How to Have A Sense-ational Holiday

How to Have A Sense-ational Holiday

Mmmmm… Try (or revisit) any of the following delights to further enhance your holiday.


  • Make some homemade bread, cinnamon rolls or French toast (with extra butter and cinnamon, of course)
  • Fry up a bit of bacon, maple sausages or scruncheons (Shout out to the Newfoundlanders!)
  • Bake an apple pie, fudgy brownies or simply boil cinnamon sticks for a few minutes to help make your home smell delicious!


Tasty bits of salty and sweet
  • Crunch: Enjoy the classic Chex mix, sweet and spicy nuts, peppermint bark, peanut brittle or English toffee


Colorful lights on a Vermont beauty!

Take a drive around town and soak in all that shimmers:

  • The starry night sky (Hello to planetary friends, Jupiter and Saturn!)
  • Creative light displays of your neighbors (on both their homes and/or vehicles)
  • Sunlit and moonlit sparkles on the snow
  • Smiles and loving glances of those you hold most dear


Get all hygge and:

  • Curl up with a loved one under a soft blanket
  • Hold hands
Diesel is so soft and cuddly!
  • Hug or pet one of your sweet fur babes
  • Hit snooze and burrow under the covers
  • Wrap yourself in a plush robe or slip on super cozy slippers – Ahhhh…

SHHHH… Listen

Enjoy the music of the holidays, including, but not limited to:

There’s nothing like a toasty fire!
  • The always moving Silent Night

Finally, step outside and soak in the sounds of the still winter night – soft creaking of nearby trees, the crispness of the cold air (yes, you can hear it!) and the crunch of snow underfoot. Go back inside to warm yourself by the crackling fire, witness the excited unwrapping of paper and gift bags, and most precious of all, take in the joyful laughter of loved ones.

Oh, and make sure to add a dash of something fun to dance to! ;)

Raising a glass full of blessings to one and all.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a Writer, Reiki Master, Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Tarot Reader, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified yoga4cancer Teacher, Marketing Professional and Believer in Holiday Magic. Need a last minute gift? Electronic Gift Certificates are still available at

Six Steps to Squash Stress

Six Steps to Squash Stress

Say that six times fast.

Still with me?

If that gave you a chuckle or a smile, you’re already on the way to reducing some stress.

Here are six stress-squashing suggestions to help you better ride the rocky waves:

Breathe. I know, I know. So simple. Overstated. Blah, blah, blah. But, everybody’s doing it! Seriously, though, this is the FASTEST way to reclaim your power when you’re having low to moderate stress. Got a minute? Try this simple technique right now: Sit with spine straight in a chair, both feet on the ground, hands on thighs or lap. Slowly breathe in through your nostrils to the count of three. Hold your breath for a moment or two and then exhale for a count of four to seven (whatever is most comfortable). Hold for a moment or two, then inhale and repeat the cycle for up to a minute.

Allow the forest to do its healing magic.

Move in Nature. Now that the bears have gone to sleep, it’s safe to refill the birdfeeders. Go for a short walk in your yard, down your street or around the block. The different patterns found in nature, like branching and spirals, have a calming effect. You’ll elevate mood, reset sleep cycle rhythms and have an opportunity to appreciate and be enriched by beauty, which is always a good thing.

Do Something Kind for Another. Start with yourself and ripple it out. Donate to the local food pantry. Shovel someone’s walkway. Practice Loving Kindness. Bake cookies or a casserole for a friend. Mail or drop off a “just-because” note or card. Pet, play with and scruff a companion animal a little longer than usual (with both hands!). Set up a “listening” call with someone you know who is going through a hard time. Box up some clothes and drop off at a Goodwill. Lighten the load of a family member or house-mate and do a chore you normally don’t do. And, please, please, please, always replace the toilet paper roll.

The “Hooligans” waiting for extra scruffs!

Be Playful. A good release valve from the pressure of 2020 is to give yourself permission to have playful moments. Go outside and howl at the moon. Jump in the puddles. Have a snowball fight. Yell in your car like you’re on a rollercoaster. Hula hoop. Find the funny. Try a tongue twister. Identify a constellation in the night sky. Messily decorate cookies with sprinkles and colored frosting. Eat the frosting! Play catch. Play fetch. Have a dance party in your kitchen – solo or with the whole family. Doodle while watching Netflix. Sing really loud in your car or shower.

What – or who – do you see?

Take a Time Out. There have been a lot of blurred boundaries this year. It’s hard to know when to shut things off. Meditate, pray, journal, cloud gaze, look at a candle flame or just sit in a favorite chair and zone out. Resting isn’t lazy. It’s refueling, reconnecting, resetting, rebooting, reflecting and re-creating. Set a timer if it will allow you to let go more.

