We all have our gifts. Some are obvious, some are subtle , but I believe they all miraculously work together in this crazy world to complete a big puzzle. My daughter reminded me of this the other day when we were chatting about what topics might be useful for my blog. I’ve constantly shared with her how different friends have come to this party bringing their unique gifts. And honestly, they are all important!
Anything you can offer someone in a time of need is helpful. Don’t underestimate what you can do even in the smallest capacity. Believe me, there are no small gifts. They are all deeply appreciated.
Nobody wants to be the “help-ee”. We all want to be the helper. But if there is a time in your life when you need the help, accept it and be grateful.
If you are a cook , prepare a meal. If you are a shopper, do the shopping. If you are a cleaner, help with some housecleaning. If you are a good listener, go for a visit . If you are a writer, send an encouraging card. If you are a person of faith, pray boldly. If you have some free time, offer to be a driver. If you are a gardener, offer to work in the yard. If you are a comic, go make some laughs! If you have been through a similar situation , give some advice about what helped you cope. I am beyond grateful for all of these things and for the family and friends who have shared their love and gifts so freely .
It does take a village. We all have our gifts and together we are stronger.
As our bodies need care and attention , our souls need it just as much. Maybe even more .
When you go through any kind of personal crisis , there is something deeply healing about connection . Connecting with family, friends, even strangers, can make your heart swell and that pesky lump in your throat appear. Our bodies are made to deal with crisis differently. Some of us are very open about our struggles , some are much more private. Some embrace the chance to talk about their feelings while others fear the vulnerability of being raw and honest. There is definitely a degree of aloneness when you’re moving through a challenging time. You alone have to experience the feelings, the pain , the fear , and the anxiety. That’s part of the process. But then it’s time to gather your tribe…. those people who you love dearly. Those people who you are connected to and want to help whatever way they can. Those people who walk this journey with you and are enhancing your healing every step of the way.
I have seen kindness and love in countless ways and I am deeply grateful and humbled. It feels good. And through it all I’ve learned another lesson . We all need to feel connected. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get into the messy parts of life with those you love . Do what you can when someone needs help . Just be present. It makes a huge difference. Not only does it help the person in need , but it’ll open your heart up to feeling more love and grace. We need each other. That’s why we’re here.
When I started writing this blog, I was hopeful that sharing my story might help someone else going through a similar experience. If you are reading this and know of someone who might benefit from it , please send it along. What I didn’t realize is that writing about this experience would actually help me. It’s helped me come to terms with many feelings that I put aside just to be able to get through the day. Perhaps we all do that. When we are in crisis mode, we tend to focus on what’s right in front of us. The task at hand, the thing we don’t want to do but need to do; searching for courage for the unpleasantness ahead. Sometimes that means we put aside other emotions that should be dealt with but aren’t top priority. Wellness includes body, mind, and spirit. Pay attention. Deal with it. Give a voice to your thoughts and feelings. Getting rid of the fear and negativity opens you up to infinite possibilities. Be open to goodness. It’s all around.
Part of the goodness is learning to CELEBRATE. Not just the big stuff…. celebrate whatever you want! Celebrate a good day, a milestone, an unexpected visitor, hair growth, a surprise package in the mail… whatever you feel positive about. Celebrate by yourself, with your family , or with your friends. Celebrate the people who are walking this journey with you. Let them know how much you appreciate them and love them. Share your feelings with them and encourage them to do the same. Let the conversation be two-sided. It’s just another way of choosing to do something positive. It’s about energy. It’s uplifting and mood changing. And it’s important!
I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, as well as positive thinking. ( I am a PK after all ) This experience is way bigger than you are— and you need something to put your trust in. For me, It’s God. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) I truly have felt the comfort of prayers from family and friends. They have made me stronger and helped me cling to my belief that there is goodness in store. I also believe your mind plays a huge part in your recovery. It’s easy to become discouraged, but there is always hope. Especially if you believe that you are not in charge. Try to find flowers in those fields of adversity…
During times of adversity it’s pretty common to question what is going on in your life. We try to find an explanation or a greater purpose for our circumstance. We may feel uncomfortable with what we are experiencing and want desperately to somehow explain it all. I learned a great lesson through all this. Sometimes, life just throws you a curve ball. No rhyme, no reason. What YOU do about it determines how you’ll get through it all. But you don’t need to do it alone. Receive the love . Have Faith. It changes your life.
