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2018: Take a Chance, Make a Change

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Chance. Change. What’s the difference between these words? Simply one letter. The chance you take. The change you make. What’s the difference? Simply one step. These words and concepts have been on my mind as we transitioned from one year to the next. 2017 was the incredible year that I proclaimed it would be. I’m now focused on my “what’s next” for 2018. Recommitting to my weekly blogs seemed like the perfect place to begin, especially today.

 

You see, 5 years ago today, I finished my last chemo treatment. Wow! My breast cancer journey was nothing like what the written treatment plan dictated. From the very first surgery (which was supposed to be “one and done”) to that final chemo session (chemo was extended by an additional year due to complications), all I can say is, “Wow!” Scratch that. I should also add an AMEN! I’m here because God has work for me to do.

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From the day the doctor called with my biopsy results, I knew that there was purpose in my diagnosis. Mind you, it took some time for me to figure out what that purpose included. I had to take a chance and think about the bigger picture. I made the change and stepped outside of my comfort zone. As a result, the puzzle pieces are coming together as I connect with people who will assist me in the process of manifesting my divine assignment – “to speak a word in season to him who is weary.”

I’ll celebrate my 7th “cancer-versary” in June. WooHoo! I’ve met and befriended amazing survivors and healthcare professionals. I’ve also been given the opportunity to have some amazing experiences such as making a nationally televised commercial, appearing in international print ads, singing and speaking in front of celebrities, mentoring and encouraging others living with cancer, as well as creating events to increase cancer awareness and prevention. All of these doors opened as a result of a cancer diagnosis. Even with the doors opened, I had to take that step of chance in order to make a change in my life and the lives of others.

healthI guess it’s just the teacher in me, but the more I learn about health and wellness and its connection to chronic disease, the more I want to share this knowledge with others. What we don’t know is making us sick or worse, killing us. I don’t want to lose another family member, another friend, or another fellow survivor. Did you know that many of the diseases that plague our communities can be avoided with lifestyle changes? We CAN do something about the things that we are eating, as well as the things that are eating us from the inside out (i.e. stress, unforgiveness). We CAN increase our physical activity. We CAN, but we don’t or we won’t. Why?

It breaks my heart to see people negatively impact their health with what they are eating, drinking, and/or smoking. We’re surrounded by the warnings and research studies. We’ve heard the testimonials of people whose lives will never be the same again because they neglected their health. These habits have become vicious cycles that keep us going around in circles. Unfortunately, some of these cycles are also being transferred to the next generation. Experience is not necessarily the best teacher, but definitely a hard teacher. Again, the question is why? I wonder if this is the frustration Moses felt as he proclaimed year after year that it was going to rain. No one listened to or believed him until that first drop of rain fell. By then, it was too late.

step-by-step-hiIt’s not too late for you, or those you love, to improve the quality of your life and possibly extend your quantity of days on Earth. It’s a new year. There’s still time to create a new you. All it takes is simply one step – the decision to start your wellness journey. 

To me, there’s a difference between living and existing. I believe that most people are doing the latter. My plan is to live life to the fullest – with an exclamation point and not a comma, a period, or a question mark. 

In 2018, what chance are you willing to take so that you can make a change?

 

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The Test in my Testimony

 

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Today marks my 6th “cancer-versary” as a breast cancer “thriver.” WooHoo! Amen! And, wow! After rereading these words, the lyrics of a gospel song immediately came to mind. “As I look back over my life – And I think things over – I can truly say, that I’ve been blessed – I’ve got a testimony.” Make no mistake about it, I’ve experienced some extreme challenges while on this cancer journey. However, they are outnumbered by victory…after victory…after victory! 

I remember getting that phone call at work as if it were yesterday. The diagnosis simply made no sense. For decades, I had been doing everything recommended to lead a healthy lifestyle. I ate properly and exercised regularly. I never drank and never smoked. Cancer? The drive home was accompanied by a torrential downpour of tears. I can’t tell you how I arrived safely. But when I walked through the door, the silence was so loud. Cancer.

