I spent a lot of time in my life needing to be rewarded and/or doing things for the purpose of benefiting ME or my family. Not very humble, I know.
This year, I have been able to experience a complete change in my drive and emotions. I went from wanting to be, "Hi, I am Lisa and I am the person to rock this / that etc..." to "Hi, I am Lisa- how can I help others?" From my trip to Italy and feeling that I need to help others and be able to move someplace where I can afford to be focused on others and not on my bottom line (check out my house, it is for sale, want to buy it?) to my trip to Tennessee with Compassion That Compel's Repurpose Conference and seeing again first hand how much people need survivorship help for the life after cancer.
Before my trip to Europe, I was stuck on just one free online course and trying like heck to figure out a way to monetize my nonprofit and to be able to make it into a career. What I learned instead and was inspired to do is to live a life of service and to make the offerings free, to focus instead on giving and giving instead of a strategy for taking - for me, personally. I was able to launch 5 more classes and an online writer's workshop - ALL FOR FREE and not the kind of free that is 30 minutes of "fluff" and 20 minutes of a pitch to get you to spend money on the REAL class but actual REAL CLASSES with REAL LESSONS and ALL FOR FREE.
With over 15 years' experience creating curriculum and teaching online and in person the offerings available here are lesson based education with easy bite-sized courses with actionable next steps to implement these new learnings in your life immediately. Check out the services and learning programs offered below and check out the press release here.
The nonprofit website is balanceaftercancer.org; online learning program can also be reached at bacfonlinelearning.org.
When I found my purpose by being repurposed…
I have spent a bulk of time trying to promote myself – as a long time entrepreneur and a Type A (reformed) personality, there was a lot of promotion in my life. “Call me, I am really good at X.” “Hi, I am Lisa and I am experienced at ….” And more. There was also the constant pivot to figure out how to monetize my skills to help keep my life afloat with a high cost of living, a higher mortgage and a fixed income.
Recently, I got enlightened in my heart – and my heart and soul have become united in the front to be a servant to others, to help others, instead of trying to figure out how to become a successful <insert here>.
During my recent trip to Italy and before that meeting the leader of Compassion That Compels, Kristianne Stewart, helped me slowly chip away at my veneer of the “humble brag” or the “vanity” of being seen as a wonder and instead to help others without looking for anything in return.
We are ALL wonders, we are all wonderfully and beautifully made and the first time Kristianne prayed over me, via cell phone and during the end of my radiation, was a small seed, a beginning that has sprouted into the most amazing of things.
Kristianne is a leader and a giver and it is ALL ABOUT HELPING OTHERS. Her nonprofit, Compassion That Compels, started with a letter and an idea to provide support to women facing life changing diagnoses around cancer. Since launching, her group has given out over 7000 Compassion Bags and have built communities of women, relationships and breadcrumbs from God to us to them and back again. Things that just CANNOT be coincidences happen all of the time with this group and by extension to me.
When I first got my notification that my nonprofit was approved, I sat in my backyard and looked around at the wonderful trees and started to talk to my Saint, Padre Pio. I prayed and said, “So I am ready to help others but I do not know how to let anyone KNOW that I am here, that this nonprofit even exists…” When my phone rang and it was Kristianne calling to ask me to partner with her organization to help with the On Your Feet program.
And from that call, we began to create a program that could help women get back their confidence and their PLAN B after cancer. This weekend, I was lucky enough to be a part of the life changing Repurpose Conference in Tennessee with the giving, selfless and loving team from Compassion from Kristianne to the Board to the volunteers and beyond. Each one of them are a powerhouse of relationship building, prayer and openness to embrace and help others.
My life is forever changed by being a part of the Compassion That Compels family – but you can also be a part of their family – you can sign up on their website to be a volunteer, to ask for a prayer or to be involved with the On Your Feet program.
The crux of my trip to Europe showed me, through my faith, that I could let go and move and also that my purpose in this life is to help others. With my upcoming move, I can focus on my nonprofit and continue to provide free survivorship resources and tools for life after cancer. The relationship I have with Compassion That Compels just proves to me how blessed and lucky I am to know the team and to help them help women.
