“Untamed”

Throughout this whole blogging experience, the majority of my posts have focused on my own personal experiences.

Lately, I kept seeing the book “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle pop up on the Best Seller’s List, and see friends post about it on social media. Now, I’m a sucker for True Crime novels and really didn’t think “Untamed” would be my cup of tea. So, I didn’t look into it until last night.

In the last year or so I’ve been buying audiobooks. Despite my love of holding an actual book in my hand, I cannot focus on those like I can an audiobook. Whatever damage my brain suffered over these last six years, I just cannot read a physical book anymore. It almost pains me, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. So I now have quite the collection of audiobooks. And yes, I have an Audible subscription.

More to the point, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and bought the “Untamed” audiobook. Admittedly, I have not even finished it yet. However, I’m going to buy the physical book because I want to underline, highlight and make SO many notes in the margins!

As I listen to the audiobook, I want to constantly scream out, “Yes!” I purposely began listening to it on my iPad with phone in-hand, so that I could utilize the microphone and repeat quotes into my “Notes” App. Of course, I have to rewind the audiobook multiple times to get the full quote. Hence, it completely disrupts the flow of the book.

Even if I never finish the book, which just simply will not happen, Glennon Doyle has already taught me so much.

I hesitate to use the word “lessons” because I feel it implies that Doyle is preaching to her readers, which I don’t believe she is at all. Blame my catholic school upbringing, I suppose! Nevertheless, the stories and “lessons” about pain have provided me with a whole new outlook.

No spoilers here, I hope.

One thing Doyle emphasizes is to, “Feel it all.” In other words, it’s OK to feel all the “stuff you are feeling”. As she herself comes to realize, “feelings are for feeling-even the hard ones”. As humans, we are supposed to feel everything! Pain is included in that.

Despite the endless pharmaceutical ads that try to convince us otherwise, sometimes we’re meant to feel sad, depressed, overwhelmed, etc. Now, let me be clear-clinical depression and/or a mental health disorder is not what I’m talking about here. With that being said, sometimes we have really sh@tty days or weeks, maybe even months. Although they’re obviously not enjoyable, those days, weeks, and/or months are simply part of the human experience.

Once we realize this, and don’t just turn to a pill or booze (or whatever harmful means people find) to numb the pain, we can fully live. Again, as Doyle states, “Feel it all!” Further, she emphasizes that we need pain “to become”. Now, this may sound totally ambiguous and vague. Maybe even a little hippy-dippy. Yet, she uses two fantastic examples to clarify her point.

One image of the Buddha

Doyle briefly discusses the Buddha. He was actually born a prince. He literally lived like royalty – a very, very comfortable life. However, when he was 29 years old he snuck out of his palace only to find poverty, sickness and death. He had been shielded from this his entire life. So he chose to leave his life of riches to seek enlightenment. After a long search, he went into a deep meditation and found that enlightenment. Thus, he realized that his “conditioned experiences” could not provide lasting happiness or protection from suffering. He had to experience all emotions to find true joy. He even had to experience pain.

Another strong example Doyle points to is Jesus. Regardless of your faith, Jesus is historically believed to have been indeed a real man. Whether your faith teaches you he was our Lord and Savior is 100% yours to feel and believe. I frankly believe that all religions have their validity, unless a religion teaches harm to others. Fundamentalists are present in every religion.

Depictions of Jesus

Back to the point, in discussing pain Doyle states that Jesus walked straight to his crucifixion. He was not afraid of pain, as it is part of our life on Earth.

In utilizing these two examples, her concept that “pain is magic” becomes more clear and understandable.

The concept that truly struck me, given all I’ve been through these last 6 years, is:

“I can feel everything and survive”

She comes to the realization that she can “survive again and again”. After that momentous realization, she naturally became less fearful. Phew! If that’s not an epiphany I don’t know what is!

Now, I’ve read multiple Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Gabby Bernstein, Mitch Albom, and other widely respected authors who write about the human condition and our life’s purpose. I listen to guided meditations. I’ve been to wellness events and retreats. Yet, something about how Doyle discusses the purpose of pain (something I’m constantly focused on) just resonated so clearly.

