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Act with Kindness, Because You Never Know

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Philo
The other morning, I spent some time talking with four young women in the physician assistant program at Seton Hall University. I was there to give them the truth (mine) about what it is like to be a cancer patient.
As a patient educator with the Pathways Women's Cancer Teaching Project, I've met with hundreds of young residents, and medical, nursing and chaplain students. During our sessions, we are interviewed and participants are encouraged to ask us anything and everything about our experience. In this way, we expose them to the patient as a whole person with a family, job, fears and emotions. We've been told by many participants that meeting with us has entirely changed their practice for the better.
Three of the women I spoke with were engaged and asked numerous questions. The fourth was extremely quiet and sat twirling her hair. She appeared to be listening, but wouldn't participate, even when I asked her directly if she had any questions.
After our session with the PA students, the patient educators got together. When it was my turn to talk about my session, I mentioned the young woman twirling her hair. I said I initially thought she wasn't engaged, but a moment of eye contact led me to believe she might have been dealing with a cancer story of her own.    
We looked at her feedback form and, sure enough, she had written that a member of her family had breast cancer and she just couldn't talk about it in the group.
How did I know? Something in her eyes sparked a split second of recognition. How many times had I gone out into the world, trying to function normally, when deep down inside I was carrying the red hot ember of cancer worry? What about that time I struggled to hold it together as the tech said amazingly ignorant things to me during my first mammogram after my mastectomy?
And it's not just cancer pain we push down where we think no one can see. One of the most painful experiences of my life happened over 20 years ago when I was a practicing attorney. I was in another attorney's office for a scheduled deposition of his client, a child. My job was to ask questions about the child's accident, but the attorney came out and told me his client wanted to leave early. When I said I would try to be quick, but I had a job to do, he asked me if I had children. When I answered that I didn't he dismissed me with, "Oh, that's why you don't understand."
What he didn't understand was that I am the oldest of nine children, so I certainly get kids. He also didn't understand that I had lost two pregnancies and was battling infertility. As much as his carelessly cruel comment hurt me, I held in my pain and trudged through the deposition.
None of us has to come clean and share anything we don't want to share. We have a right to our privacy and our dignity (there's nothing worse than losing it with people you don't trust to handle it.)
Sometimes it's easy to know when a person needs your kindness. And sometimes it isn't. 
But it shouldn't matter.
Part of being human is to experience sorrow, fear, grief and pain. 
To be an evolved human is to know it's not just you and to act accordingly, with kindness.
Because you never know. 
Survival > Existence,
Image courtesy of Jennifer

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The Joy of Books Comes Alive

If you relish the joy of holding a real book in your hands, don't miss this amazing stop-motion animation by Sean Ohlenkamp. Let me know if you agree with the statement at the end of this short and immensely delightful video.


Honey Bee's picture

Hello Debbie,

"There's nothing like a real book." My sentiments precisely.

Friendship, adventure, consolation, education, relaxation, pleasure, stories, conversations, wisdom, delight, joys of language, humour, "les mots justs", new acquaintances, understanding, enrichment, vocabulary, directions for healing, domestics, business, fashion, creation's wonders. All within the covers of a book. Treasures just waiting to be found.

I'm so grateful that my brain fog has dissipated enough to let me once again savor the richness of reading.

A nice comfy chair, a cup of tea in a china cup, a companionable book, and the stage is set for an enchanted evening. (or morning, or afternoon!)

As children, we often heard Dad say, "Go read a book," when he wished to take a Sunday afternoon nap. That admonition sent us down a lifelong path of delicious engrossment in books. He furthered the journey by taking us regularly to the library. And, of course, he read to us, sometimes the same book over and over. Sweet memories indeed.

Love this topic.

Honey Bee

Debbie's picture

Hello Honey Bee:

I love how your Dad lovingly passed his passion for books down to you! Reading is one of the great joys of life and you're very lucky to have discovered it early.

Read on!

Survival > Existence,




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This is What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is All About

