Friday, May 6, 2016

Being a Mother is....

Being a mother gives me great joy.  It is an experience for which a job description cannot completely encompass all being a mother entails.  

Being a Mother is trying to make sure all the bills are paid with less. 

Being a Mother is being a doctor and nurse.

Being a Mother is being a lawyer, advocate, and activist for your children's well-being.

Being a Mother means covering your children in prayer.

Being a Mother sometimes means we couldn't possibly understand being in love or understanding heartbreak...really?

Being a Mother means children think you don't understand growing up and wanting to live life on your own terms.  Was I born a mother? 

Being a Mother is being misunderstood.  Our children don't always understand the decisions we have to make.

Being a Mother is joy at the birth of a child to the anguish of losing a child.  

My Military Babies

Being a mother is worrying about your children while they are away from home.  Two of my children went off to the Iraq war, and I slept with my phone waiting for them to call when they could. I couldn't watch the news or anything about the war because of  fear.

Being a Mother is always being there to step in when needed and sometimes when not needed.

Being a Mother is being everything the world isn't.

Being a Mother is pushing your children to be their best for themselves and pray they understand when they get older.

Being a Mother is unconditional love.

Being a Mother is fighting cancer with all you have to see them grow up.

Being a Mother is trying to be a role model, even if your past is not so great. We always want our children to be better than us.
My girls 4-16yrs old

Being a Mother is crying in secret because it hurts to see your children make costly mistakes.

Being a Mother means accepting your children for who they are and not what we want them to be.

My Girls grew up
Being a Mother means supporting your children's dreams.

Being a Mother means receiving unconditional love.
Being a Mother is mothering children that are not your own.

Mema and her Glam-babies
Being a Mother means becoming a grandmother, the crowning glory to motherhood.

There is so much more to being a mother that I wanted to write but, it's emotional for me.   

Whatever being mother is for you, I hope that it is filled with joy, laughter, love, learning lessons and togetherness.  I hope that your family sees the beauty in you every day and not just Mother's Day.

Happy Mother's Day to every woman. Giving birth to a child isn't the only way to be a mother but, loving a child is. Be Blessed!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My article from Cancer Today Magazine June Issue - "A New Look at Spirituality"

A New Look at Spirituality

Why Me, God?
These were the sort of feelings and questions that whirled through Candace Henley’s head 11 years ago, when she was diagnosed with stage IIB colorectal cancer. Unbearable pain had brought the 35-year-old single mother of five to an emergency room near her home in Chicago. The last thing on her mind was colorectal cancer. But before she could fully grasp what was happening, she was admitted to the hospital and, the next day, surgeons removed 95 percent of her colon.

Photo © IStock / Biletskiy_Evgeniy / Thinkstock and Hemera / Iurii Lupol / Thinkstock 
 As she went into surgery, Henley says, she recalled a verse from Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (New International Version). In the years that ensued, she says she would rely on this verse time and again as “everything fell apart. I lost my house and my car. We were homeless and I was still fighting cancer. … I would cry every day and ask God why am I being punished. And there was no answer.”

Henley says she recalls being asked to speak to a chaplain following her surgery, but she turned down the offer. “I didn’t want to speak to anyone,” she says. “I couldn’t talk without crying. I was emotional. I was a wreck. I was depressed. People would tell me this was my path, and I was like, ‘Seriously, can’t God use me in any other way but this?’ ”

Beyond Religion
Henley’s spiritual crisis was directly tied to her religion. But a person doesn’t have to be religious to have a spiritual experience, says Jason Mann, who, after 30 years as a practicing oncologist, decided to become a chaplain.

“When I go to see a patient,” says Mann, who lives in Portland, Ore., “I will say, ‘What do you believe in?’ It could be family, it could be artwork, it could be beauty. All of those are manifestations of that person’s spirituality.” A spiritual experience can occur when a person is practicing religion, Mann says, but it can happen outside of religion, too. “A spiritual experience can happen at any time when you are moved.”

Reflecting on this difference, Piderman says of her work as a chaplain: “We provide religious care, prayer, anointing and other rituals. But our work is dealing with meaning, worry, anxiety and anger—within the context of spirituality. Our role is to help people connect to what has been meaningful in the past, what has given them hope in the past, and what can help them feel hopeful today.”

