💖Pink Does Not Represent Cancer!💜

Most days, I’m able to focus on how grateful I am. Being diagnosed 5 years ago now with breast cancer, successfully completing treatment, and about to embark upon the last leg of this treatment journey by undergoing reconstruction surgery, I am usually able to focus on my blessings. However, because of the challenges I faced while receiving treatment, the empathy for others experiencing a cancer diagnosis and treatment occasionally permeates by being.

Today is one of those days. I picked up my phone this morning and the first thing that popped up was an obituary for and old friend who’d spent the last eight years battling brain cancer. I do not pretend to fathom the pain, discomfort, and struggles he faced throughout that time. But I do know that more than anything, he was fighting with all that he had to make it until his son graduated from high school…that didn’t happen.

I lost a dear friend to cancer over 10 years ago. What started as pain in her arm quickly became a nightmare of chemo attempts, reactions, and complications. She was so full of life and ready to embark on new journeys, but her adventure was cut short, another life ending entirely too soon.

I lost another friend from high school a couple of years ago. Because I’d fought breast cancer, she thought our battles were the same, and that she just needed to stay positive. She was fighting brain cancer that had progressed to the point that she was suffering severe symptoms at diagnosis. Her body was only able to withstand one round of chemo. She only lived a few more months. She was so brave.

My sweet Daddy was diagnosed three years ago with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, with metastasis to the brain. He passed peacefully 11 days later, with the assistance of hospice. Although the physical process was deeply maddening to watch, I never left his side. The beauty of those eleven days with him tops my list of precious spiritual experiences on this earth.

What I went through with breast cancer was not anything I would wish on one more human being. However, there is no comparison to the bravery and grace displayed by each of these precious souls who ultimately lost the battle against the enemy that is cancer.

This is why I reject the term “Survivor”, as it somehow indicates that I did something right or better than those we’ve lost. I was lucky that my body could withstand the toxic treatment. We are all warriors, fighting similar, yet such uniquely different battles.

The fact that we have a Pink month dedicated specifically to breast cancer makes me sick. I would love to see the start of an #antipink movement, and recognize that cancer is the enemy, in every form and at every stage. Regardless of the treatment, side effects, and end result, pieces of our lives are being stolen. After all, statistics dictate that we will all know someone who is affected by this disease at some point in our lifetime. It is our responsibility to hold one another up, walk arm in arm, and love one other through every stage of the process. Hope and peace do not discriminate, neither should we in our support of one another.

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Don’t Wait…Celebrate!

From someone who has had the give up the ordinary experiences that make life beautiful…please, don’t wait!!!

At any moment, your life could change as you know it. Plans canceled, dreams delayed, and hopes deflated. Please, don’t wait for that moment to come to start seeing the beauty in the everyday predictable moments of life.

When you can’t find the strength to get out of bed, or the courage to add one more thing to your “to do” list, it is the consistently simple things that you will miss…much more than the special events that are faint memories.

So, today, appreciate the energy to do laundry. Give thanks for the ability to plan for the week ahead. Soak in the sounds of your loved ones laughing.

Do it today! Just because you CAN!

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In the Pursuit of Peace, God’s Plan is Greater

I am a planner. I like to buy planners and pens, and use sticky notes. I have spent many hours of my life writing down my plans in a color-coordinated fashion, and marveling at the beauty of a month’s page filled with all of life’s daily details.

But, a breast cancer diagnosis and the related variety of surgeries and treatments (along with the never-ending list of unpredictable side effects) forced me to let go of my perceived control. Many days, I did not know what the next hour would hold, much less the next day, and certainly not the month ahead.

It has been five years since my world was turned upside down, and I’ve slowly returned to the beauty of planning. There are no words to describe the gratitude I feel for the ability to somewhat predict what lies ahead.

However, my mindset has changed in so many ways. Because I was forced to live with uncertainty, I grew more comfortable with the fact that some things are out of my control. Some days, my only plan involves maintaining my peace, in spite of my surroundings. For this reason, I started crocheting two years ago, following in the footsteps of my Grandmother’s talent.

