Painting My Tatas. Beyond Breast Cancer.

Stitched and Stretched Beyond Breast Cancer mixed media by Bernadette Rose Smith Stitched and stretched. That’s what I’ve titled this piece because that’s what breast cancer ushered in with every decision I had to make. Cut it. Stitch it. Now, stretch it beyond anything recognizable as you. Life flew apart like confetti without a party. Not unlike my private-moment, mixed media attempts at depicting this most bizarre journey. (And so shortly after losing Ray to cancer.) Countless bits and pieces, created with the best of intentions, were tossed in the trashcan next to me because they did not fit the picture as I had imagined. The writer-me has freely spoken about her journey with breast cancer. The artist-me had not taken her shot at it. Quite frankly, she couldn’t get the writer to shut up long enough for the artist to quietly seat herself in the studio and ask, “How do you heal through this with art – not words?” Stitched and Stretched Bare Beginnings Beyond Breast Cancer mixed Media by Bernadette Rose Smith Each piece of paper, every bit of texture and slap of paint speaks to what this journey feels like through my artist-heart. And – more so – the desperately quiet pieces that landed in the trash with only my tears to witness. But, you know, there is something tremendously freeing in all of this.
I am stretched and sTReTcHiNg to live poetically. Not apologetically.
Stitched and Stretched Beyond Breast Cancer Mixed Media by Bernadette Rose Smith There is a hope-filled whimsy that rises in this piece. Breasts flowering into a garden, butterflies seeking a new life expression and a bouquet of thoughts say...
Go for it, honey. Whatever time you have left, sow your wildflower seeds. You don’t have to plant yourself in rows any more.
Stitched and Stretched Beyond Breast Cancer Mixed Media by Bernadette Rose Smith Time spent creating this piece is just what the doctor ordered. And I hope it will brighten the path for other women walking though breast cancer – as well as those walking with them. I plan on thriving for a long time but if I don’t, everyone who loves me knows my legacy celebrates our God-given creative spirit. So claim my freedom as yours. Don’t plant in rows unless you want to. My next decision is just around the corner. To nipple. Or not to nipple? God says to do what delights me. The artist-me says no more cutting or stitching or knotting of the flesh. I am thinking “tattoo!” Yep. This gal is going to invite another artist to paint my tata with an image that will remind me of love and this new, unapologetic life unfolding. Hmmm. But what shall that image be? Stay tuned, Loves! Stitched and Stretched Beyond Breast Cancer Mixed Media by Bernadette Rose Smith PSST: Are you local? You'll find “Stitched and Stretched” at the Southern Heartland Art Gallery for their Artful Harvest Show (going on now) and in their Wearable Arts Gala on October 13 and 14 where hand-embellished, 11 x 14 fine art giclee prints will be available for $45. If you'd like to order a print (contiguous USA only) contact me for info. dOUbLe PSST: If you enjoyed this post, you might like Kiss My Breast Good-bye or Two Cents Worth from My Tatas to Yours. As always, I love to hear your thoughts, DEar HEaRTs. You matter to me! XO Bernadette Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook. And if you like this then LIKE this! Remember, SHaRiNG is CaRiNG. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same.

Good Grief. Don’t Change the Channel.