Tame just one dreaded junk drawer today!

Do Something Useful. Feel better about yourself, improve the world around you and get some new energy flowing! Clean a room. Ugh. Too much? Start with a drawer. Fix something broken. Move furniture into a better layout. Write a Facebook or blog post that shares some useful knowledge. Sew a button on a piece of clothing that’s without one in your closet. Volunteer to write an email or letter for a cause you find particularly meaningful. Move something forward, even a tiny bit. What small thing can you do right now?

It’s a hard time. Take stock of your courage over the past year, continue to seek out replenishing conversations and actions, and remain open to learning new things that may help yourself or those around you.

Wishing you all a SUPER (califragilisticexpialidocious) day!  Couldn’t resist.

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 Writer, Reiki Master, Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Tarot Reader, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified yoga4cancer Teacher, Marketing Professional and Breast Cancer Survivor. Learn more at

Mastectomy: Practical Tips for Pre and Post Surgery

Mastectomy: Practical Tips for Pre and Post Surgery

Written by Geri Ann Higgins

“Is it masectomy or mastectomy?” 

This had been totally off my radar as a possibility in my life. Once I discovered I needed one, I realized I was unsure which way to say it or spell it. And, I’m a speller!

I certainly do now – check the title.

After my breast cancer diagnosis, I reached out to many women who had similar experiences. Some were recommended by friends, some were friends that had had experiences both years ago and more recently. I was grateful for all conversations. They provided me with important information and additional things to question and ponder. I met them for coffee, met them virtually over email, and conversed on the phone both locally and long distance.

Over the past two and a half years, I’ve shared my story and practical tips to a handful of newly diagnosed women. I see it as a way to pay it forward to the collective sisterhood. Listed below is information that may be helpful to those of you who will be undergoing a mastectomy – or who have a loved one moving through this experience. Those of you who need a lumpectomy may also find some of this information beneficial.


  • I went shopping to buy: 
    • Button up and front zipper shirts because my arm mobility would be compromised post-surgery
    • A carpenter apron to tie around my waist to place drain(s) so they wouldn’t pull on my skin
    • Shower pockets with a strap to place around my neck for drain(s)
    • A seatbelt cushion with Velcro (the extra cushioning across the chest helped with the potholes and bumps as a passenger in the car)
  • Cleaned and decluttered areas of my home
  • Went grocery shopping to ensure there were plenty of fresh vegetables, black rice, wild salmon… and peanut butter cup ice cream!
  • Created a sanctuary space in my bedroom and in my living room for visits from friends
  • Brought up an old rocking chair from the basement and positioned it in front of a window for meditative “self-soothing” and increased circulation in my calves.
  • Froze some meals, yet benefited greatly from a friend setting up a “meal train” which involved setting up a cooler for people to drop food in that was right next to my front door
  • Set up a private online account where I could share my story to people I shared the link with – for me, it was Caring Bridge. I also gave my best friend administrative permissions so that she could update followers during and post-surgery.
  • Started seeing a Cancer Counselor to help me process all that was occurring. I still see her!
  • Lastly – and most powerfully – I took the precious time to thoughtfully engage in a personalized ritual to give thanks and say goodbye to my breast.

