New Year, No Fear

In a few more hours it will be 2019. The year that I’m going to turn 60…when did that happen? I’m just grateful to still be here. The last few years have been kind of rough, but I’m still kicking.

I’m not making any resolutions this year. I’m just carrying on with the mantra I’ve been repeating to myself for the past few months: No Fear

I’ve taken a few leaps of faith in my lifetime, some of them during the past year. I gave up a lucrative job because I felt isolated working from home all the time, and I had the desire to get back out there and do massage. I was a little concerned about walking away from a regular guaranteed paycheck, but I’m getting along just fine. I also allowed myself to fall head over heels in love with someone new, and so far, that’s working out, too.

The thing is, fear creeps in when you don’t expect it. I’m not talking about fear of the things that go bump in the night…that happens when you live in an old house. I’m talking about insecurity-type fear. Fear of not being everything everybody expects me to be. Fear of not being a good enough partner, a good enough teacher, a good enough writer, a good enough musician, a good enough friend, a good enough human being…fear of just not being good enough, period.

I’m trying hard to let go of that, because I am the only one I have to face when I look in the mirror. The older I get, the more I realize that I am not obligated to live up to anybody else’s expectations of me, and maybe I’ve been too hard on myself, and take too many things personally. As someone dear to me who is gone used to say, “What you think of me is none of my business.”

I may never write a best-seller. I’ll keep playing music in local bars…I won’t ever play at the Coliseum. I might teach classes that attract 20 people instead of 200. But I realize that I’ve had the same core group of good friends for most of my life…a few of them since childhood, others for 3 or 4 decades, and some newer ones who think I’m worth their time, and money can’t buy that. I am blessed with someone who knows my shortcomings, and loves me in spite of them. I may not have everything I want,but I do have everything I need. And I’m good enough.

Happy New Year to one and all, Peace on Earth, and I wish you a 2019 with No Fear.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

I have an old hand-written address book that I usually only get out for the purpose of sending Christmas cards to old friends and relatives that I don’t see very often. This week as I was doing that task, it was a wake-up call to see how many of them are dead…including many who are younger than I am. And a few whose cards have been returned “address unknown.” People who at one time were important to me and that I have fond memories of, who for whatever reason, I’ve lost touch with…they’re gone, but not forgotten. I hope they think of me occasionally, with the same good wishes for me that I have for them.

As I’m prone to do this time of year, I also remember some of my favorite Christmases from childhood. The guitar my mother got me with Green Stamps (only people of a certain age will know what that is) when I was nine. The year there was a big, heavy box under the tree with my name on it, from my brother Robert, that turned out to be a bottle of Scope mouthwash wrapped in about a hundred layers of newspaper. The year that I bought said brother an album he really wanted, only to find out on Christmas morning that he had carefully unwrapped it right after I put it under the tree and replaced it with an old album. The year I got a tiny grand piano that really played, which I loved, and which a neighbor kid sat on and destroyed. The year we got a mini-bike, which was one of my favorites. We just knew we were going to get one; my stepfather was working in  a motorcycle shop, and my brothers and I were just convinced we couldn’t possibly get anything but the mini-bike we wanted. Early on Christmas morning, we all went downstairs, and found a nice pile of loot under the Christmas tree, but alas, no mini-bike. We had been up for about an hour when I went to the bathroom, and there it was, with a big red bow on it. We woke up the neighborhood riding it in the yard at 6 am.

My favorite Christmas memories are of being at my grandparents’ house every year with all the cousins. We would all have our instruments and be playing music and singing to entertain everyone. And slipping outside to have a sip of the concoction my mother used to make that we all called “green god-a-mighty.” I don’t know what was in it, but I suspect it was moonshine made by one of my uncles, with frozen lime-aid in it. It was potent. My grandparents didn’t drink, or have alcohol in the house, so my mom left it in the car in a big cooler with some cups, and if my grandma ever knew why we all kept slipping outside and coming back in looking a little red in the face, she never said so.

