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Posts Tagged ‘Cancer’

Getting a cancer diagnosis, such as breast cancer, mesothelioma or lymphoma can often feel like a death sentence for many people. Cancer in the body can be incredibly deadly even with treatment, but you don’t have to feel like you don’t have any control over yourself after a cancer diagnosis. In fact, exercising and general fitness can help relieve many of the mental and physical symptoms of your cancer.

Exercise and fitness before a cancer diagnosis may actually help stop that diagnosis from occurring. Dr. Kerry Courneya, a professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, reports that increased physical activity is linked with a reduced risk of cancer recurrence. Courneya also states that it has been shown to give cancer patients “…longer survival after a cancer diagnosis.”

Science Daily” reports on a major breakthrough in understanding the benefits of exercise for breast cancer patients. Breast cancer patients were often encouraged to avoid exercising, as it was believed this could be harmful to the patient. However, Doctor Jane Armer of the Sinclair School of Nursing reports that this is not true.

“Exercise can be beneficial and not harmful for breast cancer survivors,” she stated, claiming that individuals should “balance the pros and cons” of exercise with their doctor. She encourages breast cancer patients to avoid being sedentary as this has “risks” that could contribute to a worsening cancer condition.

One major down turn that occurs after a cancer diagnosis is an increased risk of depression, or the feeling that your life has been taken out of your hands. However, exercise has been shown to help with this problem. According to several research studies, exercise has been shown to decrease fatigue in cancer patients and survivors, decrease depression, make a person more satisfied with their life and help them feel more in control of their lives.

There are several different causes of the benefits. The first is that exercise causes better oxygen and blood flow, helping to activate areas of the body and increase energy levels as it increases the metabolism rate. Exercise also releases endorphins, which brings pleasure to the brain.

There are obviously many benefits to exercise and wellbeing after you have received your cancer diagnosis. Never use exercise as the only treatment for cancer. Instead, make yourself feel less depressed, more energized and ready to deal with your diagnosis.

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Last weekend I was listening to a podcast called Dot Matrix by Junior High School friends Sean and Justin (Facebook and website), and they recited a wonderful poem by Nikki Giovanni called Choices:

CHOICES

if i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do

it’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can
do

if i can’t have
what i want . . . then
my job is to want
what i’ve got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more to want

since i can’t go
where i need
to go . . . then i must . . . go
where the signs point
through always understanding
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

when i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal
i know
but that’s why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry

This poem really spoke to me, at a time when I see the choices of others, or their inability to see the choices that are available. I also find that many people of my age range focus on the “what if’s”. I used to be a culprit of this, and I think it unfortunately and fortunately took cancer to open my eyes. I really don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. No one does. So, focusing on the now (thank you Eckhart Tolle), and doing what I feel is necessary helps me to focus on the big picture.

Whenever I think of the big picture I’m always brought back to the Owyhee River during the filming of Wrong Way to Hope. Mikey Lang, the producer, spoke about looking at the small fraction of our lives that we may be in crisis, and to try to focus on the positive. I know, easier said than done, but it really gave me perspective. Whenever I feel like nothing is going right, and I just want it all to crash down on me, I remember that in the big scheme of things, not only does He only give me what I can handle, but that the experience I’m having is so miniscule. I was in treatment for only three months.

An exercise I did through “The Vice-Busting Diet Journal” had me write down how many days I’d already been alive, when I thought I would live till, and how many days I thought I had left. That got me thinking.

  • So far I’ve been alive 409 months, so being treated for cancer only took  0.7% of my life.
  • I’ve been recovering for 4.5 years, which equals 54 months and only 13% of my life thus far.

Now, if I went as far to say that I think I might live until I’m 83, that gives me 588 months left. If I recalculated all of the above based on the fact that I would live a total of 997 months, that 54 months of suffering is nothing. It’s absolute peanuts. It’s 5.4% of my life.

Interesting perspective isn’t it? I talked to some people at work about this, and detailed about how many days I thought I had left – they thought it to be quite morbid. I, on the other hand, am a realist. Amy Spencer says it well in her book  “Meeting Your Half-Orange – An utterly upbeat guide to using dating optimism to find your perfect match.”

The dating world, like life, is made up of optimists and pessimists. Where do you fit in? Are you a glass half-full, who can see the positive side of being stuck with a boring date … fixing a flat tire in the rain? Or are you a glass half-empty, who can meet a handsome, well-adjusted guy who thinks you’re cute … and decide there must be something wrong with him? Maybe, after years of being disappointed in dating, you’ve become a little bit of both – what you’d consider a “realist.”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with choosing to have a realistic perspective of my future. In fact, I think it allows me to get out there and experience life instead of sitting around at home feeling sorry for myself (not that I do this all the time…though ruminating can be very eye-opening and should be done at times for reflection).

