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How to Cope When Life Throws You Curve Balls

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

Life isn’t perfect. We aren’t perfect. So as you go down the healing path to stay well, there will be situations thrown your way that will throw you off course. What do you do when this happens?

Over the years, I’ve gone through this many times. After cancer, when I had chosen a different path to follow, it wasn’t always so easy to find my way back. Support wasn’t always there to lead me. This becomes apparent because after cancer, we walk to a different drummer – a healing drummer.

Starting Point – Identify the Path

The treatment phase of the cancer journey is full of doctor’s appointments, treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy, and programs that facilitate healing. It’s a busy time, especially when you may still have a family to manage, or work if you are able to work, or just your life as you knew it before you were diagnosed.

Most of us are not able to work during this time. I recall using the time to read, rest, learn other ways of healing, and practise new skills to help me heal. These skills were meditation and journaling. They took time and energy. They also called me to look deep inside to what might be the source of this unease in my body. And, unease in my mind and spirit – areas that are often overlooked but so critical to the healing phase of the journey.

It is this phase that helps you determine what YOUR healing path is. It will be unique to you. This is a difficult part – its hard work to dig down, rethink activities or lifestyle choices, try new ideas for nutrition, and find out what you really believe about some of the complementary therapies that are available.

And, also come to terms with your spirituality – the prospect of your mortality – not something most people want to face.

Without this work, it will be most difficult to get back on track if you have not identified what the track or path is.

Next Step – Be Aware of What Draws You Offside

Life happens. People do not always live up to our expectations. We don’t always live up to our own expectations. And, our capacity for living life has changed. A lot of variables are now in the mix – ones that likely were not there before.

Plus we have years of living with our own peculiar habits and beliefs. Change is difficult.

Some of the challenges that may lead you astray –

1.   Non support of family/friends

They are used to you the way you were before cancer.  However, cancer changes us.  We are not the same person we were before. Those close to us are uncertain and unsure about how to interact with this new person in their life.  Pressure will be brought to fall back to old patterns because they are familiar.

2.   Image changes

Depending on your particular cancer and the treatment, there may be real physical changes that are challenging for yourself and for others. These changes may often be seen on the outside; however, there are many that happen deep in your mind and soul.

For example, women who have gone through a mastectomy work around issues of self esteem, body image, what to wear and how, intimacy with a spouse or partner, etc.  The physical issues are the easiest to accommodate.  The emotional piece takes much longer and has a far reaching impact on relationships, not to mention the person.

Another example is those who have had head/neck/throat cancers. Eating is a major challenge which requires a special diet.  Swallowing is not a simple matter anymore.  Breathing can be difficult due to scar tissue build up.  It may also include some speech therapy when losing part of your tongue is involved.  Just that piece – communication – is huge.  It is how we connect with others and is a major factor in how others view us, especially in business.

It has been my experience that many people around you feel that once you have gone through treatment, you will be back to your usual self. It’s done.  You’re healed.  It may be uncomfortable for them to see you changed.  This may cause them to withdraw which can be a painful experience.

This is when strength is required.  Knowing your path, where you want to go and where you need to be to be healed is so important.  Then the influence of others is not as strong a pull and the changes will be less painful.

Knowing When You’re Offside

This is an interesting part of the journey. As you move farther from your diagnosis time, treatment and initial healing, the strength of your convictions to stay on this path may wane or dim as time goes by. You may start to slide back into old patterns. Life will call you back to your former lifestyle. The crisis seems to be less – I’m okay thoughts settle in, although not completely.

As your energy returns, you start to feel you can do more, be more, run faster. That works for a while, but your body has changed. You have changed. What you could do before is not always possible anymore.

Some of us are more aware of our bodies than others. Being a dancer, I’m quite aware of any changes in my body, but I still fall prey to these same ways of being. For me, it’s been since 1990 – so a long ways away. However, I get called up short when I veer off too far. My body will tell me.

Here are some signs:

1.   Fatigue – this is different than just being tired.  This is a fatigue that is deep in the bones where you have nothing left to give.  The energy bank is completely empty.  I used to be able to push through fatigue. Not anymore.  It causes me to simply stop.  Over and done.

2.   Unease – life just seems too hard.  Nothing is coming easily or with a sense of flow.  I seem to be pushing a big rock uphill.  Being persistent and trained to work through obstacles, this is a sticky point for me. When to call a halt to what I’m doing and rethink what is happening. Over the years, I’ve changed course a few times.  I’ve veered too far off course and needed to come back to my path where life flows.

3.   Physical problems – indigestion, sleeplessness, aches and pains.  My body has had enough.  It’s saying get back to basics.  This is when you realize that health is the most important asset you have in life. It’s not how much money you make, how fancy a car you drive, how big a house you have, or how important your position in society is.  It really doesn’t matter much if you are not well.  Cancer taught us that in the beginning when we realize it doesn’t discriminate between those that have and those that have not.

Getting Back on Track

This is where we need the tools we learned back at the beginning of this journey. Most of us only use a few of them to start. They get us through the initial phase and keep us company along the journey for the first while.

As the journey progresses, however, we are in a different place. Now what? Hopefully, the tools we learned are working. If they are not anymore, then it’s time to look for other ways to get back on the path.

You may have completely changed your lifestyle. I know I did. I did a major turnabout. However, some pieces of my previous lifestyle will make an appearance now and again. I often wonder how that happens when I really thought I’d dealt with the issue before. What happens is old emotions, old habits that are deeply hidden in our subconscious jump up at unexpected moments to hijack us. Having learned how to deal with hijacked thoughts/emotions, gives me a basis to move through the issue. I can also see a pattern forming and work to change course.

In Summary

Knowing your path, being willing to learn and grow, being aware of your body, mind, spirit connection – all are ways to 1) know that you are off track, and 2) help you get back into balance and going in the right direction.

I can assure you, that you will definitely know when you hit that sweet spot in your life. There is such a sense of peace, of feeling that you are in the right place, that you would be doing what you are doing regardless of money, prestige, and any earthly benchmarks. You are simply being yourself and fulfilling your mission in life.

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10 Tips for Finding Credible Information on the Internet

By Claire Sowerbutt

Want to know how to tell good information from bad? Here are 10 things you should look for on health information sites that will help you determine whether the information is from a credible source.