People who lived through the Great Depression didn’t waste anything. I remember my grandmother very carefully unwrapping her gifts so she could save the paper and bows to be used again the next year. She would use it for years. When she grew so old she had to move out of her home, and we were cleaning it out, I found her recycled stacks of wrapping paper, folded neatly, and every single card that anyone had ever given her in a cabinet, in stacks tied neatly with strings. One of my prize possessions was a butterfly quilt that she made for me, made from the dresses that my mother had when she was a little girl, and the dresses had been made from flour sacks. Yes, young people, flour used to come in cloth sacks. I have already passed it down to my great-niece.

This week I’ve been baking some Christmas goodies, and using the cutting board and rolling pin that belonged to my grandmother. I get her tiny nativity set and a little red glass lamp out every year at Christmas. I remember all the gifts she gave to her grandchildren, which probably cost less than a dollar, and it seems like we all appreciated them more than any expensive gifts we might get today. I still have some of mine, and they sit on a bookshelf along with her picture and other mementos of her. If my house caught fire, they’d be the first thing I grabbed.

Earlier this year, my oldest brother was in a serious accident, and he’s lucky to still be here and be able to celebrate Christmas with us. I will always be grateful for the 25 Christmases I spent with Champ and with his family. We had a lot of good times, and survived a lot of hard times, and I will never forget them.

This year, I have been blessed with the love of a good man, and I am making new memories with him. I will be having Christmas with him and his family for the first time, and I’m looking forward to it. This coming Sunday, I will gather again with the cousins. We’ll eat and visit, and play and sing like we used to do at Granny’s house, and maybe slip out for a sip of moonshine. It reminds me that all the hoopla and stress and shopping surrounding the holidays isn’t important at all. The only important thing is being with family and loved ones, and being grateful for the gift of that, and it doesn’t come with a price tag or any wrapping. Merry Christmas to you, or whatever you celebrate, and I wish you joy and health and happiness.

A New Beginning

Almost every day, I listen to one of my favorite pieces of music while I’m driving in my car…it’s called A New Beginning, written by Ric DeLozier, a very talented musician I first saw perform about six months ago. I’ve been listening to the song ever since. It’s very uplifting to me. There is something wrong with the CD player in my car, and sometimes the CD just gets spontaneously sucked into the player and lands on that song. It always seems to happen when I need to be lifted out of some dark place I’m in <cue the Twilight Zone theme song>.

Ric DelozierThe first time I heard it, I had the thought that I was in the midst of a new beginning myself, one that I didn’t want or ask for. My husband died a year and a half ago, and I was forced to begin a new life, alone. The most mundane things hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to buy a step stool so I could reach the things in the top cabinet. Get out the ladder to change the lightbulb on the porch. Try to adjust to making coffee and cooking for just one person. Get used to the fact that there is no one here to talk to. Get used to being very deprived of human touch. Accept the fact that no one except the dogs would be glad to see me when I got home. I had a lot of meltdowns in the car.  As all who have been there know, grief ebbs and flows, and sometimes it knocks the crap out of you like a tidal wave when you least expect it.

I spent a year deliberately not making any big decisions. Once that year was up, I started to think about quitting my job and switching gears. For the past three and a half years, I have worked from home as the Massage Division Director of Soothing Touch. While some travel was involved, most of the time I got to spend at home with my husband while he was ill. It was good to be able to do that, and I wouldn’t trade one minute of the experience. But since he has been gone, I have been isolated. I felt like I needed to be out working in the world again, making human connections, and using the power of touch to make a difference in the way people feel. Another new beginning happened on August 1, when I hung out my shingle again as a massage therapist at my new business. It just felt like the right thing to do.

The autumn equinox happened three days ago…a new beginning of my favorite time of year. To the Celts, the equinox was known as Mabon, a time to celebrate the changing season, show gratitude for a bountiful harvest, and share our abundance. I do celebrate autumn; it’s my favorite time of year. I am in gratitude for many things: my family, and my family of selection, my good friends, my home, my ability to earn a living doing something I love to do, my travels, my music…too many things to name. I am grateful for every day, and every moment spent with those I love. For me, true abundance isn’t about how much money or how many things you have, it’s about how much love you have in your life and how much you share it. My cup is overflowing.

