Core Strength

Encouragement, Exercise

Tuesday morning I was laying on the floor in my office for the second time that day. My lower back had gone out so I carefully navigated to a space on the carpet to stretch. I spent a few minutes looking up at the ceiling tiles trying to figure out how to roll over gracefully. My arm was wedged under my left shoulder against a box on the floor. I tried turning on my side to get on all fours to hoist myself up into a cat stretch. My foot was stuck behind a roller on one chair. My boss opened the door to ask how I was doing. Awkward. She felt bad for me. We both laughed.

We think we’re so… independent… self sufficient… and in ten seconds of a wrong twist we’re flat on our backs and helpless.

“Are you okay?,” asked a lab tech. I had made it out of the office and was clinging to the wall on my way down the hallway to fax something. I felt like I was moving on ice and bent over balancing a bag of rocks on my back.

walking buddy golden doodle walking buddy puppy

My walking buddy and core strength tester, Max.

“Oh yeah, thanks, this is nothing!” I meant it. No IV’s, ICU, surgery, chemo, radiation or colostomy bag involved. A complete breeze. No problem.

I called my chiropractor because I was supposed to travel and it would only get worse.

“Well,” said his receptionist. “He can see you December 20th.”

“Uh, you mean, like, three weeks from now?” It was November 29th. “I’m in pain and I’m a current patient. He saw me three weeks ago for the same problem and I must travel.” I also have a fifty-five pound puppy to walk every morning to keep him and me happy. I had to be able to move.

“Can’t you fit me in?” Ten minutes. I just needed ten minutes of his time and an applied adjustment of the correct vertebrae.

“I guess we’ll ask his nurse and call you back.” Alrighty then.

I felt this meant good news for the nurse to be contacted about my problem. The nurse typically is the one who can make things happen because she reviews your history. Appointment spots used to be reserved for patients like me with problems. Piece of cake.

“Mrs. O’Connor? Hi there. Yeah so he can see you December 20th. Sorry but he’s fully booked until then.”

“Really?” Silence. “So, no way to get in when I’m a current patient with a history of back problems? I’m sure he’s busy, I mean, he’s a great chiropractor…” Compliments sometimes work when pleading does not.

“No. He said if you are in worse pain to go to the ER.”

You know how the old cartoons would use the sound of a record scratching to get across that, “What in the WORLD?” sound. That was going on in my head. Chiropractors are the antithesis of “just go to the ER”. ER’s mean muscle relaxers and maybe physical therapy for weeks when a ten minute adjustment and a few follow up appointments would do the trick so quickly. I was back down on the floor staring at ceiling tiles and pondering options.

On Wednesday morning I saw my new chiropractor.

We were chatting about my history of falling off horses years ago and a twisted pelvis and that cancer thing with multiple surgeries and my current problem with standing straight.

“Where are your scars?”

How odd. No one ever asks about those abdominal cancer surgery scars. They couldn’t have any impact now on my body, right? They had done their job of healing me up. The chiropractor went on to spend a lot of time testing my muscles and pressing on sensitive points in my back that I had no idea existed.

“I want you to breathe and push against my hand so I can test the strength of your diaphragm muscles. You’re singing this weekend with your daughter, right?” Then the chiropractor pushed into some of those scars around my abdomen and had me breathe deeper.

It hurts to breathe deep when those scars are pressed. Scars protect those old wounds.

“Your left shoulder is compensating along with your right lower back, and you really need to work on your core strength. That’s an underlying cause of the lower back problems.”

“Ok. I’ll work on the breathing control for the muscles in my abdomen.” It was so basic and I had known the importance of core strength but you forget until you’re flat on the floor.

Sometimes you can’t breathe easily with scar tissue protecting your best efforts to move forward.

That unseen scar tissue felt reignited with discomfort as it was loosened to give me more strength and range of motion.

It hurts to work on loosening scars from old wounds that sapped your strength. Maybe it would be easier to leave them alone.

I walked away from the appointment sore but also better able to stand upright and move forward.

Are you dealing with physical or emotional scars from some battle?

You’ve gotta go right to your core. Jesus is the core for me spiritually. When I ask him to be the center of my life and focus on allowing him to work through me (even in the areas that hurt) things all work better.

Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” The “him” is Jesus. God’s Son. ALL things in this universe are held together by him! If you want to walk upright and straight you need to ask Him to forgive your sins and walk with you. He knows about scars, too. He died on a wooden cross to pay for my sins and yours and he still has the scars from all he went through to rescue us from sin.

This is the time of year we all are consumed with gifts and how to afford them. The gift Jesus offers freely to you, right now, no matter how deep your scars? Himself. He is the only “Cure” that matters.

Read more about the supremacy of God’s Son, Jesus, here:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Colossians 1:15-23, NIV













cancer patient happiness 2014 stage four colon cancer survivor“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

Alfred Tennyson

My mother, she of the infinite energy and positive everything, gave my sister and me two beautiful Willow figurines this past weekend. Mine, pictured to the left, is called “Happiness”. A carefree girl smiles towards the sky and birds hang out on her sleeves. My mom’s kind wish and loving concern for me, her cancer-survivor-kid-in-hoping, came through loud and clear. I’m to embrace life and live it with abandon. Get reacquainted with the carefree girl. Arms open. Happy.

Life, even when you have much to be grateful for, can be just too messy and heavy and hard and exhausting and… there is a bird on my sleeve. Singing loudly. And she’s asking me to add words to her warbly sweet insistent melody.

Ok. Here is my list of words about carefree happy things heading into 2014. What are yours?

1. Lights on the Christmas tree.

2. Poinsettias that survive the Christmas purge. Sometime I’ll tell you about our first Christmas clean up.

3. A song played and sung with joy that makes you think maybe, just maybe, the courts of heaven open up and we’re all worshiping together with loved ones near and far, seen and unseen, when music is sung from the heart to the Creator. Can you imagine?

4. Snow shoes. I strapped on a pair that my family got me for Christmas and schlepped around the yard grinning like a fool. Happy fool.

5. Laughing or coughing so hard that you almost bust a gut. This is when your intestines twist painfully (the bad part) and then untwist (the happy part) because of radiation treatment. No, you shouldn’t try this. But you should laugh. Very hard.

6. Gift cards to Wegmans for produce. Love. Dear Wegmans marketing department. If you read this, I have room on my local Survivor’s Guide business directory for you. Will trade space for organic carrots and apples.

7. Tom making coffee in the morning. And getting the paper. And starting my car on cold days. And surprising me with a (gently used and in beautiful condition) elliptical.

7. A boss and co-workers that rock.

8. Christmas greetings from friends. I (hangs head in shame) sent not more than one. And my friends still love me. Thank you.

9. A daughter that does the dishes without being asked and uses her gift card to share Christmas with friends.

10. A hot-dog that barks and attacks the dust mop.

11. Family that prays. And calls and texts to say so.

12. A neighbor who shares apple and nut bread.

13. A quiet fire in the fireplace.

14. A God who promises to be here. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. And keeps giving a song.

Your turn. Arms wide. Eyes closed. Heart open. Deep breath. Face to the sky.

May you find happiness – or get closely reacquainted – in 2014.


Here is a link to an interview with Don Giovanni for Clear Channel’s Community Focus program in December. I appreciate Don inviting me to share about the cancer journey with his listeners: