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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Giving is Living!

How important is giving back to the community, your family, your friends, or even a complete stranger you meet on the street?  Do you need to be wealthy to give back?  Do you need to have hours of free time?  Have you ever felt like you don’t have any skills that will be useful to someone else?  Everyone has something they can contribute to the world around them.  The tiniest acts of kindness can make the biggest difference in someone’s day.  Just ask Kristin Pedemonti who has given away over 500 bottles of bubbles on the NYC subway and carries a “Free Hugs” sign wherever she goes, because we all need our daily quota of hugs.

It is important to the community as well as you to be actively giving back each day, even it is simply giving someone a hug to make their day a little brighter.  I promise you that for every act of kindness you show not only will you bring joy to someone else but your day will be brighter and your body, mind and soul a bit healthier.

There are many ways to volunteer that don’t involve money in any way, not even a dime of gas.  You don’t need hours of free time to bring a smile to someone’s face.  Read a story to a child, compliment a stranger, give a hug to someone who may need one, share a meal with a neighbor, the list goes on and I am sure you can come up with a few of your own.  Become a virtual volunteer, check out ways you can volunteer online, no special skills needed, if you are living, breathing and can do anything at all you have what it takes to make someone’s day better.

A 2005 Stanford University survey of 7000 older adults found that frequent volunteering and helping others is linked to a healthier, longer life.  The study also showed it didn’t need to be giving on a grand scale, it could be anything meaningful.

Allen Luk's 1991 survey of thousands of volunteers in the US found that people who helped others reported better health than peers in their age group who didn’t volunteer. 

A recent survey of 4500 American volunteers showed the following;
  • 73% reported that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 89% reported that volunteering improved their sense of well being
  • 92% reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and give some free hugs, blow some bubbles, give someone a have no excuse...I have given you links to some great opportunities and I’m sure you can create a few of your own...give to others and you will always be giving back to yourself.

For more on Kristen and her storytelling adventure as well as her literacy program please visit her site.  To leave comments on her TED video click here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Smile and others will smile with you...

Have you ever noticed that when someone yawns you immediately feel a yawn coming on?   How about those moments of contagious laughter?  I remember moments of laughter with my family and friends that went on so long that my cheeks hurt, I was crying, my stomach was cramping, and I thought we would never stop laughing.

Do you notice that when you are spending time with someone filled with doom and gloom you feel a bit blue?  I suggest you pick a new color, after all there’s an entire rainbow.  Have you ever cried simply because someone else was crying?  Even if you had no idea why they were crying?  Do you ever find yourself smiling when someone smiles at you?  There is a correlation between your emotions and your facial expressions and a real smile is an emotional contagion.

So what is real?  How do you differentiate between a real smile and a fake one?  It’s all in the eyes, yes really it’s all in the eyes.  The Duchenne Smile was first identified by French physician Guillaume Duchenne who discovered a clear anatomical difference between a real smile and a fake one.  His research showed that a real smile activated not only the muscles that lift the corner of the mouth but the muscles around the eyes.  You know the ones, those muscles that we lovingly call crows be proud if your crow’s feet are quite is a sign that you have had a long life filled with smiles.  

Most often we associate a smile with first being happy, but did you know that if you are feeling down and you think of something that makes you smile, you now bring happiness to your day by first having the smile.  Try this experiment, think of something that makes you smile, keep smiling and now change your thought to something sad and try to maintain your smile.  If you are truly smiling and then think of something sad you can’t maintain that smile.  Now, think of something that brings joy to you and try not to smile..not so easy is it?

Each of us have so many reason’s throughout our day to smile and if you can’t think of a reason just stop and think of all the things you have to be grateful for in your life.  If you are still having a problem just look at the list of reasons to smile on this website and I bet you will come up with a few of your own.

Smiling improves your health and well-being.  When you smile and feel the joy associated with a smile you can lower your blood pressure, reduce anxiety, increase positive energy, and enhance the life of those you meet throughout your day.  A smile crosses language and cultural boundaries and is the best communication weapon you have and you carry it with you everywhere.  Whoever may have said that the mouth is a very powerful weapon may have been speaking about what comes out of the mouth but I believe that the silent voice of our mouths is equally as important.

