Summer in Wisconsin for the College Kid

It’s done. You’ve struggled. You’ve stressed. You’ve probably cried. You’ve most likely been living off of energy drinks and coffee for the last few weeks. But it’s done and it’s time to relax because summer is here!

But now what?

If you’re anything like me, this is always the tricky part. You spend all of spring semester daydreaming about the glories of summer. However, by the time summer does show up, you haven’t planned anything. Well, I’m going to be honest. I did that again. To counteract it, I’ve made a list of some things to do in Wisconsin over the summer and I wanted to share it with all of you! If you’re not from the Wisconsin area, I’m sure most of these can be tailored for your location.

Go to a drum corps show

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See a show at one of the several outdoor Wisconsin theatres (American Players Theatre, Peninsula Players, etc.)

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Go to the beach and soak up some sun (on the days when it’s not pouring rain)

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Get employed and earn some extra cash

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Enjoy the natural Wisconsin scenery at places like Copper Falls or Devil’s Lake

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Spend a day being a tourist in your own state by going to Door County

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Take an adventure to a bigger city and go to a museum (I’m a personal fan of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago)

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Floating down the River in Eau Claire

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Binge watch that Netflix show (you’ve earned it)

If you need a recommendation, go take a look at 8 Shows to Binge this Summer

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And a bonus one that people normally think of when they’re in Wisconsin:

Head to Wisconsin Dells: the water park capital of the world

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Until Next Time,

Dana

A Very Hairy Experience

I’ve been wanting to write about my hair and I haven’t. It’s not because it’s too soon or too sensitive of a topic. Also, hair is just a really weird topic to discuss in my opinion. Originally, I was going to write about the journey of my hair loss and be done with it (because it’s a very unique and special story). Very cut and dry. But my hair loss meant more to me than just some simple story and I couldn’t figure out why. So I waited until I could pinpoint what it was that prevented me from writing this particular post. As it turns out, I placed a lot more emphasis on my hair than I realized. Chances are, you probably do too.

But you’re telling me, “Oh Dana! Outward appearances don’t mean anything, especially my hair! I could cut my hair off and go bald no problem!”

Well that’s great and all, but what if you were forced to lose your hair strand by strand? Would you feel as nonchalant about the matter then? I’m guessing not.

Before this whole cancer issue came to be, I took great pride in my hair. It was this dark brown and… well, here’s a photo. Okay, a few photos. It’s easier than trying to describe it with some cheesy adjectives and comparisons. I apologize for any and all grainy photos. During this process, I didn’t take many photos (for personal reasons) and any that were taken were on camera phones. So you can imagine (and experience) the grainy photo cringe. Moving on.

When I was diagnosed, I knew I was going to lose my hair. Unless the chemotherapy is non-aggressive or nonexistent, hair loss is likely. Since I was 20 and in stage 2 already, my oncologist and I would have no problem doing round after round of intensive chemo. So after that conversation with my oncologist, I called up my sister, Nicole, and asked her to get me an appointment with a hair stylist as soon as possible (note: Nicole is my actual sister’s best friend that I grew up with, so, she’s basically my sister. And, for simplicity’s sake, I’m calling her one of my sisters.) Nicole is some sort of human telephone book who knows anyone and everyone and she got me an appointment with Allure Hair Design in Stevens Point, WI the very next day.

What was I doing walking into a salon when all my hair was going to fall out anyways? You see, I had made a joke to my friends and family that if the lump in my neck
turned out to be cancer, I would let everyone know in a fun way by dying my hair mermaid colors.

And then the joke became a reality so, for obvious reasons, I had to go through with it.

Seven hours and lots of hair dye fumes later, I became a colorful mermaid. I was ready to pay for this whole endeavor in full. If I wasn’t going to be buying hair products for a while, I might was well spend my money on something fun. As I’m about to check out, Nicole looks at me and just says, “Don’t worry. I’ve got it.”

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Nicole if you’re reading this, and I haven’t said it enough yet, thank you so much. I love you and I will never be able to express how much I appreciate your existence and your gratitude. Also your co-mermaiding with me. That was cool.

We get into the car and Nicole is driving me back to my dorm when she says, “Okay. I didn’t want to say anything until we got in the car because she asked me not to, but I have to tell you something.”

“Okay, what is it?” I reply.

“Do you remember the woman I was talking to while you were in the hair dryer chair?”

“Somewhat.”

“Well, she and I were talking about you and why you were dying your hair to such extreme colors, and basically she wanted to pay it forward and she helped pay for your appointment.”

