Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

healthy wealthyI don’t like resolutions.  They are always filled with good intentions but, really, who needs more good intentions in their life?  On top of that, I’m typically a failure when it comes to resolutions, and I certainly don’t need any more self-inflicted failure in my life!  So when the new year rolled around this past January, I snubbed those resolution makers and decided that some self-reflection was in my best interest.

That’s when I discovered an article about something called the ‘power word.’ Touted as the ‘no-fail alternative to resolutions,’ the article encouraged readers to choose one word or phrase that they hoped would characterize their upcoming year.  The power word allowed for more fluidity – a broad theme with multiple tasks or goals that changed according to the craziness happening in my life at that moment.  This sounded like something I could work with.

I experimented with a few words before committing.  There was ambitious.  No.  Open-minded.  Not right.  Thankful.  Maybe.  Badass.  I really liked that one, but I got rid of my leather jacket years ago.  The list went on and indecision nearly caused me to fail at this no-fail alternative, until I considered what had been missing from my life.  That’s when I nailed my 2018 power word.

Back in December, it felt like there were so many things missing from my life.  I was knee-deep in yearning for my former life;  the life that allowed me to complain about our overbooked schedules and demanding jobs;  the life that gave me permission to put things off until ‘someday;’  the life that didn’t include patrolling my own body for unusual activity or choosing the right hair product for the new coif of chemo curls piling up on my head.  I ached for that old life of mine.  The ache was so intense that I feared it was becoming unhealthy.

Enter my power word.

In this new year, I desperately wanted to be healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally.  I wanted it for myself, but I also wanted it for my kids, my family and for everyone that has surrounded and lifted me over these last two years.  I owed it to myself and I owed it to them to be the best version of me that I possibly could be and so, I chose the power word HEALTH.

Five months into my healthy new year and I think I’m doing alright.

I won’t lie.  There are days when all I really want to do is lay on the couch eating fritos and drinking cheap wine, but I usually don’t.  I’ve learned to use my power word as motivation;  as an encouraging way to methodically reach multiple goals…..and it’s actually working!  Whether it’s getting myself out for a run, learning to cook a new, healthy recipe, working towards a job that fulfills me, volunteering for things that bring me joy or planning those trips that I’ve put off until ‘someday’ with my family, I’m doing it.  And it’s making me feel – and even look – healthy!

Amen for the power word!

Now I just need to work on the ‘wealthy and wise’ part.

Sparrow’s Nest fed my family while I was going through cancer treatment.  They continue to feed my mind and soul now that I’ve made it to the other side of my diagnosis and they are a tremendous part of my motivation to stay healthy.  I’ll begin training for my second half marathon with Sparrow’s Nest this summer, with the goal of raising $3,000 to feed another family whose life has been swallowed up by cancer.  To support my effort, visit my online fundraising page at https://donate.sparrowsnestcharity.org/fundraising/60

PS – What’s your power word?


Pulling the Trigger

weapon-violence-children-child-52984.jpegDo I have your attention?  By choosing this title and pairing it with this free media photo, it wasn’t hard to pull you in.  I bet you think you know what I’m going to say.  I bet you’re already calculating your quick response…and I bet it’s not a nice one.

I forgive you.

I forgive you because, if you’re reading this, I like you.  You’re on my ‘friends’ list and, whether it was 25 years ago or just last week, at some point in my life I decided that you were good.  I’m sticking to my guns on that one (no pun intended).

I’m not going to share my opinion about what should have or could have been done to save the 17 people who died in this most recent school shooting.  The world – and Facebook – certainly doesn’t need anymore opinions from armchair quarterbacks or those with 20/20 hindsight vision, a degree in psychology, or a sharpshooter weapons badge.

Nope.  The sweet faces of those Florida kids whose lives were stolen needed more than our opinions.  They needed our solutions.  They needed us to talk openly about mental health, about support systems for at-risk kids, and they needed us to talk about our prized 2nd amendment and the semi-automatics it allows us to have.  They needed us to feel uncomfortable with the opinions of others while still being able to listen.  They needed us to check our egos at the door and SAVE THEIR FUCKIN’ LIVES!


The most intelligent thing I’ve read on this subject came from a stranger whose opinion seems to differ from my own.  “There is middle ground,” he said, “and if we both walk away from the table a little upset, it will be progress.”  

I couldn’t agree more.

It’s time to remind ourselves that we have chosen to surround ourselves with good people;  good people who may have different opinions.  It’s time to pull the trigger and get uncomfortable.  It’s time to stop the insanity.  It’s time for some real solutions.


I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

It wasn’t long after the birth of my first child that I began thinking ’Good Lord, I’ll never poop alone again!’

