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Grit & Grace: The Gift of Being Present


“Suffering is a short pain and a long joy.” ~Henry Suso



It’s hard not to wish your life away when you’re in the midst of suffering. Whether enduring cancer, loss of a loved one, or loss of a dream--suffering does not discriminate. And it may be the one thing that connects us all.  I’m a “get through it” kind of gal, but I realized that when I put my head down and push through it, I miss all of the beautiful things that can happen in the midst of healing.


I turned 34 this year, which is 1 year away from 35 which is practically 40, right? I know that seems young to many, but I can with 100% certainty tell you that if you had previously asked me, at any time in my life, where I would be at this would NOT be here. It wouldn’t look like this. I get hung up a lot on what I’ve lost and what I am missing. I was supposed to have a family with kids and a dog and a spouse and a stable, healthy income in the career of my choosing.


It’s been a solid 5 years since that reality (as I had envisioned it) was shattered and I somehow still get stuck on how things were “supposed to be.” I’ve spent a lot of time healing and mending, and initially, I wanted to heal myself right back to my old life. The life I thought I was supposed to have. I wanted to shove all of the broken pieces into the frame that resembled something familiar, but they are still just broken pieces.


My suffering may be different from yours, but the gift of healing is universal.


Healing means you have expanded through pain and suffering and grief and trauma and you don’t fit in that frame anymore.


Healing is not returning to your old life. It is returning to yourself--your authentic self in this very moment.


Healing is transitioning into survivorship after the cancer experience and embracing the new normal of a changed reality.


It’s being able to accept your past as a gift to your present. Because there is no going back. There is no undoing. It’s just forward motion. It feels like a lot at first—constantly analyzing the past to plan the future. But being present in the moment is where the gift lies.


But how are we supposed to stay present in the midst of suffering? Why would we want to? Surviving the cancer, enduring the loss, and bearing the burdens until they pass—that is the goal right? But being present even in suffering allows healing to form.



Push the Pause Button

Sometimes you have to audibly say the word, “Pause,” take in your surroundings, and speak truth to yourself. “I am here.” “I am alive.” “I am loved.” Those three things are always true and require nothing from you—just existing. So use those truths to ground yourself in the moment.




Inhale through your nose while you count to 6, and exhale through your nose to the count of 6. You don’t have to think of anything else but breathe in and breathe out. Did you know that nose breathing calms your brain, reduces stress, regulates blood pressure, and can give you an energy boost? There are many breathing practices available (there are lots of apps available) with scientifically noted benefits. You have to breathe anyway, so why not set an intention and let your body do the work.



Be Grateful

Look around you right now and choose three things that you can be grateful for in this very moment. Right now I am grateful for the heater in my office, the feeling of being full from lunch, and a photo of my dog that makes me so happy.



Let It Go

Even if it is only for a moment, let go of your burdens and bask in the freedom of that moment. Buddha says, “The root of suffering is attachment,” so loosen your grip and let go.



Bring It Back to Your Breath

You did it! You’re in the moment. Take a deep breath and move forward in awareness of the present moment.



Healing doesn’t take away pain; it allows you to outshine your suffering. Don’t miss the beauty of that.


So…here’s to 40...I mean 34 (pretty much the same thing)!


Amanda Gross

Amanda Aris

Amanda Aris is the Cancer Care Coordinator at Beebe Healthcare’s Tunnell Cancer Center. As part of the psychosocial services team at TCC, she navigates patients through the specialty pharmacy process of obtaining oral chemotherapies, coordinates all referrals to outside institutions, and works closely with the cancer survivorship programs and events. Although she has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Secondary Education, she previously worked with cancer clinical trials as a Certified Clinical Research Professional in Philadelphia. Amanda is Baltimore born and an avid