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Destination CANCER……… did you/ I get there?

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancerous cells are also called malignant cells.  Cells are the building blocks of living things.Cancer grows out of normal cells in the body. Normal cells multiply when the body needs them, and die when the body doesn’t need them. Cancer appears to occur when the growth of cells in the body is out of control and cells divide too quickly. It can also occur when cells forget how to die.

My experience and theory expands upon the scientific and physical condition of cancer.  I think of cancer as a destination, upon diagnosis, you have arrived in “Cancerville”.  But it begs the question, what drove me/you to cancer?  What factors have played into your/my physical condition that have resulted in a cancer diagnosis? If I answered this question about any other actual destination, you might answer, a car, a plane, a boat.  In reality the answer when looked at in a micro examination would be: an engine, tires, fuel, combustion, physics, invention and I could go on and on.  All these things working in concert actually deliver you to your destination.

When facing cancer, it is best to look at your diagnosis in the same way.  Everything that you come in contact with, spiritually, emotionally, physically, nutritionally; leaves an impression upon you in someway.  That means EVERYTHING, no exception.  Your oncologist will give you treatment that will treat the cancer cells that are circulating in your body, but that has no effect on the vehicle that drove you to cancer.  He can not affect the factors that drove you to cancer in the first place.  Yes, I am saying there is some personal responsibility in preventing a recurrence of cancer.  You can not expect to return to the same life you had before cancer and not have a large chance of recurrence.

Example:  Let’s say you were very health conscience before your diagnosis:  eating well and exercising regularly.  You were not overweight and took your health fairly seriously BUT you were in a crazy, stressful relationship and were neglecting your spiritual life.  Next stop……..Cancer diagnosis.  If after your cancer treatment you return to that same crazy existence, chance of recurrence is HIGH.  Back to the vehicle analogy: to change the destination, you must completely change direction.

Inversely, I am not saying that all recurrences are self-induced but many unwittingly are.  I have written this post to encourage cancer patients to examine their post cancer lives.  Be diligent about the spirit, mind, body connection.  Remember, everything makes an impression; so positive people, environments, good nutrition, exercise, meditation/prayer are crucial.  To neglect these areas, is to point your vehicle towards cancer once again.

I was blessed that I could not return to my crazy pre-cancer existence.   Everything from my pre-cancer life was gone in the first several weeks of diagnosis.  The true challenge comes when you are still in that stressful marriage, at the stressful job etc.  I admonish you to protect yourself as much as you can.  Create boundaries and stress-free zones for yourself.  Nurture and love yourself and you would your own child…….you are Precious and your life is worth every bit off effort you can manage to direct towards HEALTH.

I take a pill everyday called Tamoxifen to block the hormonal influences on my breast tissue but trust me, that is a minuscule part of what I do to try to prevent my cancer from coming back.  I take my responsibility very seriously and I encourage you to do so too!!  Examine and make significant changes in your life and point yourself in a totally different direction.  Next stop 100% cancer FREE zone 🙂

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The BIG Picture………….God’s View

Once upon a time, when I was in Kindergarten, my grandmother would drive me to St. John’s Lutheran Church daily.  I really don’t have a ton of memories from that time.  I have a few vague memories and impressions from my time spent there, with one distinct exception.

On one very normal day, Nana had driven me to St. John’s and as usual, I was exiting her vehicle and starting to walk across the gravel parking lot towards the church/ school.  All of a sudden I caught Nana moving very quickly out of the corner of my eye.  Nana was in her late 40’s at this time and I was not accustomed to seeing her run.  Next thing I know, she was shoving me.  I bounced off an adjacent vehicle and dropped my books and was down on the ground.  The gravel bit into one of my knees and I was bleeding a little bit.  I remember my 6-year-old mind thinking……what in the world?  I looked up at Nana questioning her actions and starting to cry.  She on the other hand was looking down the slope of the parking lot and was shaking her head.  She finally looked at me and asked me if I was alright?  Through my tears I said “NO, YOU PUSHED ME”!  I was bewildered and confused.  Nana had always been a source of love and comfort.  Her actions were sooooo in-congruent with what I expected.  She helped me up and grabbed me and began hugging me.  Now I was REALLY confused.  Her actions were very unusual.  I thought maybe she was mad at me and now she was squeezing me to death.

