Being Grateful For All That You Have, Even With Cancer!

RENT- Defintion: Profit or return derived from any differential advantage in production.

Mariam Wright Edelman, "Service is the rent we pay for being". Unfortunalily many of us live unaware of this, lost in what we don't have instead of what we do have, formost our health and life itself. This week I been praying: for a 10 year old child who was diagnosised with advanced brain cancer, my dear friend who under went cancer surgery, and for a non-profit group  comprised of U.S. pre-med students and a medical care team who's bus slide over a hillside in Central America, killing 3 and injuring others. Feeling helpless and at a loss what to do, I got quiet this week. I began each morning holding my grandmother's very old rosery; praying for all of these people in need, and giving thanks for my little life.

During these difficult times all one can do is service. My friend arrived home from M.D. Anderson, so I jumped in the car and made him a big old pot of Jewish penicillin; chicken soup! I think it did us both good as we both slurrped down a hot cup of soup fresh off the stove! He shared with me at that huge facility, M.D. Anderson, there are some very sick people. Even for those who are afflicted with illness can too serve. As he is peacefully sleeping on the couch, I am contently writing this blog. I have to share a secret with you, I often wonder if anyone really reads my blog, I write on in hopes that I may help at least one person..I am serving.

Life can be painful, hurtful, and empty at times; yet beautiful, fullfilling, and the ulitmate gift. Please don't forget to pay your rent!

Cancer Can Be Freeing!!!

FREE- Defintion: not controlled by obligation or the will of another.The Free Dictionary

Cancer gave me the greatest sense of freedom! The freedom to let go because clearly I was no longer in control of my life. The year is brand new and all around us are the world's pressures telling us to take control of our lives; diet commercials, gyms crowed, and vitiman isles overflowing. For those fighting cancer we are not concerned that bathing suit season is just around the corner. Hell, my worries of exposing myself stemed from knowing I must shave my head and walk the runway of life bald.

Cancer taught me to look inward; the more I lost externally of myself the more I gain internally! As I was leaving to go get my head shaved I jotted down on a piece of paper, my beauty comes from within. So does yours!

As the new year unfolds I hope you will give yourself the freedom to let go so you may get through; good enough is good enough, it's ok to say no, there are no expectations. No resolutions needed in 2016 only the will to fight for yourself!





Cancer Overlap; 2015 to 2016!

OVERLAP- Definition: to happen at the same time as something else. Merriam-Webster

Minutes away from the new year, I am frantically writing. I am keenly aware that I will overlap from 2015 to 2016 as I write this blog. Guess"s a good thing. Not everything in life begins with a clean slate; especially year to year. Like many of you my cancer spilled over into the new year. In fact, I was in a living purgarory, as my surgery was completeted and I awaited chemo treatments to be adminstered in the new year. You know that fear, the fear of doing nothing as you are forced to wait.

Every year, for many years, I have written down my yearly goals for the upcoming year on New Years Eve. Yes, I just wrote down my goals before starting this blog. The new year is about to ring in so I am going to pause.. I am back, Happy New Year!!! In this moment the beauty lies in the fact that you are celebrating, ok maybe not celbrating- partaking in the shifting of the hands of time from 2015 to 2016.

Here are my goals for 2016; Embrace you are here, Embark on helping others, Evolve into someone a little better. Happy 2016!


Santa And Cancer, Do You Believe?

BELIEVE- Definition: to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so.

As a child Santa was the conduit for bring me a physcial wish. Meaning my wish would show up Christmas morning as a 3-D package. As I write its Christmas Eve soon to be Christmas, after cancer there is not much I wish for in life. For all of you in the midst of your cancer battle I can't help but wonder if you are secretly wishing for Santa to make your wish come true. A wish that will not show up tomorrow morning in 3-D, but as good news on a test result, great news that you are cancer free or on your way to a positive recovery.

You are never too old to believe in Santa or some mistical charter representing your faith to grant you a wish tonight or any night for that matter. In fact during my cancer journey there were moments in which I recieved encouragement from someone I could only summerize as an angel; coming to bestow good luck . These encounters brought  belief that I would make it through my cancer battle; giving me the strength to fight on.