Some other new beginnings are  happening in my life, and I’m grateful for those: a new friend who is very special to me, new projects to work on, new goals to work towards, new places to go, new people to cross paths with, new songs to sing and new books to write, and new experiences to learn from. New beginnings are sometimes born of grief, or tragedy, or personal trials that test your strength to the very core, and rising up out of it.

I get a new beginning every day, and I don’t want to waste it…I want to get every drop out of it. A few months ago, I adopted the mantra of NO FEAR. I will live and love life to the fullest and be grateful for each new experience. I will seize the day. I will seize the moment.  I will remember the past and honor what has happened, but I won’t live in it. I won’t be afraid to tell people how I really feel, or love like there’s no tomorrow–because there is only the present, and that’s where new beginnings appear. I repeat the old saying, “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, and that’s why they call it the present.” Here’s to no fear, and new beginnings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opinion: Cancer and Massage

Note: A revision was made to this blog 06/02/18 after Tracy Walton contacted me about leaving out the second part of her critique. The link to it is below. 

I feel compelled to offer my own opinion of the recent hullabaloo regarding a difference of opinion between Dr. Jeffrey Cullers and Dr. Ross Turchaninov and Tracy Walton about Oncology Massage. I have read the initial article put forth by Cullers and Turchaninov, the Wang et al study, the other research articles that were quoted by Cullers and Turchaninov, the initial response from Walton, and the second round, and feel compelled to comment. I have been a massage therapist, author, and educator for almost 20 years myself. My late husband was also a licensed massage therapist as well as a cancer patient, and this subject is dear to my heart.

For those who are unfamiliar, here are the links:


The original article by Dr. Jeffrey M. Cullers and Dr. Ross Turchaninov, Massage Therapy in Cases of a Newly Diagnosed Cancer

 

The critique from Tracy Walton, which appeared in Massage Today, Does Massage Spread Cancer

 

The second article from Tracy Walton, which appeared in Massage Today, Can Massage Spread Cancer in the Newly Diagnosed?

Another article from Walton,  Choosing Our Words Wisely…Language Matters which appeared in Massage Today

 

The original study from Wang et al, Manipulation Therapy Prior to Diagnosis Induced Primary Osteosarcoma Metastasis—From Clinical to Basic Research

 
First of all, Culler’s and Turchaninov’s  display of condescension towards Tracy Walton, and the standards of practice of the S4OM in general, is evident in their second response, “people are busy, but we are forced to address this issue so here we go again” attitude…it seems that neither thinks anyone should have dared to challenge them or offer any response.

Second, as every scientist including Cullers and Turchaninov are aware, or even a layperson with a basic knowledge of research (I fall into the latter category) knows, one research study does not an accepted scientific theory make. Research is meant to be replicated. If there was any subsequent replication of this study, I was unable to find it, and welcome anyone who is able to point to the replication of this one. I do not imply, nor does Walton, that Wang et al’s study does not have any value. She never said any such thing; she in fact referred to it as “an unusual and important contribution to discussion.” What she did say is that some important omissions existed in the paper: a lack of reporting of the timing of manipulation therapies prior to the diagnosis of cancer, and that the original study did not mention specific body areas that were massaged, pressure used, or joints moved–all valid points.

Third, the attack on Walton’s ethics is absurd. Yes, we are obligated to first do no harm, but due to the omissions in the original study by Wang et al mentioned by Walton , this is not even up for debate, although Cullers and Turchaninov have chosen to imply that it is. There is simply nothing in the study to indicate when a person had received massage prior to being diagnosed with cancer. That could be construed to mean that anyone who ever gets up in the morning with musculoskeletal pain and seeks a massage for relief better beware, because banish the thought, they might have bone cancer and that could affect their prognosis years down the line.

