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I'm so glad you're here!
Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” The healing power of sharing my cancer story compelled me to found WWGN. I'm an inspirational speaker, blogger at Cure Magazine and The Huffington Post, contributor at Positively Positive, support volunteer with Cancer Hope Network, member of the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center Oncology Community Advisory Board, patient educator with Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project, wife and mother, and a former very stressed out lawyer.
“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.” Audrey Hepburn
When events come together to make me think, I tend to write about it. That happened this week when a 2012 interview with Dustin Hoffman popped up in the media.
Speaking about his portrayal of Tootsie, Hoffman reveals that the film was "never a comedy for me." The shock of seeing himself as an interesting, less than attractive woman incited a startling revelation:
"It was at that moment I had an epiphany, and I went home and started crying. Talking to my wife, I said I have to make this picture, and she said, "Why?" And I said, "Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. And I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn't fulfill physically the demands that we're brought up to think women have to have in order to ask them out." She says, "What are you saying?" And I said, "There's too many interesting women I have…not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed."
Because reading the above quote just can't do Dustin justice, make sure to watch the AFI video. It's amazing to see a man who "passed for a woman" talk about how society has "brainwashed" men to judge women entirely on the basis of their physical appearance.
On the heels of discovering Hoffman's video interview, I was asked to sponsor a post for Dove Skin Care. The questions raised in Dove's new film, "Dove Camera Shy" are quite simple: Why do we hide from the camera as adults when we loved the camera as little girls? What happened to us along the way?
I'm sure you'll recognize yourself in this amazing video. I sure did:
If you've ever run away from a camera, recoiled upon catching sight of yourself in a mirror, or cut yourself out of family photos, this video should make you think. The simple, exuberant joy we had as little girls has been replaced by "issues." Why are we always too much or not enough? How do we stop constantly agonizing over it?
How especially do we handle body image and cancer issues when we're in the throes of cancer treatment? I've written a lot about how those issues affected me after my mastectomy but, in truth, the seeds were planted long before my diagnosis. Cancer, in it's usual opportunistic way, just recognized a weakness and puffed it up exponentially.
The hard truth is that once you know something, you can't not know it. That's why there is no way to revert back to the childish innocence we enjoyed before we were brainwashed. The best we can hope is to be aware of the real issue, which is the constant judgment of women as physical objects. And, most importantly, we can stop, take a breath and focus in awareness on our inner beauty when we victimize ourselves by falling prey to those same impossible standards.
Do you suffer with body image issues? Did your cancer experience make those issues worse for you? What did you think of the Dustin Hoffman and Dove Camera Shy videos?
Happy Independence Day to all of my American readers. Today is our national holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It's a day of family picnics, parades, fireworks, baseball and concerts. It's a day to celebrate freedom.
And what better way to celebrate freedom than with a four-day weekend! If you're lucky to have the next few days off, here's five steps to a blissfully unproductive weekend:
1. Change Your Mindset, If Only For the Weekend: If you have a workaholic, productivity proves validity mindset like me, you don't relax easily. Why not try changing your mindset for just a weekend? Everyone needs time to relax and recharge and anyone who thinks they are productive 24/7 is just kidding themselves anyway. So go ahead, throw relentless productivity to the wind and resolve to be blissfully unproductive this weekend. You can always go back to being a crazed workaholic on Monday.
2. Unplug From Your Electronics: Put the stresses and obligations of the work week on hold by separating yourself from your cell phone, tablet or laptop. Deliberately unplugging makes a statement to yourself and others, "I choose to relax and be blissfully unproductive for a few days."
Go one step further and seek out silence. As Deepak Chopra said, "Silence is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it. There is no substitute for the creative inspiration, knowledge, and stability that come from knowing how to contact your core of inner silence."
3. Stay in the Moment: As hard as it is to unplug from your electronics, it's even harder to unplug from your monkey mind. You know what monkey mind is - the incessant chatter of worry, "should's," "what if's," and past/future focus. When the chatter starts building, take a breath and stop. In that moment of awareness, you create a gap that allows you to recognize the noise for what it is, before it takes you away with it. Practicing "catch and release" of your monkey mind thoughts, keeps you present in the here and now and focuses your mind on one thing at a time.
4. Have Fun: Fun is not a luxury. Let me repeat: Fun is not a luxury. In fact, fun is necessary to a healthy life. Spontaneous fun is great and happens more often when you're in the moment. But planning for fun is as important as planning your meals. This is a great weekend to go to a concert, parade, family picnic or watch fireworks. It's also a great weekend to have sex, read a book, lie in a hammock, or make banana bread. Fun doesn't have to be big and noisy. Fun is whatever feeds your soul and makes you feel more alive. Go have fun.
5. Reconnect With Loved Ones: Sometimes we're so overwhelmed with obligations, schedules, responsibilities and appointments that we forget to really be with the people we love. If you turn off the TV, phone and laptop; stay in the moment and go looking for fun, guess where you'll end up? Reconnecting with friends and family! That's the message of this adorable video. Enjoy!
May you have a wonderful, blissfully unproductive weekend!
Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. Hippocrates
If you're like me, cancer treatments and surgeries left you afraid to move your body, feeling out of control and angry. I needed to heal, but had no idea how to rebuild my body and my confidence.
