Kathy Steligo, author of The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook

With close to 92,000 U.S. women choosing breast reconstruction last year alone, there needs to be A Book. Besides that being a lot of surgery patients, it’s a pretty complicated procedure with a lot of options and potential complications. (Angelina Jolie made it look easy, saying she completed her reconstruction in about nine weeks.)

steligoheadshotThe good news is, Kathy Steligo knew of this need 10 years ago, and wrote the book — The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook — that she, herself needed when she went through her first breast cancer diagnosis. In 2012, Johns Hopkins University Press printed the 3rd edition and it’s circulating now, helping women everywhere distill the process, plan ahead and feel informed.

I had a little chat with Kathy about this excellent news, and about her impressive career as a health writer/editor. (She’s a friend of Amoena, you know, with several excellent articles to her credit.) This month, we also posted a review of the book at TheBreastCareSite.com. We thought you would enjoy getting to know the author.

What does it feel like to have a third edition published?

It feels great! Although much of the information from the original 2002 edition and the subsequent 2005 edition is still relevant, a lot has changed, and as someone who is a bit of a compulsive, it was important to provide information about new procedures and innovative changes. It is a relief to have completed all the new research and writing required, and a comfort knowing that the updated information about mastectomy and reconstruction is available to anyone who needs it.

Do you remember your inspiration for writing the original? 

Absolutely! When I learned I needed a mastectomy in 2002, I couldn’t find answers to my questions or the information I needed about mastectomy and reconstruction. It was frustrating and difficult trying to make a decision without adequate input. Books in the library were woefully outdated with horribly discouraging illustrations of reconstructed breasts, and there really wasn’t much on the Internet at that time. It was hard enough having to understand and make decisions about what I was going through; I didn’t want other women to have the same frustrating experience. I wanted to give them a single, objective and comprehensive source of information about their surgical options and what to expect before and after surgery. And I wanted to answer so many of the questions that doctors don’t explain or discuss. So I began an exhaustive research effort, reading published studies, and interviewing doctors, and surveying more than 400 women who had mastectomy with or without reconstruction. I self-published the book for 10 years, until Johns Hopkins University Press published the new 3rd edition in 2012.

Do you still identify as a “survivor?” Or does one “move on” from that place eventually?

Once you’ve been through cancer and come out the other side, you always identify with the term “survivor.” That’s an important part of recovery and getting back to normal life–not considering yourself a victim. As you’re dealing with diagnosis, treatment and recovery, the experience seems to take control of your life, and you wonder if you’ll ever return to normal. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and eventually your treatment, doctor appointments and checkups slip away, and normal life gradually returns. But you never forget the experience and that you beat it.

Who are some of the great surgeons you’ve met through this process, and what’s special about them?

I’m privileged and grateful to have met many skilled and dedicated plastic surgeons, many of whom I now consider to be friends. During three writings of The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook, several physicians were abundantly generous with their time, information, and before-and-after patient photos. Among them, Drs. Rudy Buntic, Minas Chrysopoulo, Joshua Levine, and Michel Saint-Cyr were always exceptionally forthcoming and patient, providing insight to procedures and answering so many of my questions. My own surgeon, Dr. Frank DellaCroce, continues to inspire me with his commitment, innovation and exemplary skill. It is no surprise that these are the names that are most often mentioned and recommended by patients with whom I speak during the course of a year. These physicians go above and beyond what is required. They care deeply about the patient experience and they treat each woman as a unique individual. They are dedicated to providing the very best result for their patients.

Tell us a little bit about your work with FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered).

As FORCE’s Editor-in-chief, I edit the organization’s biannual newsletter, member updates, and a variety of other publications and writing. As a faculty member/presenter at FORCE’s annual Joining Forces Against Hereditary Cancer conference, I speak about mastectomy and reconstruction. The organization’s knowledge, reach and compassion on behalf of the hereditary cancer community never cease to awe and inspire me. Our newest project is development of a comprehensive reconstruction learning tool, including a video.

What’s your next project?

My newest book, co-authored with Steven Richeimer, MD, is A Pain Doctor’s Guide To Relief: Confronting Chronic Pain, to be published April 2014 by Johns Hopkins University Press. Chronic pain affects more than 100 million Americans, including many who have lingering mastectomy pain, sometimes years after surgery. Many individuals assume or are told that nothing can be done to relieve the pain that controls their lives, but that is usually not the case.