I repurposed my pain and my cancer diagnosis to go from helping myself, promoting myself to helping others and promoting THEM – they are amazing and just a few of them spoke at this weekend’s event and their words about how my nonprofit was able to help them brought me to happiest of tears and made my soul so so happy.
I was honored to have the chance to speak and to me, it was the best time of my life – all fun and laughter and I hope the true explanation that I want to serve – who is next to have my help?
Thank you Kristianne, team and the fellow speakers and volunteers – I am honored to know you.
I try so hard to not worry, to just pray and hope instead as worry is not something I want to invite back into my life. That being said, old habits die hard. Spending so much of my life worrying about everything did NOTHING to avoid any issues and in fact could have contributed to some of them if not all of them. Yet despite this hard learned lesson, I still find myself getting worried about stuff and trying to pretend I am not instead of just trying to not worry and let go for real…
It is kind of like the whole faking it til you make it routine we all go through on the new job, when we become parents, when we get married, etc. Life throws us curveballs and life also brings us joy. So much joy. So I am going to make a commitment to myself to learn to let go and to actually do it instead of the whole faking it til I make it.
Now worry is common as a parent, a spouse and you know daughter, business owner, budget keeper etc. but I did learn on my recent trip to Italy that having all of the fear before my trip was both baseless and useless. I also realized that having the fear was almost like my “penance” for being able to go away guilt free and that is just sick in and of itself.
Before my trip, my husband had some issues with his mental health and I automatically got to the point where I thought canceling the trip was an option but somehow, I just knew I should not do that and in retrospect I am so glad I did not.
Also before the trip kids got sick, kids got hurt and there was the fear of something happening while I was away and they would need me to be here… Now, still, despite me just planning a weekend trip for work, I am fearful of what could happen, I have pains in my armpit (fun) and just overall worry about my blood counts, infections, travel and I HAVE TO STOP IT.
We are also contemplating a BIG change (spoiler alert – our house is for sale like NOW – buy it, please?) and I have this like little voice saying, “No, you cannot do this – you cannot leave <insert anything and everything here>” and I do feel like this is acting as a block to this potential move.
I declare it now – I am ready to move, I am ready to let go and I am ready to NOT be held prisoner by my fears and instead to live in HOPE and TRUST that all will be as it should, all will be done without me orchestrating or controlling or attempting to do so from the background. I am NOT receiving or open to worry or fear. I am instead going to listen to my spiritual father, Saint Padre Pio and “pray, hope and don’t worry”.
What do you do when worrying creeps up on you?
Not sure if I will post this or not but I do need to let it out.
Lately, I have experienced and recognized people being just hateful - maybe because of jealousy or unhappiness in their lives or just plain old dislike of another person (in some cases, me).
I just do not get it. I try really hard to NOT get catty or nasty - as to me, these negative feelings only lead to bad things for me when I feel them. I do feel sometimes like I am being judged so harshly for my life choices and though I often make it roll off my back, sometimes it irks me.
Like, I get it that I do not have a conventional 9-5 job and that I am lucky enough to be around my house with my kids and doing my own thing with my nonprofit etc but that is a CHOICE I made and one that I do know I was blessed enough to make (note: it will necessitate us selling our house and living someplace cheaper to continue).
So why does it matter to someone else what I do or how I do it? Why do people have to be hateful? Yes, I know I am whining but the fact is that all of this negative energy people send my way is hurtful though I try to be a big girl about it and let it just roll off my back but it is annoying...
Sometimes my brain is just not quick enough to process things and people get annoyed - well, I am just as annoyed as they are at myself and I do not want pity but I am always trying to do the best I can.
I am so lucky to have my health and to be able to do what I DO do but I also know life is too short to waste it on pretending to be something I am not or to be a cookie cutter life - that just is not me. I cannot do it. I used to do it - I worked full time and was always doing more, more, more. I worked part time and did ever MORE - and now I am trying to just continue to heal.