That’s the dirty little secret that nobody warns you about.  One day you’re this free-wheeling, laidback couple with barely a care in the world.  And then BAM!  Suddenly you’re a frenzied, exhausted mess and the sole caregiver of a whole new human being.

I’m repeatedly amazed that the human race is not on the ‘endangered species’ list. 

There was a steep learning curve involved in becoming a first-time mom.  The fierce, unequivocal and unconditional love came naturally, but the realization that this little person was watching and emulating my every move was unnerving (to say the least).  Parenthood already seemed to be a daily lesson in humility, self-control and patience…and then I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Immediately after sharing the news with my daughters, who were just 9 and 12 years old, I knew that my every move was being examined.  My conversations were scrutinized and my facial expressions were considered.  My youngest daughter quietly studied me and seemed to have an insatiable craving to be physically attached to my side.  She spent countless hours on the couch with me, oftentimes carefully navigating a way to snuggle with me without hitting my port.  Other times she simply needed to be in my space, the physical presence of me providing her with some perceived sense of security.

If I allowed myself to briefly imagine that my girls were not gripped by the chaos of cancer, my oldest daughter was sure to remind me.  My creative, sensitive, free-spirit wasn’t just watching me, she was photographing me.

She captured me crying when the first notes of encouragement and gifts of support began arriving in the mail.  She photographed my feeble attempt at a stylish pixie haircut just before losing my hair and my pathetic attempt to look strong in a pink Wonder Woman t-shirt after all of that hair fell out.  She took pictures of me looking pale and frail in a hospital bed and more pictures of me weeks later in the post-surgery recovery room.  She reminded me, over and over again, that she was watching.  Closely.

The hardest part of cancer, for me, is knowing that my girls have seen things that can’t be unseen.  They saw me struggle and cry and, sometimes, scream.  They saw me attached to IV lines in a small, cramped room full of cancer patients.  They saw me sick and bald and lying listless in a hospital bed.  They saw it, they saved it and they filed it away in their memory bank.

I want to erase their memory bank.

Post-treatment, I struggle most with this thought; this fear that my girls will never lose that memory of me, never be able to shake the image of their frail, sick mother.  I hate it. 

I’m not certain if my anger is a healthy motivator, but I freely admit that it is a factor in navigating my new normal.  I desperately want to replace the memory of cancer-stricken-me in my girls’ brains.  I want them to see me looking and feeling healthy.  I want them to see my resilience, my fortitude, my grit.  I want them to see and feel my resolute determination to live. 

It’s this sheer determination that has me convinced that I will cross my first half marathon finish line this November.  It’s also the reason I take every opportunity to train alongside my girls.  I want to cross finish lines with them, arms raised in the air and sweat dripping from our foreheads.  I want to erase the image of poor, weak mom from their minds and replace it with an image of a strong, resolute, determined mom.  I’ve never wanted anything as desperately as I want this.

And so I signed us all up to run the Sparrow’s Nest Superhero 5k this past weekend, SNwhere we proudly flaunted our knee-high Wonder Woman socks, complete with tiny capes.  And, together, we ran across that finish line.

My oldest daughter took this picture and posted it on Instagram with the caption, “We don’t run for mom, we run with mom…”

And there it was.  Proof that they are still watching and my determination is winning.  #SparrowStrong


Good Days

On my left sits the eternal optimist. She was smiling when she came in, grateful for the anticipated snowstorm and the chance to bake cookies on her ‘good’ day. 

To my right is the pessimist. She’s here with me every time I come. She groans and complains about the same things each week. ‘Why is this taking so long?  Can’t you make this drip go any faster?  What are these nurses doing?’

Across from me sits my ‘chemo day friend’ whose been missing for the last few weeks. The chemo drugs she was originally taking didn’t cause her hair to fall out, but today she’s wearing a scarf , hiding her bald head. I know that means they’ve changed her course of treatment. I’m not sure why and I won’t ask her this time. I chose to sit out of earshot today because I don’t really want to know. Selfish maybe, but also self-preserving. 

I wonder what they think of me and my coloring book full of curse words and my hot pink bag with the words ‘Kick Butt’ embroidered across the front. I bet they call me a ‘warrior’ or maybe ‘brave.’

God I hate those words. 

Brave warriors willingly go into battle believing they can be someone’s hero. That’s not me. I was taken against my will, kicking, screaming and really fucking angry. I’m not brave. I’m not a warrior. I’m a pissed off cancer patient wasting a beautiful day stuck in this prison. All of us here chained by IV polls. 


I’m trying my best to steal sunshine from my neighbor to the left. Reminding myself to be grateful for the immunotherapy treatments that keep bringing me here and the promise that this will keep cancer away. She’s right I remind myself – tomorrow will be a ‘good’ day and everyday after will get better. It will. 

