About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dealing with Cancer Bullies

We have all been affected by bullies, in one way or another. Unfortunately it’s part of the growing up process, a problem we all face. Sadly bullying has become an increasingly wide spread problem even amongst adults especially with advances in technology. As a child I dealt with bullies, those who didn’t like me personally for one reason or another, but mostly by those who felt threatened by my inner joy in the face of trying circumstances. I hate to say this but bullying, at least the kind I grew up with before the age of texting, emails and facebook was one of those terrible ways we learned to deal with confrontation, to develop a thicker skin so to speak. But in today’s world the problem is we have no refuge from bullies, they are everywhere, and they have access to every part of our lives, not just an opportune meeting behind the school dumpster anymore but far greater and damaging means. Bullies terrorize the lives of those they see as weak; they are merciless, pitiless, stone-hearted, harsh, heartless, unsparing, callous, beastly, cold-blooded, ruthless, unkind and calculating. Come to think about it in many ways bullies and cancer are cut from the same clothe.

Let’s face it many of us have been bullied all our lives while for others we might in our adult lives be dealing with a bully situation for the very first time. However or by whatever means you have found yourself the target of a bully with a bright red and white target on your back, it’s disheartening. No one likes to feel cornered or bruised emotionally especially not so someone else can feel superior; it’s just not a fun situation to find yourself in. Yet as grown adults we still wake up feeling we are hiding, praying not to find ourselves shoved into those old Jr. High school lockers yet again.

Why do adults decide to bully other adults? Well it’s as simple as feeling inadequate to having a God complex. Either way, bullies must express their distain for anyone they fear can dethrone them. I like to think of it as a power struggle. On one side you have an arrogant king, who has everything worldly a man could desire sitting so far above his people he has lost touch with reality, just a difference of opinion and it’s off with your head. On the other end of the spectrum you have a lowly servant, with no real worldly treasure, yet he has everything, understanding the reality of his own situation choosing to embrace the hardships he bares with love, joy and goodness in his heart. Some how, these bullies we encounter have become callus, indifferent to anyone but themselves and seeing our lives filled with hopeful perspective, they become enraged.

Reality check: as adults, living with any form of cancer, you will at one time or another deal with what I call the dreaded Cancer Bullies. Now, you have your typical bullies, your creepy cyber bullies and then you have the cancer bully. These particular bullies well they are the type who gain a sense of accomplishment by attacking not just the weak, but the sick. Cancer bullies are not your standard, everyday bully. Nope, these kinds of bullies carry a special crude kind of meanness, a vial, cruelty only a few possess or would dare to display for the world to see. Cancer bullies strike not only at opportune moment when you are weak, but when they feel they can robe your spirit of whatever hope you have left!

I know this because I have dealt with my fair share of them since my breast cancer diagnosis. I’ve been told everything from how my illness is an unpleasant thing to have to hear about, to being reminded how they are praying for my bias, cold and unchristian, heart and soul. Yep it has even gone as far as to make it crystal clear I need to let God work through and change my horrible perspective on life.  The truth is I am not perfect, I struggle and yes I fail miserably many times but why is it folks like this feel compelled to squash you like an ant? The real kicker is most of the time they are acting out everything they are accusing you of, giving themselves hall passes while they write you up for their own infringements. Certainly you would think these types would at least stay in the shadows, having enough sense not to be caught in the act right? Nope, sadly it’s the complete opposite! Cancer bullies believe so fervently in their mission that they in fact thrive on the pain and drama they themselves create while blaming you for the root of it. What is most shocking though is how they enjoy not only your pain but also the pain your family feels helplessly watching each one of their harsh blows to your head. If they could carry around a trophy, proclaiming to the world one minute they are a victim and next take credit for being the victimizer you can bet your bottom dollar they would without a second thought. Let’s face it they are villains circling the wagons from the outside while staging an attack from the inside. Many times, bullies come from your inner circle, triumphantly handing you one final blow as they gleefully dance around your mangled spirit left as a spectacle for everyone to see. Honestly it’s all very sad, and no one ever wins. In fact even the bullies don’t win because they have to keep up their game of thrones, reinvent scare tactics, reinforce malicious fear mongering, perfecting the finger wave all while planning new and greater ways of launching their diabolical plans of wrath upon you. In short and they must throw anyone but themselves under the out of control train they have left barreling down the tracks unmanned.

