Friday, March 25, 2011

Giving Back: The Noble Circle

Sycammore tree at Hope Spring's Retreat center,
In the last post, I suggested that a way to continue to fight cancer (and also to perhaps help avoid or dissipate depression) is to do something active, to get involved or help others after you have completed treatment.

In 2002, Anne Burns opened the Noble Circle retreat at  the Heartwood Retreat in California.  Shortly later, 8 Dayton, Ohio area women joined together and brought the Noble Circle Projects here.  Their focus was to bring complementary healing techniques, particularly nutrition (or gentle eating) and exercise (using the Chinese healing art of Qi Gong (pronounced "chee gong"), as well as other techniques.  Many of the original women had practiced these elements in their own lives and they found them useful.

I had heard about the Noble Circle project Dayton from my husband's cousin Maggie who did Qi Gong with one of the founders, Jan Lively.  In addition, every year the Dayton Daily News ran articles about it right around the time they have their fundraiser called "The Aware Affair."   I didn't really know the details.  I didn't really understand how it worked.  I also had no clue that there was a waiting list to get in on their retreats.

When I found that I had a cancer recurrence last year, I sent emails and asked about the retreats.  I admit, I was in a panic.  I told them about myself and found out that I couldn't get in, but that I would be put on the list.  Each retreat they accept 15 the Fall, I didn't get in either.

This spring, I got word that they had had a cancellation and that I was "in."  I admit, I'm very strong on the nutrition part and try to practice that with the family (I admit, I have a sweet tooth and sometimes succomb to that), I was frantic to start Qi Gong.  I had participated in a couple of classes of walking Qi Gong in Connecticut, but no one really offered classes on a regular basis or in a location/time which was good for me.  In addition, my high school friend Janean Crapo runs a dojo in Battle Creek, Michigan and teaches Qi Gong and she's been after me for years to start practicing.

Still, you don't know what to expect.  I must say, it was an absolute pleasure.  While there, we were treated to wonderful vegetarian or almost vegetarian foods, Reiki, reflexology, and massage.  The three days were PACKED with information, activities, and Qi Gong.  I think they managed to put what normal people would do in a week into three days.

One thing which was very neat is that we were all women who were facing cancer....many of us were Stage IV, some of us were currently in treatment, others were completing treatment, some were out for a while.  We have breast cancer, ovarian, pancreatic, melanoma, cervical, and neuro-endocrine cancers represented from either the participants, the past-participant volunteers and some of the practicioners who volunteered their time.  Having more than just breast cancer was a good thing, although I have to admit, more of us had breast cancer than any of the other types.

We will continue meeting on a weekly basis for 10 weeks, then once a month thereafter.  These are all remarkable women and I am honored and blessed to have been with them.  As Robyn (aka Breast Cancer Diva) said, there's a reason we were all put together at this particular retreat.  I think she's right.

Now, if only I can get the Qi Gong down...and integrated into my life....only a half an hour...but so far I've been interrupted by hail storms, children, and other things...maybe just forming my intent and visualizing it will work. .... :)   It is my hope that the Noble Circle Project will spread even further an you all will have opportunities to participate either as volunteers, practitioners, or as one of the participants in the program.

Friday, March 18, 2011


On Tuesday, when I went to my oncologist, I overheard the lady across from me bemoaning that she couldn't work in her garden.  She got out of breath and had to stop.  "I'm so out of shape!" she moaned.  I had to butt in (no surprise there) and explain that no, she wasn't necessarily out of shape, but that since her red blood cell count, hematocrit  and hemoglobin were probably down, her body just wasn't getting as much oxygen as normal.  She was on the same number of treatments I am and I feel like I should be on oxygen with all the huffing and puffing I do when I have to go up and down stairs more than once.  Bending over and cutting down grasses in the garden is very hard.

She was an avid gardener, as am I.  I have to really put it in gear as my daughter's graduation party is supposed to be in my garden at the end of May and I have house things to do as well...but that's not the point.

I've written in the past about the wonderful programs that are available to help cancer patients.  One of them is a  house cleaning service called "Cleaning for a Reason."  Professional maid services donate one house cleaning per month for four months.  A limited number of people are accepted and quite frankly, they need more cleaning services to become involved.  The American Cancer Society's Look Good Feel Better program is another wonderful service.

As I have mentioned before, people who live in rural areas or ones farther away from a large city often do not have anyone participating near them.  They lose out.  Even with me, I live in  a town of about 25,000 people, only 26 miles from Dayton which has a population of  141,000.  Only areas south of Dayton have this available to them and they don't travel as far as Troy.

This brings me to another point...quite often (more often than not) people who have finished treatment suffer from depression, sometimes slight, sometimes more severe.  They are no longer fighting cancer so they feel like they are sitting ducks.

I would suggest this.  No matter how small your town is, see if you can't enlist people to help cancer patients.  Contact the American Cancer Society and find out what is necessarily to get your local cosmetologist to participate in the "Look Good, Feel Better" program.  If there are cleaning services nearby, suggest that they participate in Cleaning for a Reason.  They may not know about it and be more than happy to participate.

Sometimes, helping out and fighting cancer in other ways may make you feel better too.  I plan on contact local garden clubs and also volunteer to help people who have cancer and are concerned about their gardens.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Breast Cancer Study for African American Women: Please Share!

I just got  a notice from the Army of Women.  A couple of studies for African American Women studying breast cancer is not filling well.  Please spread the word and work to fill the study so that we can learn more about their experiences.