Post-Surgery Advice

  • For the first 48 hours, the post-surgery corset is very comforting. Many experience vulnerability once it’s first removed. Acknowledge and move through these feelings. Many shared how important it is to look at yourself every day, as the surgical site continually improves in appearance. Familiarity will only help.
  • Don’t get behind on pain medicine. Stagger your pain relievers so you are always taking something, as opposed to “chasing” your pain.
  • Pillows, pillows and more pillows. It may be hard to lie on your side(s) at first. Pillows can help with rolling over and assisting in moving to an upright position.
  • Sleeeeeeeeep. Sleep yourself well. I often did not get up until 11am. At first I felt guilty, but then realized that my body needed the internal sweeping and clearing in order to heal me more effectively. To this day I no longer feel I need to justify resting.
  • Start walking outdoors as soon as possible – nature’s fractals and body movement will help reduce cortisol levels and increase peace of mind.
  • Be mindful of the pectoral muscles (i.e. mugs are heavier than you think, not to mention a jug of milk! Pushing up from a side position in bed is difficult for a while).
  • Bruising – If hematomas develop, consider putting arnica gel on them (it helps the bruise reabsorb into your body more swiftly).
  • There will be numbness and nerve pain; it will eventually reduce, but may not completely go away. Although it improved dramatically for me, I do still have numbness in one area.
  • “Phantom boob” is real. Bizarre, but real. Just good to know! Your nerves are just trying to figure things out. Go with the flow and try not to get freaked out.
  • When it’s time to get your drains out, you may want to take your Tylenol & Ibuprofen prior to the appointment like I did. The removal felt weird, but it was not as painful as others had indicated. The women I had spoken to had done it without the Tylenol an Ibuprofen, so the medication definitely helped.
  • Set boundaries. Concerned friends and family wanted to visit throughout the day and evening. I was grateful, but ended up seeing too many at times and realized that I had to scale back. 
  • Try Meditation. Even five minutes can help with busy mind and pain management. Add some deep breathing and slowly increase to 10. Not getting results on your own? Guided meditations can be extremely helpful for beginners. Here’s a link to my “Take Five” series on YouTube that contains calming breathwork, gentle movement and a mini meditation with sound, all in five minutes.
  • Range of motion for your arms will be compromised at first. Full range – or certainly close to it – should return. Here is the link to breast cancer survivor Miranda Esmonde-White’s “Essentrics” videos. I started doing these once my drain was removed. There are four videos in total. This is the first one (intro). The others are served up right after each one finishes. You can also Google or search on YouTube. Here is video #2 – the 15 minutes of rehab exercises. #3 is a stress release video. #4 is Miranda’s breast cancer story.
  • Consider giving Qigong a try. Here is the link to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Foundation’s Qigong for Breast Health DVD . I started doing this DVD the day after surgery. After 30 days, I could do the full extension of all the arm movements. I still do it three times a week. At the end, you close your eyes and visualize yourself in vibrant health. I visualized myself kayaking on a pond in the summer (which seemed so unrealistic at the time!). Three months later, I went on my first kayaking outing on the Clyde River in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. It felt like a dream come true! Visualize yourself doing something you love and being happy and healthy.
  • Once your scars seal up, slather with vitamin E.
  • Gently, and regularly, place your hands over your scars. The warmth and energy of human touch will help heal you on multiple levels.
  • Bras – Visit the Breast Health page on the Coobie store website – they have great bra and camisole choices for those who choose to have reconstruction and for those who don’t.
  • Make Appointment for Prosthesis – Since I chose not to get reconstruction, I made an appointment at a medical supply store six weeks after my surgery. The person who helped me was fully trained in finding the right prosthesis for each individual. Insurance coverage varies for this, so make sure to check your plan ahead of time.
  • Like Yoga? – You might want to check out a free online yoga4cancer class or find a local class here. The evidence-based yoga4cancer approach was developed by cancer survivor (and Vermonter) Tari Prinster and is taught worldwide.
  • Practice deliberate rest. This cannot be overstated. Allow your mind, body and spirit to heal. Time helps.

Sharing these practical tips brings a level of meaning to my experience. My intention in doing so is to make your healing, or supporting the post-surgical healing of someone you love, a tad bit easier.

If you have a positive tip from your pre or post-surgical experience, please feel free to add it in the comments!

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 Holistic Cancer Coach, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot Consultant and Marketing, Communications and Voicework professional. Learn more at, on Facebook, Instagram or on YouTube @fullypresentwithyou.

What’s My Line: 17 Memorization Tips

Written by Geri Ann Higgins

One of my favorite ways to express myself creatively is to share a story onstage with other storytellers.

I recently appeared in a farce where I had to memorize just under 30 pages of lines and stage directions. I’ve been acting since second grade and have had roles that involved double that amount, however:

  • I hadn’t done a show in a couple of years
  • I just turned 50
  • And, I’ve had some recent experiences with menopause brain

Would my longtime memorization process still work?

Thankfully, it did.

During the rehearsal period, my castmates and I shared some of our tried and true tips with a new performer (who knocked it out of the park!). If you plan to be in a show, haven’t been in one in a while or have to memorize something you’ll be performing or presenting in front of any group for work or fun, you might find some of these tips helpful. Feel free to add your own in the comment section. These are written with a dramatic or comedic play in mind. Please note, musical theatre is a whole other beast with music and choreography, but there is always dialogue – both with music and without!

Here’s a glimpse into an actor’s process:

  1. Highlight all your lines. Basic, I know. However, the action of moving your highlighter over each line tells your brain, “This is important.” This simple step immediately kicks things off in a positive way.
  2. Read the ENTIRE play multiple times to familiarize yourself with and understand the whole story.


    A few old friends.

  3. Follow the text with your finger while saying your lines out loud.
  4. Review lines before sleep and upon waking. The semi-altered states will help you better absorb the lines.
  5. If you have trouble sleeping, silently review your lines until you drift off into dreamtime.
  6. Handwrite all of your lines and cues. Some castmates did this on index cards. I do it in a legal notebook. You can type them, too, but handwriting sends a “pay attention” signal to your brain, enabling you to focus and retain the information even better.
  7. Record your lines with a partner or partners and listen to the recording in your home, in a car, on a treadmill or on walks or runs. Lots of voice memo and recording options these days. Years ago, I used to do it on a tape recorder with a cassette!
  8. As soon as blocking (where you are supposed to move on stage in a scene) is determined, start reviewing all lines while moving to solidify into muscle memory.
  9. Link words/lines to concepts. For example, here’s a set of lines: “I got flustered, it was the first thing that came to my mind. Now, listen, we’ve got to press those grapes or it will be too late.”


