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A Tug-a-War...Exercise vs. Mom

Summer is around the corner and as a mom, you may have this thought running through your head,  “I liked to tone up for the summer, but I do not have time for exercise and be a mom.” Trying to find time for yourself and have time with your children can sometimes feel like a tug-a-war. I remember the days before children; I worked out 1.5 hours 6 days a week.  That kind of schedule is not going to happen now with two small kids.  Not only do I not have the time, I choose not to take it.  What I have learned is that my workouts depend on my children’s stage of life.

For example

As a baby

Once cleared from my doctor to exercise after the birth of my daughter, I struggled to figure out what I should do. It was too hot to go outside in the afternoon and her naps could be unpredictable.  My focus was not to get in a long run or take the time to go to the gym.  My favorite workout was simple….a pair of weights, an exercise band and a resist-a-ball right in the middle of my living room floor. I would work as hard and intense as I could for 20 minutes, which was all I had on most days.

As a Toddler

A walking/running stroller is a must at the toddler age.

There was nothing I loved more than a long walk or run while talking to my little one and exploring the world.  My goal was to utilize my time for exercise as an opportunity to spend time with them and be a good example of health and fitness.

As a child

A long talk, family time and a lot of calorie burning has been accomplished while they ride their bikes next me as I walk or run.

It is not always at the intensity or duration that I may desire, but it gets the job done. They have also hit the stage to play in the backyard while mommy gets in a 20 minute strength training work out.

Finding time for kids and exercise will change with the season of your family.  Do not be discouraged. Throw out what you may have done in the past and create a new plan for exercise with your kids and don’t let the tug-a-war pull you down. Not only will you “tone up” but you will be a great example and before you know they will be working out right next to you.

Beauty is Brave-Judy, revisited

This time last year, CW introduced you to Judy Kassaye, a thirty-something vibrant woman who had won her battle with breast cancer. After a double mastectomy, with her faith leading the way, Judy did more than survive the diagnosis and months of chemotherapy. The months in and out of doctor's offices and hospitals fueled a fire inside this dark-eyed beauty. Rather than avoid cancer treatment centers like the plague,  she decided to enroll in nursing school with a  dream to become an oncology nurse. Her purpose:  to affect the lives of other women forced on the journey of breast cancer.

 

Cancer free for one year and eight months, she was accepted to nursing school on April 13, 2011. Two days later, she and her oncologist celebrated the news together. In the same visit her doctor's  fingers  found a small lump.

On April 18th , history repeated itself and Judy was once again, diagnosed with cancer; stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer.  Although she had already lived the experience of  diagnosis and scheduling chemo treatments, her initial reaction was to be numb with shock. How could this happen again? Why should this happen again? Ironically,within two days of her diagnosis, she was notified that she was awarded a scholarship to nursing school. Her dream collided with her past and Judy wrestled with her new reality.

 

 

On Easter Sunday, with her eyes wide open, Judy's understanding of life became wider and deeper.

I'm a Christian so Heaven is home and it's disease and grief free. I can live on earth with God in my heart or I can live in Heaven with Him. It's win, win. Either way He gets the glory.

All that said she continues with,"I've decided to fight for my life. I believe I have a God-given appointment to finish nursing school so I don’t see myself going to Heaven before then."

Each day Judy inspires her friends, acquaintances and strangers with her optimistic attitude. Speaking engagements are opening up for her to share her story and she  is writing a book. Her goal is to share her life lessons with everyone she meets.

To read the original blog on Judy, go to:

http://www.createdwoman.net/woman/when-beauty-conquered-the-beast

Life’s speed bumps and collisions can leave us with tire tracks on our back from being run over by life or we can let God leave a distinct Fingerprint on our heart. When we yield to His purpose He prepares us to love and empathize with those He sends our way.

 

"You Have Cancer"

  "I can't believe it". "This is not happening to me". These are the words that were swimming through my head several years ago as my doctor delivered that dreaded phrase! I remember asking the doctor to bring my sister, Cissy, in the room and after sitting there for a few minutes we just agreed that we would face this head on. Full of fear and uncertainty, we began to make decisions and change our plans.

