Up From The Ashes

Emergency, turbo-powered spirit-lifting:

Every bursted bubble has a glory.
Each abysmal failure makes a point.
Every glowing path that goes astray,
Shows you how to find a better way.

So every time you stumble never grumble.
Next time you’ll bumble even less.
For up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success!

For every big mistake you make be grateful.
That mistake you’ll never make again.
Every shiny dream that fades and dies,
Generates the steam for two more tries.

There’s magic in the wake of a fiasco.
It gives you that chance to second guess.
Then up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success.

Disaster didn’t stymie Louis Pasteur.
Edison took years to see the light.
Alexander Graham knew failure well;
He took a lot of knocks to ring that bell.

So when it gets distressing it’s a blessing.
Onward and upward you must press!
Yes, Yes!
Till up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success.

Up From the Ashes. Robert B. Sherman & Richard M. Sherman. Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang. 1968.


Chemo-hangover and steroid withdrawal, like icy prods, seek deep sadnesses and chase them to my surface.

Robbed of my fortitude by these chemicals, I writhe.

But I’ve learned, these months, that this darkness will fade.

‘Til then, apt words from Phyllis McGinley…

Sticks and stones are hard on bones
Aimed with angry art,
Words can sting like anything
But silence breaks the heart.

Phyllis McGinley, “Ballade of Lost Objects,” 1954

Courage vs Authenticity

Melissa Ethridge, on courage and truth:

Well, Courage. I’ve had a funny relationship with courage.

Because I often get … ‘Oh, you’re so brave, you’re so courageous!’
And I keep thinking ‘Ok, why do they think I’m so courageous?
Oh, because I said I was gay. I told the truth about myself.
Oh, because when I was bald, I was bald and that was the truth.’

And I started thinking ‘Wait a minute. We actually live in a society where just speaking the truth about ourselves, just saying ‘Hey, I’m a gay breast cancer survivor’ is courageous. Speaking our truth is courageous.

…Let’s just back up a minute and examine what we are considering courageous. And how about if this were just normal? If all of us agreed just to wake up every day and go ‘Hey! This is what I am.’

That would change the world.

Melissa Ethridge, from her session Fearless Love: Living Lives of Searing Authenticity and Audacious Courage.
Part of the Women on the Edge of Evolution audio series. 2010.

Acquiring a Taste for Bittersweet

Apt musings from The Mysterious Benedict Society:

“It’s true,” Sticky said. “Everything has been bittersweet.”

“Maybe we should acquire a taste for bittersweet,” said Reynie with a grin. “Then everything would feel wonderful.”

“That’s stupid,” Constance snipped. “If it felt wonderful then it wouldn’t be bittersweet, would it?”

Reynie only shrugged. He wasn’t at all sure about that.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma
Trenton Lee Stewart, 2009.

Type “C” Personality?

Thoughts from January Magazine’s interview with Dr. Gabor Maté, author of When The Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress (Knopf Canada, 2004):

No personality causes disease. So there’s no cancer personality.

However, there are some common traits that, if they are present in exaggerated degrees, will make you more predisposed to the disease. They don’t cause it, but make you more likely to get it because they increase the amount of physiological stress you’ve got inside you.

So people who don’t know how to say no, people who are rigid and compulsive, perfectionistic, expecting themselves to be perfect in everything, people who don’t know how to express their experience of anger in a healthy way, people who compulsively and automatically take care of others and don’t think of their own needs, these people are physiologically stressed, whether they know it or not.

So it’s not that the person causes the disease. Stress is the thing that leads to disease or leads to conditions for it, but certain personalities are more prone to this stress. Because their boundaries will be invaded but they won’t know it, they’ll be extending themselves and they won’t know it, they will work when they should be resting.

So only in that broad sense can you speak of personalities, not in the sense that a particular personality causes a particular disease.

Of course, he also said:

Lots of studies show that people who are sunny and positive die quicker of their disease. If you’re a woman with breast cancer and you’re a positive thinker, you’re guaranteed to die much quicker.

Do check out this excellent (2-part) interview with Dr. Gabor Mate discussing psychoneuroimmunology here.

