Sadie’s Playbook

riThis piece was featured in Retrieving Independence’s July Volunteer spotlight. In my short time as a volunteer for this organization, it and Sadie have already done so much for me. If you’re interested in learning more about them, volunteering (ie, raising a puppy or having a dog for a weekend) or contributing financially to their cause, check out their website

Earlier this year, my husband and I decided to remodel our kitchen.  As a friendly contractor measured our cabinets, he casually asked if we had any pets.  I explained the sad story, that all animal lovers inevitably experience. We had lost our beloved 15-year-old German Shepherd, Bear, in 2016 and had not been able to wrap our heads around another (at least) decade long commitment. The contractor then began telling me about an organization his daughter volunteers with called, Retrieving Independence. Immediately my interest was ignited.

Within the week I visited the Retrieving Independence website, followed them on social media and submitted my application to become a Furlough Volunteer. After exchanging a few emails, I was asked if I might be interested in raising one of the nine puppies from Bella’s litter. Before I had a chance to think, my heart screamed, “YES” and a few weeks later, my husband and I drove away from the Farm at Natchez Trace with a sweet little pup in my arms named Sadie.

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Sweet Sadie

Over the next two months of puppy raising Sadie, she taught me much more than I taught her.  Sadie tackles each day, outing, encounter and task with so much joy and enthusiasm. She wants to be friends with everyone. I admire her ability to both follow her intuition and sometimes be fearless when facing uncertainty. Sadie enjoys food and eats without worrying about getting fat.  She sleeps when she’s tired – typically rising and resting with the sun. Sadie is comfortable with stillness and doesn’t always feel the need to go-go-go. She lives in the present, forgives easily and loves fully. We could all take a few lessons from Sadie’s playbook.

Putting her on the bus to start her training at Turney Correctional Facility on June 12th was bittersweet. Naturally, I was sad to see her go, but knew she was ready to begin the next chapter. In honor of her departure, I decided to hold a Facebook fundraiser and with the generous contributions of friends and family, we raised nearly $700 for Retrieving Independence.

sadieBetween our furlough weekends, I miss her, but take much solace knowing that she is in the process of spreading her playbook teachings to her trainers and future recipient.

 

 

 

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What I Know for Sure about My Survivorship

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I wrote this piece for the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation’s June Survivorship Issue. Click here for the full eUpdate on topics including research, finding a NET specialist, living with NETs and more. Thank you to NETRF for the important work they do.

Every Sunday on the O Network’s Super Soul Sunday, Oprah asks her guest, “What do you know for sure?” This question has stayed with me and my answers stem from my diagnosis of a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor in 2014.

However, before diving in, it’s important I preface this post by declaring that being diagnosed with a Neuroendocrine Tumor is  awful. The pain and suffering proceeding this disease is real. I do not want to discount anyone’s experience, so please know that I see you and all of us impacted by this disease see you.

What I know for sure is that cancer will be the greatest teacher of my life. The lessons are vast, innumerable and constantly evolving. Those that come to the top of my mind are resilience, perseverance, humility, strength, letting go, being uncomfortable, grateful, mindful, kind and compassionate. I’m sure I would have eventually learned all of these things, but cancer gave me a crash course and I am better person for it.

I know in the extensive world of cancer, I’ve got it pretty good. A slow-growing disease, where patients are living decades. And not just living long – many are living well. I know NET survivors who have accomplished some incredible physical feats – marathons, triathlons, cross-country hikes, 100-mile bike rides, scuba diving, to name a few. I know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but I could see where other cancers and diseases could be envious.

I know this statement may ruffle some feathers, but I’m happy I don’t look sick. I would rather be sick, without looking sick, than be sick and look sick.

I know my doctor is the right person to lead my care team. With only a handful of true specialists, choosing a doctor isn’t too difficult. Other cancers have hundreds, if not thousands of specialists, which I would find overwhelming. With our small NETs community, it’s easy to know whether you’re in the right hands or not.

I know who my friends are and are not. Those who stood by my side are true, loving, genuine, caring people. They are the kind of humSians I want in my life. I also know what a surprise it was to develop new friendships with fellow survivors with whom I share an indescribable kinship.

And what I know for sure is that every sunrise, new moon, holiday, birthday, etc. is a gift. This is true for all of us – cancer or not, but living with NETs – I know it and I live it, everyday.

 

Learning to Breathe

 

fullsizeoutput_1546Carcinoid NETs Health Storylines presents Zebra Tales! This is a brand new feature which will allow you to learn from the experiences of others within the NETs community. For our first Zebra Tale, Stacie Chevrier shares her journey with NETs and how her dedication to yoga has enhanced her own life.

When I walked into my first yoga class in 2007, I was confused. During 60 minutes, the teacher lead students through a long sequence of postures followed by moments of no instruction. I was uncomfortably close to my neighbors and everyone was breathing funny. I can’t remember why I went back, but I did and with diligent practice I learned the physical poses. Little did I know it would become so much more than exercise.

In 2014, I was diagnosed with a metastatic pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, the same cancer that killed Steve Jobs. Through surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, I continue to use the valuable lessons contained in that one hour yoga class to navigate the disease.

Some instructors start class by telling students to leave their problems at the door, which I find impossible. Yoga has taught me the mental strength to sit with things that are uncomfortable. Sometimes this is a yoga pose, a 45 minute MRI, anxiety, etc.

During my early days of yoga, I often became frustrated by forgetting the long sequence, but eventually realized that was by design. I now understand the teacher’s intention was to empower students to figure out what is best for them on their own. This method taught me to follow my instincts and that I don’t need to follow someone else’s plan because I am in charge of my body.

Another important concept this practice has gifted me is the ability to truly be present. During my practice I become so focused on breathing and the series of poses that I don’t have time to think about cancer, the uncertainty of the future or the traumas of the past. I have been able to translate this while off the yoga mat. When I notice anxiety building, I stop and tell myself, “Right now, in this moment, you’re okay.” Because in the grandest scheme of life, the present moment is all any of us are guaranteed.

Last summer in class, I had an incredible moment of clarity in an uncomfortable core pose, when my teacher said, we hold our issues in our tissues. I realized after years of always avoiding core work, that I didn’t avoid core work because I was weak, but I avoided it because that’s where I hold my stress, emotion and issues. After a lifetime of avoiding this area, it’s no wonder that’s where disease developed.

However, the lesson that has been most valuable to me is that yoga taught me to breathe. Through a one hour class, I take approximately 600 big, intentional, long, strong, cleansing, releasing breaths. Before yoga, I’m not sure I took one deep breath a day. Through my most difficult moments, I remind myself that the only requirement is to breathe. As long as I can accept air in and out of my lungs, I am still here living.

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Photo: Emmy Singer, Inner Light Yoga

I am grateful for the teachers at the Center for Yoga, Inner Light Yoga and Lifepower Yoga who have taught me to breathe through a life with chronic cancer.

 

fullsizeoutput_1545Do you want to share your own experience with NETs? Email: linda@selfcarecatalysts.com

Log into Carcinoid NETs Health Storylines App and click on the Zebra Tales icon or click here to create and access the tool online.

Click here for the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation’s announcement.