Lisa Bova’s Word for the Year-Freedom


I met Lisa Bova over 10 years ago back when she was a realtor and was very impressed with her. We have kept in touch over the years-I always enjoyed touching base with her. I am so excited where life is leading her now. I thought she would be an inspiration to you all so I asked Lisa to share her Word for the Year with you. I love what she wrote, I can totally relate. I think you will too. Enjoy!

From Lisa-

When Debbie asked me to write a blog on my word for the year, I knew exactly what the word would be-Freedom.  I had been using this word for few months as my intention in my Amrit Series Yoga class.  I was using it intentionally to mean freedom in my body, as I went through the series.  One definition of freedom is “Ease and grace, as of movement; lack of effort”. Little did I know how this intention was going to take my life to whole new level and allow me to stretch into places I have never been.  The qualities of ease and grace in my body translated to finding ease and grace in my life and how to create that in my life.  It has made me realize what a powerful manifestor I am.  The saying “watch out what you wish for” comes to mind.

I have been in the process for the past three and a half years recreating myself. After 27 years as a real estate broker and company owner I took some time off and then went back to school to be a health and wellness coach, learning about nutrition, diets and primary foods, those things that nourish us that aren’t food.  I learned to think along the lines of relationships, career, spirituality and physical activity.  Basically my goal is to help people incorporate mind, body and spirit into their lives, by looking at what is blocking them using my clairvoyant training to read their energy fields.  With that said, by focusing on the intention of freedom for a while now, I have reached several things that are blocking me in my life from having freedom I now desire beyond just freedom in my body.  I have been up close and personal with the fears and beliefs that have been holding me back.  I also realize now that I can do any of this or make these changes without really embracing and getting more deeply in touch with my spiritual side.  I know I need to create time in my life to meditate, keep myself grounded and clear of unwanted energies and connect to my source. I also need to  focus on what is positive in my life instead of letting the negative self talk drive the bus.

Some of this things I have learned from my time with exploring freedom is:

1. Stop spending money on things I already know.

There was a class on how to be a light worker from an entrepreneurial stand point.  It was very expensive and required travel which added to the expense.  I told a friend about it and she said “you could probably teach that class”  She’s right, I don’t need to look outside of myself to find answers or to use it as a excuse for not doing it perfectly and actually do it the way the way I should be doing it, that works for me!  I have to stop looking outside myself for answers, because I know I have everything I need in me.

2. Accept discomfort as a reality for now.

When we expand or make changes in our life and allow freedom from our old beliefs and patterns to shift, it’s going be uncomfortable.  Sometimes it’s even going to suck!  It will pull you out of your comfort zone and will stretch you in ways you never through you could.

3. Be ok in the chaos.

My life is a little chaotic right now, which doesn’t sit well in my always have a plan, problem solving personality.  Right now I have to be ok in the chaos of changing my life to create more freedom in it.

4. It’s ok to be me!

I have to let go of the pictures and ideas I have on what or how my life should look.  Giving myself the flexibility to stumble, to redirect and learn how to stretch myself.  I look at where I was last summer when I started a weekly commitment to my yoga series.  I didn’t miss one session for 20 weeks.  Each class was a lesson in freedom, breath and noticing where my mind wanted to take me, with the intention of always bringing it back into the pose.

I have moved from just wanting freedom in my body to a long list of where I want
to be free.

Freedom to feel.
Freedom to be fully in my body and accept where it is day to day.
Freedom to be vulnerable.
Freedom to risk.
Freedom to give and receive.
Freedom to love.
Freedom to hope.
Freedom to choose.
Freedom to believe.
Freedom to be happy.
Freedom to be at peace.
Freedom to completely realize my dreams and goals.
Freedom to fully engage in life.
Freedom to be an active and conscious participant.
Freedom to know my values and live them
Freedom to be me.

I hope I have inspired you to look at freedom and how you can express it in
your life and maybe some idea’s of how to deal with it with ease and grace, when it
comes knocking on your door.  I would love to hear some of your thoughts on
freedom, what it means in your life, how you allow it in your life or maybe you
don’t and want to explore it more.

Lisa Bova

Lisa Bova is owner of Transformation Living and Wellness.  She is an
intuitive,  energy healer, certified holistic health and wellness coach who strives to
help people discover what is blocking them from achieving everything they
want from life.  To see what Lisa is up to, check out her blog and website at, “like” her on Facebook or
follow her in twitter

Word from Gluten Free Anonymous-Discover


Happy Monday! I am so excited to share sisters Brooke and Bri with you. I love following their blog, Gluten Free Anonymous. They have great recipes and ideas and they are so much fun!

