Tag Archive | breast cancer

What Are Soul Steps?

“What exactly are Soul Steps?” asked the reporter, as I struggled to put it into an easy to understand context.

“I guess you could call them life lessons,” I replied, “like when life throws you a curveball but you come out of it with wisdom that can only be gained through life experience.”

I then went on to tell him the story of how my son’s diagnosis of autism gave me one of those hard earned life lessons, which is Soul Step 42 in my new book, Soul Steps: 52 Ways to Reconnect with Spirit.

Here is a sneak peek into the book:

Excerpt from Soul Step 42: Acceptance

When my youngest son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, I suffered a loss. While Ben was still physically with me, the hopes and dreams I had for his future were suddenly taken from me. Although I did not realize it at the time, in retrospect I can see how I went through a text book case of the stages of grieving.

Finally, after months of intense sadness and feelings of loss, came acceptance. It came to me one night as I was praying my nightly prayer for my three children to be safe, healthy, and happy. It suddenly dawned on me that God was still answering my prayers. Ben was safe, he was healthy, and he was happy. Being given the label of autism did not make him cold or unloving. Ben was still the same sweet, kind, loving, smart, adorable little boy that he was before his diagnosis. I knew that there would be challenges ahead for both of us, but we would face these challenges together. I finally accepted his autism and only then was I at peace.

Natalie, Veronica, and I are three “ordinary” women who have lived through extraordinary life experiences which we share with you in our new book, Soul Steps: 52 Ways to Reconnect with Spirit. Collectively, we have lived through cancer, death of loved ones, depression, anxiety, divorce, betrayal, suffering and loss. But we came through it stronger and wiser than we ever imagined we could, and now we want to share our stories with YOU. In Soul Steps, you will read our personal life stories, but the real beauty of this book is that it is not really about us, it is about YOU! At the end of each chapter you, the reader, are guided to uncover the soul lessons of your life as you put each soul step into action.

Click here to learn more about the book that has been ranked one of the top 3 “Hot new releases” for spiritual books on Amazon.ca!

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Persevere: A Life With Cancer

In January, 2014, I wrote a post about Lisa Bonchek Adams, a women who was being publicly criticized for her choice to fight the breast cancer that was slowly killing her, rather than deny medical treatments and “slip gently” into death. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I supported Lisa’s right to fight.  Sadly, Lisa passed away in 2015 at the age of 45.  Since then, her mother and brother, Drs. Rita and Mark Bonchek, have complied a book of Lisa’s writings entitled, Persevere: A Life with Cancer
Reflections on love and loss, family and friendship, compassion and courage

I often get requests to do book reviews on my blog and I generally oblige.  However, when I read a portion of Lisa’s writing, I wanted to share her words with my readers, not out of a sense of obligation, but because they are so eloquent and moving, it would be a shame not to share.

Here is an excerpt from her book:

You Look Great; You’d Never Know

It’s true:

you’d never know.

I look great. I look healthy. I’m not gaunt or drawn or pale. I wear makeup most days, and some days I even wear boots with a heel on them.

I smile, I laugh. I take a slight jog up the front hall steps when I feel like it. I crack jokes, I roll my eyes when standing in a long line, I gossip with my friends.

I wear gloves a lot, I have to moisturize my feet and hands at least a dozen times a day. I buff my feet, I examine them for cracks and bleeding. I stick ice packs on them when they burn from the chemo. I can’t feel my fingertips, yet portions of them crack and peel and are painful and raw. I can’t hold a pen or twist off a bottle cap.

I take pills all day long. I’m swollen, I’m tired, my mind can’t stop racing.
I tell time by “on” weeks and “off” ones. Of course the doctors understand my situation. They know what this diagnosis means. Even ones that have nothing to do with cancer call to check on me.

When I go to my sons’ school some of the teachers and moms cry when they see me. “You look good,” they say. This is a compliment. Sometimes they say, “You don’t look sick at all. You’d never know.” That is shorthand for, “You don’t look like you’re dying but we know you are.”

