Category Archives: Life Stuff

How I (Finally) Learned to Love Running.

Running always seemed stupid to me, and I could never figure out why anyone did it on purpose. “I run if I’m being chased,” I’d joke, and I maintained a healthy weight by counting calories (drinking whiskey instead of beer) and stopping by the occasional yoga class.

And then I received a very unwelcome diagnosis.

After four surgeries and a painful tissue expansion reconstruction, my doctor cleared me for “light jogging,” but not yoga.  And I thought she was fucking nuts. Really? You want me to bounce this shit around? Have you lost your mind? But even though I wanted to do yoga I couldn’t. I had zero upper body strength left after all of the muscle-rearranging. I couldn’t chaturanga if I was being… chased.

But I knew I had to do something. Not being able to exercise taught me how much I was taking my body for granted, and sitting around takes its toll on your body and your mind. Finally one sunny afternoon I put on my embarrassingly-untouched Nikes and started the Couch-to-5k app on my phone.

The first day of the program has you jog for 60 seconds with 90-second walking breaks, and I fought for every single step. That first “run” sucked, I’m not going to lie, but when I started my walk home, I burst into tears (for the millionth time in 2013. God, I was a mess.). I couldn’t believe I did it. After all the shit cancer threw at me, I was doing something I never thought I could do. And maybe I was being chased, by all of the fear, insecurity and body shame I’d been holding onto. Maybe I was running from it, but I didn’t care.  It felt really, really good to take back control of my body.

And yeah, sometimes I was slow. Sometimes it hurt, but every time I got a side stitch I reminded myself to breathe. That this is nothing compared to the first time I put on pants after my mastectomy. That I am capable of a lot more than I think.

I stuck with the program, one step at a time, until I ran my first 5k. I was 26 years old, and 3.1 miles was the farthest I’d ever run in my life. I got Z to join with me and we became one of those annoying couples who run together, and then talk about running (ew, gross), and buy things to wear for running.

It took a life-threatening illness for me to realize that exercise is a gift you give to yourself, not a punishment for overeating. I can’t believe the way I used to treat my body, and I’m so glad I have the chance to change it.

This year I’ve challenged myself to run 500 miles, and I’d love for you to join me. Outrun whatever it is that’s been holding you back.

If you’re one of those people who thinks you could never do it, please believe, if I can do it, you can. You absolutely can. You don’t have to go fast. You just have to go.

Ready to get started? Here’s what to do.

1. Download the Couch to 5k app
2. Grab a buddy (someone who will hold you accountable and vice versa)
3. Be prepared for a few awesome days, and a few shitty days. Even a bad workout is a workout, so be good to yourself.
4.. Get a good playlist. Check out the Cassie Cares facebook page for an hour-long Spotify playlist of my favorite workout songs.

One step at a time, you got this.

Take Care,

Cassie

What To Get Your Kid’s Teacher for Christmas (or Whatever)

I suppose you may be wondering why a person who neither has children nor teaches them might be writing about what to get a your kids’ teachers for Christmas (or whatever we’re calling “the holidays” now). And while I understand that this may seem strange, I need you to know this:

I sit at happy hour with your kids’ teachers and hear all about the stuff they (and you) do all year.

And it drives me to drink.

Scary as it may be, I  am glad to have a few teacher friends.

Crazy stuff aside, they sit with your offspring for hours every day and help shape their minds. They teach them how to read, how to stand in line but still ask questions, to remember their prime numbers, and how to someday grow up to be a decent person, a responsibility that deserves our respect and admiration.

What better time to show them you appreciate this huge, monumental feat than over the holidays?

Don’t worry, I gotchyerback. I asked a few of my favorite teacher-friends what their favorite gifts have been over the years, and I’m here to share that list with you (not surprisingly, no one said “apples.”).

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1. Money. 

If you are in a position to slap Ms. Teacher a twenty-spot, you should. She’s been working sometimes 60+ hours a week on activities and homework for your little munchkins, with no extra compensation. Sometimes she uses her own money when the school won’t provide her with supplies. A little cash can mean a lot to her.