I did a detox cleanse diet a few months ago just to be healthy and lose a little off my stomach (lost about 15 pounds!) and it included going gluten free. It felt so good. It is not that hard anymore with so many gluten free products out there now and lots of recipes available.  I am not gluten intolerant, but now I seek out gluten free foods. In fact, I asked Brooke about a gluten free pizza crust and the next day she blogged about it!

Thanks so much, Brooke and Bri, for sharing your Word for the Year……

Discover Gluten Free Tips

As a fairly new blogger and advocate of gluten free living (not completely by choice), I’ve decided the word of the year I will focus on is DISCOVER.

Discovery is a key component of understanding who we are and what makes us happy. Many a story has been written about self discovery. The word itself is often associated with Zen (which is Debbie’s word of the year by the way).

My biggest discovery was of a different nature, yet affected my ‘self’ very much. In 2011 I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. It was a rough time for me. I was forced to discover new things everyday. New foods, sicknesses, products, and feelings.

My sister Bri had it even more rough. She went 17 years as an undiagnosed Celiac. We finally discovered the source of all her years of sickness.

We have been discovering together ever since and expect to discover much more throughout the year.

I’d like to share a few of the discoveries we’ve made over the course of the last couple years.

How to determine if you are having issues with gluten.

First and foremost, follow the symptoms. This is probably the hardest part of determining if you have a problem. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness states that, “Accurately diagnosing celiac disease can be quite difficult largely because the symptoms often mimic those of other diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, intestinal infections, lactose intolerance and depression.”

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, we suggest you get tested. It may cost a little, but it’ll save you much more in the long run. Celiac disease/gluten intolerance is an epidemic. It saves to be sure. To learn more about testing options visit the NFCA website (Please note that you should be currently on a gluten including diet for more accurate results).

You don’t have to change yourself just because you can’t eat gluten.

For the newly diagnosed, it can be a major blow to who you think you are. I found myself constantly having to fight thoughts of negativity about my situation and future. What could I do? Where could I turn? I felt like I couldn’t EAT anything! It became a time of great introspection. I had to discover that I had the strength to pull through. I learned over time that I didn’t have to change who I was…just what I ate!

A forced, seemingly negative, change in your lifestyle can be surprisingly positive.

The effects of gluten on my system were bad. My hair started to thin out and I was constantly sick. Bri gained weight and had a hard time regulating it. When we were diagnosed we had to make changes that we didn’t want to make. We had to make a goal to not cheat and be religious about what we put into our systems. Debbie reminds us in her Healthy Weight Goals post that “we are the happiest when we feel and look our best.” She goes on to say, “I know when I am working out regularly and eating healthy foods I have more energy and feel so much better. When I am at my target weight I feel more confident too! Now, I am not saying you have to be skinny to be happy, just at a healthy weight that is just right for you.” Meeting our goals and getting our systems back on track righted many of the wrongs our bodies were facing.

What seemed the end of the world to us made us DISCOVER. Sometimes the tough changes we are required to make in life turn out to be for our good.

We discovered us again. This year you can too.




Brooke is living in Orem, UT. She’s married to the man of her dreams and has the cutest little 9 month old you ever did see! She loves being a stay at home mom, raising her son Kaden. She loves to read, sing and find new things gluten free related. She is gluten intolerant, meaning she has a sensitivity to gluten and cannot digest it. She has been gluten free for over 2 years.

Bri is a student, living in Provo, UT. She goes to Utah Valley University and currently is undecided on a major. She works at Happy Sumo, a Sushi joint. Bri has a love for horses. She loves escaping the daily grind for a full day of nature and horseback riding. She loves to sing and play guitar when she’s not being hunted down by boys! She went un-diagnosed for 17 years. By the time she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she had developed many other allergies including soy, dairy, eggs, and casein.

They have a love of learning about their inability to eat gluten and a love for helping others through their own journey. They started their blog, Gluten Free Anonymous at the end of October 2013, to help spread the knowledge they have and to provide support to those going through this alone.



Anna Pereira’s 2014 Word-Blessed


I think I am the one who is Blessed here, having Anna Pereira, creator and owner of Circles of Inspiration, being one of my guest bloggers this month! She so inspires me with her  beautiful jewelry designs and her positive, encouraging attitude. (Check out her Circles of Inspiration Facebook page too, she inspires so many!). Anyway, I thought she would be a perfect fit for January, being that January is International Creativity Month! As you know, we have been coming up with our 2014 Word for the Year and here is Anna’s Word below, thanks for sharing yourself with us Anna!