Simply put, the study was lacking some very important information, and to jump from that to accusations of unethical behavior on the part of Walton or any other massage therapist is unprofessional and beyond the pale. The statement that if there is even a 1% chance that MT could cause metastasis in a cancer patient between diagnosis and treatment, that is cause not to give a massage doesn’t ring true. None of us are guaranteed the next breath, and there is in all likelihood a 1% chance that any client could have a heart attack  and die on the table. Does that mean we shouldn’t give anyone a massage? No. It’s a big jump that  just doesn’t add up.

The S4OM has made invaluable contributions to the education and practice of massage therapy for cancer patients, as has Tracy Walton. That is not to minimize any contributions made by Cullers and Turchaninov, nor those of Dr. Wang. The organization does not feel that this one study from Wang et al, nor the subsequent discussion that ensued between Walton and Cullers/Turchaninov, warrants any change in their current standards of practice. Walton stated that the authors brought up interesting points, but they do not add up to a change in OMT practice. I feel confident that Walton and the S4OM do everything they can to keep up with current research and that whenever a change in their standards of practice are actually warranted, they will be implemented.

Old Things

It’s Christmas, the first one since my husband died in May of this year. As I sit here with only my dogs for company, I look around my home, and I find comfort. My house is filled with things from the past. My grandmother’s tiny nativity set. Her old pie safe, which is one of my prized possessions, and was a gift to her in 1926 when she married. Her old butter churn sits by the stove. Her old treadle sewing machine serves as my nightstand. The big dough bowl that belonged to her mother, who died when I was a child, holds part of my rock collection. My dining room suite is the first nice thing my parents bought some 50 years ago, and it was old when they got it. The pie safe and the china cabinet is filled with my Depression glass, most of which was inherited from both grandmothers, and a set of ruby glass gifted to me by an old friend who has passed. My coffee table is an old cedar chest gifted to me when I was 12 by a great-aunt and uncle who are long gone. On a shelf is the baby plate and cup that belonged to my dad, various pieces of Depression glass from my aunt and uncle who have passed on, and a few pieces of milk glass and carnival glass from my husband’s family. On the stove is my grandmother’s cast iron frying pan, which I use every day. On the wall is a dulcimer made in 1920, gifted to me by another uncle who is gone. A guitar that was gifted to me by a dying friend 40 years ago sits on a stand.

I feel connected to generations of ancestors who had a much harder life than I’ve had. My mother, who will be 79 next month, was raised dirt-poor and picked cotton for 25 cents a bale to earn money. My grandparents were share-cropping farmers and raised everything they ate. They worked from sunup to sundown and didn’t even know they were poor. They didn’t really have anything to judge that by. I plainly recall the day they got indoor plumbing in their house. They never owned a car and walked everywhere. My grandpa never owned a tractor. He plowed with a mule. They were happy, kind, and generous people.

I think of my husband and the 25 Christmases we had together, and I miss him. In the corner of the bedroom is a chair made by his grandfather. His motorcycle helmet sits on it. All around the house are things he built for me for Christmas presents. One year, a closet. One year, the porch. Bookshelves. Cabinets. His loving spirit is in every board, every nail.

As I sit here, the ghosts of Christmas pasts are visiting. I think of the cousins all sitting around the wood stove at my grandparent’s house, playing and singing. I think of sneaking out to the barn to have a sip of moonshine. I think of my grandmother’s coconut cake and country ham and biscuits. I remember the way she would very carefully unwrap her gifts so she could use the paper and ribbons the next year. I think of how many meals my grandmother cooked in that frying pan. I think of my grandmother sewing my mother’s dresses, made from flour sacks, on that old sewing machine. I light her old kerosene lamp and think of her sewing or reading the Bible by that light, as they didn’t have any electricity until after 1940. I think of my husband sitting in that chair when he was a little boy.

I love my old things. They remind me of where I came from, and that I can be proud that I came from such good people. They remind me that I was greatly loved by a good and wonderful man, a gift that money can never buy.

I wish a Merry Christmas to you and yours, and tidings of comfort and joy.

