What I’m Grateful For Today …. And How I’m “Thriving”

(It has been a very long time since I posted here, but at 5:30 this morning I awoke with this “directive” and the words flowed. I hope they are helpful.)

At this juncture in my life, I have decided that I don’t have to apologize for who I am. I’ve spent my life being cautious about what I say, how I say it, to whom, etc. Recently a friend said to me, “stop saying you’re sorry all the time.”

Now, does that mean I aim to be mean or unkind? No. But it does mean that at this juncture I am going to be more open about who I am, what I think and not always nicy, nicy.

I am open-minded in that I’ll listen to others, try to understand where they are coming from, even if I don’t agree. I believe we are all entitled to our beliefs and that it’s not up to us to change someone else’s beliefs. Educate, share our rationale, but not change.

We all come from where we come and our beliefs are based on what we’ve learned, where we grew up, what we’ve experienced, the dynamics of our up-bringing/ family life. We are shaped into who we are. BUT, this often changes when we leave home, start our adult lives. Many maintain the feelings of their family values; others, change base on their profession, where they might re-settle, who they partner with, etc.

Why am I writing this at this point in my life?

I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve done extraordinary work, I’ve interacted with so many different groups of people. Underneath it, I think we, as people are generally similarly-minded. We are goodhearted, aim to be compassionate and helpful. Of course, there are a few “bad apples,” but for the most part we are good. Our biggest differences usually stem from our religion and our politics.

I’m sometimes cautious to express my feelings with others about those two things for fear of putting them off OR having them not like me. In fact, many of my actions have come from fear of not being liked or accepted.

In fact, my life has been driven to this: Be a nice person, don’t make waves, suppress much of what you think unless you feel safe SO that people will like me.

There, I’ve said it.

But, how do I THRIVE in that type of thinking?

I see myself also as a role model for others. People look up to me.

Here’s the contradiction: I’m very open. I’m pretty transparent. I often say “too much” or share too much. BUT, not all of it. I suppress that which might offend or turn people away or that might have others judge me.

Well, not anymore. I’m still not going to be rude (except maybe under my breath). I’m going to be more courageous, which is saying something because most people who know me think I’m very courageous.

If you knew where I come from, what I’ve attained, you’d know I’m courageous. Not in the type of courage where I climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, but in the things I’ve overcome and the moves I’ve made and the “start-overs.”

All of this is a way of saying, “I’m coming out even more.” I’m coming out in a more bold way to be more direct, say who I am, what I want, disagree out loud.

I’m saying this today from the space of this being Thanksgiving Day. It’s my way of being grateful to myself for who I am, the good deeds I do, the people I help AND for appreciating the people who love me and encourage me to be all I can be.

Thanks for listening.

And, in the future, if you hear me being quiet (as in suppressing what needs to be said) feel free to call me on it. I give you permission. But, be kind. And, know that “not suppressing” doesn’t suggest being “mean” – it means being honest, kind, generous but deliberate and unafraid.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and pat yourself on the back for all that you are. Then take a few moments to be grateful. I am grateful for being cancer-free, for my incredible son, Gabriel and his girlfriend Megan, for family and for delicious friends.

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Good Advice for Anyone … but Especially if you have Breasts

There are so many articles and events this month for National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Here’s the latest article from the American Cancer Society http://img.delivery.net/cm50content/19439/63076/LP/2-1/article_Featured_EN.html?utm_campaign=octoberexpanded&utm_medium=email&utm_source=fullserve-20131013-corpcenter-healthylivingexpansion-octoberexpanded&utm_content=acxiom

Let me make their 5 points for Healthy Breasts. If you want to “thrive” in this world … take care of your breasts.

1. Watch your weight — extra weight makes you at a higher risk

2. Exercise regularly. You don’t need a gym. You can walk … it’s free and it’s exhilarating. It’s my favorite choice.

3. Limit your alcohol intake. I might drink a glass of wine a couple of times a week. Period. You don’t need more than that unless you have a physical condition that the doctor has prescribed red wine for.

4. Avoid hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Taking it causes a higher risk of breast cancer.

5. Get your mammograms or ultasounds regularly. NOTE: Since I had “lumpy” breasts, my breast tumor(s) never showed up on mammograms … so I always have an ultrasound done to be sure.

So, what does all this have to do with Thriving? You want to have your best life ever. That means preventing illness when you can be proactive about it. It also means taking charge of how you live your life after you’ve had cancer. You are very much responsible for how you live.

Until next time.

