Cancer’s 3 Blessings by da-AL


Holidays and increased pandemic restrictions got you down? Hopefully, this tale of hardwon positivity will give you a boost to “keep calm and carry on.”

Cancer's 3 Blessings by da-AL

I’ve always been a writer, but before I became a novelist, I was a journalist. Years ago, a non-profit agency that helps people deal emotionally with cancer hired my business partner and me to produce a video. The afternoon we were to tape a talk-therapy group, I braced myself.

Turns out, these were no mere survivors. They were warriors committed to squeezing all the wonderfulness from every moment they had left. Those people, sick as they were, regarded cancer as a blessing.

To my mind, they were kidding either themselves or me. Nonetheless, the tears I shed behind my camera lens gave way to smiles by the session’s end. Their stories, to my amazement, had uplifted me. I left certain they were made of far sterner stuff than me.

Forward to some years later… In 2007, I was diagnosed with cancer.

To put it mildly, I was scared shi…er…witless. So freaked that I couldn’t sleep for a month. Fighting with insurance and doctors added extra hell to the nightmare.

It took me time… a long while… to understand what those people spoke of. Eventually, though, same as for them, cancer has enhanced my life.

These are only three of the many blessings that cancer imparted to me:

1. Staying focused and positive leads me to my highest self.

Round the clock, I obsessed while I waited for my illness to be categorized and quantified.

How did I get this? How to rid myself of it? How do I ensure it never touches my life again? How will my illness hurt my loved ones? How much longer until I die?

In desperation, I thought a detox could be the answer. If the lump could be sweated out, then hot yoga might do that. Insane with fear as I was, suddenly the prospect of exercising in 105-plus-degrees sounded worth trying.

It took conventional medicine (which I complimented with many alternative therapies) to resolve my cancer — but hot yoga healed me in other ways. The laser focus needed to survive those initial classes renewed my spirit. The full-length mirrors taught me as much as the instructors did.

For one thing, when I thought only of how miserable I felt, I couldn’t do any of the poses. For another, if I did them while truly experiencing a positive word such as “healthy,” “happy,” “joy,” or “love,” I fared way better. My reflection confirmed it.

2. All of us deserve to live.

You might’ve already guessed from the above, I was raised (like, I suspect, too many other little girls and children in general) to doubt and re-doubt myself…

At the height of my frustration, I decided that because I had never accomplished anything extraordinary and probably never would, I did not deserve to live.

That rocked me — clear into the second wisdom that cancer imparted. Deciding I was no better than a cockroach or a flea made me realize if they deserve to live, so do I! My ordinary mortal best is enough.

3. Sometimes happiness comes effortlessly. Sometimes I have to fight for it, but it’s worth it. Life is meant to be joyful.

Perpetual dread that the worst was near eclipsed my life. Then I had the good luck to meet a volunteer for The American Cancer Society. She’d had cancer twenty years earlier and listened patiently to what I was going through.

Then she relayed the story of someone she knew. After ten years of being cancer-free, her friend still continually waited for cancer to hit again, and this time worse. In the meantime, several of that friend’s loved ones had passed away from accidents and natural causes. The volunteer reasoned, “No one can predict the future, not when we’re going to die or from what.”

I’ve never forgotten her words, how lucky each of us is lucky for every breath we take.

What has a seemingly overwhelming challenge taught you?

8 Tips 2 Better Customer Service & Better Health Care by da-AL


Happy
blakeverdoornphoto.com for unsplash.com

Are you a creative person, writer, novelist, or anyone who feels like our precious time is being wasted ironing out issues with companies? I firmly believe when one consumer fights for fairness, they help all of us. With that in mind, here’s some of what works for me, especially when I’ve experienced horribly challenging times with health insurance such as the time I dealt with going through the terribleness of cancer and also when I injured my knee.

What are your tips for how to get decent service from big companies?

If your health coverage is through your employer, chances are the personnel department mediates things for you.

The rest of us like me must slug it out on our own. Before listing some of the tactics I’ve gathered which can be used anywhere and with any type of business, I owe great thanks to Obamacare.

Here in California it’s implemented as Covered California (Obamacare’s official name is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for short.) Thanks to ObamaCare, it is illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against gender and pre-existing conditions other than tobacco use. Moreover, it ensures everyone is covered.

