One Year After my Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis

It's hard to believe but it has been one year since I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. I shared in a previous post how I discovered it through our struggles with unexplained secondary infertility. And in this last year, I have learned so much about how common thyroid diseases and cancers really are even though no one really talks about it. Thyroid diseases like hypothyroidism. Many of us live with it without knowing we do, while it silently affects our daily life. Like exhaustion, how many of us equate our lack of energy with our lifestyle? I know I sure did. Fortunately, I've been given the chance to make changes in my life and not take this whole experience for granted. Besides a small scar on my neck, you really can't tell that anything is wrong with me from the outside but internally I needed a lot of damage control. So for the first time in my life I really focused on self-love and self-care. Previously I was really reluctant to do so because I felt selfish and guilty but I've learned that in order to be there for others I have to first be there for myself. 

Magnolia blossoms blooming in Paris.

Magnolia blossoms blooming in Paris.

PHOTOGRAPHING LIFESTYLE, INTERIORS AND TRAVEL

One major change I did this year that was really hard was reduce the amount of weddings I would photograph. I had a long hard struggle with this one, constantly going back and forth about my decision. I really love weddings, it encompasses so many elements that I love photographing but it was also constantly making me choose between my work and my family. K started school full time last September, meaning I wouldn't spend much time with her anymore during the day and I would be working during the evenings and weekends when she's not in school. I didn't want to feel guilty about not being there for her and my husband, I wanted to be able to spend time together as a family and so it made sense to slowly move away from weddings. Besides my lifestyle work, I've also been photographing a lot more interiors, products, and travel photography which has made shooting less weddings a little easier.     

BEING MORE ACTIVE

A couple months before my surgery, a couple of my good friends gave me a FitBit for my birthday in anticipation for my recovery from my surgery. They wanted to give me something that would motivate me daily to move and to get back to where I was pre-surgery. Little did I know this little black band would give me so much motivation. Honestly, I'm not breaking any records with my steps, I still enjoy my tv marathons a little bit too much but it does encourage me to choose stairs instead of escalators, park a little further, get up and take a break from my computer, just to add to my step count and see the little fireworks light up when I hit my daily goal. It has helped me become more active and actually makes me want to improve my physical health. I've also started working out again and joined my friend in running, it's huge because I am not a runner! And as much as I moan and groan about working out and running, I'm starting to see the benefits.

CUTTING OUT SUGAR

This is a more recent one because sugar and I go way back, wayyyyyyy back. My sweet tooth has a mind of its own and it's powerful. I struggled a lot with being tired and not having enough energy and I relied heavily on sugar to give me that extra kick whenever I felt my energy levels drop, plus I just love sweets, like put a cupcake in front of me and I can't say no. But I noticed that on days when I've had my tea with too much sugar or had too many sugary treats I would get headaches the rest of the day and then have trouble sleeping at night. The bad night of sleep would make me crave for sugar again and it becomes an endless cycle. I know cutting out sugar completely is not realistic for me so I'm taking baby steps, I stopped adding sugar to my drinks, stop drinking sugary drinks and trying to eat less sweets. I've definitely have had less headaches and my energy levels are more consistent so I'll see what other sugars I can cut out slowly too. 

HAVING QUALITY FAMILY TIME

G works a lot of long hours and during the winter it's his busy season, then spring rolls around and I start my busy season until late fall. When we had K, we thought this is perfect because there will always be someone to watch her and we continued to trade off busy seasons for years. But then we started to realize that we rarely had time together as a family. We basically had November and December together and then it would be back to the same routine. Well that changed this year, for the first time ever we took not one but TWO family trips this summer. We've been making weekend plans with friends and family and I have to say it's been really nice spending all this time together. I didn't realize how much I craved this quality time with the family and I'm now enjoying some much need slow paced living.