I hear people in line to buy holiday gifts complain about the sniffly cold they have or the poor night’s sleep their child had. They might be complaining about something more serious, but still something that can be fixed. Time will heal what ails them. I am not so lucky.

I am jealous. I am jealous that this is their only medical concern. I’m not jealous of what they wear or the car they drive or the house they live in. I’m jealous of their health status.

I’m not in denial. This diagnosis is a nightmare. My life will always be full of chemo and side effects and worry and monitoring and drug refills and hospital visits. But my life will also be full of great memories, of laughter, of smiles. There will be tears. There will be pain. There will be heartache. But there will also be joy, and grace, and friendship.

I don’t know for how long. I don’t know if they will be in equal measure. They say I look good. They say, “You’d never know.” For now I know it’s true.

There will come a day when it’s not true. And they will lie. And I will know it. And someday, then, I will know the end is near. But that day is not today.

December 30, 2012

You can buy Lisa’s book here: www.lisasbook.com.

Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer: How You Can Really Make a Difference

I would like to introduce to you Joel and Rebekah Hughes, who live in Irvine, California. Rebekah is originally from Southern Oregon and Joel is a Southern California lifer. They often jab each other as to which place is better to live. But for better or worse, So-Cal is home.

At the age of 23, Rebekah was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer.   Her oncologist said that she was the youngest patient their office had ever seen with breast cancer. She made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy. She did seven months of chemotherapy and then three years of the hormone therapy maintenance drug, Herceptin.  When Rebekah had been cancer free for three years, she met Joel and the two were married one year later.

Just eight months after they wed,  Rebekah was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Stage 4 cancer is considered incurable. After many tests and scans, they learned that not only had Rebekah’s cancer returned, but it had metastasized (spread) to her liver, lungs, kidneys, bones, and brain. They found at least 9 tumors in her brain. One radiation oncologist that reviewed her scans said that even with treatment, she probably had 4-6 months to live. She was 26 years old.

Rebekah’s diagnosis and cancer remain a constant battle but a huge part of fighting her cancer is that they try to not let it dominate their lives. In fact, they try to live as though she does not have cancer.  They are both Christians, and their faith is a central focus of their lives.   They like to read, bargain hunt at garage sales and thrift stores, refurbish (upcycle) old furniture, decorate their house, hang out with friends and family, spend time with (Joel’s) kids, and watch Netflix in bed while eating ice cream (double fudge mouse tracks).  They also enjoy helping people who are hurting and struggling since they know that pain so well.

It is this desire to help others that inspired Joel to write this book

One of The Best Books for the Cancer Journey

How You Can Really Make a Difference in Helping a Loved-One with Cancer

7-10-18 Irvine, California

“Within two months, my dad and new young wife were both diagnosed with stage four cancer. My wife was only given 4-6 months to live. I didn’t even know what cancer was, except that it was really bad. I didn’t know what to do or say. The world fell out from below me and the future went black.”

When someone you love gets diagnosed with cancer, what do you say? What do you do? What do you NOT do? These questions and many others are answered in a new book: HELP! Someone I Love Has Cancer: How You Can Really Make a Difference. The answers come from a young couple who are in the trenches and valleys of fighting cancer and learning to love through it.

In 2014, Joel and Rebekah were married. Seven months later, Joel’s dad was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer. Two months later, at the age of 26, Rebekah was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. One chapter of life closed and a new chapter opened. Their cancer journey began.

They are now three years into the journey. Along the way, many people have come alongside to help: family, friends, strangers, and some out of the woodworks. Many are helpful. Joel calls them “Cancer Angels”.  Others try to help but end up doing just the opposite. Joel calls these folk “Well-Intentioned Dragons”. The book is clothed with many stories of encounters with these “dragons”. This book will help you become a Cancer Angel and, hopefully, not be one of the dragons.

“Most of the dragons think they are helping and have no idea that they are actually causing harm. I wrote this book to inspire people with our story, to help people learn what cancer is, and show people how to really help a friend or loved one walking the cancer journey.”

