Transformation + Cancer

In case you missed it, Alana Sheeren invited me to participate in her Transformation Talk series a few weeks ago, where I shared some of my personal story about my journey through cancerville and how I developed my wellness program, 12 Principles For Living Well With Cancer.

For information about the program or questions about healing together, email me at mynde [at] myndemayfield [dot] com. If you’re reading this via email, click through to my website to view the video.

Deep optimystical bow to Alana for having me & the opportunity to share!

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Goodbye 2012

Where hurdles and sprinting turned into waltzing in the rain with a bald head.

Goodbye 2012. Goodbye to worrying about the things I used to worry about before May 4th. It all pales in perspective to the worry that would try to consume me, especially in those first three or four days of learning about the very real cancer in my left breast. And later on, my right breast also.

It’s hard to believe it will be eight months on January 4th and I’m not done yet. I’m close, not in-the-home-stretch close, but close enough to say it.

This year, I said goodbye to my hair, all of it. My eyelashes & eyebrows. The hair in my arm pits, on my arms & legs. Even the stubborn billy goat hairs on my chin. It was nice not to have to shave this summer. And I missed the feel of a brilliant sun toasting up my skin to a soft caramel color.

This year I said goodbye to my nipples. As I write this I have none. I have breasts (thanks to tissue expanders), but no nipples. It’s strange. I try not to look at my reflection in the mirror but it’s so odd, I can’t help but look. I have no more bruises, but you can see the road I’ve traveled; mastectomy scars that wrap nearly to underneath my arms. I’d show you some pictures, but I care too much. No shame, only that you’ll feel bad for me. And I don’t want or need that. High thoughts of my wellness, is all I ask. Which requires your imagination, and mine. And so far, it’s working.

I’ve said goodbye to people too. Although they may not know it and probably didn’t hear me. Cancer is scary shit and people don’t know what to do or say to you when it happens. Especially when you’re young & beautiful & so f’ing positive like I am. Andrea says I get to be the example. I say, thank God for all my coaching tools & skills. And my health care team, who are some of the most amazing people.

I remember the nurse who held my hand as I told a joke on the operating table, waiting for the knock-out that is anesthesia. I never got her name. I couldn’t see her face because it was covered in a mask. But when my super handsome anesthesiologist, Dr. Bailey, shot me whatever he shot me with, it burned like hell and I almost lept off the table. My right arm, the one with the IV in it, shot up off the table; kinda like when you touch something hot. I started crying. He said, “Oh, did that burn?” as I watched him squeeze my IV bag of saline up above my head. My nurse grabbed my hand or I grabbed hers. And she looked into my eyes and said soothing things to me. I asked her to keep holding my hand. She said, “It’ll be ok.” The burning stopped but my fear lingered. I had been so strong up till now. Strong for my family & friends. Strong for myself. Strong for my daughter, who sat by my side in pre-op with my pre-op nurse whose name was also Mindy. I loved that. There were lots of little messages along the way like that one. The Universe whispering to me, “I got you!” I told my joke & made them all laugh out loud. I loved hearing that too. I watched the nurse holding my hand turn her head, look at my surgeon and smile underneath her mask. I saw her cheeks rise up. And the best part was still to come, but I couldn’t tell them or I’d ruin the surprise… because in pre-op, while I changed into that sexy gown & socks they give you, I held each breast carefully while Andrea drew big happy faces on both nipples with a purple Sharpee. A couple days later, I’d check in with my surgeon and ask if he’d gotten my surprise. He grinned and laughed and grabbed my foot resting in the St. Joseph’s hospital bed and said he’d wished he’d had a camera. I told him we took pictures. He asked me to email them to his gmail account, and I did. The subject line: Happy Nips!

in pre-op, see ya on the flip side #breastcancer #peace #prayers #stjosephs 

That was nearly 12 weeks ago. My hair is back. So are my feet, so-to-speak. And I’m also back to the yoga mat, which is another great gift 2012 brought to me. Yoga had floated around my peripheral universe since 2004 and yet I hadn’t gotten myself into a studio until cancer came along. Also acupuncture & Chinese herbs, essential oils, flower essences, crystals, Reiki & other long distance healings from healers I know personally and a few I’ve never met.

