2017: Overcoming Addiction & Being Present

It seems like many people were happy to bid adieu to 2016. As for me, not even the disappointment of a surprise surgery, putting my dog to sleep and the election outcome could trump the train wreck of my 2015, so I’m going to declare the year pretty darn awesome.  I travelled to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and Spain where I walked 258 miles to fulfill a dream of completing the Camino de Santiago.  In April, I preformed at the Bluebird Cafe in a production called My 2nd Act: Survivor Stories from the Stage. In July, I spent the month in Michigan completing 200 hours of yoga teacher training.  Then in September, I went to California and learned to surf with fifteen other cancer survivors through an organization called First Descents.  And in between all those adventures, I published several blogs, articles and wrote nearly everyday.  So, yes, I’d say 2016 was not so bad.

 

Of course, I’d like to continue and increase the adventures in 2017, so I spent some time thinking about my goals for this year.  I realized setting and accomplishing SMART* goals has always come easy for me, but what I want more than anything is something not so measurable.

Somewhere around when I got an iPhone, I developed an obsession to anything connected to my device.  The internet, social media, streaming TV, etc.  Then while I was going through treatment my addiction intensified because I would spend my days in bed watching the iPad. Now that I’m well, I can see the addiction has gotten out of control.

What bothers me most about my problem is how it distracts me from the activities and people I truly care about. It eats at precious time I could spend writing, doing yoga, reading, hiking, running, etc. and it steals my attention from my husband, friends and surroundings. Ultimately, I hope addressing this addiction will allow me to be more fully present in my own life, which is what I want more than any check box next to a goal.

One of the many life lessons cancer taught me is the only guarantee we have is the present moment – the one we are in right now.  I’ve realized in addition to my device addiction, I spend a lot of precious time reliving traumas of the past and the “what ifs” of the future.

This morning I came across a perfect passage in the book, The Artist’s Way:

“In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me. Each moment, taken alone was always bearable. In the exact now, we are all, always, all right.”

And there it is again – being present in my life as a method for coping with trauma of the past and uncertainty of the future.

I wish you all health, wealth, strength and whatever else you need to accomplish your measurable and immeasurable goals of 2017.  Also, I’d like to take this time to thank you for reading my blog. If someone you know has been affected by cancer and/or chronic illness, please feel free to share my site with them, or better yet, have them send me a message.  Below you’ll find my most popular blogs from 2016:

Waiting for Hair: The Toll of Chemotherapy – The fact that this was the number one post of the year doesn’t surprise me. When I was going through hair loss, I wasn’t able to find a lot of info on what the growing out process was like. I also did a follow-up to this post, One Year of Hair After Cancer. That has been a few months and I’m happy to report I have a ton of hair. It’s in a bit of an awkward stage right now, but whatevs, I’m happy to have hair.

Living Universal Truths on My Cancerversary – I really love this post and the seven universal truths.

Cancer Camp – Details on my week surfing with First Descents, an organization that takes young, adult cancer survivors on adventure trips.

 

*Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time-Based

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Gratitude is my Religion – What’s Yours?

Gratitude

As featured on soulanalyse.com

Over a year ago, I watched a talk show where the host asked their guest, “What’s your religion?” The interviewer wasn’t talking about whether the guest was Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or something else. They were asking about the beliefs they found most important and prevalent in their life.

This got me thinking about my own religion and for quite some time, I could not answer the question. Mainly because for the last year I was fighting for my life and too sick to get out of bed, let alone contemplate profound questions of my existence. READ MORE…

 

 

Soul Analyse offers support to people who are interested in reaching new stages of spiritual growth.  Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and read more inspiring articles on their website, www.soulanalyse.com.

This Too Shall Pass: Healing After Cancer

87WSyMSm

As featured on curetoday.com

heal-winter-2016

Featured in Heal Magazine, Winter 2016

As I approach mile 10, the discomfort sets in. I’m surprised I made it this far without any pain, considering I didn’t prepare as I normally do. I found it very difficult to get up on a Saturday and run my tried-and-true training plan with a cancerous, symptomatic, metastatic, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.

Weeks before, I contemplated not doing the half marathon, but I could not let cancer take away my joy of competing after it had already robbed me of so much. So, out of pure defiance, here I am. My hips and hamstrings are tight, but what’s causing me the most discomfort is my stomach. Just past the mile marker, I reluctantly stop at a Porta Potty. In my previous life, I would never do this because it would affect my finishing time. I would have convinced myself three miles of discomfort was a blip in the grand scheme of life. I exit the bathroom, start running through the pain, tightness and soreness and I hear in my head wise words a dear friend says often: This too shall pass.

Days later, I find myself, once again, in an unrecognizable life. Saturday: half marathon. Sunday: MRI. On Tuesday, I was told I needed to start chemotherapy as soon as possible. On Wednesday, I lost my job. A year ago, I was physically stronger than any woman I knew my age, had a wonderful, lucrative job and was the epitome of health. Now, I find myself asking if this is real life countless times. “God only gives us what we can handle,” right? Well, God has greatly overestimated me because all of this — I can not handle. Not just the rug, but the entire floor has been pulled from under my feet. I wondered if this was the new normal or if this too shall pass. It’s my favorite season of summer, but the days have turned into the least favorite of my life. The disease has gotten ahead of the treatments and I’m scared to get out of bed each day. A good day is when I don’t spend several hours with nausea so severe I have to call my husband to take me to the hospital for fluids and intravenous meds. I’ve become a permanent fixture at the cancer center. Staff members greet me by name with a look of pity and a sick bag. My family, friends and I are shocked to see a beautiful, vain, active, social butterfly disintegrate into an reclusive, bald, shell of a person who wears pajamas and no make-up. They respond with cliche phrases such as, “Stay strong” and “You’re going to beat this.”

While I know these words are intended to comfort and encourage me, they only make my blood boil. As if I had a choice to be strong. As if beating it was my decision. I pretend to stay positive because I know the other option does not serve me and would make my supporters assume I have given up. Though there were many moments I wanted to quit, I desperately prayed to God instead — with every cell in my body — for these days to pass.

Getting out of the hospital bed after abdominal surgery is a process and an art. This being my second time around, I knew what to expect and how I should maneuver. Being cut in half was nothing compared to what I had already endured. Plus, the physical pain is minimized because it was preceded with the world’s most beautiful words, “We got all the cancer.”

I happily push the button to move the bed as upright as possible. Pull myself up using the trapeze. Lower the bed down. Sit up. At a snail’s pace, swing my left leg left. Gently rest it on the floor. Repeat with the right leg. Get my bearings. Grab my husband’s hands. Use my marathoner legs to stand up. Resist the urge to cough. Stand for a few seconds to gather my breath. Inch the right foot forward and then the left. Could it be that this season was finally passing?

I look up at the sky and see every existing color over the next twenty minutes. It makes me feel so small, but part of something so big at the same time, and I realize it’s because I am. It is the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever experienced and tears drop from my eyes. I pass a woman unloading groceries from the trunk of her car. She’s completely oblivious to me and the pinks, blues, purples, oranges and yellows taking shape above her head. I feel both sad for and envious of her unawareness because the beauty of this moment is something only available to someone who has stared its fragility in face. I know I am blessed and cursed for my new eyes which have given me an aerial perspective of life’s most precious moments. I pray to God that these feelings, these thoughts and this awareness will not pass.

Read this on curetoday.com: This too shall pass: healing after cancer.

Read all of my curetoday.com articles.