My FD experience – June 2017

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I went into the First Descents rock climbing program with some preconceived notions and a good bit of trepidation. I knew it was a highly respected organization that helps cancer survivors heal by taking them into the great outdoors where they can breathe, enjoy the beauty of nature, and regain confidence. I would imagine each of us walked away with renewed hope and strength. I had never climbed nor been to the Adirondaks which made it very exciting for me. We didn’t go by our real names rather we could choose or be given a nickname. I chose Willow because that’s the name that came to me. And I love willow trees. There’s a group of them living not far from me. For the last five years, I’ve walked to see them admiring their beauty and movement. Now I realize they symbolize healing, surrender, harmony, intuition, flexibility, immortality, and feminine power.

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When I arrived at the Albany airport, feeling cool just for being in New York, I made my way to the baggage claim relieved to meet Laura, Lauren, Lindsey, and Donal, who became Scooby Snacks, Eden, Tahoe, and Waz. A young girl who looked to be in her early twenties kept walking by our group glancing at us. Luckily, she joined us, and Paige became Glance. An FD volunteer, Benchy, greeted us with warmth and excitement. Being from Cincinnati, I knew the baseball player his nickname was derived from: Johnny Bench. We piled into a white minivan and the adventure began! He drove us the two hour scenic drive to the Keene Mountain House, our home for the next five days. Glance became my roommate as we stumbled into one of the cabins, found two twin beds and took a much-needed nap before dinner. Both of us had been up late the night before packing and worrying. She was packing, I was worrying! Once I got there, I knew I had made the right decision, being in the mountains felt refreshing and the view was breathtaking.

keene mountain housethe view adirondaks

In hindsight, taking an indoor climbing class to learn the basics might’ve eased my mind and better prepared me. I relied on my natural athletic ability and caught on fairly quickly. To be honest, Alpine had to go up with me the first time, I was that scared. After that, I had several decent climbs where I felt like I was getting the hang of it, no pun intended! When my fear of heights kicked in during the multi-pitch climb, I stayed focused, prayed to God, and said my affirmations. Luckily, Tahoe was following me, Waz was climbing next to me, and the group was cheering me on from below. I didn’t want to let them down! Sugar, one of the guides, eased the tension with jokes like, “Today’s my first day! A temp agency sent me.” We also learned how to belay and rappel down. Rock climbing shoes have rubber soles which help your feet grip the rocks. I make it look easy, lol!

me climbing fd

But I’m skipping ahead…the rest of the survivors arrived later that evening and I met: Jocelyn (Jack), Tatiana (TBD), Rachael (Thrifty), Jenny (Kini), Betty (Fifi), and Chris (Data). Yes, it was intimidating to meet new people and rock climb with them. They were really easy to get along with, survivors know how to have a good time, and the Alpine Endeavors guides were awesome teachers. Each morning, we ate breakfast and packed a lunch to take with us. I enjoyed the egg salad wrap, fruit, and trail mix. Most days we were gone from 9am-4pm. When we got back, we showered, rested, and got ready for dinner. Depending on the weather, we had a campfire inside or outside. I had forgotten how much I enjoy a campfire. It takes me back to my childhood when my family used to go camping and my dad would build us a fire each night. Nature heals the soul and humbles the ego.

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We dodged rain all week. I’m glad I packed a wind breaker. The last day, we went for a hike up to the Baxter Mountain Summit. At this point, my legs were nearly jello. I thought I wouldn’t make it up to the top, but I’m glad I did. The highest climb has the best view. As oxygen flooded my cells, I realized this is how you heal cancer with fresh air and exercise, sunlight and laughter. Not to mention, we were eating a plant-based whole foods diet, thanks to Vagetti and Mayor. There were no refined sugars and yet everything tasted delicious. Some of the highlights for me were the: pancakes, chicken pot pie, pad Thai, fish tacos, veggie lasagna, root bear float, strawberry shortcake, and chocolate mousse. I was in food heaven. We had very little dairy, meat, or caffeine. My mind was thinking clearly almost euphorically and eating healthy meals gave me energy to climb.

willow rock climbing

Mind you, it wasn’t all roses, there were mosquitoes to contend with, clouds of bug spray, squat peeing behind trees, which I got pretty good at, and the realization that even though we had done a lot of healing there, we would return home and have to keep up on the promises we had made. After the final hike, we went into town to do some souvenir shopping. It was then that I realized the string and rock (FD rituals) we had been given meant more to me than anything I could buy in those shops. Although, I did manage to buy a souvenir t-shirt and moose magnet. I’ll always think fondly of my FD experience and recommend it to new survivors. Since arriving home, I’m inspired to continue taking courageous action. I’ve signed up for speed dating, an indoor soccer team, and applied for a part-time job at a rock climbing gym near me. I can get unstuck, I can find my way.

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Cancer takes away our power and makes us mistrust our body. To see myself and the other survivors climbing the crag day after day was very inspiring. Just when I was about to give up, I’d find a handhold or foothold and be able to climb just a little bit higher. Life’s like that. My mom asked, “Weren’t they tired?” No, cancer survivors are the strongest tribe alive much like the Samurai. And if they were, they didn’t show it. We’ll always have something to prove. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. When I look back, I wish I had climbed a few more times. My rock revelation: I need to start making my own decisions. God knows, I’m old enough! It’s when I don’t trust my inner knowing that I lose my way. At the campfires, we shared our stories and felt understood maybe for the first time since being diagnosed. When I sit in a circle of survivors, I can feel the pain and strength. It’s not a circle I ever thought I’d be in and it took me a long time to join the circle. I just hit my eight year anniversary! I’m thankful for the tears, laughter, and dancing – those are the true remedies.

