How this anxiety-ridden hot mess is managing a cancer scare

How this anxiety-ridden hot mess is managing a cancer scare

cancer-scareMost anxiety is a knee-jerk reaction to something we fear

and often fails to withstand any kind of critical analysis. I know this because I’ve just lived it.

Some random spotting caused me to see my GYN, who did an in-office ultrasound and, to my surprise, saw something “suspicious”. Until now, I’d felt safe, because there is almost no cancer in my family. But this made me quite anxious. After all, many of my friends have gone through cancer treatment or even died from it. White Coat Hypertension –or “high blood pressure at the doctor’s office” is the least of my anxiety problems when it comes to a cancer scare.

I approached the “official” ultrasound she ordered with ENORMOUS anxiety. Of course, I imagined the worst as I heard the tech clicking to take photographs of everything she saw. And the whole thing took forever.

cancer-scareWould they find the worst?

It showed an unusual thickening of the endometrium that could be “the bad thing” so my GYN wanted an in-office biopsy.

At that point you’d think my anxiety would be off the charts. Instead, it went completely away. Why was that?

When I meditated on my nervousness I realized that my anxiety would have no impact on the outcome. I either had cancer or I didn’t. Worrying wasn’t going to help or even change things.

Practicing what I preach

Before this, those had just been words. But now, in my meditation, I took them in. I wasn’t going to die tomorrow. And wouldn’t I be a complete hypocrite to fear death when I believe that we do not die, but simply transition to a different plane?

I know. Heavy thoughts. But they were super calming, simply because, with a little effort, I brought my thoughts in line with my beliefs.

I also enlisted the group of earthly angels I know—friends who sent out love and light, my two Reiki masters, my shaman friend and just about everyone in my luckily large spiritual support group. I felt completely loved and supported in moving forward.

cancer-scare

Click photo to see my healing crystal candles.

Yes, the crystal thing

Selecting the best healing crystals from my collection, I carried them with me to all appointments. I had been doing healing meditations for days. I used my healing affirmations. I wore all my healing jewelry. I BELIEVE all this stuff helps and so, of course, it did.

Plus I thought about the many people I know who are living with cancer that is being controlled by treatment.

Here’s the best part: my blood pressure, normally sky-high in situations like this, was normal. NORMAL. So if that’s all this stuff did for me? It’s a big thing!

As it turned out, my GYN couldn’t complete the in-house biopsy.

How I managed pain

Her attempts were not pain-free. Any woman who has had a uterine biopsy knows what I mean.

But just that morning a good friend had revealed that in the numerous serious pain situations she’d experienced recently, she’d consistently used my pain relief recording. Like my husband related in HIS story, she was  offered pain meds like crazy but she kept responding “I have no pain!” Because she was using the audio and used her mind to let the pain go. “It works!” she told me. “It really works.”

So I did that, too. After all, why wouldn’t I practice what I preach? I put in my earbuds and let my GYN do her thing—it worked: my pain was minimal. Here’s where to find the audio and more info.

Still, she couldn’t complete the biopsy.

“I suspect it’s a benign polyp,” she said, “but we need to do an in-hospital biopsy it to be sure.”

Don’t you love it when they give you “your options?”

Blood pressure still normal, I listened to my options.  There were two: I could be admitted to the hospital for a D&C and biopsy under anesthesia, a same-day-home procedure. Then I would probably have a hysterectomy at a later date: my choice. I want everything that could be a future problem GONE.

OR we could move right to a hysterectomy with a GYN-oncology surgeon assisting my doc. They’d take it out, do a frozen section and if it was benign they’d proceed one way and if it wasn’t, another way. With the surgical oncologist right there.

I didn’t see any reason to go under twice. I’d already mentioned I wanted a complete hysterectomy, simply because too many of my friends have had a GYN cancer. I wanted it all gone. One less worry.

