* Thanks Captain America

Captain America, the first Avenger. He was confident yet humble; hardworking and willing to serve his country. One of his favorite quotes was, “I could do this all day”, meaning he never gave up.  No matter what came his way, he met the challenge with everything he had to give.

There aren’t many things I feel like I could do all day except maybe spending time with my husband, children and grandchildren, reading, walking on the beach and writing in my journal which I then use to create my blog posts. Actually, that’s not a bad list. Captain America was passionate about the work he did as an Avenger and it showed. I, too, am passionate about the things on this list. I hope it shows.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Beach Music

Beach Music

One day last summer while sitting on the beach and doing a little journaling, I decided to write down words associated with the beach that started with the letter B. I looked, I listened and then I closed my eyes and felt. Here’s my list….

Blissful                                   Besties                    Bathing Beauties

Breakers                               Beautiful                   Boats

Books                                     Blue                        Beneficial

Breeze                                   Beach Bags              Bounty

Blankets                                Basking                    Birds  

Breathtaking

This list might not mean a lot to you but when I read these words I am taken to a place, an oasis of sorts, where I let everything go and focus on the here and now. In our busy lives these days, that’s not something that happens very often.

So, I have a very important assignment for you. Go to your place where you let go with journal in hand. Yes, it has to be a journal because once you do this, you’re going to want to do it again! Look. Listen. Feel. Write it all down and come back to it when you need to feel grounded. Learning to just be is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It also helps you to be a better person for those around you. Today, I’ll just listen to my beach music.

Blessings, Cindy J           

* Shattered Pieces

Have you ever dropped a glass on a tile floor? If you have, you know that it goes everywhere and it is a pain to clean up. Months after the incident you’ll still find shards of glass at random places. I can promise that’s one glass you will never be able to put back together. The impact of the fragile glass on the tile floor just creates a force that packs a powerful punch. It is broken beyond repair.

Many times, we feel like our lives are like that; that we’ll never be able to put the pieces back together after a serious illness or a tragic event. Some people don’t. They just can’t figure out how to put the broken, scattered pieces of their life into a pile to starting sorting through what can be repaired. All they see is the mess and it becomes overwhelming to the point they cannot move forward.

I’ll be honest, there have been times through this cancer journey and the years of survivorship that I have been that broken glass. There are days when I feel like there is no way to pick up the pieces of the latest setback and figure out a way to start living again. That’s when I search to find that one single shard that seems salvable and think “maybe I can use this to create something new and different”. It doesn’t work every time, sometimes things can’t be fixed, but if it can be remade then I want to be willing to try.

In all honesty, I don’t do this alone. I have a protector that shows me where that shard is located and He helps me find a way to carry on. His name is Jesus and without Him, I would not have the strength that I need to walk this cancer road and pick up the pieces, one at a time, over and over again.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Random Acts of Kindness

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to attend a yoga class on the beautiful Yoga Dock in downtown Southport, NC. Just being there listening to the waves, the wind, the wildlife is an act of kindness to myself! Before class started, I told the instructor that I wanted to pay for someone else to take the class as a random act of kindness. We decided it would be the last person to arrive at the dock.

Turns out the last person was a breast cancer survivor like me and this was the first time she had taken a yoga class. Her positive spirit and zest for life blessed me way more than I ever could have blessed her. You just never know when a blessing is waiting to happen.

Recently, a fellow Triple Negative Breast cancer survivor reached out to me because she found my blog while searching online and was encouraged that I was still thriving, as I like to say, after 12 years of survivorship. Her words of encouragement brought tears to my eyes. She made me feel like my writing was worthwhile. It wasn’t exactly a random act but it surely was kindness.

You just never know if your act of kindness, random or not, is just the thing someone else needs at that exact moment. Now go spread your joy and be kind to someone today!

* The Cottage

Refreshed. That’s how I feel after spending time at what I like to call my cottage. It’s actually just a small house in a neighborhood that’s about 15 minutes from the beach. It reminds me of the first home Eddie and I owned in the town of Edenton. It too was near the water, the Albemarle Sound, and I loved that little house.

The house originally belonged to my youngest son. He bought it when he first got out of college and needed a place to live near the high school where he would be teaching in the small coastal town of Southport. When he needed extra space for his growing family, Eddie and I bought it as our getaway place and as a plus, we could visit more with his family. I have since renamed it “The Cottage”.

When I drive into the driveway it’s like I leave my real life behind and focus more on simplicity.  We only have the things we need here. It’s sparsely decorated with older furniture and the upkeep is minimal. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my fulltime home and it is a beautiful place but here I seem to be able to let go of my worries. It’s quiet and I focus more on my writing because there’s no TV! I find comfort when I spend a day at the beach. I talk more to God and listen to Him more.

I love being able to share this cottage with my family. It gives them a place to refresh as well. That brings me joy. I know I am blessed to be able to have “The Cottage” for this season in my life. I hope you can find a place even if it’s in your own backyard that you can go to and let go of what troubles you for a while. I pray that you come home refreshed.

Blessings, Cindy J

* A Mama’s Heart

I became a Mama 38 years ago when Ryan Thomas was born, the week after Mother’s Day. Then almost 5 years later, I became the Mama of two boys when Sam was born. Even though both of my sons are no longer boys but grown men, I’m still their Mama or Mom as they’ve always called me. A Mama’s heart never forgets that first time you feel your baby move or the moment of birth when they are welcomed into the world. It’s the most awesome miracle God has ever allowed me to be a part of and I am still in awe of that time and them. As our children grow, they become less dependent on their Mama, as it should be, but a Mama never stops loving them or wanting the best for them in their life.

