Breast Cancer Journey – Blessings and Thanksgiving

 

Thanksgiving Joy Breast Cancer careFor me, this Thanksgiving Season holds new reasons for gratitude. This is my first Thanksgiving as a cancer patient and there are a multitude of blessings to this chapter in my life. Being given a diagnosis of hereditary breast cancer was a giant “Stop Sign” for me; a “Stop Sign” I could not wiggle past with even the most clever planning and persistence. The initial shock, grief, and fear have given way to surrender and acceptance. They also have made room for me to notice the many blessings that my illness has brought into my life.

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for a host of unexpected blessings that I never saw coming.

This illness and its grueling treatment have given me an “opportunity” to ask for help – and to receive help so graciously given by friends, family, staff, acquaintances, and even strangers.  I’m gifted with help from a larger circle of people than I would have ever dreamed possible. I have never before reached out like this and it’s wonderful. Acquaintances and neighbors have become friends as they drive me to my doctor’s appointments, accompany me on my daily walk, or just stop by to visit. Even the busy employees at the DMV brought me water and offered their support the day I optimistically scheduled both my mammogram and my DMV license renewal appointment.

Cancer has forced me to step off the treadmill of productivity. The unhurried hours spent in the company of old and new friends are healing; it’s a true blessing that this time of stillness has made possible.

In the past few months, I’ve been touched time and time again with the most heartfelt messages of support from patients, web customers, blog readers, and business colleagues. Each one of these messages touches me deeply. I keep every one of them, whether it is a handwritten card, an email, or a blog comment. I read them to my husband and I reread them when I’m blue. I notice the small details like artwork, handwriting, or what time of day an email was written because it connects me to my community of thoughtful and kind people who have taken time to let me know that they care about me and what I’m going through. What a blessing! It’s a reminder that this big world is really small and that none of us are truly alone – my lovely collection of well-wishing message is living proof.

I now have time to sit or walk in nature every day. For me, this is a reminder of our connectedness to something much bigger than our contemporary busy lives. I didn’t see this coming when I got the cancer diagnosis. My doctors prescribed 45 minutes of walking every day because it enhances the success of cancer treatment. As prescribed, I spend 45 minutes walking in nature daily accompanied by a friend.  Those 45 minutes are healing, not just to my chemo-wrecked body, but also to a deeper part of my general well being. My time is now punctuated by, and actually revolves around, my daily 45 minutes spent in nature. I’ve watched the seasons change up close. I can’t help but look at life differently and it’s another one of cancer’s blessings.

My illness has forced me to re-balance my day in a way that preserves my energy instead of uses it up. Everyone who knows me knows that I am an example of our country’s work ethic; I get such joy from my work that, like eating chocolate, I don’t always stop when I should. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Cancer has forced me to stop. No more depleting my energy for a task because right now I have no energy reserve and my health would suffer. It’s a forced lesson and you know, I’m sleeping really well and feeling surprisingly at ease in spite of it all. Again, I would never have done this on my own; it’s that Big C “Stop Sign” and it’s not all bad.

Like so many others who have faced life-threatening illness, each day is a blessing and I view it differently.  Before cancer, I might have focused too much on irritating frustrations like slow traffic, a “spontaneous” mess in my kitchen, a mistake on a bill that lands me on hold when I telephone the company to clear things up, etc.  Now I see the beauty of fall, the pleasure of spending time with people, the antics of my silly poodle, and the list goes on. It’s a reframe of my perspective and it’s another of cancer’s blessings.

After living 55 years, it took the Big C “Stop Sign” to make me slow down and actually stop for a time. In exchange, it brought me these blessings. Strange as it might sound, I’m grateful.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving Season,

With Blessings and Gratitude,

Cynthia Bailey MD

Board Certified Dermatologist 

PS Here’s my Thanksgiving gift to you. Check out our New Special Holidays Packages & Sale From 11/29 – 12/15/13

Photo: Thanks and Gratitude to Ewan Traveler

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37 Responses to “Breast Cancer Journey – Blessings and Thanksgiving”

  1. jenny November 26, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Dr. Bailey, thank you for sharing this. YOU are a blessing! Have you ever read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp? I think it would be deeply meaningful to you. Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours. God Bless.