Piderman recalls a cancer patient she saw some years ago. “The first time I saw her,” says Piderman, “she told me she was not religious. When I went to see her a second time, she was in bed and said she felt wrinkled. I straightened her bedclothes and asked if that was better. She said, ‘No.’ Then I asked if she wanted a drink. She said, ‘Yes.’ Again, I asked if she felt better. And she said, ‘No—the wrinkles are on the inside.’ ” 
Then, Piderman continues, “she spoke to me about a spiritual struggle related to guilt. And after that, this nonreligious person asked me to sing Amazing Grace. She told me that gave her peace.” Shortly thereafter, says Piderman, the woman died.

For other patients, religion can be at the heart of their spiritual crisis. Pamela Randall, the chaplain of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta, has spent time with many such patients. One woman, she says, “was a teacher. She had been very independent and she was also a woman of faith. She talked to me a lot about how much she loved her job and her church and how she was feeling separate from God” because her cancer diagnosis kept her from doing the work she loved. Over the next two and a half years, Randall says, as she and the patient continued to meet and talk, she saw her “[begin] to get that connection back.” During that time she was living with cancer, she also “suffered many losses, and we would talk about that and how to hold on to God” during such difficult times.

Integrating Spiritual Care
To meet cancer patients’ spiritual needs, chaplains are educating both current health care providers and medical school students about how to attend to this aspect of a person’s quality of life. “There may be 300 patients and three chaplains,” says Ferrell. “So, in the training we do with health care providers, we reinforce that if the only people who are getting good spiritual care are those seen by chaplains, most patients are going to have their needs ignored. … Chaplains are the spiritual experts, and it is important that they are available when patients have spiritual distress or a specific need for a religious leader. But everyone—nurses, social workers, doctors—can attend to spirituality.”

Getting medical professionals to feel comfortable in this role, however, is “fraught with challenges,” says Balboni. “One of the key issues as we move forward is designing evidence-based educational training in spirituality for doctors and other health professionals so that they feel more comfortable engaging with patients.”

Balboni and his colleagues’ research suggests that about 50 to 70 percent of doctors and nurses say they are spiritual or identify with some religion. But because spirituality is often not viewed as part of medical care, he says, health care providers may feel it’s inappropriate to bring it up with patients.

Randall says that because of the work she and her department have done to educate their colleagues at the Winship Cancer Institute about how to address patients’ spiritual needs, new doctors there are now more likely to bring up issues related to spirituality with patients and their families before the chaplain becomes involved. “We speak to doctors during their orientation at the hospital about their role and how they can support patients and family members,” she says. “We teach them that faith and spirituality can be a key component of caring for a patient and that we can help them provide that care.”

Spiritual Strength
When Henley, now 47, was at one of her lowest points after completing her colorectal cancer treatment, she found spiritual strength by volunteering for the Chicago affiliate of the Colon Cancer Alliance, a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit organization. “I was suffering on all accounts,” Henley says, “so I decided to start helping others. The more I volunteered and the more I did, the more I received.”

Today Henley’s life bears little resemblance to how it looked following her cancer diagnosis. Her new job is stable, her daughters are happy, and she not only has a home but two grandchildren. And, she says, she finally has peace. “I now see what God wanted me to see. … My message is one of hope and having faith.”

When Chaplain Piderman was diagnosed with an early stage breast cancer in October 2013, she had 18 years of “well-ingrained” spiritual practices to rely upon. Even so, she says she didn’t hesitate to seek out another chaplain to speak with. And like Henley, she found the spiritual in those around her. “One of my most spiritual practices was praying for other people who were sitting in the waiting room with me and for the people who were treating me. … Every day I drew the name of someone from our department and prayed for them during my treatment. It got my mind off myself, and I felt like I had some company in that treatment room.”

Piderman found support in her medical team as well. “My surgeon … prayed with me before she operated and she covered me with a warm blanket. She provided spiritual care through that kindness. … Spirituality is a human response.”

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Road To Motherhood - Happy Mother's Day

Every mother has a story about their road to motherhood.  Some knew early on that they wanted to be a mother and planned out every detail for when that time came. Some had plans of someday becoming a mother with no set date and some of us had no plans on being a mother at all.  You can plan your life out but, as some of us know, God has a sense of humor.  I became a mother at 19 yrs old of a beautiful baby girl with big beautiful almond shaped big eyes.  The labor was intensive as I have never in my life felt that much pain and pressure that no matter how hard someone tries, they can never describe that feeling accurately enough because we are all different.

