Category Archives: creating

A Student Again…

I have to admit that never did I envision myself going back to school. Then, in Nov. 2015, I was given a wonderful gift, an opportunity to work at a college. I had gone in originally to become a student and walked out with a job. Can I say how wonderful it is to be back among learners like myself as well as surrounded by amazing coworkers during the day?

I am an online learner and this term, I am taking an English Comp course. Chapter 1 went very well. Today I began Chapter 2 and though I have done a lot of writing, I feel like a fish out of water. My assignment is to complete a narrative essay…to tell a story from first person point of view that ultimately is about the lesson and not the story. When did a narrative become a lesson teacher? Aren’t narratives just a story? Did I miss something coming up through all the other colleges I attended? I feel like it’s a trick somehow, something that teaching toward those formalized tests threw in somewhere along the way to confuse writers like me!

Don’t get me wrong…I love being a student again, knowing that in the next year or so I will have a degree in my hand (Finally) to be framed and hung on my wall. I will have completed and relearned better writing skills, have strengthened my voice to where it can maybe have value outside the classroom or this blog – we all know I struggle with that issue. But when did the narrative essay become a method of delivering a bigger message, delivering an old adage? I’m floundering…and rambling…if anyone has any tips I am glad to hear them!

New beginnings…

I know, I have been out of the loop for a bit, determining my next steps while getting back to work, recovering, moving, and getting back to society’s definition of normal. Normal, yeah we can go with that for now. But for me, normal has a new definition and it is not dictated by anyone but me.

That may sound selfish, and on occasion, I can deal with that definition but before judging, let me explain. I spent my life always doing the right thing, being the right person, burying my needs and desires and dreams to accommodate many around me. My reward was breast cancer…hey thanks! Ironically, it was the best thing that has happened in recent history, truly a blessing in disguise. I was forced to take inventory of my little world, eliminate the clutter, and with my heart on my sleeve fight for my own survival, literally and metaphorically speaking.

What I discovered is that I am much stronger than I give myself credit for, that my world is full of love and kindness and encouragement, that my dreams and passion have as prominent a place as my family. I’ve learned I can have what I want, a balance, and that my life is full of new beginnings.

A year ago I was recovering from a bilateral mastectomy, awaiting chemotherapy and radiation. I was weak on all levels and tired of fighting the day to day battles. I felt discouraged and frustrated with my life…as though my momentum had come to a screeching halt and Stuck was my new address. This year I am cancer free with it all behind me. On Monday Nov. 30th I begin a new career as a college admissions counselor while pursuing my business degree with a focus on small business management. In 90 days my classes will be free as will degrees for my sons and husband should they choose to utilize my benefits. I have connected with women business owners who are also breast cancer survivors. I have spoken at breast cancer fundraisers. My ultimate goal is to utilize my business degree to assist women in starting their own businesses, especially other survivors. How amazing is it that becoming sick would be the most healing experience of my life!!!

Everyone reaches a point where dreams and goals and passion take hold to morph into new beginnings. I admire those who find and capture it early on. I respect those who take a circuitous route. I admire those who are baptized by fire and illness and find it, embrace it, and follow it through illness and survival. When it is finally discovered, regardless of the path, I admire the pilgrim and the journey. For me, I have seen my path off in the distance for years, always feeling it to be just out of reach, making excuses and putting others needs and wants and desires and demands ahead of my own. Those paths have all converged…my new motto is get onboard or get out of my way. Again, as someone who for years always made way, it feels selfish but wonderful and liberating. We can all walk our paths together but separately…

So there it is, my new beginning shining before me…new career, new schooling, new opportunities, continued connection with the pink cancer web and my sister survivors and fighters. My future is so bright, ┬áso beautiful. I am moved by the experiences that brought me here, by the love and support and encouragement, by the family and friends that stand resolutely in my corner, by the pink web that embraces and inspires me. My new beginnings bring me such joy, such sunshine, such hope.