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Everyone’s Writing for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This epidemic we call breast cancer is all over the place. I wrote about that the last time. It’s unnerving.

So, what to do?

First, don’t read everything you see posted, especially not the horror stories. Second, continue to live your life … thriving … in whichever stage you are in. Third, be grateful for how well you are doing and for the people in your life. Four, don’t engage in dangerous behavior.

So, let’s break these down:

1. There are so many posts. I get google alerts about cancer everyday. That’s how I stay current. I read what looks informative (e.g. some new discovery) or I read what seems to be positive .. none of the stuff that would scare me. That’s my choice.

2. Thrive. The dictionary defines thriving as: growing, making progress, having vigor, flourishing. These are all upbeat words. Even in the midst of treatment, we can thrive with our attitudes.

3. Each day, whether during or after cancer, it’s important to count your blessings. Who in your life is there to support you emotionally and loves you? How are you feeling — sometimes that’s a minute by minute question .. but find the good.

4. Avoid dangerous behaviors … e.g. don’t smoke, don’t drink too much,cover during sunlight, watch what you eat (everything in moderation). I personally have sugar craving. I have to deal with this one daily … trying to be cognizant of the research about sugar and cancer. When it gets to be too much, I take a break from sugar.

In other words, each moment, and each day, make the decisions that take you beyond surviving to thriving.

Catch you next time.

Posted in Ann Fry, Blog, breast cancer, Cancer, health care concern for patients, I am a thriver, Resilience, the Big C, thriving, thriving through an ordeal | 1 Comment

It’s October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The National Breast Cancer Foundation has deemed October as the month for it’s annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. In some ways, that is really awesome (but I’m not sure why it’s only 1 month). In other ways, it’s really too bad. Too bad that the breast cancer diagnosis has come to what I call “epidemic” proportions. If you ask almost anyone if they know someone who has (or has had) breast cancer, I’m sure you’ll get close to 100%.

I often laughingly ask … “is it in the water, or the air” Do we drink from the same glass of kool aid? Research has a great distance to go for us to truly know how and why so many people (mostly women) get this dreaded diagnosis.

What I want to say about breast cancer and any other cancer:  Change your behaviors before you get it  AND, once you have it, use it as a springboard for making the sort of life changes that will move you forward.

Prior … as we live our lives, we know we need to exercise, eat well, watch our alcohol intake and our stress. During, we need to focus on healing and getting well … whatever that means AND also asking for the sort of help we need through the process. After, developing an attitude of “thriving” … that is blossoming, blooming, opening … will help us move forward for the rest of our lives.

And, though all of these phases, having a great sense of humor, the ability to laugh, a sense of joy and curiosity  and a bit of playfulness … will definitely get you through the rough spots.

Let’s start October off right and let’s dialog and share our experiences.

Please tell us how you are thriving at www.iamathriver.com/your-stories/

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Thriving Through the Ordeal

In my last blog, I shared about my son’s cancer. Well, hallelujah .. all is well. He had surgery. The melanoma was taken out, as was a lymph node. And, great news, the cancer didn’t spread …. so he is now Cancer-Free. Yay. This experience was just a “blip on the screen” in his life and in mine.

But, there is the rest of the story. It’s not that easy. I was petrified, so was he. We all worked on staying upbeat for each other.                                                                                 Point:  Humor and Laughter are great ways to thrive in any circumstance.

We took it one day at a time. His surgery was on a Monday, so we had fun on the weekend before. He stayed home from work .. had to … he was way to woozy from the anesthesia. He hurt a lot too … but we laughed at his reactions. We also greatly enjoyed the antics of his girlfriend’s dog .. Izzy.. who became quite the nursemaid.                                             Point: Always thrive with the presence of others to help you.

We took great pictures — before, during, and after. He bought two new hats to wear and modeled them. When he was up and about, we enjoyed different places to eat — from greasy burgers, to elegant food.                                                                                                 Point:  Eating and hats are great ways to thrive (especially with loved ones.)

We watched him regenerate, revive, come back around … one day at a time. We also watched him accept that he had been diagnosed with cancer at age 35 and handle it with grace and ease. He leaned on me and his girlfriend (and Izzy) for nurturing. He had the support of his bandmates (he’s the lead singer of www.distantlightsmusic.com) and friends.

Point:  Always ask for support and love. It makes you a bigger person and is just as helpful to those who offer the support.

So, to Gabriel, to Megan, to Izzy and to all my friends who helped me thrive and grow through this ordeal … a huge thank you. But… I’m incredibly glad it’s over.

      

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I Have a New Role in the Realm of Cancer — oh no!

