Weekly Wishes #1

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I am a five year-breast cancer survivor.  Sadly, there is no cure for breast cancer.  In an effort to avoid a re-occurrence, I must set up a healthy relationship with my “mind, body and spirit.”  No longer do I want to sabotage my survival, I am a Creation of God and must learn to Honor and Love “ME.” 

My long-term WISHES as I embark upon this journey to live a Healthier Lifestyle are to “eliminate negative behaviors” and “implement positive actions.”

The following are WISHES I plan to fulfill during Week #1

  • Exercise – 30 to 60 minutes daily.
  • Hydrate – minimum eight glasses of water daily
  • Meditate – 20t o 30 minutes daily.
  • Sleep – 7 to 8 hours nightly.
  • Food – reduce/eliminate carbs, sugar, caffeine, fats, soda.

So excited to join other blogs like Stages of Gold and Postcards from Rachel  as I tread down this path to a healthy and positive way of living.

Can’t wait to share the results of Week #1 with you on Monday, September 2.

I Was A “Me – Pessimist”

Confession!!!   I lived most of my life as a “mepessimist.”   Sadly, I spent too many years believing

  • my “glass was half empty and not half full;” and
  • it was impossible for me to make  “lemonade out of lemons.”

Frankly, I was the half empty glass” as well as the ‘lemons.”  The years of verbal, emotional and physical abuse perpetrated by a dysfunctional and alcoholic father created a weak woman.   A wounded soul, low self-esteem, and no confidence; I, the “me-pessimist” focused on the negatives and not the positives.

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But, mind you, I was overly optimistic when it came to others.  If friends or family strayed into the “pessimist mode;” I quickly stepped in hoping to turn their negative thoughts into positive ones.  Sadly, I did not feel empowered to do the same for myself.

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Over the years, seeking the approval and acceptance of others, I ignored many of my hopes, dreams and desires.  The fear of being judged hindered my ability to think like an “optimist.”   You see I felt safe and comfortable living life as a “me-pessimist.”

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A breast cancer diagnosis in 2008 and a life threatening respiratory illness in 2010 was a life-changer.    At last I understood, as one of God’s Creations, I was blessed with the ability to  “make choices.”

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Now, I choose to live with my “glass half full and not  half empty” and to “make lemonade out of lemons.”  In other words, I choose to —

  • make “every day” a “great day “ and my “best day”
  • focus on the positives and reject the negatives

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Be Still Day

“Learning how to Be Still, to really Be Still and let life happen — that stillness becomes a radiance.”  (Morgan Freeman)

Last Sunday, overwhelmed and anxious, I decided it was time for a Be Still Day!   On this day only calmness, peacefulness, and stillness could enter my “Personal Space.”  

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Is it difficult to Be Still?  Or is it, just me?  As a young child, Mama often had to remind me to stop fidgeting.   She would quietly, but firmly say, “Yvonne, Be Still.”   An impatient child, I fidgeted most when I was . . .

  • getting my hair combed;
  • doing homework;
  • sitting in church,
  • riding in a car, or
  • eating dinner.

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Had I learned to Be Still as a child, perhaps my adult life would have been less stressful.   Though, I stopped fidgeting after a while, to Be Still is yet a work in progress.

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More recently, my inability to Be Still correlates with an addiction to my I-Pad and MacBook Pro.  For this reason, venturing into cyberspace — banned on Be Still Day.  No surfing the Internet, reading e-mails, or entering blogosphere for me on Be Still Day.  

The Be Still Day was a success.  I needed this day of stillness, aloneness, meditation, inner focus, and spiritual enlightenment to cure a serious case of undernourishment.

For weeks leading up to the self-imposed Be Still Day, I didn’t nourish my mind, body and spirit.  Far too many “first time tasks” on a long “to do list.”   All related to:

  • A 53rd Anniversary Gift this month from Hubby and The Eldest Daughter; as well as
  • Preparing for The Daughters and 13-Year-Old Grandson’s Annual Week-Long Spring Visit

The anniversary gift was a “generous, though budgeted amount,” for a mini makeover of my kitchen and bathrooms.    Hubby and The Eldest Daughter offered to help.   My immediate response was, “I Got This.”   After all, I have been an avid follower of . . .

