howtobeafriendtosomeonewithcancer

Image:  marissahenley.com

The number one question that people asked me (and I am asked on a daily basis) is “How do I be a friend to someone with Cancer?” In light of this question and all of the new blog readers, I thought I would re-post an oldie but goodie:  “Being a friend to someone with cancer.”

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It’s so easy to connect with friends when talking over lunch, catching up while going for a hike, or planning a dinner party. However, if cancer strikes your friend, the dynamics of your relationship will change in a big way! I have experienced this both as someone who has had cancer as well as in the position of being a friend of someone who has cancer.

As I have said before, cancer does not happen in isolation. It didn’t just happen to me. It happens to a person’s family, friends, and community. What this means to you, the friend of someone who has cancer, is that you have the opportunity to play an important supporting role for your friend throughout their cancer journey. Don’t feel overwhelmed or helpless. They may see you as of their most important Shining Moments through-out their sickness.

Here are some suggestions on how to support your friend through cancer:

1. Be present. This does not mean being physically present at all times because not everyone wants to be visited when they are sick. However, being present means doing little things such as helping with childcare, dropping off food, running errands, sending a small note, or suggesting a good movie or book. In this way, you are being present through random acts of kindness which will go a long way with your friend.

2. Be inquisitive. First, ask your friend if they are up to talking. If they are, follow by asking specifically what you could do that would be beneficial for them during treatment. Although questions like these may be hard to ask, being inquisitive shows how much you care about your friend and that you want to be sensitive and aware of their needs. It is ok if they do not have an answer for you. Your thoughtfulness in asking will be appreciated.

3. Be calm. Calmness goes a long way in maintaining perspective and balance. In my own experience, I especially appreciated when my friends didn’t try to problem solve (the often unsolvable problems) and didn’t flinch when they saw my bald head and frail body. Also, let me tell ya, your friend with cancer will not want to be around someone who brings in the drama. Be a friend that intentionally remains cool, calm, and collected through-out the process.

4. Be persistent. Many friends feel that they should somewhat distance themselves from their friend with cancer because they don’t want to bother them when they are sick. While this sensitivity is thoughtful, it may distance you from your friend who needs support. Instead of distancing yourself, be persistent. Send an email or voicemail to your friend that says “I’m thinking about you. You don’t need to respond. Just know.” A simple gesture like this is extremely fueling and loving towards your friend.

5. Be normal.  Talk with your friend the same way you did before they became ill. There is so much hopefulness in the ordinary, everyday life. Your friend who is sick will want to feel as if your relationship has not changed because of their illness. Show them that it hasn’t. If you feel nervous about visiting or talking with your friend who has cancer, make a list of topics to begin dialogue.

I’d love to hear what has worked for you (and maybe even what hasn’t!).

 

 

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ThelifechangingActofCleaningUp

Image: Npr.org

This year I made a pledge to REALLY clean my closets and cabinets.  I currently live in a condo that has ample space. Now, this is a real blessing, I know.  A first-world problem, if you will, right?  I am super excited and determined to FINALLY de-clutter my place.

I’ve tried so many times to get rid of many items in my home, and have failed miserably. My strategy this time is a little different. Enter “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” written by Marie Kondo, a Japanese personal tidying expert (she doesn’t like to call herself an “organizer”).  She caught my attention a) because her book is everywhere and b) with her radical approach and phenomenal success rate. She claims that her relapse rate among clients she’s personally helped is zero. Literally zero.  

Ms. Kondo’s decluttering theories are unique, and can be reduced to two basic tenets: Discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service (LOVE this!); and do not buy organizing equipment — your home already has all the storage you need.

Before you recoil, keep going.  The title of this book is SPOT-ON!  If you read and apply her principles, your life WILL be changed. Seriously. I am learning it first-hand!

