Tag Archives: healing

What I wish I knew when I got a cancer diagnosis.

I never would have been able to write this post 6 years ago when I was first diagnosed with a desmoid tumor because I had no idea what I was getting into.  It has been a journey.  I would not change my experience as it has shaped me into who I am today.  If I can help someone else starting out, here is what I now know about being diagnosed with a chronic disease, whether cancer or thyroid (as I’ve used the same advice with my hypothyroidism) or another chronic illness, I needed the same advice for all the Dx’s I have heard.

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What I wish I knew then, that I know now:

This is going to be a scary journey and there will be many moments that you are going to feel very alone.  It is confusing and you will feel inadequate.  Most likely, you will not know what your diagnosis means (for a while – maybe forever) or what to do.  That’s normal.  You will learn what you need to over time.  You will learn from reading, you will learn from googling, you will learn from friends and family in the medical field, you will learn from survivors and support groups and those that can say “me too” – you’ll mostly learn from them.  You’ll learn from your doctors.

The truth is, you are never alone and you are not inadequate.  You have all you need, always.

It will be a lot of new feelings, new information, new experiences.  Take it one day at a time.  One day will be great and one will be so horrible.  Trust the process, the highs and lows, and accept both days.  Accept that you are right where you’re supposed to be at all times.

It is going to take a lot longer than you think.  You will have these crazy ideas that you are going to just solider through and you need things to get back to normal – now.  Not true.  This is going to take a while.  The surgery recovery, the right dose of that medicine, that pain pill, the balance of your body back, the emotional healing.  It is going to take time.  Good news is, you have the rest of your life, sweet child.  The truth is, life is forever changed.  (And that is not always bad.)

The truth is, taking your time actually can make the process shorter.  

Don’t start your treatment until you are ready.  It doesn’t matter if the doctor is the “best rated” most “qualified” or the specialist that your trusted family doctor (that has known you forever) sent you to, if YOU do not feel comfortable, if it does not feel right, wait.  Find another opinion.  Move forward when you know, in your gut, it is right.  Pushing forward too soon just causes a lot of emotional and potentially physical challenges in the future.  Trust that the right doctor will come because they will.

Take the support and love you get from friends, family, co-workers.  It will come gushing at first, when everyone finds out you are experiencing this, and be a bit overwhelming.  Say thanks and take your alone time as you need it, but lean on those people when you start going through treatment and when you get low and when you get scared and when you think you just can’t do it anymore.  Don’t sit alone for one minute and think you are wrong or bad or can’t do this.  Reach out and email, call, text your friends.  Seriously, do it.  They love you and they will make you feel so much better.  Remember, you are not alone.

Create a team.  You need more than your doctor or specialist.  This is a journey.  Mind, body, spirit – all involved.  The sooner you realize how spiritual healing is, the better.  There are so many people who can support your journey.  I wish I knew this from the start (although I may not have engaged the idea at first).  I learned.  Here are some of the players you might want to include.  I did:

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Naturopathic ND’s can make vitamin and supplement recommendations based on deficiencies and symptoms, as well as give diet and lifestyle recommendations.  Different ND’s focus on different things.  I personally go to Dr. Ian Bier in NH  http://www.humannaturenaturalhealth.com/Dr-Bier

Imagery Coach Guided imagery can help prepare you for surgery through visualization and meditation.  It can also help calm nerves, anxiety and help you see the process in a new way.  My life changed with Bob S. at http://www.theinwardeye.com

Nutritionist/Health Coach – If your ND does not help you get your diet right, go to a functional nutritionist.  They will help.  I love Sue R at Roselle Healing in VA:  http://rosellecare.com

Physical Therapist/Personal Trainer – I have used both and they have been invaluable to getting me strong and minimizing/eliminating my pain.  I did not know how to move right in my body post-surgery.  Moving was all new and I over compensated when I ran, sat, walked, drove.  It caused me a lot of pain.  These folks get it right.  It’s hard to find a good one, but make sure you interview and don’t settle.

Life Coach – Sick or well, life coaching has helped my life so much.  My coach has helped me create meaning, drive me towards my dreams and give me focus and guidance instead of living in regret of hang ups or bad habits.  They helped me re-tell my cancer story into a powerful one.  They helped me change jobs when I realized that life was so much more after my diagnosis.  They lead me to heal relationships with friends and family.  They helped me clean up so many bad traits. I highly recommend http://www.handelgroup.com  Life changers.

