What to Say?

By: Katie Austin 

I sat up late at night recently thinking about my friends that are fighting cancer. I read their Facebook posts and my mind wanders back to the time when I was fighting cancer. I started crying as I was reminded of the thoughtful, wonderful things that my family and friends did for me to keep me strong throughout my struggle to stay positive.

What’s crazy is that I find myself not being sure of what to say to my fellow survivors. I don’t want to say anything that might upset them in any way.

Then I remembered something. I read an article a few years ago that really helped. It was something that I wished I would have come across when I was fighting cancer. Something for me to give those close to me some insight and not to be afraid to talk about normal stuff.

I’ll provide you with a link to the article at the end but here are a few to get you started:

  • “I don’t know what to say but I’m here for you.” It’s ok not knowing what to say. Sometimes being honest about not knowing what to say keeps the conversation real/open. The person fighting cancer may not know what to say either or remember because of chemo brain…LOL.
  • “I’m here to listen.” This is always something that can be shared, as it is so reassuring to know that there is someone that can listen. Remember that they are sharing their feelings and that it will be good for them to get out any frustrations, which will help you to better understand where they are coming from.
  • “Let me help with…” This is a good one! It was always easier for me to say yes/no to something specific that someone was offering to help with rather than an open question, “What can I help with?” They may be too overwhelmed at the time and it may be too much pressure to come on with something specific on their own.
  • “How are things going with you?” or “How is your family?” Talking about things other than cancer was a relief. I wanted to just talk about normal stuff too and it was a break from the daily cancer treatments, doctor appointments, and everything else that came with it.
  • A simple text can mean the most. The littlest things do mean a lot. A simple text to say “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m praying for you” doesn’t require a response but lets that person know you care.

You can find more ideas here: https://www.whatnext.com/blog/posts/10-things-cancer-patients-love-to-hear.

Remember, that this is a journey not only for the cancer patient but for their family and friends as well. No matter what you do or say, it will help them to stay positive and they will know that you care.

Do you have an idea or quote that was helpful for your friend or family member?  If you do, post it here so that we can share with our Every Woman Blog family.

Moving On

By: Katie Austin

In my last blog post, I talked about living life with purpose. This has been a tough thing for me to do as I want so badly to get back to the person that I used to be.

Then again, do I remember who I was before cancer?

Katie

Before I could begin to answer that question, I needed to come to terms with where I was in that very moment. After being thrown into the whirlwind of cancer treatment, doctor’s appointments, and many sleepless nights, I lost myself. I didn’t know who I was anymore and I couldn’t see straight. I often found myself going through the motions of daily life instead of enjoying what I was doing. My mind was thinking about what I needed to do next while also worrying that my cancer would come back.

You go from fighting cancer to living with cancer.

I had to come to terms with the fact that my cancer is in remission and that I will never be cancer free.

moving_on

In the 6 years since my last cancer treatment, I have been keeping myself busy. Trying to get to all of the things that I love to do. But what I realized earlier this year was that I was covering up the wounds and never letting myself truly heal. I haven’t faced the reality of my life as it is now. I need to face my fears before I can get myself to a healthier place.

I will never be the person that I was before cancer. I have to stop trying to be the person I was before. My mindset has to change before I can live my life with purpose.

moving_on_2

This is going to be a year of change and a lot of firsts.This is going to be a work in progress and I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Living Life With Purpose

By: Katie Austin

It’s early on a Sunday morning in late December.  I am sitting on the back porch drinking a cup of coffee.  The wind is blowing through the trees and I can hear nature waking up around me as the sun begins to peek in. I am the only one home and I find my mind wondering.

If I could change anything, what would it be? What goals will I set for myself in the New Year?

This is the first time in a long time that I didn’t wake up to making a to-list for the day. I simply allowed my mind to wonder.

I decide to pick up my laptop that I set on the table next to me and begin to perform various Google searches, entering keywords like “motivational,” “purpose,” and “change.”  I watch a few of the videos and they have good information, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Then I came across one that stopped me in my tracks.  It was like it was speaking to my heart.  I found myself crying within the first few seconds.

 

The first window came up with the quote below:

“Your life won’t ever be perfect, but it can be purposeful. Live for something bigger than yourself and leave a mark on the world.”   – author unknown

As the video played, I began to wonder if my life was “purposeful.” Was I living my life with purpose or simply living?

