“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.

dreamstime_5054454

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

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“Everything Happens for a Reason” and the Judgment Zone

“Everything Happens for a Reason” and the Judgment Zone

Throughout the last two years of living with the big “C” and delving into the big “C” world, I’ve met countless other survivors.  I’ve joined several support groups.  I’ve become heavily involved in various cancer charities.  Now, I’m blogging and finding other bloggers opening up about their big “C” lives.  Basically, from the moment of my diagnosis, I pushed myself right through the cancer club door, no questions asked.  I anointed myself a member of a club I never wanted to be a member of, and obviously, I never expected to be a member of.

Within this cancer club sphere, a topic that constantly comes up is the notion that “everything happens for a reason.”  I’ve seen that the reactions to this phrase run the full gamut –  we either embrace it unwaveringly, or it makes us want to punch people in the face.  (See below – this is a card I actually received from one of my favorite snarkiest friends)

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[DISCLAIMER: This is a “judgment free zone.”  I never judge any cancer survivor’s reactions, feelings, etc. to their situation.  Our cancer is our cancer and no two are the same.  While I may personally feel different from others, and I may embrace my experiences in certain ways, neither is right or wrong.]

So, for me, I do in fact believe that things happen for a reason.  After seriously contemplating life and death, and facing a potentially terminal disease, not to mention 3 complex brain surgeries, you can’t help but think, “What does all this mean?”

I was not always a very positive person throughout my life.  I was very cynical, even at a young age, and many times unhappy, really for no legitimate reason.  I frankly had a fantastic life.  Who knows where all that came from?  However, immediately after my diagnosis, everything changed.

I never got angry.  I never questioned, “Why me?”  Did I make jokes about how insane it was that a perfectly healthy person, who had never even been admitted into a hospital before, wound up with one of the most serious conditions you can get?  Hell yeah I did.  Some of the typical phrases I used were, “I can’t do anything simply.” or “Go big or go home.”  Every time I was asked about previous medical conditions, my standard reply was, “Nope.  Just brain cancer.”  My tumor is also so rare that my husband loves to say, “I always knew you were one in a million.”  (turns out I’m even more than one in a million, as approximately only 72 adults are diagnosed in the U.S. every year with my specific type and with all my factors.. yay me!)

I took on an unwavering positive attitude that I was going to beat this no matter what, and despite whether the end would come quickly or years and years from now, I would fight every single solitary day.  I would never ever give up.

[SECOND DISCLAIMER:  Another “hot topic” is the use of battle/war phrases to describe our cancer experiences.  There is a school of thought out there that by using those terms “fight” and “giving up” it implies that those we’ve lost didn’t fight enough, or did give up.  In no way do I believe that!!!]

So, I decided that Yes, this did happen for a reason.  I came to grips with the fact that I very likely would never know that reason.  I believe in God, and I do believe that throughout my life, every stage and every step has led to the here and now.  While I am here, continuing to breathe, continuing to get up out of bed every day and face this, there is a reason.  I mean, if there isn’t, then that REALLY sucks! All of this for nothin’????

So, while I harbor no ill will or judge those who feel differently, I don’t always feel that sentiment returned.  I have actually had relatively confrontational exchanges with survivors who do not in any way see that there is a reason for this.  In a circular-type argument though, those survivors tell me they have felt judged because they don’t embrace the notion “it happened for a reason.”  Yet, in the same breath, they roll their eyes and make slightly nasty comments towards people like me who actually do feel there’s a reason.  Hence, they’re sitting there complaining about being judged, as they’re looking me in the face judging me.

Again, I feel the way I feel.  It’s my coping mechanism.  So, along with that, I tend to distance myself from those who I feel judge my way of thinking/coping.  I understand how they feel.  Cancer is awful.  It’s bullshit.  It can kill us!!!  However, if I’m going to walk along this Earth, for however long that may be, I’m going to continue embracing every moment and believe that Yes, there is a reason.

God gives us only what we can handle.  Apparently, God thinks I’m a bad ass!