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Debbie's List

Awareness of the Present Moment

The gift I've received is...: 
Becoming more aware of the present moment.
The story behind this gift is...: 

Since my mastectomy, I've read Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth Awakening to Your Life's Purpose twice.  It's a dense book with many concepts to ponder, but I really connected with the voice in the head which lives in the past and worries about the present.  

The loss corresponding to my gift is...: 
I still get easily overwhelmed.
The story behind this loss is...: 

I don't know what it is, but there are days when you are just one moment away from losing it all over again.  Why is that?  I am still easily overwhelmed by too many decisions, or facing things where control is an issue.  It's easy to go back to that place....  

Meditation

The gift I've received is...: 
Which led to meditation.
The story behind this gift is...: 

I'm not perfect at the everyday meditation ritual.  In fact, I'm pretty bad at it.  But when I started the practice of meditation, I learned how to become aware of the voice in my head - if not exactly how to turn it off.  Just being aware of it, however, is a huge help.  

The loss corresponding to my gift is...: 
The voice in my head.
The story behind this loss is...: 

It is so easy to drive yourself crazy worrying about doctors' appointments, tests, every little ache and pain that may be trying to tell you something......  Once you've been there, you know it can happen to you again, because it already has. 

Follow the Breath.

The gift I've received is...: 
Which, with yoga, led to breathing.
The story behind this gift is...: 

Of course, yoga and mediation go hand in hand.  I just didn't know that.  I was meditating when I started looking for an exercise that wouldn't wreck me emotionally like Pilates.  Then I remembered yoga and gave it a try.  The focus on being where you are today and breathing put me in a calmer place, emotionally and physically.  I often find myself slowing down my breath without thinking about it.  

Love at First Down Dog

The gift I've received is...: 
I fell in love with yoga.
The story behind this gift is...: 

I love, love, love yoga.  Again, I thought about doing it before, in some "oh, that sounds interesting" kind of way,  but I didn't make it happen.  It was only after joining the Y and taking that horrible Pilates class, that I focused on my need to search for something better for me.  I actually leave the house, in the evening, during good and bad weather, happy to go.  That's never happened to me before with exercise.  I get misty just thinking about it.   

Asking for Help

The gift I've received is...: 
The gift of not grocery shopping.
The story behind this gift is...: 

Before cancer, there were certain things I did every week, which I thought no one else could do.  After cancer, I rethought that, again with the help of Sara Duphiny, my therapist.  I didn't make time to write or build my decorating business before cancer, because I thought I had to do all the domestic stuff first.  Monday was grocery shopping and all around domestic goddess day.  Sara challenged that, "Why can't you go shopping on the weekends?"  Now, my husband and I go together (after stopping for breakfast), or he runs out without me.  When we can't get to it on the weekend, I still go on Monday, but I don't mind, because it's working.   

Asking for Housework Help

The gift I've received is...: 
The gift of not cleaning the bathrooms.
The story behind this gift is...: 

Same issue.  Sara said, "Aren't your kids old enough to help?"   Why, yes they are!  So, now they do - not a lot of course, but we're working on it.  The real gift is learning to ask for help.  

Body Image Issues

The gift I've received is...: 
My new and improved body.
The story behind this gift is...: 

Between my two surgeries, I asked my plastic surgeon what we were going for here.  I asked because I just couldn't see it; all I saw was a mess.  He told me I would look better than I did before, which only served to piss me off.  I didn't want better, I wanted my old body back.  Now I appreciate what he meant.  Between the surgeries and exercise my body image has never been better.  That I can now enjoy that, rather than feeling resentment for what it cost me, is a huge gift. 

The loss corresponding to my gift is...: 
Let's be honest here.....
The story behind this loss is...: 

There are still times when I look in the mirror and go back to the horror of all I went through.  It's hard to totally forget when you can still see the scars.  But it's easier now to talk myself away from the ledge, like don't even get up there....   And the exercise gives me this amazing feeling of control, which cancer and plastic surgery, by the way, took from me. 

Writing Poetry

The gift I've received is...: 
Writing poetry from the heart.
The story behind this gift is...: 

One day, Sarah Mandel and I were talking and she told me that she saw a need for a book to hand out to mothers to help their children understand DCIS.  I told her I could probably help her with that.  Over two afternoons, I wrote the copy for a rhyming children's book.  I had puttered around with kids' poetry before (for my children), but I had no idea I could do it so well. We're now in the process of trying to get it published.  Who knew saying yes to my creativity and not letting fear stop you could feel so darn good? 

Where We Go Now.

The gift I've received is...: 
Where We Go Now.
The story behind this gift is...: 

The idea for a online community and blog for people living life after cancer came to me while lying on my yoga mat.  Cool, huh?  I always wanted to write, but couldn't find my voice.   Once you learn to say yes, it's amazing how much stuff presents itself to you and all you have to do is run with it. 

Gratitude - The First and Foremost Gift From Cancer

The gift I've received is...: 
Overwhelming Gratitude
The story behind this gift is...: 

It was only as I thought about what I wanted to say as the survivor speaker at the Overlook Hospital Reception to Honor Survivors that I realized I left a major gift off my list.  Surprisingly, it was the first and most important gift of cancer, as it gave birth to all the other gifts.  That gift was the gift of gratitude.  Without gratitude, I wouldn't have healed emotionally and found purpose.  Gratitude also pushed back fear as the primary emotion of my every waking moment.  It was due to gratitude that I viewed my survivorship as a positive, and not as a sentence from which I could not recover.

The loss corresponding to my gift is...: 
It's hard to be grateful for cancer
The story behind this loss is...: 

I still struggle with the concept of being grateful for cancer because no one wants to think of it as a "good" thing.  But if cancer is part of life, then, like anything else we experience, it can't be all good or all bad.  It just is.  And the challenge is learning how to accept that.

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