colostomy

lilacs in bloom may blooms lavendar natural plants essential oils

May’s Little Black Bag

“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.

 

 

stress and cancer

Cancer Smarts: Twelve Things about Carrying Stress (and how to not let it break you down)

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz

The truth in this statement is a little painful to acknowledge. I’ve been good at some things in life. Carrying heavy loads has not been one of them. The context for every person is different but the problems from stress are very real! Since I can’t quite tell you how to keep from getting cancer allow me to share some things I’ve learned about dealing with the stress-load of life as a cancer survivor.

1. You can’t do it all.

2. Let people help.

3. Do work that you love.

4. If you don’t love your work and a change is not feasible, do things you love outside of work to recharge and refresh and protect your sanity and joy.

5. It’s OK to be angry. It’s not OK to not deal with anger properly.

6. Know your personality. Are you energized by being with people, or away from people? I unashamedly make it a point to do things that nourish my body, mind, soul and spirit. Therefore I purposefully avoid things, people and places that sap my body, mind, soul and spirit. I recharge in quietness. You can actually take a free personality test right here to gain insight into your personality: https://jacobadamo.com/personality-colors-quiz/

7. Take care of yourself. Eat right. Exercise gently in a way the helps your body and doesn’t hurt physically. Sleep plenty. Get fresh air. Soak in natural sunshine for 15-20 minutes without sunscreen. Walk barefoot. Be grateful.

8. Take care of your soul. When I don’t spend time with God through scripture reading and prayer I notice a difference in my outlook and the way I handle stress throughout the day. When I stop and start the day with time talking to the God who created me and knows every detail of my past, present, and future, I’m grounded. Settled. De-stressed. Focused. Loved.

9. Simplify your life.

10. Get things right with God.

11. Get things right with the people you love.

12. Show kindness and respect to the people you don’t love.

12a. Cheery fresh flowers make burdens lighter.

It’s all connected.

Cutting out a tumor can remove the cancer. What about the environment in the body that allowed the cancer to grow? Perhaps we need to find ways to nourish and heal the body beyond the standard cutting, poisoning and burning approaches of cancer treatment. I speak respectfully from personal experience. I went through treatment twice. The first time we were flat out running through a gauntlet of fear. The second time I was angry and I tried to use that anger to arm myself with knowledge. I felt less stress about the situation; I felt like I had some control in the chaos after I prayed with my husband. We did our best to make decisions armed with faith and good information. We were confident that, no matter the outcome, God was (and is) in control.

I am not telling you to not go to your oncologist (I did). I’m telling you that you’ll need to accept responsibility to really understand the impact of treatment upon your body. What are the pro’s and con’s? Are there ways to protect the body during chemo and radiation while helping standard medical treatment approaches to work better? What are you, the person who will go through this treatment, comfortable with, in conjunction with your doctor?

Once you pray and consider all options, you go forward one day at a time.

“Stress has a profound impact on how your body’s systems function,” says Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of General Oncology and Behavioral Science, and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson. Health experts are still sorting out whether stress actually causes cancer. Yet there’s little doubt that it promotes the growth and spread of some forms of the disease. Put simply, “stress makes your body more hospitable to cancer,” Cohen says.” The article goes on to share information about two kinds of stress – short term stress, and chronic stress, which is long-term and more damaging. Read the article here: https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/december-2014/how-stress-affects-cancer-risk.html.html

I believe there was not just one single thing that allowed cancer to thrive in my body. There were many little and big things combined that tipped the balance towards disease over a long period of time. It has taken time to tip the balance back to current wellness (by the grace of God). Stress is real and so are strategies to help cancer patients and cancer survivors manage the business of living well during our remaining time on earth.

Verses that help me cope with stress:

2 Timothy 1:7 NIV, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Psalm 20:1 NIV, “[ Psalm 20 ] [ For the director of music. A psalm of David. ] May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.”

Proverbs 18:10 NIV, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

Psalm 90:14 NIV, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

How do you find help to deal with stress as a cancer patient or cancer survivor, or supporter?

PS: Something I love to do is take photos of nature. Here’s a fun picture from the countryside near where I grew up. Enjoy!

Racoon

[ See more photos ]


stage four colon cancer survivorSharon O’Connor is a wife, mom, and stage 4 colon cancer survivor. She loves coffee, writing, playing piano, 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 ]

Core Strength

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Humming

I sat in a chair facing the trumpet vines. The (trees?) are at one end of our pool and I was plotting to capture hummingbird images. You know, because the world has never seen hummingbirds in pictures, ever. The fluted coral trumpet vine flowers fascinate me. They are what my mind’s eye remembers most from our first weeks in our home five years ago. Soon after the trumpet vines bloomed that summer we learned there was something wrong with my body that ultimately would be named stage 3 cancer. Click. Swimming in the pool before surgery that fall. Click. Sitting on the ladder with my feet in the water the following spring after chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries. Wounded. Click. Waiting for the surgeon to say I had healed enough to get in the water. Click. The relief that swimming and stretching and floating provided to my battered body. Still provides to my body. Click. The trumpet vines are in bloom again. Click.

Tom was skimming the pool. I had done my laps and was armed with my camera under the table umbrella.

“Mrs. S. (our neighbor who planted the trumpet vines over 40 years ago) says hummingbirds come out between 6 and 7 PM. Maybe I should just try to get some photos around her feeder,” I said. “Do you think it’s too hot out now? I guess I can try and see.”

“You need a bigger lens.” He finished skimming. He was right. For 24 years he has noticed details and helped me see the bigger picture.

I’m content for now with what can be seen from this limited angle. Tom left to mow the lawn. Chloe trotted proudly behind him through the gate. I don’t think either one thought the hummingbirds would cooperate. I scrolled on my phone with one hand and held the camera in the other when I heard that delicious humming sound and this happened:



See More Hummingbird Photos in the Bird Gallery Here

I was thinking about the hummingbirds today and their constant motion and quiet rest. Sometimes I do wonder why we must go through Things. The suffering and all that. And when suffering is removed or relieved a new and different struggle often appears. Constant motion. Too-short rest. My phone buzzed and I saw an email from another friend who has faced great illness. We met by email after I shared my journey at a women’s conference. She, too, had colon cancer and did some medical intervention but she chose mainly natural options to build up her immune system. She is doing beautifully. Her doctors are astonished. She has shared Christ with many people who she would never have met if she had not been on this journey. She closed her email with these words that encouraged me. I hope they will encourage you:

“I think of you often and I pray for you. God has us here to be a shining light in a dark world. This is my hope that God permits that the symbol of my life be a candle that burns itself, spends itself, consumes itself while there is still wax to burn! Have a great minute, hour, day and super weekend.”

She reminded me of the bigger picture.

If you’re searching for the beauty of (hummingbirds? health? happiness?) and can’t quite find the image, stay still and focus. If you’re headed into stormy waters and unsure how deep it will get, keep moving forward in faith. Are you sitting on the edge because you’ve been wounded beyond bearing? Rest and wait. God is setting the stage for good. If you listen close, you’ll soon hear the humming. Now go shine.

“Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” Psalm 80:19

PS: The last time I blogged here it was about scanxiety and an upcoming annual CT scan related to an encounter with stage 4 colon cancer in 2012-13. The annual scan in May 2015 was clear. Uneventful. Over. Relief. Thank you for praying and reading. Click.