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Start with One

Start with One.

One deep breath.

One walk.

One brussel sprout.

One honest, yet much-needed talk.

One clean glass of water.

One bottle unbought.

One more minute to get there.

One more peaceful thought.

One smoothie.

One smile.

One true need.

One pile.

One donation.

One cause.

One beat before leaving.

One pause.

One trip to the park.

One page.

One overdue goodbye.

One wave.

One bag of recycling.

One hug.

One act done in kindness.

One reusable coffee mug.

One sunrise alone.

One sunset with friends.

One meal without phones.

One firm boundary set.

One more of this.

One less of that.

One time let it go.

One time don’t react.

One trigger unfollowed.

One debt repaid.

One try again tomorrow for

One start begun today.

JAD 12.30.19

Modeling Care

“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” -Dorothy Canfield Fisher

This photo by the lake feels real to me: my eyes are closed and I’m clutching my phone, yet my boys are happy by my side and my heart knows that I am standing right where I should be.

Taking the time to rest models healthy behaviors and nurtures the peace in our hearts. Finding that peace alongside those we love can be one of life’s greatest blessings. I try my best to nourish and protect my own energy because I cherish the responsibility I’ve been given to care for those I love.

Directions Wellness began as a desire to provide a space of safe, practical, natural, energy-based support to “care for the caregiver.”

Why?

Within hours of entering the world of pediatric brain cancer, I wished that there was a handbook -a set of “directions” to help me push past the terror and desperation clouding my judgement and choose what was best for our family.

As time went on, I saw the need for an integrative approach to healthcare, and felt at home bridging the gap between the conventional treatment our child desperately needed to save his life with the support that can come from a variety of natural healing modalities.

For many, healthy options can be difficult to find and implement. Finding ways to feel well despite mounting obstacles became my mission. Over the last five years, that mission evolved into vocation, and the emerging platform became Directions Wellness.

Oftentimes, those who by choice or by circumstance are responsible for the wellbeing of others can lose sight of their own self care. I share my knowledge and experience as a behavioral health educator and functional practitioner as a means to help others discover, personalize, and examine their health options -no matter how seemingly vast or limited the time and resources.

This week, I took my own self-care advice and recharged with family by Lake Michigan. As a result, my body is rested and gratitude fills my heart as I humbly offer my best self to those around me.

Peace, love, practice, and hope…

Infusion Game Strong

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough.” -Mother Theresa

With patience and a solid sense of humor, Abraham can bring happiness and ease to some serious situations. Today, our young warrior was exceptionally prepared, present, and positive. Even at the onset of a long, daunting medical task, those smiling, honest eyes let everyone in the room know he was going to be just fine.

Back home, Big Brother Tom shined up the kitchen, washed the windows, and set out these little lovelies (snips of Saturday’s bouquet) to make us feel cheerful, welcome, and calm.

Since May, Abraham knew the stim tests were happening after the 4th of July. Even though he’s been infused plenty, it’s never easy; plus, hormones are new territory.

We were blessed with a smooth day: highly-skilled double IV access to start, a LOT of necessary but swift blood draws, 7/8 of a game of checkers, laughter during two movies (Zootopia and Minions), one ice pack, plentiful ice chips, a puke bucket rapidly taken out that was not utilized, quick traffic (big shoutout to chauffeur Aunt Margaret), and warm sunshine .

Thank you for carrying us in your thoughts today -it lifted us.

Peace and love…

Life Matters

Letting go is not the same as forgetting. Loss happens. Illness and injury happens. But, LIFE happens to matter most of all. What we do with our pain is up to us. Do we ignore it? Do we surrender to it? Do we let it define us? Or, do we feel it, tend it, and grow through it? We are not what happens to us. We are who we become -driven by our choices, our actions, and our reactions to life’s blessings and trials. Notice those blessings; learn through the trials; and nourish the gift of life that remains.

Peace.

Smile Searching

Always in search of a positive path while still living a life in the now.

Smile: it’s Monday!

-Jac

Positive Attitude In Negative Situations (P.A.I.N.S.)

You know Abe’s had more than a couple surgeries when the anesthesiologist asks, “Which flavor mask would you like?” And he looks her pointedly in the eye like DeNiro ordering a cocktail,

“Mixed. One tiny drop strawberry first. THEN, the rest bubblegum.”

Also, Abram said to Dr. Chin as the team wheeled him in to Surgery yesterday, “Doctor, I’m so tired after last night, you’re not even going to NEED those anesthetics.”

