Sunday, October 27, 2013


--> I grew up in the Bible belt in a family that wasn’t religious. Setting aside the inherent difficulties in that, I always associated faith with religion, and didn’t think it had much of a place in my life.  Though I still don’t consider myself religious, I am deeply spiritual, and becoming more so each day. Last spring, I began to focus on the role of faith in my life, and I to really trust in something bigger than myself more fervently than I have before.

Though I have always been a positive and hopeful person, there was a sort of block when it came to faith. I wanted evidence before I could trust. I believed that science and faith were at odds with each other, and that faith required a suspension of reason. I wanted to believe some of the things I was reading and hearing about the nature of the universe and the metaphysical, but I was skeptical and sometimes even cynical.

I now see that they are actually intertwined, and there have been a number of scientific studies that have proven the power of faith such as those that confirmed the healing power of prayer. Quantum physics is gaining traction as an explanation of how our thoughts affect our physical surroundings and circumstances. And while his experiments have been criticized as unscientific, Masaru Emoto, demonstrated that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water.

His experiments involved exposing water samples to concentrated thoughts of either a positive or a negative nature. Thoughts such as “you make me sick,” “I hate you,” etc. were juxtaposed with loving and positive thoughts. Water frozen and examined under a microscope showed incomplete, malformed and distorted crystals from the negative thoughts and beautiful, symmetrical, colorful patterns from the positive ones.

In March, I participated in a program for young adult cancer survivors in Hawaii. This surf camp asked us to choose a camp name that represented our power, and I chose Kale‘le’, which means “to have faith” in Hawaiian. I chose this, not because I already had an abundance of faith, but because I was seeking to foster more of it in my life. For a few months now, I have awoken to a sign above my bed that reads, “I trust that I will be taken care of.” And I really do.

In the past, I worried a great deal. I didn’t necessarily express my worries to others, but internally, I was always focused on what was “wrong,” and on the problems in my life. Now, I choose to focus on the positives instead. It’s a subtle shift with profound implications. The circumstances of my life haven’t changed dramatically, but my inner state about them has. I am much calmer, more peaceful, grateful, and loving in my thoughts.

I have often viewed religion as a sort of crutch, giving the faithful a certainty that was comforting, no doubt, but provided little basis in reality. Sure, it was helpful in getting through day-to-day life, but wasn’t it also folly of a sort to believe in something for which there was no evidence? Now I see that there is no downside to faith. If we believe in something bigger than ourselves and are wrong, we’ve lost nothing, but if that belief gives us comfort in life, we’ve gained a great deal.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Every spring I seem to experience a slump. I don’t know how else to describe it. Cocooning maybe.  I travel a ton for work, and to visit friends and family around the country, and it is usually following a long spate of travel that I come home, have some down time, and feel the strong urge to wear yoga pants all day and not leave the house. This usually looks like hours of watching old episodes of a favorite tv show, or reading the stack of books piled next to my bed. Sometimes I even manifest an illness to give me an excuse to lay around all day. I don’t want to see friends or talk on the phone. I don’t want to cook. I want to eat ice cream and take long baths.

For most of May, I have been in full-on slump mode. A bad cold kept me in bed for much of a recent weekend, and though I rallied to get those things done that needed to be, including a trip to Vegas to speak to young adult cancer survivors, and some pressing work and writing projects, I have also spent long hours on the sofa playing solitaire on my phone while watching television. I saw two movies in one week, and did a lot of laundry and organizing. These are all clearly avoidance tactics.

My book deadline is looming, and as this is my third draft, I am feeling a fair amount of pressure to get it right this time, and a bit overwhelmed by what it will entail to do that. I should be writing, and I guess technically I am (though this isn’t my book), but I’m slumping instead. I have forced myself to do a bit of clean-up editing and some outlining of the last three chapters, but it’s not the productive chapter a day schedule that I managed when I was in Hawaii a month ago.

It is so rare for me to have two weekends in one month not only in town, but with little on the calendar, and I should be making the most of them. Here’s the thing. . . maybe I am. Maybe slumping is what I need right now to re-energize. Maybe indulging my laziness during some rare downtime shouldn’t produce guilt, but relaxation instead. Maybe I need some mindless activity for a while so I can focus and write later.

My chiropractor was adjusting me this week and he did some energy clearing as well, which he has never really done before. I’m not sure what prompted it, but one of the things he cleared was around this very issue. He asked me to repeat the following phrase over and over again while he did some work, until he felt it was cleared: “I am a good person, and I deserve some time for myself.”

The first time I could barely say it because I was choked up, crying with the realization that I really always feel as if I need to be productive in some way. This has always been true for me, but it has become a more pressing feeling since I began working for myself. When I had a job, I could often leave work at work and enjoy my time away including weekends, but now it sometimes feels as I am never off. The pressure I put on myself to do more, write more, read more, know more and produce more is always there.