Doyle elaborates on this further, stating that:

“You can survive pain, and feel it all, and still survive…What I thought would kill me didn’t…I was wrong”

In her personal journey, Doyle finds that:

“Pain is the fuel of revolution!”

She further explains that if you know the pain is present, you also know “the rising” will come and welcome you. I understand that to essentially mean:

Always remember the pain will eventually end. You will get through it and in fact, be a stronger, better person for having gone through it.

People constantly ask how I’ve gone through all that I have and continued to remain so positive. I think Glennon Doyle has summed it up pretty darn well in “Untamed”.

Now I’ve got to go and finish the rest of her book.

The Real Superhero Film

I’m very excited about a project I’ve been working on for a few months now. Drumroll please…. I’m gonna be in a movie!

Okay, very weird tidbit about me – I was actually an extra in an “after school special” type movie back in high school. It starred some pretty famous people, but they probably would rather forget about it. After all, it was pretty cheesy.

However, this film is going to be truly amazing. I hope that anyone reading my lil blog here will follow our progress on social media and our website, which are all below.

The Real Superhero Film” is a feature-length documentary film that explores human stories of cancer survivors, as well as those who dedicate their lives and careers to helping cancer patients. They include esteemed physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and others.

The film will include a variety of intimate interviews, as well as casual and deep conversations about cancer from people of all ages, nationalities and walks of life. Naturally, the theme will be how these particular cancer survivors discovered their “superpowers”.

“Turn your pain into purpose”

A recurring theme in the film

Additionally, experts and medical professionals will discuss their work using their own “superpowers” to help enrich and save cancer patients’ lives.

****Super Bianca!****

Ultimately, the film will show that there are real superheroes all around us!

AND this all came about just by a chance meeting (I’d call it fate) during a physical therapy gym class and my very rude habit of eavesdropping on strangers.

There I was, riding along on the stationary bike one day, and all I can hear is this woman’s Eastern European accent. I looked at this woman, who I just knew was a cancer sista’ in full-on pink, talking with such intense passion about ALL she was doing! Well, she was: filming a movie here in the States and Bulgaria about cancer survivors; she is an extremely famous actress in Bulgaria and even hosted the Bulgarian version of “The Bachelor”; she was working with our hospital to get a PET Scan machine donated to Bulgaria; and, heading a team in a walk for breast cancer. This was a Bulgarian girl-boss and I immediately loved her!

Now, months later we’ve been workin’ it to get this film going, along with the production crew.

The director/co-creator is an award-winning, veteran filmmaker. He has created multiple documentaries, one in particular that aired on PBS. He has also made several short films that have won acclaim at top film festivals worldwide.

The executive producer has one heck of a resume/C.V. too, varying from risk management at Deloitte & Touche, to running her own consulting firm while also embracing her passion for art and design.

Our P.R. and marketing representative is out of the esteemed Dale Carnegie Agency.

We have over 20 participants in both the NYC Metro area and several in Bulgaria, including Bianca’s mother. Very little known fact: The entire country of Bulgaria has only 2, Yes 2, PET Scan machines. Hence, Bianca’s mother waited nearly 6 months for a PET Scan to show she was suffering from lung cancer! There are also few hospitals treating cancer patients and some must travel hours and hours from very remote villages just for treatment.

This is certainly a one-of-a-kind film and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Keep on Fighting!

The Real Superhero Film” Information:

Website: http://www.therealsuperherofilm.com

Instagram: @therealsuperherofilm

Twitter: @therealsuperhe1

Also, a HUGE thank you to NYU Langone Hospital and Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, who have provided an immense amount of support.

My First “Tuesday Trickles” Challenge – Inner Peace

I just found a wonderful blog,  https://acookingpotandtwistedtales.com/join-the-challenge/ that presents a “Tuesday Trickles” Challenge.  Every Tuesday, Jacqueline Oby-Ikochacan opens her blog up to other writers to “share your very short snippets of positive, inspiring, motivating, health, spiritual, writing advice, clips, posts etc.”  I love this idea!

Today is my first “Tuesday Trickles” Challenge.

I woke up this morning reading an article from Deepak Chopra entitled “4 Ways to Create and Maintain Inner Peace.”  All of the 4 lessons deeply spoke to me, but the last lesson particularly inspired me today.  Deepak teaches that we should expand our experience of peace every day.  We need to stop wasting valuable energy on anger, resentment, insecurity and “baggage” created by our own ego.  Instead, use that energy for love, inner growth, creativity, and so forth.