We heard you have a pretty fantastic garden. What do you love about gardening?

Summer is my favorite time of year. My garden supplies enjoyment, solace, and nutrition! Spending time among the lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, celery and a variety of herbs is soothing, no matter how stressful the day has been. Gardens require so little: just water, lots of sun, and a feeding now and again. They give so much more in return.

Kathy’s website, breastrecon.com, is also a very helpful resource. We’re so glad to know this expert, and we encourage you to share her knowledge with your circle of friends.

Posted in Breast Cancer Recovery, Breast Surgeries, Reconstruction, TheBreastCareSite.com, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Announcing the 2013 Club Amoena Essay Contest

Allright, fans: Last year we had some excellent submissions to our This is the New Me Essay Contest. (In fact, besides the two winners who are posted here, another of the contest participants is profiled this month at TheBreastCareSite.com… so you can see how inspiring they were!)

But this year, let’s do it up bigger! We would love to read even more of your stories. Announcing:

curved road

Unexpected curve in your road?

Embrace Every Curve: The 2013 Club Amoena Essay Contest!

We want to be inspired, particularly by the way you handled a change or challenge in the last year. Sometimes the curves in the road are not what we expect, but they lead us to a place of even greater joy, acceptance and peace. This is how we’d like you to frame your story: How have you embraced a curve in the last year or so? It may be your diagnosis, or it may be something else, like a new job, a different outcome than you expected on a project, or a hiccup in your routine.

We’ll choose, again, two winners: First place will get 2 new Valletta camisoles (believe me, you can never have too many!) and will be published in our March Amoena Life magazine, and second place will get 1 Valletta and be published here, on our blog.

Essays should be around 800 words, and should be emailed for submission, with “2013 Essay Contest” in the subject line, to info@amoena.com.

Please read the complete Contest Rules here. We’ll accept entries until September 13, 2013, so get started today!

Posted in Contests, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Clear As Mud

I recently had the delight and privilege of visiting a place I’ve heard of for years, but had never seen, called Lotusland. Since I’ve lived in this area for most of my adult life, I was actually a bit ashamed to admit I’d never taken the time to visit before. Granted, for many years the estate was not open to the public because it is housed in a residential neighborhood in the VERY posh environs of Montecito.

Montecito is one of those kinds of places where you drive through and wonder what in heaven’s name someone has to do to be able to afford such opulence. When I was younger, we used to call it the elephant’s graveyard. As the very mature woman I have become (no laughing allowed), I realize those elephants would have to have some substantial scratch to even think about this being their final resting place. Actually, you are more likely to see the Hollywood elite or the dotcom darlings in Montecito these days. And, if you happen to see me you will know that I am either lost, longing, or as in the case last week, on a tour.

When one of my good friends got a job at Lotusland she said no more excuses, I needed to see what all the fuss was about. Thank goodness!

flower garden at lotusland in californiaAlthough Ganna Walska’s estate is known as Lotusland, it also has a cactus garden, a butterfly garden, a fern garden, a topiary garden, a bromeliad garden, a theatre garden, a succulent garden, a blue garden, a water garden, an aloe garden, a Japanese garden, a cycad garden and a tropical garden. There are only a few more gardens than there were husbands, (Madame Walska was married six times) which also adds to the mystique and allure of the place.

Everything about her estate is awe-inspiring and unbelievably beautiful, but the actual lotus garden really touched my heart. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a lotus other than in pictures, so that in and of itself was very cool. But what I didn’t know was the lotus has to grow in mud. It can’t survive in any other environment. And, although it grows in mud, when it emerges it is completely, totally clean as though it had just come from the purest possible place.

The docent actually took a handful of water and tossed it at the lotus’ leaves to show us how the plant repels anything that gets on its surface. She also told us the lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the lotus produces the most beautiful flower.

I couldn’t help but compare this to my breast cancer journey. There is something about nature (if we can just remember to take the time to experience it) that speaks to the soul. I love that the lotus flower pushes its way through the mud not only to show its beauty to the world, but with the natural ability to remain pure and clean regardless of what the environment throws its way.

The next time I’m tempted to feel a bit diminished by my health scares, or experience anxiety or anger about what I’ve been through, I’m going to remember the lesson the lotus flower has taught me, and recognize the beauty this experience has brought to my life.

