My new friend Sylvia’s Story

HEALTH, ADVERSITIES and FAITH

Good morning Everyone,

My name is Sylvia … and I am a cancer survivor. On August 25th

normal person going to spin class, helping my son plan for college, getting my

younger son ready for his junior year in high school and enjoying my new job.

You can say my life was pretty good and I felt happy and content. Until, August

26th, 2012 my life changed in so many ways. My GYN’s office called me at the

office and asked me to come in to get my lab results read. Earlier that week I

had a DNC performed due to an abnormal PAP. I walked into my doctor’s office

and I sat down calmly. I had the usual anxiety when one waits for the doctor but

this felt different and I had a feeling that it was not going to be a good visit. My

doctor asked if anyone was with me and I said no my husband and children are

in the West Coast on vacation. She then proceeded to ask me if I had anyone I

could call to meet me at her office. I said no I don’t. I am now starting to feel

anxious and a bit nauseated. She pulled out my file and said Sylvia {count to 3

in your head for the big pause for impact} you have gastric type cervical cancer.

I suddenly felt my ears ringing and I asked her to repeat what she had just said.

She said you have CANCER! PAUSE……

The doctor then handed me a tissue and said; if I were telling you “YOU have

Ovarian cancer” I would be telling you, YOU have six months to live. I felt the

tears running down my face. I was numb and couldn’t believe this was happening

to me. She gave me a referral to an oncologist and I walked out of the office to

my car and felt the tears just flowing. I kept repeating G-d please help me!!!! {I

do not remember the drive home, time stood still for me….I was waiting to wake

The next few days were days of complete isolation from the real world for me. I

was not sure how I would tell my husband and my two son’s on their return.

I spent the weekend searching WebMd and other websites to find out more

information on my diagnosis. The big question was how would I handle this????

Would I handle it with dignity and grace????

I have to be brave and strong not only for myself but for my children and

husband. I have no other option. Breaking the news to my family was the most

difficult news I had to deliver in my life. The pain on my husband’s face and the

fear on my children’s face are forever imprinted and will stay with me. Chaos

has hit our wonderful home. Our lives would change forever, the unknown was

terrifying, there is no playbook or roadmap to follow.

So you must be asking yourselves about now how does one prepare for the

They say Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and

dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.

I had to dig deep and talk myself into keeping it together. I often reflect now and

see that I was able to strengthen myself when needed. I didn’t even know that

I was capable of being so strong. I couldn’t walk around crying all day. I needed

to focus and remain alert and start working on a plan. I had to prepare myself

emotionally and spiritually. There was only one answer and that was my FAITH in

G-D!!! I felt that G-D would protect me and would always be by my side and that

my prayers would be heard. When I awake I start by saying my morning prayers

and thank G-D for allowing me to see another day. I have conversations with G-
D daily and I have always felt his presence near me. I immediately felt that it was

my duty to inform my colleagues since I would be out of work for treatments. I

felt it a responsibility to inform and educate especially the women although it

was a sensitive subject it had to be talked about. I also felt that by me sharing

with my colleagues they would pray for me and if they told their families they too

would pray for me. I instantly thought of keeping a journal for myself to keep and

enter all of my doctor’s appointments; it was really to keep track of all that I had

thrown at me from so many directions. So I decided to start a blog and enter all

of my daily encounters. I started to write about visits to Sloan; from the pleasant

nurse, to the radiologist asking me what are you listening to today? I made it a

point to smile every day and put my make up on and face this illness head on.

