Posts Tagged ‘hope’

How very strange that I found this in my inbox on this, the last day of, what many would agree, has been a terrible year. 

This has been a tumultous year for me personally and I do hope and pray that 2017 will be a gentler year. It seems as if I’ve been running around like a wound-up toy, trying to make sense of life and not getting anywhere. 

One thing this verse tells me, though, is that I must battle forth, hold on to hope and onto God and all will be well.

That is also my prayer for all of you. I do hope that 2017 will see me keeping more up to date with posts so that we can visit often and share our thoughts.

Have a blessed new year’s eve, friends and followers. Stay safe, keep the faith and be filled with excitement at the dawn of a brand new year, always remembering that, if you believe, you will be carried through every storm, guided through every darkness and handed the gift of everlasting light in the end.

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Over this past festive season I’m sure we all took the opportunity of reflecting on 2015; what we did, what happened to us and the world (both good and bad) and we also look forward to the new year. I’m sure many have a lot of resolutions (get more exercise, eat healthier, work harder, etc, etc). I pose the question then: why all these resolutions? I guess the answer is quite obvious – because we can still CHANGE it!

I hope therefore that, when you look at the past, you will do so without regret and, if you DO feel a tinge of sadness or regret or disappointment or even anger, please let it go. You cannot go back and change it, you can, however, learn to EMBRACE it and USE it as a tool to become a better person.

Now this is all old news….we cannot travel back in time, accept what you cannot  change and blah-blah-blah…you’ve probably heard it a 100.000 times in your life. Question is: ‘Did you actually GET it?’ Or are you still stubbornly clinging to ancient differences, quarrels, disagreements and disputes? Will holding on to all those things of the past make a difference to tomorrow? No, I don’t think so. Look at it, yes, but do not dwell on it and make yourself miserable today….look, remember and LEARN, then get off your behind and take ACTION to make things better for yourself. That is the ONLY way to a better future.

In November 2015 I met a lovely lady from Rwanda and she told me something very important. Coming from Rwanda one can imagine the life she must have had while living there as a child. She witnessed it all…the war, the genocide…she really had first hand experience of the evil humans are capable of. Today she is an accomplished researcher, with a lovely family of her own and she doesn’t hold grudges. She said that people should make an effort to put the past behind them, only then will they be able to move forward. She and her family are an example of people who managed to do just that, and they thrive.

You see, one should perhaps not forget the past, one should remember, but with a kind of nostalgia…something like: ‘I remember when that bad thing happened, but look where we are now, I’ve certainly learned a lot from that experience.’ I know this may sound naive, but people should let go, because what has been is done with, it’s over, it’s forever in the past….the only way to move forward in a positive way is to change your attitude and to do so without all that extra baggage. Do not keep returning to the time of grief and sorrow, digging at it with your bare hands, wallowing in it, pointing fingers at the guilty party who caused your pain – the wound will NEVER heal. It will keep on festering, filling your soul with despair, anger, hate and unhappiness. But you have it in your power to heal that wound completely by expressing your gratitude to an experience that shaped and formed you and made you the person you are today. Forgive the person you hold accountable, but do so actively, not only with empty words…mean it…and prove it in action. You will come to understand that, whatever is holding you back, the purpose of it was NOT to have you cling to the memory forever, the purpose was for you to experience and learn, to BECOME the person you are supposed to be.

The thing is, friends, we are all in charge of our own lives and attitudes, only we can change it, not the world, not the preachers or politicians. You have to decide, do you want to stay miserable, struggling with your bag of past grievances and pain? OR Are you prepared to let it go, let it heal and move on with your life? I have to warn you, though, life is very short, shorter than you can imagine, so you have to decide now if you still want to live a fulfilled and happy life. Don’t waste another minute and always remember this: when you die, HOW will people remember you? What will YOUR legacy be?

Allow yourself to keep loving the world, your life, despite what may or may not have been….you owe that to your future.




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Watching the biographical ‘’Starving in Suburbia’’ otherwise known as ‘’Thinspiration’’….a true-life drama  about a 17-year old dancer struggling with anorexia, brought back some tough memories of my own. The struggle that never really ends once begun, the obsession that no one seems to understand, it came back in a flood.

This young girl in the story was influenced by something she saw on the internet, so people could point fingers and accuse those who created the website or sites for being the cause of her illness. What caused me to become sick back in the day? I wonder that myself. Over the years, 30 of those  now, I’ve been wondering….why did it happen? Me, who so adamantly professed that I will never get an eating disorder, because I loved food too much….when and why…questions forever unanswered, even now, after all the years. Maybe it is time, yes?

Was it the gym-teacher that refused to say my weight out loud in class? Was it the family member that said I’m well-built? Was it stress at the loss of a loved one? The many wild changes in my life that flooded my teenage years? Personally, I think it was all, and none of those things. In the end something did trigger it, but I made the choice to starve myself. It always begins like that…the simple decision to lose a few pounds, not necessarily because it is the ‘’it’’-thing to do, or because I’m a bit chubbier than my peers or because somebody called me fat….and then it escalates into obsession.

Every person who ever suffered through this disease, be it anorexia, bulimia or NSEA (non-specified eating disorder) has a different reason for becoming ill. While doing my dissertation on the subject, I’ve discovered numerous answers to my questions about the trigger, the final nail in the proverbial coffin….well, it is simple, actually, when you, as a person, more often than not a perfectionist, feel you are not in control of your life and the things happening around you, you seek out ways to regain that control. Sometimes people become obsessive about their work, they start drinking, using drugs or….starving…..that is how it was with me.

And eating disorder gives you that sense that you are NOT a failure after all, that you ARE in control of SOMETHING and that you CAN do a GOOD job at it. Of course, underlying that craving for final and ultimate control, are many other issues….having low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, ….that all serves to fuel the wish for control; to SHOW people that you’re worthy. And, of course, it is all a sham……it is fake, this control, because in the end the disease becomes the ‘’entity’’ that gains control and the victim becomes powerless…..it slips away…. My experience may differ widely from other survivors’, but that is why I said, each person has a unique experience with an eating disorder; triggers differ, backgrounds and family dynamics are different, there are unique personalities with different emotions and even some with underlying physical illness. You cannot always blame society, although there is something to be said about the worlds obsession with perfection and ‘’thinness’’, neither can you blame friends or family….in the end, the only thing that matters is that the affected person gets the help and support needed to get well. Why it happens is not always so important…you will understand when you read what I have to say about my own experience.

