If you follow my blog, you may recall a few posts written by Tami Boehmer, known to many as a brave and inspirational cancer warrior who took on the disease not only through her own fight but the fight of so many others. She was an author (of two books about cancer survivors), a blog writer (of Miracle Survivors), a mother, a sibling and daughter, and a loving wife. Tami was also a friend.
This is part of what she wrote in a post I shared on my blog:
“My goal is to give people hope and a different way to see themselves as a survivor and patient. I encourage my followers to be active participants in their healthcare by researching their options, getting additional medical opinions and taking care of themselves in body, mind and spirit. I feel it is detrimental to give patients death sentences. My mantra is: ‘Statistics are just numbers that lump together a large, diverse group of individuals. You are not a statistic.'” – Tami Boehmer
Tami’s husband, Mike, and her daughter, Chrissy, were there when Tami transitioned in 2015. And I have no doubt she is looking down on them, very proud of the way they are choosing to LIVE and appreciate their lives. Mike just wrote this. He shared part of it on his own blog and he added his own ’24 hour plan’ here to remind us of how we can embrace our days, and give them more meaning. I think we can all learn from his words. I know I can.
In Mike’s Words:
While walking from Fisherman’s Wharf to our motel in the Marina District of San Francisco early on New Year’s Eve, my 17-year-old daughter asked me to sum up 2016. We were finishing an enjoyable week in Northern California, including some great family time with Tami’s brother, Doug, my sister-in-law, Kim, and nieces Kaitlin and Grace (both in their 20’s).
My immediate response to Chrissy: “Glad it’s over.”
As she knew, I experienced some deep sadness at times in the first full year since Tami’s transition. She took her last breath on Nov. 4, 2015 after living with metastatic breast cancer for almost eight years.
But, then, I recounted the many positives of 2016 for me: the college visits with Chrissy, experiencing her senior year finales, our vacations in Seattle/Vancouver and California, attending many rock shows (including Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr with Chrissy), family gatherings, a fishing trip to Rice Lake with my brother and brother-in-law, Reds games, moving to a new office at work and developing closer relationships with colleagues there, starting yoga and attending a weekly meditation meeting, remodeling our bathroom… I expressed gratitude for my widow/widower groups and grief counseling since they helped me work through the yuck.
Probably my biggest plus: Learning more deeply the value of living “one day at a time.”
“You sure say that a lot,” Chrissy said. My response: “I need to, so I remember it.”
I told Chrissy I’m eternally grateful for the kindness and support of many, many people as I walk this unwanted path. I feel so blessed to have developed relationships with lots of people who have lost loved ones and made the best of their situations. I’m definitely not alone.
Finally, I relayed to Chrissy that I’m feeling pretty good as we embark on 2017 — much better overall than a year ago at this time. I am very, very grateful to feel mostly happy most of the time. I’m thankful for the many lessons learned, especially about the value of living life one day at a time, one moment at a time. I’m trying to remember the slogan on a coffee cup someone gave me several decades ago: “Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal.”
Chrissy then resumed sharing her thoughts about 2016 and plans for 2017 and beyond. It’s a moment I’ll never forget, listening to my wonderful daughter share her ups and downs and outlook for the future. One precious moment on one amazing day in the final hours of 2016, a year now in the rear view mirror.
Some practices to help achieve the “24-hour plan.”
(1) End your day with a routine. For me that involves inventorying my day. What could I have done better? What did I do right? Was I thinking of myself, or what I could do for others? Etc. I write in a journal for several minutes, then do some reading.
(2) Start your day with a spiritual practice. Get still and say a few prayers, read a daily reflection book, and meditate briefly before heading out the door.
(3) Take breaks during the day, especially those involving physical exercise such as walking or yoga. I actually got so relaxed in noontime yoga one day that I fell asleep during our down time at the end of the session!
(4) Remind yourself to “do the next right thing.” I’m amazed at how my daunting to-do list gets done when I plug away at it, instead of obsessing about it.
(5) Prioritize. Take care of the important stuff, and realize other tasks may have to wait.
(6) Connect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stressed to the hilt, but calmed down after connecting with friends or family — either in person or by phone, text or other messaging.
(7) Meditate. This has become more and more important to me. I’m learning how to close my eyes, sit comfortably, breath through my nose and clear my mind. Powerful practice, for sure.
(8) Service. Focus on what you can do for others (after taking care of yourself), instead of what you will get. See what you can bring to life, to the party.
They have been in my thoughts and prayers a lot the past few weeks. Tami had metastatic breast cancer. For so many years she had been a voice for cancer survival. Through her books, her speaking engagements and her online following she inspired and encouraged thousands – if not millions, not only those fighting her similar battle, but others who have their own personal challenges to overcome as well. The years that Tami had cancer, she had also been the embodiment for living. She and her family traveled the country and experienced what many will never do in their lifetime. They shared deep and meaningful talks about love and their innermost feelings. They practiced appreciation and determination. Mike shared with a private support group I was part of, about conversations they had at her bedside, expressing gratitude for their many blessings, making sure nothing was left unsaid.