    A beloved cast of “characters”

I linked the word “mind” to the common phrase, “something pressing on my mind.” When I say the word mind in the line above, I automatically think of the word pressing. This cues me to the next sentence where I say “we’ve got to press the grapes.” Linking has been a longtime, successful technique for me.

  1. If you are someone who likes to absorb information with pictures, pick some mental images (or draw some in the margins of your script) to represent different parts of the script or even particular lines.
  2. Give your brain a break. I run lines in the morning and at night, but I refrain from doing so during the day. It allows me some much needed mental space AND it allows creative ideas for character development, mannerisms, expressions, etc, to randomly download.
  3. LISTEN to your castmates. Don’t just wait for your cue to say your line. Be familiar enough with their lines to help them out of a jam, if need be. You would certainly want them to do the same for you. It reads better to the audience, too.
  4. Have a preshow ritual. Maybe that’s being alone for a little while and then reconnecting with the cast before “places” is called. Maybe you share a particular greeting, message or handshake with each cast member. Maybe you all touch a token item in the green room. I wear the same button-down shirt to the theater and follow the same ritual of getting ready. I eat the same meal prior to every performance (chicken noodle soup with oyster crackers), because I know it won’t give me digestive problems. I always look at my script one last time before we begin and I spend at least a few minutes in pre-show solitude somewhere behind the scenes.


    As Truvy in Steel Magnolias. Boy, I had to have those lines down – AND style hair and give manicures!

  5. Superstitions. If you’re an actor, you likely have them. If you’re an aspiring actor, please respect your castmates’ superstitions. Many have been around for centuries: Saying the “Scottish play” inside the theater, using “Break a leg” versus “good luck.” Don’t know what I’m referring to? Go to Google.
  6. What about nerves? I actually like to be a little nervous. Others try and call it excited, but I know it’s feeling nervous for me and that’s okay. If I don’t feel nervous, I seem to always screw something up!
  7. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced is blanking on stage. If you ever blank, try to relax into it. It’s hard, but you truly know the lines if you did the proper preparation. They are baked into your brain and your body. Freaking out and holding your breath will keep them just out of reach. TRUST that they are there, slowly EXHALE and relax into retrieving them. It may be momentarily terrifying, but, remember… you got this!
  8. Lastly, consider calling upon something greater than yourself. For some, it’s God or Spirit or your Higher Self, the mysterious awesomeness of what makes you “you,” or even members from your ancestral line. I always call upon both sets of my grandparents for support. Each one of them was an entertaining character in their own unique way. I invite aspects of their inherited DNA to move through me and deliver a joyful escape to members of my community for a couple of hours.


    On the right – my recent show’s green room token!

Comedy is my favorite genre. I always feel I am playing a positive role in population health.* After two hours of laughter, the audience members’ cortisol levels have been effectively reduced. It is always an honor to bring art to life. I understand how fortunate I am to have the freedom to express myself in this creative manner.

Theatre friends, what are some of your favorite tips and tricks?

* We are living in a new world right now. Thankfully, it looks as though streaming services will help deliver the important and beloved arts to the many. Hang in there. Sharing art, humor, beauty and thought provoking drama will elevate healing during this temporary period of difficulty.

Next Up: Gratitude

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 an actor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach, breast cancer survivor and Marketing & Communications professional.

A Valentine’s Pledge to Myself

A Valentine’s Pledge to Myself

Written by Geri Ann Higgins

As I go about my day-to-day,

The job, the tasks and such

I pledge to hear the call from you,

Past sight and smell and touch.

I’ll sit in nature every day and

Still my mind to see

Beyond the veil of separateness

To unify with “me”

I’ll watch the creatures live in truth

Immersed in here and now,

And listen to my gut instincts

And open to allow

A way to move between the worlds

And walk authentically,

To slow down time and recognize

The power of “clear see”

I’ll discipline prevailing thoughts

That others’ needs come first

And shift the focus on the work

For which I truly thirst.

I’ll read and write and learn and teach

Of soul-related things,

And strive to live right in the place

Of balance that it brings.

I’ll listen to the wisdom that

My “narrator” imparts

And heed the charge to help

Reduce my ego; open hearts.

Happy Valentine’s Day! What might you want to pledge to yourself this year?

Next Up: What’s My Line: 17 Memorization Tips

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 


Cool Tips for Hot Flashes

Cool Tips for Hot Flashes

Written by Geri Ann Higgins

Excuse me, I’ll be right back.”

