Grief to Gratitude

whispy sky with colors

By Tara Picklo, Lov Yoga

For just a moment pause and notice how you feel when you think of the word grief

Perhaps you notice your body tense up, shoulders round, breath stuck in your chest, tears well up or maybe you even sense anger, denial, or overwhelm. It may feel like waves are crashing over you in a turbulent sea during a storm and you can’t catch your breath or seem to stay afloat. This is all normal and hopefully, by reading this blog you may begin to realize that there is hope.

Grief is the “normal” human reaction to the loss of anything we are attached to in life. Attachment is evident when there is a deep emotional bond that results in a yearning or longing for what has been lost. Because we can feel attachment toward people, pets, things, jobs, lifestyles, identities, places we live, and more, we can feel grief through any major changes or transitions in life. Some of this grief has been experienced collectively as well through the pandemic shift of “normal” human culture. In the AYA community, there is also the unifying undercurrent of cancer. Additionally, each of us have an individual grief journey to explore. So if you are grieving a person who passed away or perhaps your own past identity as you try to understand a sense of self that may feel foreign, it’s all normal.

When my husband of 13 years passed away in 2016 from cancer, a big part of me did too. It felt like my outward appearance was just a shell and I was nearly empty inside. I now see this person as my past identity because I am not the same after such a loss and that’s okay. Through processing grief, I have begun to see the true nature that was inside of me all along. I just had to rediscover her and let her sing a new song.

My teacher, Antonio Sausys, normalizes grief by explaining different symptoms that can be experienced. Grievers tend to feel pain physically (tightness in chest, shallow breath, fatigue, inconsistent digestion); mentally (confusion, negative thinking, denial, lack of motivation); emotionally (shock, sadness, anger, resentment, fear, mood swings, depression, relief); behaviorally (crying, avoidance, clinging to past mementos); socially (withdraw, awkward labels, shifting of friend circles); and spiritually (mystery, confusion, clinging on, questions about God and death) just to name a few. It is also common for people to feel combinations of these symptoms and extremes within each realm. Transformation from feeling overwhelming effects of these symptoms is the ultimate goal because we can’t change the loss. We can however transform ourselves by learning how to feel balance while focusing on what we can control in life.

These symptoms of grief we feel are often most intense when we are resisting them, kind of like trying to swim upstream rather than flow down freely with the river current. It’s normal to feel for a bit and then start to think, “I don’t have time for this,” or “That’s enough feeling for a while,” as the busyness of life takes over again. If we continue to push it aside, the body keeps the score, the symptoms get stuck inside, and then come back to say hi when least expected in unexpected ways.

Because of the extreme ways that grief manifests it’s also normal to feel triggered randomly or simply overtook with emotion. These S.T.U.G.s (Sudden Temporary Upsurges of Grief – as labeled by my teacher) can really catch us off guard by random triggers such as an innocent comment from a friend or in a tv show, an anniversary, favorite food, familiar smells, etc. We begin to feel like we are on a rollercoaster that seems to pick up speed just when we think it’s coming to a halt, taking deep dips and then shooting back up the tracks through twists and turns. The crazy, confounding part of these STUGs are they are also NORMAL! However, feel rest assured that through time there will be fewer STUGs and they will be spaced further apart. Time does not heal by itself though, it’s what is done within that time that will help process the pain caused by loss.

So what to do? The only way out is through. What if you let your armor slightly crack or take your mask off? What would it feel like to allow some vulnerability? If this sounds scary, that’s okay. It’s also scary to let grief lurk beneath the surface, stewing, brewing, and eventually turning into something that takes over when we least expect. Vulnerability and feeling helps to process the pain and then move into a phase of reconstructing life in a meaningful way. Vulnerability is the rain that must fall in order to see the rainbow after the storm.

Through years of conscious grief processing and commitment to learning about yoga therapy, I have realized that emotions are cycles and we have to feel to heal. I resisted this theory for a while and even ended up with a broken ankle in Bali six months after my husband passed away because I couldn’t slow down to feel my emotions. Now my tears are a beautiful, devotional, spiritual song and a regular release of stress. We do actually release cortisol through our eyeballs with tears, so cry on friends, let them flow!