The video went on to ask you to look at yourself in the mirror and see if you disappoint the person you were at 18? Only let him or her be the judge. In that moment, a flood of emotions came running over me as I began to remember what it was that I wanted to be at the age of 18.  When I so young and ready to take on the world…

The video ended and it was like life stopped for a moment. I sat there staring at my laptop as I realized that I wasn’t living my life to the fullest.

Don’t get me wrong – I am happy for the most part, but I know that I am not living my life with purpose. There are things that I love to do that I put on the back burner. I can only blame myself as I have a tendency to fill my plate to the point where I am getting a lot done, but I can’t enjoy what I am doing. I am trying to get one thing done so that I can move on to the next.

This is not the way I want to live my life. It’s time for a change.

Life should be meaningful and it won’t be until I make it a priority. If life is meaningful, it will be purposeful.

I hope each of you enjoy the video and find your true meaning (purpose) as you head into 2017. This is just the start of my journey and I will be writing more about it in my upcoming articles.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes and as this will be my motto for the New Year. I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you!

“Don’t talk about it, be about it.”  – Eric Thomas

Live. Love. Laugh. Hope.

By: Katie Austin

live_laugh_love_hopeToday I woke up. That’s always a start to the day. 🙂 I had plans to go to work, dinner with family and then whatever I could fit in afterwards. I started to go through my get-ready-for-work routine and I wasn’t feeling well. I have been fighting a stomach virus for a few days and was trying to get back into a regular routine. I didn’t feel like myself. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something was different.

Everything in the house was the same, in its place where it was when I went to bed last night.

I looked in the mirror and what was looking back at me was the same.

Why was I feeling this way?

Did something happen that I wasn’t aware of?

I checked my phone. No text messages or phone calls. Surely if something happened I would have at least gotten a phone call or text message.

I then checked Facebook. Nothing new there either.

I thought I was losing my mind and chalked it up to not feeling well. Maybe I was running a fever and my thoughts weren’t clear. I emailed work to let them know I would be taking the day off, fixed a cup of coffee, sat on the couch and turned on the morning news.

I just couldn’t shake the feeling I was having. What was going on?

Then it came to me. Like someone tapping their finger on my shoulder to get my attention. It took me a minute to know that someone was trying to get my attention. I turned to look and no one was there.

You see, it was God.

Here I was, frustrated the last few days because I had a stomach virus and couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. It was like a lightbulb went off. I realized I needed to use this time to not only get myself well, but to re-focus my life. Today was my tomorrow to make the needed changes. It was time to start healing.

I needed to stop making excuses and to start making a plan to get where I want to be. I wouldn’t get into my car and start driving to a new place without bringing up directions on my phone or GPS. If I did that, I could expect to drive in circles or at least take longer to get to where I was going. That is, if I knew where I was going.

So, I need to look at my life as a map. Not 100% planned out, but at least a map to get me going in the right direction. But without a destination (aka goals), a map won’t help me. The first thing I need to do is set goals for myself. More importantly, life goals.

I turned off the television, opened the door to my porch so that I could hear nature talking, and moved to the table on our porch so that I could feel the sun for the first time in a few days. I need the vitamin D anyway 🙂

Within a few mouse clicks, I found a wonderful article, “4 Easy Steps to Setting Your Life Goals,” on the Huffington Post website. Here is a summary of what the article recommends:

  1. Brainstorm your life goals. Take 5-10 minutes and write down everything in your life that is really important to you. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind.
  1. Setting your life goals. What you wrote down in Step 1 does not have to be the definitive list. Look over the list, narrow it down to the things you couldn’t live without, and then come up with a specific target and defined outcome.
  1. Building a plan to achieve them. For each life goal, think about the last step needed to accomplish it and then work your way backwards. It’s an interesting approach and after you do this for your first goal, the steps to take for each become clear. Almost like they were right there in front of you the whole time but something was covering them.
  1. Getting after it. Simply put – it’s time to put your plan into action. The key is to work on each goal one at a time. If you’re like me, you will want to multi-task them all. BUT we all know multi-tasking is putting less than 100% of yourself into everything in your life. It will take longer to accomplish your goals and you will feel overwhelmed.

Always remember that everything happens for a reason and each day is a new day. Don’t spend time looking in the rearview mirror when you will miss out on what is in front of you. Easy to say, harder to do.

Live each day to the fullest. Love each other. Laugh often, as this is good medicine. Hope for a better tomorrow

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

By: Katie Austin

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? What you were doing at the very moment when everything changed?

