A quick note about the World Domination Summit coming up this weekend: I will be in Portland, Oregon for WDS from July 10-14 and would love to meet up with readers who are there!
If you sent me a message already I flagged it and will do my best to follow up with you in the next few days or at the conference. The best way to connect will be to Tweet me (@ElanaMD) at the conference events — I’ll be using Twitter to find and meet people in real time.
Also, my appearance has been changing so rapidly lately that I’ve posted a selfie of me in my parents’ garden (pretty sweet set up, right?) to help you pick me out in a crowd. Looking forward to seeing some of you soon!
Ladies and gentlemen, I have reentered the realm of the living.
It’s now been a month since I’ve restarted the heavier-duty chemotherapy (and it’s upgrading further next week), and there are reminders that my body can’t function like normal (random, profuse nosebleeds; dizziness and fatigue; heart starts pounding after meals because digesting and trying to automate my blood pressure simultaneously are too much to handle), but the physical shift in my wellbeing these last few weeks has felt nothing short of miraculous.
I don’t know how to describe it other than to say I wasn’t a person before — I was a shell, a shadow, a placeholder consumed with immediate, seemingly insurmountable tasks like, “How do I get that glass of water?” or “I’m hungry but will that popcorn make me vomit?”
Now, I am a human being again, and albeit a tired, woozy, and easily-drained one, I am a human being who has started to remember what it feels like to be excited for the future, who likes making plans, and who is re-experiencing so many simple pleasures like eating good food, sipping tea in the morning, sitting in my parents’ garden to read a good novel.
Oh, and while I had been chronically 10-15 lbs underweight since getting diagnosed (getting down to a low of 117 lbs in the weeks after the housing/breakup fiascos – no bueno for a young woman of 5’9), I have now gained ALL my weight back and am the same respectable 130 lbs I was before this all started. It’s amazing!
Sadly, the weight gain has not been even — between inactivity and chemo, I’ve lost quite a bit of muscle mass and gained back mostly fat, such that my body resembles something along the lines of Sponge Bob Square Pants (think skinny arms and legs sticking out of a boxy, protruding midsection).
Between that and the prednisone-induced chubby face caused by a recent course of steroids, I look good (and healthy!) but let’s just say I’ve looked… sexier (the above selfie was definitely carefully selected to be the most flattering). Of course, who really cares about having a chubby face when I finally feel like I’m alive again. This beggar is not a chooser.
Amazingly, all of these these improvements are happening as my chemo schedule has gotten worse, not better.
So, I feel extremely heartened, but a bit aghast at the same time, as I realize how much of the horrific physical illness I’d been dealing with these last few months was caused by external stress unrelated to cancer or chemotherapy treatment. I look back and wonder how much of the bullshit I was dealing with was… unnecessary.
But, in the end, I did the best I could at the time with the knowledge I had (and handled an impossible situation as well as I could), and so did those around me. Onwards and upwards.
However: My horrible, crazy landlord does not get such a pass… not only did she steal my $5k deposit, she’s now threatening to sue me for an additional $4k for fabricated “damages” to her house on top of the deposit. Don’t worry, though, I’ve got a plan… If you contacted me before offering legal advice, I really appreciate it, and I may follow up with you soon!
Anyway. I was so happily blown away by the response to my last post suggesting some product ideas I’ve been thinking of creating. I got so many amazing ideas about projects I’d like to tackle down the line (broadening the comments section, for example, which has bloomed into a dialogue between others asking questions and offering support and suggestions, into a forum) but for now will be starting smaller.
I had planned on sending out a follow-up survey for more feedback before getting started, but the ideas feel so well-congealed in my mind that I’m ready to hit the ground running and get started!
I have decided I will focus my current energies on two projects: 1) A free PDF cancer quick-start guide, and 2) A paid digital course on transforming trauma into spiritual awakening.
Project #1: The Free Cancer Guide
I got so much positive feedback on those two posts on human nature and how to help someone with cancer that it seemed natural to compile those articles into their own separate document that can be easily shared with anyone and everyone it might help.
