Global Goddess Cultural Meditation Retreat

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Global Goddess offers the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone right here in Houston and become more culturally aware of your surroundings during a two-hour healing retreat.  The goal is to introduce you to a new way of thinking and to explore new experiences and feelings within a cultural setting right here in your back yard.  Actually, I’ve been leading this first retreat for years with my family and cancer survivors I’ve met through CanCare and YSC.

We meet outside of the Rothko Chapel on a Saturday by 10am for group introductions and directions on how to proceed to our first cultural experience.  For me, the Rothko Chapel is part of my home since I was first introduced to the chapel during my Freshman year of Architecture school.  We were sent in for a chunk of time and then when we came out, the professor asked, “What did you see?”  Well, since then, I’ve been taking my favorite friends to visit the chapel and explaining how to sit and see what Rothko painted because it is a dynamic experience and changes each time you return.

Then, we will walk onto the University of St. Thomas campus, which is less than a block, towards St. Basil stopping at the labyrinth which is a replica of the one at Chartres in France, which I’ve also seen myself.  Here, with the water fountains tricking in the background, and the sun on our faces, we will experience a walking meditation towards the center of the labyrinth together.  Of course, I am leaving out all the little details that will make the Global Goddess retreat special for you when you join us, but now you know a bit more.

Then, we will end inside St. Basil that is a postmodern feat of design, and one that only Philip Johnson could create while during his retirement.  It is stunning with the concrete curtain wall, and granite wall slicing the gilded dome.  If you have never stepped foot inside this church, you will be amazed to see all of the sunlight warming the walls.

Within two hours we will have made a significant impact on each other as a group, and opened up new avenues of learning that you didn’t expect.  Like I always say, eating in the Taj Mahal your food will taste differently than when you are eating at home.  The same holds true for meditative experiences from an artist, nature and architecture.  Join me as we set off for a cultural journey right here in Montrose.

Register to attend via PayPal for $30 per person in advance since classes are limited and fill up fast.

AACR to AVON: There is Balance in this World

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After returning from a non-stop 48 hour volunteer continuum, I couldn’t help but notice the polar differences and similarities between the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Survivor Scientist Program in San Diego compared to the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer here in Houston:

1.  AACR was an international event hosting researchers from around the globe in the glorious beauty that was San Diego where the weather was perfect, the sun was shining and the air was light and fluffy.  While at AVON there were also walkers and volunteers from California walking around Houston where the weather was humid, windy and down right sticky.  From my view, I could see the AACR annual meeting as a larger macro-event connecting directly to the AVON event serving as a hub to the Houston micro-environment.  The educational dollars raised by our local Houstonians will continue to support and train health care workers that will ultimately care for patients with cancer using the latest diagnostic tools and treatments presented at AACR.

2.  While AACR is focused on Cancer Research and hosts a hot bed of amazingly talented individuals working together to focus on cures and harnessing breakthroughs, AVON was mainly filled with the local community of walkers using their strength to walk 39 miles over two days and their ability to fund raise at least eighteen hundred dollars, for what?  To fund patient navigators, educational programs and screening for our local community.  Which goes to show you that every single person can make a difference fighting cancer together.

3.  Attending my first AACR, I was thrilled to meet new friends and see familiar faces in a setting that promoted new ideas and thoughts in a collaborative, open forum.  While at AVON, I was also thrilled to meet new friends and see many familiar faces in a setting that promoted movement and action across my hometown.  We all have something to give when it comes to fighting cancer, and it could be time, talent or your treasure.  For instance, last year I only made it through ten miles until my right foot tightened up with plantar fasciitis, so this year I recruited more walkers and then became their personal crew volunteer to help them when they needed it the most.  Along the way, I volunteered for Rosie the Riveters luncheon crew as we fed more than one thousand hungry walkers on both days, which allowed me the chance to see, talk to and thank almost every single one that came by, and this included a researcher at Rice that hasn’t even graduated yet that I met last year who is now already planning to stay for a MPH and I couldn’t be more thrilled to know her.

4.  Lastly, the sheer volume of the entire AACR experience made me feel as if I was totally spoiled.  It could have been the gorgeous view from my room, or the attention to every detail of our program, maybe it was the gracious researchers that answered every question, maybe it was the lab tour with Dr. Kuhn, or even the incredible meals that were lined up for us, or it could have been the ride in the electric car to find tiaras for the Data Diva’s Presentation before our closing ceremonies? I still can’t put my finger on what made it so special, because it was the entire experience in itself.  Compared to the AVON experience where I was part of the army of crew volunteers making sure every detail was covered for all the walkers on their two day journey, and spending the weekend in a friends apartment that didn’t have drapes when I needed it to be completely dark to sleep, or handing out napkins for hundreds of lovely ladies that I thought to myself, Martha Stewart would be proud!  To me, as I see it, there is balance in this world.  And right here I have detailed exactly how it happened and continues to happen to us all.

5.  What comes around goes around and when I finally got home last night and I was going through my mail I came to an envelope with a blank piece of paper wrapped around a check from one of my clients, then another envelope with a blank piece of paper wrapped around a blank check for me to make as a donation.  Then, I opened a thank you note from the Cancer180 conference at MDA and another one from YSC that both reminded me that what I am doing makes a difference every single day.  All of my time runs together so that from volunteering to consulting there is a balance that allows me to bridge the spectrum from cancer research advocacy to education and ultimately prevention.  There is balance within me as well.

