The idea for S.H.I.F.T was born as a result of being surrounded by so many people who were in crisis. While healing from cervical cancer I was asked over and over and over again, “How were you able to do it?”
I bought this lovely book a few years ago when I began teaching fifth grade. It was my intention to kick the year off with it, but it never happened. Being new to the elementary school environment, I was barely able to keep my head above water. As a matter of fact, my head was never above water. My lips were really, really close to the top. I could see the light, and was begging for air like a gold fish swimming around in murky water needing the water is his bowl changed.
The water in my bowl needed to be changed big time. Never have I ever had to work so hard to implement every single bit of energy work I had in my back pocket. Whew…. I’m glad it’s over! I’m beginning my twentieth year in education (woo-hoo!) and my third year with the fifth graders. I’m still in the water, but now I’m wading through it and enjoying the coolness of the water’s edge. It’s very refreshing as I twirl my arms and allow my fingertips to skim the ripples that surround me.
The anxiety and stress levels of the kids in my classroom are just some of the ripples that desperately need to be managed all throughout the day. This year, the kids are getting Mindfulness notebooks to decorate and make their own. I know they’re going to have a good time with the drawing exercises this book offers and they’ll absolutely LOVE going outside to hunt for four pebbles to represent a flower for freshness and beauty, a mountain for feeling solid, water for reflecting and stillness, and space for the feeling of freedom. I can’ wait to get started!
Resources for Family Practice: Related books
Mindfulness Retreat Communities for families: I’ve never visited any of the locations below, but if you’re curious…
While having fun redesigning the SHIFT site, I stumbled across this article last night. It’s certainly an act of divine timing that it presents itself to me, so here it is for you! I hope it brings you some comfort today <3. Love.
Our self-talk is the creator of our universe. It is the voice of our heart, mind, and soul, and reflects our perceptions of the world, others, and ourselves. It guides us, criticizes us, supports us, and impacts our decisions. Our “inner voice” often influences our moods and determines if we are happy, sad, relaxed, worried, optimistic, or helpless. Because self-talk is the “voice” we hear most, it has more influence on us and can impact our future more than anything else.
It’s estimated that 80% of what the average person says to him/herself is harmful, pessimistic, and undermining.
Ask yourself and consider:
Are you willing to easily accept less than perfection from yourself?
Do you give yourself permission to do less than 100%?
What do you say to yourself when you make a mistake? Do you give yourself a hard time?
How can you be more compassionate with yourself?
Is “should” one of the most prominent words in your vocabulary? Do you hear yourself often saying, “I should be working”, “I should go on a diet”, “I should get that done”, etc.
Stop shoulding on yourself!
Do you compliment yourself when you look in the mirror?
What are some lovely things you can say to yourself, even on your worst day?
Do you give yourself praise for your accomplishments?
Don’t wait for someone else to pat you on the back. Know you are already enough.
Are you uncomfortable accepting compliments? Do you brush off the compliment and say something negative about yourself or give the credit to someone else?
Just smile and say, ‘Thank you.”
Do you ever say things to yourself that you would never say to a friend because it would hurt his/her feelings?
Speak to yourself the same way you speak to those who you hold very near and dear to your heart. You deserve nothing less.
Do you ever hear words of a critical parent, family member or boss out of your mouth- directed to yourself?
Don’t beat yourself up. Start again. Apologize to yourself and take a moment and think of something kind and loving to say.
Before reacting to the ONE thing you did not do correctly, remember the times you have been stellar today.
If you “hear” a negative internal message about yourself, stop and provide a positive statement.
Dropped the ball? Let it go. Remind yourself of your true value and potential and move on.
Every time you give someone a compliment, give yourself one too!
Be patient. You’re reprogramming your mind. It takes time, but if you persist, you will be living in a new reality. True reality is not made for us but by us.
Choose an affirmation or two that works for you and write or type it up on beautiful pieces of paper. Place the affirmations in areas around your home and/or work to act as constant reminders.
I type mine up and turn the paper into a tent with a trifold. I place the tent on my bathroom sink and look at it every morning while getting ready.