  2. Cynthia Bailey November 26, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    Hello Jenny,
    No I have not read that book. Thanks for the suggestion.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you as well,
    Warmly,
    Cynthia Bailey MD

  3. Suzanne November 26, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Hi Cynthia,

    I spent 2012 getting treatment for IDC. It was a life changing year. I bought a Sonoma County park pass and got back into nature in a big way. Before BC I was always working. In retrospect maybe a little too hard! Nothing stopped me before BC. Now it’s the simple things that matter the most. I don’t work nearly as hard as I use too. But that’s a good thing! All the best for a healthy and happy life! I know you know there’s lots to be thankful for now. It’s amazing what cancer teaches us.

  4. Susan November 26, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Dr. Bailey,
    Due to a very recent skin condition development, I’ve been doing some online research and stumbled across you and your blog, and of course I immediately called your office and learned that you are on leave until next summer. So I signed up for your blog do continue to access your wonderful pearls of knowledge.
    After reading your blog today, I now understand your situation. I am very sorry to hear about your circumstances. But your positive outlook and perspective is so healthy, and it’s so moving to hear how you are dealing with it and approaching your days focussing on the good parts. I am certain that this will help you with a speedy and full recovery! And your journey is a great lesson for us all — thank you for having the bravery to share it with us!
    Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving and a weekend full of wonderful nature walks,
    Susan

  5. carol woessner November 26, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying the blessings that come with a forced drastic reduction in activity and “normal” routine. Your walks sound especially lovely.

    I read Jenny’s reply referencing the book A Thousand Gifts. I, too, have read it and found it to be a great reminder of the really, really important things in life. I think I should re-read it! If you do read it, I hope it’s a blessing to you. Meanwhile, you are still in my prayers along with some others of my friends, Barbara, Dottie, and Marie as just a few. And my husband, too!
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  6. Kathy K November 26, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    What a beautiful letter from a truly beautiful person. Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and your wonderful office. I miss all of you every day but carry you all in my heart for all you have done for me. You have helped so many people with your practice and your wonderful blog and you share so much of yourself with everyone. Wish I could be there to do more for you. –Kathy

  7. Donna Secord November 26, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    Hi Dr. Bailey-just sending words of support and encouragement from one of your devoted web site followers in Canada. Having gone through a life altering illness myself, I understand the challenges of accepting a “new” present reality. I believe that I was meant to learn the lesson of humility from this, and to realize the wonder of so much support and love from friends, and unexpected sources. You will come out on the other end of this with enhanced inner strength and even more compassion than you already possess in abundance. Donna S.

  8. Donna Secord November 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Hi Dr. Bailey-just sending words of encouragement and support from one of your devoted web site readers in Canada. Having been through a life altering illness myself, I understand the challenge of accepting a “new” present reality, and to devote oneself to living in, and appreciating every day. I believe that I was meant to learn the lesson of humility, and to reach out to friends, family and even casual acquaintances, in a way that I had not done before. So many unexpected kindnesses and thoughtfulness buoyed my recovery, and, will do the same for you. Happy Thanksgiving.

  9. Cura Pelle November 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Dharma

    The way the dog trots out the front door
    every morning
    without a hat or an umbrella,
    without any money
    or the keys to her dog house
    never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
    with milky admiration.

    Who provides a finer example
    of a life without encumbrance—
    Thoreau in his curtainless hut
    with a single plate, a single spoon?
    Ghandi with his staff and his holy diapers?

    Off she goes into the material world
    with nothing but her brown coat
    and her modest blue collar,
    following only her wet nose,
    the twin portals of her steady breathing,
    followed only by the plume of her tail.

    If only she did not shove the cat aside
    every morning
    and eat all his food
    what a model of self-containment she would be,
    what a paragon of earthly detachment.
    If only she were not so eager
    for a rub behind the ears,
    so acrobatic in her welcomes,
    if only I were not her god.

    - Billy Collins

    Happy Thanksgiving, Dr. Bailey.

    Hugs,
    Cura

  10. Cynthia Bailey November 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Once again I am touched by the lovely messages that I am receiving on this post. Thank you all for reaching out. Have a lovely Holiday

  11. Joyce Homenko November 27, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    Dear Cynthia…

    I wish you a really thankful Thanksgiving.

    Words from my daughter Megan in regards to a new dx of cancer for my sister Colene will follow.

    Both of my daughters are quite special using their own communication styles. Megan displays it in her writing as she puts her thoughts and experiences into words. Amanda will talk until you feel like a million dollars. Just two distinctive communication styles that affect your senses in a very good way.