No matter the emotion or the facial expression, it is undeniable that what is written on your face and is in your heart effects those around you.  The more genuine the expression, the more effective it is, so if you think faking a smile is going to make someone’s day..forget it...if you really want to make someone’s day, keep it real.  Make today the day that you unleash your inner smile guru!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I'm back...

Hello to all my loyal readers and fellow survivors.  I apologize for the lack of blog posts.  Prepare yourselves to get some great weekly updates.  For most of June I was on a very special trip across America as part of the crew for a wonderful racer in RAAM, Janet Christiansen.  If you don't know what RAAM is, please visit  The Race Across America is the world's toughest bicycle race that most of you have never heard of.  I would have to say that this race is as tough on the crew as it is the rider(s).  There is no comparison to the Tour de France, unlike the tour, when the clock starts it never stops.  Imagine riding 3,000 miles on the seat of a bicycle in 12 days or less.  No monetary prize, and if you don't finish in the allotted time frame you are considered a "did not finish" even if you ride the entire route.  Stay tuned, I will be publishing a short story about this experience.

July has also come and gone spending time with family.  Now August has arrived and it is time to work on getting those bicycle wheels turning again.  It is time to resume the path of random acts of kindness.

Write to me, let me know what you would like to see here.  I would love for you to leave a comment, tell me where your favorite cancer center is and what makes it unique.  Why I should put it on my list of centers to visit.

Stay tuned, I am going to work on a video post for you about what I learned from my trip across country.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kindness Counts

Busy as I can be, the new Karma cards are now ready! There is also a new line of gifts coming soon, perfect for survivors of all kinds and for those you love.

This journey has brought me to the realization that the most important form of currency I have available to me, no matter what my bank account says, is kindness. The kindness I give away and the kindness I receive, these are what keep me going when I think I can't do this any more. I decided I needed to start a movement of kindness but I am only one person and doing this all on my own would take a long time. However, with all of you reading this spreading your own kindness the movement would spread quickly. I also realized that many times in life we can't pay the kindness back, but we can always pay it forward.

Karma cards are my way of making this a game of fun and inspiration. Do something anonymously for someone and leave the card behind, watch the kindness spread. I will be changing the site in the very near future and there will be a page for your stories and a place to order the cards and the gifts. Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you are interested in the cards, send me an email and I will give you more info on purchasing or how to get them free. Send them with flowers, or a secret gift, use them when you pay for a strangers coffee. Get creative, I am sure you can find many ways to use this great little card.

The world is a one big "favor bank," you do something for someone, they do something for someone, someone does something for you..get it, Karma..What goes around, comes around! Are you ready to play?

I have the honor and privilege of crewing for the upcoming RAAM (Race Across America). I intend to leave these cards all along the cross country route, every place I can find a way to leave some kindness behind. Join me in the fun!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Day of Healing Cranes...

Warm, sunny weather and warm, sunny greetings is how my day at Moffitt Cancer Center started.  With each visit to a new place there is always an excitement and anticipation of the unknown.  I do my research before deciding where to visit but there are still things you cannot anticipate.  I have discovered that no matter how comprehensive the website you cannot fully understand all that you may experience when you finally arrive at a cancer center.

Whether you are there as a patient, a caregiver, or simply a guest, there are so many unseen experiences to be found.

Moffitt Cancer Center is located in Tampa, Florida on the campus of the University of Florida.  The first thing I noticed was that just the building alone had a welcoming presence.  It didn’t have a cold, clinical feel.

My day began with the Manager of Patient Relations.  We dropped my bike and bags in the office and there is where the day began.  I had a small audience to share my story of survivorship with and since that is what this trip is about I was happy to oblige.  Sharing my story would end up being a theme throughout the visit.

I was taken to many parts of this wonderful facility and I will highlight a few of what I like to call the lesser known aspects of the day.

An early stop was in the Arts In Medicine department where I was introduced to several people and shared my story again.  It was there that I learned the story of the healing cranes, inspired by the family of a patient.  In Japan the crane is a symbol of peace and healing and the tradition is to fold a thousand “cranes,” for healing.  There were cranes on display throughout the area and I would soon discover they were on the desks in other parts of the center.  The Arts In Medicine department decided to put their own unique spin on this tradition so instead of having each patient fold a thousand cranes, their patients are instructed to write a healing message on the inside of the wing and hang the crane where it can be seen a thousand times and used as a reminder of peaceful, positive moments.  They graciously offered me the instructions on how to make my own healing crane.  I can’t wait to try it.  Arts in healing is so very important, it can bring a sense of calm in the midst of the storm.  Arts is a way to focus the mind on something positive, energy flows where attention goes and therefore focusing on the positive brings positive results.