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Big thanks to the awesome FD staff: Benchy, Scrawny, Rut-Roh, Vagetti, Mayor, Minguyver, and Ama D. As well as the Alpine Endeavors staff: Alpine, Jugs, Grins, and Sugar. It was more than a job to them – they truly cared about us, nourished us, and treated us with loving kindness. They created an environment where we felt safe to be ourselves, have fun, and heal. They treated us with respect and admiration. They weren’t afraid of our tears or laughter. It’s easy for survivors to minimize what we go through, what we’ve been through, because we have to shrug it off and be brave. When I returned home, I felt different like I had changed for the better. I stood a little taller and breathed more deeply. I had to laugh at myself when something silly bothered me or seemed difficult. You just climbed a mountain, I reminded myself, and no one can take that away from you.

glance

My roommate, Glance, was quite younger than me, which forced me to step up and be the responsible one. Although it turns out, I’m the lenient mom. I let her sleep in too late! I can’t imagine being diagnosed in my twenties. I was 31 and that was devastating enough. After treatment, I didn’t think I’d ever date again or have a guy find me attractive. I felt sick and damaged. I thought God was punishing me, and I was very angry about the lingering pain and fatigue. I lost interest in the things that used to bring me joy. Getting cancer felt like a weakness, but it has made me stronger. Strength is letting people help me. Strength is letting people love me. The Universe brought each one of us there because healing doesn’t happen in isolation. The magic happens when we let our guards down and become vulnerable. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one feeling stuck or depressed upon arrival. The key is to keep the momentum going. What brings you joy? Go and do that. You’ll find your way.

FD bracelet

FD lead staff Rut-Roh, who could be goofy one minute and a philosopher the next, led a Baci ceremony which was new to me and very cool. I have a piece of string tied around my wrist that has more meaning and value than almost all of my jewelry combined. My three figure eight knots represent: bravery, determination, and persistence. Sugar chose those three adjectives to describe me. I chose sense of humor, outgoing, and kindness for his knots. The figure eight knot is the one we used for tying the rope into our harness, so it also reminds us of the climb. I’m not always brave, determined, or persistent, no one is, but I have been in the past and I can be again. There’s strength in knowing that. My cancer experience has given me much sadness, but it’s also given me new friends and fun adventures. I can let go of the grief, anger, and confusion. And each time they pop back up, I will let them go again. Healing isn’t about being perfect, fearless, and having the right answer. Healing requires compassion, courage, and humility. We practice forgiveness because it sets us free.

Have a great week,

Julie

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June

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I was planning to write the June blog about my experience rock climbing with First Descents, an organization that takes cancer survivors on outdoor adventures, since it’s at the end of the month, I’m going to make that the topic of my July blog. I’m excited about going. I’m also nervous because I’ve never been rock climbing before. It looks like fun, on the other hand, I’m thinking, what have I gotten myself into? I’m probably going to be exhausted. I have a minor fear of heights. It’s easy to forget my original intention: meet other survivors, gain confidence, and experience healing. We’ll be in the Adirondack Park which is cooler weather, and I will pack accordingly. I’ve never been to the state of New York so that will be interesting.

Recently, I realized something important, I’ve been disappointing myself in little ways. I’m not getting enough exercise, I’m still struggling to clean up my diet, and I haven’t found a part-time job. I guess being honest is the first step towards making changes. I started feeling like the world was reflecting that back to me. I began to experience minor disappointments in my outer world. I was swinging too high and inevitable crashed. I think life is about finding the middle path: balanced, stable, happy, and grounded. I need to sleep, eat, move, create, laugh, and learn. I’m done waiting for Prince Charming. He isn’t coming. I have to rescue myself, that’s the modern day fairy tale, that’s when love doesn’t feel burdened.

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Something happened that had me on the verge of tears for three days. I invited someone to my cousin’s wedding in August and he declined. Even though he let me down easy, rejection is painful, and if anyone tells you differently, they’re lying. I know he cares about me and wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings, nevertheless, my heart and self-esteem were crushed. Because I’m so sensitive, it put me in a very dark place emotionally. I promptly started up my affirmation practice because that’s the best way I know how to get my thoughts back on track and find the light. I still feel silly talking about affirmations, like everyone is naturally optimistic and filled with self-love, doubtful. For me, it takes practice because I can be very hard on myself.

About a week later, I was out shopping for some hiking gear, feeling quite proud of myself for getting through it and not messaging him. Pain is a teacher, it’s teaching me to stop touching that burner. I had the feeling that I need to move on and start talking with other guys. The next thing I knew, I got my chance, I struck up a conversation with a guy who was working at the store. Feeling apprehensive about rock climbing, I asked him if he’d ever been. That’s all I’m going to say, I’ve already chased one guy away by writing about him in my blog. Regardless of whether we continue talking, and I hope we do, the experience showed me there are other men, and I don’t have to be alone.

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Something else about this month, it’s my cancer anniversary. I was diagnosed on June 5, 2009. It’s been eight years. I’m writing a short blog this month. I can do whatever I put my mind to, that’s what we learn as children and forget as we grow up, which reminds me, I’m about to be an aunt again. My sister-in-law, Kristine, is due the 4th of July, the doctor said she could be ten days early. Children are quite magical, they are a blessing. God has a plan for each of us, it’s our soul’s purpose, our mission this lifetime. It’s when we stop listening or want what isn’t ours that we cause ourselves unnecessary agony. Life shouldn’t be a struggle. Life can be joyful and adventurous. Hurt doesn’t heal hurt. Love heals the hurt. I’m thankful for the lesson. I’m thankful for my friendships. I continue to become stronger and wiser.

Have a safe and happy summer,

Julie

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May – Aloha!

