Category Archives: family

A challenge to myself!

I’m feeling lately like I have more going on than I do, maybe due to the personal and internal struggle involved in it all. In talking with a friend, I was forced to face once again how little emphasis I put on myself and what I want…how everything I do has a major focus on others in my life…how I don’t deal with my own immediate issues but help others stay on top of their own. In my life, I want certain things and a certain lifestyle. I find myself frustrated and disappointed in who I am, what I should be doing, and why it is I put off the things I love most in life – writing and photography.

I was asked, if knowing this, I had an explanation. The practical side of me says, I don’t NEED the new camera and computer to create more blog posts. I don’t NEED the fancy technology to do what I love. There are more pressing items that need repair or purchase ahead of my camera and computer. BUT – that money is not money going into my own household or life, so what makes it more important? I’ve spent countless hours lamenting the absence of writing and photography in my current life, pondering how my love of these two fields has been so quickly and easily pushed aside to cover the needs of others. Why is the absence of my passion okay?

Today I made the decision that I’m going to begin taking small steps to recover writing and photography in my life. I can use small bursts of time to get out there and take a picture or write a small piece. I can recapture a part of my soul that has been missing. I can rediscover a journey I stopped walking along to suit the needs of others in my life. And I love my family, don’t get me wrong, but right now…I need to get back to me and in doing so, stop focusing so much on everyone else.

That was my plan this summer…to buy the camera and to buy the computer I want. I don’t need to focus on photo editing but rather, getting back to having that camera with me at all times to capture a moment or image. It literally takes a few seconds to pull over on my drive home and capture that image…or, if a thought comes to me, to verbally capture it recorded on my phone so that I can get home and transpose the recording into writing. And in knowing that, it seems a little more realistic already to imagine integrating both writing and photography back into my life.

In accepting the challenge to write and photograph again, I’m going to need to commit time I tend to spend elsewhere, namely in front of my television. Being on the computer all day definitely crushes my will to get back online once I get home. Maybe, however, this will lift my spirit back to where it likes to be, instill the creativity to tear through me like it did a few years ago, give back the voice that I so willingly handed over, and provide an outlet and opportunity to grow my professional writing.

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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!!

Polite Brush-off…

In today’s politically correct world, where truth has to be carefully worded and spoken to avoid, I mean let’s admit it, hurting feelings, it’s very difficult to be clear and direct. I make every attempt to provide a clear but polite brush-off, when boundaries are being crossed, especially those of someone I’m very close to, my son.

It seems, the more I come in contact with the younger kids, that the relationships are all so desperate, for lack of a better word. It’s a clingy, constant texting, unlimited access via phone and computer, constant photographing of the young couple, posting of various “I wish our love was like….” and choose appropriate photo or comic. And then, once all those posts and song lyrics for the first hour are used up and awaiting approval, response, likes, comments, and lovey responses, it’s time to find new posts and movies and messages and comics/photos. It has to be exhausting! That’s a lot of work for a first time relationship or high school romance. I believe in happy endings, don’t get me wrong…but those messages just wear me out, just reading them or seeing them. Desperate…clingy…needy…dependent…

But back to the brushoff…my son is in his first real relationship. And it is long distance to boot which makes it even harder. Like all young couples, there are multiple FB posts, song lyrics, etc and all day/all night texting…and she texts my phone as well. Right now, she is feeling ignored and from a female perspective, I know that feeling and can empathize. As Mike’s Mom, I can’t disclose the details she so desperately wants to hear from me…clearly, loyalty is to the boy first. He is currently going through something right now…he looks a mess and seems to have no energy or desire to make the effort to look any better. He is quiet and keeps to himself…we don’t talk as often as we did a while ago…he sleeps for long stretches of times and naps whenever he can catch a free moment. He ignores the intimate details and focuses on xbox where he can disconnect from the thoughts and demands swimming through his head. I can see it…I don’t have to press for those details as they are physically written all over his appearance.  And then her text comes….again.

I politely say he seems to be going through something, but stay positive and talk to him directly. Be open. Ask if you can help. He’s working on his license, fixing up his truck (which has been a huge project), looking for a better and full time job (sort of). He is trying to buy her plane tickets so she can come home to Maine and they can be together. He’s 20…it’s a handful to manage. But she needs to talk to him…be straight with him…call a spade a spade (which I told her) as she is giving up her own home and vehicle, her family, the town and world she has known her entire life.