    The following note may inspire that strong “Cynthia” to keep on keeping on!

    Megan (daughter) to my sister Colene:

    ‘My dear sweet Auntie,

    This is a competition that you’re ready for! It won’t always be fun, but I can promise you that there will be more laughter than tears, more love than fear and there’s a secret surprise waiting for you when you win. There’s a magical zest for life that will build even stronger in you. It’s so difficult to describe.

    Cancer changed my life. For the better. Oddly enough, I considered it a gift in the end and I’m certain you will too. I know this is crazy talk in the beginning, but hold onto this thought throughout and you’ll see. You are already (and we all see this in you) a very strong, beautiful, capable, loving, generous, funny, loyal, woman but it will be magnified even more. You’ll conquer things you never knew you would be asked to do and you’ll do it with grace, maybe a few cuss words, and step out after each treatment/appt/plan and say “I DID IT!!”

    I’m here for you throughout. Visits, appointments, walks, meals, hugs.

    I love you,
    Megan

  12. Joyce Homenko November 27, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    Cynthia…

    Megan’s words are meant for you as well as many women with many challenges when presented on any given day, ‘you have a diagnosis we’re concerned about.’

    I love your blog series, It provides hope for all.

    Warmest regards,

    Joyce.

  13. cheryl November 27, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    dear doctor bailey,

    i found your blog quite a while ago because it contained some of the best info on rosacea to be found online. i think the fact that you, too, suffer from it makes a huge difference. most derms i see just want to prescribe topicals that irritate me and antibiotics which do not seem to help. i am to the north of you a bit, in chico, but wish i were closer to your practice. i just placed my first order with you for some skincare and am delighted to be able to support you in this way.

    as far as ‘the big C’ goes, in some ways, i consider myself lucky to have gotten my first diagnosis at age 30 (hodgkins). yes, the staging process and treatment are gruesome and grueling, but it taught me at a relatively young age what is really important in this world. i look forward to every sunrise i am blessed to witness, it is another day for me to walk this planet and enjoy the company of my loved ones. i also know just how strong i really am. it’s hard to say cancer is a blessing, but the things you learn about yourself in the process truly are.

    may your days be filled with gentle healing and the company of those you love. it does get better!

    cheryl

  14. Joyce Homenko November 27, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Dear Cynthia…

    The Rosacea that you diagnosed many years ago has been minimized by your treatment plan. Thank you for making my ‘public face’ as a medical professional be well received. I would like your permission to use my LinkedIn Business Site to promote specific aspects of your Blog. I specialize in the personalized care of the Elder population, unusual and/or atypical health care concerns.

    Joyce Homenko, 365 Home Health Care, Elder Care, Sonoma County, California

    May your Turkey Day be gobblicious!!

  15. Ninfa Hallstrom November 28, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    oh wow this is great, is there any more info about this or a reference if possible?

  16. Rhonda November 28, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    Dr. Baily,

    A blessed Thanksgiving to you and your love ones. This is a day of gratitude and I’m especially gratitude to you for finding a potential life threatening disease in me years ago.
    I’ve appreciated your commitment to the highest standard in health care.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Warmest regards ,

    Rhonda

  17. Cynthia Bailey November 28, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    The issue is not the zinc and titanium it’s the homemade aspect. Sunscreens are very complex to formulate and MUST be rigorously tested to determine if the “recipe” actually performs. It’s why there is absolutely no tweaking “wiggle room” in a successful formula without tons of work and then the testing. It’s a very expensive process. It’s why product stability (aka preservatives) are also important in sunscreens. And, while I’m on the subject, it’s why hat, clothing and seeking the shade are key elements of a smart sun protection strategy too. Sun + Skin = wrinkles, age spots, skin thinning and fragility and of course skin cancer so your sun protecting strategy needs to be the best and homemade sunscreen is NOT an option in my opinion; moisturizers and exfoliators yes but sunscreen no

  18. Cynthia Bailey November 28, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    Hello Joyce, Thank you for the kind words of appreciation – they mean a lot to me. Please contact Michael at the office to give him more info on specifically what you are proposing with LinkedIn. FYI, I just spent some time updating my profile in LinkedIn, have a look http://www.linkedin.com/in/drbaileyskincare/

  19. Rev. Carol Taylor November 28, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Hi Dr. Bailey,
    I didn’t realize you had joined the battle. Many prayers and blessings. As a melanoma, stage 3b patient, I fully understand what you’re saying. A cancer diagnosis, while jarring, also brings blessings we never, ever imagined possible before that diagnosis. Prayers for a full recovery!