Translation: “A hot flash is starting and I will soon lose every word you’re saying.”

If you’re not sure you’ve had a hot flash, you haven’t.

My unique brand of electrical surges start in the lumbar region and slowly rise up. The increase in temperature then reveals itself on my forehead, cheeks, neck and chest.

And, no, I don’t look dewy.

I look sweaty.

If addressed fast enough, they can dissipate. I’ve actually timed some of them. After a year and a half of casual measurement, I can share that mine typically last 90 shiny seconds, approximately once an hour.

Since we’re all in this together, I humbly offer the following tips and tricks:

Go barefoot. As soon as I get home, I rip those socks right off! Living in Vermont helps in the winter. I can easily step out to my front porch or back deck. Body temperate regulates super swiftly. Slippers are a great idea. Cool? Pop on the slippers. Start to heat up? Kick ‘em off! When flashes come, you do want to KICK.

Toeless shoes. I wear these year round. I keep an extra pair in a tote at work and in another in my car. This way, if I have a business meeting, I can easily change into them prior to. Tootsies stay cool under the table, stacking the deck in your favor.

Move! If you are in a meeting and a flash starts, try to calmly excuse yourself and walk down a hallway. Gentle movement can quickly dissipate the heat radiating off your body.

Sitali (or Cooling) Breath. This is a yoga breathing technique with curled tongue. You can watch a demo here. This one hasn’t been a game-changer for me, but I remain open to it.

FANS! So many options in this area – collapsible, pretty, practical. Ceiling fans, small electrical fans, hand fans, purse fans, plug-into-the phone fans. I’m obviously a fan.


Mini fan on my nightstand. Ahhhh…

Choosing Chairs – Whenever possible, choose ones with open back slats. If those aren’t available, sit forward enough on the chair so there is adequate air flow between your back and the back of the chair. This summer I discovered camp chairs with mesh netting on the back. Niiiiice.




Comin’ in HOT! Want a flash? Drink caffeine (coffee or tea), wine or eat anything.

Yes, eating increases temperature because you are converting energy through the digestion process. Since spicy food takes it to another level, I don’t eat (or drink caffeinated beverages) when I’m in a meeting. Instead, I’ll bring in some water with ice, so I can place that on my pulse points. Flashes have definitely reduced the amount of wine I drink. Talk about a buzz kill.


Not quite true.

Peppermint oil. Place a drop of this on the base of your neck and you’ll drop your body temp a few degrees. You will smell like a candy cane, but, it could be worse!

Shower cap. Invest in a quality one, because you’re gonna shower A LOT more often.

Hearing from other women. At a recent women-only dinner, conversation shifted to menopause. It’s real. It’s either happening or it will eventually be happening. Better to be open about it and help each other out. Take the shame out of sweating!

Make like an onion. Take a peeling and layering approach. A sleeveless top in the winter? Yes. Just pair with a jacket, decorative scarf or shawl. Get hot and BAM, take off a layer or two. You’re welcome. You might want to skip turtlenecks and hats altogether, though.


Human temp is rising!

Here, Kitty, Kitty. Oh, those jokers. A hot flash is like a beacon to them. Mine immediately crawl on my lap. Which means I cannot move. Which is hard when your body temperature is rapidly rising. But, they are finally coming to cuddle! Fellow cat lovers appreciate the irony.

Laughter. Seriously. Well, not seriously. You gotta laugh. It’s a natural part of life. Ride the waves and don’t sweat the small stuff.



  • Ceiling fan!
  • Kick your foot or leg out from under the covers for a quick temp drop.
  • Sleep on your side instead of your back.
  • Stand in front of the air conditioner (in summer or in hot climates)
  • Get out of bed and walk around – bare feet on tile flooring is cooling.
  • Keep lavender water in your bathroom or at bedside to spritz on your face.
  • Explore the idea of a BedJet climate sheet – a friend mentioned this to me. I do not have one. It’s expensive, but may be worth it for some of you.
  • Have a hot partner? Escape to the guest room, as needed. You can always return!

Stay cool, Sisters.

Until you’re not.

What has worked well for you when you’ve been hit with a flash?

Next Up: A Valentine’s Pledge to Myself

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

22 Tarot Lessons from My Cancer Experience

22 Tarot Lessons from My Cancer Experience

Written by Geri Ann Higgins

A cancer journey — from symptoms to diagnosis to treatment to recovery — is daunting, terrifying, exhausting. And it’s an opportunity for a total revival of learning who you are and how you continue to live your life.