So tonight I inspirer you to revert back to your childhood; and with all the your excitment, joy, and belief wish upon Santa to bring you one big gift: the gift of being cancer free!!!   


Cancer And The Holidays, Not A Good Mix!

HOLIDAY- Definition: A day marked by general suspension of work in commenmoration of an event. Merriam-Webster

I was informed the week before Christmas that I would need to undergo chemo treatment, needless to say the holidays were not festive. In fact anger was an unwelcome guest at our Christmas dinner. If you are in the midst of your treatment or soon will be receiving treatment and are having trouble getting into the holiday spirit, I suguest you be honest with your family and friends telling them the truth of your feelings.

It is difficult to celebrate any holiday, usually involving loads of food, when you are fearful, sick, and tired. Try to recognize your limits. Explain your lack of holiday cheer: aversions to food right now, no energy to mingle, and that you might just be in an angry state trying to fake that all is great when it's not. If they still don't get it tell your family and friends to picture you as pregnant in your ninth month. You men can do this too! No one expects a woman in this state to do anything, except take part from the living room couch.

I rang in the New Year knowing it was going to be a bad year, really bad year! I was due to start chemo on January 3rd: the upside was I figured the last half of the year would have to be far better than the first half! Please try to allow yourself a peaceful moment during the holiday season, hopefully in that moment a brightness may shine upon you filling your heart with a little joy.  


Dating After Cancer!

DATING- Definition: A social or romanitic appointment or engagement. Oxford Dictionary

It's time to break out the humor and a little Judy Blume;  Are You There God? It's Me Margaret! For those of you who do not know this book, it was written in 1970 and every preteen girl in Amercia was reading this book, in which Judy Blume covered any issue a teen girl maybe experiencing. Let me just say if you don't know this book, men too- because your sister was reading it, that means you are way younger than are way too young to be afflicted by this danm cancer!  I would give my right arm for Judy Blume to give me some sound advice on how to date after cancer.

I am about to embark on a date with a gentleman who has no idea I have gone through cancer. I find myself excited, nervous, with butterflies in my stomach, not over the man but by the fact I don't know when or how to tell him I had breast cancer. Remember I was also pushed into early menapause from chemo, so do you think he will be upset that at 50 I can't have children? Just keeping it humorous! Its refreshing to feel like a normal woman, going on a date, leaving cancer behind...well almost. 

My doctors did an excellent job of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, my hair is the longest its been in years, my body is strong, my heart is open, and I am done with cancer! So what is all this noise in my head?

The hell with cancer, I am going to go on that date with my head held high, a smile on my face, and pride in my heart that I am a cancer survivor! Maybe with a little luck God and Judy Blume will be at the next table over! 

Is Your Flag at Half Mass Due to Cancer?

HALF-MAST Definition: A flag flying below the summit on a pole. In many countries this is seen as a symbol of respect, morning, or distress. Wikipedia

Lately as I leave my dwelling to enter the world I am keenly aware of the fact that our flag seems to be at half-mass more often then fully raised (?) My initial thought is grave sadness, as we all feel when we see our flag half way up the pole, clining close. At that same very moment I also feel pride, as I know during these (difficult) times we as a nation stand, we stand erect.

For those of us fighting cancer it is much the same; although your flag might be at half-mass your will to live is not, we know we must soldier on! We fight: for our children, loved ones, friends, and for those whom have not made it through their own battle with cancer. 

Through your aches and pains, fears, frustrations, (anxists)  let your flag unfurl, stand erect for your life, and fight with all your might! It is time to (perserver!

Grateful with Cancer!

GRATEFUL- Defintion: Feeling or showing an appreciation for something done or received. Oxford Dictionary

I went to get a newspaper at my local gas station, I asked the sales person how she was? She replied, "grateful". With a warm heart and a big smile on my face I told her to have a nice day. That was the most awesome reply I have ever recieved to a questions I have asked thousands of people through out my life. 

