Episode 68: Instructions on Parting with Amy Jenkins

October 14, 2018

All In with Pauline Hawkins

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Amy Jenkins was part of the New Hampshire Film Festival 2018 and screened her documentary Instructions On Parting: Over  the  course  of  one  tumultuous  year,  Artist  and  Director  Amy  Jenkins  confronts  the  cancer   diagnoses  of  her  mother,  sister,  and  brother,  and  also  welcomes  her  first  child  to  life.  Crafted   in  a  unique  visual  style,  the  film  weaves  breathtaking  vignettes  of  nature  unfolding  with   cinéma  vérité  family  footage  to  lead  us  to  a  bold  and  daring  acceptance  our  own  mortality.  Contact Amy through her website at http://www.on-parting.com/

Three songs that would be on the soundtrack of her life: 1st song: “Fireflies” by Patti Smith; 2nd song: “The Vigil” by Jane Siberry; and “Silent Tango” by Noah Hoffeld and Philip Fraiser.

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Episode 55: The Burnt Sunset with Chris Ledoux

June 24, 2018

All In with Pauline Hawkins

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Chris Ledoux is a Portsmouth resident, an engineer, owner of Seascape Landscape, and now, a published author. The Burnt Sunset was just released June 21 and is a post-apocalyptic novel, featuring Chris’s sketches and lyrics. Chris talks about an accident that changed his life, his son’s bout with cancer, and how all of it led to his new writing career.

Three songs that would be on the soundtrack of his life: 1st song: “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” by The Beatles; 2nd song: “All I Wanted” by Paramore; 3rd song: “Everlong Acoustic” by Foo Fighters.

To find out more about Chris’s novels, go to http://www.intotheburntsunset.com

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Episode 31: Childhood Cancer with Libby Giordano

December 12, 2017

All In with Pauline Hawkins

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Libby Giordano joins me in the studio to talk about our unusual connection: Both our sons had cancerous brain tumors. We talk about how we found out about the tumor, how we helped our sons, the wonderful way the community helped us make it through the most difficult times of our lives, and the wonderful organizations that gave our children hope and love. If ever there was a time we went all in, it was with our sons’ cancer battles. Our hope is that this podcast can be a light and a resource for anyone who needs it.

Three songs that would be on the soundtrack of our lives: 1st song: “Home” by Philip Philips; 2nd song: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor; 3rd song: “Fix You” by Coldplay.

Learn more about Make-A-Wish NH.

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Healthy Choices: Essential Oils

I’m happy to announce that I have joined doTERRA Essential Oils as a wellness advocate.

I was introduced to doTerra by a friend who has been using essential oils for years now. In the past she has given me oils for stress/anxiety, stomach aches, fever and body aches, and they have worked every time. At first, I thought it was coincidence, honestly, but the more research I did on essential oils, the more sense it made. People have been using essential oils for food preparation and health-care since the beginning of time.

In fact, many of the products we purchase in stores now are just synthetic versions of these natural oils. I truly believe that many of those synthetic, chemical products have created a health crisis in our society. Most of you know all too well about my son’s rare, cancerous brain tumor. Could his cancer, as well as so many other health problems around the world, been caused by these foreign chemicals that surround us?

In response to this belief, I have eliminated as many chemical products as possible over the last six months, and it has improved both our lives significantly. We are eating healthier, cleaning healthier, and allowing our bodies to heal with natural products instead of chemically created medicines. Not only do we clean with and ingest these oils, Ian and I also use a diffuser with essential oils for sore throats, congestion, and insomnia, and we wake up feeling healthy and rested.

img_2201A few products that I’ve been using on a daily basis for the last three months are lemon and peppermint oils. I have used other oils for specific reasons, but these two I take daily in my water and the effects are amazing. Every morning I mix about 5-6 drops of lemon oil and 2-3 drops of peppermint oil (too much peppermint can be overpowering) in a 2-quart container of regular tap water. I drink this water throughout the day. At first, I just liked the taste. It was a cool, refreshing drink without sugar or chemical additives. It helped me to fulfill the daily water requirement experts say our bodies need to stay healthy and hydrated. That in itself was a win for me.