Let me tell you how it was…….this is an old story and you may have come across it once or twice on my blog. I was a strange girl, weird even, according to many opinions, a perfectionist, never accepted by  my peers, a nerd; I was known as an ‘’academic wreck’’, never allowed to participate in sports, cultural activities, never allowed to go to school dances or parties or movie-nights. That was my life; I went to school, to church and home…it was fine, I never complained and learned early on to enjoy my own company. To this day I don’t particularly need companions, friends, people always hanging around…I can entertain myself. People blamed my parents afterwards, even my boyfriend (whom I eventually married). Me, I never blamed anyone but myself for everything that happened and, somehow, that made it worse. I carried the burden for every little thing that happened in my life and the lives of others I’ve known…..perhaps that is why, when we lost a dear one in the year I got sick, I couldn’t bear it….I couldn’t bear the sadness of the others. It broke my heart to see tears of loss and I could do nothing to take it away, to make it better. To understand why I wished to help it go away, you need to understand what I did, what I was, when I was growing up….other people’s happiness always came before my own. I would have sold my soul to the devil if it would put a smile on my Mother’s face. I’m not saying this to gloat about my good intentions and holier than thou little heart, no, never….never that…it was just important to me that people NOT be sad. I’ve always felt so responsible for other people’s joy in life that, if they are sad or unhappy, I’d take it so personally that I’ll go to great lengths just to make them happy again. It always felt sure that I was the cause for unhappiness….even if I knew that it didn’t make sense, that is was not true. Why was I like this? I don’t know….just another mystery to me.

During that last year, before the demon took over, I’ve done a lot of silly, crazy things, made choices based on this ever-increasing wish to bring happiness to others, to be the ‘’good girl’’….wrong choices…wrong for me. I’ve studied so hard in school to make my grades, to get distinctions so that I would be offered a bursary to study, saving my pensioner parents the money. I decided to study for a degree that would be paid by part-time work in a hospital and the other half by the bursary. Included would be lodgings and a uniform…again saving my parents the extra expense of paying my way, paying for clothes and food, etc, should I stay with them. In the end it was all for nothing….it didn’t please my Mom, so I decided not to go to university. Mom wanted me working and/or married and with babies in short order….as a ‘’good girl’ was supposed to do. In that year I started dating my husband, I got my first job (which I hated), started studying for a diploma in Banking (yuck!) and lost my mini-me….a little girl…in a car accident. I was 18 years old, without proper emotional support throughout and, fool that I was, I still thought I’d be happy if others were smiling…which they were not, especially after the death of the child. I felt helpless….out of control….

Now, you need to understand….I was someone that thought I could control everything….even other people’s happiness and here, something happened that I couldn’t change, make better. I tore up my university papers and Mom was semi-happy (good), I started working at a financial institution and my parents were happy (good)…even if I disliked it, they were happy…so what! I sang in the church choir, went to church every Sunday, to youth every Friday, taught Sunday school, dated a good, church-going boy with a steady job in the Air Force (good girl) and then…BAM…it all crashed and burned, literally on that night in September 1985. For me, that was the final straw….the last hold I had on the semblance of control I had in life….so I had to get it back. I remember the decision as clear as if it was yesterday….I was sitting in our back yard, by the pool and thought…’’They are falling apart. Someone has to stand up….that someone has to be me.’’ I did, I got up, made lunch for the mourners inside and went on…yay! Control is back! It didn’t end there, though….the unhappiness stayed, despite all my efforts and in the end all my efforts to bring joy in other people’s lives, nearly killed me….

Yes, so, I lost control, regained it in a way, but…..I was not perfect, I was NOT a good enough girl…I must be better; I need to bring new happiness. It was easy, I thought, I have to be better or die, better or die….it was like a constant drum-beat in my mind. I decided to starve myself every time I saw unhappiness in someone’s eyes, unhappiness that I couldn’t change,  and since joy was absent, I simply stopped eating. At first it was obsession towards perfection…perfect smiles, perfect family, perfect life. It evolved and became…perfect body, perfect work, perfect dress, perfect daughter, perfect girlfriend;  good girl and, perhaps then, acceptance, ….by family, by peers….even by the ‘’it’’-girls I knew in school, miserable as they were. I thought my efforts at being perfect for those I cared for, would make them smile again. However, no one noticed….no-one got any happier either, they were all drowning in sorrow, their outlook on life dark, gloomy. Rapidly losing weight, those close to me saw the physical changes, but they were so consumed by their grief that they turned a blind eye. Instead of talking to me, finding out what was wrong, I was teased: I was the thermometer look-alike with my red, and very fashionable, bow-tie, I was the pea-shooter, the straw, the slinky, the happy-go-lucky-legs and the ‘’bad, bad girl’’ for making Mom worry more…and this while she was so sad for losing her grand-daughter. The obsession towards perfection changed…it became the obsession to vanish from existence, to take up as little space as possible, because, you see, I realised that nothing I do will ever be good enough. In fact, I’ve been fooling myself all those years, thinking I had the power to make people happy, while the truth was that I never succeeded even in that. I was stupid, unworthy, nothing….

Yes, losing the weight was about counting calories obsessively, measuring the circumference of my thighs and weighing myself constantly. Yes it was about drinking laxatives, counting how many times I chew my food, writing my weight in a diary and obsessing about every ounce gained. I wanted to get smaller, because I wasn’t worthy of being here, being human at all…I was a failure. I wanted to stop BEING by becoming a child-shaped person, and eventually simply, poof…gone. I nearly succeeded…..anorexia took over every nook and cranny of my life, not because I wanted to be model thin, to look like Kate Moss or because I was emotionally and/or physically abused….it took over my life because I just didn’t want to be here anymore. It was suicide by Ana….and the sad thing was….I made the choice; it was nobody’s fault but my own.

I survived though, also by choice……the doctors told me I had three weeks to live. The guy who is now my husband saved me ….he convinced  me to choose life and, if it wasn’t for him, I would have died…..I went to hospital and they managed to fix my body. My mind, well, I’m still working on that!

It took me 20 years to accept the body I have now, to accept the fact that I MAY live, that I have right to life and that I could actually stop pleasing others. (On that one I’m also still working.) The thing is, even today, I can quote chapter and verse, the fat and calories in food, I still count my meals, I don’t own a scale, but I sometimes stare at my shape for hours on end, hating what I see, despising the fact that I’m here, alive. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lovely life, I have a gorgeous family, a happy home, I adore my husband, I’m finally doing something that I love (my counselling, my charities)….now it is a question of: do I really deserve this? Wouldn’t they be better off without me? That is something that I still struggle with….that is the residue of my anorexia experience. Fortunately now I have the wisdom, if not always the will, to understand that my life has a purpose, even if I don’t know exactly what it is and, more important, I am responsible for my own happiness, NOT that of others. Each for his/her own….you cannot make someone’s future for them, they have to do it all on their own.

