Heartbreak… Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Maybe you were dumped, diagnosed with a life threatening illness, suffered loss, financial downturn, or simply gave in to fear. It’s that moment when you feel completely numb, isolated and alone, desperate for something or someone to give you faith. My own heartbreak and battle with heart disease led me to create Voices To Share… Healing Hearts One Voice at a Time. Together we'll banish self-pity, and invite prosperity in all matters of the heart. As a Heart Coach, I will share: inspirational stories that will give you courage, tips to shift your fears into love, recipes and products to live a heart healthy life.


Debbie's Voice

A friend sent me one of Debbie's Lymphoma updates.  She was so straightforward; I knew readers would connect with her story.  Right before writing this story, not only was she finishing her last round of chemo, but she was rushed back to the hospital for a terrible blood clot.  The next week she was rear ended while driving home from a lecture on Lymphoma.  Despite all her hardships, we spoke about turning her day around through finding some positive inspiration.  It's so easy to give up and succumb to a disease, especially when everything seems to be going wrong.  It takes courage and fortitude to fight towards healing.  I'm honored to share Debbie's story.

My Lymphoma Life
By Debbie K.

Starting with today, my last day at the oncologists', this is my chance to tell my onco-tale. I never knew I was sick; this all started innocently last spring.  My work as a real estate broker had me at the computer.  That led me to carpal tunnel syndrome.  From a sore hand to a nerve test, to an internist, to a gastroenterologist, a diagnosis.  Next step on the hit parade (as in what can they hit me with next?) was a trip to the thoracic surgeon.  A biopsy led to a diagnosis: nodular sclerosis Hodgkin's lymphoma.  I was referred to a wonderful oncologist who specializes in lymphoma. 

I started chemo at the beginning of September.  Chemo was every two weeks, and followed the next day by hydration and a shot of a white cell-building drug, Nulastin.  My chemo mixture was ABVD. That's Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine and Dacarbazine. The A is responsible for hair loss, and makes your pee-pee pink! What a combination!

I was very lucky, no egregious side effects. I could drive to the appointment, and after the 2.5 hours of chemo, drive home with stops at the bakery for my favorite cookies, or the market. I felt fine. I attribute this to my years of exercise and good eating.  After two months of treatment and some tests, my site had shrunk from 20 cc to 7.  I felt like I was the poster child for Lymphoma.  I was still holding off on shaving my hair off. At the chemo center, a volunteer brought a cart by with goodies to snack on.  They were on the top shelf, and wigs on the bottom, all donated. I have 3 very beautiful wigs, one even in my hair style, two more adventurous! I have only worn them twice. I prefer ski hats, scarves or stylish (albeit old) hats. I have an antique hat rack with 10 hats on it, and now I am wearing them.  Here I am, having finished chemo just yesterday, with a little hair left. It's enough to peek out from under my hat.

My doctor gave me next month off, and then in February, I will start radiation.  I can certainly use the time off; my 60th birthday is in January, and I plan on celebrating big time!

Through all, I have met the most wonderful people. The oncology group had the kindest nurses, the best lab techs, great receptionists, and free valet parking.  Most chemo times, I had a friend with whom I played Scrabble or who took me to lunch after chemo.  My friends have been super-supportive and they have helped me keep my chin up throughout these past months.  I have a new friend who was introduced to me just a few weeks ago.  She was recently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and will start chemo soon.  I am glad I met her, she's so upbeat.  I hope I can be of some help to her. 

My mother had metastatic breast cancer 30 years ago. Her doctor is in one of the oncologists in the group I go to.  Small world…  I always feared going for my mammogram. My mother had been diagnosed when she was 55.  I thought that was my destiny. I never expected Lymphoma. Apparently, this disease is on the rise. The doctor said it is tied to stress.  I can understand.

My advice would be to get regular checkups, get a blood test, eat healthy, be active, and have friends.  Friends to have lunch with, to go on trips with, to go to medical appointments with, to plan parties with.  Friends to support you through thick and thin.


Candice's Voice

When I first started my blog I wasn't sure what to expect.  I had my doubts, wondering if anyone would really care about what I had to say.  Then I met a reader who has now become a friend.  Candice is an inspiration.  She quit her job and became a volunteer at Casa Emanuel orphanage in Guinea Bissau.  I am honored to share Candice's voice.

The Gift of Love
By Candice Scott

It was exactly a year ago when I set out for a small country in West Africa called Guinea Bissau.  After years of wanting to volunteer in Africa, I had the good fortune (or maybe it was fate) to move in upstairs from a wonderful couple that had just moved from Guinea-Bissau. Mika and Kjetil were those kind of fully-realized, fascinating people, with distinguished careers with the UN, the World Bank, busy raising a newborn and developing documentaries, setting up charities...the kind of people that make you wonder, "how do they do it all?"  Through their contacts, they put me in touch with an orphanage called Casa Emanuel run by two Costa Rican nuns and missionaries.  In a whirlwind 6 weeks, I confirmed my stay, arranged my flight, and decided to set a BHAG of $10,000 in donations.  What is a BHAG?  It is something I learned while working at Nike, a phrase coined by Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric).  It is short for "BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL"....it is a goal that is way outside your comfort zone, so far out that it seems impossible but that stretches to you achieve something greater than what you ever imagined.  Emails went out to friends and family, and tears would come to my eyes every time I received a donation.  Each one resonated with me - an unemployed friend struggling financially sent a donation, a distant acquaintance sent a check with an extra zero that made look twice to see if it was a mistake, clothes and medicines were dropped off, strangers would hear and send contributions, and my company generously matched donations.  And, guess what?  We not only amassed over $10,000, my friend Erika and I set out with 7 duffel bags filled with clothes, medicine, toys and shoes.

Arriving at the orphanage, we were greeted by smiling faces and overjoyed nuns, who whooped with excitement over small things like Neosporin and baby aspirin.  What I did not know is that the orphanage is solely dependent on donations andwas running very low on shoes for the children.  So the nuns began praying for shoes for the children, and then we show up with over 150 pairs - 1 for each child.  I was stunned to learn this, as the way I had come by the shoes was very random - I had received an email from a stranger who worked for Crocs.  He received my email from a friend.  It seemed like happenstance at the time, but when I heard the story from the nuns I realized my life was part of something much bigger than I could fathom.

Before I left for Africa, I worried that I might not have the skills to be an effective volunteer - I am not the best with a hammer and don't know any rare plant concoctions for burns - but I quickly realized that I was really skilled in holding hands, cradling babies, and dispensing hugs.  With maybe a 20 to 1 ratio of children to volunteers, the children yearned and were starved for affection and physical touch - one particularly eager group of three year olds I nicknamed the hugging bandits due to their race to rush into my arms every day.

I left the orphanage with 6 new godsons that I now sponsor for $20 a month, which pays for their education and living needs.  I told the children that not only did they have 1 godparent they had more than 200 back in the US - every single person that donated funds or items.  Their mouths dropped in amazement and they still brag about it!  Can you believe that just a simple thought or concept that someone loved them was enough?  I don't have children yet, but each one of those children made me understand the selflessness and love that goes into being a parent.  To say the experience was transformational is expected, but the love I felt for children I had just met was not.  Like many other volunteers have observed what I ultimately learned about myself and what I received was much greater than and far surpassed what I gave.
Donations for Casa Emanuel may be made via Life Link Rescuing Children.