Exercise: “Get into the Groove…” and Move!

I used to exercise to offset the intake of wine and nachos.

A few extra step aerobic classes or Tae-bo sessions and, “Voila!” back to normal.

Alas, that stopped working MANY years ago.

Now, I exercise – or, I prefer to say, “move,” to get lymph flowing and better balance my immune system.

Some of my favorite ways to move:

Walking – This ranks as “best in class” for me. Especially outside in nature. I’m a fast walker and can sometimes move into something that looks like “wogging,” a combination of a walk/jog. Yep, I look ridiculous. And, yep, I feel super alive. But, I enjoy slow, too.

Last August I “loped” around NYC for the entire day, racking up over 35,000 steps and seeing a ton of Manhattan!

fitbit

My “half marathon” around NYC!

Rebounding (Mini Trampoline) – I do this one in short bursts. I weave it in to help me have a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) style of workout. I do a combination of two minutes on the treadmill, two minutes on the trampoline, two minutes of strength training, rinse and repeat… My Fitbit records it as a Basketball workout, which always strikes me as funny because I’m 5 feet tall.

Qigong – I started this peaceful practice when I was healing and continue to incorporate it into my morning and evening routines. I also add the moving and breathing techniques to many of my yoga and meditation classes.

Yoga – Yoga reduces my overall stress level and allows me to appreciate the state of my body on that particular day and point in time. It slows down my racing mind and increases awareness of how interestingly my body fits together. The final relaxation, or

xenasavasana

Sweet Xena (RIP) had the best savasana evahhhh!

savasana, is the cherry on the sundae! When I was younger, I used to skip it. These days, I take a yoga class BECAUSE of those final minutes of sweet stillness. I learned about yoga4cancer when I was recovering from surgery. A friend gifted me with this book and I followed the exercises as I healed. Now, I’m a certified teacher in the y4c methodology.

Cardio Kickboxing – This one is fun and brings me back to the glory days of Tae-bo. I feel strong and have fun doing it. There’s inspiring music, light weights, and I can constructively get out any latent aggression. S*^%*^o)#@%^r!!!

My cancer diagnosis prompted me to appreciate my body and love it more than I ever had before. I was so sad and scared at first, but then became so grateful for how well my body healed and continues to heal. The medication I am on has hurtled me into early menopause (THAT’s a future post – Oh, boy!). I’ve watched the scale steadily increase over the past few months and it’s been hard not to freak out. Both my oncologist and oncology naturopath explained how my body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do – it wants to offset the drop in estrogen by adding fat. But, fat can increase chance of recurrence, so I get stressed. But, stress can increase the chance of recurrence, so… I now focus on figuring out how to “be” with this new way of being. In the meantime, I move daily to balance my immune system. I eat nutritious foods. I meditate to reduce stress. I honor sleep. I practice gratitude for my body and work on navigating the changes I’m going through as positively as I can (and I carry a collapsible fan in my purse).

What helped: The Steps to Wellness Program at The University of Vermont Cancer Center. This program is open to any cancer survivor. It’s a 12 week supervised group exercise program which includes educational workshops on lifestyle management. The American Cancer Society recommends either 150 minutes of moderate exercise (that’s just 21 minutes a day!) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise – or a blend of both – each week to help prevent recurrence and optimize recovery and overall health. Strength training is recommended at least two days a week.

What I wish I knew earlier: After many months, the weight gain WOULD eventually stabilize. It’s slooooow coming back off, but it’s finally beginning to occur.

Some things you can try right now:
Get up and go! Pick something that brings you joy. Like to dance? Try something like Zumba. Like to bike? Hop on a scenic path or try indoor cycling at a place like REV. Like being on the water? Try a kayaking adventure. Choose something FUN that you’ll welcome doing. I have been attending a Monday night Pilates class at Peace of Mind Pilates for the past nine years. An added bonus from this weekly ritual? I’ve formed forever friendships.

kayak

Have fun in nature with friends!

Break it up. It takes seven minutes to walk from my cubicle to the end of the parking lot and back. It clears my mind and always makes me more productive. If done three times in 8 hours – BAM! – 21 minutes of moderate activity.