1.  Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to tell credible information from less reliable content is to check the Website address or URL. A Website address ending in ‘.edu,’ denotes a site developed by an educational facility such as a university. If the site address ends with a ‘.org’ it denotes an organization or association and generally, but not always, applies to a not-for-profit organization. Government Websites end in ‘.gov,’ such as

Most sites ending with ‘com’ are businesses. That is not to say that ‘coms’ are not credible. There are millions of credible commercial sites on the Web, but it might be harder to tell who, if anyone, sponsors the information on some ‘.com’ sites. It is important to note that there are exceptions to the .com rule, such as, the official health information site of the Mayo Clinic, and the Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical practice.

2.  Credible Websites have a page that provides information about the organization and people involved with the site. Usually this information is found under the heading ‘About Us.’ Some sites do not post biographies, resumes, pictures or even names of people, as they wish to maintain personal privacy. But some information on ‘who’ and ‘why’ should be posted – it may be in the small print, but it will be there.

3.  Websites should also provide their contact information—an email address or a phone number, preferably both, somewhere on the site. This is usually found by clicking a link called ‘Contact Us.’

4.  If the site carries advertising or is funded or sponsored by third parties, that information should be made visible. If any of the content is sponsored, the site should state by whom.

5.  The content should have a date. The date should show when it was last reviewed and whether it was medically reviewed.

6.  If information on a Website did not originate on that site, the source of the information should be provided.

7.  Many health information Websites, including the ‘.coms’, carry the HON code. This stands for the Health On the Net Foundation, which has a “Code of Conduct to help standardize the reliability of medical and health information on the Internet. HON has been approved by the United Nations and while it does not review Website content, it does provide rules that Website developers must honor in order to display the code on their site. These rules relate to ethical standards and presentation of information.” (Quoted from the HON Website:

Another thing to look for is the seal for TRUSTe®, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting fair information practices on the Internet. Only organizations that adhere to the TRUSTe® privacy principles and agree to TRUSTe® oversight are allowed to carry the seal on their Website.

Finally, there is URAC—the largest accrediting body for healthcare organizations in the United States. URAC has a number of accreditation programs, depending on the function of the organization. To find all of the companies accredited by URAC visit: [links to].

8.  Privacy and security statements should be posted on the Website. Often they can be found under ‘Terms of Use,’ or ‘Privacy Policy.’

9.  All the links on the site should be current and easily accessible.

10. Most important of all: No health information on the Web should take the place of information provided by your physician or healthcare provider. Health information on the Internet is meant to supplement the information your physician gives you — not replace it. Be wary of any Website— health related or otherwise — that asks for your personal information before you can access their information.
These cautions extend to advice received from online chat sessions or from doctors who stand in as experts on Websites. If you are getting your health information online, make sure you get a second qualified opinion, at a minimum.

Happy Searching! Claire

About the Author

Claire Sowerbutt is a widely published and respected health and medical writer with hundreds of articles published on the web and in print. Her career as a medical journalist spans more than a decade, and as a non-medical professional with a wealth of contacts in the medical profession, she brings a unique consumer-oriented insight to her columns. Currently, Claire writes a regular column for the Internet health site

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Energy Healing and You

By Jan Batiuk, Healer

“Our body is a reflection of our thoughts!”
~ Jan Batiuk
There is a connection between how we feel and what part of our body is affected by those thoughts. Our body is the vessel that contains our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual experiences. Through a series of articles, you will learn how energy work done on your body can produce beneficial results. One of the more popular forms of energy healing is called Reiki.
What is Reiki?
Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is a laying on of hands, or hands positioned slightly above the body, healing technique. Reiki is derived from two Japanese words ‘rei’ and ‘ki’. ‘Rei’ refers to a spiritual consciousness and ‘ki’ means the same as ‘chi’ in Chinese. This ‘ki’ or ‘chi’ is the energy that makes all things become alive. It is the universal life force energy. Something that is alive has life force energy in it. Therefore, when we are talking about Reiki we are referring to a life force energy that is spiritually guided.
Reiki has no religious affiliation. The source where Reiki originates from can be viewed as God/Creator or Universe/Source. A Reiki practitioner is the channel for this healing energy.
Concept of Energy Healing
The concept of energy has been studied worldwide for thousands of years. Martial arts, tai chi and feng-shui are all based on energy as their key component. In feng-shui furnishings are placed strategically to allow the energy in a room to flow smoothly. Think about a time when you walked into a room in your home and by moving just one piece of furniture the room felt better. You adjusted the flow of energy in that room to create a better living space.
Our world is comprised of energy, including our bodies. When there is something happening to us whether emotional, physical, mental or spiritual, it will manifest into our body as blocked or a slowing down of energy points within the body.  A Reiki practitioner is able to work on releasing that blocked energy which helps the body to heal faster.
Located throughout our bodies are countless spinning “wheels” of energy known as chakras. The chakras are mentioned in the Vedas (knowledge), which were a series of hymns written in India. In Indian Sanscrit, chakra (pronounced “sha-kra”) means “wheel”.
During a Reiki session, the practitioner will focus on the chakras, looking for signs of blocked or “sluggish” energy. The practitioner will work on releasing any blockages in order to help with the body’s healing. 
Our chakras:

  • bring vitality into the body.
  • help assimilate all energies whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual.
  • help transmit all energies whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual.
  • are connected to different organs, glands, nerves and muscles.
  • are associated with different colours.
  • have physical and metaphysical associations.

Location of the Chakras

Chakras, when healthy, spin clockwise and are about the size of your palm. There are seven major chakras in the body:

  1. Root – located at the base of the spine.
  2. Sacral – found 2 to 3 inches below the navel.
  3. Solar Plexus – located under the sternum but above the navel.
  4. Heart – located in the mid chest.
  5. Throat – the centre of the throat.
  6. 3rd Eye – found at the centre of the brow (between the two brows).
  7. Crown – located at the top of the head.