OUR FAMILY PLANS

You may be wondering what has been happening with our infertility struggles. We are still hoping to add to our family but have taken a break from pursuing IVF, after last year we just weren't ready to jump back into it. Thankfully a fellow photographer was kind enough to share her own struggles with TSH levels and unexplained infertility and introduced us to NaPro Technology which is a more holistic approach to fertility and infertility. They have a high success rate with diagnosing couples who are previously diagnosed with unexplained (secondary) infertility. We've started the program with FertilityCare in Toronto and hoping to get some answers in the next few months. In the meantime, I'm focused on keeping my stress levels low and improve my overall health.  

We've done a lot this summer so far, ticked off a few places that I've been meaning to visit for awhile including the Bruce Peninsula and Tobermory, Terre Bleu Lavender Farm and Prince Edward County with the stunning Sandbanks. These small trips have really been great for the soul and I'm excited to do more. Feel free to share in the comments some places you like traveling to in the summer or suggestions for Fall trips because summer is coming to an end all too quickly!!

Princess Unicorn Birthday Party

K turned 5 this year (pause while I go cry out all my mommy hormones)!! When they tell you kids grow up fast, it's hard to grasp really how fast. As cliché as it sounds, it seems like only just yesterday I was cradling her in my arms and now she's a mini pre-teen. Thankfully she still likes holding my hands and giving me lots of hugs and kisses, I'll take them for as long as she'll give them to me. 

We don't do parties every year for K, we've been saving them for milestones. So I knew for her 5th birthday I wanted to throw her a special party. As I mentioned in her birthday outfit post she said she wanted a "Princess Unicorn" party. It's not a realm I'm familiar with being that I generally prefer neutrals, understated and not overly girl things but I was up for the challenge. Now was the time to think over-the-top, I mean could it be any other way for a Princess Unicorn? The other challenge I was facing was the popularity of unicorn parties. I wanted K's party to be unique to her and was determined to make it different. Thankfully I had Toni from Confetti and Bows help me with planning the party and she really elevated the "Princess" status in this unicorn party!

My cousin had just moved into her new condo and it had the coolest party room with black walls and gold designs. Knowing that unicorn parties are generally light and pretty, I loved how the black walls would give the theme some contrast and a bold element. From there I added pastel rainbow colours, iridescent elements and accents of mixed metals for some shine and sparkle. Overall I wanted it all to feel non-uniformed in design but cohesive linked together with all the elements. 

I knew that I wanted the sweet table to be the focal point of the party but again I wanted it to be different, so instead of putting the cake in the centre I opted to do an asymmetrical table. Unicorns are free-spirited similar to K and they don't always go by what's expected so I thought this would be a fun twist. I also wanted to incorporate the secondary theme of rainbows, clouds and stars. For the backdrop I made felt puffy clouds and Doris from Love Lettering created the laser-cut wood "Kali is Five" lettering and painted them in rose gold. Toni and I had a craft day and DIY'ed the rainbow table skirt from pastel streamers and iridescent cellophane. Added sparkly stars on top for some extra dimension.

On the sweet table was everything K dreams about eating even though most days she's pretty good at avoiding the sweets and having fruit instead. The main unicorn cake was her favourite strawberry vanilla. The mini cakes were Earl Grey flavoured, a treat for the adults. Along with the cakes, The Purple Cupcake created whimsical and fun donuts, cloud pavlovas, unicorn macarons and star, cloud and rainbow-shaped sugar cookies. Normally that would probably be enough but we also had delicious organic, all-natural cotton candy from Fancy Pufs. And to top that off, I also made confetti popcorn and unicorn bark because you know, it's a unicorn party! Toni's collection of cake stands was amazing, so many different colours, styles, heights and sizes! She had this acrylic riser that was perfect for showcasing the unicorn cake, a big sparkly disco ball and acrylic trays full of fun sprinkles to make our sweet table dreams come true.

heidilau-magikali5-034.jpg

For these glass milk jars, I bedazzled them with jewels and pom pom stirrers to make them extra fancy for the kids. There really is no other way to drink your strawberry milk when you're a princess unicorn. I have a simple DIY tutorial for these jars coming in a future post.