I was gifted journals and coloring books. I used them both and found them to be calming and cathartic. Get your feelings out! Get creative! Use your down time to express yourself.
Well, this was a big one. And a tough one. I was hoping I might be a chemo phenomenon and not lose my hair. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I had been told to expect hair loss at around days 10-12 after my chemo infusion. I made it to day 16. I woke up to a handful of hair on my pillow and then fistfuls of hair if I touched my head. I cried. A lot. And I cried again.
By day 18 I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. My friend, chemo buddy, nurse, and encourager came over with her husband’s clippers and a crash course in shaving a head. We looked at each other and wondered how we got here? In our 25 years of friendship we never thought this would be something either of us would have to do for the other. But we knew we needed to act quickly or we both would lose our nerve…. My daughter and SIL joined us via FaceTime to witness the occasion and we laughed and cried our way through the act of shaving my head. It’s only hair…
But then came the task of finding something to cover my head and look somewhat fashionable ! I had a friend who had recently been through treatment send me her beanies. Luckily she has good taste (ha ha) so many of her caps worked just fine. I also configured my own head wraps to make me feel somewhat normal when I went out , as well as keeping my little bald head warm!
I’m not going to lie. I felt totally stripped down . There is personal growth in baldness. You have no choice. It truly is what’s on the inside that counts and my insides learned more about love, kindness, compassion, generosity and contentment than I ever imagined. Another life lesson and another way to have faith that God is in control and He knows exactly what he’s doing.
Move! Move! Move! This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Our bodies are not made to be stagnant. We need to move around for good circulation and to get our lymph systems draining. Take a walk, go for a bike ride, stretch. You may not feel like getting up and moving but you will feel better after you do. I walked every day and used a rebounder mini trampoline to drain my lymph system. My friends and family who helped care for me became my walking partners. My infusion center gave me a resource for a Wellness Center. This was a wonderful gift which introduced me to the world of Yoga and Meditation. YouTube is also a great reference for all types of exercise. I found yoga videos, 20 minute exercise circuits and some good stretching videos. Your body is going through lots of stress. It’s important to do what you can to reverse those effects on your mind, body and soul.
Give yourself some grace and stay positive. Endorphins are powerful and aid in healing. Blast your body with some good stuff. It’ll thank you later!
Nutritious food, exercise, and rest are extremely important to help your body recover from all the toxins traveling inside you. You need to do everything in your power to help your body fight. But you also need to accept help. When someone offers to help in any way, say YES! I know that can be hard sometimes, but it’s OK to be vulnerable and let your friends and family support you and help care for you. You will see kindness on a whole different level. Be blessed and feel the love. Love is a powerful healer!
Take the anti nausea drugs! They work. Your appetite may change day to day. Try smoothies, ( I did plant based protein smoothies and added fruit and veggies), do bland foods like rice and potatoes, oatmeal , or eggs to get extra protein. At the suggestion of a nurse, I took a B complex vitamin which boosted my energy level. I found CBD oil tincture to be helpful with nausea and jitteriness. Glutamine helped with the neuropathy. I took 15 mgs twice a day. I also had a friend make up an essential oils blend which i rolled on my wrists and the bottom of my feet three times a day. I am a firm believer in using both medical and more wholistic approaches to maintain your health.
Stay away from processed sugar! This seems to be a universal tip from both the medical profession and the wholistic approach. Our bodies have a hard time digesting processed foods in general and unhealthy sugars cause inflammation, blood sugar spikes, and fat buildup. Like most things in life, moderation is key.
Everyone will have a different experience with their treatment. Find what works for you to make you comfortable and keep you strong as you are regaining your health.
There are some things in life that you just don’t understand unless you do them yourself . Chemotherapy is one of them. “You need treatment ” are not necessarily words anyone wants to hear, but the most important thing you can do is start listening. Listen to your nurse navigator. Take notes, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand something. It’s very important you know exactly what your treatment entails: the drugs, the amount, the courses, the side effects. Before you start , have an arsenal of things that will make you more comfortable.