These seven chakras are the ones focused on when conducting energy healings. However, since chakras are literally “vortexes of energies”, the number of chakras in the body are endless. We will discuss the 7 major chakras in the body and learn how working with them can improve your health. An understanding of these chakras will also help you to understand what a Reiki practitioner is working on, within your body, when you have a Reiki treatment.
simple exercise, that you can do at home, will be provided with each chakra description.
NOTE: If you are not sure that these exercises are appropriate for you then consult your doctor. The exercises are various forms of yoga moves.
Arthur Avalon in his book, “The Serpent Power”, published in 1919 introduced the West to chakras through his translation of Tantric texts. Author Anodea Judith, in her book, “Wheels of Life”, has created one of the most extensive books on the chakra systems. If you wish to have a deeper understanding of the chakras I would recommend reading this book.
The Seven Chakras: Root Chakra
The Root chakra:

  • is affected when there are problems with – the kidneys, lower back, hips, knees, legs, spinal column, feet and bones.
  • is connected to our physical needs of food and shelter.
  • can become unbalanced when there are concerns over finances as finances provide the means for food and shelter.
  • is affected by our fear of survival.
  • is affected by our sense of security – fear of losing a job.
  • connects to our feelings about trust – in others, in our self.
  • is associated with our sense of abundance or lack of this.

Root Chakra Exercises
Yoga Pose: Apanasana (knee hug)
Lie on your back. Leaving one foot on the floor, bring the other knee (bent) toward your chest and wrap your arms around the raised knee. Take a deep breath in as you bring your knee to your chest. Hold this position and feel your 1st chakra being open and clear. Repeat with the other leg.

Going for a walk out in nature is a great way to help stimulate this chakra. This energy centre will feel a connection with the earth which is very calming. Think about the times when you have visited parks, sat on a bench by a river or did some gardening. How did you feel?
Next Discussion
We will focus on the Sacral and Solar Plexus Chakras.
About the Author
Jan Batiuk is a Reiki Master, Certified Sound Therapist, Medium and Author. For more information check out her website:

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Dance Therapy – The Mind and Body Connection

by Pat Wetzel on January 1, 2014

This article was originally published by the Anti-Cancer Club in their Life Balance series.

DancerAlso known as a “movement therapy”, Dance therapy focuses on the connection between the mind and body to promote health and healing. Dance therapy can also be considered an expressive therapy. It is based on the belief that the mind and body work together to help identify and express hidden emotions caused by illness and stress. Ultimately, this expression can lead to a sense of renewal.

The American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.

Considered a complementary method of reducing stress of caregivers and people with cancer and other chronic illnesses, dance therapy can provide exercise, improve mobility and muscle coordination, and reduce muscle tension.

The History of Dance Therapy

Reflecting back in history, dance has been an important part of self-expression in ceremonial and religious events, as well as health in most cultures. Native American Indian tribes used dance as part of their healing rituals. The use of dance as a complement to conventional Western medical therapy began in 1942 through the work of Marian Chace. She was asked to work at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. after psychiatrists saw therapeutic benefit in patients who attended her dance classes.

In 1956, the American Dance Therapy Association was founded to establish and maintain high standards in the field of dance therapy. There are now more than 1,200 dance therapists in the United States and abroad. In 1993, the Office of Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health provided a research grant to explore dance therapy for people with medical illnesses.

How does Dance Therapy Work?

Exercising and physical activity can increase special neurotransmitter substances in the brain, called endorphins, which in turn creates a sense of well-being. Total body movement also affects body systems such as the circulatory, respiratory, skeletal, and muscular systems. Regular aerobic exercise helps with glucose metabolism, cardiovascular fitness, and weight control. When done regularly, movement therapy can produce the same benefits as other types of exercise. Moderate to vigorous exercise for thirty to forty-five minutes can reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Watch the following video from the University of California entitled,” Healing through Dance: When the Body Speaks and the Spirit Moves”. Anne Krantz, a University of California San Francisco Clinical Psychologist and Dance Therapist, explores the healing properties of dance. Dr. Krantz discusses her work using the art of dance for creative transformation, as patients revitalize, express, and renew confidence in their bodies to address physical, emotional and spiritual challenges of cancer.

More Reading

Dance Movement Therapy for Women with Breast Cancer [DVD]

This is an 11-minute educational DVD about the use of dance therapy in a 12-week support group for women living with breast cancer. Sponsored by the California Pacific Medical Center’s Institute of Health and supported by the Marian Chace Foundation of the American Dance Therapy Association. Ilene Serlin, PhD, ADTR

Dance as a Healing Art: Returning to Health through Movement and Imagery
By Anna Halprin

Anna Halprin, a famous dancer who created revolutionary dance forms since the late 1930s, wrote this book to provide healing guidance for life after cancer. It serves as a guide to understand the emotional processes of a health crisis and acts as a guideline for those who may be caregivers and family.

The Art and Science of Dance/Movement Therapy: Life Is Dance
By Sharon Chaiklin and Hilda Wengrower

Over the past several years, there has been a gradual recognition of the importance of the interrelationship of the “bodymind” and how it affects human behavior – psychologically, physically and socially.

About the Author

ACC-logo-final-magnetaPat Wetzel is the founder of the Anti-Cancer Club. In 2009, she was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma. She closed down the investment fund in which she was a partner and focused on dealing with her cancer.

Pat created the Anti-Cancer Club to shorten the learning curve for others and provide quality, actionable information for crafting a sustainable, anti-cancer lifestyle, one step at a time.

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Have Cancer – Have Lymphedema? What is it?

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

This particular subject is one of my pet peeves.  It has annoyed me enough that is also the topic of the Free Report ‘The OVERLOOKED and UNDER-ADVISED MAJOR RISK of CANCER TREATMENT TODAY: The Inside Story you absolutely NEED TO KNOW whether you had cancer today, yesterday or years ago.’ available at

As a former breast cancer patient, I went along for a number of years thinking that this issue and risk was behind me.  I was through treatment, well on my way to a healed and healthy life.  Well, you can imagine how upset I was when I learned through a workshop that this was not the case.  I would always be at risk for lymphedema, no matter how long ago I had my surgery and treatment.

1990 was the year of my diagnosis.  About 10 years later, was my epiphany.  And in the years since then, not much has changed.  It is still not a well known risk.  It is still not talked about during treatment, although some centers do offer an initial workshop.  Most doctors do not have the time to deal with it or take the time to understand it.  If you feel something not right, they often suggest it is cellulitis – an infection – not lymphedema.  It’s sad, because if caught early enough, the severity of the condition can be lessened considerably.