Toni also put together the prettiest kids table with their very own pink sequins linen. She also DIY'ed the geometric table runner and pom-pom arrangements. The kids were suppose to eat at this table but they ended up decorating the plates instead and turned it into an art table which I loved. I probably would have done the same since the paper plates that Toni carries are so cute and fun!   

For the photo booth we wanted it to be kid friendly. Toni DIY'ed a large balloon backdrop and we kept it low to the ground so the kids could stand in front of it easily. Doris created a custom set of unicorn birthday themed Posecards for K and also came up with "MagiKali 5" which I loved! I ended up using that on the graphics for the water bottles and loot bags. The really cute unicorn graphic I customized from Creative Market. I love their creative assets so much I became an affiliate. Their assets are really easy to use and being able to customize them is perfect for little details that you want to create yourself.  I'll also be sharing a separate post later on for what was in the loot bags and how I (and my amazing family who were voluntold lol) made the unicorn headbands for each of K's friends.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it also takes a village to plan a princess unicorn party. I really do love styling and planning parties, lets me do something different creatively than what I normally do. And I know my friends and family tease me about how "crazy" they are, I can't plan a party and not care about the details. Maybe it's because I've been in the wedding industry for years and have been exposed to so much pretty and fun, I wanted to make sure I spoiled my little unicorn as much as I could (...within reason! G is probably shaking his head reading this lol) for her milestone 5th birthday.

FEATURED IN

Kara's Party Ideas
Inspired by This

UNICORN POOP DIY TUTORIAL

Confetti and Bows 

CREDITS

Styling | Heidi Lau Photography and Confetti and Bows
Cakes and Desserts | The Purple Cupcake 
Cotton Candy | Fancy Pufs 
Sequin Linens | Linen Closet 
Invitations | Tiny Prints
Party Supplies | Confetti and Bows
Lettering (Backdrop, invitation envelope and tags) | Love Lettering
Photobooth Balloon Backdrop | Confetti and Bows
Photobooth Props | Posecards
Birthday Girl's Hair | Puzzle Creations
Unicorn Graphic on Water Bottles and Loot Bags and Food Tented Cards | Creative Market (affiliated

#UptownMamapreneur

How Flowers add to your Photos

It's the first week of Spring and all I can think about is the beautiful blooms coming our way soon! So I wanted to talk about one of my favourite things to photograph – flowers! I can't help but feel super excited whenever I arrive at a shoot and see soft, pretty, and wild flowers. They bring so much to a shoot beyond being "decor", they play a different role in different scenarios and I want to go over why it's worthwhile to invest in flowers for your shoot no matter if it's for a lifestyle, product or wedding session, even for travel photography flowers can add so much. 

Floral crown and mini bouquets by Blush and Bloom

Floral crown and mini bouquets by Blush and Bloom

COLOUR
This one is definitely a fun one to play with for flowers, especially since flowers are seasonal you can really bring out different colour themes throughout the year. You can also use colours of flowers to either compliment your shoot or use them as a big pop of colour. I'm not really a bright, bold flowers kind of girl, definitely a sucker for the softer more pastel tones but still appreciate the wide range of colours that flowers come in. 

Creams and blush tones bouquet by Flower 597

Creams and blush tones bouquet by Flower 597

TEXTURE
I really love mixing textures in photos, especially contrasting hard and soft. Whenever I photograph elements that are hard in texture or has a hard edge, I like to break it up with something soft like flowers or fabric. Having different textures also allows you to create layers which will add depth and interest into your photos. Even when I'm photographing flatlays I like to have layers so that not everything is flat on one plane, I like how some things will have a softer focus. 

Wild and whimsy wedding bouquet by Bloom & Co

Wild and whimsy wedding bouquet by Bloom & Co

MOOD
Certain flowers have certain meanings and associations for different people and using this can help enhance your shoot. Any time you can make your shoot relatable to people or bring personal meaning definitely brings your shoot to another level. Similar to colour, the types of flowers can set the tone to how your shoot is suppose to feel. Flowers don't always have to be feminine.