I sometime get the feeling bullies are trying to save their own souls while sucking the life out of mine to be completely honest. In many ways they are vampires, soulless, cold, very real and even deadlier than any storybook character you can bring to mind. Calling those of us out on the carpet who have been dealt the Big C is not enough, no these bullies have to troll, looking for small infractions, moments of weakness ,belittling those who are physically ill. And why, well your guess is honestly as good as mine but in my opinion I believe they are simply compelled to do so, they must save you from yourself. After all it’s for your own good, a spiritual right they have mastered, completely tearing apart anything good, brave, seemly and wholesome about you. And why, truthfully it’s all in the mind set. Many times it’s because these bullies feel they are entitled, as if they are honestly saving your soul by beating you into submission. For many cancer bullies it’s along the lines of feeding a bad habit, needing to fuel their addiction to power simply by shoving those meeker, inferior folks into lockers.

If you have ever faced a cancer bully, then I do not really have to tell you they are apathetic, blind to joy, deaf to hope, indifferent to love, and soulless fiends. Bullies absorb strife in much the same way we express joy. But my challenge to you my friends today is this: if you are staring down a bully, if this very situation has wrapped you up inside tight DO NOT stand for it any longer! Break free from cancer and her consorts, their chains of brutal, numb bitterness are no more than an indulgent exaggerated reaction to their own fear of mortality. Think of cancer bullies and their schemes in the terms of a fixation, a fixed idea, hang-up, mania, a neurosis, completely irrational obsession and a preoccupation with overhauling your life while trying to stabilize their own!

My advice is this: It’s way past time to stop drinking the Kool-Aid! Do not allow cancer bullies, or for that matter any kind of bully a place in your life. You can try to ignore these bullies’ unsubtle attempts at debugging your life, blaming you for their own secrets and troubles or you can take a stand, say enough is enough and begin healing your own wounded spirit. Maybe it’s time to divert the Bully Plan and begin building up, mending, recovering, repairing and reinstating the get-up-and-go, go, the lifeblood, liveliness, sparkle , vitality, energy, enthusiasm and excitement you once subscribed to before signing the Bully Pact. Forcing you into their misguided, surely not for your good kind of agreement through belligerent means is not healthy for either party. The audacity of a Cancer Bully is incredulous, the way they intimidate, break, damage, destroy, and cause hurt is intrusive, detrimental, damaging and toxic to your recovery. Go ahead hand back, return, send back to sender the insanity of a Cancer Bullies quarrelsome undesirable endowment of trouble with a capital T! It’s just not worth the drama of finding your hope hacked to pieces every morning!

Go ahead; buckle up, because cancer is a bumpy ride. No matter what spin you take on the beast’s ship of insanity, it’s going to go through rough, choppy waters, it’s just a matter of whether you are going to sail aboard a sinking ship or find a way to make it across, alive and well. The bottom line my friends, you don’t have to go through this passage alone, the heading does not have to wreck your life upon the rocks and by all means you no longer have to endure fear of those who can not let go of the steering wheel. Go on reinforce your walls, reintroduce yourself to the water, strengthen your heart for the journey and begin recalling the reasons you have hidden HOPE deep within your soul to begin with! Breaking free from Cancer Bullies is like taking a breath of fresh air. Think of it as capsizing at first, the fear is almost enough to take you down into the dark, deep depths of despair or like needing a breathing apparatus just to navigate through the shallow end of a pool. But what happens after you have come up for air, you see land, and you know you yourself have the strength inside to make it to shore. Instead of being over come, suffocating and thrashing around in the Bully’s end of the ocean embrace the hope you have inside your spirit, latch onto your inner faith , the strength of your joy and the resounding love of your heart and you will find peace again.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Loving Me Through It All