Posted in Breast Cancer Recovery, Inspiration | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

A Beautiful Problem

Young women, health, and body image

A young female co-worker recently regaled me with tales of woe after spending time trying to find a bikini that fit her. A bit of an aside is necessary so you will empathize, as I did, with her tale: Erin happens to be one of the most beautiful young women I’ve met in a long time. She is smart, funny, sincere – and as with most of us – always in pursuit of that perfect body. I gave up on that idea years ago, but Erin is still in her 20s, so it’s a good thing she is being mindful of staying in shape. I wish I’d started caring more about what I ate and how much physical activity I did on a daily basis when I was her age. It might have spared me the cancer experience, and I know I would have been a healthier and happier person in general.

Unlike many people, Erin actually works very hard to obtain the desired killer abs, arms, etc. She works out like a fiend nearly every day of the week, pushing herself relentlessly through any number of squats, presses, planks, push-ups and whatever else her boot-camp-style instructor throws her way. When she isn’t enduring boot camp, she’s running. Sometimes I get tired just watching her!

Over the last several months I’ve seen an incredible physical transformation take place. Her work is definitely paying off, but when it comes to a dressing room mirror, two miniscule pieces of fabric (aka a bikini) and a woman’s self-esteem – some things never change. Needless to say, her quest ended in tears and remorse – and to my way of thinking, something much worse – a bit of self-loathing.

I tried my best to bolster her ego and honestly tell her how fantastic she looks. I tried to remember how much credence I would have given to the opinions of a woman my age when I was her age. Sad to say, probably not much, because even at my age I’m not looking for my female peers’ approval – I’m still hoping someone appealing of the opposite sex will take a second look (and NOT because he can’t believe what a train wreck he’s just observed)!

I thought long and hard about what I would have said to my younger self in a similar situation, and what kept coming up for me had nothing to do with the shape of my body. The very best advice I could have proffered to my younger, never-quite-satisfied-self would be: Don’t waste time worrying about what you don’t have or can’t achieve, because perfection is an illusion. Celebrate your youth, your freedom, your good health – and the realization that for your entire life, the people who really matter love you just the way you are!

girl jumping, smiling

Celebrate you!

Posted in Exercise, Healthy Living, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Positive Thinking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Meaning of Mouth Watering

While I was going through cancer treatment in the summer of 2005, I had a few comfort foods that sustained me. Watermelon was one of these. The chemo often created mouth sores that were not only painful and bothersome, but that made eating some foods very difficult. I can still remember how wonderful a bite of cold, sweet watermelon felt. It not only soothed my mouth, but delighted my weary palate. As a result, I usually had a container of this succulent fruit cubed and sitting in the refrigerator that entire summer.

I’ve had several blessed summers since that time, and unlike some of the foods that nourished me while I was battling breast cancer that later lost their appeal, my love of watermelon has remained. When I discovered a delicious watermelon salad recipe, the time just felt right for me to share it with you. It’s quick, it’s simple, it’s healthy – and it just may be a way in which you’ve never tried watermelon before. As long as the melon you select is firm and sweet – you can’t go wrong!

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh orange juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 jicama, cut into cubes (you don’t have to add this, but it provides another
source of crunchy satisfaction)
4 cups watermelon in 2-inch chunks

watermelon in a bowl with cheese

photo courtesy of simplyrecipes.com

Crumbled Feta cheese (I do this to taste; too much can be overwhelming, so I just
sprinkle it on, take a taste, and go from there. A couple of ounces will do the trick.)
1/3 cup roughly torn fresh mint leaves (I’ve also had this with basil instead of mint. It provides a more savory flavor. Sometimes I add diced tomato as well – so feel free to experiment!)

Whisk together juices, honey, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add the jicama, watermelon and mint and toss to coat. This recipe can serve 4, but that’s only if I let anyone else near it!

Do you have any summer recipes to share? Or foods that helped you through treatment?

Posted in Eating Well, Healthy Living, Recipes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Some De-Stressing News

The media in recent weeks has been filled with alarming, stressful stories. Since having had breast cancer, I always find this even more troubling because I fought hard to stay alive, and I fully appreciate just how important it is to keep stress at bay. I shake my head when I see the actions of individuals who don’t seem to place the same value on the incredible beauty of simply being alive. Understanding all of this is way above my pay level, but I do realize it can bring incredible stress into my life. And, I’m assuming if I feel stress, many of you do as well.