Hand-tied fall inspired bouquet by Sweet Woodruff

Hand-tied fall inspired bouquet by Sweet Woodruff

Flowers are so versatile so take advantage of all the shapes, sizes, colours and textures they come in.

I want to know what's your favourite flower? I have a hard time choosing, I feel like it changes for every season.

CREDITS

Boho Beach Photoshoot
Styling | The Vault Files and Lark and Linen
Flowers | Blush and Bloom
Hair | Cabello by Carolina
Make-up | Velsie Mak
Dresses | Aritzia

Garden Brunch Wedding
Flowers | Flower 597
Venue | Graydon Hall Manor
Dresses | Becker's Bridal

Summer Vineyard Wedding
Flowers | Bloom & Co
Venue | Ravine Vineyward

Fall Inspired Hand-tied Bouquet
Flowers | Sweet Woodruff

#UptownMamapreneur

Finding the Elusive Work/Life Balance

For years this is how most of my weeks looked like, Monday to Thursday during the day answer emails, update social media, schedule meetings, run errands, cook meals, plan shoots, some days I would shoot on location somewhere, oh! and keep K alive. Once K went to bed then I would either go out for meetings, answer more emails or edit until about 2 or 3 in the morning, then go to bed and wake up at 7 to start it all over again. Fridays were a little different since I would have a wedding on Saturday, Friday during the days were pretty much the same as the other weekdays but in the evenings I would stay home to prep for the next day, print out the schedule, email the team any last minute updates, clean all my gear and plan out my routes on Waze or Google Maps. Saturday wedding. Sunday more meetings and engagement shoots.

And I'm sure this is pretty standard for most mamapreneurs juggling motherhood and business. Slowly I started realizing how little time I actually spent with my family, especially quality time. K was growing up and growing up fast and I felt like I was missing so much of it. Even so, I didn't really do anything to change how my life was, I felt like I needed to be busy and felt guilty when I wasn't "working". I struggled a lot with feeling like I was failing at being a good mom and also a successful business owner, I was constantly fighting to be better at both. It wasn't until last year when I finally accepted that I wasn't going to be good at either if I didn't make some serious changes. Work/Life balance is attainable but not without some effort and planning.

SET OFFICE HOURS
Ok so I used to answer emails at all hours of the day and night which meant I had no separation between work and personal life. It was all jumbled up into a big messy ball. Even if you don't have a physical office, setting hours not only sets the expectations of your clients, I also find it helps with productivity too. I know that during certain hours of the day I'm devoting my time to work, so I'm less likely to be distracted. 

LEARNING TO SAY NO
How often do you say yes to something only because you didn't want to say no or felt guilty saying no? I still have a hard time saying no but definitely getting better at it. When you're doing too much, you're not going to be able to provide the kind of quality service and product to your clients you would want to be providing, so in the end no boy wins. Learning to limit what I take on has been a very valuable lesson for both my business and personal life. 

USE A PLANNER
I'm talking about a physical planner (like the one in the photo above). I used to only use my Google calendar and a single giant "To-Do" list to manage everything. It felt so daunting, like I always had so much to do! This year I bought myself a (pretty) planner that lets me also plan one week at a time. I leave this planner open on my desk and every Friday morning I look at what I completed that week and carry-over what I didn't to the next week. Then I plan out the next week and don't look at it again until Monday. I found this keeps me productive during the week knowing what to expect. It also let me enjoy my weekend more and not constantly worrying about what else needs to be done for work.  

SET ASIDE "ME" TIME
This is definitely the hardest thing to commit to and the easiest to push aside but I feel is so important in order to find balance. I know I speak for many entrepreneurs who feel burnt out and don't know how to avoid it. Setting aside time for ourselves heals our souls a little and in return makes us better to the people around us. Another mamapreneur introduced me to Lush fresh face masks. She actually bought me a whole care package for my recovery after my surgery and I can't thank her enough for it. I used to think who has time for masks? Now I'm addicted, it doesn't take long but it means I dedicate 15mins to just unwind, destress and have some quiet time, plus my face feels awesome afterwards. I think the next level will be to do a mask in a bath, I haven't gotten to that point yet but maybe in the near future.

