Tag Archive | breast cancer inspirational

Going Home

Have you heard the song,  Castle on the Hill, by Ed Sheeran?  It is a song about going home that really touches my heart.  I have actually been using that song to engage myself in a new form of therapy called Mindful Movement.  Well, maybe it is not new, but it is new to me.

I recently attended a national conference for psychologists and counsellors.  It was a fabulous event, with 550 attendees from all over the world.  One of my favorite sessions was called Mindful Movement, and I went, assuming that we would be doing yoga.  But instead, we danced. Had I known I would be dancing in a roomful of my colleagues without a drop of wine in me to loosen me up, I never would have signed up for the session. But this session was not about strutting your stuff, it was about releasing trauma, and not only did it work for me, but several of the people there reported an emotional release from just one session, which is pretty amazing to a psychologist like myself. So, I set out to investigate how the process works.

In a nutshell, the two sides of our brain work in very different ways.  The left side is logical and linguistic. It is the side we use for communication and where we store our verbal information.   The right side of the brain is our creative side.  It is our center for creativity, arts, music and imagination.  Think of a time that you experienced a trauma.   For me, being told that I had cancer was one of the most traumatic things I have ever experienced.  I can recall perfectly what the room looked like, what the doctor was wearing, and the look on my sister, Juana’s face when he said the word “cancer”.  But after that, I don’t recall another word. It was like I was listening to the teacher on Charlie Brown, “Whannn, whann, whannn…”  That is because I went into panic mode (also called fight or flight mode) and the left side of my brain shut down, making it impossible for me to store the words he was saying to me.  Where did the trauma get stored?  In the right side of my brain.  So just talking about my experience is not enough to release the trauma, I have to do something creative to tap into the cell memory of that trauma.  For me, dance works!

Give it a try!  Turn on a song that you like, close your eyes and just move in a way that you feel guided. Dance like there is nobody watching.   Let your emotions surface and just allow yourself to feel those healing feelings.  If you cry, that is ok.  It means it is working.  It is not important that you understand why you are feeling the way you feel.  It is just important that you allow yourself to experience the emotions.  Your spirit will take care of the rest.

This weekend, I literally had the experience of going home.   I spent the weekend in my beautiful home town of Lawn, just me and my parents. Although I am fifty, it is impossible to feel grown up when you have your parents taking care of you.  Dad: “That suitcase is too heavy for you, let me carry it,” he said as he laid down his cane.  Mom: “Now dear, if you are too tired to get up and turn off the light, just knock on the wall and I will come out and turn it off for you so you don’t have to get out of bed.” Yes, I felt just a little bit spoiled.  It made me feel so grateful to still have my parents with me, and still wanting to take care of me in that way.

I guess as you get older, you appreciate things that you once took for granted. The first time I took Steve to visit my parents, he was blown away that I grew up right next to a river with a beautiful water falls.  To me, it was just a brook, nothing impressive.  But now, I stand in awe of the power of those roaring water falls after a heavy rain.  Walking along Sandy Point, and seeing boats in the harbour was another sight that I took for granted.  Now I resemble a tourist, snapping selfies of myself using this beautiful scenery as a backdrop.

It is always nice to go home, however, there were two highlights to my weekend which I would like to mention.  One was praying the Rosary with my parents.  On Friday night, the three of us prayed together, but on Saturday, it was just me and my dad in the house. I think he assumed that since mom was not there, we would not pray.  I said, “Well Dad, I guess it is just me and you for the Rosary tonight.”  He jumped up off the couch and grabbed the Rosary beads with the same enthusiasm that I would have used to grab a wine glass. My parents pray together every evening, which is a beautiful thing.  I felt blessed and honored to be a part of their ritual.

On Saturday evening, I had a visit with my 96 year old grandmother, who is still as smart as a top and lives in her own home.  Pretty much every evening, my mother and her four sisters visit with Nan, and I felt honored to be a part of their daily tradition.  It was a simple evening of drinking tea, talking and laughing until my stomach hurt. (Aunt Alice could make the cats laugh!)   It made me kind of tear up as I watched each of these women, all in their sixties and seventies, tenderly kiss their mother good night.  Can you imagine being surrounded by that much love every evening?  My grandmother is truly blessed, as am I to be a part of the Kearney clan.

As I write this, it is a beautiful Sunday morning.  The sun is shining and the birds are singing as I sip my coffee and look out at the boats in the harbour.  Dad is getting ready for mass, and my mom is next door at Nan’s house, where she spent the night. The peace here is almost tangible.   Tomorrow I will head back to my busy city life, but I will carry with me these sweet memories of going home.