What I did not realize was that as I exited the car, another car that had failed to put on an emergency brake was quietly rolling toward me and I was directly in its path.  Because the engine was not running, it was completely silent as it careened in my direction.  Nana (being taller than I ) saw the danger and rushed to push me out of harms way.  She SAVED MY LIFE!!

When I think about God’s view of us and our daily lives, I am reminded of this incident.  I had limited information and scope in the incident with the runaway vehicle but Nana did not.  Because of her elevated stature and maturity, she saw dangers that I was oblivious to.  I think that is an excellent analogy of our limited view and information in comparison to God.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I remember similar feelings of bewilderment, confusion and fear.  What was GOD doing?  I now see that he was saving my life and removing me from a dangerous situation.  It was his love and wisdom that allowed me to experience cancer in order to ultimately save me.  I was NOT in a good place before my diagnosis.  God knew that and he had much better things for me!

So, there are times when I find myself perplexed by people or circumstances that surround me.  But my cancer experience has built my faith to the point where I know I CAN trust God with everything in my life.  God is for me and his ways are not my ways,……….they are so much better.  After all, he has a more complete view than I do and sees the complete picture of my life.  The BIG PICTURE is HIS view.

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On Feeling Overwhelmed……Have you eaten your elephant today?

In the past year, in working with numerous cancer patients and with my own personal experience, feeling overwhelmed is very common.  The task of putting together a surgical and treatment puzzle, at a time when your head is swimming with your own mortality is unbelievably difficult.  Option after option is presented to you with statistical information, in an effort to have you make informed choices.

I remember at some of my first appointments, coming home with just a complete and utter feeling of being overwhelmed and scared.  Thoughts and fears gripped me at times and kept me from much-needed sleep for days on end.  I felt like someone handed me a Rubrics cube and told me that my life depended on me getting the right combination of “options” in order to survive.  Quite a daunting task.  Now toss in the fact I had no insurance and some professionals were turning their backs on me…….even worse.

By the time I landed at Space Coast Cancer Center, and my oncologist’s (Dr. Levine) office, I was in very rough shape. I remember being so afraid that he too was going to tell me that I needed to figure out how the chemo was going to be paid for before he would agree to treat me.  So, I went to that appointment alone in November 2009 with great trepidation.

I will never forget when Dr. Levine entered the exam room and I saw him for the first time.  Redheaded and smiling at me, a small but confident grin.  He immediately made me realize that, he had this!  He was confident in his treatment abilities.  If I could only convince him to treat me………..  Before I knew it, I was crying and begging him for my life.  I was telling him, if he would only treat me, I would be well and return to work and be able to pay him back.

It was then that he said the words that I will never forget.  He said “Dawn, you are a cancer patient and I am a cancer doctor, that puts you in a community of people I am committed to serve and treat.  Why don’t you focus on getting well and let me worry about the treatment?  How does that sound to you?”  I had such a wave of relief come over me and I said to him, “You realize, I don’t have insurance?”  He smiled that little smile again and he said “There will be plenty of time to work out the finances.  Let’s focus on the treatment for now”.  And that was the agreement that Dr. Levine and I made that day. 

 I walked out of his office feeling like 10,000 lbs had been lifted off of me.    I cry now, even as I write these words.

What a wise man.  I was borrowing trouble that I did not even have yet.  I was allowing my past experiences to color what I believed my outcome would be.  He told me exactly what I should really be focused on……getting well.  It was his job to think about and be concerned about everything else.

That is what being overwhelmed is all about.. It is when we get ahead of ourselves and think about the future and concern ourselves with things we have no control over anyway.  God wants us to live in the present….not the future.  When Moses asked God his name, he said I AM…..he did not say I will be or I hope to be.  No he answered presently…..I AM.