Surgery in my future

So when I return from my trip to Egypt in early April I’ll have a hysterectomy. I expect to be pain-free and anxiety-free. And here’s how I’ll make sure of it:

I will listen to healing meditations. I will ask my Reiki masters to support me. I will ask my shaman friend to do his thing. I will make sure my support circle knows time and date and I know I won’t even have to ask them to send positive vibes. I will use my crystals and healing crystal candles. I will use my own affirmations. I will use my own surgery prep, recovery, pain management and anxiety management audios.

And mostly I will trust that the Universe has my back, just like I blogged the other day. The Universe has my back and your back—all we have to do is trust.

If you’re facing a scare of your own, I’m here for you. Many of you already know that, but for those who don’t, trust that I am. Just shoot me an email at ccassara (at)gmail.com and we’ll talk.

And here are some helpful links:

Find my healing affirmations here.

Find audios for surgery prep, recovery, to relieve pain and anxiety here.

Find my healing crystal candles here.

Why we should celebrate when there’s something to celebrate

Why we should celebrate when there’s something to celebrate

something-to-celebrateThere’s so much doom and gloom in the world that I relish having something to celebrate. Especially here, where I deal with difficult and sad subjects.

So let’s light up the week with this great news: truly something to celebrate!

A number of my friends, both online and local, have been battling tough cancers. And I am thrilled to report that more than a few are living happy lives even while having various forms of treatments. Because their cancers are being held at bay by new treatments that allow them to have a good quality of life–and even travel–while still in treatment.

Several are past the three-year mark and doing well. Several have had post-treatment pet-scans that show absolutely no sign of a type of cancer that not too long ago killed within the first year.

I think that’s something to celebrate!

Now, I know, you don’t want to tempt fate and neither do I. But there’s no denying that advances in cancer treatment are buying longer, quality lifespans for patients in treatment. And that is something to light up the world about.

I hope there’s a day when cancer is as insignificant as a common cold.  Until that day, though, I’ll take the fact that we do have something to celebrate.

Won’t you join me in praying that all those with cancer find effective treatment and flourish?

And if you’d like to help someone in their battle, I hope you’ll consider one of my thoughtful, gentle healing gifts.  Or–and I know you will LOVE this: a beautiful Hearts & Flowers candle that comes unscented or scented: see our candle shipping schedule.

We cook to keep them alive. Even when we can’t.

we-cook

I’m a writer.

It’s how I think, how I process life and what I love to do.

Back in 2010 I started this essay, We Cook.  My girlfriend had been battling multiple myeloma for a long while and was in a rough patch, so I was making her the things she loved to eat. And while I cooked, I began this essay.

And then, she survived. And I forgot about the essay.

Five years later, she died and the morning after, I remembered it. I don’t know how it came to mind after years buried but it did and I decided to finish it.I  sat at my computer in the quiet before dawn and began to add copy. Suddenly, a wicker basket jumped off the shelf above my desk and into my lap.

Did we have an earthquake? Quickly, I checked to see if anything was moving. No. There was no logical explanation. The only possibility was that my friend had made it happen from the other side. It was the first of several connections she made from the other side in those first months.

As luck would have it (ha) I noticed that an anthology called Here in the Middle: Stories of Love, Loss & Connection from the Ones Sandwiched in Between was still seeking essays. I sent We Cook in and it was accepted almost immediately. Two years ago, it was published. Here it is:

We Cook
for Marilyn

by Carol A. Cassara

We cook.

When we don’t know what else to do, we cook.

Seasoned tri-tip roast nestled in a bed of organic broccoli slow-cooked to palate-tempting perfection. Beef for stronger blood, broccoli to repair the immune system. Dishing out hope against hope, heaping spoonfuls of guarded promise carefully plated and set on the table.

Pulling a big knife from the block I chop watermelon into sweet red cubes, dice redolent minty green leaves and section an orange. Sprinkling feta cheese over the mix I serve it up on a white plate, a life-restoring offering.

If only.

I stand over a stainless steel pot of black beans infused with onion, garlic and spices, my wooden spoon moving in slow circles to meld the flavors, my nose twitching at the aromas. She loves my black beans and will ask for them several times this week. How little it is, but it is all I can do. We are all helpless when we see death in the waiting room, biding its time.