As time went on, I started to notice that my desire for alcohol started to wane. I used to crave (for a lack of a better word) a glass of wine or a bottle of beer at the end of the day to help me unwind, but that craving stopped. Interestingly enough, I celebrated my 52nd birthday in October and was drinking, but it actually felt like I couldn’t overdo it. I was aware how much I was drinking because I was worried about the hangover I was sure to have because the older I get the worse those hangovers have become (like an all-day-long hangover). On my birthday, everyone was buying me drinks, but I didn’t feel drunk, while those around me were pretty intoxicated. The next morning, I wasn’t hungover at all. If anything, I was just tired from the late night. I thought that was pretty weird, but didn’t think much about it until I became a doTerra wellness advocate and started learning more about these two oils that I was using on a daily basis.

First, Lemon Essential Oil cleanses my liver and kidneys, and Lemon and Peppermint oils are known for their digestive benefits. I now know why I didn’t get a hangover. My liver and kidneys are functioning so well that my body just removed the toxins immediately. Because of the digestive benefits of both oils, I didn’t feel nauseated either. I no longer “crave” alcohol because these oils also have emotional benefits. Lemon oil helps with clarity, inspiration, and confidence. Peppermint oil opens the heart to joy and happiness, settles anxious feelings, and dissolves fears. I don’t need to “escape” from my day, which is why I craved alcohol.

If these things aren’t enough, here are a few other ways I have seen a difference in my life:

I started menopause in June, and I was struggling with intense hot flashes, especially in the middle of the night, which affected my sleep. During the day, I would go from a hot flash to chills, usually while teaching. I would lose my concentration and often forget what I was saying. After I started using the oils, besides putting the two oils in my water, I also created a body spray with lemon, peppermint, and lavender oils. My hot flashes stopped.

Whenever I have an upset stomach, I crush a DoTerra Peppermint Bead (a drop of oil in a beadlet) in my mouth, and the stomach ache stops immediately, almost like a Pepto-Bismol, but without the chalky taste and harmful chemicals. I also crush a peppermint beadlet after I eat at work to counteract any bad breath from the meal. It’s better than chewing gum, especially since I’m a teacher and shouldn’t talk while I’m chewing.

Ian is going through that painful growth spurt where his knee joint swells. It’s a common ailment for children between 10 and 15, and the only cure is time, but I have been putting Deep Blue oil-blend rub on his knee, and it instantly lessens his pain.

The other day, Ian was coughing and his chest sounded congested. A few days before he had spent the day with his sister who had a cough and congestion. I thought he must have picked up her cold. I gave Ian the bottle of On Guard oil blend, just to inhale the scent, and he stopped coughing and didn’t get sick.

I am looking forward to discovering the other benefits. I will keep you posted on my experiences with essential oils. Let me know if you’d like more information or would like to try any of the oils. I’ll be happy to assist you!

Here is my page on doTerra if you’d like to look at some of the products and the information on the company: https://www.mydoterra.com/paulinehawkins/#/

Relay for Life: A Survivor’s Story

It’s been five years since Ian was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor: Primary Adenocarcinoma of the Brain. It was rare, one in a hundred million; the tumor had sprouted tentacles, and we didn’t know for sure if we had found it before it had spread; there was no protocol for treatment; there was no guarantee that Ian would see his fifth birthday.

Cancer became a swear word in our house; we wouldn’t–couldn’t say the word in Ian’s presence. We knew his survival depended on us staying positive. And there was nothing positive about cancer, so we worked hard at keeping the word and the devastation of the disease away from Ian.

After an aggressive treatment plan of six weeks of radiation and six months of chemotherapy, Ian defied the odds. There was no cancer anywhere in his body. Not only that, but he was not in a wheel chair as predicted. He was physically, mentally, and emotionally strong. And there is no sign of the cancer returning. We say Ian is cancer-free, not in remission, because “remission” denotes that it could come back.

We have been so thankful for the medical advances that cured Ian. We are thankful for the people who supported us emotionally and financially. As the years have passed, Ian has a little better understanding of the dangers of cancer, and what he actually went through, but we still don’t talk about it very often.

