Tag Archive | survivor

9/11

9.11

On the eve of 9/11/19, I sit quietly on my couch in my home, but as always when this anniversary comes, my heart breaks.  As I scroll through Facebook with all of the photos from that day being repeated because it’s the anniversary, I cry.  I can’t help myself.

I cry for the losses that so many suffered.  I cry for their families.  I cry because the night before, this eve before 9/11/2001, no one knew how life would be changed so irrevocably for our nation.

The tragedy of 9/11 still haunts the hearts, minds and souls of so many of us.  Even as  the years have passed, eighteen to be exact, the anniversary of 9/11 holds a sadness that hasn’t been forgotten.

We have learned that life can change in a moment’s notice.  All that we have known can be obliterated and we have to pick up the pieces as best we can when this happens.  My prayers are with each of you who have been touched by 9/11.

We have heard the tragic stories from those who were there at Ground Zero.  Many survivors have recounted their experiences.  We have been told of the amazing courage that so many people showed.  We have seen strangers bonded in the wake of this tragedy.  In some form or another, we have all been touched by this event.

Please, tell your loved ones how you feel.  Count your blessings.  Be grateful for this peaceful moment.  Send out your heartlight energy to fill the world with love and compassion.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us.  That is why we must hold tenderly The Presents of Presence.

Tonight, as I lay my head upon my pillow, I pray for us all.

Shine On!

xo

Enduring Breast Cancer Survivor

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This may be a controversial post, I’m just warning you.  Maybe not, depending on how you view what I feel.  I’m a breast cancer survivor although I abhor the badge survivor.  Yes, I survived breast cancer and have for almost 16 years, but I am not one of those who go to the Pinktober or Breast Cancer Walks with pink frilly enthusiasm.  It’s just not me.

I think it’s nice that people unite for those walks to raise money for research, but in the sixteen years since I was diagnosed, there have been a few strides, but not many.  So where’s the funding going?

There are thousands of items bedazzled with the pink ribbon during Breast Cancer Awareness month that are for sale.  While I appreciate it, I also feel the superficiality of it.  For enduring breast cancer isn’t all pink ribbons.

It’s grueling surgeries, treatments and fear-induced sleepless nights.  Like all life threatening situations, it requires bravery to face our inevitable death, with the threat of it coming too soon.  I was 34 years old when I was diagnosed out of the blue, having found an M&M sized lump in my breast.  Complete shock overtook me on that New Year’s Eve in 2001 when the diagnosis was delivered.

Fast forward to 2017 after having endured countless surgeries, chemotherapy (ACT) and radiation, not to mention a double mastectomy, two implant replacements and then a radical replacement of my breasts with my own fat tissue instead of implants because my body kept rejecting them, I’ve been through the ringer like many people have in my situation.  I’ve lost my hair, been in menopause since 2003 and aged faster than my friends because of the illness.  I have lingering effects from the cancer which include chronic fatigue which I battle daily.  The funny thing about the chronic fatigue is that most people just don’t understand what I experience because I look normal (or as normal as possible).  But that’s a whole different post.

However, the word survivor when applied to my breast cancer experience sticks in my craw.  Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I merit the word survivor.  Victims of the Holocaust merit the word survivor, people who survived horrendous experiences merit the word survivor in my book.  But for me, no.

Me, I endured breast cancer.  While its aftereffects still play a role in my daily life, I am gratefully still here.  Sure, I have had more threats to my health than I can count anymore.  I am tested routinely due to other complications and I have endured countless uncomfortable tests and more sleepless nights than I want to remember.

The term survivor to me is having lived through something awful and to be able to go on afterwards.  Maybe that’s how some people feel about their diagnosis in the breast cancer world.  For me, it’s not a been there, done that, wear the pink sparkly t-shirt and smile.  It’s still enduring the illness in whatever shape and form it reemerges.

The Presents of Presence emerged from my journey with breast cancer.  In being present with my feelings, acknowledging the gifts in this moment and in taking the time to be mindful, spiritual and experiencing all that presence allows, is how I live my life now.  I am still a work in progress.  I thank you for reading my post today, for holding my hand when needed, for your kindness and connections and for showing your heartlight as a beacon of hope for others.