Due to a long-term relationship with Tarot, I often view situations and people through this lens. I have also used it to expand my thinking, creatively problem-solve, get inspired and search for wisdom in a non-traditional way. Receiving a cancer diagnosis was one of the scariest experiences of my life. I knew that working with these old friends could help guide me in a direction of deeper self-reflection and empowerment. Humans are meaning-making masters; I trusted this familiar tool to identify key lessons and help me navigate along the way.

The Fool card kicks things off in the Tarot journey. It’s important to note that we experience many journeys through life – sometimes we hop around and sometimes we get stuck and hang out for a while.

Here are 22 lessons I learned with Tarot as my guide. Take (and share) what you find beneficial and “discard” the rest.


The Fool: The morning after my surgery, I went through my deck to see what my recommended way of being was going to be. Coincidentally, it was the Fool. This card is O. Nothing. Fully present in the now. Form has not yet taken shape – it is all possibility and potential. I chose to embrace the highest and best of the Fool’s energy.


For your benefit, I shall work my way through the rest of the journey in chronological order.


The Magician: The Magician is one of my favorite cards. It’s about using all the tools at your fingertips to make things happen. I had a lot of wellness tools in my toolbox and I certainly needed to welcome some magic in my life. What tools could I use during this healing journey?




The High Priestess: Embracing this goddess element was integral – silence, journaling, reading, meditation, time alone. The gifts I received through my daily meditations were meaningful in ways I never could have imagined pre-diagnosis.




The Empress: This was the healing I received from my literal mother and also about letting go of the feeling that I was indulging when I was resting. I no longer view healing as an indulgence or feel the need to justify resting. It is a necessity to SLOW things down. This was a huge lesson in the much too busy, over-scheduled world of my recent past. My body needed the internal sweeping and reconnecting that occurs; I had to relearn that nurturing myself through rest was an essential building block in my recovery process. Additionally, I learned that when I started to worry about things I couldn’t control, a walk outside could swiftly shift me into a different frame of mind. Daily walks in nature soon became an important part of my healing plan.


emperorThe Emperor: Structure was important. Surgical drains had to be measured and recorded. Pain medicine had to be taken. Nutrition was key, especially the protein intake to ensure that tissue was being repaired at a good rate. I engaged in daily exercise to keep my lymphatic system moving and immune system strong, plus non-negotiable scheduled times of quiet meditation to rest my weary, worried mind.


hiero.gifThe Heirophant (also known as the “Pope” card): I engaged in learning from multiple areas of healing traditions and channels. I read all types of books in my personal sanctuary space (my living room) and immersed myself in the healing element of music, playing instruments such as singing bowls and drums. I also utilized the ability to “tune up” the inside of my body and relax my nervous system through chanting, toning and singing.



The Lovers: This card positions Archangel Raphael, the Angel of Healing, above both the masculine and feminine aspects of one’s personality. The card is about choosing wisely and uniting both sides of yourself – your animus (masculine side) and your anima (feminine side). Instead of viewing the removal of my breast as a loss of my femininity, I embraced it as a healing step to banish a threat and unite both sides of myself in a deeply profound way.



The Chariot: You may think you are heading in one direction, but you cannot control what life throws at you. I had quite a bobble after I had been feeling overly confident in my progress, having seen too many visitors for too many days in a row and not resting enough. The consequent fatigue resulted in a “mental spiral” in the wee small hours of the morning. It was a setback, and good to receive this wisdom earlier in the healing process.



Strength: You are more powerful than you know – designed from some of the strongest survivors in your DNA chain. The most important aspect of this strength is the deep reservoir of mental stamina. This is sometimes expressed through tears, sometimes through anger and sometimes through humor. Deciding what the most optimal healing approach is for you is a display of strength. This may not be about curing. It may be more about grace and peace or being okay with letting go.



The Hermit: I allowed myself time to retreat, re-center and re-balance. Sometimes I wanted company, sometimes I wanted to curl up in the fetal position. Sometimes I wanted to have deep conversations and sometimes I only wanted to talk to my cats.




The Wheel of Fortune: The period of reflection where I kept asking myself, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” When one thing falls off the “wheel,” it makes room to allow for change to come into your life. This could be as simple as a new way of looking at or responding to the change. Things were changing whether I liked it or not. It was best for me to be flexible and adaptable and let go of unrealistically wanting to go back in time.



Justice: Weighing decisions that need to be made. Looking at cause and effect. Wondering, “Why did this happen in the first place?” Trying to figure things out, realizing that you may never know, and learning to be at peace with this fact.




The Hanged Man: No movement. Uncomfortable position. The dreaded waiting period of being stagnant and in the midst of the “messy bits.” The pain was not abating, the mind was not stopping, arm mobility was not improving. I had to let go, BE PATIENT and work on “being with” discomfort.




