Tag Archives: humility

Beyond Cancer


I’m sitting in my oncologists office in the fast paced city of Boston.   A routine checkup, I have every 6 months.  The trip down was uneventful, unless you count construction and detours and a LOT of rain!  As I was driving down I wondered what my kid sister would say or think of how much I’ve grown.  Once petrified of driving in unknown places, you can only imagine the anxiety that would consume my thoughts when I had to drive in Boston.  Well, long gone are THOSE days!   My sister was my main encourager, my witness in life.   She was also a mighty fine driver when it came to driving me into places I dared not enter! Five years ago my fear of driving in Boston ended when I was making weekly visits for breast reconstruction.   Long gone I tell you, Long gone!     I will now share with you the “survivor skills” of driving in Boston.   First, play your favorite music and very loud!   This is calming and also means you cannot hear others honking at you!    Second, wear sunglasses!   This way they do not get eye contact with you so the majority of them will not risk getting into an accident and third?   Have a gps.  It may loop you around and around like musical chairs, but it can offer a sense of confidence.

On the elevator coming up to the 9th floor in the Yawkey Building at Massachusetts General Hospital I shared the elevator with a nice looking young man, I would guess in his 30’s.    He asked if I was having a good day.  I replied “Yes!  Today my oncologist is going to tell me I’m still cancer free!”  He smiled the widest grin and said “Alright!!!!!!!”  He opened his arms to hug me and I obliged.  “Do you believe in God?” he asked.   My reply, “I don’t walk a step without him!”.  What a nice encounter!

The sweetest woman just came over to offer me refreshments.   We had the nicest chat.   Pushing the refreshment cart around in a cancer treatment center as large as this, I’m sure she has seen much.  God bless her.   I know her sweet smile has always brought a smile to my face over the years.  I’m sure without even knowing it, she has helped many.   Her smile, her kindness makes a difference in the world!    Never underestimate the power of a smile, a friendly gesture!

My oncologist is running an hour behind, no big deal.   I said a prayer for those she is helping, and for the emergency this morning that backed up her appointments.   It could be ME in there!   Take all the time you want, Dr. Kuter.  You will hear no disappointing words from me!    I love my oncologist.  She is a wonderful person and likewise, doctor.   Never rushes you out, sits as long as you need her to answer questions, etc.   Besides, this hour gives me a chance to jot down my thoughts, write this blog.

As mentioned above I have experienced much growth.   I can tell you that I wouldn’t wish the journey of cancer on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade my personal growth for the world.  I’ve learned that it’s the toughest times that bring the most growth and when you come out of it, it’s amazing how perspective changes, at least that is how it is with me.  As I sit here looking around at the people sitting in this waiting room it’s obvious, no one wants to be here.   No one.   But you make the best of what you’ve got, if you’re smart that is!  Sometimes I had to stoop very low to experience humility, thus gratitude.   These days I’m grateful every day for so many things and even in that I know there is so much more I should be grateful for!

I am writing this blog on my iphone.   I am hardly efficient with this keyboard.  I probably should proof this blog but its time to close it.   A young woman who is looking mighty scared just arrived and sat near me.  I think it’s time to give back what was given to me.  I remember the fear I had when I first walked into this hospital.  I remember, also, the kindness of others, the seasoned “survivors” who shared their story with me and brought some solace to a restless mind and soul.    If the auto correct has done it’s job I am sure there will be major errors.  Just know if it said something about a sex change, it’s not true!   My oh my how messed up auto correct can be, but it can add a lot of spice too!

I sure hope you are having a great day.  I am!    Today my oncologist is going to tell me I’m still cancer free!   Can it get any better than that?




Which came first, being chicken or the ego?


For those of you who have read my blog, you know I am a fan of the ID (Investigation Discovery) channel.   This morning I was doing some housework and “listening”.   The commentator shared a comment that struck me to a point of heightened eyebrows.   He said “If his reputation is damaged, his life is over”…which ended up being the motive for killing his soon to be ex wife.    I sat down, grabbed the remote control, rewound it…Yep, that was what I heard.  “If his reputation is damaged, his life is over”.

Too many times on these programs the motive is to hide a secret, a dirty secret.   I didn’t listen to what he was hiding, I didn’t care.  This phrase just struck me.  “If his reputation is damaged, his life is over”.   Really?

I thought of how stupid that comment was.    Mind you, I am not underestimating the mentality or ego driven homicides that happen everyday.   I think the word “narcissism” can be used to describe many of these murderers, these criminals.   Narcissism not being quite as cold as evil.   So why did that comment bug me?

It is simple.  It has been the roughest, most difficult times in my life when I experience the most growth.  It is when I am humbled that I become one with my gratitude.  My mind isn’t bouncing from here to there, with a tongue that flippantly says “I am grateful…”.  The truth is, I am grateful daily, for the things I do recognize as gifts in my life.   But when I am humbled, when I am scraping bottom and feeling like my happiness is gone forever, that my life now has no purpose, that my pain will never end, my bruised ego gets pushed to the side.  What replaces it, at first, is a steady flow of self pity.  But eventually that gets old and I’m forced to look at my situation, my shortcomings, my problems head on.   The very thing that displaces my hurt ego has the impetus to become an eventful, meaningful, powerful change in my perspective, thus my life.