Shine On!

xo

 

 

Recipe for Enduring Breast Cancer

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In order to survive Breast Cancer (and any other illness, tragedy, trauma) it’s necessary to collect all of your essential ingredients in order to endure the situation at hand.  A great dose of support is also needed as back up when your ingredients run low and you need a refill.  A quick jog to the store won’t suffice.  You need a team, a village, to count on and that’s where the internet, blogs, websites and support groups can wield a mighty sword to help you combat your ills.

A hefty dose of the above helps:

Hope

Strength

Power

Belief

Courage

Honor

Determination

In addition to a heavy handed sprinkling of

Humor, Love, Presence and Support.

Which is all fine and good as words, but how do you go about stockpiling these main ingredients when you’ve just been blindsided by your diagnosis and news?  I wish I could say it is easy, but it’s not.  That’s where your determination comes in.  You have to set your own mind to believing that you have the courage, the strength, the hope, and the inner power to endure.

You have all of this inside ~ you simply have to tap into it.  You must do the work.  There’s no way around it.  It is your mind that needs to have its power harnessed to heal your life.  Humor, love, presence and support may come from the outside from which you can receive the stores from others.  But you my friend, must believe that you are ready and worthy to battle and must prepare your mind, heart and soul to overcome the obstacles that are placed before you.

So how do you do this?  You harness your mind by feeding it positive thinking.  You eradicate negativity from your life, like removing rose petals from a rose, you gently pluck the negative thoughts from your heart and in place, you add the essence of the rose ~ the inner beauty and strength that comes from a rose simply being a rose.

Is this making any sense to you?  Do you need concrete examples?  Are you thinking I’m too pie in the sky for you?  Too Pollyanna and yippy skippy?  Not down to Earth enough?

Watch for it.  In the meantime, you need to get yourself ready.  Enjoy this day.  Get outside and look up to the sky.  Breathe.  Take 3 minutes to just listen to the wind, feel the earth under your feet and reconnect with nature.  Find a bit of inner and outer peace in being present.  You don’t have to do it for long.   Just feel the peace.

I’m holding  your hand.  You’ve got a friend in me.  Take your time.  Allow the grief and the healing to come to you and welcome it with your arms open wide.  You can do this!

Shine On!

xo

How To Embrace Change

Change is beautifully inevitable

Seasons change, people change, weather changes, day changes to night.  When we balk at change, it stunts our growth.  Many of us can flow with the changes of daylight savings time, etc with ease, but when it comes to deeper changes, more life changing changes, we stomp our feet and dig in our heels, crying ‘no fair!’ to the Universe.  But friends, it’s all for naught.  The changes that are coming, the changes that arrive, come whether we believe it’s fair or not.  It comes as no surprise that change happens in life, for otherwise we would remain stagnant and not have the opportunity to grow, to move out of our relegated zones of comfort and expand our experiences.

Change happens.

“When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change,” is a quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer and happens to be on of my favorites.  It’s helped me through many of my life experiences when I wanted to refuse to budge from my own comfort zone even though my life had changed dramatically.  The idea that I can look at change from a different view and find the good in the change even when it was hard to see has been a pivotal point in my soul’s growth.  I can tell you that it hasn’t been easy to deal with many of the changes in my life, but then I don’t think that upheavals are supposed to be easy.  Sometimes they are simply mind shattering and belief scattering ~ which allows us to pick up the broken pieces of our lives and put them back together in a different way.  We change (for the better) when we allow change to flow and not dam the flow of life.  Certainly, I’ve learned that lesson time and time again as I know you have as well.

Change heralds freedom and allows us to drop the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s that may have had us imprisioned in our own lives.  Whether it be changes in health, relationships, jobs or roles, we need to find the peace in our own minds, hearts and souls to embrace the change and go with the flow.  That doesn’t mean you are in a canoe without a paddle, it simply means that you now know that you are the paddler of your own canoe.  Sure, you can link your canoe up with another’s, but you are still in charge of your own buoyancy.