Acupuncture – If you have pain, acupuncture can work wonders. If you have digestive problems, sleep problems, emotional problems, pretty much any problem, acupuncture works.  My go-to is in Philly and she has been so hard to replace with my move south.   If in Philly, I recommend Kara  at http://www.healingwithease.net

You can find all of the above practitioners close to you.  If you want to know how comment or message me and I’ll share.  I’m a pro at finding doctors.  Seriously, its my job.

Most importantly….

It is all spiritual.  I heard this when I first started this journey, but had no idea what that meant and wasn’t ready to engage religion, which is what I thought spirituality meant.  Through my journey I have found a religion that I believe in.  That might not be the answer to you right now, but I highly recommend accepting that this is spiritual.  It’s all spiritual.  This was a journey for me, I had to start just understanding that what was going on was bigger than me, that I could trust in guidance, that I knew there were connections and ah-ha’s that were happening that did not make sense.  I began to engage the unknown and slowly God began to reveal Himself to me, slowly I began to understand this “greater than me,” and, gratefully, I began to build this powerful relationship.  I started by just praying and praying and praying (having no idea what that meant) and then I started getting answers.  My suggestion – just open up, talk to that “greater than you” feeling you might get (that is called praying) and you’ll begin to get response.  Repeat when you don’t think you are hearing whispers or repeat if you never think you hear anything or have no idea what I am talking about.  You will.

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Mom and I in the hospital after my second surgery in 2008.

 

I wish I’d knew how much cancer was going to grow and change me when I started.  It has been the most challenging days of my life and some of the most brilliant.  I have soared and I have crumpled into a crying ball.  I would not change it because I can’t.  I wish I would have known that when I started – that the big beautiful mess of this journey would be my journey and it would help me find myself and heal beyond anything I knew I needed healing of.

In health and healing,

Sera Fiana

Patience and Gratitude. Gratitude and Patience.

My life, it seems, has been a series of lessons on patience and gratitude, gratitude and patience the past few years. I don’t always pass with flying colors, actually, I might venture to say I fail a lot more than I pass.  What I am grateful to say, though, it that I keep getting back up and forging forward when I fail.

I stopped writing for a while because healing was not happening as I desired it to.  I gained weight, I was physically exhausted and my emotions were a roller coaster.  I was, and continue to, eat a very clean diet of protein and veggies, I take my load of vitamins, I workout, as my body lets me, I pray, I do deep, dirty, forgiveness and living for love work with my coach, and I felt I physically just continued to spiral downward.

Welcome to this new world of an imbalanced thyroid.

Somewhere between surgery 1, 2 and 3 my thyroid said enough. I’m tired. I can’t keep up. What is going on here?!?

Unfortunately for me, this little butterflied shaped love in my throat regulates my metabolism, energy and hormones! Note to all: you do not want one or any of these to be off.

There have been many times in the last year that I said, I’m done, I can’t do this anymore.  I fail.  Its enough.  There were so many times that I’ve gone into my victim, pity pool of why me.  Haven’t I been through enough health stuff? I have completely changed my diet, my lifestyle, my habits – all of them.  I got really ugly, really mean, really sad, really selfish a lot.  I am so far from perfect or patient.

I have also had days where I have been patient and so very grateful for this journey.  I could see how getting a tumor, having a hernia, and having surgeries for both have majorly shaped who I am today.  I could see that by getting cut so deep I soared so high and found out so much about myself.  I could see that I am in such a better place spiritually and how I have grown so incredibly.  I have hope for all to come.  I can be grateful for my journey and have patience for my body to physically, get there – to where I want it to be.  Sometimes.

I want my actions to equal fair results.  I want my input of healthy choices to equal an output of a toned body, good health, a clear mind, loads of energy and steady emotions.

Somewhere along the line I believed that if I could just control life, life would give me what I wanted.  If I could just control my body, my body would give me what I want (or think I want).  I am so grateful God is in control and not me. His love is teaching me so much about my false control theories in this.

I believe that God will keep giving me lessons until I spiritually evolve, until I’m done with this – and then continue even after that to ensure I’ve got it.  Only because he’s a good, good father that wants his children to get better, grow and evolve.  I want that too.  I want to end this vicious cycle with my challenged health, body hatred and emotional torture for my lineage and that of others.

I am not the first in my family to go through health and body issue challenges like this, but my hope is to change this challenge more than just physically, but spiritually for those little beautiful girls that run around that I get to now call nieces and cousins….and the ones that come after them.

I know God knows that.  In fact, I believe its one of the reasons He sent me here.  He knows that I know and so I feel like He keeps asking me – are you sure, are you sure you want to be the one to end this?  I think He is reminding me, this didn’t stick around for generations and effect millions of women like it is effecting me because it is easy to push through.