Practice gratitude. Gosh, our bodies are freakin’ amazing. Think about it. That wonderful heart of yours has been pumping since you came into being. Your eyes are taking in this text and your brain is translating what it means. Maybe you’re listening to music, the sounds of nature or the laughter of someone you love. Or you’ve recently wrapped your arms around someone special – or petted a beloved animal friend. Perhaps you enjoyed an aromatic and delicious dinner. Your body is the vessel that carries around the unique spirit that makes you YOU for this precious slice of time. Walk, run, jump, play, and celebrate the body you have! Cherish it. Love it. MOVE it.

What are some of YOUR favorite ways to “move it, move it?”

Next Up: Flashes & Fear

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at http://www.FullyPresentwithYou.com

De-cluttering

I just moved from a comfy, customized, closed-door office to a cubicle.

The past week has been all about adaptability and flexibility. Although I do miss my sweet office (and my dear door!), I’m actively choosing to focus on the many good aspects. Our whole team has more space to spread out, there are beautiful walking trails nearby, I’m exploring new dining options and my total commute time has shortened by a half hour – that’s a reclaiming of two and half hours of personal time each week!

De-cluttering played a crucial role in making this a more successful transition.

wisteriaposter

The trompe l’oeil effect of this garden path opens up my small space.

Moving from a large, uncluttered space with lots of file cabinets and storage to a cubicle in a wider, open floor plan revealed all the unnecessary STUFF I had packed away over the past 10 years. There were outdated files, photographs, “old fashioned” Day Planners and calendars (why was I keeping these?), greeting cards, a “past due” pharmacy of over-the-counter pain relievers, old makeup, deodorant, nail polish, receipts and $1.27 worth of pennies.

I re-homed a couple of pretty posters and potted plants with some friends, temporarily placed my beloved meditation chair in storage and chose one framed picture of my old view (replete with a rainbow!) for my new cubicle shelf.

Our attachment to stuff can be paralyzing. I was 90% ruthless. Yes, a few unnecessary things followed me, but they are tucked away in the bottom file drawer. I have a lot more desktop space, which feels good.

De-cluttering has always helped me feel better.

Before this move, the last “de-clutterpalooza” I engaged in was right before my surgery. I had done the “Remove twenty items every day for one week” approach and it felt really good energetically. Since I was going to be in my bedroom a lot post-surgery, I focused on de-cluttering the tops and drawers of my bureaus, rearranged wall-hangings and furniture and made my closet a “walk-in” again – instead of a “stumble-over-something” one.

cubicleshelf

My cubicle shelf with my old view of Ira Allen Chapel. Good times.

For me, having more openness helps in a space. I grew up in a house with cathedral ceilings and an open living room floor plan, so the preference for airiness is hard-wired. I currently live in a colonial with lower ceilings, so there’s less room to play with and it can get crowded pretty fast.

Remember these five words to reinvigorate the energy of any space:

Re-gift. Recycle. Remove. Release. REPEAT.

I still miss my office, though.

What helped: Clearing out and rearranging my bedroom and closet space made it into a sanctuary.

What I wish I knew at the time: If I followed the twenty minute suggestion below, I could have cleared out even more with the time I had off for healing.

Some things you can try right now:

  • Twenty things per day for a week. Try getting rid of twenty items a day. It sounds like a lot, but you will be amazed how the average Joe and Jill can do this easily. If you’re having any trouble finding items, visit your basement or garage.
  • Twenty minutes at a time. This is a doable chunk of time. It’s more than fifteen and less than thirty. If you want to go longer you can, commit to at least twenty. I promise that you will make a noticeable dent in your stuff!
  • Give something away. Is there something you love, but has been sitting in the basement or garage? See if a friend or relative might use it. If not, bring it to the local Goodwill or hospital thrift shop.
  • Look into Feng Shui. “The art of placement” is a time-honored approach to de-cluttering, streamlining and enhancing your living space. Vermonters, we have a wonderful local resource – Lydia Solini. Learn more about how Lydia can help you reclaim your space.

What has worked well for you when it’s come time to let go of a beloved item?

Next Up: Exercise

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com.

Chakras & Chanting

I talk to myself a lot.

Out loud.

