And Life Goes On

mandi and lucy from making nice in the midwest

I sort of left you all hanging there, didn’t I? I started radiation therapy at the beginning of May, and it definitely challenged me in many ways. Mostly, I found myself spending 3 hours driving to and from Cleveland every day just to get to The Cleveland Clinic. I had visits with doctors, therapists, nutritionists, nuclear body scans, and the radiation machine. At first, it didn’t feel like the radiation machine was really doing anything, but after a week, I felt it taking its toll on my body and emotions.

I don’t have time for anything except cancer.

At least, that’s how it felt during my treatment. I felt pretty grumpy a lot of the time, and decided it was best for the general public if I mostly stayed off social media, and keep my complaints to myself. It was an interesting departure from every day life, getting to connect with people who were suffering from terminal tumors, who were so upbeat and happy to see me and Lucy every day. Of course, there were those who were obviously very depressed as well. I like to think that Lucy helped brighten their days with her antics and general cheerfulness. And as sad as this might be, seeing those people who were not doing well actually made me feel much better about my situation. It could be much, much worse!

So, what was radiation treatment like? Well, they fashioned a plastic mask that strapped me down to a plank, then they would leave the room, and I would lay there while a big disc rotated around my head and neck zapping radiation into my body. The first side effect that I experienced was mouth sores. I had water blisters pop up any time I ate. Then, my mouth became very dry and eating was too difficult to enjoy. It got worse when my throat became raw. The red burns on my face and neck were just glimpses of the burning that was going on inside my body. Any flavorful food on my throat felt like razorblades, and when my saliva glands started working, they would clog up and my mouth would break out into blisters again. Once I completely lost all taste, it was actually easier, because bland foods didn’t irritate me as much, and I didn’t mind eating bland foods. I just have to make sure they’re moist, so I can get it from my mouth to my stomach. You’d be surprised how challenging it is to eat when your saliva is barely there, and more like a thick paste coating the tongue.

I had been using food as a coping mechanism basically since Christmas. Facing a dangerous surgery, learning that I have cancer, and then hearing about how difficult radiation would be, I basically treated myself to eating anything I wanted whenever I wanted it. I gained back the weight I had lost post pregnancy, and basically hated getting dressed because none of my clothes were fitting me right. Which might explain why I sort of quit posting outfit shots here, eh? Once I lost my taste and ability to enjoy food, it really forced me to look at how I was treating food. I became depressed because I JUST WANTED A DAMN COOKIE! But eating a cookie when your mouth is like the Sahara Desert, and your taste buds are hibernating… well, it’s just not really eating a cookie. And nothing can be more frustrating to a stress-eater!

Basically, I barely ate anything for about a week, and that resulted in me feeling even worse. My energy plummeted, and all I wanted to do was lay in bed and sleep. Somebody wake me up in 5 months when I’m back to my normal self, I thought. Since the nurses warned my family that I would be very tired and would need lots of rest, they all pitched in and helped me rest. I laid around feeling awful and sad, sipping on my stinky Boost very high calorie drinks. When suddenly I decided enough was ENOUGH! I need to take this opportunity to start eating completely clean, as difficult as it is to eat real food, and give my body the best food I have access to. And, imagine this, as soon as I changed my diet, I began feeling great! I learned what not to eat in order to keep my mouth from breaking out into blisters, and even got enough energy to start exercising! During radiation! The people at the hospital literally thought I was joking when I told them I had begun to get up early every day before treatment and exercise.

Well, now I’m finished with radiation, and in three months I should be back to my normal self! And my scans showed that there is no more cancer in my body- so it looks like we caught the bugger just in time to save my life! I’m so full of joy, and after a lot of introspection, I have definitely settled at a point where I’ve reevaluated my life and know where I’m going from here.

I need to start living differently.

After discovering how amazing my body felt when I treated it properly, I’ve become obsessed with eating clean and exercising my body. I guess when you get cancer at such a young age, it really shocks you with the realization that you are not invincible. And when you pollute your body frequently (as I did) and neglect exercising your body (as I had been doing since I graduated college), you really don’t stand a chance. Life is too short to spend it in hospitals as I have been doing for the past several months. And life is too short to hate the way you look and feel in clothes! (…or out of clothes, for that matter!) I know I talk a lot about body confidence, and I still stand by the things I’ve said. You can be confident in your body no matter its size. But I had to face the truth that I was thirty pounds overweight (when did that happen?!), at risk for heart problems, and because I was neglecting my body, I really was starting to become ashamed of it. That started taking its toll on me emotionally, and also in respect to how I allow my husband to love me and my body. Not good.

