My Sunny Side

Real Talk for the Day

My, it has been a rough couple of weeks. Not only has my heart felt heavy with recent events (the hurricanes, the Las Vegas shooting, and the Sonoma fires), my own life has felt flooded lately. With all the going, going, going, it has left me feeling utterly…gone. I talk so much about self-care and putting on our own oxygen mask first. I have been so busy running around that somewhere along the way I completely forgot to take care of myself. Can I get some oxygen, please?

I am reminded today of how important it is to protect our boundaries and our hearts. I have had to take a close look lately at my intense desire to please everyone else. In my process of saying “yes” all the time to others, I have said “no” to myself as a result. And while it can be so easy in the moment to people please and do what everyone asks, the wear and tear on my body and spirit is a slow and subtle change that has now become prominent.

I realized this on Friday. I had just flown back from speaking at Syracuse University and I as I went to unlock my car, I realized that my keys were not in my purse. With no idea what happened to them, I knew the rest of the day would be a challenge. It was. I have struggled to share my own experience with anxiety, but here it is. I had a full blown panic attack in that Uber ride back to my apartment. I emptied my purse because I thought I was going to throw up. Thankfully I didn’t but it was in that Uber ride that I realized, I need to take better care of myself.

Losing keys happens. There are so many worse things that occur each and every day. But we all reach that breaking point when enough is enough. It’s time to practice what I preach. It’s time to start respecting my heart, my body, and my future. I want to be mindful about what I chose to say yes to, and not live in fear when I need to say no. Even though I worry that I may disappoint others by saying no, I have to remember that respecting myself needs to come as a top priority. When I don’t keep myself healthy, it makes it so much harder to give back graciously and openly. This is the mindset I am take with me in the coming months.

My values are shifting. As I prepare to get married next year, I am reminded of how much I value my relationship with my fiancé and building a home together. I am happiest when I am spending time with those I love. I want to start living with more balance so that I can live in alignment with these values. #priorities

There is my heart dump for the day. So often I keep these things to myself but I am trying this whole humanness thing. This is about becoming a human being, rather than a human doing.

Sending love to you wherever you are at. I know it’s not easy, but I hope you’re able to live in alignment with your values as well. One day at a time, right?

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Hello friends! I’m just coming back from a week in Costa Rica and I can’t stop smiling. We had the most amazing vacation and it was so nice to have a getaway. It’s such a fulfilling feeling when you finally get to see somewhere that you’ve always wanted to see. What’s that place for you?

For a long time, it’s been Costa Rica for me. Why? All the animals, all the flora and fauna—I love it all. So when this dream came true, I had to pinch myself. We had an incredible time immersing ourselves in nature. Just listening to the sound of the birds every morning was a new peace that I needed. I thought I would share some of my favorite pictures with you to share some of the adventures.

Our trip started out in San Jose, the capital, and we were only briefly there. We then took a small plane to La Fortuna to see the Arenal Volcano. It was beyond beautiful with the masses of plants and flowers and of course, the volcano itself was stunning. We also loved getting to experience the hot springs. Animal sightings included iguanas, frogs, snakes, and tons of birds. Also not to be forgotten is our chocolate tour on an authentic cacao farm owned by the locals.

We then headed off to Manuel Antonio—a beach city on the Pacific coast. What a beautiful scene it was. This was definitely my favorite part of the trip because we saw so much wildlife. Sloths, monkeys, scarlet macaws, bats—it was all so fantastic. You never knew when something might surprise you. We hiked over seven miles in Manuel Antonio National Park and we also had a great catamaran ride in the morning. Next time I go back I definitely want to go parasailing!

It was the perfect getaway that we needed. Life has been so busy for us and we need a breath away from everything. It’s been a little hard this week getting back in the swing of things but it’s a little easier knowing that I got to experience a lifelong dream come true.

I hope you can start to make plans to your dream destination. Looking forward to it is just as much a part of the fun.

