Hope Speaks: Suzy’s Cancer To Healing Strong Journey

Courage is contagious. That’s all there is to it.

That’s why once monthly, I’ll be featuring those who also fight hard battles, find hope right there in those seemingly impossible places and then take the scary-beautiful, brave step to share their story. Introducing Hope Speaks.

Meet Suzy and her husband, Jeff, two of our greatest friends and biggest supporters for over a decade. Brian and I have shared friendship, countless meals, prayers, a trip to the lake, dog-sitting duties and lots and lots of laughs with these two. When I was so tired of being sick and tired, Suzy invited me over with some friends and talked us through alternative strategies for healing. From then on, I had hope. After all, she healed from cancer by doing eye-opening things at home I’d never even heard of, so I thought If she can heal from something like that, well, I can, too!

Such a beautiful spirit inside and out, loving, encouraging and incredibly brave, Suzy researched and focused to build up her immune system with wildly-different strategies and then shared her story with me when I needed it most. And now, this cancer thriver has founded a non-profit, HealingStrong, to spread the word and connect others to resources and patient to patient support groups: healing from cancer and other degenerative diseases IS possible.

Here is her courageous story.

SUZY’S HEALING STRONG JOURNEYSuzy's Healing Strong Story

My healing strong journey began in 2009 when a diagnosis of cancer stopped me in my tracks.  Heading to surgery for a different health issue, the diagnosis of cancer that same month took me by surprise.  At that time, I trusted my medical care to multiple doctors and subsequently many prescription drugs for various health issues: insomnia, neck tremors, thyroid disease, fibroid tumors, and now this …

To continue reading Suzy’s post written first for HealingStrong click here.

 

I Have a Gut Feeling

I was 35 before learning up to 80% of our immunity is in our gut. So, if something is off in the digestive system, it makes sense that other problems follow.  After years of digestive issues–bloating and gas, especially, I found I had allergies to beef and chicken, as well as dairy. So I spent an entire summer juicing veggies and fruits and gave up meat for over a year. I felt much better for a while, but bloating and gas eventually returned, as well as itching, burning skin rashes that started on one arm or leg and moved weekly (it seemed) to others. I have always loved to eat, but all of this took the joy out of food for me. After being tested, over 32 food sensitivities were found, and each time I was re-tested, I went home and cried, since more and more foods were knocked off my list. I have found, though, once my gut healed, I have been able to eat all of those yummy things again, except gluten, which causes all kinds of problems.
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There are great articles out there about improving gut health (see links below), and I have learned what has helped me in one way or another. Here is some of it:

  • Healing the gut takes time and patience.
  • Rest! Continuous stress steals our health if we don’t take regular times to relax and enjoy life.
  • Be laser-focused and do your best; however, do not expect perfection. Once I read that each time you eat foods you are sensitive to, it’s like opening an old wound (ouch). Even knowing that, I would try a little bit of something on the off-limits list every now and then. Later, I looked  pregnant, had terrible heartburn, my stomach burned with intestinal spasms, and I beat myself up since I knew better. And that cycle did not help one bit.
  • Give yourself grace when (not if) you slip up. It gets old and frustrating, feeling like the only one who cannot eat anything “normal” at wedding receptions, parties, restaurants and celebrations at work.
  • Always take a snack you enjoy–then and afterwards–when you go anywhere. Nuts and Kind Bars (with no more than 5g of sugar) have been lifesavers.
  • Eat less carbs and sugar, which can throw off your gut balance. I was told to only eat 1/3 cup of berries a day while my gut was healing.
  • Eat more veggies–preferable organic and lightly steamed. Juicing helps, too, but more veggies/ less fruit!
  • Add healthy fats to your diet.  Avocado, coconut oil and olive oil are some of my favorites.
  • Drink ginger, chamomile and/ or peppermint tea about 30 minutes after meals to help with digestion and soothe the intestines.
  • Read about raw milk here. It has probiotics and immunoglobulins, which helps build up the immune system. THIS has made such a difference for me, especially since finding I have an immune deficiency.