I was stunned. That was so sweet and kind. I have no idea who she was or what her story is, but I’m so thankful to her as well. I’m grateful to a lot of people, but when it comes to making my hair transformation a great experience, Nicole, Allure Hair Design and that wonderful woman are where my thanks are greatest.

So Nicole took me home and when I came home, I found my roommates and some friends dying part of their hair purple for mermaid support! It was very cool and definitely fun to watch them struggle with at-home hair dye, trying not to get it all over everything.

I’ve got to say, mermaid hair was definitely a fun look. I normally don’t do crazy colors or crazy anything with my hair, so, to go from my usual look to this insane amount of color was quite a change and a good one at that. Even as the color faded, I still felt like my hair looked like a glorious coral reef. That is, until I started finding giant blue tumbleweeds scattered across my apartment.

Before I continue, I am not looking for sympathy or pity. I am writing this because it’s an experience that I want to share with you from my perspective. Whether you clicked here because you know me and want to learn more about my experience, or, this is your first time on My Bright Corner, I simply want to share my story. It’s my hope that by opening up about my cancer journey, people will feel less intimidated to have dialogue about cancer or its effects without feeling like they’re being offensive or rude. While I can’t speak for others, I don’t find it off-putting when people have questions about cancer. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing about it.

Back on subject. Blue tumbleweeds. Hair loss. Again, every cancer patient undergoing
intensive chemo knows that they’re going to lose their hair, and I was ready for it. At least I thought so. I thought that by dying my hair it would prove that I was ready for this journey and all the insanity it would put me through and that started with hair loss.

I know what you’re visualizing: me pulling out clumps of hair out of my head while sitting in the bathroom, but no. It wasn’t like that at all. I didn’t have bald patches or massive clumps of hair fall out of my head. It just started thinning at a rapid rate so you couldn’t really see the hair loss at first unless you watched me run my fingers through my hair and see all the hair left in my hands.

After a couple days, the hair started coming out of my head so quickly that it would get stuck in the hair still attached to my head and it was creating enormous dreadlocks I couldn’t get out with just a hair brush. I texted Layne and Nicole and told them what was going on and told them it was time for a shave. Both of them were very excited but couldn’t do it until the weekend, several days from our initial talk. I would just have to deal with it in the meantime.

A couple more days past and I was fed up with these stupid knots. I bought a metal comb and the biggest bottle of conditioner I could find. I then sat in the shower for well over an hour and a half and proceeded to comb out every last knot. What I didn’t realize until I was done was that I had combed out over two thirds of my hair. What was once a full braid was now a
faded blue rat tail that I’m pretty sure a rat wouldn’t even want. I was just ready for the hair to be gone. I was scared about being bald but I was done with whatever this thinning crap was. To put me at ease until the big day, Layne and Nicole would send me pictures of bald women celebrities who rocked the look either for a role or because they wanted to embrace the bald look for personal reasons.

The big day came and it was my turn to embrace the look. Layne was
giddy to live out her childhood dream of shaving off her little sister’s hair and I was nervous as could be.

What if it didn’t look good?

Could I handle being bald?

Did it even matter?

Too late. The hair was gone. And I looked pretty good! Bonus was that I felt pretty good too! Being bald was such an easy look in that I didn’t have to do anything to maintain it. I saved a ton on hair products and I got to sleep in a little longer in the morning. Even though I was bald, I still looked and felt like me. The worst part of hair loss is shaving the head. It had to be, right? I had conquered the worst part, right?

Nope. When you go through chemo, you lose your hair. All of it. Your legs, armpits, nose hairs, all of it goes away. I think that’s something people forget because all they see are the movie versions of cancer patients and most celebrities aren’t willing to shave absolutely everything. I know I had that impression as well until I shaved my legs and the hair didn’t grow back. Or when the hairs on my arms turned into thin, blonde hairs and then were gone altogether.

Or when my eyebrows and eyelashes fell off.

You know those pictures of celebrities without eyebrows or hair and they don’t look like themselves whatsoever? That was me every time I looked in the mirror except I couldn’t just walk away from it. That was what I looked like and I was stuck with it. I didn’t feel like me. I didn’t look like me. I wasn’t me.

I am a huge advocate for loving yourself inside and out, especially after this. But sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to love yourself completely when you can’t even recognize yourself in a mirror.

I kid you not, going out in public was incredibly difficult. If I did go into public, I could guarantee at least three people who would openly stare at me with either pity, horror, disbelief or some awful concoction of all three. I didn’t know I placed so much importance on my appearance, or how self-conscious I truly was. Maybe it’s because I was horrified at the concept of looking weak in front of others. Without hair, eyebrows and having skin that was practically translucent, I officially looked like my disease. And my disease was ugly. The photo underneath this was really hard for me to post so please be nice. It was one my mom took of me when we were having a heart to heart right before the last chemo session. Again, it might not seem very dramatic for you, but when I see this photo, I see a different me. A sick me. But still me somewhere in there.