Breast cancer is not one of those types of diagnosis’s you just breeze through. Honestly no matter how old you are breast cancer is a shock, but when you are in your early 30’s it is like facing one of those creepy, scary clowns from your childhood nightmares. Tears, fear and the overwhelming idea of leaving those you love behind way to early has a way of crushing your once fiery spirit, crashing into your heart, mind and spirit on a daily basis. Even with the best of a diagnosis, breast cancer can feel like a giant pink elephant sitting on your chest stealing each and every free breath you have left inside of your dreams.

Martina McBride’s song, I’m gonna love you through it all, is one of those songs written perfectly reaching the intended target, and breaking through our walls of strength. Those of us for whom this song touches, living through this beast crashing into our lives head on, causes an unexpected pause we nerve saw coming. The reality of this life we lead brings an understanding of each and every one of her powerful words as if they are our own. We need no interpretation, no further emotion to see ourselves in Martina’s musical storytelling of the Big C. I sat down for the first time this morning and listened to this song and found myself surrounded by a puddle of tears. This woman was singing about me, this was my life in song, words spelling out my journey, my fears, my hidden worries and the hope I cling to.

Life since the Big C came to town five years ago has not been easy, in fact it’s been pretty painful, downright devastating and at times completely overwhelming, almost as if I have become a sinking stone, drowning in the unknown. But I am one of the fortunate ones; I have not had to go this road, this journey into the darkness, alone. I have had my faith, my belief in a God who is compassionate, not cruel, loving, and not spiteful. I have felt His deep understanding ignite Hope inside the deepest darkest caverns of my soul and seen His mercy guide me through this labyrinth of fear and doubt without stealing my joy away from me. But you know what else I have had as well? I have had a husband who has stood by my side through it all, a man who has loved me regardless of my physical loss or of this mark seared across my chest. Johnny has never left my side. He has felt the fear, the worry, grappled with the unknown, wondering if the future we planned together would be ripped away from him yet he has loved me through it all, stood by me without a second thought.

I stand in awe of this man whose name I carry. I love him beyond any words I could express. He is kind, quiet and strong. He holds my heart close to his, never letting go, never thinking of dropping it, nor  has he once considered breaking my sensitive, sometimes tormented heart. Johnny would never allow my fragile heart to shatter into a thousand pieces. He would never leave me to defend myself against this beast alone. I know without a doubt whatsoever Johnny would never leave me stranded or consider placing our love on the hard, cold floor,walking away and closing the door on tomorrow . I will tell you what Johnny is, he’s steady, taking my fear on as his own allowing me to stay focused on today so I can stand strong, not sink into a pit of helplessness tomorrow. I have never once been alone with Johnny by my side. When I have been weak, he has been strong. When I have been unable to take one more step, Johnny has taken my hand and pulled me closer to him, navigating the road before us. I am honest enough to admit I have had experienced days along the way when I felt I could not do this anymore, when I did not want to face one more surgery, one more treatment, once more day with the words breast cancer stamped across it. Yet my husband of 15 years has never left me to face this beast alone, he has continued to love me through it all, each and every day.

Johnny has been my biggest source of inspiration, my comfort and my hero. When I have been weary, he has been bold, carrying me through the wilderness, never leaving my side. Even when the night has fallen or when the beasts around us have stirred Johnny has been my refuge. When I have been scared to death he has shown no fear! The truth is I am not the same girl he married all those years ago, but I am the woman he has loved through it all. I may not be perfect, I may have a misshapen body after all these years, I may not even have 2 breasts for him to caress anymore and the truth is one day we may have to face a unpaved, bumpier road where I am no longer able to fight this beast. But do you know what I have, what I know, no matter what is before us, there’s no doubt this road will never be too long or too narrow for the two of us to travel together.

