Posted in cancer, faith, God, Grace, help, loss, prayer, soul, Thanksgiving

Death Comes For All

I don’t imagine this will be my most popular topic to write about but when you are told that yours may be imminent, it has been cause for me to explore the topic.  It is said that we are born to die.  And it is true, nobody gets out of this life alive.  Even Jesus had to experience physical death before eternal life.

In this day and age we have distanced ourselves from the concept of death.  We have hospice and funeral homes.  But just a century ago, most people died in their own homes, surrounded by family members and death was observed by families, up close and personal.  This is not the case today.  It was also something that many cultures embraced and prepared for.  Whereas, in today’s  society where we avoid the subject or reality of it, at all costs.  I am not saying that I am racing to the grave but I have made a bit of a study of it.

In many cultures or beliefs there is a bit of a ceremony at the time of transition.  Drums are beat, chants are made, music is played.  Here is the US, the priest or pastor is called at times and the last rites are said etc.  But what is all this about?  Is it for the departing soul or for the remaining family?  If you die alone, does it make an eternal difference to the dying?  Many of the dying wait until they are alone to slip away.  They find it difficult to do when surrounded by family and wait and quietly slip away when someone steps away for just a moment.  It’s as if they cling to life while surrounded by family but find it easier to depart when no one is around.  I have heard of this happening many times.

My very first experience with death came when I was 8 years old.  My young and beautiful step sister was dying of brain cancer.  I was very young when the reality that children die too, was thrust upon me.  It was sad and difficult watching a child I played with and cared for, die a slow and agonizing death.  And I am struck with my own cancer in my brain and my gamma knife success, how different it may have been if she had been diagnosed in today’s medical age.

My next death experience came when I had just graduated high school and my great grandmother (who had survived breast cancer in the 1940’s) was dying of leukemia. After graduation, I went to live with my grandparents once again and helped with meals and laundry while Nana took care of Nanny until she drew her last breath.  Nanny was surrounded by loved ones and in her own bed when she died.  The coroner was called, they came and took Nanny away and we had a traditional funeral service for her.

Then came the death of my second husband’s sister.  She drank herself to death.  She had been told where her drinking was taking her but she did not heed the warning and drank herself into full blown liver failure.  I remember being mad about this death it seemed so senseless at the time and she left behind 2 teenagers and a husband.  I later found out about some trauma that must have scarred her on a very deep level that she hid and it most likely ate her alive.  She died in the hospital and was not in her right mind as the toxins (from a failed liver) built up in her system.  It was very sad to watch, especially knowing that she had done this to herself.

Since my breast cancer experience, I have witnessed many folks on their deathbed.  I am a witness to their passing.  I am OK with being there.  I have had very deep conversations with folks who are passing over and I have had a glimpse of what comes after.  There is an after.  This life that we see and experience is not all there is.  Souls (mine and yours) live on beyond the relinquishment of the physical body.  The essence of who we are goes on.  It does not matter what you believe happens after that……know this, you will continue to exist.  The love you expressed, the people you helped, the kindness you showed matters.

Take some time out of your life to figure your next stop.  It always amazes me at how much time is spent preparing for things that MIGHT happen and so little time is spent on what is definitely going to happen, at some point.  Death comes for us ALL, no exception.  What are you doing to prepare for yours??

Microsoft Word - heaven.docx

 

Posted in cancer, faith, friend, God, Grace, gratitude, hapiness, healing, heart, help, Love, prayer, soul, Thanksgiving

Living From the Heart

Living from the heart.  What does this mean?  Another expression “living wholeheartedly.”  I love Brene Brown, she has done several great works on this subject of living wholeheartedly and authentically.  But what does it look like, this wholehearted living?

I will try to flesh this out in the way that I have been working on.  The Word courage actually has at the root of it “Heart”.  Middle English (denoting the heart, as the seat of feelings): from Old French corage, from Latin cor ‘heart.’  So we know that courage takes heart.  It has meant for me to moving forward despite the way I am feeling.  Courage does not mean that I am not afraid but that I continue on my path despite my fears.

The bible tells us that “perfect love casts out fear” 1John 4;18.  So, it is impossible to experience love when we are in a state of fear.  Courage is an act of faith, to move forward despite our fears.  It takes courage and faith to believe you are not dying of cancer when the doctors tell you that you have six months to live.

Much of this courage begins with thought and intention.  Humans are the only created being that have the ability to observe thought.  That means we can think about what we are thinking about.  We also have the ability to police those thoughts.

