The Special Ingredients … What are they?

I was sitting with Cindi last month waiting for the men’s group to begin.  We were talking about the different events in our lives that have paved the way to become “colleagues” in this crazy world of cancer.  During the past seventeen months she’s had the opportunity to observe what love and support are all about between Bonnie and me.  I tried to explain to Cindi that I do not know what the special ingredients are to keep a couple together over the years, and then the pursuit of breast cancer recovery. I suppose witnessing broken hearts over the years have helped each of us galvanize what we have together.  Our honesty with each other is at the forefront of everything we do as a couple, as parents, as lovers, as friends.  I suppose the way we’ve prioritized things in our lives has certainly helped … there was a time in our lives, not that long ago, when yours truly would get in the car as the 5:PM whistle blew, head to the corner gas station, purchase two 22 ounce beers for the ride home and have one of them consumed in the first three hundred yards only to arrive home and sit on the back porch with a fridge full of beers and wait for the phone to ring to handle a problem at work that just could not be handled by the guy I worked for.  The money was phenomenal, the house was huge, the bank accounts were solid and the breeze coming off the Atlantic was so close you could smell the brine.  The past couple of years there I slept an average two hours a night while managing my blood pressure with numbers that would stagger you.  One afternoon, that cell phone of mine rang and I took the call out in the driveway to get out of earshot of the girls. I slept like a baby when that phone call came to its’ end.  It was one of those discussions with your boss that just had to be made.  Of course, as suspected, the handwriting was on the wall when I arrived to work the next day.  He heard what I had to say and was then handed my resignation letter.  This was three years ago, nearly to the day and something remarkable came out of that resignation.  Our family moved to the west coast, Bonnie’s first mammogram identified an anomaly and, as they say … the rest is history.  I can’t say for sure if the medical group she visited annually for her mammograms would have discovered the breast cancer tumors or not … what I can say is that the tumors have been discovered, removed, and here we are writing and reading about it.  It’s the decisions we make each and every day that help shape the world we live in and living together in harmony is one way of going about our lives.  I know for certain there are far too many of us out there without the relationship status Bonnie and I happen to share.  I don’t know the reasons you read this blog and as the subtitle states: “WORDS CAN HELP. HERE ARE MINE. WHAT ARE YOURS?”

Is it really that easy?

Thanks for listening.




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Mending Under the Moon


4:PM, Friday July 13th through 3:PM, Sunday, July 15th

This retreat is designed to:

  • Access more tools to empower you to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual challenges of cancer treatment and recovery
  • Experience nurturing support and renewal with others dealing with similar challenges

Activities will include lectures and discussion groups, workshops, art therapy, gentle movement therapy, massage and delicious, healthy meals.  The goal of this retreat is for you to have support from others facing the same journey and to help you gain strength.


The Safeway Foundation


Westerbeke Ranch Conference Center, 2300 Grove Street, Sonoma, CA  95476


$300 (includes all meals and lodging)  Scholarships available on a limited basis.


Pre-registreation is required.  For more information, or to reserve your space, call (707) 523-7312.


You do not need to be a part of Sutter to attend.

♥ ♥ ♥

Hope those of you even thinking about attending something like this can make it … Bonnie will be there which gives me a weekend with the girls and no “to-do” lists!!

As always – a special thanks to Cindi.




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Cellular Memory

I normally arrive at our monthly meetings for the Finding Inner Strength Together (FIST) group about 40 minutes or so before things begin.  This time is normally spent with Cindi to discuss the topic of the day.  This is the time when Cindi gives me a brief of sorts of any new members to the group.  Last night Cindi and I talked about the past couple of days where Bonnie and I waited on another pathology report.  During this post 5:PM whistle discussion with Cindi, a term, another medical term for when a woman learns of a lump after spending a year in the quote unquote survivor status of a breast cancer patient. It’s called “Cellular Memory”.  As in most things related to learning breast cancer research topics, or the standings in the American League East – I refer to Google.  After all, everything on the internet is 100% factual, right?  So while trying to provide each of you with information related to the healthcare of yourself, your partner, your friend, etc, let me provide you with the best definition of “Cellular Memory” I found this morning:

How is cellular memory formed?

“You may wonder, we go through so many emotions and experiences in a day, does it all get stored in the cells? The answer that healers have found, is that if an episode which is very emotionally intense is suppressed it gets stored, or else if there is some thought or belief which is very repetitive it finds itself ingrained inside the cells. The cells follow inputs not from our conscious mind, but from the subconscious mind, which is almost 90 per cent of our mind. Almost 90 per cent of our bodily functions are dictated by this part of the mind, which receives constant inputs and keeps storing within itself, what it considers relevant. Diseases, it appears, are caused when we suppress a powerful negative emotion and try to tell ourselves that all is well. Although the conscious mind is convinced and may even forget about the experience, the subconscious mind remembers it and magnifies it. Certain chemicals that are produced in our body in response to that negative experience are blocked within because we do not want to deal with it. If these affected cells remain blocked over a long period of time, it prevents healthy cells from interacting with them. There is an increased likelihood that if disease occurs, it will occur in the part of the body where the cell receptors are blocked. So is the case with repetitive thoughts. Negative thoughts and beliefs once programmed into the subconscious keep auto-playing throughout our lives without our realizing it. Little wonder so many of us keep attracting similar people, relationships, health issues and experience patterns in our life repeatedly.”[1]

The questions related to this topic are too many for this simple blog.  I do ask myself this one question which is a dovetail off the last sentence … is this how our monthly Men’s Cancer Support Group was formed?

