* List Maker

I like to make lists. Making a list keeps me organized and helps to give me a sense of control. It is important for me to know what I have to do, be able to complete it and then check if off my list. List making keeps me grounded and focused. It keeps my life from becoming chaotic.  Now that I’m getting older, it helps me remember things!

It’s a good thing to organize and make plans. When I was working, my lists contained tasks that needed to be completed daily, weekly and monthly. My lists kept work from becoming overwhelming.  Of course, I also had a list of things to do at home and with my children. It took a lot of work to balance these two lists. Now that I am retired, I still have the list of things to do at home like household chores, errands, etc. but just not with the same sense of urgency. I have replaced my work to do list with projects I want to complete at home and in the community.  I also have a list of things I’d like to write about. So as you can see, I’ve spent a lifetime making lists.

During my yearlong battle with breast cancer, my to do lists had to be put on the back burner. It was all I could do most of the time just to survive a day. Between doctor appointments, treatment schedules, exhaustion and trying to work full time, I did not have the energy to make lists. All I wanted to do was get through the day and pray that I’d be strong enough to handle the next day. What I learned is that sometimes we have to deviate from the list and just let things be what they are. That is not easy for me to do or admit because I am not typically a go with the flow kind of girl. My lists are kind of like my security blanket.

These days I’m trying to let go a little more, have some fun and be spontaneous from time to time. Oh don’t worry, I still make my lists but if I don’t finish them today then I’ll accomplish that task on another day. If a friend wants to go to lunch, an unexpected trip comes up or a family member calls just to chat, I have learned to set aside my list and spend time with them. Yep, I’ve learned you can always add one more thing to your list, and from time to time it’s kind of fun not to have one.  So, go ahead and make your list but don’t forget to enjoy each day and the treasures it brings even if they’re not on your list!

Blessings, Cindy J

* Scar Tissue

You learn a lot about your body and yourself when you have cancer and you come away from the disease with scars. There are physical scars from surgery and treatment that are a constant reminder of what you have been through. There are emotional scars that cannot be seen but that are also just as real. Everyone tells you to find a new normal; that things are different now. Finding a new normal was not acceptable to me. I wanted my old life back. Since I am a retired librarian, I started doing what librarians do; seeking information and asking questions. Mainly I just wanted to know WHY things had to be different now.

The physical scars from surgery itch and pull. My clothes still don’t fit exactly right. Other people can’t see the scars but I know they’re there. I can feel them every time I move and see them every time I get dressed. It is a reminder to me of what I’ve been but also that I’m still here and strong despite my battle scars. For those of you with similar scars, here are some suggestions. Palmer’s cocoa butter works great to help keep the scar area moist and not so tight. Use it daily! The after effects of radiation continue to change and alter my skin. I have been blessed to find a massage therapist who can break up the scar tissue that forms and keep my muscles moving. I only wish that everyone had access to the kind of care she provides. I continue to hope for a day when alternative therapies like massage therapy and yoga become an integral part of cancer care along with traditional medicine practices. Current research shows that when the two are combined, patients have a better quality of life during and after treatment.  Most people going through cancer treatments don’t know that there are services available. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for suggestions.

Then there are the emotional scars. Sometimes these can be the worst, especially when you don’t have someone to talk to about your fears. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. I wanted other people to know that their feelings are real. Trust me, you are not alone. Anyone who has been through a diagnosis of a life-threatening disease has scars even if they don’t want to admit it. It’s okay to feel that way. It becomes harmful though when you don’t find an outlet for those fears. There are support groups in many communities. These people get it; they live in your world and they understand what you’re going through. Daily meditation to focus on being positive is helpful. For me, it is time spent in prayer, reading my Bible and a short devotional. Yoga is also a great stress reliever for anyone; sickness or not. The practice of yoga teaches your body to relax and helps you stretch and move. Restorative yoga is a great way to start.

Scar tissue is real. It hurts both physically and emotionally but it doesn’t have to remain that way. Do what I did. Ask questions, read and find information about your particular problem. You don’t have to accept that you will never be the same. Maybe it is a new normal but it does not have to be one filled with fear or pain. Hopefully with all that you’ve learned about yourself, it will be better normal!

Blessings, Cindy J

 

 

 

 

* Healing Waters

When I was a little girl, our family used to go to the beach every summer for vacation. I remember one particular summer when my brother had a severe case of poison ivy. My Mama was concerned about him being able to get in the ocean. The doctor told her not to worry, that the salt water would actually be good for his sores and would help to heal them. Over the years I have returned to the ocean many times for a bit of healing myself. There’s just something about the ocean that is therapeutic. Maybe it’s the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand between my toes, or the salty sea air that I crave. All is know is that when I step out into the water I feel at peace and the healing begins.

Most people like to go to the beach in the summer when it’s warm but I will take a trip to the seaside no matter the season. Just even thinking about a visit makes me happy. When I walk over the sand dunes (I live on the southeast coast) and catch that first glimpse of the ocean waves, my heart is restored. It only takes a few minutes of walking along the shore for my breathing to slow down and my mind to clear. It’s where I have my best conversations with God. Yes, these waters are healing.

