Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Faith Isn't Faith Until There's Nothing Left to Hold On To"

I want you to meet one of the MOST inspirational women I have met here at Sweet Bird, therefore, I wanted Carolyn to be my very first interview.  The best part of my job is meeting the amazing people that already know ART DOES HEAL.  In the fall of 2010 I received an email from a woman named Carolyn in Oklahoma.  She wrote, "I was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer and I was given a diagnosis of a year to live".  She went on to say she wanted a ring made especially for her to say "Never Give Up".  The reason I found this wish so incredible was that she was commemorating a year and a DAY later from that horrible diagnosis of how long she had to live!  Her story goes way beyond cancer, but everything else caving in on her life, and ultimately the faith of never giving up.  Over the phone Carolyn told me how determined she was to not let her story end this way.  "I had to push back against that thought every day. There is a fine line between denial and believing but it is there. I finally got to the point I would actually forget I had cancer!" 

Right now, her favorite song by Toby Keith rings in her ears, "How do you like me now?", as her steadfast boxer, Mosby sits by her side.   Her story of triumph over quite possibly everything crumbling before her at once is nothing short of a miracle.

Here is her story......

"My  journey began in 2004 when I was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer. Cervical cancer, the cancer people would whisper about, or when I was asked what kind of cancer I had people would say "oh” and then not look me in the eye. This reaction made me say it even louder when I was asked!  I had the most deadly chemo available once a week with internal and external radiation all while wearing a wound vacuum. After nearly a year I was told the cancer was gone. I resumed what would never again be a normal life. I experienced tremendous survivor’s guilt, physically I would never be the same and I was different. I appreciated everything. It was during this time that I learned the huge difference between giving up and letting go. Letting go when you need to does not mean you are giving up and this was a priceless lesson for me.

In 2008 the cancer came back as a cancerous lymph node attached to my aorta. Doctors could not operate on it because of the location and the only chemo available were experimental. So I did two experimental chemo’s at one time. I was told that I had 8 months to 2 years to live with the chemo. On my first day of chemo my partner left me and moved everything out. I came home to no TV’s, towels and very little furniture. Her leaving at that time in my life was more painful for me than hearing I had terminal cancer. I had never felt my soul until that time…and the pain of my broken soul was crushing, I almost could not breathe from the pain. I remember my partner calling months later and  saying “you didn’t want me to stay with you just because you have cancer did you?”…wow…how do you respond to that!  During this time I also lost my job, I was making six figures a year and began to have financial difficulty on top of cancer and a partner walking out.  The poverty mentality was something I had never known up to that point and I had no words for the isolation I was feeling.

One of the rare times that I allowed myself to cry I was begging God to please send me an angel.  A short time after that my doorbell rang…my angel I thought!  It was a process server with a notification of foreclosure on my home!  God has a sense of humor, I thought because this woman was wonderful. She could tell  I had been crying put her arms around me and said the most wonderful prayer. She told me how she had been through cancer too and  had a 9 year old son and lost her house and that I would make it through. She put my name on a yellow sticky and put it on her dashboard and would pray for me. 

When you have cancer and going through chemo your home is your safe place, your nest and now I was going to lose my home. I also lost my car at this time. Not just any car…I loved this car. It was a convertible; I would put the top down and drive for hours…IT WAS MY THERAPY!  Now it was gone. My childhood friend took out money from her daughter’s college fund to buy me a used car so that I would not be without. 

Needless to say I got a little depressed. That is the thing with cancer, you never get to just deal with the cancer, you deal with all of the disaster it creates in your life. I decided perhaps I should see a therapist. I think I brushed my hair put on some clean clothes and dragged myself to the therapist. I knew I had found the right one because her first question really pissed me off. She asked “what do you think your cancer is trying to teach you?”  A great great question and the answer to that has changed with each continuing year. It was during this time that I called Nancy at Sweet Bird about a wonderful healing ring I had in mind and the symbols that were important to me, but most importantly, I needed the words "Never Give Up" on my hand.

I did the two experimental chemo’s for two years while living and going through this by myself, with the exception of my constant companion, my boxer Mosby.  I was so very very sick. I could hardly move, it was difficult to just do the basic things for myself, like the grocery store, letting the dog out, keeping the house clean etc… I decided to stop chemo because I was not living. The chemo was killing me. My doctor wanted to put me into hospice, which I refused. My doctor told to me to go home, take care of business and to make the most out of the little time I had left. This truly made me angry and I was determined to live if anything to spite her!

To add to it all, I cannot begin to tell you how very lonely I felt. All but one friend had left my life…when the money went, so did they. That was a painful reality. I have experienced what most people only think about…”who will be there if things get bad”. There are no more boogey men in my life, I have faced the worst. I fear nothing.

It was at this time that I moved from the city and city life to a small town where my sister lived. I refer to it as camp hokey pokey where you turn your life around! I am now living on disability which is embarrassing to me not to mention almost impossible to survive on.  

Last Thanksgiving a kid while texting and driving t-boned me, totaling my car flipping it upside down a taking off part of my scalp on the concrete (my hair has since grown back) but now no car!  I just kept thinking seriously God, thank you for saving me again but really?!!!

Now for the good: I love the woman I am today.

 “You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”.  My faith is unshakeable, my hope unending, I have found my lessons and answers in the darkness now knowing that the light will always shine on me. People now tell me there is a healing presence about me. When I was diagnosed with terminal cancer it was the first time in my life that I felt no hope. That is the worst feeling ever. I had been through many tough things in my life, but I did not know how to deal with this. 

For several years I believe I denied my reality, the moment I accepted was the moment my healing began. I have found that the answer is always there and I have had to learn to be still and listen and feel and receive and grow. I have learned to PRESS  forward not knowing to what, but keeping forward momentum. There is an indescribable peace when you begin to have understanding that all is as it needs to be, things do work out for the best even if it is not the way we thought it would. I have learned to be true to myself, to love myself. I found me and there is no greater gift than that. Faith and attitude have gotten me through. There will always peaks and valleys and change, but today I face them with a calm peace, a knowing.

There were many days I did not think I could go on and questioned why I even tried. On those days I would put on my ring and wear it around the house repeating…never give up, never give up and when I couldn’t say it the ring did. Again the the lesson of letting go is not the same as giving up.  Many women have held my ring, rubbed it, cupped it…my ring has helped many besides me.

Last month I went in for my CT scan. The doctor looked it over several times, called in another doctor because the scan showed no trace of cancer. My doctor calls me her miracle case.

Yes, even before this, I can tell you I believe in miracles…" 


With Fierce Grace I applaud you Carolyn,

The Anglo Maiden

Post note:  Carolyn and I are collaborating together to make a pendant, "Never Give Up" to be available soon through Sweet Bird Studio.  Proceeds will go to giving pendants as gifts to cancer patients and others in need of our "wearable shrines of intention" nationwide.  Stay tuned...
If you are interested in contacting Carolyn, email me here at the Anglo Maiden

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled across the turquoise 'never give up' ring today somehow...from there I came to this blog and story.. It's amazing how Spirit guides us... both of You seem like remarkable Women. I was truly touched by Carolyn's strength and courage. I'd really like to know more about both of You. Are you still blogging? Is your beautiful work available? Please tell me more. Sincerely, from a like minded soul, Kena.