* 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

* 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.