When asked what would I change if I could ever travel back in time….I’ll change nothing (oh,  maybe the loss of our girl…yes, maybe that)…but what I’ve experienced, good, bad, ugly…whatever, I don’t hold it against myself or anyone else….I accept it for what it was and now, looking back I understand there were lessons to be learnt, even in the events we couldn’t find reason or purpose and, if we change our lives, wouldn’t we forfeit the wisdom we’ve gained? Wouldn’t a change in the past, change what we have become?

Years ago I read a book called ‘’The Tommyknockers’’ (laugh if you like, and yes, it is a Stephen King, of COURSE it is!). The story is quite weird (to be expected from King) and is about a lady that digs up a spaceship. The spaceship ‘’infects’’ the villagers of a nearby town by altering their brainwaves and ultimately their body-chemistry and physical appearance, in the end they all die (spoiler, sorry prospective reader of this SK-tale). Past experiences are like that….these people changed because they were exposed to the waves emitted by the spacecraft. They couldn’t change back into their old selves once the change began…..in the story it is said that they ‘’become’’. The past and our experiences change us, we can never be the same, but we can USE those experiences to ‘’become’’ better, more fulfilled, wiser and ultimately more HUMAN than we’ve ever been. The other day I heard the singer Rihanna say in an interview that her Mother used to tell her ‘’there are no mistakes, only lessons in life’’.

Yes, indeed, no mistakes, only lessons….we are so hard on ourselves, I know I am. We should stop chastising ourselves for our bad choices and start accepting that, yes it happened, yes it was wrong, but it is over, done with…. We would be far happier if we live with thankful hearts in the moment, reaching for tomorrow and the rest of our lives, because, friends, it goes by quickly and we shouldn’t waste time scratching and clawing at the old, dusty wounds.

Let me tell you this, if I can do it….you can too. Anorexia saved me from myself, it showed me that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was and surviving that and whatever else happened in my past proved to me that I have reason to feel proud, reason to give myself a hug and say: ‘’Good girl.’’


Do you need help with your eating disorder? Do you suspect a friend or family member to suffer from and ED? Why not get in touch with me? Let me be your friend…I’ve been there and I KNOW…click here and email me NOW before it is too late.

Help is available here too:

  1. https://www.b-eat.co.uk
  2. www.twinriversrehab.co.za
  3. www.anad.org
  4. www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
  5. www.eatingdisorderhope.com


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Stephen King Quote

There was a time that horror only existed in books and movies. These days, horror is a part of everyday life. We read about it, see it on television, watch horrific YouTube images of beheadings, war, famine….you name it. This is old news and I have written about it in the past.

Today, as I scrolled down my Twitter timeline, it was business as usual….an airplane crash, a train wreck, a pile up on the freeway, riots, war, refugees, home invasions, shootings….never-ending stories of suffering. Finally I saw this quote from one of my favorite Stephen King novels……..and I thought to share it, because I really wonder how much more can the human race, the world, withstand; how much horror until we’ve learned the lesson – be kind to each other, care about our planet, care about a prosperous, peaceful future, reach out with a loving hand, NOT a gun or knife… In the sixties Joan Baez sang the song about the flowers…you remember that one? She sang: ”When will they ever learn,” yes, indeed, when will we learn.

There is so much good in the world and we try so desperately to live our lives in a good, honest way inbetween all the sorrow and pain. Every single day you find inspiration, tips on healthy living, wellbeing, how to combat stress, etc, etc…..yet, all that is just dealing with the symptoms, the healing superficial and often people treat change as a phase, a whim. You want to exercise, so you enroll in a gym, go once and then stop; you decide to be kinder to others, you do it for a few hours, then nearly bite someone’s head off for cutting in front of you at the supermarket check-out. The problem is, our subconscious are so overwhelmed by all the horror in the world, that  it finds it hard not to conform. It would take action, commitment, for us to change.

I’m a great believer in the ability of people to change for the better…maybe I’m naive, but frankly, I don’t care what people may think of my views. I am convinced that we brought all this horror upon ourselves, so we can indeed change it, we can make it better. We MUST change, we should stand up for goodness, our right to live peaceful lives and we must do so without force; violence begets violence. Change begins in the individual. You must make the choice. I know, for me, on the outside, only being a spectator of the horrors, it is easy to say these, seemingly empty, words but someone has to speak up and, or at least, try to show people the possibility of change.

It begins with me, I must commit myself to be kinder, more caring, accepting, respecting others for who they are. We are all different, and we should cherish the unique nature of each person, of each individual’s belief system, sexual orientation, gender and race. We are in the world, on this earth together…..together we must stand against the horror. Make the choice, let it begin in you, in me, now. Let us, once again, have some faith in the basic goodness of humankind. That is, after all what it boils down to, FAITH. Change may seem impossible, even to me, the ever-optimistic idiot, but with faith, anything is possible. We may think that we can, perhaps, bring about change in our own lives, but changing the minds of those against us, the people that cause all the horror and evil in the world, well….impossible. But with faith, don’t you think it is actually possible?

After all, faith is the one thing that, in my opinion, we lack in the world….we’ve stopped believing long ago. Have faith – faith in each other, faith in our ability to bring change, faith in the possibility that we can actually live in peace and harmony with one another, despite our differences, faith that we can change the heart of even the darkest, most evil person on earth…..stop looking with your eyes at the horrors, it will consume you, drive you insane….we cannot, as the quote above states, take it much longer. We are on the verge of become an insane world, so filled with misery that we cannot find our way in the darkness anymore. So, close your eyes for a moment to the horror, and look to the inside, YOUR soul, YOUR heart…..find that little seed of faith and let it grow…towards hope, towards change. Now look at the world from a different perspective and try to find the good things, the hopeful things around you, let THAT grow………who knows what you will be able to achieve.

Don’t tell me you can’t, at least, give it a shot. The alternative is bleak: stay ignorant, stay consumed by the world of horror and bear witness to mankind’s demise. Your choice…..have faith, or not….

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#BreastCancer #Survivor

Psalm 23:4:

 ‘’Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.’’

I’ve been wondering about how to speak my mind about the situation I currently find myself in. Where do I begin? How to I decide what should be said and what should be kept hidden in my mind-files? Well, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I should just, kind of, begin in the middle and work my way in both directions, especially considering the fact that there is no definite outcome yet.

So, here goes (and if I, like always, babble and ramble on, bear with me…I am NOT sure yet about anything, so digressing and contemplating things is just my way of getting the tale told).

