* 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

* Christmas Cards

Christmas…it’s the time of year when we choose our favorite photos and put them together for the annual Christmas card. We take time to look back over the past year and choose some of our special memories for just the right snapshot of our family to share with others. Some people use it as a time to take that perfect holiday photo of the family. I don’t always enjoy all the aspects of Christmas but I do love to send and receive Christmas cards. For most people sending a card is just another part of what they do to celebrate the holiday season. For me, it’s so much more.

Christmas cards are my way of saying, “Look! I’m still here and I’ve made it another year. Please celebrate with me!” When you are a cancer survivor, every year you are here on this earth is a true blessing so the annual card gives me the opportunity to share my joy with others. I may not always share a lot of details about my life in the card but when I send a card I am saying, “I love you and I’m glad you’re a part of my life or have been a part of my life at some point in time. I’m thinking about you and wishing you and your family great blessings for the year to come.” So, my card may not contain a lot of words but I can promise you that the words coming from my heart to yours are joyful and genuine. I’m just glad to be here.

This year when you get a Christmas card from family, friends, coworkers, etc. remember this sentiment; someone thought about you and wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas. It’s their way of saying you were on their mind and you are important to them. I thank each of you for reading my blog and sharing my story. Please rejoice with me as I thank God for sending us His Son and allowing me to say one more time, “I’m still here!”

Merry Christmas! Cindy J

* Caregivers

It’s the season of Thanksgiving and a time when we stop to be thankful for the blessings in our life. For those of us who have been through a season of illness, that thankfulness should include our caregivers. If someone asked me to define the word caregiver in just one word, I don’t think I could. What I can tell you is that caregivers are the unsung heroes of the cancer world and they come to our aid in so many different ways.

First and foremost are our family members; especially the ones who live with us and our cancer day in and day out. They’re the ones on the front lines of the battle. They watch the sickness change us into a different person for a while, listen when we vent and hold us when we cry. They become our voice when we are too tired to deal with the outside world. They are our ears at doctor appointments when the words are just too overwhelming to hear. Simply, they take care of us.

Then there are our friends who do what they can to ease the burdens we face. They are the ones who send cards, clean your house, do your laundry, prepare meals and act as your gatekeepers to give out information to others who are concerned. They take care of us, too.

My message for this post is quite simple. To all the caregivers who put their lives on hold to take care of the loved one in your life who is battling cancer, I just want to say thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving! Blessings, Cindy J

* 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