I heard them make an announcement for a soon to begin meditation session for stress reduction.  That was the next sign that this center was treating the person and not just the disease.  The sentiment with patients and families seemed in agreement, as I heard them express they were glad that they were receiving their care at Moffitt. 

As we made our way through the different parts of the building I got an explanation for the things I saw along the way and the next place I would share my story was in the patient library.  That is where I left my gift of Livestrong wristbands.  That would also be where I would be introduced to the hospital president.  A very welcoming man, he was sincerely interested in my story and the fact that I had chosen to visit Moffitt along the way.  We chatted for a bit and then it was time to move on.  I now had a new tour guide. 

I was thrilled when I was shown HER Place, a special place for women where they can research and get information on the illness they have.  Her Place is complete with computers, written materials and so much more and it is quietly tucked in a corner away from the hustle and bustle of patient activity.

Another wonderful, relaxing feature was a fairly large rock display with a fountain.  It was very serene and in the warm, sunny weather of Florida would be a plus for anyone needing to escape.

Next I would be shuttled off the main campus to meet with a woman who is doing some wonderful work in risk assessment, detection and intervention.  She has an amazing story and the work she is doing focused on HPV is certainly near to my heart.  I think we could have talked for hours.  Needless to say, I will spread the word wherever I go, on the importance of her work.

I lost count of how many times I shared my story that day.  To be honest, the time just seemed to slip away.  Everyone at this facility went out of there way to make sure I had a successful visit.  When the day was done, I was given a ride to my host’s home and all ended beautifully.

For more information on Moffitt Cancer Center click here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Inspiration in the most unlikely places..

You may ask yourself, why I am visiting places along my journey that most people try to avoid.  The answer would be a simple one, love and inspiration.  I have learned that some of the most inspiring people are those you meet in some of the most typically uninspiring places.  With my family history of cancer it is only fitting that these destinations be on my agenda.  And I must say, using the Brompton is making that process a whole lot easier. 

I received a very warm welcome to MD Anderson, Orlando from the moment I contacted them right through to the end of a wonderful tour.  I was guided through the history of this premier health care facility and shown many unique features and programs by the centers Manager of Customer Relations.  She has had an impressive 23 years with this organization and her dedication and pride show, not only in her smile, but in the wealth of information she imparts.

 I arrived at about 10:15am and was greeted by two smiling happy women working the reception area.  As I waited for my tour guide to arrive I watched and listened.  This wasn't about what I saw as much as what I didn't see.  Yes there were people who were very sick coming and going from their appointments and treatments.  What was not present was sadness or an air of negativity.  I would find later in my tour that it didn't seem to exist anywhere in the building.

I won't linger on the history of MD Anderson, for that you can visit their website
I will instead touch on things that I think go above and beyond in making this a stand out facility.  The first thing you notice when looking at anything concerning MD Anderson is that the word Cancer in the name has a strike through it and underneath the name the words, "Making Cancer History".  This is one very powerful message.

This beautiful lady sits in the lobby/reception area, her name is Sophie and I was told she is the "Cower of Hope" and her name holds a special meaning.  Rearrange the letters, have you figured it out?  Hope Is!  She is adorable and fun, loved her rain boots and beads.  She helps to set the tone and lightened the mood of what could otherwise be a very somber environment.

I noticed a gentleman coming in with a wheeled cart filled to the brim with fresh citrus.  He was immediately greeted at the reception area with a smile and a hug.  He explained that this fruit was just a small token of his appreciation for the care his wife had been receiving.  He went on to explain what all the things in the basket were and then talked a bit more about his story.  I politely spoke up and said I couldn't help but overhear the conversation and that I was grateful to hear such an inspiring story.  He explained that he couldn't express how grateful he was and that if it weren't for the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson, he didn't believe his wife would still be with him.  This was just the beginning of the gratitude I sensed from so many people on this tour.  If you are reading this sir, thank you for the grapefruit!