I will edit and compile those posts, include a brief intro to me and my cancer story, list out the most helpful guidelines about making the mental shift when you get a cancer diagnosis, and add several “Tip Sheets” meant to be shared with friends and family on topics like “27 Ways to Help Someone with Cancer” (keep reading below to get a preview of this tip sheet!) and “How NOT to Help a Cancer Patient.”
Think of these as resources you could share, text, email, or even print out and post on your hospital door when you’re too overwhelmed to know what to ask for or too tired to explain something for the 100th time to a well-meaning friend. Or, if you have a friend or family member who’s been recently diagnosed, download the guide and get help and ideas about how to be most supportive of them.
This resource will be in PDF format, will be FREE, and I will be openly encouraging people to share it in whatever way is helpful — link to it, copy it, edit it, post it on your own website or blog, in part or in full, etc., — no permission needed. It won’t be mine, it will be yours.
Project #2: The Digital Course: Transforming Trauma into Spiritual Awakening
Not everyone has cancer, but we’ve all experienced emotional difficulty and trauma. The pain caused by experiences like severe illness, divorce, break ups, job loss, financial catastrophes, etc., are universal, and through the sheer fact that we are human, we are guaranteed to be challenged with suffering that rocks us to our very core and makes us question the purpose and meaning in our lives.
But — these experiences need not tear us apart. They can be opportunities for growth and awakening.
I will be creating a digital course, that over a guided 4-6 weeks, will teach specific tools and strategies for getting through the most difficult experiences we face and transforming them into opportunities for personal growth and spiritual awakening.
While not a course on meditation per say, the teachings will derive heavily from meditation and mindfulness practices, as cultivating awareness is a crucial part of the journey.
On that note — in a podcast I did shortly after my diagnosis (with the amazing Valerie Groth of Inspiration with Val - you can see my show notes and podcast here or go straight to my audio here), Valerie asked what coping strategy had most helped me deal with my new diagnosis.
My answer: my meditation practice. While I had not been able to maintain a regular practice after getting diagnosed, and even though I still have not resumed my regular practice, the work I did prior (daily meditation, intensive silent retreats, mindfulness in daily life practices) set me up to be in SUCH a better position to cope with my diagnosis when it happened.
I’ve decided not to limit the course to just dealing with cancer (the suffering cancer causes is universal, anyway), but throughout it I’ll weave my own personal stories and narratives, tying the general lessons to specifics from my own life and cancer journey.
I’ve also given a lot of consideration to how I might price such a thing, and have come up with an option I feel extremely good about it.
To prevent cost from prohibiting this information getting to whomever it might help, while allowing me to get paid a fair price for the work I do, the product will be available in two tiers.
I haven’t worked out the exact details, but it will be something like this: Tier 1 will be the fully-guided digital course, with lessons available in a number of formats (think PDF ebook + audio mp3 downloads for the road + videos + regular reminder emails guiding you along). There will be bonuses and some degree of direct teaching and guidance from me as we move through the material.
Tier 2 will have the same core information but in a limited format (i.e. just the PDF but not audio transcripts, for example) and will require a more motivated student who can pace themselves through the material without my guidance. The Tier 2 option will have a suggested price but will be “pay what you can.” If you can only afford $1, you pay $1.
On the other hand, the Tier 1 version, which will have a higher price point, will allow those who want to super-duper support me, or sponsor someone who couldn’t afford to pay full price, to donate more above the purchase price.
However the specifics get worked out, I will work to ensure that no one is left wishing for what I created but lamenting they can’t pay for it, and those who pay will be getting something special.
A Quick Favor for Project #1: Are you a graphic designer who wouldn’t mind donating a few hours of your time to spruce up the free guide I’m laying out (in a Mac .pages format, but can easily be exported to .doc) into a nice-looking PDF, consistent with the design of my website (colors, fonts, layout etc.)? I’ll happily give you credit in the PDF and link to your website (if you have one), and if this goes well it could turn into paid work when I get started on my digital course. Send me an email and let me know!