A Blessed 2014

The New Year has arrived! I am so excited about the endless possibilities that 2014 brings us, and this year I’ve chosen a specific energy to really focus on as the months unfold. Blessed is my word for the year, and I’d like to share the reasons why with you today.
When I first started my inspirational jewelry line Circles Of Inspiration, my goal was to create wearable art that would inspire people and surround them with the positive energy I had grown to love. One of the first charms I created was the Blessed design, and ever since the launch of my line this particular piece has always stood out to me.
To me, being blessed is a state of mind. I have experienced that all of us, all the time, and in all ways are completely surrounded by endless blessings –but in order to see them and receive them we have to be able to notice them. It can be so easy to walk thought life only seeing the negative, troublesome things that stand out – but when we do the work and find the diamonds in the rough and focus on them, miracles can happen.
Being blessed means that we honor who we are as unique individuals, the path we walk, and the world we live in. We recognize once and for all that we are here for a reason, and that we are valuable. The moment we start recognizing and living our authentic value is the moment that the universe can finally start giving us everything we deserve.

To be blessed is also to be a blessing. Like all things love-based, the more we give the more we are able to receive. When we walk through life actively trying to be a blessing for others, it changes things in and around us. It makes us humble and compassionate – and it opens our hearts so that we can heal ourselves deeply and help others do the same.

Anna Pereira This year, I am going to wear my own Blessed charm and use it as a reminder to be a blessing, receive the blessings, and express gratitude for the blessings no matter what form they may come in or even how small and insignificant they may be. 2014 for me will be all about saying Thank You and staying excited about the many good things ahead!
Wishing you a blessed New Year!
Anna Pereira
Circles Of Inspiration

ShaRhonda’s 2014 Word for the Year-Restore


ShaRhonda Crow, Happy First Assistant, and author of the blog The 4-Crow’s is our guest blogger today! I love her 2014 Word for the Year. Here’s what she has to share with us!

The word RESTORE stands out to me for 2014.

I want to restore my relationship with God. I want to delve deeper in what HE wants of me.

I want to restore my home. We have a few projects that need to be done in our 10 year old home. It’s time to pull my frugal creative side together for my home, get the have to’s done along with a few redo’s.

I want to restore and focus again on my family, I know that I can always be a better mother and wife, especially after God gets a hold of me. I’m finding being the mother of a teen boy and an almost 7 year old girl is entirely two different parenting strategies. It’s time to restore some balance and discipline in my life as well as theirs.

I also want to restore my writing on my blog The 4-Crow’s. 2013, brought 151 blog posts, that included reviews, giveaways and lots of family stories of living, laughing, learning and loving. But, I want to get deeper. I have a story or two to tell, maybe this is my year to get off the blog and onto a manuscript.

There are also a few relationships I would like to restore, and help restore.

Health, now there’s a restoration project for a woman who turns the big 40 this year. I don’t think I have to go into much detail about what I have in mind with the meaning of this one.


vb (tr)

1. to return (something, esp a work of art or building) to an original or former condition

2. to bring back to health, good spirits, etc

3. to return (something lost, stolen, etc) to its owner

4. to reintroduce or re-enforce: to restore discipline.

5. to reconstruct (an extinct animal, former landscape, etc)

What is your Word For the Year? I find that ONE word to focus on rather than resolutions works best for me. In fact, frame that word. Put it on your desk, frame it, pin quotes that contain your word. Keep it front and center. God only knows what I will find to restore in 2014. He knows I don’t sit still for long and that I always have to be doing something. I can’t wait to see what all 2014 has in store for me to restore!

2014 Word for the Year-Zen


zen frameHappy January 1st, 2014! Here we are again, a new year and a new word to choose for the year. This is the 5th year that I have chosen a word to frame and look at everyday. It all started in 2010 at the suggestion of one of my favorite yoga teachers, Mary NurrrieStearns, and I chose the word Create. 2011 I chose Pursue, 2012 was Delve and 2013 was Focus.

2013 Recap

2013 turned out to be a rough year in many ways, and I was really tested with the word Focus. It was very hard to do with last year’s life circumstances. But I did try even though it was  frustrating! I waver about how much to share personally and how much to be private, but I think I am supposed to help others and be real and I don’t want you all to think Happy First is just about being happy all the time and that my life is perfect. I think the philosophy behind Happy First is about having a positive attitude and outlook in good times and adversity and just having faith that things happen for a reason sometimes that we don’t understand and that adversity can make us stronger and the experiences we have can help others.