When I was first told I had six months to live, I sat one day and made a list of every negative, fatalistic thought that I had.  I memorized it and place it before myself so any time I had one of those thoughts, I recognized it and chased it from my mind.  I replaced it with prayers and healing intentions for myself.  This went on hundreds of times a day, in the beginning.  In time, I found I had less and less of those thoughts to chase.

I spend nearly a half and hour a day when I am in a dreamy state before I get up and and I do my work.  My true work.  I pray and meditate on my good health and healing intentions for my body.  I chase fear, I invite in love and light and express extreme gratitude for another day.  This time I spend is extremely important and it helps me to be fortified from within before I begin my day.  I am not in a particular position but I do practice breathing and listening to my breath.

In this state I envision and experience health with my thoughts and my emotions.  I express my gratitude for the simplest things: my body, my mind, my family, my husband, children, food, shelter.  I ask for nothing just gratitude for what I have.  I experience joy and contentment.  Here and now.

Living from the heart is rare.  People often say I am brave, if that means being authentic and genuine then yes, I am brave.  I guess I put a lot “out there” and express openly what others would not.  At times it does feel risky but it is mostly out of an attempt to help  someone who may be in a dark and fearful place.  To give them hope and potentially show them a way out.  I have been in dark places myself and I know how scary it can be to be alone with bad thoughts and intentions towards myself.  I spent many years there.  But those years have given me much compassion and understanding.

Living from the heart is healthy.  I believe it is what we were created to do.  To experience love and express love freely.  It is mainly negative experiences that cause us to wall ourselves off.  And with some folks who have proven themselves to be untrustworthy with our hearts, it is right to do.  I was not created to be anyone’s doormat.  Neither were you.  But I was created to be a welcome mat and there is a HUGE difference!!

I will share one of my favorite talks here:

 

Posted in cancer, Chemotherapy, friend, healing, help

The Things People Say………….

It has been very interesting to have my new diagnosis and run into people in the community at events. I have had the strangest things said to me. I will list some of them here in efforts to help people communicate with folks who have a difficult diagnosis. First I will list some of the things said:

1. “OH, I thought you had passed” My common response to this one is, “well thanks for coming to my memorial”. Yes, this has actually been said to me 3 times. This one is obviously nothing that you want to say to anyone. The first time someone said it, I felt like I had been slapped. My new oncologist actually said this to me. Very bad form.

2. “You look awesome for a dead woman walking” This one is funny when I say it (jokingly)but not so funny when others say it. It hurts me a bit and I don’t see myself as a dead woman walking. I see myself as a person living with and managing a cancer diagnosis.

3. “How are you really doing”? This one bothers me because I am fairly transparent. If I was not doing well, I would be pretty vocal about it. One of the things that I try to strive to be is authentic. I am not much of a complainer and I am the cock-eyed optimist so unless things are tragic, I will be focusing on what is right in my life, not what is wrong.

4. “OH, you are out”? I am not bed ridden. I am still very active. You may run into me shopping, at the gym etc. I have pulled out of many community activities mostly because I have to steel myself against the things people say and the pity that some people exude. Let me just say this here. I hate pity. I am not pitiful, I am OK. I am doing really well and I appreciate genuine concern but I hate pity!!

5. “OH, wow You still have hair”? Yes, I am not doing chemo or whole brain radiation. Cancer does not equal no hair. Many people who are in the midst of cancer do not lose their hair.
That is a stereotype. And although, I have been bald before. I have a healthy head of hair now.

I know folks are well-meaning and most do not know what to say and do. I have a suggestion. Why don’t you just treat me like Dawn. Treat me as you always have. I don’t mind genuine inquiries about my health. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have, especially if you want to know what I am doing and you want to pass my name or information to someone else so that I may help or encourage them.

I believe I am still here to help others and I have done much research, scientific research into the routine and regime I am using daily. I am always happy to talk about that.
I love people and I know most of them mean well. These are just some guidelines when conversing with me or anyone who has cancer.

Thanks

Posted in cancer, Chemotherapy, friend, healing, help

The Power of Small Gestures

I have spent considerable time thinking about what made the biggest difference and had the largest positive impact on me, while I was going through cancer.  After much reflection and careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that is was the small genuine gestures of people around me.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate EVERYTHING that was done for me……….EVERYTHING.  But whether it was a phone call, a card, a gift card, a touch, a smile.  It was these gestures from people who lifted my spirits when I was at my lowest.