I’ve even gone so far as to laminate some and hang them in the shower for my kids if I felt they needed a little help. Of course, they thought I was nuts, but it never hurts to teach your kids how to help themselves.
I awoke this Sunday morning to a personal vow of not allowing work to be all-encompassing in the practice to continue to live a more balanced life. Breakfast is finished and I’m feeling encouraged. I pull out the computer and sit in my favorite spot at the end of the dining room table. The energy is good here and I enjoy the brain breaks the wide window to the neighborhood provides. As I acknowledge the want to write more and allow my creativity to flow, my fingers go to work on the keyboard as my right arm breaks out into hives.
Convinced the breakout is in direct correlation with the swirling thoughts I’m suppressing about Monday approaching, lessons that need attention, and papers that need grading, I pretend I’m not stressed by the idea of it all. My body continues to react and denial allows the hives to hop over to my left arm. My breathing gets shallower.
I remove myself from the table and walk over to the bookshelf to look for my thin, little book of sanity written by Louis Hay, published in 1998, the very year I began teaching. What irony. I do a quick flip through the pages of Heal Your Body A – Z in search of “H” . I skim passed Hip Problems and Hirsutism, not knowing what that is, and land on Hives (Urticaria) see: Rash.
Probable Cause: Small, hidden fears, Mountains out of molehills.
New Thought Pattern: I bring peace to every corner of my life
For lots of reasons, it makes perfect sense to me. I’ve switched roles at work and I’m not being as patient with myself as I need to be. Now I’m curious about what message Rash has to offer. I continue to flip through the pages to the beginning of the R’s pass Rabies at the top of the list, and land on Rash. This is what I find:
Probable Cause: Irritation over delays. Babyish way to get attention
New Thought Pattern: I love and approve of myself. I am at peace with the process of life.
Irritation over delays I get. My world of work is not where I’d like it to be and I’m working really hard to honor all those things that are not where I’d like them to be like: this week’s lessons, the class blog, filing, the dinners I’m not cooking at night because I’m too tired, and the yoga classes I’m not attending any longer for the same reason.
Babyish way of getting attention, I didn’t get. I sat with this probable cause for a bit. It didn’t take me long to figure out it is meant to tell me to buck up and get over it. Snap out of it.
I’m learning to give myself permission to feel the feelings that arise and not to judge. I’ve also learned to offer these moments up and allow my higher power to take over. This is the best treat of all. Remembering that I’m not in this alone makes everything so much more delightful. Time to sit, breathe, and be thankful I have a job to be anxious over 😉
Many people have scripted our self-talk, and the good news is we can re-script it.
By selecting and feeding our minds positive affirmations the programming in our minds will change. Professional athletes and business people have used the technique of affirmations for years to increase their performance and success. An affirmation is a statement of fact or belief (positive or negative) that will lead toward the end result you expect.
Here are some examples of affirmations created by Robert Egby. Have fun creating your own. These will get you started. Good luck and remember, think well and be well. Which one will you choose for yourself today?
I am positive, confident and radiate good things
I have energy, enthusiasm, and vitality
I am totally relaxed and confident. When I am relaxed I achieve more.
I realize that time is my most valuable resource, so I carefully use it on only what is important to me.
I am a professional, respected person, fully capable of earning a professional, respected income.
I attract success into my life. I deserve everything that success brings.
I really am very special. I like who I am and I feel good about myself.
I was designed and created, in body and mind, to achieve.
I am a person of quality and strength. I deserve success.
I always look for ways I can get something done instead of finding reasons why I cannot.
I always listen to those around me and work to understand their needs.
I enjoy showing others the best of themselves. I always accept them at their best.
I have strength, absolute determination, and limitless endurance in the pursuit of my goals.
Everyday, in every way, I feel better and better.
I am calm and confident. I have the quiet self-assurance of winning in my life.
I have inner peace. I am living my life in a positive and worthwhile way.
I have purpose and value in my life. I love who I am and I enjoy being me.
I love and accept myself completely as I am.
I am intelligent. My mind is quick and alert and clever and fun.
I think good thoughts, and my mind makes things work right for me.
I am able to see a precise picture of exactly what my goals are in everything I do and what I must do to achieve each of them.