When I was diagnosed with cancer 13 years ago, I knew I wasn’t ready to stop being their Mama. I fought so hard to stay here. During my cancer fight, Ryan was my practical one. He researched and wanted to make sure we took the best course of action for my treatments. Sam was the emotional one. He completed a three-day, 60-mile Avon Walk for Life fundraiser event that culminated with a tearful phone call to me when he crossed the finish line. Both of them chose the way that was best for them to handle my illness. Again, a Mama’s heart never forgets that kind of love.

To my boys…just remember wherever life takes you, I’ll always be your Mom and I’ll always, always love you. Thank you for giving me the gift of Motherhood and now the gift of being a Nana. Being your Mom has been the best job I’ve ever had.  Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Don’t Waste the Hurt

Cancer hurts. It hurts your body and causes pain. It hurts your mind and causes you to doubt. It hurts relationships by causing exhaustion and stress. It hurts financially because the cost of treatment is simply mind boggling. Cancer just hurts. Now that I am a cancer survivor, I don’t want to waste all that hurt.

I always call cancer “the gift that keeps on giving”. It’s been 12 years and my body still hurts from some of the treatments I received. I’ve had to go outside the box sometimes to find ways to alleviate that pain. I’m a researcher by nature because of my librarian background so if there’s a problem, I am determined to find a solution. When I find one that works for me, I can share that with others, especially with things like massage therapy, yoga, muscle salves, etc.

I learned during treatment that sometimes your mind can be your enemy when it comes to worrying about worst case scenarios. That’s where journaling helped me and it’s because of that journaling that I now write this blog. If I felt fearful (and still do sometimes), I bet others do, too and need to hear that it’s normal. It would be a huge waste of the hurt though, if I hadn’t found a way to let that go.

As for the financial hurts, that’s a tough one. I do know there are organizations out there who want to help with this issue, but you have to ask. The American Cancer Society has access to lots of information about what type of help is available in your local area. Call them!

As for relationships with caregivers, my response is simple. Let them help you with the hurt. They may not have cancer but they are hurting, too. 

You’ve either been through a lot or you are going through it now. Don’t waste all the things you’ve learned about yourself. Use your hurt to make yourself a better, stronger version of you.  Don’t waste the hurt.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Take a closer look and then answer this question, do you like what you see? Sometimes I would tell you yes, I’m not so bad for a 64-year-old cancer survivor.  Most of the time though, I would tell you no for so many reasons and honestly, most of them are superficial.

First of all, I’m a bit overweight right now due to some health issues and medicines I am taking. I feel uncomfortable in my body and my clothes so I don’t like what I see. Plus, there are some lasting changes to my body due to the surgeries I’ve been through that make me self-conscious. Second, fashion has never been my strong suit so I always wonder if I look like a dork in whatever I am wearing. Then don’t even get me started on my hair! (I think that’s probably a girl thing most of us women fret about.) All these things are temporal and earthly. In the long run, they don’t really matter.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a mirror that could show us what our Heavenly Father sees? He never said we had to be perfect when it comes to our outward appearance; all He really wants to see is the beauty inside of us. I think Jesus’ disciple Matthew says it best in chapter 6:28-29 “ 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” NJK Bible Wow! Kind of cuts to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it?

The next time I look in the mirror, I’m going to close my eyes and think about how much God loves me. It’s the strength that comes from that unconditional love that will help me see myself as I truly am; a beautiful child of God.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Cravings

When we talk about cravings, most of us think of a pregnant lady wanting some strange combination of foods like pickles and ice cream but in reality, we all have some type of craving. My cravings are definitely food based. I wish I could say I craved the foods that were good for me but in all honesty, I don’t. My worst ones are chocolate and ice cream. I try not to keep them in my house because I am just too tempted and don’t have a lot of self-control when they’re around. I’ve struggled with this since I was teenager and my cravings have a negative effect on my weight, which affects my health and then in turn my self-esteem.

Then there are people who crave attention. They want to be the center of everything and when they walk into a room, you know it! Others crave things; the more things they have, the more they seem to want.

Cravings can also become additions when it involves drugs or alcohol. I have known several people who turned to both of these things after a bout with cancer. They were either trying to stop the physical pain or did not want to deal with the mental pain the disease brings.

The problem is that cravings provide us with temporary satisfaction but never give us the long-term fulfillment we seek. I wish I could tell you that there is a simple, magic answer for our cravings but I can’t. We have to work every day to overcome them. Most importantly though, we need to give them to Jesus and let Him hold onto them so we don’t have to go it alone.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Focus on the Vertical

When something goes wrong, most of us want to focus on what’s right beside us and the things we can see and understand. Unfortunately, that’s not always the best place to look especially when you’re dealing with a diagnosis like cancer or some other life altering occurrence. What’s happening can literally take our breath away and we go into survival mode. How in the world can we deal with something if we can’t even comprehend it or believe that it’s happening to us?

Oh, my friend, I have an answer! Look up and find God. Focus on the vertical and let the horizontal be for now. I don’t share often enough how much my faith has been such an important part of my recovery. Many times, I panic and wonder how in the world I am going to deal with the newest health development or lately with the heart wrenching crises some of my friends have been going through. Then I remember; I don’t have to do it alone.

While I was attending a summer church camp with my youngest son, a speaker shared these words of advice and they are as timely now as they were then. “Focus on the vertical (God), make it internal and then spread it to the horizontal.” In plain words that means to focus on and put your trust in God, make Him a part of your heart and life and then you can deal with what’s going on in the horizontal. I figure if God could send His only son Jesus to Earth knowing that he would die a horrible death on the cross, then He’s also going to care about and help me face whatever comes my way. I find great comfort in that, even on my toughest days.

Look up my friend; look up.

Blessings, Cindy J