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.



stress and cancer

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

Cancer, Cancer Resources, Encouragement

“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:

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:

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!


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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 ]

Hope, in a Word

General Thoughts

“Hope, in a Word” is a blog post written recently for Visit their website for helpful information about cancer.

Sustain Me: Notes on Cancer, encouragement for cancer patients, stage four cancer, stage three cancer

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” ~John Diamond

“Insurance usually covers a baseline ultrasound when you turn forty. I’m giving you a prescription for one; call and we’ll schedule you for August,” said the doctor. She smiled. I thanked her, left the office, and walked out the door. It was a simple conversation on a sunny spring morning that saved my life.

A few months later the well-care scan found a mass deep in my pelvis.

I was scheduled for surgery. The doctors were hopeful that the mass was just a fluid filled sac, but the potential of the mass being cancerous was real. The term “possible resection” had been spoken quietly during the consultation with the surgeon. I did not give that word much thought; surely this mass was something they would remove without complications and life would return to normal.

A week or two later I woke up from surgery with a colostomy and a diagnosis of stage III colo-rectal cancer. An ugly thing. A non-glamorous humiliating expression of disease that was threatening my life and capsizing my idea of how life was to “be” at forty years of age. Over the course of eight days our new reality of a cancer diagnosis set in. I was a physical mess. But harsh reality was being tempered and buffered with a peace that could only come from God. The morning of the eighth day I sat propped in a chair, ready to go home. I had just been taught the fine art of changing the colostomy bag by the ostomy nurse. Prescription papers and the hospital folder with phone numbers for home care were in my bag. I started crying.

My husband, Tom, looked at me and said, “What’s wrong?”

I answered, “It’s not like I’m going home cured. This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.”

“We’ll take it one day at a time,” he said.

Oh God. Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Like many cancer patients and families affected by this disease, we’ve learned to appreciate life one day at a time. Four years after that first surgery, I’ve now been through chemo, radiation, ileostomy and take down (colostomy reversal); the return of cancer a year later as stage IV (I decided I’d better write fast, since there is no stage V); the implementation of a wellness plan that included juicing and raw foods; a second round of more targeted radiation and chemo (what? I thought once you had radiation, you couldn’t have it again?); and a continuation of the wellness plan in an effort to regain health. The encouraging news? My last two scans have been clear. I attribute this to the power of prayer, a high commitment to a wellness plan that includes juicing and raw foods (implemented October 1, 2012 to the present), and also to the targeted radiation and chemo pill during my second round of treatment that took place 15 months ago from the time of this writing. I’ll never again assume that medical treatment alone is the “cure” for cancer.

How about you? Are you on the cancer journey yourself, or perhaps a care-giver? Difficult days, no doubt. But there is always, always hope. Remember; cancer is word. Not a sentence.

free e-book about thriving through stage iv cancerwhatididfaith infused blog about stage iv cancer stage four cancer journey




Sharon O’Connor is a cancer “surthriver” who shares her personal experience with humor and grace. Her goal as a stage four cancer patient is to encourage others going through the squall of diagnosis and treatment. Sharon blogs about the cancer journey over at You can connect with Sharon on Facebook and Twitter.

“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