Tag Archives: Cancer

The real Spiderman, cancer and family

obit

Last week the real spiderman passed away quietly in Minnesota as a result of brain cancer.
At least, that is the story according to one self-written obituary for Aaron Purmort. In it he says goodbye to “first wife Gwen Stefani, current wife Nora and their son Ralph” and asks Ralph to avenge his father’s untimely death. In truth, Aaron and his young family shared their life and love story, via Nora’s blog, which included cancer as of 2011: Continue reading

After the Diagnosis: Life with Breast Cancer

breast cancer ribbonAnytime someone uses the world “cancer,” stomachs drop and brows furrow. When the word breast cancer is uttered, minds start racing with worries about the worst-case scenario. Leaving the doctor’s office after being diagnosed with breast cancer is one of the hardest parts, as you are literally taking your first steps toward treatment. Breathe — it’s going to be okay.

Get to Know What You’re Dealing With

If you need to break out a recording device to remember everything the doctor said, then do it. Take time out to research all the terms that he or she used. Research the different stages and start finding answers to common questions so you can be better informed. Once you know the basics, you can start asking your doctor the more advanced questions about the cancer and about your treatment.

Start Building Your Support System

Moving forward, you’re going to want a two-tier support system. The first tier should be a significant other or a parent who can hold your hand the entire time and stand next to you during doctor’s visits. The job of this person isn’t easy; they’ll know everything about breast cancer and all of your specific treatments, and they’ll be the second opinion you seek when you make the hard decisions. They’ll also need to be a hand to hold and shoulder to cry on.

The second tier is made up of your friends and family, who will drop by to brighten your day and ask about your well-being. They’ll bring books to read while you recover, gossip to keep you in the loop, and jokes to make you laugh. They’re like breaths of fresh air in a world of medical jargon and stuffy hospitals.

This is actually one of the hardest steps as you start telling those who are close to you about your breast cancer. It starts to feel real, and you have to say it out loud over and over again.

Find Your Voice and Start Asking Questions

Some doctors and hospitals make a patient feel rushed, especially if the cancer seems minor and easy to treat. This might be good news for you, as you’re not a case that the staff is highly worried about, but it can make a patient feel like their not valued or important.

Don’t let the doctor or nurse leave until you have every possible question and concern addressed. You’re already going through a difficult time in your life; you don’t want to be left in the dark in regard to your treatment plan. Ask what test results mean, look at your chart, and have the doctor give explanations of the treatment process.

Treat Yourself

One of the first things you should do after you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer is to treat yourself to cupcakes, that purse you’ve had an eye on, a manicure, or whatever else makes you feel good about yourself. The road ahead won’t be easy, so take a little time to make yourself feel good before you have to face it.

Fighting cancer isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t beat it. Use it to build strength, not weakness.

photo by: TipsTimes

The Fault in our Stars: One Sick Love Story Shows Us What It Means to be Alive

the fault in our starsIf you’ve been to a Barnes & Noble recently then you’ve probably seen the bright teal cover of John Green’s best selling novel The Fault in Our Stars. I haven’t been a stranger to talking about it on this blog either.

If you aren’t familiar The Fault in our Stars or TFioS as the internet refers to it, is about two teenagers Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters who have both been diagnosed with cancer. They fall in love while attending the same cancer support group. It starts off as any other young adult love story would, but Hazel and Augustus have the oppressive knowledge that they don’t have as much time as their peers. Thus, their love takes on a more epic quality and two seventeen year olds teach us what it means to live every day to its fullest and to love like you won’t have the chance to do it again (because we never really know if we will).

Megan, that sounds ridiculously depressing, why would I want to read that? Because while the potential is there for a ton of cliches and melodrama, John Green strives to tell the truth. The characters in this story are sick but does that mean they don’t deserve the opportunity to love? To be happy? To make the most of their lives even if they are threatened to be shorter than we imagine? The beauty of Gus and Hazel are perfectly aware of their situation but they don’t allow it to make them wallow in the fear or depression that goes along with it. Instead, the give in to each other and go for their dreams, and there is a pretty magical trip to Amsterdam involved that will melt the heart of any cynic. It’s hard to explain the magic specifically without a giant SPOILER ALERT.

Don’t have time to read the book? I actually insist that you make time because it is so worth it. But just incase your schedule is that packed, Fox Studios released the first full-length trailer for the movie adaptation today. The movie stars Shailene Woodley (The Descendents, The Spectacular Now) and Ansel Elgort (Divergent). It arrives in US theaters on June 6 and it is bound to make you cry and laugh and realize what it means to make the most of every day we have. I dare you to make it through the trailer without getting a little bit wispy.