Throw back…

I have to admit, I’ve committed to a throw back. That’s right, actual paper and pen…a new journal for this lady. I find that keeping my laptop with me for all ideas and random thoughts doesn’t really work out, and I’m not dedicated enough most nights to stay up this late writing. On tumultuous weekends, like this one, it’s easier to just pull out my little journal and take a written escape or create a rant or just jot down my thoughts. I’m a lightweight when it comes to this journaling, and certainly don’t want anything negative online…I keep those thoughts completely to myself, in the journal. Not that it’s a negative thing to talk or write honestly but rather that my drama is just that, my own.

I admit that I’m finishing one journal before I begin the new one, at least that is the plan. The new journal is for my Florida trip, my getaway, my sunshine therapy…though I am itching to write in it. I need to get to Staples and get some fun pens, and by fun I mean gel pens. I’m silly like that…always wanting the new paper to have new pens. Or maybe, if I’m lucky, find a really fun color…that would be fantastic. I used to have a quill style pen that wrote in a lovely shade of purpley blue…that sounds so girly but it was the most gentle color, so friendly and soft, comforting like a pale blue sky. I ran out of ink for it years ago and was never able to find a pen to its equal. But I will find something!

So while I have been absent here online for a bit, I’m still writing. It’s the throwback type of writing though, looking inward while letting it all flow onto paper. It reminds me what it is I love about writing…the feel of the paper, the ink, handwriting. It’s what brought me to literature and writing to begin with, taking me back to my roots and a love I found as a child. Old school…maybe. Throw back…for sure. But first love…absolutely!

My silver lining…

So many times, people have said “Every cloud has a silver lining” and yet, being a bit cynical, it was easy for me to shake it off and think, “yes, I have heard that before.” I didn’t always listen, but I always tried to see the other person’s point of view, even just briefly. You know, sometimes you get something in your mind and just can’t get around it, regardless of all the good intentioned advice. Today however, the most amazing silver lining showed itself in glorious color to me, and I am on cloud nine!

During my cancering process, I have continued to believe that with all this drama there is something out there bigger than my illness. I’ve gotten through surgery, I am almost done with chemotherapy, my hair is beginning to grow back however slowly, and after a trip to Florida I still have 36 sessions of radiation. There will still be doctor appointments and blood tests and a PET/CAT scan or two, not to mention regular checkups…and of course, the implants to replace “the girls” who left my body in November. Sigh…that sounds like so much. But still, there has to be something bigger. There has to be something more than just this illness and the affiliated appointments and office visits. More than just surgery and chemo and radiation treatments. Something bigger…

I’ve been a great patient, staying hopeful and positive and full of good energy. I’ve allowed my family to stress while I stayed calm and took care of as much as I could by myself. I’ve kept our lives as close to normal around my recovery and treatments as possible. I don’t press anyone for feelings or questions, and provide as much honest and open communication as I can, to allay any worries. And I still answer, “I’m doing well, feeling good, feeling stronger every day” to the ever present “How are you feeling” questions. I’m just not the down and out kind of girl, and though I have had some discouraging moments, I’ve kept my eye on the prize of something bigger. I know and have stated to many that there has to be something bigger, that something positive has to come out of all this.

I’ve learned that giving back has to be part of my recovery process. As someone who has worked nearly every day of my life since I was 13 (I’m 43 so it’s been quite some time), I was feeling lost at being taken down by related fatigue causing me to give my notice at work. I became panicked and stressed as soon as I made that decision, wondering how our household would continue to run and if I had made a mistake. Was it too late not to get done at work? Should I and could I just bite the bullet and fight through what I was feeling…would I heal correctly if I didn’t respect the messages my body was sending…what had I done by making this decision…

And then my doctor told me about the various foundations specific to breast cancer designed to help families in my situation. Two programs stepped up to provide financial assistance… “rent and power bill covered my dear, no worries.” I have a hard time asking for help, so along with Thank You notes, I let both programs know that I love to write and take pictures, that I’m great at networking, and would be happy to provide assistance with any fundraising projects. I wanted to give back to these programs for the kindness shown to me and my family, and also knew that there were others that my foundation work would provide assistance to. Both programs thanked me for volunteering politely, but I wondered if they took my offer seriously ….