Good grief. Don't change the channel.
A wise woman once told me that the higher purpose of grief is to recognize our longing for profound love.
Picture this. You’re watching your favorite television show – maybe one of the final episodes for the season – and you lose the signal. What do you do? a.) Curse the station. b.) Hit mute and stare in disbelief at the static, hoping the signal will reset on its own. c.) Dive across the room, grab the tin-foiled rabbit ears, and strike a statue of liberty pose. d.) Get up and do something else. e.) All of the above, not necessarily in that order and possibly on rotation. When someone you love dies, you lose their signal and, after the shock, sadness sets in. Somewhere beyond the cursing, muting and staring you start feeling the gravitational pull of grief. This is when societal intimation encourages you to “get up and do something else.” After all, if you get sucked in too deeply, you might crash. Better to stay busy while the gravity field weakens.
Except this gravity doesn’t weaken without the grace of a higher purpose.
Everyone is a channel for God – if you’re willing to listen to everyone. But you’re not. And you can’t. God knows that, so your significant channel signals are pre-set for what you need. Loved ones in your life act as signals to specialty stations that broadcast points of interest, encouragement, growth, humor, creativity – or whatever you have need of. When they’re around, it’s easier to engage with the programming that makes for a better life experience or accomplish what you set out to do. There are also people that broadcast God directly into your life. Sometimes you recognize these sacred channels right away. Sometimes you don’t – until they’re gone. When a loved one dies, you not only lose them – you lose the station they boosted for you. The life experiences and expressions you shared. You can circle within the gravity field, tinfoil in hand, but the rabbit ears are gone. You are left with an insatiable longing.
Grief moves us beyond the gravity point when we embrace its higher purpose.
From Theory to Practice. When Ray died, I lost a direct channel to God – and more than a few secondary channels – so the grief set in hard, fast and on multiple levels. He was a significant God channel so, in grieving Ray, I also grieved God. My “go to” person was on the other side of the veil. Now what? As grief forced me to confront a different relationship with my out-of-body beloved, I realized my relationship with God was part of that package. As well as my relationship with all those secondary channels Ray held signal for – like art and the purpose for my creative expression. The ease and comfort, in experiencing these channels, had to shift to other broadcasters still here. My attachment to Ray’s style of delivery had to adjust in the silence without his physical presence. When Gravity Meets Grace. If the higher purpose of grief is to recognize the longing I carry for profound love, then my desire to find a way to shift from merely surviving to thriving, in spite of the estrangement I feel, must also serve a higher purpose. When I take my sense of loss back to Source, I pull up from the heaviness of grief and move into the power of grace. I remember that God created – and gifted me – with this beloved. I see that my loved one’s signal just received an upgrade. Longing invites me to recognize the opportunity before me to receive my own upgrade – while still here. When grief meets grace our GPS gets reset to travel where gravity does not bind us.
If I love you here, I loved you first in heaven.
This is the deal about having God Channels (like Ray) for me. They are significant because the seed of desire for what we share is planted within me and encourages me to keep reaching. By design, they are my memory of God here – and my memory of God there. I know, this sound like some mind-stretching mystic shit (alliteration intended) but I want you to play with this idea because this is not a blog about navigating grief. This is about resetting your signal. For whom do you grieve? For whom do you long? Where do you find your experience of profound love today? There is a new (old) order introduced when a beloved dies, offering to fine-tune your receiver. You can reset and match signals with that loved one. You can reset and tap into the greater love you long for. The higher purpose of grief evidences in our willingness to accept its invitation to recognize our profound reach beyond the veil. It is our GPS home. Not all earth plane events originate with a higher purpose. Shit happens. Yes. But SHIFT happens when we recognize that all things can SERVE a higher purpose – if we reach for it. This is the comfort found in a grief that points to our deep longing to experience love and life – FULLY – on both sides of the veil. This is the grace, and thus curriculum, for those of us left behind. I always love to hear your thoughts, DEar HEaRTs. You matter to me! Mwah! XO Bernadette Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook. And if you like this then LIKE this! Remember, SHaRiNG is CaRiNG. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same.

Shame On Me?

Shame On Me, a blog by Bernadette Rose Smith I’ve been lost in a circle of shame. Lost with untold stories. And my partner in crime is not here to release me. He died of cancer. I tell others that there is no shame in a mess. That it is all usable by the Divine. To turn that mess over to God and watch the miracles multiply. It seems I hold myself to another, less forgiving, measure. I found the quote above in a Somerset Life magazine that was tucked into a care package of goodies intended to help me heal from flu/bronchitis complications after my breast surgery. Dropped off by an earth angel who had no way of knowing the key to freedom her gesture – and this quote – offered. I was in agony. Not from the flu or bronchitis or even the breast cancer. They paled in comparison to the hurdle mounting within me. Shame On Me, a blog by Bernadette Rose Smith Survivor’s guilt had escalated to shame. And my grief was complicated by a relationship decision, made by Ray and I, to preserve the love between us. Our decision to divorce acknowledged both our stumble and our treasure, and embraced the best “save” we had with the information at hand. Some days it is a load to be the one left behind with that decision – knowing what we didn't know then. “You divorced. He died of cancer.” Shame On Me, a blog by Bernadette Rose Smith God grant me the serenity to share and shed my shame. The roots of the word shame derive from an older word meaning "to cover.” There are stories I desire to tell without covering, censoring or questioning myself at every turn. There will be no joy expressed in my healing work or creative play without owning this place where I stumble. “We divorced. He died. I got breast cancer.” How do I claim health for myself when I could not claim it for him? That’s a question that shame and judgment ask. Not reason. Not compassion. Not forgiveness. I am giving myself permission to accept that my guilt grew to shame for the years of divorce. I am letting go of the shoulda-woulda-coulda stuff. I am not going to layer pain atop more pain in berating myself for a messy organic progression of feelings – feelings that I can love you through but not myself. The "shush don't talk about it" shame train stops here. No more soul-crushing judgments on myself. They say we are only as sick as the secrets we keep. I tell stories to open doors, give permission, offer connection and invite forgiveness. I am grateful to have you witness my shame, released through this story. It is a story about life and death and love and forgiveness – and what it looks like to thrive while moving through the meSSy sTuFf. I am not telling this story alone. Ray is with me, looking over my shoulder. He is saying, “Honey. We made that decision together. And it did save US. We never stopped loving. That is our story and the one I want you to move forward with. I am not here in the guilt or the shame. My death freed us from those struggles. Please don’t carry that load. I’ve got this now. Let it go.” Shame On Me, a blog by Bernadette Rose Smith To be continued? I'm thinking so. Take a deep breath. Now exhale. That felt really good, didn't it? I always love to hear your thoughts, DEar HEaRTs. You matter to me! And I have no shame in admitting that! Mwah! XO Bernadette Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook. And if you like this then LIKE this! Remember, SHaRiNG is CaRiNG. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same.