  • Home and Garden TV
  • Do It Yourself Network
  • Martha Stewart Living
  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Real Simple
  • House and Home

Certainly, twenty years of devouring decorating magazines and countless hours of watching home makeover programs on television prepared me to handle a “mini makeover.” 

Feeling confident, I went to my trusted friend, The Internet, for ideas on tile, granite, sinks, faucets, and lighting.    Looking for contractors, plumbers, fabricators, installers, electricians, and painters; I  checked the telephone book, Angie’s List, Craig’s List as well as asking my neighbors.  Overwhelmed with all the options.  Unable to make a decision, I spent days analyzing, procrastinating and stressing outaccomplishing nothing.  

My inner voice shouted, “You need help.”   Putting pride aside, I called on the Hubby and The Eldest Daughter for help.   Working together, as a team, we completed all the tasks on the “to do list” in less than a week.   The last stage of the project, installing the backsplash tiles, is scheduled for completion by day’s end.

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I am a Survivor.  Living with a medical history of:

  • Breast Cancer,
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis,
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease;
  • Sleep Apnea;
  • Fibromyalgia, and
  • Peripheral Neuropathy

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The challenges I face, as a survivor, on any given day can be . . .

  • Fatigue
  • Sleeplessness
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Stressfulness
  • Chronic Pain
  • Cancer Re-Occurrence

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Oftentimes, I forget my survivor status and take on too much.  When this happens, the mind, body and spirit crash.   I can always count on Hubby and the Three Adult Kids to lift me up.   Ultimately, however, I am the survivor and it is my responsibility to make the right choices.

Since Be Still Day, upon arising every morning, I repeat my personal affirmation.

I am a survivor of Breast Cancer and Chronic Pain.   I claim, accept and embrace this life.  Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to follow my path toward a healthy mind, body, and spirit.  My Survivorship is Dependent Upon My Emotional, Mental and Physical Health. (SeasonedSistah 2)

Yvonne: A Breast Cancer Story

This week, I planned to write a post on “What’s In a Name.”    The selected name was a bit self-serving, since I chose to use my own – Yvonne.  I wanted to find out as much as I could about the name my mother gifted me with more than 70 years ago.   I began by entering a variety of  Yvonne questions in the Google and Yahoo search engines including “poems with the name Yvonne.”

I discarded the plan to write a post around my name when Google directed me to Finding Hope, www.findinghope.cbcf.org and this poem:

CANCER:  Yvonne’s Poem 

Cancer can you imagine a world without cancer putting you in bed

Anyone, anywhere, anytime is susceptible to cancer rearing its ugly head

No one should have to suffer the heartache & pain

Can you imagine not having chemo ever again

Everyone hopes & prays that one day that will happen for sure

Research surely after all these years will eventually find a cure

Written by Yvonne Thomas, November 1940 – July 2004

(Written with Hope:  Yvonne’s Poem – When looking through her mother’s things, Linda discovered this poem her mother, Yvonne, had written after she had been treated for breast cancer.  Unfortunately seven years later, Yvonne’s cancer returned”…)

I connected with the anxieties, frustrations, fears, hopes and wishes in Yvonne’s Poem.   And,  to my suprise, we not only shared the name, Yvonne, but the same:

Medical Diagnosis:                 Breast Cancer

Last Name:                                  Thomas

Birth Month                                November

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So moved by Yvonne’s Poem, I was driven to match the letters in CANCER to daily positive affirmations and biblical verses.

How I Cope with CANCER

Choose to stay in the fight

Appreciate and show your gratitude daily

Nourish your mind, body, and spirit

Create your own happiness

Encourage yourself and others with positive words

Reject negative thoughts

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My CANCER Bible Verses 

Come to me all that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you peace.” 

As I go forward, step by step, the way will be opened up unto me.”

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

 Encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Renew a right spirit within me.”

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Yes, it is difficult to live life to its fullest with a “no cure” prognosis, but it can be done.  The “Quality of My Life Improved” after I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.  I will talk about this in an upcoming post.

I dedicate this post to the memory of Yvonne Thomas.  She lost the battle, but her message of “hope” and “prayer” remains.  The “fight for a cure” continues.

Warriors in Pink – Angel Wings

“Honor the angels who have

passed after their fight against breast cancer.