So a brief recap of 2013 and then let’s start fresh with a new year. My mom had been really ill for couple of years and I was constantly running back and forth to Dallas from Tulsa (4 hours away) and had the guilt of leaving my family here and not being down there enough to help my sister  who lives in Dallas. My mom passed away in April. It was really sad but she had suffered so much so it was good that she was no longer suffering. She had a full life and helped so many people. Now we are working on cleaning out her house and that is a huge job. So I am still going back and forth.

In the summer we lost 2 of our 4 dogs. In August we had to put Baron, our Great Pyrenees to sleep. He was 10. He was such a sweetie and a protector of our other dogs and property. Then we lost Scooter, our blue heeler mix, 6 weeks later. He was around 12 years old and we knew he didn’t have long. But he died doing what he loved-he went running with me and the 2 remaining dogs on our property and then disappeared after the first lap. I found him dead in the woods the next day. He must have had a heart attack.

Then my Uncle-my mom’s only sibling, passed away suddenly of a heart attack in November and we flew up to New York City for the week for the funeral and to be with family. It was sad and unexpected but it was so good to see family we hadn’t seen in a while and met some new people that were so close to my Uncle.

We also have lost both of my husband’s parents in the last 2 years.

Great things too in 2013. Fun trips with family and friends. Our oldest son got engaged to his high school sweetheart and we just love her and her family. And then he just graduated college this December, yay!

Also I have finally delved more into my own hand drawn simple designs and am learning to delegate to some great helpers so I can spend more time being creative and do the things I love instead of being bogged down with the busyness. (Thank you so much my friend and mentor for your help-CC Lawhon, author of Guru You- in finding ME and being ME and helping me on all of this)

We had a busy fall with Happy First sales, even though the weather sometimes got in the way!

I went to an awesome meditation retreat at the beginning of November-Transformative Meditation and Yoga Retreat- facilitated and created by Mary, my yoga teacher. I will have to do a separate blog post on that, it was so great.

And we just got a new puppy a few weeks ago-he is half Great Pyrenees and half Anatolian Shepherd. He is a handful but so much fun! The 2 older dogs are slowly getting used to him. His name is Otto.

So I hope I didn’t bum you all out. Just wanted to let you know that we all go through stuff and every day is a new beginning. I think 2013 was an incubation period for me. And that is fitting with the egg logo and what Happy First represents. So now I am ready to once again burst out of my shell.

Now to 2014

My word for 2014 is ZEN. I had just come up with some new “Zen Chick” tees and a scarf this fall for our Yoga Collection but didn’t realize it would be my word for this year.

Zen has a Buddhist origin meaning achieving sudden enlightenment but that is not really what I am talking about here, or what Zen means to me.

I did look up some other meanings of Zen – the Urban Dictionary (isn’t that an interesting source?) says Zen is-”a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.” It also says Zen is “complete and absolute peace” (wow wouldn’t that be something?)

One of my very favorite blogs is Zen Habits. This is what they say- “Zen Habits is about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.”

I’m also reading a book that CC recommended called “Zen and the art of making a living” by Laurence G. Boldt. It is really good; I am not too far into it just yet. Several things I like that it says so far is that Zen is spirit in the everyday. The integration of spiritual and material. An awareness of the sacred in the ordinary. Also awareness and spirit applied to everyday life and work.

So what I am wanting to do with this word ZEN is focus on simplicity and BE PRESENT. The way I draw is pure and simple and happy. I want to be in that “creative zone” that I sometimes get into when I am really focusing and having fun creating and losing concept of time. (oh oops my husband says I never have concept of time, ha!).

I also want to smell the roses. This Zen book above talks about being aware of nature. Here I am surrounded by woods and beauty and birds and animals and sometimes I get so caught up in my busyness that I don’t even see it. And I have had a hard time just slowing down and relaxing. So going to work on that! And also balance (if there is such thing?) and mindfulness-oh- see Kelli’s post last year on mindfulness.

I love doing this Word for the Year and I love hearing what everyone else comes up with. We have some great guest posts lined up and we also have a Pinterest board where you can share there too or just get ideas! And I so welcome your comments here on the blog and pinterest and if you want to guest blog, please let me know!

I am thinking that along with the Word for the Year, I also want to break it down with related Word for the Months (maybe because I am ADD and get bored!). I think sometimes people get excited at the New Year but then fade as the months go by so if we make Words of the Month, it will help us focus on our overall Word for the Year.

I don’t have all my words planned out for each month yet. I will keep you posted. I want to get organized and declutter in January so I feel more free to create (January is National Creativity Month) and I also like to talk about health and fitness so let’s say the January Word will be Zen which includes all of these and we will go from there.

So I am excited for a new year, a new word, and to the word you choose and why!

