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recovery

Me and Mom

It took me five years to return home, to visit my mother. That’s a long time, I know, and causes a lot of curiosity about all of my reasons. Often, reasons are a distraction; labels that give a justification why I’m not doing something.

I’d count up the years and after awhile not going even seemed like my new normal. I’d hear others talk about their holiday visits home and I felt no connection. It was easier to stay away, it was that simple. However, something else was growing on the inside at the same time.

Faith in something better.

That faith got me to start making a phone call to my mother at least once a week when normally we spoke every six months, or even more. A kernel of hope or optimism that God really does exist and really is unconditional Love got me to ignore the conversations that would have normally wounded me and I changed the subject instead. Maybe there was more to learn.

Forgiveness carried me the rest of the way. Not the kind of forgiveness where I judged my mother and decided I would let it go. That’s still me standing on high and deciding not only am I better in general, I’m really compassionate too. Look at me.

My mother, my son

I was learning through action a subtler kind of forgiveness that has more to do with myself and what I’m capable of, including letting go of all that’s happened, didn’t happen and live in the day I’ve been given, instead.

What matters is I returned home, which just means the place where my mother lives now, and spent a long weekend sitting next to her, driving her around and just being without wanting something in return. I was even reminded that she has a wicked sense of humor and often goes out of her way to be fair, even generous.

The strangest part I’ve found is that when I go into anything without expectations the riches find me and I walk away with more than I ever expected. All of the grasping generally leaves me with less.

The place where all of the resentment and anger sat is left empty for God to fill. A vacuum is always filled. More adventures to follow.

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Ann Ogden Gaffney, founder of Cook for Your Life

Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer I feel an instant kinship with anyone else who’s had the same label slapped on them. It’s an afterthought to me to find out what kind.

The word cancer though actually encompasses a myriad of forms of cells growing out of control inside the body. But hearing that someone else has the Big C, whether it’s the same form or not, instantly creates a bond.

I know what it’s like to have the idea put into a more concrete form that I may not live as long as the rest of you.

It’s after that initial wave passes that a strange and wonderful thing happens to a lot of survivors. We look for ways to insert ourselves back into life while being of service to others with our newfound appreciation.

Blessings pop up as we create a way for all of our fellow survivors to plug back into a new definition for their life.

Ann Ogden Gaffney who is a 10 year survivor of kidney cancer and a five year breast cancer survivor took that universal philosophy and melded it with her love of cooking and created, Cook For Your Life, www.CookForYourLife.org in 2007 by teaching patients at St. Luke’s in New York City and that’s when she saw the huge demand and decided to make a change.

Classes are held in the NYC area for both cancer patients, survivors and even caregivers to offer them a chance to learn how to cook, pour their emotions into chopping and stirring and find some understanding among fellow travelers. “The cooking classes help them get through difficult times,” said Ann. “It’s a warm situation with a lot of chopping and chatting.” Classes are also offered in Spanish and Ann hopes that Cook For Your Life will eventually spread to other cities.

I’m hoping Chicago is next.

Somewhere in the middle of being diagnosed so many times with skin cancer I realized that eating better would probably benefit my immune system. The trick was going to be finding a way to learn how to eat what they call “closer to the ground”, or less packaged food without overwhelming myself. [click to continue…]

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My left leg after surgery for melanoma in October 2009

*Today’s blog originally ran as a column shortly after the second bout of melanoma in late 2009.

Lately, my sense of humor has been slipping just a little. Two bouts of cancer in six weeks have left me feeling a little snippy. I find it more difficult to make a joke over something serious or easily relax back into serenity when something doesn’t go right.

Thank goodness my halo has gone in for repairs. It is only when we are really exhausted and exasperated to our limits that our true self gets a chance to air out a little. My true self had a few cobwebs clinging to it.

It is so easy to know that the world likes me when I’m not asking anything from anyone. It’s especially true when I can give wise, profound answers to other people’s problems and can say just the right thing to bring a little comfort. However, that’s not always life and while being able to be calm, collected and witty is admirable, we were given the emotions of anger and anguish for a reason.

Each human being is so unique that asking others how we should lead our own life is a recipe for disaster. We don’t do things the same way because we all have different motivations. Therefore, we have to learn to trust ourselves in concert with the faith of our choosing. However, there are at least five times a week when I’m in a pickle about which way to turn and it’s then that the full array of emotions can come in handy.

A surge of anger lets me know my boundaries have been crossed or at the least that something’s not right and to question, question, question. Anguish tells me to slow down and recognize the loss. The deeper I feel either emotion the more I know I may need some help to get a better picture of what’s happening to me.

I’m not looking for someone to make a decision for me. That would be disabling and we can only give counsel through our own set of beliefs anyway. I’m looking for a different view at a time that I’m lacking clarity, that’s all.

But so many of us were raised to be independent to a fault and as adults we’re finding out that it’s not only a harder road, it was one we were never meant to take.

People who can ask for help and accept it are more likely to have lower stress levels, better health and live longer. That’s why the areas of the world where people live the longest, the blue zones, are full of interconnected families. Not necessarily low-fat diets or a lot of outdoor activity. [click to continue…]

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