Because winning takes energy, good health, and a strong, positive attitude, I make sure that I keep myself fit-both mentally and physically.
I take full responsibility for everything about me, even the thoughts I think.
I always visualize myself being at my absolute best in every part o my personal/professional life.
I learn from everything I do and everyone I meet.
My mind is clear and alert. It is capable of meeting any challenge I place before it.
I have excellent powers of concentration. I attune all my senses to the subject at hand, and I am able to focus my attention more and more easily each day.
I am creative. I like to find new and interesting ways to do things in my life.
Every day, something new and interesting happens in my life.
I like myself and I like my goals. I am moving forward in my life.
You may want to get yourself a copy of Louise Hay’s book, Heal Your Body A-Z. In addition to having beautiful artwork, each page is structured with three columns:
Ailments which are listed from A-Z
An explanation of what’s happening in your world as a result of your ailment
An Affirmation that aids in creating a SHIFT in mindset set, which will aid to rid you of your ailment.
By re-reading, I mean opening up my Audible app and listening to Tosha speak to me on the ride to and from school. Her casual, comfortable tone has her sitting right next to me in the front seat of my car; and for the next six days, I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to venturing out each morning in the cold.
Tosha’s message is very simple: Offer it up. Let the Big Guy take over; or as Tosha writes, “She”. This shift in my daily prayers has transformed everything for me. Despite my pretending I am not, I am a multi-tasker. An over-planner. An obnoxious “To Do List” maker. A payer of attention to too many details. A people pleaser. And though it’s hard to write, a self- sabotager (at times), typically I am very, very kind to myself.
Having had cancer, I want to prove to myself that I can still “Do”. The lesson the cancer has taught me, however, is I’m not supposed to keeping “Doing”, I’m supposed to slow it down. While that lesson immediately came through for me loud and clear, it’s hard to practice for me. The ego takes over is what it comes down to. I have to keep that ego in check and that’s where letting Devine take the lead is my saving grace. Slowing down was very easy to practice at first while I was home recuperating; but as the months and years pass by, getting sucked into the vortex of “Doing” and going and planning and making things happen like everyone else, just happens.
I cannot begin to tell you how liberating letting God take-over is. Have fun with what you ask of Him. Be playful, yet intentional. It’s not about being passive and you will learn that in the book. Tosha gracefully and comically answers any questions you may have within her pages.
When I wake and when I walk into my classroom each day, I become overwhelmed with the many things that need to be taken care of. I first thank God for the day and for my good health that allows me to move through the day with my healthy body, independent of anyone (except Him of course).
At school, I thank Him for the job I have, all of the students I get to spend the day with, and the supportive teachers, administration, and parents I have this school year. I then ask to be led to only what needs to be done. I ask to be shown the way to only that which is essential in the unfolding of the day.
I am amazed every day! Ironically, not much on the “To Do” list gets done and I find it didn’t need to be done. I am easily led to what is most important and to things I wasn’t event thinking of. My body just moves and I follow it giggling, “Oh yeah, thank you for that!”.
Holiday lit pines replace the wilted corn stalks and brown-topped mums that once decorated our front porch. I relish the subtle move into the Christmas season that I celebrate with family and friends while hanging on to every note of Christmas music that now plays.
Thanksgiving has come and gone and leaves me with warm and wonderful lasting memories of the day and years gone by. We’re fortunate to host the mother of all holidays, and I treasure every moment of time spent making the day all it should be for our family and friends. Preparation for Thanksgiving Day created many last minute trips to the store (and I thought I had done so well on my first trip), which presented lots of opportunities to run into old friends doing their last-minute pickups as well. They ask how I’m doing and we both know the underlying concern. Am I well? Am I still well? Have there been any changes?
I find it overwhelmingly heartwarming to know so many still care and are concerned when sometimes I briefly forget it was even a chapter in my book. Here I am running around picking up last minute items after countless trips have already been made, when not so long ago, going to store wasn’t even an act I could entertain. Remember how excited I was to just walk to the end of the driveway? I smile wide and tell my friends confidently, “Yes, I’m great!” And I want to add to that, “And please don’t worry about me because I will always be great. I am fine.”