Although I was sick I didn’t want to appear from the outside sick. I also saw small

children wheeled alongside me which was extremely difficult to see and seemed

Once at home I would meditate, listen to music and take time to give gratitude

daily. I also read on nutrition and health. I decided to post daily the 3 things that

I was most grateful for when completing an entry in my blog. In one of my last

The 3 things I am most grateful for:

2. My family and friends

I give thanks daily for all I have and all of my surroundings. Today at this moment

I am grateful to be able to share my story with so many spiritual women. I feel

fortunate to be here in front of you and sharing with you my strengths in my

I suffered with incredible pain during this unbelievable journey. I have gone

on a journey that no one should ever know about, endure or go on. I had 32

radiations, 19 chemo’s, a major radical hysterectomy and countless hospital visits

due to fevers for a total of 16 days in the hospital. My veins couldn’t take the

needle pricks any longer so a mediport was installed in my chest. I must share

this with you so that you can understand that having this illness was a year of pain

and debilitating shock to my body. I was basically held hostage by this poison in

my cells and my fight was to rid my body of these uninvited shackles. This has

been a life changing event not only for me but for all of my inner circle of family,

friends and colleagues. I had just started working at the exchange and that

November would have been my one year anniversary. On my first day of radiation

my boss Scott and his beautiful wife Melissa travelled to Bhutan. I received an

email from Scott asking for some specific details. I need your birthdate the month,

day and year. I had no idea what it was needed for? A few days passed and then

I received a fedex box. Inside I found the most incredible letter explaining to me

that they spent 5 days gathering items and were going to have a prayer service in

my honor. Scott and Melissa were on vacation and with the help of some Monks

they select some items as instructed and held a prayer ceremony on top of an

incredible mountain (“Jomolhari “), According to my birth year they selected a

blue flag. The flag was taken to the side of the mountain and a prayer ceremony

was recited. When I saw pictures of the flag flying in the air and the mountain in

the background that felt immediately as if it was me on top of the mountain and

the tears started to flow! I can’t explain the emotions I got. I was moved by the

caring that this beautiful family showed me. I was so deeply touched. I felt the

prayer and great energy.

My dear friend David whom I have known for 18 years and worked with for over

10 years decided to create a google calendar to invite friends to visit me during

my chemo treatments. He was the gate keeper of my calendar. He said it is my

turn to help you with your calendar since you took care of mine for so many

years. I was in shock!! David took notes and accompanied me and my husband

to every doctor’s appointment. I would zone out and really couldn’t concentrate

on what the doctors were saying so David was present and taking notes. In the

coming days when the treatments started friends gathered around me and the

friends visiting made those 6 hour sessions go by so quickly. My sister Ronnie

came to spend time with me from Texas. Only to experience one of the worst

storms of the year. Hurricane Sandy. Ronnie was determined to drive me to

Sloan on the day of the storm so I wouldn’t miss my treatment. One afternoon I

had 9 women around me in the waiting area and we all sat together in a circle

and I felt the positive energy of all the well wishes and prayers that were being

said for me. Women coming together and showing their support was so

impactful. That was a spiritual uplifting moment; the love and grace that was

present in front of me could be felt by all. There was a sense of calm and peace in

the air! I often had my friends tell me I am praying for you and I made an

announcement at my church, synagogue. The prayers were coming from all

“FAITHS”. I also had a group of women from my synagogue pray for good news

after my Petscan. They were praying that my report would be clean. They not

only had ladies participate in person but they also opened up a telephone line for

participants to dial in to. These same group of women gathered and decided to

have a Tehillim reading in my honor at my home. Tehillim is a collection of

Psalms and prayers for the healing of the sick. They felt that the need to be in my

home would be a direct conduit if you will with G-D and it would bring a blessing

not only to me but to my home. People from everywhere continue to tell me that

they are praying for me and that their families are praying for me. Lydia a

colleague told me my 93 year old mother is praying for you. G-D knows what he

has instore for us and G-D would not give us any burden that he knows would be

too much for us to handle. My strong feeling is that after hearing my story

friends are inspired to do a good deed and search for G-D. That is an incredible

gift. My dear friend Jean-Marc and his family sent a week of meals to our home

with constant messages of prayer. My friend Gregg ran the Boston Marathon in

my honor. Friends uniting and the community getting together was so visible. I

was fortunate to have so many friends wanting to help. Whether running for a

cause or preparing a meal I found that it was their way of feeling part of my

healing. The power of uniting and conquering together is awe inspiring.