Exodus 3: 13&14

13Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

Another great scripture about worry and feeling overwhelmed :

Matthew 6: 34 New International Version (NIV)

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

A Final thought,  once when I was feeling overwhelmed, someone gave me a great visualization.  They asked me….Dawn, how do you eat a whole elephant?  I remember thinking WOW, that’s a huge undertaking.  I started to think about butchering and preserving etc.  And the questioner could see the wheels turning in my head.  They smiled and said…’s simple, you eat one bite at a time!  All you really need to think about is your next bite.  So true…….what is the highest and best thing you could be doing right now?  Do THAT and the rest will fall into place.

PS…….It is with great JOY that I pay my bill each month to Space Coast Cancer Center.  I have never spent a more worthwhile dime!! Dr. Levine kept his end of the bargain and now I keep mine each month with JOY & Gratitude 🙂

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I’m Gonna Love You Through it!! Martina Mc Bride

This is a great song about a caregiver/husband.  In my boyfriend John I found a rock and wonderful support.  He continues to be a great partner and we joke that if we made it through last year, we can make it through anything.  This song made us cry when we heard it……a caregivers role is tough and they are the unsung heroes in the war against cancer.  God Bless the loving Caregivers.

A Caregivers LOVE………by Dawn Faust

by Dawn Faust on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 7:28pm

LOVE sits beside me in a chemo chair

He says I am beautiful without any hair

He smiles reassuringly when I am afraid

He gives to me peace tho nothing is said.

LOVE brings me a drink

And gently kisses my cheek

He says that he loves me

And yet does not speak

LOVE watches everyone

That works over me

My vigilant sentry

To the highest degree

LOVE  brings me home

He tucks me in bed

He checks on me frequently

He kisses my head.

LOVE wakes me for food

To help keep me strong

He fusses and fetches

At times all night long

LOVE is not angry

He is patient and kind

He is always helpful

And does not mind

LOVE continually gives

Without self-regard

It is not a burden

It is natural, not hard

LOVE does not keep track

Of all that he’s done

All that matters to him

Is the battle be WON.

God Bless the caregivers………………LOVE = John Bibby.

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Velveteen Me…….on becoming “REAL” or genuine.

When I was a small child, my parents divorced and I lived in a household of 4 generations.  Great Grandmother (Nannie) Grandparents (Nana & Pop) Dad and Diana (older sister) and I.  These years were very good for me and somewhat an enchanted period in my life.  I was happy, secure and well cared for and loved.  Nearly every night, we had a bedtime ritual of Nana tucking Di and I into bed and reading to us before prayers.  Every night some book of childhood Nursery tales was brought out and read aloud.  Diana & I (usually freshly washed) would lay at the foot of our beds and Nana would read about distant kingdoms and far away places.  One of my favorites and she read it to us more than once was “The Velveteen Rabbit“.  If you have never read it, you should. 

In synopsis:

A boy receives a Velveteen Rabbit for Christmas. The Velveteen Rabbit is snubbed by other more expensive or mechanical toys, the latter of which fancy themselves real. One day while talking with the Skin Horse, the Rabbit learns that a toy becomes real if its owner really and truly loves it. The Skin Horse makes the Velveteen Rabbit aware that “…once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

When the boy’s china dog is misplaced, the Velveteen Rabbit is given to the boy as a quick replacement by the maid. The Velveteen Rabbit soon takes his place as the boy’s constant companion. The Rabbit becomes shabbier, but the boy loves him no matter what. In the woods near the boy’s home, the Velveteen Rabbit meets actual rabbits, and learns about the differences between himself and the real rabbits when the real rabbits prove he is not real by his inability to hop and jump.

The Velveteen Rabbit’s companionship with the boy lasts until the boy falls ill with scarlet fever. The boy becomes too ill to play for a very long time; upon his recovery, he is sent to the seaside on doctor’s orders. The doctor orders all the toys the boy has played with, including the Rabbit, be burned in order to disinfect the nursery. The boy is given a new plush rabbit and is so excited about the trip to the seaside that he forgets his old Velveteen Rabbit. While awaiting the bonfire, in which the Velveteen Rabbit will be burned, the Rabbit cries a real tear. This tear brings forth the Nursery Magic Fairy. She tells the Rabbit that he was only real to the boy, and then brings him to the woods and kisses him, making him real to everybody. He soon discovers that he is a real rabbit at last and runs to join the other rabbits in the wild.

