Throwback Thursday: In Oceans Deep, Where Feet May Fail

Throughout this journey, there have been many "little things" or moments that have touched my heart. Whether that be a card in the mail from a friend, an evening spent laughing with girlfriends or a song played by the band at Crossroads, I'm very grateful. Today's Throwback Thursday post is about a song called "Oceans" by Hillsong United, and how it followed me throughout the last few months. The story begins a few months back one Sunday morning when I tagged along with two great friends to Crossroads. I admittedly hadn't been making it to church very often now that it's not 2 minutes away from where I live. So Crossroads was a great place holder for me to get my church fix and I was lucky to have friends who would always invite me to join them. This specific Sunday, the band played this awesome song that just spoke to me instantly. There's something about a good contemporary Christian song that just does it for me.

When I left church I googled what lyrics I could remember and quickly realized it was a popular song, and even some of my other church-going friends had heard it. I kept jamming to it (loudly) all day (annoying the heck out of Kevin) and by the next week it became my go-to song for when I needed some motivation.

Fast forward a few weeks and it's the morning of my surgery. And when I say morning, I mean EARLY morning. My mom and I hopped in the car around 4 or 4:30 a.m. and God bless her she had K-Love on the radio, as usual, and when she turned on the car, there was my song! If that's not a God moment, I don't know what is.

Now again fast forward another few weeks to the first weekend during my recovery that I brought myself back into civilization with my friends. We had gone to dinner Saturday night and they all went out to the bars afterward while Kev and I retreated home early. We had briefly discussed meeting for church in the morning but I figured they'd sleep in after a late night. But to my surprise about 30 minutes before church was to begin I get a text message that my two girlfriends are coming to pick me up to head to church, nonetheless with a green smoothie in hand (hallelujah!!!)

As we were grabbing coffee before finding a seat, I was talking about how I had heard "my" song on the way to the hospital a few weeks earlier and was trying to explain to my friend who had yet to hear it how much it moved me. And low and behold, five minutes later, what do they play? The song! Once again, God moment to a T.

The point of this walk down music memory lane is that my faith is something I am proud of, even when I sometimes unknowingly call upon it. God acts in mysterious ways, and sometimes, at least for me, I can find him and his peace in song. So for this awesome new "Jesus music" (you can chuckle) song find, God bless church-going friends, early morning Christian radio and girlfriends who pick you up with green smoothies.

Xoxo, Molly

P.S. I encourage you to listen to the song. It will not disappoint!

List in Pics: "Make Good Choices" by Scott Essell

As the years go by, it slowly gets easier to use Father's Day for a day of celebration, admiration and honoring my dad’s memory. It may be impossible to put into words how unbelievable he was, but this list and these pictures are a good start. This List in Pics gives you five of the ways I learned to live by Scott Essell's infamous "make good choices" motto.

Work hard, play hard My dad's best friend calls anything Patagonia "Scott clothes." It's a fair statement. I was dressed in Patagonia, Birkenstocks and Ray Bans since I was a little tyke. The lesson is not to be a spoiled brat but to take pride in your hard work and splurge on things that make you happy. Whether that's a new pullover, a trip to see San Francisco or a new Apple product, I now can purchase a "Scott" item to treat myself for working hard (after putting some in my savings, too)!

Killin' it in our Ray Bans on top of the Carew Tower

Pay attention in school! My dad was smart. I mean, super smart. He had the kind of brain that absorbed everything he came in contact with. So because of that, he’d push Olivia and me to excel in our studies. From sitting me down at the kitchen table and trying endlessly to teach me math equations in junior high, to making sure I was going to my college classes as much as I was going to college parties, he made it clear education was a priority. As I look back now, I remember how excited I would get and how proud I would be to call him and tell him about a good grade I got on a paper or exam. Even when I didn’t realize it at the time, I succeeded because of him pushing me to do my best.

