Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Good Bye

Thank you to those of you who have visited this blog (at this point 1,654) and special thanks to those of you who Emailed me to say the workshop ideas were helpful.  Yesterday, after 10 years of treatment and follow-up, my oncologist declared me cancer free!

   I have met many new friends through my blog and have been inspired by the courage you exemplify and the experiences you shared.  With appreciation to all of you  I am announcing that I shall no longer be initiating posts on this blog (Fear Not, Learning from your Cancer),  though it will remain 'out there',  and I will be happy to respond to anyone with comments or questions.

   The good news is that I will be starting a new blog, Grandmother Time. This new blog will be an updated version of a book I published earlier.  It is no longer in print, the rights have been returned to me, and I look forward to sharing  ideas and exercises from this book with grandmothers near and far.


                                                   FEAR NOT

                           LEARNING FROM YOUR CANCER

                                   a blog for cancer survivors

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to use this Blog

There are a number of ways this blog might be helpful.

1. It can be used in a support group of cancer survivors.  Helps in creating such a group are included at the back of the book, Fear Not! Learning from your Cancer under "Leader's Guide" This section includes "How to get started", "How to get participants", "Problems you may encounter," "Goals for each session."

2.  If you wish to do the study alone, read the first 6 Chapters of the book, Fear Not! Learning from your Cancer using this blog as a supplement to this study.

3.  Or, just ruminate and ponder a particular aspect of cancer found in one of the 26 posts of this blog, e.g. "Patience", or "Humor" or "Gains and Loses."  Share your thoughts on a particular topic under "Comments."

   In each of these 3 options, a 6 week study is suggested, starting with looking at who you are, moving from your cancer diagnosis through aspects and ways of coping during treatment, to ways of living in this new phase of your life.  All with the purpose of learning about yourself through personal growth and self-understanding. This blog does not offer medical advice but is about seeking a fuller and richer life for yourself through self-understanding.

  A.  Begin with page tab-"Introduction"-at the top of the blog. Read suggested Posts under this page tab.  Decide if you want to keep a journal and gather supplies needed for this study.

   B.  Going in sequence read the suggested posts under Part1 through Part 6.  Each Part tab has at least three posts corresponding with the 6 chapters in the book.  Be aware that to do the workshop in sequence you must scroll down to "older posts" to find the beginning posts.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

History of this Blog

   It all began with my personal experience with cancer.  The next step was writing the book, Fear Not. Learning from your Cancer.  Then workshops on the book began and finally this blog with examples from the workshops.

   As I thought of the development of this blog I was reminded of the Nursery rhyme, "The House that Jack Built."

Here is a Cancer Survivor
Who needed something to revive her.

Here is the Book the survivor wrote
From many a jotting and many a note,
To help the cancer survivor
Who needed something to revive her.

Here are the Readers all tattered and torn,
Cancer survivors feeling forlorn.
Who read the book the survivor wrote
From many a jotting and many a note,
To help the cancer survivor
Who needed something to revive her.

Here are the Workshops, a special few
Who wanted to tell their story too.
From the readers all tattered and torn
Cancer survivors feeling forlorn,
Who read the book the survivor wrote
From many a jotting and many a note,
To help the cancer survivor
Who needed something to revive her.

Here is the Blog posted on line
With comments from their cancer and mine.
Growing out of the workshops, a special few
Who wanted to tell their story too,
From the readers all tattered and torn
Cancer survivors feeling forlorn,
Who read the book the survivor wrote
From many a jotting and many a note,
To help the cancer survivor
Who needed something to revive her.

Now its out in the Blogisphere
Attracting viewers, far and near.
Where will it go next? It's up to you
If you are a cancer survivor too.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chapter 6 Gains or Losses?

   It is time now to pause and take stock, to consider where you have been and what you have learned.

   Though new and encouraging discoveries are being made constantly, cancer is still a frightening word to many, a forecast of a death sentence.

   It surprises some persons to hear that many more cancer survivors experience "gains" rather than "losses" through this period.  "I didn't realize there could be anything positive about it", one survivor said.

   Make a list in your journal: what have you lost with cancer and what have you gained?

   Most in my cancer classes agreed with Pat, a cancer survivor, who wrote: "When I think of what cancer took from me I come up with a very short list: 1. a non-essential body part and 2. a few rather tough weeks out of my life.  The things cancer gave me make a longer list---"

   Following are some quotes from cancer survivors on the positive side of cancer, the gains.  They seem to fall into four categories.

1. Awareness of your strength and resilience:
     "Cancer has empowered me to be myself."
     "I am dealing with a powerful illness that I have fought successfully once and can and will do it again and again if I need to."
     "I have inner strength.  It took a crises for me to realize it."
     "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."