Broad layers of pasta noodles in the casserole topped with meat, yellow and green vegetables and scarlet marinara remind me of the cooking course the two of us took outside of Rome that autumn week. We cooked two huge meals a day—and ate them—laughing the whole time, learning from Italians who had no English. We were fluent in the language of the kitchen and we speak it still, even as we watch the stopwatch tick steadily the minutes of her life, our lives.

We will speak it until the end.

How did we get here so fast? I wonder, as carrots, zucchini, onion and green beans simmer in the soup pot, my face hot in the steam, holding my tears in the corner of my eyes, blotting them before they fall. I am afraid if I let them go they won’t stop: tears for the women we once were, the women we are now, but mostly for what she’s going through, her disease picking up speed now. They can’t infuse bags of blood and platelets fast enough to keep up with it. I can’t infuse food fast enough, either.

I didn’t draw a lucky family card and longed for the kind of sister mine would never be. I was 33 when I got someone better, this sister-friend who is now dying.

Who can explain the alchemy of sisterhood, when masks drop away and souls connect? How is it that we can have it with one and not another? What will I do when she is gone?

We’ve sat together at many tables, for meals, for cocktails, pouring wine and pouring out our souls. Now, she insists on rolling her walker to the dinner table and sitting for as long as her disease will let her, even if it’s just minutes.

Through onion tears I can barely see the knife move on the cutting board. If I’m not careful I could slice my finger and I almost want to, to feel something other than gut-wrenching sorrow.

Endings have never been my strength; I’ve always kept people in my life long after the relationship had wilted around the edges. But this one stayed fresh through each stage of our lives, though we had little in common, nothing obvious, anyway.

I grab seasonings from my rack. She’s always loved her food spicy, but now it takes more than simple spices to tempt her palate. I double my usual measured spoonfuls and add oregano and seasoned pepper to the waiting stock pot, and then, hot pepper.

When we met she was a stay-at-home wife of a prosperous executive and mother of two. Divorced twice and childless, I was trying desperately to find a job in a new city, new state and new industry. Her long, graceful fingers sparkled with diamonds and gold, while my one solitaire sat in a drawer, a symbol of my failure. Her friends were all ladies who lunched and I was a woman with a briefcase and a 1980s business suit.

But we “got” each other instantly. Maybe it was because we shared Italian heritage, maybe because we were both transplanted Californians from the northeast. I can’t explain it, and really, it’s not important. What’s important is that we connected. It stuck, too. Our bond would carry us more than 30 years, through love affairs, divorces and remarriage; through new jobs and graduations; through earthquakes, dinners in Italy and wine drunk in in Napa. And through secrets, shared and unshared.
Later, it carried us through ambulance rides to the emergency room, three different wheelchairs, two walkers, stints in the intensive care unit; through chemotherapy, opportunistic infections and then, through celebrations of miraculous rallies. Now, though, in a final test, it’s carrying us through her death.

That 30-year span of friendship was unfathomable when we met, but now, as the end is foreshadowed, I’m startled at how quickly the days have passed and are still speeding by, way too fast. I want to stop time, freeze it in place, keep her with me. I can not fathom the world otherwise.

I hold on to the cutting board as if I were holding on to her life, chopping furiously, furious at the loss that is to come, each chop a No!, half pleading and half demand.

Broth is simmering on the stove, waiting for me to add the last cup of her favorite vegetables. She’ll have the soup for dinner tonight, served hot, not lukewarm. She hates her food lukewarm.

I scoop bright green florets of broccolini into the water, add seasoning and cook.

Carol A. Cassara is a writer whose essays have appeared in Skirt!, the Christian Science Monitor, Blood and Thunder literary magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, on KQED public radio, several Chicken Soup for the Soul books and other publications and anthologies.

Marilyn inspired this business, A Healing Spirit. You can read her story on the home page and you can buy the wonderful grief and healing toolkits to help support loved ones who might need a lift.

You can buy the book and read everyone else’s essays at this affiliate link.

