Sunday, May 29, 2011

A caregivers story

My friendship with J began about a year ago, our rapport grew quickly: we both enjoyed nature and God, sidewalk dining, and social events. Perhaps most importantly, we shared our inner turmoil and  frustrations on an ongoing basis. I now see J more as a sister, than simply a friend.
Better than most, J understood my own struggle for stability and life satisfaction, as well as my search for inner peace. J earned this deep understanding because of her relentless and courageous pursuit of her own healing from  traumatic experience's, which she has described to me over the year.
J has that rare ambition for wholeness, struggling to overcome a. She has embraced this ambition with zeal: at considerable expense; consistently sacrificing immediate, tangible pleasures such as  apparel, furnishings or concerts. Kim's commitment to reclaiming her personhood from violations is unconditional. Her strength and courage to heal amazes me! In the course of our friendship, I have witnessed J overcome fatigue, head-ache's, anxiety and fear.  With the help of supportive physicians, including fearless self-examination leading to recovered childhood memories, I watched as J regained her emotional and bodily strength, and maintained a normal and productive lifestyle.
She would often remind me in the midst of a memory that triggered long-buried thoughts. On each occasion, I tried to be present for her emotionally and spiritually, which is all she really needed.
In our early developing relationship , J first looked to me as her friend; a male friend who didn't want anything from her. This appeared to be essential for her trust in me to grow. As her trust grew, I became  brother, just as she became another one of my sisters (I have one). Another of J's strengths I have come to admire is her determination to address the inner turmoil arising from conflict or disappointment as soon as she becomes aware of them. She strives to identify that part of her nature that feels shunned or not heard or manipulated to please. She acquiesced so that she could survive another day. Now, J not only survives another day, but is fully present to life,  one of love and compassion not only for herself, but for others as well.  Kim entered my life during a lonely and despairing period of time in my lie, when I was chronically unemployed or in an unfullfilling job . She was gentle and accepting of my pain, and we spoke on the phone often, reassuring me that these tough times were temporary, and “things will surely get better!” By reminding me of God being truly “in charge”, J encouraged me to turn my despair over to Him/Her, as often as necessary. She reminded me that I am a wonderful human being, God surely loves me and wants the best for me, which I cannot always recognize.
J's perseverance has been the example for me to follow. Her overcoming of significant obstacles reminds me to reach out to nonjudgmental friends, to turn my fears over to God, to spend some time in Nature daily, to simplify my life and avoid cultural stressors, and to find or read something to laugh about daily. While our friendship has seem to come to a sudden and unfortunate end, I hope to continue being a confidante with whom I can always be myself.
J's path to wholeness and joyful living has required continuous self-examination, honesty, and sensitive confrontation with her friends, qualities she has passed on to me. I was delighted, grateful, and hope to again be J's friend.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

5 Lessons I Learned from Cancer

You have cancer.

After receiving feedback and comments from friends, loved one's and undergoing tests  myself, life is traumatic. Because the cancer  spread so far throughout some of their bodies, one  had to take chemotherapy while she was pregnant. That was the beginning of a long journey of pain, faith, sadness, hope, brokenness, and healing from many of them.

I want to share 5 life lessons that I learned.

1. Life is fragile.
Right after I heard those three words, I knew within a second that which was most important to me in life; my family, my friends, and my faith. Everything else that I thought was so important was stripped away (one person decided not to be friends any longer) in my mind. My world had been rocked and my perspective had changed. I realized how fragile life was when immediate family members heard their diagnosis, and when a friend delivered her daughter after two months of chemotherapy.

2. We aren't meant to be islands.
I am really good at offering my help to people, but I was not good at asking for help. While some go through chemotherapy treatments, so weak they need help with every day living. It's a really humbling experience to accept help with childcare, housekeeping, and everyday errands. For the first time I began to understand what being in community was all about. Community is not just when you can give, but it's trusting people when you need to receive help. We aren't meant to be islands in this world. We need each other.

3. There are worse things than being bald.
I don't want to be melodramatic here, but many thought losing their hair was going to be the worst experience ever. I was wrong. I cut most my hair off to show support, however this was by choice. They did\ do not have that option. Watching it fall out slowly was the worst experience. After watching clumps of hair fall all over the place,  It was the most liberating experience of my life. Many people opt to wear wigs and wraps most of the time, but sometimes, I just let my shiny, bald head be bare and exposed. There was something beautiful about those vulnerable moments of showing my bald head.

4. You learn a lot about your faith when you are put through the fire.
My faith in God changed a lot during my sister's cancer. Not because I was so strong. It was just the opposite. I was so weak. For the first time in my life, I realized that I wasn't in control and I couldn't manipulate the future. I even tried to become the great deal maker with God.Finally I broke down and gave it all to God. For the first time in my life, my prayer life was real. I poured out every emotion in my body; anger, sadness, disappointment, and fear. Then I cried out for answers, peace, healing, hope. God answered in His own ways.I can't explain it, but my faith was strengthened in my brokenness.

5. The fight is still going on. We need to find a cure
I am very much aware that I and other's are here because  people continue to fight for a cure. While I await my tests and forthcoming results, we all know someone who has cancer. Right now I have two very dear friends who are fighting cancer and one former friend who was waiting for tests with no health insurance.

My friend Michelle is watching her son go through his second battle with a rare tissue cancer. Jack  is such a sweet little guy. He should be playing with his friends, not laying in a hospital bed fighting for his life. We need to find a cure for Jack.

My other friend Julie was just diagnosed with cancer last week. Julie is a fighter; a glass-half-full kind of girl. She also has the most amazing heart. Just two years ago, she did a Breast Cancer walk to raise funds for cancer research. Now she is experiencing all of this on a personal level. We need to find a cure for Julie.

There are so many others that need our help. Embrace life, friends new and old, repair differences with friends   and loved one's! Open your arms, support them, be thankful, ask to do everyday chores, give them a ride, share is to short and nobody can have enough friends.

Check out organizations and see how you can get involved