HOPE AND HEALING

hope

Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all…
~Emily Dickinson
Hope – it can be stronger than sickness and more powerful than pills.  Hope always looks forward and believes wholeheartedly in happy endings.  Outrageous miracles are fully expected by Hope, and pain is lessened by it’s presence.  It’s not something that can be given by injection or in a pill, but it can make you feel better – with no nasty side effects.  Hope is a wondrous healer and is essential to healing – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  If we lose Hope, we lose our ability to see ourselves and our lives getting better, and we lose that spark that lights the way for those outrageous miracles to find their way to us.  Hope is a choice – and it’s a choice I make everyday, to help me get through the day. I hope you make the same choice too.
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Bold, bald and battling breast cancer

shaved head 2011

That was me in 2011, the day that I shaved my head after my first chemo and my hair had started falling out.  I was actually at a restaurant, having a bite to eat on the outside patio.  Initially, I was wearing a hat  – the wig I had bought in preparation for this day was way too hot to wear in South Florida in July – and I was feeling extremely self-conscious with my newly naked noggin.  But, the South Florida heat got to me, and I sheepishly took off my hat, thinking everyone would turn my way at once with a collective gasp of horror. Guess what?  No one did. Not one person.  It actually felt good – I felt a little breeze and I also felt a little empowered – like, screw you cancer – I’m not letting you embarrass me.  So, I ditched the wig for good and either wore hats throughout my treatment, or went “commando”.  I felt a little like Demi Moore in G.I. Jane – a warrior battling for her life against a vicious enemy. That attitude, of fighting for my life, helped save my life.  So, to all my lovely ladies who are losing their locks or have already, know that you are beautiful and brave.  Wear a wig if it makes you feel good or don’t.  Wear a beautiful scarf or a funky hat.  Or, just go commando.  Whatever you choose, do it to make yourself feel good, and don’t worry so much about how others are seeing you.  In my experience, when people saw my bald head, they actually were drawn to me and offered words of encouragement and support, and that felt good.   You will get through this, and your hair will grow back.  Mine did :

birthday beach

Be Bold, y’all!

Over the Edge 2016: A Fundraiser for GIlda’s CLub

overtheedge2016logo

I’m taking the plunge again!  I went Over the Edge 2 years ago and helped raise money for the amazing Gilda’s Club and can’t wait to do it again!  This year marks my 4th year being cancer free and GIlda’s Club played a big part in mine and my family’s recovery.  They provide FREE support services and activities to ANYONE touched by cancer.  I am a blessed and grateful survivor, but there are more women, men, and children being diagnosed every day who need our help.  Please open your hearts  – and your wallets! – and make a donation today.

Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts.

Many thanks for your support — and don’t forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too!

Please click here to visit my fundraising page: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/SoniaConvery/4th-annual-over-the-edge

Peace, love and good health to all!

Sonia

*Gilda’s Club, a nonprofit agency, is named in honor of comedian Gilda Radner- one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live and creator of lovable characters like Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella. Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989 at the age of 42. The first Gilda’s Club opened in New York City in 1995, and the second affiliate, Gilda’s Club South Florida, opened in Broward in 1997.

Gilda’s Club South Florida is a free cancer support community for women, men, children, and teens with all types of cancer and their families and friends. We offer networking groups, lectures, workshops, specialized children’s and teen programs, and social events in a nonresidential, non-medical, home-like setting. Gilda’s Club South Florida is located in a beautiful historic home in downtown Fort Lauderdale on the Tarpon River.

