* The Big Picture

True confession time here, I’ve recently become a huge fan of the Marvel Avengers movies. I never would have guessed how much I enjoy watching them and learning the stories of all the characters. Just when you think you have it all figured out, you find out another piece of the story. It all started one Saturday evening when my husband and I got interested in Guardians of the Galaxy. It was hilarious, so of course I had to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. During this movie, I discovered there were other characters known as the Avengers and I wanted to know more. Thus began my quest by starting at the beginning with Captain America. The more movies I watched, the more I wanted to find out. Each character has a back story of how and why they became an Avenger.

If you really stop to think about it, aren’t all of us like that? Everyone has a story and that story helps determine who you become in life. Unless we stop to take a look at the big picture and try to put all the details together, we often judge people for what we see in the here and now. Many of their life experiences have made their story different from yours. It could have been an illness like cancer, grief, abuse or any number of life altering events.

 Here’s some good news that will help. I know someone who always looks at the big picture, His name is Jesus. He knows ALL of our life story and still loves us anyway. Maybe if we took more time to get to know someone, we’d be a little more tolerant as well.

So while I’m waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 to come out in 2023, I’ll keep learning more of the story so I’ll be ready. Kind of a great lesson for life; don’t you think?

Blessings, Cindy J



* I am a Survivor!

This past Monday night thanks to my sweet husband, I attended the NC State Play4Kay women’s basketball game. The idea for the game began when head coach Kay Yow, who was going through breast cancer, wanted to find a way to both raise awareness for the disease and more importantly, dollars for research.  The event began as Hoops for Hope but after Kay lost her battle with breast cancer in 2009 it became known as the Play4Kay game.  As part of the event, breast cancer survivors are invited to walk out onto Kay Yow court at Reynolds Coliseum during halftime of the game to celebrate being a survivor. I was a part of the 11–15 year group and what an honor it was to join with these ladies in celebrating our years of survivorship.

Kay’s motto was, “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.” As a survivor, I have tried to live my life in a positive way and do what I can to help others who are also taking the cancer journey.  I believe it is by working together to fight this disease that we make the biggest impact. Apparently, so did Coach Yow. The Kay Yow cancer foundation raised over $500,000 Monday for women’s cancer research.

I am proud to say that I AM A SURVIVOR! Whatever it is that you are surviving or have survived, be proud of the progress you’ve made and honor your struggle by helping others. You, too, are a survivor!

Blessings, Cindy J

* Make it a Pink October

Yes, it’s October; breast cancer awareness month. The time of year when everyone wears pink to honor those who have fought the breast cancer fight, are currently fighting or have lost their battle. My message today is to practice prevention. If you are over the age of 50, please get an annual mammogram! For those of you who have a family history of breast cancer, talk with your doctor at age 40. Men, encourage your wives, moms and significant others to schedule their mammogram. So many people have let appointments like this lapse during the height of the COVID pandemic. Take care of it today!

I am here to tell you that a mammogram saved my life. My maternal grandmother died from breast cancer along with an aunt. Another one of my Mama’s sisters has been through a lumpectomy and various treatments for breast cancer. It’s in my genes so I try to be vigilant. Even though I’ve had annual mammograms since the age of 40, I was diagnosed with stage 2B triple negative breast cancer at the age of 52. The cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes in just one short year. Just think how much worse it could have been if I were not being screened every year.

Prevention is the key to survival. The earlier breast cancer or any cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chances of survival. Be proactive and get your annual mammogram or other cancer screening scheduled ASAP!

Blessings, Cindy J

* No Bitterness

“What we cannot change, we must endure without bitterness.” – A quote from Grandma Rose in Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate. I wish I had read this book and taken Grandma Roses’ advice earlier in my life. Bitterness is like a root; once it takes hold it starts to grow and get stronger. Before you know it, the roots run deep and have found a strong hold in your mind. Everyone you see and everything you encounter is tempered by that bitterness. If you don’t let go of the bitterness, it will slowly destroy all the good things in your life.

I have dealt with bitterness and surprisingly it was not in regards to cancer. Having cancer actually helped me to let go of those feelings of anger because I needed to concentrate all my energy on getting better. What I discovered was that “difficult paths often lead to beautiful places”. Another great quote from Grandma Rose.

Our family has been tested just this past week with the heart wrenching loss of a sweet baby boy who only stayed here on this Earth for five short days.  He had complications that no one knew existed until the day he was born on March 10. It will be hard not to have some amount of bitterness but I just continue to pray that whatever adverse things may come my way in life, I will endure them with a spirit of courage and graciousness.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Salt of the Earth

Salt is a seasoning. It adds flavor to any dish you cook and keeps it from tasting bland. You have to add salt slowly until you get just the right amount. That’s important. Some people like more salt than others and you have to respect that in your cooking. Our lives are like that, too.

Left alone without God, our life is bland and we don’t experience all the goodness He has to offer. There are times in our life when we do not want anything from anyone. No salt, please! But those are the times when we need help the most from both God and others.

 If we’re smart, we’ll be patient while He keeps adding and adding just the right amount until we realize it is so good that we really do want it. Sometimes He allows us to go without “salt” just so we can appreciate how much we do indeed need it. It can be in the form of sickness, loss of a loved one, a personal crisis or many different things. When it is taken away, our body craves it and tries to find a way to bring back the flavor.

Sometimes He expects us to be the one who does the sharing, especially if we have experienced the same hardship someone else is going through. In essence, it’s our turn to be the salt of the earth. My daily prayer is that I can be salt and light so that I will be able to help those in need.