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Better Late than Never

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Late Start

At 54 years of age, roughly 16 years ago, I chose to start exercising.   Chronic pain had literally controlled my life for more than three years.  I relied on prescribed medications for pain relief.  While the medications temporarily and sporadically reduced pain levels, I aspired to have a richer and fuller life.  Frequent, pain flare-ups prevented me from carrying out many day-to-day functional activities.  My body was under the control of either Ms. Fibro (Fibromyalgia-muscle pain) or Mr. Arthur (Rheumatoid Arthritis-joint pain).  While I FEARED the prospect of enduring the extra pain likely to come with exercising, the excruciating pain I was experiencing at the time left me with no other realistic choice.

In the Beginning

I exercised three days per week.  I could only endure six minutes on the treadmill and five minutes on the bicycle.  The body was so deconditioned and the muscles so atrophied, 11 minutes of low-impact exercise was all I could tolerate. Those first months were a struggle.  But, as the days, weeks and months passed – the FEAR disappeared — the pain lessened –the body strengthened.

Results

Over time, I have been able to add:

  • 49 minutes to exercise time (11 minutes to 60 minutes);
  • 2 days per week to exercise program (3 days to 5 days);
  • 3 new cardio machines to the treadmill and bicycle (Step, Elliptical, and PreCor); and
  • 10 circuit weight machines

Making the decision to start exercising was not easy.  But, I chose to TRY.

TODAY

Mr. Arthur and Ms. Fibro are no longer in control of my life:

“It is Better to Do Something Late than Not at All”

Why I Blog

Seeking to expand my “Little World,” I entered the “Blogosphere World” in mid-January 2013.   Retired in 2010, my husband and I relocated to a new state thousands of miles away from children, family and friends.

Some three years later, blogging “Launched ME” into Cyberspace.”   My ever expanding “Online World” has “Opened the Door” to new people, places and things all around the world.   Blogging allows “ME to be ME.”  Blogging is the “Voice” that had remained silent for many, many years due to my own self-inflicted anxiety and low self-esteem.

Though, I am a novice blogger, my confidence level is growing daily.   Why – the people, who have supported, aided and guided me since I embarked on this new journey.

  • First, thank you to those who “visited, liked and/or commented” on my posts.  I am grateful and appreciate your taking the time to enter my “Online World.”
  • Second, to those bloggers “I follow,” thankful and appreciative for your enlightening and informative posts.
  • Finally, a “special thank you” to Misifusa’s Blog, http://misifusa.wordpress.com.  I look forward to reading your posts.  I connect with you on a personal level — a “Sister Breast Cancer Survivoras well as your February 19, 2013 “What’s in a Name” post.

So to my new Blogosphere friends the following are a few  —-

Random Facts About Me

  • I am one of the 198,682 people in the U.S. with the first name Yvonne
  • My daily routine upon rising, is writing my “Morning Gratitude Note.”  Beginning with “Bless be the Day for ME and Mine,” and generally followed with a word or sentence expressing why I am grateful.   This note is placed into my “Gratitude Jar.” 

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  • Nightly, just before retiring, I write in my online Gratitude Journal” five things that happened during the day for which I am grateful.  I finish with, “Blessed be the Night for ME and Mine.”   If expressing gratitude to a specific person, place, or thing, I attach related digital photos.

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  • Unrealistic FEAR prevents “ME” from performing monthly self-breast exams.  For the past five years, I have lied to my oncologist when asked the dreaded question about self-breast exams.  Hope, sharing this fact in “Blogosphere” will rid “ME” of this phobia.

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  • I meditate for thirty minutes every day for relaxation and inner peace.
  • On my special “Sabbath Day,” which can be any day during the week, I choose to do only what honors, pleases and uplifts “ME.”

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  • I blog because it makes “ME” happy.
  • I took my first Yoga class this past week.
  • When someone or something enters my space and creates toxicity, my inner voice says either:  (1) “This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalms 118.22 (NIV), or (2) “I will not allow anyone to steal my joy.”  Then, I will immediately seek a way to disengage.

Loving This Season of My Life!!!!