The following spring, the boy sees the Rabbit hopping in the wild and thinks he looks like his old Velveteen Rabbit, but he never knows that it actually was.

In the story there is a line that I love: Skin Horse to Rabbit

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Margery Williams Bianco (The Velveteen Rabbit)
This quote cuts to the quick and describes my cancer experience.  Without a doubt, I am a bit shabbier and my hair has definitely been loved off but all of it has made me REAL.  It has also made me be willing to BE REAL.  To be unabashed at times to say what needs to be said in love. MORE REAL.   Willing to bare myself in order to help another soul……MORE REAL.
I say bring it, make me MORE REAL each day.  My utility and purpose only becomes more clear as I become MORE REAL………..Little old Velveteen me!!


“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”

Romans 12:9-13 New Living Translation Bible

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STOP censoring the Good Stuff!

I have made it a practice in this last year to stop censoring the good stuff in my mind.  For instance, yesterday at the gym I saw a woman with an absolutely beaming countenance.  She lit up the area when she saw/ encountered her friend.  She had a remarkable smile and made me feel better for encountering it.  I spoke right up and told her what a beautiful, shining smile and spirit she had.  Which, if possible, only made her face even brighter and she stated I had “made her day”.

In times past, I would have had the same exact thought but I would have kept it to myself.  What a waste!!  These positive affirmations of the people around us are to be SHARED.  So, why don’t we do it?  I know prior to cancer, I was afraid to look or sound silly or trite.  Or I did not trust my own valuations…….not so today!  If I see something that is good, praiseworthy, superlitive…….I state it out loud.  The surprise and positive feedback that I get in return is its own reward.  You can “make someone’s day” so easily.  Perhaps, turn their whole outlook around.  Can you imagine if we all started doing this?  WOW, it would be awesome.  Children do this sort of thing all the time.  It is one of the great and endearing things about kids.  Somewhere along the line we lose this and it is indeed a loss.

The only warning I have is that you MUST be genuine and positive.  This is not pure flattery for flattery’s sake this is genuinely seeing a superlative in another human being and sincerely stating your appreciation.  There is a big difference.  The more genuine you become, the easier this exercise is.

It amazes me how quick we are to point out the negative and flaws that we find in the people around us and keep silent about the good stuff.  So, I say………………stop censoring the good stuff.  Let it out loud, it just may change a life today.  That life could very well be yours!!

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

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Could not have said it better!!!

 The Argentine educator Almafuerte (1854-1917) wrote: “To the weak, difficulty is a closed-door. To the strong, however, it is a door waiting to be opened.” Difficulties impede the progress of those who are weak. For the strong, however, they are an opportunity to open wide the doors to a bright future. Everything is determined by our attitude, by our resolve. Our heart is what matters most.~ Diasaku Ikeda

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Exercise is vital to Survival………….

Exercise………defined by my oncologist, Dr. Richard Levine is 30 minutes of elevated heart rate.  That means getting your heart rate 50-60% above the resting rate for a 30 minute sustained period of time.  Dr. Levine recommends all cancer patients who are able, do this at least 5 times a week.  He also states that by doing this cancer patients have a 30 % benefit.  They are 30% less likely to have a recurrence of cancer by exercising 5 times a week.

Chemotherapy only gave me a 28% benefit.  By enduring the rigors of chemo, I got 28% less chance of a recurrence of my breast cancer.  So guess where I am at least 5 times a week?  I am at the gym exercising. The 30 % I get from exercising is HUGE!!  And on the days when I just don’t feel like it…..I think of the chemo chair.  I would much rather be on the treadmill, or elliptical trainer than in the chair.  Motivating myself has become quite easy.  And I share this with you to help you realize just how important exercise is.

If you are NOT a cancer patient…….you get the 30% applied to your non cancer status and prevent an occurance of cancer to begin with.  Something to think about the next time you want to blow off the gym  🙂