That could be why we had never gone to a Relay for Life event in the past. This was our first year. I wanted to go to support my friend Berni’s team at the event; I thought Ian and I were ready to pay it forward.

I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that arrived when I did. I wasn’t prepared for Ian’s emotions and hesitancy.

As we walked up to the registration table, I was reminded of all the things I wanted to forget. The word I protected my son from for all these years was proudly displayed on banners and t-shirts and wrist bands. We saw people in various stages of their battles: some hairless, some with a range in hair lengths; some fragile, some vibrant; and some still fighting for their lives. I had an intense desire to take Ian’s hand and run in the opposite direction: I didn’t want Ian to see this. Cancer was no longer our reality; we had put Ian’s fight behind us, or so I thought. I didn’t want to remember our battle, yet it grabbed me by the throat and held me hostage.

I tried to hide my pain, while reminding myself that I promised Berni I would be there. I couldn’t turn back now. Ian, however, wasn’t holding back his feelings. He wanted to leave as soon as we got there. I reminded him of the bouncy house and other games he would play. I convinced him to stay, but I started to doubt that decision. Did it do more harm than good for Ian to be there? IMG_0581

When we got to the tent, Berni gave Ian his purple survivor’s shirt. It had “Finish the Fight 2014” on the front, and “I am strength. I am hope. I am a survivor. Walk with us to finish the fight.” on the back.

Ian didn’t want to wear it; it was too big; he was uncomfortable. Was it because, like me, he didn’t like the word “survivor”?

Shortly after we arrived, we went to the “Survivors Lunch.” The organizers gave Ian a cup and a pin; they gave me a survivor’s “Caregiver” sash. We sat in a sea of purple shirts and sashes–but all the survivors were adults. As Ian and I walked by, I heard the comments: “That little guy is a survivor? How terrible that he had to have this disease.” The grip on my throat became tighter. So many people have battled this disease. So many people are fighting for their lives for the second or third time. And they felt sorry for Ian. IMG_0583

Ian was also uncomfortable with the attention he was getting for something he could barely remember–and what he did remember was painful: being bald, vomiting, needles, waking up from anesthesia–and me crying. He hates when I cry, and any talk of his cancer makes my tears flow. Within minutes of our first conversation with a survivor, the tears were choking me. But that wasn’t the worst part. What had me in a vice grip was that Ian heard that “it” sometimes comes back; my fears for my son were spoken realities in these people’s lives. I looked for an escape route.

I felt like we didn’t belong there. We were years away from that traumatic time in our lives. What good did it do to bring it to the surface again?

After lunch, we walked around the track and looked at each of the booths. As I saw the number of people who donated their time and resources to raise money to fight this disease, my perspective began to change. I was able to step away from my personal pain and see that everyone there had similar pain. They, however, released their pain, so they could help put an end to this disease, while I had been harboring mine. I had been protecting Ian for so long, that I didn’t realize that I was protecting myself as well. IMG_0650[1]

One of our favorite booths was where a young girl (she couldn’t be more than twelve) was donating her time and talents as an anime artist to raise money for cancer research. Just the other day Ian said to me: “I want an artist to draw me, Mom. Can we do that someday?” And there she was. She took a picture of Ian and turned him into an anime super hero. It’s by far the best item we got from the booths.

Ian also loved playing games. His favorite was the “dunking game.” He threw a softball at a target at least 15 times and dunked the various participants at least ten times.

Then it was time for the “Survivor’s Walk.” Ian and I joined the survivors and walked around the track. The survivors had purple balloons that they released after one lap; it was meant to be symbolic for the survivors, but it helped me release my hold on Ian’s story.

I watched as Berni’s team walked their lap. My appreciation for her and what she has done for years for this fight grew with every step.

IMG_0637 At nine, they had the Luminaries Ceremony: People decorated white bags in remembrance of loved ones who had lost their battle with cancer; Berni had two bags. They ended the ceremony with a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace.