To understand her method, forget everything you think you know about decluttering. This method is extreme, but it really. does. work. Here are some basics of her approach:

  1. 1.      Discard first, store later. Kondo believes that you can’t organize clutter. The first step is to get rid of everything you don’t need.
  2. 2.      Tidy a little a day and you’ll be tidying forever. This was a biggie for me. I am a serial tidier. However, Ms. Kondo says that “tidying is a special event. Don’t do it every day.” If you do the job right, once and completely, you won’t have to do it again. Love that!
  3. 3.      Storage experts are hoarders. “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.” But organized clutter is still clutter. This was another area in which I was slightly delusional.
  4. 4.      Sort by category, not location. “Tidying up by location is a fatal mistake.” Sort by category instead, in the following order: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and then things with sentimental value.
  5. 5.      Ask yourself: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. Now, important documents are not included, but there are fewer of these than you’d think.
  6. 6.       Never pile things. Vertical storage is the key. Stacking has two problems: you can stack much more than you can store vertically (not a plus if you’re aiming for clutter-free), and stacking is hard on the things at the bottom.
  7. 7.      Learn how to fold. Kondo is adamant about proper folding technique, which enables you to store things standing up rather than laid flat. She advocates to fold everything into a long rectangle, then fold that in upon itself to make a smaller rectangle, and then roll that up into a tube, like a sushi roll. Set these upright in your drawers. I had a hard time visualizing her technique from the book so I looked it up on YouTube. This method is amazing for people like me who are particularly visual because you can see everything at a glance, much more effectively than you can if your clothes are hanging or vertically stacked. And last but not least (something I thought particularly unique and wonderful), Ms. Kondo urges: Thank your stuff, it’s been working hard for you.

 

 

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Sixhallmarksofcancer

Image: Weallhaveuniquebodies.org

Have you ever heard of the “Six Hallmarks of Cancer?” Probably not, right? I never heard of the term until I was diagnosed and doing a little research on the Internet. Before you are rendered speechless wondering WTF these scientific words mean, know that I’m going to explain it — so that you understand it.

The reason that it’s important for me to share this information is because a few days ago in an oncologist’s office with my girlfriend (going over her diagnosis and treatment), the doctor was throwing out many of these words to his dazed and stunned patient. Ugh. That irks me to no end. As if hearing that you have f’ing cancer isn’t hard enough…then you hear that you are going to have to have chemo…then you hear words like angiogenesis and proliferative (describing your f’ing cancer) that make absolutely no sense and sound quite scary as they roll off of an oncologist’s tongue.

A wee bit of background: The “Six Hallmarks of Cancer” stems from peer-reviewed article published in the journal Cell in January 2000 by US cancer researchers Douglas Hanahan and Robert Weinberg. Hanahan and Weinberg believe that the complexity of cancer can be reduced to six underlying principles. The paper suggests that all cancers share common traits (“hallmarks”) that contribute to the conversion of normal cells to f’ing cancer (malignant or tumor) cells.

These hallmarks are:

  1. Sustaining proliferative signaling. Normal cells require external growth signals (a/k/a growth factors) to grow and divide…kind of like a cross light. Normal cells grow with the “walk” sign. Cancer cells do not need the “walk” sign in order to multiply. In other words, they grow and divide all on their own which goes against the natural order of cell growth.
  2. Evading growth suppressors. Growth of normal cells is tightly controlled by growth suppressors or inhibitors. Cancer cells resist these signals that might otherwise stop their growth….which means, yes, they grow unchecked and uncontrollably, producing more and more cancer cells.
  3. Activating (tissue) invasion and metastasis. Cancer cells invade local tissue and spread to distant sites (metastasis). “Pioneer cells” are a perfect name for the cells that come from the primary tumor and invade adjacent tissues, and then possibly travel to distant sites. Most of the deaths from human cancers (90%) are due to cancer cells spreading and establishing colonies in other parts of the body.
  4. Enabling replicative immortality. In other words, cancer cells can multiply forever with limitless reproductive potential. Normal cells have a lifespan. Normal cells can only double a certain number of times. F’ing cancer cells on the other hand procreate indefinitely.
  5. Inducing angiogenesis. To grow beyond a certain size, tumors need a system to bring in nutrients and take out wastes. The cancer cells that make up a tumor attract blood vessels to grow into the tumor mass (a/k/a angiogenesis). The blood vessels then nourish the tumor just like any organ in the body. It’s a very clever system that this f’ing cancer has!
  6. Resisting cell death. This means that cancer cells resist their own programmed cell death (apoptosis). So, if something goes awry as a cell is growing and dividing, first the cell tries to fix the damage itself. If the problem can’t be fixed, then it commits cell suicide or programmed cell death. Cancers can result from cells that do not die when they should. In other words, they bypass this mechanism.