Why am I so passionate about sharing this information?  Well, for starters, this is a condition I do not ever wish to have myself.  It involves regular maintenance, the wearing of compression garments, unsightly swelling, heaviness, and is downright an inconvenience and would be a constant reminder to both myself and others of my cancer experience.

Here is some quick information for you to digest.

What is Lymphedema?

The following is the definition of lymphedema from the National Lymphedema Network (, an organization with clear and helpful information about lymphedema:

“Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the interstitial tissue that causes swelling, most often in the arm(s) and/or leg(s), and occasionally in other parts of the body.Lymphedema can develop when lymphatic vessels are missing or impaired (primary), or when lymph vessels are damaged or lymph nodes removed (secondary).

When the impairment becomes so great that the lymphatic fluid exceeds the lymphatic transport capacity, an abnormal amount of protein-rich fluid collects in the tissues of the affected area. Left untreated, this stagnant, protein-rich fluid not only causes tissue channels to increase in size and number, but also reduces oxygen availability in the transport system, interferes with wound healing, and provides a culture medium for bacteria that can result in Lymphangitis (infection).

Lymphedema should not be confused with edema resulting from venous insufficiency, which is not lymph-edema. However, untreated venous insufficiency can progress into a combined venous/lymphatic disorder which is treated in the same way as lymphedema.”

How do you know if you have it?

There are early warning signs that, along with measuring the limb, you may want to know:

  • tingling in the affected limb,
  • a feeling of fullness, the skin feeling too tight
  • a sleeve or pant leg that is suddenly tighter
  • a finger that suddenly swells
  • pitting – where an area pressed by your finger stays indented filling up slowly
  • less flexibility – bending is more difficult
  • any change to your skin

Most important, how can you reduce the risk?

Here are some tips.  For a full description, read the free report.

  • Skin Care – avoid trauma and injury to reduce the risk of infection
    • Cleanliness and proper moisturizing
    • Proper care when getting a manicure or pedicure (i.e. sterilized equipment, do not cut cuticles etc.)
    • Treat scratches and cuts immediately
    • DO NOT let anyone take your blood or blood pressure on the limb at risk.
    • Protect from insect bites and sunburn
  •  Activity and Lifestyle
    • When exercising, start slow, use slow movements, and be aware of how the limb feels.
    • Watch how your limb looks – redness, swelling – head to a doctor or the hospital – could be the start of an infection
    • Lifting – be careful lifting heavy objects.  This can be groceries, boxes, weights, children, suitcases, etc.    Try to remember 15 pounds as a limit, but also be aware of how your limb feels.
    • Being at an ideal weight also is a factor.
  • Avoid limb constriction
    • Purses – carry then across the other shoulder.
    • Garments and jewelry – loose is better
    • Again, no blood pressure on the limb at risk
  • Compression Garments
    • For air travel, wear a prevention garment.
    • Get up and move often
    • Wear a compression garment when lifting weights or other strenuous activity
  • Extremes of Temperature
    • Avoid hot tubs and saunas if possible.  If you do use them, limit yourself to no longer than 15 minutes or when the limb feels different whichever comes first.
    • Avoid extreme cold – especially applicable if you are an outdoors person.

These are just a few basic tips without a lot of explanation.  More information is outlined in the free report.

Who does it affect?

As mentioned, this is not a risk only for breast cancer patients, this is risk for:

  • men going through prostate surgery
  • those having lower abdominal surgery (ovarian, uterine, colon)
    • these cancers affect both men and women
  • head and neck  cancers (brain, thyroid, throat, etc.)

Some conditions are more severe than others, for sure.  No matter the severity, lymphedema is a condition you will want to avoid.

At time of writing, there are some surgical interventions being tested to ‘cure’ the condition.  They are:

  1. Lymphaticovenular bypass wherein through surgery they redirect the vessels in the affected area to avoid the buildup of fluids.
  2. Debulking involves opening up the affected area and removing the engorged tissues – rarely used because of possible damage to the tissues

Both systems have not proven themselves as yet and still require the patient to continue wearing compression garments and have lymphatic massage.  Not sure if the risk would be worth it if one still has to continue the same level of management.  Maybe in time, we will see a ‘cure’.  It seems to be on the medical research radar screen.

I would encourage you to not be complacent and think it can’t happen to you.  So many times, I’ve heard a sad story about someone who for years has been okay, and then in a moment of forgetfulness, finds themselves with lymphedema.

For myself, I am mindful of how I use my arm.  Simple things like:

  • Holding my dog’s leash in the unaffected hand in case she decides to pull suddenly as in seeing a rabbit.
  • Carrying the heaviest grocery bags in my unaffected arm.
  • Using my whole body to lift heavy object – i.e. large dog food bags
  • Lightening the load in my purse and using the shoulder strap on the ‘other’ side – or using a fanny pack – or carrying essential items in my pockets and going hands-free.
  • Exercise regularly but mindful of when I may have overdone it – then take the preventive steps.
  • Disinfecting scratches, insect bites, etc. quickly to prevent infection.  Had a scare this summer – a wasp sting on my finger on the affected arm.  Couldn’t disinfect it immediately as I was halfway around my one hour walk.  I was fortunate – I got it under control, but barely.
  • Using a luggage carrier for use in the airport terminal after I drop off my main luggage – until I got a small carryon bag with wheels.  However, I use the luggage carrier for transporting workshop materials into a building.  Saves my arm.
  • Have my grandchildren climb into my lap when possible rather than lifting them.  If I do lift them, I use my whole body and take the weight mainly in my unaffected limb.

So, the motto is – be informed.  Take precautions.  Be smart.


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Have Cancer And Can’t Sleep?

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel with insert by Becky Stewart, RN, The Cancer Nurse

Sleep becomes an issue, for sure, when going through cancer treatment. It seems to follow us through in life, especially if menopause kicks in (for women) as a result of chemotherapy. However, I know men also have this problem depending on their treatment and resulting lifestyle changes.

Even, after all these years, sleep can still evade me. Here are some ways I have found to make this a less prevalent problem without prescription sleeping pills, although early on in my healing, I did use a very low dose sleeping pill to break the pattern of no sleep. I definitely did not use them on a regular basis.

