Cancer taught me how to live

Terminal illness has a way of awakening our greatest potential. When Cara was diagnosed with breast cancer the parts of life that had lay dormant began to bloom. She was reborn.

While studying to become a computer programming consultant Cara lost sight of everything else in her life–relationships, friendships, family–nothing mattered except getting that certification. “When you don’t lead a well balanced life, the parts that you ignore will come back to bite you, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Cara. “But I passed the exam. I was so excited—I was finally certified. I was going to have the career that I dreamed of.”

About a week later, Cara was home and having a lumpectomy and woke up in the recovery room to a crying surgeon telling her parents that the lump in her breast was malignant. “I went home and stayed there for the entire weekend and sobbed — just sobbed. I thought it was the end of the world.”

But when the doctors said, “We need you to have a biopsy,” Cara didn’t think about her recently passed exams, she thought, “I never took those tango lessons, I never read those books, I never did any of those things, and, I’m not going to have the opportunity to do that anymore–because I thought it was a death sentence.” She quickly learned that she had the ability within herself to turn the situation into something good if she would trust and be open to it.

“I had never known anyone before who’d had cancer, and I just thought that was the end of the world,” said Cara. “I decided I would make a list of all the things that I had never done, and during the recovery period between surgery and chemotherapies, I would do all those things.”

During her chemotherapy Cara went to live on her parent’s farm. She realized the impact your environment can have on every part of your life. It can inspire you, give you hope, and help you be more productive. But it can also fight you, become a source of stress, or take away your motivation.

“Because I had absorbed myself in my career, I had let my house go. I wasn’t decorating anymore. I didn’t even have a bedspread,” said Cara.

While recovering from chemo, Cara’s therapist gave her an assignment… to redecorate the bedroom. “I thought, ‘redecorate my bedroom?’ I don’t have time for that. But it was an experiment that changed my life.”

Cara discovered that “by going back and redoing that place—where I laid under the covers and sobbed for 72 hours, where there had been so much pain—by painting the walls, by redoing, taking down the wallpaper, I was healing the room. Somehow that healing of the room was healing me.”

This transformation got Cara thinking. She started a company called Spicy Spaces to share the joy of helping people see their environment with a fresh eye.

Among the many things on Cara’s list of things to do was catching up on all those books she had been meaning to read. Here are Cara’s 3 essential reads that helped make chemotherapy a bit easier:

1. Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie S. Siegel
2. Getting Well Again by O. Carl Simonton
3. Oswald Talked by Ray and Mary La Fontaine

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Cara’s Website

Think Pink!
The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website lends a helping hand to women coping with chemotherapy-induced side effects and shows you how to get involved.

Check Yourself
The circle, the line, or the wedge? Health Central’s handy instructional video teaches you three ways to give your girls a thorough self-exam.

Advertisements

Becoming a runner, one block at a time

Amy started running her sophomore year in college, inspired by her father, who was a life-long marathoner. Even though the compulsion to run may have been in her DNA, the ability wasn’t. Her body type wasn’t what you’d expect of long-distance runners and she didn’t have supernatural stamina.

For Amy, running is less about the speed and more about the distance, the discipline and the goal. That is why she chose the Long Beach Marathon for her first marathon, because it was a nice flat path down the beach.

“I just wanted to get it done and cross the finish line—that was my main goal,” she said. “I didn’t care at all about my time. I didn’t care if I walked the whole thing. I just wanted to get it done.”

After experiencing her first marathon, she learned that the only way to prepare yourself, is to put in the mileage. There are no shortcuts when it comes to being a marathoner.

Since bringing running into her life, Amy said she’s seen dramatic improvements in her health, both her physical health and her emotional well being.

“When I first started, I probably lost 20 pounds within the first couple of months,” she said. “I haven’t had a cold or gotten sick in what feels like years. Running is one way you can take care of your body. Physically it has kept me strong and my cardiovascular system is strong, but emotionally it also has all kinds of benefits.”

If you’re curious about what it’s like to run a marathon, here’s one woman’s mile by mile breakdown of her first marathon experience:

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Make it a Part of Your World
With Runner’s World, almost everyone can make running a part of their life. Check it frequently for the latest training information, great products and expert advice.

Run for Her Life
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society are racing toward a cure by training people for marathons and triathlons and getting them to spread the message. Take the first step today with Team in Training.

Breaking the Tape
A mom of three transforms herself into a triathlete. Read about her trials and tribulations at 21st Century Mom.

Iron (Wo)Man
Check out the official Iron Man Series site for training locations, news updates and events near you.

5 secrets I discovered for better communication

Anna is a therapist in a clinic, spending most of her time working with couples who have communication problems.

“I am interested in their communication styles and how that affects not just the relationship between them, but also the entire family and people around them.”

Communication is not something we are not formally taught. As Anna points out, “We learn to say “please” and “thank you,” but when it comes down to talking about the tough issues, most of us are just doing what comes naturally. And that is not always best.”

Anna suggests starting out with five simple things. A couple can focus on these in or outside of therapy, and they can really help to improve their relationship.

1. Practice self-awareness.
When you get home at the end of the day, doing a quick little mind scan to raise your self awareness can make all the difference.

“Ask yourself, what’s happened in my day? What might I be upset about? Then, either decide to leave it at the door or come in and talk with your significant other about it. By being more aware of your feelings and your experiences, you’re less likely to direct it at your significant other.”

2. Take a break.
When you are having a hard time communicating or find yourself getting upset, don’t be afraid to ask for a break.

Tell your partner you are going to step out of the room for a little bit. It gives both of you some time to think about what’s going on, why you’re getting upset and helps you figure out exactly how you want to go about addressing it.

3. Use the speaker/listener technique.
First, pick an object, any object. Car keys, feather duster, wheel of cheese, whatever.
Second, whoever holds the object is the only person that can talk. They are the “speaker.” And the speaker’s responsibility is to deliver a message about how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, their opinion on the subject in as clear a way as possible.

Third, the “listener,” is the person not holding the designated tiki torch. Can you guess what their job is? Right. Just listen. Try to understand exactly what your partner is saying. The point isn’t to try and problem-solve or to argue or debate back and forth—it’s just about simply listening to what the other person’s saying.

4. Laugh it off.
At the end of the day, we really love our significant others. We love who we’re with. And you need to remind each other about that, even in an argument. Find little ways to touch your significant other, make jokes and remind them that in a couple of hours you’ll be doing something that’s less tense and more fun. Make a funny face. Share an inside joke. Trip up the stairs. Just do something to break the ice.

5. Be forgiving.
Everybody argues and everyone gets upset with their significant other, but when the arguments over you need to forgive each other and put it behind you. If you don’t, it’ll come up in the next argument. And before you know it, there are so many layers of resentment and anger that you can’t get through it to remember why you care about the person.

Remember that fighting isn’t necessarily unhealthy. You have to voice your opinion. You have to get mad sometimes. You’re working together as a team, and that’s not always going to go smoothly. But after it’s done, you have to put it away.

Following these five steps can help improve communication and improve your overall relationship whether you practice it on your own or in therapy. It’s hard work learning to speak the language of love, but it’s worth it.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS
Interplanetary Conflict
Source of advice and counsel from the author of the iconic “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”

Making it Work
Follow the path to healthier relationships in your life.

Love 101
Nothing’s better than a weekend getaway with your mate… to the Smart Marriages Annual Conference.

Cohabitation Nation
Read “Happily Un-Married,” a self-proclaimed fitness guide for people who live together—or are just thinking about it.

Just For Women
Tune in to Capessa Blogger Alissa Kriteman’s weekly podcast for insight on understanding your man and more importantly, yourself.