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Somewhere between the tears, God managed to get my attention. He reminded me that during the years I spent on “Separated Street” and “Divorce Drive,” He provided everything that my children and I needed. I began to have great conversation with myself. “Yeah, that’s right. And if He could do all of that, He can certainly handle a cancer diagnosis.” From the very beginning, I knew that there was purpose connected to my diagnosis. My goal then became living – by any means necessary.

 

Days later, I had a 2-hour conversation with a survivor. She suggested that I include blueberries, strawberries, and tomatoes in my diet. My response? “Yuck, yuck, and yuck!” Since childhood, I have always hated the feel of seeds in my mouth. And now she wants me to eat them? After we hung up, the goal continued to ring in my ears: “living – by any means necessary.” I began the process of teaching myself to eat blueberries, strawberries, and tomatoes. It would take me 20 minutes to eat 1 strawberry and 5 blueberries. Talk about torture. Today, I absolutely love blueberries and strawberries, and I like tomatoes. Of course, I now wish that they had been part of my food repertoire earlier in life.

 

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6 years later, the goal remains the same and I apply it to everything. I’m clear – I fight cancer every day with every decision that I make related to my health – spirit, mind, and body. For example, I have to: 1) make good decisions about what I eat and drink, 2) monitor my stress levels and distance myself from negative people and experiences, and 3) be mindful of the products that I use on my body and in my home. I’m also clear that God is my center. He is responsible for the smile on my face and the joy in my heart. I have to stay plugged in and connected because He created me on purpose, with purpose, to fulfill purpose. Cancer just happens to be part of my purpose.

My purpose also includes this platform of promoting health and wellness as a lifestyle. My divine assignment is to “speak a word in season to him who is weary.” I don’t want a diagnosis of any type to be the wake up call that forces people to start paying attention to their health. The 25 years that I served in the field of education was the training ground for my current role as an inspirational speaker. I enjoy teaching people how to properly read and interpret nutrition labels. I love speaking to audiences about making lifestyle changes so that they can stress less and enjoy life more. My message can help someone improve the quality of their life, and possibly extend their quantity of days on Earth.

I strive to live each day with an exclamation point – not a comma, a period, or a question mark. I refuse to live a life of regret. My relationships with family and friends are extremely important to me. I make sure that I show and tell them that they are loved and appreciated. I believe that we should live like there’s no tomorrow. When you think about it, there really is no such thing as tomorrow. When tomorrow arrives, it’s called today.

bc girl“Every day is a good day. Some are just better than others.” I coined this phrase years ago and it has helped me get through some trying times. You may find it helpful as well. I envision a world without cancer. Until then, I’m committed to making a difference in the lives of others. 

Cancer didn’t happen TO me. It happened FOR me. And if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.  

I can truly say, that I’ve been blessed – I’ve got a testimony.”

 

be NspireD!

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Stressed? LOL!

 

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Stress is a societal epidemic. I’m not talking about the built in, or innate, stress response – i.e. you jump after being startled. I’m talking about the non-stop, chronic stress that leaves you feeling stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Studies have linked stress to medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity, depression, anxiety, and yes – cancer.

As a cancer “thriver” and inspirational speaker, I often speak to audiences about stress management. Because laughter therapy is my favorite way to combat stress, through my company NspireD, I created an event called “Cocktails & Comedy.” You may be wondering how these words are connected. Now depending on who you are, what you’re drinking and how much, consuming a certain number of cocktails may result in a whole lot of comedy. LOL. However, I’m approaching it from a health and wellness angle.

cocktail-clip-art-9czMyRbcEIn addition to the ways that stress can impact our personal and professional lives, did you know that the chemotherapy drugs administered during cancer treatment are referred to as “cocktails?” (Side note: When you get a cancer diagnosis, you also acquire a new vocabulary. I didn’t know what an oncologist was until I had one.) As someone who doesn’t drink and never has, I thought it ironic to get a specific chemo “cocktail” on a regular basis. 