The week of Thanksgiving also brings my birthday celebration which is, and always has been, an exciting day for me; even before the more dramatic significance, it now holds. It saddens me when I hear people say, “I’m not celebrating this year.” Or “I’ve stopped celebrating.” Really? You’ve chosen to not celebrate the last year you’ve been gifted? Nothing in the last 365 days held any significance for you? You can find nothing to be grateful for during that time? And you’re not looking forward to the new year that has presented itself to you? Oh, please change your mind. Please put new thoughts into the air to be whipped up, heard, and sent back to you with love and kindness. You deserve the love. I know many may be kidding when they say it, but why even put it out there for the negative response? Somewhere deep inside it’s a thought, and thoughts become things. We need to choose the good ones.
Excitedly, I celebrated another year, a 48th one to be exact and they just keep getting better. My true inner celebration, however, is the 8th year mark of wellness, which is December 17th. I will celebrate next month; a new birthday if you will. As I’ve shared before and many already know, the medical field notes all survival dates from the date of diagnosis. So medically speaking, I’m 8 ½ years cancer free already, and on my day of diagnosis, I was on information overload listening to many things from my doctor and nowhere in our dialogue did he utter, “You’re cancer free!”
Reasonably, I choose to celebrate the day I did hear those words from him when he shook me awake by grabbing my big toe at the foot of my bed saying, “Hey! Wake up, you’re cancer-free.” I love him. Steve and I both do. He’s like a celebrity to us and we always say he’d be a great fit in our circle of friends. He’s the kind of guy who is real, honest, and genuine, a guy you can sit down with and enjoy a nice cold beer with, tell stories and laugh. Did I mention he’s Irish??? BONUS!
As you move through your holiday season, honoring your celebrations with friends and family, I wish for you peace, love, perfect health, inner calm in its simplest of forms, and the ability to see the silver lining in all that life places before you. You owe yourself that much. Peace. xo
One way I’ve been able to put my journey to wellness into words is by calling the process Coming Back to Life. I literally watched my body come back to life. It was a freaking miracle. I was in bed for five months. I lost lots of muscle mass. And I was so weak from treatments and the effects of treatments, that I had to be wheeled each day to the hospital for my treatments. I needed help to shower and get dressed, and on a good day, could just make it to the bathroom just in time. When treatments ended, before I knew it, I was able to walk to the end of the driveway without any help and I knew one day, I’d be strong enough to bring the garbage cans back into the garage. This was HUGE! Never could I have imagined something so mundane would bring me such joy. Would make me feel like I was on top of the world. A job so routine would never again be taken for granted.
The walk to the end of the driveway led to an arm in arm walk with my Mom to the cul-de-sac behind our home. I never quite made it, but the mere fact that I was able to attempt it was a feat in itself. I was psyched! I was wiped out, but I was psyched. The All Will Be Well mantra I continually repeated to myself was slowly becoming a reality. Before I knew it, the garbage cans were carried back from the street into the garage, I was driving, and even doing a little shopping! Life kept getting better and normalcy was within my reach.
There’s beauty in coming through one of life’s most trying challenges. Everything is beautiful. The rain. The snow. The heat. The cold. Crotchety people. Screaming children. Bad drivers. Long lines at the store. Wifi that’s down. Flat tires. WHO CARES?! I’m happy I’m alive to be able to experience it all. Physically, my body now has some limitations and my choice is to celebrate them rather than complain and be down about the repercussions of my treatments. They certainly beat the alternative.
For me, getting well and getting myself back to work was paramount and a huge part of what I considered getting my life back to normal. Six weeks after my surgery I returned to work and was more than ready to get back to what I put on hold for five months. Seven years later here I am; well, still working, and still working on living my best life. Part IV: Faith…Maintaining Your Wellness is so important to me because it focuses on leaving old habits behind and intentionally choosing wellness in all that you do as you create your new normal.
As each day passes, it’s so easy to fall back into old habits. What are you eating? How are you eating? When are you eating? How often are you eating? Are you setting a bed time? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you prepared for work the night before? What’s for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? What’s in the fridge? the cabinets? Who are you spending your time with? Are they bringing out the very best in you? Have you exercised today? How often this week? How about mediation? Walking? Yoga? Have you reached out to family? Friends? Your children? What am I reading? How will it benefit me and my life? What am I watching? What will it add to my world? Are you doing what you love? Is there anything you need to let go? What is not serving you? Are you breathing? Are they belly breaths?