During the time I was so sick when going through my cancer treatments, I thought I had to keep the same pace with my work and life. I felt like by doing all my normal, everyday routines that it would help me feel better. What it did was completely wear me out. How I wish I had taken the time for a little healing. It took much longer for my body to recover because I did not compensate for what was happening and slow down a little. This is just one of the many life lessons cancer taught me.

My advice to anyone going through a life changing event whether it be a sickness, loss of a loved one or change in your circumstances for whatever reason, is to take some time away to heal both physically and mentally. The soothing, healing waters of the ocean give me the calm and strength I need. So, take some time for yourself, find your special place and start the process of healing.

Blessings, Cindy J

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Think Pink

It’s October once again so you know what that means? Everything is PINK! Yes, it’s breast cancer awareness month. Everywhere you look someone is selling or sporting their pink putting breast cancer in the forefront of our minds. Most high school, college and professional teams have a pink out game where all the players wear pink to support someone they know who has been affected by breast cancer. Many businesses have displays of pink items for sale with proceeds going toward breast cancer research. It seems everyone wants to join in for this cause.

Many people ask, why does breast cancer get so much attention? What about people who are suffering from other types of cancer? I think one reason is that breast cancer affects our grandma’s, our mama’s and our sister’s. People in our lives who have nurtured us and been the ones who cared for us when we were sick. Paying tribute to them is our way of giving back for all the sacrifices they made for us. I also think that by bringing attention to breast cancer it raises our awareness overall of just how many people this disease caused cancer affects. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1.6 million people a year will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. So, we need to raise awareness! Scientists need money for research. People fighting cancer need money to help pay for their medical bills. Your dollars matter to me and all those facing a diagnosis. We thank you for your support.

The first year or two after I was diagnosed with breast cancer so many people bought “pink” items for me. All I could think was if one more person gives me something pink I am going to scream! But then a wise friend of mine said to me, “Cindy, it just means they love you”. By purchasing that pink item, they felt like they were doing something to honor my fight and to help raise money for research. Now I proudly wear and use my pink items. I have a breast cancer sticker and license plate on my car and I’m flying my breast cancer flag this month.  Turns out I look pretty good in pink!

Blessings, Cindy J

* Silence

Silence; it’s a difficult challenge for our culture. We don’t like to be quiet. We feel like we have to fill every moment with noise and activity. My silent place is in a rocking chair on my front porch. I like to sit there alone and simply listen to whatever God sends my way. It might be the sound of the wind blowing through the trees in my yard, a bird singing or at times not any sound, simply stillness. Mother Teresa said, “God is the friend of silence”. I have found that silence can bring much needed peace to my busy life.  It restores me.

There are other times when silence can be a gift to others. When someone is going through an illness or has suffered a devastating loss, simply being there for that person can be enough. If you can’t think of anything to say it may be because the thing they need most is you, not your words. Be silent and listen to them. Sit quietly with them and share their pain. Don’t tell them it will be okay or assure them all is well because for them at that moment, it is not. Being silent shows your love and concern in a powerful way. Let them talk, cry or whatever it is they need to do to deal with what they are facing.

Today I challenge you to take a few minutes and find a silent place. Then practice being silent. Learning to be silent when you are alone helps you to be silent when others need you to be silent for them. Silence is healing.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Each Tear is a Prayer

I’ve shed a lot of tears over the years because well, I’m a crier. I still am not sure if that is a good thing or not but I can tell you that when somethings happens that stirs my emotions, I will probably shed a few tears or at least get a little misty eyed. Whenever we watched a movie or even a touching commercial (Hallmark you get me every time) as a family, my boys would always look over at me and say “tear check” because they knew I would be crying. For me, tears just provide that release of emotions that I need at the moment.

Over the last few days I have been shedding a lot of tears due to the dire circumstances being faced by many of our communities here in North Carolina. The little town where my son lives has been forever changed by the destruction caused by Hurricane Florence. The damage will take years to restore and peoples’ daily lives will be disrupted for a very long time. My Mama’s little rural community was entirely covered by flood waters for yet a second time in 19 years. My brother and his wife lost all their belongings in the flood. These are my friends and family. So yes, I’ve shed many tears from just shear heartbreak this past week.

During the days, weeks and months after my cancer diagnosis, it was hard to verbalize what I was feeling. My emotions ran high due to fear, frustration and exhaustion. Again, I shed lots of tears. I cried out to God many times through my tears not even knowing what to say or how to ask for help. My tears were my words.