Maybe that’s why spring cleaning exists. We clean our homes to get ready for summer, and we should clean out old, limiting beliefs as well. I AM a good person, and I DO deserve some time for myself, even when a book deadline is looming, a new business is being started, and a six month consulting contract is drawing to a close making a new source of income somewhat pressing. If I don’t take time for me, I will be useless to complete any of those other items as well.

Monday, April 1, 2013


A cool breeze rifles my hair from the hammock under the vanilla tree just steps from the aqua blue waters of the Pacific ocean off the coast of Maui. A week ago I arrived as a newcomer to this island, and a stranger to the fourteen other cancer survivors who shared this special place with me. Now we, as well as the staff and other teachers we have had the good fortune to interact with this week are ohana – “family” in Hawaiian.

This incredible experience was provided to us through an organization called Athletes for Cancer whose mission is to enrich lives impacted by cancer through the healing power of the elements and the tenacity of the human spirit. They fulfill that mission with surfing, stand up paddle boarding and snowboarding camps for cancer survivors in Hawaii and Hood River, Oregon. Camp Koru is healing in so many ways. At the outset, just the connection with the incredible beauty of this place and its natural wonders: the water, fragrant flowering plants and the towering volcanic peaks provide a sense of peace not readily available in the fast-pace of the mainland.

For some, just being in the ocean was a new experience that required them to overcome a fear of the unknown. For others, sharing their story for the first time with other survivors was an opportunity to connect with those who have been there. Putting words to an experience that engenders such turbulent emotions is not always easy, but definitely feels safer with someone who has walked a mile in your shoes. With our scars, buckets of meds and all their assorted side effects, sometimes unusual diets, prosthetic and missing parts, not to mention the emotional impacts of facing your own mortality, we can sometimes feel like misfits among the general population. But here, we are just like everyone else, or even realize perhaps that we didn’t have it so bad, after all.

As it is National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week (April 1-7) it is appropriate to reflect on how far we've come. Thirty, or even twenty, years ago, there were no services for young adults with cancer, and probably most oncologists wouldn't even recognize that young adults got cancer at all. Now, there are a number of programs, camps and other services for those of us diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 40.

The natural world has always been healing for me, the water especially. Just hearing the waves lapping against the shore as I drifted to sleep at night soothed my soul. Returning to camp each evening after surfing and paddling all morning and hiking or exploring coastal towns in the afternoon with aching muscles and a kind of satisfying weariness made sleep welcome and easy despite less than luxurious, though completely adequate, accommodations. The food, however, was world-class. As someone with a really healthy diet, I always give a fairly significant amount of thought to what and where I’m going to eat. It was so great to have incredible, gluten-free, veggie-laden meals with vegan options prepared for us each day by an amazing chef who volunteers his services for the camps.

Excited to paddle an outrigger canoe, I had no idea how much the blessing and Hawaiian ceremony conducted by a native before and after our paddle would impact me. With tears streaming down my face, I listened to the prayers in wonder even though I didn’t fully understand their meaning. Kimokeo’s presence alone was so powerful, and his chants, songs and blessings filled me with hope and peace.

I came to Hawaii to rest, and to learn to trust. We were each tasked with choosing a power name for ourselves during camp, and I choose Kale`le`, which means “to have faith” in Hawaiian. At the beginning of the year, I left my job of five years with a nonprofit I founded in order to serve single cancer survivors. Even though I have accepted the fact that I am a “starter,” it is still scary to take the risk to start something new, again. A six-month consulting gig ends in June, and I don’t know where my income will come from after that or how much it will be or what my work will look like.

An intuitive told me once that I was like a dolphin (an animal I have strongly identified with) confident that there would always be more fish. I haven’t quite been able to embrace that philosophy yet as fear of having enough money and being able to pay for my health insurance is ever present. Coupled with that is the fact that I am currently in the middle of a recurrence of ovarian cancer with six masses in my abdomen that aren’t causing any problems yet, but could at any time, requiring surgery. It definitely requires all my trust and faith that things will work out, that I will land on my feet, that I will have the opportunity to make a difference and serve single survivors while supporting myself in the process.


Sunday, January 6, 2013


Sobbing uncontrollably, I began to take stock of everything I was dealing with. Why did it all have to implode at the same time, I wondered?  I could handle one at a time, I thought, but financial, relationship, work and health problems all at once just seemed like too much.  Within two days, it felt as if my entire life had completely fallen apart: medical bills, health issues, relationship trauma and work frustrations all days after receiving my final paycheck from the nonprofit I founded five years ago.

