Do something that scares you – you will be proud of yourself
Have a winning attitude
When you fall down 9 times, get up 10 times
Have a good leader – gives you confidence to try harder things
Visualize your path – just in front of you, that’s all you need
Be offensive to the mountain – dont let it win
Keep your arms out and let your hips do the turning
Go around obstacles
Take your own time
Share the fun times
Rest when you are tired
A mountain of moguls are less scary, one bump at a time
Listen to the beauty of silence
Grunt to get that last bit of energy when exhausted
Laugh at mistakes
If you don’t fall sometimes, you’re not trying hard enough
Success feels awesome- remember that feeling
There’s always more to learn
You’re never too old to learn new things
Go outside your comfort zone
Put your trust in good hands – especially at 124.7 km/hr
Know your limits
When you are stuck in a tree hole, think of a solution
Everyone has a story – not just you
take the last lift to the top
Set a goal – fresh waffles at Crystal Hut, 5000ft
Play till the sun goes down
Look back up the hill at what you’ve accomplished – its quite remarkable
The only way to the bottom is one turn after the next (except a medical sled)- thats the power of determination.
Self check your fatigue.
As I lay helplessly in bed after a massive surgery for my bilateral cancer excisions with mastectomies, reconstruction and bilateral axillary node sampling, I was asked if I wanted the help of a really amazing therapist and minister. I said yes to everything at that point since I was too much out of my depth. As I got better he insisted on visiting me and I resisted initially thinking I could do this myself but another part of me was ready for any help. I quickly was taught how to live in the present when life seemed immensely overwhelming. We sometimes miss today, planning for tomorrow or regretting issues of yesterday. Time will not come again – it is learning to see the beauty of the present and not wasting it on bad thinking.
Be a yes man
So out of my depth I had to say
“Yes”, as so wounded in bed I lay
That was so hard, I’m always so strong
Facing a journey that was scary and long
So “Yes” to the offers, that’s the new you
And yes to the person I need to talk to
At first I thought I could manage alone
But insistence of help came over the phone
A listener came and opened my mind
Not knowing all the difficult things I would find
Acknowledging fear, allowing to cry
Adaptive tears for us to grow by
For now your hair and titles are gone
Loving yourself to learn to move on
I healed with a ‘yes’ to writing and art
Accepting the change to make my new start
And now in life, more challenges I face
I’ll use what I’ve learned – courage and grace
Make the difference, say yes and take yourself there
Live and love, inspire and share….
Why did it take cancer to help me see today?
Today was simply a path to tomorrow
Now it is smelling Christmas turkey
It is enjoying the pleasure of silence
It is holding hands deeply in the present
It is making it through a rough day of chemo
Knowing that I am fighting
It is the sweet hit in tennis
The feeling of speed on my snowboard
It is wakeboarding at warm sunset
To music that lifts your soul
Doing new things to be proud
While going a bit further than you want
Enjoying the present without fear
Today is manageable
As past evidence reinforces
I have the strength to get through
All adversity and stress
So when news hits hard or things seem overwhelming, look down at your feet, breathe and focus only on the moment in front of you and put one step in front of the other to move forwards. Live deeply in the present. The rest will unfold one day at a time. I use this still. Now I am taking a medical course in mindfulness in pain and suffering to teach myself and others how to take your mind to a peaceful place in difficult times.
I was reminded of how much stronger we are when that wingman flies in formation with us to fight the cancer enemy.
A wingman is a pilot who supports another in a potentially dangerous flying environment. Wingman was originally a term referring to the plane flying beside and slightly behind the lead plane in an aircraft formation.
According to the U.S. Air Force,
The traditional military definition of a “Wingman” refers to the pattern in which fighter jets fly. There is always a lead aircraft and another which flies off the right wing of and behind the lead. This second pilot is called the “Wingman” because he or she primarily protects the lead by “watching his back.”
The wingman’s role in combat is to add the element of mutual support to aerial combat. The wingman makes the flight both offensively and defensively more capable by increasing firepower, situational awareness, attacking an enemy threatening a comrade, and most importantly the ability to employ more dynamic tactability.
The amazing thing is that before cancer I didn’t know the amazing power and dedication of these people. Off that wing I could always count on a few amazing people – steadfast with the endurance to fly the whole journey and beyond. In fact, working together through a storm of cancer, our strength together, far exceeds our individual power when that second pilot flies next to you to protect you. Yes, it’s your journey alone to fight but dont forget the power of a good wingman. Fly in formation and look for him over your right shoulder at all times – he’s there.
Because I can…….I want to recalibrate fear. I want to feel life all over again. 125 km/hr at 3 G force on turn 16 as we brace ourselves against the fiberglass shell. We are instructed to hold onto the cables and brace against foot supports inside. Hands in at all times on this ride. Weighing in at the instructional lesson was important to fit in the narrow shell. We were fitted with huge motorcycle crash helmets ( I was a small, Mark’s, XL!) and told about the crash position. Heads up and shrugged shoulders with straight back to hit that last turn at top speed. I met the pilot – he was going to operate the brakes too; he looked like a blobsled pilot – that reassured me – lean, fit and confident but relaxed – I was in good hands. This time, we were not doing the running start like competition but we were on the Whistler Sliding Centre Olympic bobsled run. We were entering the competition ice at novice level which gave our driver more control and was safer. It had been open only 2 months but there were no accidents so far! There were full medics around the track for reassurance!
