brace for impact.”  But the medical community will tell you that the people who are relaxed (or sleeping or passed out) during an accident are less likely sustain injury.  When your body is less rigid and less tense you are less likely to break bones.   Your body simply moves with the impact because you are not fighting against it.

Cancer is no different.

When we talk about cancer or any other life-threatening or life-altering disease in terms of aggression, the weapons we are wielding are pointed directly at ourselves.  We deprive ourselves of the opportunity to grow and heal because we are so mired in anger and resentment.

We become casualties of our own friendly fire.    No winners at all.   Only beautiful souls who have lost the opportunity to live life to its fullest.

I choose to love my cancer for all of the gifts it has brought into my life.  I call my cancer a “journey.”   I tell people I am “living with cancer.”  I have a “life with cancer.”  Sometimes I even “dance with cancer.”  Life is better because of cancer, not despite it.  So I embrace cancer and give it a loving squeeze.  It just feels right.

I’m Giving Up the Fight Against Cancer. And You Should Too.

Photo on 3-3-14 at 2.20 PM #3What I am about to tell you may not be very popular.  And truth be told, I’ve been hesitant to write about it for fear of offending or insulting others.  But there’s that word again…FEAR.   I no longer want fear to dictate my life or my decisions or my desires to share my personal belief system with the world.  Especially a belief system that seems to be working some seriously great things in my life.

So here it goes.

Are you ready?

I have given up the fight with cancer.

I refuse to engage in the struggle any longer.

The battle is futile and the war on cancer is a waste of my time, my energy and my talents.

Allow me to explain.

Our society has embraced one way and one way only to discuss cancer – via the language of war.  Those of us who have been diagnosed with cancer must “fight” and “combat” our disease.  We hope to “win the war” against cancer.  Some of us may “survive” while others may “lose the battle.”

Those of us with cancer are called “heroes.”  We are “brave” and “courageous.”  We are “warriors” against this “enemy.”

But here’s the thing.  I wasn’t called to military service.  I didn’t enlist for any war.  I wasn’t drafted.  I’m not a hero.  I’m not brave.  I was simply diagnosed with a disease and offered a few options of treatment.  I chose one and went with it.  Nothing more than that.

I have cancer. I have a disease that terrifies the heck out of people.  And we have no other way to talk about it.  Hey, I’m not blaming anyone.  This is a world-wide phenomenon.

I simply wonder if we might be going about this the wrong way.  Is there an alternative way to talk about cancer?  Can we choose language that fosters a kinder, gentler, softer way of being?

I find that when I get angry, when I get worked up about something, when I prepare to engage in a fight, my body tenses up and I become stressed. And stress leads to a lowered immune system.  And a lowered immune system is the last thing a person with cancer needs.

When I’m worked up I also become more scattered, more erratic and less productive.  I am apt to give into pessimistic thinking and engage in unhealthy behaviors (overeating, overspending, procrastination, picking fights).  I make myself miserable and the people around me miserable.  And that is no way for a body to heal.

And here’s another thing…my cancer didn’t appear out of thin air.  My body created this cancer.  A few errant cells in my colon went a bit haywire and decided to take a whacky field trip to some other areas of my body.  Am I supposed to get pissed at myself?  Am I supposed be angry with my own body for what it has done?   I refuse to hate any part of myself – even a few naughty microscopic cells.

Whenever we wage war on something, we give it power.  We build up this perceived enemy and perpetuate feelings of hatred and anger and vitriol.  Cancer doesn’t need any more power than it already has.  If we decide to fight, cancer has no choice but to fight back.

What language can we use to embrace this disease and move beyond it?  How can we accept it into our lives, co-exist with it while still working toward a cure?  Kris Carr, who was diagnosed with a slow-growing, inoperable and untreatable form of cancer over 11 years ago calls herself a cancer “thriver.”  I love that.  Talk about spinning a negative into a positive.

I simply tell people that I am “living with cancer.”  That statement has a deep meaning for me.  I have never felt more alive, more appreciative of life, more blessed with the gifts of this world than I have since my diagnosis over 9 months ago.  In some ways I feel like I am truly living for the first time in my life.

I challenge you to think about alternative ways to speak about cancer or any disease or illness.  I understand that this is a difficult proposition.  It’s unorthodox.  It’s counter-cultural.  It’s definitely the road less-traveled.

But I tell you…it’s a beautiful way to live.   And I feel like I’m only just beginning to learn.  So much more to come, my friends.