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I tried to joke it off with friends and family and let them know that I was okay by being confident in my appearance. When I was alone? That’s when the doubt set in, which always seems to be the way: your fears and doubts striking when you’re at your most vulnerable. My internal struggle continued. How do I become okay with the person that I look like? How do I become okay with not feeling pretty? With not feeling feminine? With not feeling like me?

The truth is, it took a long time, but at some point, I came to the understanding that my femininity’s source doesn’t derive from my looks or my hair, that’s just how it manifests itself to the outer world. I could still be feminine without eyebrows and eyelashes, I’d just have to figure out a different way to let it out. The me I know doesn’t vanish just because what I see in the mirror is different. My friends and family don’t love me any less because of it. And dammit, I shouldn’t either.

I know that these seem like very petty lessons to learn, but when you’re dealing with them first hand? They’re a whole lot bigger than the petty surface level. It took a lot of self-motivation and reinforcement to deal with these lessons and reach a point where I actually believed what I was telling myself.

I cannot emphasize enough how lucky I am. It’s not lucky to get cancer, but it is lucky to get cancer with a very high remission rate and relatively fast treatment process. So many people go through chemotherapy for years and have these internal battles for years. Sometimes for the rest of their life.

So I lost my all my hair. You know what? This was an opportunity for me to have everything be put into perspective, whether I knew I needed it or not.

I am so lucky that my body responded to my treatment and I’m in full remission, all within a year’s time. And every day I see the effects of the chemo fading from my body. My hair is getting thicker, color returning to my skin. My eyebrows are coming back. Every day I look a little bit more like myself and feel a little more like myself too. And, I am beautiful!!

 

Until Next Time,

 

Dana Qualy

 

Bonus photo of me that I took today so you can see the total progress! As you can see, my eyebrows are almost completely filled in and my hair is coming back thicker, stronger and better than ever (Layne told me that I have now achieved Chia Pet status).

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8 Shows to Binge this Summer

It’s summer time! It feels so good to finally have some free time, right? Kayaking, cookouts, camping are waiting for us in summer. But some days are rainy and getting outside is next to impossible. So here we are, stuck inside with a stack of dishes we just haven’t gotten around to yet and looking for an excuse anywhere to continue putting off the world’s tallest dish mountain.

It’s a good thing that you came here because I have the perfect excuse for you- TV shows. I’ve created a list of shows to watch that are my personal favorites. I’ve watched every one of these shows in their entirety (some two or three times) and each one is fantastic in their own way. Whether they make me laugh until I cry or contemplate my existence, each fulfills their original purpose. Some of these are really popular shows and others are some you may never have heard of before. Either way, give them a chance, watch them and let me know what you think of them in the comments below.

And finally, in no particular  order, 8 shows to binge watch this summer:

Reign

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Need some serious drama in your life and maybe just a touch of historical fiction? Reign is about a young Scottish queen, Mary Queen of Scots, and her battle to save her country in her early queen-hood. Filled with drama, backstabbing, political moves, love triangles and a little bit of magic, this show has a bit of everything to satisfy any viewer. Long may she reign.

Young and Hungry

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Alright, I admit, when I first saw the commercials for this show, I thought it was going to be really dumb. It’s common knowledge that Freeform (formally called ABC family) is pretty hit or miss for good TV shows, and even then, it usually contains nothing but fluff. With Young and Hungry, it’s exactly that, but in the best of ways.  I can put this show on in the background and get other work done or put my full attention towards it. Young and Hungry follows young culinary blogger, Gabi Diamond, as she works her way to become the next Julia Child. With each episode being no more than 30 minutes long, it’s an easy to watch show that can lift your spirits in a matter of minutes.

John Mulaney New in Town

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This one isn’t a TV show but it deserved a mention. John Mulaney is a comedian who comments on his early life and the insane life moments he’s come across thus far. If you need some gut wrenching laughs in your life, this is the one to watch. And because it’s only an hour long, it won’t take up your entire day if you have other things to do.

New Girl

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Jess is the new girl on the block. After a nasty breakup with her boyfriend, she moves in with three random strangers who all happen to be men. With her eccentric personality, she tries to find how she fits in this strange and new group of people. New Girl is a light hearted sitcom with six seasons of laughter, tears, confusion and entertaining content.