Today was the day. One program, MyBreastCancerSupport, sent me an email and asked me to speak at an event and fundraiser in August, to be an advocate for the program and more importantly, for patients like me. It will be an opportunity to speak to survivors, donors, and patients (or so I hope) … to share an element of my story, to thank the organization for their kindness, and to stress the importance of programs like this one. It sounds like a sales pitch, I get it, but the world needs groups like this; patients need groups like this; and as a recipient, it’s my job to make sure others, and many are worse off than I am, get the same information and connection and charity that I received. I’m so honored to have been invited to speak, so excited, and so looking forward to celebrating my process, my story, and my overcoming. I’m going to celebrate with many others who saw something bigger than this illness. Elated might be a better word…giving back, finally!

In a world where negative news seems to pervade and surround our lives, it’s easy to question humanity. It has been rediscovered and is absolutely beautiful … the kindness, compassion and empathy I have received from friends and family and now a group of total strangers has left me speechless. It is my turn now to remind another spirit, to awaken a light in someone new, and to be a part of a program that is part of that beauty. My silver lining is stunning, shining so brightly that it’s brilliance takes my breath away!!

What I have learned…

In the throes of unclouding and uncluttering my brain, I ended up figuring out something. As much as I want to overlook and give little value to my cancering process, it sits before me like an elephant in the room. It has slowed my life down to a fairly uncomfortable pace which is difficult for me to process…the slowing down has made me think a bit less of myself as I am currently not working…and in an effort to keep my spirits vibrant and fresh and strong, I began to examine where I am at.

As my story mentioned, my perspective has become very clear. I know that I am not satisfied with my current position or status in life. For a long time I have settled, played the game and done the right thing. I’ve been a good girl, a good do-bee, a good worker. However, at this point in my life there has to be something more, something bigger … bigger than just getting along, bigger than overcoming the cancer, bigger than my self worth being determined by a ticking clock (I mean working 8 hours a day, not a life clock.)

I return repeatedly to the life coach field, how that might look for me, what steps I can take now while I’m burning time at home. It means reconnecting with society, overcoming my own insecurities to get out and talk with people, finding the right certification programs to validate my services and direction, and being able to effectively navigate questions that I will be asked or situations that could use my skills, background, knowledge, etc.

To me, this is a valid and much needed field. It can provide guidance and direction, set goals and see incremental steps become success, and provide an outside voice/perspective to get someone through.

There has to be more … whether it is working with cancer patients, coaching new patients, providing information, serving as a life coach or a cancering coach, writing about all this or just creating newsletters for local events and charities and facilities, volunteering as a writer and photographer, or my dream job of opening a bookstore there has to be more. I know…perspective and focus are strong but details still need to be ironed out.

No More Excuses…

After spending much time on my “Healing Journey” I came to the conclusion that the story and information I was sharing was not actually what I wanted to say, so that project is going to be totally revamped at some point and shared at a later date. Bits and pieces of that initial story will be shared in the new version but in the meantime, I’m just coming back to write, share, and hear from friends whose voices I have missed.

When I say no more excuses, it’s me that I am speaking too, trying to will myself back to the point where writing each day becomes part of my regular routine. My mind flies constantly from idea to idea, thought to thought, and needs some decluttering from big to little. And so it is that after months of absence, I am taking back my WordPress space and reclaiming my online oasis.

My first bunch of thoughts involve where I am in my process just to update anyone who has been keeping track. Today finds me more than halfway through my chemotherapy process, with 5 down and 3 to go. After the final treatment, I am escaping to Florida to spend a month with my mother who lives in Daytona Beach for some much needed sunshine therapy and R & R. It is just me going … it will be the first time I have ever been away from my husband and boys for an extended period of time.