Autumn Leaves

This is my favorite time of year in North Carolina. As I listen to Eva Cassidy singing Autumn Leaves, they are indeed falling. The sky is that peculiar intense shade of azure that happens this time of the year; the mornings are crisp and the days are still warm…today is the first day there was a freeze at my house.

I am easing into the sixth month since my husband died. It’s been a huge adjustment. I miss him all the time. We were together for 25 years, and we had something together that everyone should be lucky enough to have. This time of the year, we would always take a Sunday ride up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the changing leaves. I let that pass this year; most of the color has already come and gone. I’ve been thinking about the cycle of renewal that represents. Those leaves swirl in the wind and fall to the ground, and come spring, the new growth begins again. Kind of like me. I’ve fallen as far as I can go.  But I have to look ahead and think about the new growth to come.

I’ve had to do things I’m not used to doing, like sleeping by myself. Making coffee and cooking for one. Going to the home improvement store and navigating the maze of building supplies for some of the things that need doing around the house. Climbing a ladder. Using a drill. Killing a big spider. Getting a snake off the porch. Moving heavy furniture. Painting. Being my own roadie and designated driver. There’s nobody else here to do it. I depended on him for a lot of years (and in fairness, he could depend on me for many things). But now I have to depend on myself.

I’ve been keeping myself very busy. I finally finished my 12th book, which has been three years in the making, and it will be out sometime this week. I already have another in progress, one that I’m helping a friend of mine with. In addition to working, which I am fortunate enough to get to do at home, every day I have some kind of project at the house, a home improvement, a necessary repair, cleaning and clearing, anything to keep myself occupied so I don’t just lie here wallowing in misery and loneliness. I’m blessed with family and good friends who have sustained me. My dogs are great company. I’m playing in two bands and going to jam sessions. I still feel funny going places by myself that Champ would have accompanied me to, but I know he wouldn’t want me to hide in the house and stop living. He would want me to do just what I am doing: keep putting one foot in front of the other. Find things to laugh at. Remember the good times. Be grateful for the time we had together, and be grateful he’s not suffering anymore.

And I miss you, most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall. 

 

 

Client-Centered, or All About You?

This morning I saw a FB post from a practitioner mentioning all the things he throws in on a massage…Reiki, toning, spiritual healing, and Qi Gong. When I questioned him, he assured me that his clients know before getting on his table what they’re in for. That is the only way of working in integrity.

My questions about those things, and anything else other than massage that you include in sessions:

1. Did the client ask for it?

I was attending classes in energy work for five years before attending massage school almost 17 years ago. I was taught that you should never impose it on clients who have not asked for it, as many may have religious objections to it or just not believe in it–or just be intent on getting the full hour of massage that they have paid for without other things they aren’t expecting being thrown in. I always adhered to that policy in the interest of being client-centered.

2. Was the client informed before getting on the table that this is the way you conduct all your sessions, and given the opportunity to refuse in the event they just want a massage and nothing more?

If a client books a massage, they are expecting a massage. Particularly in the case of a client who has never had a massage, they are not expecting you to delve into their private spiritual beliefs, or perform rituals that they know nothing about.  If you are an “integrative” practitioner and you throw in other things during your session, that needs to be made clear at the very first contact.

It is the same principle as putting nut oil on a client without asking them if they have a nut allergy, or putting essential oils on someone who may have allergies or just object to the fragrance. Just because you love to use peppermint oil during a massage doesn’t mean the client is going to enjoy it.

People have the idea that I am against energy work. I am not against it. I believe any time you place your hands on people in a compassionate, non-sexual, non-threatening, non-judgmental way, with the intention of soothing their pain, relieving their stress, easing their passing, or whatever, that’s a good thing, and you can do the work without needing some supernatural  narrative that violates the physical laws of the universe to go along with it. A good explanation from Keith Eric Grant, who might be the only physicist in the US who is also a massage therapist of many years, can be found here.

I taught Reiki for ten  years myself. One day it struck me that my drawing a few symbols in the air and blowing a puff of my breath on someone is never going to turn anyone into a healer, and I tore up my master certificate. I came to the conclusion that I can lay my hands on someone without needing a story to go along with it, outside of “I just want to comfort you.”