With that thought in mind, I felt like this would be a good time to look at some innovative ways we can relieve some of the stress and get back to what is more important – honoring the time we’ve been given here on Earth.

Stress is known to suppress our immune system; raise our blood pressure; elevate the risk of stomach acid and ulcers; contribute to headaches, backaches, and neck-aches; colds; and even cancer. Stress is also linked to shortening of the telomeres, protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that shorten each time a cell dies. Research suggests that we want our telomeres to be as long as possible, because length is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer and heart disease, as well as a longer life. So, if you ask me, I will take the extra-long version – PLEASE!

Here are just a few innovative ideas to bust that stress and come out the other side feeling, if not worry-free, at least a bit less burdened.

woman inflating yellow balloonBlow up a balloon. Since our bodies need oxygen to relax, this is a simple tool you can use. When we are stressed we tend to take short, shallow breaths. Blowing up a balloon forces us to breathe more slowly and deeply, since we’re using our diaphragm. It also activates our parasympathetic nervous system, reducing our heart rate and relaxing our muscles. No balloons handy? Then remind yourself to take a deep, calming breath each time you walk through a doorway. You know the old saying, when one door closes another one opens – well, you can now add when one door opens I let go of some stress!

Try laughter yoga. Did you know that children laugh about 140 times a day? Adults, not so much. Actually, the average adult only laughs about 12 to 14 times a day. Every time we laugh, we release an endorphin, and those are 200 times stronger than morphine. Laughter yoga, which is becoming more and more popular nationwide, blends attempts to provoke laughter via eye contact and childlike playfulness with breathing exercises. If you can find a local class, try it. The child in you will be very thankful!

Play the drums. Drumming allows you to have fun, stay very much in the present moment, and release stress both consciously and unconsciously. So grab those bongos, snares or tom toms and let the good times roll! Heck, even a tambourine will do the trick. Just remember to choose your drum playing time wisely, or you may be adding to someone else’s stress levels!

If you are still young enough (and lucky enough) to be able to call your mom, do it! Researchers have found that in stressful situations, hearing the sound of your mom’s voice reduces stress hormones while boosting levels of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.

Take a break from the news. It’s time to turn off your TV, shut down the laptop, and stack those newspapers and magazines in the corner. A temporary vacation from world events give us time to clear our head, reduce our worries, and put our life in perspective. Give it a week – and don’t feel guilty. Unfortunately, the major stories will still be around in a week, and just think how nice it would be to escape from worrying about something you can’t control for a few days.

Climb a tree. If you are healthy enough (and fortunate enough to live in a place where there are full-grown trees in your neighborhood), now’s the time to revert to some childish behavior! Give yourself a lift. Climbing a tree is active, playful – and fun! Again, don’t add to someone else’s stress level by being too much of a monkey and climbing to a dangerous level. Just high enough to get a new perspective. When you get back to ground level you’ll be surprised at just how much stress you’ve relinquished!

Learn to play again. Try something like jumping on a trampoline. Go rollerblading. Blow bubbles. Spend some time hula-hooping. You have no goal other than to simply cut loose and enjoy yourself.

Create a “life is a banquet” collage. This world we live in does have its stresses, but it is also a place filled with humor, humanity and hope. When you are feeling overwhelmed, look for stories, cartoons, pictures, articles, song lyrics, ads, and quotes that bring these emotions to the forefront. If possible, add to your collection every day. Then, the next time the news is grim, bring out your collage and spend some time immersed in things that make you feel good.

You may also like this post: Feeling stressed? Meditate

Got a great stress buster? If so, please share!

Posted in Healthy Living, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Positive Thinking, Stress, Uncategorized, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gym or Yoga Studio? Look great either way in Amoena Active wear

amoena active wear racerback tank-top

Renee, 60, and Beatte, 51, are both breast cancer survivors.

We’ve been very excited to introduce retailers and consumers to our new line of Active wear! Have you seen it? Maybe it’s caught your eye at the gym or studio in the last few weeks. It’s good for all kinds of activities — intense workouts like cardio and strength, and gentle stretching (or even running around town but just wanting to be comfy)!

I was thinking about gyms and yoga studios recently. In my (admittedly limited) experience, there are significant differences between the two! They both benefit your health, of course — and there are excellent reasons to visit both of them regularly. I’m not saying one is better than the other. Just making a couple of observations:

Difference #1: Towels.