Note to Californians: Most know Covered California subsidizes health insurance for individuals with low incomes. (Medi-Cal helps those with zero income.) Few are aware it can broker for anyone. They’re a formidable mediator with excellent customer service! Thanks to them, it was a heck of a lot easier to work out my insurance problems.

 

  1. Above all else, stay solution-oriented and tenacious.
  2. Be emphatic about what you need and why. Make sure they know how important this is to you. Don’t settle for their doing what’s easiest for them, not you.
  3. Telephoning in addition to emailing can give more immediate and thorough results. Phone when they’re least busy: early on weekdays. Barring that, after 7pm. Forget about weekends. Even if they’re open, they’re likely super busy and their decision-makers are off-duty.
  4. Don’t waste time. Again, telephoning and not leaving things to all to email is the most effective. When using the phone, the moment they start to give you the runaround, ask to speak to their supervisor. If they’re totally obtuse, hang up and redial so you might encournter someone different to speak with. Later, be sure to fill out an online grievance form.
  5. If a grievance is not rectified within 30 days, it’s easy to file a lawsuit with the state. To find out how to do this without having to pay a private lawyer, google “how to file a consumer lawsuit.” In the case of health insurance, your broker can advise you.
  6. Don’t take things personally. Stay focused. For everyone but you, it’s just business.
  7. Refuse “No.”
  8. Keep notes regarding: A) who you spoke with, B) number you dialed, date, and time of day, C) a transaction case ID number or whatever identifier they might use, i.e., a “ticket number.”

Good luck! I’m rooting for you for all our sakes! Please add your tips below…

unsplash.com blakeverdoorn.com
Thank you unsplash.com blakeverdoorn.com

To Dance Argentine Tango is a Miracle: 2 videos by da-AL


Some time ago, I messed up my left knee big time in a skiing accident. This is a revival of an older post, one that I wish brings hope to anyone who’s feeling frustrated — about anything. My recovery from that mishap was horrendous, as was dealing with insurance. It wasn’t till six months later that I had healed enough to schedule the surgery I was informed that I needed. A few weeks before the big day, however, I slipped and broke more parts of the same knee. That second fall meant postponing surgery.

A blessing! As I waited anew for the surgery, I met a wonderful orthopedist who suggested that I might not need cutting after all! Lo and behold, within a year and a half later, my knee was — and remains almost perfect! I can dance!

Here are a couple of short clips of my husband and me at the very start of our learning new Tango Elegante steps taught to us by the best Argentine Tango teachers ever! Btw, if you’d like to learn how to edit video, I found this youtube video on how to use iMovie very helpful.

 

Want to try learning? Here are excellent teachers online…

Did you know that dogs like to dance too? Ours does!

Squatting Whole Body Health Benefits and Politics plus Video by da-AL


Picture me sitting on my haunches atop a conference table, assigned to perform an entertaining Toastmasters speech titled, “The benefits and the Politics of Squatting”…

Can you do this and smile? Image by edwindoms610 from Pixabay.

The subject first piqued my interest years ago, when my mom moved in with us. To make things extra comfy for all, we had some construction done on our snug home.

Each morning, a crew of men assembled under our backyard gazebo. Aged from early twenties to eighties, each hailed from Cambodia.

What intrigued me was the way they waited for each other to show up. In totally relaxed full-squats, the gentlemen sipped coffees, munched pastries, chatted, and smoked. Once all were there, they stood — not a one groaned or complained of creaky bones.

Lunch involved more of the same. They full-squatted as they passed around freshly steamed rice with fragrant grilled meat and veggies. Afterward, still squatting, they finished with smokes and maybe a sweet.

Squatting was still on my mind when, a couple of years later, I broke my knee twice in the same year. Torn cartilage, fractured bone, stretched tendon, blah, blah, blah. Ouch!!!! and Ohno!!! don’t begin to cover it.

Enter, Francisco Rufino, a gifted yoga instructor who pointed out that squatting keeps people in India free of knee and back problems.

Voila! Thanks to his suggestion that I squat five times a day, for thirty seconds each time, as I watched TV, my knee is so great that I never needed the surgery that two doctors prescribed! Yesterday I went for a terrific jog, no problemo!