 Up we go to a testing floor.  The first thing you hear and see when you come off the elevator is Craig.  He is playing a soft, soothing tune on his guitar, it was almost Zen like.  I was told that he is part of the Arts Program and moves around to different areas to play as a way of additionally soothing the patients.  It was amazing, thanks to Craig for taking his picture with me. 
It turns out that music is only a small part of MD Anderson's Arts Program and I would see some of that later in the morning. 

The little touches that make a big difference didn't end with the Arts Program.  Even the art on the walls was carefully chosen.  Next floor of the tour, I met a wonderful woman who had just come back from running with the Team Livestrong in Austin.  It was clear that she loved what she was doing.  Livestrong is a resounding message throughout this center.

One thing that stood out as I made my way around this facility was that they are treating the patient, not just the disease.  I was taken to an area where integrative medicine or mind/body medicine is offered.  The most fun for me with my massage therapy and Reiki background.  Once again it was the little touches that stood out.  Yes they offer presentations on healthy living, and nutrition, but who would have thought about a drum circle, tai chi, and a Labyrinth.  Better yet, how about afternoon tea.

Or how about the small class we passed along the way learning how to make healthy dessert choices.  I was introduced to the leaders in that class and I could immediately see they were very passionate about what they were doing.  They certainly had everyone's attention.

Just outside of this area where they held afternoon tea was a special bell hanging on the wall.  This bell is for anyone who has finished their treatment.  They are told to ring it in celebration of life and the end of treatment.  How cool is that.

There are many more great things I could say about the couple of hours I spent at MD Anderson however I would just like to end this post with a thank you to all the wonderful people at MD Anderson.  You are doing a spectacular job.  I think this last picture sums up in one word what the atmosphere at MD Anderson speaks volumes to.  So you see, many inspiring moments can come from the most unlikely places.  Share your inspiring moments in an unlikely place in the comments below.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Where do I begin this update?  Every moment of the day I feel so blessed.  I am blessed to have all of you, my followers and supporters. I am blessed to be able to do what I am doing.  I am blessed by all the kind strangers I meet along this journey.  I can't begin to count all my blessings, I will start with the two newest.

The first came as a complete surprise.  I was contacted via Say Hello which isn't unusual but this time it was someone who was hired by a major university health system to do an educational infographic on cervical cancer risk factors and preventative measures.  It was explained to me that this company found me while researching information for the work they were hired to do and that my story inspired the design for the infographic.  Now how cool is that!  In less than a 2 week period of online collaboration the project was finished and is now live.  I am so honored to have been asked to be a part of this project that will be an educational tool for potentially thousands and thousands of women.  Please check it out, it is interactive so drive the car and whatever you do, don't forget to click on the bicycle.  Follow this link;

On to the second blessing.  I do believe that everyone that enters our lives is a teacher and although we may not know the lesson at the time, we need to just be mindful and learn.  Some of you know that one way I am able to keep spreading smiles and happiness to survivors is by taking on some freelance writing projects.  I was searching through some ads and came across one that peaked my interest.  I could feel the emotion in the ad.  It was written by a father who lost his daughter to a little known disease.  I replied to that ad offering my assistance.  After exchanging a few email I was introduced to the founder of an organization that celebrates women.  Just this week I was featured on that site; 

I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel for being asked to be part of these amazing projects.  The exciting thing is there are more to come.  I can't share just yet but you will be the first to know.

Positive intent brings positive results.  If you are struggling and not sure where you are going in life, set your intentions in the way you wish to go.  See life as you want it to be and that is what you will soon create. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Are you listening?

This post is being written as the words flow from my heart.  As I proceed on this journey life unfolds before me.  I am open to receiving all the messages that come to me through everyday happenings. 

I was with a new friend just recently and decided that I needed a movie to watch for those nights when I just need an escape into another world.  I asked my spirit to lead me to what I should watch.  I don't normally buy movies while traveling but I figured I would send it to someone and pass it along as a gift.  The movie didn't win any awards, it is probably a movie that many never heard of, it is however a movie I was lead to.  I watched that movie tonight and I now know why.  Lately I have had moments where I just don't know if I can do this, it is tough.  I miss my family and to be honest this trip put me totally out of my comfort zone.  The message from this movie, not only are you making a difference, but you need to push on because the road will lead to greater love and joy. 