Having made it though my cancer journey, each morning I lay quietly in bed to thank God for another bonus day here on earth, then I plant my feet on the ground and begin my day. Today is Thanksgiving, for many of you in the midst of your cancer battle it may be difficult to feel gratitude, please keep your chin up and keep batttling!

Please know that those around you are most thankful today for you; your will power to fight, your courage to take part in this holiday, and the kind reminder that you represent; that on this special day we all should be most grateful for our lives! 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!



With All The Pink Awarness Around Us, How Can One Help Support Breast Cancer?

SUPPORT- Definition: To bear the weight of , especially from below; keep from falling, sinking, or slipping. The Free Dictionary

How can one be supportive during breast cancer awarness month, let me count the ways! 

  1. Get your exams; both women and men! 
  2. Wear something pink everyday in October, it a very positive shout out to breast cancer suriviors and patients!
  3. Make a donation!  American Cancer Society is an excellent charity, providing tremendous support to cancer patients and their families!
  4. Take part in a fund rasising event; walk, bike ride, bake sale, or lemonade stand!
  5. Purchase a pink wrist band or pin with proceeds going to your favorite breast cancer charity.
  6. Go volunteer at your local cancer support community center; one time or many. You might just be surprise what these cancer fighters can do for you!
  7. Make a meal for someone you know who is fighting breast cancer!
  8. Be a mentor to a child or teen who's parent is fighting cancer!
  9. Take the dog of someone fighting cancer on a walk as often as you can, especially with other dogs. If you don't think that dogs knows something is wrong, guess again. You will be giving  them a break, much needed exercise, and socializing!
  10. Send a card, letter or email to someone batteling breast cancer; it's uplifting and a little coaks to keep fighting!

Together we can support those going through breast cancer and aid in the quest to find a cure!!!



Celebrate With Me, Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

AWARENESS- Definition: The state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness.

It's October; Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I am tickled pink! Everywhere I look there is pink; large pink ribbons wrapped around trees, a pink water fountain, pink terracotta horses, football players sporting pink, strands of pink bras, signs telling you to "think Pink"!!! I have a huge smile on my face and my heart sings as I inhale all of this pink, its as though the world is applauding me for making it through breast cancer! I hope all you survivors are feeling the pink too!

All this pink is also meant to be; tremendous encouragement for all of you fighting breast cancer right this very moment, to bring about an awareness to get your mammograms- early detection is the way out, and it is a reminder to us all to get involved, as cancer unfortunately touches all of our lives. A shout out to all of you men afflicted by breast cancer too.

To all the doctors, nurses, pathology departments, and medical staff this pink is for you too! For it is all of you that slay the cancer dragons daily so we may live! Thank you!!!

I will proudly wear something pink everyday of October to celebrate my own survival along with all who have survived breast cancer. Also to honor those who are in the midst of their cancer battle; you are loved, you are needed...EmbraceEmbarkEvolve!

Organizing Your Cancer!

ORGANIZE- Definition: To put in order; arrange in an orderly way. The Free Dictionary

I am sure you find it strange, me recommending that you organizing your cancer. What I actually mean by this statement; to physically organize all documentation that has to do with your cancer. It is super useful to get a two inch binder, insert dividers labeled; doctors, diagnosis, tests, labs, treatments,  medications. Also insert a calendar large enough to write all your appointments on. I know what some of you may be thinking right now, I put everything into my phone. That's fine, except there were many times my doctor or medical staff need test results or information on my case and I had quick access right at my finger tips. 

My big pink binder covered with pictures of my family and dear friends was a kind reminder of how much I was loved and how much I was needed. I would take my "pink bible" on every appointment, logging in my next appointment, upcoming tests, treatments, and lab work. I also would file any documents/results given to me while at the doctors office or testing centers. Not only did my binder keep my cancer organized it kept everything relating to cancer in one spot in my home. I could put my binder away in the closet and be done with cancer for the day.