You do not have to be my friend or be nice to me and I have to learn to really not let it bother me instead of just pretending it does not bother me and then getting all fired up inside when someone treats me weirdly, poorly or just stops speaking to me.
To those who love to complain or who cut me and treat me like I am contagious, I get it - I am weird, I am an other - someone who does not fit in with the groups - I am not your typical stay at home mom...
I am a cancer survivor, I am healed and continue to heal - my priority is in helping others who have experienced cancer and being the best mom/wife/etc I can be and that means making decisions about NOT being around toxicity so though you think you chose to stop talking to ME maybe just maybe it is that I decided to not invite your negativity into my soul anymore. I pray for you - I know your life must be tough, everyone's is - but of course there are different layers of tough.
To the one who told me I must appreciate my birthdays now - thanks, I know you did not mean to hat to rub me the wrong way, but it did. It just points out that I have to enjoy something more than you do because I am not normal and sometimes I do still want to be normal.
To the one who told me "I know you cannot wake up early in the morning..." - well, yes, on the weekends, my body needs sleep and I want to give in to that need that basic need of rest.
To the one who tells me she does not know how anyone could NOT work and be at home as that would make anyone crazy and insane - I feel that is so incorrect and just plain wrong on so many levels - even before I was sick I opted out of the full time workforce and worked part time to be with my kids - everyone has that choice and when you are a mom, it is hard so hard to leave your kids for work and I get you are hurting and I am sorry. But I am not insane for being home - I am actually working hard on projects AND healing AND taking care of my family the only way I know how. BUT even if I was not working on other things, being a caretaker of ones family is an honor and a privilege.
I guess there are always naysayers in your life - those who are there just to be the rub but I am not looking for sand in my bathing suit. I am so lucky and blessed for those in my life who get it who can support one another without being a mean girl. I have so many of them but the ones who try to bring people down are just so harsh and so hard to deal with so I have to learn to truly just pray for them and let it go.
How do you deal with people who are just mean or judgmental about your and your life choices?
I get that my spiritual devotion post was #TLDR, so I want to do a nutshell recap of what changed my life - the trip to Europe 14+ years after my last trip and more than 21 years since my first trip.
Living in Italy at 21 years old was an amazing gift -something that has always, no matter HOW bad my "luck" seemed, brought a smile to my face. That I, a little girl from Staten Island could leave the country despite NEVER having lived on my own and NEVER having been to Europe and just ALL of the things that had been working against me - coming from a "broken" home, having my mom leave the family and then almost die in a car crash and then being the surrogate mom for my brothers, keeping everything in order and worrying ALL of the time - it was an amazing kind of hat trick to pull out of nowhere but one which I do believe was guided by a greater force - for me, my faith and religion.
What were the chances that I, at best a B- student in High School would get to college and pull straight A's and run multiple activities and get in to the President's Society, the entre to my full tuition scholarship to our Rome Italy campus, given to me by mentor, may he RIP.
Well, moving to Europe that first time changed my life, took away my My Cousin Vinny accent, showed me the world and with me my brothers, mom and dad who also got to travel to see the world when they visited me.
It also changed my trajectory in life and gave me confidence and an understanding that the world was beyond just a small urban city outside of THE CITY, NYC.
Now going back as a mom and a wife for the first time after 14+ years of NOT going anywhere or doing much for me (except after experiencing cancer at 39 and realizing I had to take care of myself and do things for ME Lisa but who knew that would entail going to Europe??). I never thought a visit back to Italy was in the cards for me - full stop. I am broke, unemployed, a full time mom and just a nut about it - and my husband welllll is a typical dad. (LOL).
I did it anyway and it showed me that I am still that idealistic young woman who turned her life around - who did not wind up a young mom or in any other bad situation that could have been my path without a "mom" living at home and having to experience losses at a young age - despite that, I was strengthened and always used to say, "what does not kill me, makes me stronger". But then I got weak. Really weak. I was unable to NOT be with my kids. I was unable to go places like I used to - just the idea of traveling into NYC was enough to make me want to faint.