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Before I talk about my amazing experience with Athletes for Cancer, who recently changed their name to Project Koru, I need to bring you up-to-date. Speaking of dates, I did not go out with J. He sent me a text message saying he was no longer interested in pursuing a potential relationship. He didn’t give me any explanation. I have a feeling it’s because I talked about him in the previous blog. I’ve learned my lesson there. I’m honest to a fault which sometimes works against me. Oh well, there are plenty of fish in the sea. I refuse to censor myself on my own blog. This is a place where I can express myself and find healing. I want to be with someone who appreciates my personality and finds it endearing. The Dayton Book Expo (see picture below) went really well. I met a bunch of authors and talked with several survivors. At the risk of sounding like a salesperson, I had never developed a short pitch to describe my book. I have since realized it’s okay to have one and quite necessary for a book fair.

dayton book fair 2017

The day before I left for Maui, I was completely terrified, which seems silly now since I was flying to paradise! I had never flown that far away from home. On the way there, I had three flights, 14 hours of travel. On the way back, I only had two flights, 11 hours of travel. The flights weren’t bad after all. I read a book, slept, listened to music, and watched a few television shows. I made the mistake of getting a smoothie instead of a turkey sandwich before my long flight and then I was grumpy upon arrival. My mom and brother gave me pep talks over the phone. I think it was fear of the unknown, leaving my comfort zone, and not wanting to feel out of control. Ironically, that was exactly what I needed. I was feeling stuck and isolated here. I definitely got unstuck and have become part of a fun community. I’m going to continue to create a life filled with joy, meaning, and purpose.

camp koru path

Once I got to Maui and met the counselors and survivors, I instantly relaxed and knew I had made the right decision. Most of my worries went away and I was able to be in the present moment. The funny thing about camping, you become very resourceful very quickly. The flashlight I wasn’t even sure why I was bringing, became my best friend at night when walking to the bathroom. It was fun to light the path and make sure I wasn’t stepping on a critter, that is, a giant cockroach, centipede, or cute lizard. It also taught me that being clean isn’t the most important thing in the world and towards the end of the week I didn’t even mind getting into bed with dirty feet. There’s something soothing about being on the beach and listening to the sound of the waves. I will never forget that sound. It was so awesome. Once I made friends with the sand and the heat, I had a good time. The coconut water and shave ice were very refreshing.

maui 2017

What would I have done differently? I would apply a generous amount of sunscreen on my legs the first day. I don’t have a good excuse. What would’ve taken me under two minutes to apply, has cost me about two weeks of pain and annoyance. I learned my lesson. Lots of lesson learning this month. Also, I would’ve packed some cooler clothing: a swimsuit coverup, sundress, and tank top. I didn’t have anything cute to wear on the last night when we had the ohana ceremony and that was a bummer. While some of them were working on their tans, I was trying not to get burnt to a crisp! Now, I feel more than ready to hop into my apartment’s pool, it’s salt water not chlorine, when it opens in a few weeks. And I will be using my sunscreen!

I also need to mention my roommates, Tidal and Monarch, who were the perfect cabin mates for me. They were very understanding when I was still up folding my clothes, which is something that soothes me and makes me feel in control. It definitely put things in perspective, everyone else was in bed going to sleep and I was organizing my stuff! We had such busy days that I needed all the rest I could get. It was neat to see how they could throw their stuff in their suitcase and everything didn’t have to be perfect. I also noticed they were able to take a quick shower, whereas, I felt better waiting until the evening when I wouldn’t be rushed. Tidal also helped me with trying to do things faster, even saying something like: 3, 2, 1, Go! What we noticed is that I overthink things instead of just performing the task. I worried about having a schedule and being ready on time, but it actually helped me by forcing me to think quicker and move faster.

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How did I get my power name? This is a good story. My mom drove me to the airport on the morning of my departure. It was pouring rain and I was half asleep. Surprisingly, my nerves had calmed down and I was getting really excited. I started thinking about what my power name should be and how we were going to have to share it when we got there. The next thing I knew, a white truck passed by with a small picture of a bird and the word LARK written below it. I looked over at my mom and said, “Well, there’s my power name.” I thought it sounded really strong and cool. I’m glad the name came to me organically and ripe with symbolism. Birds represent leaving the nest and being brave. They trust their wings to carry them. It’s how tiger girl gets out of the tree. She doesn’t go back down the way she came, she flies! She becomes Lark – a strong, powerful woman. Woohoo! πŸ™‚

During Camp Koru, I experienced healing on many levels. I had several cathartic moments where I was able to release grief, pain, and anger, the old survivor baggage that was weighing me down. I enjoyed surfing and standup paddle boarding. I’m confident in my athletic ability, talent I was given at birth, and being active makes me feel good about myself. I enjoyed the time I spent in the water learning the two awesome sports. What was even more amazing, I got to learn them with my new group of friends. From the moment I got there, I felt a special bond with them that I have never felt with anyone else before. I would imagine that’s how war veterans or alcoholics feel when they go to a support group. It was like nothing had to be said. They just knew. They had been through the same hell. They had to fight. I felt accepted and supported from the moment I got there.

tenacity award

I won the Tenacity award (see picture above) one night at the camp fire, Aurora presented it to me. And then the next day was really rough, my self-doubt came back with a vengeance and the blister was bothering me. I was really looking forward to hiking to the waterfall, but the hike proved to be quite difficult. It was muddy and the rocks were very slippery. Not to mention my left foot had swollen to three times its size and I was carrying a beach bag on my right side, a back pack would’ve been much better. I was basically useless on both sides and kept slipping off of the rocks. It was pretty embarrassing. And yet, the blister didn’t pop. Even my blister is tough! I won’t insert the picture here, but let me tell you, it was a doozy. I think I was a bit exhausted, too. I was walking faster than my feet would carry me. I had hit my happiness threshold and found myself running from an experience that I dearly wanted but couldn’t handle at the time.

