Category Archives: Recovery

My FD experience – June 2017

group photo fd

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 Woz. 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, Woz 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.

tree fd

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.

climb fd

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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mountains

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.

surfing 2017

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! 🙂

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! 🙂 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 🙂

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

the maui blister

facing the music and answering the hard questions

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I made an appointment with my primary care physician about the lump. I saw her in July, but I didn’t get an x-ray, nor did I let her examine it. I’ve become very squeamish about letting people touch me, especially doctors. The appointment is in early January. I hope we don’t have bad weather so that I can make it there. It’s gotten to the point where I want to know if it’s a recurrence, not because I would get more standard treatment, don’t get me started about how horrific and ridiculous that is, because it would scare me into taking better care of myself. I’m having it looked at because it’s hurting me.

The fact that I haven’t been taking good care of myself the last few years is a testament to my ignorance, arrogance, and stubbornness. I just keep thinking I didn’t learn my lesson that’s why it could be back. And it would explain the fatigue and weight loss. I know what a tumor feels like and it feels like a tumor. It’s just in a weird location. It’s not on either breast. It’s in between two of my ribs, on my left side, down from my armpit, across from my breast. Exactly where the side seam of my shirt and bottom of my bra intersect. Well, I wear a tank cami, but there’s still the inner bra thing. I’ve had the pea-sized lump for about a year or two and it hasn’t gone away.

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Enough about that, I don’t want to dwell on the negative. This week, I had two phone interviews for opportunities in Costa Rica. For some reason, that place is calling to me and I’m not sure why. Probably because, like Hawaii, it’s an inherently healing place. Even though I got accepted to both of them, neither are going to work out, and I went from being really excited to depressed again. The first one was a raw vegan yoga wellness retreat with Ellen Livingston at the Farm of Life. It was just one week which would’ve been doable. The problem is, there are four Husky dogs at the retreat. I’m allergic to dogs and I have a phobia of them. I know most dogs are friendly and it seems like the majority of people adore them. I guess I’m not in the majority.

The other opportunity was with A Fresh Chapter founded by Terri Wingham. It was a two week volunteer program in Costa Rica with a group of cancer survivors. Like the retreat, it was also in March 2017. I really felt a connection with Terri because we were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. She was 30, I was 31, and we had similar treatment plans. This program really appealed to me because I want to do something meaningful like help others. I have become very self-absorbed but not in a good way. Nevertheless, I’m not in a good enough place to be of service to others. And two weeks, although exciting, would’ve been challenging for me. Don’t take your health for granted. I used to be able to do anything I wanted and now I’m limited. Maybe that’s my next step – to feel alive and empowered.

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Terri asked me some really good questions, they made me think and were hard to answer. Cancer is a teacher. What is something positive to come from your experience? Oh my. I couldn’t think of anything. I paused and then answered, “The book, because it can help others and I discovered my love for writing.” The book is important because it represents something I worked hard on, gave of myself unselfishly, and completed the project. Later that night, I thought of something else positive to come from my experience – I met someone who I really liked, still like, but he doesn’t like me, so it doesn’t matter. It was just a passing experience. It was a good learning experience because in order to see him, I had to challenge my OCD and PTSD. And I did.

It’s a good thing that I’m wanting to face my fears and push myself out of my comfort zone, yet once again I’m trying to go from 0-90 instead of 0-25. Although, sometimes that’s what it takes to really experience a profound shift. I need to start doing more things in my own community rather than trying to go so far away. I’m still looking forward to the cancer survivor adventure camps which are happening in the spring/summer of 2017. They are one week long. I can connect with other survivors and have fun. These are Epic Experience, Athletes for Cancer, Send It, and First Descents. They range from surfing in Hawaii to kayaking in Colorado. They are free with the option to fund-raise for airfare. It’s funny that I’ve just now discovered them.

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The other plus to seeing my primary care physician in January, she can sign off on the medical release forms required to attend the camps. I asked if this is okay and it is, since I haven’t seen my oncologist in two years and she can’t give a current physical assessment. And God knows, I don’t want to step foot into that place. My PCP has all of my medical history. So far, I only have forms from two of the programs. I don’t know how many I will end up attending. I think at least two of them would be super awesome! 🙂 And I know I’ll probably get scared and want to back out, but I won’t let myself. I need to experience a deeper sense of healing and find my purpose.

The other thing I found out, I got an email from the Bay Area Book Festival, the book fair I did last year, their early registration is open. The only problem, they have doubled their booth fee making it, in my opinion, ridiculously expensive and not affordable especially since I didn’t sell many books. So, I’ve decided not to go this year even though I had a good time. There’s a large book festival in Chicago, Printer’s Row Lit Fest, that is also in early June and might be a better idea. Hopefully, when they open up their registration it will be more reasonably priced. It will be nice to go to a different city and meet new people. I think book fairs are a very fun and worthwhile experience.

