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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.”

 

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It’s 6:30 am. Time to get a few miles in before the sun really comes out. My preference is to always be outdoors on the track, instead of inside on the treadmill. There’s something about being outside with nature that helps me think with more clarity. Besides, I enjoy looking at and speaking to the bunny rabbits and the birds. Now the geese? Let’s not even go there! LOL

 

As I crossed the 1 mile marker, my question remained unanswered. When am I going to get this blog done? You see, my time has not been my own lately. I recently completed an intense 2-month class at Temple University and am now a certified Community Health Worker. (WooHoo!) AND, my comedy show fundraiser is quickly approaching. (Got your ticket? www.nspiredbynicolle.com) But when I settled on the topic, I knew I had to make the time.

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Weeks ago, my attention was drawn to the words “limit” and “less.” Hmmm. If I simply “limit less,” I can be “limitless.” This morning, I heard the word “bound.” Ideas began to bounce around in my head and I was off and running (well, not quite – I’m a race walker). What keeps a person bound? And more importantly, why? I found the answer in the middle of the word. The reason why you are boUnd is because of “U” (YOU). The faster I walked, I clearly saw an illustration using the body.

Head – What thoughts leave your mind bound? Forget the “should-a, would-a, could-a” reason. The past is behind us and re-dos don’t happen in real life. Why do we spend so much time focusing on the past? Why do we allow people to take us back there? I refer to this as rear view mirror thinking. The rear view mirror is small for a reason – we’re not going that way. Focusing your time and attention here means missing the bigger picture that the front windshield provides.

 

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Eyes – What is covering your eyes so that the vision that you have for yourself and/or your family is no longer in sight? When vision is blurry and blocked, or distorted and dim, moving forward can be extremely challenging. At times when the light at the end of the tunnel is nowhere to be seen, it’s easy to simply settle and adopt an “it is what it is” mentality. Changing the lens through which you view life in order to bring the vision back into focus, will require patience and possibly assistance.

 

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Mouth – What is gagging and preventing you from using your mouth? Perhaps you are now unable to speak up, speak out, or speak into the lives of others. Perhaps you have been silenced, suppressed, or censored. Perhaps you can no longer cry out for help. Contained within your voice is the power of life and death. Words can build up or tear down. You have the ability to nurture a dream or destroy it at the root level. Be mindful to not only speak the truth, but to speak your truth by being true to who you are.

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Hands – What has your hands bound so that you are unable to accomplish your life assignment? Whether it’s a rope, handcuffs, or maybe even a wedding band, restricted hands prevent you from reaching out to touch the people who need you most. No longer will they receive comfort as you embrace them or wipe away their tears. No longer will they be encouraged from your pat on the back or that high five to acknowledge a job well done.

Feet – What has your feet bound so that you are unable to walk in your destiny? You were created with purpose and on purpose to fulfill purpose. Chains, shackles, and ropes negatively impact your life journey. Don’t become the elephant tied to a stake by a rope. It has the strength to break loose, but remains stationary because of the mental rope conditioning that began at a young age. 

Are you bound in any or all of these areas? If so, you don’t have to remain bound. Acknowledge the fact that YOU possess the key to the handcuffs and shackles which have restricted the movement of your hands and feet; and that YOU have the strength to rip off the bandages which have silenced your voice, blinded your eyes and clouded your mind. The next step is to take action.

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Ironically, another definition of bound is “to leap forward or upward, to spring, to jump.” The choices that you make, or fail to make, are directly connected to your destiny. Will you be bound, confined and limited, or will you move forward by leaps and bounds? Today is a great day to remove those internal and external factors that have kept you bound. Take the limits off and decree and declare that you are no longer being held hostage. Experience freedom one day, one step, and one decision at a time. Oh, and when you’re strong enough, go back and rescue someone else!

 

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Time to F.O.C.U.S.

Throughout the year, I reflect on my personal and professional goals, and evaluate my progress. With only 6 months remaining in 2016, the word that comes to my mind is FOCUS. As a former teacher, I am fascinated by words and their meanings. What I found in The Dictionary of Word Origins was pretty interesting.

Focus originates from the Latin and means “hearth.” At one time, the hearth housed the fire and functioned as the center of the home. We now say that, “Home is where the heart is.” In your personal and professional relationships, you have to know where your heart is. It’s equally important to be on fire about your purpose – what you were designed to do. When you stay true to your purpose, don’t expect everybody to understand, to agree, to like your choices, or the progress that you make.

The Latin meaning stems from the Greek “phaos” which means light. This is where we get the word photograph which is broken down to mean “light writing.” The word focus may make you think about photography and how adjusting the lens produces a clear image. Be clear about who you are and the difference that you make in the lives of others. Personally and professionally, it should boil down to service. Keeping this in mind makes it easier to remain humble and grateful.

As I thought about maintaining F.O.C.U.S., I realized the importance of not letting a Failure, Obstacle, or Challenge Undermine Success.

F – Failure. There is actually success in failure. It’s helpful to view failure as a learning experience with built in life lessons. I caution you to be mindful of the times when YOU think you have failed. Here’s an example. Recently, I was a contestant in an impromptu speaking contest in Maryland. Here’s how it works. You get the topic on the spot, you’re given a few seconds to think, and 2 minutes to give a speech.

As a first time competitor, I reached the highest level of competition and placed 3rd. However, I could only think about how I should have worded my speech differently to earn a higher ranking. It then dawned on me that my priorities were out of alignment. You see, before the winners were announced, a gentleman thanked me for the speech I gave. It forced him to rethink some of the recent decisions he made. That’s it! I had to remind myself about my “why.” I don’t speak to win trophies or medals. I speak to change lives. Losing sight of my “why” made me unappreciative of what I had achieved.

O – Obstacle. Take what you view as an obstacle and turn it into an opportunity. It’s really all about perspective. An obstacle forces you to think outside the box to find, or create a solution. Who knows? That solution may shift you to the next level. It may position you to fill a need that had not been previously considered. That obstacle may just be the best thing to happen to you.

C – Challenge. Every challenge will require you to change. Change happens whether we like it or not, whether we are ready or not. Change is not always comfortable, but it’s necessary for development and growth. The decisions that you make, or fail to make, determine whether the outcome of your challenge is positive or negative. 

Focus is heart driven. Focus starts a fire and ignites a passion that others can’t help but see and feel. Focus forces you to be clear about your life “what,” but more importantly your “why.” Focus won’t allow you to let a Failure, Obstacle, or Challenge Undermine Success. Remember, you were created on purpose, with purpose, to fulfill purpose. You are the solution needed by someone somewhere.

“Are you ready to do something today that your future will thank you for tomorrow?”

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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.

 

 

be NspireD!

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