SOS Blog

Rising from the Nautilus

Self on August 12th, 2014 No Comments

scunknown12345I am the one who was covered up with my illness and now I am free from it. 

I am the one who is naked and free and open to life. 

I am the one who rises out of the Nautilus Shell and its many inner chambers.

I am the one in active movement, saying a joyous YES to life!

My message for you today is this- you are connected- head to toe- to divine inner Spirit. Rest easy in this knowledge and CLAIM YOUR JOYFUL LIFE.

Note from Anne Marie: You can see the SoulCollage® cards I made for my 2011-12 cancer journey on this page.

The Cancer Games – Part 2- Honoring Our Grief

Others on September 27th, 2013 No Comments

hunger games rueIn the film The Hunger Games, based on the book by Suzanne Collins, there is a very tender scene after  one of the younger tributes (Rue) is fatally injured.  Katniss, our 17 year old heroine, has formed an alliance with her and is devastated by her death.

Even though she is fighting for her own survival, Katniss takes the time and energy to honor her loss, and to honor Rue.  She clears a small plot of land and covers it with sweet grass and flowers. She lays Rue down, tenderly straighens her hair, carefully folds her hands on her stomach, and scatters flowers over her body.  She sings her a lullaby.

This scene reminds me, again and again, of how powerful it is for our own grieving process, to offer some kind of ritual or ceremony, however small, to honor the life of someone (human or animal) we have lost.

Those of us with cancer may be facing or may have already faced more loss than others.  We may become friends with others who are on the same journey, and we may lose some of them to the disease.  It is never easy to lose a loved one, whatever the reason.  The important thing is that we take some time to honor our loss, to honor their lives.

The modern-day funeral is one such way that we can honor a loved one’s loss.  But what if we can’t go to the funeral because we ourselves are not feeling well from treatment or recovering from a surgery?  In 2011 when I was undergoing multiple invasive tests to determine what was wrong with me, my dear friend Lis died from a rare kind of cancer that she’d been fighting for 3 years.  I couldn’t go to the wake or to the funeral and that made me even sadder than I already was.  I was feeling unwell and fearful of my own diagnosis.

What did I do?  I made Lis a SoulCollage® card that honored her life and our friendship.  I gathered images that reminded me of her essence (and a photo of her as well, in her choir robes) and glued them together on a mat board measuring 5×8.

I set the card by my bed so I could see it often.  I wrote out several dialogs with Lis in my journal.  I put my hand over my heart whenever I thought of her.  I said good-bye to her in my imagination, but it felt very real to me. It felt like I was truly communicating with her even though she was gone to Spirit.

In this way, I honored my grief, my loss.  I honored Lis’s life and I honored our friendship.  How can YOU honor the life of a loved one YOU have recently lost?

 

 

 

 

 

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The Cancer Games

Self on August 21st, 2013 1 Comment

hunger gamesOk, so I finally rented The Hunger Games and watched it this week, with equal amounts of fascination and horror.  I was fascinated with the amount of creative endeavor that went into the writing of the book and then the masterpiece of a movie.  I was horrified with what was expected of those 24 young people!

Throughout my viewing, my heart was deeply touched in many places and after it was over I realized that the main character Katniss was on a journey of survival, and I too have been on that same journey, my journey with cancer.

If any of you are not familiar with the story, the basic premise is this: in a futuristic society/country, once a year, each of 12 districts is required to send two young people (1 female, 1 male) to participate in “The Hunger Games” which is broadcast live throughout their land, much like our Olympic Games.  The 24 participants are drawn by lottery.  The grand prize for the winner is LIFE.  That’s right, in order to win The Hunger Games, one of those young people has to survive the longest. Which means, all the others have to die in order for the one person to win.  It’s the ultimate reality show.  Similar to American Idol, but instead of contestants getting eliminated, they are killed, by one another.

I didn’t see an analogy to my own cancer journey until the very end when the two victors (yes, they bent the rules so that two could win instead of one) are heading home. One of them, Peeta, says sadly, “So what do we do now?”

“Go home and forget, I suppose,” replies Katniss.

“I don’t want to forget,” he says with conviction, looking back over the passing landscape.

That is how I felt when I was nearing the end of my cancer treatments a year ago.  I didn’t want to forget the lessons I had learned along the way.  I felt Peeta’s conviction to not forget what had happened to him/them during their fight for survival.

As I said before, that was the very end of the film, and it makes me curious to know what Peeta will do with that conviction to “not forget” in the sequel.

Stay tuned… next week I’ll be posting another blog entry about more connections I sensed/noticed between The Hunger Games and the Cancer Journeys I’ve been on.