And then I have patience, when I remember Him telling me these words.  And gratitude that He would choose me. And then I solider on and do the work I need to do again, just one more day.

I didn’t think I could come back and write until I was where I wanted to be  – healthy, happy, at the weight I desired, without the thyroid or hormone issues, singing from mountain tops.  I thought this blog would always be an incredible story of victory and overcoming – and maybe it is – because sitting here, writing this post, showing up in the imperfect, sharing the real, that is winning, that is victory.  That is doing Gods work and that is absolutely, perfectly, why I am here.

In health and healing,

Sera Fiana

Sunday Night Calls.

I thought I would share an important story of healing in my life that is much different than what I have shared before on this blog.  Healing is so powerful and it amazes me how it comes in such different ways.  I am so grateful for this healing.  Its changed my life in so many ways…

In Health and Healing,

Sera

Sunday Night Calls

My life has changed a lot due to a phone call. Usually, not for the good. I have had my heart-broken with a phone call, told it was cancer on a phone call, told that loved ones have died via a phone call.  This story though, this time, this phone call, this change, was for the good, a big good and I didn’t even know.  For years, I didn’t even know.  I still do not know that I can, today, fully know how powerful that phone call was.  The call, this one to my Dad, it was a chance, a risk, a  challenge I leaned into that has changed my life.

You would not think this call was so changing because it was just Dad.  My Dad the patient, kind, loving man who thinks the world of me and my sisters.  The man that would do anything for me.  He would answer the phone every time I’d call.   If I would just call.

I did not always see my Dad’s patience, kindness, humbleness and love for me the way I can today.  Thanks to that phone call.  It’s not that my Dad did not embody or show me these character traits of patience, kindness, love.  It was that I was too distracted to see them.

For most of my life, until the time of the phone call, I was so caught up in evaluating the man who left me when I was a small girl.  Maybe not on his own terms, but he was my Dad, the man in my life, and he left my comfortable, yet maybe chaotic, safe home.  Although he emphasized throughout my childhood that he wished and prayed more than anything that he could be back in that home.  I couldn’t see how it could happen and I knew my Mom would have none of it.

I was so mad at him for leaving and making me so different, yet, I didn’t even know I felt this.

I was angry at the separation of my parents.  I was angry at how it made me feel different from other kids.  Most of my friends had a Mom and Dad at home.  They did not have to pack their bags every other weekend to go spend time with their Dads.  They did not have to listen to the negativity about their parents from loved ones.  They did not have to make decisions of who to spend time with, who to stick up for, Mom or Dad, and who to be nice to regularly.  I did and it was hard.  It made me feel different and I hated that.

The leaving, the being different, the separation, it felt like rejection and so I gave rejection to Dad, the easiest target.

Even so, Dad would show up every week, at every game that I played field hockey, basketball, it didn’t matter where, how far, what time.  Dad was there. He would always slowly, peacefully walk up to the court, the field and sit calmly, lovingly by himself.  He would cheer for me.  He’s always cheered for me.  He’d patiently wait for me after each game even if I talked to everyone else before him.  He’d wait on me to embrace and share with my Mom, my Mom’s family, my boyfriend, my friends.  Then him. He’d wait for me.  He always waited for me.

Dad always showed up to pick my sister and I up on our “weekends.”  He was consistent.  He showed up.  No matter what.  He never left me.  He never scolded me for my coldness.  He never punished me for my anger and the distant I build between us.  Instead he kept showing up.

I never thought about what this was like for him.

Until that day of the phone call.

By this point I was in my twenties, I had been working for years on bettering myself.  Growing up.  Cleaning up relationships in my life and bad boyfriend relationships of my past.  I really wanted great health, happiness, a great career, I was on the search for love, when a coach that had mentored me for years asked (again), “Sera, how is your relationship with your Dad?”  After a sigh, a “its fine,” we talk every few months and I see him at holidays, she suggested I start a regular call with him and just consider hearing his story.  What did I need to do that for?  I was trying no heal me here, get me better – not him.  Selfishness and anger creeped in, but luckily for me, a small, still voice inside encouraged me to make the call.

It was a bit awkward, considering we were not used to talking that much.  Dad was very grateful for my outreach and suggestion that we talk more.  I thought I was grateful too, but as soon as my Dad started to say things I didn’t like and make me “feel different” again, I got angry, I lashed out and I yelled at him.  And just as quickly as it started, I decided the calls would stop.

Some how they didn’t.

