Writing With the Door Closed

Posted in Fight Against Cancer on April 8, 2014 by Chelsea Santucci

photo              Candid picture of Jackie & I before our oncology consultations

(Rochester, 1.22.14)

MY STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS:

“give me the world, but for Christ’s sake, do not sugarcoat it. give me raw and gleaming with truth.”

My soul is in complete contradiction with itself, constantly trying to merge my old existence with my new one. This war is achingly real:  my body is supporting the growth of something that is not mine — feeding my inner workings with poison and toxins to guide it — while refusing to surrender to a mental imprisonment that so effortlessly presents itself –all while fueling a fire within to bring this life meaning.

“i want the madness to twirl me around until i can no longer stand. i refuse to be drunk on a soft world.”

You expect and hope that most days are filled with transactional experiences, mostly because they present themselves as distractions, persuading you to minimize the truth that you know and face. It’s amusing how quickly those exchanges evolve with a simple comment such as, “you look like someone who doesn’t fear anything.”

If only that were entirely true. You rationalize that your fear can either paralyze or propel you.  Unable to grasp a life that so willingly collapes around you, controlling emotions seems like the  only viable option. Wholeheartedly, you convince yourself that true intestinal fortitude is defined by avoiding all emotions and that any sign of weakness is not allowed.

As the universe laughed before, it once again mocks your new found resolution to detach. If by fate itself, you are presented with an old acquaintance, friend, and reminder. Every fiber of emotion that has for so long been suppressed, now presents itself as a broken spigot.  Everything spiraling into the darkness again, which oddly enough feels like home, a sense of normalcy. Grieving feels necessary for a life not lost, but a life of undeserving pain and hardship.

“My stars shine darkly over me; the malignancy of my fate might, perhaps distemper yours; therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone. It were a bad recompense for your love to lay any of them on you.”

I understand things most clearly in my solitude.

The fear of losing the fight has become equivalent to the fear of conquering it. Understanding how one bounces back from what feels, reads, and sounds like a death sentence becomes unfathomable. Questioning why you would want to be welcomed back into an outside world that decided to paint some pretty picture, a false image, while you were suffocating between four, white walls. Or even better, a world that chooses to idolize people who don’t inspire hope.

If only it were possible to transform the disease into a person as a means to place blame or concisely direct the rage.  Retreating to the past seems to give the mind a perception of ease. Dragging toxic events or people that could have rooted this internal manifestation. Only to ignite further frustration and conclude that you can’t reason with the disease. Logic convinces you of this: that there is no rhyme or reason. Especially after witnessing losses. All the  probabilities in their favor and all the prayers in the world couldn’t have kept them here, present. Wishing there was an explanation, a bigger picture to the madness. Struggling to bring justice to their short time here.

“tell me illuminating things and for each one you tell me, i will reply with something of darkness.

we will develop our souls in the balance: we will dance in the unison of all things and they meet

and there will be a fire in our hearts so big not even the oceans will be able to put us out.”

The blog post is dedicated to my dear friend, Jackie and my team: Costello, Leibovich, Renee, & Jessie.

Jackie, thank you for allowing me to break down my barriers, admit my fears, and feel my pain.

To my team : As unforgiving as those walls can be at times and as painfully real the halls become,

thanks for being my security, home, and family. So honored to be placed in your presence.

“I want to set fire to the truth I see around me and I want it to burn in the eyes of those who don’t see the world the way I do. I want to be strange and difficult and to stir in the hearts of men who choose to see the world so plainly.

This city has taught me to be fierce, and fierce I will be.”

Patience wears thin over time. Exhausted of being exhausted. Unapologetically taking life back into its rightful hands.

Santucci

**Quotations By Christopher Poindexter & William Shakespeare

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Overwhelming Gratitude

Posted in Fight Against Cancer on December 22, 2013 by Chelsea Santucci

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 9.28.54 AM

1,989 Views: It was so unexpected to have people thanking me for sharing this journey with them. It’s quite the opposite in my mind—thank you all for reassuring me that I made the right decision to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, no one in this life goes untouched by hardship. We all have our stories—I appreciate you all embracing mine. I know it was therapeutic for me and especially for my family, as I had asked them to keep everything private since September when this whole journey started. I can’t thank you all enough for taking the time to read my post. To say that I feel loved would be an understatement—blessed to have you all in my corner.