It’s been quite a bit of time since my last post, but I’m revving up. I’ll be using this as an opportunity to walk through my next phase regarding cancer — no, not my own, but rather that of my son.

Here’s some history that’s pertinent. I share it not to overwhelm you, but rather to discuss the insidious nature of this disease.

When I was 32 years old (and my son was a baby), my younger brother died of melanoma. He was 27 and it was a rapid cancer that took him in less than a year.

Since then, I’ve lost others — 2 brothers (one from cancer), a cousin from pancreatic cancer and I’ve had a niece experience cancer plus my own breast cancer. There’s a part of me screaming — “enough is enough.” I feel like I understand cancer now — the whole shebang … the diagnosis, the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the radiation, the hair loss. I know it from my years as a therapist, my time of running a hospice. I know it as the sister, the cousin, the aunt, the patient. But, none of that prepared me to hear the words from my son that he has melanoma. Nothing.

We’ve come a long way since my younger brother had it 35 years ago. My son’s odds are very good — caught it early, it’s small, yada, yada, yada. Surgery is in about a week and a half and then we’ll know. I’m “trying” keep my spirits up and know that all will be well, but until I know that, I don’t know that.

So, how do I / we, as humans, thrive during the challenging times? I’m a thriver — it says so all over this site.

I’m far away from where my son lives. I’m in NYC, he’s in Austin, TX. I’ll be there next week. But, while I’m in NY, I’m doing what I love to do here. I work at home, for myself. My concentration isn’t very good at the moment, so I give myself permission to do whatever helps me feel better. I’ve gone to some movies, out to dinner or for a glass of wine with friends. I’ll be going to a play this weekend, a social event on Friday night. I’m keeping my spirits up by NOT pulling inward, hiding. I’m carrying on with my life. Believe me, when I’m home later at night, ready for bed … I’m aware of that twinge of worry in my heart, BUT, I’m not consumed by it. I’m “hanging in there.” Period. That’s thriving to me.

I’m also not perfect. I’m eating comfort food (too much sugar and too many carbs), but I’m balancing that with walking and exercise. You see … life goes on in spite of whatever is going on elsewhere. It’s up to each one of us to carry that through.

I hope this post helps to set the context for the rest to follow. I’ll be reporting about how I am thriving throughout this ordeal AND this ordeal will be going on for the next couple of weeks. Please keep coming back, reading and most especially, sharing your comments and adding to the page about how you are thriving.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

 

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Having a Great Mindset to Deal with Cancer and Thrive

It’s been sometime since I last posted here … I promise to get better and write more often. I sincerely want us all to share how we are thriving….. even if we still have the disease.

I want to focus a bit today on what it means to be an “ordinary” person dealing with an extraordinary experience. What do I mean by “ordinary?” I mean — not a celebrity, but rather an everyday person. I didn’t have the help and resources and public persona during my experience, but you know what, I think many of you identify with me because of that.

When I share my story, people come up and say, “wow, you really get me.” I love that. I want people to feel “gotten.” Remember, everyone’s cancer adventure is different .. it’s important that we never compare ourselves to anyone else. And, remember, it is a 360° experience — in other words, we feel it in the Sum Total of our lives.

So, what mindset can we develop to deal with it all? A mindset refers to an attitude or an intention. We can set our minds to see something as negative or positive (in a simplistic way). We handle it based on how we handle other things. Do we go and hide under the blanket or do we face it head on, ready to take action?

My mindset at diagnosis (even though I was afraid) was: “I’m going to BEAT this. I’m not going to die from this disease. This disease is not going to kill me.”

I’m hoping that perhaps I can share a few tips with you about setting your mindset to help you get through whatever experience you might be having. If you’re interested, you can go here and download FREE your 10 Tips for Having the Best Mindset in Dealing with the Diagnosis of Cancer (whew, long title). I hope it helps and be sure to let others know about it as well. Just download here:  http://cancer-360.com/

I’ll be back again soon with another post. Thanks!

 

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Cancer 360° — A Full View of the Cancer Adventure

Wow … big expectations.

How do we discuss the entire experience/ adventure someone with cancer goes through? Well, I suppose one step at a time. As a Thriver, I remember from the earliest moment — diagnosis, then surgery, then surgery again, then meeting with my oncologist, then chemotherapy, losing my hair, radiation and two more years of exhaustion. I remember the ups and the downs, the moods, the fear, the joy. I remember supporting my grown son through his experience and wanting everyone to be positive with me. I remember being incredibly scared about how I would survive financially — being a self-employed woman who couldn’t work at the time. I remember every “post cancer” visit to the doctor or for a new mammogram and wondering if I was okay.