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. William Arthur Ward

That’s exactly it. I can adjust. I look at how much life I have left and want to live it to the fullest, but sometimes a big black cloud follows us around. For me it was the diagnosis of cancer.

My most recent article on Multimed’s Current Oncology Cancer Knowledge Network, discusses fear and uncertainty, and really about the choices we have. It speaks about my account of hearing the cancer diagnosis, and how those words rocked my world upside down. I didn’t feel like I had a choice. Doctor’s wanted me to begin therapy as soon as possible due to the cancer being so aggressive.

But it’s only in retrospect that I realize I did have a choice. I had a choice on how to react to that news, and I didn’t react well. I became very depressed, as I can imagine many do with this kind of news, and though I smile in these photos, the fear is underlying. Moving away from this has taken years of practice and a community with hearts big enough to handle it all.

As my focus for this year has been love and learning to love realistically, I have to share several books with you that have recently come to my attention and aide. Thanks to a dear friend Jared who introduced me to The Five Love Languages – Singles Edition by Gary Chapman, I have begun to learn about choices to love

The choice to love is the choice to take initiative. It is the choice to do or say something for the other person’s benefit, something that would help make them a better person, something that would enrich their lives or make life more meaningful for them.

If you’re interested in learning more, take this quick test:

Of the five love languages, I think my primary one is words of affirmation. I need to hear that I’m doing great, that I’m loved and cared for. I find it interesting that for some people it’s so difficult. Dr. Chapman states that we need to learn to speak all five languages in order to help make others feel loved.

I actually talked to my dad about this the other day. We’ve had a tense relationship over the years, but we always have really good, deep talks. Unfortunately sometimes they’re focused on him, but, well, if I can share some of my wisdom to help him get through, then I guess I’m doing something worthy. When someone says that they don’t feel loved, then we need to learn how to make them feel that they are. But, when we do all that we can, and learn what it is to make that person feel loved, and they still don’t, what do we do?

Would you change?

I feel that living life openly and genuinely is paramount to living life to the fullest, and that we’ll attract the person who will know how to love us the way we need to be loved. But in many ways, this is not how I’m living my life. Waiting and hoping goes against my values of no regrets and lots of passion. My good friend Marlene writes this perfectly in her blog Changing Times – An Open Letter.

Be vulnerable, don’t settle. Hmm, am I really listening to my own words, or is it all about learning to love realistically? Another book I came across by Lori Gottlieb ponders these questions “Marry Him – The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.” I’ve been thankful to have these books to reference and learn, as I don’t feel that I’ve had great examples of healthy relationships around me. Though I’m still torn.

A person doesn’t take care of the past in one fell swoop. Making peace with oneself comes in stages, and very often when we least expect it. But we need to do it – even if it means going back and looking the devil in the eye. We need to know we are no longer under the influence of past experiences, especially negative ones.

Time slowly but surely removes the sharp, annoying stones that have been in our shoes for years. We know we still have miles to go when something still fills us with anger. But when we can look with curiosity and disinterest upon a bad experience from the past, we know we have turned a corner. This is a spiritual turning point. Celebrate it and give thanks to the Spirit who makes it possible.

Joyce Sequichie Hifler is a new favourite author of mine. She writes daily meditations in “A Cherokee Feast of Days – Volume III” for July 24. I saw this a few days ago and they are wise words. I know in many ways that I’ve come very far, but in others, it’s just another layer of the onion being peeled off. Just when you think an issue is dealt with, life throws it at you another way and it’s there to deal with all over again.

Learning all over again can be tiresome, but it’s helpful. And then there’s sometimes we can use the teachings of others. Blogs are great for this. I came across a new one today that lists all the cancer related blogs out there. I asked to be put on his list, and he posted one of my entries! Checkout Being Cancer – thanks Dennis.

Oh, one more thing. I am on the eve of my third year as a peer supporter for Young Adult Cancer Canada’s Retreat Yourself West. As always, I’m anxiously anticipating meeting 24 young adult cancer survivors. It’s always exciting to spend time with people who’ve been through or are going through cancer. I likened the experience to how the Grinch’s heart “grew two-sizes that day.” I’m nowhere near being a Grinch, but I loved the concept of thinking that my heart can’t grow anymore, and then I come away from a weekend like this and I’m forever changed.