For we can sink or swim when change happens.  We can stop trying and drown in the sorrow or we can tread water until we begin to swim again.  It’s a choice.  Lessons learned by change can feel daunting, but given time and trust, we can see the gifts that come from change.  There are blessings in change.  There’s opportunity to shine your heartlight when you’ve survived what you never thought you could.  There are connections with others to be made when you share your life experiences.

I know it’s not easy, but it can be done.  I am living proof.  Everyday in every way, you choose to swim or to give up.  Keep swimming dear friends.  You can do it.  If you need a helping hand, grab your paddle and let’s flow together.

Change is inevitably beautiful.

Shine On!

xo

Pinktober

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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

You’re the Beary Best!

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Teddy has been with me since I was about 2 years old when my Aunt Martha supposedly gave him to me.  He is worn and quite fur-less now since he’s been held for so many years.  He was a staple in my bed throughout my childhood.  Teddy protected me, comforted me and held me as I cried.  He is stained now, right down to the fabric of his being from so many years of comforting my tears.  He now wears a baby blue sweater to keep him warm since his fur is gone.  On his sweater is a sparkly white snowflake which is as unique as he is.

If Teddy could talk, he still wouldn’t repeat all of the secrets he knows.  He is just a comforting soul ~ silent witness ~ to a young girl’s childhood.

Teddy still sits at the end of my bed on my hope chest.  A silent protector who no longer needs to stand vigil, but simply be the comforting reminder of love.  Most definitely he has seen better days, but since he’s only seen by my family, he remains at the end of our bed.

I will admit that occasionally when I see him, I do still pick him up to give him a hug.  His comfort is still felt by my heart and as always, is greatly appreciated.

Do you have a special childhood friend?

Shine On!

xo

 

Daily Prompt: Prized Possession

Describe an item you were incredibly attached to as a child. What became of it?

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/daily-prompt-prized-possession/

Breast Cancer, Boobs, Oprah and Dr. Phil

Whew…my title is a mouthful isn’t it today?  I awoke this morning in a tizzy, perhaps because one of the furbabies was gagging on a hairball right beside my bed, but I was also dreaming that I was having a good ol’ fireside chat with Dr. Phil and it wasn’t going well….for him!  Forgive me this morning, but there are a few things I have to get off my chest (yes, pun intended) and ever since I read this article, I’ve been madder than a hornet.  I should explain this in a proper manner to you so that perhaps those without having endured breast cancer can understand and for those that have endured it, well, I hope you’ll be nodding your heads in agreement.

Page 58 in Oprah’s Magazine, you know the one ~ Oprah’s Favorite Things! that has just come out recently.  On this page in particular, Dr. Phil responded to a 54 year old woman who had endured a double mastectomy 4 years ago and was having trouble because her Dr. had ‘botched the surgery, and I had to remove my implants.  Now my new surgeon says my skin is too thin for another reconstruction – which means I will never have breasts.  My husband has been supportive, but I can’t help feeling undesirable.  And I don’t feel like me.  How do I get back my old self after such a loss?”

In my dreamed fireside chat to Dr. Phil, I gave him a full piece of my mind…and I didn’t spare him at all.  I dismissed his response to this lovely lady which in part was to “write down something affirming, like “I’m a strong, intelligent, attractive woman.”  Study those words….let that affirmation be your mantra…seek help from a therapist who specializes in self-esteem issues.  I wouldn’t worry about your desirability.  Looks are not what sustain s a man’s interest in a woman.  I’m sure your husband still sees you as the beautiful and brave woman he married.  To be happy, you’ll need to start seeing yourself that way, too.”  “A change in our bodies almost always changes how we feel about ourselves, too.  But the truth is, you weren’t a better person before your surgery, and you’re not less of a woman after it.”

Ohhh…that man touched on a live wire of a nerve with me!  Last night, our chat was a no holds barred type ~ one which I was very angry at his unwillingness to realize that she’d endured breast cancer and all that the mental anguish that being diagnosed entails and I shared the fact that even 10 years later, although I am cancer free, I am still leery every time I enter the oncologist’s office to be checked.  My blood pressure skyrockets because I know first hand of what I’ve been enduring for the last 10 years and I wiggle in my seat for the next week until I get my blood test results back.

