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, contributor at CURE and Positively Positive, Huffington Post blogger, 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.
"Think of your head as an unsafe neighborhood; don't go there alone." – Augusten Burroughs
The room was barely big enough for two chairs, a desk and a box of tissues.
Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., I found myself there. Usually, I showed up with a specific issue I needed to talk about. Sometimes, I was just there to be there. Every time, except one, I left feeling better than when I walked in the door.
I’ve been very open about spending an entire year in therapy after my mastectomy. Without a doubt, it was the single best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I don’t know how I could have navigated cancer without it and cannot overstate this . . .
Click here to continue reading and learn how therapy saved me.
Have you been in therapy or are you considering it? Let's talk about it.
In these matters the only certainty is that nothing is certain. Pliny the Elder
The first casualty of cancer is certainty.
Of course, I’m only speaking for myself. And, as someone who had gone through five years of miscarriages and infertility before cancer, I should have already known that life doesn’t always go the way you expect.
Still, I walked into the breast center 15 years later without a doubt I knew the drill: remove everything above the waist, put on a robe, let the technician flatten a breast between panes of glass, hold my breath, repeat, get dressed, leave and, a few days
After three years and eight months of blogging at WhereWeGoNow about my "new normal," I've come to the realization that cancer is just the latest of the life struggles I've had to face, move through and learn from.
To take me into this new phase of life, where cancer is no longer the center of my universe, I felt I needed a new vehicle. That's why I created DebbieWoodbury.com, where life isn't all about cancer. Instead, it's about living the life you have to the fullest.
We're all survivors of something (probably more than a few things.) For me, survival is greater than mere existence. It's about creating healing, wellness and live out loud joy (via yoga, mindfulness, gratitude, walking, writing, juicy relationships, interior decorating and all the other "little things" that make life worth living.)
WhereWeGoNow isn't going away and will continue on as a vibrant, caring community. I'm not done with cancer (will I ever be?) and it's certainly not done with me. But now, at DebbieWoodbury.com, I feel free to actively explore and expand beyond cancer.
This is your invitation to come over to DebbieWoodbury.com and check it out. If you like what you see, make sure to subscribe to my mailing list. And, if you have ideas or suggestions about interesting topics, make sure to let me know. (You can always reach me at email@example.com.)
There's so much to talk about, and I'm honored to continue to share inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy with you wherever you find me!
If you're in the USA, I hope you enjoy the three-day 4th of July weekend. There is a special place in my heart for small town 4th of July parades and fireworks. They bring me back to my youth and are just the sweetest things.
Which, in addition to the fact that I just celebrated another birthday and watched my niece get married last weekend, could have me feeling pretty old right now.
And yet, I'm feeling empowered and very much HERE, as in present and alive. Maybe it's the love and family high I'm still riding from the wedding. It was such a joy to celebrate with my HUGE family. (My mom, her nine kids, our eight spouses and 17 grandchildren!)
Sure, time is relentlessly marching on. That young mom in the picture is me with my first baby and niece. Twenty years later, those two beautiful babies are brilliant, accomplished, gorgeous women who continue to fill us with love and pride.
Some part of me wants to rail against aging, but I just can't. Instead, all the love and positive vibes of my niece's wedding have me focused on gratitude.
I'm grateful to be here to see another niece married, and grateful for my large, close family - any one of whom I could call if I needed anything and know they would come running.
Which brings me to my brother, the father of the bride. I'm beyond grateful for the moment I shared with him at the reception. After he spoke beautifully of his love and devotion to his daughter, I had to tell him, with tears in my eyes, how I wished I had had a father like him. He hugged me tight and reassured me that I always had a big brother in him. Which made us both laugh, because I'm his "big" sister.
And that's the point, isn't it? I had a lousy father, miscarriages, infertility and breast cancer. I'd be lying if I told you I've never felt deprived, unloved and just plain screwed. But, when I look around and see all the wonders of my life: husband, children, brothers, sisters, mother, nieces, nephews, friends, dancing at weddings, birthday kisses, fireworks, small town parades and the many other joys I'm so grateful for, I tear up a bit and laugh.