Certainly invokes something to think about until we meet again.  Next meeting scheduled for Thursday, July 5th.  Hope the new faces this month learned something about themselves last night, I certainly did.

 Thank you Cindi.


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The Side Effects of Breast Cancer

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” – Marsha Norman

The below was originally posted in “Cancer … We “CAN” Beat This”:

You have already become aware of this blog’s theme, and that is to keep things positive, uplifting and rewarding.  This morning when I awoke there was a piping hot cup of coffee on the bedside table.  As I rolled over I heard the television already on with Bonnie’s favorite weekend program which is anything related to the HGTV channel.  I remember not that long ago when weekends in this house were all about her comfort, grocery shopping for the week ahead and menu planning.  It dawned on me earlier this morning as I was out in the backyard watering the hanging baskets and jasmine which has already started their ascent along the stone wall how things here in the house have changed and I suppose it’s one of the wonderful side effects of breast cancer.

Upon learning of the diagnosis I suppose we had a number of options regarding how we planned to attack this problem and one of the things, one of the very positive things we did was to first ACCEPT the diagnosis rather than flipping the switch and dismissing the doctor’s opinion for what they considered a tumor.

We accepted the diagnosis, told our youngest daughter the news we had learned only hours before and we moved on together as a family.  Moving together in one direction as a family is a powerful force and after Bonnie acknowledged the fact she had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer (Stage 2) we simply did what we were told, we conducted the research and went about our business with breast cancer right there alongside us.

Except for the weekends; which we reserved for “cancer-free speak” there was never a moment in the first twelve months that we did not discuss the term “breast cancer” in one form or another.  In keeping with the “recognizing the right” resolution I hereby offer the following side effects of breast cancer, mind you none of these will include high blood pressure; an erection lasting more than four hours; kidney damage; loose stools; etc.  We have all heard the disclaimers from the pharmaceutical companies when running their ads on television and its’ far too early in the morning for me to find my humorous side.  So without further ado I offer one man’s non-inclusive thoughts on the subject:

  • There is no “ME” in breast cancer
  • Keeps the family together
  • Networking really helps
  • Trusting your intuition
  • Trusting your partners opinion
  • Question everything
  • Realizing a white lab coat is not always correct
  • The patient is not the only one affected
  • Learning how to cook healthier
  • Living in Wine country really helps
  • An English bulldog makes a wonderful companion

Feel free to add to this list … I suspect it will continue to grow.  Remaining positive through the entire event has been the side effect which has had the most effect.




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Got to be The Buckhorn!

So with nearly six months worth of calendar pages tossed to the side like the scraps from last night’s dinner I thought a checkup on our New Year’s resolutions would be in order.  Unless you offered your resolve to me I would have no way of knowing how well you did in keeping that promise to yourself.  The notion of the New Year’s resolution is to look forward to the oncoming year with some hope and provides us all with a chance to reflect on the changes we want, or perhaps need.  Bonnie and I, with another couple watched the ball drop on 2011 a local dive known as The Buckhorn.  Every town in America has a “Buckhorn” and we were very well entertained the entire time we were there – believe me.  Still have some images on my phone to prove it.  My resolution for 2012 was to “Recognize a (the) Right” in everything.  I’ve reviewed that post and have grabbed the closing sentence to insert here … “Recognizing the Right … nice.  Time to put this pearly white smile to work.  Not my best blog of the year … wait a minute – it’s the first and only blog of this year.  See what I just did?  Have fun everyone.  Seriously.  Have fun.”  I’ll let you all in on a little secret.  For the past five and half months since the draining of that last beer at The Buckhorn, the resolution is still holding its’ own, and very well I might add. 

Since that blog we have watched our oldest daughter experience Europe and return home safely where she lifeguards full-time and has even landed an internship with the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival for the summer.  Our youngest, who has just graduated her junior year of high school was rewarded at the final bell by learning she will be the co-editor of Petaluma High School’s newspaper; The Trojan Tribune.  Her responsibilities will include staffing, grading and deadlines.  She has also landed herself a sweet little part-time gig at Cordoza’s Deli on the downtown boulevard – not too far away from The Buckhorn.  Am I overdoing it with reminders of The Buckhorn?  Perhaps there’s a stool in there calling my name … perhaps.  Bonnie has attended her first tea & luncheon with the group from To Celebrate Life in the annual fundraiser dinner-dance where Bonnie and a number of other breast cancer survivors will be modeling during this high fashion affair and me … well, I’ve been busy with facilitating the Finding Inner Strength Together (FIST) cancer support group for husbands of those with cancer, been helping my buddy up in Clear Lake with his patio renovation and learned this afternoon that I have been nominated for something called the “One Lovely Blog Award” which I’ll find out more about tomorrow.  We’re officially 151 days into The Year of the Dragon and it’s been pretty remarkable thus far. 