Sherlock

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Everyone knows about Sherlock Holmes but you’ve never seen him like this. BBC reinvented Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s vision by bring Watson, Sherlock and their cases into the 21st century. Tension? Mystery? Humor? I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t watch a whole season in a day.

NCIS

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Would a list of good TV shows to watch in the summer be complete without NCIS? NCIS is an American crime series that follows Special Agent Gibbs and his team as they solve crime after crime. With nearly 350 episodes to watch, it’s hard to run out of content with this one.

Your Lie in April

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Before you say anything, let me get this out of the way: ANIME IS NOT JUST FOR CHILDREN. If you really believe that pile of nonsense, go watch the first episode of Attack on Titan. That will change your mind. Or Your Lie in April. Anyways, Your Lie in April is a one season anime that follows a child musical prodigy after he retired for personal reasons. Then, a violinist girl forces him to be her accompanist and now he has to get back up on the stage and face his biggest fears. If you want a show that is going to give you the serious feels every time you watch it, Your Lie in April is perfect for you! I cried many, MANY times while watching it, and there’s only 13 episodes, each about 25 minutes in length.

Death Parade

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Do you want to contemplate your entire existence? Rather, do you want to contemplate what happens to you when you die? Well, step into the world of Death Parade and have a seat at Quindecim bar. This series spawned from a short film called Death Billiards. It follows Decim, a bartender who determines what will happen with the souls of the people who come into his bar. Will they be reincarnated or cast into the void? This is another fantastic anime with so many hidden gems and will leave you thinking long after you turn off your TV.

 

There are plenty more TV shows out there, but these ones are some of my current favorites that I think more people need to see. Do you have a favorite TV series you think I should watch? Tell me about them in the comments!

 

Unitl Next Time,

Dana Qualy

My Bullet Journal

I was a procrastination queen for years. No matter what I did, I would put everything off until the last minute. I’d do it eventually and it would be completed on time and done well, but it would take forever. Why was I like this? I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t like being forced to do things or because I’d rather read a book than finish that 10 page paper. The answer still remains unclear. But then my sister introduced me to this thing called “the bullet journal” a few months back. At first I thought it was kind of dumb. Why not get a planner? Why not put it in your phone? Why not do literally anything but this journal? It will take forever to set up and that will just trigger my procrastination. But Layne used her big sister powers and pressured me to make one until I caved.

I owe Layne an apology. Just a second:

Layne, I’m sorry. You were right. Yes, write that one down for the history books. I admit that you were completely right about the bullet journal. It is amazing.

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Okay I’m back. OH MY GOD. I am obsessed. I have never been so organized and prepared in my life. For those that don’t know what the bullet journal is, it’s an organization system designed so you can track any and all of your latest projects and events. Basically, the bullet journal consists of four major components: Index, the Future Log (or the Year in Review), the Monthly Log, and the Daily Log. These four components come together so you can maintain every single aspect of your life all in one journal and not in multiple planners or notebooks. You can see more about it in this video that the creator of the bullet journal made here.

I have kept up with mine and I can’t stop. Every morning I sit down for breakfast and plan my day using the bullet journal. I have trackers for assignments, bills and other miscellaneous goals. The best part about this system is I have complete control over how I organize it. I can use whatever notebook, designs and concepts I want. I can make it as decorative or as simple as I want it to be.

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Yes, I’ll admit it. It does take some time to set up, but I’m proud of it and I want to keep up with it! I get my tasks done with less stress and I have been accomplishing my goals at a steady rate instead of the night before. My favorite parts of my bullet journal are my trackers and future log. The trackers provide a lot of structure and give a sense of accomplishment when I finish a project. The future log allows me to put all of my future dates in one place so I don’t double book myself.

If you’re nervous about starting a bullet journal because you don’t know where to start, there’s also a whole community of people who bullet journal where you can share ideas so you literally can’t run out of ideas! All you have to do is type in “bullet journal” to your google search, pinterest, facebook, instagram or pretty much any other social media site out there. I’ve made a Pinterest board that is slowly growing full of Bullet Journal pins if you want to check it out: https://www.pinterest.com/mybrightcorner/bullet-journal/. There’s also a website that the founder created to help beginners start their journals and seasoned journalers keep themselves in check with it.

So if you see me in person and we get onto the subject of bullet journals? I will fawn over mine like a grandma does to their grandchild at Christmas. And I’m just not sorry about it. 🙂

Basically what I’m saying is y’all need a bullet journal in your lives. What do you use to plan out your lives? Are you bullet journal obsessed like me or do you have another approach? Let me know in the comments!