September 11

I do. I will never forget that day. It’s been fourteen years and I can still see the faces of those caught right in the middle of the mayhem that day.

A day that would change everyone.

The morning of September 11, 2001 was like any day. I was working for a large utility company. I still do. The day was a typical day as my fellow co-workers and I settled into our offices, drinking coffee and working from our computers.

Then it happened.

The moment in time that will never be forgotten.

There was a buzz in the office as word spread of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center’s South Tower in New York City. We grabbed our coffee and headed into the conference room. We turned our attention to the large monitor that was showing one of the news broadcasts. It was then that we got our first glimpse of the South Tower on fire, smoke billowing from where the plane had crashed into it.

At first we thought something had gone wrong with the airplane, or maybe there was a disgruntled pilot. We were in shock. The news began reporting the FAA had banned all takeoffs of flights going to or around the city. Then shortly after 9:30 we learned that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D. C.

September 11

“Could this be a terrorist attack? Is our country under attack?” we wondered.

At that moment, I got up and walked back to my desk. I wanted to call family members in the Washington, D.C. area to see if they were ok. I couldn’t get through. Everyone must have been trying to call loved ones in that area.

I walked back to the conference room to see the South Tower collapsing. It was gone. The North Tower was still standing, but not for long. At exactly 10:28 a.m. the World Trade Center’s North Tower collapsed. I just sat there, watching images of those trying to outrun the dust cloud coming their way as each tower collapsed. We learned of another plane that had been hijacked and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

September 11

I couldn’t believe what was unfolding in New York City, in our nation.

I went back to my desk to call more family members to find that they were trying to get ahold of me. We were all in shock that this was unfolding right before our eyes.

I left work, picked up our son and met my husband at the house. The first thing we did was to turn on the television. All you could do was sit there and wonder what was next. The images were mind-blowing. I can still see the pictures of those that knew their fate and jumped from the South Tower before it collapsed. To think that they knew in that very moment that there was no way out…that this was it…

For days following the events of 9/11, time was spent closely watching the news and staying current on what was happening. It was heartbreaking to see the pictures posted in New York City of loved ones that were missing. Family members were there trying to find them. The lives of so many firefighters and police officers were lost that day as they tried to save others in the towers.

September 11

It’s hard to put into words what we felt at the time of the attacks and the days/weeks/months following. I reflect each year at this time when images appear on Facebook and I watch the documentaries.

Whether you remember that day, heard about it at school, or are just learning about the events of 9/11, this day causes all of us to pause.

I wanted to find a place to go to reflect and honor those that gave their lives that day. I found what I was looking for. The History Channel does a great job of capturing on one page exactly what I was looking for. They put together a timeline, speeches, and videos on their page. Be sure to check it out!

We will never forget that day. The stories of those that bravely tried to overtake the terrorists on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. The fearless firefighters and police officers who climbed so many stairs in the towers to lead people to safety. The many brave men and women who helped to rebuild our nation after the events of that day. They all gave up their own safety to save others.

Let’s take today to honor those that were lost that day. Take a minute, pause from your daily routine and share in a moment of silence.

Like Alan Jackson’s song, “Where were you when the world stopped turning?” What do you remember most about this day?

Did You Know…

By: Katie Austin

How many of you have a smart phone? How confident are you that the information on your phone is secure from spying eyes?

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 8.01.29 AM

How many of you are aware of the new USA Freedom Act? Did you know that it impacts how the government collects cell phone data?

Knowledge is power. I will share with you what I have learned and what you can do to protect the data on your cell phone.

Out with the old (USA Patriot Act), in with the new (USA Freedom Act).

Here’s a YouTube video that explains the Patriot Act and the newly created Freedom Act with a little bit of humor.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7V392FqqPE

The USA Patriot Act was signed into law just six weeks after the 9/11 attacks.  Congress quickly and almost unanimously approved the Patriot Act with the goal of protecting American lives, with a priority of security over privacy.  As summarized by  Caitlin Pierce, the Patriot Act “significantly expanded the government’s surveillance reach, broadening its authority to collect personal records, tap phones, monitor internet activity, and spy on religious and political organizations, often without any evidence of wrongdoing.”  The USA Freedom Act was enacted into law on June 2, 2015 with the intent to place restrictions and oversight on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance powers.

So how does this change impact the government’s ability to collect cell phone data?