These questions continually run through my head. Not in a crazy way, but in a very conscious and mindful way. For me, maintaining my wellness is so important because I got a second chance. I had lessons I had to learn and at the end of the day, I want to pass the test. I want to do life the best way I know how. I have faith that all will be well and I invite you to do the same. Work on embedding this conscious thought pattern into your day: Calm, cool, smooth, and easy and enjoy the shift that occurs.
Since I began the Shift for Wellness journey back in 2013, I always felt a little awkward about defining myself; particularly as a “survivor”. Social media profiles are always asking you to define who you are. What am I supposed to write? There’s not enough room to list all the hats I wear, and who would care about them anyway. I’m then left wondering if I’m listing the right ones to attract my intended audience. I find that there’s too much pressure surrounding something that is meant to help and to heal.
I’m not quite sure why I don’t feel comfortable with the term “survivor” for myself and I certainly mean no disrespect to anyone who has adopted it for themselves. I don’t even think twice about it when I hear someone else use the term. At the time when I wasn’t well, I was certainly in survival mode, but what about those who did their damnedest to survive their journey? Those who struggled, won, and struggled some more only to lose? Weren’t they surviving each day they made it through?
During treatments, you’re surviving and sometimes barely. I remember having my doctor guiding me through breaths every time I came out of anesthesia. She coached me to breath deeper and deeper in order to come out, but it was quite nice to remain where I was. I wanted to stay there. It was so peaceful there in my little land of grog, I was more than comfortable, but I chose to listen and gave it my very best and deepest belly breaths to bring myself back in the room.
Randy Pouch hadn’t left this life yet when I wasn’t well. The Carnegie Mellon professor and I share our diagnosis date: August of 2007. Pouch began giving is Last Lecture one month later. His journey was all over the TV and I couldn’t get enough of it. Knowing full well he was not long for this life, he had something I needed. He had lessons to share from a perspective that no one else could offer. Many would have been afraid to reach for the book but I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and devour every page.
I wanted to buy this book for everyone I knew but it occurred to me that people managing challenging times may not perceive the book as helpful. During our “Live Your Best Life” book chat at work, I excitedly recommended The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as one of our monthly reads. It was so incredibly inspirational to me during when I wasn’t well that I thought it would be the same for everyone else who read it. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby, the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine, awoke into a body which was paralyzed with the exception of this left eye. It was his nurse who discovered he was able to communicate through blinking it and she worked out an alphabet of sorts and together they wrote his memoir.
The book is small and can be easily read in a night; and yet I was surprised to see how many members of the chat didn’t read the book because it struck a chord too close to home or was too depressing for them. It was then I learned that it’s all about where you are in your life and how everyone handles life’s challenges differently. Their feelings should not be judged, only respected.
I find it fascinating how each of us is affected differently by books, movies, conversations, songs, etc. What’s important is to respect and to be sensitive to understand that what works for one may upset another. This very realization prevented me from creating Shift for Wellness many years prior to 2013. I allowed one person’s negative comment about sharing my story hold me back from sharing and helping others. I’m so sorry I allowed that to happen, and it was my One Powerful Word: FEARLESS, that kick me in the butt and helped me to move forward with the idea.
During the Shift for Wellness workshops, I introduce myself as someone who has experienced cancer, rather than referring to myself as a “survivor”. It feels better to me since the journey is a chapter in my life that allows me to help others, but does not define who I am. I am so much more than a person who has had cancer. Thankfully, I am that much more because of the journey. I was trying to hard find a way to say it in one word when creating an online profile and I’m still not certain where it will all lead me. It’s a work in progress.
Those who have experienced cancer do walk the path alone regardless of who surrounds them. They need inspiration, understanding, comfort, desire, hope, humor, drive, motivation, truth and above all else gratitude. The universe will not reward you with what you want if you do not already appreciate what you have. I will always have my journey with cancer. I will always be grateful for it. I will always honor it, but I will not be defined by it. I still find myself in search of how to refer to this time in my life without feeling awkward. I should just ask the universe and wait for my answer. I’ll let you know when I get it.