maui beach

Another thing worth mentioning is the beauty of Maui; it’s breathtaking, remarkable, and humbling. I’ve seen my share of mountains from Colorado to Utah to Montana and even the wonderful Great Smoky Mountains. But the mountains in Hawaii have a presence to them, they are living and breathing and filled with spirit. The natives are also filled with this aloha spirit, I think it comes from living on the island and being surrounded by peace and love. It’s simply amazing! πŸ™‚ I had no idea how special it is there. So, it’s not surprising that a few days ago, I felt completely depressed to be back here. I think it’s pretty normal to come down from a high like that. There aren’t too many places that can equal the beauty of Maui. Surprisingly, I didn’t take many photos. Bear took photos of everyone from Camp Koru 29 which I re-posted on my brand new Facebook page. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/julie.knose.79

I will be forever grateful for my experience and I don’t regret any of it. Well, maybe the sunburn and blister! Although, pain is a teacher. It forced me to say the two words I rarely say or said, “It hurts.” I’m glad it’s healing and no longer hurting me. I’m a lucky girl. Lucky to have met an amazing group of friends. We went through hell and we deserve every bit of joy and happiness. I am proud to be a survivor, if it means standing in their company. We survived the darkness so that we can live in the light. That’s our job. That’s all we have to do. No stress. No pressure. Just being you is enough. Just living is enough. Just reaching out is enough. God gives us opportunities like these to heal and play and laugh. Life isn’t without pain, yet having friends who understand makes the pain go away. That’s why a cancer survivor camp is the most awesome thing in the world. We aren’t alone, we have each other, and being loved is the best feeling in the world.

Have a great week,

Julie aka Lark πŸ™‚

Oh what the hell, the blister was pretty remarkable!!

the maui blister

April – Update

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It’s always out of the blue. Good things seem to happen out of the blue, most likely because they’re orchestrated by angels. I almost didn’t look at his message. I thought it was from the cat guy because they have the same name. Why would the cat guy be sending me another message? And why did he message me in the first place? I clearly stated in my profile – I’m allergic to cats and dogs. He said he saw that but didn’t think it was an extreme allergy. Lol. He obviously doesn’t have allergies because he also volunteers at a dog shelter. Oh my. He seemed like a really nice guy and was actually going to take one lucky lady to four concerts this summer. I told him, thanks for the message, yes, my allergies are extreme and have fun at the concerts.

When I opened up his message, “I’d like to talk with you if you’re willing. What is the last spirituality book you enjoyed reading?” I think my jaw dropped and my pulse quickened. There was something masculine and strong about his picture that didn’t disgust me. He has a seriousness about him with a touch of sadness that made me wonder if something bad had happened. He’s divorced, maybe she died? When I looked at the second picture, I saw him and his two beautiful daughters, they were smiling and happy. They are five and four years old. He has full custody. At the risk of seeming over eager, I only liked his profile but didn’t message back. He took this to mean my membership had expired, sent me another message saying he’d really like to talk with me and would hold onto hope. I am fond of hope.

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When someone finds me fascinating or even tolerable, I’m suspicious. It’s not due to low self-esteem, I know I have a lot to offer. I think it’s a normal reaction or maybe I’m afraid of being hurt again. In reality, my isolation is twice as harmful. When talking about her now fiance, I remember my cousin saying, “he messaged me first.” The dynamic was right from the beginning that’s why it worked. The man gives while the women receives, then she gives while he receives. It has to start with the man. For once, I’m not the aggressor, although I can be aggressive, we are assuming our natural roles. We both want a relationship. I hope we have a connection when we meet this weekend. He chose a coffee shop that’s closer to where I live, which I think is very sweet. I’m excited to meet him. I don’t know how much I’ll share here, I want to respect his privacy. Sometimes I get tired of social media. These lives we pretend to have by only showing the happy moments. Life has sad moments, too.

If you’ve read the previous post, you’re probably thinking I sound a bit contradictory. I said I don’t want kids, that is, I don’t want to have kids through labor. I am more than okay with meeting a man who already has children. And I would stay in Cincinnati for the right person. What about the guy who lives in California? I still think he’s a great guy, but he won’t step up to the plate which leads me to believe he doesn’t share my feelings and pining away over him makes me look like an idiot, and I’m tired of looking like an idiot. I enjoy talking with the new guy, J. We both have the same first initial. I could be the strong survivor that he sees in my pictures. And I could make him happy. Imagine that? I would actually be doing something right. I could be loved and adored instead of the person who does everything wrong. We could learn from each other. Isn’t that what we’re here for? Maybe I should try to be less snarky and sarcastic. That might help!

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Did I have a good time in Utah? I sure did. My niece is so precious. She adores my mom, follows her everywhere, they are best buddies. Every morning, bright and early, I heard Emma calling out for Grandma. She also says, “I need it” and “Emma do it.” After a few days, she warmed up to me and began saying my name. She’s so cheerful and happy. She’s athletic and strong. She laughs at almost everything and is very perceptive. When I made her a friendship bracelet and put it on her tiny wrist, she held out her other wrist and said, “two.” There’s no way you can tell that sweet angel, “no.” I quickly got to making another bracelet and tied it onto her other wrist. She enjoyed playing with the stamps, stickers, and markers I brought for her. She has an entourage of stuffed animals which she sometimes carries everywhere. It’s neat to see my brother with her, he’s a great dad, talks to her calmly, takes her to the park, and makes sure she eats her lunch. Our dad would be proud. I know he was there with us in spirit – happy to see us happy.

