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Valentine’s Day

Four years ago today I had life altering surgery. I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy because the cancer returned to the same breast after 3 years of treatment. In my mind, I didn’t want to deal with breast cancer again so I decided to have one breast removed prophylactic and the other because it had cancer. Today is a day I have talked about many times over the last 4 years. I volunteer for CancerConnection. I have talked to many women about breast cancer and have at times, shared my thinking in making the decisions I made. When I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy, my surgeon told me I would have 4 years to decide if I wanted to have reconstructive surgery. Basically it would take about 1 year to schedule the surgery and in BC the surgery has to be done within the first 5 years to be considered non-cosmetic. Today is that day. Tomorrow morning I have my 6 month check up with my doctor and if I decided I wanted to have reconstructive surgery I would have to let her know tomorrow. So today, I have spent some time reflecting on this decision.

I’ve been thinking about what our family has been through. How grateful I am to see our daughter graduate from one program and start university in another program. I have see our son return to university and is now getting close to starting his profession. I saw our nephew get married and our niece get engaged. We’ve also marked anniversaries that are more difficult but still filled with many happy memories.

I’ve also thought about what it was like when I was recovering from surgery and going through chemotherapy. My family was unbelievable supportive but I also had to watch the stress I was causing them as they worried about me. I witnessed people giving me strange looks and learned to laugh at some of the situations. For example, when I was bald, I had some people give me strange looks. I remember a very good friend declared she knew what was going on. She said people were trying to figure out if I was a man becoming a woman or a woman becoming a man. I had a t-shirt made up that said “Boobless in Kelowna. They tried to kill me.” I thought it was funny. However, I had one person approach me when I was wearing the shirt and tell me it was inappropriate. Luckily, more people were like me and laughed when they saw it. My husband and I use to think it was funny how many times I could be in the women’s washroom and someone would walk in and think she had entered the wrong washroom!

Today I have thought about whether I would want to go through surgery again. To be honest what I thought about more was if I was to have the surgery, how many times would I be judged again. I’m sure you’ve heard of other women who been through breast cancer and decided to have reconstructive surgery only to be judged on whether their breasts are real or not. Where I got the idea for my shirt was from a posting of a shirt a woman was wearing which said, “Yes they’re fake! The real ones tried to kill me.” So if I had the surgery, would I then have people judging me because they weren’t real?

Over the last 4 years I’ve learned to accept who I am and be proud of the person I have become. I have learned to accept my body just the way it is – boobless and all. This acceptance has been much easier because I have a husband that supports me unconditionally. He tells me daily how pretty I am. He constantly tells me how lucky he is to be married to me. In fact, this is something we debate over – who’s luckier? In my mind there is no question, it’s me!

In the last 4 years I have worked to stop judging other people. To accept people for who they are. I want people to accept me for who I am not for what I look like or because I’m missing body parts that are so often sexualized. Tomorrow morning, I will have my regular 6 month check up and there will be no discussion on whether I want reconstructive surgery. This is the right decision for me.

Polio Plus

I have had the privilege to speak to a number of Rotary Clubs. I was very honoured to learn that over 30 children will be vaccinated against the polio virus.

I have been spreading the word about the Canadian Cancer Society’s CancerConnection program. This is a peer support program for people dealing with cancer and their love ones. I have been a volunteer for CancerConnections since 2010 with a break in 2012 when I was re-diagnosed. I was very fortunate to have an incredible support team especially my family. Although, my family was so supportive, I am very thankful that they have not experienced cancer and that’s where CancerConnections is so valuable. All volunteers have been on their own cancer journey. Someone newly diagnosed is matched to a volunteer that has had a similar cancer experience. Volunteers have walked in the newly diagnosed person’s shoes and can answer many of the questions and concerns one has. The CancerConnections program is also fortunate to have a few caregivers that volunteer because a cancer journey for a caregiver is very different to the person with cancer’s journey.

CancerConnections is confidential. All volunteers participate in a training program. The role of the volunteer is to listen to the person just diagnosed and answer only what is asked. A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming so a volunteer’s role is to answer questions not tell his or her story. The goal of the volunteer is to provide answers so the client can make the best decisions regarding his or her own journey.

CancerConnections is a free peer support program available to all Canadians. You can reach a CancerConnection facilitator at 1-800-822-8664 or you can call 1-888-939-3333 to reach either Cancer Information Services or CancerConnections.

Rotary connects people around the world and in their communities with all the wonderful volunteer work they do. CancerConnections connects people with cancer with someone who can support them through their own journey.

