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Well, we’ve almost made it to the end of October which is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I’ve yet to write anything about my struggles, my journey or my on-going dance with cancer.  Perhaps today it’s time to update from a survivor who was diagnosed on New Year’s Eve of 2001.

I’ve spoken to many people, sharing my story when I thought it would help and connecting with them when I knew they needed someone to simply understand the devastation that we feel when life turns upside down.  I’ve been a Reach to Recovery Volunteer, helping those who want to find a new normal and who are looking for a way out of the labyrinth of grief which many times surrounds us when we are hit with a cancer diagnosis.  For everything changes in our lives when cancer hits.  Life, relationships and health all change and we suffer until we can find our equilibrium.  We grieve, we mourn and we endure what we previously thought unthinkable.  We can stagnate in that pool of darkness or we can reach out for the light.  As a survivor for so many years, I try to be an inspiration and to shine my heartlight so that others can find theirs and begin to move on in their lives.  I know it’s not easy, for I have been there, done that and still struggle with the aftermath of cancer.  It seems I am never fully out of its grasp as it rears its ugly head in my life from time to time as a pointed jab and a reminder that life is a gift and everyday we must be grateful for this moment in time.

With breast cancer in particular, we suffer the indignities of losing our outward signs of femininity (breasts, hair (chemo)) and many times our ovaries which help keep our feminine hormones going.  Sometimes we can even lose touch with ourselves as we struggle to come to grips with a body which many times in clothing looks good, but in our birthday suits, is riddled with train track-like scars and missing pieces.  It takes a strong woman to get up every morning and to continue to strive to be the best person she can be when her heart is breaking.  I admire those women who can be vulnerable and yet be strong, who can laugh, but still cry, who can feel even when her body is numbed by surgery or can remain peaceful while hearing careless comments from those who say they love them.

We all have a story to tell when it comes to surviving breast cancer.  Each of our personal stories is a bit different, but the fundamental grief and subsequent healing of body, mind and soul are similar.  Today’s post I dedicate to those friends and family who have gone before me, those who are presently enduring breast cancer and to those, like me, who are still here, somewhere in purgatory, never quite released from its icy grip, but still hopeful that it never quite fully returns.

Shine On!

xo

Untie the Pink Ribbons

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“Life is a gift.

We just have to remember

to untie the ribbons.”
 – Unknown

 

I was diagnosed on New Year’s Eve of 2001 with breast cancer.  I heralded in 2002 with trepidation, stark fear and a sickening feeling in my stomach as I faced the unknown future.  Due to that diagnosis, I have survived more than 10 surgeries with one more in the future.  I have endured 6 months of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of daily radiation, countless tests and visits to specialists, excruciating pain, sleepless nights, days when my brain just didn’t seem to work, losing my hair, my breasts, my confidence and my life as I knew it.  I have residual problems, testing every 6 months due to complications and I’m never quite far away from that original diagnosis although to meet me you may never know what I’ve endured.

But I’m still here, untying the gift of today…everyday.

It’s a choice my friends.  No matter what you are facing and believe me, I’ve faced so much in my life and not just cancer, it’s a choice to greet the dawn with enthusiasm, patience, love and kindness in your heart.  It’s a choice to think, “Oh God, it’s morning” and groan or to say it with enthusiasm for the gift of today that is yours.  After any illness, tragedy, or hard times, there’s a transitional period to find your new normal.  It will go a lot easier and faster for you if you lean into the idea that change is inevitable and it can be good.

Don’t mistake me, I can still get plenty mad about having breast cancer.  I can stomp my feet with the rest of the marchers and be angry that parts of my life have been taken from me.  I can look at my scarred body with hatred for what has occurred.  However, I choose to look at it with love for having endured so much pain and still be able to house my soul, my heart and my mind.  Sure, there are days when I lament the loss of my figure as it was before cancer and sure, I look at the scars and see the pain, the heartache and feel that I am not  beautiful.

But…I can also look and see how my body has healed herself with my help.  I see how my mind, body and spirit have connected, joined forces, so that the superficiality of life has fallen gently by the wayside and I am freed from conventionality.  I hold dear the knowledge that I find beauty in another soul’s eyes and spirit and pray that there are others out there who feel the same way.