2. Food. 

Straight up delicious food. My friend Ms. M said the best gift she ever got was some Thai takeout. That was a year ago and she still thinks about how awesome it was.  Cookies, takeout, whatever. Feed your kid’s teacher. Teachers like food.

3. Gift cards (to awesome places).

One of my teacher-friends (who asked to remain anonymous) said, though he appreciates the sentiment, he’s received enough Starbucks gift cards to last, um, forever. For some people this is not a problem, but for him he can’t give them away fast enough. If you’re going to go the gift card route, I recommend local bars/restaurants or places like Target where the recipient can purchase more than one thing.

4. Booze. 

Yeah, it seems a little weird to hand alcohol to your kid’s teacher, like you’re perhaps encouraging her to do… exactly what you do every weeknight when the kids are asleep,  (Careful, this realization might blow your mind like it did mine)  but educators are people, too.

Yep, sometimes even those who educate our youth like to have a glass of wine with friends, and that’s a good thing. They’ve been through some amazing and sometimes heartbreaking experiences teaching our future leaders. They could all use a drink.

5. Books for the classroom.

Age-appropriate books are like currency in Teacher Land.

I don’t know what that means, but I do know that a good book can be a Godsend during a rainy day’s indoor recess when you have to entertain 25 children who just ate a shit-ton of carbs at lunch.

6. A Nice Note.

Teachers above all recognize that money is tight, and maybe the extra gift isn’t in your budget.

That is absolutely fine, and no teacher on Earth expects you to go without so she can have a gift card, especially when you have little mouths to feed.

Every now and then it’s nice to hear that you’re doing a good job.  If you can spare five minutes, a little encouragement could change a teacher’s outlook on his year. And while you’re at it, write a note to the principal about how much your kid loves his teacher, and what a good job he’s doing. Maybe, just maybe, this gesture could result in a raise, which is the best gift of all.

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Not seeing what you’re looking for? Send your kid’s teacher an email asking her about herself. Maybe she’s got a hobby that you could help out with, or a baby boy at home who could use a play-date.

Don’t worry, it’s definitely the thought that counts. You got this.

 

Take care,

Cassie

 

 

 

 

Thankful for All of It.

I got a phone call from my oncologist and for a second my heart sank, which doesn’t make any sense. They got it all. They even went back in to make sure.

It was just a courtesy call to remind me to make a follow-up appointment, and when I hung up the phone I couldn’t believe how long it’s been. I still can’t. Babies have been made and born in the time since January 6, the day my world completely changed.

The passing of time has always been something I’ve struggled to wrap my mind around, but from that awful moment of my diagnosis I was thankful that time acts how it does. I kept telling myself, “This will be in your rearview before you know it,” and last weekend I had a moment where I realized the nightmare is over. It’s finally fucking over.

I had been at an event chatting with some new friends, and I realized on the drive home that I hadn’t thought or talked about cancer at all. Not once. Not even for a second.

I don’t look or feel like shit anymore. I can do almost everything I couldn’t do after the mastectomy (except reaching high-up heavy things, and bowling, but I’m not mad about it) and I never again have to explain to anyone that I can’t open my own car door.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and sharing what we’re thankful for, here’s mine:

I’m thankful that I get to be a normal, healthy person.

I can hold my pup. I can run a 5k without stopping. I get to be a young newlywed and bicker with my husband about the best way to hang tapestries.  Our biggest challenge right now is compromising on how strong the coffee should be. I have amazing friends and family who have made me feel incredibly loved through all of it.

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It’s a really, really nice feeling. I am so lucky, and I am so grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.

Cassie

Natural Beauty Products You Can Actually Afford

Remember that time I went on a rampage and threw out all of my makeup and beauty products because I was convinced they contributed to my cancer diagnosis?

It made me feel better to start fresh, but in retrospect I don’t recommend trashing every product at once. This impulse ended up costing me a small fortune. There are millions of choices, a lot of them are expensive, they all claim to be the best of the best, and the word “natural” is misleading at times. I had no idea what to buy, and I was totally lost.