6.  Lastly, what I am thinking about today is all the feedback I received from the poster session that makes me smile and woke me up early this morning.  While wearing a Survivors in Science embroidered lab coat and standing in front of my 8 by 4 poster; Yes, I am a Girl Scout, so if you say it needs to be 8×4, then that’s exactly what you get – that I had a tremendous response and was inspired by everyone that came by to ask questions, give their feedback and ultimately take my idea to the next level.  I am inspired to continue and keep going with new found ideas and support including an Advocate Toolkit as I will offer my time to share my story and present the poster and the toolkit to new audiences of advocates with special insight on exactly what I learned after spending 2013 making a difference with my time, talent and treasure.

You are welcome to view the poster and hand out in the Resource Documents section and inquire about upcoming opportunities to share the presentation, toolkit and order a Survivors in Science lab coat.

 

2013 African Breast and Cervical Cancer Advocacy, Education and Outreach Summit Uganda

My experience as a breast cancer survivor over the past four years has led me to the most interesting scholarship experiences, but in September I was invited to attend and speak at the 2013 African Breast and Cervical Cancer Advocacy, Education and Outreach Summit in Kampala, Uganda.  This would be the first conference of it’s kind in Africa and for me, the opportunity to make an impact.  Earlier in the year while lobbying at a National level with advocates from Nigeria and Ibadan, I learned how African countries lacked the infrastructure to safely support newly diagnosed women through therapy.  Uganda continues to lead East Africa with its Cancer Center and 11 Medical Oncologists thanks to the support of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington.  The opportunity to meet the Ministers of Health, NGOs, advocates, doctors, researchers, volunteers and survivors enticed me to attend the Summit in addition to presenting my idea on a program called Survivors in Science.  I shared information on scholarships and opportunities for those wanting to bridge information from science to the survivors themselves.  The conference was created in partnership with the Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa, which was founded here in Houston by Philippa Kibugu-Decuir, and the local Uganda Women’s Cancer Support Organization.

Then, just two weeks before the summit, I received a ticket for my flight to Uganda and only then, did I get all the required vaccinations and malaria medications needed to travel!

Flying to Uganda with two other survivors Philippa and Joyace Ussin, an oncology nurse from MD Anderson took a total of almost 36 hours but it was all worth it when the Summit finally came together and started.  From a secure hotel the conference room was filled with a total of 75 in attendance including local Ministers of Health, doctors, advisors, researchers, survivors, advocates and volunteers representing 8 different countries all under the direction of Dr. Julie Gralow, Endowed Professor in Breast Cancer, Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology and Adjunct Professor, Department of Global Health from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and the University of Washington.  In 2003, she launched Women’s Empowerment Cancer Advocacy Network or WE CAN to connect countries to improve women’s health through education, advocacy, sharing and reaching out. The 501(c)3 nonprofit specifically works to empower areas of limited resources with education, networking and the inspiration needed to overcome limitations to access to care.  If advocates can’t get the resources they need through public channels, then she helps them work privately to bring in resources to screen women, referring any suspicious cases through available health channels.

The conference opened with a powerful song about survivorship written and sang by a survivor, before a panel of Goodwill messages moderated by the Uganda Cancer Society.  Drs. From local NGO’s including Dr. Kingsley Ndoh MPH from Nigeria  spoke about the opportunities available for increased sustainability for cancer health care including the role of government in prevention.  Dr. Jo Anne Zujewski from the National Cancer Institute chaired a panel on Breast Cancer Education before Dr. Gralow chaired the session on Cervical Cancer education.  The day wrapped up with sessions on Palliative Care and Successful Mobilization of Policy Makers to support Breast and Cervical Prevention by the Parliament of Uganda.  Day two was led by LIVESTRONG with Advocacy and Stigma Training, which was highly beneficial to the current culture of progress within East Africa.  The session included defining mission goals, strategies and tactics needed to start to move the needle on social stigmas.  Currently the cancer stigma includes being shunned by the entire family and being sent to the hospital with all of their belongings thinking they will surely die and never return.  Day Three included an activity that separated the entire group between those pretending to be diagnosed with cancer and those told they had normal results.  I had normal results.  Discussion took place as to how this felt among the group and at one point a normal patient was then misdiagnosed and asked to join the group diagnosed with cancer.  She shared her feelings of confusion and denial wanting a second opinion.  The activity initially made me mad until a nurse helped me see that this finally brings home the news of being diagnosed to those that can make a difference for so many others.  Cancer doesn’t care about the patient’s color or political persuasion and the more tolerance we have globally to work together towards a better understanding of the disease then the more people we can get access to care creating survivor advocates like myself.

After long breaks that were termed “Africa Time” because they included lots of networking, my 1:15pm presentation became a reality an hour later.  Sharing my experiences with identifying, applying and winning scholarships that promoted education and knowledge for local survivors was well received and as it turned out, it was only well received by those countries that had survivors.

I knew I wasn’t in the states anymore when Dr. Claudia approached me with sadness and excitement and told me that her country of Madagascar does not have survivors.  The words didn’t compute in my head until she said that some of the Madagasy, if they have the money, fly out of the country for their Cancer treatment and most don’t return.  By the end of the conference, it was clear that making a difference by coming together needed to happen in Madagascar and a date has already been set for next year on April 6, 2014.  She plans to host a conference on Cancer Education and Advocacy and promises to find survivors so I can train them on how to become educated patient advocates!  Now that’s what I call team work.  Even after returning to the States, the networking continues as I continue to make a difference from Houston.  However, I need to plan a sight seeing trip next time I visit Africa because this trip was a nonstop mission trip.