Someone once told me that each tear is a prayer. If that’s the case, I sure have offered up a lot of prayers. It does give me encouragement and hope though that even when I cannot understand my situation it is okay because God does. He sees my tears and He listens to my heart. He understands my needs even when I cannot. So, go ahead and cry. Shed those tears and offer up those tiny prayers for yourself and others who are hurting. God is listening.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Overcast

Today is one of those days; dreary and overcast. It makes you just want to hide away and be quiet and gray just like the weather. For those of us having battled cancer or a life-threatening disease it seems to be an indication of what our life has become if we choose to focus on the negatives of the disease. Brokenness, disfigurement, energy loss and fear just to name a few. It is easy to get lost in the grayness of what we are facing and stop noticing what is happening around us. It can be that way for anyone really when you get lost in the busyness and stress of living life.

However, have you ever noticed how on days like this that the Earth seems to take on a brilliance of color in contrast to the sky? When the sun is shining bright we tend to focus on it and how clearly we can see. Without the brilliance of the sun, everything else seems to say, “Look at me! See me! I’m here, too!”  These things have been there the whole time right in front of us but like most people we just want to see the brightest and best life has to offer.

Maybe an overcast day is just God’s way of showing us that even in the gloominess of the gray, there is beauty. It is up to us to decide what our focus will be. Will we choose to see only the gloom and dread of our circumstances or will we look for the beauty in the things and the people around us? Let me encourage you to look for the goodness in this season of your life. Before you know it, the sun will be shining again but your life will be forever enriched by the beauty you found in the overcast.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Pruning

In order to help them be their very best, trees, bushes and flowers need to be pruned. I have agonized so many times over whether or not to prune a plant wondering if it was the right time of year, how much I should cut back or even sometimes whether or not I should just leave it alone. However, when I read all the gardening manuals and listen to what the experts say, the answer is clear. You must prune to make the most of your plants beauty and to stimulate growth.

After I have found the appropriate time and cut back much more than I ever thought necessary, I am always amazed and pleased with the results. The following year the plant comes back stronger, fuller and more beautiful than before. I am always glad I took the time to care for the plant and loved it enough to prune away the dead branches and unruly growth. The plant always ends up looking better than ever and is ready for new growth.

The whole concept of pruning started me thinking about how God can use circumstances in our lives to do a little pruning Himself.  Having been through the ins and outs of cancer treatment, I discovered that there were things in my life that needing cutting away along with the cancer that was growing in my body. God helped me to see that all those little things I spent so much time worrying about didn’t really matter. All the “stuff” I thought I needed didn’t really matter, either. What about my timelines, schedule and to do list? Nope! All of that was gently pruned away and I was left with what really mattered; my relationship with Him and the people in my life.

I’ve made it through this time of trial and hardship. By allowing God to use my circumstances and prune away the unnecessary things in my life, I am now stronger, happier and more focused on the true joys of life. I could have let all those things stay, bogging down my life and making me become bitter and angry about my disease but I didn’t. I chose to open up to the things God wanted to teach me and let his healing hand prune away the dead branches. I feel like my plants; I am better than ever and ready for whatever new God has in store for my life.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Birthday Friends

I just recently celebrated my 61st birthday! Yes, I know that most women “my age” don’t usually go around sharing that information but I am very proud and happy to have yet another birthday. One of the joys of my special day is that I share it with some very special people who were also born on July 9. I call them my “birthday friends”. Even if everyone else forgets me (and they don’t, thank goodness), I can always count on my birthday friends to send me a card or give me a call. They are a reliable group. One of my very closest friends just happens to be one of my birthday friends which makes the day even more special being able to share it with her.

These friends as a collective group have been through many trials in their lives. Each of us have faced either a major illness, loss of a spouse, natural disaster or life altering event. Yet, we have survived. Changed from the event perhaps but still here. At some point haven’t we all been asked to endure a challenge? As television host Robin Roberts mother said, “Everybody’s got something”. It’s important that we don’t forget that and treat each other with respect for whatever the “something” is another person has been through.

For me, having this group of birthday friends has made those struggles bearable because I know come July 9 they will all contact me as if to say “Hey, I’m still here. We made it another year!”. I do have many other friends in my life without whom I could not survive but knowing that my birthday friends are always out there rooting for me is comforting as well. Who are you special friends? Those of us who are lucky enough to have truly good friends are blessed indeed. Celebrate your friends whatever the bond you share.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Words

I love words! I love to read them, write them, and listen to them. I am not good at spoken words unless I have carefully and thoughtfully planned them but I am good at the written word. I feel like it is a gift from God that I am supposed to share with others. That is one of the reasons I started this blog so that I could share some of the words I have written over the years. Writing has helped me to deal with issues I’ve faced. It is an outlet for emotions I didn’t feel like I could share with anyone. What I have learned though is that so many people have the same feelings and emotions and they want someone else to validate that their emotions are real. I hope that the words I share through this blog can do that for someone else.

Words like grandchildren, love and joy are happy words that people don’t usually mind sharing. Words like cancer, devastation and loneliness are not ones that people want to talk about. Words can be life changing in both positive and negative ways. Whatever you do, take time to share your words. Tell the people in your life that you love them. Talk about the things that make you fearful and keep you up at night. Write about your worries in a journal. Bottom line…share your words! Someone else might be waiting to hear or read the very thing that you have to say. I love words!

Blessings, Cindy J