Death: Thanks to Hollywood, one of the most misunderstood cards in the deck. AND, being number 13 surely doesn’t help! In reality, it’s more of an organic ending to a situation followed by a new chapter – or day – dawning. Right after diagnosis, I repeatedly pulled this card – and one time the card literally popped out of the deck and hit me in the face! As any Tarot reader knows, Death is not physical death. It means transformation and transmutation. Stepping back and urging myself to “calm the f*(^ down,” I was able to receive the card’s meaning. I was no longer who I was when this began and I would continue to become someone different through different stages to come. Transformation was occurring on multiple levels every day – in fact, in every hour and in every moment.



Temperance: Getting in the groove and seeking a more fluid way of being. Perfect balance is an illusion – and if, by chance, attainable, not long lasting. Harmony, such as what is found in nature, was the more healing answer.




Devil: Oh my, this card is another doozy. Obsessing, not able to break free from the chains of the situation. Fear and anxiety are unwelcome visitors throughout this process. They “gift” you with mind spirals, which you can feel chained to, especially in the middle of the night. Stay away from the Internet at this time, you’ll just go down rabbit holes and feel worse. Remove the mind clutter and focus on what you know for sure, what is real right now and connect with someone you love. Heartfelt hugs and a listening ear do wonders to minimize and smooth out panicked energy.


towerThe Tower: Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. In my opinion, this card is the most alarming and challenging. It means that a sudden, unexpected change has occurred that will rock your foundation and affect your whole world. There’s opportunity for major growth afterwards, but when you are in the midst of Tower energy, you cannot even entertain that concept. As they say, the only way out is through – allow others to help you through.


starThe Star: Stirrings that you are on the right track to healing. Little signals of rebirth and regeneration. Listening to and learning from other patient stories, yet finding your own North Star to guide you. One interesting phenomenon I experienced was “phantom boob” – it felt so strange and strong that it was actually still there. I sometimes had to look down my shirt to confirm! I now know this meant that healing was continuing to knit things together under the surface… an unnerving, but positive sign.


moonThe Moon: Worries of side effects from the treatment. Worries of recurrence. Worries of death. The moon brings out our biggest primal fear: the dark, the strange, the unknown, the wild and not being able to see what is hidden from us. One useful way to harness your physiology is to take some slow, measured, mindful breaths. It is the fastest way to naturally alter your state.


suncardThe Sun: Baby steps. Beginning to feel more energy and confidence. Breaking through barriers, looking at situations through new eyes and being more direct. Vitality returning. During this time, I started to surround myself with more vibrancy – moving away from my predominately black wardrobe and selecting more colorful pieces of clothing and art, planting flowers that were every color of the rainbow and eating more life-giving fruit and vegetables.


judgJudgment: Seeing the world from a higher viewpoint. Knowing that you never see things the way you did prior to diagnosis. Life is divided into “before cancer” and “after cancer.” Learning to live with uncertainty. Walking has always been healing for me, especially done outside. One evening, I had the most bizarre experience of my body “walking” me home. This observational awareness was impactful in a way that I cannot sufficiently describe with words. As I curiously witnessed my body moving through space, as if on automatic pilot, I thought both of the vulnerability of the physical form and the power of awakened moments.


worldThe World: Feeling whole again. Masculine and feminine united. Dancing with all of the elements. Respecting the vessel of the body. Months had passed. It was late summer and I had been out in my gardens all day, hands in the earth, moving rocks to and fro, watering, weeding, admiring and soaking in all the natural beauty and sounds. I remember going inside to my kitchen sink and looking out the window at all the different shades of green. As warm water ran over my hands, I realized that for the first time in a long time, I felt true peace and contentment.


Which leads us, once more, back to the starting line – The Fool: Setting foot on your next path in the recovery process – returning to work, starting your individual treatment protocol, learning to embrace a new way of being, understanding that everything is temporary, the importance of being present to enjoy the now and embrace the wow of being here in the first place.

Yet another journey begins.

Note: The cards shown above are from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck.

Next Up: Cool Tips for Hot Flashes

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

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

Written by Geri Ann Higgins

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!


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


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.


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: 22 Tarot Lessons from My Cancer Experience

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

Listen to Your Gut

Written by Geri Ann Higgins

My first thought when I was diagnosed with breast cancer was, “I finally have my answer.”Lovefillsthehouse!

The haunting had begun two months prior. There was something wrong with my breathing. Having lived with manageable asthma, I knew this was different. I couldn’t explain it sufficiently, but I was off.

As the weeks went by, I ran through a slew of appointments: Primary Care doctor, asthma and allergy doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, and finally, a mental health counselor, because I couldn’t stop thinking of my own death.

Nobody could find anything physically wrong with me. My lungs were fine and the continued breathing difficulty I was describing didn’t quite fit with what happens with classic anxiety or panic attacks. The pain on the right side of my mid-back was viewed as a possible overuse injury or as a result of a massage that was too deep.

