lilacs in bloom may blooms lavendar natural plants essential oils

May’s Little Black Bag

Cancer, Encouragement

“You know those are kinda strong, right?” said Tom. He looked straight ahead at the road. I grinned and watched him drive. I continued layering on essential oils from a little black bag I carry in my purse.

“Yep. I know. They’ll wear off a bit before we walk into the building.” Maybe.

I do a 30-second nutritional scan every 4-5 days. It’s sort of like a fitness tracker – it uses scientific technology to match up frequencies in my body with frequencies in essential oils. Once the personalized scan report shows me the top essential oils and supplements my body is responding to at that moment, I load up my little black bag for the week and then I layer those liquid gems on my skin each day for wellness support. It takes just three seconds for essential oils to get into my body and they reach every cell in the body within 20 minutes. They release emotional trauma. They are capable of passing the blood-brain barrier. They are a key part of my journey at this time to remain above the wellness line. Most empowering scan for this cancer survivor, ever.

We parked and walked a short distance into the building where my annual CT scan results lay waiting. Ready to pounce? Or ready to send us happily on our way?

“You smell really good, what is that??” asked the receptionist when I checked in at her desk.

Today, friend, my little black bag holds Coriander, Dill, Cardamom, Copaiba, Black Pepper, Frankincense, and Tangerine essential oils that are all rubbed on my wrists. Joy and Aroma Life go over my heart. That doesn’t include what I researched and chose to use at home most of this month such as Sacred Frankincense morning and night on the soles of my feet, over my lungs, cupped in my hands and breathed gratefully into my lungs; alternated nightly with Exodus II on my feet; Thyme and Oregano alternated daily in the morning on my feet; JuvaCleanse in my water and over my liver; Forgiveness over my abdomen; Hope on my ears; Release in the diffuser at night with Lavender; immune support blend rolled on my spine before morning mineral makeup… and Progessence Plus, Lady Sclareol and Sclaressence for support for menopause courtesy of chemo and radiation seven years ago…

“Oh, thanks!” Those were the words I said out loud. Tom had mysteriously moved to the far side of the waiting room. “The scent is from a few (cough) essential oils I wear for wellness support.”

The lab tech took my blood pressure. The reading was higher than usual. That’s how I roll in the oncologist office.

We were led into an exam room. Silence sat with us for a few moments. 50/50 chance of sun or shade. 100 percent chance of God’s love and care.

The oncologist entered with a slight smile on her face.

“I’m happy to tell you that your scans remain stable.” We exhaled. She went over a few more details.

“You mentioned the benign lung nodule when I saw you before the scan a couple weeks ago; has that changed at all from last year?” I asked.

Over the past two weeks, between the pre-scan consultation and the actual CT scan, I did all I knew how to do for a “spring detox”. I went back to the basics of moderate juicing and mostly plant based foods. This is good to do periodically throughout the year anyway, and to be truthful, I feel best when eating this way. I had also been consumed with researching ways to support healthy respiratory and lung function using specific essential oils. A fearsome thought had taken up residence in my head after the consultation. What if, after being clear five years from cancer affecting my colon, the little sleeping lung nodule she keeps talking about could become a new problem?

“Oh, yes, the lung nodule. Let’s see.” The oncologist studied the report on the screen. “No, there is no change. Wait. Actually… it did change.” (Angst.)

“It went from 2 cm down to 1 cm.” (Joy. Whoa.)

We discussed a couple more regular tests she wants me to have. I won’t need annual scans going forward. We’ll just do annual monitoring.

At the checkout desk the staff members were still commenting on how nice whatever I was wearing smelled. I know, right? It’s the best. Simply, the best.

“Thank you! I’m glad you like the scent.”

Tom and I walked out of the building. We looked at each other.

“It could have gone either way. 50/50. People hear a different outcome than we just did, every single day.” He said exactly what I was thinking.

We know and love some of those people.

We’ve been those people.

We could be those people again someday.

Green trees, bright May sunshine, and fresh air.

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
    for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
    until the disaster has passed.Psalm 57:1

A week after my fifth annual “all clear” visit with the oncologist in May 2018, I was using my oils and thinking about something my dad used to mention. He said there was a lady in his family that used to carry around a little black bag. He thought perhaps she used herbs. This intrigued me because I was trying to support my body in a similar natural fashion through the good gift of essential oils. I asked different family members if they knew whom my father had meant and each person said I needed to call my Aunt Maybelle. She is my dad’s older sister, and she patiently listened to my questions on the phone.