 

Until Next Time,

Dana Qualy

To the Undeclared Majors

If you don’t have a major, you’ve probably heard the following from relatives, friends, professors:

“When are you going to pick a major?”
“If you don’t pick one soon, you’ll be in school even longer and have to pay more money.”
“You should think about what will give you the best career in the long run.”
“Be realistic.”

If you’re like me, you were cringing while reading that. Those kinds of remarks are so annoying. Here’s what I have to say to that:

Thank you for your advice. I’m sure you mean well. Now please get your nose out of my business.

I was an undecided major for my first year of college and I remember adults not leaving me alone about it until I finally did have a major and I understood why. They had my best interests at heart and because I’m young, they feel the need to bestow their advice upon me so I don’t make mistakes. But what they didn’t know is that I knew all of those comments because I would say them to myself pretty much every day of the week. I didn’t need another person (stranger or not) telling me.

Making a choice about a major isn’t easy and we all know that, at some point, a decision is going to have to be made. Want to hear how I made mine?

A sweatshirt.

Yes. You read that right. I was in my second semester of my freshman year and I wanted to sport some college pride. So I went into the university shop and grabbed a cheap, generic grey sweatshirt and headed back to my dorm. It wasn’t until that I realized that not only did it say UWSP, it also said College of Fine Arts and Communication.

The problem with that was that I was not a part of the College of Fine Arts and Communication or any college for that matter. So I interviewed for the BA Drama major in the Department of Theatre and Dance a month later, and for whatever reason, the professors picked me. Mind you, I had been thinking about interviewing for the program for a long time, but that accidental purchase is what pushed me to go through with it and try for a major that I love. Maybe that’s fate or maybe that makes me completely crazy. Maybe both.

So to all the undeclared major out there, here’s my advice to you:

“When are you going to pick a major?”

When you please. If you find a general field of study that you enjoy, then apply for that general major. You can always narrow your scope later.

“If you don’t pick one soon you’ll be in school even longer and have to pay more money.”

Okay, I can’t argue with that. If you wait until your fourth year of college to pick a major and you have credits all over the spectrum, you will be there longer than you intended. Again, try to find a general field of study you enjoy and take as many credits as you can in that field. Most likely, you’ll choose a major from that field of study and all those credits you’ve taken will apply to your major so you can graduate on time.

“Think about what will give you the best career in the long run.”

The best career for you. Do you love it? Good! While it’s not always necessary, it’s probably a good idea to have your major correlate with your future career.

“Be realistic.”

Yes. Be realistic about what’s right for you. Not your mom. Not your mentors. Not your grandparents. You. If you love it enough, you will have the drive to make it work and succeed. It doesn’t matter how crazy it sounds to other people. If it’s what you want, then go for it!

 

Until Next Time,

 

Dana Qualy

Hometown Treasures

Sometimes, going home is hard. You’re leaving friends, jobs, and a place that you just got settled into. But if there’s anything good about going home? It’s that you know that place like the back of your hand and all of the little secrets that your hometown holds. The local coffee shop with the best pastries, the clothing store that always has all of its prices at 70% off, a bead shop with the friendliest owners. For me, it’s a bookstore.

I love books. I love bookstores. I love them so much that I could spend an eternity in one and it still wouldn’t be enough time. I love the atmosphere, the book smell and getting to read new stories I’ve never knew existed. My favorite bookstore is a little gem in Baraboo, WI called the Village Booksmith. If I could, I would gladly give them all of my money. It’s unfortunate that I do have bills to pay so I guess I won’t be giving them ALL of my money.

The Village Booksmith is a bookstore in Baraboo, WI that sells new, old and rare books for a great price. A popular book that typically sells for $20-$25 could sell as low as $5 at the Village Booksmith. Plus, they have a great variety of books to offer: history, science fiction, gardening, architecture, biographies, foreign language, books for kids, etc. They have any book you could possibly imagine. I even saw some old Vietnam military manuals once. And if they don’t have a specific book you’re looking for? They will help you locate in online and get it shipped right to your door. They’re book wizards I swear.

THEY EVEN HAVE A WHOLE THEATRE SECTION.

For you non- Thespians, let me explain a thing or two about finding a theatre section that sells theatre texts for reasonable prices. To find a bookstore that has a theatre section that has more than Shakespeare in it and contains more than a shelf of dusty Ibsen scripts is like finding a unicorn in your backyard. In other words, it’s nearly impossible.

But the Village Booksmith has done it! They have created a unicorn in their store for the theatre nerds. Their theatre section is a whole 8-shelf bookshelf filled with books on every genre of the theatre: scripts, theatre history, costume design, directing, makeup design, scene design, prop design, sound design, acting, stage management. And scripts. Lots and lots of scripts! Needless to say, it’s my favorite spot in the whole store. The last time I was there, I purchased about 10 theatre books that would normally run for $400-$450 for about $80. It was such a good deal I almost felt bad. Almost.