If you don’t understand what I’ve explained, please tell me so that I can break it down further. This does NOT need to be complicated (Shining Moment).

And the other thing…please, please, please ask questions. Ask your doctor(s) to slow down when delivering news about a diagnosis or treatment…or anything else for that matter. If you don’t understand something, say so.

It’s so important that if you or a loved one have f’ing cancer that you have a basic understanding of WTF is happening. Knowledge is a wonderful tool to have in your toolbox as you begin (or continue) on this long, pothole filled road of cancer treatment.

Sources:

 

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If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place. ~ Eckart Tolle

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Myrecipes.com endive apple and chicken salad

Who doesn’t love chicken salad, right? I love adding chicken to my salad because it gives me great protein for the day.  You can prepare the chicken up to 2 days in advance.  Keep it tightly covered in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve the salad!

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Salt and pepper

1 cup apple cider

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. olive oil

3 heads Belgian endive, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick pieces

1 cup torn romaine lettuce leaves

1 small eating apple, halved, stemmed, cored and thinly sliced

¼ cup toasted sliced almonds

 

  1. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.  Place in a small skillet and pour in cider.  Cover and cook over medium heat until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Remove chicken to a shallow bowl.  Increase heat to high and bring cider to a boil. Cook until thick, syrupy and reduced to about 1 Tbsp., about 6 minutes (watch carefully, as it can burn quickly).  Pour over chicken.  Allow to cool completely.
  2. Combine vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, ½ tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper in a large salad bowl.  Whisk until salt has dissolved, then slowly drizzle in both oils while whisking.  Whisk until salt has dissolved, then slowly drizzle in both oils while whisking. Whisk until blended and thickened.
  3. Just before serving, cut chicken into 1-inch cubes.  Add to bowl with dressing along with any juices that have accumulated in bowl.  Add endive, romaine, apple and almonds.  Toss well.  Season with salt and pepper.

 

Enjoy!!!!

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Image: karachpino.meunwindyourmind

I don’t know about you, but when I come home from my job, I have a tendency to be wound for sound. My head keeps going and going and going. Sometimes it feels like an intense game of racquetball going on in my head. OY. So, I thought it would be a good idea to come up with some easily accessible and doable ways to unwind.  I’ve been applying them for the past week or so and I have to say, that they really do WORK!

Look at the sky (or ceiling) and count backward from 60 to 0. Did you know that gazing upward stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which thereby lowers blood pressure and slows the pace of the breath? I just learned this fact and looooove it!  By the way, it really works!

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Do this 10 times. Deep breathing slows the heart rate and calms the body. Focusing on your stomach rising and falling, and your breath flowing in and out, will help you concentrate on your body, instead of outside distractions. I do this not only after work, but any time I feel stressy (especially before speeches and/or workshops!).

Hand Massage: Whenever my mind is going in circles, there’s nothing like a hand massage to instantly relax me (because hands in general can carry a lot of tension). They are especially helpful after I’ve been sitting at my desk all day typing. There is also something extra nice about the rhythmic nature of a rub-rub.