Dedicated to A Breast Cancer Warrior

Mentor, best friend, and the sister God placed in my life shortly after I married her younger brother more than 52 years ago, died in December of 1988 after a long battle with Stage IV Breast Cancer.  During her four-year fight to survive, I never heard one complaint.  With confidence, I can say every one who watched her go through the repetitive rounds of chemotherapy; radiation treatments and hospitalizations will agree that she exemplified all the following “Pink Warrior Symbols.”

    • Power and Courage
    • Plants for Life, Growth and Survival
    • A Feather for Kinship
    • A Dove for Peace in the Battle
    • War Paint, Showing Readiness to Battle
    • A Tree for Love, Standing Tall
    • A Heart, for Standing Strong
    • Angel Wings, to Honor Those Who Have Died

Four years my senior, she was the big sister I dreamed of growing up as an only child.  What a Blessing!!!  I was gifted with the opportunity to spend quality time with this very, very special person during the last days of her life

You see, in August of 1988, my husband invited her to live with us in Madison, Wisconsin.  She had reached a point where she needed around-the-clock care.  The two of us cared for her evenings and weekends. Her daughter, brother, sister, cousin, nieces, nephews, and aunt provided care on weekdays.  Fortunately, all of them lived in Madison and were available during the day due to retirement, student status, evening work, or paid time off usage.  Our family knew she would prefer a home setting rather than a sterile hospital room.   Although the spare bedroom, in order to accommodate her needs, was set up much like a hospital room with a hospital bed, over-the-bed table, and oxygen tank.   Yet, it was a lived-in home environment.  Family members were providing the needed care.

The best reasons for her move to Madison.  It placed her in the same city as her youngest child, a daughter, who graduated from high school in June of 1988.  She was scheduled to start classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Fall 1988 semester. Though away from her own home, she was able to maintain a close connection with her husband and adult son.  Madison is only a three-hour drive from Chicago.

On November 25, 1988, she celebrated her 50th Birthday in our spare bedroom.  Less than three weeks later, she quietly passed away in this small spare bedroom surrounded by members of her nuclear, extended family and close friends.

This post is dedicated to my sister-in-law, Shirley Mae Thomas Conda, a Breast Cancer Warrior, who bravely fought the fight, but lost the battle.

Through the many seasons of my life, I have faced my share of trials and tribulations.   However, nothing challenged me more than the diagnosis of Breast Cancer in February 2008.

Thank you Shirley.  You were still my “role model, some 20 years later” as I went through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.   Being in your presence as you fought Breast Cancer, continues to give me the courage to fight this condition for which there is still no known cure.

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On this 5th Anniversary as A Breast Cancer Survivor,  I am:

  • Thankful for my husband, children, grandchildren, extended family members, PMTC family, and friends who went beyond anyone’s expectations in sharing their love and support as I went through the early, and sometimes scary times, of my cancer treatments.

Finally, I give praise and honor to God.  Thanking Him for bringing me this far.

Living Life as One of God’s CREATIONs

The exact day of the week is unknown, but in February of 2010, I made a decision that would change the course of my life.    I chose to begin the journey of  “Living Life as One of God’s CREATIONs.”     On long-term medical leave, bedridden, recovering from a serious illness, bored, and television channel surfing, I landed on a religious cable network.   Immediately, I was drawn into the commentary and lively discussion on the topic of the day.   I have to admit, the religious cable network is not one of my “go to” networks.  My cable channel programming preferences lean more toward Home and Garden TV, The Food Network, OWN, and MSNBC.   But on this particular day, I chose to channel surf.  Why, I may never know, but the information shared in this program led me down a new path that has improved the overall quality of my life.

The discussion topic was the book by Monica Reed, M.D. entitled, “The CREATION Health Breakthrough.”  Dr. Reed, is a former Medical Officer of Florida Hospital and most recent the CEO of Florida Hospital’s medical facility – Celebration Health.  Having a lifetime commitment to whole health, Dr. Reed suggests there are “eight fundamentally, powerful and scientifically proven essentials to reverse the effects of lifestyle, prevent disease in at-risk people, and ultimately achieve total health and wellness.”

I questioned whether it was possible to “achieve total health and wellness.”   If so, I needed to get on board.  At that time, I was a chronic pain survivor having been diagnosed both with Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis more than seventeen years earlier.    After so many years of being by themselves, I guess these two conditions were getting lonely so in a two-year period, I brought them four new major conditions:  Breast Cancer (2008); Peripheral Neuropathy-Nerve Pain (2008); Epiglottitis-Severe Respiratory Distress (2010); and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (2010).