There’s also a thought-provoking (3-part) IdeaCity04 talk by Dr. Gabor Maté here.

Dead Ants Walking

Food for thought from Anticancer: A New Way of Life:

The Train to Omaha

In the weeks after the discovery of my cancer, I dashed from one appointment to another. At the end of a rainy afternoon, I was awaiting my turn in a fifteenth-floor waiting room. I stood in front of a plate glass window and watched the small figures in the street below scampering around like ants. I was no longer part of their world. They were alive; they had errands to run, plans for the future. As for me, my future was death. I had left the ant heap and I was frightened. I remembered the poem “Limited” quoted by the psychiatrist Scott Peck.

The poem’s narrator writes about a train barreling at top speed across the endless expanse of the Great Plains. He knows the final destination of these steel coaches — the scrap heap; and the fate of the men and women laughing in the compartments — dust. He asks a fellow passenger where he’s going. The man answers: “Omaha”.

In the end, even if the other ants didn’t know it, we were all going to the same place. Not to Omaha, but to dust. The last stop was going to be the same for everyone.

The only difference was that the others weren’t thinking about it, whereas I was.

Anticancer: A New Way of Life
David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D, 2008.

Easy Anticancer Action

My friend Caroline was kind enough to loan me the fabulous book Anticancer: A New Way of Life, by two-time cancer survivor and researcher Dr. David Servan-Schrieber, M.D., Ph.D.

I’m not much for radical changes, discipline or complicated formulas so I was pretty leery.

To my delight, though, the book is an absolutely engaging true tale of doctor as patient, researcher, survivor and teacher.

Dr. Servan-Scrieber breezily explains how cancer can hijack our bodies’ natural healing abilities for its own evil purposes, and how, by making simple changes to our diet and habits, we can keep greedy cancer cells small and powerless.

I’m pretty sure that even I can tweak my habits to disarm cancer without feeling like I’m on I’m-Sick Planet.

Here’s how:

(view the original list here)

1. Veg up: Make your main course 80% vegetables, 20% animal protein.

2. Mix it up: Vary the vegetables you eat from one meal to the next, or mix them together — broccoli is an effective anticancer food, and is even more effective when combined with tomato sauce, onions or garlic. Add onions, garlic or leeks to dishes as you cook.

3. Go organic: Choose organic foods whenever possible. But remember it’s  better to eat broccoli, for example, that’s been exposed to pesticide than to not eat broccoli at all.

4. Spice it up: Add powerful anti-cancer spices turmeric, black pepper, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, mint, etc. to your meals each day.

5. Skip the potato: Potatoes raise blood sugar, which can feed inflammation and cancer growth. They also contain high levels of pesticide residue.

6. Go fish: Eat fish two or three times a week – sardines, mackerel, and anchovies have less mercury and PCBs than bigger fish like tuna. Avoid swordfish and shark.

7. Choose organic, omega-3 eggs: Or don’t eat the yolks. Most hens are fed corn and soybeans, making their eggs 20 times higher in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than in cell-growth regulating omega-3s.

8. Go canola or olive: Use only olive and canola oil.

9. Stay whole: Eat your grains whole and mixed (wheat with oats, barley, spelt, flax, etc.) and choose organic whole grains when possible, since pesticides tend to accumulate on whole grains. Avoid refined, white flour whenever possible, and eat white pasta only al dente (who’d a thunk al dante would matter?)

10. Sweeten low: Cut down on sugar. Avoid sweetened sodas and fruit juices,  skip dessert or replace it with fruit (especially stone fruits and berries) or a few squares of 70% cocoa dark chocolate after most meals. Read  labels carefully and steer clear of products that list any type of sugar in the first three ingredients.

11. Go green: Instead of coffee or black tea, drink three cups of green tea per day.

12. Enjoy life. What matters is what you do on a daily basis, not the occasional treat.

But enough about food…

1. Get physical: Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week.

2. Grab some rays: Try to get at least 20 minutes of daily sun exposure to boost your body’s natural production of Vitamin D. Or discuss with your doctor the option of taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.

