Sunday, June 29, 2014

Beach Prayers

I love the beach. The beach has always felt like my natural home. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and every summer my family went to Lake Erie for a month. I grew up with that great lake surf, and then in my 20’s I started going to Cape Cod and early on I found my truest spot on earth: Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, Massachusetts.

Over the years I have been to many beautiful beaches—Elbow Beach in Bermuda being one of the first that comes to mind-- but the National Seashore on Cape Cod is my spiritual home. Over the years I have left every troubling issue, ever moment of gratitude, and every great love and great loss on Coast Guard Beach. I have sobbed there, begged there and danced there.

And amazingly I have almost always been alone there. Yes, it’s a public beach and very popular but I have been lucky and/or blessed that most mornings I arrive on the beach I have it all to myself. That may be one of the reasons I feel spiritually present on that beach.

One of the ways I pray at the beach is by writing in the sand. It’s a ritual and a habit and very centering. I take a stick or a sharp shell and I turn my back to the ocean and begin to write every issue, every person, every institution that I am struggling with. I also write the names of the people I love—living and dead, and I write things I wish for, and the questions I am presenting to God. As I work down the beach the surf nips at me and I dance and jump as the ocean starts to embrace and take into itself what I have written down.

Even when I cannot be sure there is a God or Higher Being I know there is an ocean. Any time of day that I stand on the shore and watch the ocean and tides I have no doubt that there is something bigger than me, and that Bigger Something is always my way back to God. I always leave the beach surrendered and grateful have written my prayers and sent them into the waves.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Hysterectomy--Power Morcellator --Concern

Here is some information that I received today that may be a concern for women who have had or might be planning to have a hysterectomy. This was news to me so I wanted to share this with Love in the Time of Cancer readers. Below is a note from Judy Cohen, Outreach Coordinator at The American Recall Center--which provides health and wellness info. Take a look, share this with your friends and talk to your healthcare team. Here is Judy's note:

"Diane, I want to share some information with you that all of our women friends need to know. I'm sure we all know someone who has had a hysterectomy. In recent months, a device commonly used in hysterectomies has come under scrutiny by the FDA. The device is called a 'Power Morcellator', it's used to cut tissue into small pieces to be removed from the body. As if the name didn't sound scary enough, power morcellators have been named responsible for spreading undetected cancer throughout the abdomen and pelvis of women. What's even scarier is that the average life span following accidental morcellation of a cancerous tumor is only 24-36 months. The FDA plans to meet July 10th & 11th to discuss the dangers and future of morcellation procedures. Any type of awareness we can raise about this dangerous device will help put an end to the spread of deadly cancer!

Thanks Diane! I appreciate you helping us spread the word about the dangers of power morcellators.  Judy Cohen."

This is clearly something to pay attention to and to learn more about. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Help for Legal Concerns in CancerLand

Here is another regional resource for individuals and families dealing with cancer in the New York Capital Region. Experienced health advocates and second and third year law students are staff at the Health Law Clinic at Albany Law School. They can advise and guide you on issues that range from disability rights, employment law concerns, securing benefits and the rights and supports for caregivers.

The services are free. If you live out side the New York Region Albany Law can refer you to the Health Law Clinic in your city.

For more information call: 518-445-2328 or look at the Albany Law School website: 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Just Love and Tuna

John and I text each other during the workday. Sometimes it is about practical matters, “Home at 6” or “Buying milk and The New York Times.” Other times we’re romantic, “Thank you Sexy Man!” And then there are also the texts triggered by a wave of cancer fear like, “Don’t die today.” And “Please stay alive; I need you.”

A couple of weeks ago one day’s messages led to a single phrase that has begun to feel like a new title for our story. We had texted during the day about plans and timing; my estimated arrival time home was shifting with each new work responsibility that landed on my desk. I kept texting to say I’d be later and later, and would we have dinner, I wasn’t sure etc. And John finally texted, “I’ll be waiting for you at home with just love and tuna.”

“Just love and tuna” seemed to summarize who we are as a couple. Prosaic—tuna from a can and whole-wheat toast, accompanied by enormous amounts of love, accented with yummy sex. That has been our formula or recipe from our earliest days, even before sex was on the menu. We were book nerds and writing geeks and had a loving friendship filled with appreciation and humor. I love that John loved my writing long before he met me, and he loved that I “got” him from the very first time we sat down over coffee.