After a six-month transition period, the USA Freedom Act will shift the burden of keeping phone records to the phone companies.  The NSA will be required to get permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get targeted information from a phone company storing the records.  The phone metadata is what will be retrieved and contains basic phone number information, not the content of the calls or names of callers.

What can we do to protect our information?

Cell phones these days are mini-computers that are used to send email, browse the internet and just about everything a desktop computer can do.  With everything at our finger tips and readily available, we need to take measures to ensure our phone is secure and the information stored on it is protected.

Here are a few steps I found that you can take to make it harder to get your personal information while you Candy Crush:

1.     Put your phone into airplane mode while playing games.  Most games don’t need the Internet connection to run, but their ad networks do.

2.     Don’t post on social media accounts while connected to cellular data networks.  Wait until you’re connected to your secure, password-protected home or workplace Wi-Fi network.  Better yet, wait until you get to your desktop computer or laptop.

3.     Turn off Wi-Fi, GPS and geolocation on your phone.  These can be used quickly to pinpoint your location.  Don’t use them until you absolutely need them.  You may have to go into each application’s settings to turn off geolocation so start with those that are capable of taking photos.

4.     Install an application called AppNotifier.  It will email you when an application is downloaded and installed on your computer.  Your best defense is being aware of what is on your phone. I love this app as I know when something is installed or updated on my phone!

Find out more by visiting the FCC Smartphone Checker at the link below.  There you will learn smartphone-specific ways to protect your phone.

https://www.fcc.gov/smartphone-security

We all have a choice.  I choose privacy over convenience.  It’s our information and we should be able to choose when and how to share it.

Making Work-Life Balance Work

By: Katie Austin

“If you don’t design your life, then someone else may just design it for you, and you may not like their idea of balance” – Nigel Marsh.

I love this quote because it gets to the heart of why I chose this topic! I struggle with balancing work and my personal life and I believe many others do, too.

I watched a TED Talk by Nigel Marsh called, “How to make work-life balance work.” Marsh stated, “With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. Moreover, it can transform society.” He believes that we need to change society’s definition of success, moving away from the “person with the most money wins to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.” I agree!

 

What does work-life balance mean? It is the concept of properly prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).

What happens to us when work and life are out of balance? A Mayo Clinic article, “Work-life Balance: Tips to Reclaim Control,” describes the following consequences of a poor balance:

  • Fatigue – when you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly suffers.
  • Poor health – stress is associated with adverse effects on the immune system and can put you at risk of substance abuse.
  • Lost time with friends and loved ones – if you’re working too much, you will miss important family events and milestones. This will leave you feeling left out and can harm relationships.
  • Increased expectations – If you regularly work extra hours, you may be given more responsibility. This can lead to additional concerns and challenges.

Now let’s talk about how you can achieve balance in your life.

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all balance you should strive for. Take small steps like these for long-term changes:

1. It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing things differently.

Put simply – there is no room in your life to do anything more than you are already doing. Rather than making room for your new actions, make choices.

2. Free time doesn’t have to be available time. Make sure to schedule down time.

An example that I can easily relate to is when a friend asks you to attend an event. You check your calendar, see that the date is open and you say “yes,” marking it in your calendar. It isn’t until later that you realize that was the only block of time during the week that wasn’t filled. The only time you would have been able to take time to yourself, run errands, or simply watch your favorite TV show. If you’re like me and you need time to recharge, it’s important to remember that you can turn invitations down for no other reason than you want that time to yourself. Your free time can be just that – free.

3. Focus on thriving, not surviving.

This is key – you won’t thrive if your focus is on simply surviving the day or trying to make it to the end of the week.

4. Treat yourself like a dog.

I have to admit that I have never heard this before, but it is so true! Think of it this way – remember the last time you played with your dog (or maybe a friend’s dog)? What would you do if that dog did something for you like fetched a ball? You would praise them (good girl/boy), pat them on the head or maybe give them a treat. Why don’t you do that for yourself? We treat our dogs better than we treat ourselves. Anytime you do something that creates better work-life balance, reward yourself with a treat.

Not sure where you are in the work life balance? Take a look at these questions. For me, the greatest impact of this exercise was not just answering the questions, but the fact that I took the time to slow down long enough to go through the exercise, to focus on real questions about how I was spending my time. I do believe that if we make small changes over time, we can find balance.

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” – Betsy Jacobson