The bottom line is this my friends: tomorrow could confirm all my worst fears, breast cancer could veer her ugly head once again, throw us into the abyss of fear and worry, but there is one truth cemented into my heart, one truth beyond a shadow of a doubt: Johnny will be by my side, loving me just as I am, loving the parts of me that have been left, and letting go of the ones which have been torn away. No matter what the Big C takes from me, from us, Johnny has loved me, held me, taken me to our bed with desire in his eyes. How can I ask for more? I am the lucky one, I am blessed beyond anything I could have ever imagined and today, this very morning, I am loved by a man who is not perfect but who is perfectly mine.


Friday, July 22, 2011

The Magic, Memories and my Family!

Have you ever watched one of those Disney ads and had chills run down your back? Just the idea of sharing a day full of magic with your family, spinning inside the Mad Hatter’s tea cups, possibly coasting down Space Mountain into the unknown or even flying high above Fantasyland on Dumbo’s back is enough to bring tears of joy to my eyes. Who knows maybe for you it’s the Disney memories from when you where younger holding your dad’s hand while meeting Mickey, or the first time you walked through those magical gates with your own children’s hands in yours seeing Cinderella’s Castle before you or maybe you have dreams of finally taking those first steps inside the Magic Kingdom and walking down Maine Street, USA. Whatever thoughts or memories come to mind during the most magical place on earth’s 30 second ads, they certainly grab your attention don’t they? Suddenly you find yourself daydreaming about Princesses, Pirates, lands far away, and having your family right along side of you for each and every new and incredible adventure.

For me, the idea of a Disney Family Vacation doesn’t just bring the excitement of a magical adventure into larger than life lands filled  with rides and journeys into our imaginations; the truth in a nut shell is the real excitement for us is the journey itself to WDW. A trip which brings my family, myself, my husband, my children and my parents together making memories we have been allowed to gather, granted wishes for one more year enabling us to share and imprint upon our hearts precious memories gifted to us and given in joy, inspired each year to create ….TOGETHER.

Last month, my parents took all of us to Walt Disney World in Florida for a 10 day trip to mark my Life Day; five years from the date we thought we were celebrating my goodbye trip. I have to tell you this was the most amazing trip we have had since we first starting making this Disney pilgrimage of sorts in 2006. The theme this year, The Magic, Memories and You, along with the brilliant Castle display, hit home for each and every one of us as we planned our family adventures through all four parks. For the six of us, myself, my husband Johnny, our boys, Joshua and Micah and my parents Bobby and Patty, coming back to Walt Disney World is an indescribable, renewal of hope and life, filled with passion, joy and adventure. A larger than life mile stone, filled with internal fireworks, an emotional slide show of memories, a time to celebrate the life we have been given together, moments of real magic, memoires and for us, HOPE!

Many of you know looking back at 2006, that summer marked both a dark and yet beautiful time for my family and I. Three months into chemo with another three before me my folks gave us a weeks notice and then swept each of us off and away on a grander than grand Disney Vacation. We had the time of our lives, my bald head and all. The memories will forever stay with me, with the boys, with Johnny and with my parents. Why? Those days spent traveling around Epcots’ World Showcase, catching a ride on Aladdin’s magic carpets, meeting Sorcerer Mickey, trekking through Africa will stay with us forever but the friendships we made that summer are what really make our memories, our desire to come back to this magical place so strong.

If you have never taken the time to get to know many of the wonderful cast members at Walt Disney World, then I have to be honest you are missing the greatest part of what Disney has to offer. These folks are the ones who bring the magic to life! In 2006 we met several wonderful cast members, Luis, who is still currently at the Garden Grill inside Epcot has come to be part of our family. From the first time he came to our table he took us under his wings, loving, caring and amazingly attentive. We left that day, feeling as if we were not just there on a vacation , but as if we were now apart of the Disney family. As we spent our last night in the Magic Kingdom that year I watched as folks hurried out the exits, racing for the buses with not a care in the world but to get back to a soft warm bed. I stood there taking it all in, the stores on Maine Street lit up, Mickey balloons in the hands of little ones, skipping happily along, and music piping into the streets as the Castle was sending everyone home with her goodnight kiss. I felt as if time had slowed down for me, giving me a last glimpse at what this cancer of mine was fighting to take a way from me….life.