What’s your 2014 Word for the Year?

word for year questionHappy New Year’s Eve! As you know, every year for the past few years, I have come up with a Word for the Year (see last year’s I did- What’s your word for 2013-and my friend Kelli’s Everyday Mindfulness) for me to focus on and I have invited you to do the same. And this year we have a pinterest board where you can share too!  I’m still working on what my word will be, will let you all know tomorrow! Also, I have some fun guest posts  with their words for the year.  And I would love to hear what YOUR word for the year will be!

I love January! It’s all about refocusing and new beginnings. 2013 was crazy for me, some sadness and some happiness! Ready for a new year! I will fill you all in later. (Sorry about the lack of blog posts this fall, we got really busy with Christmas sales!)

Happy New Year’s Eve! I’m looking forward to this week to reflect and incubate (the egg, get it?) and plan for the New Year.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor & Author Jen Singer

Jen Singer & Boys

This picture was taken this past April in Cancun, Nick is on the left, now 16 and Chris in on the right, almost 15.

Jen Singer and I met somehow years ago online. We became friends and corresponded back and forth. I love her sites,, Parenting with Cancer, and her facebook page and her fun outlook on life and parenting. She has done some speaking and is an inspiration to many.

Happy First Survivor Story

Jen Singer

written 9/23/13

I still know my oncologist’s phone number by heart, even though it’s been nearly six years since I went into remission. I know this, because I just called it to make my annual check-up appointment – the first appointment in all those years that I’m not worried that the cancer may have returned.
Well, not that worried.
Six summers ago, I was diagnosed with Stage III Aggressive B Cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had a tumor the size of a softball inside my left lung, pressing against my esophagus and my heart.
Speaking of my heart, I also had two boys in elementary school, and I desperately wanted to see them grow up. According to my oncologist, however, I was about two months from death – a fact he didn’t reveal, nor did I ask about – until I was safely two years in remission. And yet, deep down, I knew it.
I spent much of June 2007 in the hospital for a five-day infusion that turned into 10 because of complications, plus another few days before that just trying to get an accurate diagnosis. (The doctor had told me that I had the “good cancer,” Hodgkin’s lymphoma, when really, I had non-Hodgkin’s. And, oh yeah, there is no such thing as a “good cancer.” I switched hospitals shortly thereafter.)
In all, I had six rounds of chemo – the kind that makes your hair fall out and comes with the possible future “complication” of leukemia – and five weeks of radiation treatments. I coached soccer (well, I sat in a chair and tried to yell), I was class mom, and I slept on the couch a lot while trying to ignore the house-wide construction going on around me that we had started before my diagnosis.
I tried to be the mom that I had been before cancer, but that was nearly impossible when it took all my energy just to get out of my car and walk to the edge of the lake where my kids had a swim meet. So I did the best I could and relied on everyone around me to fill in. And they did, thank God.
When I finally achieved remission, I waited for “normal” to return, but it never did. Not the normal I knew before cancer, anyhow. In the first year, there were PET scans every quarter and then in the second, every four months. After 14 PET scans, my oncologist finally cut me loose from that anything-but-normal ritual, relying instead on blood tests and “how you feel.”
And I feel fine. Good, even. Normal, but a new normal, in which cancer isn’t so much in my rearview mirror as it is potentially at any exit along the way. Only now I zoom past those exits without (much) worry, relying on annual blood tests and how I feel to confirm what I know deep down: I will see my kids grow up.
My boys are now both in high school, the final lap of the under-your-roof parenting years. They are stronger and wiser for what they went through, of this I am sure. And we are closer, too, because of it all.
Next week, I will have my six-year check-up, but I am not worried. I will zoom past this exit with the memories of all we’ve been through, looking forward to watching my sons become men. And yet, I will still remember my oncologist’s phone number.
Just in case.


Above picture from 2008, Jen was 6 months in remission. Nick on the left at age 11, Chris on the right age 9 1/2.

Jen is both an author and a blogger. Her sites are and Parenting with Cancer. (In fact I guest blogged for her back in 2011, check out the post-Debbie Vinyard wants you to be Happy First). It is the back fence of the Internet where moms go for laughs and a pat on the back. Created by Jen Singer, author of the Stop Second-Guessing Yourself parenting series, a Mom’s Choice Award gold winner. Also check out her facebook page MommaSaid.

Thanks so much for sharing, Jen!


Mesothelioma Awareness Day


Did you know today is Mesothelioma Awareness Day? The Public Outreach Department of the Mesothelioma Center had asked me to share with you all about Mesothelioma. Some of you remember the inspiring story of Cameron and Heather Von St. James- Coping with Cancer from a Caregiver’s Perspective . Heather is a survivor of Mesothelioma. Here is some information and more inspiring stories of survivors. There is so much negative information out there on the internet and I like to share the positive stories, connect people, and give people hope!