Ever the definitive comedian:)

(Chemo Groucho. Chicago, 2015)

Peace, love, and happiness…

A Quality Life

When asked how Abram is doing, my standard reply is, “He’s doing well!” My hearty response is not meant to be dismissive or overzealous, but more of a genuine attempt to encompass the two vital realities: he is alive and he is happy:)

With today’s results we were blessed to hear that Abraham’s brain scans are stable. The new aspect that has now worked its way in is that side effects of radiation are starting to show in regards to his endocrine system. That means the potential for new tests, new surgeries, new therapies, and new unknowns are once again on our plate. This isn’t a life and death situation. There are ways to manage these new disruptions. Nonetheless, it’s not a reality one would willingly choose to travel with a child.

This past week was rife with scheduling errors, delays, and unpleasant strangers. Yet, my standard answer still applies. “We are good.” It was a positive week because the ending is a happy one with the four of us safe, strong, and together.

Normal joys still rung true. Tommy was confirmed last week in Saint Anne, and he graduated from Kankakee Junior High earlier today. Abraham is finishing a fantastic fourth-grade year in the gifted program at King. So yes, we are blessed and we are grateful!

But how do I really feel when the pure joy of stable scans is marred by an annoying, life-altering side effect of cancer treatment? Do I really just shift gears from hospital to home without a hitch? Of course not.

I think the best perspective comes when I step back and place what I feel personally alongside what I’ve gathered from others.

Dealing with ongoing critical illness in a child is difficult to explain. I lost my mother, grandmother, and several aunts and uncles to cancer. None of those tragedies prepared me for the helplessness I feel battling The Big Sick with my baby boy.

Some pediatric concerns are obvious. Children are smaller which increases the difficulty in everything from basic lab draws to extensive surgeries. Tiny humans haven’t the words and wherewithal to choose between the endless medical options presented day after day in clinics and hospitals. Kids often miss many months of school which can create academic and social struggles. Abraham was hospitalized nearly all of second grade. This year there were fewer but still significant absences.

Pediatric cancer patients specifically are sorely underrepresented in clinical trials that could ultimately offer our sons and daughters safer treatments, clearer results, simpler childhoods, and longer lives. That disheartening piece alone can give me fits on even the easiest of days.

And of course, there’s the pressing role of medical guardian to acknowledge. Life and death decisions can arise suddenly and leave a mournful trail of lifelong doubt for any parent forced to select from a handful of gruesome options. It’s difficult enough to imagine if and how we would fight for our own lives when threatening situations arise. In my experience, it is impossible to predict what we will do to save a child. I’ve made choices for Babe I would not have chosen for myself. It’s a wicked double standard, but I am not ashamed to admit that I have always sought more for my children than I’ve allowed for myself.

Seeing the list of potential side effects unravel into actual side effects over the years remains a shock. The doctors warned us verbally and in writing about what could happen, but medical disclaimers can never wholly disclose the challenges that come with survivorship. That is one list of commonalities that apply to cancer patients regardless of age: there will likely be pain, fear, fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, toxicity, estrangement, anxiety, depression, and quite often- grief.

When I start to spiral, my husband reminds me that we achieved our goal. We saved our son’s life. His simple but blunt words always shift my attitude to where it needs to be. Each day we have is a treasure and my moaning in despair or regret would be a terrible waste of precious time.

Abram is now two years post-treatment, and even though doctors, nurses and well-meaning strangers would tell my bald child “not to worry it will all grow back after treatment” his has not. Radiation makes him overheat quickly on warm, sunny days at recess. His blood counts are still recovering. His physical and occupational therapy continues as he slowly rehabilitates his hips, legs, and hands. Surgery scars mark him as different. He tires easier than other ten-year-olds. Yet, those same trials have simultaneously built a boy who cares deeply, forgives quickly and expresses empathy in a manner well beyond his years. That is why, no matter the struggle, no matter the result, we are grateful for life and respectful of love.

Looking back at the start of cancer treatment options four years ago, one recurring theme was “quality of life”.

We knew Abraham had a rare and serious condition, but that did not make the decisions in regards to his treatment plan any easier. Before his first brain surgery my thoughts were not strictly of whether or not he would survive. My bigger fear was that he would return to us alive but without his funny, kind, and compassionate outlook. Thankfully, my prayers were answered then and continue to grace us now.

None of us know how our lives will go. Our realities and priorities can change quickly. Sadly, many of us are trapped by things we cannot control. What I have found is that despite the pain and loss that weaves its way into our personal narrative, we can always choose our mood and tone.

A quality life is not our goal, it is our foundation. With open minds, fluid expectations, and grateful hearts, we can learn day by day to manifest grace and light despite the darkest shadows.

Peace and love to you and yours…