Breast cancer, Cancer, Empowerment, Faith, Fear, Healing, Hope, poetry, Stories, Writing

Empowerment through Poetry

 

And-in-the-end-its-not

Lately thoughts of cancer have floated through my mind. The word is still with a lowercase ‘c’, but it’s there, in my daily life.

I’ve learned to not stuff disturbing thoughts down into my body or heart. They always pop up somewhere, like an evil jack in the box.

When I try to stuff the thoughts, the feelings associated with the word ‘cancer,’ morph into capital letters until the word is entirely in CAPS like it’s screaming out.

I remember a phrase I read from a book whose author I can’t remember:

Feelings are energies that can be moved and transformed.

When I first read that sentence I thought “Wow, that’s empowering.” I get to direct my feelings, move them around, and create something else.

I can stop the stories in my head and create a new story.

So I grab a piece of paper and write out my thoughts, examine them, and try to figure out if I’m feeling anger, grief, fear, or all three.

Many times it’s not necessary to find ‘the answer,’ only to feel the feelings and examine the threads that make the word stand up in my mind.

Sometimes I thread those words together until they become something else, something not scary or ominous.

 

Lowercase cancer

I remember when

cancer had me by the breast

the slash, poison, burn

 a bald toxic dump.

Nurtured by family

powered by faith

seeds of hope planted

until a garden grew

a wasteland no more.

Dare you to try again

been there and back

you will meet defeat

little c

because now I’m not afraid

to die, after I’ve lived

If poetry isn’t your thing, you can also examine or deal with negative feelings by practicing meditation, deep breathing, journaling, listening to your favorite music, drawing, or reading something inspirational.

The point is you can stop the negative feelings in your head and create a new story in your heart.

Make new stories this weekend.

Family, Grief, Latino family tradition, Memoir, Mothers, poetry, Strong Women, Travel

Hurricane Mom – Memoir, Part 3

Poem to Mother by Sharon Doubiago
Poem to Mother by Sharon Doubiago

 

Day’s flutter pass like wind blown pages of a book, occasionally landing on a chapter of happiness or sorrow.

Mom’s children leave. Each daughter marries. The hours spent on them are now hours gained to contemplate middle age, not that anyone would guess she was in her mid-life, nor would she correct them.

Grandchildren come into the world as her oldest siblings depart. Men of integrity, courage, and tradition. Orphan men who provided for siblings survived the Great Depression, and wars. Men who married young sweethearts, raised families, and weathered changing times.

The winds of life blow with the ferocity only death can bring. Mom’s brothers died soon after retirement, ravaged by cancer, the affliction of her parents. Their departure like uprooted trees in the landscape of her life.

Her career becomes her greatest pleasure, counseling the unemployed, connecting people with goals, encouraging youth, instilling hope. Evenings filled with meetings, groups of various acronyms, with one purpose: equality. Now there is a community pool, educational centers, and non-profit organizations serving people.

The pages keep turning. There is no slowdown in mid-life. Mom worked until 67, left after a mass shooting at her state office left co-workers dead, injured. Left her with post-traumatic syndrome. She thought about going back to college, for her Master’s degree, but serves on the Grand Jury instead.

Wanderlust struck. So much life, so much to live for. Egypt, Jordan, places we can no longer visit, were first on the agenda. Spain, Portugal, Canada, France, England, Mexico, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and half of the United States. Places visited in books of her youth or on TV.

She rescues working daughters, son, and walks grandkids to school, makes them snacks, watches them grow. Her home is open to her children when troubles strike. None of us ever go it alone.

Mom’s life temporarily shuts down when her youngest sister died, the one she protected, the one who helped her through every pothole in the journey. Cancer. Again. A light went out, brightness dimmed. The absence of phone calls, trips to casinos, shopping, laughing with her sister leave Mom depressed for two years.

Her eyesight dims like her joy. A prognosis of legal blindness curtails her driving, her independence and link to distant friends and extended family. Worse, it’s difficult to read.

Now family reunions take place in her dreams, between recurring nightmares. Pain fades, aches remain, good times are remembered, wistful visits to previous chapters of life.

The first great-grandchild is born, many grand nieces/nephews, celebrations of sacraments, birthdays, milestones. Tortillas, turkey, tamales, everything celebrated with food and family, traditions kept alive.

And the pages turn.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

Click here for part 1 and 2 of “Hurricane Mom.”