Got to be The Buckhorn!




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The Arrival

“The best style is the style you don’t notice.” – Somerset Maugham

The post below was originally posted in “Cancer .. We “CAN” Beat This!”

The Cheney family is comprised of five units; Bonnie, Paul, Taylor, Logan and LuLu.  At the dawn of each new football season we start the BPTL football pool which is a running total of wins each week through the course of the season.  It’s very high-tech mathematics (not) and very enjoyable to see who comes out on top each year.  It’s also enjoyable to be beaten by any member of the family since being the only male in the house would presumably give me an edge.  I have no edge in this house and this has been made clear to me from the day I tried to play a prank on our oldest daughter when she was four years old by answering the question “Daddy, who were you on the phone with?” My response … “that was my girlfriend and there’s no reason to tell Mom, okay?” Crossing that imaginary boundary with her was immediately realized but once a prank is started it must run its course.  No sooner had we gathered Mom at work and started for the car did my little one provide her mother with some pretty juicy details; “Mommy, do you know who Daddy was on the phone with this afternoon?  His GIRLFRIEND!”  I knew from that moment on there was little, to no, room for error.  Of course I was not lying … it was Bonnie I was on the phone with earlier, though in the end it was the prankster of the house who had been punked.

At the time of this post that same little girl is on a transatlantic flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to San Francisco International putting an end to her junior year in college and I have taken a rare day off from work to prepare for her arrival.  Many years ago our daughters, and their friends, collectively nicknamed me “Papa Paul” for the meals I would prepare for them after one of their many sleepovers and the moniker has remained to this day.  In keeping with tradition (not pranking) I have added a new item to the menu by preparing some Papa Paul Pretzels earlier this morning upon awaking. They have been coated and are resting in the refrigerator at this moment, so after fifteen minutes in the oven, we can sit down this evening and learn all about Taylor’s travels across the United Kingdom, Africa, Italy, Spain and Ireland.

Being a father is a truly rewarding experience and as you may have read in prior posts, you’ll have realized the priorities Bonnie and I place on our girls.  The pranking still continues mind you and it’s highly unlikely that part of me will ever go away, though there’s no joke regarding the wait we both have in our hearts to see her alive and well at the international terminal later this afternoon.  Thank you to the staff at the University of Leeds and thank you to Taylor’s flat-mates this past semester for teaching her a few worldly things.  I suspect to have an entirely new appreciation for witnessing the arrival of our young adult this afternoon.

Now if I could only think of a good beverage to serve with these soft pretzels later this afternoon … hmmm … what goes good with salty soft pretzels?  Your thoughts and comments, as always are welcome.



P.S. Welcome aboard to the Philippines!


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The Rear View Mirror

I was thinking of our daughters this morning during my quiet commute along Bodega Drive.  It’s relatively easy to allow your mind to wander when your transit does not include the business end of a creamery truck in your windshield.  My thoughts about the girls were focused on how we [all four of us] have completely broken the mold on many things as they relate to our culture.  For instance, we do not own a set of china that is normally passed down from generation to generation.  We do not own a scrapbook of childhood photographs to break out on rainy Saturday evenings to take our daughters down memory lane and show them what mom and dad looked like in their youth, nor do we own any old home movies that we could digitize onto a DVD.  Many years ago, on a post-Christmas day morning, with 9800 pounds of household goods freshly packed in the garage we suffered a house fire and those five tons of memories packed in paper and cardboard were no match for the electrical fire which started in the garage.  Bonnie and I had exactly one decade under our belt as a married couple and I jokingly said to her while driving to a friends’ home “if you want to leave me now, all you need is a garbage bag!”  The home was restored in short order and we carried on, though for a number of years when the question was asked “have you seen (fill in with almost anything)?”… the collective response is almost always “the fire.” Believe me, this post is not a pity party, in fact, it’s just the opposite.  We look at “home” as the place we hang our hat and although my wife may not have her crystal from Ireland or the china her loving mother passed onto her any longer, what we do have is our family and a knowledge of who we are in the moment.  Even though the rear view mirror reads “objects appear closer than they really are” the four of us know what our history is and we’re pretty darn proud of it.  This past Mother’s Day I was reminded how strong this group is while listening to our youngest daughter talking about a recent weekend, one in which they were able to spend together as mother and daughter and the pride in our little girl’s face as she talked made me realize the gifts we share with each other are the bonds that will last forever.  No materials or gifts can ever replace the conscious knowledge of knowing we’ve raised these girls of ours exactly as planned – as adults.  The countdown for our oldest returning from across the pond has started in earnest … eight days and counting!  It really was a happy Mother’s Day.




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