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CT Scans and Such

Others, Self, Spirit on December 28th, 2012 No Comments

Last week I faced my first CT scan after I’d finished with chemo and all surgeries.  My oncologist suggests I have one of these every year from now on, just in my chest area, to be sure nothing cancerous is growing there.  It sounded sensible enough in November, when I visited him for my 10 month check-up after the final chemo (which was in January).  He scheduled it for FEBRUARY 2013.  Which didn’t sound bad…. at first!

Then I had a few weeks to think (and obsess) over it… and I realized how anxious I was feeling about it. Now, I do know how to manage my anxiety (with a good healthy combo of meditation, mindfulness, guided imagery and TFT/EFT tapping).  However, I decided I didn’t want to have to MANAGE my anxiety for another 10 weeks, so I called my oncologist and we changed the date to mid-December.

I was, of course, still anxious about it.  Even though my work with my Naturopath is showing excellent results.  Even though I feel in really good health.  Anxiety will have its way with us when we are heading for after-cancer check-ups and diagnostics!

On the morning of my CT scan, I drew three SoulCollage® cards from my Deck and didn’t peek at them.  I tucked them inside a book and took them with me. After I’d checked in and was sitting down WAITING, I pulled them out, turned them over.  I was inwardly asking for help with getting through this waiting period (not only waiting for the CT scan itself, but all the waiting later that day, for results from my doctor).

Here are the 3 cards I turned over:

1. Father Randy- the Episcopal priest who was my spiritual director in the late 80’s.  A beautiful example of unconditional love and acceptance.  I did my Al-Anon 5th Step with him (a HUGE step for me!His was one of the first cards I created for my deck back in 2005, and I have NEVER drawn it in a reading in all these years.

2. My Dad- another positive example for me growing up of complete, unconditional love.  Gentle and a good listener, my dad was always good at comforting and had a beautiful calm energy about him, always.

3. Crow- this is my Heart Chakra companion animal.  I am just getting to know him, and I almost laughed right out loud. What a blessed synchronicity to draw my animal totem for my heart chakra/chest area, when that was the exact area of my body being focused on that day!

Needless to say, as always, another perfect reading.  I got exactly what I needed, and was greatly delighted and comforted at the same time by this “random” combination of cards that I drew from my deck that morning.

I felt their presence and strength and love with me as I waited and waited that day.  Anxiety was still running through me, but only in a small trickly stream instead of a major stormy river as it had before.  The results of the CT scan were clear and I am so, so grateful- for my healthy body and for this process of SoulCollage® which gifts me with guidance and support every day of my life.

 

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Good Days vs Bad Days

Self on October 2nd, 2012 No Comments

 

One thing I’ve learned via this second Cancer Journey is that there’s no such thing as a BAD day.  Here’s something I wrote in my journal when I was going through chemo in 2012:

I am so tempted to say that yesterday was a BAD day. But there is something inside of me that resists that word. Was it bad? Was it good?  Can it somehow all be good?

And how can I move myself past these limiting labels of “good” and “bad” and somehow simply BE with what IS?

My chemo infusions are on Wednesdays which leave me feeling pretty darn good (thanks to the steroids) until Friday afternoon, at which point I can actually feel the physical energy leaving my body and all kinds of raucous thoughts sneaking in.

Saturdays and Sundays after a treatment, I am usually drained and not able to do much of anything but sit around, watch TV, nap, and whine in my head about how yucky I feel.  So that is what I mean when I think I am having a “bad” day.  My whole body is achy, I have a low fever and I feel like crap on toast as my father used to say.  It doesn’t matter that in a few days I will be feeling more like myself.  It doesn’t matter that “this will all be over soon” as my dear husband Jeff likes to remind me. It only matters that right now (namely, yesterday) I feel unwell and unhealthy and also to be honest a little bit angry that this is happening to me, that I am going through this, that I have to find my way back to wellness again. Self-pity, ah, yes!

But when I look back on yesterday, from the perspective of today, I don’t think I want to say that yesterday was a “bad” day. Yes, I felt ill, and yes, I couldn’t do anything creative or productive. But is it a BAD day when I can sit on the recliner with our Last Cat Standing (aka Minnie) on my lap purring gently? Is it a BAD day when I can stand on the front porch and breathe in deeply the scents of autumn? Is it a BAD day when I can enjoy several episodes of Big Bang Theory on the couch snuggled up next to my husband?  Is it a BAD day when my youngest stepdaughter stops by to ask me how I’m feeling?

Looking at it this way, I honestly cannot say that yesterday was a BAD day. Maybe it wasn’t my personal definition of a GOOD day, you know?  But it was a day.  It was MY day. It was a day that was graced with love from our pets and my husband and one compassionate stepdaughter. It was a day that was mine. It wasn’t a good day or a bad day, it was MY day.