 

“Cocktails & Comedy” promotes laughter as an effective stress management technique while providing additional insight about the cancer journey. Last year’s inaugural event featured cancer survivor comics from across the country. As they performed to an almost sold out crowd, we literally laughed until we cried. A great time was had by all!

comedy-night-clipart1Get ready for the 2nd Annual “Cocktails & Comedy” Show. It will be held at The Delaware Theatre Company (200 Water Street ~ Wilmington, DE 19801) on Saturday, June 3, 2017. Doors will open at 6:30 pm and the show will begin at 7:30 pm. The event will be hosted by Delaware’s own Belynda J. Cleare. Back by popular demand is Miss Gayle from Fredericksburg, VA. Rounding out the comedy line up is Missy Grynkiewicz, Brandon Vincent Jackson, and Donna Ottena. 

k“Cocktails & Comedy” 2017 is a fundraiser for the 2nd Annual “KALEIDOSCOPE: Empowering Survivors ~ Mind, Body & Spirit” conference for women living with all types of cancer. This event will be held Saturday, September 23, 2017 at the Ramada Inn of Newark, DE. The conference will help survivors improve their health and reduce their risk of recurrence in ways that do not require prescription medications. 2016 topics included meditation, mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and stress management.

Proceeds from the comedy show will be used to create full and partial scholarships for survivors who have a financial need. A cancer diagnosis also impacts your financial health because medical insurance does not cover everything. This fundraiser will help to remove or reduce financial barriers so that every survivor who wants to attend will be able to do so at little or no expense. Not only will survivors benefit from the information shared, they will have the opportunity to connect with other women who understand their challenges. 

ticketCancer is no laughing matter, but humor is healing and healthy. Get your ticket(s) today at https://cocktails-comedy-2017.eventbrite.com. Tickets are $25 in advance and more at the door. The discount for a group of 10 is $225 (buy 9, get 1 free). “Cocktails & Comedy” is a great event for a date night, or a night out with the girls or the fellas. AND, it benefits a great cause – women who are living with cancer.

I hope to see your face in the place. Make plans to come out and have some fun. Life is too short not to laugh a little (or a lot!). Thanks in advance for your support. Please spread the word and remember to LOL!

 

be NspireD!

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Say What You Mean in 2017

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At the beginning of every new year, I pick a word on which to focus. The word creates an expectation about the type of day I want to have. It also speaks to the experiences that I want to manifest, as well as those that I want to create in the lives of others. I started with words such as “good” and “great,” and eventually expanded to words like “phenomenal.” Every morning, I would wake up looking forward to something “phenomenal” happening to me, for me, or because of me. At night, I would go to bed grateful for the “phenomenal” day that was ending and for the one that would follow.

“Spectacular” was my word for 2016. I closed my eyes on New Year’s Day and thought about some of the things I experienced last year that were far from being “spectacular.” The last few months of 2016 were especially challenging. My brother, who is 21 years my senior, had a stroke and I found myself in the role of a caregiver. My stress level was at an all time high as I traveled out of state to the hospital and rehabilitation facility. I lost almost an entire month of work. I also lost my combination engagement ring/wedding band. Although I was hysterical, my husband, who is the calm to my crazy, simply said, “It’s just a ring. I’ll get you another one.”

The days became weeks and my hopes of finding the ring faded. The tears that remained instantly dried up with one phone call. My mentor, the person I called when I received my breast cancer diagnosis, called to tell me that she was now on her own cancer journey. My diamonds versus her diagnosis? I no longer had anything to cry about. She shared that because she watched me navigate my cancer journey, she could beat cancer, too. She also reminded me that I am not a survivor, but a cancer “thriver.” With this, she charged me to stay focused, to keep going, and to lead the way for others. The call changed my perspective.

 

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This change started with the thoughts in my mind. There is no reason to let a few life detours discount all of the “spectacular” things that occurred in 2016. I celebrated the “13th anniversary of my 37th” birthday. I celebrated my 5th “cancer-versary.” I hosted my first conference for women living with all types of cancer. Those are the big highlights, but I’m always grateful that everything that I need is provided; that I’m in my right mind; and that my days are filled with life, love, and laughter.