I recall two occasions in my early 30’s when I went through what I then called “hell”.  One being a divorce from my second husband with whom I had been married for 10 years.    Now, I was working full time, I had good benefits, I was receiving good pay, but his “threats” to sell the house out from under me ruled my mind.   Between the loss of love, betrayal, and images of a cheating spouse in which I had compromised too much over the relationship (basically myself) and the loss of my home being threatened, what was “clear” and indeed a lie was that “my happiness, my life is over”.

As I think about that now I shake my head, in fact I am right now.   Much worse things happened to me in life, and while not invalidating the pain of a broken marriage, it was a time of incredible growth, painstaking growth.   My girlfriend Janice was my saving grace during this time.  Ever my confidant, my friend, my support, I doubt I would have made it through without her.  Not because it was insurmountable but because my unhealthy mental state was leading me down suicide alley.  My crushed ego, my “security”, my life had been turned upside down, thus my thinking not only what would obviously be unsettling, but the mindset in itself was a mine field.  I was my own worst enemy.

Twenty years later, another long term relationship having ended, a new career in the arts which I seeked out, I realize that what was totally devastating then, was the beginning of my life!   Engulfed in misery and pain, it can only last so long before one self destructs or can no longer look at themselves in the mirror.   I certainly didn’t pull myself out of this by myself.  I was given people, places, things that put me in alignment with my desires IF I dared to step away from my sorry self loathing, pain.   The event of this painful divorce helped ready me for the next major change in my life.

What that divorce brought me was the beginning of understanding, there is no security in marriage.  There really is no security in any relationship except your relationship with God, source, whom or whatever you call it.    As difficult as this time was in my life, it would later seem insignificant to things that happened in my life.      It was the beginning of my paving out my life in the terms I wanted it, what I wanted to do, to become aligned with that which I believe I was born to do.   I don’t believe we have one purpose but many.   That time in my life, that separation, divorce actually became my security!     I survived what I thought I never would, and not only that, became a better person.   I was being “pushed” to the next phase of my life.  All I had to do was show up!   But how difficult that can be when we are in despair.

So the comment “If his reputation was lost, his life was over” really made me think about how grateful I am for the things in which dropped me to my knees.    I am grateful I was humbled, I am grateful that I felt humiliated and embarrassed and 100 other things.   My life today, my security today is not based on another person, and while I am considered poor financially, my life is rich with color, family and friends.

I seldom carry “secrets”.  I have learned that we become as sick as our secrets.  I share openly events, both good and bad in my blog.   Chuckling as I recall a male friend saying to me “For someone who is afraid of intimacy you sure do share some personal things in your blog!”   I looked at him and said “Well, I wouldn’t talk about my sex life… even if I had one!”

We are all one.   A person’s financial wealth may societally be high on the totem pole, but that doesn’t make them a better person, or exempt from loss, illnesses, pain.    Perhaps one of the most significantly positive events in their life could be LOSING that societal “security”.  As there really is no security in that.   We are all one in the same.  It is not only basic needs that uniforms our lives similar.    We may have different colored skin, drive different cars, live in smaller or bigger houses, and for some, boxes, we are all one.    We may only be an event, a thought away from new perspective, a perspective that probably will not come without painful consequences, but our lives as a result of this could very well in fact become more purposeful, more meaningful.

I often say that I wouldn’t wish the journey of cancer on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade my personal growth for the world.    Sharing my life’s journey with others is in itself, humbling, but what another person thinks of me no longer rocks the core of my existence.   If nothing else my words are there to help another whom is walking a similar journey.  We are all one, we are all susceptible to things we fear (or don’t fear), and we are all a work in progress.

As has been proven repeatedly to me in my life… when I am aligned all that I need is put in front of me.  After a day of thinking about this, I logged into facebook and read an excerpt from Dr. Wayne Dyer’s new book “I can see clearly now” which speaks of this very thing but much more eloquently! 😉  Validation, a sign, proof for me that I am on the right track.  I am right where I am supposed to be.  My thinking is clear and my perspective on healthy ground.



My chest is heavy again, no longer from those awful iron turtle tissue expanders, but from a broken heart.  I went to bed last night with a 300 lb chest, woke up this morning with what felt like an added 100 lbs.  I want to be a positive person, and I think most times I am.  Today my heart is at war with reality.  This post will probably be sad, so if you don’t want to go there, stop now.  But sometimes, life is just terribly sad, and to be true to ourselves means to feel them, to work through them, but to still keep walking at the end of it all.

Out of 7 in my immediate family, 6 have been diagnosed with cancer, so far one death resulting.  My older sister had breast cancer at age 40, my mom colon, and then 5 years later kidney, ureter, my dad had prostate, and then last year my brother and I were diagnosed, he with colon & rectal, myself with two different breast cancers.  My kid sister died 7 years ago this month to advanced ovarian & uteran cancers.  It has been a hellacious few years for my family.  Two different gene mutations have been identified, BRCA2 and HNPCC or better known as Lynch Syndrome. 