Roasting Marshmallows

My oldest daughter wanted to have a bonfire over the summer.  That was all she wanted.  A simple bonfire where she, her sister and perhaps a few of the neighborhood kids could sit around roasting marshmallows.  A summer rite of passage.  It was so simple.  And yet, it wasn’t.

I remember the night my exhausted and impatient husband finally gave in to her pleas.  Both girls squealed with delight and buzzed in and out of the back door with all of the supplies that they would need.  I could hear them from my bedroom.  My youngest daughter, smiling ear to ear, came up to grab a sweatshirt and stopped to ask if I was going to join them.  “Not tonight,” I smiled at her.  “I’m going to rest.”

She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and ran off to the bonfire.  I waited for the sound of the door closing behind her before going to my window.  I pulled the curtains back, looked down at my little family and then I cried.  Really, really cried.

There are so many things that cancer takes from you and so many disturbing thoughts that it leaves behind.  That night, cancer stole my family from me – my ability to sit with them, laugh with them, care for them. 

I hated that I couldn’t care for them.

People started showing up to help when they heard about my diagnosis.  Our family first, with so much trepidatious love that it made my heart hurt.  Then came our friends, unsure of the right words but certain in their determination to help.  Our neighbors were next, curious and confounded…“but I just saw her last week looking so happy.”  

And then came the strangers.

Yes, strangers – complete and total strangers started showing up at my door because they heard I was a mom who had just been diagnosed with cancer. The strangers had a name:  Sparrow’s Nest And they had a purpose: to care for my ‘nest’ while I couldn’t.  I couldn’t. 

I hated that realization; that understanding, even from strangers, that I couldn’t take care of my ‘nest’ the way I always had.  I couldn’t take care of my family, my kids, in the same way I had before that stupid, dreaded diagnosis.  I didn’t want someone else to take care of my family, I didn’t want anyone’s help, I didn’t want cancer!  But, the reality was that I did have cancer and I did need help.  

And so, every Tuesday, Curt -a total stranger – would show up on my doorstep with home cooked meals and plenty of treats for my girls.  I hid myself away in those early weeks, unwilling to accept this new reality that required strangers to care for my family.  That didn’t stop him from coming though.  Every week Curt would appear and, just as quietly, disappear.  His quiet calm was a stark contrast to the whirling chaos happening inside my head.

When school let out and summer vacation began, Sparrow’s Nest was there with several months worth of snacks for my kids.  Fall came, the kids went back to school and Sparrow’s Nest was there with new school supplies.  Thanksgiving came and Sparrow’s Nest was there with a complete feast for my extended family.  Christmas came and Sparrow’s Nest was there with gifts for my girls.

But the greatest gift they gave me was caring for my family when I didn’t want them to but really needed them to.

I’m grateful now that the hardest parts of my treatment are over and I’m looking forward to summer bonfires with my little family.  But I’m also keenly aware of the fact that there’s another mom out there hearing those dreaded words right now.  Another mom mourning the loss of time she’ll never get back with her kids.  Another mom who is so angry right now because she can’t take care of her family in the way that she wants to. I hate that there’s another mom out there feeling that way.

I get it.  So I need to do something about it.  I need to wrap her family up like Sparrow’s Nest did mine.  I need to help care for her family so that she can take care of kicking cancer’s ass!

Next Fall, I’ll run with Team Sparrow in an effort to raise money to help another family.  Simply leaving my bedroom was a challenge this past fall, so it’s as much a personal challenge as it is a meaningful quest, and I hope that you will help.  Help with a donation of as much or as little as you can give because I can personally assure you that every single dollar makes a world of difference to a mom who’s wishing for roasted marshmallows with her little family. ❤

To make a donation, visit the Team Sparrow donation page and enter my name, Jean Marie Trick, or my friend, fellow cancer ass-kicker and fellow Team Sparrow runner, Marci Cox, in the Team Sparrow Runner line.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you and thank you Sparrow’s Nest. 


My Inheritance

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I became slightly obsessed with my dead grandmother.  Or, more accurately, I became obsessed with all of the things that I – the youngest of four siblings – inherited from my dead grandmother who I had never met.

Why did I inherit the fine china set that I’m certain she never ate a meal on?  The fine china that has stayed neatly packed in my attic since the day we moved in.  How on earth, with two older sisters, did I inherit her diamond engagement ring and her gold wedding band?  And the biggest question of all:  why did I inherit the breast cancer that killed her?