Blessings, Cindy J

Matthew 5:13-16 NIV

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

* A Ten Year Journey

It was ten years ago on this day, March 23, 2010 that I had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from my body following six months of chemotherapy. To commemorate this milestone, I’d like to share a poem I wrote that describes my journey. I have found peace and healing. I pray whatever journey you may be on, you find a place of peace as well.

 

Healed

by Cindy D. Jennings

 

Salty tears in salty water

Washing away the pain.

 

Tumbling in the waves, trying to stand

Being knocked down again and again.

 

Ebb and flow,

Ebb and flow.

 

Emerging from the ocean

Whole again; healed.

 

* Strongest and Bravest

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.      

A. A. Milne – Winnie the Pooh

Some of my favorite quotes are from children’s literature. There’s just something about the simplicity in the way things are described that speaks to us all. This quote reminds me that all of us have a lot more going for us than we realize. As we start this new year of 2020, it really is a good year to “focus” on who we are and what we do best. I am a compulsive list maker so I invite you right now to make a list of all the things you do well and the things you do that give you a sense of fulfillment. Guess what? That’s who you are!

Now the more difficult question is, do you like your list? What would you add to your list if you could? Is there something you want to be better at doing? How can you make it happen? So many questions, right? Reflecting on where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished is a good thing. I look back at all the health issues I’ve had to overcome in the past 10 years and think, Wow! How did I do that?

What’s even more fulfilling is taking a leap of faith and trying something new. It doesn’t have to be a life changing thing, just something new for you. I learned to play the dulcimer and it has brought me a lot of joy. I think I want to explore more about the benefits of yoga this year. So, I encourage you in 2020 to be brave, believe in yourself and remember that you ARE so much stronger and smarter than you think!

Blessings, Cindy J

* Be Healthy

“Be healthy” may sound like a strange title for a blog post coming from someone who has been through cancer but I promise it is the very best advice I can give to anyone! Taking care of your physical health and body is just as important as taking care of your mental health. I fully believe that one of the reasons I am surviving this life-threatening disease we call cancer is because I was healthy before I got so sick. By now I’m sure you are asking, but aren’t healthy people supposed to stay well? That’s exactly what I thought until I was diagnosed with cancer. What I discovered was that cancer does not discriminate in who it chooses.  Young, old, healthy, it doesn’t matter your stage in life; cancer can strike anyone at any time so you need to be prepared.

In this time of the year when people are starting anew and making resolutions to get healthier, let me challenge you to take your health seriously. Eat a sensible, well- balanced diet, exercise regularly and be strong. It’s really not that hard but it does take a conscious effort. You have to make being healthy part of your lifestyle and plan ahead. Take care of yourself now so that your body can take care of you in a time of sickness. Make this your motto for 2019, “Be Healthy”!

Blessings, Cindy J

* Kindred Spirit

I just finished reading Nicholas Sparks’ latest novel, Every Breath. In the story, two people fall in love because of their connection to a place in Sunset Beach, NC called Kindred Spirit. It’s a mailbox located on a remote part of the island where people can visit and write about things in their life such as a love story, regrets, grief, joy, etc. Once you’ve written a letter or note, you leave it in the Kindred Spirit mailbox for the next person who comes along to read. People write their stories and share them with complete strangers who in turn, leave their own story. I’ve actually been to the mailbox, written my own note and been touched by the words others have left behind. There’s just something about the honest sharing of your feelings that is very healing. Knowing that others have also made the long trek down the beach to the mailbox does indeed make you feel like a kindred spirit of sorts.

I think that’s one of the main reasons I started this blog. My physical healing from cancer was going quite well but the emotional healing seemed to be stuck somewhere between fear and worry. Writing has always been a good outlet for me (see my blog post titled Words) so I decided that if I could write about what was happening, then maybe I could let go of some of those feelings and use more of my energy in a positive way to heal. The other thing I knew I wanted to do was share my writing with other people touched by cancer. They are my kindred spirits and I knew they would understand what I was going through.

Whatever it is that is holding you back as we start this new year, I encourage you to find a Kindred Spirit to help lighten your load and keep you moving forward. Thanks for being mine.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Waiting

It seems this time of year we are all waiting for something to happen. Little kids are waiting for Christmas Eve when Santa comes. Grown-ups anticipate special holiday events like concerts and office parties. Everybody wants Christmas to be here right now! People who have been diagnosed with cancer play a different kind of waiting game. They wait for their next doctor appointment or the results of the latest medical tests. These events can create quite a bit of stress, especially during the holiday season. If you know someone going through a difficult illness, try and share an extra bit of cheer with them over the next few days.

Here’s how…go with them to a doctor’s appointment. Sit and wait with them; talk with them to take their mind off what may transpire in the doctor’s office. Offer to be the person everyone can call to get information about what’s going on with tests, procedures, appointments, etc. Even though they may want to talk to everyone, it can be overwhelming and mentally taxing to repeat information over and over again. Last and most important of all, help them have some fun! Do what you can to temporarily distract them from what is going on with their sickness, even if it is for only an hour or two. Be their friend and do normal things.

Yes, everyone is waiting for something this holiday season but it doesn’t have to be a worrisome time. Let it be a time of enjoyment and moments spent with family and friends. Celebrate the positive things in your life, not the things you can’t change right now. Rejoice and take time to enjoy the wait!

Blessings, Cindy J