Over the past few weeks I’ve been blessed  with compliments and thanks for the way I inspire people. I’ve been nominated for awards, won a few and was even called an ‘’iconic woman’’ at some point. I don’t deserve any of this, though…not to be misunderstood, I am eternally grateful to the people who’ve said these kind words, but mostly I’m surprised that I’ve been noticed at all. I am such a ‘’nothing’’ person, so invisible….something like this is quite unique and, actually, a little bit strange, even slightly embarrassing, for me. I’ve been wondering though, why, after nearly 48 years of being who I am, doing whatever it is I do, that people are noticing me now. In my opinion the answer came by way of a wonderful physician who gave me the most awful news (I’ll get to that eventually). You see, even though I thought that all these years, while I’ve been doing kind deeds, supporting others in their time of need, taking on battles for others, being the strong one while others falter and so on, no one actually SAW me…I was wrong. People did notice and all my efforts were not for nothing. I did help others and I did give hope and inspiration. Now, even in my own time of need, I can still be strong, still stand up and fight my battle and continue to relentlessly inspire others. All the kind words, all the nominations, all the winnings of the past few weeks were meant to happen just in time for me to realise that all is not lost. I hope you will understand what I’m trying to point out: in short, I was told that people saw what I do, so that I can have the courage to continue speaking out, sharing my life, my experiences and now this disease and in that way spread a word of hope. But, not only THAT, no, I want people to know that God Himself placed me here, at this moment, in this position, with this problem so that His Name can be exalted through me and other lost souls can find their way back to Him, using my testimony as a guiding light. THAT is why I’m here, now, at this specific place and time.

That said (I will get to the matter of my ‘’situation’’ soon enough)but, in the meantime,  be patient please. I may repeat myself (the old noodle is not what it used to be, you know!) and I may tell you things you already know about me, or things that you may not agree with….just know that what I’m telling is the true story of a family, of life, of pain, sorrow, darkness and a little bit of light (for some, believe me, the darkness was overwhelming), but mostly, it’s just a way of telling you how things came to pass…and perhaps, WHY it came to pass and how it happened that, today, I can look at those things in the past with more understanding and empathy, because now I am in the same position as the ladies I am about to tell you about.

The first person I’ll introduce you to is my great-grandmother. As a child I was told about her suffering and how she died of breast cancer in the 1940’s. My Mom used to tell me how she and her sisters had to help great-gran during her battle with the illness. Her cancer was so aggressive that it had the appearance of a skin ulcer that constantly wept. Mom said she never forgot the smell or the how horrible the wound looked. She said it looked as if someone punched a hole in great-gran’s breast. The girls (Mom wasn’t even 20 years old) had to clean this wound and help great-gran get around, to bathe, dress, whatever. I cannot imagine how bad it must have been so see someone you care about suffer like that. It was excruciatingly painful and the doctors had no way of treating it back then. Remember, it was before chemo and radiotherapy. All the family and the medical profession could do was to make her as comfortable as possible. Needless to say, the cancer spread like wildfire through her body, so in the end it was a relief for both her and the family when she passed (I think), though Mom was careful not to mention her own feelings about great-gran’s death. Her eyes told the story anyway….her horror at being responsible for nursing a sick old woman, her disgust at doing the chore of cleaning the wound and the embarrassment of bathing the family’s matriarchal figure, seeing her helpless….and, yes, possibly also guilt at wishing her dead, released from the misery. Years later, with Mom becoming the type of person she was (you’ll see more in another paragraph), I looked back on these tales of hers and understood why she was such a bitter, depressed person.

The next lady you’ll meet is Grandmother. Gran also had lumps in her breasts. That was in the 60’s, but it was all very hush-hush and Mother only mentioned it a few times. Even my aunt seems reluctant to talk about it, so about her struggles with breast cancer and lumpectomies, I know very little.  My aunt Ester, though, she has been to hell and back with it and not at all shy to share her survival story. She is some woman, this aunt of mine. Her energy and positive attitude have always been an inspiration to me. Aunt E has had several lumpectomies over the years and some of those lumps were malignant. She has had parts of her breasts removed and went through the treatment programmes. In addition to the cancer, she has the same heart defect that I have and she’s had some of her toes removed, because of bunions and malformation of bones, etc….AND a few years ago (I think it was around 2008) she even had a stroke. Being the type of person she is and much to the horror of her doctors she relentlessly hounded them to be discharged from hospital, because, she said: ‘’I have orders for paintings to complete!“ She still has trouble using her right side and sometimes have trouble holding her paintbrush, but hold it she does…without complaint, without the ‘’suffering’’ disposition one would expect from someone who has been challenged so often in life. She is the last one of her family left, having survived her parents (my grandparents), who died years ago,  her brother and 3 sisters (aunt Betsy, my Mom and their retarded little sister, June). Yet, when you meet her, she has this aura of electric energy around her. Her eyes always glitter like stars and she’s always busy doing something. Her attitude is very contagious…..it’s like she literally GLOWS with positivity. I remember she used to say that she wanted to live until she’s 105, but, because my Mom is such a ‘’sufferer’’, she had to change it to 102…out of respect for Mom, you understand. When Mom passed away in 2009, her words of goodbye, as she bent over my poor Mother’s body and kissed her were: ‘’Spoilsport! Who will be my competition in birthday celebrations now?’’ I couldn’t help but smile…that was just SO aunt Ester. These days she still continues working; painting, running her framing business, holding art exhibitions, inspiring and teaching other artists……..oh, I forgot to mention, she’s 80 years old. To me, this woman’s picture should be next to the word ‘’life’’ in the dictionary.

Aunt Ester and my Mother were sisters, but their attitudes were so different that I can still not believe they grew up in the same house, with the same parents, had the same experiences (yes, aunt E also helped to take care of my sick great-gran), plus she also had breast cancer herself. Yet, she still managed to light up with vitality and life, while Mom just sat on the rock next to life’s road and watched everything go by.  Life has never been good for Mom at all, but during the 80’s things got decidedly worse for her.  It was 1986; a difficult time for us already. I was just 19 and a year before we lost our little angel (brother’s little girl of 3) in a car accident. So times were really tough and Mom was especially depressed, gloomy and morose, even more than usual. She never went for tests, mammograms and sonograms, despite the fact that she knew the risk for breast cancer is extremely high in our family. One balmy Sunday evening in March 1986, she discovered a lump in her breast. The next day, Monday, she went to see her GP. He immediately referred her to a surgeon who, without hesitation, admitted her to hospital for a lumpectomy on the Wednesday. Those of you who’ve ever had a breast lumpectomy will know that, before you’re wheeled into the theatre, you have to sign a release form, stating that, should the lump be malignant, the doctor may perform a more aggressive operation like a full mastectomy or removal of more breast tissue than normally required with benign lumps. Mom signed without second thought, thinking perhaps that all will be well. It wasn’t, though. It was cancer and the surgeon decided to perform a radical mastectomy. She was, understandably, terribly upset, especially since, when she came to after the anaesthesia; her first sight was of two representatives of the Cancer Association of South Africa. (I actually thought that was very insensitive of the hospital to allow them so soon, but what could one do? It was done and we had to deal with Mom’s reaction.) Both Dad and Mom were devastated by the news and she never quite recovered. The medical aid refused to pay for a reconstruction, so she always had just the one breast (I can actually imagine how that must have been; seeing yourself scarred like that every day for the rest of your life). I remember when she died the doctors in the emergency room had the temerity to ask me why she just had one breast. I was tempted to give a snippy answer like: ‘’She just woke up one morning and thought, oh, perhaps I’ll have an op today…a mastectomy of just one breast, say. Having two is really SO overrated,’’ or ‘’Oh, I’m sorry, we didn’t have time to pack it….she became ill quite suddenly, you know.’’  Of course, with her dying, I just gave the proper reply and let it be, but I’ll never forget that. Such a stupid question…don’t you agree? Honestly!

