Cancer is nothing when you have hope!! This site is all about living … and living well … with late-stage cancer. I hope you will journey along with me through the ups and downs of living with lung cancer.
I recently saw a question raised by a lung cancer survivor who was experiencing difficulty breathing after radiation treatments. She wanted to know what tips we had that could help her improve her breathing.
I am very fortunate because I have not personally experienced many breathing issues. So, I put Dr. Google to work in order to try to answer her question.
There are a few articles hitting the news lately about how too much sitting contributes to a number of cancers. The reason for this spate of news is a talk given by Charles Matthews of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting held in Austin, TX in February 2018, “Unraveling the Relations Between Sedentary Behavior, Physical Activity and Health.” Matthews is in the process of helping rewrite the NCI’s 10-year-old exercise guidelines, based in part on what large epidemiologic studies using accelerometers are showing with regard to what constitutes beneficial exercise. (For anyone like me who doesn’t know what epidemiologic studies are – they are “studies of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why.”1)
I am sitting here staring at a blank sheet of paper, wondering what I have to say to you that will be worth your time reading it. I am no scientist. With the advent of chemo brain, I don’t even really enjoy reading and researching like I once did. So I have no great wisdom to impart.
What I do have to pass along is hope. Such a little word but one that has the ability to change your life. Hope crowds out anxiety and pushes away fear. It fills you with peace and can motivate you. ….More
I was just looking at my Facebook memories. I love those! I find myself posting things I want to remember to Facebook now so that they will show up in my memories in the future. Am I the only person who does that? More…
A few years ago, I wrote a number of blog posts for Patient Power. I am going to provide links to them on my blog. Happiness is My Normal was originally posted 4/28/2016
Ugh. I woke up at about 2:30 this morning. Got up, went to the bathroom, plopped back down and expected to go right back to dreamland. Not happening tonight (this morning?).
It is probably my fault. I play an electronic game called Township. And, instead of actually plopping down and closing my eyes to sleep, i picked up the silly game. Just for a minute.
Well, that minute is now nearly an hour and here I am, working on a blog post instead of sleeping. It wouldn’t be so bad, but i have somewhere to go later this morning so i can’t just sleep in.
Where do i have to go, you ask. Well, unbelievable as it is … Yoga. If you had told me four months ago that I would finally be going to the gym and working out, i would have thought you were nuts. But, it is true!
And, boy! I am enjoying it!! I can go to the FitSteps program on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. FitSteps is a program developed by a retired oncologist for cancer patients. There is a personal trainer who helps us each with a program designed specifically for us. It is at FitSteps where I go to yoga, too.
I had never even tried yoga until three weeks ago. What we do is probably called chair yoga – we use chairs anyway. And, it is for beginners. It is really a lot of fun … And it is good exercise, too.
I look forward to yoga class. I even look forward to walking on the treadmill. And, i look forward to seeing the other cancer survivors who come to work out. We laugh a lot. And, if there is one thing I love to do, it is laugh.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my friend Linda and I have started going to the local Community Center. Ten dollars a year gains us access to a very well equipped gym and a variety of classes. As we were leaving the gym yesterday, a lady invited us to join their exercise class. I am surely going to think about doing just that. I may be the only person on earth who actually enjoyed gym class way back when i was a kid. I think i will enjoy an exercise class.
My motivation for going to the gym was to get my strength and stamina back after radiation treatments. Additionally, i have been complaining for years about gaining weight and my huge belly. I am finally doing something more than complain. It feels good. I hope it works.
Even if i stay oversized … How I hope not … the exercise is good for me. There are so many studies out there that tout the benefits of exercise, especially for cancer patients. Sadly, the research shows that only 10% of patients exercise while in treatment and only 30% do after finishing treatment. I hope i stay in the 10% that get out and get moving! It isn’t habit yet. I still have to make myself go, even though i like it when i get there.