Want to find out more? Click on these links from some experts:

 Have you had issues with your gut health? Since every body is different, what has worked for you?

We All Are Beautiful

snowglimpseThis is for…

those of us who are learning to be ourselves

those of us who have love to share, but the parent/ spouse/ girlfriend/ boyfriend/ baby won’t come even though we are ready

those of us who are spent from sharing all our love with everyone else and need time to just be

those of us who are dealing with the ongoing stuff of abuse or addictions and want to feel okay

those of us whose past is not something to be proud of

those of us who don’t know what is nextsnowylove

those of us whose mind or body is challenged with brokenness

those of us searching for our place in this world

those of us who want to heal from what’s holding us back

those of us who have a secret (that would change everything) but are terrified to speak it out loud

those of us who work hard and receive no thanks

those of us who don’t work hard enough and need to keep trying

those of us who make mistakes

those of us who are braver than we think

those of us who keep on wading through the hard stuff

those of us who are learning to love every inch of who we are

This is for all of us who are living.

In the chaos of brambles and thorns, we are ever breathing and growing.

This is for all of us, for we are beautiful.

snowyvines
You are loved. Happy Valentine’s Day!

We All Are Beautiful was first posted by Hope Walks In on 2.14.14.

A Birthday Surprise

I didn't make this graphic and don't know who did. In the words of a friend, "I love/ hate it."
I didn’t make this graphic and don’t know who to attribute it to (the teacher in me would add an apostrophe) ; however, I agree with a friend who said, “I love/ hate it.”

I’m not sure what I had in mind exactly for the future; I guess more time at the same jobs we’ve loved for years. It was out of my hands, though, as much of life is. Next year, my work will look a little different than it does now.

When we make life decisions, we have to live with them, but sometimes it’s even more difficult when life makes a huge turn, having zero to do with our choices. We are left a little lost and bewildered, wondering something along the lines of…

What did I do to deserve this? (And for me…during my birthday week?)

But after the shock lessens, it ends up having more to do with what we actually do with what happens to us. When things are out of our control, it can feel terribly lonely. Fear creeps in, and there are more questions than answers. Hope? Well, it feels impossibly far away. Trusting God has a plan, roller coaster-like as it may be, brings me some peace even when what’s happening makes zero sense. I’m learning when I feel worried and anxious about exactly what next year will look like, I have to say out loud, “Okay, God, I know you got this.” I am not an expert at it, but I’m finding more and more, um, opportunities to practice it. Hearing myself helps me believe it when time stops at the top of the roller coaster. It’s there, when my eyes are closed, and I’m edging closer to the next breath-stealing, hurtling ride into the unknown.

So, at first, this change felt like a deep, dark question, but it has become instead a big, bright possibility. I don’t know how it all will work; I have no idea. But, I realized something else as peace replaced my initial fear. Somewhere deep down, I have longed for time to pursue some other things but expected that would only happen at retirement (in a million years). Don’t get me wrong; I love my job as it is now, but here it is, this surprising gift placed in my open hands.

 

Why the New Blog Name?

This blog began as A Little More Than I Was.  Now it has grown into Hope Walks In, simply because I write about the messy adventures of life and finding hope in the dark spaces (If you haven’t read this month, click here. It’s the same blog with a new name, and this year I’m focusing on Hope and Healing: Little by Little).

Always, the unknown exists, bringing times of joy, heartbreak and everything in between. Life does that, over and over — laughter and fun, followed by tough stuff that sneaks in when we least expect it. Each time, we can sink as the waves crash down or learn to swim–asking for help and hope along the way.