So! You guys, I am making a major life change, and will definitely be investing more time into taking care of my body and preparing well balanced, healthy meals. I won’t barrage you with everything to do with it here, but if you want to follow along with my journey to get healthy and lose weight, you can follow me on My Fitness Pal (my SN is MandiMakes) and follow my Tumbler called Mandi Makes Progress. My Fitness Pal is so great, because I can set my calorie goal, and then make sure all of the calories I’m eating are fulfilling all of my body’s nutritional requirements. I have target percentages for carbs, fats, and proteins, and also make sure I’m getting enough nutrients like iron and potassium- easily seen in the charts that are updated as you add your food for the day. It was a lot of hassle at first, but I’m making it a habit, and since it saves the food I frequently eat, it’s became much more convenient to use. As far as my Tumblr blog goes, I’ll be posting my before and after pictures as I progress (first set will appear on the first of July, since that will be a month since I began the change), inspirational photos (basically before/afters for weight loss, and healthy looking fit bodies), healthy meal and treat ideas, and inspirational quotes (I used to hate those, but sometimes they really do help motivate me!).

Oh, and guess what?! Lucy is growing up so fast! She’s nine months old! Life is changing pretty quickly around here!

51 Responses

  1. I would love to hear more about the foods you ate to prevent mouth sores. My aunt (who is like a 2nd mother to me) was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is going through all the motions of radiation and chemo. The sores have just started, but I know it is going to get worst for her. She eats very healthy/well balanced/& almost all organic now, but any extra info I could give her would be so great!

    Good luck on your new fitness/wellness journey! I just started taking my health alot more seriously here lately & want to start blogging about it as well. :)

    • Mandi says:

      Well, for me, the sores were actually water blisters caused by clogged saliva ducts. I noticed they were triggered whenever I age anything with seasoning, or caused me to salivate. So, basically anything that isn’t dry, and everything bland. I do no salt or seasoning for the time being. Avocados I eat every day. Quinoa is good mixed it with it and I also like to add edamame, spinach, and black beans to the quinoa avocado mixture. Sweet potatoes are also good for no sores. I make a sweet potato oatmeal mini casserole often. 1/3 cup sweet potato, 1/3 cup almond milk, 1/3 cup rolled oats, one egg white, 1/2 t baking soda, baked at 320 for 20 minutes. I also so Greek yogurt and blueberries and strawberries. Raspberries and pineapple were not good for my mouth, but I have loved bananas, plus they’re easy to eat! I am not a vegetarian, but eating meat has been difficult so rarely do it. Lots of green smoothies with almond butter and almond milk have been daily staples. Plus string cheese, almonds, and apples are regular snacks for me. If I think of anything else I’ve been doing a lot, I will post again! If you use the my fitness pal app, you can add me as a friend and look at my daily food diaries. :)

    • Mandi says:

      P.s. sorry for your aunt’s news and I hope she has success with her treatments!

    • Mandi says:

      I just thought of something else- if mouth problems are going to be an issue for her, she should ask her oncologist about Neutra Sal if they haven’t told her about it. It’s a mouth wash available to cancer patients.

  2. Claudia says:

    I am so very sorry that you had to go through all of this, but I am also happy to hear about your progress!!

  3. Alison says:

    Mandi! Oh my goodness I am so happy for you. I am so glad you kicked cancers ass.
    I am glad to hear about your journey to be healthy. I have an (almost) seven month old and have struggled with weight for a long time. I started eating clean and have lost 35lbs since January. Isn’t it amazing how these little girls can change everything about us? Life is indeed to short to be worrying about anything superficial.. but it’s so hard. You can’t help but feel gross some days.
    Here’s so us feel beautiful and healthy every day!!

    Again, I am filled with joy over your recovery.

  4. Alison says:

    *here’s to us feeling beautiful and health every day!!

    mega brain fart

  5. awh mandi that’s fantastic news!!!! we are so thankful that you are fully better! you are such a strong woman and a huge inspiration for us all. good luck on your new mission of putting your health first! you have definitely inspired us too!

    lots of love from winnipeg, XOXOXOXO

  6. Sarah says:

    I am so glad that you are doing better and that you have family to help you out. For what its worth, you’re in my pryers and I hope you be back to 100% soon!