Those of you going through treatment currently, are saying to yourselves how about all those medical bills coming in? I purchased an accordion file folder, labeled dividers; unpaid medical bills, pending medical bills, EOB-explanation of benefits, and paid bills. I must admit the paid bills sections was often the thinnest file! You know all those friends asking you what they can do for you, well your friend who's in finance or accounting would be a perfect one to help you keep track of your medical bills. God knows my friend and insurance agent keep me sane by helping me every few weeks review my bills! We were like Lucy and Ethel sifting through all those medical bills, but I always was grateful that we were staying on top of everything and my cancer was organized!





September 12th, the Date I Learned I Had Cancer; A Day I Commemorate

COMMEMORATE- Defintion: To call to remembrance, to mark by some ceremony or observation. Merriam-Webster

Septmember 12 is a very strange yet special day for me, as it is my anniversary date of when I learned I had breast cancer. It's a day I quietly commemorate, often in solitude while experiancing a mixture of emotions. I am tremendously grateful that I made it through cancer and yet there is a black cloud over this day as my life has forever been changed.

No one chooses to have cancer, I say cancer choses us. Therefore when I learned I had cancer,  I did not waste time asking how or why I got cancer? Thought I should leave that question for the doctors. I became like a horse with blinders on, embarking on the path striaght ahead. I was terrified of going down that path, as I knew it was full of landminds; treatments.  But I was determined to fight with all my might to make it through. One must go throught to get out. 

Three years later to the day, I am so honored and thankful to say I made it out! I want to do a little dance around my house, but at the same time I have loved one's and friends who did not make it through. So this day becomes a day of gratitude, rememberence, and reflection. Everyone of us who has made it through cancer has war wounds from the battle we fought; aches and pains, side effects, and a body that will never be one hundred percent. I have now learned these inconviences are the price we must pay for making it through cancer, a price I gladly pay!

What is Your Cancer Goal?

GOAL- Definition: The object toward which an endeavor is directed; an end. Macmillan Dictionary

You may have never given it a thought to set a cancer goal for yourself, but setting goals pushes us, holds us accountable, and gets us over the finish line. Eighty-seven, that was my goal! I believe in actually writing goals down in order to make them happen, so the week they informed me I had cancer I drew a large 87 in my journal! I was forty-seven when I learned I had cancer, and I thought to myself I am living till I am eighty-seven! 

Your cancer goal does not have to be a long-term goal, it can be a goal for the day, week, or month. Maybe it's about keeping a positive attitude, continuing to exercise, going to weekly support meetings. When I was going through chemo, my daily goal was to get up and fix my bed. Yep, can you believe it, that was my simple little goal! But you know what, that goal set my attitude for the day, got the wheels turning, and I believe brought about a better overall outcome during my treatments.

By me setting and actually doing this simple daily goal, I began my day forcing myself to get out of bed, and doing some form of exercise while making the bed. I would try to not go back to bed until night time, as I realized this helped with my sleeping schedule. There were those days I needed a nap, so I would crawl back into bed, but guess what....more exercise as I made the bed once again.  A shout out to all of you going through chemo or radiation right now, the mere thought of exercise may sound like an impossibility, do what you can!

During chemo I had hit an all time low; no energy, down and out, and looking like one notch off of death. I was hell bent on cooking dinner for my son and me; pork chops stuffed with pineapple and a jalapeno pepper. I had all the ingredients but the darn pepper, so with all the determination I could muster, I set a goal to walk to the grocery store. At a snails pace and horrifying everyone at the store, I made it! That pork chop was the best I ever had!


Becoming a Member of "The Club", Cancer

CLUB- Definition: A group of people organized for a common purpose, especially a group that meets regularly. The Free Dictionary:

So you have recently been inducted into 'The Club", The Cancer Club! It's not a club any of us choose to join, but the sooner you embrace it the sooner you can get on with life. Yes, I recognize life will be greatly different now, but you just might be surprised at the wonders along the way!

