Tomorrow is my birthday!! I have always loved my birthday but even moreso now of course after the whole cancer diagnosis thing... who can blame me? This is what I wrote last year www.balanceaftercancer.org/blog/its-my-birthday-thisis41.
This year has flown - full stop.
This year, I made moves, got certified, decided to go to Italy, formed a nonprofit, wrote 4 books (at least), launched an online course, got new clients, spent time with my kids, friends and loved ones and more.
I worked on my fitness, kept going on my clinical trial and got speaking engagements galore ... tonight on the last day of my 41st year, I am resting up for a jam packed next few days of dinner engagements, Net Basketball Tickets, Harry Potter Exhibit, friends and family get together and more.
Happy early birthday to me! May God continue to bless me and my family and to many many more years in good health! Amen!
I have noticed lately that I am not being kind to myself and my health / abilities. I keep thinking, "I am not well" at certain high pressure times and I want to change this internal dialogue and censure myself from being so negative.
This is strange because in all ways, I have been super positive and light but my knee jerk reaction when pushed is to say, "Well, I am not well.", or "I am tired." or, "I cannot do this." Instead, I want to say, "I am well." or, "I am not too tired to do that." or, "I can do this."
In everything else, I think, "I am healed" but when it comes to the day to day, nitty gritty, I fall into negative thoughts and speech patterns.
Just thinking about my December has me shuddering in the corner - but I have to literally shake that off and think instead about all I can do and not what I "cannot".
I have already moved through so many things I did not expect to accomplish. I had ovaries removed and survived Thanksgiving in November. September and October were spent hibernating and resting and before that the summer was crazy.
I just completed the 17th month of my clinical trial of the drug Ibrance and that has held me back in some ways because I know if I run a fever, I have to go to the hospital to be checked out. There is a total of 24 months to this cycle so now I am thinking about how much my life might change when the trial is over - how much I can maybe expect to be less tired and hopefully continue to stave off progression and continue to be NED.
This month I have the following things / events to handle including basketball games every weekend, my birthday, the Nets tickets we won (at a holiday fair), my BIRTHDAY, Christmas, New Year's, 9/11 Monitoring Program and Sloan follow ups, and work and other initiatives and more.
I will admit that I am tired just looking at that paragraph but that I can do it, I will do it and I will work on how I talk to myself and about myself. I am healthy, I am able and I am restful during the evening and able to function during the day.
How do you talk to yourself?
Right now, I am terrified BUT I am doing it anyway. In just under 60 days, I will be embarking on a big trip and leaving my kids, my puppy, hubby etc and I am really, really scared.
Recently, I was with my son having a special day for the two of us (I had done a day with my daughter a few months ago and my son realized I had yet to have his special one on one day and he was NOT happy so we squeezed it in last week) - and at exactly 2:10pm, my alarm went off to "remind" me to pick up my daughter from school (yes, I let him have a day off). I turned off the alarm and said, "That is so I do not forget to get sissy." He looked at me and said, "You would never forget to get either of us... now daddy, on the other hand..." and he shook his head.
My kids' whole sense of schedule and security is from me. Despite going through stage 3 breast cancer, they still recognized that I was helping and giving directions in the background (weakly as I was SO not able to do what I normally did, but whatever, they recognized I was still "in the know"). My husband, bless his heart, struggles with the day to day and so much is happening right now with him that I CANNOT share that it is a constant struggle at times.
Since my treatment ended, despite me wanting to keep my lessened role of Type A uber parent I have to still be the one who orchestrates the schedule, the pick ups, the drop offs, the lunches, the homework … etc etc. I love doing it because I CAN and this, I know, is a great privilege and not a chore or a bad thing. There are days and weekends where I am zipping back and forth, here and there and running around like a lunatic and it hits me that there is always a worst case scenario and THIS IS NOT IT (thank GOD).
Now, soon, I will be getting on my first transatlantic flight since having children. The flight in and of itself is not a HUGE deal - I used to jump on these types of long haul flights for shits and giggles over a long weekend. The true issue or change is that I will be leaving my children for 10 days. I have to keep picturing the goodbyes, the sitting on a flight and NOT BEING ABLE TO TURN AROUND if God forbid I needed to do so.
This is absolutely scary for me - I remember one time, I was en route to Europe and my brother got hit with a high fever and I called from the place (using the phones connected to the seats this was pre-cell phones) and being so worried that he was so sick and I was on my way out of the country. Of course, he is not my son (but for some intents and purposes, at times, I had been a motherly figure for him).