  7. Kara says:

    Damn, girl. I am so glad this process is soon behind you and that nasty cancer is gone!!!! Get ready for the red wine!

    Also. Love your sentiments about eating clean and healthily. I’m reading the book “Eat To Live” and it has been transforming how I think about food. I think you’d like it!

    Much love to you and your family. XO.

  8. paula strong says:

    Praise God for your healing You are an encouragement to be to get my big butt up and moving more and eating better like I did a year ago Thank you for your life and sharing Paula

  9. Leigh-Ann says:

    Mandi, I broke out in tears when I read, “And my scans showed that there is no more cancer in my body- so it looks like we caught the bugger just in time to save my life” and I said Thank you God so many times.

    I’m so relieved for you. The fight through it sounds horrible and hard, yeesh, holy cow. Thank goodness it’s over. And, I’m excited to hear about your new journey and follow along– might just inspire me to get my butt in gear too.

    Love you,

  10. Laura says:

    I am SO happy to hear this. I am a long time reader and I have checked back for updates daily. It it’s a strange, yet beautiful phenomenon that the internet allows you to connect with people’s stories and send positive energy their way—even when you’ve never met, let alone had a conversation. Wishing you much strength during this time.

  11. Erin says:

    Hi Mandi!

    I have never commented before, why I am not sure! But I read your blog regularly.

    This post is a reason to comment, do the biggest happy dance ever and celebrate!! Biggest congrats for all of your amazing strength, breakthroughs, and positivity. You are an inspiration to women everywhere, getting through all of this, juggling life as a mamma, & wife & overcoming all the challenges. WOAH!
    Biggest RESPECT to you darling!
    A shift to healthy living is the best way to live a vibrant life I believe! I too have been on a massive health journey, and weight shedding journey. So far 44 pounds, I have worked hard to let them go. Right now I am close to your weight, with the same goal weight as you! SO, we can do it my friend!! I know we can!
    I am a practicing nutritionist, of course this has helped me educate myself greatly on healthy life choices and surround myself with the healing and wonders of food! if you have any questions, please contact me!! I would be most happy to help. I post a heap of recipes and food inspiration and wordy inspiration on my personal pinterest. Helps motivate and inspire me too!

    All the best,
    In solidarity.

    Erin xoxox

  12. Kelly Renee says:

    You’re really inspiring, Mandi. This post filled me with so much hope and I am so happy that you are on your way to becoming well again. I have prayed that you will become well again, and although I can not understand what you have gone through I have prayed about it- because my grandmother recently had cancer and had to go through chemo. Thank you for sharing your story, it is inspiring and beautiful. Good luck with becoming healthier! Having recently becoming healthy myself I know that it’s a lot of fun finding new healthy recipes. So many best wishes to you and your family.
    Kelly Renee, xox

  13. anoushka says:

    glad to hear this! xx

  14. Rhoe Jay says:

    Oh Mandi! I breathed a sigh of relief when I finished reading your post! To me, you’re already a beautiful person inside-out – size doesn’t even come into the equation. Not even a wee bit.

    Hope you’ll feel yourself again in no time. We’re always with you in spirit, near or far.

    A reader in Malaysia.

  15. Lisa W. says:

    First off SO SO SO happy to hear from you, I follow you on Instagram, but I am very happy that stinking treatment is done. My Mom went through ALLOT of the same thing with radiation. UGH…done, so glad it’s done. I can’t imagine. I’ll just say this, you took something bad and made it a positivie…you rock girlfriend. Well wishes on your journey with better eating and such. Hoping you do posts on some of your “life in a day what ya eat” kinda thing:) I need to “do” the same thing. AND I am positive Lucy did brighten ALL those other patients days, how could she not, she is beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!! AND 9 months, WOW she will be walking before you know it:) Thank you for keeping us up to date!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Kellie says:

    I am sooo happy to hear that the cancer is gone and that soon you can start feeling like you again. You are such an inspiration and even though I’m sure this must be a hard topic to post about, you’ve really inspired me with it. You are such a strong woman.
    Congrats again!!!!