Finally, an opportunity presented itself - I found the MovingOn Rehabilitative Exercise program. Specifically designed to address the physical limitations breast cancer survivors feel after chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgical procedures, the program was tailor-made for me and I signed up immediately.
MovingOn's founder, Lockey Maisonneuve, is a breast cancer survivor, certified personal trainer and cancer exercise specialist. You can read the interview I did with her here (that's Lockey in green.) MovingOn (and Lockey, who is now a dear friend) are true gifts of my cancer and I wholeheartedly endorse her program. (I'm a two-time graduate.)
Now you can move on too, because Lockey's program is on video (and I have a surprise coming up for you, so read on!) Check it out if you're experiencing common post-treatment discomforts such as:
Tightness in the chest area
Weakness in the back and neck area
Discomfort in the shoulders
Muscle and joint pain
In the video Lockey demonstrates gentle, rehabilitative exercises designed to open up the chest area, strengthen back muscles and correct posture. These exercises can be performed in a sitting position, lying down, at home or at work.
Get your video download here. But, before you click on the link, SURPRISE! As a fellow WWGN member, Lockey is giving you $5.00 off the price of the video. To get it, make sure to enter coupon code WWGN.
Also, it's very important to "CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE STARTING ANY NEW ACTIVITY OR EXERCISE PROGRAM." (I really mean it! I'm not a doctor and am not qualified to give medical advice. You must get an okay from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially after cancer treatments.)
While our children were in grammar school, I waited with them for the bus every morning on a corner directly in front of our house.
That corner was not their original bus stop. As the school year approached for our brand new kindergarten student, a post card arrived in the mail assigning her to a bus stop a few blocks from our house. After the first few weeks of September, I realized the bus had to pass "our corner" to get to her stop, where she was the only pick-up. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I asked that her stop be moved to the corner closer to our house. Given her young age and the fact that we weren't adding a stop or changing the route, my request was granted.
For nine years, our children were the only pick-ups at that corner.
As I stood waiting for the bus with them, we worked through the sweet sadness of letting go, if only for a few hours a day. We collected acorns and pebbles from the ground to put in my daughter's pocket as reminders throughout the day that I was always with her. As the years went by, she didn't need the acorns as much, but last August when she went off to college she took a small token of mine that fit discreetly in her backpack for the very same reason.
Speaking of college, we talked about it at the bus stop on one of her first days of school. (The year escapes me now.) After a long summer together, she was especially upset about going off to school and leaving me. It struck me then that this was the first of many such separations. I took a risk and told her that one day I would be sending her off to college but, just like today, she would be able to handle it and I would always be there for her no matter how long or far our separation. It was both poignant and reassuring to remember that conversation when we left her on campus the first day of freshman year.
My son and I collected tiny pine cones, which still fill a bowl in my front hall. We talked and laughed and made jokes. I kissed him goodbye and held his hand for as long as he would let me. Finally when he entered the fifth grade, he lobbied hard to stand alone on the bus stop. I didn't want to give up our time and was nervous he'd bounce and play right off the sidewalk and into the path of the bus if I wasn't there, but I finally let him go. For the rest of that year, I watched over him from my kitchen window until the bus safely whisked him away.
Why am I telling you this now?
Every day, at approximately 8:13 a.m., I hear that same bus round the corner and I remember those moments with my children. I said it before and I'll say it again, it's the little things that give us joy. For just a few minutes we got to stop the madness of school mornings to notice the little things, like rocks and acorns and pine cones. In the process, we were sharing joy and learning to trust that we could let go and and come back together again.
When I look back now, did I stop to recognize the joy of those moments in the moment? Did I know then how much I would treasure them now? Was I aware that living life out loud was often at its best with very little noise and fanfare?
I'm sure there were mornings I was in a hurry or not in the greatest of moods. That's why I was inspired to write this post by a video I discovered on Gretchen Rubin's website, The Happiness Project. You can watch the video, The Days are Long But the Years Are Short, here. This is one of my favorite websites and I'm happy to share it with you if you haven't yet discovered it.
If the video resonates with you too, please let me know in the comments how it inspires you to stop and find joy in the little things.
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Maya Angelou
"I'm tired of telling people I'm fine when I'm not." Debbie Woodbury
I founded WWGN because I wanted to continue sharing with other people who "got it." Along the way, I discovered that telling my cancer story and finding support were the keys to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy.
Twelve days ago, I appeared live on GE Healthcare's Breast Cancer Mosaic webinar and shared my story in great detail. I talked about all aspects of cancer's impact on my life, including:
Receiving a diagnosis; Survivor's Guilt; Body Image; Loneliness; Gratitude; Giving Back; Family Responsibilities; and so much more.
The overarching message I wanted to share was the importance of finding a community of people who completely understand where you are. As I talk about in the video, it took me a long time to find support (over six months.) When I finally found it, I felt as if someone had thrown me a lifeline and saved my life. With that support I gradually found validation and strength, which enabled me to take responsibility for telling my story - rather than keeping it locked inside me.
To all of you who sent me questions during the webinar as part of the #BCMTalks twitter chat, thank you so much for your participation. Much thanks also to those of you who wrote to tell me that my vulnerability (some tears were shed) inspired you to open up too.
When you have the time, I'd love you to watch my video so I can share my story with you. Even better, I'd really like you to share your story with me in the comments below.
WhereWeGoNow does not provide medical, diagnostic or treatment advice.
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