The book will be available on Amazon on 7-10-18. He is also giving it away FREE for a limited time here: http://www.cancercaretakerbook.com

Joel Hughes is a husband and father. He is also the author of In Your Corner (coming soon), co-producer of the movie A Brave Hope (coming soon), and director of Rebekah’s Hope. He holds degrees in Christian ministry and philosophy. Joel lives in Southern California with Rebekah and his two kids.

Contact Joel at: joelhughes63@gmail.com

contact@rebekahshope.org

 

www.cancercaretakerbook.com

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!

 

 

 

 

Healthy & Powerfully Feminine‏

Hi everyone!  I noticed a few people have come on board with the “Healthier Eating Challenge”.  In case you missed it, you can find my post (and recipes) on kale HERE, and my quinoa post HERE, with 3 more super-foods to feature in the coming weeks.

But, let’s take a break from that.  I have recently cyber-met a lovely lady who is taking on a fabulous project to help cancer survivors everywhere.  In this post, she tells us about her project and links us to her site, where you can find more information.  So please take a few minutes to read Mireille’s post:

M

Mireille Parker is a transformational life coach who works with female entrepreneurs to incorporate their femininity into their business for more ease, flow and fun in their lives. After going through a health crisis with breast cancer, Mireille knows the importance of empowering our bodies to heal, developing our feminine essence and balancing it with our masculine to work smarter, not harder, and putting the structures and boundaries in place that support our well-being. Originally from Australia, she is now living an active life in Switzerland and has recently completed her first novel, Wonderlust. She is also a dancer and yoga-fan, who balances green juice with champagne, prioritises weekly massages and loves being in nature. 

What does it mean to be a healthy and powerfully feminine woman?

 

How would it feel to have a healthy relationship with your body, to be in communication with her, to be proud of your imperfections, to cultivate gratitude and tend to your mind, conscious of what you’re putting in to it just as you are with your body?

 

Imagine being pleasureful, playful, fun and full of joy and passion, sensual and present, lit up from the inside, appreciating your beauty, pampering yourself and being in a loving, supportive community.

 

This is who you are. This is your female essence. You are vibrant like the trees and the sky. You are alive like water and sunlight. You are feminine, powerful and healthy.

 

It’s a gift to be a woman.

 

For years we’ve tried to keep up, we’ve pushed to get ahead and become disconnected to our bodies.  But this is a new era. It’s the age of the healthy and powerfully feminine woman.

 

In the Healthy and Powerfully Feminine Interview Series, starting September 22nd, we’ll be going deep about not only physical/external health, but also how to be healthy on an emotional and spiritual level.

 

I’ll be interviewing ten incredible women from around the world, including…

Women who have healed menstrual and digestive issues, precancerous conditions & endometriosis.

Your very own Susan Gonzales, stage III cancer survivor and advocate for holistic healing.

Plus, mentors on feminine leadership, women’s empowerment, health & nutrition, lifestyle design for moms and wellness and weight-loss through pleasure & sensuality.

We’re talking about how to empower our bodies to heal and be healthy, how to create more flow, ease and fun in our lives, developing intuition and guidance, the importance of beauty, how to deal with our emotions and cultivating our feminine power while being successful in our careers.

 

For more information, come join us at www.healthyandpowerfullyfeminine.com

Meet Gai Comans!