  17. Alana says:

    Mandi, I am so happy for you to have this behind you. I love your blog and how you’ve dealt with this all is very inspiring. I was recently diagnosed with heart disease and have been having trouble trying to figure out how to cope with it and live my life, but seeing your post about eating clean and taking care of yourself sort of hammered home some things I’ve been mulling over for a while. I have to just take care of myself a lot better now, and I really want to. I hope this comment makes sense.. Long story short, I’m just happy that your treatment went well, and I find you really inspirational :)

  18. candace says:

    Wow, this is great news! Thanks for sharing your journey, it really is inspiring! So happy for you!

  19. Liz says:

    congratulations, doll! that’s such a relief to hear that your scans came back clean and that you are doing better! that’s truly a terrifying ordeal to go through and I’m so glad you are on the mend.

  20. Susan says:

    Wonderful news :)

  21. Meli says:

    I’m so glad to hear that things are looking up!

  22. Hannah says:

    Great news! So glad to hear!

  23. Alison says:

    I am so happy you’ve got through this. Fantastic news!

  24. JoAnn Stevens-Flores says:

    I am so happy to see you back here! I’ve been thinking of you and wondering….But of course not wanting to bother you! So happy to hear this news and that you are healing and choosing to take care of your body! It is really our true “home” isn’t it?
    Also I’m sure this may be old news but have you read any of Kris Carr’s books? She has such an amazing story as a young woman with cancer. She is using food to keep her healthy. Her latest is Crazy Sexy Kitchen and the recipes are awesome. Oh! And the smoothies are amazing…..
    I’ll stop there ;)

  25. Dora says:

    Mandi, that’s great news both for beating cancer’s butt and then for starting a healthy lifestyle! I can definitely get where you’re coming from in terms of exercise and nutrition, since two years ago, from 198lbs I went to 143lbs and kept my weight fixed since then! I wish you a great start to your journey!
    Big hugs,

  26. gina says:

    Mandi! So happy to read that you’re feeling better and through the toughest part. Wishing you continued success on your healthy eating journey.

  27. Heather says:

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re doing well.

  28. maddie says:

    I’ve said this over and over but it’s worth repeating – your demeanor, your personality, your style, your creativity, even your grammar is inspiring. My mom died when I was eighteen of breast cancer. She was a beautiful woman but amazingly stubborn. When she was first diagnosed, the doctors told her that she must change her diet. At the time, she was on Atkins, which meant she ate a lot of red meat, heavy cream, butter, etc. Like I said she was, she was stubborn and didn’t follow their orders. I attribute 50% of her death to not taking care of herself, which is why I make it a point to go to the gym and eat very clean every single day. No excuses and no days off. I would be lying if I said I don’t do it for vanity reasons but I do – I want to look good, feel good, and be healthy.

    This comment is not meant to be about me – I feel my mom’s presence in my life every day. In weird and ways, she points me in the right direction, tells me what’s going to happen, and warns me about things. I have a feeling you’re going to get through this and be so much stronger, inspiring, and creative than before. She’s giving me a “godwink” that you’re going to be there for Lucy well past the age of eighteen.

  29. jeny says:

    I am so pleased to hear the positivity in your written voice. Can wait to follow along this new journey with you and I am glad you are feeling and ARE better!

  30. Dena says:

    Mandi –
    So glad to see you are back! I was so worried about/for you. I’m so glad that the cancer is gone and you/they caught it in time. I’m also glad that you are feeling better. Treatment is so awful!!!!
    Best wishes:)

  31. Amy says:

    Wow. Congratulations on beating cancer (!!!) and beginning this new chapter of your life. You are such a strong, beautiful woman and you should be so, so proud of yourself. I’ll be following along on your tumbler and My Fitness Pal as I too am trying to better my lifestyle, health wise. Thanks so much for your continued inspiration. <3

  32. Julia says:

    I am so so happy to hear that you’re healthy and happy again! I’m heading over to my fitness pal now – I’m hoping to be able to follow you on this new journey and get a bit healthier myself! xxo

  33. Ugh – what an ordeal! I’m so happy to hear you’re on the mend & taking awesome care of yourself & your cute lil one – yay!! I’d love to hear some of the stuff you’re making, if you decide to post some recipes. I’m at the place in my own life where I’m feeling the same way, and while I make smoothies & fresh juice, often, I haven’t had much time to cook anything super-great and healthy yet, but I’m hoping to change it all very soon. :) Hugs to you, Mandi!

