All posts by Julie

The perks of cancer?

butterlies

Blog posts by survivors giving sugary sweet silver lining stories used to bother me because all I could see were dark clouds.  I figured they hadn’t gotten much treatment thus having few side effects, or were late stage and truly grateful for being alive.  I’m not trying to alienate either camp, cancer is cancer no matter how you slice it.  I have tremendous respect for anyone who receives a diagnosis and manages to continue breathing.  I had gotten a lot of treatment and I wasn’t grateful.  It took several years for me to become transformed by my experience.  I couldn’t see the gift in the darkness.

To this day, I wonder if I’d still be alive if I skipped chemo and radiation.  The lumpectomy removed the tumor, we were cleaning up the remaining microscopic cancer cells that spread to my lymph nodes.  Most doctors would say skipping treatment is crazy talk, your first shot is your best shot.  I can’t go back and change the past, so it’s futile to dwell on my treatment decisions.  It’s my job to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and find a creative outlet for my frustrations.

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Is there a silver lining?  I suppose so.  Having cancer gave me the courage to follow my dreams of becoming a writer.  The people who understand and encourage me the most are also on a creative path.  When I doubt myself, I get off track.  When my inner critic wants to ruin something for me, I stop and ask, “What are you so afraid of?”  When I seek to inspire and be inspired, the opportunities present themselves.  When you’re in the dark, you have to search for the light.  We all need hope, healing and relief.  Challenges strengthen our character making us more perceptive and resilient.

I give myself permission to dream, dance and stumble.  To love what I love and be what I be.  I can answer my soul calling, live my purpose, declare my bliss and shine my light.

  sailboat

Does cancer make you ask the hard questions?  Yes.

Am I living my life in a way that is meaningful to me?  Yes.

Are there things I would’ve done differently?  Yes.

Am I still a good person worthy of love and respect?  HELL YES!

Stay strong,

Julie

Dating after cancer

hearts

Honestly, I have no experience with dating after cancer.  I do have  experience dating before cancer and chasing emotionally unavailable men.  I’ve also had several healthy long-term relationships.  I can offer insight into what I think dating after cancer should be like.  If I ever start dating again, I’ll have some real material.  For now, we’ll speculate and get mentally prepared.

Don’t lead with your cancer story.  Sure, you’ve been through hell and lived to tell about it, this will only add to your allure.  Wait until the relationship is strong enough to support the emotional weight of your story.  Your experience was important, life-changing and will always be a part of you.  It’s easy for loved ones to inadvertently minimize what we’ve been through or misunderstand what we’re still dealing with.  Relationships are hard enough as it is, and everybody has been through something that wasn’t pretty.  Honest communication is the key to having a healthy relationship.

Cancer probably deepened your appreciation for life causing you to seek out joyful, meaningful experiences.  For me, bad boys lost their appeal because my tolerance for drama and heartbreak became non-existent.  I finally resolved some of my old, unhealthy patterns.  See, cancer is a teacher.  The kind of teacher that made you work for the lesson and only gave you an A+ if you really deserved it.

geese

Find a person who shares your interests.  Do they exercise, eat healthy and have hobbies they enjoy?  Do they have supportive family and friends?  Can you be yourself around them?  Do they make you smile and laugh?  Do they make you a priority?  Do they listen without judgement and offer helpful feedback?  Do they respect your need for alone time?  Do they appreciate your quirks and encourage your talents?

Are you creating a spiritual partnership allowing each other to grow and mature?  Do you share the same spiritual or religious beliefs?  Do they inspire and challenge you to become a better person, the best version of yourself?  Do you enjoy the physical aspects of the relationship?  Do they respect your wishes to take things slow or speed things up?  Do they help with the household chores of cleaning, laundry and cooking?  This goes both ways, are you doing your part?  These have expanded into relationship questions, but that’s where dating leads.  Good luck and you can do it!

glitter hearts

Cancer treatment takes a tremendous toll on your mind, body and  spirit.  What doesn’t get better, you learn to live with.  I still struggle with neuropathy, lymphedema and hearing loss.  We need an understanding partner, someone who can massage our shoulders and help us fix dinner.  We need a distraction from our normal reality.  Chronic pain and fatigue are not fun.  If we aren’t proactive it’s very easy to slip into depression.  We need something that makes life worth living: a hobby, service project, children or family.  It’s much easier to deal with the bad stuff when our lives are filled with the good stuff – love, light and laughter.

I’ve spent many years thinking, no one will ever love me now, but that’s because I wasn’t loving myself.  You teach people how to treat you.  I also wondered, how will I ever compete with the women who haven’t been through hell.  My only competition is myself.  Am I trying hard enough?  Do I really want to be loved?  Am I being good to me?  The person who loves me can see the beauty in my scars and the strength in my eyes.  Going to the underworld, shaking hands with death, surviving the divine storm, whatever you want to call it, my cancer experience was a gift because it brought me here today.  I have a blog that’s helping me get closure and has the potential to help others.