I’m sure I’ve received the “side eye” many a time over the years. Thankfully, I don’t care what others think about my doing this anymore.

You see, if I’m talking to myself, I’m either:

  • Problem-solving
  • Giving myself a pep talk or
  • Calming down fears

So, I’ll continue doing so.

I’ve now layered on chanting and healing sounds as a technique to increase well-being and reduce stress and pain, so the “side eyes” will likely increase tenfold!

After my mastectomy, it was hard to sleep comfortably and to lift myself up out of bed when I woke up. You don’t realize it, but your breasts are similar to “kick stands” when you lie on your sides. Without one of the “kick stands”, side sleeping was painful at first. Also, using either arm to prop myself up hurt due to the crisscross nature of the negatively impacted pectoral muscles. That’s where vocalizing through pain was helpful.

I used chanting as an audible lever to help me position myself and also for momentum as I engaged in the Pilates Roll Up to a sitting position. I had been taking Pilates for years and, WOW, did the Roll Up come in handy! I did not have to turn on my side to get up. I just pretended I was a zombie.

As for the chanting, I told my husband not to be alarmed by the volume. It probably sounded worse than it felt, but I had to be loud in order to garner the most effective results.

Good thing he can’t hear very well in one ear.

Embracing Body Wisdom from the Bottom Up

With so much of our time focusing “neck up”, we often miss what our bodies are trying to share with us. We pay attention when things start to go wrong. It’s usually been a long tail to get to that point.

harmony

Strive for harmony – it’s more realistic than balance.

Chanting “up” the chakras can be an enjoyable way to regularly tune in to your body and increase overall awareness. The extended exhale of the chant relaxes your nervous system, harmonizing mind, body and spirit.

Chakra is Sanskrit for “wheel.” These “wheels” layer over major nerve centers of your body. Since your body is your vessel for this lifetime, it only behooves you to get to know it better.

  • Where is it closed off?
  • Where is it strong?
  • Where is it vulnerable?

Chanting can positively impact these areas of energy.

We’ve all experienced heart chakra energy shifts. When you’re surrounded by love, your

heart

LOVE is what it’s all about, people!

chest area (and, in some cases, your entire being), feels open and light. When you are hurting, this area actually pains you. In the past, I have placed my hand over my heart to soothe it and to “hold” it together, “containing” the pain while pressing my hand firmly over my heart.

Your Root chakra is negatively activated when you feel threatened, unsafe – it typically brings elimination problems. I know many of you have been there! Basically, it’s clearing you out to make you lighter to run faster (to get away from that tiger).

Sacral chakra embodies sexuality and creativity – giving birth to enjoyable things that light your fire. Sacral chakra is riding high when you are in a flow state.

Solar plexus work can enhance your confidence and self-esteem. A great example of “leading” through this area is the “Wonder Woman” stance (or, like I have often said, the “car salesman” stance – talk about confidence and resilience!).

Throat chakra represents communication: speaking up, vocalizing your truth and sharing wisdom. It is also about knowing when to stay silent until the timing is most optimal to present a novel idea and having it “land” most effectively.

Third eye (where the base of the nose meets the skull) is all about inner knowing and finding answers when we take time to be still.

Crown chakra is your connection to the AWEsome, which I often encounter in nature, in meditation or prayer and witnessing unconditional acts of love. It represents the mystery from whence we came and where we shall return – the essence of which is so hard to comprehend.

It is believed that chanting can strengthen and realign the chakras. I have heard chakras referred to as energetic “pools”, while meridians are energetic “rivers” that move throughout your body. The art of acupressure and acupuncture harnesses and redirects meridian energies.

When you engage in focused chakra chanting from the base of your spine upward, you give your body a literal “tune” up. By the time you reach the top of your head, you’ll have a nice “buzz” on. This relaxed state can more easily slide you into a meditation session or just enable you to feel a little more zen in whatever activity you feel like engaging. I’ve done it as a nice transition after work, before going out to spend time in my gardens and prior to a peaceful walk in nature.