Liv & I at OU graduation


How to be a tough guy (girl in my case) Les Mecs Durs (translation: the tough guys) was a phrase plastered on so much cycling paraphernalia in the Essell household. Most people know my dad was an avid cyclist. He started his bike team, Team Nietzsche, in Cincinnati many years ago, and they continue to bike on Thursday mornings to this day. In the last three years of his life, he was truly the toughest guy. He fought so hard for so long, and I am so grateful that he did. During the past few months, I had to be tough as well. I’ve never done well with hospitals, needles, nonetheless surgery. Somehow, some way, I was able to draw on something inside of me to push through, and I know it was him, passing along his toughness. God bless guardian angels.

Dad's bench that Team Nietzsche dedicated to his memory on the Loveland Bike Trail

Show affection to those you love One thing I always remember about my dad was whenever he dropped me off at school, volleyball practice, work, etc., he would always give me a kiss before I got out of the car. Always. He showed me how much he loved me every day until the day he died. His memory makes me excited to have my own family and to show my children one day a love that is full and happy and infinite. He’d always sign his cards to me, “D.O.D.” Dear Old Dad. My dad was and still is truly that: so dear.


When all else fails, have a margarita My dad even took it a step further by making his own. One of my favorite memories of my dad is his love for Mexican food and good margaritas. We’d look forward to going to Cactus Pear or El Pueblo for fish tacos, and (once I was old enough) making margaritas at home with a big bag of limes and making simple syrup on the stove. I have a funny memory of coming home one day from work, upset about something that now seems silly, and sitting with him in the living room crying and carrying on about stupid drama. After I got a good cry out, he said “let’s make a margarita!” and we went into the kitchen and soon enough I was laughing and the bad day was completely forgotten. Lesson learned: have a margarita and use it as a way to remember him.

A successful Essell family vacation meal: guac & margaritas

Celebrating Dad's memory this May at Nada brunch

For those who can spend time with their fathers this Sunday, cherish it! And for those who are remembering their fathers and grandfathers this year, I wish you a day of peace, memories and love.

Xoxo, Molly

Throwback Thursday: Edition 1, The Bed on the Couch

When thinking of which memory I wanted to write about first for this new Throwback Thursday topic, it was obvious to me, but I had a little apprehension I'd embarrass him. Looking back at the last two months, and even the last year or two, there was one person that surprised me. He didn't always jump to say, "Yes, let's 100% do this and do it now! No problem!" but he also never once told me to hold back or re-think my decision. He forced me to have conversations about it, to really talk about how the process would work, what the end result would (hopefully) look like and what OUR, not just my, future would look like. Disclaimer: He has no idea I'm writing this and probably no idea I remember this story enough to write about it (the pain meds and my emotions that day were enough to erase any amount of memory). So as you read this, say a prayer that his face isn't turning the color of his hair. Those of you who know him know he's not a huge fan of spotlight unless it's on the karaoke stage, but even if he never admits it, I know he was secretly loving his two minutes of fame on Channel 5.

So this story begins day nine post-surgery, but the real story began just about five years ago. Kevin and I met in college at Ohio University, the "promise land" of the best four years of our lives, and a place that I'll never quite be able to explain to an outsider. We had a little more than two wonderful, crazy years together there and were lucky enough to both call Cincinnati home after graduation. But during all the parties and chaos of college fun, I was also dealing with spirts of challenging times, with my dad's health roller coasting from bad to good, to bad to OK, to the end. Through it all Kevin was there. Giving up weekends senior year to come home with me, skipping out last minute on the Hilton Head Island trip (along with the rest of my amazing friends) to attend the funeral. He truly never left my side. It's because of this that I should have known he'd be the stability I'd need during the decision making process of this surgery, and through the recovery.

I was interviewed a few weeks ago on 700WLW about my surgery. There was one question I'll admittedly say that threw me for a loop. "How could your fiancé  be OK with a surgery like this, when men are known to be attached to these things?" My answer was simple. It takes a strong man to handle something like this and to support the decision. And I think that strength in him, and our relationship, is what has gotten us through. It was not easy. It was not a simple "let's do this" and move on kind of decision. It took conversations, research and faith to get to where we are today. A lot of people are fascinated by the "engaged couple" part of our story. That here we are planning a wedding while going through this. The truth is I believe we're more capable of planning a wedding now than we would have been otherwise. Conversations about wedding venues, flowers and photographers seem a whole lot easier after discussing mastectomies, doctors, reconstruction and recoveries.