This was for good reason. During treatment, lorazapam was prescribed for anxiety to take before chemotherapy treatments. In 1990, there were no anti-nausea pills. I started to notice that I was having problems with simple math – a flag that something was off because math was my best subject in school. Turns out, lorazapam is valium. It took me three weeks of very minimal sleep to wean off these pills and I swore I would never do that again. However, it did allow me to sleep so I could heal – a trade off at that time.

Here are a few of my suggestions:

1.    Herbal sleep remedies – valerian/chamomile teas or capsules
2.    Qi-gong and Tai Chi before bed.  Calms the breathing and hence the mind
3.    No caffeine after lunch or no caffeine if you can.
4.    Fresh air and exercise.
5.    Music
6.    Quiet time

And if all else fails, I simply get up and read until I’m tired, then go back to bed.

Here is a wonderful article by Becky Stewart, a registered cancer nurse, offering her perspective from 37 years of working with cancer patients.

* * * * * *

Have Cancer And Can’t Sleep?
By Becky Stewart, RN, Cancer Nurse

When you have cancer there are many reasons that sleep is difficult, yet it is so important. During sleep, the body is able to heal and regenerate most effectively.

Causes of Sleeplessness

Causes of sleeplessness, when you are dealing with cancer, are fairly self evident. You may have trouble shutting off your mind, you have many thoughts of: what if, what now, how can it be, and a million other things. You may be overtired, you may be on steroids (which can cause sleeplessness on their own), you may have your days and nights mixed up (too long or too many naps during the day), or you may not be getting enough exercise.


I know when I tell people they need exercise I get a lot of dirty looks. I do understand you may be fatigued (plain old tired) and I also know that exercise can be helpful in relieving that tiredness. Cancer nurses and patients have known that exercise gives people a sense of well being. So there have been studies done on the effects of exercise during cancer and cancer treatment. These have proven that 10 to 20 minutes of exercise every day or every other day help people feel better and improve people’s outlook on life and may help you sleep better.


When you have cancer, naps are tempting for sure, and of course, you may nap. Here are hints for not getting your days and night mixed up. Your bed is for night time, if you can, nap on the couch or in a comfortable chair this is better for you. It will help you remember you are napping, not going for a long sleep. A nap is just an hour or two of rest not a marathon sleep. When you are tired, try sitting at an activity. This may be watching TV, reading, crafting, or visiting with friends and family.


If you are taking steroids as part of your cancer treatment and they are keeping you awake, talk to your oncology doctor.  Your doctor is very aware of this problem. The doctor may prescribe a sleeping medication. You may want to try some of these suggestions in addition to sleeping medications. Don’t give up, there is help for you.

Shutting Your Mind Off

Shutting your mind off from the thoughts of dealing with cancer that keep you awake, or wake you up after just a short time sleeping can be a real problem. It may take awhile to find what will work for you. Some people find that a routine before bed helps. A shower or a bath, a cup of chamomile tea, or warm milk along with a set bedtime has worked for many people.

Set a Time for Worry

Another thing to try is to set a time earlier in the day to worry and fret about your cancer. This may sound silly but it works for some people. Make this time useful by listing what you are worrying about. Then find ideas that will make these problems smaller. Your ideas for solutions can be silly; humor can ease stress all by itself. Laughter is a wonderful thing.

Use of Worry Time

During your worrying time make a point of being positive, this may be difficult at first, when you are dealing with cancer but, it does get easier with practice. Plan for your future after cancer during your worrying time. Take care of things that need to be taken care of.  This will make your list of worries smaller. And give you the satisfaction of accomplishment.

When Sleep Is Interrupted

If you fall asleep then awaken at night, try getting up out of bed. While you are up try reading, do crossword puzzles, watch TV and my favorite praying. When we pray we are turning our troubles over to the Lord, He is the One who can take care of everything in the best possible way.

Cancer causes the feeling that you are out of control but you can control how you react to this “loss of control.”

Remember that cancer counseling is available and can be very helpful. Talk to people at cancer support groups about what helps them sleep and share what works for you.

Cancer is a bump in the road of your life’s journey. You didn’t plan for it but it doesn’t have to be all there is in your life.


About the Author
Becky Stewart is a registered nurse with 37 years experience, specializing in cancer nursing. She offers advice, guidance and support for cancer patients and their loved ones.

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The Importance of Creating Your Own Medical Records Book

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel with insert by Jackie Malena, Founder, Surviving Cancer 101

How many of you have kept or requested a copy of all your medical records?

It became increasingly apparent to me during my post treatment phase when I moved to another city, that the reality of my records being accumulated and/or transferred to one place was rather remote. Some were there, but not all.

When I was diagnosed in 1990, I was living in a small town on Vancouver Island. My family doctor practised in the next small town. My surgeon was in a larger center a good hour’s drive north. Chemotherapy was also given in this center. Radiation treatment was administered in a city three hours south which required a stay in the Lodge across from the hospital during the week. And my initial assessment was done on the mainland a ferry’s ride away.

There were records in each of these centers, plus my doctor’s office. And, in the process of gathering them all together when I moved back to Calgary, I discovered that my original pathology report was missing. Fortunately, I had obtained a copy previously so I had it in hand. This is a record you need if, heaven forbid, your cancer ever comes back.

Over the years, I have had to refer back to these records on occasion and am so grateful that someone encouraged me to compile my own file.

What I would have liked was a system for when I was going through treatment. In the article below, Jackie outlines a very simple and effective way to do this. I encourage you to follow her instructions, even if you are long past your treatment – gather it all together. You may need it someday and with records not being kept past 10 years, who knows if you will be able to access your records when needed.

* * * * * **

Create Your Medical Records Book –
by Jackie Malena, founder of Surviving Cancer 101.

It is so important to be a “good” patient, and a big part of that is being an informed patient. Know right now that it’s your responsibility to gather the information you need.

First and foremost, buy a big three-ring binder so you can keep your medical records in one place. Make sure your binder has big rings in it. You won’t think you’ll need it but it will fill up fast.

Your medical binder should contain the following:

1. A three-hole punch that snaps into the binder. (They are flat and cost about $1.)
2. A business card holder page to keep all your doctors’ business cards. That way you will have telephone numbers handy at all times.
3. A zipper bag to hold discs from your scans.
4. A spiral notebook for notes and questions. Put dates by all your notes, and write down pertinent information like center locations, doctors’ names, etc., in your notes.
5. In the inside pocket of the binder, keep a running list of all your medications and supplements. Keep the list on a piece of paper you can easily pull out and share at appointments.