What’s on my plate? The date, the book fair, and then Camp Koru. I also need to get more laundry and cleaning done. I still have to buy a few things from the packing list. I’m going to be super productive and make good use of my time. Yes, I’m a bit stressed and overwhelmed, why wouldn’t I be? I’m going to breathe and pray that everything turns out well. I probably won’t be packing my suitcase super neatly like I did for Utah, it might just get thrown in. My therapist (who I stopped seeingΒ  a few months ago because I felt like I was talking the talk and not walking the walk) would appreciate that! Any time I don’t give in to my ocd tendencies is a victory. Although, it is good to be organized! My second interview, with Terri from A Fresh Chapter, went okay and I’ve applied for a scholarship to help offset the cost of the volunteer abroad program. The weather has gotten warm here. I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter, if that’s what you celebrate! πŸ™‚

Have a great week,

Julie

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April – Dating and Travel

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If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you’re probably thinking, she’s completely obsessed with him. Let’s use the word “enamored,” it sounds less crazy. We praise athletes for their long hours of practice and devotion to the sport, yet we frown upon people who get too infatuated. I know it’s slightly different, but don’t we want that to happen? Would you want your sweetheart to be on-the-fence about you? When people get married, it’s because they’ve chosen that person over everyone else or in today’s age until they get divorced. It’s having other options and still choosing them because there’s something amazing about them that everyone else lacks. It’s how my grandma’s face would light up when she described my grandpa.

In my defense, I’ve started dating. Well, I haven’t actually gone on a date, but I’ve been talking with a guy who lives about 20 minutes away. He’s asked me out three times now but I’ve turned him down, so I guess I haven’t started dating! He wanted to meet up last weekend and I told him I was busy which wasn’t a lie. Then he wanted to pick me up and go to a bar in downtown Cincinnati, that’s a bad idea for several reasons. Then he mentioned a winery near Oxford. I don’t like wine. I’m not trying to be difficult. I think a good first date is meeting for coffee or lunch or at a bookstore. I could mention that to him. The problem is, I don’t think he’s “the one.” You’re probably thinking, well, you haven’t given him a chance. No, I haven’t, yet I know when something has potential and when it doesn’t.

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He seems like a decent guy, he’s just not my guy. He’s shorter than me. God blessed me with long appendages. I want to be with a guy who’s my height or taller. He wants kids. I don’t want kids. I’m not a baby maker. I ain’t gonna be his baby mama. I feel pretty strongly about that. And it’s interesting the majority of guys on that site seem to want kids. He’s buying a house in Cincinnati. We all know that’s the last place I would buy a house. Why was I even talking to him? Back in February, as a birthday present to myself, I joined MeetMindful, a dating site for people who are into spirituality, meditation, and yoga. There’s a very small pool of men to choose from which is good in a way. I might’ve gotten overwhelmed by the amount of men on a larger site. Until I take it seriously and make the effort, it’ll be a waste of money. I’m always working on something else and dating gets moved to the bottom of the list. I need to get my priorities figured out.

I don’t know if I’m going to renew my membership. I guess I would recommend the site, you get three free days to see what it’s like. At first, I was mad at myself for joining and decided it was a waste of money, so I tried to put some effort into it which is why I started talking with him. Although now I realize when I text him back it just encourages him. Something else worth mentioning, I had “cancer survivor” in my bio and it seemed like I wasn’t getting much attention. I wondered if that was the cause. I deleted the ominous words and got two messages which was just a coincidence. It felt better without the heavy label, then it felt like I was keeping a secret or trying to be someone else, so I put them back on there. Update: it hasn’t made a difference. I’ve gotten the same amount of messages. I think it’s something they need to know and if it’s a deal breaker, like dogs and cats are for me, then we don’t have to waste our time.

He seemed genuinely interested which surprised me. I think he’s lonely or I’m incredibly fascinating to talk with! I don’t think he was just being nice to get in my pants although he could’ve been. He was winking at me and I thought to myself, why are you winking at me? Please stop. Maybe I’m not ready for dating. He sensed that I didn’t like the winking and switched to regular smileys. He seems immature even though he’s 34. There’s a seriousness about me now that caught me by surprise. I can’t go back to the recklessness of my twenties. Those days are long gone. I need to focus on my diet and exercise, the missing pieces of the puzzle, the things that are going to save my life. And real love grows like a beautiful flower in a magical garden. I’m going to keep looking even though I’ve already found him.

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You might also be wondering if I’ve made any travel plans this year. I’m going to Utah with my mom to visit with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece for a week in April. My niece is two years old now. I’m really excited to see her. My sister-in-law is pregnant again, due in July. It’s a girl! πŸ™‚ I booked my flight to Salt Lake City then found out I’d been taken off the waitlist for the Athletes for Cancer – Camp Koru program, which means I’m going in May rather than November. Instead of tears of joy, I was crying tears of overwhelm because I had four trips in the next three months which is a lot even for a person who doesn’t struggle with anything. Camp Koru is in Maui, Hawaii, the mythical place I’ve long to go to since I was a little girl. The day after I made my flight, I had a lot of anxiety and it took about a day to calm down. I still can’t believe I’m going there. It doesn’t help that I stopped exercising during the winter and my bikini body is nowhere to be found. Of course, I found a way to put pressure on myself.

Guess which trip got taken off the table? The book fair in Berkeley which is in early June. My friend, Christen, wasn’t able to go with me after all and the trip had fallen apart. πŸ™ They aren’t pairing authors up this year and it would’ve been difficult running the booth alone. Even though I was disappointed, I’ve realized giving a few gift wrapped copies of my book to survivors who become my friends feels better than selling them on the street to strangers. The trip that got to stay, rock climbing with First Descents at the end of June. This is what my schedule looks like for the next three months: April – Utah, May – Hawaii, June – New York. I wanted to travel, well, I’m getting my chance now! If you want to start traveling, you have to start traveling. I hope I haven’t pushed myself too far outside of my comfort zone and I can get ready in time. Have a little faith in me.