A Little Dab’ll Do Ya

chakrachartwbijas

Take five and try chanting the Bija mantras up your body right now! LAM, VAM, RAM, YAM, HAM, OM, OM…

“Mantra” translates roughly to “mind vehicle.” A mantra can be your breath, a sound, syllable, word or phrase that can be used as an anchor to return to when your “busy mind” bubbles up. You can bet your bottom dollar that it will! It’s because it’s protecting you. Give thanks! The best approach is to say, “I hear you” and then go back to focusing on your anchor.

I discovered the “Bija” mantras (which are syllables, not phrases) on my first trip to Sedona. Up until that time, I was either chanting the vibration of Om (AUM), corresponding vowel sounds or certain mantras that appealed to me based on what I was moving through at the time. I loved the simplicity of the Bija mantras and their effect. Bija is Sanskrit for “seed,” as a syllable is like a seed of a word.

I also like to do mini chants when I’m feeling stress about something at work or in my personal life. I pick a Bija mantra or Qigong healing sound and use this “vocal” approach as an instrument to restore personal harmony. At the very least, regularly engaging in this type of “sound” work can reduce stress and increase overall relaxation – a key way to enhance your health and well-being. Now, that’s something to make some noise about!

What helped: Chanting the Bija mantra YAM (heart and chest area) helped manage pain and get me out of bed more easily. I also meditated every afternoon and sometimes used the sounds to minimize pain I was experiencing.

What I wish I knew at the time: Qigong healing sounds. I was naturally discovering them, but knowing they existed would have been even more useful.

Some things you can try right now:

  • Be more vocal. Try the simple Qigong Healing Sounds and notice how they make you feel.
  • Take a few moments to give the Bija mantras a whirl! Here is a more descriptive summary of the Bija mantras, plus you can chant along to a fun “beat box” video version!
  • Align accordingly. Here’s a simple way to reset those whirling centers of personal empowerment: Donna Eden’s Daily Energy Routine can help invigorate you “head to toe” in just a few minutes. You’ll feel better right away.
  • Learn more about chakras. Curious to learn more? Consider reading Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing by medical intuitive, teacher and writer Caroline Myss.
  • Tune in and give thanks. Take time to regularly check in with your overall sense of well-being and give gratitude for all your body has been doing for you since your first heartbeat. xox

What are your favorite sounds to make?

Next Up: De-cluttering

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at http://www.FullyPresentwithYou.com

24 Things I Learned From My Cats

I’ve often been mistaken solely as a cat lady.

Although I am a feline enthusiast, it’s important to note that my first love was our childhood dog, a gentle Newfoundland named Cabot.

I have cherished and learned from ALL of my animal friends. Dear Cabot was the first. Then came seven cats: three “dog-in-a-cat suit” types and four of the more classic feline personalities.

catreport

I’ve been a fan for a long time now – check out the date!

Since I’ve spent more of my timeline with cats, I have amassed more first-hand observational data of them. My early teachings from sweet Cabot will come in a future post.

We’re all conscious beings. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have my consciousness interacting with the consciousness of another species on a daily basis for most of my life.

We have learned to communicate, have and show affection for one another. They have been healing sources of comfort and laughter during many difficult times. They’ve filled my heart with love and they’ve broken my heart open with each passing, teaching me how to grieve.

I’ve had the blessing of witnessing the seemingly infinite and entertaining energy of kitten hood, the strong and confident middle years, the slowed down senior day-to-day experience, the providing of palliative cat care and the honor of being with them during the final, painful goodbye.

Listed below are some pearls of kitty wisdom, courtesy of Lucky, Frisky, Zoe, Zeus, Xena and our current adventures with “The Hooligans” – Ginger and Diesel.

Embrace a tip (or two) from these confident beings and reclaim some of your personal power today:

  1. Good sleep habits can lead to a long and happy life.
  2. Engage in daily play.
  3. Pay attention to your surroundings. It’s critical to know what’s going on in your own backyard.
  4. Having “Just a little more catnip (fill in the blank with human stimulant equivalent)” typically doesn’t end so well.
  5. Savasana is awesome. Savasana outside on the grass in the summertime is DIVINE!
  6. You’re never too full to have one more shrimp.
  7. Appreciate beauty. Cats embody beauty in stillness and motion. Carry yourself like the masterpiece you are.
  8. Embrace curiosity. C’mon, it won’t kill you.
  9. Customize the boxes in your life. When necessary, break through the sides!
  10. On those days when you feel like tearing someone’s head off, stay inside.
  11. Set and reinforce personal boundaries without guilt.
  12. To purr is to soothe. Purr loudly!
  13. Never underestimate the power of a good hair day.
  14. Flexibility is just as important as strength.
  15. Self-grooming is important. Stay on top of things.
  16. Be in harmony with the moment in front of you more often. Especially in nature.
  17. Don’t waste time worrying about what others think of you.
  18. Find a perfect hiding spot. Don’t tell anyone.
  19. Actively engage in rest to recoup your energy.
  20. When you are being ignored or need to stand your ground, be vocal.
  21. Immediately follow waking with a good, long stretch.
  22. If you fall or get knocked down, shake it off and climb right back up.
  23. Be picky about who gets to rub your belly.
  24. Trim your nails regularly.

What bits of wisdom have you learned from your animal friends?

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Next Up: Chakras & Chanting

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com

Books

Since 1982, I have reread one particular book about every ten years. Can you guess which one?

Hints: A scarf and “not a hat”

Answer at bottom!

My nightstand is home to a variety of half-read books. The topic I select depends on my mood. Sometimes I engage in “appetizer sampling” and sometimes I dig into one delicious main course. Fellow bookworms understand when I say that “The End” just means “The Beginning” for yet another book to be discovered and devoured.

Somanybooks

So many books, so little time…

I’m a traditional hard copy, paper book gal. There’s something about the familiar form and weight of holding a physical book in my hands, mindfully dog-earing the pages and having the progressive visual of how close I am to completion. There are some books I love to revisit, some I wish could go on forever and some I just want to bring across the finish line and donate to the local Goodwill.

I read voraciously after my diagnosis. Most of it was online and much of it was conflicting information. Part of the reason was because I was searching with incomplete information. There were some facts I wouldn’t learn until after the surgery.

What helped: My surgical recovery phase allowed me to do a deep dive and COMPLETE multiple books. Some were gifted to me and some recommended as useful by others touched by cancer. I benefited from the specialized advice, nourishing recipes, traditional and non-traditional approaches, real patient stories and multiple research findings. Favorites included:

  • The Cancer Revolution by Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy
    • I liked the comprehensive nature of different approaches and their descriptions, plus the eating plans, recipe section, glossary and extensive footnotes.
  • The China Study Cookbook by LeAnne Campbell
    • I enjoyed the wide assortment of plant-based recipes and nutritional information.
  • How Healing Works by Wayne Jonas, MD
    • I loved the history he shared, how to heal with your environment and real-life patient stories.
  • It’s Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life & Cancer by Debra Jarvis
    • I appreciated her humor, candor and openness in sharing her group emails and lessons learned along the way.
  • WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
    • This was not cancer-specific, however, it was extremely valuable to me as my return to work approached. I was still very tired, but this book offered strategies to better harness my natural energy phases. You can check out the book’s core message and the power of a “Nappuccino,” HERE.

      morefriends

      More old friends…

What I wish I knew at the time: Audiobooks! Of course I knew about audiobooks, but I’d never actually listened to any. They would have been a convenient delivery system of informational resources on my work commute in the first weeks after diagnosis.

Some things to try:

  • Check out one of the books listed above, if appropriate for you or someone you care about.
  • The next time you fly, use it as an opportunity to finish at least one book. Watch how it transforms the early arrivals, unexpected flight delays and long layovers into a more positive and satisfying experience. Pick one you’ve been wanting to sink your teeth into – you know the one. It elicits the “Just two more pages…” response.
  • When it makes sense, layer! Since my brother and his family got me a six-month membership, I’ve become a big fan of the audiobook. I recently heard Tony Robbins use the term, NET: No Extra Time. He was talking about time management strategies. Life is busier than ever these days, so listening to an audiobook is an example of utilizing time that you’re already engaged in doing something (driving, working out, cooking, cleaning) and layering on some learning that can benefit you (and possibly reduce some stress, depending on the topic!) without taking up any extra time.
  • Block time for down time. Although books and audiobooks are enriching in so many ways, it’s important to schedule regular doses of “white space” or “waking rest” into each day. This relaxing, agenda-free “down time” allows your brain to better process the multitude of learnings and experiences, increase the flow of creative insights and productivity and restore and relax your nervous system.