It's my 8th year running my business and although it took me awhile to find a healthier balance between my work and personal life, I'm happy to finally be here. Running a successful business doesn't mean you have to give up your personal life, I actually strongly believe it's the other way around where your business is successful when you have more time to enjoy your personal life.  

Let me know what you do to keep your work/life balanced! #UptownMamapreneur

Princess Unicorn Birthday OOTD

Some of you might have read on my previous posts or seen on my insta-stories that we celebrated K's milestone 5th birthday 2 weeks ago. I've been mentally planning her birthday for months but really it all came together the last couple of weeks before the big day. I had every intention of getting everything ready sooner but I'm still working on the whole "balance" thing, I'll get there lol. It also didn't help that I got sick the week of her birthday, I was doing so well this winter too, it had to be that week of course. Thankfully I had a village of volunteers and some were voluntold but they all love K so they were happy to help. I'll be doing a full reveal of her party later on but in the meantime will share different parts of her party.

K knew that we were throwing her a party this year (we only have parties on milestone birthdays to keep them special) and since she doesn't remember her 1st one, her 5th was going to be a BIG surprise. She has been obsessed with unicorns this past year, her pretend character she calls herself is Princess Unicorn so I knew the party theme needed to be just that. For those that know me, know that I'm not very girly or over-the-top, I like simple and classic. And a Princess Unicorn theme was anything but simple and definitely girly and over-the-top, I really flexed my creative skills with this one. In the end, my inner secret girly girl had a lot of fun and really enjoyed having an excuse to buy all things sparkly! 

For K's birthday outfit I wanted it to be fun but practical. I got her things that she could wear all together for her birthday and then separately too when she's not in party mode. I found the dress at H&M over the holidays and it became the inspiration for the rest of the outfit. The dress had a lot of sparkle so I got her the fuzzy cream bomber to balance it out and to keep her warm. Added a little unicorn pin on it which made me think of the unicorn flying through fluffy clouds. My good friend Ming (Puzzle Creations) had offered to do K's hair as a gift for her birthday so I thought a big sparkly clip would go with her curls. To finish off her outfit I got her bunny tights (the only thing she loves more than unicorns is bunnies). And there you have it, my Princess Unicorn outfit.

SHOP THIS OUTFIT

1. Pink and rose gold sequin party dress : H&M kids (similar)
2. Pastel rainbow unicorn bow hair clip : Mimi and Mabel
3. Unicorn pin : Sparkle Collective
4. Cream faux fur bomber : H&M kids (similar)
5. White and grey bunny tights : Old Navy (on sale right now!)

#UptownMamapreneur

5 Ways to Cope with Infertility

First off I want to say thank you to everyone who has sent me messages, texts, emails, phone calls and real life hugs after reading my post last week. I didn't know what to expect but all of your kindness and empathy was truly touching. There was definitely tears but happy tears. Especially for those who shared with me their own struggles with fertility, I know it's not easy and feeling comfortable enough to share those personal stories means so so much. 

It took me a long time to get to where I am, a place of acceptance. I'm a strong believer of everything happens for a reason, even when we don't know why at the time or don't agree with it, eventually it will reveal itself. Actually writing that post last week really helped with my state of acceptance. For the longest time, I kept wanting to only share my journey once I had good news like so many other stories I have read or witnessed. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are just as many of us (if not more) still toughing out this journey and we are the ones that need to speak up and support one another. The most common element I have gotten from everyone so far is how lonely this journey of infertility is even though we are not alone at all. I can't tell you how many times I have cried to myself, feeling so alone in this struggle, just trying to get off this emotional rollercoaster ride. And it was not like I could put my life on hold until I figured everything out, I mean I have a child who depends on me to stay alive so I had to implement some strategies to cope. I tried a lot but these were the ones I found the most helpful.

