Feb 13

How to Love Yourself After Chemotherapy

love yourselfWhen you’re going through treatments, because you’ve taken such a beating, sometimes, it’s hard to think of caring for yourself… Please be gentle with yourself, you’ve been through a lot. Celebrate you and your loved ones. I wish you peace, wellness, and strength.

I found these words in an article and adapted them back in 2008; I just finished chemotherapy and they were such a good reminder for me.

How to Love Yourself
Louise L. Hay

  1. Stop all criticism. Criticism never changes a thing. Refuse to criticize yourself. Accept yourself exactly as you are. Everybody changes. When you criticize yourself, your changes are negative. When you approve of yourself, your changes are positive.
  2. Stop scaring yourself. Stop terrorizing yourself with your thoughts. It’s a dreadful way to live. Find a mental image that gives you pleasure, (mine is yellow roses) and immediately switch your scary thought to a pleasure thought.
  3. Be gentle and kind and patient. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself as you learn the new ways of thinking. Treat yourself as you would someone you really love.
  4. Be kind to your mind. Self-hatred is only hating your own thoughts. Don’t hate yourself for having the thoughts. Gently change the thoughts.
  5. Praise yourself. Criticism breaks the inner spirit. Praise builds it up. Praise yourself as much as you can. Tell yourself how well you are doing with every little thing.
  6. Support yourself. Find ways to support yourself. Reach out to friends and allow them to help you. It is being strong to ask for help when you need it.
  7. Be loving to your negatives. Acknowledge that you created them to fulfil a need. Now you are finding new, positive ways to fulfil those needs. So, lovingly release the old negative patterns.
  8. Take care of your body. Learn about nutrition. What kind of fuel does your body need to have optimum energy and vitality? Learn about exercise. What kind of exercise can you enjoy? Cherish and revere the temple you live in.
  9. Mirror work. Look into your own eyes often. Express this growing sense of love you have for yourself. Forgive yourself looking into the mirror. Talk to your parents looking into the mirror. Forgive them, too. At least once a day look into the mirror and say: “I love you, I really love you!”.
  10. LOVE YOURSELF – DO IT NOW! Don’t wait until you get well or lose the weight, or get the new job, or the new relationship.
    BEGIN NOW – Do the best you can.

Dec 24

Wish You Peace During the Holidays

Happy Holidays
Cancer Treatments and the Holidays: A Letter to Friends and Coworkers

When I was going through cancer treatments during the holidays I tried to be as normal as possible.  Work was the one place where I could be “normal”.  At work it was easy to keep my mind so busy, it was easy to keep up a front and act as if everything was still the same, but by time the Christmas holidays rolled around, I needed help and I just couldn’t seem to ask for it.  It was so hard to ask for help when you are use to being the strong one.

I also didn’t know how to ask for help, I felt like I shouldn’t bother people because I didn’t want to make them sad during the holidays.  I now shake my head about this type of thinking. It wasn’t until I was done with my treatments that I realized I could have written a letter to my friends and coworkers – I knew they wanted to help because I could see it in their eyes…

Dear Friends and Coworkers,

I have appreciated you being so understanding and giving me space as I am going through my cancer treatments. I have been so busy trying to survive that I don’t even have the energy to explain to you all what is going on; neither do I know how to tell you.

I know many of you want to help, but do not know what to do. I see you walking past my cubby with eyes full of concern, but you do not know how to approach me and I do not know how to let you in to help me.

These chemotherapy treatments are beating me up and I come to work so I can have some place normal to be, I am doing everything that I can to be normal, it is so important to me for I am hanging on by a thread.

So please forgive me for not trying to talk to you or for not asking for help verbally.  It’d be so hard to say my words out loud; I am scared if I do I’ll break down. I am writing this letter to you to let you know I appreciate you wanting to help me and that I realize that it is difficult to talk to me.  Please understand this is so hard for me and I may cry at a drop of a hat, but just smile and say “it’s ok, we’ll make it through this.”

Here is what would help me keep my holidays as close to normal with my family who are just as scared as I am.

  1. Do my Christmas dinner shopping; you do not know how this would so help me out to have one less shopping trip to do while I am in my treatments. I can pay for it; I just need someone to get it for me.
  2. A house cleaning gift certificate would be nice for the holidays.  I cannot smell the cleaning chemicals without getting sick and my chemotherapy treatments leave me so tired that even trying to vacuum saps the life right out of me.
  3. Bake. I cannot bake for myself this year, and I will gladly accept help with this. Take me shopping to buy the baking goodies and you can either bake it at your house or come to my house and bake away.  Please pay no mind if all of a sudden I fall asleep on the couch while the baking is going on, it is because my treatments leave me so tired. But please know that I am so happy knowing that something as wonderfully normal such as the baking is being done.
  4. Help me go some place to have my kids’ presents wrapped, and wait with me while they are wrapped; perhaps we can have a cup of coffee or tea or go hangout at the bookstore while they are being wrapped? I love the bookstore, and I do not get there as often as I want to since I started treatments.
  5. Take my kids shopping, please; they are doing their best to keep everything normal, shopping is normal. Even if you could just drop them off and pick them up, that would be so helpful.

