Cancer Taught Me to Embrace Normal

It’s a rare occasion when I sit down at 7:30 am in the morning, flip on the television and watch a Netflix documentary.  But after 4 straight days of early morning rises, this is what I did.  I invited Brene Brown into my family room to join me in my day.

Now if you have had the good fortune to watch The Call to Courage on Netflix I am sure we share, at the very least, an admiration for her stage presence.  Beyond that I can only reflect upon my personal admiration for her work, her research and her word.

To itemize all of her insights would be a total spoiler for you.  But there was one that I would like to expound upon because it resonated so deeply with me.

Appreciating Normal

I was totally qualified to lead the line of the great many of us who go through life mechanically.  I tended to the daily tasks that needed tending to.  I said ‘have a great day’ without thought as someone left the house in the morning.  And I grudgingly tackled the nuisance of the daily dinner menu.

This was how I did the normal of my everyday life.  I did normal mindlessly.  Until I got cancer.

In no way, shape or form do I consider this disease, my disease, a blessing of any kind contrary to those who have offered up to me the notion that some form of clarity is tied to a cancer diagnosis.

What going through cancer did do was steal my normal.  Those aspects of mundane in my life were replaced with appointments, tests, results, recoveries and fears.

I found myself searching for normalcy and it was in that search that I found gratitude.  Yes, in the midst of it all, I became grateful.  Grateful for hearing the garage door slam because I knew that someone made it home safely.  Grateful for a dish breaking because people were eating together.  Grateful for kids fighting because those children are mine and they are well and they are near.  Grateful for my sleeping husband because he is my best friend and most avid supporter.

So Now…

As life moves forward from cancer and with the grace of God that I am still living it, I have gratefully settled back in to my normal.  It’s not, nor will it ever be perfect.  But I have made a commitment to practice gratitude daily which helps me to breathe and accept some nuances of my normal that will never quite be appreciated.  Case in point is the danger zone marked by the 75 pairs of shoes piled in my back hall for instance.

So here is to Normal!  Normal is where I live most of my life.  Normal is that sweet spot between the highs and the lows.  And normal is right where I want to be.


This Week on The Health Hub…Ageing with Health & Gratitude with Dr. Lori Stevic-Rust


Dr. Lori Stevic-Rust has a doctoral degree in psychology.  She has worked in the field of clinical health psychology for twenty-eight years serving as the current medical director for senior services for an acute care facility and a national consultant for dementia services and care to numerous post acute care organizations. 

She is the President of the board for the Lake County Council on Aging and the advisory board for the Alzheimer Association and the Center for Dialysis Care.  She is the founder and president for a non-profit foundation that supports intergenerational programs in senior communities.

Dr. Stevic-Rust has been a regular on air TV consultant and contributor on psychological topics, hosted a cable talk show entitled Best of Health TV and has contributed to Women’s World and Fitness Magazines.

She is the author of several books including Greedy for Life, and Put on Your Big-Girl Shoes: Stepping into Courage, Resilience and Gratitude.  She is the author of the Dr. Lori column that appears in Cleveland Business Connects magazine and the national PS Magazine and is a regular blogger for the Huffington Post and appears on Huff-Live.

 She has been recognized as a Woman of Achievement by the YWCA and the Professional Advocacy Award by the Consortium Against the Exploitation and Abuse of Seniors. She has been inducted into the KSU Hall of Fame—Distinguished Alumni. She volunteers her time advocating for the protection of seniors and mentoring women who have been victims of abuse, exploitation and violence to help them discover their strength. 

Learning Points:

  • What are natural changes to the brain as we age?
  • How do we cultivate gratitude as we age?
  • How can we live a life of resiliency through all ages?

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Every Tuesday from 11am -12pm I host The Health Hub, an interactive, forward thinking talk show on Radio Maria Canada.   Call, tweet or email your questions as together we explore health issues that are relevant to you from new and innovative points of view.

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Bringing Gratitude in to our Lives

Admit it or not, we have become a society of protesters and moaners. With all the adverse press, hate crimes and general lack of thankfulness, our brains seemed to be wired for the negative. But what if we could rewire our brains; shift ourselves from a complaint-based life to one of appreciation? Studies have shown that the brain can rewire itself based on what we pay attention to and how we exercise our brain. Imagine what would happen if we cultivated a daily practice of thankfulness and gratitude?

It’s so easy to be thankful when things are going well in our lives; the sun is always shining, there’s a skip in our step. It’s much harder to find that silver lining when tragedy hits or we encounter setbacks. While we have no control over our feelings, we can control how we allow those feelings to govern us. Part of regulating those feelings is understanding them. When we start to examine life outside of the boundaries of our suffering, we can see that the world comes together to help us. As an example, many years ago my van broke down on my way home from grocery shopping. Two of my children, toddlers at the time, were with me and I was panicked and worried. During that time, all I focused on was what was happening in that moment. That’s where we get stuck, focusing on the here and now. Looking back, I realized things weren’t as bad as I thought. I was safe, my kids were safe and I had people available to help me out. This paradigm of self-reflection and cultivating gratitude are an important relationship. Much like going to the gym and exercising our muscles, repeatedly ‘flexing’ our gratefulness will help develop it and over time, we will have a different perspective on how things went in our daily lives.

Gregg Krech of the ToDo Institute and former guest on TheHealthHub, laid out some questions to help with daily self-reflection; he reflected daily on these question while studying in Japan:

  1. What did I receive?
  2. What did I give?
  3. What difficulties and troubles did I cause others?

It’s that last question that I reflect upon most. Once we start looking at our treatment of others and acknowledging our shortfalls, we can then start to change. Can you imagine this world if everyone did this?!

My challenge to you: every night, take 20-25 minutes to review your day and ask those questions. No one needs to know your answers or even what you did that day. This is only for you, so be honest. Not only will you see your daily perspective change because you are conscious of having to truthfully answer those questions at the end of the day, but you may also be surprised at what you find out about yourself.

Kelly Northey, Contributor to TheHealthHub


“Bringing Gratitude in to Our Lives”

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This Week on TheHealthHub…Bringing Gratitude in to our Lives with Gregg Krech

Every Tuesday from 11am -12pm I host The Health Hub, an interactive, forward thinking talk show on Radio Maria Canada.   Call, tweet or email your questions as together we explore health issues that are relevant to you from new and innovative points of view.

This Week on TheHealthHub…

Bringing Gratitude in to our Daily Lives with Gregg Krech

Gregg Krech is one of the leading authorities on Japanese Psychology in North America.  He is the author of 5 books including, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness: Japanese Psychology and the Skills We Need for Psychological and Spiritual Health.  Krech is the editor of Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living and his work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Experience Life, Utne Reader, The SUN, Counseling Today and Spirituality & Health Magazine.  His first book on Naikan reflection, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection, won Spirituality & Health’s award for “Best Books of 2002.”  He has been teaching an online course on Mindfulness & Attention for 20 years and has been a keynote speaker at conferences on Mindfulness and Attention Deficit Disorder.  Gregg currently lives in Vermont where he is Director of the ToDo Institute, a non-profit educational center and enjoys writing haiku poems, feeding birds, and playing blues piano.

Contact Information

ToDo Institute



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