4 AM. I am yawning but my mind isn’t feeling tired. My eyes do. Oh well. I think i will spend a little time doing my Bible reading. I never make New Year resolutions but i made two for 2018. One is to get fit and the other is to read my Bible from cover to cover.
I have never done that. I tried one other time and quit … I hope I am more successful with it this time. I don’t manage to get it done every day, I am sorry to say. So, i have some catch-up to do.
Did you make resolutions? Are you sticking with them? Are you on an exercise program? If not, consider it!!!
(Forgive the lowercase “i” … I do know better, but I typed this on my tablet and it doesn’t automatically capitalize. I am too lazy this early morning to go fix them all.)
Do you like to sing? Well, guess what? Science says it is good for you to sing.
Benefits of Singing
Prevention magazine lists six ways singing is good for you:
Singing eases your stress and improves your quality of life
It can help you bond
This one is BIG!!! Singing improves immunity in cancer patients!!!
Singing may be good for your heart (it is definitely good for your soul!)
Really? Singing helps curb snoring! (Your significant other may like this!!)
Singing may help people with asthma
Wow! Who knew?
Even though I love it, I am a terrible singer. I used to get such a kick out of my little family when we would be in church. All three of us were singing our hearts out. All on a different key. And none on the same key as the masses. I know our pewmates wished we would just mouth the words!
Usually, that’s just what I do if I am in a crowd. I mouth the words. Even when we are singing happy birthday to someone. I am just so embarrassed that I can’t carry a tune. But, get me alone!!! That’s when the stops come out! I love to belt out songs that mean something to me.
Let’s Share Favorites!
So, the purpose of this blog is not only to inform but to share. I have some favorite songs that I want you to have the opportunity to hear. I hope one or more of them will speak to you like they do to me.
One of the most meaningful songs to me is Mandisa’s “Overcomer.” That’s what we cancer survivors are, right? Overcomers? Take a listen! (And, if you aren’t a cancer patient, there is no doubt in my mind that you are not overcoming challenges of your own. This song works for all of us!)
Laura Story’s Blessings speaks volumes to me. We don’t have to look far to see blessings in our lives. And, sometimes, what seems to be the worst thing to ever happen to us isn’t.
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
Lots of people might call me crazy (no offense taken if you do), but I see so many blessings in my life as a result of my cancer diagnosis. I know you are thinking, “You must be kidding.” But, I’m not kidding at all. It isn’t that I wouldn’t rather not have cancer. But, since I do, I have to say, it has brought me many friends and experiences I would have never had otherwise. And, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
It is Well with my Soul
Yes! It IS well with my soul! No matter what happens to my earthly body, I know where my salvation lies! It is great comfort to know that when I take my last breath here, my next will be on Streets of Gold in Heaven.
Casting Crown’s Oh My Soul
The night Casting Crown’s singer Mark Hall was diagnosed with cancer, he sat down and wrote “Oh My Soul.” It is a powerful song. Mark describes the motivation behind the song,
I just sat down on the piano and was looking at the verse where David says, ‘Why so downcast, oh my soul. Put your hope in God.’ So the song is me just having a little argument with myself and giving it to Him.”
God has my cancer, too, Does He have yours?
End of the Beginning
Another favorite song of mine has nothing to do with encouragement or cancer or counting blessings, but I just love this David Phelps (he’s one of my favorite artists) song.
There are more songs that speak volumes to me and that I love to belt out, but I will stop here. We’ll do another blog at another time with more songs.
As you can see, the ones that mean the most to me also have a lot to do with my faith. I couldn’t go through this battle without my faith.
What about you? What songs are most meaningful to you? Why? Let me know!
“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” I believe that. Do you?
The fact is that while I would never choose to have cancer, it has presented many opportunities for which I am very grateful. Isn’t that something?
My motto has been and continues to be, “I have cancer, Cancer doesn’t have me.” What’s that mean?, you ask. Well, it means that I try hard not to be defined by cancer. I try to live my life to the fullest.