  20. Mary December 6, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    As someone who started this journey a few months before you, I just want to let you know my thoughts are with you. I know what chemo does, and you can’t describe it to someone who hasn’t been there. And even though I’ve only been off it for four months, when I look back I don’t remember how bad it was…I remember how good everyone was to me during that time.

  21. Cynthia Bailey December 6, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    Thank you Mary. Wednesday was my last infusion! Now I get to look back too……after today which is that really sick day thanks to the NuLasta shot.

  22. Trula LaCalle December 9, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    Cindy,

    Just want you to know that although I’ve not been posting here, you’ve constantly been in my thoughts. You are such a classy lady! Of course you would have taken this journey in style and grace.

    In my mind, you are still the ambitious young physician whom I met 25+ years ago, so it’s a bit hard for me to visualize you slowing down and smelling the roses. Your blog helps me keep up with the new you in a very positive way.

    I congratulate you for being the constant educator and being willing to share all that you learn, not only about medicine, but about life.

    Best to you,

    Trula

  23. Cynthia Bailey December 10, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Hello Trula,
    What a delight to see your post here. Thank you for your kind and supporting words. Life sure is an adventure with twists and turns that I never expected to traverse, this one being the toughest and most challenging so far; another opportunity I would never have chosen for transformation and growth. Cheers!

  24. Ina B. Stess December 12, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    I’m glad the chemo is behind you. And soon the surgeries will be too. It is amazing how fast it all goes by. My surgeries(l0) and radiation and chemo seem like a long ago dream. Before you know it you will be back at work and life will go on as usual. Lots of love from a old patient and many cancer surviver. Ina Stess

  25. Patty Kennedy December 12, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    Dear Dr. Bailey,
    I am just a customer… a recent one at that. My little sister (we’re both over 50~!) introduced me to your products this summer. I have become a complete believer in your methods, your products, and your integrity. Thank you for offering real help with the facial redness relief kit! My confidence and outlook is so much better than it was. The zinc soap, the power-of-3-cream, and some baked powder have been like miracles to me. I was so very sorry to hear about your recent health issues and hope that your treatment will be completely successful. I wish we could all offer you some kind of breast cancer relief kit. You know we’d send it to you if we could. I will certainly be checking on you via your blog and your website. I send you my very best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery. I hope that you find much to bless you, refresh you, and make you happy this holiday season. Patty… from Puget Sound

  26. Linda December 12, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Dear Dr. Bailey,

    I’m touched to see that even in your struggles, your generosity continues. I was especially moved by your pictures that you posted of how your brows and eyelashes were faring. Something about that seemed so personal yet so kind hearted of you to share with others who might be faced with the same challenges. I never post anything really on the internet, I’m a bit shy that way..but I feel I’ve gotten to know you from afar. I always look forward to the good news of your progress, and I’m certain we will continue to hear more good news. I think of you when I look at my skin and think, wow, it looks pretty good! It’s due to your efforts, taking the time to blog and your caring interest in sharing your insights and vast wealth of information about what works. My thoughts and prayers will continue to be with you. Sincerely, your friend…..from afar.

  27. Kay Ashbrook December 13, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Hi there,
    As you may remember, I had a similar experience many, many years ago. My mother and 2 aunts had breast cancer, and I took action to have a double mastectomy. In those days knowledge of inherited breast cancer was just beginning, but my doctors and the insurance company agreed to my request. It saved my life.

    The hardest part is over. Now you are on to your “new life”! Yes, good for you! Congratulations for your bravery and foresight!!!

    Now it’s on to curly hair when it grows back in (what fun for awhile!), obviously a new perspective on life (noticing beauty in every day), and back to the full life of family and work. What a treat!