As we silently let the music pour over us, I remembered the words that helped me stay strong five years ago:

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Chorus:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

I cried through the song, knowing that these words were still ringing true for me: I still need grace, and I still need to open my eyes to the things I’ve been blind to.

For the rest of the night, Ian joined an impromptu soccer game on the field. He was having so much fun.

Watching Ian run and play made me realize that we both needed to be there. Ian embraced his past–a past I tried to sugar coat for him because I didn’t want fear to interfere with his healing. I wanted him to envision his future so he could live through the pain and work towards that day when he could run and play again–like he did last night. He played so hard he could barely walk afterwards.

The future we envisioned for him in the midst of his battle is his reality today.

Relay for Life is raising money so other people can have a future like Ian’s present.

Protecting Ian was necessary five years ago, but now I will envision that we are warriors helping others “Finish the Fight.” Ian is a symbol of hope for all the people currently struggling–he had a devastating diagnosis, but Ian beat the odds. We want others to have that same hope.

You can judge me if you want to

You can judge me if you want to, but before you do, know that I primarily stayed in my marriage because of my son.

Ian has been through so much in his nine years: He battled a cancerous brain tumor at four-years-old with his father right by his side, giving Ian the strength and courage to fight. Ian has battled children (and some adults) calling him names because they just don’t understand why he is different. At school, as his brain slowly heals, Ian struggles to keep up with a curriculum that is moving too fast for him.

Add to that the tears and arguing that would fill our house during the past two and a half years. Even though he didn’t know the reason behind it, he knew something was wrong. Ian would beg me: “Mommy, please don’t get a divorce. That would make me really sad.” My heart crumbled. How could I add more sadness when I knew the truth would eventually cause him immeasurable pain?

So when you judge me for staying in this marriage, know that I couldn’t separate Ian from his father until the foreseeable future did it for us.

You can judge me for standing by my husband, but before you do, know that I took my vows seriously.

When I got married, I wanted it to be forever, through good times and bad. I envisioned growing old with him and weathering the inevitable storms of life together. I have forgiven much over the years because I was holding onto forever. When this came up, I merely forgave again.

You may think I’m a fool for believing in forever. You may think I’m pathetic for forgiving a man who admittedly wouldn’t have done the same if the roles were reversed. You may think that I have displayed weakness through and through.

Even though there were times I let your labels cling to me, and I felt like a weak, pathetic fool, the truth of the matter is that my choices came from strength and conviction: I wanted to do what was right by my son because of the love I have for Ian; I wanted to support a man whom everyone else abandoned, no matter how many times I wanted to run away. Staying was anything but easy. Staying challenged every moral fiber of my being. I had my moments of weakness, but, for the most part, I stayed the course, following the path of love, forgiveness, and compassion.

I knew by staying, some of you would think I was in on it, even though what he did went against every philosophy of life I have.

However, what I didn’t know is that some of you would turn your backs on me because of it–because you hated him for what he did; because it was easier to cut me out of your life than stand by me; because you didn’t want your names associated with mine in case people did to you what you are doing to me.

What I didn’t know is that some of you would turn your backs on Ian because of it–because you thought my sweet, innocent boy must be ruined because of the choices his father made; because you thought Ian must not be raised correctly in such a home as ours; because you didn’t want your children to be treated the way you are treating mine.

What I did know is that some of you would callously talk about Ian and me because it gave you something interesting to talk about–because it made you feel better about your own lives; because you’d rather talk about me than to me; because you didn’t want people adding your name to the gossip you shared about my life. That’s why I sheltered myself from your shallow presence.

All of this has just made me appreciate the few who did stand by me from the very beginning, without judgment, even more than I already did. I am truly blessed by those beautiful few and their unconditional love.

So you can judge me if you want to for making the choices I made; you can add more pain to our already difficult lives. I can’t stop you. But before you do, know that you are being judged by the same measure.

 

How Heroes Are Made

Last night, Ian told me he’s getting picked on by kids at school. Ian told one friend that he’s going to be Spiderman someday, and that friend told other kids. Those kids now pick on him and tell him that he’s not going to be Spiderman. Ian was angry and sad that people didn’t believe him.
Continue reading “How Heroes Are Made”