The Torah and the Bible tells us that we are created in G-D’s image. What does

that exactly mean???? All our lives we’ve heard that we’re “made in the image

of God.” In Chapter 1 vs 27 of Genesis it states “God created mankind in his own

image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”.

So, what does it mean to be created in God’s image? At the very least this

means humans occupy a higher place in the created order because we alone

are imprinted with godlike characteristics. Your godlikeness is the path to your

greatest fulfillment. You will feel the greatest pleasure and wholeness when who

God made you to be is fully developed and expressed. We are all of “G-D”!!!

First, the truth about you is that you are creative because G-d is creative: “In the

beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). We know that

G-d is creative. Every human makes things. Artists make things with paint. Poets,

writers, philosophers and lawyers make things with ideas and the compelling

use of words. Doctors heal people and make them healthier; consultants make

organizations better. Manufacturers make things with raw materials; chefs make

things with fruits, vegetables, meats and spices. Every human has the capacity to

make things, to create, because we are all made in the image of a creative G-d.

The second truth about you is that you are spiritual we are all spiritual because G-
d is Spirit: In Genesis 1:2 it states “The Spirit of G-d was hovering over the waters”

(Every human possesses spiritual aptitudes and capacities. We are spiritual in

nature. Nurturing our spirit is as important as eating, drinking and exercising are

We each possess a mind and a way of thinking and learning, in the Torah and

Bible there is a commandment to love God with our minds (as well as our hearts

and all our strength). In Deuteronomy 6:4 The Shema our core Hebrew prayer

is found. Special emphasis is given to the first six Hebrew words of the prayer

(Shema Yisrael, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad) and a six-word response is said

in an undertone (barukh shem kevod malkhuto le’olan va’ed). “Hear O Israel, the

Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One”. Blessed be the name of his glorious kingdom

forever and ever.– when we wake up in the morning and pray – it is a declaration

of FAITH. It is our immediate instinct to wake up and give thanks and praise for

waking up and being able to pray and show gratitude in all we do. We are all

connected to G-d and have a special way of communication with him.

When we fully grasp what it means to bear God’s image, we are struck with

the countless possibilities and the unrealized potential. To be fully human is

to fully reflect God’s creative, spiritual, intelligent, communicative, moral and

purposeful capacities, and to do so synergistically. Furthermore, though all

humans possess these godlike capacities, each of us has the potential to express

them distinctively, because God’s image has been imprinted uniquely on each of

us. In God’s infinite creativity there are no duplicates; you are the only you there

has ever been or ever will be.

The most famous verse in the most famous Psalm says “Yea, through I walk

through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.”

We all encounter valleys – at home, at work, with our friends with strangers on

the road. Since valleys are universal, what we do in them makes all the difference.

The 23rd Psalm instructs us to walk through the valley. This walking requires

Walking through life’s valleys can be lonely, which is why we need each other and

With faith and prayer so much is possible and allowed me to walk through the

valley and be with you today.

G-D bless you all and thank you for praying for me.

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Faith Through Adversity

I was given a gift to speak in an Interfaith workshop this past Thursday. I shared the workshop with a woman named Sylvia, which I only just recently met. She is such an inspiration to me. She told her cancer story. She has such courage, composure, and faith. I want to ask her permission to post her speech so you can be enriched by it. I included mine below:

 

Thank you for choosing this workshop. I am guessing that anyone who chooses a workshop on adversity is possibly seeking personal strength for themselves or someone they care for. I hope that our thoughts will be worthwhile for you to hear.

I. Story: Several years ago I was subbing a 1st grade class when a tiny little girl wanted to get my attention to tell me a story as I was explaining the art lesson. I told her I would listen after I was finished. When I finally went to her spot, in a very loud voice she began to tell me this story. “I drew a picture of God. My dad said, ‘you can’t draw a picture of God, no one knows what God looks like!’ But I said, they do now because I’m finished. She waited for a response from me so I said, “How did he look?” She answered. “He looked good!