I encountered my fair amount of people in the places I traveled, who looked at me and pitied me.  Cancer patients HATE pity.  We do not want pity, we want compassion.  And it is palpable folks.  A cancer patient can tell the difference between what is done out of pity, obligation or true and genuine compassion.  When your head is bald, it is like hanging a sign around your neck saying, I AM SICK!!  And there were times I wore my wig just to not have to deal with the stares, the pity and occasionally contempt.  When I see someone with scant hair on their head, it takes me instantly back to those days when I was in that same boat.  My heart becomes full, I know how they feel.  I soften, I remember and I try to engage.  I rush in to encourage and try to help them to envision a future.

So many people do not understand my passion to surround myself with cancer patients and face my demons daily.  Someone has to help cancer patients and it needs to be people who love and understand them.  People fail to remember that inside every body, healthy or not is a SPIRIT and SOUL.  That soul is not sick, their body is sick.  Their spirit is intact and very interested IN LIFE and HEALTH.  They are not defined by their disease.  They need you to see them not just the cancer.  Look them in the eye, don’t avert your gaze.  SMILE and say HELLO and engage them as you would anyone else.  You have no idea that just that can be so refreshing from where they sit.

If you know someone in the fight…..call them, write them a note, bring a meal, just visit them.  I still tear up when I think of the genuine gestures that were demonstrated to me when I was in the fight.

I know it is tough, I used to run away from this myself.  Until my own cancer diagnosis, and having watched 3 family members die up close & personal, I ran away like my hair was on fire.  I get it, it isn’t  always easy to do.  BUT remember……………………….

Small gestures………when we are beaten down and feeling alone in our pain/ disease, it is the powerful small gesture that elevates. It is not grandiosity that warms and connects us to others, it is small and genuine gestures of caring that bring people back from the brink.

Chemo cake

Posted in cancer, God, gratitude, hapiness, Post Cancer, Survival, Thanksgiving, volunteerism

New Year and a New Adventure

As 2013 dawns, I embark on a new and exciting adventure. For the past nearly 3 years, I have worked at SCB Marketing and love it. I interviewed and got the job within weeks of finishing my cancer treatment. Jeff and Josh hired me in 2010 and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve Brevard County in such a positive way. I have absolutely loved the work and the people.
Within the past year, it has become apparent to me and nearly everyone around me that I have a real fire in my belly to serve the cancer community. I have found my true passion is in that arena. I love making a difference for people who are facing one of life’s greatest challenges. It does not matter whether I am facilitating a support group or speaking and raising money, it all is incredibly gratifying and something I must do.
Within the next month I will be transitioning from SCB to assume my new position as Marketing & Communication Director for Space Coast Cancer Center and Space Coast Cancer Foundation and I could not be more thrilled.
I will be working with one of my personal heroes Dr. Richard Levine and his partners. We will be working on initiatives to improve the quality of care and resources for cancer patients.
I covet your prayers and support as I assume this new role. And I would be remiss if I did not publicly thank God for this wonderful opportunity. God is good all the time!! WOW!!!!

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Posted in cancer, God, loss, Post Cancer, Survival

My new LOGO………the Pink Phoenix.

 I have decided to make the PINK PHOENIX my new logo.  I feel it is an appropriate one  as for quite some time, I have felt that I have risen out of the ashes of a much different and previous existence.   If you toss in the radiation experience, it makes the correlation that much stronger.  In my work with cancer patients now, I see it time and again where new and better life springs from a previous one.  I am placing the legend of the phoenix here for those who do not know it.

There is a bird that lays no eggs and has no young. It was here when the world began and is still living today, in a hidden, faraway desert spot. It is the phoenix, the bird of fire.

One day in the beginning times, the sun looked down and saw a large bird with shimmering feathers. They were red and gold–bright and dazzling like the sun itself. The sun called out, “Glorious Phoenix, you shall be my bird and live forever!”

Live forever! The Phoenix was overjoyed to hear these words. It lifted its head and sang, “Sun glorious sun, I shall sing my songs for you alone!”

But the Phoenix was not happy for long. Poor bird. Its feathers were far too beautiful. Men, women, and children were always casing it and trying to trap it. They wanted to have some of those beautiful, shiny feathers for themselves.

“I cannot live here,” thought the phoenix and it flew off toward the east, where the sun rises in the morning.

The Phoenix flew for a long time, and then came to a far away, hidden desert where no humans lived. And there the phoenix remained in peace, flying freely and singing its songs of praise to the sun above.