In Tami’s memory and honor, let’s make the most of our today…smile more, be grateful more…be open to seeing the beauty around us.
Please click here to read a post written by Tami about her story.
Life doesn’t always make sense to me. I don’t understand how someone so special, so filled with love, and with so much to live for, is forced into war against a vicious enemy.
That enemy is breast cancer. And the brave warrior of whom I am speaking is my dear friend, Tami Boehmer. It was in February 2008, just months after celebrating her five year, cancer free anniversary with her husband (Mike) and daughter (Chrissy) by her side that Tami received the news – she was diagnosed with metatastic breast cancer recurrence.
To cancer – I have this to say, you have crossed the wrong person!
Tami interviewed survivors nationwide who have lived far beyond what the medical establishment predicted, and compiled their stories in an internationally acclaimed book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds. Tami shares these stories, as well as valuable information on healing the body, mind and spirit; on her web site and blog, www.MiracleSurvivors.com.
Recently, Cision Navigator named Tami one of the Top 10 Most Influential Breast Cancer Bloggers on Twitter. Her blog was also named one of the top 23 breast cancer blogs by www.Healthline.com.
From Incurable to Incredible was named the winner of the Health-Medical category of the 2011 Readers Favorite Awards and award-winning finalist in the 2012 Indie Book Awards and 2011 International Book Awards. Best-selling author Bernie Siegel, MD, who wrote a foreword to her book, called it “A book everyone should read.”
This Saturday, at the New Thought Unity Center in East Walnut Hills (1401 E McMillan St; Cincinnati, OH 45206) from 5 to 6 pm, she will be sharing her story. And it is a great story to be told.
(Guest blog post by Tami Boehmer, author of From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds)
One thing I love about Lisa’s blog is that it focuses on positivity. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 38, I vowed that I would not sink into self-pity. I continued doing what I loved, including taking care of my then three-year-old daughter, despite going through aggressive chemo. When it came back and spread to other parts of my body in 2008, it became more important than ever to live my life to the fullest and find hope in what seemed as a hopeless situation.
We went to MD Anderson in Houston for a second opinion. The oncologist there told me and my husband that I would die of breast cancer. When we were in the car, my grief turned into anger. “How does she know how long I had to live?” I said out loud. “She didn’t even know me!” At that moment, I affirmed I was going to prove her wrong.
I had always gained strength from other cancer survivors who had overcome the disease to lead flourishing lives. Faced with a dire diagnosis, I needed to talk with other cancer survivors who didn’t accept doctors’ predictions … people who beat the odds. And I was determined to find out how they did it so I could do it myself.
On one of my daily morning walks, an idea popped into my mind. “Why not write a book about other advanced stage cancer patients and how they beat the odds?” I thought it would be therapeutic for me, and more important, help others. I soon began interviewing cancer survivors from around the country for my book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds. And I started a blog called Miracle Survivors, where I featured their stories and more, along with ways to heal the body, mind and spirit.
I shy away from news reports and studies that talk about poor survival rates. Statistics are just numbers that lump together a large, diverse group of individuals. They don’t apply to me, and they certainly don’t apply to the people I’ve interviewed for my book and blog. A perfect example is Ann, who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 1999 and has been cancer-free since Sept. 12, 2001. And there’s Dave, who was told 23 years ago he had six months to live and today is running marathons with no evidence of disease.
I’ve heard so many powerful success stories; it seems beating the odds of terminal cancer is more of a norm, rather than an exception. When I struggle, I think of how the people who shared their stories in my book and on my blog never gave up despite setbacks. And almost all of them are thriving today. It gives me hope and purpose, knowing I’m helping others get through their struggles, too.
I participated in an interesting Twitter live chat a few months ago on metastatic breast cancer. This was the first time I had done a live chat and I was interested in hearing other survivors. I and a few other individuals brought up the subject of hope, and I was a little surprised how the conversation turned to impassioned complaints of being pressured to be positive.
Then I read a guest post on a fellow blogger’s site about the same topic. She stated, “Breast cancer has not made me a better person. It has not transformed my life for the better. I have not gotten some insight into a level of spirituality I was hitherto ignorant of. I have not learned to appreciate the little things.” This obviously is a sticking point for many people.
No one should tell anyone how to feel. We all react to things differently, and it can be detrimental to your health to hold in feelings and pretend to be happy when you’re not. But I don’t think this a black- and-white issue.