Please understand, that I am unable to do anything outside of my family right now, it is taking everything I have to be here for my family. It does not mean I am not grateful or don’t care, I just don’t have the energy to do much more right now.

Lastly, know in my heart, thank you is just not enough to express what I feel, I hope when you see my tears of gratitude that you will know you have done more than enough.  One day, I will look back at this and remember all the wonderful people who helped me through the holidays as I was facing my one of the toughest times of my life.

With my warmest heartfelt wishes,
Someone who is dancing with cancer…

———————–

I wish you peace, wellness, and strength.

 

Resources:

Mayo Clinic: Stress, depression and the holidays

Cancer.net: Cancer and the Holidays

American Cancer Society: When Someone You Know Has Cancer

Nov 26

What about my children?

When I was going through cancer, my kids were teens. My daughter was at her first year of college and my son was starting his senior year of high school…

I told them I had cancer and didn’t explain nothing about it. For this I have some regrets. I was a single parent, and I was doing everything I could to stay strong for them – to act like nothing was wrong. Sigh. Hindsight sure is a kicker ain’t it? I did end up talking with my son near the end of my treatments about how hard cancer treatments on me, but it was only after he saw my digital story (on story page: “Reflections on Chemotherapy”).

My daughter thought about leaving college and I said no, I got this, stay in school… When she came home for Christmas break, I had just completed my third round of chemotherapy. I was feeling awful. But her and I went out together for lunch to celebrate my birthday lunch and I was having problems trying to eat, and I started crying right there in the restaurant. I was apologizing left and right to my daughter for crying.  I told her how hard the chemotherapy was on me. She sat there and listened to me, then she told me, it’s OK mom, it’s OK… We were able to talk about it, and I’m glad we did. I didn’t feel like I had to “act like nothing was wrong” any longer.

One of my favorite pictures of me and my kids when they were toddlers OXOX

One of my favorite pictures of me and my kids when they were toddlers OXOX

I was scared a lot. I kept thinking about the “what ifs” and “what about my kids?”  I was in the process of writing up my wishes just in case, and I never did finish writing them. It was just too painful for me. Instead I just kept going on as best as I could. I kept writing in a blog, which my kids read every now and then. I was sharing my story so I could help other Alaska Native and American Indian People who had cancer.  I wanted to help others to understand what they were up against. I also shared if they were parents, I shared information with them on how to talk with their children. I shared they had tell their kids as their cancer journey was also going to affect them…

I wish you peace, wellness and strength.
Laura

Resources:

When Your Parent Has Cancer

Talking to Children About Cancer

For Children/teens: Telling Your Friends Your Parent has Cancer

Rochelle’s digital story about not knowing about cancer:

“Many communities forget that cancer journeys affect the children too. We may become so wrapped up in our “adult” problems that children are often left in the dark about why things are changing around them. After watching my story, I hope you think about the fact that sharing your story has no age limit. Children have different levels of understanding. It doesn’t mean we should discount their feelings or involvement.” – Rochelle Andrews

Nov 20

Honoring Feelings

Do Not Be Afraid to Cry

Cancer is too big to do by yourself, to hold your feelings in. Cancer causes so many big emotions, then add treatments and all its side effects, you may feel out of control or overwhelmed. Honor your feelings. Connect with someone or others who can help understand what you are going through. You will get through this. I wish you peace, wellness, and strength

Resources:

 

 

Jul 16

Facing Loss as a Survivor

Still With You

Today I am sharing with an open heart, and with many prayers of healing and comfort to the cancer survivors/warriors/advocates who are reading today’s post. This week another friend who had cancer walked on, and this has brought me to thinking how many of us have lost friends and loved ones to this disease, and how that may affect those of us who have had cancer.

When one of your friends does not survive cancer, it can cause many confusing feelings within you. This happens, and sometimes makes dealing with the grief confusing.

I have lost several friends to this disease through the years. In the beginning it was difficult, I lost one of my best friends who went through chemo with me, and I had to learn how to process the grief, and the confusing feelings of being the one who survived when my friend did not…

I went to a cancer support group for a little bit to talk with those who would understand how confusing the grief could be for those who have had cancer. I wrote a lot about my friend in a journal; I shared the good memories, and I focused on what a beautiful spirit she was. I honored my feelings, and then I decided to honor her memory by the work that I do.

Realize my friends, we all grieve differently and there is no timeline in how long your feelings, your grief may last. Please ask for help to process your grief.  Take care of yourself during this time. Please get support from those who will understand, ask your traditional healer, your provider, your oncology social worker, or contact your local hospice office, to ask for resources and help to process your feelings, your grief.