Yoga Studio: Neat little pyramids of fluffy white towels sit in a wicker basket on a bench, with some sort of beeswax candle nearby to enhance their ambiance. I’m afraid to touch and disassemble them.

Gym: Thin, half-gray dust cloths hang unceremoniously on the edge of the treadmills and weight machines, accented by plastic bottles of off-brand blue spray that’s supposed to keep things clean… Yeah, I’m afraid to touch them, as well.

Difference #2: Drinks.

Yoga Studio: While I’m lying on my back in Shavasana at the end of class, my instructor is in the corner, quietly brewing each of us a warm cup of peppermint tea.

Gym: “Want some Powerade?? Want some Bottled Water? Or something called ‘Muscle Milk?’ That’ll be $2.50!” laughs the vending machine, “or you can brave the water fountain in the corner. Don’t mind the drops of sweat from other patrons. Here, use this towel.”

Difference #3: Music

Yoga Studio: We just want you to barely think of it as music. If you listen to your heart, you may hear the song of a bird’s wing in the rain. Or the melody of air.

Gym: PUMP PUMP TECHNO HIP-HOP THUMP THUMP ELECTRONICA, to remind me very insistently that I can DO THIS.

Hey, it’s all good. Sometimes I need to hear the air, and other times, the encouragement over the loudspeaker. At any rate, I’ll look good in my new Active top! Want a sneak peek at some of the Active styles coming this fall? Take a look! We hope you’ll love them!

amoena active wear fall 2013

Posted in Active wear, Exercise, Fashion, Healthy Living, Lifestyle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Wasn’t Just Born Yesterday!

Well, Easter has come and gone, but I’ll bet a lot of you still have the remnants of an Easter basket if not close at hand, then somewhere in the near vicinity. And any Easter basket worthy of the title must contain some PEEPS®. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my PEEPS® tolerance is pretty low. I don’t mean I don’t like them, because there are few things I enjoy more than a stale PEEPS®. It’s just that as an adult my ability to consume large amounts of sugar without suffering the consequences grows smaller each year.

PEEPS Chicks and BunniesI’m pretty sure as a kid I would have not only been able to consume the PEEPS® in my Easter basket, but those in my sibling’s as well. High on sugar, I probably even attempted to convince my parents that “No, I did not take Ted (or Lisa, or Tom, or Jenny’s) PEEPS®.” I will blame the sugar for any falsehoods that happened to pass my lips. Lucky for me, PEEPS® only came in yellow or white back then, or my parents would definitely have been able to figure out what else had been passing my lips!

Since PEEPS® are such a vivid part of my childhood memories, I decided to see what Google could tell me about these sugary treats. I quickly discovered that PEEPS® are the creation of candy company Just Born. Upon further investigation I discovered that Just Born is a family owned business that was started back in 1923 by Sam Born. Obviously, Sam liked to keep it simple!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Just Born also makes Mike and Ike® and Hot Tamales®. This news alone made me think they should have paid for my childhood dental work! Mike and Ike® are still one of my all-time favorites. Unlike Jujubes®, Dots®, and Jujyfruits®, they don’t contain any of the dreaded licorice or spearmint versions that made a child’s taste buds balk. Although all of these candies have been known to cause our teeth to pretty much become glued together at some point.

Here are some fun PEEPS® facts right from Just Born’s website:

  • In 1953, it took 27 hours to create one PEEPS® Marshmallow Chick. Today, thanks to advances in technology, it takes six minutes.
  • Just Born produces enough PEEPS® Brand Marshmallow Candies in one year to circle the earth twice.
  • Yellow is America’s bestselling color of PEEPS® chicks and bunnies.
  • Yellow and white PEEPS® chicks and bunnies came first, followed by pink, lavender, blue, green and orange.
  • If you had 8,000 PEEPS® bunnies, and you stood them in a straight vertical line, you could reach the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago.

And PEEPS® aren’t just for eating – not by a long shot. There is even an artist by the name of David Ottogalli with a website devoted to PEEPS® inspired artwork.

peeps-bra While I was avidly seeing what Google could discover, I happened upon an Instagram image from Melissa Hall that I just had to share here. Someone has definitely figured out what to do with their leftover PEEPS®!