And still more texts come…again I respond with You really need to speak to him yourself, not to me. I don’t have the answers she is looking for, he hasn’t talked to me but I know him just based on who he is. That’s a very clear message in my mind…talk to him directly…I don’t think there are any mixed signals or miscommunicated ideas. Is there a more polite brush-off to avoid getting myself out of this conversation?

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.

The Healing Journey … Chapter 6

As I am going through this process, I keep feeling my life beginning to change. Perspective seems to be changing for me, as though elements of my life I have felt to be crucial are no longer as important to me. All I want is to spend every free moment with my family, to hear them laugh and see their smiles, to watch my sons and nieces grow up, to crack inside jokes with my sister, and to spend time with my aging parents. I no longer care about work, which is horrible considering my insurance is through my work, though soon, my husband’s new position will be taking care of my insurance. There is much weight being lifted from my shoulders.

What I have also come to realize is that life is too short to spend doing what does not make me happy. I stare out the windows of the office on sunny days willing my day to move more quickly so that like a sunflower, I can turn my face to the warmth of the sun. I spend the entire day on the computer and the telephone, and while I am good at it, I’m not happy there. I am creative and have no creative outlet at work…I’m not complaining just making a statement. I have a great job, and am blessed to have one, but right now, my heart just isn’t in it. There has to be something, some way, that I can reengage in my life and have it supply money as well… where my heart comes through in a manner which allows success as well as some measure of financial income. I’m not shirking my responsibilities but keeping an open mind, much more open, on opportunities. My someday promises need to become today… time to make it happen!

In regard to my most recent testing, I did learn that I am not a carrier for the genetic anomoly referred to as BRCA… this means I am less likely to have a recurrence with this cancer, and more importantly, my boys and their lineage will not have to worry about this gene, at least not from our side of the family. That being said, that reopens the debate of removing one breast instead of two. My husband keeps saying, “Are you sure you want to remove both?” I don’t want to remove one, let alone two …. it’s a very scary thought no matter how you look at it. Major surgery is never a small task and now that I am no longer “young” it is even more daunting.

But I am sticking with a full mastectomy, and at some point in the future, having both breasts replaced. I learned, and may have mentioned, that as a smoker, I need to be tobacco free for 6-10 weeks before they will even consider reconstruction. Good lord … like overcoming this cancer is not enough, I now need to stop smoking as well? Don’t people know that smoking is tough to quit? Why did they wait until now, just before I have wrapped my head around this surgery to tell me? Doesn’t two surgeries seem more daunting and dangerous than just one? I know the argument…infection, skin breakdown, unhealthy skin trying to encompass new material. I get it , I truly do … it is no less daunting though knowing that there is another surgery to follow, to be healed and then start again, more recovery time, more missed time from work (another reason I need to work for myself.)

The good news, as I have stated is that my mother will be here, and because she will be here, my father will hover around my household as well. She will be the love and healing, he will be the strength. I am so blessed. I know that now more than ever. My sister will be the entertainment, my children the questioning expressions trying hard to not see a weakened mother, my youngest niece hoping to play nurse to her “best friend” as she recently described me, my older niece kind of hanging back, and my brother in law coming in and cracking jokes. What a great group of people to be surrounded by while recovering from major surgery … it will be a long process but one filled with so much love and adoration. I couldn’t ask for a better recovery team to be in my corner!

What I do know is that my onward and upward path has not dissipated but rather provided a rocky terrain. I’ve got to strap on my boots, trust myself and my balance, and move forward. Even careful steps are steps forward. I will not be slowed or discouraged. I will follow this path from beginning to end, growing more balanced and steady, more trusting in my ability and inner strength, learning more from guiding forces than the occasional obstacles that lay ahead of me. I feel encouraged by what I am learning about myself, feeling more confident about my path, and more positive with each step that my path has taken me to where I need to be in my life. I’m not always a Me First kind of person … and for the first time in a long time, I am wondering why I haven’t shown myself the kind of love and attention I show everyone else. Would my path have slowed if I had paid better attention? Could I have done something different? Regardless of those answers, the past is just that, past, gone, unable to be changed. What I can do moving forward is pay better attention, take better care of myself, and watch over myself as I do those I love. Having to pay better attention has forced me to slow down, reevaluate where I am in life, take in my blessings, and really begin setting priorities. I would not change a thing… one of those blessings in disguise kind of things!