I’m also applying for a volunteer abroad program for cancer survivors which would be for two weeks in November. To pay for the cost of the program, I’ll hold a fundraiser which I’m surprisingly excited about it. Everyone who donates will receive an arts & crafts item made by me. There are five choices: friendship bracelet, origami envelop with a quote, glass gem magnet, affirmation card, Polaroid photo taken in Peru. I’m about to get crafty! πŸ™‚ Before I get too excited, I have a second interview with A Fresh Chapter’s founder Terri Wingham. I’ll find out by May 1st if I’ve been selected to join them as a cancer ambassador and truly begin to heal the emotional scars of cancer. What have I learned from all of my planning and yearning? God doesn’t give you what you want, He gives you what you need.

Have a great week,

Julie

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March extra: a poem

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I can’t stop my heart from calling out your name. God made me for you, this much I know is true. He gave me this body for you to ease my mind. He gave me this mind for you to caress inside. Deep as the ocean we swim like dolphins, carefree and awesome. I think love is my purpose along with all of the others: faith, hope, and courage.

You have to bet it all. I’d rather play it safe. Safe won’t get you castles in the clouds and sand at your feet. What if he doesn’t like my smile? Honey, your smile gets him out of bed in the morning. I barely know him, this is absurd. Stop thinking and feel, your feelings are real. Sometimes, your thoughts turn you into your worst enemy.

It is going to work because love is stronger than fear. Because the angels are cheering for you. Because I’ve waited a whole year just to see him again. I know I sound foolish, so call me a fool and I’ll take it as a compliment. Butterflies, cloud nine, hallelujah. Then we become grounded in the joy and strength God gives us.

Don’t listen to the voices that keep you up at night, they are filled with envy, they are filled with spite. Everybody wants a good old-fashioned storybook ending: toe pick and as you wish. They had to put up a fight, they had to walk towards the light. You can live the life you want to live. Just listen to your heart and you will be alright.

Have a good week,

Julie

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March

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I had a realization the other day, the work is its own reward. And the more I don’t let myself do what I love, the more depressed I get. This seems quite obvious in theory, in reality, to let yourself have what you truly want, to choose the path that soothes your soul and makes your heart run wild, can often be the harder choice. Why is this so? Because we’re taught to conform and choose the safe route, which isn’t a bad thing per se, we just have to make sure we can live with our decision and haven’t betrayed our deepest longing. While I enjoy being alone, I also crave more connection. The key is to find a balance.

Or we hit our happiness threshold and self-sabotage because it feels scary and unfamiliar. The questions isn’t – Can I be happy? The question is – Can I let myself be happier than I’ve ever been? Can I let myself be loved even though I’m not perfect? Why do I think perfection is a prerequisite for love? We feel most seen, heard, and loved when we are being vulnerable. From an early age, we’re taught if we look a certain way and say the right things, someone will love us. We grow up feeling like we have to do something special to be loved, that our unique, quirky self isn’t good enough. We build walls in an effort to protect ourselves from getting hurt which in turn prevents intimacy, the only thing that will save us.

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Sometimes, we make the mistake of letting other people tell us what our work is and choose a job that’s more socially acceptable. These are things I’m working through. Do what feels good and then life will feel good. And yet, I haven’t been writing. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from writing. I have to be careful I’m not taking an extended break. Fiction is as just important as nonfiction, if not more. Sometimes we need laughter not theories. Even though there’s warmth in his words, I need to be held. He makes you feel safe. Yes, he does. That’s important. I know. You’ll be together again. I hope so. You had to go through the bad to get to the good. I wouldn’t have appreciated him. No, you wouldn’t have.

I’m trying to find my way back. I quieted the outside world for so long that I got a bit disconnected. Maybe that’s a sacrifice you have to make to get a big project done. I know there’s a way to have a better balance even if it means doing work that isn’t my real work. Won’t those other experiences add richness to my writing? Yes! Most likely. And it will make me appreciate my creative time more. It feels good to be busy. We’re each called to do something and one isn’t better than the other. What if everyone wanted to be the same thing? It wouldn’t work. We need different types of work to make the world work. Everyone has a special light that adds beauty to the world.

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I had an interview for a volunteer position, but it didn’t feel right. The hospital felt triggering and the job wouldn’t be making good use of my skills. The nice lady could sense my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t even want to make the very small time commitment. How odd my thinking is now after what I’ve been through, or maybe it’s completely normal to see everything differently. We underestimate the effects of trauma. I need to work on my composure and professionalism. I was nervous which seems silly now since I was overqualified for the position. No worries, she had seven other applicants to choose from. It was good practice for me, and I want to find something that does make sense.

I want to travel more which is forcing me to become the person I lost on the day I was diagnosed. I was happy and carefree. I want to be strong and give love. I’m tired of being weak and stingy. I need to pick up the stuff I dropped and neglected in order to get the book done. In a sense, I have been trying to run away from my obligations, the less-than-fun things that need to be faced here. I think there’s a misconception that some people are always on and making progress. There’s nothing wrong with going through a short, restful, contemplative phase because it usually precedes a longer phase of discipline, structure, and productivity. It’s always the workaholics who think they aren’t working hard enough!

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I thought after the book was done everything would be okay or get better. I forgot life doesn’t work that way. I have to keep going. I have to keep working, exercising, and practicing my affirmations. I have to keep the apartment running. I have to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I remember listening to a Neale Donald Walsch interview and he quoted a line from the Bible, “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be added unto you.” I would add: Be patient for it won’t happen immediately. God doesn’t make miracles in a microwave. And then all of sudden you realize you have everything you’ve ever wanted and more. It’s what you call magic.

All too often, we think we’re ready, because we’ve prayed and begged and planned and forced. We become needy and aggressive which prevents the miracles from reaching us. And then we get mad and hurt because God isn’t doing his job. But He is. He’s teaching us how to step back, be receptive, and surrender. And that’s when our good can flow towards us, the bounty that’s truly ours. I found so many fun things to do this year and became somewhat confused as to which ones were for my highest good. To do all of them would be logistically and financially impossible. And they weren’t baby steps, they were giant leaps into the unknown. I need to be moving and shaking around here before I can be successful elsewhere.

