Monday, October 22, 2012

Breast Cancer Survivor Traded in her Dusting Rags for Dancing Shoes!

Terry Peterson, age 65 and a 20 year breast cancer survivor, recently created, directed, and performed in the 2015 Santa Cruz Follies’ annual musical production - Those Were The Days. When asked how she views her long-term wellness, she is quick to respond.  “My doctor said that my attitude about getting well was 50% of my healing.  There came a time in my treatment plan when I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

                                         So, I traded in my dusting rags for dancing shoes."

Terry’s journey with breast cancer began when she was just 45 years old.  After a second opinion confirmed that a lump in her right breast had changed, Terry received her biopsy results September 15, 1995.  She indeed had stage three breast cancer with seven of fourteen lymph nodes testing positive. After a lumpectomy, Terry completed an aggressive and grueling year of treatment:  four months of chemotherapy, five and one-half weeks of radiation, and then another six months of chemotherapy.

Amidst the debilitating side effects, Terry remembered her doctor’s words about attitude and outlook.  Along with her unwavering faith, Terry gave herself permission to rest, to focus on getting well, and to enjoy every day.  Even when she was weak and exhausted, Terry walked a nearby mountain road three times a week.  As she breathed in the fresh air and warm sunshine, Terry also focused on her love for her two teen children and wonderful husband.

In September of 1996, Terry began taking the drug tamoxifen.  After two years on the medication and with three more to go, Terry knew she needed to do something more to feel better.  After attending a performance of the Santa Cruz Follies (a 50 plus theatrical ensemble), Terry knew she wanted to be a part of it.  Although still too young to join, Terry immediately started taking beginning tap, ballet, and jazz.  Even during her most difficult times, Terry was dancing up to twelve hours per week. 
In 2001, Terry officially became part of the Follies.  To her surprise, there were several other cancer survivors in the cast: a woman in her fifties, one woman in her seventies (who is a three time survivor), and another woman who is still tapping away at age ninety-one.  Terry emphasizes that

“the camaraderie, encouragement, and understanding of one another’s experiences is invaluable to one’s perspective and healing.” 

Terry’s husband, Lee, joined the Follies in 2002 and credits their faith in God and their partnership in the group as key element s to maintaining a healthy relationship. Lovingly stated, “Performing together gives us joy.”

As Terry reflects on her twenty year journey, she encourages others.

 “Find your passion and pursue it. 
 Fill your days with laughter and fun. 
 And for heaven’s sake, put down your dusting rags and pick up your dancing shoes. 
 Feel your spirits soar. “

To listen to Terry's  amazing journey ...

Although I originally wrote this three years ago for another publication, I wanted to honor my sister again for her unwavering strength and her uncompromising spirit... 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Positive Power Chat" with Wendy Wagoner CH.t 10/06 by Wendy Wagoner | Blog Talk Radio

"Positive Power Chat" with Wendy Wagoner CH.t 10/06 by Wendy Wagoner | Blog Talk Radio

Domestic Violence Awareness Month -Why Do Victims Stay?

* In light of the recent news headlines regarding Domestic Violence and well-known athletes, and with the hope of shedding a bit more understanding into the victim's mindset, I offer this blog.

In October, three causes all deserve our attention - Breast Cancer Awareness, Anti-Bullying Awareness, and Domestic Violence Awareness.  It strikes me that all three share a common theme - individuals are fighting for their lives. So, I think it is fitting that they share the attention collectively.  Hopefully, each one will shine a light onto the importance of the others.

Over twenty years ago, I interned at a Battered Women's Center in the Bay Area of Northern California.  This was part of my pre-degree hours required to obtain my Masters in Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling. Because I knew I wanted to specialize in the areas of abuse and trauma, I eagerly anticipated this learning experience.  Before I could begin interning at the Shelter or at the Counseling Center, I was required to attend a 40 hour training on Domestic Violence. On the first day of class, what I was about to learn would completely alter a common perception of Domestic Violence victims.

After registering and getting acquainted with the requirements and responsibilities of the class, the first workshop facilitator approached the front of the room.  With our  note-paper and pens in hand, the instructor faced us directly and spoke:

     I want you all to think of a friendship that you knew needed to end, but you kept it going.   I want you to think of a job that you really disliked and wasn't getting you anywhere, but you did not quit.  I want you to think of a club, a team, or an organization that you no longer wanted to be a part of..that you were tired of or didn't agree with, but you stayed. I want you to think of a place that you so longed to move to and actually had the opportunity to do so, but then, you gave up on the idea. I want you to think of someone or something that you strongly believed in only to find out it was a lie, but you continued to invest into it or them.  I want you to think of any commitment to anyone or anything that you vowed you would discontinue, and you remained in that situation much longer that you ever wanted to or anticipated...  

   And then she added,

     I want you to think about this for the next twenty minutes.  As you are doing so, I want you to write down every reason you stayed in the relationship or in that circumstance...  And, I want you to write down how you felt about staying in those situations or relationships.

The room was silent save for the noise of the pens and pencils racing across the sheets of paper. At the end of twenty minutes, the teacher asked us to bring our attention back up to her.  With her black marker in hand, she asked us to begin reading off our responses.  As we related them, she began filling the white-erase board.

     I was afraid he would get mad....  I had no other job to go to....  I needed the money... I was ashamed... I didn't know anyone who would help me....  I didn't want to disappoint my family and friends.... I was afraid of what others would think of me....  I didn't know if I could make it on my own.... I was alone and being with her was better than being alone.... I didn't know where to go next...  I believed that I had to stay - that is what I was taught... I felt I was just being weak...  I thought things would get better... I was embarrassed...  He promised things would change....  I thought something was wrong with me... I thought that if I stuck it out, I might eventually be able to leave on my own terms... I felt I was nothing...

For the next half hour, the "reasons" flowed from the mouths of the interns and the scribbles filled the entire board. With each new reason came added awareness and insight into the lives of Domestic Violence victims. The heaviness in the room lifted like a thick fog dissipating, allowing the rays of understanding to settle within us. And I could sense our collective commitment to this cause move through us and motivate us all to further our knowledge and to guide us in our work ahead...  

As I left the classroom at the end of the day, one thought  permeated my being - for the victims of Domestic Violence, it was never a question of not wanting to leave - it was a matter of needing to survive.

With that truth embedded in my being, I embraced a new and hope-filled focus. I began my work at the Shelter the following week.   

Needing to survive.

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