Finishing up with the Retreat this coming Monday means that YACC will be in full planning mode for the Survivor Conference being held in Ottawa this year from November 3 – 7. Applications are open, so please feel free to send them in. Last year was the only year I’ve missed and I hope to attend this one as well.

Can’t wait to share my experiences from Retreat in my next post. Love to you all!

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I just watched this amazing video by Brene Brown on Ted talks and I’m so fortunate to know how vulnerable I’ve been, and how this tenderness has connected me to so many wonderful people in my life. I recommend you watch it if you have some time to listen to it in the background. I did so while I was writing this post as I found it resonated with me so deeply.

I know that love and tenderness have been big topics for me this year, whether it’s been regarding a relationship I’m in which I am personally struggling with due to my past, or what I have felt is an imperative need in my life, or how much I allow myself to be open with others considering the hurt and pain I’ve encountered in dealing with cancer patients.

It’s interesting how much our past experiences denote our responses to current situations.

With regards to vulnerability, the breadth of relationships I have experienced with cancer patients and the wisdom gleaned have allowed me to really open up my heart, though it has been difficult to lose so many from this dreadful disease.

In fact, I must pay tribute to all those lost. This past week we have lost Caio, a 23 year old Osteo-Sarcoma cancer victim. I hate to say the word, but it’s really true. I know he lived with his cancer because of all the support he had, but I don’t think it’s right to live with a disease. I think it’s so unfair to cause so much pain to an angel, as he truly was one. He met everyone with such honour and appreciation of being, that it was impossible to not meet him with love. The memorial service that was held this past Friday was completely full. There was barely room for people to stand. His partner loved him dearly, and really showed this at the service. It was so touching. Several people shared their experiences, songs, poems and flowers, which allowed such a breadth of ceremony.

I’ve had a tough time dealing with his passing. Survivor guilt was never something I thought was possible, until I passed my one year cancer free mark. A survivor mentioned it to me as I’d never heard of it before. It’s a strange concept really; as happy as I am to be here, I’m so angry for those that lose their fight to this horrible disease.

There have honestly been too many to count during my journey post-cancer. I believe there is a post where I was detailing who and when people were leaving this dimension for another hopefully pain-free and peaceful one. I actually feel somewhat disgusted that I was chronicling people I’d met that I’d no longer be able to have relationships with.

I can’t be angry at myself for doing this though, it’s a human response to put things into context and that was my purpose at that time. It is no longer.

On a different topic of love, I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked back for a third time as a peer counsellor to Young Adult Cancer Canada’s Retreat Yourself West. At this retreat, I’m able to share my journey of cancer with others, and hope to reach out to those affected in order to help ease the stress and provide guidance.  Through meeting these people at retreat, as well as survivor conferences and through YACN, I have learned not only humility, but the ability to be vulnerable, which has allowed my heart to overflow with love and tenderness for all.

Tenderness

We had our first conference call the day after the fourth anniversary of my 30th birthday, and some of the words that were used to explain our involvement as peer supporters/facilitators were:  the ability to engage others emotionally by being open and authentic, therefore allowing others permission to do the same. This was summed up by each of the people on the call. I thought it was perfectly put.

Further to that, I think I have already mentioned that I am now writing for a website called the Cancer Knowledge Network through their Patient Connect portion. I have a new post coming up next week, so please be on the lookout!

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Where are you going?

I’ve been thinking a lot about developing my consulting business so that I can actually get something going and help others on a more professional level.

Do I have to have my degree before I begin? What do you think?

Over the coming months, I’m really going to be looking for your comments on my book. I would like to see what the interest is in my work.

And, maybe you can help me develop a title! I have 100 pages written so far, and wrote a few more last night, after a few year hiatus!

Any recommendations on how to promote through my blog, make my blog more user friendly, or any kind of constructive criticism is welcomed! How else am I going to learn, other than possibly spending too much money on a developer!

So, this leads me to the question(s) for this week:

  • Do you know where you are going in life?
  • Do you know what your passions and dreams are?
  • Do you know who you are?

These are all questions that I will help you begin to address through a number of creative ways (vision boards, written diary, mind maps, nature walks) when you schedule a 1 hour introductory session with me.

Enjoy your sunny day and let’s chat soon.

I welcome your comments!

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“I have to be thankful that this crowded space is the place of my birth.
All I’ve ever wanted is to be someone.” – George Michael

I’ve spent a lot of time soul searching since some big things have happened in my life.