Perhaps I should just recount my rant to you…and perhaps after reading it, you’ll decide I’m angry and you don’t want to read my posts…or that perhaps you’ll think I’m menstrual (nope, had the ovaries taken at age 35), but hopefully, you’ll see the gal you know who’s usually a sunny side of the street, glass 1/2 full girl tell you in a no holds barred way what she’s endured, how she’s triumphed and how she’s still taking baby steps forward everyday.  I hope I don’t lose my readers on this one. xo

Dr. Phil and I are seated facing each other by a beautiful fire in a living room somewhere.  It’s my turn to talk.

“I, too, endured a double mastectomy at age 34.  And perhaps I’m being sexist here, but sorry Dr. Phil, no man can even come close to understanding what it feels like to have your breasts removed and to think that you advised her the way you did (which reading it today, was really sweet but not meaty enough for me)…well, it’s what set me off.  I would love to know if you would advise a prostate cancer survivor who was sad that his testicles were removed in the same way?  Because,  for to me, that’s the male equivalent ~ well, not even because they aren’t seen in daily life.  Women’s breasts are out there, exposed ~ shape & size-wise, society-wise, they are checked out by all.  Do you know what it’s like to look in the mirror everyday and see train tracks of scars across your flat, nipple-less breasts, under your armpits (lymph node removal) and to have to wear falsies which move all over the place?  Then to endure every Tom, Dick and Harry Dr. and Intern’s roving eyes on your breasts as you are seen every few weeks to see how the scars are healing…only to endure the subsequent surgeries of reconstruction until you can finally have your implants installed.

And as with your reader, I had to have my implants explanted (removed) after a few years because they hurt and I was in so much pain!  The capsular contraction which was my body’s response to foreign matter in my chest caused me so much emotional and physical pain!  The silicone implants which were supposed to look like breasts twisted under my skin to form hard, ugly balls of pain which upon removal, gave my surrounding muscles relief.  The muscles also involuntarily contract around the tissue which is part of the constant pain which plagued me.  So I endured yet another set of implants, tear drop gummie bears ~ ah, such a cute name now instead of the flat stripper boobs they were giving us in 2002!  But alas, the same situation reared it’s ugly head for me just a few years after enjoying ‘natural looking’  teardrop shaped breasts except this time one of them ruptured, leaking silicone into my already ravaged body.

Not a walk in the park Dr. Phil.  It’s painful, it’s scary and yes, it does pack a wallop to your self-esteem!  That poor woman whom you’ve advised to write and speak affirmations etc., needs a bit of sympathy…a bit of love, a bit of hope and a huge hug for what she’s endured.  It’s not easy to have to choose to not have breasts even when you want them.  I, too, have thin skin from radiation, but I was blessed to find a surgeon who is so advanced that she is using my own body’s tissue to MAKE REAL BREASTS FROM OUR MY OWN BODY!  There is an answer to her desire ~ she CAN have breasts Dr. Phil!  There are advancements now and dedicated surgeons whose talents and advancements are helping women who are enduring this common plight!

It’s one thing for a woman to feel fine after breast cancer and to not want to deal with reconstruction.  To those women, I stand up and applaud because I share your enthusiasm for the scars that show that we are strong, we are courageous and we have beaten the C word!  I have seen many beautiful photographs of women who have exposed their scars for the world to see and I find their enthusiasm contagious and their scars radiant.  As fighters and survivors of any cancer and illness, we all deserve a standing triumphant ovation for simply enduring all that we have experienced.  Because until you’ve walked in our shoes, you have no idea what you’re talking about at all!

However, it’s a major change and emotional roller-coaster to have to deal with a single or double mastectomy at any age.  A woman’s breasts can be viewed as a part of her femininity and it is a major change in the thought process to accept your new body.  While I am a girl who believes in affirmations, what your reader was asking was how to find her new normal, her new femininity and her new self, because it’s a long process Dr. Phil.”

I went on and on (perhaps I’ll do another post) but for now, I thank you for reading and for sticking this one out with me.  I started this blog as my 10 year cancerversary began and it’s morphed into more than just inspiration, cancer tidbits and SendOutCards.  It’s become a sharing place I hope…and a place of friendship.  I am thankful for all of my readers and I pray that you’ll understand my post today.

Shine On!

xo