Have a great week, happy holidays, and happy new year! 🙂

Julie

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Affirmations for healing, warm as toast, and health update

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I want to get back on track, so I’m listing my favorite affirmations. I think it would help me to read them every day. I’ve also found repeating the same one to be effective as well depending on the situation. Either way, the important thing is to have positive self-talk. It seems silly that I should have to say nice, encouraging things to myself but the negative stuff can be so ingrained it messes with self-esteem, productivity, relationships, and happiness. I like to think of affirmations as a verbal meditation. They strengthen our ability to feel self-love, compassion, gratitude, and forgiveness.

1.  My name is Julie, and I love myself.

2.  Today is a new day, and I treat myself with loving kindness.

3.  I am confident and capable. I am healthy and strong.

4.  I am calm and relaxed. I am safe and protected.

5.  I am grateful for my many blessings. God is good.

6.  Healing begins with me. Peace begins with me.

7.  I breathe in and all is well. I breathe out and all is well.

8.  I give myself permission to be who I am and do what I love.

9.  I am filled with healing energy. I imagine this as light.

10.  I always have a choice. I am a beautiful, powerful woman.

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I’ve been meaning to write a new post, just got busy with other stuff. Good news, I finally put the comforter on my bed! 🙂 Well, I didn’t really have a choice, it dropped thirty degrees in one day. It’s a medium warmth down comforter from Macy’s. I’m warm as toast at night so that’s awesome. Luckily, it doesn’t have much of a scent, and I’m not allergic to it. In the summer, if it’s too warm, I’ll use something lighter. I’ve noticed a pattern – I have trouble bringing new things into my life even when they are positive. I’m slow to adjust. The problem wasn’t the car or the comforter, it was me being resistant to change.

Quick health update: I haven’t been feeling well, tired, lack of energy, depressed, and dreading the arrival of winter. I need to move to a warmer climate. I’m losing weight, down to 108 pounds which is the lowest my body can go and still function correctly. I was hanging at 112-114 which is also too low but better than where I am now. Am I losing weight because the cancer is back or because I’m not eating enough? I don’t want to share negative stuff but secrecy creates shame. If this is my healing room, I need to be honest about what is going on. I have a pea-sized lump on my left side. It’s on my ribs where the seam of my shirt crosses the bottom of my bra strap. I need to have it looked at by a doctor and get it removed if possible. I’ve had it for about a year. It started hurting again. It could be nothing.

The other option is to create an alkaline environment in my body because cancer can’t grow there. Cancer hates oxygen. I would wager to bet that my body is pretty acidic. I’m still not eating healthy, and I cause myself unnecessary stress. Why is it so hard to be healthy? Why am I struggling? Why am I still alone? I regret getting chemo and radiation. It’s hard to be grateful for something that continues to cause me pain. I was ignorant about alternative treatments and blindly followed the doctors. I’ve been watching YouTube videos by people who cured their cancer with nutrition. They didn’t damage their immune system, they strengthened it. The tumor is a symptom – the body is nutrient deficient, full of toxins, and in a chronic state of inflammation. The body can heal itself, if only I would let it.

Have a great week. And don’t worry, I’m going to be okay. 🙂

Julie

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Love only trumps hate if we are sending love and not hate. Easier said than done. We are a wounded country.

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Not the best week. Trump was elected President and I self-harmed. Those events were unrelated. Although I’m not happy with the outcome of the election, I have enough spiritual insight to realize that saying you choose love and then sending hate is hypocrisy. It takes a stronger person to walk away and send light, that’s the only way to beat the darkness. You rise above it because otherwise you join it. Love is a higher frequency than hate. They feel so different. That’s why children are so magical, they think the world is kind and good.

While I prefer to share stories of optimism and courage, I’m not going to hide what happened. The cuts are healing quickly which reminds me how efficiently and automatically my body repairs itself. It’s me who undermines my progress. It wasn’t one thing; it’s never one thing. The emotional pain had been building up for a few weeks – feelings of overwhelm, frustration, and hopelessness. Even though I have the answers and the ability, I let the darkness win. I let my fears and phobias get the best of me. I hit my breaking point and had to let the pain out. I needed relief. I wanted to cause myself pain for: not being perfect, trying to please others, being in slow motion, letting people down, being the scapegoat, and needing permission instead of trusting myself.