Hope walks in all types of ways:
a whisper
earth-shaking like booming thunder
a hint of yellow light or red sky
a line in a song or a poem
a stranger’s words
a prayer
a hug from a loved one
a place you’d least expect  (like on the bumper sticker stuck on the car that cut you off)
the stories of others

While hope doesn’t air lift us from our troubles and place us on a lush island, free of sickness, war, poverty and daily challenges, it helps us to believe this uncomfortable-growing-stretching-sometimes-devastating space may not last forever. Maybe we’re not alone. Maybe there’s more to life than what we see at this moment. Maybe there’s something to learn.

Life happens in all its mystery, full of adventure, sadness and beauty. We find we’re a little more bruised up from life’s challenges, yet somehow wiser, stronger and braver than we knew we could be.

When we let go and search, begging, trusting God and even waiting for it to show up, hope walks right in the door.

Where else do you find hope?

 

 

On Rest and Recovery

Does all that has to get done today have to get done today?

restIn this multitasking age of do more, see more, be more, live in the moment and seize the day there is a lot of pressure to DO and just keep doing. Yes, we need to live a focused life; however, we need to regularly stop, or we’ll be stopped by sickness when the body doesn’t recover from the day’s stress. Did you know the brain also functions better when it has regular sleep?

For a while, I would have paid for good sleep if that were an option, but I don’t take sleeping pills since they leave me feeling groggy for hours. Night after night, I tossed and turned, becoming more anxious as I wondered how I’d get everything done the next day. When my rheumatologist wrote down:

Patient needs 45 minutes of rest a day in or on bed,

I felt like I hit the lottery because not only was I told I had to slow down, but now I had permission (in writing)! And that shifted my thinking in a big way because I had a mandatory rest time (like in first grade but without my Strawberry Shortcake pillow), and it made a difference.  Suddenly, it was more about what I chose NOT to do than what I did. This is a choice I have to make every day, and it does not come easy. Even now, Brian will ask me when I am going to stop the busy-ness when I’ve worked all day and then continued working at home in the evenings.

If sleep and rest are problematic for you, here are some ideas others have shared with me that have helped me. Every body is different, so maybe you will find one or several that work for you.

  • communicate your needs to those around you when you need rest and ask them help you stay on track
  • cancel social plans if it feels like staying out is too much for you (but don’t forget to arrange to spend time together another day)
  • massage organic sesame oil on bottoms of feet right before bed
  • try Natural Calm, a magnesium supplement also called “the anti-stress drink”
  • take a 20 minute bath with epsom salts and (optional) essential oils like lavendar (epsom salts/ magnesium is also helpful for painful joints)
  • drink warm milk with cinnamon or cardamom
  • 30 minutes before bed, turn off all screens – the light from TV, phone and other electronics keeps your mind wired
  • get in bed and read for 30 minutes
  • listen to quiet music
  • even if you are stressed, worried or angry, try starting a mental or written gratitude list
  • pray – When the lights are turned off and it’s quiet, it’s hard not to focus on all that’s not right in our life or the world. I love this verse–“Come to me, all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

What can you choose NOT to do today? Give yourself permission to listen to your body and do what you need for yourself. If that doesn’t work, here’s your permission–>get some rest in or on bed. :)

 

On Finding Hope and Healing

As many of you know, I was tested for numerous autoimmune issues including Lyme Disease last year. It was a mystery, but in the summer I was diagnosed with Sjogrens Syndrome and Hypogammglobulinanemia (immune deficiency). It took a lot of time, ruling out other diseases with blood work results from various doctors and integrative health practitioners through the years. During that time and even before then, friends and acquaintances had their own health struggles and also found answers that led to their own healing. Then, they went a step further and selflessly took the time to tell me their story. And there, I found hope.

Over and over, we all hear of people devastated by disease and cancer, but over and over, I am hearing of those who are thriving by intentionally making major life changes…and not using medication. Nothing makes it more real than when your own body proves it has the potential to heal itself with the right nutrients from whole food and supplements to boost the immune system, as well as detoxify the body. Every body is different, so the challenge lies in finding direction through prayer, reducing stress and resting.