1. SPEAKING WITH SOMEONE

I used to think only celebrities or people who needed couple therapy went to see counsellors and therapists (thank you Hollywood) but talking to some trusted friends who were big advocates for counsellors I decided to book an appointment with one that my fertility doctor recommended. My counsellor specialized in fertility and that really helped to talk to someone who understood my struggles but who was also a non-biased 3rd person. She really helped me gain new perspectives and gave me strategies to cope with not just my fertility issues but with anxiety, depression and pressure. I have to say she has been invaluable to my mental health! And although her services isn't covered by OHIP, some counsellors are so if you do need to talk to someone and don't have insurance, there are still options.

2. FIND A HOBBY YOU ENJOY

This was a tough one for me because I work in such a creative field and I often find excuses to do things that relate back to my work. However, to avoid dwelling on the issue at hand, I needed to find something I enjoyed doing that was solely for myself. So often I hear people say don't stress about it and it will happen but dealing with stress is not an easy thing. Plus we can always find excuses to get out of it like "I don't have time" or "It's too expensive" or "I'm not good at it", we can always talk ourselves out of it. This time I wasn't going to talk myself out of it, though I was a little indecisive so I signed myself up for different classes so I could try new things and figure out what I really do enjoy doing for fun. I picked up hot yoga again, a good clean sweat really helps clears the mind and release some serious toxins, flexed my floral arranging muscles at some classes with some of the top floral designers in the city and I took a floral watercolour class that was really relaxing and therapeutic for me. It's so important that this is time for yourself and not anyone else. I'm learning that it's ok to be selfish sometimes.

3. (BINGE) WATCH COMEDY

Ok, I'm the first one to put my hand up and say I'm guilty with watching dramas and crying my eyes out (Grey's Anatomy has ruined me forever). And although a good cry sometimes can feel really good, my counsellor warned me that we as humans can absorb other people's dramas and negative feelings quite easily, even if they are fictional. Therefore, all we're doing is replacing our own negative feelings with someone else's and the emotional drowning continues. We want to avoid that so switch to comedy. Watching comedy will release endorphins, our happy hormones and also keep us from absorbing all those negative feels. So on those days when you feel extra blue, binge watch your favourite funny comedy and watch how your mood changes and how much lighter you feel after. Modern Family is one of my go-to's for some good laughs. 

4. ESSENTIAL OILS

Without getting into too much of the science behind essential oils, I want to share how much I love them as mood enhancers and natural remedies. I initially started using essential oils for stress relief and to help me sleep better at night (I'm a super light sleeper who takes forever to fall asleep, a really bad combo). I loved that they are all natural and with a small child at home this is extra important. I quickly found that they do so much and are so effective! Even G my husband uses them whenever he has headaches instead of taking medication and when K my daughter has a tummy ache, will she ask for a drop rubbed on her belly to make her feel better. I used them for all kinds of things but my favourite is having them in a diffuser, especially on days when I feel stressed or blue. I put in a few of my favourite drops and it makes such a big difference!

5. TRAVEL

Obviously travel isn't always feasible but for me this is one of my favourite coping mechanisms. There's just something about removing yourself from your every day. Being in a new environment can really clear the head and put a pause on all the stresses that are constantly surrounding you. No one to keep asking you when you're going to have another baby. Last year when G, K and I went on a 2 week trip to the Canadian West Coast it was exactly what we needed to get our minds off of everything going on back home. During the trip I was still waiting for the results from my biopsy but we honestly barely though about it. It was one of the best trips we've been on so far. We need to figure out where we're going this year, still trying to find some beach places to go to where we don't have to worry about the Zika virus. I really miss the beach! 

These 5 coping strategies: speaking with someone, finding a hobby, watching comedy, essential oils and travel is what helped me the most. If you have other strategies that you wouldn't mind sharing, I would love to hear them! 