By aligning muscles and organs from toes to neck, squatting aids in…

  • Getting rid of hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and hernias.
  • Preventing heart attacks caused by straining on European-style toilets.
  • Alleviating incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Making pregnancy easier.
  • Guarding reproductive organs, including protecting against prostate cancer.

So why don’t we do it more? When I gave the speech, at least one audience member expressed disgust. My h-a-unch is that we think we’re too good for it — and that includes politically. This Korean woman, married to an Anglo man, explains his chagrin when she and her family socialize while squatting.

Would your family be embarrassed if you performed full squats?

Guest Blog Post: Discovery and Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri


Exciting books — thoughtful stories — across land and time, into ourselves and others, they take us everywhere!

Author/blogger Maria Alfieri, who lives in Sussex, England, is on a mission. She’s out to create peer support and community when it comes to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Her most powerful tools are reading and writing…

“Freedom.” Photo of Maria Alfieri by Flora Westbrook.

How I Rediscovered Myself through Reading and Writing by Maria Alfieri

I came to collate The Silent Scream Anthology based on my own experiences of struggling silently in dealing with my childhood sexual abuse. I developed anorexia aged 11, for which I was eventually hospitalised aged 12-13. Anorexia was a physical demonstration of a trauma I could not vocalise. I spent many years starving myself and self-harming. My anorexia developed into bulimia. All my reckless and self- destructive behaviours were a way of me yelling to the world ‘I am not okay!”

Despite gaining some control over my eating disorders, I still struggled, sometimes daily, with that inner dialogue, which told me that I wasn’t worthy. That I needed to harm myself. My mind would sometimes take me to dark places, and I would have to talk myself back from the edge.

I found a way to heal through reading, as this was the first step on the ladder to connection with others — something I’d run away from for most of my life. I’d self-isolated much of my life, as many of us do when struggling emotionally. Mostly because of a deep sense of shame and a belief that I was unworthy of belonging. But reading stories similar to mine made me realise that I wasn’t broken and that I wasn’t ‘the only one’ feeling this way. Through stories, either fiction or non-fiction, we share empathetic connections, reaffirming our humanity. They remind us that we are part of a collective. Through reading, and then writing, I came to understand myself better.

Reading and writing are part of the process of connection; firstly, connection with ourselves, and then connection with others. And connection is vital for healing, growth, and change. Writing about my past, in particular, was an extremely cathartic process. Ultimately for me, reading and writing were the tools through which I recovered the person I want to be.

They brought me into this shared community that we created through The Silent Scream Anthology — a community of courageous and inspirational people who empowered me in many ways and helped me to unravel further the depths of my own unhelpful conditioning. It is my greatest wish that The Silent Scream Anthology is the passing of the torch for its readers — the light which sparks hope in moments of darkness and a stepping stone on the path of connection, healing, growth, and change.

As a collection of raw, honest and inspirational memoirs, anecdotes, poems, and artworks about a variety of mental health topics, The Silent Scream Anthology is aimed at anyone who has ever struggled silently, felt trapped by shame and felt alone in their experiences, no matter what those experiences are.

Cover of “The Silent Scream Anthology,” by Maria Alfieri.

Prior to collating The Silent Scream Anthology, I qualified as a teacher and taught English across secondary schools before having my four children. Stories have always been an important part of my life, and today I make it my mission to promote the power of connection through empathetic literature.

More about Maria Alfieri here. Her “The Silent Scream Anthology” is available in hardback here and here, in paperback here, and in both here.

What book or story has made the most impact on you?

Blogging Tips, Free Mind/Body Apps, 1st Youtube Ever by da-AL


Juggling writing my novels, blogging, and daily life is a huge challenge. This week I (sort of) chunked the task of researching the business end of blogging. That voyage into Google-ville unearthed a meandering myriad of fascinating stuff worth sharing with you…

This Aboriginal woman of Australia’s NPY region may be listening to Smiling Mind’s free meditation app in English or Pitjantjatjara or Ngaanyatjarra!

Blogging: In most any timezone, folks check their social media on weekdays, around lunchtime. According to these statistics gathered by Sprout Social, most of us bloggers are wisest to post mid-week, mid-morning. Forget about posting on weekends.