To learn more about Gilda’s please click here http://www.gildasclubsouthflorida.org/

Is it hot in here, or is it just me…?

sevendwarfsofmentapause

I was 44 years young when a blood test confirmed that I had begun Perimenopause (the transition into Menopause).  I had been having irregular periods and hot flashes so I went to my primary physician, who did lab work to check my hormone levels.  A few days after my visit, I received a call from a way too cheerful nurse saying, “Congratulations!  You’re in Perimenopause!” Congratulations? Really? I didn’t feel lucky, I just felt tired and old.  A month or two after this windfall, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.  As I was going through the process of diagnostic tests to determine more about my cancer (MRI’s, PET scans, etc.), they found a grapefruit size cyst on my right ovary.  No one said congratulations this time, they said “let’s get that thing outta there!”  The doctors were concerned that it might be malignant, so the cyst – along with my ovary – was promptly removed. Thank God it turned out to be benign.  However, it was not all good news.  When I was in my 20’s, I had my left ovary removed due to another benign cyst – which now left me with no ovaries.  Goodbye Perimenopause, hello full-blown Menopause.  I was miserable.  Then on top of that, I started chemotherapy, which enhanced the effects of menopause.  I would walk around with a wet rag on my bald head and was never without a paper fan to cool me down.  It’s now 4 years later and I still have hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and fatigue.  The symptoms have lessened somewhat, but they can still be extremely frustrating and exhausting.  What’s worse is that my cancer was Estrogen positive, so I’m on a 5 year hormone blocker (Arimidex), and can’t use any hormone replacement meds or over the counter menopause remedies (they contain soy, which acts like estrogen in the body).  I have no choice but to just live with it – and pray my air conditioning never breaks down!

When you need Help asking for Help

A well-meaning friend or family member has just found out about your diagnosis.  They’re in shock and so are you.  Wanting to offer comfort and support, they often say something like, “if there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.”  Often, our reply is, “thank you, I will” – but then you never do.  Sound familiar?  For many of us, asking for help is uncomfortable, awkward, or just plain unheard of.  There are many reasons for this, but I don’t want to focus on the why we can’t in this post, but on the how we can.

brave help

Years ago, I used to run a support group for Caregivers who took care of their elderly loved ones, many of whom had dementia and other debilitating conditions.  They did a wonderful, amazing job of caring for their loved ones, but often a terrible job of taking care of themselves.  They put their loved ones first, neglecting their own well-being, and often felt they had to do it alone, that asking for help would be an admission of failure or that they were shirking their responsibilities.  Many of these Caregivers became ill themselves, and some even passed away before the loved ones they had been caring for.  They pretty much all had the same thing in common – they had a difficult time asking for help.  One of the resources I often turned to for ideas was Today’s Caregiver magazine and their website, http://www.Caregiver.com.  An article that I found extremely helpful was one that suggested making a “Reverse Gift List.”  The concept was to create a list, much like a Christmas list, except next to people’s names, you list a “gift” that person could give you.  For example, you might have a neighbor who could go grocery shopping once a week for you, or a sister-in-law who could make dinner and drop it off once a week. This way, when someone asks, “is there anything I can do for you?”, they could pull out their little list and say, “well, as a matter of fact, there is…”, and give them specific tasks to do.  This not only helps the person asking for help, but it also makes the person offering help feel like they are contributing in a meaningful way.  I experienced this first hand when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago.  I had a wonderful partner and we had two lovely daughters, the oldest 5 and the youngest 2.  We realized quickly that we could not handle everything on our own and sat down to make a list of everyone in our support system – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers.  Just as I had a treatment team of doctors and medical professionals to fight my cancer , my partner and I assembled a team to help us get through it.   It was so helpful to have a ready-made list of things we needed help with.  It gave me a sense of order in the midst of the chaos and gave my helpers a sense that they were contributing to my recovery, to my family and to kicking cancer’s butt.  Often, people really want to help, but don’t know how – making this list gives them the answers and – most importantly – the help you most desperately need.

ask for help

*To read the full article from Today’s Caregiver on “Reverse Gift Lists”, visit:  http://www.caregiver.com/articles/general/reverse_gift_list.htm

     
 
   

Did I say 30 posts in 30 days?