Mesothelioma and the Power of Hope

Hello, Happy First readers! My name is Faith Franz, and I’m a health and wellness writer for As we help mesothelioma patients through their recovery journeys, we get to witness an amazing number of survival stories – and Debbie has graciously opened the floor to us to share a few of them with you.
Mesothelioma is a relatively rare cancer; just 3,000 Americans receive that diagnosis every year. It’s caused by asbestos exposure, and it grows around the lining of the lungs, stomach or heart. Because it’s so rare, patients don’t have expansive networks of people who’ve been through the same thing, like lung cancer or breast cancer patients would have.
But that’s where we hope to change things.
Our Wall of Hope is dedicated to the inspirational warriors who refuse to let their diagnosis get the best of them. We share these stories as often as we can so that newly diagnosed patients know that they’re not alone.
When James Broomer was diagnosed with mesothelioma, his doctor immediately referred him to a hospice organization. Thankfully, he declined that referral, and decided to fight. With his wife’s support, Broomer adopted the Budwig Diet; the nutrition-based regimen has helped him regain 95 percent of his lung function. Although he opted for a chemotherapy regimen immediately after his June 2011 diagnosis, he’s been relying on the Budwig Diet for his success since then – and has no plans to change that.
Wendy Morris was only 28 when she received her diagnosis. (By contrast, most patients are men in their 60s or 70s.) She was originally misdiagnosed because she didn’t fit the typical patient profile, but she didn’t let the setback get in the way of pursuing life-saving treatment. Through chemotherapy, spiritual strength and alternative treatments, she’s now reclaiming her life. As an active member of our social media communities, she selflessly offers her time to support others who are feeling down about their illness – all while turning her own experiences into a book, titled “Mesothelioma and Me.”
After beating bladder cancer, mesothelioma was the last thing on Ward Stanley’s mind. He was a retired professor with an active lifestyle, and the news came as a complete shock. But just a few months after an intensive lung surgery to remove as many cancerous cells as possible, Stanley was back to his favorite activities. After meeting with other mesothelioma patients at a 2012 symposium, Stanley is resuming his schedule of race-walking and lecturing at Bard College.
These are just three stories we’ve received over the last few years. Dozens more decorate our Wall of Hope; if you or a loved one has a story to submit, we’d love to share your experiences.
Faith Franz writes for The Mesothelioma Center at She encourages patients to consider the benefits of alternative medicine.

Follow The Mesothelioma Center on facebook and twitter!

Meet Author and Yogi Maria Murnane

Happy National Yoga Month! Meet my author friend, Maria Murnane. We met in New York a couple of years ago when we were both speakers at a conference-we had quite the adventure together with our friend Linda, more on that and fun Linda later! At the time, Maria had just written her first book, Perfect on Paper. I couldn’t put it down! I had it finished as the plane landed in Tulsa from New York. All of her books are like that with me, I can’t think about anything else until I finish them! So we became fast friends and that following fall she came to stay with me and speak to a couple of groups here in Tulsa. We had so much fun and we went to yoga together at my favorite place, Inner Peace Yoga. So, I knew that Maria was quite the yogi! I asked her to write something about yoga for this month and she was more than happy to! I love what she wrote, it is so true about life! Enjoy, my friends and thanks so much Maria!

Like a Yoga Practice, Writing Takes DisciplineMaria_headshot_1_April_2012

As a full-time author, I regularly meet people who tell me they want to write a book and/or are working on a book. Most of the time, unfortunately, their talk never turns into an actual book.

These folks, who I’m sure truly do want to become authors, remind me of the people I see packing the classes every January at the yoga studio I frequent. They’ve clearly made New Year’s resolutions to get in shape, so they sign up for yoga and jump in eagerly. But by February, they’re gone. I imagine they have all sorts of reasons for why they stopped coming to class. Too busy with work/kids/family. Not enough time. Schedule conflicts. Etc. etc. etc.

These are all excuses. The simple truth is that yoga is HARD, and it takes a lot of discipline to practice on a regular basis and get into good shape.


Just like a yoga practice, writing requires discipline

It’s the same thing with writing. Even if you have a wonderful idea for a book, writing a book is HARD. In addition to the sheer creative effort, it’s not like an office job where you have to show up or you’ll get fired. It’s up to you to sit down today and tomorrow and the day after that and just write.

I once spoke on a panel with a woman who said she approached writing her book the same way she approached training for a marathon. I thought that was a great way to look at it. You can’t just show up and run 26.2 miles without training, and a book isn’t just going to appear on your computer screen because you really want to be an author.