I am not very demonstrative with my emotions, therefore, no tears were shed when my doctor told me I had cancer. As I sat back in my seat, it felt like my blood became cold and was slowly and painfully draining from my body.  I was stunned.  And, I was angry.  My mother had just transitioned to heaven a few years earlier,  my family was still working through the devastation of our loss and now this! The prevailing thought racing through my mind, like a freight train that slipped off the tracks, was the notion that I would miss the opportunity to have children. "I am not going to have kids." Isn't this every girls dream? I was not married and would not have the chance to bear children.  I was overwhelmed and disheartened.

As I write this post, I am met with the same emotion I experienced when I first heard the news. I am, however, still alive and while I will never have the opportunity to 'have' children, I 'have' children.  I call them my God-kids.  My life has been enriched by several individuals that think of me as another mother.

Through my experience I have learned a few things:

  1. You only live once. Life is a gift, a free gift that will cost you everything you have. :)  My challenge to you: Live with audacious tenacity.  Enjoy those around you. Live with passion and purpose. Love without reserve. Forgive as you have been forgiven.
  2. We are not alone. We are designed to exist within the realm of relationship with others.  I found that I had (and still have) a number of friends and family members who were willing to stand with me in prayer, cook meals, sit and talk, or remain quiet or drive me to doctor's appointments if i needed or wanted them to.
  3. Life is not easy.  There is no way to know what one will face in life.  This is why I choose to stay connected to a Source that is much bigger that I.  Being a Christian, I trust God will give me grace to endure the challenges and victories that come my way.  I choose to believe He will take care of me through the storm. Even when it doesn't seem like it (there are times).
  4. Whether I live or die, I win.  This was a tough one for me.  I had to personally work through this reality on my own.  You see, I believe that the life I live, right now, is temporary. Death is a transition from this 'life' to eternity. I will see my mother and others who have passed on.  I will live forever.

If you, or a loved, have been diagnosed with cancer or any other disease, my sincere hope is that you have a community of people to surround you with loving care and commitment, as I have.

 

Paying it Forward

This is Just a Season” was read by over 2,000 viewers on CREATED WOMAN this past year.  It was the story of forty-year-old Jenny Stark from Orange, Texas, and her journey with breast cancer.  Jenny’s courage to embrace breast cancer,  her desire to help others traveling down the same road, and her faith was truly a class act. Knowing that Jenny was going to have reconstructive surgery within a few months after that story, I wanted to do a follow-up article on her.  Discussing this with her, she told me that her surgery, called a TRAM-FLAP, was scheduled for October 10, 2011.  I suggested that we wait until after the surgery to let viewers know how she was doing.

Immediately, she replied:  “No, I don’t want this article to be about me and my surgery.”  “I want it to be about  Paying it Forward.”  “Paying it forward?”  I asked.  “Yes!”  “The knowledge I have learned through my own trials, equipped me in helping someone else through theirs.”  “It’s like passing the baton,” Jenny explained.

And so it was- - - this is where I picked up on Jenny’s story from last year of how Jenny went about Paying it Forward to a friend and former co-worker at the bank where Jenny had once been employed.

Like most women when they first hear the news from their local doctor that they have cancer, Jenny’s friend was shocked and afraid to proceed to the next step.  The next step called for her traveling two hours away from her home in Orange to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas, for more tests.  “I will go with you,” Jenny told her friend.

When she received word from her doctor that she would need Chemotherapy, Jenny went with her on her first treatment.  When she was given a Saturday appointment for a CT scan, Jenny volunteered to drive her.  When it came time to get the results of that test, her friend was too scared to receive the news herself over the phone.  Jenny placed the call with her to get the results one way or the other, so she wouldn’t have to wait the entire weekend with no results.

Jenny went so far as to fill in for her friend at the bank on a part time basis in her absence.  She wanted to relieve her of the worries or concerns that she may have, so she could totally focus on getting better.

Jenny emphasized the importance of making yourself available for the FIRST OF EVERYTHING to the one who has been diagnosed with cancer.”  “It’s not so much that you have to attach yourself permanently to that person,” Jenny explained.  “It’s a matter of being willing to be a servant, to be there for that person, whether it’s driving them to their  appointments, or just answering their questions.”  “In short, make yourself available to do everything that is in your power for them in their time of need.”