Dear Doctors, While you profiled stress, he died of cancer. #PTSD. #Depression. #Anxiety.

Dear Doctors, While you profiled stress, he died of cancer. He didn’t have to die. Not the way he did. I write these words not for drama sake nor your pity and prayers. I have been silent, up to this point, in order to deal with my own health issue. But now that I am finished with what I hope to be my final big deal in this breast cancer journey, it’s time to speak up.
Denial never sustainably served anyone so I am not sweeping this under the rug.
Consider this post a tiny ripple in a vast ocean of health care despair; urging attention, focus and advocacy for solutions in a health care system that breaks as many hearts – in what they miss and dismiss – as the diseases/conditions they work to cure. “... Ray lived only 50 days beyond diagnosis and most of that in a hospital. And now, I am left to digest that it was a slow-growing cancer, missed by a medical system of specialists and primary care that only looked at their piece of the elephant. A blog for another day.”  I wrote that in July’s, Why I'm Not Fighting Cancer Again blog, and today is another day. Why today? Because on February 6, 2017, I was not sitting at a keyboard in front of a computer screen. I was sitting in the emergency room of a hospital an hour away from home, terrified that someone I loved lost his footing and fell between the cracks within the medical community that was supposed to help him – to the point that suicide now appeared his only option for relief. The goal? Admission into a hospital that was purported to have an excellent mental health wing. The hope? Stabilize him so we could address his weakening physical condition without his taking his life first. Imagine our shock when, just hours into the admission clearance process, an x-ray revealed a suspicious spot on one of his lungs. Further testing uncovered growths on his liver. Imagine our dismay when, seventeen hours after arrival, we were informed that he could not be admitted into the psychiatric wing and had to go to the main hospital where they could get a better idea of what we were all looking at. More tests revealed cancer in his spine and brain – which certainly explained the pain, tremors and strobe light vision he’d been experiencing. His physicality was so fragile they were afraid to biopsy his liver so they went with the lung – also risky. Diagnosis came days later. Stage IV, metastatic cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma. A slow growing cancer. Slow growing? Yes. My question, too. I could understand if this man seldom went to a doctor – like me. But how could a slow growing cancer spread to this degree in a man who, between his primary care doctor and specialists, was in a doctor’s office monthly –sometimes weekly – for the past 4 years because his body was breaking down and he thought he was losing his mind? What is broken in our system that his condition could pass under the nose of how many medical specialists and no one connects the dots? Isn’t that what the primary care doctor – in the hub of the wheel – is supposed to do? If not, then we have a fragmented, scary system that offers us a false and fleeting sense of security. And a lot of dead elephants swept under the rug. Yes. I’m mad. Mad for change. I know ... I’m not the only one who’s sat in emergency with a loved one threatening suicide – for any reason. I’m not the only one to hear the words cancer – at any stage. I’m not the only one to deal with my own cancer – while another dies. I’m not the only one sitting at home in my bathrobe at noon, on a weekday, wondering what the hell happened and why.
I’m not the only one. That’s a lot of ripples in this vast ocean of health care, I think.
I know this little ripple of a post will not change an entire medical system, or health insurance protocols, or how doctors look at their patients but I hope this will change how you look at yourself and the ones you love when you venture into this maze with a malady.
  • It is an arena where doctors need to earn trust based on communication and performance, not simply degrees.
  • Where word-of-mouth referrals within your trusted tribe should reign supreme, while good doctors are shared and poor doctors shunned.
  • And where no one venture in alone without a strong advocating buddy system in place for patients and caregivers.
Ray didn’t die of cancer. He didn’t survive the system set up to find it and fight it. Big difference. And, I believe his history with PTSD and depression contributed to his doctor’s perception of the patient complaints in front of her – while his liver screamed for attention. The liver that took numerous hits from the many medications prescribed to him to "treat" symptoms without further investigation. But that’s a blog for another day. To be continued... If you are a ripple, want to be a ripple of change or have experience to share, please add your voice here, DEar HEaRTs. You are not the only one and neither am I. You matter to me! XO Bernadette Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook. And if you like this then LIKE this! Remember, SHaRiNG is CaRiNG. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same.