The beautiful part about grief is that it becomes a blessing, friend, and teacher when are willing to dive into awareness and begin to process the unavoidable pain. My teacher also says that we don’t get over our grief, we transform our relationship to it and through this grief comes self-knowledge. With awareness comes the ability to do something about it. Suffering then becomes optional because it’s possible to learn ways to establish a sense of balance and control in life once again. There are many ways to do this and I have found that yoga therapy was what worked for me. I needed to talk, breathe, meditate, move mindfully, reflect, journal, cry and learn how to reconnect with my body, mind, and soul. By doing so I learned so much and my grief turned into gratitude for all that it taught me. Yoga also teaches that everything changes and everything will eventually end so we learn to let go of attachment and therefore suffering. I realize now that I can never go back to how life was and I have learned to embrace that with gratitude for what is to come. Sometimes our greatest suffering can be the silver lining in the cloud that was hovering above.

It is said that Grievers need to be heard, not fixed and I believe this is true. Much of my work with clients involves talking through grief. There is a point, however, when the stories we tell ourselves can become cyclical and the mind space feels like it’s tangled in knots. The body can feel heavy from grief and becomes important to move through the emotions that are stuck inside. That’s where the gateway to yoga leads into a garden of growth and possibility. Yoga means union of body, breath, mind and spirit. Through practices of breathwork, meditation, asana/movement, and self-reflection/contemplation, yoga helps us connect to our true nature and rediscover what has been lost inside. Yoga Therapy is the path out of the darkness into the light. We enjoy happiness even though it’s fleeting, we love knowing it one day will end. LOVE is energy and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. With Love and Gratitude we can transform our grief.

Hi! I’m Tara with Lov Yoga. I am merely a humble vessel who has journeyed along a rocky road of grief and feel called to help others do the same. It is an honor to create and share a safe space with others where they can shed layers, become vulnerable and eventually open to the possibility that it is all within and grief is their greatest teacher in life. I am also a self-declared writer that has evolved by using writing as therapy to grow through what I’ve gone through. As a yoga teacher, I believe we find magic on our mats by learning to be mindful and breathe into shapes. This magic is the feeling of balance between body, breath, mind, and soul. I specialize in teaching yoga for cancer and grief support to individuals through private sessions and groups by way of yoga program development. I am grateful to have worked with the following organizations: Dear Jack Foundation, First Descents, Soul Ryeders, The Cancer Support Community, and Lacuna Loft. For more about my story and personal connection to cancer, please visit www.lov.yoga/about.

Join The Next Creative Writing Workshop

journal on desk with coffee and pen

The next Writing Workshop is now forming!  Sign up on the form below!

The next session will start on Thursday, April 8th, meeting each Thursday at 4:30 pm PT / 6:30 pm CT / 7:30 pm ET for 2 hours via video chat.

Our online, Unspoken Ink: Creative Writing Workshop is designed to take you on a journey through your cancer diagnosis and into your survivorship with a small group of your young adult cancer survivor peers. Each 8-week Writing Workshop consists of a weekly writing night attended via online video chat. We will get to know one another in an intimate, 18 person setting and address issues that transport us from initial diagnosis into the new normal and survivorship.  To learn more about the method we use, go here!

Where: Online video chat. We’ll send you more information about joining after you register. Please have a microphone headset and a webcam.

Who: Young adult cancer survivors and caregivers.

When: The writing group meets for 2 hours each week, for 8 weeks. A commitment to attend each week is important to group continuity and in creating a safe space. Please be on time 🙂

Sign Up For Lost And Found

woman on bed with photos

Young adult cancer survivors often worry about returning to the dating world, to their established intimate relationships, and to themselves.

Jean Rowe, LCSW, OSW-C, Certified Journal Therapist returns to facilitate this meaningful and powerful program. This workshop has helped past participants dip their toes back into the water of intimacy after diagnosis and treatment. Lacuna Loft and Jean are excited to offer this journal workshop online to young adult cancer survivors (women only) of any diagnosis.  Using journal techniques and cultivating an action plan for self-care, in 8 weeks you will have the opportunity to emerge from the water renewed, informed, and ready to reconnect.

Join other young cancer survivors (women only) who understand what you’ve gone through while learning how to reconnect, welcoming a compassionate understanding of your body now, and creating ways to open your heart to intimate opportunities after cancer.  Sign up below!

Where: Online video chat. We’ll send you more information about joining after you register. Please have a microphone headset and a webcam.

Who: Young adult cancer survivors (women only).  *If you’ve taken this workshop before, we will be prioritizing survivors who have not yet had the opportunity.*

When: The writing group meets on Sundays at 1 pm PT / 3 pm CT / 4 pm ET for 2 hours each week, for 8 weeks starting on Sunday, April 18th and ending on May 23rd.  A commitment to attend each week is important to group continuity and in creating a safe space. Please be on time 🙂

Comment On Research Results!

computer on bed with water

The Behavioural Sciences Unit, a research group in Sydney, Australia is looking for cancer survivor consumer representatives aged 15-39 to provide feedback on some brand new study results from the AYA Global Accord international research study. Some of you may have provided input on this study in 2018 when it was first applying for funding. This global study is being led by Dr. Ursula Sansom-Daly, a psychologist and researcher whose work focuses on AYA cancer, and she is working with a team of international experts from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, and the UK.