 

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Kimberly’s Sisters

The only thing I know about Kimberly is that she died on October 10, 2013 at the age of 32 from a brain tumor. I met Kimberly’ sisters while strolling along the waterfront of Lake Superior one beautiful fall evening. My co-author, (of 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving it) Susan and I were still feeling slightly buzzed from the excitement of speaking to more than 500 guests at the tbaytel Luncheon of Hope in Thunder Bay, Ontario. One of the perks of being a cancer survivor is being given the opportunity to inspire others through our stories. We felt confident on that day that we had conveyed our message of empowerment and hope, not just for those facing cancer, but for anyone facing difficult times in their lives. Many guests approached us after the luncheon to speak to us personally and share their stories with us. Nothing is more rewarding than hearing that our message has touched someone’s life in a meaningful way. That is why we do what we do.

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Flo and Susan speak at the tbaytel Luncheon of Hope, October, 2015

While walking by the lakeside and chatting about the luncheon that evening, we noticed an attractive young woman on a skate board approaching us, with another young lady who was carrying a baby walking next to her.

“This is for you,” she said as she passed us a sandwich bag containing two cards. One card was a hand written note, with this message: “Our sister Kimberly passed away on October 10, 2013. She was only 32. She loved her coffee. Please use this to enjoy a coffee with a loved one in her memory.” The other card was a $5 gift card from Tim Horton’s coffee shop.

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My immediate thought was, “What a nice gesture, but I wonder if this is just a scheme to get money?” However, even though Susan was practically trying to force a $10 bill into her hand, the young lady adamantly refused to accept it.

“Kimberly was our sister,” she said, “One of her favorite ways to treat us was going to Tim Horton’s for a cup of coffee. We figured that the best way to honor her memory is to treat others to her favorite thing. Please help us to keep Kimberly’s memory alive by having a coffee on her, and enjoying it with someone you care about.”

Susan and I were both surprised and touched by this beautiful gesture. What a coincidence that the card found its way to two cancer survivors. I smiled as I tucked the card into my purse and wondered if Kimberly was secretly guiding her sisters to the card recipients.   The following morning, Susan and I were at the airport waiting for our flight, when I noticed a Tim Horton’s kiosk nearby.

Susan mostly does book promotions in the US, and I in Canada, so it is a rare treat when we can come together to work. She is not just my co-author, but also a good friend, and I was feeling kind of sad that our brief time together was coming to an end.

“Hey,” I said, “It’s been two years since we have been together and it could be another two before I see you again.   I am going to grab us a coffee and tea using Kimberly’s gift card, and we can enjoy it together before we catch our flights.”

We wanted to capture the moment of sharing our Tim Horton’s treat, but the airport waiting area was unusually empty. There was however, one lady sitting close by, so we asked her if she would take our picture.

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Flo and Susan enjoy a coffee and tea, compliments of Kimberly’s sisters

Soon, we found ourselves chatting with our photographer, Patricia, and would you believe that she also happened to be a cancer survivor! Coincidently, like Susan and I, she had also battled breast cancer. Her prognosis however, was much grimmer than ours. She had been diagnosed with advanced cancer, and was told that she had only six months to live. She attributes her survival to empowering herself with the best cancer treatments available to her, and by maintaining a strong sense of hope. Six years later she was not only alive, but also cancer free!

For many years, I have believed in the power of angels, and I truly believe that on that day, Kimberly was the angel who brought together three cancer survivors to share their stories and to bond, if only for a short while, in the sisterhood of survivorship. Coincidently, Susan and I had just spoken at a luncheon where our message centered around the themes of empowerment and hope. Meeting Patricia brought the experience full circle, and confirmed for us the importance of continuing to spread this message.

Patricia was the living proof of the message that Susan and I had shared with countless numbers of cancer survivors. She empowered herself by taking charge of her health and seeking the best medical treatments available to her. Then, despite a grim prognosis and seemingly insurmountable odds, she held on to hope and her faith in God. In doing so, she defied the odds and became a living miracle. Thank you Kimberly, and Kimberly’s sisters, for bringing us together on that day.   Thank you too for re-igniting my passion to keep sharing this message of empowerment and hope with others.

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Flo and Susan meet fellow breast cancer survivor, Patricia and gift her with our book.  Just paying it forward for Kimberly!