Please honor your feelings, and honor your loved one. You’re not alone.  I wish you peace, wellness and strength.

Resources for Grief:

Grief and Loss: http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3367

Coping with Grief: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/coping-grief.html

Hospice: http://www.hospicenet.org/html/bereavement.html

Coping with Guilt: http://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/managing-emotions/coping-with-guilt

Moving beyond survivor guilt: http://www.cancercenter.com/community/thrive/moving-beyond-survivor-guilt/

 

Jul 08

Growing Pains

GratefulSharing Our Knowledge needs to grow into a robust online community for Alaska Native and American Indian Cancer Survivors living in Alaska. I currently am managing this resource as a volunteer and need some assistance in helping this resource grow, so I’ve started a Go Fund Me campaign to help offset some of the costs and to give this site a boost 🙂

I hope you will help you where you can, and together we will change the story of cancer in our communities!

Fundraising link: https://www.gofundme.com/sharingknowledge

Jul 05

Changes

changeChanges happen when you face cancer. Some are obvious, like hair loss, weight gain or loss, swelling, or being so pale – I was so pale, I almost glowed in the dark 😉 And then there are some changes that are not so obvious. The exhaustion, the emotional toll of cancer, or a weakened immune system 🙁 All of this may make us become less active and make us want to stay indoors more… Cancer and its treatments change your life, and sometimes those changes may not be welcomed.

Honor the grief that comes from all of these changes, and then try to find things that make you smile, that bring you peace, and help you feel solid within yourself. For me, it was walking slowly during treatments – I kept telling myself “put one foot in front of the other” over and over and over, until it became like a song, as I walked through a park with my dog; also coloring, drawing, writing, and beading helped. So all the changes were not chaotic for me. I learned again, how to enjoy a mellower lifestyle, I reconnected with my traditional arts, and 8 years later, I’m still walking with my dog in the park  ♥ 

Change happens. Honor your feelings. Think of what has helped you through changes before, and pull on that strength to help you during this time. If you need help, find a support group, or talk with your traditional healer, find ways to help you live in a good way during your cancer journey. I wish you peace, wellness, and strength during this time of transition  

Jul 04

Growing Pains

I am in the process of rebuilding Sharing Our Knowledge to be more of a community engagement and storytelling online community for Indigenous cancer survivors/advocates/warriors living in rural Alaska. I hope to have it grow to include other communities outside of Alaska, but for right now, this is the focus while we grow.

In order to help this site grow into a richer online experience and community, I have started a GoFund me campaign:

Gunalchéesh, Quyana, Bassee, How’aa, Taikuu, Tsin’aen, Igamsiqayugvikamkin, Qagasaakun, Chin’an, Thank you! For your Support and Patience while we grow!

Nov 03

Quitting

It is always with heavy heart and mind, when you see someone you know going through such a hard time… Many of us have smoked, and many of us know that our health could be impacted by it. But whatever words I say, will not mean much as Michael’s. I offer up prayers to him and his family and I offer up hope and prayers to those who are trying to quit.

Nov 01

Being Gentle

“…the greatest strength is in gentleness.” –Leon Shenandoah, ONONDAGA

Eagle with Emerson quote

Our Elders have taught us many lessons about becoming a Warrior and how to think and act like one. We have been told about the power of gentleness. We have been told about the power of the stillness. Physical power is about effort. Mental power is the opposite. It’s about being effortless or less any effort. Gentleness is one of the greatest attributes of the Warrior and one of the greatest mental powers. It takes a lot of love to be gentle. Gentleness is not an ego word. Gentleness is the weapon of the Great Spirit.

My Creator, today I will be gentle with myself and with others. I will listen to the whisper of my heart and learn the power of being gentle.
– From the book: Meditations with Native American Elders: The Four Seasons, by Don L. Cohis.

When you are going through cancer treatments, your emotions are chaotic at times. You worry. You wonder if you did something wrong. You start living in “What if”. What if I did this? What if I didn’t do that? What if… What if… And this type of thinking can get us to kicking ourselves. We beat ourselves up and it can get the better of us, sigh.

When you’re going through cancer, it is so important for you to take care of yourself, and to treat yourself with kind words. To be gentle with yourself. This will be hard at times I know, there will be moments where we are just too overcome with emotions to be gentle with yourself and this IS A-OK. Honor your feelings, dust yourself off, and put one foot in front of the other. You got this. You are going through a lot and cancer treatments are already beating you up so you don’t need to help it ok? 😉

Please do things that make you feel peaceful and strong. Slow down, be good to yourself, you have a lot on your plate right now.

I wish you strength, wellness and peace. 

Resources

Caring for Yourself – National Cancer Institute

Practical Tips for Cancer Patients

Managing Stress