A Story of Cancer Survival That Will Touch Your Heart and Soul (and Funny Bone!) – Book review

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Brown Ribbon by Robbi Woolard

Psychologist Dr. Robbi Woolard is a survivor of a rare form of cancer. She was encouraged by two of her friends to put her experiences and thoughts into a book (eBook for Kindle). “Brown Ribbon” is part memoir, part self-help book and is written with a humorous slant (a story about a doctor and a commode made me laugh out loud!). She has an “incredibly strong faith” and her beliefs in God and heaven are referred to throughout the book. She is clearly not afraid of death and is a very brave and courageous woman. She believes accidents, illnesses such as cancer and other traumas are random events and no one is immune (no matter how well one lives their life).

Woolard writes in an entertaining, yet educational and inspiring tone. The book could have used some editing, however, the reader can forgive this oversight as she speaks in a conversational tone and the stories flow nicely. There are some repetitive themes, but overall it’s an easy and pleasurable read.

The warrior spirit in Woolard spares us the gruesome details of her anal cancer treatment. She gives the reader just enough information which helps one to imagine the suffering she experienced. She writes in a way that reassures the reader that although cancer and it’s treatment are difficult, the alternative is worse.

For those who want closure, they will find the last story of her post-anal cancer treatment to get a “colposcopy” a bit frustrating. The chapter called “Caving” does not provide the reader with the results of her biopsy, but Woolard states she hopes she had experienced the last appointment with that doctor (we can only hope along with her!).

In the final chapter, Woolard shares her own personal growth experience. I found this chapter called “Everything I Have Learned from Cancer” especially inspiring (as I am also affected by anal cancer myself). Many of her insights such as “setting new goals after cancer” and “improving connections with others” are very positive and uplifting. I can definitely identify with her lessons learned. She states, “As I age, I’ve begun to believe something that I’d never pondered in years past. I’ve always assumed that all of both the good and the bad that we experience culminate in who we become. Now, drawing upon many decades of both ends of the experience spectrum, I think all of it should be credited with making us richer, deeper, more complete human beings.”

A recommended read for those affected by cancer, especially newly diagnosed anal cancer patients, their families and survivors of cancer.

Get your copy – Brown Ribbon: A Personal Journey Through Anal Cancer and the Adventure it Entailed (2016) by Robbi Woolard.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

 

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I Kicked Cancer in the Butt!

I kicked cancer in the butt

I kicked cancer in the butt

I have had quite the encounter with cancer. I was diagnosed with anal cancer in May 2017 and went through chemotherapy and radiation treatment for six weeks. At three months post-treatment I am recovering nicely.

The good news is that I received results from my CT Scan and it is clear! I am now cancer-free! I am a survivor of cancer.

I kicked cancer in the butt! Literally and figuratively. It was a brutal and torturous treatment ordeal, but I am on the road to healing.

I started a new open Facebook page called “God, Cancer and Me.” I offer encouraging, motivational and inspiring posts. I share some of my thoughts and feelings, too. Please come join me there.

Blessings to you and yours.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

 

What a Cancer Diagnosis Taught Me About Hope and Faith

 

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Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A cancer diagnosis in April 2017 has jerked my world. Just hearing the words “You have cancer” changed my whole perception of life. There are no other three words I have ever heard that have impacted me so greatly, in a negative way. My initial reaction was all about How do I tell the kids? Then it moved to I am not ready to die. I want to see Simone graduate. I want to grow old. I want to see my grandchildren. I became very sad and scared. I was mourning the loss of my future. I found myself not only turning to loved ones in my life but God.

My gut instinct was telling me to go to church. I saw the priest and he performed an “Anointing of the sick.” I cried as he did this. I also attended a “Spirit Room” where they pray for people’s healing. I went to Sunday mass. I went to Novena. Most times I had loved ones with me. I bought a Catholic prayer book. I wore a rosary bracelet, gifted to me by a dear friend. I prayed to God. I prayed for strength and courage to get me through. I asked the priest how I will get through this. He said, “Let God carry you.”

As I went through tests and learned about my treatment plan (chemotherapy and radiation), I continued to pray. I found myself questioning why this happened to me. I was a good person. I lived a healthy lifestyle. I read a book called, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” I read all kinds of books and articles on the internet. Articles written by people of faith. People who had cancer. I tried to understand why this happens in God’s world.

I started to question natural disasters. The year of 2017 has been the most tragic I can ever remember in terms of hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and mass shootings. I questioned why God would allow this to happen. Many people pray for those who are suffering, grieving, ill and forlorn. We pray to God who we expect to make things better.