Enjoy and be grateful for the "little things." They are the things that create live out loud joy and get us through the big things (like a lousy father, miscarriages, infertility and breast cancer.)
And, ultimately, they are all that matters.
In deep gratitude and wishing you much joy,
PS: Someone at the wedding had the brilliant idea of taking a picture of all nine of us - which I don't think has been done since I was 14. My mom and niece joined my five brothers, three sisters and me. It strikes me that we hit quite a few of my simple secrets from You Can Thrive After Treatment and How to Build an Amazing Life After Treatment. We practiced gratitude, created a sense of wonder, took every opportunity to laugh, practiced mindfulness, and moved our bodies (there was a lot of dancing!)
Photo by Cris Woodbury (dear friend, sister and mother of the bride!)
This week we've been blessed with many new WWGN members, mostly due to the guest post I wrote for Cure Magazine.
(Right now the iconic Girl Scout song: "Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold," is playing in my head. )
Because not everyone has been here from the very beginning, I though I'd reintroduce a blog post I wrote a while back. This post is about cancer anger and it is the reason I was originally contacted by Cure Magazine and ended up being quoted in an article on anger. It's definitely one of my favorites because it's resonated with so many people:
Coping With Cancer Anger
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. Maya Angelou
The truth is we often consider anger to be a negative and try to avoid it at all costs. The social message is loud and clear: Don't overreact, don't yell, don't curse, don't scream, and don't ever be impolite. Hold it in at all cost. But how do we cope with cancer anger?
As a cancer survivor, I remember a lot to be angry about. Although I never wondered "why me," I did feel anger about changes to my body, loneliness, and having to deal with past emotional traumas stirred up by cancer. I was especially angry when a year had passed since my diagnosis and I was not yet "over" cancer.
I also remember being really angry at the people who wanted to move on and forget about my cancer before I was ready to do the same. I felt alone, abandoned and unheard. As my anger increased, it got too big to share with those same people. The only thing that saved me was being able to voice my anger to my oncology therapist, who encouraged me to curse, yell and be impolite. I know it is only due to her being there for me that I was able to work through my cancer anger and get to a better place in those relationships.
For me, the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It's enough. I'm enough. Brene Brown
I admit it. I have a scarcity mentality. You'd think I worry a lot about money (sometimes I do), but the resource that strikes fear in my heart most often is time.
As in "there is never enough time."
"I didn't get enough done today."
"How am I ever going to get it all done?"
As I've gotten older and experienced real problems (cancer, anyone?) I've started asking myself different questions:
Why is it difficult for me to relax and enjoy what each moment brings?
Why do I resist trusting myself and knowing that I always manage to get done what needs to get done?
Why do I view new opportunities with anxiety, rather than looking forward to them as blessed adventures?
The answer to each of these questions is: FEAR.
Big, bad, ugly FEAR. FEAR that I'm not enough. FEAR that I will eventually fail miserably. FEAR that, FEAR that, FEAR that......
Hey, what if FEAR is just a bad habit? What if FEAR is merely a conditioned response drummed into me long ago when I was highly impressionable?
What if FEAR is just a feeling and not reality?
What if FEAR that I am not enough is a load of you know what?
FEAR stops me from saying "Yes" to myself. And, when I find the courage to step up, FEAR stomps on the joy of putting myself out there to experience something new.
FEAR makes mindfulness impossible by dredging up needless worry.
FEAR is great in fight or flight situations, but entirely useless when your life is not actually threatened. Imagine getting into a roller coaster if you really believed you were going to die. Would you even show up, let alone get in and strap yourself into the seat? I think not.
No, it's nervous energy that lets you push your boundaries and gets you into that seat. It's nervous energy that expresses itself screaming and laughing all the way up and down, up and down, UP, UP, UP and DOWN, DOWN, DOWN. That screaming and laughing is mindfulness in its purest form.