Do I always feel grateful and happy? Of course not! I’ve had friends die and suffer immeasurably because of this disease. My family and I have suffered, to be sure. But I want people to know there is another side to this – and yes it is … (dare I say it?) positive.
Hi, I’m Tami and I’m a gratefully recovering pessimist. (“Hi Tami,” the group responds.) I have become an optimist because I choose (choice being the operative word) to remain positive despite negative statistics and reports.
The irony is that, although positivity and hope slowly became part of my MO, it was having metastatic cancer that kicked it into full gear. There’s nothing like a strong dose of mortality to make you realize that life is too precious to waste on being miserable.
If I get worried about death or getting sick, I work through it; then get on with living. My lovely daughter has a way of bringing me back into the moment.
Tami Boehmer is a metastatic breast cancer survivor, speaker, blogger and author of From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds, available on her web site, Joseph Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati Good Samaritan Hospital gift shop, New Thought Unity Center, Whatever Works, Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. Through the end of November, Tami is donating 10 percent of her proceeds to the National Breast Cancer Coalition (along with her continual 10 percent to LIVESTRONG). You can visit her at www.MiracleSurvivors.com.
It’s been a few months since I’ve written about Tami. Here is a link to that post.
Tami is someone who has been a huge inspiration to me, always spreading her positive outlook on life. Her husband, Mike, and her daughter, Chrissie, are her pride and joy.
Tami has entered a contest where the prize is a scholarship to a social media conference that is all about training people to empower cancer patients. She wrote this essay below, and to win, she has to receive the most number of votes. Voting is done by first joining the site, then commenting or ‘liking’ her post. I’ve copied it below so you can see it first.
I can’t think of anyone who deserves that scholarship more! Click HERE to vote.
In Feb. 2008, I insisted on seeing my breast surgeon a month earlier than my regular check-up because of a large lump I discovered in my right armpit. I had worried from time to time about some swelling and hardness. Since the swelling would go down, my surgeon thought it was probably hormonal. I was so relieved, I didn’t question it.
She sat me down with the results of the ultrasound, and sadly looked at me. My worst nightmare came true – after five years of being cancer-free, it had come back with a vengeance. The tumor was a very large nine centimeters in diameter. My PET scan report showed spots in lymph nodes in my chest and, most worrisome, my liver. It was stage IV breast cancer.
My first thought was my daughter, then nine years old. I knew I had to do everything I could to be there for her.
I made the decision to not return to a very stressful job and start the new job of getting Tami well. I researched clinical trials and other research online and sought several doctor opinions. I made exercise, prayer, visualization, and affirmations a daily routine. To learn how I could build my immune system, I consulted with holistic physicians, as well as books and websites on the topic. I transformed my diet and used green products to reduce the toxic burden around me. And I focused on serving others in my breast cancer support group, at church and by delivering meals to elderly people in my neighborhood.
But still, I fought off depression and was haunted by the sinking feeling I was going to die. With all the focus on myself and getting well, I felt useless and empty. I was searching for meaning in my life.
I gained strength from hearing success stories of other survivors, especially people like Lance Armstrong who beat stage IV cancer. After more than 20 years as a healthcare public relations specialist, I decided to put my interviewing and writing skills to good use. I soon began interviewing cancer survivors from around the country for my book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odd (released June 2010). I also started a blog, www.MiracleSurvivors.com, where I share stories, cancer resources and my own experiences as a cancer survivor.
My life has been enriched by my incredible social network from my blog, Facebook (personal and fan page), Linked In, Twitter and various online support groups. In less than two years, more than 19,000 people from 123 countries have visited my blog. It was recently named one of the Top 10 Breast Cancer Blogs by Blogs.com. I follow several blogs and have made wonderful connections with other cancer bloggers. One visitor told me that at her one year check-up, her doctor was surprised by her new, upbeat attitude. She told him it was from reading my blog. That’s what makes it worth it to me.
My goal is to give people hope and a different way to see themselves as a survivor and patient. I encourage my followers to be active participants in their healthcare by researching their options, getting additional medical opinions and taking care of themselves in body, mind and spirit. I feel it is detrimental to give patients death sentences. My mantra is: “Statistics are just numbers that lump together a large, diverse group of individuals. You are not a statistic.”
My scans have been stable with only two spots in my armpit. My goal is “no evidence of disease,” and I believe I’ll achieve it. When I struggle, I think of how the people who shared their stories in my book and on my blog never gave up despite setbacks. It gives me hope and purpose, knowing I’m helping others get through their struggles, too.
I hope to contribute my perspective and experiences as a conference participant and share what I learn on my blog and social forums. I would love to meet ePatient Dave, whom I’m featuring in a coming post, and other individuals who are shaping the face of patient empowerment. I want to make a difference for others and my own health. I would be honored to be considered for your generous scholarship.