So if you’re in the Baraboo, WI area, be sure to drop by the Village Booksmith. You’re sure to find a treasure or two in there. I know that when I’m back in my hometown, the Village Booksmith will be the first place to visit (even before my parents)!

 

Until Next Time,

Dana Qualy

A Meal for Miracles

I’ve been wanting to do a charity event that raises money for the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Marshfield, WI since receiving a clean bill of health back in February. Hope Lodge is a program that houses cancer patients and their caregivers for free while they are undergoing treatment. I had the opportunity to stay there a few times while I was going through my treatment and it was an amazing experience.

Yes, they provide a nice room, free dinners (donated by local restaurants or community groups), a workout center and so much more. However, it wasn’t the facilities that made it a good experience. It was the people, volunteers, staff and guests alike. They were so friendly and personable. It didn’t make the chemo treatments easier, but it made them more bearable.

Hope Lodge has great facilities and fantastic staff and volunteers. They truly care about the guests that come to stay at Hope Lodge. They are a non- profit organization, meaning that they receive all of their funding through donations. This means that if they want to continue to run, they need the support of their community. If you’d like to learn more, you can read more about Hope Lodge and its mission statement here.

This is where my desire to fundraise for them derived. The staff and volunteer team can’t do what they do without help and since I experienced their generosity first hand, the absolute least I could do was get the word out and do some fundraising myself. 

I had no idea where I was going to fundraise or when, but I knew that I was going to do it. When I attended Women Who Cook at the Forage in Eau Claire, WI, I got to talking with the owner of the facilities and she offered to let me use her place on my birthday! Then, with the help of my sister and one of my best friends, A Meal for Miracles was created.

A Meal for Miracles was a fundraising event my sister (Layne), her boyfriend (Brent) and I put on in the Eau Claire area. It consisted of a four course dinner (which was DELICIOUS) with wine pairings and an evening of conversation and laughter. Layne and Brent are fantastic chefs with years of culinary experience and education under their belts. We figured, “Hey! Why not use that to our advantage!” So we spent a few months preparing, advertising and working on this project. It was exhausting but so worth it.

And people came to the event! To put forth so much work for the sake of an organization you care about and to have your friends, family and strangers alike support them? There’s no better feeling in the world. I continue to be astounded by people and their open hearts. I am hoping that one day we will be able to do an event like A Meal for Miracles again soon.

If you are able to do so, please consider donating to Hope Lodge or sharing the Hope Lodge main page with friends and family. Hope Lodge is a great facility and deserves all the love and support.

 

 

Until Next Time,

Dana Qualy

Wanna be a College Blogger?

College kids are weird. I can vouch for this because I’m a college kid and I’m super weird. Mind you, they’re incredible and can do incredible things, but they are SO WEIRD. Why? It’s the first time they’re on their own and get to do whatever they want: watch TV all day, drink until their livers hate them, stay up for 76 hours straight, and other random stuff. I’ve seen college kids build entire companies and I’ve also seen college kids break into the football field at two in the morning so they could have a light saber battle the week before finals. It varies.

College students also become a lot more vocal once they set foot on campus. For the first 18 years of their lives, they only know their town’s opinions and interpretations of the outside world. College is the start of cultural expansion for many and are no longer shielded from media content and activist programs. It’s the first time they really begin to formulate opinions and have an open dialogue with other curious minds.

They share opinions in tons of different ways. As a weird college student, I have found my favorite method of sharing opinions is face to face. When that option isn’t available, my second favorite option is through my blog, and I’m not alone in that respect. The blogging sphere is continuously increasing and filling with more student bloggers every day. As a college blogger for the last few months, I’ve learned a lot. I have a small, semi-regular audience and my blogger voice is developing (well, I hope so. What do you think?). I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way as well: irregular posts, too large of a website, etc. Tons of people are gaining an interest in the blogging world. If starting a blog is something you’re interested in doing, here are five tips to help you out:

 

Figure out how serious you are about blogging.

I definitely recommend doing a mini trial run. Start by typing a couple of posts and if you like what you’re doing, then go ahead and put in the work to make a website. If you don’t, then nothing is lost! If you’re not having fun, don’t do it! There’s no point torturing yourself. Go do something you enjoy (like reading My Bright Corner).

 

If you’re serious, invest in a domain

So you do like writing articles? Perfect! Welcome to the community! If you’d like to keep your articles all in one place and have a fully functioning website, you should invest in a domain and find a content management system. There are lots of different options but my personal favorite is WordPress.