Choices Magazine – A Letter of Gratitude

http://issuu.com/judimoreo/docs/choicesmagazine-autumn2013Choices Magazine – Gratitude

Gratitude

With Thanksgiving approaching in Canada, it is a time I like to reflect on what I’m grateful for. In fact, researchers (Seligman, Steen & Peterson, 2005) found that by writing a letter of gratitude and delivering it to the person can increase your happiness level as well as decrease your depression. A few years ago, I tried writing a letter of gratitude. A bit of background is in order.

After my husband graduated from university in Ontario, we decided to go on a family holiday and see the East Coast before we moved back to the West. When we were in Newfoundland, we were in a car accident. A car was trying to pass a semitrailer. The car was traveling about 120km/hr and we were traveling at about 80km/hr. My husband had pulled over to the shoulder and we thought we had made it by. At the time, it was snowing and the other driver touched her brakes and we were t-boned. We flipped in mid-air and landed on the drivers side in a creek at the bottom of an embankment. We skidded along for about 50 meters before the car righted itself on the other side of the creek. For my husband, he simply undid his seat-belt and walked away Рthere was nothing left on his side of the car. For myself, the snow had built up on my side so I had to use my shoulder to get the door open. I also had to get our two-year-old son out of the back seat. By the time I was ready to cross the creek, a lady was there to help me cross the creek and get up to the top of the embankment.  Once we were at the top of the hill, the lady that had helped me was taken one way by the police to give a statement and I was taken the other way Рshe was the lady that hit us. I never had a chance to thank her for helping me get our son across the creek and up the hill. Although admittedly, at the time I probably would not have thought to thank her! Amazingly, none of us were hurt.

A few years ago, I had time to reflect on what had happened in my life. I realized that the car accident had been a turning point and had a major impact on our lives. My husband and I realized how lucky we were to walk away from the accident. The first police officer on the scene kept telling me she couldn’t believe we had walked away because she had attended accidents not nearly as bad as ours had been and everyone had been killed. The accident had made us realize that no one knows what tomorrow holds and so we should live life for today. We tried to raise our children with this philosophy – live for today because no one knows what tomorrow will bring. When I was diagnosed with cancer, this philosophy, I believe, really helped all of us through the journey.

A few weeks after I had been given the all clear, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. When we were sitting and having a quite moment¬† reflecting, I realized that I had never thanked the lady from the car accident for helping me get my son across the creek and up the hill. I found my journal with her name in it and I “googled” her. I found an email address that I thought could be hers. In the subject line I put “positive impact.” I started my email with: “If you’re the lady that was in a car accident on May 7, 1990, I want to let you know about the positive impact that accident had in our lives and if you’re not the lady, sorry for bothering you.” I went on to tell her about our philosophy in raising our two children as well as thank her for her help. I was so excited to receive an email back telling me that she too had tried to raise her children with the same philosophy.

Seligman and colleagues suggest you write a thank you letter to someone in your past you felt you had never thanked properly. Then if you can, deliver the letter in person. Even though I was not able to deliver the letter in person, writing the email gave me a sense of satisfaction that I had reached out to thank someone. When I received the email back, I was so excited to see the accident had had a positive impact on her life too – it certainly raised my level of happiness! As Thanksgiving approaches, maybe you too can think of someone from your past that you never thanked properly. It could be a teacher or coach or maybe a family member, anyone from your past that you feel like you never thanked properly. Maybe it will boost your happiness level too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Taking Control

The first time I was diagnosed with cancer, I thought I was taking control. However, looking back at it, it was really my family that was leading the charge. When I was diagnosed the second time, I knew I had to take control.

The first time, I had anticipatory nausea – I was overwhelmed with nausea as soon as I walked in the cancer clinic. I also tried to tell myself that chemo was my friend and if you’re ever experienced chemo, you know it is definitely not your friend! I knew this time I needed to prepare myself to accept the chemo. I spent a lot of time visualizing a positive outcome. I also prepared my mind and body for the treatments. Compared to my first experience with chemo, I had very few side effects and I truly believe the decrease in side effects was because I was able to prepare my mind and body.

If this is something that you would be interested in learning, please contact me.

Welcome to Judi’s Coaching & Speaking Blog

Thank you for visiting my new webpage! I would like to thank Chelsea of Third Floor Design Studio (http://www.thirdfloordesignstudio.com/) for creating and developing my website.

My intention is to post different topics that I think will be of interest to you.