The study involved AYA healthcare professionals completing an online survey. This survey aimed to find out what an international group of healthcare professionals thought ideal end-of-life communication with adolescents and young adults with cancer should look like, and what type of training they wanted to improve their skills in this area.

The first thing we’d be seeking your help with would be commenting on the results from this survey based on your experience, via an online survey format.

Later on, there will also be an opportunity to join a teleconference with other young cancer survivors and the research team to discuss your perspectives on the research findings some more. Consumers will also have the opportunity to contribute to a publication (an academic journal article) about consumers’ views.

If you’re interested, fill out the form below and Lacuna Loft will forward your information along to the research group!

Beginning Again

rose budding

March is a time which includes celebrating women, the vernal equinox, springing an hour ahead and wearing green on the 17th. Some may moan at the time change, and I encourage us to welcome the longer light. Depending on where you live, you may already be seeing evidence of spring with new blossoms surfacing. Daffodils were the first to wave at me followed now by Redbuds. New life. Rebirth. Beginning. Again.

These latter signs point to opportunity. To fling open the windows and let in fresh air – literally and within your being. To breathe deeply as the earth shows off in its seasonal glory. To rise from hibernation and start down the mountain as the splendid Mary Oliver’s bear is described in Spring (“this dazzling darkness”). To take chances, risk as some of the characters do in the movie Begin Again.

How might it feel to rise, to stretch, to move down the mountain, to sniff the air, to listen to the sounds around you, to taste, to touch, to feel – as if a brand new experience?

Absorb this idea and write for five minutes. Stay curious.

Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you!

Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Finding Balance Week 3: Chapters 12-17

woman laying on bed while covering her face

Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club! We are reading Finding Balance by Kati Gardner!  Read our participants’ reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book! Caution, spoilers below!

Catch up from Week 1 and Week 2.

By Kat H.:

In Chapters 12 – 17, Mari is torn, constantly wrestling with the disconnect between Camp Jase and School Jase. Mari is already frustrated with the fact that she does not have the option to appear “normal,” but then to have one of her best camp friends and positive aspects of camp treat her so coldly and negatively when at school, is confusing and disconcerting for her. In these chapters, she flips through emotions nearly constantly: sadness, anger, indifference, and then the cycle repeats. I feel very fortunate that in my own cancer experience, my friends and family were amazing. I was very communicative about what I wanted and needed from my circles, those close to me and farther out. But I think what I relate most to in these chapters is the internal cycles and frustrations that Mari has. I had many full-blown conversations in my head about why did this happen (physically), why did this have to happen (emotionally), how had I never even heard of tongue cancer, being terrified of all of the treatment options, etc. I had never even had an IV before my diagnosis! So I appreciate the internal challenges that are so prevalent with Mari in these chapters and definitely see that cycle within my own story.

By Jeannette S.:

First, this is a super compelling story of what I am interpreting ups and downs of the cancer diagnosis. Even though I was not diagnosed at a very young age, there is much that I can relate to.

In my interpretation of Jase in these few chapters, he is much very much wanting to be a “normal” kid and has been because his secret of his cancer diagnosis has been kept. Zeke knows that he has been to camp, however, has been generous to keep his confidentiality. Zeke appears to be super mature and most students might do the lesser. To me, the Jase character has been much of my family reactions…wanting to keep everything back to “normal” and not wanting to admit to the cancer diagnosis. The support has been lacking at times, much like Jase in his school life.

Mari has been a super strong character, although we see her express her frustration and sadness at the lack of support from those on the outside of her family group. She appears to always be able to come home to family and express her “secrets”/ school issues with Jase, especially to her brother. Mari, like many of us, has been “forced” (not sure if this is the right word) to grow up or become more mature looking at money problems and problems with the overall society and looking at illness/disease — being it cancer or mental illness, etc… Watching Mari going through her many ebbs and flows reminds me of what I have gone through with survivorship. One of my favorite parts was when she was visiting Davis in the cafe and comparing a cancer diagnosis with alcoholism because you never know when it will come back. For me, it is so true. Having been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it can be very likely for its return. However, the trust in the doctors, just like the trust Mari has with Davis to maintain his sobriety, seems to be my connection.