 

Plan Ahead

Let’s be real: you’re a busy college student. You have stuff to do. Be realistic about how often you’ll be able to post and make sure you incorporate writing time into your weekly schedule. If you don’t, you won’t write and you’ll website will fizzle out.

I am the world’s biggest procrastinator. I have set a goal for myself to write three blog posts a month and if I don’t set a goal date, I will wait until the end of month to post anything. By planning ahead, I can stay on track for writing my blog posts and not feel stressed out later.

 

Rough Drafts are a Beautiful Thing

If I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: I LOVE ROUGH DRAFTS. A blog post isn’t a last minute paper for that gen. Ed. class you barely attend. This is your work that you enjoy doing in your free time. You should want to try to make it look as nice as you can and a rough draft or two can help with that.

 

Create a Blog that Works for YOU and KEEP GOING.

The most popular types of blogs may not be what you want to write about. Don’t feel pressured to create a blog with popular content because that’s what everyone else is doing. Create a blog with content that you love and you like writing about.

Also, you may feel a lot of anxiety when you go to share your work for a variety of reasons: fear of negative response, that it’s not your best, etc. If it’s out of your control, don’t stress. You’re a new blogger and you’re learning. The most important thing is that you’re happy doing what you’re doing. Whether one person reads it or a million, a blog that makes YOU, the writer, happy is what should be at the top of your priority list.

 

So welcome new bloggers! Happy typing!

 

Until Next Time,
Dana

The Last Chemo Session

The last chemotherapy treatment is DONE! I have so many thoughts and feelings about it that I don’t really know where to begin. For starters, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this whole journey. More specifically, on my first day of chemo.

I was terrified. Who wouldn’t be?

Of course, being me, I put on a brave face for my mom, the chemo nurses, for myself. I’m sure it didn’t matter how cool and calm I thought I sounded. They could all see right past it. There is no way to quiet the fear in your eyes when you feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs about to get a painful shock you can’t get away from.

I remember being scared that the needle going into my new port was going to hurt. I remember my oncologist looking surprised at my mermaid colored hair. I remember thinking that receiving chemotherapy was going to physically hurt me. I remember thinking “Get in. Get out. Be done.”

Of course, it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple even for an easy case like mine. I remember a lot of the fear from that day, but I didn’t process any of it at the time.

I didn’t process those awful things because a lot of good came from that day as well.  I remember my sisters coming into my chemo room with a big gift bag filled with stuff from friends and family to make my chemo treatments easier. I remember all the love and support my friends sent me through messages and snap chats. I remember being excited when I found out getting a needle in my port didn’t hurt at all!

I remember a lot of joy from that day and I am so grateful for it. I have met some of the most incredible people on this little side quest of mine. They are truly amazing. There’s this one person, one man, I met only briefly on the last day and he may have been the most significant person I met. I’m not someone who believes in aligned stars or fate, but I met this man and his family and had one of the most important conversations I believe I’ve ever had.

While my mom and I were in the waiting room (the last time we were waiting for chemo!), a man sat in the rocker next to my mom. He was in his late 70s, early 80s. He seemed to be nervous. I got up to go sign my mom and I in for our session and as I did, he began to strike up a conversation with my mom. When I returned, so had his wife and daughter. I sat down and joined in on the conversation. I learned that the man was about to go through his first chemo session. I looked at his daughter and she seemed to be incredibly nervous. She and I swapped some medical stories and hospital horrors before she asked for advice on how to combat chemo side effects on behalf of her dad.

My first thought was, “Hah! You fool! I know nothing. I haven’t done this enough to know anything about combating these side effects. You should ask literally anyone but me.”

And my second thought was, “Dana. You’re an idiot. You’ve been doing this every two weeks for the last six months without a break. You have no hair. You’ve combatted extreme nausea this whole time. Your skin is probably more white than a ghost. You know at least something.”

So I told them what worked for me and explained that all cancers are different, so to are chemo side effects and that they should find something that works best for them and stick to it. Most importantly, they shouldn’t let this disease overpower their minds. Then the nurse called me back for my last session, I wished them well, and went on my way.

As I sat in my chair receiving my concoction of various toxins, a horrifying thought came over me as I was reflecting on the conversation I’d just had:

Cancer will never end.

I’m not saying that I’m going to have cancer forever. I’m done (thank goodness). I couldn’t be happier to have that portion of my life be over.

But cancer didn’t start with me. It didn’t start with my friends and family who survived their cancer and those that didn’t. It didn’t start with the strangers that sit in the waiting room. And it’s not going to end with us either. And that is what is so terrifying to me.

This needs to end.