There is a piece of me that already feels an element of guilt as our winter to this point has been brutal. In the same breath, I need the sunshine, the warmth of the sand under my feet, and the power of a new environment to strengthen my soul and reinvigorate my spirit. I worry that while I am gone roadblocks will erupt and cause drama that I won’t be here to resolve, especially with my sons. They are older and I have raised them well, but I feel that my comfort and presence is what assists them in making better and more informed choices…and I won’t be here to provide that. I worry that somehow makes me a bad mother, that I am being selfish in getting away. But…I am still going as my ticket has already been purchased.

It’s ironic that having come through the cancer surgery and now finding myself almost having completed chemotherapy that it is still not my own best needs I am looking out for. My life, aside from no longer working full time or at all for that matter, has not changed dramatically. I still do as much of the housework as possible…I still maintain the strong personality when drama or a crisis arises…I still put the needs of them all over the needs of myself. Even on my exhausted and challenging days I fight to maintain the stability in their world. It’s a mom thing I assume, the need to ensure the well being of the boys and household above that of myself.

The Healing Journey … Chapter 7

As I continue this journey and bide my time until surgery day, which is just 8 days away, I find myself still wondering about where this journey is taking me. For whatever reason, I am finding myself surrounded by women crossing into life coaching professions. One woman is utlizing her career planning and development background to begin a career in life coaching. Her strength will be that transition phase for people of all ages and helping those in need discover a course and path that best serves their personal and professional goals. Another young woman was blessed that her employer saw fit to provide wellness coach training to integrate with her role as a charge nurse. As she is an avid health buff and healthy eater, this wellness training and coaching opportunity is a perfect fit in her existing career path and a natural progression. The third woman, ironically, is my general practioner who is learning about finding the authentic self through personal and spiritual guidance. It’s fascinating that in such a short time, all three of these women have come into my life. And more than fascinating but encouraging, as I am a firm believer that surrounding onself with empowered women benefits not only personal goals but professional ones as well.

I have asked them all about their schooling and certifications, how they are planning to integrate their learning into their work places, and whether or not they will be utilizing these skills on a full or part time basis. For the two in the medical field, they truly believe that soon, life coaching will be a service covered by medical/health insurance as the price of coaching can be expensive and at the same time, it’s value is equal to that of therapy. Therapy has much value to those truly vested in it, but when one is looking for an expedient path or a path not psychologically based, working with a life coach is an excellent alternative. Case in point is the work being done by the woman in the career development path…this is simply utilizing existing skills that someone has, taking aptitude tests so as to see where the person’s skills lie, and embracing all that information to build a career path and/or destination through schooling and work.

Based on my own assessment of all this information, and my belief in today’s women needing a strong base and group of resources to pull from, I can stand firm in knowing this field has been brought to me for a reason. I have always wanted to provide a foundation type program to women in my area, providing connections and networks and opportunities for these women to become a part of in order to better their own lives. I am well connected in the staffing world, well connected with area employers, am comfortable talking with people individually and in groups, and believe my life experience has something more to offer than just my day to day data entry type work. That being said, I know that my journey is not only driving me to further my writing and photography, but to become involved in coaching.

I’ve begun looking into different coaching programs, different opportunities in the area, trying to determine if I need a formal degree in counseling to lend credibility to coaching, who my audience would be, and how I might connect with that network. As an avid reader, listening to the voices of strong women whose words have inspired and empowered me so many times, I believe that those words should not be spoken in vain. I know that those voices are all but yelling at me right now, telling me to listen to that inner voice and trust what it is saying, what feelings it is sending to my brain, and to follow in the direction I am walking. Through my news about breast cancer, it is as if my priorities lined right up, and long locked doors are opening before me as if they have always been open. It’s a staggering and empowering message of hope, dreams, and goals finally being attained.