I'm blessed beyond belief to have someone like him in my life, for all those supportive and loving qualities. I'm even more lucky that after all the trying times we have been through, especially lately, we've been able to come out on top. It was during my recovery period that I realized how great he would be throughout the rest of my life. It's the little things that surprised me. And it's this little story below, written in these exact words on day nine of my recovery, that I'm so glad I documented so I can remember. And it's this I'll continue to remember throughout the rest of our lives.

Day Nine: To remember about this day: asking Kevin to help me replace the band aids and antibiotic ointment on my drain spots and having a sudden emotional breakdown of massive amounts of tears, out of nowhere (probably exhaustion). And returning from blowing my nose in the bathroom, to the couch being completely made into a snuggly bed for my comfort, all thanks to my loving fiancé who I sometimes forget to thank. For his patience, understanding and pure love for me and all the craziness that comes with me. Remember that bed made on the couch.

Xoxo, Molly

Note: Throwback Thursdays will continue to be an ongoing series, with new posts every other week (on Thursdays, duh.) I want to use these as a way to shed light on my experience, while also showing appreciation to those who got me through it. Maybe some of them will even be humorous :) I hope you enjoy these memories I documented during the preparing for and recovering from my double mastectomy.

Lean, green recovering machine: Smart and healthy choices for a speedy recovery

When it comes down to it, having this surgery in your mid-twenties just isn’t too mainstream yet. You can do as much Googling as you want, but finding good, reliable content isn’t as easy as you’d think. What I really wanted to find was a young, health-conscious chick’s guide to getting through the recovery stage from this surgery while keeping up a healthy lifestyle and mental well-being. So after scouring the Internet for weeks pre-surgery, and now after my own personal experience, here's what I feel compelled to tell you: your recovery will be based on YOU and YOUR body. Don't get down when you're not hitting the gym for the first few months, or be upset when you have a day that you just need to sit on the couch and veg. What's important is to listen to your body. This is a major surgery that requires major recovery.

I continue to say to people how surprised I am at how well I recovered. But let’s cut the BS – I worked my butt off to prepare and to focus on everything I could do to allow a healthy lifestyle positively affect my recovery. It wasn't an easy task by any means but determination and dedication made it possible. This blog post will be the first step in taking some pride in my quinoa-eating, green tea-drinking healthy bod. So here you are, Molly’s 5-step guide on how to prepare yourself and work through your recovery period by capitalizing on healthy lifestyle choices:

1. Prepare your health ahead of your surgery date

Say you work out twice a week. A few weeks, or a few months if you can, kick it up a notch and do 3-4 nights of cardio at the gym. I've read multiple articles that suggest the better shape you’re in before the surgery, the easier it will be to bounce back after the surgery. This, I absolutely believe, is true. I focused on working out, eating healthy and drinking lots of water pre-surgery, which I think in turn made doing all of the things you’ll read below easier and more of a natural routine. My fave pre-mastectomy workout tip: planks, planks and more planks. I read an awesome article on Bright Pink’s website that said some women work on toning their ab muscles pre-surgery so they can stand in for the chest muscles when necessary. I will say ten times over that the only reason I was able to sit up in the hospital bed was because I could use my stomach muscles. Do the planks.

2. Stock up on healthy foods

Disclaimer: I took this one very seriously. Prior to my surgery, I had researched the best power foods to stock in the fridge, smoothie recipes to have on hand, and was determined to stick to eating healthy once I was home. I 100% believe that the healthy foods I consumed post-surgery helped me feel better quickly. Plus, it was neat to try new recipes and have some fun with super healthy foods. Faves: quinoa bowls (recipes to come soon!), green smoothies and the always yummy Greek yogurt with berries, granola and almonds. I’m definitely not saying only eat greens and never eat chocolate (I have to have chocolate or I’d go crazy) but as my mom always says, “everything in moderation.” The healthy eating will pay off and what better of a time to get healthy than when your body needs it most.