Almost five hundred years passed. The Phoenix was still alive, but it had grown old. It was often tired, and it had lost much of its strength. It couldn’t soar so high in the sky, nor fly as fast or as far as it was young.

“I don’t want to live like this,” thought the Phoenix. “I want to be young and strong.”

So the Phoenix lifted it’s head and sang, “Sun, glorious sun, make me young and strong again!” but the sun didn’t answer. Day after day the Phoenix sang. When the sun still didn’t answer, the Phoenix decided to return to the place where it had lived in the beginning and ask the sun one more time.

It flew across the desert, over hills, green valleys, and high mountains. The journey was long, and because the Phoenix was old and weak, it had to rest along the way. Now, the Phoenix has a keen sense of smell and is particularly fond of herbs and spices. So each time it landed, it collected pieces of cinnamon bark and all kinds of fragrant leaves. It tucked some in among its feathers and carried the rest in its claws.

When at last the bird came to the place that had once been its home, it landed on a tall palm tree growing high on a mountainside. Right at the top of the tree, the Phoenix built a nest with the cinnamon bark and lined it with the fragrant leaves. Then the Phoenix flew off and collected some sharp-scented gum called myrrh, which it had seen oozing out of a nearby tree. The Phoenix made an egg from the myrrh and carried the egg back to the nest.

Now everything was ready. The Phoenix sat down in its nest, lifted its head, and sang, “Sun, glorius sun, make me young and strong again!”

This time the sun heard the song. Swiftly it chased the clouds from the sky and stilled the winds and shone down on the mountainside with all its power.

The animals, the snakes, the lizards, and every other bird hid from the sun’s fierce rays — in caves and holes, under shady rocks and trees. Only the Phoenix sat upon its nest and let the suns rays beat down upon it beautiful, shiny feathers.

Suddenly there was a flash of light, flames leaped out of the nest, and the Phoenix became a big round blaze of fire.

After a while the flames died down. The tree was not burnt, nor was the nest. But the Phoenix was gone. In the nest was a heap of silvery-gray ash.

The ash began to tremble and slowly heave itself upward. From under the ash there rose up a young Phoenix. It was small and looked sort of crumpled, but it stretched its neck and lifted its wings and flapped them. Moment by moment it grew, until it was the same size as the old Phoenix. It looked around, found the egg made of myrrh, and hollowed it out. Then it placed the ashes inside and finally closed up the egg. The young Phoenix lifted its head and sang, “Sun, glorious sun, I shall sing my songs for you alone! Forever and ever!”

When the song ended, the wind began to blow, the clouds came scudding across the sky, and the other living creatures crept out of their hiding places.

Then the Phoenix, with the egg in its claws, flew up and away. At the same time, a cloud of birds of all shapes and sizes rose up from the earth and flew behind the Phoenix, singing together, “You are the greatest of birds! You are our king!”

The birds flew with the Phoenix to the temple of the sun that the Egyptians had built at Heliopolis, city of the sun. Then the Phoenix placed the egg with the ashes inside on the sun’s altar.

“Now,” said the Phoenix, “I must fly on alone.” And while the other birds watched, it flew off toward the faraway desert.

The Phoenix lives there still. But every five hundred years, when it begins to feel weak and old, it flies west to the same mountain. There it builds a fragrant nest on top of a palm tree, and there the sun once again burns it to ashes. But each time, the Phoenix rises up from those ashes, fresh and new and young again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in bitterness, cancer, healing, stress, Survival

On STRESS…………..some levity on a heavy subject :)

STRESS

A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, ‘half empty or half full?’

She fooled them all…. “How heavy is this glass of water?” she inquired with a smile.

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter”.

It depends on how long I hold it.

If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem.

If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm.

If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance.

In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “and that’s the way it is with stress.

If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.”

“As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden – holding stress longer and better each time practiced.

So, as early in the evening as you can , put all your burdens down.

Don’t carry them through the evening and in to the night… Pick them up tomorrow.

1 * Accept the fact that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue!

2 * Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

3 * Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

4 * Drive carefully… It’s not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.

5 * If you can’t be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

6 * If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

7 * It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

8 * Never buy a car you can’t push.

9 * Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won’t have a leg to stand on.

10 * Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.

11 * Since it’s the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

12 * The second mouse gets the cheese.

13 * When everything’s coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

14 * Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

16 * Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.

17 * We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

18 * A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

19 * Have an awesome day and know that someone has thought about you to day.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY

20 *Go ahead and save the earth….. It’s the only planet with chocolate.