I realize even now that I am NOT "fearless" though that is my goal... instead I remind myself anytime I think "I cannot do this" by saying, " Yes, you can, you can do hard things, you survived cancer - just DO IT!"
What a difference when your inner critic is put on silent mode and your inner mean girl is not allowed to rip into you anymore. Here's to new adventures and being fearless! What do you do to help motivate yourself to move forward?
I have been very remiss in updating about my clinical trial experience taking Ibrance the stage 4 breast cancer drug despite being an “early stager” (Stage 3A with old staging, 2B with “new” standards of staging – no I was not restaged but I did research it and like to bring up the differences of the staging guidelines in the timeframe of a year and change from my initial dx).
At this point, I am almost done with the trial – which is just mind boggling to me. So, as we know from my experiences on my pilgrimage, I believe I am cured by Saint Padre Pio who continues to advocate and heal people. While on my pilgrimage many things became clear to me, including the decision to continue with the trial despite I guess having some say, “Why not drop all the drugs and just live” but I will continue with my hormone suppressor and my clinical trial anyway because it cannot hurt and the trial is almost over...
I am currently in month 21 and almost 1/3 of the way done with this month. There are just 24 months in total. Despite the side effects being multiple pages long, I have been quite lucky and have tolerated the drug at full dose all of these months. I just want to keep knocking on wood and saying thank God.
If I run fever, I need to go to hospital. I have taken 2 trips over these last 21 months for full complete bloodwork, chest xrays and the works just to be sure the fever was not caused by an underlying infection that my body could not fight due to the suppressed immune system that is part and parcel with an inhibitor pill like Ibrance. I am actively thanking God right now that I was able to go to Europe and continue to live without having to go to the hospital – I hope this streak can continue til the trial ends (prayers welcomed to help me do that!).
I also have found that I am tired but I do not truly know if this is from the meds or just my normal tiredness as I think I was born tired. Through the trial, I have had multiple follow ups – much more than the normal “life after cancer” routine. I have had appointments in the beginning of the process every 2 weeks – blood work one visit, oncologist appointment the next 2 week session with pills being given to me for the month only.
By month 3, this changed to once every 3 months with bloodwork and oncology visit combined. In addition to these appointments, I also needed to do my 3 month Lupron shots (until I removed my ovaries in November 2018) and of course that appointment never lined up with the clinical appointments so it meant 2 visits every 3 months AND surgical follow up every 6 months (which I just graduated from this past December; though I still have my yearly mammo and ultrasound on the remaining breast each December).
So my post cancer treatment phase has still been full of appointments, checks and that connection to the hospital and staff. There was no abrupt break up so to speak. For some, this might be a terrible thing but I felt it helped me cope and continue to move forward before I had confirmation that I was cured to believe that I was anyway.
The decision to sign up for a clinical trial is not easy; there are risks for everything we do in terms of health and wellness even before we become cancer patients. Just taking a Tylenol comes with tons of warnings and side effects that my surgeon pointed out to me that if we read the warnings, we would not even take that for a headache. Were you offered a trial? Did you decide to take part?
Since my Ibrance trial, I have also taken part in the Fit2Thrive study which measured and encouraged physical activity for cancer survivors, a study on intimate relationships and fertility post cancer (obviously, the fertility was not a requirement for me as I was lucky enough to have children before hormone positive cancer) and also a recently acquired hereditary study where I will be rescreened for genetic components for cancer despite already having done a screening in 2016; so many things change that it is important that I get another chance to have this screening done.
So did you take a trial or sign up for a study? Why or why not?
I love to write and have always enjoyed writing - I only recently decided I could call myself a "writer", though. I have found writing to be very cathartic so the nonprofit I founded recently launched a FREE writing workshop. Find out more below and sign up for FREE here.
Super Mom BC Eradicator - connect with me via the icons above :). Thanks! XOXO LISA (my secret identity ... )