I am finding that the more I travel this road, the more messages I receive in the most unusual ways.  One day last week I was up until 3 am working on a project and just couldn't seem to get it right.  I decided to take a break and check my email.  The first email I open says, "there comes a time when we are best served to call a project done"... Talk about a wake up call, or in the case of 3am, a good night call. 

Just a short time later I was thinking about someone I was waiting to hear from about something important and as I was preparing to call them, up popped an email.  How can I not listen to what messages are there in everyday happenings.

All too often, we get so caught up in life that we forget to live, to listen.  I believe that this post was meant for someone who is reading it who may be in need of encouragement, hope, or maybe just your own wake up call.  It is so simple to hear your messages, just listen and remember messages may come from anywhere, an email, an unexpected phone call, even a movie that few have heard of. 

Give a smile to a stranger.  Don't wait for people to be kind, show them how.  Do something for someone who can never repay you and even better do so anonymously.  I hope that all of you reading this will take some time today to just breath, to just live, to just listen. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hope Center

Hello from Central Florida! I just wanted to share with you a bit about yesterdays visit to the Hope Center, part of The Central Florida Cancer Institute.  It was a beautiful day in Central Florida for a bicycle ride.  I love riding bike in warm, sunny temperatures and there is nothing better than knowing you will bring a smile to someone at the end of the ride. 

The day started with a few adjustments to the bicycle, can't go for a bike ride without making sure all equipment is in order.  I had directions in the map holder and off I went.  I thought I was prepared for an easy day of bike riding.  I would soon find a few hitches in that bike ride.

The first would be my directions, I had gotten the directions from Google maps for cyclists.  The first two roads were accurate.  The road I was on changed names, Google failed to mention that.  Then the next road listed, didn't exist.  That made things interesting.  I followed my instincts and knew that I was okay where I was.

I decided to use the map function on my phone to see if it would any more use for this bicycle trip.  I got directions from my current location, all seemed well until I looked for the second road I was told to turn on.  I rode quite a ways before thinking it can't possibly be this far and turning around.  It was then that I discovered the road I was told to take only existed to the right, it had a different name in the direction I was told to  Now the bike ride had to be back on track.  Right?

The street names and directions from here were more accurate, not quite what you would want but I was able to figure them out.  Now I was able to enjoy the ride, maybe.  Okay, not completely, most of the roads had no shoulder and some inconsiderate drivers.  I have learned to expect that so I do not let that bother me, I just ride the bike with extreme caution. 

Half way to my destination the most amazing birds walked out in front of me.  I have since been told they are Sandhill Cranes.  Thank you Jessica and Lisa for the education.  At first there was one on each side of the road, as I stopped to watch, it was like a dance in friendship as the slowly made their way toward each other.  They seemed not to be bothered by me at all.  They walked gracefully, side by side, occasionally stopping to dig in the dirt.  They didn't move much until a tiny white Chihuahua came prancing down the sidewalk.  Apparently they aren't fond of what an awful noise.  A few pictures and I moved on.

Not much further down the road, I can see I am coming up on a school, the sounds of happy children are in the air and then the sound of a not so happy dog.  Now I find myself being chased down the road by a dog who came darting under the fence and across the road to let me know she didn't like me.  Okay so the bike ride is now a race so as to not get bit.  I won!

The rest of my ride to Hope Center was beautiful and uneventful.  I arrived feeling great, parked the bike just outside the entrance and went inside.  The only person in the waiting area at that time was a pharmaceutical rep.  Soon a receptionist appeared to talk with him.  She disappeared to get someone to help him and I introduced myself.  It turns out he had seen me riding on the back road to the center.  We had a great conversation, he wished me well and I went to speak to the receptionist.  I gave her my card as she informed me everyone was in a meeting.  I told her to please give them a thank you for me.  It was now time to share a smile with some survivors.  I walked outside to find a couple who were just getting ready to enter.  I introduced myself and asked would they mind taking the picture you see of me.  We chatted for a bit, she was a breast cancer survivor and her husband was heading for his mapping for treatment of prostate cancer.  Another great time of sharing, smiles and joy.  This is what this trip is all about and I must say the bike ride back was amazing and without incident.

Please take the time to offer someone a smile today!