Answer to Intro Question: It is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry! I first read this on my 7th grade school bus (no talking was allowed that year, so plenty of time to read). It profoundly affected me. I stumbled upon it again after college and understood even deeper aspects of the story after a decade of life experiences. Since then, I commit to rediscovering it (and myself!) as I welcome in each new decade.

Which book do you reread and why? List in the comment section below.

Next Up: Cats!

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at http://www.FullyPresentwithYou.com.

Birdwatching

The songbirds were more vocal, bringing literal “cheer, cheer, cheer…” with the warmer weather. Vermont has to go through sticks, dead leaves and lots of mud to get to spring, but at least our fine feathered friends signal when we are heading in the right direction.

I had taken the day off. With my surgery the next morning, I wanted to tie up loose ends in order to feel grounded and centered by nightfall. Mom and I planned to spend the morning decluttering closets and the afternoon shopping for button-down and zip-up tops. It was recommended that I wear them during recovery, since I wouldn’t be able to get my arms overhead for a while.

As we stepped into my car, I heard the distinct, “Birdie, Birdie, Birdie” call of a male cardinal right above my head. I’ve always loved cardinals. I looked up and said to my mother, “That’s a good sign.” She agreed. We humans are meaning-making beings and I was taking in all the positive signs I could get.

The next morning, he greeted us again. I told my family that he was “cheer-ing me on” as we headed to the hospital. Hey, doses of humor are helpful.

A while later, I arrived in the pre-op bay. I put on my hospital johnny and socks and got onto the bed. On the wall to the right of me was a framed picture of a male cardinal. Was he following me?

The day after surgery, I went downstairs to my living room. I had turned this into my

cardinalfriend

View from my rocker: Mr. Cardinal perching

downstairs “sanctuary space” where I could meditate, read, journal, relax and visit with friends and family.

I sat in my rocking chair (read why rocking is so good for you HERE!) and in less than a minute a male cardinal flew onto the holly bush directly in front of me. I let out a little laugh and smiled. I spent a few moments admiring his beauty until my two indoor cats came into the room. Within moments of their arrival, they headed straight to the window to let out their own unique chirps and chattering.

As days moved into weeks, I enjoyed seeing (and hearing) more birds arriving with the warmer weather. In addition to the cardinals, there were chickadees, yellow-rumped warblers, pine warblers, evening grosbeaks and many more. Buds and blossoms were bursting into being. The season of renewal and new beginnings perfectly aligned with my healing.

In the mornings, the dawn chorus would temporarily wake me, signifying another day

dieselbywindow

Diesel wondering where his scarlet friend went…

had arrived. For the first couple of weeks, I’d drowsily listen and then fall fast back to sleep.

I began walking right away, as per my surgeon’s instructions. I alternated stillness and movement to harmonize optimal healing. Short walks turned into longer jaunts. Hills were added. The birds graced me with their musical serenades, aerial acrobatics and architectural creativity.

I once heard that the most important thing we have in common with all of the creatures of Earth is our breath. We are all breathing right now. We are Life. Try and be a little more present in yours today. I know that I certainly will.

What helped: Watching birds through the window and on my walks. Listening to the dawn chorus and giving thanks for the new day ahead (before falling back asleep!).

What I wish I had at the time: If I had a bird book or guide, I would have been able to identify even more of my visitors. 

Some things you can do or think about right now:

  • Set an “early bird” intention. The next time you wake to the dawn chorus, ask yourself how you are going to choose to move through this new day. If you want to go back to sleep right afterwards, that’s fine, but set an intention. What will you add to make the day ahead better? What will you remove?
  • It’s a busy world. Take time out to be still. Listen to the peepers, crickets, birds and squirrels. Taste the wind and feel the sun’s warmth on your face. Notice and appreciate the different types of beauty in your environment. Remember the movie (but real life!) wisdom of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  • Be curious about what’s going on in your own backyard. Who’s visiting? Who are the day trippers and who are the night owls? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Can you aid them in any way? Click HERE to learn about bird-friendly native plants in your area.
  • Go outside and benefit from the pleasing and stress-reducing effect of nature’s fractals. Really take in what surrounds you through sitting still in your backyard or moving on a mindful walk or jog.
  • Road trip! Visit a local Audubon Center or nature center and learn more about our high flying friends. Here are some educational events (nature walks and workshops) in Vermont.