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I’m being too hard on myself and overly critical again. Neither of which are helpful. I have to love myself first before anyone else can. When I am being joyful, I become a magnet for happiness. I need to follow my heart to find the right path. I have to let go of the shame and guilt. I didn’t do anything wrong. My life is mine to live, and if I’m living it wrong then that’s my problem. And no one tells me when I will be ready for something. You get ready by doing, not talking about it. I don’t need any more stress; it undermines my ability to feel better. Stress is a sign that I’m forgetting to breathe, believe, and break free. I’m creating my world with my thoughts. Create a vision board.

I don’t regret going to California for the book fair, and I don’t care if it looked like I went out there to see a guy. So fucking what? I guess you’ve never listened to the whispers of your soul and the aching in  your heart. I wanted to be in the book fair. And I wanted to see him. You can have more than one reason for doing something. Thank God I did something this year to celebrate the book and my hard work instead of letting people talk me out of it. I give myself credit for my accomplishments. I made my dream a reality. It was only a bad idea in the sense that writing a book can be a very isolating experience.

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Cutting is short-term relief like the numbing effects of an alcoholic drink. I wasn’t dissociating as bad as last time, the time I wrote about in the book. See, it’s been awhile. I’ve been doing really good with my self-love practice. I had a choice this time, moments of clarity, but I wanted to punish myself for not being, I don’t even know what, someone else. Someone faster. Someone who’s loved and adored. Someone who isn’t a burden. Someone who is perfect and doesn’t make mistakes. Someone who doesn’t resist life. The old me. The me I can’t find. The me who was brave and strong. Release the pain through art making and let the image speak. Put marker to paper instead of knife to arm. Find healthy ways to express difficult feelings. Choose peace.

I thought of a new affirmation: It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be. And maybe when I let myself be, things become perfect. Take it easy, take it slow, one day at a time. Life is to be enjoyed. I can bloom, I can dance, I can sing, I can love. I am free to be me! 🙂

Have a great week,

Julie

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Image result for self love

Gratitude, getting refocused, and the trail of bullseyes

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Gratitude is a shift in perception from what’s wrong to what’s right. I am grateful for my friend, Will, who somehow knew to reach out a helping hand at just the right time again. I had stopped sending my positive affirmations to my affirmation group, and even though I’ve taken breaks before, this one was different, and I think he knew that.

Luckily, he thought to switch up the affirmations with a new exercise. Now, we’re doing a gratitude practice called Three to Thrive. You have to name three things you’re grateful for, three people you want to thank, and three wise, productive things you did that day. So, it’s nine things total. It’s feels great to send mine, and I enjoy reading theirs. I’m happy to reconnect with my group, they are so cool. There are nine people in the group, but only half of them are regular senders.

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I think the last one is key. Focusing on what you did right that day. It’s so easy to focus on what went wrong and not give ourselves credit for the small victories. I think this is how we lose motivation. Especially as a cancer survivor, hitting plateaus and knowing how fast I used to be and what I used to get done. If I’m not careful, I can let that undermine my progress and sink into bitterness. Comparing myself to people who haven’t been through what I’ve been through. I have to push myself to do more while accepting that I am slower and that’s okay. Life is not a race. The finish line is death.

“God has a plan for your life, and you giving up isn’t it.” — Karen Miller

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Even though I’ve accomplished so much this year, it’s never enough, lol. I’m always striving to do more which is a good thing, it can just get overwhelming deciding which path is in my highest good. I need to trust my intuition and listen to my angels. It’s when I get stubborn and arrogant that things go awry. I even got mad at the book and wondered why God would make me spend so much time on it. Then I realized the book has the right intention, the message is bigger than me, it isn’t my ego trying to take and take and take. The book gives.

My mom helped me to “reframe” one of my sentences. I think that’s the technical term for it in cognitive psychology. I said, “I bought the wrong kind.” And she reframed it, “No, you bought a different kind, and you don’t like it as much, it’s not the wrong kind.” That made me feel better. Why on earth am I so mean to myself? It doesn’t make any sense. Oh, I know why. I have a harsh inner critic. I like to control things and when things don’t go exactly right it can make me feel powerless. This is something I’m working on. Being nice to Julie.

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I’m getting excited about sending out my resume and applying for jobs. I asked my mom, “Is that place going to be too fast-paced for me?” She laughed, “Everywhere is going to be fast-paced for you in the beginning until you get used to working again.” Some places are more fast-paced than others. It’s good to be busy. I need to get out of the apartment more. Take a break between books. And maybe having a regular job will motivate me to be more creative in my free time. The next book is my side project, a hobby, there’s no way I can stay in and stay sane for another year. That’s not realistic.