I have learned throughout my cancer treatment for anal cancer (which was torturous) that God has a plan. He has given us human will. He has not taken this away from us. There are tragic events that will happen due to malicious human will whether it be from mental illness or a criminal mind. As examples, the mass shootings or terrorist massacres are a direct result of human will. In addition, tragic events happen due to human error. God does not “will” these things to happen. But He gives us the strength and courage to come together to aid and comfort one another. He gives us the capacity to love and support one another.

When God creates such a magnificent world in which we live, we have to learn how to live with the natural events that occur. Severe weather patterns, the earth’s shifts, and other disasters such as widespread fires happen which I believe is beyond God’s control. We take the beauty of a rainbow, or a sunset, or in the tiny petals of a flower as signs of God’s creation and love for us. We seek God’s good as He is an all-powerful, loving God.

When illness or suffering strikes, I witness many people praying for God’s healing powers. There are faiths based on the Bible that believe God can heal. In the Bible it says Jesus healed those who were ill.

I believe that God gives the healers in our lives the ability to learn and use their God-given talents to help when one is sick. For example, when I went through radiation, I believe it was God working through the doctor who determined where to aim the destructive beams of radiation. I trust that the specialist did her best and that God helped guide her. I also believe that God was working with all the support staff, such as the radiation therapists, who ensured the proper administration of my treatment. This is an example of my faith.

The way my body responds to the treatment is all part of the bigger plan set out by God. I believe the plan is already designed. Praying for “health and healing” won’t matter because the determination of my fate has already be set. Instead, I HOPE for these things but accept what is meant to be. This belief helps me cope with the unknown. I focus on my day-to-day life and avoid thinking about my unknown future. I think about that infamous line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done”, and find comfort knowing that my future is in God’s hands.

God helped me through my darkest, most traumatic times during my treatment. I pray for strength, courage, and patience. At times I called out for God to help me. The pain was so severe that one time I asked Jesus to help and I actually saw him standing by my side in his white robe. This was very comforting in the most painful time of my life.

When people pray for God to heal someone or themselves, some will be disappointed. Some people will not be healed, and they will succumb to their ailments. So if someone does not make it, does that mean God did not answer his or her prayers? Does it mean they did not pray hard enough? Maybe their faith wasn’t strong enough? This is where it gets difficult to keep the faith. It may leave people wondering why God did not answer their prayers.

I think the better way to go about praying for healing is to pray that the person has the courage, strength, and patience to get through whatever is happening and they don’t have to suffer too long. If it is God’s will that they suffer, we must remember that the reason for suffering may have an answer, or it may not. A priest I talked to even said sometimes we don’t know why some things happen. It’s a test of our faith, to know that God has a plan, and we need to accept it.

Encouraging people with cancer to “fight the fight” can also create the same kind of outcomes. If they did not “fight” hard enough – if they decide to “give up the fight” – does that mean they were bad or weak? We want to believe we have control over our health and our outcomes. We only have so much control. The rest is in God’s hands.

Hoping for a speedy recovery, hoping for the end of suffering, hoping for a positive outcome is what we all wish for. No one wants to see suffering. No one wants to lose a loved one. But if it is God’s plan that the outcome is other than what we hoped for, we need to accept it. How many times have we heard, “Now she won’t be suffering anymore.” “His pain is gone.”

Faith and hope are two concepts which are very closely related. I now understand the difference. Faith in an all-knowing, all-powerful God with a master plan helps me cope with my circumstances and what is happening to others who are facing adversity. He knows best. We can learn from these adversities. It usually helps us become more compassionate, and loving if we look for the positive in these situations. I actually admitted that having cancer and going through treatment was a gift. It has helped me become more understanding and compassionate towards those suffering or diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. I understand what “torture” is. I understand what depression feels like.

Hope is what we need to keep us going. Hope helps us sort out what is important to us and what we want and need in life. Hope is the belief in positive outcomes. It helps us cope and cling on to what we value and love. Hope is a way to show others that we care.

My faith is strong and will continue to be strong throughout my healing journey. I put my trust in God and will accept whatever His plan is for me. I will continue to hope for the end of suffering and many more years of health and happiness. I hope that I can see my daughter graduate from university, start a career (like my son Lorenzo has) and see my children get married and have children of their own. I hope that I can grow old with my husband, Agapito. God-willing.

Peace, love and hugs,

Angela G. Gentile

 

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is passionate about all things related to Aging Well. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

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