The very week I was told I had breast cancer I mustered the physical and mental strength to attend a cancer support meeting. I must admit I am very private, so the thought of siting in a room, with a group of strangers, sharing my fears did not sound very appealing. But I went! There I was at "The Club", paralyzed with fear, full of questions not able to bring myself to ask, in a kind of haze, in denial that I belonged in this club.

During the support meeting, it  was not long before we were all laughing, crying, and sharing our journeys. A fond moment; one of the woman shared she was so angry that she had cancer, she kept a peach pie in the trunk of her car. As a wave of anger came over her she would stop and take a bite of that peach pie, a screw cancer bite! Over the next months I was able to open up freely with the women of my support group; asking any questions I needed answered, sharing emotions I could not with anyone else, gaining courage from each one of these women. If they could make it through, so could I.

When you think of the word club, I think of a group of people gathered together at a specific setting for a particular shared interest, repeatedly, having the time of their life: Country Club, Soccer Club, Night Club. I came into "The Cancer Club" kicking and screaming, I now stand before you as a proud and thankful member, living life as I never have before!


Fist-bump, do it!

FIST-BUMP- Definition: a gesture in which two people bump their fists together (as in greeting or celebration). Merriam-Webster:

As a single mother going through cancer treatments, I would drop my sixteen year old son off at school every morning. He started a morning routine of us doing a fist-bump while yelling "fight it" as he jumped out of the car running into school. This was my inspiration to begin each day with the determination to fight cancer!

While home alone there were mini fist-bumps that encouraged me to make it through my day; a funny card received in the mail, a phone call from my daughter away at college, a dinner prepared and delivered by friends. Each one of these acts of kindness were an important factor aiding me in my fight.

Growing peaked from chemo treatments I rarely went out, as it took every ounce of courage, energy, and strength I had to leave my home. When I did go out into the world those mini fist-bumps I encountered turned into gigantic boosts; the check out fellow loading my groceries into the car, someone holding my door open, and strangers sharing kind words of encouragement. 

It is my hope you physically begin doing daily fist-bumps with those around you, especially your children, as it is uplifting for both of you. Be aware of the many fist-bumps you are receiving though out your day...inhale them, as they are the best medicine in your fight against cancer! 




Conveying to Family and Friends That You Have Cancer

CONVEY- Definition: To make (something) known to someone. Merriam-Webster:

Conveying the news you have cancer to family, friends, spiritual community, neighbors, co-workers, your children's teachers, friends and families, along with acquaintances you see on a regular basis can be grueling! Here you are trying to keep it together, wrap your mind around the fact you are sick with cancer; at the same time you are holding everyone else up as you give them the heart wrenching news you have cancer.

I want to acknowledge how difficult and draining this process can be; people are at a loss what to say so they often spew out something inappropriate; my aunt had cancer and they ripped her boobs off....., what stage are you....oh you'll be fine, my neighbor has cancer and he is...! No kidding this is actually what people said to me. I refer to these responses as "Aunt Edna Stories", and I don't need them! So when someone begins to run off at the mouth, most often due to nerves, its OK to stop them, tell them this is a very scary time for you and that you are sharing this news as you need their support.

For those of you reading this who are not the cancer patient, if someone has told you they have cancer, please pause, tell them you know this is a frightening time, that you are here for them, ask or volunteer specific acts you are willing to do in order to lighten their load. Please don't ask a bunch of questions or give your long winded thoughts. Kindly keep the discussion short as it is time consuming telling everyone.  If you would please circle back around with a card, email or call offering your specific act of kindness.

The humorous side of cancer: upon completing my book, EmbraceEmbarkEvolve; Inspirations, Guidance, and Humor to Help You Fight Through Your Cancer Journey, I gave a copy to a dear friend as a thank you for all of his support. He had left it on his kitchen counter, exactly where his parents found it upon their early arrival to his home. Let's just say it was a long ten minutes for his parents until he arrived home, to convey he did not have cancer!




Bird's-eye View of Yourself Handling Cancer

BIRD'S-EYE VIEW - Definition: An overall or cursory look at something. Merriam-Webster:

You are now in the mist of running around to doctors appointments, tests, and labs at various different locations, to determine your course of treatment. The "Aunt Edna Stories" are rolling in (a reference from my book, EmbraceEmbarkEvolve); you are tired, overwhelmed, anxiety ridden, and stunned. 