You see, Cancer is a full illness. There are implications for every aspect of your life and the life of your loved ones. Without paying attention, something can get the best of you. It’s like juggling and keeping all the balls in the air.

To thrive effectively, we have to know what we are up against.

Join the conversation. Post your experiences of thriving … how you are coming through the experience. You will undoubtedly help those around you. Go here to tall your story: http://iamathriver.com/your-stories/

If you have a few minutes and want to hear more, you can download a 10 minute audio tape with yours truly here:  http://fryday.audioacrobat.com/download/TheBigC-Cancer360.mp3

I am so glad to be part of your community and to have you in mine.

Posted in Ann Fry, breast cancer, Cancer, caregiving, health care concern for patients, I am a thriver, patient advocacy, physcian compassion, Resilience, thriving | Leave a comment

Conversations with Loved Ones.

I read an interesting article today about a well-known sports announcer who is now facing his third battle with cancer. He titled his article, “Trying to stay alive for my daughters.” It was quite moving.

Sometimes in the midst of treatment protocols, it would be easy to just let it all go. It’s tough to feel bad, have no energy, wonder if it will do any good. But, the shining light behind it all are the loved ones who still want you to be there.

I remember my treatment. I discussed every step of it and every option with my son. He’s a grown-up .. in his 30’s, but he is the most important person in the world to me. He actually researched all the options and had an opinion, but ultimately told me I would have to decide on the path to go. Knowing that I had the choices to make, and knowing that I had his permission to choose was very liberating. While I wanted him (in some ways) to do the choosing for me, he would not, nor should he.  Did he want me to live — of course.

Since my treatment (nearly 3 years ago now), we’ve had conversations about what I would do if the cancer returned. He knows I’m on long-term medication for the next 5 years. We hope that holds the cancer at bay. However, we know there are no assurances.

Cancer is the disease that never goes away. Yes, it goes into remission, but it’s always lurking. I encourage all of you experiencing this disease and all of your loved ones to have the conversations about it … both in the present and looking at the future. But ultimately, it comes down to the person in the experience. He/she needs to choose … knowing, of course, that the choices might not please everyone. But, that’s how we stay in command of our own bodies.

Given that cancer can return … my message, as always … live life to it’s fullest every day.

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Being an Ordinary Woman in a Celebrity World

Hi Everyone,

It’s been quite some time since I last posted here. Sorry. However, I’ve been preparing and revving up to launch more of this philosophy to the world. I know I’m meant to speak, to be an advocate, to teach, to inspire. I know that my experience with the Big “C” was meaningful to me and I want to share that with others.

As a professional speaker, I’ve often given Keynote addresses in front of large audiences. I love that. It’s not my ego, but rather an opportunity to perhaps say something that gets people excited or even introspective. I LOVE to see the lights go on in their eyes when they have a moment of insight. It’s the best view yet.

In working to get myself out there to speak about the Cancer Adventure, however, I’ve come up against the “celebrity” issue. Conferences want celebrities who have had cancer to speak because they draw more people. I understand that. Economically, it makes sense. However, just because someone is a celebrity, even one with Cancer, it doesn’t mean that people will relate to them. That’s where I come in.

My new angle is:  Cancer 360. In my previous life, I was a psychotherapist and I worked a lot with patients and family with illness. I ran a Hospice and trained volunteers. I’ve been a caretaker / sister of people who have died from cancer and then I had my own. Significantly, when I was diagnosed, I was in my 60’s, single, lived alone, was self-employed and living in the most expensive city in the world. Oh, and I had very limited resources. I didn’t have a chef, someone to go to market for me, I didn’t have a driver or car or a personal trainer. I had wonderful friends who helped. They’d take me home from chemo in cabs and they’d bring over food. But, at night, there was no one next to me to say, “honey, can you get me.” I know what it is like to be an “ordinary person” dealing with an extraordinary experience… and I have much insight.

I say all this because I know there are many other “ordinary” people out there … living life on the edge, on limited resources, who want someone who can relate to them. That’s why I write here; that’s why I’m reaching out to speak.

I hope it’s valuable. And, if you know conferences looking for a good speaker on Cancer, I’m the one :)  Your comments are appreciated.

Happy New Year! May 2013 be your best year ever.

Posted in Ann Fry, breast cancer, Cancer, caregiving, I am a thriver, patient advocacy, Resilience, the Big C, thriving | Leave a comment