Santucci

Grace Under Pressure

Posted in Fight Against Cancer on December 20, 2013 by Chelsea Santucci

1476096_10102739808328990_1697468019_n[1]Rochester, Minnesota Mayo Clinic (11.20.13)

Cancer may try to take away all of my physical abilities, but it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, & it cannot touch my soul.

My best friend, Hillary, gave me a journal to guide me through my journey ahead. In the first few pages, she included some quotes and excerpts from this blog and explained to me that many people will provide me with advice and support along the way, but sometimes its best to pull from your own inner strength. I was told that I had probably been living with cancer for about 2 to 4 years. Seeing that I started this blog almost three years ago and my topics are so relatable to my life now, it seems only right to come back to finish what I started.

During my procedures and tests, I found myself writing journal entries in my head to help keep myself calm. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me, but now it serves as both therapy and preservation. More than ever, I have been trying to hold onto memories, feelings, and thoughts and for some reason writing them down reassures me that I will be able to accurately preserve them…not only for me, but also for my family and friends.  I want to be transparent with those that mean the most to me and I think I can do that best through my writing.

I have had internal battles about writing publicly about my journey and prognosis, mostly because this is as real as it gets for me. To say this has been an overwhelming experience would be an understatement and sharing this with others thus far hasn’t minimized that in anyway. However, it is more important to me to leave behind a legacy and reach people through this blog that I might not get a chance to reach out to otherwise.

With that being said, to write is to be vulnerable, so here it goes…

I started drafting this blog post back in November. Honestly, it has been a challenge to sift through all my thoughts, emotions, and memories that I have built along this journey. The mind is a powerful place and you can get lost in it. Some days I find its easier to minimize everything, while other days I reach back for those raw emotions because it reminds me that life is precious even through the good, bad, and indifferent times.

As a cancer patient, there is an unfortunate pattern of hard conversations, and regardless of exposure, they never seem to get any easier. However, for me there is something so beautiful and powerful about those conversations, because instead of dwelling in this disaster, I am overwhelmed with the blessings I have or had experienced. Of course there have been tears, but unexpectedly they haven’t been tears of pity or sadness. I wouldn’t look back on this experience and say that it was a dark time in my life. Mostly because I have had the opportunity to watch my family come together to support me and each other.

I would be lying if I said that this was an easy situation. There have been numerous moments where I’ve doubted my ability or capacity to get through this. A lot of that doubt stems back to pain, some physical, some emotional. The process to receive my final prognosis has left me with some traumatic memories, which sometimes I think were necessary to guide and strengthen me throughout my treatment process and the road that lies ahead.

Regardless of severity, there is no such thing as normalcy when it comes to this disease. I have come to learn that there are no breaks given and find it easier to accept that the easiest day was yesterday. They definitely don’t train you to handle situations like this. Although life has changed drastically, I have to say that it has been a good experience for what it’s worth.

Mayo Clinic exposed me to some experiences that I thought I would live life unscathed by, but it taught me that a sense of humor goes a long way. I was surrounded by some amazing and inspiring people at the Mayo, some I met, others I just observed—I pull strength from them everyday and it’s because of them that I refuse to complain or have any self-pity. Like they say in Minnesota, “it could always be worse.”