In fact, in my way of thinking, every moment I spend worrying or fretting over having cancer is a moment where cancer wins this battle. It robs me of my joy for that length of time. I don’t know how much time I have left here on this earth (none of us do). But, what I know is that I want to make the most of every moment that I’m here!
Cancer has allowed me the opportunity to finally concentrate on me, not on everyone else around me. I always worked a job or two and put 110% of myself into it. With family obligations taking up the remaining hours in the day, there was just never really any time left over for Donna.
But, having cancer allowed me to quit working. What a blessing that was, especially since my job had gone from good to very, very bad with changing regimes. Politics. Aren’t they great? (NO!!!) For the first time in my adult life, I have had the time to do things that make me happy. And I have enjoyed that to the max!!!
You probably have already figured out what those things are that make me happy.
I’ll just state right at the beginning, my joy comes from the Lord. He is the reason for my happiness. He is the reason I do not worry about dying or about having cancer. He is the reason I can enjoy all of the activities listed below. Without the peace I have from Him, none of the rest of this would be possible.
I love, love, love agility. I found this sport late in life. I had really only just gotten started in it when I found out I had cancer. Barney and I were trialing nearly every weekend and sometimes Cotton came along! (She got to come along more often then than now … the one bad thing about this retirement stuff is that my income decreased by two-thirds. I have to be much more frugal than I used to be … talk about a hard lesson!!)
Barney was then and is now a superb agility partner. That little dog has a huge heart. He will play with me, over and over and over again, until I can’t go any longer. He tries so hard to please. Always, his goal is to make me happy. Because if mama is happy, everyone is happy! Seriously, he loves agility, but mostly he loves me and he wants to do what pleases me.
I was initially taught that running agility meant running alongside your dog, directing him or her to do whatever the next obstacle in the sequence was. Many venues require that you stay fairly close by your dog in order to direct him over the obstacles correctly. My venue of choice, NADAC, is a little different. It allows you to work away from your dog.
Running your dog with distance between you and him is a completely different way of handling. My personal belief is that it is more difficult to teach your dog to run without you right beside him. It is especially challenging when the dog has first been taught to work right beside you.
Barney and I are in the process of learning to work at a distance from one another. I practiced my new skills some at the Run As One trial over the Memorial Day weekend. The video above shows our runs from Sunday of the three day trial.
Practicing our newly learned skills at distance (we are still very new in the learning process) is only part of what made me smile at the Memorial Day trial. The other is that I had the stamina to go help set-up for the trial on Friday, run four runs on Saturday, return Sunday morning for three more runs, finish with three runs on Monday … and stay to help tear down and load up all of the equipment. Previously, I had only tried to trial one day for fear of being too tired the following day. REmarkABLE!!! I am so blessed.
I wish I had a dollar for every time Robert suggested I start a garden. I always refused. I was just not interested. Then, this spring, I changed my mind. I don’t even know why I decided this was the year I wanted to plant tomatoes and cucumbers and squash and zucchini. We have watermelon and cantaloupe and bell peppers. And okra. And something that I no longer remember what it is!!! I can’t wait for its fruit or vegetable to appear so I will know just what it is!!
I know nothing about gardening. Like a bull in a china cabinet, my typical way of doing things, I just started buying plants and putting them out in the ground. I STILL know nothing, but I am fortunate that my plants seem not to care all that much.
Here are some pictures I took this morning. I go out and look every single day. I take pictures at least a couple of times a week. Sometimes more often! The little fruits and vegetables are like my babies! I love watching them … except for an impatient person like myself, it is also a bit of a challenge!
Now that the sun has begun shining again, the ‘maters are ripening!
The herb garden. Yum!!!
Zucchini? Squash? Cucumbers? All of the above?
Squash … some will be ready for picking very soon!
More tomatoes that will soon be ripe enough to pick and eat!
Yellow zucchini. The plant thrived while it rained daily. Not looking so good now.