    My best always, K

  28. Cynthia Bailey December 13, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Kay, you are a dear to reach out. Yes, I’m done with chemo as of Wednesday last week! Can’t wait to see that curly hair. Still have the double ahead in early January. Fingers crossed because, as you know, the surgery is not fun but the pathology reports are nail biters. Cheers and Holiday Blessings to you

  29. Cynthia Bailey December 13, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Linda,
    As I read your comment I was so touched that tears welled in my eyes. You really hit the nail on the head, thank you. The photo is very personal (the bigger one even shows that it had been a long day for me and my makeup isn’t even perfect). I had to really think over how I felt about that whole thing as I was creating this post. I decided I was ok with it. Being so obviously ill (as indicated by the hairloss and undereye circles of chemotherapy) makes me feel very vulnerable. It’s also a big step out from my years of work to improve the appearance of my skin, hair and nails. It’s a really new and deep experience for me and one that comes with discomfort that I’ve had to contend with. I know there are other people who bare the outward signs of illness that also feel this way. Heck, 30 years ago I treated many people who hid the fact that they had cancer or other illnesses because it was stigmatizing. We’re progressing in a positive direction and I love seeing us all move towards more compassion and kindness in life. I want to help other people who are obviously ill like me to feel ok too. I have my ups and downs but I don’t need to hide. In fact I’ve found that illness, like so many other chapters of life, has unexpected blessing. It means that in addition to feeling the discomfort I also get to experience gratitude.

  30. Cynthia Bailey December 13, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    Patty, your lovely support is my breast cancer relief kit, it’s the balm that soothes my soul. Thank you

  31. Susan December 13, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    Dr. Bailey,
    Patty and Linda did such a great job of describing how I feel about you, though I haven’t met you personally. I too am a new customer, having recently discovered the great wealth of information that you so generously offer on your website and blog. Your thoughtfulness and caring comes through in all of your writing and your attention to detail is so appreciated. BTW, I am loving my new Redness Relief kit, Toleraine and MDS sunscreen, following your routine recommendations (and Angela’s superb assistance).
    I just want to add that you look absolutely gorgeous in the pictures of your eyes that you recently posted. If I didn’t already know it, I wouldn’t have guessed that you were going through chemo. You look utterly fantastic in those photos and are an absolutely beautiful woman (and we knew that you were beautiful on the inside already).
    With admiration,
    Susan

  32. Virginia Fagan December 13, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Hi Dr Cynthia
    All I can add at this point
    Is that :
    You Rock!!!

    Knowing your flare for shoes etc
    Bet you have a knockout pair for daily jaunts

    Best wishes and thank you for sharing and being so vulnerable with us all
    That’s truly what love is all about

    Virginia Fagan
    Addicted to Citrix sun screen :)

  33. Barbara Bloom December 13, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Dr. Bailey,
    My healing energy and wishes for your good health go out to you. I know having worked with you on some treatments that you have wonderful energy, that if used for your own healing now, will serve you well. There is life after breast cancer! I am eight years out from my treatment and have a new found gratitude for life each day and moment to moment.

  34. Amanda December 13, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    Dear Dr. Bailey,

    I am so sorry to hear that you are having to undergo cancer treatments. I have relied on your products for over a year now to take care of my skin, and they have. I wish I could do something as nice and helpful for you! I am thinking of you often now and sending you all my best wishes for a quick and healthy recovery.

    Thank you.
    Amanda

  35. Valerie Smith December 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Dear Dr.Bailey,

    We have missed you very much the last times we’ve been to your office. It was really a shock to hear about your cancer. You are so full of life that you seemed untouchable by disease, a reminder to us all of our vulnerability. We are happy that your full recovery is expected and look forward to seeing you again full of vigor and in some zany shoes! We have heard that you are keeping up your fabulous fashion sense and look great. We love you.
    Valerie Smith and Tom Melcher

  36. Laura Quinn January 6, 2014 at 5:54 am #

    Today I finally had the courage to go online to look for other people’s experiences with breast cancer, and came across your blog about blessings and thanksgiving. My time-frame of diagnosis and surgery is similar to yours, although I do not need chemo at this point. I have been happily stunned by the support of friends, family, my doctor and her staff, and strangers, and feel like I’ve had a similar experience to yours as I read about your journey. There are so many wonderful things that can come out of such a scary, life-altering event, and I have a new-found appreciation for life. I’ve also learned that so much of what stressed me out was not worthy of wasting time and energy on. My mastectomy is also this week on January 10, and I will think of you and wish you all the best as you have your surgery tomorrow. Thank you for posting your thoughts and experiences as they are so encouraging and inspiring.

  37. Cynthia Bailey January 6, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    Hello Laura,
    I send an advance prayer and positive energy and light to you for your surgery on the 10th. May we both thrive in the good care we receive and the wisdom that this journey is allowing us to cultivate. Blessings, Cynthia Bailey MD