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I’ve always shied away from practicing manifestation because I know how powerful it can be. Let’s try this out, I need some guidance. I began asking the universe before I left the apartment something like: “Give me a sign about what I should do. Give me a sign I’ve made the right decision. Give me a sign of which path I should pursue.” And I got a few answers. I want to preface this by saying, you have to be careful you’re reading the signs right. You could think you’re getting the answer you want because that’s the answer you want rather than the answer you’re actually receiving. I went over to the mailbox expecting to get a few bills or junk mail, I pulled the mail out and an envelope fell and smacked the concrete. This surprised me because I’m usually very careful. I looked down – it was my passport. It had only taken three weeks even though I didn’t expedite it.

Then I went to Target to return something and it was taking unusually long because there were two women in front of me. I was pretty much stuck in this one spot. I felt a nudge to look down to my right and three words on the cover of a magazine jumped out at me. The words were nearly identical to the name of an organization that gives cancer survivors an opportunity to volunteer abroad. Later that day, I saw this quote: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” The right amount of challenge stretches rather than breaks us. The right kind of challenge gives us grace and confidence. It’s okay things were neglected, I wrote a book. I wasn’t being lazy. There’s always another opportunity if we’re brave enough to try. Instead of doing ten things poorly, I will do several things well! πŸ™‚

Have a great month,

Julie

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February

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If you can tell by the title, I’ve decided to do monthly posts, although, some months I might blog more depending on what’s going on.

I’ve become a bit farsighted, not literally of course, I mean figuratively or metaphorically. I can’t see near, all the amazing opportunities around me haven’t appealed to me for various reasons. One, I don’t want to put down roots here, even though I’ve been back in Ohio for ten years. I left Santa Fe in 2007 when my dad got sick. My mom is doing fine now, she’s had the same boyfriend for eight years, she really doesn’t need me anymore. And I am many years past the normal recovery time for cancer treatment. Two, the “person loses interest in things that used to bring them joy,” really has rung true for me.

Cincinnati is home to a wide assortment of concerts, sporting events, activities, and museums that are all available to me. Because I have a good knowledge of art, music, and sports, I often see something of interest: a band, a game, a festival. In the past, I wasn’t healthy enough or was waiting to get stronger. I’m never going to be 100% again and that’s okay. I don’t want to keep missing out on life or let my health deteriorate even more. This year, I’m choosing to become more involved in my city and at the same time planning things in other cities. I don’t like winter and cold weather. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a city that doesn’t have nice weather.

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What worries me is that I’ve been experiencing a lot of fatigue almost as if the radiation fatigue has doubled back somehow. The funny thing is, thanks to the universe, I’ve found so many wonderful things to do and they are what’s getting me out of bed in the morning. The things I can do in my city are: volunteer, get a part-time job, start dating, and go to the activities mentioned above. I feel like trusting people again and realize my isolation, although I did it to protect myself in the beginning, has become a defense mechanism that’s holding me back and limiting my quality of life. So yes, I’m excited and looking forward to a better year! I hope you are, too! πŸ™‚

So, what plans are in motion? I’ve applied for the book fair in Berkeley that takes place in early June. I’m waiting for confirmation of acceptance. My friend, Christen, has already agreed to go with me, which is awesome, we’re going to have an awesome time! For that, I need to order books, get the table stuff ready, make things to sell, decide on hotel and flight. I have some time. Actually, the Dayton Book Expo comes first, it’s in April, so I need to get ready for it and figure out what I’m wearing to present myself in a way that looks cool, casual, confident, and comfortable. I might have to go shopping, especially to buy materials if I’m going to make things to sell.

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Regarding the cancer survivor camps, I received an email from First Descents, probably the coolest one, they’ve opened up their 2017 summer camps. I can choose between rock climbing!!! or whitewater kayaking!!! I know, right? πŸ™‚ They’re in cool locations, too: New York, Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Both activities seem scary andΒ  challenging. Even though I’m somewhat afraid of heights, I’m leaning towards the rock climbing. Kayaking looks fun, too. I need to decide for sure and let them know before the spots fill up. Right now I’m out of shape, yet I consider myself to be athletic and that would give me a boost of confidence. And I sincerely look forward to the experience of bonding with other survivors.

The Love Your Life 30 Day Project, the link is in last month’s blog, is really helping me to focus on what’s working and what changes need to be made. It reminds me of an art therapy activity where the client answers the miracle question. If you could wake up tomorrow and your life were exactly the way you wanted it to be, what would it be like? Where would you live? What would you do for a living? Who are your friends? What do you do in your free time? What brings you joy? And then the client draws a picture of their future self once their dreams have come true. It’s a really neat exercise, one that puts things in perspective. How near or how far are we from our ideal life?

Have a great week,

Julie

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January

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This is the first blog of 2017! πŸ™‚ Here’s to many more… I’ve been waiting to write this because I’ve wanted to let my thoughts settle and prevent myself from making grand declarations of change. Yes, I want to make some changes, but they’re going to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. I’m going to set goals and intentions rather than resolutions. How do I want to feel? Happy, healthy, strong. Energetic, inspired, connected. Relaxed, peaceful, grounded. I’m going to take small steps in the direction of my dreams – follow my highest excitement, give it careful consideration, and then don’t talk myself out of it. The Universe is guiding me towards my highest good. I will listen to my inner wise self and trust that voice. Change requires courage, hard work, dedication, and encouragement.

When you think about it, change involves creating new habits or reinstating old ones. I remember something Tony Robbins said, he’s a motivational coach who helps athletes and performers get back on their game. “What were you doing that was working that you stopped doing?” That’s pretty powerful. I can think of a few things I stopped doing that were contributing to my health and happiness. Those are things I need to start doing again. It seems like people have similar goals for the new year: exercise more, eat healthier, find time for creativity, and deepen friendships because these things cultivate feelings of self-love and inner peace which makes us all feel better.