When I was six, I remember the fun and nervous energy of appearing in my first (and last) play. I was Mopsy in Peter Rabbit. That cutie-pie standing next to me is Danny Allegro (who played Peter Rabbit to rave reviews.) I remember his mother taking our picture and I remember the joy of being a kid and doing something new and fun.
This leads me to what I'm up to this week. On Saturday, April 5th, I'm giving the keynote address at the 5th Annual Blood Cancer Conference of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, at the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, OH. I've been practicing my talk for weeks, I've got my plane tickets and I even bought a new dress. I'm fending off a little FEAR, but mostly I'm very excited. I'm relying on nervous energy to make me a better, more creative, transformational speaker, and put me squarely in the joy of the moment - just like it did when I was six.
Are you in the Cincinnati area? If so, come say hello. I'd love to meet you, so have no FEAR and walk right up and introduce yourself! For now, why not leave me a comment below. Let me know how you deal with your FEAR, and tell me about one or two things you're doing to live a FEARless life.
"This book was just what I needed to read after completing my breast cancer treatments."
"With refreshing candor, Debbie Woodbury tells how her own pain after cancer diagnosis and treatment led her to appreciate the power of fundamental solutions that are within reach for all of us. I will be recommending this book to my patients!"
"Being a cancer survivor, this book hits very close to home...it is beautifully written and very thought-provoking. I have several friends who are also survivors and I plan to recommend it to all of them...I love having it on my kindle because I can easily take it with me and refer to it as often as needed. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone starting their journey, in the middle of their journey, or finished with treatment (remember, we never quite finish our journey.)"
"Debbie's first book, You Can Thrive After Treatment, is beautifully written and very practical. She shares part of her own story honestly and offers very practical advice to us survivors. With my "chemo brain," I need to be reminded to breathe, be mindful, tell my story, and, most important, to feel and express my gratitude. I am planning to tell a few friends who are undergoing treatment now about downloading this book from Amazon, and I am looking forward to Part II. Thank you, Debbie, for reminding me what I have learned from having cancer and how good my life is now!"
After you get the book, please help me spread the word! Share the book with your friends on Facebook and in person. Please also consider writing a review at Amazon. All you have to do is go to the Amazon page for How to Build an Amazing Life After Treatment and click the "Write a customer review" button. Reviews are extremely helpful to getting the book promoted by Amazon, so I really appreciate each and every one immensely.
It's my greatest hope that my After Treatment book series offers you support, guidance and camaraderie on your after treatment journey. Thank you again for letting me join you and I wish you all the best as you go forward to create inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy!
I was recently honored to appear on "Courage and Grace: Stories of Remarkable Cancer Survivors.” The teleconference was hosted by Dr. Shani Fox, holistic physician and certified life mastery coach.
During our 55 minute discussion, we covered many issues, including cancer survivor's guilt, feeling alone, finding support, the pinkification of October, living and healing through gratitude, and my Gifts & Losses List. I was thrilled during the question and answer period to connect a caller looking for caregiver resources to two amazing people, Rob Harris of Rob Cares and Sara Barton of Practical Caregiver.
If you want to listen in, you can find the recording here. (You can download the recording onto your computer if you want to listen in at a later date.) Also, if you want access to future teleconferences, sign up here.
As I said about my appearance on the Survive and Live Well Radio Show, "I've learned that the more I talk about my life after treatment, the more I feel validated and healed. I hope listening to our conversation does the same for you."
I've been busily working on my first eBook to be published on Kindle Direct Publishing. It's been a great learning experience writing this book, which was inspired by my first free download, "The WhereWeGoNow Manifesto - 20 Intentions for Your Inspired Survivorship." (If you don't have your free copy yet, get on my mailing list here.)
I always say that "simple doesn't mean easy." We all know it's not easy to thrive after cancer and this book doesn't offer any magic potions. What it does offer are simple ways to rebuild your life after cancer. Most importantly, it also offers you the support of someone who has been where you are, knows what it feels like, and can assure you that you can thrive after cancer.