While these words and ideas may not be my own, I am going to apply them today and hopefully going forward, every day.

I will go out into the world and fully embrace my inner self, my inner peace.  I truly do NOT have the energy for anger or negativity.  My inner peace will shine and by sending out that positive energy, it will be felt by others.  Not only will I benefit from this, but others will as well.

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Thank you, Jacqueline, for this Challenge.  I hope to participate in many more.

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Being an “Inspiration”

Inspiring-others

I’ve had countless conversations with fellow survivors on the topic of whether we are an “inspiration” to others through our fight against cancer. Some survivors embrace it, myself included. However, some are almost offended by the notion. (Disclaimer: I don’t believe either side is right or wrong. I always preface any discussion of someone’s feelings towards cancer as extremely personal, which can never be judged as right or wrong).

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The idea of being an inspiration is something I find myself thinking about constantly. For those survivors who do not see themselves as an inspiration, the most common reaction I’ve heard is that she/he believes that they just simply showed up for treatment and did what anyone else in their shoes would’ve done.

 

One particular conversation that stands out was during my First Descents trip. I sat with one of my fellow amazing survivors, overlooking the Rogue River during our lunch break. It was so peaceful. We were relaxing back in Adirondack chairs, sun on our faces, watching the breathtaking flow of the river beside us. I’m not even sure how the topic came up really. Nevertheless, my friend (I’ll call her C. for short), who had been struck by cancer at a young age, began to tell me her opinions on the subject. Like many others, she did not believe that she was any kind of inspiration. In fact, she gave a good eyeroll about the whole thing. She thought that she had simply done what the doctors told her and that was it.

 

In reply, I shared with her my opinion. She was an inspiration. She faced an incredibly traumatic diagnosis, a particularly rare form of cancer especially given her age and her medical history. Yes, she did what her doctors told her, but she did it. Some can’t even face that decision (ex. I’ve met a few patients who refused further treatment). Then, she took her experiences and wrote her own blog. First Descents wasn’t even her first trip with an organization that challenged survivors through whitewater kayaking. Just months prior, she had been kayaking in Colorado with another organization, which she then began volunteering with. She was always smiling and joking. C. just emanated an air of happiness. So, even if to no one else, she was an inspiration to me.

 

As our trip came to a close, during our last group talk, C. told us all that her opinion on the idea of being an inspiration had completely changed. She now embraced the idea, not just in relation to herself and her fight, but in relation to all of us on that trip.

 

Another incredible survivor I met through First Descents felt very similar to C. about his experience with cancer. Again, he felt that he had just gone through the motions of treatment and that was that. Mind you, he suffered three bouts of cancer beginning when he was just nineteen-years-old, resulting in a stem cell transplant and multiple surgeries to remove several body parts affected by the cancer. I can undoubtedly say that he was not just my inspiration, but a resounding inspiration to each and every one of us. He had been through so much, yet he was one of the funniest, kindest, gentlest men I ever had the privilege to meet. To say he was a true gentleman is a huge understatement.

 

In talking with him, I told him that he was indeed an inspiration. In thinking that he wasn’t, I felt that it diminished all that he had suffered and his tireless fight to continue to be so strong. I’m honestly not sure how he felt about my opinion. We didn’t much talk about it further. I certainly didn’t intend to change his feelings on the subject. Again, whatever he felt is his own and there is no judgment towards those feelings. However, I did want him to know how I viewed him and his life, his challenges and his resounding resilience in the face of so much.

 

As for me, yes, I do see myself as an inspiration. Actually, as I sit here today writing this post, I’ve received two emails telling me how inspiring and moving my story is – one person saying it brought them to tears. I am truly honored when someone says that I have inspired them. If you think about it, people consider having cancer as one of the worst things that could ever happen. To see someone fight so hard in the face of such an overwhelming disease does demonstrate the power and resilience of the human spirit. And this is not to say that those we have lost did not fight hard enough, or gave up in any way. The idea that we are an inspiration simply means that someone can look at us, take what we have been through and honor our fight.

 

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