My Personal Challenges of 2016

I've been thinking about how to write this post for awhile now, it's never easy to share something so personal and feel so vulnerable but it has been such a significant journey so far that I felt that it's important to share. 

GROWING OUR FAMILY

To get to the end of 2016, I have to share a bit of a back story. My husband and I had always wanted 2 kids that were close in age and when our daughter turned 18 months we started trying for another baby. It only took us 3 months to conceive our daughter, so we didn't think it would take that much longer for a second one. A year went by and nothing happened, we did everything we could on our own including charting, herbs, essential oils, acupuncture, and the list goes on. We really started feeling the pressure of time ticking away so we decided to get professional help and went to see a fertility specialist. After a whole bunch of tests, we were told that we had unexplained secondary infertility. Meaning everything came back fine from the tests and they couldn't tell us why we were having trouble having another baby. Their recommendation was to start fertility treatments but mentally we weren't prepared for that so we decided to keep trying naturally and see if we could get "lucky".

GETTING A SECOND OPINION

Another year went by. At this point I was really hitting a low. I was struggling so much with this state of unknown and felt like we were trapped in limbo. And the pressure from family, friends and even strangers were not helping. It was such a hard topic to talk about, less than a handful of people knew about our struggles. I felt like we were keeping this deep dark secret, this shame of not being able to have another baby. Meanwhile I was reminded daily to "don't wait too long to have another kid", "it will be so much better for your daughter to have a sibling", and the constant pregnancy and baby announcements on social media, I felt like I was drowning. And so we decided to see another fertility specialist and get a second opinion. Hoping they could tell us what was wrong. 

PREPARING OURSELVES FOR FERTILITY TREATMENT

Unfortunately the second fertility specialist didn't have anything different to tell us, we were diagnosed yet again with unexplained secondary infertility. There was a red flag that came up, my thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels were high. It had shown up the first time with the first fertility specialist but she had told me it's nothing to worry about. The second fertility doctor also told me although it's high, it's not clinical high, so I shouldn't worry about it. It worried me though so I pushed for a referral for an endocrinologist and was put on a 4 month waiting list to see her. In the meantime, our fertility specialist recommended starting fertility treatments. We signed up for the government funded IVF treatment which also had a 4 month waiting list. And while we waited for our names to be called for IVF, we tried IUI. It was months and months of the same rollercoaster ride, where we would feel hopeful, anxious, disappointed, and then sad. The fertility specialist said that there's not much information they can gather from IUI treatments so we still didn't know what was wrong. After 4 months, it was our turn for IVF. I had always been nervous of the whole idea of IVF but we really wanted to try everything we could for our potential baby. Though I still had a nagging thought about my TSH levels. We had to do an IVF education session before the treatment and it was 2 days before my appointment with my endocrinologist. I asked if we should wait till after my appointment with my endocrinologist before proceeding with IVF and buying all the (really expensive) drugs but again I was reassured it would be fine and to keep them updated with what the endocrinologist says. 

THE LONG AWAITED ENDOCRINOLOGY APPOINTMENT 

My endocrinologist confirmed that although my TSH levels were not high enough to be considered clinical, they were too high for someone who was trying to get pregnant. I was experiencing symptoms associated to high levels of TSH known as hypothyroidism. She started me on hormone medication that would help control my levels and that brought a sense of relief. We still didn't know if my TSH levels were the cause of our fertility issues but at least we were finally getting some answers. She followed with a routine check of my thyroid at the end of the appointment and noticed it felt a bit swollen so she ordered an ultrasound. I left that appointment feeling hopeful again. 

PHONE CALLS FROM DOCTORS ARE NEVER GOOD NEWS

It wasn't long after my ultrasound when my endocrinologist called me back to talk about the results. She said the scans showed a concerning lump in my thyroid that needed a biopsy. I had been so consumed by my fertility issues that it barely registered when she mentioned the possibility of cancer. I was like what? Say that again? Cancer? To say I was shocked was an understatement. With that news, we put our IVF treatment on hold and proceeded with the biopsy. I waited weeks and weeks for a result but it came back inconclusive and my endocrinologist said that I would have to wait another 3 months before having another biopsy. There was not much I could do but wait and to keep my head from spinning out of control, I threw myself into my work. It was wedding season so I was throughly distracted and happy to be. Finally it was time for the second biopsy, I was hoping that it would come back with some kind of results at this point. I didn't know if I could handle any more waiting.