Now, the thought of going away is scary but I also know I have to do it. This trip is so important for me and it is such a big way to be clear that I am "Lisa" and not just "mom". I also am traveling for a specific purpose -beyond returning to my home away from home, Italy, where I lived as a 21 year old Grad student and to reunite with some old friends and my goddaughter who I last saw when she was 1.5years old... almost 14 years ago but also to visit San Giovanni Rotondo and Padre Pio. This is a pilgrimage for me -and my dad. We are going there because (I feel) we have been called to go.
I just need to do it and pray, hope and don't worry. What have you done that scares you? Is it weird that I was less scared of cancer then I am of this trip? Just in my head? … If you were a betting person, would you bet I do it or chicken out? Part of writing this is to force myself to not be able to chicken out!
Why do I do what I do?
I do not know truly - I do know that helping people is super important to me and the main reason why I formed a nonprofit to help other cancer survivors get back to "normal".
For many years, I taught college and K-12 and saw firsthand how difficult it is for kids' today to be college and career ready. Then I wound up becoming a cancer patient and meeting many folks way younger than I who are dealing with both cancer AND having to be a student or a young worker and it just boggled my mind with the difficulties facing them.
Many years ago, before cancer (feels like a lifetime ago but was early 2016), I wrote a book on college readiness pulling from my 13+ years as a college professor in the NYC area coupled with my 5+ years as a K-12 teacher and built out my lessons and help into a book. Now, though, knowing what I do about young adult cancer and how a diagnosis derails one's life, I decided to take my lessons and apply them specifically for the student who has undergone a health crisis.
I designed and published the workbook and am working on the online course component to go with it. I hope to have it all ready to launch before Christmas.
As a new nonprofit, I still struggle with funding and trying to get my head wrapped around how to move forward. I also had a few months of inactivity trying to get myself moving again... Now that I am moving, I am happy to be back in action but also know I need to keep myself in Balance and not get overwhelmed with comparisons and trying to do it all at once. Slow and steady is also a great strategy.
How can I help you get your Balance After Cancer?
A new month hit me unaware - for the past several months, I have been writing down my "manifestations" or "wishes" for the month in a notebook I carry around sporadically...
I had not realized it was a new month although I did post about my birthday month - I forgot to write my "wishes" or "goals" for this month and because of that (and since I am too lazy to walk upstairs right now to find my notebook), here are this month's intentions:
1) Health (I go for a mammography this month - my yearly - on my remaining breast but health is always my first item on any list, of course).
2) Family Health & Happiness (including me, but I know if I go down, others will suffer, too so I always put my health first)...
3) Good works - to help others. I am working hard on a new online class available to cancer survivors and a workbook all about being college ready after dealing with cancer - wish me luck!
4) Income - I mean, hey, who does not want income? Especially for me as a small business owner / nonprofit founder - income is something we need to survive and also to get through the holidays' with
5) Girls night outs - I want to schedule some more of these - very important to me
6) Writing & Sharing - always important but now that I finally got around my block, I want to do this even more
7) Joy in the season and faith in what's next
8) Show my love
9) Lay off social media :)
10) Special times and memories with the fam & friends
What's on your list for this month?
See that picture up there - that is from the night of my 40th birthday - a birthday I was so excited for, I did not round up for the first time in my life!
See, my birthday is in December and though I turn a year older at the end of the year, I had always rounded up so the day after my birthday when I turned 30, I was already 31 if anyone asked me how old I was and in my own head I had already gone up. I don’t even remember being 35 for example because I was immediately 36.
For my 40th year, I did not want to rush it - I wanted to savor it. I love getting older - always have and now doubly will love getting older because 2 weeks before my 40th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer! On my 40th birthday, I got a pet scan. A freaking pet scan! Best gift ever is that it was “clear” and I was able to have my mastectomy and lymph node extraction a few days later.
There I am in that photo, surrounded by my husband and kids and I was smiling but inside I was petrified knowing I had a malignant right breast. I was smiling for my kids, who did not yet know I had cancer. I was smiling because somewhere along the way from diagnosis to that point I decided I would smile like my life depended on it because it actually, in my humble opinion, did.
I do not round up anymore. I am 41 and will be 41 until December 13 when I will, God willing, turn 42. I am savoring my year and living each day in the best way I can be - as someone who is truly happy and enjoying each day in any way I can - by writing, by sharing and by trying the best I can to help others. What changed about your birthday rituals after cancer?