3. Do you wait until they are on the table to spring your plans for the session on them when they are already relaxed and possibly in an altered state of consciousness?

There is an inherent power differential in the therapeutic relationship that is in our favor, and that clients look at us as the authority figure who knows what they’re doing, and who is supposed to have their best interests at heart.

4. Are you client-centered, or is it all about you?

If a client has booked a relaxation massage, and you start digging in because you
have decided they need a deep tissue massage, it’s all about you.

I gained numerous clients over the years from massage therapists who thought it was all about them. I’ve heard many comments such as “She was just sitting there with her hands on me not doing anything. I thought she went to sleep.” And “He walked around the table banging a little gong and said he was clearing my negative energy.” And “I kept asking him to lighten up because he was hurting me, but he said he couldn’t because this is what I need.” And “I just can’t stand strong fragrances of any kind. Before I knew what was happening, she had doused me in some kind of oil and I thought I was going to choke.”

A therapist who is client-centered is a successful therapist. A therapist who is not client-centered is going to crash and burn a year or two in and wonder why they just couldn’t make a living doing massage. Being client-centered isn’t optional; it’s our obligation.

Thank a Veteran

November 11 is Veterans Day, a federal holiday set aside to honor all those who have served in the US Military. It also marks the anniversary of the end of World War I, which ended in 1918. In other countries that participated in that war, it’s known as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day.

I was raised in a military family. My stepfather, CPO Bernie L. Earwood (now deceased), served two tours in Vietnam. My bother, Alan, served two tours in the Persian Gulf. My uncles served in Korea, and in WWII. My great-uncles served in WWI, and several of my ancestors fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

A few weeks ago, I taught a continuing education class for massage therapists, called Working With Veterans: Strategies and Considerations. This class is the creation of Amy Appel of Wisconsin. She sent it to me last year to get my opinion on it, and I was so blown away by it I asked her permission to teach it. We were blessed to have 5 veterans attend the class…two of them were massage therapists; one was the husband of a massage therapist; my brother happened to be visiting for the weekend from his home in Florida and I invited him, and I also had a veteran, Brian Ebert, who was making his second appearance as a speaker in the class. Brian and one of the other gentlemen present were both injured in the war, and both suffer from PTSD. Brian and his brother joined the service together, and his brother did not make it home. One of the men present said “I didn’t do anything. I never saw combat.” I felt that was wrong and told him so. The fact that he signed up meant he was willing to go if needed. It was an emotional class, and an enlightening one, and I think it had a big effect on everyone present. It certainly has an effect on me, to hear the stories these folks have to tell.

In spite of having put their lives on the line for their country, the VA estimates that there are about 50,000 homeless veterans sleeping on the street on any given night. Other veterans’ organization place that figure as high as 800,000. Due to the transient nature of the homeless population, it’s impossible to get an exact count. Like any of us, veterans need a roof over their head, food to eat, and medical care–the basic necessities of life. Obviously, we’re falling short of the mark in taking care of serving those who have served us.

How can you thank a veteran? Simple. Just walk up and say “thank you for your service.” When I’m in airports, and I see someone in uniform, I shake hands and thank them. If there is a person in uniform behind me in the food court, I pay for their meal (anonymously). I was gratified once a few years ago, in the Chicago airport, when a plane bringing home the troops came through the terminal. I didn’t see them at first, but it got my attention when I heard a couple of people applauding, and then it grew to the point that hundreds of people in the airport stood and applauded as the soldiers went marching by.

The other day, I was waiting for a man to finish his transaction at the ATM at my bank. When I pulled in there was a pickup parked beside me with Marine Corps stickers on it. I watched as he turned to walk towards his vehicle, limping, and saw the Semper Fi tattoo on his arm. I said “thank you for your service, sir.” He came to a dead stop and said “No, ma’am, thank you. That makes it all worth it.” A thank you doesn’t cost anything. It’s free to give.