“Just love and tuna.” That simple and that rich.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

"Out of the Woods" is Published

I am very happy to announce that my new book, “Out of the Woods” is out. It was published by Central Recovery Press and it is “A Woman’s Guide to Long-term Recovery”.

My work in CancerLand, and my research and teaching about relationships, certainly informed this newest book, just as my experiences with cancer, and as a caregiver deeply affected my recovery and the growth of my spiritual life.

For many years I wanted to write about issues that directly impact women in recovery—and it is recovery from any addiction: food, alcohol, drugs, sex, worry or codependency, just to name a few. I also wanted to give a voice to the issues and concerns of women—and men—who have been in recovery for more than ten, 20 or even 30 years. Life still happens—as we know here at Love in the Time of Cancer—and there are striking changes and nuanced subtleties to how people in later recovery deal with life.

I invite you to take a look at “Out of the Woods” from Central Recovery Press—it is available at, your local bookseller and your public library.

Here is the link to "Out of the Woods" at Amazon:

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Special Tattoo After Cancer

Yes, you can imagine that a cancer survivor might be motivated to get a tattoo after having cancer treatment. Maybe one that says "Survivor" or an inspiring quote or maybe just "Fuck Cancer."But in the New York Times this week I read about other specialized tattoos for women after cancer.

Specifically after breast cancer and  reconstruction. Maybe you didn't know that those new breasts don't come with nipples. After all that surgery, stretching, tissue tucking and you don't even get a nipple? That's a rip right? Well, many women get nipples tattooed on their new breasts.

But the challenge was that oncology types weren't so great at the aesthetics of nipple art but guess who is? Yeah, real tattoo artists and the king of this nipple art is a guy named Vinnie Myers in Finksburg, Maryland.

Take a look at this article from the New York Times Helath blog and admire Vinnie's work. It is art. And the best kind--it can heal a soul.

Here's the link:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It Already Happened


It seems very fitting that I should happen upon this idea today--on John's Birthday. A day I value more each year because there is, in fact, another one. 

I was listening to a CD of the teacher/writer Geneen Roth in my car today and I heard her say this:

"I have spent 40 years of my life preparing for losses that have already happened."

Yes, I do that too, Always braced, anticipating, worrying, and preparing for a terrible loss. But the truth is, in my life, the big losses already happened. And even on this day I know that we are OK right now.

Monday, June 2, 2014

More Compassion for Myself and Others

As we go through our experiences in CancerLand most of us develop more compassion for other people. It happens as we face fear, grief and also some hard truths about our selves. It continues as we come to humbly grasp and accept the concept of projection (yes, we dislike in others what we most do not want to face in ourselves), and we also develop more compassion when we really, deeply understand that bumper-sticker saying that is all over Facebook these days: “Be Kind to Others—Everyone is Having a Hard Time.”

We all know that’s true and we all click “like” on Facebook to indicate, “Yeah, I know.” But that doesn’t actually help much when a co-worker is snippy or a clerk is mean or when a neighbor takes your well-meaning comment and replies with something nasty, or when a friend suddenly goes chilly on you.

Here is something that does help me build compassion. It comes from that fabulous Jungian Clarissa Pinkola-Estes who wrote “Women Who Run with the Wolves”.  She wrote:

“We can come close to reconstructing the wounds of childhood by closely inspecting what adults lose their temper over.”

Isn’t that great? A brilliant, insightful observation and a one-sentence tool for almost instant compassion.

But don’t miss this part: When I began using that sentence to help me with others I started out by diagnosing people in a less than caring way, “Oh that control freak must have had a lot of chaos in her childhood—poor her.” Hmmm….well, that’s not quite the spirit, is it?

Instead consider that Pinkola-Estes brilliant sentence can also –and best—be used for developing compassion for yourself. That variation might go like this: I can come close to recognizing and accepting the wounds of my childhood by closely noticing what I lose my temper over.

Isn’t that better? And softer? And that is what let’s me keep changing my life.