While the “lifestyle of a writer” can sound idyllic because no one is looking over your shoulder, it also requires discipline and self-motivation. Just as with your yoga practice, the more seriously you take your writing, the more likely you are to succeed.



Maria Murnane is the author of the best-selling romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It’s a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two, novels for anyone who has ever run into an ex while looking like crap. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at


Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor Kyla’s Story


It’s National Blood Cancer Awareness month, so I have been gathering some inspiring survivor stories for you all and we are also putting all Survivor Chick tees on sale this month.

I am so honored to share Kyla’s story with you. We became instant friends when she found my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Story and have been emailing each other ever since. We have some similarities too (except I am not a beautiful blonde!) – she was around the same age as me when she was diagnosed and her little boys were the same ages as mine. And she works for the same accounting firm I used to work for. And my dad went through a blood cancer too, as hers did.

Kyla is so wonderful, such a light to others. I cannot wait for your to read this. You may need a tissue….

Cancer – 

Cancer – the word was something I would read or watch in a movie and feel fear but quickly pass over it as it did not directly affect me.

My best friend’s mother had passed away when we were in Standard 1 from Leukemia and my mother’s cousin, Erica, also passed away due to breast cancer 8 years before. It was sad, but a fact of life and so I would carry on with “life”.

All the stories, all the movies, all the articles could not prepare me for what would happen next. In 2010 my rock, my best friend, my amazing intelligent and brilliant father went for a check up and they phoned him back telling him his white blood cell count was too high and he would need further tests. Neutrophilic Leukemia was the diagnosis. Very rare, no major information available as the 100 or so people that had had it, never lived or did not live long enough for them to do extensive testing.

We were all afraid but hopeful. My father went on a wonderful chemotherapy called Vidaza and he injected himself in his stomach for 7 days and only had to repeat the chemo the next month – again for 7 days.

He did not lose weight or his hair and carried on working the whole time. He loved us, laughed with us and celebrated welcoming my 2nd baby boy on the 3rd August 2011. Keagan, my first son and Declan and their cousin Seve were the light that shone the way for my dad. He lived and breathed and fought for them. He was unbelievable in his battle with cancer and he never complained and would never feel sorry for himself.

Our time was spent with family, laughing and talking and sharing moments. That is all we have in the end, memories. We made so many great memories.

In 2011, 4 months after my son was born, I noticed my neck was swollen and went for a CAT scan. The results were not good. I had cancer. The doctors looked worried and tried to make me understand that this could mean death. I knew that, they didn’t have to tell me. My husband, Riaan, tried to keep his composure but he struggled and everyone just kept saying that it would be alright.

My father and I knew different. We were in this battle together now and he stood by me with all my appointments and surgeries and held my hand and told me to take it one day at a time.

I had a biopsy on the 28th December 2011 and was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma Nodular Schlerosis Stage 2B.  Everyone told me if that if you are going to get cancer, that was the cancer you wanted. I didn’t want any cancer but then again, there is no choice involved with these things?

I would start chemo on the 15 January 2012. My mother took me to all my chemotherapy sessions, she cried with me, she held my hand and she promised me that if anything happened she would be with me at the end.

We climbed Mt Everest together, my mom and I. We started at base camp and half way up, I told her I couldn’t do it anymore. She just told me to carry on for my kids. Keagan my 3 year old became quieter during the process and I basically handed my 6 month old baby boy to his nanny, as I could not care for him the way a new mother could.

My long blonde hair started falling out in chunks and so to make the process easier for my son, I told him he could cut mommies hair. He was so happy and so I gave him the kitchen scissor and he went bananas! Then my husband came home and shaved it all off. Keagan was not happy and asked me to please put my hair back. It was a very sad time for me.

I met my best friend and soul mate sister in the chemotherapy room. Danika had a 2 year old little boy and also had Hodgkins Lymphoma Nodular Schlerosis Stage 4 B. Her mother had had it 15 years prior so this was a shock and a very sad time for her family. Her mother had survived after years of treatment and so we just kept on hoping we would be like her and it was inspiring hearing her story.

We also met a lovely mommy of 2 boys, Michaela (you can read her blog at who had Hodgkins lymphoma and no medical aid. She was going for a stem cell transplant as her first course of chemotherapy had not been successful and was fund raising to save her life. Can you imagine? We became the 3 musketeers fighting an enemy we could not see, but one that literally ripped our lives from out of our hands. All mommies with small boys, under 5years of age.

