Friday, July 30, 2010


It is so easy to get wrapped up in what is missing from our lives. The lack of boyfriend, fulfilling job or fat paycheck can loom large in our thoughts causing us frustration and disappointment. We tell ourselves that we need certain things to be happy, which only makes us “needy.”

Our thoughts then become a self-fulfilling prophecy, insuring that our focus on what’s lacking will create more of the same. We say things to ourselves that we would never allow others to say to us. These negative thoughts such as, “I will always be alone,” “I’m not good enough,” “I’m too fat,” contribute to a deep feeling of unworthiness that will keep us from getting what we want.

Oprah’s promotion, several years ago, of Sarah Ban Breathnach made gratitude journals all the rage for a while. Her books instructed us to write down five things a day we were grateful for. At the time, I had just broken my ankle in three places, couldn’t drive, walk or carry anything because of my crutches, and wasn’t feeling particularly grateful. But I started a gratitude journal anyway and was amazed at how easy it was to come up with five or more things a day to thank the universe for.

Focusing on and appreciating what we have is the best way I know to create more good things in our lives. Let’s face it - just by virtue of living in the United States or another first-world country, we have it better than most people in the world. Access to clean water, healthy food and medical care are givens in our lives. We are surrounded by abundance and comfort, and somehow we still find a way to lament the fact that we haven’t had a vacation in a while.

Over the years, I have often complained about “being alone.” In between boyfriends or during a dry dating spell, as friends around me got married and started families, I felt sorry for myself for what was missing. The loneliness, and sometimes even despair, was so palpable in my life that it blinded me to all the good things. The truth is that I have never been alone. I could literally drown in the sea of love in which I have been fortunate enough to swim my entire life.

Getting cancer was a fantastic reminder of just how many people care about me. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from friends, family, co-workers, people I hadn’t seen or been in touch with for years, friends of friends, religious communities and cancer-related organizations just to name a few. I received more than 300 cards, not to mention all the flowers, gifts, meals and visits. Oh, and the people in my life raised nearly $10,000 for ovarian cancer research in my honor.

I am astounded that I could be in the midst of all of that and still feel alone in any way, shape or form. I may live alone in a one-bedroom condo, work from home without colleagues around and file my taxes as a single person, but I am FAR from alone! I am truly and deeply loved by so many people. If you took stock of your life, you would realize that you are too. Sometimes it takes something “bad” such as an illness or injury to help us realize all the “good” in our lives.

Recently, a friend from high school committed suicide. I hadn’t seen him in years or been in touch with him other than becoming Facebook friends. He still lived in our rural hometown in Kentucky and had recently gotten a well-publicized DUI. Speculation runs high that it strongly contributed to his decision to take his own life. Many on Facebook have commented about how many times they considered reaching out, but didn’t. He clearly felt desperate and alone to have made the decision that he did.

There are times in life when we all feel alone and lonely. That feeling is not reserved for those of us who are single or divorced. It is possible to be standing in a river of love and support and feel as if you are dying of thirst. And you don’t have to create an illness or injury in your life to be reminded of the love that is there. Just reach out. It is when we are feeling the most alone and vulnerable that we have the most difficult time opening up and sharing what feels shameful to us.

I am profoundly grateful for the love of my family and so many friends, and I love my life so much! I know that it will be enhanced when I find a partner to share it with, but it’s pretty freaking amazing right now. Take stock of what you have, and I know you’ll feel the same way. And if you haven’t done it in a while, reach out and tell someone in your life how much they mean to you.


Originally written May 23, 2010

Today is my four-year cancerversary. I was diagnosed at age 36 with a rare form of ovarian cancer, but I was lucky. We caught it early, and treatment was successful. Approximately 10 months after my initial diagnosis, I was declared cancer-free, and all of the follow-ups have been positive ever since. While the physical symptoms of cancer and the side effects from treatment have left my body, the emotional and psychological impacts likely never will completely.

Even though I am among many survivors who have declared cancer one of the best things that ever happened to me, there are still psychological downsides that arise when I least expect it – sometimes I recognize them and their source immediately, and other times, they are completely unconscious, and yet, the impact is still there. My story is not unique, and one aspect of it has resonated for me, and also with others who are part of this club none of us chose to join.

Cancer is tough, and I believe that even when surrounded by the best team in the world made up of friends and family, a significant other, great doctors, a supportive workplace, etc. etc, in the end, each person still goes through cancer alone. No one else can ever really understand what it feels like. When you are single, that lonely feeling can be exponentially greater. Even with all the supportive elements above, not having someone there 24/7 to support you during the darkest hours can be really hard. Just being single can sometimes bring up feelings of unworthiness or despair. Adding a life-threatening illness on top of that can be a big double whammy!

A recent survey of single cancer survivors highlighted some common themes:

· Nearly 80% report feeling alone.

· Just over 83% experience body image issues from scarring or other cancer side effects such as weight gain, missing body parts or hair loss.

· 65% have concerns about fertility.

· Almost 85% feel anxiety or inadequacy about dating and sexuality because of the above.

The top needs expressed by this population were:

· Connections with other similar survivors (77%)

· A book or other information about dealing with cancer as a single person (67%)

· Information about dating/sexuality (62%)

· Healing touch such as reiki, massage, etc. (61%)

For more than three years now, I have been talking about finding a way to serve this segment of the cancer survivor population. Even before I finished treatment, people who read my regular online updates suggested that I write a book, and I have been writing a monthly column about my experiences as a single survivor since 2007. You can see the archives and read them each month here:

I have also immersed myself in the cancer community attending summits and young adult alliance meetings with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, participating in cancer camps and retreats from kayaking to meditation, serving as an “Angel” for two different organizations and becoming particularly involved with groups serving young adults. The people I have met along the way have been amazing. They have helped me feel WAY less alone, and been so supportive as I try to figure out how best to serve singles with cancer. After three years of talking, I am finally beginning to gain some momentum, and I am thrilled to report that three events are in the works:

1. Canoeing & Connection: An Adventure for Singles with Cancer August 27-29, 2010 This three-day canoe trip on the Colorado River is for single survivors who are 21 and older and at least three months post-treatment. Sponsored by Centennial Canoe Outfitters and Tamika & Friends, this trip promises to be a fun and relaxing weekend in the beautiful canyons of Colorado and Utah. Go here for more information:

2. Singles with Cancer: Bootcamp Date and Location TBD (possibly November 2010) Sponsored by i2y – The I’m Too Young for This Cancer Foundation, this one day program will focus on the issues single survivors say are most important to them: dating anxiety, sexuality, body image, fertility, etc.

3. Love and Power: A Relationship Retreat for Singles with Cancer Valentines 2011 Offered in cooperation between Revolutionary Wisdom and Tamika & Friends, this retreat will address issues specific to singles with cancer while also delving into something deeper. It will not just be a workshop, but a weekend to help you tap into what is important to you and to connect with others. Love. Companionship. Intimacy and sexuality. These are vital aspects of our most intimate relationships in life, and finding ways to enhance and support these aspects of our relationships is important. For those of us who are single, these aspects are often the primary reasons we seek to enter into new relationships. Yet there is something greater which is possible -- a Soulful Relationship.

If you are interested in being involved with any of these events either as a planner or participant, please contact me at