I fell in love with Downton Abbey & Merlin the magician, HGTV & the FoodNetwork while I convalesced. I walked, slowly around my neighborhood, reminiscing about the difference in my power walk speed and my convalescing walking speed. 2012 slowed me down entirely. And some days, most days, I simply counted the teensiest of things to be grateful about; like the smell of a rose, the view of a pine tree out my hospital room window, the deep care I received from nurses, family & friends via Facebook and many, many personal text messages.

I‘m happy to be saying Goodbye to you 2012. A year filled with so much. A lot of tears. A lot of fear. But mostly many miracles. All of them just appearing for me, out of nowhere. No hurdles required. No sprinting either. Just lots of gratitude and storytelling. And believing… God is in everything. In my tissue expanders, in my hospital bed sheets, in my IV line, and in that nurse’s hand holding mine.

I’m entering 2013 with a new appreciation for miracles & life. For love & connection. And for so many other wonderful things that the scariest year of my life has brought forward and revealed to me.

Goodbye 2012. And welcome, welcome, welcome 2013.

looking up #mottos #breastcancer #reconstruction #GIJane #takethewalk

Ready to say goodbye to some outmoded ways of thinking this year? If you’re interested in shifting some of your own personal stories, this optimystical way I see things—is my gift, my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info.

Easing Anxiety & Fear With Art Therapy

At the end of 2011, when my watchwords (creativity, honesty & soulful purpose) for 2012 appeared, I had no idea just how much they’d become companions for my journey through Cancerville.

Even though Fall has officially begun, I want to talk about how I spent my summer, and how creativity has shown up as part of my journey to wellness.

Most of the other people I’ve met in Cancerville have a challenging time with the notion of giving grace in the face of this difficult diagnosis; referring to cancer as a beast which conjures up ideas of noble fights and merciless warriors focused on destruction of the enemy. Destruction, enemies, fighting… do not feel or sound like Love to me, but fear.

Fear is a companion we meet on any journey in life and it isn’t going anywhere. I’ve learned, fearlessness isn’t about a state or condition where no fear exists. That’s called grace. Part of healing, for me, has been about understanding and accepting with grace, my diagnosis and the fear about it. A state of grace allows me to accept and see the gifts that come with this journey.

The wisest of warriors understand fearlessness is really about how we show up in the face of our adversity. How present we remain when fear gets up in our face. Remaining present is a condition we cultivate from within, and is not based on certain external conditions being met or the absence of them.

This summer, I completed six rounds of chemotherapy. Every two weeks for 12 weeks, I went in, got hooked up and sat and watched as Adriamycin & Cytoxin (AC for short in Cancerville) was pushed into my veins. One of the reasons I believe I was able to handle chemotherapy with mild to very little side affects was because of what I told myself about what was happening to me. I told my story about it, and refused to listen to or chime in with others who wanted to compare long lists of complaints. I couldn’t focus on those things if I expected to heal with the help of chemotherapy.

What I did do though, when fear arrived (because it did and continues to visit regularly whispering to me stories about poison, toxicity and long-term side affects) was a lot of art.

What do you think about when you create art? Do you remember art class in school? It was one of my favorite times because I knew I could relax. Turn my brain off; at least a portion of it. And since fear is so good at serving up endless scenarios as possibilities for my future, encouraging me to size up exactly what I’m up against, art has been the perfect therapy to bring me back to the present moment and help me focus and stay there.

One of my favorite art projects this summer has been transferring Instagram photos to wood (specifics about how to do it yourself can be found in this post). Transferring Instagram photos to wood requires time, which is what I got a lot of these days. Rolling wet paper—that’s been glued down onto one inch thick 6 x 6 inch pieces of wood—into little balls takes a lot of patience. And when I’m working with it, I can’t really think about anything else. Not cancer, not chemo, not my upcoming bi-lateral mastectomy. Just whether or not I’m being gentle enough with the soaked paper so I don’t remove the ink that’s been transferred to the wood.

I also purchased a coloring book made specifically for women that encourages creative expression and giving you a voice to all the parts of the healing journey. Called She Dances Between the Worlds, this 90-page journal provides illustrations by artist Shiloh Sophia McCloud as well as blank pages that will support pencils, watercolor, markers or acrylic paint. The artist also includes her own inspirational thoughts about being a creative woman like “Yes, it is her we are after here — yes, the outrageous one within you!!!” and quotes from other brave, creative feminine voices.