Social media: Trendwatchers at Pew Research Center report that everyone everywhere is increasing their social media engagement. Among all ages, Facebook is used most and most frequently, with Youtube gaining behind them.

Mind: “The greatest gift you can give to people is your full attention,” according to the Australian guy on Smiling Mind. Meditation, mindfulness, stress relief, call it what you will — everyone tells us we need it. Smiling Mind coaches us to do just that, in English and even in Aboriginal languages! — no credit card required to upload it and use its free version indefinitely!

Body: Mindfulness can help us stay fit — MyFitnessPal tracks and calculates our eating, nutrition, and activity. No credit card required to use its gratis edition forever.

1st YouTube: Ever wonder about it? Ta-da! Here it is, originally uploaded on April 23, 2005…

Anti-Viral Dog: Crisis brings out the worst — and the best! — in us, like how whoever kindly made this video wanted us to smile…

What are your best blogging hacks and fave truly free apps?

Honoring World HIV/AIDS Awareness Month by da-AL


Pessimistic about the world? Have you written off activism as a dead end? Think again. Thanks to the courageous efforts of one activist at a time, we’ve come a long way since the hellish first days of AIDS. Once upon a time, being HIV positive meant early death and having to endure enormous bigotry.

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay.

Fortunately, these days we have ways to prevent it. Folks who are tested early and are found to be HIV positive can live long lives with treatment.

Moreover, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working to end the U.S.’s epidemic within the next ten years!

In addition, it’s working to end discrimination in the U.S. against patients with HIV!

Since 1988, each December, people worldwide show their support to end HIV, both as a disease and as a stigma. We pay our respects to those whose lives have been cut short by it, and to those who live with it.

Here are some of my impressions of the early days of AIDS, which I wrote in reply to my good David Hunt’s post here. He also wrote about it here. Another site with historical information is Gay in the 80s.

Do you ever feel like activism is useless? How do you keep from getting down?

Guest Blog Post: dissociative identity disorder by Mike (And the gang)


Disclaimer: I know virtually nothing about Dissociative identity disorder (DiD). How about you?

Thanks to Mike and his inner family’s courageous blog (which includes informative posts like this), I’ve gratefully gained a bit of awareness. Perhaps you, dear reader, will take the time to learn too…

Mike (And the gang) blog from the Northeast U.S.. They say of their site: “We live with Dissociative Identity Disorder. We are a close-knit family system whose mission is to educate and entertain others about the reality of what it means to live with DiD. We invite you to our website and to learn more about us! You can interact us with there, as well, if you like. Most in our family love making new friends.”

According to them, “…every human on Earth has multiple personalities. We all talk to ourselves; Have internal dialogues.”

In trying to understand, I asked what they thought of this mainstream online definition of DiD. They answered, “The descriptions of DiD are always…”Sterile.” Describing DiD from a medical perspective is completely different from the subjective experiencing of it. While science claims that alters are defense mechanisms, living with alters and becoming them – they aren’t defense mechanisms. They are individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, agendas, and disposition(s). It’s much more complicated and delicate than what’s being described in medically sterile terms….1% of the population? We would say those numbers are wrong, a bit high. Many people who claim to have DiD are actually misdiagnosed by doctors who don’t understand the disorder. Also, many therapists will erroneously suggest DiD or alters to a patient.”

Mike (And the gang)’s daughter, Katy Mae, describes the experience of a dominant split, “which can be a terrifying and mystifying experience to have,” here…

Image by Mike (And the gang) of Kayleigh with her pigtails in.

“Streetlights” by Katy Mae

Streetlights pass but time stands still; Mouths move but with no sound,

There are no longer, my memories, to hold on to; Disappeared in the night.

Not able to shiver, not able to cry,

This night is different but there have been many like it.

A blank stare, a whisper in the night,

lights pass in the night; Mouths move but there aren’t words -Just noise.

Who are we now, with no destination; no place to call home,

red lights pass in a blur; my own comfort to a place unknown.

There are no longer dreams, no more nightmares in this place

memories slip away while faster cars pass.

Who are we now and why must we go,

another stop away from nowhere.

The radio plays, my favorite song whose title I can’t recall,

not that it matters; My former life is now gone.

