Category Archives: self image

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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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,  so 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.

Did it bring her peace?

I had to comment today on FB in response to a rude comment…difficult as I don’t really respond to anything negative, EVER. I feel that my positive voice and energy represent who and where I am, how I want to be seen, what I want to be about.

The woman stated that she has to laugh, so much fake shit on FB, but that it’s better she keep her mouth closed. Normally, I would jump over that and keep going. Today however, it almost immediately followed my post about spending time with my family and feeling blessed for so much goodness in my life. She is an EX of my father’s and the comment related specifically to him. Whether the timing was coincidence or not, it hit me wrong and I responded with a post of my own.

“I usually say nothing…but today, if you can’t say something nice on FB leave it unsaid. Our lives are filled with enough challenges without hurtful words or innuendos or indirect insults. Words are forever.At the end of the day, will those words have achieved anything? And does saying those words really make a huge difference? In inflicting or hinting hurtful words, does your world level out and is your soul filled with peace and serenity? Just something to think about… Rant over!”

I worried that this voice would attract a bad response, and almost didn’t post it. My words had just the opposite effect. So in the end, I still wonder if her comment brought her peace and did it achieve its desired goal? Did it make someone feel bad or stupid, or did it just reflect badly on her that she would take the time to post something mean? And why post it at all…what’s the goal? Was her Buddha in the corner with his arm raised in solidarity? Did serenity and peace and calm overtake her spirit?

I’m not sure just why it is that this stupid comment bothered me so much today. It’s been quite a year for me, and I was always able to stay positive and upbeat. I had a couple moments of frustration but never anything of that I would have posted or shared. I feel like social media just isn’t the place for any of that…I caution my own sons about words and their eternal and piercing power once sent out to the universe.  I wonder if maybe it was me overreacting … and then I think no I did not. Did my rant bring me peace? I think it did in so much as my words were approved of by several of my friends, that they were taken as wisdom or strength vs just being mean. And the message here is simple, like our mother’s taught us…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

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.