I couldn’t wait to get back to work this week. Why? Because “incredible” is my word for 2017. Every day, I verbally put this expectation into the atmosphere. Incredible things will happen in my marriage and my home, in my relationships and friendships, in my business, and as I carry out my divine assignment to “speak a word in season to him who is weary.” We’re only a few days into the year and incredible things are happening already. WooHoo!

 

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As you look ahead to 2017, what do you want to happen in your life? What do you need to happen in your life? How do you want your life to impact the lives of those with whom you come in contact? With answers to these questions, what changes must you make to ensure that this year is better than last year? Consider using the power of a word to say what you mean in 2017.

For me, INCREDIBLE is just the beginning!  

 

be NspireD!

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Aiming for the Moon

 

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July 20, 1969. On this date, the challenge presented by President Kennedy to put a man on the moon was accomplished. Glued to their television sets, 600 million people witnessed what was once thought to be an impossible achievement. Were you born when this historic event occurred? If so, do you remember where you were? What you were doing? How you felt or how you reacted?

47 years later, another race to the moon is in motion. Vice President Joe Biden is spearheading an initiative called the Cancer Moonshot. The goal is to accelerate the efforts to find a cure for cancer by completing a decade’s worth of progress in 5 years. Cancer is the leading cause of death in the world. As VP Biden remarked, there is an “urgency of now.”

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Last month, 270 Cancer Moonshot Summits were held across the United States for a national day of action. For the first time, individuals and organizations representing the entire cancer community gathered to hear more about the work that has been and will be done. This included researchers and oncologists, health and academic leaders, members of the private sector and philanthropists; as well as survivors, families, and advocates.

I attended the summit held at Christiana Care Hospital in Delaware. The research that is already in progress is amazing. Various professionals spoke about gene editing, clinical trials, and behavioral science in cancer research. Information was also shared about Delaware’s progress (state with the most rapidly declining cancer mortality rate) as well as how the state is falling behind (highest incident of Triple Negative Breast Cancer).

they matter cure Instead of continuing to work in isolation, the Cancer Moonshot initiative encourages collaboration among drug manufacturers, biotech companies, insurers, and researchers. A data base will help to facilitate the sharing of information. Christiana Care is uniquely positioned with the national efforts of The White House as a result of its strategic partnerships.

I’m excited about all that has and will take place in the effort to end cancer as we know it. Until we reach this milestone, I am committed to helping other survivors improve their quality of life and possibly extend their quantity of days on Earth. I am hosting a conference for women living with all types of cancer. “KALEIDOSCOPE: Empowering Survivors ~ Mind, Body & Spirit” will be held September 23 & 24, 2016 in Newark, DE. This conference is the first of its kind on the East Coast.

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Participants will gain information on how to reduce their risk of cancer recurrence in ways that do not require prescription medications. The empowerment sessions on September 24th will include topics such as the benefits of meditation, chiropractic care, exercise, nutrition, and stress management techniques. There will also be a workshop on understanding environmental toxins. It’s not just what we are eating and drinking, not eating and not drinking that can lead to cancer and other chronic health conditions. It can be some of the things in our environment.

“Cocktails & Comedy” is the Friday night kick-off event. In case you didn’t know, chemotherapy drugs are referred to as “cocktails.” This show will feature comics from across the country who are also cancer survivors. As an inspirational speaker who addresses stress management, laughter therapy is my favorite way to combat stress. The comedy show will be open to everyone – women and men. On-line registration for the KALEIDOSCOPE conference opens the end of July. For registration and/or more information, please visit www.nspiredbynicolle.com.

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Cancer is just a word, not a sentence. I envision a world without cancer. Through efforts such as the Cancer Moonshot, we move one step closer to the vision becoming a reality. When it happens, Neil Armstrong’s famous comment will once again be applicable: “That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind.”

 

be NspireD!

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