compassion

So, earlier this month I set a goal for myself – to write and post something every day for 30 days.  I called it my 30 in 30 series.  I was trying to become a more disciplined writer and also to stimulate my creativity. Well, it has ended up being my 13 in 13 series instead – but, I’m ok with that.  One of the hardest things that I’ve had to learn – and have to admit, I’m still learning – is how to take it easy on myself.  I was working really hard to reach my goal of 30 in 30, and was proud of my progress.  But, the other night, I was exhausted and just staring at my computer screen, drawing a blank.  I did not feel creative or inspired, just pressured.  I felt pressure to publish my 14th post in 14 days.  And, where was that pressure coming from?  From me.  Usually, in these circumstances, I push myself, even though I don’t feel up to it, and am really hard on myself if I fall short of my expectations.  This happens a lot, especially when I’m not feeling well – which is quite often.  Having a chronic illness – Lupus – takes a lot out of me, and I often feel guilty when I can’t do as much as I want to or feel I ought to.  I feel guilty when I’m too tired to go to a birthday party with my kids on the weekend or too exhausted to help around the house.  It pains me when I’m lying down after a long day, and my daughter says, “you’re always tired, Mom.”   I’m so tired of being tired and of feeling bad about feeing bad. So, I’m working on learning to give myself a break. I need breaks – and naps. Lots and lots of naps.

compassion

Frozen (post #13 in my 30 in 30 series)

shoulderNo, kids, this is not a post about Disney’s smash movie (although I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel! ).  This post is about a very painful condition that I developed after my mastectomy, and upon doing some research, I found I’m not alone.  I experienced some of the more common side effects right after my surgery, such as numbness in my arm and chest, limited range of motion in my arm, and some fluid retention.  Nerves had been cut and damaged as part of the surgery, and I had multiple lymph nodes removed.  I was told the nerve damage would take anywhere from 6 months to a year to heal (actually, I finally have full feeling in my arm and underarm after 3.5 years) and the fluid could be a sign of Lymphedema. My Oncologist sent me to a specialist for evaluation and education.  WebMD defines Lymphedema as “an abnormal buildup of fluid that causes swelling, most often in the arms or legs. The condition develops when lymph vessels or lymph nodes are missing, impaired, damaged, or removed. The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system which helps fight off infection and clears debris from the body.”   Fortunately, with massage and physical therapy, I was able to eliminate the fluid build up and did not develop Lymphedema (although I will forever be at risk of developing it and have to take some precautions to avoid it, which I will explain later).  However, the stiffness just seemed to get worse and a tendon underneath my arm became extremely tight, like a taut, steel wire.  It became increasingly more painful and difficult to move my arm.  I couldn’t raise my arm much higher than my waist.  One day, I attempted to wave goodbye to my kids, and a terrible burning/shooting pain ran from my shoulder to my fingertips. It literally brought me to my knees.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was referred to an Orthopedic surgeon, who diagnosed me with “adhesive capsulitis” – better known as a frozen shoulder.  We tried a different course of physical therapy in an attempt to restore range of motion in my affected arm and break up scar tissue that had formed and was restricting movement.  The last resort, my doctor explained, was surgery – Manual Manipulation Under Anesthesia.  Sounds like fun, right?  It would be too painful to move my arm in the way she needed to and break up the adhesions, etc. while I was awake, my doctor said, so I would have to be knocked out.  I really hoped the physical therapy would work.  Turns out, it wasn’t enough.  I ended up the having the surgery and am so glad I did.  My arm will never be 100%, but it’s so much better than it was.  I can lift my arm above my head (although it’s still a bit stiff) and can wave goodbye with no threat of crippling pain.  I still have to be careful, however, not to put too much strain on my arm.  I have to avoid having my blood pressure taken on my affected arm and have to get my blood drawn on the un-affected arm.  Anything too tight or restrictive can affect the flow of lymphatic fluid and pin or needle pricks can increase my risk of infection, which can all lead to Lymphedema.  When I fly, I wear my compression sleeve because the change in cabin pressure can affect my circulation and increase the risk of swelling.  I have to be mindful everyday, for the rest of my life, of how and how much I use my arm.  But, I’m thankful to report, today I am frozen no more and, with a little knowledge and self-care, I can keep it that way.

* For more information on Lymphedema, please visit  http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/lymphedema

* For more information on frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, please visit  http://stlhealthandwellness.com/adhesive-capsulitis-or-frozen-shoulder/

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