She was the most peaceful person I’ve ever known, crocheting and praying every single day. She’s been gone for 15 years now. While I never learned to crochet from her, I quickly learned that I had an innate talent for using a hook and thread. I started with the basics, improving with each effort, with the ultimate goal of creating fine doilies like hers. I learned to read patterns, but found myself enjoying the experience more when I would “wing it”, allowing my soul to dictate the next stitch. I started the piece in this image with no pattern, and it became the one of which I’m most proud.

I couldn’t help but relate that to God’s plan for us, which we can not always see until we look back on how beautifully things worked together for our good.

As I embark on the final phase of my breast-cancer treatment (upcoming reconstruction), I am able to find peace, without needing to plan out every step of the journey. I know that whatever lies ahead will build strength, bring clarity, and form peace in my soul more so than any foreseeable circumstance that I could’ve planned…even with the prettiest planner and pen collection.

Here’s to fully trusting Him for a life that’s peaceful ahead.

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Balancing Life with Depression: the Ups and Downs

Well, it’s been a couple of months since my last depressive episode, and I’ve been feeling absolutely amazing!

Last week was Spring Break, and if I were depressed, the week would’ve consisted of days flying by, consumed with napping, eating, sleeping, and repeating.

However, for the first time in many years, I actually had the energy to GO DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY without the need to take a nap! I even visited with two different friends in one day…meeting one for lunch, the other for dinner. WHO is THIS girl???

Fast forward to today, and I’m back in my room with my kids. It was one of those glorious days I remember having with my students BBC (before breast cancer, 5 years ago this month). Today, I was able to hold their attention, get them to share without fear, and interact harmoniously as we navigated the basics of budgeting.

These are the precious moments of teaching that I’ve been missing…that anxiety, depression, chemo brain and PTSD stole from me for the past several years. I’ve been paralyzed, and doing my best to just show up for so long that I’d forgotten the beauty of a classroom that runs like a well-oiled machine, one that I have facilitated into a safe and encouraging environment where learning takes place organically.

Because I’m feeling so well today, and have been for a while, it’s quite difficult to remember the darkness of so many previous days. For so long after going through surgery and treatment, it took every last bit of energy for me to make it to work, much less, make it through the day, without stopping to rest before then make the drive home, only to finally collapse from pure exhaustion.

I feel so optimistic and hopeful right now, that a huge part of me wants to believe that I will never experience those feelings of incompetence, sadness and emptiness again. But, based upon the pattern of the past few years (discovered by a couple of years of counseling), another episode that typically lasts several weeks is looming around the corner, possibly coinciding with my upcoming reconstruction surgery.

So, the eternal optimist in me wants to go with my current state of mind, decide that I’ll soldier through it, and maintain my current state of peace. But, the realist knows that I should soak in the good days just as I am every bit of the returning Spring sunshine, and brace for what’s ahead.

How does one who looks for the the positives in every situation force the mind to expect the worst?

I can only pray for continued clarity, strength, and direction through this mind-boggling maze. Here’s hoping that at the very least, it’s somewhat peaceful ahead.

Just Breathe, and Get Stuff Done

Amazing how a few deep breaths can take us from being completely overwhelmed to a sense of freedom and accomplishment.

Sunday’s are usually hard for me. I typically allow the upcoming events of the week to paralyze me into procrastination and overwhelming anxiety. Today, I was able to breathe, tackle one item at a time, and breathe again. Laundry, lesson plans, scheduling…each part of the day was so much easier to face as I was able to focus on one thing at a time, rather than the big picture. Every time the thought that “it’s just too much” came to mind, I purposely replaced it with “you’ve got this”. I may not always succeed in beating anxiety, but today, I did. What a huge blessing!

Here’s wishing you a week that’s peaceful and calm.

#peacefulahead #clarity #healing #graceofgod #findingpeace #selflove

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