We are beginning to see the two different worlds/lives Mari and Jase are from. Jase also keeps waking up at night having difficulty breathing and cannot seem to get back to his rhythm of swimming. Some of this may be because of his choice in relationship discord with Mari or could it be his cancer coming back? Since I have not read further, I would think it be quite ironic if his cancer recurs again since he has been treating Mari so poorly. In many ways, Jase does not know how to deal with someone so openly dealing with their survivorship. This represents many of those around me who do not like to talk about it or those just wanting me to be “ok.” Much like Mari, I am open to questions and the education of others. In my mind, if I can help someone to catch ovarian cancer early, I know that provides them with life for a little longer.

By Rachel M.:

Chapters 12-17

I can relate to Jase. As annoying as he’s getting and how terrible he’s being to Mari, I can see some of myself in him. His need to hide his diagnosis because he’s afraid of what people will say hits close to home for me.

I was diagnosed at the end of my freshman year of college and am currently in complete remission and in my senior year. When I was done with treatment and ready to return to school, I had no clue how to go back and live like a college student anymore; I felt like all people would see in me was my past of cancer. I was afraid that would become my identity. My hair was just starting to grow back when I returned to campus in the spring of my sophomore year, and the hair I had just after treatment was thin and slow-growing. I felt that just by looking at me, people could tell that I had cancer.

To me it was obvious. I had spent months getting chemo and radiation; that had been my reality for half of a year. After experiencing that season of my hair coming back in, I can relate to Mari in a small way from a short season of my life to how she feels: wishing she could keep her past diagnosis a secret like Jase can.

Just as Jase asked Mari to pretend not to know him, I was afraid that friends of mine would ask me to pretend the same because they didn’t want to deal with the heaviness of a friend with a cancer diagnosis. And for some, that heaviness was too much, and our friendships dissipated.

I can’t imagine being in Mari’s shoes, though. To have a cancer friend, who understands the crap I’ve been through, just decide to cut ties to try to be “normal” would break me. I wouldn’t accept help in chemistry from that person either.

Being cut off by a friend who knows the hardest, most painful parts of my past who suddenly decides they don’t want to be my friend or acknowledge our shared pain would leave me spinning. It would make me want to put cancer behind me too and completely forget about it.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. At least for me.

Like Mari, I still feel like I owe my story to people sometimes. Just like Mari says, “I hate that people feel like they deserve to know.”

However, my diagnosis has formed such a big part of who I have become, that sometimes I’m the one who thinks people deserve to know, not the other way around.

When I got back to school after treatment, I didn’t stop to consider whether I actually wanted to share my story. I just felt like I owed it to people. I believed that word of my cancer would get around anyway, so I might as well start sharing, whether I was comfortable with it or not.

I would explain my medical history to people, and a wave of anxiety would hit. That should’ve been a sure sign that I was not ready to share.

Everyone shares at their own pace, and as I continue reading, I hope Jase learns to share his story again and can put his fear of others’ responses behind him.

Join in next Monday for the comments and discussion on chapters 18-23!

We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done. If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday. Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end! Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us! Excited about the young adult cancer book club? Have any suggestions for future reads? Let us know!

Support Lacuna Loft At A Canvas + Cocktails Evening!

painting of tree with flowers at night

Join Lacuna Loft for a night of fun and crafting, painting, and cocktails led by our Chief Program Officer, Aerial Donovan, and a lovely artist, Kent.  When you can’t join a paint and sip in person, we’ll bring the fun directly to you!  Grab a friend (near or far, we’ll be on Zoom!) and join Lacuna Loft online for an opportunity to directly support our programs for young adult cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers while also creating a beautiful canvas acrylic painting and learning a fun cocktail!

After making your contribution toward the event we’ll send you everything you need for the event in the mail!

Join us on Thursday, April 22nd at 5 pm PT / 7 pm CT / 8 pm ET for a 90-minute Crafting Night.

Psst, having a hard time with the price tag?  We totally get it!  We’ll keep hosting free creative art workshops for our community of young adults facing cancer but this event might be perfect for a friend or family member of yours!

Grab your ticket today!

Finding Balance, Week 2: Chapters 6-11

man covering face

Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club! We are reading Finding Balance by Kati Gardner!  Read our participants’ reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book! Caution, spoilers below!

Catch up from Week 1 here!