I'm launching You Can Thrive After Treatment in September and, if you don't have a Kindle, no worries. It's easy to set up a reader on your laptop. Special free offer offered below, so keep reading:
Excerpt from "You Can Thrive After Treatment"
“A positive attitude is not going to save you. What it's going to do is, every day, between now and the day you die, whether that's a short time from now or a long time from now, that every day, you're going to actually live.” Elizabeth Edwards
Congratulations! You made it to life after cancer! Testing, getting a diagnosis, radiation, chemotherapy, surgeries, recuperation - it’s all behind you. You should be ecstatic, but something is not quite right.
Instead of pure joy and relief, you’re bone tired, lost, lonely, stressed, afraid, abandoned and confused. Your support network is unraveling. You don't see your health professionals on a weekly basis anymore. Your family and friends are desperate to put cancer behind them. You’d love to do that too, but you’re only just beginning to understand the emotional fall-out of living with cancer.
The hard truth is that surviving isn’t easy. After I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy, I met with a therapist to work through the emotional issues of my survival. I remember an especially painful session in which I confessed that “living is hard too.”
That period was one of the most difficult of my life. It took time, but I hung in there, did the work and slowly discovered 20 secrets to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy beyond cancer. (Yes, I said 20. This eBook is Part I of You Can Thrive After Treatment. You’ll find 10 more secrets to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy beyond cancer in Part II of You Can Thrive After Treatment.)
I suggest you use this book like guide or workbook. Start by reading it through, taking your time – the last thing I want is for you to feel overwhelmed. After you finish the book, go back and focus on the secret or secrets that speak to you. If you’re up for making changes, begin with a few that come easily and build up your confidence from there.
Let’s start off with a bonus secret: Having a positive attitude doesn’t require over-the-top, Pollyanna optimism. What it requires is basking in the glimmer of hope offered by my 20 secrets. I know You Can Thrive After Treatment because I’m doing it. Now I want to help you get there too. Let’s get started creating your survivorship of inspired healing, wellness and joy now.
Remember, "You Can Thrive After Treatment" is launching in September on Kindle Direct Publishing. As a special "thank you" to my readers, I'm offering it for FREE the first five days of the launch! If you're already on my mailing list, you'll be the first to know the details. If you're not, get on the list now:
And when is there time to remember, to sift, to weigh, to estimate, to total? Tillie Olsen
I don't know about you, but almost everyone I know, including me, is perennially "busy." We all have jobs and lives that demand a huge amount of our time. As we devote so much attention to juggling our responsibilities, when do we find the time to breathe and recharge?
If you can master being mindful of each moment, you can actually slow down time. Try it today! Get into the flow of what you are doing. By refusing to multi-task and fret over the other items waiting for you on your to-do list, time actually becomes a non-issue.
In addition to focusing on one task at a time, you also have to take some time to sit back and relax. Especially during the holiday season, enjoy watching a holiday movie, spending time with children, or redevoting yourself to yoga or any other "me time" activity that calms you. If you only have a few minutes, try tea meditation. Whatever you do during your down time, remember that you need to recharge. No one is productive 24/7 and it's a fallacy to think that you are the one exception to the rule.
I've found myself contemplating how I spend my time a lot lately and I want to do better with how I manage it in the coming year. For now, I'm going take the time to consider some inspirational quotes about time:
Finding some quiet time in your life, I think, is hugely important. Mariel Hemingway
I took some time out for life. James L. Brooks
Lose not your self in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine. Friedrich Schiller
The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked. Tillie Olsen
Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness, And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream. Khalil Gibran
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. Henry David Thoreau
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts and join me on this journey. I hope you find the time this week to be mindful and recharge your soul. If you're struggling with finding the time, know that you're not alone. Leave me comments here so we can work on being more mindful together.
WhereWeGoNow does not provide medical, diagnostic or treatment advice.
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