“I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” – John Green, The Fault in our Stars

What Would You Do With One Second of Carefreeness?

Imagine you could let all of your worries and troubles go for one second, what would that moment look like? A french non-profit called the Mimi Foundation gave 20 cancer patients that chance a few weeks ago.

Each patient suffers from a terminal form of cancer. Many have completely lost their hair due to radiation treatments and their days are filled with dread of the next hurdle in fighting the disease. For one day they were invited to a studio to have their hair and make-up done, all while keeping their eyes closed. Then they were placed in front of a one way mirror that had a photographer on the other side. As they opened their eyes he took a photo of that first few seconds of happiness. He captured the pure joy of a carefree moment, something they so rarely get to experience in their current every day lives.

As we come to the close of our week on stress, what would your carefree moment look like? If you could choose it, where would you be? What do you think would bring you that joy? Tell us in the comments below.

Video of the Day: 5,000 People Choir Gather to Honor Teenager’s Viral Legacy

Zach Sobiech died of cancer last May, but not before he touched the heart of millions with his viral song “Clouds.” The radio station KS95 premiered the song on December 5 of last year. To honor the anniversary of the song over 5,000 people gathered at the mall of America to sing “Clouds.” If you aren’t familiar with Zach’s story then watch the mini-documentary about his last months with us from Soulpancake. (Warning: Tears are going to happen, in heavy quantity).

It goes to show that no matter what age you are you have the power to impact the world around you. The world lost Zach far too soon, but it warms the heart to know that his memory is being kept alive with touching tributes like this. It is just the type of feel good thing to make your holidays feel special.

What do you think of the video? Share it with us in the comments below! 

Why Your Voice Matters and How to it Get Heard

girlOver the course of my life I have been given certain “gifts” that have forced me to step into the arena of life. I’m a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and if we don’t step up and use our experiences as catapults for change and growth then we’re throwing away opportunities to touch and heal other people with similar challenges.

Over the past year I made a conscious choice to step out and speak my truth around my battle with Cancer and the loss of my marriage. My sole intention has been to be honest and authentic about my struggles and imperfections with the hope that my story will inspire and heal the many people who suffer silently.

For most of my life I have stayed silent to avoid feeling wounded, but now my voice has become my medicine, and a necessary part of my survival.

Last week I took a risk with a blog I posted online. It was a very vulnerable and heartfelt blog that I was really excited to share because I truly felt it would resonate with so many people struggling with similar feelings.

While I have posted plenty of vulnerable blogs in the past, this particular post left me feeling like I had stepped up onto a podium completely naked. The minute I hit submit, I wanted to take it down.

While I’m well aware and prepared to encounter naysayers and haters that post provocative comments, somehow the few attacks that immediately showed up below the post rattled me. After the first comment my instinct was to contact the website to ask if they could take the post offline. I felt completely powerless, and like I was standing in front of a firing squad waiting for the next bullet to be fired. I panicked, tried to defend myself, and then had an incredible feeling of wanting to run away to another country.

I was completely enveloped in shame.

I know from working on myself and learning about vulnerability from my mentor Brene Brown that I put myself at risk for shame when I share my imperfections with the world. It’s a conscious choice (and risk) I want to take. I just never thought it could feel so awful.

The hardest blow came from a comment that held the implication that as a therapist I should have “known better”, and that I shouldn’t be dealing with this kind of “problem” in the first place. Apparently there are people out there who think that being a therapist and being human are mutually exclusive. The truth is that it would be impossible to do the work I do without acknowledging my faults and mistakes.

I’ve learned more from my own life than I could ever learn in school.

I share this story with you because I want you to know that we need your voice. It’s lonely out here in the arena of life, and while I know it’s terrifying to show up in this way, we need more people to stand tall in the face of imperfection and vulnerability.

This is particularly true when it comes to the stigmatized and shame ridden experience of divorce and disease.

I realize that when people aren’t ready to play in the game of life, they sit on the sidelines yelling at the players without really knowing what it’s like to be out there. When it comes to my I own life, I would rather be in the game and get injured, than to never know what it’s like to play.

Here are 3 easy ways to make a difference with your voice:

  1. Comment on posts that impact you. Whether it’s negative or positive, your opinion and voice matter and will invoke change. How many times have you thought about something you read, but didn’t respond to it? Keeping your thoughts and ideas to yourself is like holding onto a life preserver while watching someone drown.
  2. Override the discomfort of being seen with being heard. Many of us don’t want to draw attention to ourselves so we stay in the shadows hoping not to get noticed. Remember that it’s not about you; it’s about your message. Your words are more powerful than you could ever be, so don’t let your personal insecurities get in the way of what you have to say.
  3. Share a quote or words from another source when you don’t trust your own voice. It’s less risky to speak through someone else’s voice, so vicariously sharing in this way is awesome as long as it truly represents your point. Use a quote or affirmation to express yourself. Think of it as a form of ventriloquism.