Yes, it is her we are after here — yes, the outrageous one within you!!! ~ Shiloh Sophia McCloud

At a recent breast cancer support group meeting where Art Therapy was the evening’s topic, we were encouraged to write a word down and use any kind of medium provided in the class to expand and express ourselves. I started to write the word “whole,” then chickened out for a second and with only the “w” drawn thought about changing it to “well.” Since surgery was on my mind, I decided to honor myself and my fear about the transformation my physical body will undergo next month. I recognize that I’m in the process of discovering greater wholeness. Even though surgery looms, for the first time in my life I’m really listening to my inner teacher, trusting her voice and what she wants me to acknowledge and understand.

And very soon, I plan on doing something with the plaster bust I created during Keep-A-Breast’s Treasured Chest event.

All summer long, I’ve focused on creativity, as a way to help myself heal and to keep my mind focused on affirming life & it’s pleasures; slowing down my endless mind chatter that is filled with anxiousness, worry & fear.

Art therapy is teaching me how to remain present with uncertainty. I’m practicing trusting myself and this journey through Cancerville, believing there are no mistakes & I can’t do any part of this wrong. Which is the same advice every good art teacher gives to her students.

When was the last time you picked up coloring pencils or magic markers? Or sat and colored with your children? It’s a wonderful way to come back to the moment and practice being gentle with your self when the tides of fear rise up and feel overwhelming.

Facing breast cancer or other chronic illness and looking for some relief from the anxiety it brings? If you’re interested in shifting some of your own personal stories about health & wellness, this optimystical way I see things—is my gift, my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info.

Your Tits Or Your Life

Where I start getting more real & honest about this wild bucking bronco I’m riding called my life.

Writing mostly for myself, inspired by others on the journey who are telling their stories honestly & directly. I write because I can, and because I’m tired of waiting for “the meaningful post” to declare itself in my head as worthy enough. My life is already worthy enough for me to write it down and share it with those who care to read/listen and join me in the massive circle of Love & support we all deserve, whether faced with cancer or not.

Writing this blog installment with my good friend, Q-bug, hugging my cancer.

Back from another meeting with my surgeon since my sixth and final round of chemotherapy concluded on August 27th. We discussed my options, and still landed where I thought we would which is a double mastectomy with no nipple sparing due to the location of my left tumor. He won’t save the right nipple either because he says it’s too difficult trying to match it up in reconstruction and just easier to make new ones (I don’t know how they do this yet or whether he’s referring to tattoos).

They want another mammo of my left side later today at 2pm, then I meet with my Breast Cancer Support group at 6pm for tonight’s topic: art therapy (something I’ve been doing all summer long). On Friday, I’ll call and set up an appointment with the plastic surgeon my breast surgeon is recommending. They are also setting me up to measure my arms as a baseline to monitor lymphodema (a condition that may result after having lymph nodes removed). Dr. Harness (my breast surgeon) says depending on coordination of schedules, etc. surgery will probably happen in the next two weeks or so.

Andrea was brave enough to ask him about my liver today and he said we’d cross that bridge when we get there. First they want to handle the breast cancer locally and then I’ll be meeting later on down the road with another doctor who specializes in the liver area.

For now, I’ve decided on the simplest procedure and most compassionate for my body which will be no tram flap, just the bi-lateral mastectomy. This gives me the best opportunity to have symmetrical breast reconstruction. Of course, all of that is subject to change after speaking with the plastic surgeon but it feels like the most compassionate thing to opt-out of the tram flap and just get the mastectomy over with. Less invasive, shorter surgery.

I’m feeling kinda numb. Very little tears today. I might have cried them all out yesterday. Although, I’m sure there’s more to come. I really appreciate the support I’ve received that encourages me to feel my feelings and be where I am. This way I’m able to move into acceptance, process what feels uncomfortable, let it go and let God. I realize it may be easy, from an outsiders viewpoint, to see so clearly that the decision of “my tits or my life” seems simple. But the truth is, when you are here on this road, you never want to think about the ultimate cost of this disease taking your life. At least I refuse to go there as much as possible. And so, from where I stand, with losing my life off the table, I’m left with the grief and loss involved because my God-given body parts are being forever removed. And the life I once knew, forever changed.