Week 2: Chapters 6-11

By KM H.:

Chapter Six.
Mari is having trouble keeping up with her classmates in AP chemistry—they move faster than her old school, and they’re a bit ahead of where she was. On top of that, Lindsay and another classmate are being ableist, classist jerks. Mari’s chem teacher asks her if she can stay after school for supplemental instruction that will help her catch up, but Mari can’t because her transportation is tied to the bus schedule.

This chapter has such a nicely done illustration of how structural issues can stand in the way of success. Mari is struggling in her chem class. The help is there, but she can’t get it because she needs transportation home, and the only transportation home that she can get is via the MARTA bus system. It has nothing to do with her ability to understand or her culture or her cancer history, but rather the way in which the world will not or cannot accommodate her needs. It’s not fair, and it’s a great demonstration of how we as a society could do better. It’s easy to look at students or people who aren’t successful or who are struggling and heap the blame solely on their shoulders. But there are often other factors at work, often issues beyond their control, that keep them from thriving—and they’re usually things that they can’t help.

Chapter Seven.
Jase takes Lindsay home from school and drops her off at her house. She’s trying to touch him and be “girlfriend-y” in ways that he doesn’t want, and she’s being an ableist jerk again when it comes to Mari. After dropping Lindsay off, Jase gets a call from his mother, detailing that she’s going to hold a charity event for Camp Chemo. Jase freaks out because he believes his secret will be revealed.

As much as I would like to harp on Jase for being an asshole to Mari, I find his character to be highly understandable. He’s been bullied at his old school. He’s got some serious social anxiety because of it. And he’s seeing firsthand that his fears are justified because of the way that Lindsay and others are treating Mari. I also “get” him because, in my own life, I’ve tried to stop talking so much about being a cancer survivor. Not because of any bullying or anything, but because it’s nice to pretend to be normal sometimes … even though I’m definitely not.

Chapter Eight.
Mari is in class, and Lucas asks her a few questions about driving and such with a prosthetic leg, which Mari tells him would be a pain because it would get in the way. Mari is starting to make progress with friends in this chapter—or, at least, we finally get to see her new friends at school.

I like this chapter because it really nicely shows when and how it’s okay to ask questions regarding a person’s disability. It reminded me of when my brothers would ask if I could do something or not on chemo. They weren’t being assholes or trying to put me down or asking something invasive—it was just something that came up in the course of a normal conversation. The topic came. I answered. We moved on. Like, you know, a normal thing. Like I’m a person, not a curiosity.

Chapter Nine.
The ableist assholery of Lindsay really comes out even more than usual in this chapter. She is with Jase and several other friends, and she just lays into Mari and her leg, asking questions about Mari’s body that are 100% not okay. Jase just sits there, not correcting them or telling them to stop. I understand that he’s afraid of being found out, but … my dude … you don’t have to out yourself as a cancer survivor in order to tell people to not be ableist jerkwads.

Anyway. Mari overhears and immediately runs away. Jase follows—he’s actually starting to come to his senses—and attempts to comfort Mari. She, understandably, pushes him away.

I’m really starting to hope that Jase will try to make things right with Mari. I don’t expect this to happen quickly because, well, we’ve got most of the novel still to go. 🙂

Chapter Ten.
Jase drives his car to Mari’s house, trying to find her. He doesn’t know what his intentions are, but I suspect it has something to do with, I dunno, maybe apologizing and trying to make things right? Hopefully? In any case, he doesn’t find her because she’s at a coffee shop (oh, the days of randomly visiting coffee shops!).

Chapter Eleven.
Mari is visiting Davis at the coffee shop. Davis was the male lead from Gardner’s first book, Brave Enough, which you should definitely go read (it’s excellent). Mari is catching up with Davis, who is newly sober (this book seems to take place before Brave Enough, if I’m understanding the conversations and timeline hints correctly). She’s also hoping to catch some help with her chemistry issues, but Davis isn’t really equipped to help there. He asks her about her school, and she avoids telling him because she feels like he’s got enough on his plate, and she doesn’t seem to want to bring the mood down.

In this way—hiding what’s really going on—Mari is a lot like Jase. She’s covering, trying to pretend everything is normal and good when really she’s hurt and angry at how Jase has treated her. She feels betrayed by a friend and has no one she feels she can really talk to about it. I feel for her, but I also want her to talk to her friends or parents or someone about what’s going on with Jase. But, hey, if she started making good decisions this early, this would be a novella and not a novel. 😀 Still, I’m rooting for her. And I hope she gets the help (both in chem and in life) that she needs.