I was stuck, and I couldn’t see a way out on my own, so I reached out for coaching from my friend Mike who helped me distinguish the underlying story. I really get that it isn’t the circumstances in our lives that cause us upset, it is the story we make up about them.  Mine is this: when things go wrong, or right, when I am in despair or when I want to celebrate, I feel really alone. This doesn’t show up for me as a story though. It is REAL. I AM alone. This time, I saw even more to this story: the thought that I will always be alone, and that I will have only myself to rely on.

Bringing the story to the surface helped me see exactly how much it had been running the show for so long. When things go wrong, I have a fantasy that it would be easier to deal with if I had a partner. Financial catastrophe wouldn’t be so bad with another income to fall back on. Health scares would be easier with someone there to hold my hand or give me a hug. My work life is so difficult because I am a one-woman show and don’t have support.

Distinguishing the story, lessened its impact on me. I recognized immediately that it wasn’t in any way true. I am NOT alone. Within the first hour of my crisis, three people in my life gave me significant support. They all dropped whatever they were doing to come to my aid, and what they provided made a huge difference for me. After 48 hours of breakdowns, I had a breakthrough, and regained power over my circumstances.

Later that week, I received results from the ultrasound my oncologist ordered when I experienced some distressing symptoms. I had expected to hear from him on Thursday as the technician told me she would send the results to him that day. Instead, I got them on Saturday at exactly the right time, in exactly the right place for me to deal with them powerfully. Are you aware of divine timing in your own life?

I was in Atlanta for a leadership program when my oncologist left me a voicemail that the two masses we’d been watching for a year were both still there, and one had grown somewhat significantly. Additionally, he said, there are four new masses since my last ultrasound six months before. This call came just before the dinner break, and I was trying to figure out how I was going to find a group to go to dinner with and find some privacy to talk with my doctor at the same time. I was talking to the program leader, and dealing with my own emotions about the news when my friend walked up behind me. I was staying with him for the weekend since we were both in the same program, but I thought he had already left for dinner. This was perfect.

“He will take care of me,” I told the leader. I didn’t know just how true that statement was when I made it. Shaun is studying to be a chiropractor, and has a brother who is a cancer survivor. He introduced me to his friend Dee, an energy healer and shaman who was planning to spend the dinner break with him. Wow! I was with the perfect two people! I explained what was going on, and these two amazing healers provided just the support I needed.

I want to back up a minute to explain that I believe strongly that every ache, pain, disease and malfunction in our bodies is preceeded by an emotional trigger. I first discovered this when a seriously stiff neck led a friend to recommend Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life. Rigidity was associated with neck pain, according to the book. When it asked, “who is being a pain in your neck?,” I knew exactly what the problem was. When I spoke to the “pain in my neck” and apologized for my inflexibility, my pain went away, and it hasn’t come back.

I know from this book that cancer is correlated with a deep hurt or resentment, and I had been looking for a few years to uncover what this might be for me. It wasn’t in any way obvious. I don’t have any serious trauma in my past. I had a happy childhood, supportive friends, a great life, really. I have struggled with my finances for as long as I could remember, so I wondered briefly if it might have something to do with that, but it didn’t really resonate.

So, as I was sitting between Dee and Shaun and receiving healing energy from them both, Dee asked, “What is the hurt?” I told her I had been trying to figure this out, and it just wasn’t revealing itself to me. Her intuition told her it had something to do with the fact that I couldn’t have kids. I immediately shot that down, because while it was true that I had a hysterectomy and couldn’t now have kids (Dee did not know this, by the way), I had never wanted kids, so that couldn’t be it.

We kept exploring. She asked questions that came to her. I cried a lot, and answered them as best I could. Suddenly, it hit me. This was tied to the story I had distinguished earlier in the week – it was about being alone! While I never felt the pressure of a biological clock, and refused when my oncologist suggested we freeze some eggs when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 36; I always thought someday, I would meet an amazing man, and I would want to have HIS kids. This wasn’t about whether or not I wanted kids, but that now, that option wasn’t available to me. Even if the amazing man showed up, I couldn’t have his children. Again, seeing the story allowed me the opportunity to release it, and the deep hurt and resentment that came along with it.

Is it any surprise that of all the aspects of having cancer I could have chosen to write about in this blog, I have focused on being single? Feeling alone is clearly the central theme for me. It is likely the deep hurt that triggered my illness to begin with, and it is the area I have chosen to focus on providing support for others. It is incredible to me that it could have remained hidden for so long, but it was revealed exactly at the time it needed to be. I am at a crucial point with my book about being single with cancer, and it is obvious to me now that I must write more about this. I know I’m not alone in feeling alone, and I am hopeful that my own revelations will help others heal as well.