3. Boot bad chemicals and vibes: Avoid exposure to common household contaminants. Air out your dry-cleaning for two hours before storing or wearing it; use organic cleaning products (or wear gloves); don’t heat liquids or food in hard plastics; avoid cosmetics with parabens and phthalates; don’t use chemical pesticides in your house or garden; replace your scratched Teflon pans; filter your tap water if you live in a contaminated area; don’t keep your cell phone close to you when it is turned on.

4. Invite hugs: Reach out to at least two friends for support (logistical and emotional) during times of stress.

5. Breathe: Learn a basic breathing relaxation technique to nip stress in the butt.

6. Get involved: Enjoy the bliss of helping someone else.

7. Cultivate happiness: Do one thing you love every day.

Grocery shopping just got a whole lot easier

Dr Servan-Schrieber even provides detailed lists of common and delicious anticancer foods as well as lists of pesticization levels for common fruits and veggies.

If you’d like the easily digested reasoning behind these suggestions, or you just really want to be inspired, be sure to read the book.

Thank you, Dr. Servan-Schrieber. Thank you, Caroline.

The Art of Being Alive

The Artists of Being Alive (by J. Stone)

The most visible creators I know are those whose medium is life itself;
The ones who express the inexpressible
without brush, hammer, clay or guitar.
They neither paint nor sculpt.
Their medium is being.
Whatever their presence touches
has increased life.
They see and don’t have to draw.
They are the artists of being alive.

J. Stone

Risking My Significance (today is chemo#3)

Living Wide Open: Landscapes of the Mind (by Dawna Markova)

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

I Will Not Die An Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion, Dawna Markova
Red Wheel Weiser, 2000.

Our Powerful Hidden Selves

Toby is a Crocodile (by Dr. Barbara Nichol)

When you see him in his basket, Toby seems to be asleep.
But though his eyes are closed, our Toby isn’t counting sheep.
I have for you the kind of news you won’t hear every day —
Not only is he wide awake, he’s very far away.
While you might hear outside the distant sound of passing feet,
In Toby’s ears there throbs a most exotic jungle beat.

For oftentimes the self inside is not the self that shows.
Oh, Toby is a crocodile, but only Toby knows.

Where you see just a muzzle there are terrible swift jaws.
And he has ghastly talons where you see just fuzzy paws.
Despite the false impression that his furry coat creates,
Toby’s covered nose to tail in thick and horny plates.
You might not see the reptile in the basket by the chair,
But that you do not see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

For oftentimes the self inside is not the self that shows.
Oh, Toby is a crocodile, but only Toby knows.

His teeth are sharp as razors and his eyes are sharp as teeth.
A sunny surface has this dog, with darker depths beneath.
The fish dive to the riverbed, the birds are mute with fear.
Not any beast, however cruel, would ever dare go near.
And so, while Toby seems to doze unmoving on the floor,
He slips into the water and he glides away from shore.

For oftentimes the self inside is not the self that shows.
Oh, Toby is a crocodile, but only Toby knows.

Biscuits in the Cupboard, Barbara Nichol.
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1997.

Of Power and Poison

Words of wisdom from The Secret Garden (a recovery must-read):

In each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been discovered. In the last century more amazing things were found out than in any century before. In this new century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to light. At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can’t be done, then they see it can be done — then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts — just mere thoughts — are as powerful as electric batteries — as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live

So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and his detestation of people who looked at him and reflected hourly on humps and early death, he was a hysterical, half-crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring, and also did not know that he could get well and stand upon his feet if he tried to do it. When new, beautiful thoughts began to push out the old, hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily through his veins, and strength poured into him like a flood… Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought come into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.

Where you tend a rose, my lad
A thistle cannot grow.

The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911.

A Rallying Cry (today is chemo #2)

A rallying cry from the reluctant hero of Zorgamazoo:

Now, sometimes you lose and sometimes you win,
but my Pop always told me: You never give in!
And if he were here now, I know what he’d say:
Morty, my son, when you’re caught in a fray,

or your travels are tough and the going is rough,
or you’re up to your neck in the slippery stuff,
or say some old robots are on the attack,
then I tell you, my son: You start fighting back!.

Zorgamazoo, by Robert Paul Weston
RazorBill, 2008.