I have a very simple faith. I believe my God  looks good, too! And is good.

 

II. What is faith? The Webster’s dictionary has two definitions:

 

  1. A trust or confidence in a person or thing.
  2. A Belief without Proof.

I hope to add to Webster’s by my own experience with faith

 

III. Adversity Stinks! Humans naturally want a life of ease, happiness, and peace. When we don’t get that, it is inconvenient and frustrating.

Norman Vincent Peale states: There is only one group of people that don’t have problems and they are all dead. Problems are a sign of life. So the more problems you have the more alive you are!

Under you chair is a brick. Lift it up on your lap. It is heavy and weighs you down. I would like this brick to represent adversity. Everyone has one, some of us have many. Bricks come in all shapes and sizes. We feel we don’t deserve bricks!

  1. Sometimes we get bricks because of poor choices and they are the consequences of these decisions. (Like eating that spicy taco late at night and having to eat tums because of indigestion. But those types of adversities are not what we are speaking of, so I will change this to, Like my friend, Kathy who died way too young of gross  obesity, due to her eating choices.)

2. Sometimes bricks seem to fall from the sky by surprise and hit us directly in the head! (Like Sylvia and I when we received our cancer diagnosis–complete Shock!)

3. We often wish we could give our brick to someone else, but everyone else has their own. (Like my son when he sprained his ankle going with a girl to the prom he didn’t know just to be kind, which kept him out of a sport he waited all year to play.)

4. Often we deny we have a brick and try to hide it. We plead for it to go away, but it is ours to carry! (As my brothers and sister do since they choose to ignore, possibly the most important information they could know which is that we carry a cancer mutation in our DNA. And they refuse to even acknowledge it or tell their married children.)

5. Sometimes we tantrum and stomp on our bricks and Yell WHY! Why did I get a brick in the first place; I don’t deserve a brick at all. (As my sister did when she was hit by a text-er and will forever be crippled in her left arm and the driver that hit her did not have any injuries and did not have to pay a cent because he was uninsured.) But life, unfortunately is full of unfair bricks like this.

6. And then sometimes we get a brick that is sooo difficult; we wonder how did I get THIS particular brick. This one I cannot carry. This one is too hard! And our pleas and cries seem to stick to the ceiling and go no further.

7. I don’t know why we have to carry bricks in life.

I don’t know why you carry the ones you carry and I carry mine.

I do know that those are natural human emotions

and that adversity always takes TIME to get through them.

 

IV. But adversities bring us to a choice. How will I live through this brick?

  1. One choice is to stay bitter and build a lonely wall to sit in.

Here is a quote:

“Bitterness is a poison that snuffs the light out of our souls, hardening us to life’s pleasures and joys by keeping us focused only on what is wrong.”

 

  1. Another choice is faith and handing our bricks to God and allowing him to help us through this brick.

But what I have come to know is that faith is a lifelong process.

Sometimes we are good at it, and sometimes we really struggle.

But choosing faith opens our lives to love and light and allows us to change our focus.

My daughter is lying sick on my couch at this moment. She is carrying some pretty heavy loads of bricks at the moment. An old teacher of hers, Mr. Smith heard she was ill and came over to visit. She vomited in front of him and he didn’t even flinch. In fact their heads were together and I saw tears from both of them. Then he left. I asked Katie about the visit. She said that Mr. Smith talked to her about a tragedy in his life when his 9 year old daughter died of a fever. It took them 13 years to open her room and go through her personal things!

He told Katie that God answers every prayer because no Father in Heaven would turn away from His children. But what people don’t realize is that sometimes the answer is NO—or  NOT YET. Even our Savior Jesus Christ, in the most important prayer ever said, the request was to take this cup from me, but the answer was NO; for a reason far greater than we could understand. He went on to say that God has a much grander perspective than ours and perhaps he trusts and has confidence in us to get through the affliction we will carry. Perhaps to change us, stretch us, or rescue us and then…for us to help someone else.