5 Questions about chemo and hair

5 Questions about chemo and hair

hairI met Gina Kasznar at a women’s group meeting. Or rather, I first met her amazing head of blonde hair–it is absolutely gorgeous. So it was no surprise when I found she represented a hair product line. Since some of my friends and clients are or have undergone chemo and have had their hair challenges, we got to talking about how her products might help. And it turns out, they CAN help. And have helped many chemo patients. So I asked her to answer my five questions as part of my series 5 Questions With…

 1. Why is hair so important to women?

Our hair frames the first thing people look at when they see us…our face! Some women choose a clean and simple “frame”, some women choose a more extravagant “frame”, and some women are in between. Whatever the case may be, hair is important because I believe it gives women confidence and femininity. We make statements with our hair. A good hair day can change a woman’s whole attitude and arm her to conquer her day ahead. Your hair is the crown you don’t take off and every woman deserves a crown that’s always polished and refined.

2. What kind of hair challenges do your clients undergoing chemotherapy face?

When my clients have undergone chemotherapy, they may lose most, if not all of their hair…including their eyebrows and eyelashes. When their hair grows back after chemo, it doesn’t grow back the same. There can be bald spots, slow growth, thinner hair, curlier hair, straighter hair, and I’ve even seen cases where their eyebrows barely grow back at all.  It can be very unruly and unmanageable and quite frankly,  frustrating for a person who has just gone through a very tough time in their life. Why should they have to worry about yet another problem…their hair?

3. What products do you recommend and are they safe for chemo patients?

Monat is a product line that I am so happy to be able to offer to chemo patients and anyone who is unhappy with their hair. Monat is a naturally based, anti-aging, growth-promoting hair care line that is groundbreaking. It is safe for chemo patients to use because we say no to toxic ingredients. We use rich formulations of botanical & essential oils and antioxidants that make these naturally-based ingredients work in harmony with each other, combining and reacting to pump up their natural properties.

Some of the specific products I recommend to chemo patients are as follows:

Intense Repair Shampoo – All of our products promote hair growth, but this one in particular is intended for people who have severe hair loss. It is more concentrated to help with hair growth.

Intense Repair Treatment – This product is a leave-in treatment that is sprayed on the scalp daily to penetrate the hair follicle and stimulate the scalp to promote hair growth.

S3 Supplement Support System – Each of the clinically proven ingredients in this daily capsule work together to replenish the possible nutrient deficiencies that could be contributing to hair loss. S3 provides a holistic hair regrowth treatment that works to promote enhanced hair growth from the inside out.

Eye Wonder – Eye Wonder is a high-performance serum formulated with clinically proven ingredients that helps increase the strength and condition of brows and lashes.

Rejuveniqe Oil Intensive – I love this product because it has so many incredible uses! It can be used as a scalp treatment to rejuvenate and nourish the hair and scalp. It can be used on the skin as a moisturizer and it has anti-aging properties. And it can also help to heal or lessen the effects of sunburns, cuts/scrapes, burns, psoriasis, eczema, etc. Most of our products are infused with this incredible oil.

4. What results have chemo patients had after using your products?

It is not necessary to wait until you have lost all of your hair from chemo to use these products. You can be proactive and start using Monat right away if you know you are going to be undergoing chemotherapy. Feed your hair and scalp with these nutrient rich ingredients to keep it healthy and ready to restore your hair after you are done with your chemo treatments.

After using Monat, many chemo patients have found their hair grows back faster, healthier, and more manageable. I’ve even seen some patients whose hair was completely dormant months after finishing chemo. It wasn’t until they started using Monat that they saw incredible results in just 2 weeks! These results help build confidence and motivate patients to triumph over the battle they fought with cancer. It’s amazing what great hair can do for your self-esteem and drive.

And Monat isn’t just for chemo patients…it’s for everyone! We have products for volume, hydration, a men’s line, styling products and even a junior line for kids. It has even helped people with alopecia and people who suffer from balding or thinning. It greatly improves the quality of your hair so you will never have a bad hair day again!

hair5. How can someone work with you?

There are few different ways you can work with me:
1. You can become a retail customer to purchase Monat at full price.