The scariest part for me was just before the push off – the assistant clicked down our visors on the huge helmets …. No turning back now as the sled got a push from the runners. They had fine little cleats on their shoes to dig into the ice as they pushed us onto the run. I screamed the whole way – every turn getting faster and feeling it against your chest. The shaking made it real. We entered the turn high, exit low, aware of the horizontal position as we gained more and more centripetal force – in 43.97 seconds it was over. And I wanted to do it all over again…. Now I know why people love bobsledding. The only thing is, what’s next?
I was talking to a nurse as I did my rounds at the hospital. “Wow, how are you doing?” , she asked. “It’s good to see you here working and so well” (I cant imagine anything else)
“What was it like?” ….As I put the year into a nutshell, she was surprised at my openness: “You have to say mastectomy, it is real and you can look great ” I emphasized. It broke down barriers and she revealed her history……..
I remember the first time I said it – The second cancer was found in the other breast:
“Is it related to the other cancer?” I asked the surgeon , still shaking from the news a few days earlier of the first egg–shaped cancer lump on the left side.
“ Just bad breast tissue” said the surgeon
“What about…” I hesitated
“Yes, you can say it” he replied
“ Mastectomies” I said.
There was silent agreement. …
The plastic surgeon made it real and positive. We laughed as we selected the solid gel composite implants that looked convincingly real. We discussed size, perkiness and suddenly the loss of these horribly diseased breasts was being balanced by the confidence and security of her experienced wisdom and trust.
Learning to live with that cancer shadow is reminded in the mirror. It is time to get to know the new you and that includes mastectomies.
I remember in medical school 24 yrs ago, they made us say the word “sex” all the time – get used to saying it , it is a normal word and a regular part of our medical vocabulary. And so is mastectomy ……
Now when people hesitate to ask me, I tell them – It is a part of me and how I survived cancer. Learn to let cancer and mastectomies be part of your vocabulary and move forwards to let the world know that these words are part of you but not your identity. Say the word mastectomies , say the word cancer like we say the word sex.
It was April 8 2010, an ordinary day to most of the world? It was the beep beep of the pager on my belt that interrupted my busy day to take the horrible call. It was the day that cancer blindsided me and the world stood still….. except everyone else just continued. My world was imploding and yet no one else on the street knew. It was Monday, 4 days later when I was holding onto my friend’s hand as I came out of the surgeon’s office with the second cancer diagnosis. People bustled about on an ordinary day. They did n’t notice that I was going to loose both my breasts.
It was an ordinary day last Thursday that Ryan’s world suddenly turned worse. Beep beep went the call at 6.30 Friday morning as I went over to be with him in his last hours. No one in the cars noticed how serious this was. It was an ordinary day of work for them and I was going to a dying boy’s house. Ryan let me share his journey because he wanted to be sure he made a difference. I had no doubts…
We had a special connection that some may recognize – a respect because you understand. He told me that he saw a glow around me and a feeling that he had known me his whole life; he never fought my decisions despite being so stubborn for others. A strong person with inspiring tattoos for his journey, had a spirit that we shared. It was clear to me in those difficult hours why I was here and it was not the door that closed but the one he opened for me….
He Lives in Me
Words cannot say how Ryan touched me
A feeling so deep no one could see
How young but how big his life truly lived
Never wanting attention his love clearly gived
I should write of a memory but I don’t see it that way
His spirit lives in me , I can hear it each day
He guides my new path to help those in pain
I know he’s with me to guide through the rain
As our paths can look hard or troubled or tough
He’s there on my shoulder to get through that stuff
And I believe that his spirit will help many more
Not seeing what closed but how he opened my door.
As we sat there in grief recalling so many happy memories, she told me that Dior was the best waterproof mascara for crying. I thought about all the things I have learned – not the medical drugs or diseases but pearls of life. Among all the medical challenges are real people like me with stories and feelings and taking the time to feel that is the part that makes my job so different and rewarding.
And so I thought about the list:
Dior is the best waterproof mascara for crying
Treat people like you want to be treated yourself
Bad things happen to good people – we will never understand this
Sleep is the answer to a lot of problems – get enough
A phone call is worth a thousand thoughts
Always apologize for being late
Don’t look back unless to learn from it
A hug is a great thing
Admit to mistakes, no excuses
Be there for your parents
Understand your kids
Wear your seatbelt
Listen to your body
Get travel insurance
Be a role model
Challenge your mind
Walk a dog
Never stop learning
Don’t forget to say goodbye every day
Trust your instincts
Be decisive, make it happen, take charge
Be a good listener
Not all problems are physical
Know what poison ivy looks like
40% of happiness is how you think about it
See a dentist regularly
Denial leads to trouble
Contemplation is the beginning of change
You can never spoil a child with love
Remember how good reassurance feels – take the time
Open red wine on Friday night
Be real; Be yourself