I have huge news to share. I met some soulmates - they are Megan and Alisa and they run an annual event called the "Soul Success Summit" out in Santa Barbara California.
As an entrepreneur (since 1999, y'all), I have done a lot, seen a lot and most importantly FAILED a lot. I took all of my lessons and wrote books on it - see them here (and those are just the books I wrote on Entreprenuerial stuff).
It can be so hard to be an entrepreneur - it is isolating (not as isolating as cancer but isolating in its own way). You have all of these ideas in your head and plans and it can be hard to find like-minded people who are interested in hearing about them and giving their opinions.
When I heard about the Soul Success Summit, I knew I had to apply to speak at it - I also knew it would be a long shot for me to be picked. I am, in some ways, a great candidate but I have BIG drawbacks. My talk is more specifically related to my new niche - the one no one wants - that of being a cancer survivor as well as an entrepreneur, educator, author and speaker. I have so much to share but it is all back to "balance" and understanding how we find joy and how we MUST take care of ourselves.
I am not the speaker who will focus only on the bottom line - I talk about the full life, all of the things that bring us joy and HEALTH - health above all. There is a component I bring, a vibrancy and passion to what I share that the founders of this event saw and knew would be a great fit for the AMAZING women who will be speaking and learning at this event.
I cannot wait to find my new girl tribe - I am so honored to have been picked to be a speaker at this event for the weekend of March 30-31; the event is so huge it has been broken up into two weekends! Can you believe it?
If you have read my words and not yet met me, come to California to hang out with the best girl minds in the business of making businesses successful. If you know me anyway in real life, come TOO. Use the code "lisanielsen" to get $100 off your ticket here and come on to Cali with me...
Click here or the image to find out more about the Soul Success Summit.
And don't forget about the Breast Cancer Rehabilitation & Wellness Summit - find out more by clicking here or the image below.
I had hit a wall in around September and did not see any way around it or under it or through it (to mimic the children's story "Going on a Bear Hunt..."). I had stopped writing and working on my initiatives and just well everything. I was focusing instead on other aspects of my life - though all good - not the ones that necessarily do enough to keep me on my toes and engaged...
Well, we all need downtime but for me it was getting to be too much... Writing this daily blog post about my gratitude kickstarted me back into being active in my nonprofit and getting various exciting initiatives and partnerships underway!
I am so grateful to be both alive and energized again to write, to share and to do what I can for others who have to learn how to deal with life after / during and with a cancer diagnosis. Thank you gratitude challenge!
I am so honored to be a part of the GLOBAL Breast Cancer Rehabilitation and Wellness Summit for Day 1. This is a 7 day summit asking us to find 25 ways to thrive. Breast cancer, as we all know, is a global epidemic and one that affects someone every 2 minutes of the day with a diagnosis. It affects men and women and like any life changing diagnosis, it impacts every aspect of our lives.
Through sharing my story and building this nonprofit focusing on survivorship tools around the very things we all need - dignity, a sense of purpose and the ability to make a future in a world that suddenly has been turned upside down - I was so excited to be asked to be a speaker for this event. It is a virtual event so you can be a part of this summit from anywhere in the world. By signing up via the Eventbrite link BEFORE December 8th for FREE access to all of the speakers and the topics - the link is here!
The focus of the event is thriving, healing and building out your resource list for getting back to "normal" after a breast cancer diagnosis. I hope to see you there!
I am thankful that I learned how to be an educator. Crazy as it seems, I am glad my background went from wanting to be a CEO of a large corporation and walking that path down Corporate America’s pathway in NYC from Wall Street to Midtown to Singapore and beyond to switching gears as a mom to be closer to home and teaching, teaching and LEARNING.
My first foray into being an educator was in September 2003. I was 26 (almost 27) and I had my first assignment to be an adjunct professor at my alma mater after years of trying. I was able to teach while also working near Wall Street and I was given a crash course in how to write on the black board (yep we still used chalk back then) and logistics about classroom management. Ha! I was clueless but quickly learned and fell in love with being “Professor”.
Learning how to create curriculum and course for both online and in person delivery changed the way I worked and lived my life. It is part of the lessons I continue to use as I build out online courses for my nonprofit - next one will be about managing transitioning to college after being a young adult with cancer.
Super Mom BC Eradicator - connect with me via the icons above :). Thanks! XOXO LISA (my secret identity ... )