My first conversation with Gai Comans went something like this:
Gai: Hi Flo!  Are you ready to do your interview for Survivor’s Secrets?
Me: (Laughing) I think you have the wrong day, Gai, our interview is scheduled for Wednesday.
Gai: Yes.  Today. Wednesday.
Me: No Gai, today is Tuesday.
Silence
Me: Where are you calling from?
Gai: Australia
Me: Oh.  I guess it is Wednesday there.
Gai and I did eventually get our time zones worked out and managed to connect.  I am fascinated with the work that Gai is doing on behalf of breast cancer survivors, and so I would like to share her story with you.
Gai
Gai Comans is a health and wellness advocate who has a passion for helping women thrive after their treatment for  breast cancer.  Gai’s interest in helping breast cancer survivors was sparked by a life-changing cancer diagnosis in 2000, at the age of 38.  Given a 1 in 10 chance of survival, it was time to revisit her choices and the impact of them on her health.  At the time of her own diagnosis Gai was working as a senior executive in corporate, where she held senior leadership roles for 15 years.   When she was diagnosed, being a businesswomen, she dealt with both life fear and career fear.   Gai is now focussed on giving survivorship a makeover and is starting and holding global conversations on the impact and challenges of survivorship and talking about the challenges, which are usually held in secrecy, in an open forum.
Q:  Gai, please tell us a bit about your background.

 

A: I had a pretty ordinary life, really.  I was fit and healthy, working as a corporate executive and I had just married my long-term sweetheart.  Then, we had the party of the decade during the Sydney Olympics. We had to put on quite a show, but it had to top my wedding. Just kidding!  But, it was awesome.

The day we were moving into our new home, I discovered a lump.  No big deal, I thought.  I had discovered a lump in the other breast a year earlier, which turned out to be nothing.  I wasn’t so lucky the second time around.  And everything changed just a few short weeks before Christmas in 2000.

It had taken three months to confirm a diagnosis of breast cancer.  It was small, but extremely aggressive and it had already spread to my lymph nodes.  I was given a one in 10 chance of surviving.  I fought through 10 months of treatment, to emerge on the other side as a cancer survivor.

Q: Why did you start this project?

A: When I finished treatment, I was expecting that I would be ready to party. The reality was very different though.  I had been so strong all through treatment, but when treatment finished the reality started to really hit home.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. As my diagnosis was life threatening, I wasn’t quite sure if I was waiting to live or die and I dove into a short depression.  The worst part was that I thought I was the only person that this ever happened to and from there; guilt and shame took over for a while.

I started this project because if I was aware that this might have happened, I would have found the support I needed instead of thinking that I had to face it alone.  I now understand that this is a very common occurrence for breast cancer survivors. I wish I would have known that then.  This project is about helping people understand the reality of survivorship.

Q: What is Survivor Secrets all about?

A: Survivor Secrets is a conversation or perhaps a narrative might be a better way to explain it.  I wanted to provide a platform for cancer survivors to share their insights as a community, so that others may benefit from our experience.  Hindsight is such a wonderful thing and particularly when you face a life-threatening diagnosis.  I also felt it was important to share the conversations we generally have within our community, but to share them publicly.

Sharing the reality publicly can help the survivor to heal, because then they know they are not facing the trauma alone.  I believe it can provide a way for people to maybe heal a little easier, with more understanding and support.  But, it can also help their family, friends and colleagues to understand and get a little more insight into the life of someone diagnosed with cancer—some insights into the challenges, the fears and tears, the reality, rather than the pink wash of how you are supposed to “do cancer”.

Q: What have you learned from Survivor Secrets?

 

A: I have learned so much.  I loved the conversations with the ladies. Each one of them opened their hearts and provided a treasure chest full of insights.

As I have spoken more broadly about this project, it has given me a much deeper understanding of the real impact of a cancer diagnosis on family, friends, colleagues, husbands and children.  My diagnosis was personal for me, but in a way, it was personal for them too. I think I am just starting to really understand that.

Another thing that I have learned is that everyone has a survivorship story.  It isn’t always cancer, but it is something very deep and personal for them.  I believe our survivorship stories connect us all deeply if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to share our secrets.

survivor secrets

 For your FREE copy of Breast Cancer Survivor Secrets, see my last post:  https://perksofcancer.com/2014/03/02/a-free-gift-for-breast-cancer-survivors/

My Tribe

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At the end of a hard day’s work (and by the way, my REAL work begins when my paid job ends), after I cook, clean, do homework, pack the lunch bags, do a load of laundry, and get my youngest off to bed, there is nothing I enjoy more than pouring myself a glass of wine and checking out the latest Scientific Journals.  By “Scientific Journals”, of course, I mean Facebook.