2. You can become a lifetime VIP with Monat for a one-time fee of only $20. This VIP membership will give you 15% off products, access to all of our flash sales and promos, and for orders $84 or more you will receive free shipping and a free “Only For You” limited edition product with your order!

3. You can sign up to join my team as a Market Partner and start your own Monat business. The compensation plan is amazing, the cost to start is very low, you don’t have to keep any inventory, and you get 30% off products. And I mean it when I say that Monat truly is an amazing company to own my business with. They are a family owned business and they genuinely care about their employees. Joining Monat on this revolutionary hair care journey has changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful.

See Gina’s website for more info:  www.ginakasznar.mymonat.com

Email: ginakasznar@mymonat.com
Phone: 408-431-4819
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gina.kasznar
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gkasz/

How to honor your own strength

How to honor your own strength

honor-your-own-strength
Do you honor your own strength?

Sometimes, we don’t realize how far we’ve come. Sometimes, we walk through life doing the work without even realizing it.

Other times, we set out to handle our challenges, whether it’s through self-help or professional help. We want to surmount them.

I ran into someone the other day who has been dealt a challenging health card. My heart went out to her, as I imagined myself in that situation and how I’d feel. Imagining is not the same has having. Having friends facing related battles is not the same has having.

But not having doesn’t have to stop us from feeling compassion and empathy.

I was saddened to see that her situation has made her bitter, resentful and angry.

Understandable: who in a situation like that hasn’t asked themselves “why me?”

Even so, living in that “why me” is not a good place to be. It’s dark and can make things worse.

But it takes a lot of effort to pull out of it. To accept that life’s unfairness has targeted you and still go on to live a happy life.

I know people who have done just that. They’ve done the work to build the strength pull out of the hole and go on. They may be limping, and the pace may be slow with detours along the route, but they’re moving forward.

Today I’m honoring those souls who have learned to harness their strength and rise to the challenge. I admire them tremendously. I know how much work it took. I have some idea of how difficult it has been.honor-your-own-strength

I wish we could bottle that perseverance and courage you have so that others can have it, too.

To those who are facing those challenges right now, this thought: no matter how slow it seems, forward is still progress.

There are people in the world praying for you, sending you positive vibes and supporting your fight.

I’m one. But not the only one.

Rest a moment and honor your own courage and strength. Just like we do. We honor you all.

And another reminder about our gentle and affordable gift packages to help (and honor) those going through a tough time.

The secret to providing words of comfort

The secret to providing words of comfort

comfortI’ve got to get this off my chest because some people simply can not figure out how to provide comfort. So let me help.

If a friend’s baby born with a congenital defect died in a few months, you would never say “Well, she DID have that congenital defect…” would you?

No. You wouldn’t. NEVER.

It’s stating the obvious, for one, and it is certainly NOT comforting for two. Never happen. Well, maybe it has but I doubt YOU would say that. Knowing that so many of my readers are moms.

So I was horrified when I heard someone say to a lung cancer patient, “Well, you DID smoke all those years…”

Truth as a battering ram

Yes, he did smoke all those years. I wonder, did the speaker think that he didn’t know that smoking could harm him? Did the speaker really think that was a helpful and comforting comment? What purpose did it serve?

How about when we lose someone who has reached a ripe old age, say 94? “Well, she WAS 94, after all.”

No. Not comforting. Yes. Stating the obvious. Duh.

If someone is telling you about a difficult situation they’re facing, it is not helpful to remind them of the obvious, of how they should’ve expected this, etc etc.

Try these words of comfort, instead:

“I’m so sorry you are going through this.”

“It must be really hard.”

“It’s a big loss.”

Those, my friends, are words of true comfort. Empathetic words.  Not the self-satisfying, “I told you so” or “You should’ve expected that.”

Know that the person sharing is seeking comfort. They don’t have to be reminded of the obvious.

Ok, now I’ve gotten this off my chest. Thanks for listening. Love to hear your thoughts.

Don’t forget: our gift packages are affordable ways to help support love ones and give comfort. If you haven’t checked them out, I hope you will.