The Power of Intention: A Little Touch of Cancer

 1. Prevent Digestive System CancersBy Betsy Horn

When I started studying acting with Robert Lewis, co-founder of Actor’s Studio, one of the first things he said was that in rehearsing a play, you have to figure out what is your intention.  The same thing, I learned, is important in life.  What are we doing, what do we want, and why?

We’re told by our parents, mother usually, that our health is our greatest gift, that without that, you won’t be able to have the life you want.  It almost goes without saying that for much of our lives, we take our health for granted; it’s something we don’t think about when we are young.  We are invulnerable, untouchable.  Yet we are not, especially in today’s world.

Until I was 60, I had taken my health for granted.  First, my mother’s great mantra was that her greatest gift to her children was perfect health, “wonderful genes.”  How she knew that in the 50s remains a mystery to me. But I went along with it, until one day in May, over a decade ago, I went for an annual ultrasound to monitor a pesky ovarian cyst which hadn’t bothered me too much for over seven years, but having been told to check it annually, I did so – and got the shock of my life! Suspected ovarian cancer, and not only that, “aggressive ovarian cancer.”  I knew little about ovarian cancer but soon found out it was one of the most lethal and difficult to diagnose of all the female cancers, known as “the whispering disease” because the symptoms are so subtle, a paradox, as the disease is so very dangerous.

As my doctor told me this, although he was gentle, he was also straightforward, I collapsed inside.  I remember saying to myself, (the mind can have so many messages almost simultaneously), “Now, stand up straight and show you are OK.”  I remember pulling back my head and lifting it and looking at the doctor as if bewildered.  Tears were forming as I thought, “It’s a beautiful day outside and I have come in touch with my mortality.  How is this possible?”

Back in my car, in a cavernous garage, dark and empty, I railed, first at my mother, for the perfect genes which turned out not to be and then just at my frustration.  I had done so much work on myself and now this.  But I am fairly pragmatic and while driving back to New York City from New Haven, I regulated myself fairly quickly and started making mental lists. In times of dire circumstances, a good list can come in handy.  From then on, I did everything to stay healthy and prepare for surgery.  I bought a wonderful book by Bernie Siegal, Love, Medicine and Miracles which I highly recommend.

It turns out that my intention was strong and already forming as a plan for my survival. I would find out everything I could from reliable sources, go to the therapists I already knew, including my GP and do everything anyone smart told me to do as preparation. My intention was to survive and beat it but then to get as healthy as I possibly and follow whatever regime, diet, exercise, meditation and all of those to stay grounded, calm and alive.  So far, it’s worked.

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Betsy Horn’s book, A Little Touch of Cancer and How it Made Me Well one woman’s travels through ovarian cancer, is now available on www.betsyhorn.com through a direct link to Amazon.  

3 Young Adult Books that Will Make You a Better Grown Up

The third week of October is annually celebrated as “Teen Read Week.” Since young adult fiction is in a golden age and having a large impact on our mainstream media (see: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, etc) we thought we’d take a look at the section of the book store you normally leave to teenage girls.

NYT Best-selling author John Green says he has no interest in writing about adults because they are too cautious with their emotions. By writing stories about teenagers Green is able to ask and answer the tough questions directly without having to duck around the bush – teenagers go all in when it comes to their hearts and their curiosity. Through those qualities we as adults are able to be more honest with ourselves as to the questions we have about life, love, and the world we live in. Hence the reason for this list. Actually, speaking of John Green, let’s start with him.

 

1.) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.faultinourstarsbookcover

Story:  Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer. Though doctors have miraculously found a way to stop the disease from spreading she knows she only has a limited time left and her life is defined by being a cancer patient. That’s until she meets Augustus Waters. They fall in love, go on an adventure and break your heart in every conceivable way. Obvious warning: keep a box of Kleenex with you at all times while reading this book.

Why you should read it: If you think about it, we all have the same death sentence as Hazel, hers is just sooner than most of ours. Still, Hazel’s decision to live her life to her fullest capability no matter if she has a few months, days or weeks left is inspiring. TFiOS isn’t about cancer, it’s about life. It’s about lowering our defenses to allow the important people in our lives to <i>really</i> matter. It’s about letting yourself to feel – the good, the bad, all of it – because if you don’t it doesn’t matter when your terminal date is, you’re not living anyway.

