Gratitude and blessings!

Hello everyone! This post will be what may possibly be the shortest post I’ve ever put on here.

I simply want to let all my subscribers know about a great contest I just launched on my new wellness website, Begin Within Wellness. As you may know, I’ve been involved in charity work in various capacities for many years, including the work I do here at Unlimited Smileage.

Through the years I have been blessed in so many ways. I work to find new ways to show kindness to others and offer my services. Most recently, I’ve been sewing special pillowcases for cancer patients. Each one comes with a poem and a pocket inside for holding wishes and dreams. This contest has come as a part of that project.

The grand prize is valued at over $500 and it is free and easy to enter. You will find more details here.

Stay tuned, in the not to distant future, I hope to offer the pillowcases for sale in order to fund this project. All proceeds will go back into making more pillowcases.

Thank you for your support as I have taken this journey.

Kindness Times Two

In my last post I mentioned I would have the opportunity to share with Nimo again. This evening was very special to me, it was an evening of inspiration at HopeWell Cancer Support Center. It was a wonderful evening of sharing, hugs, kindness, love, smiles, tears, music, and a few bubbles.

This facility is in an amazing location, surrounded by nature. I was sitting on the front porch watching a doe grazing in the grass not more than 50 feet from me. She didn’t have a care in the world, neither did I.

I’m not sure I can highlight just one thing about the evening so I will give you a few.

Ellie, from the Empty Hands Music crew was filming guests as they arrived, asking what was one thing they were grateful for. Do you have any idea how tough it is to pick just one thing you are grateful for? She later did her best to piece them all together as part of the Gratitude video. It was a wonderful surprise.

Survivors, caregivers, and family members shared their stories and inspiration. There were so many beautiful people in attendance.

I gave a little background into my journey and shared the story of the handmade kindness cards I leave in random places. Everyone was so excited to be taking home their own they asked if they could just start passing the box around while I was sharing. Before I could finish a wonderful woman stood up and started sharing. She thanked me for helping her know why she was there. She had been scheduled for surgery in the morning and they sent her home, she didn’t understand why and what the message was until I spoke of the cards. The joy I felt at that moment was absolutely overwhelming.

The entire evening was filled with these “kind” moments. Wherever you are, if you have the opportunity to be a guest for an evening of inspiration with Nimo and Empty Hands Music, don’t pass it up. You will be forever grateful and blessed.

A very fitting photo to cap off the night-Heartfelt!

And the Emmy goes to..

This post is dedicated to the team at PBS and WITF Facing Cancer Together. Congratulations on the honor of being chosen for the Mid-Atlantic Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in Community Service.  Facing Cancer Together embodies the spirit of survivorship and my current mission.  I am honored to have been a part of your tremendous community efforts.

There is an important lesson here for all of us.  Working together toward a common goal is much more effective than each of us struggling on our own to  reach the same goal.  We have a much greater impact on the world around us if we connect our energies and focus on the big picture.  We all play a part, we are all a piece of the bigger puzzle.  No matter how big or how small your contribution to community, the puzzle is not complete without all the pieces.  No matter what cause is close to your heart, you play a valuable role.

Think of yourself as an ongoing supply of energy, everything is energy, energy creates, the more you use, the more quickly you create.  Imagine the outlet on your wall, use it the way it is and you can plug in two appliances for charging.  Take that same outlet and put in an adapter to expand it’s use and you can double or even triple the amount of energy and electricity coming out of that same outlet. By focusing on yourself you limit the amount of energy that you output because there is only one of you.  By focusing on others you multiply the amount of energy you output by the number of others on who you focus.

There are so many wonderful organizations all working toward the same goal, quality of life for survivors and a cure for this disease that claims so many lives.  It is obvious that much thought and care went into making this campaign happen and getting it right.  If you are a cancer survivor, know someone who is, have been touched in any way by this disease, I’m sure that this campaign has something that will inspire you and I would encourage you to  check out all the wonderful online resources.

Begin each day by asking “What can I give to another?” and then “What can I give to myself?”  It is important to never reverse the order of these questions.  When you keep them in this order the 1st question always answers the second one.  What you give to someone else, you give to yourself.  Give a smile and serve with kindness each day!

 

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 http://www.raceacrossamerica.org. 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.

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.

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 www.mdacco.com
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.

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 go…lol. 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 dogs…lol..wow 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!