Next Up: Books

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at http://www.FullyPresentwithYou.com.

 

Biopsy & Breast MRI

Modesty goes out the door as you begin the diagnostic phase.

Top on, top off, top on, top off.

funbeads

FUN!

It was like trying to get beads during Mardi Gras, but, obviously, way less fun.

Instead of beads, you get pink gel ice packs.

Biopsy: The core needle biopsy determines if what appeared on your breast imaging is benign or malignant. It also determines type and grade of tumors.

I had no clue what to expect with the biopsy. Yes, I got the brochure. Yes, I read it. No, I still didn’t comprehend how it would feel or how I would feel, emotionally and physically. Thankfully, I had great support from the entire team. A couple of them were focused on going from one room to the other to ensure exact location of tissue extraction, and another told me that her main focus was on supporting me.

The tissue sample removals were not painful, as they had numbed the area.

gel packs

Not fun… but, definitely comforting and cooling. :)

Unfortunately for me, I had to have more taken than normal due to a large area of suspicious tissue. Most people have much less taken and move through the whole process smoothly and uneventfully.

After a while, I started to get dizzy, clammy and nauseous. I was calmly instructed to tighten my abdomen, legs and arms. This tightening technique quickly helped reorient me to successfully finish. I have had this type of reaction over the years with difficult blood draws (small veins, ugh!), so as I was leaving, I asked the people in the room what happened. Someone explained that I was basically having a vasovagal response (beginning to feel faint).

Every patient is unique. I later learned that what I experienced was quite rare. But, it made me curious to learn more about the simple tightening technique and if it could help me in future situations.

What helped: Most importantly, the team-approached care, knowledge and calm demeanor were reassuring and healing.

Also, since the tightening was so helpful, I went and looked it up afterwards (described further below).

What I wish I knew at the time: The simple tightening technique. Apparently, my physical reaction is not a common one. However, I’m actually glad it happened again that day, because I learned first-hand how to stop it/slow it ahead of time. I had never been given that information during the previous experiences, so I’m actually grateful! I have since used the tightening ahead of and during some situations. Most notably throughout my extensive pre-surgery prep and return blood draws.

Something to try:

  • The tightening technique! Practice simultaneously crossing your legs, tightening your arms, bringing your navel in towards your spine and clenching your rectal muscles. Hands can also be in fists. Try this a few times. Another approach is to lie back and stick your legs up in the air. Click HERE to read more about why this technique works. When you are in a stressful situation, try this to slow down/counteract the fear reaction. You may not ever need it, but it certainly won’t hurt you to know about it. Find more examples of techniques HERE.

Breast MRI: The Breast MRI provides better “intel” for the breast surgeon, so there are no surprises on the day of surgery.

What helped: On my way to the Breast MRI, I received a text from a friend (a breast cancer survivor) recommending PADDING, all in caps. I didn’t understand, so she clarified, “Each boob hangs, so padding for your sternum is helpful. I also could have used some under each hip. You feel okay at first, but 45 minutes is a long time on that machine.” She was spot on.

What I wish I knew at the time: The technologists are not allowed to tell you anything they either see or don’t see. I was trying to “read” her face/reaction/between the lines and I really shouldn’t have. Your provider is the only one who shares the results with you.

Some things you can do or think about right now:

  • Ask for an IV nurse, if you have small veins or a history of difficult needle insertions.
  • Find a hydration balance (enough to help with vein plumping, but not too much where you’ll have to go to the bathroom during the MRI)
  • Ask for extra padding for your sternum and hip areas
  • Guided meditation (Radiology may have this available for you to listen to beforehand)
  • Fearful of being in a tight space? Focus on making your exhale longer than your inhale. The longer exhale relaxes your nervous system.

 Next Up: Birdwatching

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com.