Similar reads: “Looking for Alaska” – John Green, “Everyday” – David Levithan  & “You Know Where to Find Me” – Rachel Cohn

 

the-hunger-games-wallpaper-logo-2560x16002.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Story: To pay for the sins of uprisers 74 years before them, the citizens of the Panem districts must nominate one boy and one girl every year to participate in the Hunger Games – a sadistic, caged battle to the death for those unlucky enough to be chosen until only one “victor” remains. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute for District 12 to save her sister Primrose from having to go in. As Katniss does everything she can to survive, she unknowingly sparks a revolution that could bring her entire system of life to its knees.

Why you should read it:  There is the obvious argument that by not reading these books (seeing the movies isn’t the same!) you are literally living under a rock. There is more to it than being pop-culturally relevant though. “The Hunger Games” is a story of human nature – how if we go unchecked humans have a disgusting habit of letting our egos destroy ourselves. By sparking the revolution Katniss has an inside look at how societies corrupt themselves, and has to find the strength within herself to stop the cycle from repeating. Most of us can’t relate to toppling governments or taking down dictators, but we can all learn something from breaking negative patterns and making choices to provide ourselves, and those we care about, with a better life.

Similar reads: “Divergent” – Veronica Roth & “The Maze Runner” – James Dashner

 

3.) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanorPark_thumb

Story: Eleanor is invited back to live with her mother after being kicked out by her abusive step-father for over a year. Every day she has to struggle to stay under the radar from his rage, while protecting her younger siblings and begging their mother to leave. Her life at home and her family’s complete lack of budget make it difficult for her to fit in at school – to the point Eleanor just wants to be invisible. Instead, she meets Park who shares his seat with her on the bus. It starts as a casual sharing of comic books so neither of them has to talk but inevitably they fall in love, and so starts the mission to save Eleanor from her hell at home and for Park to truly find himself.

Why you should read it:  It’s easy to be cynical of teenage love stories. They are too young to know better, right? “Eleanor & Park” proves that teenage naivety actually allows teenagers to fall deep enough into love to find strength and change the world, or at least the world around them. The beautiful thing about Eleanor and Park as characters is that they aren’t perfect. She isn’t a shy and clumsy, but strikingly beautiful damsel in distress. Park isn’t the smarter-than-he-wants-everyone-to-know athlete who gives a chance to the new girl. They have flaws, large ones. They have problems that are even bigger. There’s a quote that says “Love isn’t finding the perfect person, it’s seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” And these kids nail it on the first try. “Eleanor & Park” teaches us to love as deep as we can, no matter how scary it is. It’s a book about trust and inner strength and you find the people who will matter the most to you by being yourself.  By falling in love Eleanor and Park stop trying to blend in and allow themselves to really be seen for the first time.

Similar reads: “The Spectacular Now” – Tim Tharp & “Paper Towns” –  John Green

This is by no means a definitive list. What are your favorite young adult books? Was it “Catcher in the Rye” or something newer? Tell us in the comments below!

7 Ways To Find Your Inner (and Real) Happiness

fly highHappiness is one of the most misunderstood words in our vocabulary yet we search for this intangible state our whole lives: if I only had this or that, if I met the right partner, had a big house, a new car, the job I’ve always wanted, then I would be happy. The ancient yoga and spiritual teachings stress that happiness is real only when we let go of seeking material and transient things and discover the lasting joy that is within.

Every time we see a giggling baby or young child we’re reminded that we are all born with a natural and innate sense of happiness, that it is our birthright. We learn about suffering or unhappiness as we grow older, more externalized, and as circumstances change.

We taught a workshop where a number of the participants had lost loved ones in the past years: one had lost her son to AIDS, another had lost her husband, son, and mother all within twelve months, another’s partner had drowned. Others were dealing with specific illnesses, or difficult issues in their lives. What really emerged for everyone was the awareness that their real happiness lies within themselves, that it’s not dependent on someone or something outside of them. They had lost what they had thought of as their source of happiness—a loved one or their health—and now had to look more deeply within themselves. It was a weekend of many ‘aha’ moments!

Here are some of the ways our workshop participants discovered how to feel happy again:

1. Not take yourself too seriously. At times of hardship, such as loss or illness, it’s easy to lose your humor, and even easier to get involved with the negative aspects of what is happening. Remembering not to take yourself too seriously brings a lightness and acceptance to the weight of circumstance around you. Don’t forget—angels can fly because they take themselves lightly!