So my cancer journey isn’t over. I am going to take some time to recover and then do anything I can to help find solutions. Whether it be volunteering or fundraising or something in the middle, I will be there helping others find their cancer freedom as well.

I walked into Marshfield Clinic with fear, but I can assure you I left with determination and it because of that man and his family and I don’t even know their names.

So here’s to cancer freedom! May I have it for life and may many others get to celebrate theirs real soon!

 

Until Next Time,

Dana

Thoughts on Self-Appreciation

The other day I was talking to one of my best friends about my final chemotherapy session. I messaged her this:

“I need to be selfish for like 32 seconds and then I promise I’ll get off my ego box and I’ll put it back where it belongs but like… in 9 days I’ll be done with my last chemo session. Possibly ever (at least for a very VERY long time). How cool is that?! And I did that! That was me! I’m so absurdly excited for so many random things:

Plants in the house, spicy burritos, swimming, seeing people without worrying about if they’re sick, SHAVING (believe it or not, I am jacked for the first time I get to shave my legs after this), NOSE HAIRS (oh my god nose hairs how I’ve missed you). I’m excited for the first person I meet when all my hair and eyebrows grows back and they didn’t know I had cancer at all. I’m excited that I’m going to get to help other people. I’m excited to sit in a classroom. I’m excited to pet all the dogs. I’m excited that every day is going to be like Christmas from now on. I’m excited to celebrate my birthday. I used to HATE celebrating my birthday, but you know what? People are gifts. I’m a gift. You’re a gift. Birthdays are the time to super duper extra appreciate that gift. And you know what? I appreciate my own existence on this earth.”

Yes, with the exception of the removal of a few expletives, I said exactly this, poor wording and all. And after I was done sending it, I felt guilty for saying that I was going to celebrate myself more. I felt narcissistic and selfish. Then it hit me: that is so messed up that I can’t enjoy my existence for a half a second without feeling like an egotistical prick.

My whole life is filled with wanting to help others and be a better person overall of the sake of others. So this moment that I focused on myself felt so… wrong. So wrong in fact that even talking about myself in a positive light with one of my best friends felt disgusting. And THAT is incredibly twisted.

 

So I have a question for everyone who is reading this: Why is it considered shameful to appreciate your own existence?

Now hear me out. I’m not talking about self love here. Yes, it’s important to love yourself inside and out and to take care of yourself and all that jazz, but that’s not what I’m saying. I’m also not talking about being comfortable being alone with yourself and being okay with being alone. I’m talking about a real appreciation for yourself. Still not understanding?

Let’s try an example: Imagine your favorite person. This person is someone that you love more than anyone else and you don’t know what you’d do if you didn’t have them in your life. Do you have a visual of them yet? I’ll give you a moment to conjure an image of them in your mind’s eye.

Why do you love this person so much? Is knowing that they’re out there in the world living and breathing reason enough to love them the way you do? Do you appreciate that they exist on this earth and exist in your life? Do you love the way that they are simply themselves?  

 

Why don’t you feel this way about yourself?

Before you blow off that last question, take a second to really think about your answer to the question. Do you really, genuinely appreciate the human you are? Do you love that you’re a person with earth under your feet and sun on your skin and that you take up space on this earth? Do you ever have a moment in your life when you love exactly who you are and don’t want to change something about yourself?

Because if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, I don’t appreciate myself that way.  I don’t appreciate myself that way even though that’s how I appreciate my loved ones and almost anyone who crosses my path. I don’t value my time, my person or what I’ve contributed to the world thus far in life. I want to change that. Unfortunately it took cancer for me to want to change that or even figure out that I didn’t appreciate myself in the first place.

Saying I’m going to appreciate myself more is great, but doing it is another thing. Here’s a few ways that I want to appreciate myself more:

 

Be Mindful

This is the large, overarching way that I want to appreciate myself more. I am my biggest criticizer and I can be very mean to myself. So when I get into a rut of being hard on myself, I want to be aware of it so I can actively change my mindset on how I treat myself.

 

Stop Bashing Myself

Critiquing is great. Ridiculing is not. I am a person. I make mistakes. Own up to the mistake, learn from it and move forward. (Also complimenting myself every once in a while wouldn’t hurt either)

 

I’m Not Going to Change

Wanting to improve in certain areas of my life is a good thing, but completely changing the foundation of who I am is not. I am me. My friends and family love me for who I am and I should too. So I’m going be uncompromisingly me.
Don’t make my mistake. Please don’t wait for some life threatening event for you to start appreciating yourself. You are incredible and deserve to be celebrated. You deserve to celebrate you.

 

Until next time,
Dana