I had another beautiful baby girl just shy of two years later and I was done, so I thought.  Years went by and I met my husband and we decided to have children together and had a beautiful set of twin girls and we were done but, as I said God had a sense of humor and sent us his last precious gift to us by surprise and it was another beautiful baby girl and all of them have the most beautiful set of eyes I have ever seen; bright smiling eyes that greet you with love and happiness like they haven't seen in years even though they saw you hours ago.

Being a mother has brought me great joy, more than I have ever anticipated.  I thought, "who am I to do this and how in the hell can I raise them and raise them well"?  The journey was not easy, I had bumps and bruises but, I was determined when I had my first child that I was not going to be a statistic..young black female on welfare with no education working at McDonald's and being satisfied with that.  I have always been a competitor by nature and being on the swim team and track team kept me with a competitive spirit, so I made my life a competitive sport to be better, never give up and I would try to find ways around whatever obstacle I was up against.

I had tons of total epic failures but, I kept trying. As my life went on and the girls grew older, I started to realize that being a mother was by far the best job I ever had and by far the hardest!! But, I got to be silly and sing off key and they still loved me! One of the memories that stands out of the older two girls is us singing in the car "How Can I Ease The Pain" by Lisa Fisher...OMG!  They would get near the end of the song where she hits a high note to heaven and they would howl right along with her and I encouraged it every time....LOL.  They still sing that song till this day.

I was blessed to add three additional girls to my family, Anitra, Lyndsey and Vanessa my daughters from another mother.

My being diagnosed with cancer was the worst time as a mother; the thought of me leaving my children was excruciating and I thought I would never be here to see the important milestones in their lives.  But, I'm here.  Now, I am a "glam-mother" of two lovely "glam-children" Matthew and Emily yes I said (GLAM...for Glamorous)!  Remember when I said God has a sense of humor in the very beginning well, He does. He gave my-my "glam-daughter" Emily who is a piece of work!!

In March, my second oldest went to Afghanistan to secure our country's freedom along with other brave mothers and fathers.  Last year, I was diagnosed with two tumors on my liver and I refused to do chemo or radiation and was pushing for alternative therapies which I have been on.  I also have fibromyalgia ( a gift from cancer) which on a bad day keeps me in pain for days and pain management can be tricky.  Since having the now 7-month-old and the 7-year-old to take care of and run here and there to school and daycare, I have not had time to focus on my ailments and I am actually feeling better with the exception of being sleep deprived of the early morning conversations and screams for a bottle in the middle of the night.

Being a mother is the hardest job in the world, there may be moments when you want to give up, or feel like a failure but, know this...this job had no particular job description or needing a particular skill other than love and being your true self.

So, no matter how you became a mother, please know that your job is invaluable. When they get older they will say "I love you mom, and am glad that God blessed me with such a caring mother. You went above and beyond the call of duty many times."

I leave you with this  "A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." -- Washington Irving

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Making Lemonade Advocates

The saying is "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" and as wonderful and strong as that sounds, it's not always that easy is it? The reality is your so pissed off about the situation that you damn the world and become angry and maybe even distant. If you're like me, you start questioning every aspect of your life to figure out if there were any visible clues you missed that would've avoided the broken heart, the mental breakdown, the missed-communication between you and your wayward child, the cancer diagnosis, the sudden suicide of a friend or life itself taking a sudden change for the worst. 

You eventually make a decision that you will no longer be a victim but a victor, and you struggle to find people in your life who will understand where you are; to no avail, those closet to you cannot share because they are either afraid to admit they are flawed or in denial or simply cannot relate. You decide the empty feeling inside you, no one else should ever feel and you find away out and once you do, you ask yourself how can you reach back? This is the beginning of becoming an advocate.

You don't let your condition become a crutch, instead you become a pillar of strength to others like yourself. You don't use your condition as a tool to get sympathy but, a tool to get awareness and to fight for others who are not yet ready to fight for themselves like you once were. Instead of making lemonade from the lemons, play ball and throw the lemons back at the world. No matter your affliction, choose life, choose the fight, and choose to advocate for your life and others. You are not alone, someone needs to hear your story, tell it! Be Blessed! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Perception Is Everything

Today is definitely a struggling day for me, not feeling the greatest over the last couple of days but, I'm here.  