Feeling kinda numb due on your cancer journey or other serious chronic illness? If you’re interested in sharing in a safe place so you can shift into acceptance (powerful for healing), this optimystical way I see things—is my gift, my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info.

Music That Saves Me

My music playlist for the bi-weekly trips to chemotheraphy. I have a category just for music on my blog because that’s how much I love it. And it does save me every time.

A song can be timely even when it’s not popular. I love artists with rich lyrical content. I love music that helps me say what I need to say or have been unable to say until I hear the song.

Many of these songs are about rallying my own personal troops of positivity. I imagine all the people in my life who love me and are routing for me stomping their feet to Gwen Stefani’s Holla Back Girl when she sings “fire it up!”

Music Saves Me. So does art & creativity, writing. And saying, “I love you” as often as possible.

 

Ready to talk about how to feel empowered to survive & thrive on your cancer journey? If you’re interested in shifting some of your own personal stories around health & wellness, this optimystical way I see things is my gift—my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info.

 

What Story Are You Stuck To?

“So how’s chemo going?” she asked. “How are you feeling?” I told her the truth. My truth. We all have one. They are the stories we live.

From the start, it was easy to see that around 90% of the people going to this support group are telling themselves all the same story.

It’s comprised of elements of what’s reflected to them from an external world. A world that says, “This is truth.”

The world’s story about [breast] cancer goes like this…

[ intentionally left blank so you can just be with your own thoughts and watch them race by like Malibu Grand Prix drivers in the finishing straight away bearing down on the checkered black & white flag. ]

Thank god the world’s story is not my story.

When I was pregnant with my now 18-year old daughter, I felt like it was a required initiation ritual or something, to listen to each and every other woman who had ever had a child, tell her story about it.

Each personal story filled with… well you know, horror! And terrifying “OMGs!”

Secretly I consoled myself, “Women have done this forever Mynde. It’s built into my nature.” And, always, most certainly, I would smile at each woman to honor whatever was true for her as I repeat in my head, “Not my story.”

This mantra has become my optimystical shield of sorts. Protecting a private sanctuary within. The place inside myself where I tell different stories about my life, about cancer. In fact, I’m not even focused on the cancer as much as I’m focused on where I’m going. Toward wellness. 

My truth about chemo was startling to hear. For the other women gathered around, it made them stop and look at me, clearly seeking more information. More clarity. Maybe even questioning what they heard me say…

“Was she kidding?”

“Is she in denial?”

“Is she for real?”

My truth. My reality. My story… are very different from the world’s. From the story they know. Different even from their personal journeys, if we had sat down and compared notes (which is something I refuse to do because it doesn’t support me and my wellness).

“I am wonderful. I feel really good. Thank you for asking!”

I looked directly into a woman’s face I had never seen before. Two of the other women sitting between us I met at last month’s meeting. All three of them were staring at me like I had four henna-crowned bald heads instead of just one. 😉

I let the silence linger as I stared into a pair of sparkling blue eyes peering out at me over the top of her reading glasses. Three chairs away. She’s probably 10 years older than I am. Beautiful, looks physically fit. Her boobs looks nice from what I can see.

“Hi!” I finally say out loud to her, breaking the awkward stillness of everyone’s gazing curiosity.

To tell a new story in our today, in this now moment. Is Power. To realize in your next now moment, the kind of story you’re telling and, if it suits you better, changing it. Is Magic.

Imagination is our super power.

And our imagination, or the stories we tell ourselves, about the way it is and the way that it goes, have power. I talk more about the power of storytelling on my About page.

My truth about chemotherapy is that I am wonderful. There are things I could focus on that would look like a list of complaints but I refuse to go there.

“Wow, you really are so positive” says the first woman who asked the original question.

What are the alternatives? None of them I see so far are better than choosing to be positive. To be optimystical. I choose to see it no other way. It’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Is there a story you’re stuck to? Are you camping out somewhere, instead of keeping your eyes on where you’d like to be going? If you’re interested in shifting some of your own personal stories, I am taking it super easy and this optimystical way I see things—is my gift, my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info.