Tag Archives: cancer support groups

What You Nurture Will Grow

There were 7 of us gathered around the table, silently letting our bodies and minds arrive into the quiet anticipation of our time together. Our small monthly gathering of the Younger Women’s Support Group for cancer survivors under the age of 55 was about to begin. On the table between us sat a basket of unimposing flower bulbs, some rocks, glass beads and small vases.

A few days before, I met with the social worker who facilitates this group with me, and the idea formulated that we would lead the group in an exercise of focused intention. We were to focus on what we would like to nurture and grow, really feeling into what that need was in our lives. We used the bulbs as a structure to represent this idea, belief or habit that we were going to foster and grow by adding water and tending to.

The clear vase with white stones and blue glass looked beautiful when I brought it home. I was feeling inspired and hopeful as I added water and carefully brought it to the windowsill next to my crystals, potted plants and singing bowl. It was all set perfectly. Now I just have to wait for this bulb to grow, I thought. This didn’t turn out to be very easy.

Among us in the group, our intentions were as varied and personal as our inner lives. For me, I recognized a need for better self care and permission to rest. I find this feeling lives deep in my belly, in the core of knowing who I am. In the dark cob-webbed cellar of my being, there is an old rooted belief that my value as a person is tied up in how hard I work. Logically, I know this to be untrue, but coming from a long line of type-A workaholics, this belief can feel like an insurmountable hill when I’m in full tilt productivity mode. There is my heart work, my newly burgeoning coaching business, a few other side projects and jobs, my family, home, garden, friends and a myriad of other responsibilities. I like being busy and usually thrive on the rich diversity of my day-to-day. Until… I bottom out.

I know I have hit a wall when the deadened neuropathy in my fingers and toes comes back and it feels like I’m walking around with clothes pins on my extremities. It shows up in the dull ache of my low back, the ligament laxity that comes with full blown adrenal stress. It feels like the knotty kink in my neck. It’s really apparent when even after a cup of my strongest morning brew, I still want to face plant into the pillows. Instead of napping, I’m looking for what’s next. What else can I cram into my already busy day before my son gets off of the bus at 3 PM, before dinner, before bedtime, before, before, before… and then I’m dragging myself off to bed. Hmm, I’m wondering if some of this sounds familiar to anyone else reading this.

So it’s really no wonder that my bulbs refused to grow. At first, the water was evaporating too quickly. The heat from the bay windows sucked up so much water the first week, that I found myself adding more water every day. There was a tiny bit of root growth, that quickly shriveled up after a day or two of neglect.

I decided to add more water, hoping that my recent oversight would protect the bulbs from drying out. This only resulted in some mold growth. What else was I doing wrong here? Why was this taking so long?

I sat back and thought about what else I could do. As a gardener, I thought about the conditions that exist for bulbs when planted in soil.  There is darkness, this required period of rest, before the plant has energy to send its first light green shoots up through the dirt. I reflected on how I was not living up to my end of the bargain. Despite my intentions, I was not resting. I moved the bulbs out of the sunny window. I changed the water entirely.

Conditions must be right for growth to occur. For both the bulbs and for my intentions for better self care and more rest, there were some requirements. These 5 R’s can be applied to any difficult situation or hang up you experience in life.

  1. Reality: I must be willing to take a hard look at what is really going on here.
  2. Responsibility: After making an observation, what am I taking responsibility for? Where can I realistically effect change? Am I over-watering the bulbs and overdoing it energetically? Am I over-scheduling myself?
  3. Responsiveness: It is time for damage control. What can I do to mitigate the lack of growth for my bulbs and in the realm of my own intentions? It is not enough to observe and be stuck in lamenting over what has not grown. I can choose to be responsive and make changes.
  4. Respect: After getting clear on my intentions, it is not enough to make a statement, have an intention setting ritual and just walk away. I must remain vigilant, mindful of what I am setting in motion.
  5. Resilience: I must hook into the part of me that knows how to stay the course and go the distance. Even if I stumble, make mistakes or feel like a flat out failure sometimes, I can learn from my mistakes and keep on trying.