These were a few of the things that made my treatments more bearable:
1. Suck on peppermint mints during infusion. This was a tip from a chemo nurse and I never got mouth sores.
2. Bring your own water bottle and drink lots of water. You want to flush the drugs out of your system as soon as you can and this helps. 2 liters a day!
3. Bring your own healthy snacks. You may be there for several hours and although the infusion centers have some food, you may want your own.
4. Ask your infusion nurse any and all questions. These nurses are very well educated and are in the trenches every day. They see and hear things from patients that may help you.
5. Wear comfy clothes! You don’t want anything tight or binding.
6. Bring a blanket or shawl to stay warm. I was lucky enough to have a dear friend weave me a prayer shawl which came with me to every treatment. Your comfort is key.
7. Bring music or reading material. Do whatever you need to do to get your mind off your current circumstances. I took a guided imagery session and that helped calm my nerves and anxiety.
8. I had heard that putting frozen peas on your hands and feet would help ward off neuropathy. I tried it once but it was really uncomfortable. I did end up with some neuropathy but it is lessening (three months post chemo).
9. One of my nurses made up little vials of essential oils that I could sniff. Peppermint for nausea , lavender for anxiety, bergamot for well being. They worked!
10. Have a chemo buddy. You need someone to laugh with , cry with, hold your hand when they can’t get the IV into your vein, tell you to breathe, get you pudding, and walk with you to the bathroom. For me, it was my sister and a dear friend. I couldn’t have done it without them.
11. I wore inspirational bracelets that my kids had given me. I felt like they were with me and it helped me stay strong. You will definitely learn that you can be brave and afraid at the same time. Just remember, you are stronger than you know.
12. And lastly, BE GRATEFUL. Be grateful that there is modern medicine that will help rid your body of the bad cells. Be grateful for doctors who suggest treatment. Be grateful for nurses who administer treatment. Be grateful for the people who walk this journey with you. I’m grateful to God for coordinating it all.
You never know if what you have to say is important . But sometimes you feel led to share something in hopes that your words will make an impact , inspire ,or even educate.
I have a story to share which I hope will help others. It’s a story I’m still writing … I know that God has this all worked out and he knows the perfect ending. As for me —- I am marching along in amazement , fear, bravery, and most importantly faith to get to exactly where I need to be.
We’ve all heard the saying “ life can change in an instant “ and that’s exactly what happened to me. We’ve also heard the phrase “ knowledge is power “ so that’s where I’ll start.
April 1, 2018 I found out I carry the BRCA 1 gene mutation. I was hoping it was a bad April fools joke, but no such luck. I now had knowledge that I didn’t necessarily want , but I’m glad I had it.
I was confused , scared , angry , and definitely in denial. Yes , there was family cancer history ( and lots of it ) , but I never thought I would carry the gene mutation that carries a greater risk for breast and ovarian cancer. My sister suggested I get tested after she had done the test with a negative result. Thankfully, I did it right away. Both my sister and I had talked to our doctors through the years about getting the BRCA test but we never felt it was a time sensitive matter. If I had done it sooner, I probably wouldn’t have had any issues. After I got my results, I went through some genetic counseling which led to meetings with both breast and gynecological surgeons to discuss my options. So yes, knowledge IS power. Something told me to do the hysterectomy first. I listened to that voice ( God ) and am so grateful that I did. Surgery went well— but surprisingly during pathology , they found very minuscule traces of bad cells in my ovaries. Once again , life changed in an instant. Another phone call that knocked me to my knees as my doctor told me I would need to do treatment. So, After a second surgery to make sure there weren’t any other traces of cancer ( there weren’t ), I started preventative chemotherapy…
What’s the take away here? If you’ve got family history, don’t hesitate. Get tested. I can’t look back, but I could have eliminated this journey had I been tested earlier before any bad cells were present. Talk to your doctor and see which test is right for you. I went through Myriad, but there are others which are more affordable if your insurance won’t cover the test.
I’m new to this blogging world and learning as I go. I thought it might be a tool to share my story and offer some helpful hints about what helped me get through some tough times . And you never know … this just might become more . More thoughts , more fun, more conversations, more direction . I’m pretty open to where this journey will lead me .