We hold the power to untie those pink ribbons and find beauty, love, light and health in our own lives.  The diagnosis and subsequent treatments hold a turning point in my life.  I cannot say that I am happy I had this illness.  But I will say that I have grown in my own strength, love and health because of it.  I am a different person because I have endured so much and I am grateful for what I have learned about myself.  I found inner strength that I never knew I possessed.  I embrace my spirituality more tenderly than before and I hope that if you are on this journey of breast cancer, that you find peace, love, health and light within you to guide you as we find ourselves on this journey of light.

Shine On!

xo

Pink Post Gratitude to Lisa Boncheck Adams

Every person has a story. So, too, does each chair.

IMG_7739There is comfort in routine.

Some people are superstitious. Sometimes they want the same chemo nurse, the same appointment time, the same chair. “If it is working don’t mess with it” applies to many things about treating cancer.

I am always thinking about continuity and the stories that objects tell. I’ve written twice about the tape measure my plastic surgeon used to measure me before surgery. I’ll post those pieces again this month.

Whenever I sit in a chair in a doctor’s office I think about all of the people who have sat in that chair before I have.

Each person has a story. So, too, does each chair. That chair is the starting point for this piece from 2011.

………………………….

“I think so too”

That chair you’re sitting in?
I’ve sat in it too.
In waiting rooms. Chemo rooms. Prep rooms. For tests. Surgeries. Procedures. Radiation. Inpatient. Outpatient. Emergency visits. Routine visits. Urgent visits. To see generalists. Specialists. Surgeons. Alone. With friends. With family members. As a new patient. Established patient. Good news. Bad news. I’ve left with new scars. Prescriptions. Appointments. Words of wisdom. Theories. Guesses. Opinions. Statistics. Charts. Plans. Tests. Words of assurance. More bloodwork. Nothing new. Nothing gained. Nothing but a bill.

That feeling you’re having?
I’ve had it too.
Shock. Disbelief. Denial. Grief. Anger. Frustration. Numbness. Sadness. Resignation. Confusion. Consternation. Curiosity. Determination. Dread. Anxiety. Guilt. Regret. Loss. Pain. Emptiness. Embarrassment. Shame. Loneliness.

That day you’re dreading?
I’ve dreaded it too.
The first time you speak the words, “I have cancer.” The first time you hear “Mommy has cancer.” Anniversary day. Chemo day. Surgery day. PET scan day. Decision day. Baldness day. The day the options run out.

Those reactions you’re getting?
I’ve had them too.
Stares. Questions. Pity. Blank looks. Insensitivity. Jaw-dropping comments. Tears. Avoidance.

Those side effects you dread?
I’ve dreaded them too.
Nausea. Vomiting. Pain. Broken bones. Weakened heart. Baldness. Hair loss. Everywhere. Unrelenting runny nose. Fatigue. Depression. Hot flashes. Insomnia. Night sweats. Migraines. Loss of appetite. Loss of libido. Loss of breasts. Phantom pain. Infection. Fluid accumulation. Bone pain. Neuropathy. Numbness. Joint pain. Taste changes. Weight gain. Weight loss. Mouth sores. Fevers. Anemia.

That embarrassment you’re feeling?
I’ve felt it too.
Buying a swimsuit. Getting a tight-fitting shirt stuck on my body in the dressing room. Having a child say “You don’t have any eyebrows, do you?” Asking the grocery line folks to “make the bags light, please.” Wearing a scarf. Day after day. Wondering about wearing a wig because it’s windy outside and it might not stay on. Holding on to the bannister for dear life. Passing out in public.

That fear you’re suppressing?
I’ve squelched it too.
Will this kill me? When? How bad is chemo going to be? How am I going to manage 3 kids and get through it? Will my cancer come back and take me away from my life? Will it make the quality of life I have left so bad I won’t want to be here anymore? Is this pain in my back a recurrence? Do I need to call a doctor? What is worse: the disease or the treatment?

