Confession #7: I LOVE MLM Companies

I confess. I’ve said many negative things in the past about the multi-level marketing (MLM) companies that have sprung up in the last 20 years. I don’t like the way they operate using “pseudo” science, promoting extreme undiluted use and daily doses in water or capsules. I’ve accused them and judged them and called them names, and I’ve walked around with my feathers ruffled for some time. But I realized that this toxic anger actually harms me, and I’ve been learning how to release it. In doing so, I’ve come to understand how important this process is to my well-being. I’ve also discovered a few good things about these companies that I’ve treated like enemies, and it feels so much better to think about them in this light.  The truth is, I’m actually thankful for them for several reasons.
First, they have been the single most influential factor in the exponential increase of people using essential oils throughout the last 15 to 20 years. I thought we did a good job after 9/11 of spreading the word on how helpful oils can be daily, but these companies get the award for inspiring the most widespread use in the masses. In a way, they’ve stolen my dream. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to help the world through aromatherapy, and these companies are so big now that my education has become a drop in the bucket. I still don’t agree with their methods, but they’re able to appeal to and introduce aromatherapy to people who may not have ever tried it, and thus they have opened a new population to the oils that we love.
Secondly, I have met some wonderful people who started in these companies but moved on when they realized something was missing. Many of my first-timers went through introductions and then became seekers of truth and knowledge. This makes “IPC’s” or “wellness consultants” a tremendous source for new students and customers for the educators and businesses in our field. Sure, some of these beginners may never move from their start, but plenty will, and they need the quality education and products that we already provide. Ideally, we should let go of the idea that it’s “us” against “them” and see that we’re all in this together. One by one, I’ve helped so many students see that education is empowerment, and that we make good choices once we realize what we don’t know!
Third, I’ve found that once these new students have some knowledge to work with, they begin asking great questions. They make us research and look into their claims, and that process can impact all of us in a lot of healthy ways. The whole industry has experienced a growth of knowledge and information in the last few years because of this. They also keep me on my toes, and of course they gave me a great lesson on anger, frustration, and finally learning to let go. Now whenever I hear them make a claim, I go look at the research for myself, which gives me a good mystery on which to follow up.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of a new idea about being in “co-opetition.” I thought I had invented the word, but here it is on Wikipedia:

“Coopetition occurs when companies interact with partial congruence of interests. They cooperate with each other to reach a higher value creation if compared to the value created without interaction, and struggle to achieve competitive advantage. Often coopetition takes place when companies that are in the same market work together in the exploration of knowledge and research of new products, at the same time that they compete for market-share of their products and in the exploitation of the knowledge created.”

We are all involved with our own businesses and careers, and with that there’s the tendency to be territorial and competitive. We all want to stay in business. And there’s always a hierarchy in competition, and everyone is always working to get above and ahead. In co-opetition, we see everyone as being on the same level and work with each other to bring up the quality of the whole industry!
Each new idea adds to our collective knowledge, even the challenges, and that means we all grow. And as we grow, we help each other by working together. So, instead of being against everything and seeing the situation as us against them, I propose we start seeing ourselves as one entity, working together in co-opetition.
So, let’s work together for the greater good of aromatherapy, and for the future of our freedom to use oils responsibly! and let us please support each other in our paths. The time has come for CO-OPETITION!
Spread the word.

Confession #8:  Why I Really Need Help in Restarting

Confession #8: Why I Really Need Help in Restarting

I’ve accepted that at the awesome age of 63, my silver hair is lovely and I have thin skin that shows experience and feelings. I’ve learned to appreciate the joy in the beautiful experience of “croning,” or becoming an elder. I have a new appreciation of where I’ve been, and I can marvel in gratitude at the changes.

I wrote already about my early life and my brother D here. My brother Don, or D as he came to be known (short for Deetle),  was my “Irish” twin, being only ten months older than me. We grew up very close, and he was always very curious about nature and showed me snakes and such from an early age. I looked up to him as my constant companion.


We were a year apart at school and had some of same friends—especially girls who wanted to be my friend because he was so cute! I really hated when he went off to Army boot camp for six months while I was a senior in high school. But he came back and then I moved on to Florida—but I still loved everything he did.  He showed me the great Bob Dylan and other musicians from the 1960s, and by the 70s he had gotten into bluegrass music, and of course I followed. I got a fiddle and he patiently taught me songs like Old Joe Clark. We would play together when I made trips back to NC.


We both got married and had our baby girls, Katie and Nyssa, around the same time (1984). He moved to Florida eventually, and after finding a great job for him, we flipped two houses in our spare time for extra money, which he used to get a little house.


It was really great to have him close by; we had lots of family time with our East Coast family, especially with our nephew Jim who had just returned from Afghanistan (more on that story here).


But we weren’t meant to grow old together. He always called on weekend afternoons to say, “No news is good news!” or before going to sleep after a night shift to tell me, “I’m tired and wired and uninspired.” Then one weekend he didn’t. No returned calls at all, and no emails. So, after not hearing back from my brother by Tuesday, I finally discovered he had not been in to work on Monday night.

I drove over and found him on the sofa, as if asleep, having peacefully left his earthly vessel a few days before. Needless to say, I was devastated and severely traumatized. My recovery included therapies in Rapid Resolution Therapy (RRT) and Heart Forgiveness, both of which were crucial to my initial healing process. We went to the mountains of North Carolina, our home, and with his best friends Graham, Steve, Sam, and Linwood, his family put his ashes in the New River.


I once again received help from Robbi Zeck, who had just done her newest Blossoming Heart reflection on Spikenard, which helps us move from grief to resilience.