Replaced with a ghost whose name no one knows,

There’s no time to breathe, no time to whisper for help.

No longer awake, no longer asleep; Who are we now?

life, oh life, it comes to a halt while I still breathe.

Where are we now; I’ve forgotten my name again,

remember it, whoever I become; Whom I fear the most.

No one to hug as we travel alone in our world; This cold, lonely place,

still someone speaks; Still, just noise and static.

I’d rather stare ahead and forget who I am becoming,

please don’t stop; The passing lights are an illusion of escape.

Who are we now and where are we going; your voice has changed,

the sun is rising and I can’t remember my name,

How did I end up in this cold dark car,

and why with you; Who are you?

Argentine Tango Elegante: Video of Newest Step by da-AL


Khashayar and da-AL learning a new step. Khashayar and da-AL learning a new step.

It’s no coincidence that my soon-to-be self-published novels have to do with dance! Here are my husband and me practicing a step we just learned at the end of class (and here’s more and some more and more and a quick clip and the first time I posted a video of our dancing about the style of Argentine tango that we dance that’s taught by these outstanding teachers)…

Here’s a masterfully fun tango clip of “Lost in Paris,” a marvelous film I recently discovered by French film burlesque style due Canadian Fiona Gordon and Belgian Dominique Abel…

And another from the same movie — that’s choreographed by them (and danced?)…

What’s your favorite dance film?…

Guest Blog Post: “Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t” by Caz


My inner cynic can loom monstrous enough to be laughable. When it skulks, it can be harder to address. Caz, who lives in England, understands that emotions are part of being human. Without being syrupy, without promoting denial, she offers practical help. Her Invisibly Me site deals with living with invisible chronic pain, including living with an ileostomy (not to be confused with a colostomy). Here’s a sample of her best advice…

Graphic: Focus On What You Can Do. Not What You Can't.

Photo of blogger Caz of InvisiblyMe.com
Caz made her first website when she was 13!

I wrote this with chronic illness in mind, but it also applies to other spheres of life, from living arrangements to your financial situation. 

Focussing on what you can’t do. It can become a vicious cycle, leaving us exhausted and disheartened before we even begin. It can happen for various reasons. Looking at how things used to be in the past, such as before chronic illness took hold. It may be from social pressures concerning what we ‘should’ be doing at this point in our lives. It may be from comparing your life to how you thought it would look, or comparing your situation to that of your peers.

For whatever reason, it’s good to work on acknowledging and accepting the situation and what you can’t necessarily change right now. Then, redefine what’s important to you, not what you feel you ‘should’ value or want. Write your own rules. Find new paths to explore and get creative to find ways to get there. Maybe you can’t do certain things, but there will always be options and alternatives. There are always small changes you can make and actions to take to improve your situation or live your best life. You may just have to look a little harder to find them.

It’s also about readjusting expectations and making them more realistic and manageable. Take note of the things you can be grateful for that often get lost in the midst of pain and illness, or stress and worry. It’s about looking at the things you’re good at and the positives you can eek out of your situation and experiences. You’ve become stronger and more resilient. Perhaps you’ve met new people in person or online, such as through blogging or support groups. Maybe you’re more compassionate, empathic, have found a new skill or have become more appreciative of the small joys in life.

When we focus on the negatives, the limitations or the things we can’t change, we give up our power. By honing in on those things you can’t do or have, or the ways in which you feel constrained, it limits your perspective and experiences even more so.

By focusing on the can’t-dos, you’re reducing yourself & your life. You are more than just the things you can’t do. 

Empower yourself by looking at what you can do, no matter how small. Look at the things you can change, the tasks you can accomplish, the things you can choose to do. 

Instead of ‘I can’t do…’, change it to ‘but I can do…’.

You’re doing the best you can, with the cards you’ve been dealt and the situation you find yourself in. A little jiggle of perspective can make a big difference. Don’t close yourself off from possibilities. Instead, think outside the box and take back some control over your life. You may just find that you’re capable of more than you imagined.

– Caz

Visit Caz at her blog and her facebook page and her Instagram.

Blogger Caz of InvisiblyMe.comInvisiblyMe.com logo graphic

How do you deal with invisible pain?…