My good friend Ian passed away in March (which reminds me, I’m calling his mom right now), and to honour him, I went to a retreat centre last weekend (Rivendell) that I had attended with him and other “crew” in November of 2008. I can’t believe it had been so long since I’d done something like this. I was feeling so wiped and stressed, and sick from this stupid sinus infection. It was a blessing in disguise, because it brought me to a creative place, to honour life, and to get back to my roots – nature. It’s also allowed me to be stronger in my forthcomings. To listen to what I need, and proceed that way.

Here are some photos from the trip:

Also, I uploaded a video on Youtube re: OPA –

I found “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, that I got from Eagle (Ian and Lynne’s friend). I feel the need to put them down here:

1) Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2) Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3) Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4) Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Well, isn’t that interesting. I have been conscious of those without having even read these yet. These are things I’ve been struggling with as late. And then I hear this song, and I think that’s exactly where I’ve been:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-RjMRP5IbI

Just because I’m losing
Doesn’t mean I’m lost
Doesn’t mean I’ll stop
Doesn’t mean I will cross

Just because I’m hurting
Doesn’t mean I’m hurt
Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserve
No better and no worse

I just got lost
Every river that I’ve tried to cross
And every door I ever tried was locked
Ooh-Oh, And I’m just waiting till the shine wears off…

You might be a big fish
In a little pond
Doesn’t mean you’ve won
‘Cause along may come
A bigger one
And you’ll be lost

Every river that you tried to cross
Every gun you ever held went off
Ooh-Oh, And I’m just waiting till the firing starts
Ooh-Oh, And I’m just waiting till the shine wears off
Ooh-Oh, And I’m just waiting till the shine wears off
Ooh-Oh, And I’m just waiting till the shine wears off…

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It feels as if I’ve been so many places in such a short period of time, yet that I haven’t accomplished much.

Phew. I’ll have to take a breath and sigh at the same time. There seems to be no time.

I saw the 2010 version of “Alice in Wonderland” a few weeks ago, and I say, things are getting curiouser and curiouser. This full moon is going to be a doozie! I knew that things would get wild, but I guess I didn’t understand just how wild they could get.

Let me expand a little.

Christmas happened in December. I was at my mom’s; was slightly stressful. I sang in the choir with mom and Rick. Went back to work in January and it was pretty much Olympics full throttle until the first week of March. I had a blast, and did some fun stuff, but I was dang tired when it ended.

I get sick a few times throughout the Olympics. It got the worst towards the end (worked Thursday-Sunday). Came down with a fever the following Tuesday, took a few days off work, had a weekend, and then was getting ready to head to Toronto.

From March 9-16, there was an internationally represented conference on young adult cancer issues, and I was invited as a survivor (as a SIA (survivor in action) through YACC (Young Adult Cancer Canada) to provide my input. The conference was fantastic. It was so nice to feel like I have a number of people behind me/us on what I strive for through the medical system – to have an age specific circle of care. This means that a cancer patient would have someone with them from start (diagnosis) to finish (post treatment; post rehabilitation; post re-integration). This is the BIG picture. And it’s not going to happen overnight, but I won’t stop trying to enforce the importance of being an advocate.

I was so happy I got to visit with my friend Lisa (I love you dear friend, and really enjoyed meeting your beau), my brother and sister-in-law (I LOVE you guys so much, I wish you were closer! Your new house rocks btw), and an old friend (Terrence – was great seeing you). Hopped on a plane back home during the evening of March 23 then spent the day with a friend-boy on Wednesday.

Little did I know that all hell would break loose. I got a text message from Lisa (thank you so much) that Ian’s sister Melissa was flying out of TO to Vancouver that night because Ian was in a poor state. In fact, his organs were failing. My friend and I were enjoying a St. Patty’s day beer at the Salmon House in West Vancouver when I got this. My phone was almost dead, so I sent out a message to his friends in the area and then my friend drove me to the Cancer Agency (thinking that’s where he’d be). Prior to us leaving Salmon House, I’m sure I have the waiter’s something to think about as I’m sitting at a table with my friend and then rush off to the bathroom to cry…lol…probably thought he’d done something to upset me…lol.

Anyways, two days spent in palliative care at St. Paul’s and my dear friend Ian passed away. I’m so upset about this. He was only 39. The day before his death, I found out a family member was diagnosed.

On the plus side. After a week of somewhat rest and trying to get rid of this stupid sinus infection. I returned to work on Thursday (having a few days off sick to rest) finding out that our lottery pool won $6000…which means $145 each! Too bad I don’t know when I’ll get to see this. I have to take the car in on Monday…it could really come in handy…

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