I wonder if it comes in a pocketed version?

Posted in Blog Stuff, Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Behind the Scenes with Amoena’s Survivor Models

We’ve just posted our latest video, and it’s so much fun. You’ll get a peek “behind the curtain” and see how we create the beautiful photos that we use in our catalogs, on our website and in ads and brochures.

Don’t miss this special look “inside Amoena,” with three of our survivor models.

Posted in Fashion, Inside Amoena, Intimate Apparel, Lifestyle, Mastectomy Products, Uncategorized, Videos | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is the New Me Essay Contest — 1st Place Winner, Terry Werth

This past summer, we hosted an essay contest for our Club Amoena members – style-savvy women who are fans of Amoena products. We chose 2 winners — this is the submission from our 1st place winner, Terry Werth,, of New York. Look for her essay in your Spring 2013 issue of Amoena Life magazine, which mails out to subscribers next week!

terry werth, club amoena essay winnerSomeone once suggested to me that one way to make use of life experiences – good or bad- is to ask yourself: What have I learned from this? With no suggestion of guilt or judgment, it is just a call for honest reflection that could make a difference down the road.

If you are a person who searches for “the meaning” of things, this is the question that can give meaning to the struggle or the miracle.

This is probably a good question for cancer survivors to ask themselves: What have I learned from this? I have read many articles that tip toe around this issue, perhaps because many cancer survivors feel like “victims.” They didn’t knowingly do anything to bring on cancer. It has negatively altered their health, their body and their spirit and so drawing lessons from it seems like too much to ask, if not just plain wrong!

But one answer I have often seen goes something like, “In some ways, cancer has been a gift.” I think I have said it myself. But upon closer examination, I have to say, REALLY? A gift? Come on!

What I meant, and what I think survivors mean when they say this, is that this experience of having cancer has presented unexpected opportunities to receive kindness, compassion, generosity and to reflect on one’s life from a new perspective. It invites me to take a hard look at reality and to become definite about what matters most and not at all. The lesson is that even something bad can produce something good.

So I asked myself the question and came up with five lessons that now define “the new me” and how I am living my life.

1. I use all of my senses. The cliché would be, “stop and smell the roses.” But I don’t want to just smell the roses. I want to see the roses, touch the roses, plant the roses, pick the roses. I want to hear the birds and the traffic sounds, hear and smell the crashing waves, feel the silky sand between my toes, notice the sound of children laughing, remember the strong hug you gave me and the way my favorite wine tastes. I don’t want to miss any of it but I can only take it in if I live intentionally.

2. I practice gratitude. My mother was a tyrant when it came to teaching her children to express gratitude for gifts. Writing thank you notes was never optional. They would be done well and in a timely manner. As odd as it seems, I do believe that is where I learned to practice gratitude for the big presents and the little niceties of life. Whether you thank a Higher Power, a stranger, a family member or service provider, you contribute to the kindness of our species and become more fully human in doing so,

3. I recognize what gives me joy. Since my cancer diagnosis, I have cultivated a new habit. Every night the last thought I have before I close my eyes is, “What brought me joy today?” I always have an answer because all day long I am looking for it. Most days there are so many examples I can’t remember them all. Some days I struggle but I find one. I have learned that not a day of my life is lacking joy if I will only take the time to recognize it.

4. I invest myself in making memories. Living intentionally requires living in the present tense when it may seem easier, more comfortable, to dwell on the past. That is as unproductive as worrying about the future over which I have little control. The logical, and sometimes more challenging choice, is to enjoy each day. Making memories with family and friends is a gift we give each other by sharing time and experiences. Lacking any guarantee about the number of days, months or years anyone has to make those precious memories, I am committed to investing my whole heart in making them every day.

5. I allow myself to grieve…briefly. Any serious illness translates into a sense of loss: loss of health, energy, peace of mind, loss of sound sleep, appetite, sex drive, loss of hair, breasts, dreams, loss of financial resources, strength, and innocence. To mourn these losses is appropriate and necessary. A stiff upper lip will not take away the very real pain I experience confronting the reality of these losses, and so I will allow myself a moment, here and there, to feel the loss, but even the pain lets me know that I am alive! “So much has been given to me,” said Helen Keller, “I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.” And so I live. Refer to lesson number 1.

Posted in Contests, Lifestyle, My Story, Positive Thinking | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments