So Now What?

The great big sky

The great big Ohio sky

So now what?  I find myself asking that question a lot lately.

I’m feeling better – so now what?  I’ve gotten rid of the cancer – so now what?  All major crises are temporarily diverted – so now what?

Even though I’m in the midst of figuring out logistics for my next surgery (now set for April 10th) and my treatment is technically not complete yet, I feel different.  Like I’m ready to step into my new life.  Start the next chapter.

Finding out that my cancer is gone is of course a major catalyst in my new zest for life.  For the last year I refused to commit…  To people.  To plans.  To projects.  My vigilant focus on remaining in the moment kept me sane.  It helped me stay away from dwelling on the uncertainty of my future or the possibility of my own death.  It helped me conserve energy for the fight.  But it also stopped me from living a life outside of cancer.

Now I feel free to consider life beyond the moment.  To make plans for my future.  To make commitments to causes and projects I once believed in.  To take steps towards creating an inspired life.  A life worth living for.

I recently joined forces with some local social workers – to offer my own social work experience and knowledge and help them birth a promising new non-profit…   I signed up for Marie Forleo‘s B-School with the hopes of gaining some clarity about my own career…   I’m entertaining the thought of writing professionally…  I’m using therapy sessions to explore my passions…  I’m starting to believe that it is possible to make a living doing something you totally love.

The whole process is fascinating now because I feel like a different person.  Having breast cancer and facing death changed me.  Better yet, I chose to change.  I refused to allow this horrific experience to break me.  Instead, it infused me with a new drive to live.  It awakened me to the infinite possibilities contained in living.  It is driving me to live the best life possible.  Reconnecting me with my authentic self.  And arming with new-found strength, inspiration, and self-awareness that I know will enable me to give back to the world in a way I wasn’t capable of doing before.  It’s all so exciting!

I have found that there are many ways to respond to life’s horrors.  And I have tried quite a few over the years…  From deep denial and numbing myself with drugs after being raped at age 21…  To pushing down my feelings and running on pure fumes after my mom died in 2010…  But this time, I decided to try something new.  I elected to face the horror head on.  To feel the terror and still go on with life.  To take the difficult steps necessary to transform myself from within.  And actively try each day to use the horror as a lesson on living.

For all of you out there facing your own personal horrors…  You can make it through.

Ask for help…  Search within…  Love yourself…  Face your demons…  Make peace with the struggle…  Seek to discover why the horror has come to you…   Ask “So what now?”…  Then use the journey as a starting point for a new way of living.

Peace.  – T


Beauty is Everywhere

What a week. Full of emotion and memory making.

It’s been such a joy to reconnect with everyone here in the Pacific Northwest. To collect and give hugs. Catch up on life. Say thank you. Even in my short time living on Bowen Island, I managed to forge some pretty terrific friendships. And it feels great to be back again, picking up right where we left off. The Bowen community is truly a special one. One I feel privileged to be a part of.

Bowen also feels good on a physical level. My body is relaxed here. My soul is comforted. Nature surrounds you wherever you go. The salt air… The ebb & flow of the waves… The glorious mountains… Walking through the rainforest… Listening to the birds… I don’t need to set aside time for meditation while I’m here, life on Bowen feels like one never ending meditation session. Aaahhhh….

But this week also brought with it some serious emotional upheavals. Including the loss of yet another young mother to cancer – Vancouver resident, and friend, Charline Leith.

Charline was only 45. She was a wife. A mom to two beautiful boys. A sister. A beloved friend. And so much more. And she was taken way too soon. Her brother wrote a beautiful piece about Charline for her obituary that speaks to the feisty, fun, and caring soul that she was.

I attended her memorial service at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club – along with 300 other people! The celebration of her life was beautiful, and emotional. Charline and I were both diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the same time (her’s a recurrence of ovarian cancer, mine an initial diagnosis of breast cancer). And to see her go only 9 months later was really hard to swallow. Even though we were never close friends, I felt connected to her because we both were in the same ‘late stage cancer club’ together… We both have young kids… She read my blog… Auntie Cole kept us informed about each others’ ups and downs in our respective cancer journeys…

But I was unsure about going to the service. I had some definite survivors guilt going on. Would people be upset to see me there? To see me living after Charline was gone?

Losing Charline was also a reminder that my cancer could also roar to life again, ravage my body, and take me away.

Interestingly enough the radio show I did for CBC on this topic – living with the fear of death – is set to air tomorrow night. The series is hosted by Christy Ann Conlin who is a beautiful soul and a skillful interviewer. Check it out online at the CBC Fear Itself Website.

If you’re in Canada you can listen to the show on CBC radio one at 7:30pm on Monday August 13th and again at 9:30am on Thursday August 16th (I assume all times are Eastern Daylight Time). For those of you not in Canada, you can listen online at this link after the show has aired tomorrow.

People often ask how I continue to stay positive while living with metastatic breast cancer and the ever lurking fear of death that accompanies it… What I’m finding is that the world is full of positive people living and thriving despite debilitating diseases, heart wrenching upsets, and unfortunate circumstances. I’m not exactly sure how we do it. We just do it.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so I am making a conscious effort to make the most out of each and every day… To notice the beauty that is everywhere around me… And to appreciate the hell out of it :-)

Peace. – T