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To make your life easier I’ve compiled a list of a few of my reasonably-priced favorites. While deciding to make the switch to organic/natural cosmetics, I suggest replacing your old stuff as you run out, not putting everything you own on the curb and then crying at Whole Foods.

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  • 1. Trader Joe’s tea tree oil facial cleansing pads. (These are the same formula as Desert Essence, only cheaper!) Great for acne-prone skin.
  • 2. Trader Joe’s Vitamin E Oil. You can use this as eye makeup remover, to moisturize dry hands and feet, or to help soften scars.
  • 3. Burt’s Bees facial cleansing towelettes. These are awesome if you’re drunk but you need to wipe off your makeup.
  • 4. Chicken Poop chapstick. Tastes amazing and actually softens your lips.
  • 5. Kiss My Face liquid rock deodorant. This is the first natural deodorant I’ve used that actually smells good and keeps me from pitting out.

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  • 6. Zum Mist body spray in Lavendar Mint. You will smell like you’ve been hanging out in a French soap store all day.
  • 7. Nature’s Gate lotion in Papaya. The first lotion that has EVER fixed my dry heels.

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  • 8. Avalon Organics Vitamin C Renewal Revitalizing Eye Cream. Picked this one up on Amazon, and it works so well I feel comfortable going without makeup.
  • 9. Except when I don’t. One of these Zuzu concealers (my shade is C-3) lasts me up to three months, and that’s with almost-daily use. It works as well as a Clinique concealer I used to use, and it’s about the same price.
  • 10. Beauty Without Cruelty Vitamin C with CoQ10 Renewal Cream. This is like giving your face a drink. My skin has never felt so soft, and I even noticed some fine lines disappear.

The added bonus is that you can get these (or an equivalent) from Amazon on the cheap.

For the first time in my life I’ve gotten compliments on my skin, which is so amazing considering how things used to be (a few years ago, I didn’t wear makeup to work, and my boss sent me home because she thought I was sick. Yikes).

Have some favorites that you think I should check out? Post them in the comments!

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Take Care,

Cassie

How to Plan a Wedding Without Losing Your Shit

I’ve been involved with or helped plan several weddings, some amazing, some stressful, some amazingly stressful. While planning my own, I was totally in my element. Z once told me that in event of the zombie apocalypse, I could be the official planner. Initially, I was offended, but the ability to plan things without getting overwhelmed has proven to be a real asset. Case in point, I never forget my flask.

Besides, blogging and drinking are impractical habits while running from flesh-eating zombies, so official planner is okay. I’ll take it.

To share some insight about my post-apocalyptic skill, I would like to debunk this sentiment: “Planning a wedding is stressful enough. I can’t imagine adding cancer treatment on top of that.”

To put this into perspective, cancer treatment is stressful. Working full time, freelancing on the side, moving three times and keeping a blog while treating cancer? Stressful. Planning a wedding is not. It is a joyful relief, a goal, and an exciting thing to look forward to. If you are planning your own wedding and getting stressed out, you need to cool your jets.  Here’s how:

1. Write down what’s most important to you in a ceremony and reception. Number one should always be that you end up married. For me, there are only three other things I care about. Good food, free booze, and a sexy-looking couple.  I focused the majority of my attention on obtaining those things. The rest is fluff.

2. If it wasn’t your idea (or your fiance’s), DON’T  DO IT.  Weddings get out of hand when an anxious bride is trying too hard to please everybody. Stop. It’s your day. You don’t need to do anything but your “important” list. Don’t know that guy? Don’t invite him. Not into cake? Have pie.

3. Think of a budget, double it, and then save your pennies until you have that money in your account. I thought I could pull off a $5000 wedding, blog about it, and then get internet-famous for my creativity and thriftiness. Then we got our catering quote, and there went our budget. Things are a lot more expensive than you think. Don’t have the money? Looks like you need a longer engagement.