By Betsy B.:

Chapter 6
Mari has just started at AWP and is in class with some truly awful girls who don’t take the time to understand her amputation. They mock having to use a wheelchair right in front of her. As an adult, I wonder how these girls could be so tone-deaf, but then I remember my high school experience, when I was diagnosed my senior year. It was only a couple of weeks after my diagnosis when the school newspaper published a story about tanning (so 2005). They interviewed the popular girls who clearly went tanning a lot, and they had completely ignorant responses. “My mom tans and she doesn’t have cancer so I don’t think I will either.” “I’d rather have cancer than be pale.” I know, right? On top of her clueless classmates, Mari also has to deal with her chemistry teacher pitying her and basically telling her to drop the class. It’s hard to believe this school is supposed to be better than her last one.

Chapter 7
“Jase was beginning to wonder if this was even a secret he could keep anymore. But at the thought of what that meant, Jase couldn’t breathe.”
This chapter is mostly about Jase panicking about hiding his past from his insufferable not-girlfriend and everyone else he knows. It’s hard for me to feel bad for him at this point because of how he treated Mari. But I do understand not wanting to be the cancer kid. For several years after my treatment ended, I didn’t want to tell many people about my cancer. I didn’t want to be treated differently. Considering how ignorant the people at Jase’s school are, it does make sense he would be afraid to tell them. Near the end of the chapter, Jase’s mom tells him about a charity gala she’s planning. And good news! The charity will be Camp Chemo! And his camp friends can come! Once again, he begins to panic and worries about people finding out about his secret life.

Chapter 8
“Thankfully, she was no longer much of a novelty, but she could still see the questions in her new classmates’ faces—wondering what they could ask her and what was off-limits.”
This is a short chapter that introduces us to some of Mari’s new school friends, Addison and Zeke, and her teacher Giselle, who is also dating one of her big brothers. She also talks with Lucas, one of Jase’s friends, who seems genuinely interested in learning more about her and he is respectful when he talks to her. I gotta say I’m Team Lucas right now. At the end of the chapter, she is dreading sitting alone at lunch and misses her old school and friends. This chapter is mostly about Mari’s loneliness. She is grateful to have met some nice people but “they weren’t at the random text stage or anything.” She misses having friends she really connects with. She feels like an outsider still, especially when she has no one to sit with at lunch.

Chapter 9
This chapter is cringe-worthy.
1. AWP has a student lounge for lunch where they can order food from local restaurants. That is not real, is it?
2. Jase’s not-girlfriend and her friend are terrible humans.
3. Jase makes the world’s tiniest gesture of apology.
During the lunch that Mari is eating alone, she overhears Jase and his friends discussing her. Or rather, gossiping. Lindsay and Madalyn think it is hilarious to speculate about her grades, where she lives, her amputation. Jase feels uncomfortable and attempts to steer the conversation in another direction, but fails. After they see Mari running away crying, Jase goes after her to say he’s sorry, “don’t let them get to you.” Boy, please. Even though she is very upset, Mari rightfully sends him away. I feel so bad for her–not only does she have to deal with being the new girl at school, with an amputation, she also has to deal with her so-called friend ignoring her most of the time and waving off hurtful comments other people make.

Chapter 10
“He wasn’t normally a jerk, but it was as if since Mari’s arrival at AWP he couldn’t be anything but.”
Jase is feeling bad. Good, he should. He looks up Mari’s address and drives to her house, presumably to attempt to apologize again. But she’s not home and he feels stupid for driving all the way to her house. Even though I’m angry with Jase still, I can tell he feels guilty and confused. Guilty for the way he treated Mari (obviously), but I also think he feels guilty that he can hide his cancer and she can’t. He has the luxury of being “normal.” Something that she will never have. He doesn’t know how to make up for his guilt, but he drives to her house anyway because he knows he needs to do something.

Chapter 11
“The way those girls laughed. It all hurt, but the embarrassment was worse.”
Mari has had an awful day and goes to hang out at the coffee shop where Davis works. Davis is a good friend from Camp Chemo, and she hopes he can distract her from Jase and the mean things the girls said at lunch. When he asks about Jase, Mari doesn’t say anything and goes back to her chemistry homework. As she’s working on her laptop, she sees an ad for a prosthetics company and she feels ashamed for looking at it. I think she has spent a long time telling herself that she doesn’t need a prosthetic leg and that she can do anything a “normal” person can do. I understand her desire to be normal, especially after she’s had such a bad day at school when it feels like she is her amputation. No one at school sees her as a whole person. She begins to feel overwhelmed and defeated, thinking of her appointment at the prosthetics office, about school and chemistry, about Jase. “She did not care.”