I fought back the tears as best as I could seeing my boys hop, skip and smile out of the corner Emporium, they were so happy. For the first time in such a long, long time they were unaware breast cancer was anywhere within striking distance. I was suddenly thrown out of my time warp and the tears would not be held back! Out of nowhere the ‘what if’s ‘came running into play. I was so afraid in those moments, fearful I would not live to see my children grow into men, to bring my own grandchildren to Walt Disney World, to see the magic through their eyes for the first time or to experience the magic of this wonderful place again. I fell apart right there on Maine Street, USA, with Cinderella’s Castle behind me and my family beside me. That night a promise was made, if I was to be taken down by this beast we call breast cancer; my beautiful, selfless, loving parents would bring the boys back so they could once again let the fear and worry of the Big C go. But my mom being the wonderful woman she is took it a little farther as she pulled me into her arms, wiping my tears away…she promised no matter what, even if it was for just one day a year we would return together, all six of us, to mark each and very year I had taken back from the beast!

This June we stayed at the Pop Century, ate like kings and queens, played in the parks till the wee hours of the night, had dinner with our friend Luis and met his beautiful family. This was the highlight of our visit. Each time we come back to WDW the boys ask every night when we will see Luis. This year we had the honor of sitting down at the Garden Grill to share a meal with our dear friend Luis and the privilege of being waited on by his own son Filipe who went above and beyond to make our meal one we will always remember. This same man has opened his heat to our family, making us part of his very own. In 2007 when we returned, Luis recognized me, after a full of year of 1000’s of guests through his door he knew me. I did not look the same a year later, after all my bald head had hair and I had grown lashes and brows again so to say I looked like a different person is an understatement, yet Luis knew me right away. He stood there in tears, and then hugged me, telling me how he and his family had been praying for me all this time. I can not even begin to explain how big of an impact this memory has on me each time I think back on the Garden Grill and Luis. All this time later Luis and his family keep in touch with us, checking in on me and my health, and welcoming us into their lives as if we have been family all our lives. There is a Hawaiian saying, one which Disney themselves made a household phrase in their movie Lilo and Stitch, “Ohana, means family, family means no one gets left behind or forgotten. “ Luis has put the very meaning of the word Ohana into action everyday in both his commitment and love of his job and his guests. The truth is without this experience, without Luis and the depth of his commitment to his guests, to those passing through his door every night at the Garden Grill we may not have been as quick to return to Walt Disney World as we are today Let’s face it we could have chosen another destination, a less expensive place to vacation, but because of this Luis’ care and concern, this cast member’s willingness to open his heart, freely offering his kindness to our family as if we were his own , Disney World is our number one destination.

And so as I close my thoughts I my one wish is for you all to know how grateful I am to be here today, able to share my stories, and my love of Disney. Some folks are not as quick to be happy for your happiness, and some may find reasons to personally begrudge you or your family special memories as I have shared here with you but I hope deep down someday they will come to understand why we as a family have chosen Walt Disney World each and every year since 2006. For my family and I it’s about the simple pleasure of ensuring a memory that will not fade away, laying down another mile stone, and a marker of Hope, to create more memories together and to come home to our Disney family. We make this pilgrimage as I like to call it not only to have fun but to let our worries go for a time, to inspire our imaginations and to imprint our family legacy of Hope upon both our hearts and souls, to refresh our spirits and to appreciate these moments we share together right here, right now! At the same time we are very aware these moments we share today, partake in together in the present are more than just times in our lives, they are moments, memories we will remember when all our material things have gone by the way side or when we have watched a loved one pass from this world to the next. These memories we have created will continue on, we will them pass on, knowing they are apart of us, who we are, who we were at one time and this hope continuing to bur inside of our hearts will stay strong for as long as we have the Magic, the Memories and each other!

~ Christina