I’ve owned my massage clinic for 13 years, and every year since we opened, we’ve given free chair massage to veterans. I was speaking to a veteran the other day and told him that I wish we had a lot more veterans come to take advantage of that, and he said “We appreciate it, ma’am, but we don’t want any recognition.” Courage, loyalty, humility…the hallmarks of those who have served.

Soothing Touch is a proud supporter of the Task Force Dagger Foundation, a non-profit organization that gives financial aid to wounded, ill, and injured members of the US Special Operations Command and their families. Donations go directly to those in need.

Thank a veteran, not just today, but any day.

Caregiver Syndrome, Part II

December 18 of 2014, we got the official diagnosis of my husband’s Stage IV cancer…not what I wanted for Christmas. In the past 11 months, he has had 118 doctor appointments. He is cancer free at this moment. Just three weeks after he completed 35 radiation treatments and 7 rounds of chemo, he suffered an abdominal aneurysm–and survived. The majority of people who have an aneurysm die. He was fortunate to be airlifted to the hospital, and the vascular surgeon was standing on the landing pad when he got there. He has had the best of care. Although he has lost 40 pounds that he didn’t need to lose, has a bad case of chemo brain fog, and says he has about 65% of the energy he used to have, he is just lucky to be here, and I’m lucky to still have him.

This has been one of the most emotional times of my life. Fear, shock, anger, denial, worry, and every other negative emotion has been my companion for the past year. There have been a lot of highlights, mainly from the outpouring of love, concern, and support we have had from friends and family and even total strangers. I often think of our lives in terms of B.C.–Before Cancer.

I didn’t know there was any such thing as Caregiver Syndrome before I became a caregiver. Even though he is well at this time, I’ve still got the syndrome. I still worry. I cringe when I go to the mailbox because I know I’m going to find another medical bill that I don’t know how we’re going to pay. I’ve spent the past year fighting battle after battle with our insurance company, filing appeals, and begging them not to deny payment for services and to extend continuity of care after they dropped the Carolinas Health Care System from their network. 6 of the 8 doctors that have been involved in Champ’s care were members of that system. It has been a nightmare.

I’m a control freak, and I hate it when something is beyond my control. His health is beyond my control. Our finances, at this moment, are beyond my control. We will go to our grave thousands of dollars in debt from this experience. I have felt like I’m personally out of control. I’ve never been a crying person, and in the past year have probably shed more tears than I’ve shed all together in my entire life.

Some good things have happened, in spite of it all. We made the decision to downsize at THERA-SSAGE–not close the business–and Champ has been able to start doing massage appointments again. He had to retire from carpentry after 45 years, as the physical labor of it is just too much for him. He still sleeps a lot. Some days he goes from the bed to the sofa and back again, and that’s it. That’s okay. Sleep is restorative. I accepted a new job as the Massage Division Director of Soothing Touch, an international family-owned company that manufactures massage and skin care products. They’re based in New Mexico, but I get to work at home, and I am traveling a lot for them. I love the products, which I had been using for about 7 years before joining the company, and I love the people I work with. I curtailed a lot of my teaching activities this year, but I managed to do three book revisions while Champ was sick…many times I took my laptop to the hospital and worked on them while he was receiving his treatment. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I hired an office manager to run our clinic so I could bow out and focus my attention on the new job. I have been teaching professional ethics for many years, and I was inspired to create a new class on The Ethics of Working with People with Cancer.

I have a new appreciation for cancer patients, and for their caregivers. One of my friends who beat breast cancer a long time ago said to me that she figured out while she was sick that she would much rather be the sick person than the family members who were caring for her.

When you’re a caregiver, you put everything else on the back burner. I know I did. I stopped getting regular massage. I got depressed. I suffered from anxiety. I alternated between stress eating and not eating at all because I was stressed. I either wanted to cover up my head and sleep, or laid awake worrying. It’s been a journey, and it’s not over. Champ will receive PET scans every three months for the next five years. He will have the camera put down his throat every six weeks for another six months. He goes to have his chemo port flushed out every month. He sees the vascular surgeon for regular ultrasounds. He has appointments just to get weighed so they can make sure he is at least maintaining and not losing any more weight. It’s still a little shocking to me to see his changed appearance, but I’ll take him skinny rather than not having him at all.