These last four conditions were due to the side effects from medications prescribed to treat one condition causing the onset of a new condition.  Most over-the-counter and prescribed medications will list the side effects – even some carry the statement, “rare but serious side effects.”   It is my understanding less than 1% of people prescribed a medication will have “rare but serious side effects.”    Four incidents in two years, was I qualified to be the poster child for the “rare but serious side effects” ?    I survived four, but what about the future.  I was even more concerned after reading an article on MedicationSense.com reporting that medication side effects are the #4 leading cause of deaths in America.”   So on this cold day in February 2010, recovering from a life-threatening illness, I was more than ready to look at alternative therapies to manage my existing health conditions.

As soon as the program ended, I ordered Dr. Reed’s book, willingly paid extra for the overnight delivery, and read the entire book in one-day.    What resonated most was the section on Lifestyle Diseases, which Dr. Reed defined as,  “a group of harmful behaviors practiced over time, which result in decreased quality of life and ultimately to the onset of chronic illnesses leading to premature death.”   I had to “fess up” to having more than less of the harmful behaviors.

  • Little or no physical exercise
  • Lack of sufficient or fulfilling sleep
  • Sustained exposure to stress
  • Participate in high risk behaviors such as smoking or drug use
  • Minimal or no personal playtime or time for solitude
  • Limited family or meaningful relationship time
  • Lack of a spiritual connection

Yes, regrettably I had a long-time relationship with five of the eight behaviors as indicated by those highlighted.     Actually, there could well be six, if I were to include “smoking,” a 20-year habit until I quit in 1980.  I was ready to get on board with Dr. Reed and the CREATION Health Lifestyle.”

Some three years later, I am grateful and humbled by the improvement in my life since starting the journey to “CREATION – God’s 8 Principles for Living Life to Its Fullest .

  • I no longer control my long-term chronic conditions with medications that carry the label “rare but serious risks.”
  • On March 8, 2013, I will celebrate my Fifth Anniversary as a Breast Cancer survivor.
  • My pulmonary issues are adequately managed with minimal use of an inhaler and nebulizer.

My personal CREATION plan for living life to its fullest is ever-changing, I am happy  to share the latest with you:

C = Choice – The choices I make, in large part, determines my destiny.  Strive daily to make good choices in all areas of my life.  Choose to be happy rather than sad. Choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative.  Choose to show gratitude and appreciation daily for all of my blessings rather than coveting what other have.  Empowered and in control to make healthy choices relating to my health.

R = Rest –Take time out during the day for “solitude time.”   Reading, meditating, and “total silence” is what I choose to do during this time.  Take a full Sabbath Day on any day I feel my body is in need of rest and revitalization.

E = Environment – Home is a safe haven it brings me peace, serenity and tranquility.   I enjoy sitting on the rear patio looking at the vibrant colorful flowers overflowing in beautiful pots brings happiness into my life.  I love the feeling of “isolation.”  Large trees in the conservation area backing up to the rear of our home and flanked by tall shrubbery on both sides creates my own private oasis.

A = ActivityExercise at the YMCA four days per week for one hour.  Recognize exercise reduces my pain and stress levels.

T = Trust – Trust in God.  Develop healthy relationships based on mutual respect and trust.  Trust my other half.  Trust my children.

I = Interpersonal Relationships – Pursue supportive and positive interpersonal relationships beyond my immediate family.  Stay connected with my Wisconsin friends.  Open the door to attract new friends in Florida.

O = Outlook – Far better to find the good as opposed to the bad in any given situation.   Choose to be optimistic rather than pessimistic.  Keep a positive outlook and visualize the unlimited possibilities available during this season of my life.

N = Nutrition – Continue to develop a realistic nutrition plan.  Limit intake of animal fats and cholesterol.  Limit sweets and refined foods.  Increase intake of high fiber foods.

The quality of my life is getting better every day by – Making good Choices; Taking time for Rest; Enjoying the Environment; Exercising four days per week as an Activity;  Learning the true meaning of Trust; Expanding Interpersonal relationships; Maintaining a positive Outlook; and knowing the importance of Nutrition. 

I Am Gonna Make the Rest of My Life the Best of My Life