2. Not identify with suffering, loss, or illness, as being who you are. Many of our participants realized how they’d been identifying themselves as a cancer survivor / widow / recovering addict, or whatever it may be, but had not asked who they were without that label or identity. When you don’t identify with the negative issues, then who you really are has a chance to shine.

3. It’s OK to be you, just as you are, warts and all. You may think you’re imperfect, a mess, falling apart, hopeless, or unable to cope. But true perfection is really accepting your imperfections. It is accepting yourself, complete with all the things you like as well as the things you don’t like. In this way you’re not struggling with or rejecting yourself. Each one of is unique, a one-time offer, but we can’t know this if we are facing away from ourselves.

4. Make friends with yourself. Your relationship with yourself is the only one you have that lasts for the whole of your life, and you can be the greatest friend or the worst enemy to yourself. So it’s very important not to emotionally put down or beat yourself up. Just be kind.

5. Feel everything, whatever it may be. When you are suffering, it’s easy to want to deny or repress your feelings, as they get huge and overwhelming. But if you can really honor whatever you are feeling then it’ll bring you closer to the inner happiness beneath the suffering or grief. Acknowledging and making friends with your real feelings is the greatest gift.

6. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Treasure yourself. These are big steps, but each one liberates the heart and sets you free. You need to forgive yourself for feeling angry, for getting upset, for all things you think you’ve done wrong. They are in the past and who you are now is not who you were then. You can take any guilt or shame by the hand, invite it in for tea, and open yourself to self-forgiveness.

7. Meditate. There is an overwhelming amount of research showing how meditation changes the circuits in the part of the brain associated with contentment and happiness and stimulates the ‘feel-good’ factor. Meditating on love and kindness makes you much, much happier! And the only way to know this is to try it, so don’t hesitate.

* * *

Ed and Deb Shapiro are the authors of BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, with forewords by the Dalai Lama and Prof. Robert Thurman, contributions from many known meditation teachers, winner of the 2010 Nautilus Gold Book Award; and Your Body Speaks Your Mind,  winner of the Visionary Book Award. They are featured contributors on Oprah.com, HuffingtonPost.com, and Vividlife.me, where they host the acclaimed weekly LIVE radio show, Going Out Of Your Mind.

For more information go to: www.edanddebshapiro.com

A Tale of Kale, Tribute to My Sister

Kolorful KaleBy Gloria Loring

It’s everywhere! I have people sending me recipes for it, serving it to me in salads, soups, and stews. Bags of kale chips beckon to me at the Whole Foods checkout counter. But my favorite connection to kale is through my brother-in-law.

For those of you who don’t know one bunch of greens from another, kale is a crinkly edged cousin of swiss chard, yet meatier. As a friend told me, “If kale were a woman, she’d be a real broad.” She’s tough, I can tell you that.

Six days after my sister’s journey with cancer ended, three hundred of us celebrated her in songs, tears, and smiles. To my surprise, my brother-in-law Eduardo, his face taut with suppressed emotion, walked to the podium to speak of the love of his life. His son Ian stood beside him. Eduardo spoke of Peggy’s determination to do whatever was required in her efforts toward healing. Efforts that included eating kale (as part of a vegan diet). Eduardo choose kale as the metaphor for how Peggy would take what looked prickly, ragged, unfamiliar, and lovingly ingest it. He spoke of watching her pray over her plain steamed kale and then eat it happily, when to him it looked like a weed to be pulled from the garden. To illustrate, Ian pulled a large bunch of kale from the plastic bag at his side. Chuckles spread through the crowd. Eduardo ended by comparing himself to the kale, still a bit prickly, but softened by all he had been through and the great gift of twenty years with my beautiful sister.

Two weeks later, Eduardo was at home thinking about the organic garden that Peggy had mothered so tenderly. In her last months she was too weak, the watering system broke, and everything shriveled. Perhaps, he thought, “I should replant it as a tribute to her.” He began walking to the back of the property to assess all there was to do. As he approached, he saw a desert wasteland of raised boxes, except for one tall bushy plant that had sprouted, without water, without care.

Peggy's KaleYes, it was head of kale, growing, flourishing, reaching up toward the light, just as my sister’s spirit did, all through her life, through the hospital stays, the surgery, the radiation, through the difficult nights and quiet final days. Bringing the best of herself, in spite of anything, everything. If that bunch of kale were a woman, she’d be my sister.

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The former “Liz Chandler” on Days of Our Lives, Gloria Loring is a singer, songwriter, actress and author. Her new memoir, titled with a quote by Albert Einstein, is Coincidence Is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous.

www.glorialoring.com, www.facebook.com/GloriaLoring, @GloriaLoring

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