          But it does not mean that he does not love us!

 

Through my faith in God this has become a reality for me:

When I was a little girl my mother used to speak of her angels.

 Her angels surprise her when work gets done when she doesn’t ask. Her angels surprise her when ingredients just show up in the cupboard. Her angels help her when she loses things. And they always came through during frightening or sad moments.

Here are the four main lessons I learned from this:

 

one: We are always surrounded by angels and that should give us great comfort.

 

Angels can be family, friends, pets, nature, and spiritual help that you feel. I have been touched by so many angels I can’t even count. As you heard from Sylvia, so has she.

Here is an example:

About 2 weeks after I said a very tearful good-bye to my mother who is taking her last breaths of her life in CA, my daughter and grandson came to live with me. She has hyperemesis gravidarum which is severe nausea during pregnancy and has been hospitalized.

I feel like I am living in a fog and my heart is being pulled in so many different ways. Leaving my mother this past August was very emotional for me and I have been waiting, every time the phone rings, for the dreaded call that she is gone. I am very worried about my daughter, and my little grandson was recently diagnosed with a neurological disorder.

Each afternoon and night, I get to put my grandson to bed.  I hold this little baby in my arms and sing to him and rock him. He has a brick to carry, too. One night as I was singing the songs my own mother sang to me, I realized that this little baby was sent to me not only for me to help him and his mommy, but to comfort ME. He is my angel distracting my mind with joy that only a baby can do,  and during a tiny moment in my day I get to hold and rock and sooth him during his trial, but at the same time, as I silently mourn, trying to prepare for my own mother to leave this earth—He is soothing me. Angles are real—and they are all around us.  NOTICE. God sends them to prove he is real and listening.

 

 

two:  We can be an angel to someone one else and that will spread joy.

Helping to lift someone else’s brick makes yours lighter too. This is one of God’s gifts. As we heard from Sylvia, even if you cannot physically do something for someone else, You can offer prayers and send love to them which they will feel. Mr. Smith went through a horrible adversity, but by sharing his pain, it created a ripple effect which helped others work through their pain. My daughter was comforted.

This is true!

 

three: With angels come miracles, tender mercies and recognized blessings. But sometimes they are so subtle, you may miss them. Notice!

The entire time I was going through my cancer and multiple surgeries not one of my family members got sick. Not once. That is a miracle living with 5 boys! It was a tender mercy for me because my white count was very low and it could have been very serious for me.

Two blessings that I have discovered through really tough adversity is that we are given humor to lighten our load, and gifts that we can turn to for comfort. My gifts were the arts, especially music.

 

four: There is a powerful source to which we can rely that sends angels and miracles. This is a loving God who knows us and loves us. 

 

Everyone has their own bricks to carry. We don’t know why we have the ones we do. What we do with them is our choice. I choose to believe and trust in God. Because…as the little first grader says:  He looks Good!    He is good.

 

 

Here is a quick recipe for adversity from a quote from the book A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich which I have wrapped around your brick to take home. It goes like this:

It takes faith and courage and love and prayer and work and a little singing to keep up your spirits but we’re going to do it!”

 

God Bless you in your faith…

Faith

I have been thinking

a lot lately

about faith.

My faith

in God.

It is difficult

for me

to put my feelings

into words.

It came to me today

when I was having

a brunch

with

a variety of

faithful women

all sharing stories

about faith

in God,

and

how He has been a huge

part of our lives.

I commented,  “I wish sometimes I could

pour my feelings

about my faith

in God

out from my heart

into a cup

where others

can drink it and understand,

instead of trying to express

with words

the tender feelings

I have.

Here is one thought:

“If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Romans 8:31

Hold tight to God as your lifeline.

He may seem far away during your adversity

but he isn’t.

He is only waiting for you and me

to notice…