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The Art of Cancer

Self on September 28th, 2012 No Comments

I originally made this SoulCollage® card in the spring of 2011, just a few months before my diagnosis of secondary angiosarcoma of my left breast (NOT breast cancer).  I wasn’t sure what she was saying to me, but the energy of the card felt strong and protective to me.

That July, when I found out I was going to have  a mastectomy, I happened to draw this card in one of the short readings I do with my cards every other day. At that time, she was saying to me:

I am the one who is keeping away anything and anybody who is not conducive to your highest and best healing. I am the one who is giving you PERMISSION to say no to anything that doesn’t help you to feel good, to feel better, to heal. My gift to you is protection. I give you the knowing that you are worth protecting and worth healing and that you can raise your own hand (literal, metaphoric, it doesn’t matter) to keep away that which doesn’t belong in your own precious life.

Today, several months later, I drew this card again in one of my random short readings.  And today, well… WOW! Just read on:

I am the one who is standing in front of the Universe. I am the one who is holding up my hand so no one will come near/intrude.

I am the one who is standing in front of my body, my chest. The left breast is now gone, a bright, illuminated scar in its place. My right breast, created anew by my beloved plastic surgeon, is now shiny and new, in perfect proportion to the rest of me.

I am the one who is saying ENOUGH! NO MORE PLASTIC SURGERY!  Not now, anyway. Not at this time. I am not ready for my body to be scarred yet again. Not now. Maybe another year, but NOT NOW.

I am the one who is protecting you from any more physical changes of the surgical kind. Before/after your mastectomy, I was giving you wisdom and advice about staying away from anything that was not healing for you, to protect your boundaries and I am still saying that to you.  And now, my meaning, my message, has increased, widened, deepened.

So, again…..WOWEE!  I always get what I need from my SoulCollage® cards!  I had been contemplating having reconstruction surgery on my mastectomied breast, but this card tenderly touched on exactly what I need right now, which is no more surgery!

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A Lesson in Surrender

Spirit on September 23rd, 2012 No Comments

It seems that my inner guides and teachers are nudging me towards lesson upon lesson in surrender. I am getting the sense that surrender isn’t just letting go of a situation or someone who needs help. It is letting go into the hands of Another.

For example, last summer, there was a black and white tuxedo cat who had been hanging out on our porch since my beloved 18 year old Sasha died.  I believe there is a connection although that remains a mystery to me.  I named him Raj because he seems majestic (and because Raj is my favorite character on The Big Bang Theory!).

We fed Raj whenever he showed up.  Sometimes he let me rub the top of his head, but usually he seemed afraid of human contact.  I feel so blessed that he came here and that he trusted us enough to spend hours and days on our comfy porch loveseat.  Somehow, whenever he was nearby, I also felt that Sasha and Scooter were with him, looking out for me.

But we had some really cold nights during the winter, and I found myself worrying endlessly about what would happen to Raj when it got below freezing.  Where did he go?  How did he keep warm?

Then I realized that I could surrender Raj’s well-being, more of an internal surrender.  As I surrendered Raj to the care of the One Who Cares for All Creatures, I was able to let go of the incessant worry inside my heart, which then freed up my thoughts and creative energy for other things.  I consciously activated an inner trust that Raj would know where to go and how to care for himself when the nights got frosty.  I trusted that God / Spirit has angels watching over Raj the same as they watch over all of us, every every moment.

I am learning that to surrender isn’t necessarily to give up, or to give up hope. It is to have absolute trust and faith that a Higher Power is taking care of the situation, and that since there is no way I can see the Big Picture, I can surrender it to Someone who can.

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Will the Real Anne Marie Bennett Please Stand Up

Self on September 21st, 2012 No Comments

When I was young, there was a TV show called What’s My Line? where three people would all pretend to be the same person with an interesting story to tell.  Panelists would ask questions to try and discern which person was the “real” one whose story was being told. I used to love the part at the end of the show, where the host would say, “Would the real _________ please stand up?”  The three would make a show of pretending to rise.  And then, finally, the “real one” would stand up.

I could really relate to this when my chemo treatments were about 1/3 over.  I’d lost most of my hair, and most of the time I just didn’t feel like “myself.” When I put these three images of myself together (see above), I stared at them in amazement and truly wondered, if they were on “What’s My Line?”, which one would stand up as the “real” Anne Marie Bennett?

At first I was sure it was the image of “me” on the left, with my hair intact and curly, before my surgeries and treatments and all these annoying side effects began. But then I paused, realizing my error.

It doesn’t matter if I have a full head of hair and a healthy glow, or if I am completely bald with dark circles under my eyes, or if I am wearing a wig to try to blend in and look normal when I’m out in public and not feeling well.  It’s the same “real me” on the inside, no matter what is happening to me on the outside.

