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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Serendipity and Celebrating the Return of Dreams

serendipity:(noun) the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.

I have had so many exciting, wonderful thoughts swirling through my mind today. Knowing that I wanted to write about them, I had thought that by now, after putting the day's work to rest, after making my family's dinner, after taking multiple deep breaths, I would have coalesced that cloud into a clear understandable expression of thought.

This has always been my downfall. Anyone who is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to try to carry on a conversation with me realizes that my mind takes more side trips than a bus tour to Disneyworld. I am constantly so distracted by newer, better thoughts, memories, and anecdotes that I'm like a crazy chef with an armload of spices thrashing over a vat of soup.

Anyway, I'll do my best!

Yesterday I spent a wonderful day doing some creative self-exploration. We spent a good deal of the time talking about how you make things manifest in your life; what is in your control, what is out of your control, and more. It was a day full of great conversation and it has brought me some wonderful unexpected blessings.

At the end of yesterday's post, I wrote about Paula Cheney, creative force and inspiring human. I wrote about her generosity and kindness. I wrote about how touching her support of the YSC's Scrap for Survival over the last two years has been. I shared a few photos of Paula's beautiful creation that she donated to our event this year. As I often do, I made my way over to her blog to see what she had been up to. As usual, I was blown away. I commented on Paula's newest creation and mentioned that I had blogged about her wonderful album.

This morning I woke up to an email from Paula thanking me for the comments and asking permission to feature my "Dreams" mini book on her blog!!! I was so excited I was jumping up and down all over the house! My husband and son smiled and said something like, "that's nice" (even though they didn't really get it.) But my daughter understood how excited I was to have someone I admire appreciate something I had made.

Of course I fired off an email to Paula saying, in effect, who in their right mind would say "no" to such a request? I also included a story about my "Dreams" album that I hadn't shared with anyone until then. Paula insisted that I had to share it here.

So here it is:

I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed when I was 31 years old, after being told for a year that I was "too young for breast cancer". It was a horrible, frightening, sad, lonely, terrifying experience that changed my life forever. My breast cancer experience has truly made me a different person. For one, I started (along with two friends) the Duluth Affiliate of the Young Survival Coalition, which is a non-profit community made up of young survivors and supporters of breast cancer. I now work as the Program Manager of our Affiliate and am very proud to provide a network of support, education, and comfort to other young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

One of the hardest things about being diagnosed with cancer at such a young age is that it comes at a time when your life is just starting: careers, marriage, children, just plain learning who you are, etc. It's awfully hard to be facing a possible death sentence and swaddle a baby, send your firstborn to Kindergarten, go on a date, finish a college degree, and the list goes on. When I was diagnosed, my kids were six and seven years old. My cancer was quite advanced and it had spread to my lymph nodes. Things did not look good. I constantly ached to have my carefree life back, to be able to make plans for the future, to imagine a future for my children with me in it, to enjoy a present with my kids where I wasn't the scary Mommy, the Mommy who was always crying. I was never fully able to process these thoughts. The fear and the anguish were literally so bad that I felt if I faced them my heart would stop beating just from the pain. So for years I didn't face them. It was years before I admitted my anxiety and recognized my inability to move to a better place in my life. I was seeing a therapist who, after talking to me for a short while, pulled a book off her shelf that was titled "Grieving the Loss of Dreams". I still feel tears in the back of my throat when I think about that moment. It was the first time another human had been able to understand what I was feeling. it was also the first time I had been able to put words to the pain.

This year I reached the ten year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. To celebrate, my husband and I rode in the Young Survival Coalition's signature fundraiser, the Tour de Pink. It is a 230+ mile bike ride over four days that goes from Hershey, PA to Times Square in New York City. I was excited to be chosen as one of five survivors to be used in the Hershey's ad campaign. (The Hershey Co. is a big sponsor of YSC.) Part of my "special" survivor duties was to write a blog about my story and to document my training. I did and if you're interested, you can read it here. We also had to raise money to participate in the ride. I named my effort, the ride, and the journey "Celebrating the Return of Dreams". That theme was in the forefront of my mind for months as we got ready for the ride. In the end, the ride was fantastic. We rode every mile and enjoyed every minute of it. We loved the people we met and even before we were finished we had decided to sign up to ride again in 2010. I had no idea what was waiting for me at the end of the ride. The ride organizers, my husband, and the TV show Fox & Friends had arranged a surprise. They surprised me by bringing my kids out to help celebrate our finish of a long, hard journey. It was completely magical and one of the best days of my life. It was even better than a dream.

I am telling you this because in yesterday's post I also mentioned an earlier mini-book I created that Paula liked. It was my breast cancer story and was called "Evidence of a Life". I have a large white ironstone bowl where I keep my mini-albums. After photographing my "Dreams" album, I went and laid it on the top of the heap, directly on my cancer album. The shock of what I had done was so strong that I almost fell over. The theme of returning dreams had been so prevalent in my life all year, and it had physically manifested itself right here in my family room under the power of my own hands. I am still reeling from the moment.

I no longer doubt that things happen for a reason. I don't necessarily believe that it was pre-ordained that I have cancer. But I believe that if I try to remain open, if I allow my mind it's wild, waves of activity like straw being tossed in the air, eventually the seed will land and the chaff will blow away in the breeze.

8 comments:

  1. Congratulations Alane! This is fantastic!
    (you're back on my blog roll ;D)
    Did you happen to read in the news that blogs are not cool? Yeah. Whatever.

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  2. AMAZING!!! Alane, your story is such an inspiring journey.. thank you for inviting all of us along for the ride. I love your description of putting that book in your ironstone bowl...And because you were AWARE and CONSCIOUS you GOT to have that moment! So yes, dreams are amazing, the only thing more incredible is that you have made them come true! Congratulations on being featured on Paula's blog! I for one, GET IT!

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  3. Alane,
    This so perfect...just what I needed to read today. You inspire me.
    paula

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  4. Awesome books. I love how you put them together. They are fantastic and so are you. You inspire me. Many Congrats on the Blog post. Many hugs.
    Mary Z

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  5. Thank you for inspiring me today, you and your journey are amazing. God Bless, Valerie

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  6. Alane, I just "met you" when I saw your Book of Dreams on Paula's blog and then read your story.My next door neighbor has breast cancer now and I would like to share your story with her. Do you think that is o.k? Your words are so inspiring and beautifully written. (I also wrote on Paula's blog) I love your ironstone bowl and the Book of Dreams is magical. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

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  7. Alane, I too, just "met you" I was surfing the web looking for info about HOT FLASHES,due to TAmoxfen
    that I have to take after my breast caner survival. I was getting frustrated, and went to the 7 gypsy site for some "warm fuzzies", and I found you!!! Love your book. Did you have bad hot flashes? Did anything help? I have been on tamoxifen for nine months now. I am 48.

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  8. I guess I am anonymous!
    kjsmith03@cox.net
    if you want to answer my hot flashes question!

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Evidence of a Life