Surprisingly, I still look strong and feel relatively strong considering the circumstances. I placed a pull-up bar on the door to my room—it’s one of my many “one finger salutes” to my cancer and prognosis. Whether I want to or not, I force myself to do at least one pull-up a day.  I will continue to hold onto this  feeling  and self-image of strength for as long as possible. Until the cancer drops me to my knees and even past that, I refuse to accept this disease. When I was in Atlanta, I had a heart to heart with my other half, Taylor—it was then and there that I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let this disease take my life.

photoFort Myers, FL (12.15.13) 

On November 6, I was diagnosed for the second time with stage IV cancer. It was determined that my cancer is not curable, meaning that remission does not exist in my particular case. Success for me has been defined as keeping the cancer under control or stable for as long as possible through life-long treatment. I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, seem to thrive on them. I like to call it rejoicing in adversity. I truly believe that I have been training my whole life to prove my prognosis wrong, and  I will.

My Dad spoke about the author, Hemingway, and how he created characters who maintained grace under pressure. I thought that was such an admirable characteristic or skill set. My goal is to have grace under the pressure this disease presents and carry myself with integrity and dignity throughout this journey. Even when chemo causes me to cut my hair off (picture above), you will only see a smile on my face.

I didn’t choose this life, but I will fight to enjoy this life. 

Santucci 

**I love that WordPress offers a “Comments” section. In celebration of life, I would appreciate if my family, friends,  and/or acquaintances write a memory that we have shared together in the comments section.** 

Solo, son.

Posted in November 2011 on November 6, 2011 by Chelsea Santucci

“You come into this world alone, and you leave this world alone.” 

My Dad likes to recite these words to me from time to time. As of lately I’ve truly learned that at the end of the day, its all you.  Life happens. Sometimes life lets you skim by, not really noticing you. Other times, life tests you to see what your worth, to see what your made of, to see what your purpose is here. Well, life is testing me. Its not necessarily a bad thing. Its definitely given me the push I need to realize what I’m capable of at this point in my life.

As of recently, I traveled to Miami to gain some invaluable experience and to get exposure. I spent three days traveling between Doral, Coral Gables, South Miami, and Brickell training and learning at four amazing CrossFit gyms. It was my first time in Miami by myself and thankfully I quickly learned that I was still comfortable in my own skin. The whole I am CrossFit team was so welcoming. My favorite part of the trip was training. I felt honored to train with a Games competitor, Larissa, Sergio her fiance (an Ironman), and Jose.  I did a total of 9 workouts in two and a half days.

Wednesday morning Jose picked me up from the airport and we went straight to Brickell to train. Brickell was probably my favorite box. It was out of the ordinary being in the financial district of Miami. My first workout in Miami with the crew was awesome. The L sit pull throughs were definitely a struggle, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

Wod 1
AMRAP 20 mins
3 wall climbs
10 Up and Downs
5 Pull Threws (L sits)
10 Grasshoppers
After the workout I watched the class train and then Jose dropped me off at the hotel for some down time before my next workout. For my second workout, I went to CrossFit Gables.
WOD 2–partner wod
4 mins Deadlifts (10 reps at a time @ 155lbs)
3 mins Deadlift holds
2 mins Air Squats (pistols)
1 mins Burpees
400m Run under 3 mins
4 minutes Burpees
3 minutes Air Squats
2 mins Deadlift Holds
1 min Deadlifts
The next morning Jose and I went back over to Brickell and completed three workouts for the morning.
WOD 3
400m Sprint w sandbag
21-15-9
Wall balls 14lbs
Butterfly Situps with weight
Box Jumps 24″
WOD 4
5 Rounds
10 Power Cleans @ 80lbs
10 Burpees
WOD 5
3 Rounds
200m Farmer Walks w kettlebells
1 min rest in between

Went back to the hotel  and tried to get loosened up and mentally prepared for boxing training I had later that night. I felt like I had been waiting and wishing for this moment for the past year, but it was up to me to capture it.  I had been training so hard and finally someone was taking notice.  I had no idea what to expect for the boxing training. (WOD 6) I had brought all my gear with me–mouthguard, gloves, wraps, boxing shoes, and head gear. I’m sure the security officers at the airport were thinking to themselves “is this girl serious?”…damn straight I am. I was prepared to spar. I figured they would have me spar with either a girl or a guy, but I was ready to prove something either way. It was a lot more lax than I expected. I got to mess around on the bags, shadowboxed in the ring, and then did a good amount of the work on the focus pads with one of the trainers. There is something about being in the ring. It gets my blood rushing. Without a doubt, being a fighter runs through my veins. The ring doesn’t allow for any bullshit; it requires complete self assurance and straight will power.

