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Life Lessons: Flowing And Connectivity

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Published: Dec 23, 2013 1:47 pm

Even though those of us with multiple myeloma live all across the world, many of our experiences are very similar.

I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma two years ago. Since then I have been in treatment at a major medical center that has one of the leading hematology/​oncology departments in Israel, where I live.

I have been an active and involved multiple myeloma patient, engaged with my treatment center’s medical staff and all the associated ancillary services. I have also been upfront and forthcoming about my illness with family and friends, near and far.

I have learned a lot since my initial diagnosis, yet earlier this month I had the opportunity to share two new life lessons in an unexpected way. I think the lessons are rather universal and may help others as well.

I was invited to a Hanukkah party/​workshop at one of my places of employment. At first, I was reluctant to attend because my work is very much behind the scenes. However, since attendance was mandatory, I put aside my reluctance, put on a happy face, as they say, and went. It was actually a good opportunity to meet up with the field staff, whom I haven’t seen since my initial diagnosis, as well as meet new staff whom I’ve heard about but never met.

It is hard to believe, but the topic of the main workshop – which started after some mingling, eating, and a few short speeches – was floral arranging. My heart went out to the men in attendance; I couldn’t imagine what they would find engaging about floral arranging.

The woman conducting the workshop has three decades of experience in this field, and bills herself as an “expert in healing and rehabilitating through the use of flowers.” It’s a mouthful, I admit.

She gave us tips for arranging floral centerpieces (snipping flower ends, mixing in greens, inserting the stems in the sponge, etc.) while at the same time integrating her knowledge of the significance of colors and the unique healing powers inherent in flowers.

I was distracted and impatient. Choosing a minimalist approach for the arrangement of my flowers, I completed my assignment well before anyone else. Since I had no place to go and nothing else to do, I of course began to think about my illness, which is as much a part of me as any other part of my body.

After completing our floral arrangements (bravo to the men!), each participant was asked to randomly select a card from a stack laying face down on a table.

Each card had a photograph of a flower and, underneath the photograph, words describing qualities associated with that particular flower. My flower was an iris.

We were then asked to describe how the two qualities listed on the cards connect to our own lives.

I half-heartedly listened to the others as they shared how they identified with the qualities listed on their cards, with most tying the qualities to their work experience. (Remember, this was a workshop sponsored by our place of employment.)

I finally looked at my card. The two qualities listed were: “flowing,” and “connectivity.”

It was my turn to share.

So, when the floral expert called upon me, I suddenly focused on the task at hand, cleared my voice, and looked around the tables. I said that I’ve learned two of life’s seminal lessons during the past two years of my life.

One: The need to go with the flow and accept things as they are. Every day has become a lesson for me in reinvigorating my faith and viewing life through a positive prism. Challenges are just that: events that I truly believe I can overcome.

Two: The need to remain connected with those people who make a difference in my life and who are important to me. I have a wide, strong network of friends and family who have become part and parcel of this journey I am on. They accompany me to the hospital, stay in touch with me, and generally show me their love and caring, which I hope I can return to them when they need it most, as I do now.

I felt the silence around me as I finished speaking, but I also felt a genuine desire by the participants to incorporate my life lessons into their own lives, because they are not lessons exclusively for cancer patients.

I thought this was my Hannukah gift to them, and perhaps you can consider it my holiday gift to you, too.

This article is a guest column by Ilene Bloch-Levy, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma two years ago and has been undergoing treatment in Israel, where she lives.

If you are interested in contributing a guest column to be published in the opinion section of The Myeloma Beacon, please contact the Beacon team at .

Photo by slgckgc on Flickr - some rights reserved.
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  • Nancy Shamanna said:

    Thanks for the beautiful column, Ilene. Happy Hannukah to you also. In the multicultural choir I sing in, we always have some seasonal Hanukkah songs. This year they were ‘Zol Zein Sholem’ (Let There be Peace), and ‘Hanerot Halalu’ (trad.). The ‘call and response’ of the ‘Zol Zein’ song (eg. latkes, dreidels, kinder) can remind one of interactive sites such as the Beacon!

    I love Irises too, maybe there is a reason for that…connectivity and flowing. They are a welcome flower of spring here.

  • MarkLaw50 said:

    Both of your “lessons”/points are wonderfully and emotionally expressed; really heart-warming sentiments. As an atheist, I found them very uplifting.

  • Linda said:

    Thank you for your gift to us. I find taking the time to be receptive to life’s lessons can bring comfort and peace if I’ll only slow down. I wish you well with your treatment. My husband spent two months in a research lab in Israel some years ago, and they have top notch medical care.

  • Paul wilson said:

    Thank you for your words of inspiration Ilene. Like you I am two years into this insidious disease having gone through chemo, stem cell transplant and now back to chemo. I would love be able to believe in greater good but this disease sucks away your will. Has anyone out there had any success with diet or lifestyle changes? I have come to the conclusion that that if I don’t change something I am not going to make old bones. Specialists here in Australia seem to be totally committed to chemical solutions.