Pura vida, amigos!


Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

My Early Christmas Present

I know a lot of people are saying that 2016 has been a bad year and they can’t wait for it to be over, but I still believe there are things to be grateful for. No matter how hard it gets, there is always a little bright light left.

I saw a little bit of that light a few days ago. Actually, it was a blindingly bright light that just changed the trajectory of my life.

Let me start from the beginning. Unfortunately, I come from a family where cancer has liked to claim a stake. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35 (she’s alive and well today), my aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 55 (she’s alive and well, too) and my grandma was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her early 60’s (she has since passed on but she lived to be 91 years old). So as you can tell from that paragraph, we’ve had lucky breaks from unlucky circumstances.

With my Grandma Farr the night I won Miss Teen California back in 2006.

With my Grandma Farr the night I won Miss Teen California back in 2006.

I was two years old when my mom was diagnosed with cancer so I have grown up having some understanding of what this disease entails. While I don’t remember my mom going through chemo or having surgeries, there were still ripples of her illness all throughout my childhood that served as reminders of what she went through.

Mom and me on a recent trip to Mammoth this past summer.

Mom and me on a recent trip to Mammoth this past summer.

As time went on, our family decided to get tested for the BRCA I and II genes. All of the diagnoses seemed like more than just coincidence. My grandma, aunt, and mom were tested at UCLA about ten years ago and they all had the same variance on the BRCA II gene. At the time the researchers said it was inconclusive. Not enough information to say one way or the other. It could just be chance.

Flash forward ten years. I am now 25. Growing up with all of this information, it has always been important to me to equip myself with as much knowledge as possible. I know that some people hesitate to find out this information about their genetic make-up (and that is a personal decision), but I know that I needed to do the testing for myself. I think back to my mom surviving stage III cancer with a two year old at home and I immediately knew that I want to be as preventative as possible.

So, a few weeks ago, my mom and I went back for testing at UCLA. I cried the morning of the testing but when I saw my mom, we kept it light. I think we both secretly knew how intense this day could be but we decided to stay positive. When you sit in the heaviness of what could be, it’s just too much. We made a mother-daughter day of it and went out for lunch and shopping afterward.

But at the testing, I felt that much more nervous when our genetic counselor told us that the variance that my mom, grandma, and aunt has is actually 95% likely to be pathogenic. The research in the past 10 years has taken those originally inconclusive results and reframed them as mutative agents that are much more likely to lead to cancer than in the average person. Okay, good to know.

So you can imagine how I felt when I answered the phone on Wednesday and my genetic counselor was on the other line. Words, words, words…just tell me what I want to know.

“Your test results came back negative. You do NOT have the pathogenic genes.”

There is that blinding, bright light I am talking about. I had prepared myself to hear the worst—to start thinking about prophylactic surgeries and hormone therapies someday. I had not prepared myself for the news that I do not have the same gene as my mom, grandma, and aunt. In so many ways I have wanted to be like my mom but in this sense, I am glad we are different. I can also say this knowing that my mom has taken every preventative measure possible so I can breathe a sigh of relief.

This news is definitely my Christmas present this year. Telling my mom the good news and seeing the shock and then tears come over her face was one of the best moments I have had in my life. Our prayers have been answered and I could see in that minute that my mom was even more relieved than I was. My dad and grandma were just as excited. I know it’s all just chance, but I feel like I have won the lottery.

Just because you get genetic testing, and the results come back negative, it does not mean you are immune. I know that. I will still take preventative steps and get mammograms when I turn 30. These results should not and will not breed ignorance. But they do bring me some peace. That is something I am grateful for.

If something runs in your family, I’d encourage you to consider genetic testing like our family did. No matter how the results come out, the knowledge is empowering. It does not determine the decisions you make, but it certainly informs them.

Hug your family and friends a little tighter in these last few days of 2016. There are still bright lights all around you.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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