A Quick Announcement: I now have a snail mail address! I’ve been meaning to set up a PO box for a while, and I’m finally settled enough in one place to be able to do that.
Please, do not feel any obligation to mail me anything, and I won’t be able to give confirmation when I get things (too much work — if you send something, assume I got it and appreciate it!). I just had enough people asking how they would mail stuff to me that I wanted to set the option up for those who do. You can snail mail me at:
PO Box 620914
Woodside, CA 94062
This address will be available for reference on my Contact page and also linked to in the footer of every email newsletter.
27 Ways to Help Someone With Cancer
As a preview to the material I’m compiling for my super-awesome Cancer PDF Quick-Start Guide, here is one of the tip sheets I will include on small ways you can do something nice for that friend or family member with cancer right now.
Take a look and get some ideas. And even better — if you have suggestions or things to add, tell me in the comments and I will add them to the final Tip Sheet when it gets published!
- Deliver a meal. Make sure to ask in advance if they have any dietary restrictions or are following any guidelines. Stay for a visit, or just drop off the food if they’re not up for it.
- Deliver a tupperware of several pre-made meals that your friend can heat up as needed.
- Send a quick email, text, or message saying you’re thinking of them.
- Add “Feel free to take me up on this offer whenever” when you offer help — they’ll know the offer will still be sincere whenever they need it — in a week, a month, a year.
- Set a calendar alert reminding you to check in with a quick hello or offer of help on a regular basis.
- Text them next time you’re at the grocery store and ask if they’d like you to pick anything up.
- Send a housekeeper to clean up their place. Take care of the details so they just need to be there to open the door.
- Send a mobile masseuse for a gift massage.
- Text them the next time you’re at the drug store to see if they need any toiletries.
- Text them the next time you’re at the pharmacy to see if they need any prescriptions picked up.
- Add “No need to respond” to the end of your message — they’ll appreciate hearing from you without feeling they need to do anything in return.
- Offer to take them out for a coffee or lunch date.
- Offer to visit. Make sure to check that they’re feeling up for it.
- Offer to take them out to a movie. If they’re too tired, come by with a rental.
- Offer a ride to chemo and keep them company during the treatment. Even better, commit to giving a ride on a regular basis throughout their treatments.
- Let them know you’re “on call” for emergencies. Mean it.
- Send a flower delivery. However, make sure the person isn’t on neutropenic precautions first; fresh flowers can be an infection risk for cancer patients with weakened immune systems. Sadly, I had to give away the many wonderful flower deliveries I got right after my diagnosis.
- Order take-out and have it delivered. Ask if they have a favorite restaurant, or if they seem too overwhelmed to make any decisions, just get a sense of their dietary preferences and pick out a nice meal for them.
- Gift a magazine or newspaper subscription.
- Gift your favorite book.
- Tell them you love and care about them. Even if they don’t have the energy to respond, your message means a lot.
- For your lady cancer friend, take her out to a nice beauty treatment. Think: manicure/pedicure, facial, makeup application, etc. It may be the first time she’s splurged on her appearance in a while.
- Send a card. Make sure it’s legible — cancer eyes are tired eyes
- Give an Uber or Lyft gift certificate if you’re not available to offer a ride. I’m a huge fan of Uber and have been using it happily and regularly since my diagnosis.
- If you’re a close friend or family member, offer to be a “point” person” where you screen and accept/decline other’s invite and help offers. Right after a diagnosis there are many who want to help and visit and call, but the person with cancer might be extremely overwhelmed and need some space for the time being.
- Understand that a cancer patient is likely too overwhelmed to ask what they need; take the initiative by offering specifics instead of saying “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
- Cancer isn’t contagious — give your buddy a hug to let them know you’re on their side.
Let me know your additions and I’ll see some of you this weekend at WDS!