Scars and Imperfections: vulnerability and courage

ovarian cancer scars

For a long time I have been embarrassed by all the scars I have on my belly. I have actually felt shame that I didn’t have the super flat and amazing abs that I had all my life, pre-cancer and that we see in so many pictures. Last night, as I was watching a video of myself doing yoga on my paddleboard, I saw my scars and imperfections for what they truly are: beautiful, and a deeper healing is setting in.

I wouldn’t be alive today if these scars weren’t there.

These scars are an ever constant reminder of the hell I went through as a stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor, getting a 5 pound tumor removed, then 50 tumors removed, then a hysterectomy, then a hole in my colon, getting an infection, then being attached to a vacuum for 6 weeks, then a 12 hour surgery to remove more tumors and organs, then an ileostomy bag, then, and finally, freedom. These scars show the story of hardship and trials, pain, and tears of not only me, but my family and friends. I have wanted to get as far away from those memories as I could, for a long time. I have slowly faced them as I have been able. This is my next step in the journey: showing them, being vulnerable and open, facing fears, and inviting in even more healing.

I have prayed for them to dissipate. I have tried all sorts of creams and wraps and detoxes and exercise and yet, they are still there. The mountains and valleys, the craters, and holes, the lumps of fat displaced from all the surgeries, the crevices of stiff scar tissue that try to hold me back.

Today though, I am making the choice to see that these scars also tell an incredible story of hope, of courage, of the power of prayers and support of family and friends, of medical staff who were creative and revolutionary; all these people who believed. These scars do tell of the ugliness of cancer, the evilness of disease, the destruction of surgery, and yet, there is a beauty in them: the power of human ingenuity, God’s miracles through our work, that our thoughts of limitations are only in our minds, that truly anything is possible, and that there is beauty in imperfection. These scars show the story of where I have been, who I am today, and in my story, I wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I do, without them. So, I embrace them.

I know that I will continue to walk out this journey called life, every day. Today marks a new one though, and I’m setting up a marker.

Hope exists. Nothing is impossible. Keep moving forward. Fail a lot. Have the courage to stand back up again, and maybe, just maybe, we can change the world through our courage.

Thanks for reading and loving.

Namaste.

Cancer doesn’t define me

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This week I was featured in Redding’s local newspaper, the Record Searchlight. I’m 12 years post the ovarian cancer surgeries, chemo, and death sentence and sharing my story on a broader scale has allowed me to talk and connect with others who are either going through cancer or are post experience as well. It has been a real revelatory and profound week.

My hope has always been to use what the devil meant for evil, for Good and I’ve had the privilege to see it happen over and over again. It makes me so glad to see that the sh*t I went through isn’t for not. That the darkest places I experienced can be turned around to shine light and hope. This fuels and inspires me to keep pressing on! And yet, I am so much more than a cancer survivor. I am so much more than someone who is strong. I am so much more than a yoga instructor. I am so much more than a woman. I am so much more than someone who works hard. I am so much more than someone who inspires. I am so much more, and so are you.

There is actually a small-ness and belittling effect when we singley identify ourselves with xyz, whether it’s being a Christian, a yogi, a cancer fighter, a woman, a college grad, etc. Our identity’s are not determined by what we do, by what we say, by who we present to the world. We are so much more. I am so much greater. You are way more important. Let us rise to the calling that is from heaven. Let us explore the depths of this being (self) that we have been created to be. Let’s try and work and explore and adventure into the innermost parts of God and ourselves to turn this world upside down and let Peace and Hope and Love and Beauty prevail! It’s going to be messy and hard and fun and challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Who’s with me?

You can see a video of me sharing about the benefits of yoga as a healing process here, from this interview.

Namaste. Shine on!

xoxo

How to prevent colds and illnesses

As of late, I have been noticing that my friends who are 10+ years younger than me often have a cold, or a headache, have to call off work, feel exhausted, and/or aren’t nearly as active as I am. This has lead me to do some research into sickness and diseases. I’ve come across some fascinating articles from pHd’s, university’s, medicals centers, and nurses and wanted to share my findings.

“Nutrition is a widely accepted tool for prevention of chronic diseases” – according to the Washington State University. “Hydration, plant-based foods, probiotics, exercise, and vitamins and minerals are 5 ways you can prevent colds and flus” – says the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

This seems somewhat obvious to me. Don’t most people know these things, I wonder? Are my friends just not privy to such helpful info?

I remember a past roommate of mine who suffered from chronic back pain. I was working for a chiropractor at the time and loved his expertise and suggested she see him. After months of resistance, she finally did and several weeks later she told me, “Wow. I had no idea how much pain I was in! I was so used to it that it became part of my life and I tolerated it. It’s not until I’ve become nearly pain free that I can see how bad it was.” It reminds me of the frog in the boiling water analogy: if a frog is put in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out immediately. If a frog is put into a pot of room temperature water and the heat is added slowly, it will stay there and be boiled to death. I think we humans are the same way, and I’m no exception. We need to think bigger than the pot/situation in which we find ourselves. After all, we aren’t amphibians or reptiles. We can think and choose differently.

I experienced a deadly health condition (ovarian cancer) at 24 and have been exploring what it means to be truly healthy ever since. I can see my own past (and current!) bad behaviors mirrored in others and wonder how I can best use my experience to help. Hitting people over the head with all the knowledge I have hasn’t really worked. Me being silent about it and letting people continue to get colds and have headaches and pain, isn’t helpful either. I’m exploring a different option through this blog and sharing my journey. My hope is that you can avoid the hell that I experienced and live a much richer and fuller life.

So, how have I gained the health I have today after being told multiple times that I wouldn’t live, having had 13 weeks of 8 hours-a-day chemotherapy, a dozen blood transfusions, my abdomen sliced from my sternum to hips 5 times, a 5 pound tumor and 50 tumors taken out-at-one-time? That’s a long story, maybe for another time. The short version is to never give up. Look beyond what you can see. Cry, laugh, sing, dance, do yoga, take supplements, eat organic, work with alternative as well as mainstream health care practitioners and in various fields, talk to people, pray, and keep moving forward.

If you want to read more of my story now, visit http://www.lasaludorganics.com and check out the Meet Audrey tab. Today, I take just 3 supplements and eat whole, real, organic food, with the occasional treat to In-n-Out or a steak house. I’ve learned to lighten my grasp on “my health” and I recognize that it’s so often out of fear that we do and don’t do things: I used to be extremely rigid and regimented in what I ate and didn’t, ALL THE TIME. Thankfully, perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18) and so I lean into His heart for me (and the world) and am watching this fear and control leave as I step into more and more health. It’s funny how it works that way. I let go, still using my knowledge and understanding (not throwing the baby out with the bathwater), and I get even healthier.

May love and health come to you like a river! Thanks for coming on the journey with me. I’d love to hear how it’s going for you.
Namaste!

Read more from the UT Medical Center: http://www.utmedicalcenter.org/news/370/5-ways-nutrition-can-prevent-cold-flu-and-treat-them/
Read more from Washington State University: http://www.pitt.edu/~super4/38011-39001/38711.ppt