As your journey continues, you will see lots of different people so it is critical to stay organized. After every medical visit, make sure you always get a copy of the doctor’s notes, pathology results, scan reports and scans. They may not be ready right away but when you are checking out or setting up your follow-up appointment, ask the scheduler when you can pick up the notes or if they can they be mailed, faxed or e-mailed to you. Get your scan images and reports from the radiology department of the facility where you had your scans. Many hospitals and imaging companies offer them on disc now so you don’t have to carry around the big x-rays anymore.

During the cancer process, many doctors, nurses, technicians, assistants, etc., will touch your file. That leaves a lot of room for error, so it’s important to know what is in it. Once you get your reports, read them. I know this can be scary but it’s necessary. If you don’t know a word, “Google” it or look it up in a medical dictionary. The more informed you become on your disease, the easier it will be to deal with and heal. You also lesson a chance for error.

Take your binder with you to every appointment. Even if you are being seen for a cold or an annual check-up, take it with you and get those notes. One drug or procedure could affect another, so make sure all doctors in your journey are up to speed on what is going on with you. On top of just being a smart thing to do, this will give you credibility with your doctors and I promise they will deal with you a little differently than before. Good doctors want you to be informed. If your doctor doesn’t like your proactive approach, think about getting a different doctor.

Remember, this isn’t about your doctor’s journey; it is about YOUR journey. Don’t take a chance of dying polite!

About the Author: In her nine-year battle with cancer, Jackie has learned so much. Her website,, along with her book ‘Surviving Cancer 101, From Discovery to Recovery’, allows her to share–from one cancer patient to another–the valuable tips and tools that made her journey manageable.

* * * * * **

So, now you have a simple system – take the time to put it together. If you don’t feel up to it, ask for help. I’m sure someone in your circle will be more than happy to lend you a hand. I always found that those close to us are always looking for ways they can be helpful – to be supportive – and make life a little easier for you.

For some of us, it’s pride that holds us back. Check your pride and give someone else the gift of helping you.



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Cleaning Products that are Safe, Simple and Natural

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel with insert by Dalia Sreideriene

After cancer, most of us work hard to get toxins out of our system , including the chemical residue of chemotherapy and radiation. It’s why we consider organic fruits and vegetables to avoid all the pesticides. If we can’t afford organic, we at least do a veggie rinse to take off the outlying layer of pesticides.

However, have you thought about the toxins that lurk in your cleaning supplies?

These toxins are found in everyday cleaning supplies in the aisles of your local grocery store? One of the statistics I heard shortly after I was diagnosed and through treatment was the fact that women (and men) who worked at home had higher rates of chemical exposure and absorption than those who worked either outside or in an office environment. That totally scared me.

At that point, I make it a priority to find other products for cleaning rather than using toxic chemicals that would further pollute my being and environment, especially at home where I had some control over this issue. A couple of product lines I’ve used, and some still use, are Melaleuca, a tea tree oil based line (direct sales) and Seventh Generation (available in Health Food stores).

Simpler and less expensive still are cleansers you can make from your kitchen cupboard. I recall my Mom using these ingredients when I was young. They worked and have stood the test of time.

Here are some ideas, as related in an article ‘Top 5 Natural Cleaning Products’ by Dalia Sreideriene. I thought they were worth sharing.

“The natural cleaning products are increasingly becoming popular among many people. This is as a result of the various advantages derived from using them such as safety, reliability and high quality.There is also a wide range of products you can choose from.

The following is a list of the top 5 natural cleaning products you can use.

1. The kitchen cleanser products

The best products are made from lemon essential oils and baking soda. Get a stainless steel shaker and put baking soda halfway. Keep adding the oil drops as you are stirring. The contents are stirred as you add baking powder and oil until the contents fill the shaker. Once the can is full, close it tightly and shake well to mix the contents. After the contents are thoroughly mixed, sprinkle the contents on the counter and wipe the surface using a cloth or sponge.

2. Floor cleaners

You will require filtered water, lemon essential oil and distilled white vinegar. Making the cleaner is simple since you only require filling a squirt bottle of about 160oz with equivalent amounts of water and vinegar. An additional 15-20 drops of essential oil is put into the bottle and shaken to mix. Squirt small amounts on the floor and wipe with a clean mop or rag. The product can be used on ceramic tile, vinyl and finished wood.

3. Tub & tile cleaner

Take baking soda and mix it with a liquefied soap in a bowl. Dilute the contents with water and add vinegar. Beat the contents using a fork until you get a homogenous solution with a pourable consistency. The mixture should be put into a squirt bottle with a tight lid to prevent drying up of contents. To use the cleaning product, squirt a small amount on the surface you are cleaning and then scrub it.

4. Glass cleaning

To make the product, take distilled water and soap and put it in a 16oz squirt bottle and then add vinegar. Agitate the contents in the bottle to adequately mix them. To use the cleaning agent, spray some on the window and wipe using a squeegee or paper towel. The soap can be used in the removal of wax left behind by conventional glass cleaning products.

5. All purpose cleaner

To make this green cleaning product you should mix borax and vinegar in a 16oz bottle. Fill the bottle up with water and agitate strongly until all the products have dissolved in the solvent. The liquid soap is added into the mixture and then more shaking done. Using the natural cleaning products only involves spraying and then wiping off the surface to be clean.”

About the Author
Dalia Sreideriene – We keep your home and office clean using environment friendly products; ensures excellent service any time.

Not only are these natural products less toxic for our bodies, they are eco-friendly to the environment. If you have young children and/or pets in your home, you will be creating a non-toxic environment for them to breathe in. Additionally, you can reduce the risk of poisoning from ingesting poisons in the commercial products more commonly available.

If you have other recipes for natural cleaning products, please share. We will all benefit. If my Mother was still alive, I’m sure she would have several more ideas to pass along.

To your better health and your family’s better health,


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The Most Difficult Part of the Journey

By Pat Wetzel, Founder and Member of The Anti-Cancer Club

“The most difficult part of the cancer journey started when treatment ended.”

I had a fascinating conversation the other day with Gai Comans in Australia. She is putting together a series of interviews of people’s cancer experiences, focusing on breast cancer.  We talked a bit between interviews and shared some of our experiences.   I found it interesting that both of us found that the most difficult part of the cancer journey started when treatment ended.