“Of course! That would have been your great grandmother, May Emily Morgan Burd. We called her ‘Ma Burd’. She was a midwife, and she carried a little black bag with herbs in it to help people.” I was grateful to my aunt for sharing her knowledge about my great grandmother.

I have a whole new fondness for my little black bag. I don’t have Ma Burd’s knowledge of nursing people and helping them with herbs; but you’d better believe I will keep right on filling my own little black bag with the herbal goodness from essential oils. They are one key blessing among many things I do to try and stay above the wellness line.

may emily morgan burd daniel ferris burd

May Emily Morgan Burd, seated with my grandmother, baby Verna Burd, on her lap; daughter Vera, Daniel Ferris Burd, and their son, Robert. Thanks to Aunt Maybelle for her help with my questions. Thanks to my mom for forwarding me this photo.


stage four colon cancer survivor

Sharon O’Connor is a wife, mom, and stage 4 colon cancer survivor who has been NED (“no evidence of disease”) since 2013. She loves coffee, writing, and taking walks with her husband, Tom, and their adopted Pug-Maltese mix, Ace. Sharon is grateful for wellness support strategies that work and that have helped support her personal journey with cancer.

[ More about Sharon ]

Sharon’s Note: As always, information I share about my personal journey with cancer is never intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Only your awesome doctor can do that kind of stuff. I DO intend to share strategies that have given me hope in a hugely hopeless situation. I started using essential oils in Spring 2017. God puts the things we need in our paths at the time we need them and oils have been a game changer for my life as a cancer survivor. You can see different resources I’ve used along the way since 2010 on the What I Did That Helped page.



Diagnosed with Cancer? Three Things You Can Do Immediately.

Cancer, Chemo, Encouragement

“You are the QUEEN of gentle.”

A staff member said this to me recently. My co-worker meant it as a compliment about how I work with people in challenging situations and I thanked her. We sometimes equate “gentle” with “weak”. There have been a few times in my life when my gentle nature has given way to steely resolve laced with some anger and an unshakeable belief that there must be another, better, different way in a particular situation. One of those times was October 1, 2012, when my husband and I were told that the cancer in my body had returned after a one-year reprieve.

hiker cancer walking journey diagnosis cure

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Are you like me? Do you want answers NOW? Do you want the expert to override your fears with proven knowledge and a clear path to victory?

“Tell me what to do!”

What if no one has the answer? Or at least maybe not the answer you want to hear?

What if ‘they’ don’t really have an answer? I was told this by another friend whose experience in medicine and wisdom I trust.

“Sharon. They just don’t know.” Terrifying and freeing.

You, friend, have options even when no one knows what you should do. You don’t have an expiration date. God knows the numbers of the hairs on our heads. He knows the outcome of every day we live, and, yes, the day we will die. Include him in the equation, please. He cares. He has a plan for you working with Him, trusting Him, relying on Him as you go forward.

Here are three things you can do immediately if you are diagnosed with cancer:

  1. Start juicing organic vegetables and change how you eat while you wait for tests and as you make decisions about treatment.
  2. Do something you love.
  3. Get a second opinion.

Choosing to take action while coping with the cancer diagnosis gave me more control in a bleak situation. Here is how those steps looked in my own life when cancer came back.

  1. Eating differently. I began following a juicing and raw foods eating plan within five days of the diagnosis. Why? Because even if I decided to accept more chemo and radiation I no longer trusted that medicine alone would heal the cancer in my body.  Perhaps medicine would knock down the immediate threat and the juicing and raw foods would help heal what was not working properly in my immune system.
  2. Shifting priorities. I dropped every commitment from my schedule except for three things.
    1. Work. (Because I had to – I had just started a new job, and my blogging career had yet to launch me into financial freedom… still hasn’t… but I love writing, so…) I did eventually take off four months for treatment and rest and recovery once we made a decision about what plan of action to take.
    2. Juice/follow a raw foods eating plan. That meant every morning I juiced five pounds of carrots and six green apples to take to work in thermoses; mixed powdered greens to carry in another thermos; ate oatmeal or Ezekiel bread and fruit for breakfast; took supplements; and made a raw salad for lunch. Another thermos contained hot green or yerba matte tea. I discuss some of these strategies and the exact eating plan I followed in more detail on the What I Did That Helped page. I did this three months while going through tests and making decisions about what I would do for treatment, or not, to strengthen my immune system. (I ended up going for a second round of modified radiation and chemo. See My Timeline for a summary of steps I took.)
    3. Serve others. Music is the gift God has given me to share as a form of encouragement in the local church. I had just returned to serving on the worship team before this new catastrophe. I was determined that THAT would be my service to the Lord as long as He allowed and provided strength. It is a source of great joy to me personally. What gives YOU joy?
  3. Consider all options! I got a second opinion. I researched and read. I prayed. I talked with my husband and family. I decided what I would and would not accept in and for my body. If you think you want a third opinion, get one. That is your right!!