AND IT CAME BACK POSITIVE 

The results came back, the tumour was malignant and I had papillary carcinoma...thyroid cancer. Thankfully thyroid cancer is highly treatable and survival rate is extremely high. My husband was at that appointment with me and I remember him asking the endocrinologist all these questions and I just sat there trying to process all this information. It was a lot to take in. It wasn't until we left my endocrinologist's office and half way to our car when my husband stopped walking and held me so tight, that I finally let my emotions go and cried. I couldn't help but think why me? Why is this happening to us? What did I do wrong?

SURGERY WAS IMMINENT

The next several weeks I was all about getting everything in order so that I can go into recovery without anything looming over me. I met with my ENT surgeon and surgery was booked to remove my thyroid in November. That gave me enough time to finish off my season, deliver all my images to my couples and also attend my sister's wedding. November felt like a long ways away but soon it was the day before my surgery and I was feeling quite nervous. I had never had surgery before and being put under for the first time was also freaking me out. However my surgeon was amazing, I was in really good hands and when I woke up I was in very little pain. I figured if I can give birth to my daughter wide awake, this would be nothing. Recovery took about 2 weeks and I was throughly spoiled by friends and family. It was actually really nice to have this "break" and not feel too guilty about it.

He never left my side

He never left my side

Next day after surgery

Next day after surgery

CANCER-FREE

Today marks 4 months of being cancer-free and although physically it wasn't a grueling experience, the emotional and mental aspect was what made 2016 such a trying and challenging year. It was definitely a wake-up call that I needed to make some changes in my life, to find balance between my work and my personal life. I had to finally put some focus back towards my personal life and family. Ask any business owner and they will tell you that work never stops and we're all guilty of working during family vacations, outing with friends and choosing work over family in general. It's a tough choice when you truly love what you do so much but as my daughter reaches her milestone 5th birthday this week, I'm reminded to fight for that balance so that work doesn't consume everything. I want to be there for all of her major milestones and one day I want to watch her dance with my husband at her wedding for their father-daughter dance. So I need to prioritize me and my health so I can be there for my family.

My big and little love

My big and little love

YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN SOMEONE IS HURTING

And I share all of this with you because our fertility struggles has been an extremely lonely journey and hoping this will help bring the topic to light more, so we can all have a more open and understanding conversation about it. You never know what someone is going through, there are so many of us battling silent battles and I guarantee you those are the ones that hurt the most.

Thank you for reading.    

 

A Fresh Start

A website update has been long overdue! So much so that I have built a new site complete with a new domain and content. I won't bore you with too many technical details but my old domain and hosting gave me a clear sign that I needed a fresh start. 

Captured by Lauren Kurc

Captured by Lauren Kurc

WELCOME                                                                                                   For those who are new, welcome! And to those who are friendly faces, welcome back! You will notice some big changes on the site, I'm taking a much more personal approach and sharing with you more about me, my life and my photography.

LIMITED WEDDINGS                                                                               You may have noticed that weddings are no longer my main focus. I am still offering wedding photography but on a very limited bases for small, intimate weddings, destination or elopements.

JOURNAL                                                                                                         You may be asking why the big change in focus and I will explain them in my next blog post which brings up the next big change is that I'm bringing back my blog! It was so neglected but I am going to commit to a new blog post each week. I have so much to share, including my take on being an "uptown mamapreneur" so stay tuned!

 

Thank you for taking the time to explore my new site and stay tuned, I'll be announcing a giveaway of a floral print from my new print shop later today on my Instagram @heidilauphoto, so be sure to follow for the latest update.