Some how I called again and we talked about the frustration of the previous call.  I shared with him how he made me feel different and it made me angry and just want to stay away.  I shared with him how I thought some of his views of the world were so different and they angered me and made no sense to me.  He shared with me how he had no idea that I felt this way.  He shared about the pain he felt leaving my childhood home and how that broke his heart.  He shared about how he desired more with me and I pushed him away.

Like matured adults we talked and we shared.  And I started to listen.  I started to hear my Dads story.

That was 4 years ago.

4 years later, what started as a simple phone call has become a healing space for 2 people who dearly wanted love from each other, but did not know where to start.

I slowly began to see this man who loved me so dearly.  I slowly began to hear the life of this man who created me.  I slowly started to hear his story, the pain, the loneliness, the rejection.  I recognized my own pain in that pain.  I saw those childhood memories with new eyes and somehow they healed me.  Some how just by hearing, I healed.  Just by witnessing, we grew.

He’d share, I’d listen.

I’d share, He’d listen.

Our conversations became  longer and longer, deeper,  more spiritual and profound.  I learned so much from and about my Dad.

We became great friends, we shared life.

 

 

As if this wasn’t enough, several months after these calls started, I was re-aquanited with another man in my life.  A wonderful, patient, kind, loving man who I had pushed away before.  Yet, he kept showing up and patiently waited.  We started talking on the phone.  Night by night we talked about our lives and what our relationship was like before.  Night by night we grew, we healed, until 3 years later we remained magically, in love, deeply committed.

And he knows, that each Sunday, he can’t be with me, because I have a phone call date.

With my Dad.

 

 

Tips to get through difficult times.

What a gift I have been given to be a leader, a voice and a survivor in the desmoid community.

My journey, my recovery, that I was chosen to be the founder and leader of Running for Answers is a gift that I am grateful to have.

My experience with my diagnosis and recovery has helped me to grow up and become a new, different woman by teaching me about healing my body, mind and spirit, and now, I feel, it is a calling to help others in the same way.

Recently, I had the gift of being able to share with a newly diagnosed desmoid patient who is struggling through her journey right now.

My words helped me, again, and I hope they help you.  While this is my advice on journeying through a health diagnosis, I know it has also helped me through other difficulties this year including being a caregiver to someone diagnosed with cancer, watching loved ones die and watching a dream I thought was my future shift and change and die in a certain way.   May you take what you can from this list and apply it to any difficulty you may be facing:

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An excerpt from my note to a beautiful desmoid survivor:
Here are a few things I can confirm:
This is confusing and scary and lonely.  Very lonely. 
It is frustrating and depressing and can make you very angry.
It is very difficult to see your body change and not to be as active as you once were.
It will get better.
You are going through this for a reason.
You will be active again.
Patience is the best approach you can have.  Hard, but true.
Lean on others for help.
Accept what is happening.  Be present.  It can be painful, but be present.  Don’t run.  Hear, Listen, Digest, then share.
Be kind to yourself and love your body through this.  It is doing a lot of healing work.  Pretty miraculous body.
Call me, call your friends, call your family – tell them how you feel.  Let it out.  It’s much better out then in.
Through it all remember again and again – you are not alone. Pray, believe, hope, accept.  You can get through this and you will.  Better, more alive and more grateful.
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In love and healing,
Sera

How I am healing…

What an incredible year it has been.  As I come up on a year since I came back to blog, I stop….I reflect. I have so much gratitude and I know I couldn’t do it without God.

This week I had my last session with my physical therapist.  A mixed bag of emotions as I love her.  Love this woman.  She is an angel from God and a healer on earth and she changed the game for me.  She listened, she healed my heart along with my belly.  She was patient and kind and I am so strong and thankful for all of that.

My check list from last year to this week.  So cool!

My check list from last year to this week. So cool!

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Secili, my PT, and I in the “healing room” Praise God for her!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also had a final check-up with my nutritionist and 12 pounds later – we’re on a good path.  Healing my thyroid was a key for me and pretty incredible that it was never caught before.  I’ve also continued a very clean, well-maintained, diet and it works great for me.

Back to running.

Back to feeling good.

Always loving the God who makes it happen.

I didn’t start out this journey as a blog about God and my spirituality and I am surprised by the progression, but what I realize is, I did start this out as a blog about healing.   At first it was for my stomach and now I realize that all healing is spiritual, and all healing, for me and my beliefs, comes from God, and all is miraculous.  What happened in my life in the last year is a miracle.

Amazing. A miracle.  You agree?