Breast Cancer. Two Cents Worth from My Tatas to Yours.

  Breast Cancer My Two Cents Worth in Bernadette's Musings from the Messy Room
The musings expressed here are strictly those of a woman making her way through breast cancer and are based solely on her personal beliefs and experience. They are not intended to sway or convince anyone of anything other than to honor-with-action what is right for them.
I’m following through on a decision for surgery this week with full knowledge that I will, no doubt, disappoint some folks before all this is over. I gain no pleasure from being in this position to disappoint. As a matter of fact, I have spent the greater portion of my life working to resolve differences so as not to disappoint. There is an irony that I find myself exercising my option to displease with a life and death decision. Who will be disappointed if I live – my way? Who, if I die – my way? I suppose that depends on how tightly the need to be right is clung to – your way. If you are someone who loves me, I know you’ll get around to understanding what doing this “my way” allows me to reach for – no matter how this goes. The angels gave me matches to play with in this life, death, cancer thing and I am learning so much while blazing this trail. And not just for me. (“Whoa. We gave that child matches and a blog?” I hear them chuckling.) If you are a distant-someone in my cancer circle and find yourself disappointed, perhaps you missed it back there somewhere. The invitation. What your path crossing mine was to give you. You may want to retrace your steps.
My decision is not one of surviving or dying; it is one of not diminishing myself while surviving or dying.
And so, I am going in for reconstructive surgery this week, against the advisement of some and to the dismay and breath holding of others. Am I getting a rebellious kick out of saying that? No, I am not. Am I trying to prove a point in choosing the road less traveled on the map of current medical models for breast cancer? No, I am not. Am I pointing to the many shades of gray that I wish would be included in the medical model presented to me? Yes, I am. Can I afford to go against the medical model with my life? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Had I decided to follow the white coats and not the white wings, I would be somewhere around week 17 in a 20-week regimen of chemotherapy after which I would receive a 6-week course of 33 radiation treatments. Landing me somewhere in April to get my immune system back up before considering if I had enough skin left – after radiation – to start the many weeks of skin expansion necessary for an implant. Maybe, by late summer, I would be looking at a reconstructive date for surgery as I am now – with another 6-week recovery period after that. And on and on... But my decisions in this breast cancer journey are not based on guidance from out there. As a matter of fact, few of my decisions ever are. My job is to know myself and take every decision to God first. Then I listen. Sometimes, Divine Guidance comes as a direct hit – right up front. (Don’t you love that clear YES or NO?) Other times, I gather information and ask, then ask again until I get a LEANING that lets me know wills are merging in this team effort between God and Bernadette. And that is when my two cents starts to miraculously multiply. Do I hope I live through this? Yes. Am I afraid to die? No. Am I more concerned with thriving every moment between here and there? Absolutely. You were led to read this blog for a reason. This may not be about cancer for you. It may be about something else in your life. A decision you’ve made that you don’t have peace with. (Did you follow the tribe of opinions while dismissing yourself?) Or a decision you are about to make – and may be postponing. (Did you forget that white wings are ready and waiting to give you a lift?) Wherever you are with decisions, I am encouraging you to spend your first two cents on the God Sense within each of us that guides us on our way – and gives us peace with the road behind us. As a matter of fact, I have some extra change here. How much do you need? My pockets are heavy. It’s not about how it ends, DEar HEaRTs. It’s about how we get there. XO Bernadette To be continued... Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook. And if you like this then LIKE this! Remember, SHaRiNG is CaRiNG. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same.