Anyway….back to 1986. Mom went for treatment for five years after diagnoses and was declared clear of cancer at the end of it. She was cancer free, as far as we know, until her death of a heart attack in January 2009. But, as I said, she never got over it. She always had this cloud over her; its darkness infiltrated her entire existence. Nothing was ever the same after and, perhaps, losing a granddaughter also had a lot to do with it, or perhaps it was the two catastrophic things that happened to her within one year that caused her mood to spiral downward, I’m not sure. Mom was never really happy after that. One got the feeling that her smiles and laughter, if one were lucky enough to witness it, were just pretending.  She and Dad fought constantly. They used to fight a lot before, too, but it steadily got worse as the years dragged on and living with them became quite challenging. (No one ever knew about this, of course….I’ve never told a soul until now.) When I got married in 1988 it was a relief to move in with my husband.  I cannot fully explain the extent of her mood swings or the senselessness of her actions and cannot dream of comprehending the true source. In fact, I’m not sure I’m up to going into all the details now, but suffice to say that, having had cancer and the mastectomy, on top of everything else,  definitely left more than just a physical scar. She used to say that she felt like ‘’half a woman’’. All this was only aggravated by her eventual sinking into Alzheimer’s and then, the final blow was perhaps my sister’s death in 2004. To say Mom lived a ‘’blue’’ life would be an understatement. She was never particularly jolly, but ‘’blue’’ is too bright to describe her desperation and depression over the last 20-25 years of her life. Poor Mom, how I wish everything turned out different, better, for her.  When I look back on her life and the struggles she had since her teens; the challenges she faced….I understand why she was like that, why she didn’t have a fighting spirit. It is such a shame, because she wasn’t a bad person at all. She actually had a very good heart, despite her very sharp tongue and I loved her very much. I just wish that I spoke to her back in the day and told her that she needn’t feel guilty about the past or cling to old grudges and dislikes. That she deserved some happiness and that nothing is as bad as it seems. All it takes is a different perspective….I should have told her that she must allow herself to let it go of all the sadness and live the life she was freely given to the full. I do so hope that, in death, she has made her peace.

This brings me to my sister. Sis was a lot like Mom (mood-wise). Sister was clinically depressed and, occasionally, she even tried medication (without much success, I must add). Her life was not a particularly happy one, but she had her moments. We used to be known as the ‘’giggling sisters’’. Gosh, we had laughs!! Yes, she could be great fun….but then her mood will swing and the depth of her depression, more often than not, became, well, indescribable. Only people who know deep depression will understand how she felt. Being depressive myself, I did, or tried to, but where I always tried to fight off the strange attraction of those dark emotions, she simply couldn’t resist. To her the possibility of not being depressed was not an option; it was one or the other……total crazy, hilarity or deep, dark depression (I sometimes think she was bipolar, undiagnosed though…and, remember, it is just my own opinion. Maybe if she got the proper help her disposition would have been better.)  Well, despite her volatile emotional state, sister got married when she was just 19 (that was way back in ‘73). I was a little girl, grade 1 and was the flower girl at the wedding (wearing yellow – don’t you DARE laugh! The wedding colours were purple and yellow with the groom and his team wearing purple, yes PURPLE, suits and the bride and her team with hair done up in beehive-styles with yellow flowers stuck in it!) The colour scheme may have been a laugh, but it set the mood for the wedding…..it was what she wanted and it was the happiest day of her life. They never had children. Sister had endometrioses and gave up after one treatment (that was her style, poor thing). She stopped working at age 27 and stayed home after her diagnoses caused a nervous breakdown. She had to face the fact that she would be childless forever….she adored children, you see and would have been a wonderful Mother, I’m sure.  The depression only intensified after that and, in the end, I think her death was not so much the result of cancer as it was SUICIDE by cancer (once again, this is just my opinion). She and her husband seemed happy, though, despite having lots of troubles over the years. They always got along, never fought and were always very supportive of each other. In 1991 he was involved in a terrible car accident and were forced to take early retirement, because of his injuries. Receiving a small monthly pension resulted in some financial strain, but they continued to seem okay, despite that. She had her good days and her bad days; we had our laughs and our tears….life went on. Then, in 2004, February of that year, in fact, I had to have a breast lumpectomy myself and called to inform her. She told me that she had a lump in her breast too, but refused to get it examined, even after I insisted that she should see someone. Brother-in-law said that he noticed her purchasing creams and balms, but never thought to ask why. It turned out that it was great-grandmother all over again. The cancer burst open on her skin’s surface in August that year. The doctors discovered that it had spread to her lungs, kidneys and liver and suggested chemotherapy, but they refused to remove her breast. In retrospect, I think she was too far gone already and she wasn’t strong enough for the operation…the doctors knew this, I suspect, but chose not to mention it. Perhaps they thought they had a chance with the treatment, who knows? Anyhow, she received only 3 dosages of chemo when they discovered the cancer in her brain. They discontinued the chemo and gave radiotherapy instead. By then she was very weak, her immune system totally compromised and the welcome mat out for any old virus or germ that was looking for a cosy little body to set up shop in. She died on 5 November 2004 – complications following bronchitis. Once again I worried that she lived an empty life. She could have enjoyed it all so much more if she had a different view on things, a different approach to the challenges life threw at her.