This whole experience (cancer, surgery, recovery, chemo, hair loss, side effects…) has given me a new understanding of that oft-quoted belief system that states we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but rather we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

This is because, as I look at the three views of myself (above), I see many differences on the outside, but I also know that there is a “me” on the inside of each of “them” that is constant and true, regardless of whether or not I have hair, or whether or not my face is wan or bloated or smiling or frowning.  This “me” on the inside is the light that shows up in my eyes; it’s the reflection of that spark of the Divine that was planted inside this body when I was born.

So, if those three “Anne Marie Bennetts” were on a current version of What’s My Line?, none of them would be considered imposters. They are all “real” because of the SoulEssence that is present in each one.

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Connections

Others on September 18th, 2012 No Comments

In a journaling “assignment” this weekend, I was challenged to write and wonder about my connections. Who and what do I feel connected to? Who or what don’t I feel connected to? And why? It was an exciting exercise for me, because I learned some things about myself that I don’t usually like to own up to:

 

1. I have a hard time connecting with others.

2. I usually prefer solitude over connecting with others.

3. I am usually more connected to animals than to people.

4. It is easier for me to connect to people via phone and email than in person.

 

That’s not to say that I didn’t have a lot of people (and cats!) on my “connected” list. I did, and I do. I am so grateful to say that my SoulCollage® work in the world has brought me more creative and soul-full connections than I’ve ever had in my life!

Looking back on my 2002 journey with cancer treatments, I can see that this area of connections with others is the biggest area of difference for me. Back then, my only sense of connection (besides Jeff) was with my brother Joe and my niece Stephanie, my “family” where I worked at the music theatre, and my cats, Sasha and Scooter and Minnie. Oh, and JoAnn my good friend who moved to the west coast right after my treatments.

I sensed a big void back then, or maybe I’m just sensing it now that I’m looking back on it. 20/20 hindsight vision and all. I remember in 2002 wishing for a circle of women friends to be myself with, to share with, to connect with. And when I started SoulCollage® in 2005, I initiated a small group like that who met at my house once a month to make cards. That was good, very good, but it only lasted a few years. And it seemed to be more about me facilitating than an equal balance of leadership. But it filled a deep need and I am grateful for each and every Soul Sister who attended: Lis, Pat, Elaine, Susan, and Linda.

Now, during this go-round with cancer treatment, I feel infinitely connected to my wide round-the-world circle of Kindred Spirits, especially Marti and Cheryl who really seem to “get” me, even tho they live several hundred miles away in Illinois and our soul-connections depend on email and phone calls. I have my good friend Elaine who lives half an hour away and exemplifies the term “friend.”

So why am I still so harsh on myself for the fact that I don’t have a circle of close women friends here who love and support and “get” me? Can I let go of this unkindness to myself and accept that the connections I have are perfect for me right now, in this moment? Can I stop beating myself up for not being more “social” and simply accept what’s true for me right here and now?

Yes, I can! I am grateful for the connections with women and men and felines that sustain and support my emotional and spiritual being. I am grateful for a loving, generous husband. I am grateful for soul friends whom I can talk with even if not face to face. I am grateful for how different my life is now than it was in 2002.

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Changes Are A-Comin’

Uncategorized on August 16th, 2012 No Comments

This is my first post on my new website.  I’ve just changed the title over from Anne Marie Bennett to S.O.S. Cancer Journeys.  Yahoo and Hallelujah!  And many thanks to my wonderful Web Mistress, Trisha Cupra, in Australia, who redesigned the banner and is creating my new logo!

When I first built (grew?) this site in 2009, it was to promote my book, Bright Side of the Road: A Spiritual Journey Through Breast Cancer.  However, after my adventure last year with Secondary Angiosarcoma of the left breast (which I lost to a mastectomy, even though I didn’t have breast cancer), I am feeling led to create a place online for women affected by ANY kind of cancer.

I’ve kept a journal throughout most of my life, and found this practice really helpful in grounding me throughout both of my cancer journeys. In re-reading all my entries, I realized a couple of things:

  1. Being diagnosed with cancer sets you out on a JOURNEY.  It’s not one you’ve packed for, planned for, saved for, and it’s definitely not one you are anticipating. However, it’s a journey nontheless- rocky terrain, hills (sometimes craggy mountains) to climb, gulleys to fall into, and potholes to skirt around.
  2. This cancer journey is much easier to navigate if you are or can find ways to stay connected to yourself, to others, and to Spirit, however you choose to define Spirit.

So this is where the S.O.S. in the title of this website came from- my intention is to help women with cancer discover ways to stay connected to:

Self
Others
Spirit

during and after their own individual cancer journeys.

I hope that you will join in and let your voice be heard here, in response to these blog posts, or in our community (click the Community button on the top menu bar of this page).  I am always open to new ideas, comments and questions, and you can reach me via the Contact button at the top of this page!