What you do know is that I had my reconstruction and fought back from that over the last year.  The 3rd surgery in 5 years.  Across the country.  With a kick-ass doctor.

You also know that shortly after my surgery, my Mother was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and I am walking through that.  Surgery. Chemo. Radiation later.  She’s a healing rockstar.

What I haven’t shared is that in December my Grandfather died and recently, a few weeks ago, my Grandmother died.  Two amazing people who lead both sides of my family.  Two people who left very sudden and unexpected.  Two of the first losses in my life.

My beautiful Grandmother and me about 8 years ago.  Grateful for her and missing her.

My beautiful Grandmother and me about 8 years ago. Grateful for her and missing her.

 

What you need to know is that I survived.  I survived all poised, loved, heart in-tact, free from turning to my pain covers (food, exercise, drama, worry, pity, fear).  I cannot, in no human power, could have gotten through this without falling apart without God. I turn everything over to Him every day – food, worry, fear, indecision, sorrow, life. He leads, he guides, he heals, he lifts, he loves fiercely.

So, a check in on how I’m healing.  I am. He is. We are.  That’s how.

Miracles abound here.

And I am so grateful.

In love and healing,

Sera Fiana

 

In awe.

I am in awe.

Respectful fear and wonder. I hold in my heart.

This year has been, on paper, in theory, one of the most difficult of my life: I had reconstructive surgery, across the country on my stomach and had to rehab my way back for the majority of the year, my beautiful mother was diagnosed and went through treatment for breast cancer, my grandfather died, and my grandmother recently died…and weaved through this story is me learning how be comfortable in love after having a wounded heart (no small feat) and leading my team to excellence while living remotely as I navigated all of this.

I am in awe because of how God led me and continues to lead me through all of this.

It has been one of the most magical, beautiful years of my life because people were courageous, bold and loving enough, obedient enough to encourage me in my way with Christ. To tell me the truth about him and to lead me to my Salvation.

God leads and I follow.
It’s simple.
If I surrender.
I can relax into crisis and difficulty.
I am in awe.
Every day. And I hope I am that way for the rest of my life. I pray for that.

I hope I always rest in the Lord….
Because if it feels this glorious during crisis. I can only imagine what it’s like during triumph.

Thank you to those that pursued and prayed and believed in my relationship with Him. You know who you are.

Thank you God for loving me so fervently, so fiercely, so gently.

In love and healing,
Sera

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Miracles.

I’m thinking about miracles.

What they are…

Where they’ve shown up in my life…

And how they come to be.

I’m thinking about miracles because I was reminded of them this weekend.

I was reminded that miracles are what God does.

Which reminded me of a definition I heard of miracles before:  a shift from fear to love.

I was also reminded this weekend that while miracles are  good to pray for…..it’s also important to not pray and focus on the next miracle in your life while forgetting to  live and praise the one your already have.

I think I can say a lot about miracles in just a few words:

Gratitude.

Presence.

Awareness.

Supernatural.

Love.

Trust.

Faith.

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Here’s how the idea of miracles play out in my mind, right now.

I hear miracle:

Immediately, I think of my beautiful scar on my belly and how amazing a gift that is – a constant, for the rest of my life, reminder of the miracle that He gave me.  Healing of my body.  This is an immediate thought.

Then, after meditating on this, I realized that I am busy BUSY right now waiting for the next miracle instead of focusing, appreciating, praising all that are around me.

I’m so BUSY wishing, hoping, waiting for the next miracle that I sometimes forget how right now, in this moment, in this life, I am living a miracle.

A year ago, my stomach was healed, I flew to TX, faithfully, to have my stomach healed, which also spiritually healed me in so many ways (this is the obvious).   BUT, then I also see the miracles of everyday life.  Of how I have lived in DC, a year and a half ago that was just a dream with no idea how I would get here or what that would look like, I am here in an apartment I love.  I have beautiful, loving, amazing, real, life-long friends, who I cannot believe I’ve only know for a year.  I love my job when 5 years ago – I loathed, had no idea where to go what to do….and Steve in my partner in life, yes, God stepped in when it seemed impossible and worked a miracle.

What I was reminded with this reflection?

When God gets involved healing happens, physically, mentally, emotionally…if you’re willing to give it to Him, trust Him, praise Him and live in faith.

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My point.  Be present.  See the miracles around you.  Even if they are small, so tiny you don’t think they’re a miracle.  And I bet more will show up all around.  I am.  Because it’s a constant reminder of the good, the love, the light in my life.

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What are your miracles?

In love and healing,

Sera Fiana