While some people are very private and selective about their Facebook endeavors, I admit to being quite open about mine.  In fact, in my personal opinion, if you are the type to get upset if someone with whom you are not intimately acquainted “likes” or (God forbid) comments on a post you made, maybe you need to look for another form of social media.  I think they should invent a new form for those people who really value their privacy.  They couldn’t call it “Facebook” of course, as the “face” is the most exposed part of the body. I think “Butt-book” would be a more appropriate name, as that is a part of the anatomy that is private and we normally only expose to our nearest and dearest, but I digress……

I don’t know how I got off on that tangent, but the point I am trying to make is this: I am not overly cautious or selective when it comes to accepting friend requests on Facebook.  I just assume, rightly or wrongly, that those who want to add me either:

  1.  Know me and want to keep in touch
  2. Are fans of my blog/book
  3. Are trying to add to the numbers on their own Facebook page or
  4. Are just plain nosey

I am fine either way.  I may be naïve in thinking that these Facebookers are not insane criminals who are out to harm me and my family in some way.  However, so far I have been right in judging them as safe approximately 100% of the time.

In recent weeks I added three new friends to my Facebook repertoire.  One of these ladies I had met briefly at a cancer survivors convention.  The other two I have never met.    All three of these are young mothers who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer (one with a reoccurrence).

I cannot begin to explain to you the terror that comes with a cancer diagnosis.  The fear of dying an untimely and painful death usually takes the forefront of these fears.  Then, in many cases, there is the extreme sorrow that comes when thinking of your children and how they will survive without their mother.  What lasting psychological damage will be done to your beautiful babies if their mom is taken in her prime?  Will you ever see them graduate from high school?  Get married? Or hold their own babies?   Breast cancer also generally brings with it unsightly physical changes as well.  While “creeping” my three new Facebook friend’s photos, I was struck by their physical beauty.  Judging by their clothes, make-up and impeccable hair, it is obvious that they take pride in their appearance.  I imagine that these  women have been haunted by thoughts of losing their breasts and their beautiful hair, while gaining the puffy “moon face” features brought on by chemotherapy.

I am sure that my new facebook friends are experiencing all of these fears, plus feelings of anger, depression, hopelessness, and utter devestation.  Yet you won’t find them boo-hooing, “poor me” on Facebook!  To read their posts, you will find only strength, courage and determination.  As one said, “I’m ready to fight like a girl!”; and another: “This will not define me.”  THAT, my friends, is a Survivor’s Attitude!

These women are part of my “tribe”, a secret sisterhood that nobody chooses to be a part of, yet when you join you instantly become bonded with your “pink sorority.”  That’s why these women felt safe in reaching out to me.  Having been there, I am able to offer to them encouragement and hope from a place of knowing.

Last night, I was reading a book called Divine Secrets of the Ta-Ta Sisterhood, by Joanna Chapman. (A great read which I would recommend, especially to those just starting treatment.) I came across a letter that she had written to her “sisters”, i.e those currently fighting cancer.  There is a part of this letter that really resonated with me, and I would like to share it with you, my new Facebook friends, as you face your battle:

I wish I could wrap you up in a fuzzy blanket of your favorite color-which I am guessing is probably not pink.  I’d sit you down beside a cozy fire and bring you hot chai tea and chocolate croissants.  Fill your book-shelves with new releases from your favorite authors and your iPod with soothing music.  Invite your closest friends over-the ones who could make you laugh, but would also let you curse and cry. 

When you were tired, I’d help you to a comfy bedroom overlooking the ocean, where the sounds of the waves could lull you to sleep.  I’d scatter scented candles and framed photos of your favorite memories on the dresser and nightstand.  I’d help you write letters to your loved ones.  I’d hold your hand whenever you were scared until you no longer needed me.

Thinking of you, wishing you fortitude, comfort and peace.

Love, Florence