I’ve made peace with my friend, realizing he wasn’t trying to be mean, he wants the best for me, I was trying to escape my life rather than find a way to live it. They say it’s always darkest before dawn, that is so true. I told my mom, “I didn’t cry that much when —- got married.” “No, you didn’t.” I think it was something I had to go through, a final shred of grief, perhaps fear of moving forward, wanting everything to be perfect, realizing it is already perfect and not perfect and that’s okay. It’s more than okay. It’s good enough. This is good enough.

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I’ll end the blog this week with a funny story. My mom told me not to write about her after the word scramble, yet she’s also glad to give me material for the blog! Okay, so we were at the grocery. We had been out shopping for clothes that day and on the way home stopped at the store to just pick up a few things. I needed water, salad, bananas, paper towels, and Pepsi. I always go through the self-checkout line because it’s fun, and I can’t complain if the groceries are bagged incorrectly because I’m the one bagging them! 🙂

I noticed she only had a bag of candy, Caramel Creams, they’re also called bullseyes. She was holding them under her arm.  “Here, I’ll ring them with my stuff that way we don’t have to do two transactions.”  She handed me the bag. I started to scan them realizing the bag was completely opened on one end. “The bag is opened.” I told her. I didn’t think she had opened them, we’ve never been the type to start eating stuff in the store. “Oh no.” She was upset that she wasn’t going to get her candy. We both turned around and there was a trail of candy! 🙂 At this point I’m laughing because it’s not surprising that she wouldn’t notice the bag was completely opened. We gave the candy to the store clerk and picked up the ones that were on the floor.

I got to laughing about it again today. I kidded her that she had been eating them. Those are good candies. Don’t worry she bought some the next time she went to her store. And it got me to thinking. When you go into the forest for a creative project, you have to leave a trail of candy or something to find your way back. It’s too easy to get and stay lost. I’m finding my way back. And this time, I don’t have to take things so seriously. I can believe in myself. I can have pretty clothes and good times. It’s all a matter of hope, faith, courage, and determination. Just when I think my reservoir is empty, I realize the supply is endless because God grants miracles to the kindhearted. Please make my heart kind. Forgive me for not trusting your timing.

Have a great weekend and week,

Julie

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Image result for gratitude

Meditation and honesty

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Mediation is a scary sounding word for the simple activity of focusing on the breath and tuning into your awareness. Create a ritual that feels right for you: light a candle, burn incense, listen to relaxing music, use a yoga mat or meditation cushion. You can sit on the floor, in a chair, or walk around the block. Posture is important, hold yourself upright. Honor and respect your practice.

The key is to witness your thoughts, quiet your mental chatter, and reconnect with your higher self. There isn’t a wrong way to meditate, don’t get caught up in the logistics, if it brings you serenity you’re on the right track. It’s helpful to set a timer, start with five minutes and increase time when you’re ready. Visualize white light entering your crown chakra circulating throughout your body.

Affirmation: “I am filled with healing energy. I have perfect health.”

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Honestly, I don’t meditate enough. It’s difficult to be still and listen to the answers we don’t want to hear. I want to get back to blogging about various topics rather than my personal life. Although, I can probably find a way to weave them together. I’m down again. I’m down on myself which ironically makes everything harder. I feel like everything I do is wrong, I’m never going to get caught up, and I’m struggling again. Life is simple. Love is simple. Life without love is difficult. I don’t want to start dating again, I want to be with him.

I looked at the various dating sites, some cost money while others are free. Maybe you get a better pool of people, people who have an extra $40-60 lying around each month. I need to quit being so sarcastic. Sarcasm is actually negative energy. Hiding my feelings with humor isn’t healthy, either. Some of the decisions I’ve made recently compromised my values and weren’t what was best for me. I was rushing to create a future that existed only in my mind. Patience is a virtue.

There’s a quote in the movie The Pirates of the Caribbean, her dad says to her, “Even a right decision if made for the wrong reasons is still a wrong decision.”

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I need to work on my attitude. I have a bad attitude. It’s not helping me or anyone else. And it doesn’t help to start a new project of any kind without the proper attitude and willingness to grow and change. It’s funny how I know so much about self-help and personal growth, and yet I find myself creating unnecessary obstacles. I’m responsible for sailing my ship. I also need feedback and guidance from people who care and understand.

As I’ve said before, several times, a friendship is better than nothing. There’s nothing wrong with having feelings, even if they’re distracting. Feelings make us blush. Feelings make us who we are. Feelings make us run for the hills. Feelings make us believe in magic again. I want to create good feelings like joy, happiness, and relief. Wish me luck! 🙂

Have a good week,

Julie

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my favorite scene in the movie 🙂

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The perks of cancer?

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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.

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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