4. DO NOT GO INTO A SINGLE DOLLAR OF DEBT OVER YOUR WEDDING. DO YOU HEAR ME? NOT EVEN A DOLLAR.  It was important to us to pay for the wedding ourselves, and it was even more important to us that we could afford it. We didn’t want to start a life in the red, and having actual money in our savings as we start our marriage gives us a nice feeling of accomplishment. You do not need the added stress of a wedding deficit.

5. Within reason, ask for help. Get your man on board. And your mom. And your creative friend who likes making things. Be grateful and humbled, because they don’t have to do this for you. Buy them things and show them that you appreciate their help.

6. While we’re on the topic of help, STOP TREATING YOUR BRIDESMAIDS LIKE RICH ASS SLAVES.  These people are your friends, but if you ask too much of them, they will begin to resent you, and you’ll be able to feel that. This is where the “Bridezilla” factor comes into play. You are not entitled to hundreds of dollars and hours from your girls. If you get that, you are extremely fortunate, so act like it.

I recently talked to a lovely woman who spends an average of $1000 per wedding she’s in. Shoes, hair, showers, bachelorettes. This stuff just adds up. To me, this is bonkers, and it has to stop. If any of your bridal party have to fly, offer to help. If a dress or tux is over $100, offer to pay for shoes or hair.

7. Get started on the little stuff way in advance, and ignore magazine timelines. Do as much as you can handle right away. Right when you get engaged, get to work on your invitations, favors, etc.  Trust me, when you don’t have to worry about invitations after reconstructive surgery, or when you can sit back and enjoy the last month of your engagement, you feel so much more confident in your marriage, your wedding, and your life.

TL;DR – Get started right away, stick to your budget, DO NOT GO INTO DEBT OVER YOUR WEDDING, ask for help, stick to your own vision, be nice to your wedding party, and quit acting like an entitled little biotch. Now go forth and be married!

(details of planning)

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You Are Not Ready For This Jelly

After going through this, I believe you have to be a particularly crazy and hard-assed individual to get a boob job. Reconstruction was not as painful as the mastectomy, but I was again set back to not being able to put on my pants, which comes with its own set of problems.

Even when I couldn’t walk by myself, I refused to go to the bathroom in front of Z. Sometimes pulling my pants up was a 30-minute feat, but I still maintain that it was worth it. My engagement was tainted with feelings that I didn’t want, but I refused to put “pee-shy” on the list. Just refused.  Z has seen bloody pus squirt out of my armpit, but by God, he has not seen me pee.

Now that I’m dressing myself, showering, and using the bathroom without hesitating, it’s time to assess the collateral damage.

Things are jiggling that didn’t used to jiggle. Like, I’ve had some chunk before, and I’ve actually lost a lot of weight since my diagnosis. But after four months of sitting on my ass and eating Indian food, the chunk is now just everywhere. I have no muscle definition. Did you know you can have cellulite on your arms? I didn’t even know that could happen. All of the definition I once had from biking and wearing heels? Gone. Jiggly. I don’t even want to talk about what happened to my butt.

(I maintained some ab definition, but I attribute that to all of the vomiting. Yummy.)

At my follow-up visit after my reconstruction, my doctor told me that I can do yoga in six weeks, but I can start jogging now if I wear a really good bra.

“Yeah, I’m not going to do that.”  I jogged more than once, and every time I wondered why people still do it. Fuck jogging. Plus I can’t fathom bouncing my new equipment around. That just sounds like total agony.

This is not what wedding-shape looks like. Well, not in my mind. None of my clothes fit me because I’ve shrunk, but pre-cancer Cassie would say I can’t go out in public like this.

But what do I do? Bitch about it? Pay someone to airbrush me? Tell the Hootons to photograph me from space so I look tiny? Cancel the wedding and cry into my Cheetos?

No, I stand back, and for the first time in my life, say “This is what I have to work with, and Bitch, I’m going to rock it.”

I didn’t expect cancer to give me a lesson in confidence, but I can’t deny that it did. Your body is amazing. Look what it can do. You’re here to talk about it. Now shut the fuck up and strut.

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Go ‘Like’ the Cassie Cares Page!

 

“My boss couldn’t remember what they were called so she called them red-haired whores.”