The bell pepper!!! It will ultimately be a red pepper. There’s only one on the bush!
Watermelon. This plant has not always looked as healthy.
My Meyer Lemon Tree. What fun!
I am learning as I go. Next year, I hope I learn from some of my mistakes. I crowded things this year. They looked so small and so widely spaced when I first planted them. Do I hear you laughing???? If you have done much gardening, I am sure you are!
I have been reading that you should plant certain plants with one another … and shouldn’t combine others. Next year, I hope to have an organized plan! This year, I just walked down the rows at Lowe’s and chose plants that would produce vegetables or fruit that I thought I might want to eat.
I gave away some of the first fruits of my labor. Carol got a bag with squash, zucchini, and a couple of tomatoes. I plucked a little tomato off of the vine yesterday morning as I was walking out of the backyard to the car. I gave that to Linda. I THINK I am going to have plenty to share. I hope so.
I guess it is pretty obvious from my blog that I enjoy photography! Having cancer has opened my eyes to all of the beauty that surrounds us. I love to take my camera and just explore the backyard. I NEED to take my camera and explore a little further away than my backyard!! But, for now, I have been content to wander through the yard and take pictures of dogs, flies, bees, flowers, fruits, and veggies … and an occasional lizard. Hopefully, there will be no opportunities to snap a photo of a snake.
The pictures below were taken this morning. I originally grabbed the camera because I saw the bees inside the flowers of the squash plant. I thought they were certainly worth a few pictures!! As long as I was out there with the camera, I explored a bit more!
I love these delicate little flowers. No clue what they are.
Another little flower that I think is pretty. It is some wildflower that I planted.
This plant and the one below speak to me. This little weed is growing out of the brick wall!
This petunia came from I don’t know where. Like the little flower above, it is growing in a crack in the brick wall. Perseverance. At its best
That frog is lucky it is in the water. Cotton was VERY interested in it!
We have so many of these bugs. I don’t know what they are, but they sure like my new garden.
Flies like the garden too.
I love quotes. I love photography. On occasion, I try to combine the two. These are the bees that initially sent me running for the camera.
My calendar is usually very full. I don’t like to have very many days when I don’t have something to do. Currently, I have agility class twice on Tuesday and once on Friday. I may have to quit going to the Tuesday night class – it is more traditional agility (where you run right beside your dog) and I don’t want to mess up what Barney and I are learning with our distance. We are going to be taking a break from our Friday class as well. It has just gotten too hot. So, for the summer, we will rely on practicing at the park at 7 AM rather than going to class at 10:30.
On days that I don’t have agility, I love to meet my friends for lunch and/or the movies. I rarely ever saw a movie before I retired. But, since I have been retired, I have been lucky enough to go to quite a few.
Walks. Linda and I complain nearly every single morning when we meet about how we didn’t want to come! We meet at 6:30 AM now that it has gotten so hot. We never want to get up. But, once we are at the park and walking, we’re glad we made the effort. The dogs love their walks as well. And, it is so good for us! On days that I don’t walk, I usually just waste the time that I would be spending getting some exercise. And, boy oh boy, do I need exercise!!
You should see my Kindle app. I have so many books on there just waiting on me to read them. I keep buying them for those times when I might not feel like doing the things I am doing now. I hope that day doesn’t come for a long time. But, when it comes, I’m prepared!!!
So back to the title of this post. “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” Cancer is my difficulty. But, oh the opportunities it has brought with it! If I hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer, I would still be plugging along at a job that I had grown to hate instead of enjoying every waking moment! There’s just never enough time to get everything done that I want to do! Even now! But, now all of the moments are full of things that I love to do.
Hedonistic? I feel like maybe so. But, I also think that I deserve the bliss I am experiencing now. Not because I have cancer, but because I have worked so very hard all of my life. It is wonderful to have the OPPORTUNITY to work hard at having fun instead of at a job.