We tend to look at our lives and feel overwhelmed by that moment in time, so much so that you associate every wrong thing in your life with that one situation. When you're going through issue after issue, It can be difficult to learn that if you change the way you look at your situation, it can help you feel better while going through it.

Perception is everything, “Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.” – Jon Bon Jovi 

Life is full of stressful situations, everyday presents a new challenge but, you have to keep pushing because it's like a training course, pace yourself because the longer you live, the more challenges you face.  Remember to surround yourself with trusted friends that will encourage you during trials and challenges.  My bestie and I were talking this morning about challenges and I said the trick to making it through trying times is to know "Your current situation is not a permanent condition".

I hope this lifted someone up today!  Be Blessed!

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Decade of Surviving Cancer

I was meditating on "I am open to the presence of miracle's" and it hit me, it's been ten years since my cancer diagnosis and my life was getting back to some sense of normalcy....what a miracle!!  

Three teenagers now left at home, activities that require me to be involved, school and homework and we have not even discussed my life.  Spreading the gospel of colon cancer and the importance of early detection, a full-time job, and a recurrence in my liver smack dab in the middle of getting my life back!  Yes, I said recurrence but, let's not focus on that because it is such a small part of what I have been given over the last 10 years that I am sailing through it this time around. Okay, maybe not sailing but, I'm dealing with things with a greater sense of gratitude because I have been given so much over the years, how dare I complain.

I have a wonderful network of folks I love and care for like family and they feel the same about me.  Even though we may only see each other once a year if that, we keep in contact and hold each other up during good and bad times.  

A loving and supportive mother, love and support from extended family and my children tell me how proud they are  of me and the example I have set for them to keep pushing through adversity. My youngest says she wants to be just like me; I tear up because I was thinking cancer got in our way. I can't do as much, I am still broke, I am still living from pillar to post, I am still robbing Peter to pay Paul and any other analogy you can think of that means "struggling financially"....LOL! 

One daughter says to me "it's not the money mom, it's the time, it's the conversations about life and values you've taught us and the motivation to be our best even at the lowest point in our live's, you said always do your best".  Wow, that's another gift, to see your children transition into adults that get it.  They call for me to tell one of their girlfriends the "Hippopotamus Mating Ritual", my recipes to fix a favorite dish for their husbands or child rearing tips.

I know I may seem like rambling but, anyone who has had cancer can understand the importance of getting it out of your head before you forget and believe me, I have a "fish bowl" mentality, once a thought swims around my head once, it's gone!  

Over the last ten years, I have learned a few things:

  • cancer didn't define me, it reinvented me.
  • I learned to be resilient
  • when life knocks you down, get back up. 
  • live your life, people will always talk
  • surround yourself with love
  • live
  • love
  • laugh
  • live some more
  • laugh harder

I'm human, I get down sometimes but, I give myself the opportunity to get over it and I thank God for where I am and for where I didn't end up.  Surviving made me a voice to the voiceless, an advocate, an activist, a philanthropist, an educator and a model.  It made me stop and not only smell the roses but, enjoy the roses.  I'm not saying this has always been my mentality because it has been a tough road traveled made easier by the people in my life and those I've met along this journey.  Be Blessed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Living in A State of Grace

Today, I am blessed to say "Happy 18th Birthday" to my twin daughters.  

While reflecting on their personal accomplishments, their happiness, teenage tragedies, their fears, their dating and their accepting Christ and becoming Jr. Deacons, I realized that despite life's challenges and curve balls, we are living in "A State of Grace". 

I looked at my pictures on Facebook and I saw the smiles and the happiness of my family.  One picture after another I saw "kool-aid" smiles, silly smiles and smiles I can't describe but, my point is...they are smiling.  I jokingly asked the twins if they were moving out now that they are legal, they said "uh, no, we are living with you forever".....LOL.  Now, you know as soon as she finds out she can't be grown in Mommas house, she is moving out!!  We have been through some tough times but, my children still smile and they still like and love me. That's grace. 

To live in a state of grace is to experience our burdens and issues being lifted from us from time to time to enjoy life; that our path becomes smoother and more enjoyable in difficult times.

Take a break from troubles, look around you and see your state of grace. Laugh with your children or the children in your life, hug them, and kiss them.  Look at pictures, read cards or letters, look at your loved ones and those around you that show you love.  
State of Grace is always around you just like God's love. Be Blessed!

Numbers 6:24-26

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.