Jenny also introduced her friend to the  “Do and Don’t list when faced with cancer, as she had detailed in This is Just a Season. (linked above) Jenny very emphatically reiterates two that she feels strongly about:

1.  Don’t get on the internet when your doctor confirms that you have cancer.  Everyone’s breast cancer is unique; what you find on the internet may not apply to you.  Besides, it only creates anxiety to find information that might not even apply to your situation. Let your doctor explain to you the steps to be followed according to your specific situation. He will also keep you at the point where you need to be in at the present time.

2.  Do ask God for direction in choosing the right hospital, and follow the doctor’s orders in charge“You see, it works like this,” Jenny explained.  “There is a big difference when faced with making crucial decisions based on our emotions rather than on praying and asking God for directions.”  “As we receive directions from God, He will guide us to the right hospital, as well as the right doctors whom he has given wisdom and skill.”  “God, the hospital, and the doctor work as a team in restoring your health.”

As Jenny and I talked on in general about the storms of life that come to all of us at times, I marveled at her insight and wisdom of how to walk through those storms and not become a victim to them.   “Wow, you are so wise!” I exclaimed.  She laughed and then gave me an illustration, using her hands in a lowered position, then in an upward position.

 “You are never down; you are either up or getting up.”  If you are getting up, you are moving in an upward position.  Picture yourself moving in the direction toward God.  If you are down, you are not moving at all, so always be leaning towards Him or on Him.”

We glanced at our watches and two hours had passed since our conversation had begun.  I could have lingered in her presence another two hours gleaning wisdom from her. We  prayed together for her upcoming reconstructive surgery, and as we were saying our goodbyes, Jenny remarked:  “I had no idea what I was going to say when I met with you today.”  “I had no notes; I just knew I wanted to talk about my friend, and my journey with her this past year.”

My thought was:  Jenny didn’t need any notes.  Her heartfelt message poured out from within of her desire and hope that she had helped her friend.

I personally believe that God is smiling down on Jenny saying:

“You have answered The Discipleship Call.  You have BELIEVED, LIVED, LOVED, MINISTERED, and LEAD your friend through her journey with cancer this past year.”

Well Done!”  “I am pleased with my servant, Jenny.”

“You Paid it Forward!”

Next Level Fitness

Take your fitness to the next level, no matter what your physical activity of choice may be. Today I begin a 3 part series with practical tips that are easy to incorporate into your life and current regimen. First things first- start with your core.

Now that yoga and Pilates have made it to the mainstream fitness scene to stay, core work is getting more attention, which is fantastic. It is critical for an overall health emphasis to incorporate core work for both injury prevention and stabilizing your spine.

It’s easy. First, you can engage your core in whatever activity you do, including walking, cycling, golf, dancing, and running. Simply draw your belly button towards your spinal cord. You can even do this while you sit at your computer! Feel your posture improve as your elongate your torso. Add to this a conscience relaxation of the shoulders- away from your ears- down and slightly back. Last, gently draw your shoulders back a little while you keep your belly button towards your spinal cord. Take a nice breath in from your diaphragm instead of your abdomen, (from your lungs instead of your tummy). Don’t skimp with shallow breathing- try 4 seconds in and 4 seconds out. This will optimize lung function.  Keep this posture and breathing pattern for 1-3 minutes once per hour if you work at your computer, and as long as possible with whatever exercise routine you do.

When doing abdominal exercises like crunches or sit-ups, it’s very important to be sure your core is engaged. Follow the above steps before starting any abdominal work to ensure that you are working towards a flat tummy. If your core is not engaged, you can actually work a “pooch” instead of a flat belly! So, instead of getting all fancy with leg lifts and such, concentrate on engaging your core and master that before progressing.

The best way to add core work to your current routine is to begin with the “Plank” and the “Bridge.” They are easy and very effective when done properly. If you have any pain with these exercises, definitely hold off and ask your doctor of chiropractic or medical doctor before continuing. Here are videos that have good demonstrations.

Plank: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHQmRINu4jU

Bridge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOPkM2pzznc

If you don’t have a work out routine, consider simply walking 10 minutes per day and doing the plank and bridge. In less than 15 minutes per day, you could really jump start your health and well-being!

"This is Just A Season"

My friend Jenny's heart-felt story of dealing with her breast cancer.