2. Deepened relationship with others:
     "I have learned how kind and thoughtful people are."
     "Cancer opened my heart to the beauty of others."
     "I learned the absolute joy of simply hugging people."
     "You realize you are not alone."

3.  A changed attitude, striving less to recover what you have been, more to discover what you might be.
     "I have rearranged my priorities."
     "I don't sweat the small stuff anymore."
     "I have changed my perspective."
     " I was always getting ready for rainy days and I was missing the  days    of  sunshine."
     "I try to be open to all possibilities."
     " No time to dwell on "Why Me?" Its time to say "What Now?"
     "Remembering misery I am living in gratitude."
     " As is sit and reflect on the past year it is not the pain, nausea or even the many needle sticks that I remember but the many wonderful people and blessings that have come into my life'
     " I've faced my mortality and learned to live life to the fullest."

4.  Appreciation of the gift of life itself.
     "Life is more precious."
     "I am more sensitive to the presence of God, not rules to be followed or spiritual tricks to perform, just companionship with God."
     "Sickness was a force that brought growth and seasoned understanding and led me to a new depth of happiness."
     "I believe in miracles."
     "I realize the value of my life and the importance of each day."

Life after a critical illness does not go back to where it was before.  As these survivors testify, the unwanted experience can make you richer and surer.

Chapter 6 Mystery

                    Pass the Chocolate--Pass the Tissues
                    Let's Talk about our Deeper Issues

   In reviewing the learnings we have received from cancer we cannot bypass what we have learned about death.  We agree that death is a certainty but until now most of us believed that it was something that happens to someone else--not us.  Facing our own mortality is an opportunity cancer gives us.  We are forced to face a greater pain than even our physical ailments.  We are forced to resolve for ourself the issues of life and death.

   We may discover with cancer that our faith which we thought until now was strong is indeed weak and our trust in God was shallow.  Cancer demands more of us than the mouthings of faith.  Cancer gives us the opportunity to learn how strong our faith really is.  We learn to let go of a faith that is effort and will on our part and turn to a faith that is surrender.  We learn to affirm the redemptive value of suffering, how being wounded brings about healing.

   Time and again with cancer we realize our loss of control.  All of us want to believe we are in charge, that by will and determination we will not only survive but conquer.  But in order to maintain control we must have answers and with cancer there are no answers.  Why Me?  What is Death?  Is life only random?  Does nothing explain the unexplainable? It is a great mystery.

   We affirm the ultimate, the highest we can know is that we do not know.  St Augustine said, "If you understand it, it isn't God" but we find serenity in asking and the questions deepen.

   With cancer we realize there is no time left for superficial spirituality.  There is no time for greed, avarice, selfishness, competitiveness or pride.  There is only time to see life as it really is--so precious--so lovely.  We learn that we are never more alive than when we are looking death in the face.

   Our focus for this study has been more about renewal than recovery.  We will never be well in the same sense again.  But we may be better.  As well as learning our methods of coping--as well as finding our emotional strengths we can learn about our spirituality.  There is no need to fear.

   Joan Chittister said, "All of life is meant to teach us something--to give us opportunities to be better, stronger.  Not miracles but strength and courage--insight and hope--vision and endurance.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chapter 6 Patterns

   In this chapter we will try to put the pieces together, to tie up loose ends and find some clarity.

   First, congratulations for undertaking this study, for having the courage to not only face your serious illness but to seek to learn from it.  And what have you learned about yourself so far?

   Begin by flipping back through your journal to see what patterns emerge.  Look for what works, images, or themes keep reoccurring.  Discovering patterns of behaviour crystallizes new learnings about yourself.  It helps clarify and reinforce new self-understandings.  Not all discoveries are pleasant but all are edifying. 

   Here are some questions to guide you:
  • Did any fears continue to resurface?  Ponder where these fears may have come from.  How did or do you deal with them?
  • Where did (or do) you feel most challenged in your experience with cancer?
  • Is there any unfinished business you need to attend to?
  • Look closely.  Is there some untapped potential in your life that cancer has revealed?
  • Overall do you see a pattern of optimism or pessimism?
  • What or who is your key influence during this period.  Where do you find strength and hope?
  • How are you dealing with the current changed circumstances in your life.  How are you adjusting to life with cancer?
   As you study your responses, self-knowledge may jump out at you immediately. For others it may be many months before a clear picture appears.. There IS a pattern which illustrates who you are now through this cancer challenge.

   Let this just be a beginning.  Hopefully you won't stop learning about yourself through every stage of your cancer.  Continue to work to expand, correct, and understand with new, more sensitive antennae for detecting experiences, past and present.  These dark nights are given us for a reason.  If not treated as growth they will destroy us.