For the sake of yourself, family and friends; it's time to take a bird's-eye view of yourself. How are you coping? No really, take a good look at yourself, how are you responding to cancer and all of its glory? (Are you detecting a little sarcasm?) You have been so consumed with lining up doctors, attending appointments, and trying to protecting loved ones while delivering the news of your cancer diagnosis that you have not had a minute to digest the news yourself!

Those around you are also like seagulls flying over head; your family at the kitchen table, your coach from the sidelines, your business mentor at the conference table: admiring you handling all that cancer brings. Stop and give yourself a pat on the back, as you are doing a terrific job! 




Building Your Cancer Medical Team

TEAM- Definition: A group of persons who work or play together. Merriam-Webster: 

As you begin to build your medical team, you will start to feel more sure footed. When I was building my team, the most important criteria for me was that my doctors were willing to communicate with one another, hence making decisions about my course of treatment as a team. I had five doctors working together as a unified front; oncologist, cancer surgeon, reconstructive surgeon, radiologist, and pathologist. 

After all my biopsies I was cleared to see my cancer surgeon, this magnificent doctor coordinated my entire dream team! While I was in the examining room, he went to his office and phone an oncologist to see if he was willing to be part of my team. Together they made the decision for me to have surgery and radiation, then tests would be run to see if I needed chemo by yet another doctor they would bring on the team! During that same appointment, my cancer surgeon also reached out to my radiologist and reconstructive surgeon, we had my all-star team in place!

I walked into my cancer surgeon's office that day feeling scared, out of sorts, and at a loss what to do; I walked out with a light heart and feeling reassured, as I now had a very competent team, a course of treatment, and a plan of action. My dream team and I were now fighting my cancer!




A Shift In Life, Due To Cancer

SHIFT- Definition: A change in something or an adjustment in the way something is done.

You were in the middle of living your super hectic life: commuting to work, projects, meetings, emails, ten hour days, travel, raising children, chauffeuring kids, attending actives, volunteering at school, the dog, gym, meals, holidays. You barely had time for yourself!

Upon being told you have cancer life suddenly shifts; all that consumes your days and nights dissipates in a flash! It's as though you are in your own little capsule, like when George Jetson slammed closed the windshield of his high-tech car and flew off into space; hermetically sealed floating out there all alone.

As a child, each time I watched Geoge Jetson shoot out into the atmosphere, my heart would stop as I thought, is he going to fall out of space? He never did, neither will you! The immediate necessity to attend to your health will shift your schedule from taking care of life to taking care of yourself; attending numerous doctors appointments, lab work, and tests all to lead into a course of treatment. Over time you will open your protective capsule, realizing your drive to make it through cancer is allowing you to say no to all the little things that were filling up your schedule. A kind of gift for having to go through cancer. 



Embracing You Have Cancer

EMBRACE- Definition: Accept or support (a brief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically. Oxford Dictionary:

You have just been told you have cancer! Your like a deer in head lights. Take a big gulp of air, breathe, pause for a few minutes acknowledging the fear. It is going to take some time, a few weeks at lease to wrap your head around the news you have cancer.

I felt as though I was riding along on my bike of life, suddenly someone stuck a metal pole into my spokes and I instantly came to a grinding halt, as I flipped up over the handle bars there I remained suspended in midair for weeks.

A journal entry on how I was feeling during those first few weeks of learning I had cancer, "Fear...tremendous fear...nonstop fear...fear that makes your heart pound so hard you think it will burst. Fear that makes your stomach flip nonstop; fear that seeps from your soul out your eyes."

As a little time passes you know you have no other choice but to get on that anxiety inducing roller coaster ride and begin making a plan; building your medical team, and choose a course of treatment. I promise as you begin to layout a plan of action, the fear will begin to ease up. You are embracing you have cancer, although it may never be willingly or with enthusiasm!