Remember. God gives us a spirit not of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

The promise for God’s help is true in our darkest days. Yes, even when we’re facing death. He does not scorn us when we ask for help. He is not arrogant when we seek His wisdom. The answer may not be what we want to hear but his plans will always work for our good and His glory!

Have you dealt with a first-time cancer diagnosis, the return of cancer, or some other physical battle? What has helped you move forward in your journey?

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” I Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

cancer smarts, cancer, cancer encouragement, faith, hope, cancer, stage 4 cancer, cancer survivor





Thank you for stopping by! I’m a stage four colon cancer and cancer treatment survivor. I like to share encouragement and things that have helped me and given me hope on my personal journey. Speaking of things that have helped, you can find a information about “What I Did that Helped” by Clicking Here, and a summary of my personal Cancer Journey Timeline by Clicking Here. Most importantly, you can read about the Only Cure that Matters – just Click Here.

Follow CancerSmarts on Facebook! Click Here


Keeping Your Faith through Cancer

Cancer, General Thoughts, Help Cancer Patients

Friends, I hope you are having a GREAT start to your week. I am. I just returned from visiting our neighbor and came back with a beautiful plant that Tom will be trusted to keep alive; reviewed my daughter’s homework assignment and was blessed by reading thoughts from the beautiful person she is, both inside and out; threw cooked brown rice into a pan with coconut oil, celery, snap peas, and my favorite seasonings of the moment (cumin, coriander, fresh parsley – also from our lovely neighbor – and sea salt); and now, I get to write for a few minutes.

I was honored to be asked to share some thoughts about cancer (I know, big surprise for you to read those words, right) with Faith Truth & Love Magazine. They are doing a special cancer awareness week featuring a number of stories from women who have faced cancer. Here is an excerpt from the article by yours truly – I hope you’ll click the link below to visit the site and enjoy the many informative articles and info designed to encourage women.

Here we go:

Yesterday was my forty-third birthday.  I know, we women aren’t supposed to admit our age. The milestones made me ponder what it looks like to keep one’s faith in God and trust His goodness when life is touched and torn by serious illness. Especially when that illness may take your life in a long, slow, painful manner. You know that song by Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dying”? Soon after I first heard the song, I had an entirely new perspective on the lyrics. I had become a cancer patient three months after I turned forty. I was living but faced the reality of possibly dying. Faith, meet reality. Reality, meet faith.

“I gave in, and admitted that God was God.” — C. S. Lewis

Giving In

Accepting that I had cancer was like grieving. I was mourning a loss. Accepting a new normal. I had to give in and accept, even embrace, that God had a different plan for my life. The plan meant my family, too, had to experience the challenge. It seemed so unfair. It was not the abundant life I had envisioned. I had trusted Christ as a child and tried to please Him. As I have learned about the art of surrendering (and that the action of surrender is a daily process), God has given me a life far more abundant than I could have imagined. He continues to remind me just how much He loves me, and how much I need to have a child-like faith.

God helped me keep my faith in Him during a very painful season of my life, and He kindly continues to help me grow my faith as I look at the steps ahead. Here are some thoughts about the journey with help from steps that are often said to be a part of the grief process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance…

Read More over at Faith Truth and Love Magazine by Clicking Here (and be sure to head on over and “like” their Facebook page).

About Faith Truth and Love Magazine:

Faith, Truth, and Love Magazine was created to bring different communities of women closer to Jesus Christ. We strive to seek faith and love through truth in Christ. Our goal is to help other women learn how to put Jesus Christ, and God, before everything they do in life. Faith, Truth, and Love magazine discusses different topics such as relationships, and dealing with everyday life. All topics are viewed from a Christian and Biblical point of view. The magazine is also very active with its readers, and offers daily devotionals. We are learning and growing with our spiritual walk in life, join us in our help to build up the body of Christ.

“So, Why Are You Here?”