Your thoughts I bet are automatically going to “where did she grow up?  Was there a radioactive or carcinogenic water? ground?  I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, bordering Vt.  We lived probably 20-25 miles from a nuclear power plant.  I do not believe this contributed to my families misfortunes of cancers.  I am, however, very suspicious of environmental contributing to this, as if you look at all the cancers on the street where we lived, it seems more than “normal”.  But what is “normal”?  These days some cancers are caught earlier (Thank God).  The earlier the diagnosis the greater the chance of survival and better prognosis.   Clearly my family has had more cancer than the average family.  It at times can be very unsettling, frightening.  But as with anything in life, all you can do is your best, and the rest is out of your control.  This is where Hope & Faith come in.

In my younger years I always believed that everything happens for a reason.  Today I want to believe that, but my soul has been tried with much pain and disappointment.   So this is something I am working on.  I do know that since finding out the news of Jim’s death that my heart isn’t the only thing in turmoil.   I learned from my sisters death at 38 that life just isn’t fair.  Questioning Why?  Only further served to upset me, because there are some things we are not meant to understand.  It did, however, take me several years to accept the death of my kid sister to cancer.  The death of Jim at 46 to alcoholism is just as sickening to me.  Both are insidious diseases.  When my sister was diagnosed I immediately left to be with her, not returning home for a couple of weeks.  This was hard on Jim’s and my relationship, and his drinking escalated then.  Clearly he too was having difficulty accepting what was going on, but his “choice” as I thought was to drink.  This made for much resentments to me.  Here my sister was doing everything she could to save her life, and yet he was drinking his away.   Cunning, baffling.  Perhaps he did have a conscious choice then to stop, but I truly believe now that the disease was so intricate in him, this is all he knew how to do.  Jim was a sensitive guy, when sober he had many emotions. He had a gentle loving spirit.  When he drank, it numbed those feelings in him, and then he could cope with life.  Emotional pain is difficult, and it can be debilitating.  It has been for me.  The older I get the more I learn how to deal with it, and that is simply, One day at a time, sometimes one hour, one minute, one moment…  I am not blaming myself here for his drinking, I am simply stating what hindsight has brought to me.  Jim had me to walk with him for years, and I him.  My not being there during this time contributed, I believe to his drinking, but that is not saying I was doing anything wrong, or that I was responsible.  I’m saying that  what he depended on for grounding was uprooted.  Right/wrong/indifferent, it is what it is.  I was just as dependent on him for grounding.  I have since learned to depend on myself, and I wish that he had learned that too.  He was VERY giving and available to friends, and only in the way of his drinking was he selfish.  At least he wasn’t with me.  Quite the contrary.

In Alanon we learn the three C’s.  We didn’t cause it, we can’t cure it and we can’t control it.  Humbling.  Humbling is a key ingredient to growth and on the flip side of that is gratitude.  I believe that those in this world who have “less” have much more gratitude than those who have “more”.  That is not implying this is true with everybody, but as humans we tend to take much of our lives and the everyday gifts for granted.   Things happen that bring you to a point of humbling or humility and as you process through that, hopefully you become aware of what is really important in your life.  The diagnosis of cancer, my sisters death, Jim’s passing are all examples of that for me.

To be mindful of your every moment brings about many surprises.  If I am to list off the things that bring me joy & happiness, and touch my soul, I would list off the smaller simpler everyday things in my life.  My nieces smile, comments, watching my animals or patting them, painting, tea with a friend, laughter,  feeling a cool breeze on a hot day.  These are all things that money cannot buy, these are all “gifts”.  I am blessed with so much, I know this.  Not only am I grateful for gratitude, but I am grateful for my ability to BE grateful. 

This pain in my chest will subside over time.  Grief is the hardest trek I’ve ever encountered in my life.  The stages of grief let us know we ARE in fact working through it, but it is never as quickly as we desire.  In the case of my sister, or Jim…. the pain that I felt after their deaths, the heartache, in no way compares to the tremendous joy that they both brought me.  And yes, that is true even with Jim, the alcoholic.  There were very painful times the last year and a half together, and certainly after we split.  We do not stop caring just because they aren’t with us.  We do not stop worrying because they are out of sight.  But we learn that we are not their higher power, and that we can always pray for them, even after their passing.

I am grateful for the time I had with Jim.  I am grateful for the memories, and even for this pain because I know that I have loved, truly loved.  While I wish there were more, it has to be “enough” now.  I am grateful that my cancers were found before metastasises and that they were able to do what they have done for me.  And though I do not LIKE everything, certainly any of this or my families battles with cancers, I am choosing to look to the positive.  Every diagnosis brought a better appreciation for life and new appreciations for those enduring it.  I am grateful for this day, this very moment, for all the colors and noncolors that I see.  I am grateful that just for this day I can feel this pain and yet be grateful at the same time.  I have grown.

There are positives in everything, we have choices as to which direction we choose to look.  But I believe too that there are times to cry, laugh, dance, and mourn.  And right now I am mourning and holding onto the positives, as this is HOPE.