By Jessica B.:

Chapters 6-11
In these chapters, Mari is having trouble adjusting to her new school. Her AP Chemistry class is especially challenging, but she has managed to make a couple of new friends. We don’t know much about Zeke and Addison yet, but they seem to be much kinder to Mari than her other classmates. The people in Jase’s social circle are sometimes very cruel to Mari while acting like they don’t realize they’re being rude. It’s almost like insulting someone, but then following it up with “no offense”. It seems very clear that they are not nice to people they see as “other”, which is starting to make it clear why Jase doesn’t want them to know about his cancer. The fact that Mari takes the MARTA to get home seems to be a sticking point with them, which I think it just ridiculous. I don’t know why someone’s method of transportation is considered a measure of someone’s value. I think this just shows how shallow some of the students are.

On Jase’s side, he is struggling with his decision to put distance between himself and Mari. His friend Lucas is starting to show interest in dating Mari, and Jase is not a fan. He also has to deal with his “girlfriend” and other friends not being nice to Mari. There is the line between ignorance and cruelty and Lindsay and Madalyn cross that line, and then act shocked when Mari hears them and gets offended. Jase does take the time to check on her, which seems like he might finally start letting some cracks show in the wall he put up, but Mari turns him away, which shows that even if he might be letting that wall down, she’s not ready to.
At the end of the section, Jase, who Mari is now referring to as Jason (ouch), is seeking out Mari to talk to her. Hopefully, this is a sign that he is ready to start mending the multi-year friendship that he severely damaged, but only time will tell. He clearly has a lot of work to do if he wants to fix everything he almost destroyed.

By Ffion K.:

Chapters 6-11

I was happy to receive and read this book as it is always somewhat cathartic to read books and hear experiences of other people who have or have had cancer! However, I was immediately shocked at how cruel high school-age students are. I was older when I received my diagnosis, and I suppose everyone I knew was just older and more mature, as I just did not experience any of the poor treatment that Mari and Jase, unfortunately, seem to endure. The book also shows the clear divide between two different types of cancer experiences: one where you are so far out from treatment and have no lasting visible effects, compared to one where you have lost a body part and it is forever out in the open.

Jase is not very nice to Mari throughout these chapters. He acts like the typical “cool and popular” guy and is so flippant towards her. You start to be able to tell a few chapters in, though, that although he doesn’t want it to affect his “image” at school, he does care about how he’s treating Mari and is starting to feel bad. Lindsay, a girl Jase is hanging out with, is even crueler and shows, unfortunately, just how nasty some girls can be. Some of her comments really break your heart for Mari.

In Chapter 6, Mari is having a lot of trouble in AP Chemistry. Lindsay and her friend “Y” are being very insensitive, again, but at least Mari has a sarcastic come back to them that she “gets good parking.” Lindsay jokes that she forgets Mari is disabled, but Mari knows that neither Lindsay nor her friend actually forgets. As if the social troubles Mari is having aren’t enough, the teacher pulls her aside to discuss how she’s adjusting to the new school and that her grades are lagging. She wants Mari to come to a tutorial after school, but this potentially conflicts with Mari having to catch the MARTA bus home each day. This just highlights the types of things that Mari and other disabled students have to worry about and juggle that other students don’t. This new school was supposed to be better, but at this point, Mari’s really feeling that all this new school is doing is pointing out her inadequacies.

In Chapter 7, Jase continues to hang out with, but be annoyed by, Lindsay. Jase’s mom tells him she is going to hold a benefit event for Camp Chemo, and Jase worries that this will “out him” as having had cancer.

In Chapter 8, Mari has been at her new school, AWP, for a month. Mari and Lucas chat. Lucas has been friendly to Mari and she is starting to feel the starting of a little crush. Mari gets more information about some of the students, learning Zeke’s dad is a team physician for the Atlanta United. It seems to her like everyone is so much more well off than her. Mari misses her larger group of friends from South Side because she has to have lunch in the student lounge alone that day.

In Chapter 9, Jase, Lindsay, and Madalyn (“Y”) are in the student lounge continuing to talk about Mari behind her back. Y saw Mari’s quiz and knows she’s flunking. Jase, although he continues to hang out with her, is starting to worry that Lindsay might think they’re exclusive, which he doesn’t want. The girls then start to ponder, out loud, if Mari is missing any other body parts, “like, her vagina?” says Lindsay. Mari is at that moment just approaching, hears this, drops her things and bolts out of the lounge. This is particularly heartbreaking to the reader. It’s bad enough reading the awful things these teenagers are saying and thinking, but then to think of how Mari would feel walking in and hearing this is even worse. Jase goes after Mari, even though Lindsay yells for him to stop. Jase finds Mari crying at her locker, but she says to leave her alone, and he does, walking away. As the book states, the wall he’d put between them definitely gets another layer added to it.