General Thoughts

cancer journey colorectal cancer cancer story cancer surviver surthriverHe asked the question in mid-May 2013 while perched on a stool. I listened while sitting in one of the plaid patient chairs. We stared at one another for a second or two. Me, the cancer patient who had left his office seven months earlier stunned and angry and shocked and refusing to accept what I was being told to do. He, the oncologist whose thankless  job it had been to tell me that October day how the CT scan showed a new mass, and maybe two, and my left kidney was shutting down and I needed another colostomy, a permanent one this time. And more chemo. Agony at the thought.

Back in October I had done all I could to delay surgery while starting to juice and eat raw foods and get a second opinion. Eventually I agreed to a more targeted radiation treatment in New York City. Our last conversation in late November 2012 had been on the phone to inform him of my decision.

But now seven months later the City folks told me I needed to see my Local folks in the oncology center to determine whether I could ditch the daily blood thinner shots. It was not a City question. It was a Local question. So here we sat.

“I filled out a bunch of paperwork to make sure you and my other three local doctors received every bit of my progress through treatment,” I said. “I would like to know if I can go off my blood thinners, based on the CT scan report results you should have received from the City.”

He stared intently and responded, “Your doctor from the City reports that you are losing more weight and feeling fatigue. Tell me, how are you really feeling?” He was not saying it like a compliment about dropping two sizes and wearing new clothes. He asked like he expected me to be very ill and I must be holding something dreadful back. I was puzzled.

“I,” I paused. “Um, I did lose about thirty pounds back in October/November, when I started juicing after the cancer returned.” He did not look convinced. Previously when I mentioned juicing to fight cancer he had not been impressed. “When you juice, your body loses the weight it wants to and then evens out. I’ve stayed pretty much the same healthy weight since December. Even during treatment. Really.” Still skeptical. “And I’m tired because of going through radiation for the second time in three years… but otherwise I’m doing light exercise, I’m back to work, I’m still juicing, I feel fine.” I was forging into the wilderness of defending to my doctor why, in the world, I was feeling pretty darn good.

“Well,” he said, “Why don’t you tell me exactly what you did for treatment. I never received anything from the providers there.”

Then I realized. He did not fully know why I was there. And he was making a point about something bouncing around the peripheral thoughts in my head. Ah. Apparently Local does not like City because City sometimes delays sending reports to Local. City does not like Local because… well who knows. It was all business and I was the valued commodity. Me and my cancer.

“Ok. Here is what I ended up doing.” I wanted to pout because he had no idea what I had gone through and was not readily acknowledging how well I suspected I was doing. Then I remembered I was partially to blame. I shared what I did from early October when I started to juice in that desperate attempt to avoid surgery and treatment, up until today. I talked about how we ended up spending the month of January in the City for targeted treatment twice a day and about the little chemo pill I took morning and night on the days I had treatment. I had weekends off. Just like a job. I told how I took a bunch of supplements recommended by another doctor, to protect my body during treatment, since I could not tolerate the juicing as well.  The information interested him because two years ago the radiation and chemo I had locally was much different. Much more intense. Much more damaging. No supplements allowed. I had agreed to that because I was told by another provider I would not deal with the cancer again if I went through the tough treatment in 2011. Now I sat hoping my provider could tell me what the report from the City said about the second round of treatment in 2013. I knew it was good; they had told me the results were remarkable. The mass had shrunk 90% and was not threatening my blood vessels any more. So could I please stop jabbing myself in my scar-numbed belly each night for the blood thinning shots? That’s why I was here.

He looked at the computer screen for a moment. “Thanks for giving me all of that information.  I have the scans you dropped off, but the City did not send me the report yet; as soon as I get that detail, I’ll know if the mass has pulled away from your blood vessels enough to no longer be a threat. If it has, you can stop the blood thinner shots.”

Two days later the nurse called. “Mrs. O’Connor? These are the kinds of calls I like making. The report does indeed show there is no more mass pressing against the blood vessels. You can stop the blood thinner shots.” Yep. Those are the kinds of calls I like getting.

There is a Great Physician who always knows why we’re “here”. Wherever we are. In any situation. Any illness. Grief. Sorrow. Joy. Even when others don’t understand how we got “here” and we don’t have the energy to try to explain.  He created us. He wanted to get to know us. When our sin separated us from Him, He sent His only Son to die and pay the price for us and rise up from the grave and live for us. Live with us. Maybe God is longing for us to want to get to know Him while we’re here.

So. Why are you here?

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:10

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

P.S.: A warm “Thank you!” to Don Giovanni for interviewing me for his community focus radio program that aired this morning on a number of local stations. You can connect with Don’s radio show here: Web | Facebook