From early January through early March, when people would ask how I was doing, I would answer something to the effect of, “I’m okay. I’m trying to figure something out, there’s something going on, but I’m working on it. I just need to figure it out.” I started canceling anything extra on my calendar. I just wanted to be home. Friends were getting increasingly concerned by my behavior change. I was nervous. At times, they could see that there was a frantic or uneasy look in my eyes. They saw my chest heaving in discomfort. Fear had entered my world and had a firm foothold in my psyche.

Upon waking each morning, I hoped I’d magically returned to normal during the night. Instead, the mysterious new way of being remained.

One evening, I was alone in my house and a wave of panic and desperation washed over me. I remember breaking down and pleading to whoever or whatever might be listening, “What is WRONG with me? What is happening? Please, please, help me understand! What do I need to do? Tell me! Help me! Please! I KNOW something is wrong with me!”

A week later, I started my day with a routine mammogram.

When I got back to my office, the phone call came. They found something. In BOTH breasts. The right side was the one that was more concerning. I had to go in for a magnified mammogram and ultrasound.

I told a couple of close friends. They shared their own stories of being called back, trying to allay any fears.

But, I now knew. They’d found the source.

You see, my annual imaging was overdue by three months. I had delayed it because I had been attending the parade of other appointments about the erratic breathing and upsetting thoughts. Since I had previously gone two years in between mammograms and did not have a family history, I was not concerned by waiting 15 months versus 12. I had not connected anything worrisome with the mammogram that morning, because the pain was in my back and the difficulty was in my lungs and head. I was just ticking off the “self-care” box of annual appointments.

Interestingly, the pain was on the part of my back directly behind my right breast.

After additional testing (magnified mammograms, ultrasound, core needle biopsy), my diagnosis was medically confirmed.

I did not get too many details – those would come when I saw the Breast Cancer Surgeon.

My first appointment with her brought additional unexpected, and unwanted, information. I thought they would make an excision, and I would possibly need to have radiation. That wasn’t to be the plan.

I needed a unilateral mastectomy.

I summoned my inner strength, gathered my loved ones close, and looked to something higher.

I thought about death. A lot. This also led me to think about life and living. I learned more about what I didn’t want, so that I could begin to craft a more meaningful life on a variety of levels.

I am lucky. I had it worse than some and a lot better than many others. That said, I understand the fear a cancer diagnosis brings, I have experienced orthorexia, life-changing surgery, intense types of physical and mental pain, feelings of “scan-xiety”, medication side effects, and the ongoing fear of recurrence.

After I was diagnosed, I craved information. Although the broad strokes were given to me, the “detail” recommendations for healing work were lacking. I found the stories of others to be beneficial guides. I got a better idea of what to expect, even though I knew that every experience was unique.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share key lessons I learned. I’ll talk about my own experience, I’ll talk about the role of love (love is what it’s all about, people!). I’ll talk about Qigong, Tarot cards, Yoga, a couple of kooky kitty cats, unique fashion choices for a unilateral gal, sonic bowls, and more. I’ll introduce concepts that you might really like and others that you might think are way too out there.

For those undergoing your own cancer experience, I wish you the highest and best.

My hope is that you can find something that resonates with you, something that brings you or a loved one hope, health or a peaceful moment. When considering what might be a good fit, just listen to your gut.

Part of the reason I’m sharing is because I would have wanted to read something like this… an inside view of a portion of what you might experience, which could help you prepare just a little bit more. A map of the territory. This map only goes so far and others will likely be needed for you, but this will be a way to bring light to some of the shadowy unknown parts that you may move through.

Healing means different things to different people at different stages. Taking time to be still and asking what would most enhance your body, mind and spirit’s healing on a morning, afternoon and evening basis may help you regain a little more control.

May you be able to recognize the blessings that surround you amidst this temporary period of fierce difficulty.

So many will be there for you – allow them in.

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




A Case for Mindful Eating

A Case for Mindful Eating

Written by Geri Ann Higgins

I recently attended a local StorySLAM event, hosted by The Moth. The theme was IMPOSSIBLE. Your story had to be true and showcase a time where you successfully overcame impossible odds. I immediately knew what I wanted to share.

I placed my name in the hat, but was not chosen. There was an abundance of potential storytellers that evening and there were only 10 slots. Although disappointed, the theme of the event enabled me to organize my thoughts around a scary situation that, up until then, I had stayed fairly silent. A couple of years have passed, and they’ve brought their own unique and unexpected challenges. Looking back on that night of defying the odds, however, I continue to carry relief, gratitude, and empowerment. I now realize that the experience helped me prepare for other unimaginable situations to come. I’m now ready to share this story.

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