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I have a few updates for my readers who are genuinely concerned about my well-being and whereabouts. First, the doctor’s appointment. I get a gold star for putting on the gown and letting her touch the lump which she decided was an epidermal cyst. She reassured me that it was probably nothing. Well, in 2009, the gynecologist “reassured” me the 2cm tumor was “probably nothing.” I did feel reassured that day, but it’s still hurting. She said the pain could be caused by inflammation. The next step would be an ultrasound, which was useless last time, or have a surgeon remove it, if it continues to bother me. It’s been bothering me for two years, so I might get it removed this year just to put my mind at ease and quit being bothered by it.

I wanted to clarify something I said a few posts back about the Berkeley book fair. I had looked at the application on my phone and didn’t realize I was looking at the wrong category. I’m a small publisher not a large publisher. So when I said it was too expensive, that wasn’t an accurate statement. And interestingly enough, the Chicago book fair is more expensive. I haven’t made my final decision about the book fairs yet. If I do apply, I will write about it in the blog and then list it on the newly created “Events” tab. Exciting stuff. I’m a website wizard! πŸ™‚

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I’m doing a “Love Your Life in 30 Days” project that you can find here:Β http://www.tut.com/index/tut30days. All you have to do is sign up and get started! You can start late and catch up, they aren’t too difficult. Well, they’re meant to challenge you to make changes and create a more fulfilling life, so I guess they’re a good activity for me. I’m actually a few days behind, but that’s okay. You get a daily email with the writing prompt and explanation video from Mike Dooley. I had just bought a new journal from Target, so it worked out perfectly. I have a feeling the activities will become more fun and challenging!

About the cancer survivor camps – I’m really excited πŸ™‚ about the possibility of bonding with other survivors and continuing to heal from the experience. I’m in contact with Mindy from Athletes for Cancer – Camp Koru and Colin from Epic Experience. My doctor faxed the medical release forms to them. I’m on the waitlist for spring Camp Koru, which is surfing and stand up paddle boarding. If I don’t get into the May camp, I’ll be given priority to attend in November. For Epic Experience which is near Denver, Colorado, I was already asked to join their winter camp in February, but I don’t like cold weather enough to want to go skiing!! Hopefully, I’ll be able to join them in the summer when they go kayaking and horseback riding.

I think a big theme for me this year is to push myself to do more while being kind to myself along the way. Less criticism, judgement, and comparison. More compassion, encouragement, and acceptance. I am grateful for the good things in my life: a warm place to live, food on the table, and people who love me. I am very blessed. God is good.

Have a great week,

Julie

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holiday recap

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I hope Santa brought you everything you wanted and more. I had a very nice Christmas. The weather warmed up a bit, and I spent three days with my family. As expected, I ate way too many cookies!! Next year, I’m going to bake some healthy cookies to contribute to the cookie table. On Christmas day, I went to my aunt Joyce’s house in Kentucky. My uncle, John, who was my dad’s best friend brought up a good point. “Didn’t writing the book help you to heal, you know, getting all that out?” I answered. “Yes, I guess so, I do feel like a weight has been lifted.” I wrote the book to share my story, get closure, and help other survivors. I had forgotten why. I don’t give myself credit for how far I’ve come because it never feels like enough. I get upset when I hit plateaus or as of late having taken what feels like a back step.

There’s nothing wrong with regrouping and reevaluating the game plan. But you see, that’s where I have it wrong, life isn’t a game. It’s not about having the newest car, latest phone, or highest score, although those things are important in their own way, they aren’t the essence of life. There’s a quote, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” -Unknown. I think that’s why we have the ritual of opening presents because it takes us one step closer to the magic. Yes, it’s nice to get new things, but it’s more important spending time with the people we love. Time is all we have and we waste so much of it caring about what other people think and harboring resentment because life took a different turn.

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But what if the wrong turn, the pain and confusion, was something we had to go through in order to become stronger? What if the experience of sickness and powerlessness is going to lead me to health and power? One can only hope. I wanted to mention George Michael’s passing, not that I knew him or anything, because I’ve always been a fan of his music. When I was little, my favorite song was “Faith.” You can ask my mom, I’d dance around my room in a state of bliss. I didn’t really know what the lyrics meant but I liked the song. I also thought he was really cute. He had a unique voice – the voice of an angel can soothe. I’d listen to the radio, Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown and record songs onto blank cassette tapes. You had to press down the record and play buttons at the same time! I made a lot of mix tapes. Even when I was younger, music brought me joy.

I got a lot of positive feedback from my aunts, uncles, and cousins. “Write another book, start dating, move to Hawaii.” I also practiced grounding when my anxiety acted up, although the wine worked just as well. What did I get for Christmas? Some gift cards and clothes. I want to end the blog this week with pictures of my niece, Emma. She got a few presents, lol. My brother said she wanted to play with each one before going onto the next one. She’s very perceptive, that’s Pisces. She can say, “Julie.” My brother taught her how. And guess what?? Emma’s going to have a sister or brother in July of 2017. My sister-in-law, Kristine, is pregnant! I’m going to be an aunt again! πŸ™‚

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Love is…my brother putting together that kitchenette because he knows it will make Emma happy. And sometimes, especially in that picture, she looks like the spitting image of him when he was that age.

Love is…my mom helping my grandma, her mother-in-law, get a shower because even though it’s like getting a cat into a bathtub, she feels better once she’s clean and warm. My mom is patient and kind.

Love is…waiting to hear from someone and then cherishing every word as if they were etched in gold. There’s energy in everything, especially words, which is why they have the power to heal the soul.

Take care and be well,

Julie

The next blog will be my New Year’s Resolutions 2017.

The Healing Room