For me, it was as if I left the oncology office and fell off a cliff.  Now what? What could I do for better health?  Aside from recovering my energy after a difficult 6 rounds of chemo (plus radiation and surgery), surely there was something within my control.

Like many before me, I found David Servan-Schreiber’s book Anticancer A New Way of Life.  The combination of a mesmerizing personal story told by an MD was a powerful combination.  For those of you not familiar with this book, pick it up!   Dr. Servan-Schreiber was on staff at the University of Pittsburgh when he was given a cancer diagnosis: brain cancer.  Fast forward a few years, and his tumor returned.  The recurrence sent him on a worldwide tour de force with the question of what creates anti-cancer health.

I read everything I could get my hands on. Dean Ornish’s study of men with prostate cancer showed that lifestyle issues impacted one’s genetic expression.  That was a ray of hope. It meant that I had some control over the chaos of cancer that had invaded my body and my life.

I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to take “control” of my health.   Unbeknownst to me at the time, through a series of trial and error, my life was going to change considerably.

Chemo was difficult in retrospect.  I think I went through it in a blaze of denial. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, again and again, until I collapsed (usually just a few hours after getting up!) Perhaps the most difficult side effect (other than the retched prednisone) was that I totally lost the will to eat.  It wasn’t life threatening, but it felt as if I’d lost a vital life force within me.  I started eating with one goal in mind:  nutrition.  Every bite had to count because there were so few.

This was a radical shift from my usual approach to food.  I grew up on great food.  French cheeses, wonderful sauces, plenty of meat, muffins, pasta, risotto, and diet soda please!  So my newfound focus on nutrition tore apart many of my traditional preferences and forced me to rethink and relearn how to eat.

It sounds simple, right?  Rather like “eat more vegetables”.  But which vegetables?  And what the heck is kale and chard?

The amount of information one needs to assimilate to start making healthy choices is vast and often controversial.  Topics such as Organic versus Non-Organic; Dairy; Omega 3 versus Omega 6 fatty acid balance; Vegan versus Vegetarian versus Flexitarian:  Glycemic indices;  Anti-Angiogenesis; Alkaline versus Acidic; all are components of making healthy anti-cancer nutritional decisions.

Add to this the need to then make informed choices on individual foods, and the path to health starts looking fairly complicated.   My own path through all this was uneven at best.  At one point I went vegan and was terribly unhappy. All I could see was what I couldn’t have.  Life without cheese, I decided, wasn’t worth living.

But I did learn some very valuable lessons in my foray into veganism.  It forced me to examine my eating habits. Yogurt was my standard breakfast (complete with sugar or artificial sweetners).  My standard snack was a hunk of cheese.  Until I eliminated dairy from my diet, I didn’t realize how much I consumed.  And I didn’t realize how much better I could feel without it.

Going completely vegan wasn’t the answer for me. But what was? Juicing, smoothies, protein powder, to soy or not?  Finally, after a bit more experimentation and ongoing research, some common sense and moderation set in.  I realized that I needed to define what created sustainable anti-cancer health for ME.

What is anti-cancer health?  

It’s a combination of:

thoughtful nutrition on a daily basis; 
regular exercise; 
stress management and attention to that mind/body connection; 
and finally, staying socially connected with a supportive network. 

It sounds so simple, but is it?

A healthy lifestyle probably means some education and adjustment for most of us. And that is how the Anti-Cancer Club was founded. I realized that my situation and frustration were not unique: the lack of a definition of health, much less a plan, was a universal problem with cancer.

Today, four years after my original diagnosis, my life has changed considerably. I meditate daily. Meditation came into my life after my first round of chemo. I was under a great deal of stress and my cancer had come raging back. It became apparent that I had to do something about how I managed stress. Meditation became the answer and it has been a transformative practice in my life.

I stay active hiking, playing tennis and am starting QiGong. My diet now is low glycemic and vegetable and fruit rich. I do not eat processed or prepared food. I choose to eat fish and a very limited amount of dairy (cheese). If I eat any meat, it is in small quantities and grass fed.

I’ve strengthened my connections to like minded and supportive people and have let the others leave my life. Life is far too short to expend energy on people who don’t care. There’s a great saying: Don’t leap across oceans for people who won’t step across a puddle for you! I took that philosophy to heart!

From my own path to health, the Nutritional Boot Camp was born to provide a blue print to help others. Similarly our Life Balance Blog offers tips for physical, emotional and mind/body health. “Tell Your Story” provides inspiration from others. And our growing network of international business partners offers services (such as nutritional counseling and meditation) to people anywhere in the world via phone and Skype.

The Nutritional Boot Camp

The Nutritional Boot Camp is a good example of our basic methodology for change. Each week we take one food, flavor or idea. Your mission is simply to try it. If you like it, keep it. If not, discard it. You never have to give anything up; each week you get to add something new.

By tackling concepts and foods in an incremental manner, our Nutritional Boot Camp accomplishing two things:

We’re creating a sustainable habit of gradual change. 
We’re providing the rationale for the change.

The Boot Camp organizes information into three levels:

Level One: Basic Food Information 
Level Two: Basic Concepts
Level Three: Staying On Track

This provides both the framework for understanding nutritional concepts as they relate to an anti-cancer life and the information on the specific foods. Then it’s up to you to decide what works in your life. We also offer access to nutritional counselors (and other services) to help guide you along your path.

Creating a sustainable, personalized eating plan does not have to be difficult. In six months, you’ll be provided with twenty six new ideas. If you implement just six of them, you’ll be on the path to health. And this shift towards better health will spill over into mind/body health, exercise and stress management as well.

Getting started is simple.

Just try this week’s food, flavor or idea in your diet. Over time, as you become educated about the Basic Concepts, your nutritional decision making will become more informed and more refined. It’s an ongoing process with endless nuances and possibilities.

Feeling great, especially when recovering from cancer treatment has its own rewards. Regaining your energy, watching your skin glow again, seeing the brightness in your eyes—these are gifts that most of us will never take for granted again.

Whether it’s Day 1 or Day 1001 of your cancer journey, you need to be living an anti-cancer life. This holiday season, give the priceless gift of health by setting an example for your loved ones.