You may wonder why on earth did I tell you all this. Well, it will explain why I eventually did what I did and, as I mentioned a while back in a related post …I’ve been contemplating this step for most of my life. You also needed to understand the depth of the emotions that ran through these women in my family. You needed to SEE what I saw, perhaps get an indication of the feelings I had eventually about them and their deaths (or lives, if you consider my VERY lively aunt Ester). I loved them all dearly, not that I knew my great-grandmother, but my gran, Mom and sister….despite all their dark moments, their desperate attempts at living some kind of authentic life. I’ve accepted them with their darkness and all and I’ve also accepted that I am different in a very profound way. I am NOT a sufferer, I am NOT afraid to live and I am NOT afraid to die, either….just not  yet, mind you!! Whatever life used to throw at me, I survived, I got up and challenged the circumstances, shouldered my way through troubles and swam through oceans of sorrow and pain. Many times in my life I carried these women; times that they just couldn’t go on…I HAD to do something! Someone HAD to take responsibility and I was always elected, either by choice or chance, I was elected. I never held these times against them….it was my job, I was the fighter, the warrior in the family…I HAD to do it.  I never resented them for just numbly laying low while I kick some ass somewhere (so to speak).  So, please, I loved them all, but, to be quite honest, I don’t want to live like they did and even more so, I don’t want to die like they did….without having ever taking a chance, ever really grabbing every opportunity life presents and simply BE. Having said this, I need to mention something else…it always bothered me…people say that, when you pass, you see your life passing in front of your eyes, like a movie. So I pose the question: What did they see? Were they happy with what they saw? Did they have any regrets? Did they finally understand that they missed something?  I don’t want to have regrets; I don’t want to wonder about ‘’what if’s’’ and, perhaps more importantly,  I want my children to remember me for my life, for living, for experiencing thousands of different things, of being a bit nuts, weird-crazy, funny, sometimes even a bit scary. My kids shouldn’t be allowed to remember my death. These women now,  I try to remember them happy, but with only great difficulty I am able to recall distinct moments of joy in their lives, yet all I can remember with painful clarity, is their deaths…..poor, sad, souls and on the heels of that…what a waste. What a waste of life…..God’s gift. Do you understand what I’m saying? The terrible sadness of it all?

This finally brings me to my story, my experience and the events that lead up to whatever is transpiring in my life today. I do hope you will, when reading these final paragraphs, understand why I explained in such detail about the 5 most important women I’ve known. Their lives and their disposition, their choices and reaction to challenges, had a direct influence on what is happening to me now.

In November it will be  10 years since my sister died; just a few months after her passing I went to my Ob/Gyn for my annual check-up. Before that, as usual, I had my annual breast scan and mammogram, so the test results accompanied me on my visit to the doctor. Of course they discovered yet another lump (no surprise there, but instead of referring me for the usual lumpectomy my Ob/Gyn suggested I have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. He didn’t even know my sister had just died! I nearly fainted in shock and surprise! Remember, I was just 37 years old and, although I’ve had thoughts of breast cancer, my thoughts were more in the direction of preventative screening – something that neither my Mom nor sister ever considered doing. I was going for my check-ups religiously, so the need for major surgery seemed quite ridiculous at the time. The surgeon I was referred to felt the same way, but suggested that I keep it in mind for future consideration. He decided to do just the basic lumpectomy and that was that. So I filed the idea somewhere in my mind. But, I didn’t forget (as per instruction)….I also didn’t just remember, no, the idea started to haunt me continuously. Every time I discover a lump, every time I had to have an op to remove it, every time I went for my screening….I turned it over and over in my mind like a dark jewel. But that was just how it remained….a haunting thought that I sometimes stumbled upon, picked up and considered for a while, then shrugged away, returning it to its dusty drawer in my mind. It was just something that became part of my little life.

Until this year, that was. The first one to mention it was my GP. I did go for my screening and a lump was discovered; in fact, I’ve known about this particular lump for some time – almost 2 years. One could actually SEE it; very small, the size of a pea, but THERE. The sonogram confirmed its existence, hence my visit to the GP. He referred me to a general surgeon, who also suggested a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and, perhaps, having a BRAC 1 and 2 genetic test beforehand. I asked the doctor if he thought I should really have this operation; if maybe I shouldn’t just consider having the usual, a lumpectomy. You see, I realised it will not be a walk in the park. Surgery always carries a risk and recuperating after such a major operation may take a while, plus, I’m a baby when it comes to pain. I remember he just sat there behind his desk, picked up the pathologists referral, balled it up and threw it in the dustbin. ‘’Let’s not waste time anymore,’’ he said and wrote a referral to a plastic surgeon. Prophylactic mastectomy, he said; 95% chance of getting breast cancer with my family history, he said, and proceeded to write a motivational letter to our medical aid. Within 3 days they approved the procedure. Even then, after the decision has been made, I doubted doing it, but something kept on trying to convince me of the fact that I MUST do it; that it was the right thing to do. Everywhere I went I suddenly met other women who also had breast cancer. They encouraged me to do the procedure, to get it over with and then, a few weeks before the operation was due to take place I had a prophecy from someone.

All the while I had this bizarre feeling that something was wrong; something was different this time and all these ‘’coincidences’’ were becoming extremely ‘’non-coincidental’’, it was slowly becoming confirmation.

Let me tell you a bit about these incidents….it happened daily.  In one week I met 4 women who had breast cancer, one of them nearly 10 years younger than myself, with small children. Talking to them, seeing how they dealt with the blow of being diagnosed and how they survived the treatment really gave me hope, especially since mine would only be prophylactic (or so I thought then). Furthermore, their attitude towards the diagnoses was so different from the attitudes I’ve witnessed in my family….so much more positive. It also seemed that every day in my Bible studies, God spoke directly to me about the step I was about to take, constantly confirming that the decision was the right one. In addition to this, as I mentioned earlier, there was the prophecy I received. Now, as I said, I’ve had a strange feeling about the entire procedure. Everything about it seemed almost pre-destined, pre-ordained and the feeling I got overall was one of strange foreboding – as if, though the decision was the right one, there was something else, something bigger behind it all. I told a friend it felt as if a shadow hung over me all the time. It became so distinct that I could literally feel the coldness, like a constant breeze on my neck. It was VERY weird. Then, one day after my yoga class, a lady I’ve only met once before during a previous class, came up to me and said she had to tell me something. She said that she wasn’t sure she should say it out loud, but it felt as if something was compelling her to talk. By then I knew that the operation was inevitable, and I knew that my decision has been made, but she didn’t know anything about it. She said that (and note the words): ‘’I see the shadow of cancer over you, but you will be healed.’’ I told her about my decision to have a bilateral mastectomy, but that, despite the fact that I did indeed have a lump at the time, cancer wasn’t yet confirmed. However, the moment she spoke up, I had the distinct feeling that she was correct in her observation, but I still held on to the hope that everything will be fine and kept on worrying that I was wasting money and the surgeon’s time (silly me, yes?).

The scripture continued to confirm my choice and so did dreams I had… The day of the operation dawned. When they wheeled me into the operating theatre I said to the assisting doctor that I felt like getting up and running away. It was only then that I decided the total finality of it all….I was going to lose both breasts…by choice. The only comfort I had was the fact that I felt, deep in my heart, that God Himself put me on this road and that I’ve actually taken 10 years to finally decide what to do. As I explained to my daughter…rather Mommy go into hospital for a few days, than Mommy going away to heaven forever. I didn’t want my children to see my dying like my sister did, remember….what I did, that terrible decision, I made, NOT for me, I made it for them. I wanted them to have a mother for a long time, not a vague memory that will only be at their weddings and their children’s christenings in spirit….I’d prefer being there myself, in person, front and centre, cheering them on as they continue on their lives paths. As it turned out, this may be something I wouldn’t be able to do after all…..