The next morning Jose picked me up again and we did three short workouts.

Wod 7

30-1   20-1   10-1

Power snatches

the 30, 20, 10 reps had to be unbroken. the 1’s were all maxes for that set. each set had to be heavier than the previous. Strength work is definitely my favorite by far. If my muscles would let me, I would lift all day.

Wod 8

21-30-15-30-9-30

Thrusters

Body Rows (laying on your back)

Wod 9

3o toes to bar

1000m Row for time

I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. I’m hoping to make it back down there during Thanksgiving and Christmas to do some training with them again.

I do have something to celebrate, my one year anniversary with CrossFit. Gotta love CrossFit-it doesn’t bullshit and its worth every minute, penny, drop of blood and sweat. When I train, I call bad, bad, quality, quality, and everything in between sub-par. When I train life happens, the difference is I have to confront my downfalls and improve, not hide them away for tomorrow. I train to be different. To stand out from the pack. To be an individual.  To go out swinging, not resting. To live valiantly, not cowardly.

….To stand alone and be completely comfortable with that.

Unscared

Posted in October 2011 on October 19, 2011 by Chelsea Santucci

When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, that is when you will be successful. 

Someone once told me, “don’t be afraid of success.” I was confused. I wasn’t afraid of success I was afraid of failure. He told me that you fail everyday, people fail everyday. Instead, we are afraid to see our true potential, to find out what we are really capable of,  and to challenge the unknown. Well my new mindset is UNSCARED. I’m not going to fear success. Its going to be a constant struggle and I will have to be patient, but like I tell the athletes I train, “it about the journey, not the destination.” Once you reach the destination you will always strive for more. There are only limitations and boundaries if you create them for yourself.

 

Strength.

Posted in June 2011 on June 12, 2011 by Chelsea Santucci

Strength (n.) : the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor; mental power; courage.

My strength will be measured by the amount of weight I can place on a barbell, or the ability to not surrender in a fight. However, I believe in measuring inner strength. The strength we draw on that gives us the will to go on, continue to fight, and pursue the thing that gives our lives meaning. You can out train every athlete, be the strongest, most fit athlete, but its the athlete or person with inner strength and “heart” will conquer the impossible. My goal is to walk into the gym everyday like its my last– my last workout, my last opportunity to challenge myself, my last time to sweat my weaknesses away, my last time to give everything I have mentally, physically, and emotionally, the last time to humble myself.

When I started this blog, I thought that I would be writing this for myself as an outlet like I did when I was younger. I have tons of journals that I still have til this day that I used to write my thoughts or things that had happened throughout my life. I knew some of my closest friends and some of my family members would read it, but as I’ve continued to posts I have gained more followers. For you that know me, have never met me, or are getting to know me, my writing is the rawest, most vulnerable form of myself.

I dedicate this blog entry to my sisters, Delaney and Taylor. I draw my inner strength from them.  They give my life meaning. Someone once told me that the top three things in life health, family, and career, in that order. At first I didn’t understand why family wasn’t first, but if you don’t take care of yourself, how do you expect to take care of your family? If you aren’t strong physically, mentally, and emotionally, how can you be strong for your family? Thanks Taylor and Delaney for making me want to be  a stronger person in every aspect of my life–love you guys.

 

Sisu.

Posted in June 2011 on June 9, 2011 by Chelsea Santucci

Sisu is a  Finnish word, which literally translates as…

Strength of will.

NOT surrendering.

NOT showing signs of weakness.

Determination.

Perseverance.

Acting rationally in the face of adversity.

Having guts.

Not having momentary courage, but having the ability to sustain courage against all odds.

That quitting is NOT an option.

If I place first, I’m first, if I place last, I’m last. It doesn’t matter, as long as I know that at the end of the day I’m a better athlete than I was when I walked in.