Do Some Yoga: Put your feet up against a wall. This is called a Vipariti Kirani yoga pose. I do this a lot and always find that it is not only a good stretch, but it really helps me relax and sends me to my happy, dreamy place.

Aromatherapy: I’m a big fan of aromatherapy. My favorite is lavender. I put it into the palm of my hand and inhale. It works by stimulating smell receptors in the nose that connect to the part of the brain that regulates emotions.

What works for you?  Would love to hear!

 

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nationaldogday

Image: Eaglepack.com

In honor of National Dog Day, here are 20 ways to celebrate our furry babies. Have a great day with your dog, and don’t forget to buy that extra dog bone!

1. Adopt a dog from your local shelter or pure breed rescue organization.

2. Volunteer at your local shelter and offer to walk a dog or play with a dog, clean cages or anything else they need help with.  

3. Have a safety check of your home to make sure it’s safe for your dog and others.  

4. Donate blankets, food and toys to animal welfare organizations.  

5. Organize a peaceful demonstration in front of your community pet store that sells puppies.    

6. Write your Congressman and ask that he/she support the ban of Puppy Mills and Gas Chambers in your state.    

7. Order an adorable dog shaped flower arrangement from 1-800-Flowers.com and enjoy a 10% discount by using code GOODLIVING when placing your order!  

 8. Have a National Dog Day party and invite all your friends and their dogs!  

  9. Spend the day taking photos of your dog and then enter our photo contest!  

 10. Buy an official National Dog Day Tee from Nationaldogday.com and sport it proudly!  

 11. Assist an ill or elderly neighbor by walking their dog.    

12. Have a portrait painted of your dog to suspend the fleeting magic of dogdom.    

13. Buy your dog a fun new dog toy….or two…or five.  

14. Give your dog some fun exercise by taking him or her to a doggy play resort.  

15. Brush your dog to eliminate excess fur.  

16. Give your dog a massage or holistic spa treatment.    

17. Teach your dog a new trick.    

18. Buy your dog a fashionable collar and leash.    

19. Hire a professional pet photographer for a fun photo shoot.    

20. Take your dog to the beach.

 

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Image: Culturalcapitol.comcloudgate

Chicago is definitely “My kind of town…” I recently spent a few days in Chicago with a girlfriend, and had the BEST time of my life. We were on the move constantly, and couldn’t get enough of the fabulous food, the spectacular sites and the friendly people.

One of my all-time favorite places is Millennium Park. The park website describes the park perfectly as a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and art that provide the backdrop for hundreds of free cultural programs including concerts, exhibitions, tours, and family activities. In Millennium Park, you’ll find a new kind of town square – a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city. 

My favorite place within Millennium is Cloud Gate (nicknamed The Bean). Cloud Gate is a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor.

Inspired by liquid mercury, Cloud Gate (it looks like a cloud AND a bean, right?) is made of 168 stainless steel plates welded together. Its highly polished exterior has no visible seams and measure 33 x 66 x 42 feet (10 x 20 x 13 m), and weighs 100 tons. On the underside of the sculpture is the omphalos, a concave chamber that warps and multiplies reflections. The apex of the omphalos measures 27 feet (8.2 m) above the ground.

I especially loved visiting because at all times the sculpture attracts locals and tourists alike. It is so easy to get lost in The Bean. 

The highly photogenic art makes the Chicago skyline come to life, showing it’s highly diverse and interesting personality that changes by the time of day and weather. The Bean is truly larger than life, interactive and a joy to experience. It’s also a photographer’s dream, offering countless ways to compose and frame it.

If you get to Chicago, please oh please add this great Shining Moment to your trip!

 

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When someone you love becomes a memory the memory becomes a treasure. ~ author unknown

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The mantra of life:  simplicity, clarity, peace, kindness, happiness and love. The way to live your life is to look at your past with understanding, your future with your faith and your present with love, lots of it. ~ Patrick Sanfrancesco

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