I really didn’t expect all these life lessons could come from some tiny little gladiolus bulbs. I’m reminded that there are lessons all around me if I pay attention. By observing what my body and bulbs are needing, by practicing moderation and most of all, by BEING PATIENT WITH MYSELF, then yes it is true… what you nurture will grow!

 

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Melissa Eppard lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY area with her young son and talented musician husband. She loves gardening, hiking, poetry, art, music and spending time with her family.  As a Life Coach she knows that life is more than a sum of our losses and seeks to ignite the spark of purposeful living and creative fire in everyone she meets.  www.MelissaEppardCoaching.com

 

 

 

 

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Follow the Money Trail$: Keeping your Contributions Local

I had the chance to speak at a local fundraiser last night. Because we are on the cusp of going from Ovarian Cancer Awareness month to Breast Cancer Awareness month, I thought I would share what I read last night and tell you why it is so important to make charitable donations to your local community whenever possible. I feel SO incredibly lucky living here in the Hudson Valley of NY, to have the supportive programming of the Health Alliance Foundation Oncology Support Program. You don’t know what exists out there until you really need it.

Here is what I shared…

“My neighbor was recently diagnosed with cancer. Unlike me, he has no family; he is an older gentleman who lives alone with his dog. When we spoke, I could tell he was confused and overwhelmed by all the information his doctors threw at him. He has to travel 2 hours each way to get to some appointments. I could see in his face that he was sinking and I was grateful to be able to throw him a life preserver. I told him about the Health Alliance Oncology Support Program, about the social workers who will sit with him and come to appointments with him. His face lit up when I mentioned the possible assistance with gas and groceries. We didn’t even get into the healthy lifestyle and exercise classes, cooking and gardening programs, and great writing and art classes too. I know there are so many people like my neighbor who may struggle without the support of family and a network of friends. The Oncology Support Program is there for people like him.

I didn’t really come into the OSP fold when I was freshly diagnosed. I turned to writing my blog, Melissa’s Healing Hope, as a way to process and heal emotionally. I tried attending a group at OSP early on, but ­­ didn’t identify myself as a survivor because I hadn’t survived anything yet, that dark cloak of surgery and treatments still about to fall. While the ladies in the group were very kind, I felt out of touch as a younger person with cancer.

It was after treatment ended that I found myself back at the Oncology Support Program. With a head full of soft peach fuzz, I struggled to make my post cancer life fit into something recognizable. I wondered who I was now and how to continue living with this cloud of fear and uncertainty looming over me as a survivor of hereditary breast cancer. At that time I was acutely feeling the lack of a young women’s support group in the area and considered starting a group of my own when I learned that a new Young Women’s Support group had just formed at the OSP. ­I found harbor there. There was safety and a normalizing just being with people who KNOW… who get the sacrifices of being a younger person with cancer, who know the exquisite pain of uncertainty. In this space I began to no longer feel like I was barely surviving, but found my new footing as a Thriver!

Instead of getting lost in the “What-If’s of a post cancer life, what keeps me going is my mission to give back. I give what I have and that is my time. I do this through my work as a Life Coach holding space for other people’s search for a fulfilling and meaningful life, and in sharing my voice through writing. I have recently started to co-facilitate that same young women’s support group that was my safe harbor, and just this week completed the Nurturing Neighbor training program that offers peer mentorship to other people diagnosed with cancer. I can never un-do this cancer experience, and I will never be who I was before all of this, but I like to think that I now have this gift of experience and authentic compassion, that I can show up and be there for others who are diagnosed with cancer or met with other life challenges, so they won’t feel so isolated and alone.

But there are other ways, very tangible ways to give. Giving gives back to the Giver. When you support the Oncology Support Program through the Health Alliance Foundation your charitable contributions improve the lives of people living with cancer here in the Hudson Valley. Thank you!”

…So where is the need at and who is answering the call right in your own backyard? Find out how you can help. I have previously written about shady foundations  who pocket large percentages of charitable contributions. What I love about the Health Alliance Foundation is that 100% of the donations go directly to the local people it serves, so that residents of the Hudson Valley hopefully never have to choose between having a treatment or skipping it to pay the electric bill.

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

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