My father was in remission and I believed that it was a sign from God that I would go into remission and that we would carry on with our lives, as before. Cancer would not win. We would laugh about this looking back and realize that it was just a bump in the road. A big bump, but just a bump.

On my second PET scan I was cancer free – after only 2 rounds of the chemotherapy drug BEACOPP. That is the German standard for fighting Hodgkins Lymphoma here in South Africa, whereas the Americans use ABVD as their standard.

I would still need 4 more treatments (instead of 8 as originally thought) but the prognosis was looking very good. I would also have no radiation after. They also downgraded my chemotherapy from Intermediate BEACOPP to Standard BEACOPP. This is why they do a PET scan after your 2nd round of chemotherapy.

I worked half day from home and tried to live a “semi normal” life. But the thoughts and fears would get to me. The what if’s and the but’s. They haunt you and never leave your side. You try to make peace with what may come, but it is still not normal to live with these thoughts.

My time was spent sleeping and trying to be a mommy. Keagan would ask me why I was always sleeping and I would just tell him that mommy was tired. Declan was flourishing under his nanny and my mom and dad’s care, but I felt cheated and guilty at the same time.

On the 9 May I went for my last Chemotherapy. My angel friend Danika had cupcakes made for me and I felt great.  Things were finally working out the way I had thought they would. My mom and dad and I had made it to the summit. She had carried me most of the way!

50 days later my father passed away. His Leukemia came back with a vengeance and nothing could stop it. Thursday afternoon he went home early feeling a bit ill and by the next Wednesday – 28 June 2012 my hero, mentor, friend and daddy passed away. Cruel as I felt the hand I had been dealt was, I also felt that there was a silver lining. God had spared my father, so that he could carry me through my cancer journey, and just when I had been cleared and told I was cancer free, his body relaxed and his cancer returned and he went home to be with the Lord.

I cannot explain to anyone what it feels like. There are no words I could write or ways I could tell anyone what cancer had robbed me of, of my femininity, my right to be a mother, my ability to be a great worker, the chance to be a friend, the many many moments I could not take part in, the moments I could not be there for my sons, for my husband. It is so hard to digest exactly what it took from me, to weight up the enormity of the emotional toll it took on me and those around me.

But one thing it did not take from me, my belief and faith that the Lord is always good. He was with me through it all. He sent many many angels to comfort me and give that little bit of strength I needed when I was not going to make it. Debbie from Happy First who became my friend after I wrote to her. Her story gave me hope!

The parking attendant at the hospital who started singing a hymn while I was lying on the back seat of my mom’s car after chemotherapy because she knew I was sick. The service attendant who gave me flowers at the garage where I would stop with my mom to get juice and water after my treatments. What unspeakable kindness he showed me during a time where kindness is not readily available. He ran out with flowers for me. Someone he didn’t know and didn’t have to be nice to.

The nurses who took care of us in the chemo room, smiling with us and doing everything possible to make us comfortable. Sister Stephanie, a chemotherapy nurse,  who passed away from ovarian cancer right in the middle of my treatments, because she did not even know she had it. She was always the life of the chemo room and I miss her dearly.

Sister Linda who showed me her port and told me not to be afraid as a port is a wonderful thing. She had colon cancer 5 years before and had survived! Sister Elria who always welcomed me with a smile and a hug and was a mommy to us all in the chemo room. The smiling faces in the theatres. The two lovely theatre nurses who prayed with me before I had my port put in because I was scared and was crying.

I have a blood clotting disorder and have had for many years, so surgery and chemotherapy just complicated it and I could of clotted at any time. But because of my daily injection of Clexane we kept it under control, but the fear of a blood clot added to my stress.

I sit at work writing this. It has been 1 year and 4 months since my last chemotherapy session. I have had another 2 more PET scans in the interim which shows no residual cancer.kyla's family

It feels like a lifetime ago. It almost feels like this happened to someone else, but then the sadness I feel every day that my dad is not with me reminds me of my dad’s passing, the nagging if’s and but’s in the corner of my mind remind me that it could come back and then the fear, which I have to push back. I have faith that it won’t but then I am not God and He has His plan for our lives. I do not question I just feel the feelings any human would faced with what I have gone through and then give it to Him.

I hold onto His hand. He guides me. He holds me. He strengthens me. He quietens my spirit and gives me joy. I also have hope, a hope for a future, for health and happiness. His mercy has given me a new life, and I live each moment to the best of my ability.

I love my life and the cancer has changed me, left it’s scar but it has started healing. I do not look at things the way I did before. I have a different set of eyes. My heart song has changed and when I feel cheated I just remind myself that my story has a happy ending, no matter how it ends.

There is nothing but peace when I put my hand in His hand.


South Africa