 

Cancer, Faith, Family, Healing, Health, Inspiration, Juicing, Latino culture

Six Surprising Ways to Heal Illness

Japanese word for healing-gettyimages.com
Japanese word for healing-gettyimages.com

Yesterday, I visited with a young couple. The young man has undergone six rounds of chemotherapy and will soon start on another round of six ‘treatments.’ I single quote that word because chemotherapy drugs are so harsh it’s hard to think of them as treatments.

First, a disclaimer: These ways of healing are what worked for me during and after my cancer treatments eight years ago. Two methods are what works for another cancer patient. Discuss your use of any pain relief methods with your doctor.

The young man looked so much better than I expected, he still had some hair, his eyebrows and mustache, his face wasn’t gaunt. I expected him to look like I did after chemo–bald, pale, tired. Different types of cancer, different chemo treatments.

We talked about how he felt, both physically and emotionally. I think it was hard for his fiancé to hear us talk,  but she knew he needed to talk.

He asked me how I dealt with the physical pain, especially the tenderness of the scalp, fingers, palms, the joint pain that doesn’t let you sleep, the stomach distress. The pain meds the doctor prescribed did very little to ease pain.

We shared our stories.

These are some ways that helped me heal and cope with the pain of cancer and healing from cancer.

  1. Meditation music  temporarily helped, especially with stress, but also with pain . I slapped on earbuds, played pleasurable music (I seemed to prefer water sounds) and zoned out for a couple of hours. Many hospitals, community centers teach meditation and mindfulness. Dr. Lisa Rankin talks about this and more in her book, Mind Over Medicine.
  2. Reiki (Rei which means “God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power” and Ki which is “life force energy”). This was offered at the cancer center I attended. I was a skeptic, but now I’m a believer. You can find more about reiki here
  3. Marijuana:

“Whatever you do, don’t take Marinol (concentrated THC in pill form). It didn’t help at all with my nausea, just gave me the munchies,” I said.

 

You should have seen the expression on his face, hearing that I ingested Marinol (under doctor directions) and wished California had medical Marijuana back then. He smiled and said he tried an “Edible,” which is marijuana baked into a food like a brownie or cake pop. It dulled his pain for a couple of hours and didn’t hurt his stomach like the pain pills. 

Edible Cake Pops-Huffington Post, photo by weedmaps.com
Edible Cake Pops-Huffington Post, photo by weedmaps.com

This is legal in California if you have a medical marijuana card. In Colorado you don’t need a card (other than proof of age, 21) and they have strains of marijuana that are lower in THC and higher in CBD (Cannabidiol)a major, non-psychoactive component of cannabis that helps shrink inflammation and reduce pain without inducing the euphoria effects of THC. Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks about this in his CNN program about medical marijuana. Several studies are researching placing marijuana into a pill for pain relief. 

There is an old remedy used in Mexico, and here, where a liniment is made from soaking marijuana in alcohol for a couple of weeks and applying it on painful joints. (I know of a couple of elderly people who use this for their rheumatoid arthritis and they say it works.)

4.  Juicing vegetable and fruits. I wanted to heal myself from the inside out. The dietician at the cancer center emphasized 6-8 servings of    vegetables/fruit daily. It was so much easier to drink the juice of carrots, apples, celery, spinach than to eat them, especially when you’re nauseous or don’t feel like eating. I still juice a few times a month or buy a vegetable and fruit combo at Trader Joe’s or a health food store.

I Dwell on Positive Thoughts-Louise Hay card
I Dwell on Positive Thoughts-Louise Hay card

5. Positive affirmations and prayer, every day. During my cancer recuperation I bought a deck of 64 Wisdom Cards by Louise Hay. The card above and quote below resonated with me.

“The moment I say positive affirmations, I step out of the victim role. I am no longer helpless…I’m taking the next step for my healing.”

Healing really comes from a mind, body, and soul connection. I’m not saying it will cure your illness. For me, I became more holistic in my ideas about healing. Dr. Deepak Chopra has a wealth of  information about holistic healing.

Bucket List
Bucket List

6. Hope: This couple made a bucket list of places and experiences they want to enjoy when chemo is completed or on the young man’s ‘good days.’ They look to the future, believing the cancer will be healed. They have hope. Together they tackle the pain of the present and look to the future.
I left our visit hopeful for this young man’s full recovery. I look forward to his marriage, the creation of a family, and the end of cancer appearing in his life ever again, or mine, or your own.