Every time I hear of another person who has been diagnosed with cancer, I just cringe…for them, and for their loved ones. All you can do is the best you can do. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and hoping he stays well and continues to get his energy back, and that the brain fog lifts. I still have moments of fear, depression, anger, and the whole gamut, but those are outweighed by the gratitude of still having my husband. If you’re going through this, or have already been through it, you know what I mean. May peace be with you.

To every thing there is a season…

…and a time to every purpose under the heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

As Autumn approaches (and not a minute too soon for me, personally, North Carolina on those humid 100-degree days is not my favorite thing), I am reflecting back on all that has happened since this time last year. It will be a year ago in September that I got very sick with double pneumonia (just a year after my first bout with it), a urinary tract infection that went systemic into my bloodstream, and a diseased gall bladder. Last November, just as I was recovering from that, my soulmate and husband was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Let’s just say it was the winter of my discontent, and my distress, and my depression, and that’s putting it mildly. Spring rolled around and my life was consumed with doctor visits, constant battles with the insurance company, physically taking care of Champ while trying to keep my business running smoothly. Add that to the mundane chores of everyday living, like keeping the housekeeping and the laundry and the grocery shopping all done and the bills paid. While he was recovering from the cancer and the sheer exhaustion from treatments he underwent, he suffered an abdominal aneurysm. I was overwhelmed emotionally and physically and financially and every other way, suffering from fear and anxiety attacks and paranoid if I got so much as a sniffle, because I just couldn’t be sick while Champ was in the condition he was in. I had to cancel several trips, including my annual trip to Ireland to teach, and let go of a lot of things that just paled in importance.

None of us know the day or the hour that catastrophe might strike, and that some life-altering illness or other tragic event will take place. And we don’t know the why. Some believe that everything happens for a reason; some believe things happen without any rhyme or reason. It’s easiest, and human nature, to think that things happen to other people for a reason, but there’s no reason for it to happen to us. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people all the time. We have lost several good friends to cancer this year. I see people on my FB pages fighting that battle every day. I feel for them, and their caregivers, too.

Some great things have happened this summer. First and foremost, Champ was pronounced cancer-free. He still has to see the oncologist every three months for the next five years, but he’s getting better every day at the present time. He just eased himself back into doing massage for the first time since last November when he was diagnosed, and he had seven appointments this past week. I accepted a new full-time job with Soothing Touch as their Massage Division Director. That necessitated my hiring someone to run THERA-SSAGE, our chiropractic and massage clinic in Rutherfordton NC, something it was hard for my control-freak self to turn over to someone else, but it seems to be going well. I’m loving my new job and the great people that own and work for this company. I’ll be meeting those I haven’t met yet this week when I make my first trip out to the factory in New Mexico.

My new book is finished and will be released in October. I finished another manuscript, this one for the 3rd edition of the Plain & Simple Guide to Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Examinations, and the publisher accepted the first draft. It will be out at the beginning of the year. We enjoyed our trip up to Indiana for the World Massage Festival, and also visiting with AMTA folks during weekends I was teaching in Greensboro and down on the NC Coast. I’ll be attending the National Convention in Pittsburgh to represent Soothing Touch. I’m participating in a new CE distance learning project with some other great educators that will be rolling out any day. While I was at the World Massage Festival, I got invited to teach a class in Trinidad next year, so I’m looking forward to that. I also got invited to speak at the 2016 Society for Oncology Massage gathering. Even Champ’s cancer had a few silver linings. We have always appreciated each other, but now we appreciate each other even more. We also appreciate all the kindnesses of family and friends and total strangers who supported us along the way, whether in thought or in deed.

I don’t know what the purpose was in all the stuff that happened to us, but I do know the lesson. and that’s just to hold on with everything you have to the time with loved ones you have, because no amount of money will buy any more of it. And now, for the rest of the verse. Peace & Prosperity to you.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.