Ok so, lots of things have been happening that would consider this a real down time. Our little Mikey, the Ambassador of Spunk, our little Squeeze, has earned his Angel Wings. It was truly a loss for this world. My daddy is going through some health issues and my business is going through some changes that are hard to make

.. And do you want to know the cherry on the cake of this month? I don’t feel good, my herniated disc is acting up and it’s still freaking COLD which affects the rest of my wounds. Too many doctor appointments, every renewal on every insurance policy is due in the next couple of weeks. Ugh. I truly feel like my faith is being tested.

The main reason for that is because I don’t feel my mommy around me. I was sure, when she passed, that I would get all sorts of signs, especially during tough times. I don’t. I don’t feel her love and guidance around me.

I have to say, I am very proud of myself, though. The other night, at Todd and Lisa’s wedding, I overheard an old friend say, referring to me, “She’s always so happy. She’s like the happiest person I know”. I was certainly happy at the time. I was at a beautiful wedding, with great friends around me, dancing and laughing. But, I wondered later that night, am I really happy? I mean, I guess I could sit, miserable, at the table by myself, watching how beautiful the other girls looked in their dresses and thinking about all that I’ve lost and how different my body is now. Or, I could have worn ugly flat shoes because of my physical pain but, that would not be me.

I’m actually at the point in the blog where I realize where I’m going. I always start with the urge to pick up the pen, unsure at what I’m “getting at” and then, sure enough, half of the way through, I “get” it.

Anyway, I used to cover up my port scar with make-up and try to wear dresses that hide the “collapsed” look on the left side of my chest. I don’t do that anymore. I remember being so self-conscious over the weight I’ve gained. You see, breast cancer is fun like that – it’s one of the only cancers where you actually gain weight instead of lose it. First from all of the steroids and the rest of the medications you have to take while you are actually receiving the chemotherapy then, putting yourself into early menopause for the next three years followed by the hormonal therapy you have to stay on after you are done with all of that (which, by the way, causes AT LEAST a 15 pound weight gain – no matter what!) As a very sad aside, I know women who refused the hormonal medication because of the weight gain and unfortunately, they are not with us anymore.

I have gotten a lot more comfortable in my skin these last thirteen years. I’ve realized that there is just no point in having survived an aggressive cancer, if I don’t plan to enjoy my life to the best of my ability. I want to be happy and, even though it’s a struggle sometimes, I work hard at it. So, thank you Eddie Kunz, because I did overhear you, and it made me feel wonderful.

Speaking of my friend Eddie, that’s another thing that I do to maintain my happiness. I surround myself with good, supportive people. Erin Montenegro, I’m not sure if you read this blog or not but, your kind, loving and beautiful words the other night gave me a huge happiness boost. And another friend, just last week, who I have known for over thirty years, told me “Nic, you don’t understand. I don’t see your imperfections.” And, of course, there’s Al. I know that everyone loves Al. And so do I. He has seen things that would make other men run for the hills. He loves me. Every scar, bump, discoloration and all of the downtime we have to face due to my issues. Let’s face it, with all I’ve been through, I probably look 54 instead of 44 but, even that’s ok. I’m here. I enjoy my husband, my boys, my dad and my sisters and brother in-laws. As everyone knows, I was blessed with the funniest sisters ever! I now have two wonderful nephews who I love more than anything. I have a best, best friend in Jill and a bunch of other friends that I can tell anything at all to. They always have my back. Then there are my male friends, who always keep me laughing and, although they may seem like a rough crowd, have the biggest hearts.

I was somewhere recently and someone with her own health problems said to me, “Nic, how do you stay so positive and happy? I’m just pissed about my situation.” I said to her, simply, “How can I be pissed when I am alive and there was a very good chance that I might not have been.” I can only hope that made some type of impact on her. I’d love to see her happy, too.

We will all miss Mikey and the joy that he bought us. His Mama, Trish, however, is from the same mold. Instead of dwelling on being dealt a most difficult hand, she embraced it and taught us all to be thankful and grateful for the blessings in our lives. Her children, Olivia and Mikey, were true blessings. I believe they were sent by God to help us all realize how fortunate we are and that even though they had physical ailments, they were happy, beautiful, loving and joyful children who shared how special they were with all who knew them. The Monsignor who presided over Mikey’s Memorial called him “The Apostle of Love”. I couldn’t think of a better way of saying it. Trish, you are, and will always be, one of my true heroes in life. God specially picked you to be their Mama and they were just as lucky to have you as you were to have them. I will forever promote I-Cell disease until we find or cure or, at least some treatments to make these children live more comfortably. I love you very much.

Then there is my Daddy, who raised three girls (who often drove him crazy), to be independent, kind, responsible and loving. He is going through his own health crisis now. Only my closest friends are aware of exactly what is going on and have been praying (which is helping, by the way) but, I ask all of you who don’t know the details to add him to your prayers, as well.

And my business, tough times, lost my biggest account. You can bet your ass that there will be no tears shed over that. We’ve cut the expenses we had to, we are doing everything we can to retain what we have and procure new business and, by always playing fair and by the rules, I really feel as though things will be okay in the end. We had a similar issue in 2005 and made it through that. It’s all about perspective, my friends.

As far as the chronic pain goes, it is what it is – chronic. I’ve had to get used to it and it’s pretty well under control with medications. I refuse to let is stop me from living my life. Sometimes it’s just too much to bear and I simply can’t make an event (Trish, I’ll forever be sorry I wasn’t there and can’t wait to see the video!) but, for the most part, unless I literally can’t get out of the bed or I am so tired I can risk the staph recurring, I rock on. I have fun. I live!

Lastly, to tie this all together, my therapist asked me the other day what my mom was like. Of course, it took me a few minutes to get my thoughts together and my response was not even close to good enough but, I came up with “after everything she’d been through (and believe me, it was a lot more than I’ve been through), she was positive, happy and always reminded us (ALL of us) to count our blessings. It’s something I do often and with real thought.

And this is the gist of it all. Where this blog took me. I said at the beginning that it was tough because I don’t feel my mother around me. In addition to being all of the things I told my therapist my mom was, she was also, and also most importantly, inspiring. So, I’ve realized, in the couple of hours that it took me to put these words to paper, that although I may not “feel” her around me, she is a part of me – working “through” me, if you like. I constantly get asked for advice from friends and family about how to stay positive in the face of adversity. And my answer is “count your blessings”, imagine the best outcome instead of the worst and be grateful to just be alive.

On a particularly hard day before she passed, I said something to her like “Mommy, when does it end?” Her response to me? “When you’re dead so, buck up!”

I know I’ve said these very words to my friends and I hope they realize that although it sounds harsh, it comes from a place of love. Mom was love incarnate and, honestly, truer words have never been spoken.

And so, I will continue to be mom’s voice (albeit a little more gruff, which she actually appreciated) and I will continue to try my best to inspire and help people who are in positions of hurt, sadness and despair. Because I love……that’s all.