Without a doubt, faith is hard for many to grab hold of and trust in. As I began to get well and “Come back to life” as I call it, I was coming from a place of confinement for a long period of time and was not able to take care of myself. I was fully dependent upon my family and friends for every basic need. Eating, sleeping, bathing, taking medication, transportation, head rubs, at times even dressing. You name it, I needed it. I could do nothing without help, with the exception of turning the channel on the remote. I felt great success in that accomplishment even though it often brought me endless episodes of Meerkat Manor during ungodly hours of the night.
During the time of my treatment, I was not able to work. I could barely make it to the bathroom in time and resorted to wearing diapers. I was pushed in a wheelchair to get in and out of my daily radiation treatments since chemo and radiation took just about every bit of life from me. I wore the same navy blue, elastic jersey knit pant set to treatment each day because making the decision of what to wear was too overwhelming for me and the elastic made getting in and out of treatments easier. Each day I would roll myself onto the radiation table, pull my pants down to my knees, remain still for a few beeps of radiation, and I was on my way.
There wasn’t a person around who was not nice and kind and loving, and full of good intention. My mother created a sanitized sanctuary where no one could enter our home without good reason, and if you did, you left your shoes at the door, lathered up with hand sanitizer, and were told not to stay too long. Typically though, if you were not a member of the family you didn’t make it past Mom. She took whatever you had to offer and sent you on your way. No potential germs were making their way to her youngest cub and she saw to that.
Each day the mail filled our mailbox with cards and well wishes, flowers and fresh fruit deliveries, and gifts galore. I was truly overcome with the outpouring of love that came from all areas of my life. I could never have imagined such caring and compassion could come my way. I never thought I mattered so much to so many. It was quite an awakening. Even now as I write this, I am in awe of it all and so very, very grateful to have been lifted up and held so tightly by so many wonderful people.
Steve was with me every moment he was not working. From the time I was diagnosed, he never missed a doctor’s appointment. I’m not sure when he rested. The poor guy walked through each day like a zombie, his eyes swollen with the desperate need of sleep. Ask anyone who saw him day in and day out. He was my rock. Because he rarely left my side I went through some major separation anxiety as I began to heal and was left alone in the house more and more. Getting well proved to be a lot tougher than I thought.
When treatments were over and I prepared for surgery, I watched my body bounce right back to life just as quickly as it atrophied. The body is such an amazing machine. It can be brought right to the edge of lifelessness, giving you just enough to hang on, and then pop right back to where you were before your diagnosis. The only difference is, you’re never truly right back to where you were before your diagnosis. There’s a change, a shift. I suppose if you were the same person coming out, you wouldn’t have learned the lesson that was meant for you. Wrapped up in all you’re experiencing, the universe is sending you a message. Pay attention.
I always knew I was supported, loved, taken care of and being led to a better place. My faith never wavered through all of this.
Fast-forward almost seven and a half years and my faith is being questioned yet again as my son makes the decision to be among many of our nation’s bravest and join the Navy. How could I possibly question his path and allow myself to worry? I’m not a worrier, that’s Steve’s job. He worries enough for the entire family- my side and his. Worrying is not part of my make-up. When the faith is strong, worrying is not part of the equation. How can I come from a place of heavily relying on my faith through one of the toughest time I’ve experienced, and then waiver when it involves my children?
Joining the military is just one more notch on the parental belt of concerns. It comes not long after first bus rides, girlfriends, questionable friends, driver’s licenses, turning 18, smoking, tattoos, and alcohol. I’ve had more than enough practice in relying on faith when faith was all I had to go on.
My best advice to you when questioning where you are, is to just Trust and Know. I leave you with the refrain of an old Gospel song written by Charles A. Tindley. I had the pleasure of singing these words last night a Kirtan in town sponsored by our local yoga studio. I hope you feel the lyrics as deeply as I did and enjoy the tears that roll down your cheeks.
Leave it there, leave it there,
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there;
If you trust and never doubt, He will surely bring you out—
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.