I spent a lot of time wondering if I’d been cursed or somehow ominously marked when I brought her things into my home.  I wondered if I should throw them out, let each beautiful dish shatter into tiny pieces or ceremoniously burn every serving tray, platter, tea cup, gold band and diamond ring that she ever touched.  I wondered if all of these things had somehow gotten lost or misplaced when she died or when my grandfather moved;  if they had mysteriously disappeared 50 years ago, never to be touched by me or my siblings, would I still be feeling this hideous lump?

I wondered.  A lot.

Before my own treatment started, I dug out my grandmother’s wedding band.  I needed to touch it and imagine how it must have looked on her hand.  I wondered if, like me, she tugged on it or spun it when she was nervous or when they told her she had breast cancer.  I wondered if she wore it during the treatments that failed her so miserably.  I wondered if she had it on when she died.

I put it on my own finger to see how it felt.

That very same day, a dear friend sent me a necklace – the angel of strength.  I put my new necklace on and began spinning that old ring and I cried.  I cried because I suddenly realized how miserable it must have been to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 1960.  I suddenly understood that the heart attack that killed her was a direct result of the treatment that she was hoping would save her.  I suddenly recognized why my own diagnosis of breast cancer came with regular visits to the cardiologist.  I suddenly realized that my dead grandmother was a part of my own, personal clinical trial.

And I suddenly realized that all of those things she left behind, all of those things that found their way to me, were with me for a reason:  a reminder that I had my very own angel of strength always hovering nearby.

Pink Shmink

breast cancer ribbonIt was April 7th.  I spent the night in a hospital conference room – an event for work – smiling and making conversation with my families; laughing with the kids and helping them artfully express their hopes and dreams for their future while trying desperately to temper fears for my own future.  Nobody knew that I had spent the last few days in the medical offices adjacent to this building.

Breathe.  Just keep breathing.

It was April 8th.  The call would come today, but when?  The waiting was excruciating.  I had to keep moving.  I had to keep breathing.  I had to work – work would keep me focused.  And so I walked into an elementary school where I was expected to teach students about Type 1 Diabetes and how they could help research change lives.  This I could focus on.  This would keep me breathing.

And then it all began to happen.

I looked up from my laptop to see teachers and staff filing in one by one, every one of them wearing a ‘Sparrows Nest‘ t-shirt.  My palms suddenly sweaty and my head dizzy, I fought the urge to run.  I was outraged and terrified and sick to my stomach.  Was it the shirts?  Was it the support these teachers were showing for this local charity?  How could I be angry about a nonprofit that helps feed the families of cancer patients?  Why was that suddenly a vile thought, a nauseating concept?  Why did I suddenly feel like I was surrounded by hoards of people who already knew the outcome of the phone call that was about to come?

And then it came.

I muddled through my presentation, left the school building, sat down in my car to catch my breath….and my phone rang.  It’s going to be fine.  It’s not what you think.  This was all just a coincidence.

“Unfortunately, the biopsy showed invasive ductal carcinoma…blah, blah….breast cancer.”

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

It’s been six months, 16 rounds of chemotherapy (the first 4 treatments fondly nicknamed ‘the red devil’ by patients before me), multiple scans, biopsies, infusions and tests since then – all leaving my mind and body spent.  I’ve slowly come to recognize that there is no ‘end’ to any kind of cancer diagnosis and now, while I prepare for surgery, I am surrounded by the ‘pink’ of Breast Cancer Awareness month – Pink-tober. 


This month – my birthday month, my favorite holiday month, my favorite of all the months – I find myself angry and annoyed by the constant reminders.  The pink t-shirts, the pink ribbons, the pink scarves, the pink football players and the pink cheerleaders – they are all annoying!  Irrational?  Perhaps.  But on a good day, when I’m surrounded by good people and enjoying good thoughts and forgetting, for just a moment, that I have cancer (fucking cancer!), I don’t want to be made ‘aware.’  Because, you see, my bald head and my ugly infusion port and my neuropathic fingers and my bruised fingernails and my altered tastebuds and my crazy thoughts – all of those things make me ‘aware’ of this God-awful disease every single second of every single day.

Heavier sigh.

But today is Miles of Hope day at school and my daughters were eager to don their pink attire – even their pink hair – in support of breast cancer awareness and in support of me.  I didn’t tell them that I found their pink-ness annoying and I didn’t forbid them from participating.  Instead, I made sure that their pink shirts were washed and ready and I helped them put pink highlights in their hair.  And then I sent them off to school with a donation that I hope will further research and stack the odds in their favor as they get older.  That thought alone can occasionally bring me to my knees.  And then I decided that – maybe just for today – I’m going to change my outlook.  Today I’m going to give up on being annoyed.  Today I am going to focus, instead, on the amazing support that has enveloped me since that breathless April day.

It’s Pink-tober and I’m still breathing.