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. Read more

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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. Read more

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Who Needs A Miracle When You Have A Line Of Credit?

Who Needs a Miracle When You Have A Line Of Credit?

Before you judge something as less than desirable, consider that it might be an invitation to more than imaginable.

Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” Matthew 15:24

Miracle making is muscle building. There’s a focus with Matthew 15:24 that doesn’t often get talked about. Jesus worked a miracle – yes – but he didn’t gather the fishes and loaves. He said, “Bring me what you have.”

Think about that directive for a moment. Basically, he said, “Use what muscle you have to gather your resources, show up back here, and offer them to me.” He relied on the footwork of the disciples and willingness of others to share before doing his miracle-making thing to feed the masses.

There was no credit card to save face. He didn’t reschedule for a better day or campaign for event sponsors. And he didn’t tell his disciples to dig deeper.

He worked in the present moment with the resources offered because he knew that, in the presence of less, more is called forth – the kind of more that removes our fears about less and loss.

Where am I going with this? If you’re following my blog, you know it’s been a hell of a year. The shock of losing a breast and Ray to cancer challenges my corner of the world daily. When folks ask me how I’m doing in meeting my obligations, I joke that I have a real “fishes and loaves” thing going here. And, really, I do. What I need arrives in a way that allows me the activity/recuperation space needed to heal for the day, the week, the month – at hand. No more. No less. Every time a little nervousness sets in and I want to investigate exactly how this could be, my angels say, “Stop. Your less is God’s more. ReVEL iN ThAT.

“Use what muscle you have to gather your resources, show up back here, and offer them me,” is a simple formula that calls forth that which answers to the gnawing hunger of the crowd. Read more

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Why I Won’t Survive Cancer

Why I Am Not A Cancer Survivor

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.

 

Okay. Now, that’s out of the way. Picture this.

You’re standing in a hallway. The light is dim. There are two doors. One says Survivor. The other, Thriver. That’s it. No other door. No third option. Which do you walk through? And on what do you base that decision?

Those presenting me with the standard medical model don’t see the hallway. They don’t see the two doors. As a matter of fact, a few of them don’t even see me. When they look at me, they see cancer, a breast that is gone, and a pathology report that says cancer cells may be left behind. And they see their particular medical offering of what might constitute a cure.

Some of these specialists don’t like the questions I ask or that I ask them at every turn. They don’t understand that I am not questioning their expertise. They don’t understand that I am gathering information critical to my peace of mind – a peace of mind that necessitates I am part of the equation in this medical maze of treatments. (After navigating the insurance maze, I might add.)

Am I sounding frustrated? Well, ride with it because I am. And, at times, I am also dismayed, shocked, aghast; disappointed with the “one size fits all” approach I am being offered after a mastectomy that showed no cancer in the lymph nodes taken or in the blood.

I have chosen my door. Thriver. Because thriving is something I can do now.

I don’t want to survive. I don’t want to wait 5 years, or 7 years, or 10 years to be pronounced cured of cancer. I know myself well enough to know that I won’t do well with a finish line way out there. And, if I follow through on the treatment offered me, I may very well be dragging myself – prostrate – across that finish line. Read more

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Grief. Bucket Lists. Legacies.

Bernadettes Bucket List

I suppose that’s natural, considering that the revolving door called cancer caught me in its spin before leaving the hospital where Ray’s last battle was fought, that I find myself thinking about bucket lists these days.

Honestly, Ray was the bucket list master in our marriage. All I had to do was ride on the coattails of his. Their content so often captured my interest that they easily found their way onto our mutual list. If you like reading my messy musings, you can thank him for that. Were it not for his giving me a copy of The Artist’s Way, I would not be here today. (His bucket list included our creative spirits playing together.)

Not that I am blasé about this gift called life or this planet called earth or any creative endeavor inspired by our Creator, but close friends will tell you that – though I enjoy each day – a Bernadette who casts far into the future with her personal wishes is a rare sighting.

But making decisions on cancer treatment does funny things to one’s perspective. This mastectomy-stand-in for my breast brings a lot to surface about life-cuts that speak to life-noun, living-verb conversions.

For the first time in my life, I want to come up with a list all my own but am a bit stumped when it comes to getting jazzed about world-stuff – like parachuting or bungee jumping or kissing the Blarney Stone. Okay, wouldn’t mind the Blarney Stone thing – as that is in the land of my ancestors – but I would not be restless on my deathbed not having done that.

So, I guess that’s my starting point. What would leave me restless on my deathbed? I know. A morbid place to begin but, hey, it leads to an interesting question and maybe points to my challenge in making bucket lists. I might be looking in the wrong place for what fuels me. Read more

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