When we share our stories, challenges and victories, it’s powerful, like unlocking a hidden door for ourselves AND others. Since so many spoke to me through conferences, books, blogs, over the phone and during long dinners, it made an impact in such a way that I had hope. Hope that healing would indeed come. And it has in many amazing ways.

So, how can I not do the same?!

2015 is a year of intention for me, and here is my plan for this space starting next month: Finding Hope and Healing…Little by Little

Healing is usually slow, after all, whether from sickness, disease, past hurts and other emotional issues. The common thread? Healing also must be intentional!

Week 1 — an inspirational, hope-filled post (much like my usual writing, including stories of the pups, the joys and pains of marriage, infertility, sexual abuse, my health journey, and finding God in the struggle, etc.)

Week 2 — a post about useful healing books, quotes, music, art, and/ or recipes

Week 3 — physical and emotional healing tips I’m learning along the way

Week 4 — re-posting of interesting topics from other writers

Thanks for reading! :)

Oh, and I’m (obviously) working on a new look and even considering a new title for my blog. Any ideas?

 

Light Changes Things

Before I’ve pulled back the curtains and opened the blinds each morning, everything inside my house is draped in darkness. As I walk down the hallway, my eyes rest on dog hair under the couch that seems to multiply overnight and what is left to be organized in Room #3 (Extension cords? boxes of photos? diplomas and yearbooks? Room #3 holds all those items without a specific place when we moved. In August).

Deep breath.

No matter who you are, whether you live alone or with other people, it seems all this work still needs to be done…after all this work already finished. But as the sun comes up, I can’t wait to open the blinds, as many as possible, because the light streaming in changes things. Instantly, the way I see it all is different.

mountains

Just as the morning light brightens the room and brings warmth, if I am grateful for where I am and where I used to be, unrealistic expectations or frustration over what was left undone the day or year before lessens. 2014 was a challenging year, and a lot was accomplished. Much of the difficulty came first along with fear and anxiety over what was coming next. Somehow, I settled into the upheaval after kicking and screaming a bit, knowing we were carried in the arms of God. Always. Attitudes changed and before we knew it, the dread of WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN NOW? became an excited and hopeful What now?!

God has us (even when He feels far away) and will point us in the right direction when we stop kicking Him away. Maybe when situations don’t go as we would like, instead of jumping right into the next opportunity, we take some time to look out from where we are, breathe in some fresh air, and let the light tumble in, flooding us with a new perspective.

Was 2014 a growth year for you? Why or why not? If so, how have you changed because of it?

May your 2015 be filled with health, strength and joy through the challenges it brings.

Christmas: A Season of Bitter and Sweet

20141221-220655.jpgHow can all that’s wrapped up in one day be such a mix of bitter and sweet? The morning woke with a sea of aqua, pink and orange shining through the starkness of the leafless trees.

Beautiful. I was thankful to witness it.

This week held hugs from my elementary students and so many well-wishes for the Christmas holiday, my heart was full. Almost alternately over and over again, this sweet-filled space was traded with news of someone else hurting–funerals to plan, impending death, terrible sickness, job loss, worry, fear, loneliness during this time of family and friends gathered together.

Heartbreaking. Emotionally, it was quite the roller coaster ride, joyful tears welling up, then those of pain for so many struggling to find peace during this season.

Bitter and sweet, tough and beautiful. One particular day was full of both, and all I wanted to do was sit with my head in my hands and cry for all of it. Lovely people, brave and strong, shared their fears and sorrow, yet appreciated and selflessly gave to others. The Christmas season brings that out in us. Love does that. Jesus did that.

Grateful for all that day brought, still, the richness and toughness of it left me reeling. This is what life is over and over–a jagged edge that cuts deep, a soft landing place when the pain comes. It is a breaking forth of emotions for lives in the starkness of struggle and then the reminder of the beauty of love and community in the very next breath.

snowylove

 

No matter your situation, may your Christmas be filled with hope. After all, we are here for one another.