That day you’re yearning for?
I’ve celebrated it too.
“Your counts are good” day. “Your x-ray is clear” day. “Now you can go longer between appointments” day. “See you in a year” day. First-sign-of-hair day. First-day-without-covering-your-head day. First taste of food day. First Monday chemo-isn’t-in-the-calendar day. Expanders-out, implants-in day. First walk-without-being-tired day. First game-of-catch-with-the-kids day. First day out for lunch with friends day. First haircut day. “Hey, I went a whole day without thinking about cancer” day. “Someone asked me how I’m doing, I said ‘fine’ and I meant it” day.

That hope you have?

I have it too:
More research. Easier access. Targeted therapy. Effective treatments. Better quality of life. More options. Longer life. Less toxicity. Fewer guesses.

Ultimately, someday, for my children or grandchildren perhaps: a cure.

Don’t you think that would be amazing?
I think so too.

** I am so moved by Lisa’s story and this post that I had to share ~ thanks for reading.  I think it makes no difference whether you are fighting breast cancer like we have or any other illness.  We can bond together to heal…that’s the most important piece of the puzzle.

Shine On!

xo

Take A Bow

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Take a Bow my friends!

This post is dedicated to all of you ~ can you hear my applause?  It is thunderous ~ I am applauding YOU so please, take a bow.   “Why?” you may ask.  Why are we taking a bow and why are you applauding us?  Well, it’s simple.  You are here today.  You matter.  You are loved.  You have a beautiful day ahead to make a positive difference in your life and in the lives of others!  I believe in you ~ I know you can do it!

So…take a bow my friends!  Your performance today counts.

Today is Yours!

Shine On!

xo

You Shine!

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“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.  Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” – Maya Angelou

I don’t know about you, but I love to be around enthusiastic, positive people!  In fact, I tend to gravitate towards them instinctively ~ wanting to get to know them and to watch how they shine!  In my blog, I often close with “Shine On” as I think it is a good reminder to all of us to continue our journeys of finding our light ~ and then shining brightly in order to inspire others!

As Moms, we are blessed with being the first role models our children rely on.  Hopefully to them, we shine in our own special ways, allowing them to see how fulfilling it is to love what you do and to do what you love ~ whatever it is that we decide to do!  For you see, being a parent is just one piece of the pie that is Mom, don’t you agree?

When we define ourselves as Moms, we are not just saying that we birthed or adopted our offspring.  We wear an array of hats during our lifetime and it’s important that as we travel through the role, that we bend and mold ourselves as we see fit.  Mothering is a verb, a 24 hour/365 day way of living.   As you know, it’s not for the faint of heart, but even those of us who feel weak in the knees at times are still up for the Mom of the Year Award in our families.

For me, in my 40s, I found that stay at home Mom-hood wasn’t enough for me.  At some point, that all-encompassing role that I’d happily taken on needed to be readjusted in my life.  It’s not that I didn’t want to be a Mom anymore, but that I wanted more for myself ~ I wanted to stretch out of my comfort zone into more adventurous territory.  But where to start?  How to start?

I began simply, by remembering the girl I was before I was married and had children.  That girl who put herself first more often than not, but not in a selfish way.  That girl who felt her Inner Hotshot and wasn’t afraid ~ she simply tried ~ succeeded or failed ~ picked herself up and kept going ~ even if it took baby steps.

I found that strength helpful when I was enduring breast cancer almost 12 years ago at age 34.  As the years have gone by, I have learned lesson after lesson about myself from that simple sentence, “you have breast cancer’ uttered on New Year’s Eve of 2001.  I have grown by leaps and bounds both mentally, physically and emotionally.  I have found my inner strength, my passion in helping others and I have the impact I can make by inspiring my children to reach for the stars, knowing the power is within themselves.

I learned the true meaning of The Presents of Presence which is to enjoy the moment that we’re in, to look up to the skies and to feel gratitude for all that we cherish.  Perhaps in my life, I won’t be remembered by many, but only by the few that I leave behind, I pray that the legacy that lives on in the hearts of those who knew me is one of gratitude for having known me.  However, until then, I soldier on, Mom at the ready for another amazing adventure on this journey of life!

