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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.”

 

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Stones and Pebbles

WebI have a mentor who is 75 plus years “young.” However, you would never be able to tell her age. “Bea” takes excellent care of herself and shows no signs of slowing down. She is a lifelong learner who willingly shares words of wisdom with others. I have been the benefactor of those words during our relationship that has spanned more than 15 years. We are so similar in our positions on health and wellness, that someone referred to me as “Mini Bea.” What a compliment!

Recently, “Bea” was publicly recognized for decades of contributions to the organization of which we both are members. The leader making the remarks referred to her as a “stone” within the organization. Longevity, strength and consistency in standing firm combine to position “Bea” as a pillar of truth. As a result of these and other characteristics, she has positively impacted the lives of countless people in the organization and in the community.

mentorI was so excited when “Bea” was acknowledged. It later dawned on me that if I am “Mini Bea,” being her mentee would make me a “pebble.” I couldn’t wait to share this revelation with her. Her response? “Only you Nicolle would think of it like that, but I guess you’re right.” Although I enjoy being clever with words, my thoughts shifted to something a little more serious as the day progressed.

With all that “Bea” has poured into me, being her “pebble” means having extremely big shoes to fill. I started to ask myself questions. “Am I doing the right things in my personal and professional life?” “Am I moving in the right direction to make a difference in the lives of others?” “Can I really accept this mantle and fulfill its duties?” I had to stop with the questions as the conversation I was having with myself was becoming overwhelming. Because I can’t do anything about the past, I thought it best to start where I am and move forward.

mentor plusI decided to be more purposeful and more intentional about my activities, how I spend my time, and even how I take care of myself. With the goals that I have set for 2017, I have to be in the best of health physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. The mental stress, poor food choices that sap my energy, and emotionally draining relationships can no longer be part of the equation. They have to go so that I can carry out my divine assignment. It’s a work in progress and a process. I’m excited about the decisions that I’ve made this year.

However, I can’t be just a mentee/peeble. I have to simultaneously be a mentor/stone for someone else. We need to position ourselves under the elders and over the young adults. The terms “stones and pebbles” also make me think about the concepts of “give and take.” As “stones” we give and as “pebbles” we take. To manage both roles effectively, balance is required. There are expectations of me as a mentee and as a mentor, and I don’t want to let anyone down. I am being trusted to act upon the wisdom received, and then share wisdom with others.

heartImagine what can be created when the “stones” and “pebbles” are together and in order. Who are the “stones” in your life? Who are the “pebbles” in your life? In 2017, make the investment and anticipate a huge return. We are always stronger together!

 

 

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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!  

 

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Don’t Waste Time

Death. Divorce. Diagnosis. These life altering events were game changers in how I thought about and approached life. I decided not to live a life full of regrets. I also decided not to partake in the proverbial “would da’-could da’-should da’” syndrome. Instead, I chose to make a conscious decision to live life every day with an exclamation point – not a comma, not a period.

The “younger” I get, the more I think about how I use my time. 24 hours. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. Regardless of the number and its unit, each represents the same amount of time. Although we never seem to have enough time, we manage to make time or create time for people and activities deemed important. We always seem to be SO busy. But are we managing our time well?

“Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”

A missed moment cannot be recaptured. It’s easy to miss them when our priorities are out of order. We take life and the people in our lives for granted too often. We hold on to grudges and offenses. We let petty issues negatively impact our relationships. But why? What’s the purpose? How does anyone benefit from strife, conflict, and confusion? In some families, the feud has been going on for so long that no one even remembers how it got started. Someone needs to raise the peace flag. Someone needs to extend the olive branch.

24 hours. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. If you only had one day to live, how would you spend it? Would you surround yourself with family and friends so that you could give and receive hugs and kisses? Would you say “I love you” or “I’m sorry?” Might you tell people how much they mean and how you appreciate them? What would you do to create lasting memories designed to linger after you’re gone? However you answered those questions, I suggest that you get in the habit of doing those things now.

“Life is about the journey, not the destination.”

Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. That person you put on the back burner? Move them to the front of the line. If you’re waiting for someone else to make the first move in repairing a relationship, you lead the way. No one knows how much time remains in our life journey. When we focus on the destination, we tend not to acknowledge and appreciate the beauty of the landscape around us.

Today is called the present because it is a gift. Gifts that stay in pretty boxes with perfectly tied bows aren’t much fun. The appreciation for the gift begins when the contents are revealed and put to use. Demonstrate an attitude of gratitude for the people in your life. A heartfelt “Thank you” will go much further than a critical and complaining spirit.

When we wake in the morning, we get to start all over again. 24 hours. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. What will you do so that you don’t waste time?

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Celebrating Grace

I celebrate life every day. I strive to live life with an exclamation point and not a comma, or a period. However, today (June 22) is an extra special day. I celebrated my 5th “cancer-versary.” WooHoo! Amen! As a breast cancer “thriver,” I’m so excited to reach this first of many milestones.

The number 5 represents grace. Grace is an expression of God’s favor. I cannot begin to tell you about the favor that I have received and the doors that have opened for me as result of a cancer diagnosis. For example, I have met as well as spoken and ministered to women across the country. I created “Bosom Buddies Day” to encourage people to support women living with breast cancer, especially after active treatment ends. I have also created a conference for survivors 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 designed to help survivors reduce their risk of cancer recurrence. (Follow KaleidoscopeDE on FaceBook. Registration opens in July.)

Here’s some more favor. As an ambassador for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), I was featured in commercials, an infomercial, as well as an international print ad campaign. Faith in healing was the subject of the “There is Hope” infomercial. Both the infomercial and the commercial included footage of me singing a song that I wrote entitled “I Trust You Lord.”  (https://youtu.be/HPvidtkXH7k)

After hearing the song, people called CTCA and wanted to know how they could contact me. I had no idea that my music ministry would have this type of reach.

Romans 8 reminds me that “…all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Cancer managed to do a lot of things over the last 5 years. Thanks to chemotherapy, my long hair? Gone. Taste buds? Shot. Immune system? Weakened. Regardless, I realized that my purpose is His purpose and nothing can kill my purpose. When I say nothing, I mean it literally – “no thing” can kill my purpose. Not cancer, not divorce, not death, not abandonment, not unemployment. Nothing means nothing the same way that all things means all things.

Cancer is also part of my purpose. Cancer didn’t happen TO me. Cancer happened FOR me. From the very beginning, I knew that I received a diagnosis for a bigger purpose. I am now living my purpose as I offer help, hope, and healing as an inspirational speaker promoting health and wellness as a lifestyle. I am passionate about my calling because I’m making a difference in my service to others. I use my gifts of speaking and teaching to help others improve their quality of life and possibly extend their quantity of days on Earth.

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I’m clear that my divine assignment is to “speak a word in season to him who is weary.” God has chosen to use me because He trusts me. For this, I am honored and humbled.

 

 

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