I invite you to join us in a thoughtful, fun and achievable approach to transforming your health, one step at a time. The weekly newsletter comes out Sunday morning and it’s free. Click here to sign up.

Carpe Diem!

Pat Wetzel

Founder and Member, The Anti-Cancer Club™
Diagnosed with a rare non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2009, Pat has made anti-cancer health a daily priority. Through the Anti-Cancer Club she provides weekly, actionable ways to take charge of your health. You can contact her directly at The Anti-Cancer Club is also on Twitter and Facebook.

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To Goal Set or Not to Goal Set – Try a Vision Board Instead

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

With the New Year rolling around in a week or so, goal setting seems to be an activity for many . . . personal and business goals – targets to achieve in the year ahead. Or new behaviours to enhance whatever is lacking in your life. This can be a great activity to assess what worked in the year past and to set the stage for the year ahead.
However; what does goal setting mean to you now – after cancer? Did this activity, if you happened to participate, change?
There are many who don’t write goals deeming them a set up for failure if goals are not achieved. I can see that. However, as a list maker, I know the value of writing things down to ensure that the task actually gets accomplished and doesn’t get lost somewhere in the ramblings of my now chemo enhanced brain. So, I can take that thought with me into goal setting – ticklers/reminders. This allows flexibility for change.
In my first year after cancer, my goal simply was to be alive and well for the second year – and then, the third, fourth and fifth year. The rest didn’t mean much in the face of cancer and the loss of innocence around immortality.
However, after 23 years post cancer, I am back to goal setting on a different level. One of those goals is to ensure I walk my talk – keep balance in my life so that I stay healthy and not fall back into old patterns that didn’t serve me well before. It’s hard. But my body tells me when I’ve gone too far outside my healing path. Then I reassess and get back to basics. So my goals are centered on maintaining balance between staying healthy and pursuing my purpose/mission in life.
Where are you on your cancer journey?
Are you newly diagnosed? Are you in treatment? Are you just a year or so past treatment? Did you have cancer many years ago? Has your cancer come back?
At each phase, your perspective will be different as it was for me.
Life evolved as I moved way past my cancer treatment. The lesson was learning to be present in every moment. Do I achieve this all the time? No!! But I strive to live in the moment, taking joy from simple pleasures, planning ahead only to give me guidance and clarity for tasks at hand, to be a checkpoint along my healing path and to help me appreciate what I have, not what I don’t have.
One of the ways I have done this is not by sitting down and fashioning out a big list of goals and then prioritizing them into A, B, and C status, but to have fun. This method brings out the true soul and intention of what your inner self is actually thinking about or wanting.
I was exposed to this method by a business coach a many years ago. She gathered like minded souls together for an afternoon of fun. We all milled around and searched through old magazines, brochures, flyers, for images of what spoke to us. In between, we chatted, nibbled on finger food, had drinks, but mostly, we were all focused inward waiting to see what would ‘show up’ in our searching.
Once we had our selection of bits and pieces of pictures, words, icons, whatever – we abandoned ourselves with scissors and glue sticks, to the task of picking through our choices, arranging them on a large poster board and creating a collage of what turned out to be important happenings in our lives – of what we felt was being shown to us – what we would spend time on in the coming year.
I recall the first year doing this. I posted the collage on my office door and would look at it in passing as I entered my office each day. I didn’t really make a conscious effort of looking at the collage – I just saw it every day.
The next year rolled around. The same group didn’t reconvene, so I decided to put a group together myself. We again sat around over coffee and muffins, lots of conversations, scissors, glue, pens, and went through the process. Same process as the year before, different group of friends, totally different scenario!
As in the year before, we all had an opportunity to share what showed up in our collage. Our comments were heard and others had a chance to share what they saw. Totally amazing! Sometimes our subconscious reveals more than we realize – it’s what others see who have no agenda, no relationship – just raw, true seeing. It still blows my mind when I am in the midst of such insight.
That first year’s collage revealed much about what I needed to do in my life, as well as pointed me in a direction that I hadn’t thought about before. At the end of that year, when I looked back on my collage, 90% of what I put in that collage came true.
Same has been happening for the second collage and third and fourth. This year I’ll do another one and put it on my office door.
What was important!
However, the most important thing I found was not about having, but about growing. With cancer comes a new perspective about life – how fragile and short it can be. Stuff doesn’t matter. In fact, in our society, generally we have too much stuff. It’s about quality of life. What gives you meaning? What would you like to leave behind – i.e. how will people remember you? Did you leave any gifts behind – talents you were given but didn’t pursue because others felt you needed to do something else with your life?
These vision boards reveal much about what is lurking in the shadows of your being. They bring out those inner desires, talents, voices – however you want to describe that process. You don’t have to be an artist to do these vision boards. That’s not the point. It’s just the doing.
It’s also a time to be alone – just you. Yes, I’ve done mine with a group, but this year, I feel the need to spend time by myself. So, I will go solo with my vision board this year. An afternoon of simply whiling away a few hours with my magazines, pictures, glue, pens and some great music, while my dog hopefully will lie quietly without bugging me for a walk or to go out. If I’m lucky, I might even have the house to myself for those few precious hours.
What might show up for you?
Can you find a couple of hours to listen to your inner self? If nothing else, it’s fun. If you have children, maybe they could join you and make this a family project during the holidays. Who knows what they will envision? You may be surprised.
As Christmas comes each year, I am grateful that I am still present. That I have lived long enough after my cancer to see my son get married and give me two wonderful grandchildren, not to mention a very special daughter-in-law. Gifts beyond compare when I didn’t think I’d see my 50th birthday.
As I’ve mentioned before, the rest is just stuff. Health, family and relationships are at the heart of a full life. When your heart is full, you really need very little. Stuff does not fill empty places in your heart.
How do you fill your heart?
I hope as you move into 2014, that you move past ‘shoulds’ into new possibilities. Take action – try something new – reach out to someone – fill someone else’s heart – take up a long lost or new hobby – start an exercise program that will help you feel well – start a gratitude journal. Just suggestions! When you listen to yourself, you will know what’s important and what’s not. Believe in yourself. Be true to yourself.
From me to you, great health and well-being for 2014 and so many more,


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Cancer Help Hub content may be republished with a link to the full article on Such republication must include attribution with a link to the Cancer Help Hub homepage as follows: source, and then the website.