In Chapter 10, Jase has been basically ignoring Lindsay since the incident in the student lounge. He feels bad about how hurt Mari looked. He notes that he isn’t normally a jerk, but hasn’t been able to help it since Mari came to AWP. Honestly, as the reader, it’s hard to not think that Jase just is a huge jerk, period. He certainly is very immature, whereas Mari seems quite mature. Jase spontaneously ends up driving to Mari’s house, although he’s not sure why. She isn’t there, however. Her brother Leo answers,
and Jase says to not bother letting Mari know he stopped by.

In Chapter 11, it starts with Leo obviously telling Mari that Jase stopped by, over a text message. Mari is at a coffee shop visiting her friend Davis, also a cancer survivor, that has struggled with addiction. However, she’s also reliving, in her head, the hurt and embarrassment from what Lindsay and Madalyn had said. Davis works at the coffee shop and has to do community service at the hospital he was treated at, as a result of an arrest to do with his addiction. He asks how things are going at AWP and says he assumes
Jase is helping Mari find friends, for which she doesn’t correct him. Mari watches as an ad pops up on her computer for prosthetics. She ponders how everyone thinks she should want a prosthesis but she doesn’t. Then she thinks that she’s never going to be Jase’s girlfriend, probably going to fail AP Chemistry, and get kicked out of AWP. She exclaims that she is done and defeated and does not care anymore. It’s a sad end to this chapter and really leaves the reader hoping things get better for Mari!

Join in next Monday for the comments and discussion on chapters 12-17!

We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done. If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday. Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end! Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us! Excited about the young adult cancer book club? Have any suggestions for future reads? Let us know!

Grief to Gratitude: A Young Adult Cancer Yoga + Mindfulness Workshop

woman on yoga mat

This 6-week program will normalize grief and help you tune-in and connect to your body, mind, and soul through yoga, breathwork, meditation, and other contemplative practices.  We will join together as a community to discuss, process, and move through grief to find our inner GPS and sense of self.  Together we will focus on life as it is now in the present moment, after a cancer diagnosis, compared to the life once imagined.

This workshop will have a 15 young adult cancer patient, survivor, and caregiver capacity, and will meet for 2 hours starting on Monday, March 22nd starting at 4:30 pm PT / 6:30 pm CT / 7:30 pm ET!  This is a 6-week program and a commitment to each week is important for a safe space and cohesiveness of the course.

Who: 15 young adult cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.

When: Mondays, 6 weeks, starting Monday, March 22nd @ 4:30-6:30 pm PT / 6:30-8:30 pm CT / 7:30-9:30 pm ET via video chat.* (*US time zones…please confirm what time this means for where you live).

How does it work? Lacuna Loft will send you an email about a week before the workshop with information on how to join the video chat. ***You’ll need the link that we’ll provide you, a headset with a microphone, and a webcam.***

Write Now with Jean Rowe: Matters of the Heart

snow heart held by red gloved hands

Lacuna Loft is proud to present Write Now with Jean Rowe! Each month, come on over to Young Adult Voices and read everything LCSW Jean Rowe has to say! Love what you’re reading? Check out the many programs Jean is facilitating (including 30 Minute Tune-UpLost and FoundLacuna Loft’s Weekly Journal Prompt, and It’s a Wonderful Life) and sign up to join one today!

February brings valentines, and this month, I encourage us to think of ways we can and do love ourselves. Love is action. Love is a verb. Love is a choice. Maybe this feels awkward. Try anyway. You’re worth it.

Here is some wisdom of those who love/loved themselves:

James Brown – Super Bad
I jump back. I wanna kiss myself.

Lady Gaga – Born This Way
I’m right on the track, baby.

Tom Petty – Won’t Back Down
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down.

Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All
Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Lou Rawls – One Life to Live
Why don’t you give it your best shot.

Madonna – Vogue
All you need is your own imagination.

 

What would happen if you use your own imagination, gave it your best shot, loved yourself, kept the world from draggin’ you down, got right on the track, and, yes, jumped back and kissed yourself?

Try this: pick one of those ideas or several. Act as if they are already in place. Write a day in your life with them already in place. Write for five minutes. Have a sense of wonder and open-heartedness at what is revealed.

Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you!

We set the bar for how we want others to treat us.
-Lisa Marie

Your Definition of Love Determines How You Experience It