  34. I find this so inspiring! So thrilled that you are cancer-free and living life fully!

    My daughter is going to be 2 in August and last year around this same time it suddenly dawned on me that I wanted to do lots of things with my growing-girl, but there was no way I would be able to do it all if I didn’t start taking care of my own body. 1 year later and I am feeling stronger and stronger as the weeks go by. I even registered for my first half marathon! Oi!

    Cheers to this good life and healthy days!

  35. Valerie says:

    Hi Mandi, glad to see you back, and sounding so positive. I have had cancer in my family and so I know how much of a roller coaster it can be. I thought this may interest you.

  36. Ashlie says:

    I adore the picture of you and Lucy at the top- it’s a framer, for sure. I also loved hearing about Lucy cheering all the people who were going through so much at the treatment center- I have no doubt that it made a huge difference for them to see her smiling face. I feel so inspired after reading your well-worded post. I am smart. I know that I’m supposed to treat my body well, but knowledge is different than follow through; this gave me encouragement. Thank you for sharing your life with strangers who appreciate it.

  37. It sounds like radiation and especially the part where you said things felt like swallowing razor blades sounds really really awful and painful. I am glad that things are progressing well and that you’ve enjoyed eating well and exercising after just wanting to sit around and wake up in five months. I am so thankful to hear that you have no cancer in your body and that there has been healing!!! Praise God for His healing power!!!

  38. liz says:

    oh mandi, i am thinking of you daily! i am so proud of you and the path you have taken. let me know if you ever want to go to raisin rack together or workout :)
    know that you are always in my thoughts and prayers.

  39. Allison says:

    So elated to hear you are recovering! I have been praying for you and your family these past months and was so happy today to see a fresh and healthy looking momma enjoying her baby!

  40. naomi says:

    I am so proud of you.

  41. Karli says:

    Mandi I lost track of your blog a little while ago and just found it again via a friend’s instagram. I’m so sorry to hear about your cancer but am so happy that your surgery and treatment is going well. Your little Lucy is gorgeous – last time I read you had miscarried – a long time ago now, I guess. I am so happy to have found you again (sounds a little over the top) but I really enjoy your writing, style and what you have to say.
    Anyway – great to check in and can’t wait to pop in to see what’s happening x

  42. Catherine Pepper says:

    Hi Mandi, I am so delighted to hear about your progress & recovery. I recently came across a blog called The Wellness Warrior. It is by an amazing aussie girl who has recovered from cancer & made lots of life changing decisions about her health, nutrition & wellbeing. I have found her so inspirational, you should check it out & get in touch with her.
    Cath Pepper xx

  43. Catherine Pepper says:

    Ps I just completed my first marathon yesterday. I had made a lot of changes to my health & wellbeing. Miracles are possible. Xx

  44. I just saw your swimsuit post in my feed reader and wondered about your health. So glad I then immediately saw this post. Your strength and ability to rebound during this time is incredible. Good luck on your new journey, I am so happy for you!

  45. Casey says:

    I am so, so glad you’re feeling better again! I’ve been praying for you since you posted about your diagnosis, and this is such great news that you’re cancer free! :) What a blessing! My mom just finished nearly a year’s worth of chemo and radiation (she was diagnosed with breast cancer late last summer), so I know from a “watching perspective” how tough the whole treatment process is.

    And kudos for getting into exercising and eating well! I’m trying to get back in shape after giving birth to my daughter and eat better (those last two months of pregnancy I did a complete 180 on my usual healthy diet, and it didn’t help I wasn’t cleared to work out until 12 weeks postpartum! :p). It’s been a struggle–especially since I have some diet restrictions due to food sensitivities my daughter has (I’m breastfeeding her)–but I’m determined to eat more cleanly and exercise so I feel better physically and mentally! :)

    Anyway, just want to say that you’ve been in my thoughts and prayers! :) Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!!!

  46. Suzy8track says:

    Glad to hear that you are on the road to recovery. Excercise and a nutritious diet are the best things you can do for yourself.

  47. Miki says:

    Awe, Mandy, this post made me teary eyed. I’m sad that you had to go through all of this, but happy at the same time to know you’re cancer-free now and that this hard experience has brought positive actions! All the best of luck and a tight, tight hug from this stranger! ;)