If you're on Facebook even a little bit, you've seen video after video of people dumping ice buckets over their heads.
The ALS ice bucket challenge is the internet craze of the summer. The rules are a bit murky, but it appears that once challenged, you have 24 hours to donate to ALS and/or pour ice water over your head. (That's the part I'm not clear on.) Before the chilling moment, which is recorded and posted on Facebook, you challenge three other people (which is how the challenge keeps going and going and going.)
Earlier this month we were on vacation, out of the internet loop and ice bucket challenge clueless. Imagine my surprise when I got home, hopped on Facebook and connected the challenge to the book I just finished reading, Until I Say Good-Bye, My Year of Living with Joy.
Author Susan Spencer-Wendel wrote most of her New York Times bestselling memoir on her iPhone, tapping out each letter with her right thumb. At age 44, she was diagnosed with ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.) As her muscles slowly withered away, she wrote: 
not about illness and despair, but a record of my final wonderful year. A gift to my children so they would understand who I was and learn the way to live after tragedy: With joy. And without fear. If Lou Gehrig could feel lucky, then so could I. So should I.
Living with joy and without fear isn't something I'm especially good at. I'm a worrier. I'm careful. I know what it's like to feel like a sick person. I was drawn to Susan's memoir because I couldn't imagine how someone chooses joy and fearlessness in the face of an inevitable, torturous death. I wanted her to convince me it was possible.
And she did. 
Despite her worsening health, Susan committed to creating life-long memories for herself and her loved ones. She took special trips with each of her three children, husband, sister and best friend since middle school. She traveled to the the Yukon Territory to see the Aurora Borealis (dog-sledding included.) She made a pilgrimage to Cyprus to meet the family she never knew (Susan was adopted and never met her deceased, biological father.) She joined her husband on a trip to Budapest, where they spent the early years of their marriage. She swam with dolphins.  
As a mother and wife, Susan dedicated herself to providing her family with positive, loving memories to sustain them after she was gone. But, I think it's important to note she took care of herself too and focused on living with joy. While each memory made was a gift to a loved one, it was also a moment to hold dear when the inevitable happened and she became a healthy mind trapped in a lifeless body.  
This is a heartbreaking, exquisite, life-affirming memoir. As I read, I was constantly reminded that life is best celebrated in the here and now, mindfully and with awareness. That's where loves lives and where joy finds us. 
If Susan Spencer-Wendel "can feel lucky, then so could I. So should I." 
Survival > Existence,
PS: I have yet to be ice bucket challenged, and for that I am very grateful. I hate cold. In fact, I'm allergic to it and break out in hives. Really, I'm not even kidding. So, I've already donated to ALS and there will be no video, ever, of me pouring an ice bucket over my head. If you want to donate, you can do so here. If you want to check out Susan's book, find it here. If you've done the ice bucket challenge, I'd love to see it! 
PPS: I also learned after reading Susan's book that she died from ALS just a few months ago, on June 4, 2014, at age 47. I love her quote in the New York Times article, “As you know, life ain’t perfect.”
Amen sister!

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Five Tips to Create the Comfort of Home Wherever You Go

Because it's summer and many people are traveling, I thought I'd share this blog post from the vault. 

"Home is where one starts from." T. S. Eliot 

"There's a big world outside those hedges," she said with some unkindness. We were young college commuters and her words stung. Sure, I was naive and sheltered, but life beyond the landscaping was only a matter of time.

It's many years later and now I'm the one encouraging my college-age daughter to step outside the confines of home. Yes, I'm a grown-up out in the world now, but I've never lost my nesting instinct.

Nesting allows us to reconnect, re-energize and reflect. It doesn't actually require a house, however. We can create similar moments whether we are sending a child off to college, planning a hospitalization, traveling or just looking for warmth out in the bigger world.

Here are my five tips:

Continue reading.

Wishing you comfort and peace wherever  life takes you. Happy trails!

Survival > Existence,

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You Are the Placebo - Making Your Mind Matter by Dr. Joe Dispenza

No one likes to hear, "It's all in your mind." But, what if we have the "biological and neurological machinery" to make ourselves better?

You Are the Placebo, by Dr. Joe Dispenza, isn't about positive thinking or the law of attraction. It's also definitely not about patient blaming.

What it's about is looking at the scientific evidence and exploring the possibility of taking the placebo effect a step further. As Dr. Dispenza asks, What if, instead of believing in a fake pill or treatment to experience a real health benefit, we believed in ourselves?

The book is divided into two parts. Part I (Information) takes you through the science you need to understand the placebo effect and how it works via the mind-body connection to create real, measurable physical changes. I thought I might find this information dense, especially for summer reading. Instead, Dr. Dispenza's gift for explaining complicated concepts made the material interesting and easily understandable.  

I was also fascinated by the numerous case studies evidencing the placebo and nocebo effects (when a fake medication or treatment creates negative effects.) Dr. Dispenza relates numerous stories of serious illness and even death resulting from belief in voodoo curses, hexes and misdiagnosis of fatal diseases. Men in their 70's and 80's, who spent five days pretending they were 22 years younger, put down their canes, danced and played football. They even showed measurable, physical improvements, such better eyesight, hearing, and memory, and increased height and finger lengthening as arthritis diminished. 

In fact, it was Dr. Dispenza's own story that brought him to this work. After an horrific accident in which he was run over by an SUV, Dr. Dispenza was advised to have surgery (resulting in disability and lifelong pain) or risk paralysis. He chose to forgo surgery and instead accomplished full recovery through the power of his mind. 

Part II (Transformation) sets forth the meditation techniques Dr. Dispenza used to heal himself. The first chapter sets forth simple preparation steps and techniques, while the second chapter takes the reader through guided meditations. 

You Are the Placebo is the ultimate guidebook to the human experience and how we choose to perceive it. Reading this book convinced me that I can refocus my thoughts, emotions and beliefs to create a new reality. As Dr. Dispenza says, "the ultimate belief is the belief in yourself and in the field of infinite possibilities ... And when wholeness, self-satisfaction, and self-love truly come from within, because you've ventured beyond what you believed was possible and you overcame your own self-imposed limitations, that's when the uncommon occurs."

Don't miss reading this book. If you're willing to open your mind and do the work, it has the ability to change your life.

Survival > Existence,

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

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