About the operation….no fun, not recommended….. This op was in part ‘’cosmetic’’ if you will…actually it was more ‘’reconstructive’’, but the basics are the same. The mastectomy itself is a very destructive procedure. The reconstruction involves the placement of silicone-filled implants underneath the pectoral muscle. Now if you think having cosmetic surgery is fun, think again. It may be a far different and less invasive surgery than mine, but I still think it is just as painful. In my opinion doctors should insist that people who have any type of breast surgery (that is, COSMETIC breast surgery) go for psychiatric treatment, or at least some kind of counselling beforehand. Man, it HURTS like hell!! I was in hospital for 3 days and the doctor prescribed extremely strong painkillers. For two weeks I was ‘’higher than a kite’’….just going through the motions of everyday life, literally lying low with my eyes unfocused, watching CSI Seasons on my computer. In retrospect it was actually very funny…I must have watched the same episodes a thousand times, simply because I couldn’t remember watching them in the first place! During that time the plastic surgeon removed my bandages and told me that the results of the pathological tests on the tissue removed were still pending, but that he had decided in theatre to remove the glands as well. As I mentioned earlier, he didn’t want to do this, but changed his mind during surgery. For me it was a bad omen. I told my husband that, the moment he told me that news, I knew that something was up. I thought he discovered something unexpected while removing tissue.

I was right…last Friday he gave me the news. There was cancer in the tissue he removed and, although he thought he got it all, he couldn’t be sure. The pathologist told him that, according to him, the operation happened in the nick of time. The next step would be to visit an oncologist and talk about the treatment. This will only happen in a few weeks’ time though…..I cannot receive any chemotherapy or any other type of treatment for the cancer before my wounds have healed properly.

Well, there you have it….it turned out that I didn’t decide on having the prophylactic mastectomy just because…it turned out there was a reason why all the signs and messages I received from God and other people pointed me in that direction. I just did it the other way around….first the op, then the diagnosis.

Now I know I have (or had) breast cancer and I deal with it rather well, I think. It is a very strange idea…thinking that you have a body that turned traitor like that, but, as I said to my husband, the only thing that REALLY makes me angry, is the fact that the damn cancer took so long to finally make an appearance!! I’ve actually been expecting it for a long, long time. Now it’s here, present and accounted for, thank you very much; not at all invited, not really welcome, but something to live with for a while anyway.

As usual I surprised everyone, including the doctor, with my reaction. To this day I haven’t cried about it or showed any type of emotion, not unless you think a positive attitude counts. This has been presented to me; this thing that I have to deal with now and I am going to do just that, whatever it takes. What gets to me, is how others react to the news. I’m sometimes so shocked at their reaction…their tears….it is almost as if they are already grieving for me. I told someone the other day that it’s as if I didn’t get the memo that told the world I’m very sick, possibly dying. One would think that they will be supportive and try to give one hope; instead I have to comfort THEM, put my arms around THEM and give THEM hope, dry THEIR tears… It just feels wrong. But, I guess this is life, this is me, this is the way I handle things. Perhaps people would always consider me strong enough to deal with everything, strong enough to bring comfort to others, even though it is me who has this little problem called cancer. I accepted this and I feel so sorry for these people who desperately try to swallow their tears; tears they cry for ME. When I think carefully about it, I should actually feel blessed that they care so much and that they will really miss me if I have to die.

Me, well, I’ll take every day as God presents it to me. Be thankful for the sunshine, be thankful that I can be alive……..I’m already going about my business as usual, grabbing huge handfuls of life along the way. I am NOT afraid of this thing that may still be lingering inside me. I will NOT give up and I know that God will be exalted through this experience. That is the whole idea, I think….I’ve been set upon this rocky road and I will walk through every shadow, climb over every fallen tree across the way, build bridges over the potholes if I must….but I will get through it, I will come out the other side. Do you want to know how I’ll do it? I’m NOT alone in this, God sent this my way, because He knew I will be able to conquer it in His Name….I know He will give me the proper tools to take it one day at a time, step by step….and in the end my survival will be a testimony that can bring hope and inspiration to all.

You see:



…neither should you…


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Faith - have some

According to trusty ol’ Google it means this:

  1. 1.
    complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
    “this restores one’s faith in politicians”
optimism, hopefulness, hopeexpectation
“he completely justified his boss’s faith in him”

Faith….we all immediately think about it in religious terms. But, perhaps, we must expand our perspective on faith a bit too (just look at the wealth of explanatory terms above!)…think about it. Ask these questions…

  • Do you have faith in yourself?
  • Do you have faith in others?
  • Do you have faith in life?
  • Do you still have faith in God?


Let’s examine this for a moment:

I once heard faith described as something you cannot prove, yet you trust in its existence. For instance: you enter a room and your friend offers you a chair to sit on. You don’t KNOW that the chair will support you, no, you just go right ahead and sit down. Without realizing it, you had FAITH that the chair will be able to carry your weight without reducing itself to splinters (there’s a giggle for you to imagine!). You didn’t stand around WONDERING about it, calling out the ol’ CSI-team to INVESTIGATE the ability of the chair to support weight, perhaps taking a few DNA swabs to determine the ”you-can-sit-safely-on-me-gene”, no….your friend would’ve called the police himself if you did this; AND the doctors in the green pj’s would have gladly slammed the door on your own private quarters, padded walls inclusive, in the nearest gha-gha house….thorazine shots served hourly. THAT would have been a comedy, huh? Oh, but you had a nice sit-down with your buddy-roo and you chatted the night away…totally oblivious that you have actually done something in FAITH, in TRUST.

I don’t know about you, but this totally opened my eyes to the FAITH-concept…everything we do, each and every day, in fact, has something to do with faith or rather, the ACT of faith. Faith that there will be milk in the refrigerator, faith that my car will start, faith that I’ll open the tap and water will come out….etc…etc… We don’t EVER think about this, but in these simple, daily things….we do show a lot of faith in action and we don’t even realize it!