3. Drink lots of water & no alcohol (yes, I'm serious!)

I love a good margarita like the rest of them, but giving up the booze for more than a month after surgery was surprisingly awesome. Granted, it's obvious that you shouldn’t start chugging beers when you’re on pain medicine and recovering, but it was the few weeks after being off pain meds, and still not drinking alcohol, that seemed to really help. I focused on drinking tons of water (hint: get flavored water or fill yours with lemons and cucumbers if you get bored and need a little variety). I never thought I’d be so happy to ditch the drinking, but it truly did help, and my hair and skin benefitted as well! So focus on the positives of your few weeks of sobriety: saving money on the weekends and no hangovers! (Plus, it’ll make that first glass of wine a few weeks down the road that much better!)

4. R&R

This one could also seem like a no-brainer, but really resting, especially the first two weeks, really helped in the long-run of my recovery. And I mean resting both physically and mentally. Resting your brain (replacing work emails with cheesy DVDs) was just as helpful as resting my body. It wasn’t that I was doing zero physical activity, it was just knowing when my body needed to rest. I was able to take short walks just a few days after the surgery, but I was smart in also following those walks and bursts of energy with napping, reading wedding mags and catching up on TV shows. It can be easy to want to push it when you’re used to being so active, but your body just went through a whole lot, so the least you can do is listen to it when it’s telling you to take a breather. Need a turn-your-brain-off guilty pleasure DVD suggestion? Two words: Tim. Riggins. You won’t be disappointed.

5. Accept the support you are given

I continue to be in awe every day of the tremendous amount of support I was shown in my decision to have this surgery. From my friends and family who had listened to me talk and worry about this for months, to my coworkers who didn’t find out until I was missing from work, I am so blessed. My mental well-being was uplifted constantly from the kind words and messages I received not only after my surgery but as I planned for it. I think having such a support system and allowing people to help me prepare for it enabled me to go into the surgery day with less anxiety. I knew I would come out on the other side with words of love and encouragement. It wasn’t always easy to tell people about my decision, but I’ve yet to find one person in my life that didn’t react with complete compassion and understanding. I hope anyone that goes through this type of endeavor can know that level of support and use it to fuel their positive preparation and recovery period.

Xoxo, Molly

Thanks to my BFF, Angelina!

One year ago today, Angelina Jolie, most known for her roles in Hollywood movies and for her smokin' hot partner Brad Pitt, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled, "My Medical Choice." For those of you who have not read this piece, it details Jolie's decision to have a preventative double mastectomy because of her "faulty" BRCA gene. She explains very clearly that although she is happy that she made this decision, it was not an easy one. How I knew Angelina and I were such BFFs is in her reasoning for then going public about her surgery and process. Simply stated, she says "But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."

^Amen, sister! And this is why I am choosing to write about my personal decisions now:

Four weeks and two days ago, I had a preventative double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction started at University of Cincinnati Medical Center, by two top-notch surgeons who continue to amaze me. It was because of the same reason Angelina started her journey that led me to mine.

In 2009 I had the initial blood test to check if I carried the genetic mutation, after my dad discovered he was a carrier. Since 2009, we lost my INCREDIBLY strong, intelligent and loving father to a disease they could never quite fully understand. What I did not initially grasp was the gift my dad gave me while he was still here to do so: the knowledge that I needed to be proactive and preventative - for my OWN health.

Coming to the decision to have this surgery was long and difficult to say the least, but now that I am on the other side of things, and can see the end in sight, I, along with my BFF Angelina, know that it was the right decision for me. So thank you, Angelina, for being cool enough to gain your own slogan, just because of your bravery and courage, and give me an easier way to explain to people what's been going on in my life. I am very, very grateful for that.

So - I hope this blog can be a place for learning and understanding the life of being at high-risk for breast cancer and ways to live healthy and thrive through life's difficult endeavors, for anyone.

Xoxo, Molly