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.

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.

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. When navigating through multitudes of less and loss, I can pick up my basket and look for a loaf of determination or willingness or gratitude – or even curiosity for how it’s all going to play out. What can I do today – can I offer today – in collaboration with the master mathematician who is happy to multiply goodness in response to my concerns? It doesn’t have to be big or grand. It can be small and simple. This is the zone where working with less offers me – and you – opportunity for more than the more we customarily shortchange ourselves with when reaching into our own pockets. If you are where I am – struggling to start a new chapter in life – this is particularly good news.   Less resistance. More assistance. Less distraction. More attraction. Less busyness. More focus. Less panic. More peace. Less judgment. More understanding. Less fear. More curiosity. Less doubt. More amazement. Your turn: Less [________]. More [________].   You are enough right where you are. So, before you whip out that credit card, maybe grab a basket and work the crowd with me. And, remember, when we make room for less, more can happen. This is the place of miracles.  XO Bernadette   By The Seat Of Your Pants eBook Cover By The Seat Of Your Pants My little eBook comes with LEsS for your mORe – and is my GiFT to you! Download to your device or print it. No hitches. Enjoy! CLICK HERE to find out mORe. :) Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook! Remember, sharing is caring. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same.

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. Will I be able to resume quality of life after surviving cancer treatment – and cancer? (Assuming a car does not hit me first.) And what about during the extended treatment and recovery time – how many years down the road? I have to work. Ray’s battle with cancer took him to the other side of the veil. We have no children. And, though I am blessed with amazing family and friends, I will not add to the loads they are already carrying to appease a medical model that doesn’t fit my circumstances – and invites caregiver challenges down the road. The specialists, who call me out on my judgment or dismiss my concerns with “I can write you a script for that,” won’t be with me down the road. They won’t be living in my body, in my house, or holding my hand if I need to pursue medical treatment for a leaky heart valve, tunnel vision, disintegrating bones – or any number of the side effects that show up after the treatments they say I must endure. (With no guarantee of a cure because they cannot actually see or measure the cancer left behind.) They have to believe in what they are doing. I get it. I’m glad they do. They help a lot of people. But I don’t have to believe in what they are doing. I have to believe in what I am doing. Today, I respectfully defer the big guns to last resort treatments and will do my best to thrive while I wait to see what this body God gave me can do with less invasive modalities because thriving is what I want – now. Not surviving – down the road. If I have miscalculated, in not agreeing to the arsenal approach first, then so be it. I will thrive – one day at a time – in peace with God and my decision. In conversation with a friend a while back, I found myself saying that cancer warriors take on the chemo and radiation and that I can’t be counted as a real cancer survivor because I am not doing any of that. All I did was surgery. She was quick to point to the courage and dedication it takes to walk down this less beaten path – and to stick with it. Diet. Exercise. Attitude. And all maintained while grieving. This is the gift that losing Ray to cancer gave me: determination with no fear. I do not wish to be a bad poster child for this more holistic approach – as one specialist inferred. The way I see it, there is no bad poster child where cancer is concerned. It all takes courage and each one of us is on this walk for those who come behind us. (Caregivers included.) We share experience, strength, and hope in our daily discoveries until better-targeted cures can be found. (Ones that don't devastate bodies and leave families stressing with mountains of debt afterward.) My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 80’s and chose not to pursue any treatment. She lived to be 101. Her death certificate stated cause of death as “breast cancer.” I say she died because she was 101 and her body was tired. And, guess what? She had quality of life into her late 90’s. I’m thinking she wants me to remember that. Even though statistics will place her on the side that supports what happens without treatment. If you are living with cancer, you cannot be a bad poster child. That’s my story and I will thrive with it. I am willing to bet you have a survivor-thriver story of your own. There are lots of experiences in this world that grab us by the seat of our pants. Don't stay in that hallway too long. Life is calling!   By The Seat Of Your Pants eBook Cover By The Seat Of Your Pants is one of my Bucket List projects. It’s a downloadable eBook and my gift to you. No hitches. Enjoy and Share! CLICK HERE to find out more. Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook! Remember, sharing is caring. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same. XO Bernadette  

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. Here’s the question – and I want you to join me on this: What if we came here with a spiritual bucket list, too? Things our soul wanted to accomplish or experience and, if we didn’t do them, we’d be restless for all eternity? All right. A bit dramatic there, but I dare you to consider a bucket list through that lens. Does anything start bubbling to the surface? It did for me. What if some bucket lists aren’t about world places, but the people we meet there and how we engage with them? What if they aren’t about world accomplishments, but what we learn in the doing and the legacies we leave behind to lighten the way for others? What if some are scavenger hunts that we agreed to on the other side and we returned – heaven forbid – empty-handed? The possibilities are endless with lists like that. Lists that points to where our REAL joys lie because they answer to the way God wired us. As I look at settling my deathbed restlessness, words like legacy, creativity, inspiration and service come to mind. What can I do with the creative gifts and inspirations God has given me? How can I be of service in lightening the way for those God puts on my path? My new bucket list qualifier is this: If you can do [fill in the blank with legacy, creativity, inspiration, service] and make it fun, put it on the list.
Now, I’m not living my life with purpose. I am living my life like it’s a bucket list!
Cool, huh? So, here are the first two things that popped onto my list.
  1. An abandoned book project, using Bernadette’s Pages: An Intimate Crossroad. I am deathbed-restless when I think about its message of love and forgiveness sitting on pallets in a storage unit – or being carted off to the dump after I die. I feel excited – even a little rebellious – when I think about copies being abandoned on windshields, park benches and carnival ride seats, with a note telling the finder that the book is a gift for them or someone they know.
Psst: Contact me if you'd like to help abandon! Especially if you are traveling across country or have an imaginative way to abandon large quantities of them. I don’t want to go to my grave with recycled books weighing down my spirit so I am not asking bucket list buddies to pay for these abandoned books.
  1. REALLY have coffee with all the people I have bumped into and said we should have coffee sometime. So, if you are one of those people and I call you ... uh huh ... you know you have to say yes. After all, you are on my bucket list and qualified as fun.
I would absolutely delight in your sharing at least one of the things on your bucket list in the comments below. (I might like to add it to mine!) AND, if my “deathbed restlessness” brings up another one for you, I would love to hear that, too. We’ll put a little magic-mojo on it! Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook! Remember, sharing is caring. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same. XO Bernadette