Why is it then that we struggle so much with faith? Why is it that, when we THINK about it, we tend to make it complicated? That is the problem with Homo sapiens, we think we are SO clever that we turn EVERYTHING into a huge debate….in some cases debates become full-fledged wars (with guns and stuff, you know)…and in the end, when you REALLY sit down (on your…har-de-har-har…trusty chair) and THINK about all the problems and strife in the world, it all began with something really silly. In my opinion (and this has nothing to do with this discussion) all the problems in the world started with one issue….someone, somewhere, trying to save face, trying, no matter the cost, to show he/she is better than others…..yes, in the end, all the trouble began with human being’s EGO-issues. But that is not the topic of this post…..let’s move on…

As explained, faith is something that comes naturally, without us being aware of it. (This is my opinion, anyway, feel free to disagree.) Now we go around telling others to have faith in God, other people, the world, etc, etc….we make a really BIG deal of it. And when you talk about things like faith, something that becomes second nature, when you NOTICE it particularly, it has a tendency to become VERY hard, very difficult….like in my yoga class…I do the tree-pose, for instance, focus on a point in the distance and concentrate on the different moves, keeping my balance, but the moment I start thinking about WHAT I’m doing, the moment I get distracted, I fall flat on my face (I really did once!! Ouch!) Notice what I said about the ”focus”….keeping it at a point in the distance…

Yes, you may very well say that, good old humankind has lost its ”knack” for faith. We’ve forgotten what it really is. As you see in the simple explanation above, people obviously still use it….I mean, you DO have faith that the earth will not simply disappear under your feet one day? Or don’t you? (Don’t answer that….I fear that with things being as it is in the world today we may have a very good excuse for not trusting earth for being there…always.) But, that is NOT the point I want to make…believing is not thinking or saying you CAN do something, it is KNOWING THAT YOU WILL!! Or that God WILL or people WILL, or whatever.

This is the kind of mistake I made in prayer….I told God that He CAN do things, because He is, after all, GOD. I expected Him to be able to do what I wanted, or expected, not because  He WILL, but because I know He CAN…He is almighty, hence His inability to NOT perform. We should stop doing this….expecting the CAN…anyone CAN do things…I can finish this post, for instance (or may decide not to)…but if I say I WILL finish writing this post, it makes me sound more determined to do it, it makes others trust the fact that they will be able to read the entire post. Now, if you say God WILL do this or that if you ask in prayer…..doesn’t it seem more likely that you will trust He will actually DO it? All we have to do is wait….He WILL in HIS time  (remember the ”point in the distance” I spoke about a few paragraphs ago?) grant our request. It is that simple….it is NOT complicated at all. If you can trust a chair to support your weight, or a glass of water to quench your thirst, you can trust that God will do as you ask Him. It IS in His power to do everything….no need to waste time worrying about that or how you should go about convincing Him…just believe that HE WILL. That, my friends, is BELIEVING.

This also works when you look at the world and the people around you…..everything seems so hopeless, futile; people are dying of hunger and disease, in war…the world is NOT a nice place anymore. How do you feel about believing that it will get better? That somewhere, sometime, all this evil will just burn itself out and we will all be able to start a-fresh. Faith may be the only thing left in the world that is worth having, you know. Holding onto the hope that all will be well in the end may be the one single thing that allows us to get up in the morning. The thing is, whatever you hope or believe….we all KNOW the sun will set tonight and will rise again tomorrow…it will be a new day…it will be a different time, another chance at life for all….

I believe that….if we all hold onto the faith that things WILL be better someday and that God will reach out and touch the world with His love and kindness….well, we will surely create a very hopeful life for our children.

Yes….that is what I believe….

And, who knows, maybe we will even find peace in ourselves for a change.

Ephesians 6:16 (KJV) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

(scripture via: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-about-faith-20-popular-scripture-quotes/)




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The above link will lead you to the story of Jodi Jill (pictured above). I recently read the article in my latest MarieClaire edition and found it tremendously inspiring. Not only did Jodi grow up in a storage unit (yes, a storage unit), without schooling, without any other company but her family, proper nutrition, medicine, water, etc, but she grew up with the understanding that she is just a number, even to her own mother. She thought she was hated by all people, loved by none….invisible, worthless. She discovered finally, on her own steam, that her redemption lies in books. And so it did. She relentlessly taught herself to read at age 15 and invented a book editor so that she can make her own money….her first book was ‘Curious George’, which she read with the help of a tape recorder.

Her resilience is astounding. Many people would have given up early on and continued in the same manner that their parents did. Not Jodi, she says that books taught her the life lessons that her parents were supposed to teach her and it showed her that her life was ‘wrong’. Her decision to change her life must have been very hard indeed….running away at such a young age and that with your sister, whom you have to care for. Going into a world that supposedly ‘hated’ you, facing other people and experiencing things never quite imagined. I cannot imagine the hardships she had to suffer through, the concerns she had….and the doubts, but I guess, compared to growing up in a tiny storage unit made her ‘new’ troubles seem rather mediocre. She survived it all…..she came out on the other side and told her story to the world so that we can learn something.

She says that, eventually, she and her brother made a list of the people who knew the family was living in the storage unit…but did nothing. In the end she had to save herself. This makes me wonder about people in general, you know, how little we care for each other. We are always so afraid of getting involved, of getting into trouble, that we often choose to just let it go. Sometimes, sticking your nose into other people’s business is a GOOD thing and I think that, if people really thought about it, they would have done something to change the fate of those kids. The thing is, they didn’t, and I am ashamed for them, for us….they should have spoken up for those who couldn’t do it for themselves; someone should have saved those children.

But on the other hand…would we have had the privilege of learning a precious life lesson if someone did indeed intervene? Do we dare think about this in such a selfish way? We cannot change the past, you see, and this is a perfect example of why we should rather embrace and learn from it, than wish it different. Lets look at Jodi’s remarkable story again. Lets try to make sense from it, to find reason and meaning. Because, you see, although Jodi has been irrevocably changed by her ordeal and to this day suffer psychological consequences, perhaps if she did not go through that, she would not have been the person she is today. Sometimes suffering brings out the best in people (not that suffering is necessary or a requirement in the forging of a strong personality)….but I think, no, I KNOW, that she would have been a different person if somebody took her out of that situation earlier on. If somebody showed her that kindness and caring do exist and that she is, in fact, a special person. No one did, so she had to find this out for herself and I honestly think that she sometimes still have her doubts about her own abilities and ‘specialness’. I do hope that she realizes that she is indeed a tower of strength and inspiration to a whole generation of people. She shows you that you can change things in your life…ON YOUR OWN. That becoming a good person, a better person, is a simple act of choice; said choice may be difficult to make and actually putting it into action may prove complicated, but it can be done. Jodi Jill proves beyond a doubt that we can be the masters of our own destinies, that we do not have to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors, that we can break the circle…..all we have to do is to choose, to act on our choice and stick with it. I hope that, in the moments that she doubts herself or tries to find reason for her suffering, she will find peace in knowing that through her suffering and pain, she has brought hope to many.

Thank you Jodi Jill….I know your life story gave me renewed faith in the strength of the human spirit and the power of choice and I am so sorry that you had to be that lone child, without a kind or loving word from anyone. If anything, I wish I could have changed that for you, been that one person who perhaps reached out to you in a small way and shown you that you didn’t become special ….you always were special. If you weren’t, then you would have still lived in that storage unit, despairing about your life. But thanks to you, many of us now have a better understanding of our own nature.

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