Shine On!

xo

P.S.  I was featured on the Joy of Mom website today with this same post!  Thanks to Susan and Flo for including me! xo   The Savvy Sister

Lessons from Stepmom Before Dawn

stepmomScene from 1998 movie Stepmom ~ Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I awoke early Friday morning.  So early in fact that it was still dark outside and the moon shone on the grass like the sun.  (which is why I’m including myself in the Daily Prompt). All was quiet in the house so I crept downstairs, careful not to awaken anyone, brewed myself a cup of coffee and turned on the TV.  I do enjoy that time of the day.  Just before dawn breaks and the world stirs into the action of the day.

As luck, synchronicity, coincidence would have it, the movie Stepmom began just as I settled in and I allowed myself the time to watch it with my full attention accompanied by our cat Tiffy who as always has to be in the know.

Someone recently told me that this was their favorite movie, so even though it’s been years since I’ve seen it, I wanted to re-watch it with new eyes.  Being a cancer survivor, it was heartbreaking to watch at times.  Being a Mom, it touched me in ways that I don’t think I can express.  Being a wife with cancer, it tugged at my soul.  I am not a Stepmom nor am I divorced, but the lessons learned were priceless.

1.  Enjoy the moment.  BE in the NOW.

2.  Things are just things.  People are priceless.  Treat them as such.

3.  Love can’t cure all, but it helps to try.

4.  Forgiveness is crucial in life.

5.  Dig deeper ~ people aren’t always who they seem to be.

6.  Do memorable activities with your family so that they will remember those good times.

7.  We all need friends and family.

8.  Be the person you want to be remembered as ~ don’t think people will remember you by how you wanted to act.  Act how you want to be remembered.

9.  Cherish the time you have with those whom you love.

10.  You are special.  You are loved.  Be grateful for all you have.

I’ve always loved the song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” but when I watched the movie this time, it touched me to the core of my soul.  So I thought I’d include it for you.  Perhaps you’ll feel the pull to dance around a bit yourself ~ smile ~ be grateful ~ touch those whom you love ~ and remember those who have passed.  Give the gift of yourself to someone else ~ a memory of you that will stay with them always.

Shine On!

xo

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Daily Prompt: The Golden Hour

6:00AM: the best hour of the day, or too close to your 3:00AM bedtime?

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/daily-prompt-dawn/

Keep Calm and Fight Like A Girl!

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Keep Calm and Fight Like A Girl

I’m off to the doctor’s again for a check up and for anyone who’s been diagnosed with an illness that lingers, it can be a bit challenging mentally to Stay Calm and Carry On.  I’m just saying the truth for me.  Even though it’s been years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I’ve had my ovaries out for 10 years as well, I’m simply not calm, cool and collected when I have to be retested for anything.  There I said it ~ and for as much as I’m trying to be zen all the time, the creeping thought of ‘what if’ does sneak into my thoughts before the appointment.

And it’s not as if I feel like there’s anything wrong with me.  I don’t.  I also don’t even think about the appointment until the day before when the doctor’s office calls to confirm and then the hamster wheel creaks into motion.  You know the noise that the wheel makes when your hamster brain is running all night long, don’t you?  If you don’t, then I am so happy for you!  May you never know the sound for it’s annoying as heck!

My friend Jenn who lost her battle with breast cancer now almost 3 years ago (time flies by when I think about this as without having to check on it, I would have said 2 years), Click here to see my last post about her  and when I went to see my last post, I realized that it was one year ago today that I wrote about her.  Such a coincidence, huh?  Anyway, when I see the words, “fight like a girl” I always think of Jenn as she battled her cancer with grace, dignity and an inspirational courage which she spread with her spirit.  I am blessed to have had her special brand of motivation and inspiration in my life.

What a legacy to leave, isn’t it?  Touching the lives of many simply by being yourself.  It’s a great goal for me, one which I try to exceed every single day.  I awake every morning to the dawn of a new day and I pray that I can be helpful to someone who needs the Presents of Presence.

Shine On!

xo