Namaste,

Julie

dating after cancer

Baby Steps

for website fall

Baby steps are better than no steps at all.  Since I’m the baby in my family, the youngest of two, I have a lot of experience with throwing tantrums, refusing to grow up and take responsibility, getting bullied and being afraid to venture out of my comfort zone.

What are baby steps?  Switching to organic milk, signing up for a class, filling out a job application, turning off the television, trying a new recipe, calling a friend and inviting them out for dinner, buying a new pair of jeans, cleaning one small area of your home, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, being grateful instead of bitter.

Why not just taking a running jump?  Because you’ll land flat on your face and nobody needs that.  Once you gain momentum from the baby steps, gain confidence in you abilities then you can pick up the pace.  It’s better to be patient and prepared when trying new things.  Of course, there’s nothing more exhilarating than asking him out, buying the new car or making the flight reservation…just make sure you’ve given it some thought, consulted a friend and feel confident that your actions are in alignment with your highest good.

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Happy adventures,

Julie

Recovery Basics

rocks

Since I’ve been in recovery mode for the past five years, I should be an expert at it by now.  Or quite possibly just a straggler dragging my feet until I decide how to start living again in the *gasp* real world.  We need people which is funny coming from someone who pushed everyone away and pretended she didn’t need love.  I’m getting off track which is probably for the best.  Who wants to hear about the basics of recovery?  I do.

  1.  Support system – friends, family, coworkers, therapist.
  2.  Healthy eating – fruits, vegetables, lean meat, whole grains.
  3.  Exercise – cardio, strength building, yoga, meditation.
  4.  Creative outlet – painting, sewing, karate, writing, dancing.
  5.  Faith in something – higher power, the universe, a rock star, television character, boyfriend, grandma, yourself.
  6.  Determination – the grace and grit to get the job done.
  7.  A sense of humor – the ability to laugh at yourself because life is funny.
  8.  Gratitude – a deep appreciation for everything that we have.
  9.  Connection with nature – trees, water, plants, birds, the sky.
  10.  Find your purpose – soul calling, passion, what brings you joy?

The most important thing is to be kind to yourself and have faith that you will feel better.  I wanted to be 100% back to normal.  I put a lot of pressure on myself because a) I thought it was possible and b) my ego couldn’t handle the setback.  I was the last one to realize cancer was going to change me that it had changed me.  My mind/body/spirit went through a hurricane, the proverbial “dark night of the soul.”  Instead of falling victim to post-traumatic stress, we can choose post-traumatic growth.  What can I learn from this?  How to treat myself with loving kindness.  What are the inherent gifts of struggle?  We become more appreciative of life.

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It’s my job as a survivor to show the world that I survived the storm.  Whatever that looks like: fast, slow, grouchy, giggling, blooming or withered.  I give myself credit for being a brave warrior and notice that in some ways I have changed for the better.  I am stronger and wiser.  I see more clearly and hear more deeply.  Changing my mentality from an angry victim to a proud survivor hasn’t been easy.  Every day, I send light to the darkness and choose love over fear.  Making peace with my new normal is a humbling experience making me realize how silly I was to doubt my beauty and youth.

Affirmation:  “I am confident and capable, I am healthy and strong.”

Namaste,

Julie

What is recovery?

fall robin hood

Recovery is the process of healing pain and moving forward.  For a cancer survivor, the sickness can linger long after the illness has been treated.  The residual yuck clouded my thoughts and slowed my movements.  I’m not who I used to be.  Everything is different now.  Where did my confidence go?  Will anyone love me now?  A shower is great for washing away dirt.  What about the shame and confusion?  You can’t wash your insides out.  Crying became an effective way for me to release the pain and I’m sure my neighbor thought, “What is that girl’s problem?”

I’ve been through a lot and healing takes time.  We have to grieve what we’ve lost, and it may take awhile, but it’s better to heal the right way than to take short cuts, numb out or pretend everything is fine.  The problem with pretending everything is fine is that your body/mind/spirit knows better and feelings don’t like to stay bottled up.  My first blog post is becoming very honest.  I’m sharing this because the truth sets me free.  Cutting is a form of self-harm, a short term solution for long term pain.  This happened a few years ago.

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Cutting is not the answer.  There are healthy ways to deal with messy feelings: exercise, write in a journal, make art, call a friend, talk to a therapist, eat a healthy dinner, watch a funny movie and get a good night sleep.  Each of us has an inner child who is yearning for love and attention.  Soothe her or him with healing words.  “I’m here for you, everything is okay.  You are safe now, the past is over.  We can create a happy, loving, amazing future.  The angels are cheering us on.”

heart infiniti

Namaste,

Julie