She writes:

When your heart is cracked wide open, with grief flowing like a river, place Spikenard on the crown of your head, at your forehead, over your heart and on the soles of your feet. It will bring you relief and create inner calm…Spikenard with its grounding earthy qualities will help to create closure so that regret and sorrow gently slip away…build resistance and access your innate strengths and use the affirmation: breathing in I feel, breathing out I flow; my heart is cradled.”

Since then, I’ve used Spikenard and my other tools to restore my peace and build resilience, release the past in a loving way, and be here now in the present. I took time to do my grief work, and during this time, a poem emerged:

A  Morning Mourning

A morning alone becomes a mourning to myself
Alone to indulge in needed release of feelings held in for the moment, my heart cracks wide open and spills new rivers of tears gushing down my face leaving no trace of what I release as grief
Breathing in, I open to the Light
Breathing out, I release the heart light
The heart light switch is on again
Breathing in these mournings alone, the light of Love nourishes and settles my emotional heart
Breathing out I gather my heart back unto myself
Having hit the wall where resilience abounds, the mourning light becomes the Light of Love restoring strength and courage to my soul
Breathing in I feel; Breathing out I flow
My heart is cradled. 


This blog goes out on the three-year anniversary of D’s passing, and I’m grateful to have had him in my life. I remember him with love and feel his presence daily. I know he’s cheering me on, so I’m ready to restart my aromatic journey and rejoin my friends, colleagues and students on the path to finish what I started.  Karmic gravity calls me back; I’m not done yet. Being asked to create the paper from which this confession comes tells me I’m needed, and that helps me to pick back up and restart, so I can be called to action once again.

But I know that I can’t do this alone. My daughter Nyssa has stepped up to help my work continue on, but she needs help too. In all my years, if there is one this I have learned, it’s that life is short and that we get a lot more out of working together than we do working alone.


I did not set out to form a disaster relief organization (Thank you Doug E)

I did not set out to form a disaster relief organization (Thank you Doug E)

Doug E. Rasmusson was my inspiration to get involved with disaster relief. Affectionately known as “Doug E”, he had over the previous years become a very good friend, mentee, supporter and instructor for the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy. We first met when he came to my class in Tampa, 1992. He sponsored aromatherapy classes in the Florida Keys and sold his own oil line. Together,  we travelled to many conferences within the aromatherapy community.  He formed the first Florida massage team before moving to NC and in 1998 where he developed Carolina Emergency Response Massage Team (CERMT). They provided relief during hurricanes and other disasters in North Carolina.

In 2001, after the tragedy of September 11th, I wanted to do something to help those affected. As a cancer survivor, I couldn’t donate blood so I decided to join “Doug E.” and his team who were preparing to venture to New York to participate in the disaster relief.

Before leaving, I had the idea to take some aromatherapy to help with the smell and other issues.  Thanks to the internet, the call for donations from all my friends and colleagues in aromatherapy produced a miracle. The first trip in November we carried $10K worth of supplies to give out. DougE led us back 3 more times, with help from therapists from all over the USA and the REST-UK, the teamed formed by therapists in England. He took good care of us as we worked daily and earned himself the name “Daddy Brother” pronounced “brudd-ah” Brooklyn style. Often taking the night shift at St. Pauls church at Ground Zero, he scheduled us from his bed before he got his sleep.


We all had New York nick names like Queen Mudder, Loving Mudder, Spinster Sista, and others. (Feel free to remind me in the comments what your name was!)

After seeing such a drastic difference in the lives of those we were helping, because of the immense support we got, we decided to create the United Aromatherapy Effort, Inc.: a non-profit for collecting and disseminating aromatherapy products for first responders after disasters. Eileen Christina and I created the “Adopt a Station program” over bacon and eggs before our daily rounds. Our complete history and pics are on the site and our Facebook Page. We also have an amazing  Tribute Video you can check out.

In between events we celebrated ourselves at the NAHA Raleigh conference, where we raffled off strands of DougE’s long hair for fund raising, and we partied hard with lots of aromatic friends and supporters! Michael Kirk-Smith holds the first of many strands sold that day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



Many of us also served in CERMT by helping Doug E break the worlds record for chair massage – 52 hours- in order to raise funds! First hour, followed by last hour with Nyssa in the chair and Sylvie cheering him on. He did it!!

dougEworld rec1

dougEworld rec2

After NY, we served in Biloxi after Hurricane Katrina for many weeks.


Our grand finale was supplying aromatherapy to the armed forces in Afghanistan. My nephew Jim Baucom was called to duty in Kabul and he helped us get the donations dispersed at Camp Phoenix by acting as our Soldier on the Ground, receiving and distributing supplies to other soldiers on duty.



For this great feat we got a flag flown over Camp Phoenix in our honor and this plaque, along with a letter from the General. See it here.

certcp (2)

Several companies including Nelson Bach Co, and Nature’s Gift shipped direct to Afghanistan on their own in our name so we passed the flag around for photo ops! Here it poses at Samara Botane!


I’m so thankful for all those who helped us help others on our disaster relief missions. It is still hard to believe the small idea to take aromatherapy to New York became a successful non-profit organization lasting 10 years. Last year, we officially closed, but the UAE had a great run, having served two major disasters and many minor ones. All of our accomplishments are archived at We were able to disperse any leftover donations and have distributed remaining funds as gifts to NAHA and Alliance of International Aromatherapists.

My greatest thanks go to DougE, my forever Daddy Brother,  and the gift he gave me by being in my life. DougE now resides in France with his beautiful wife Sylvie (formerly Grosjean, Nelly’s sister, who he met because I introduced him to Nelly!!).  You can see the awesome location in Provence where they live here.

DougEnow1In this fragrant and relaxing location just 45 minutes northwest of St. Tropez, he is busy training people in Massage Cupping. In addition they host wellness seminars and have a SPA, where he still does massage and still plays lots of music. You can visit in Provence! See the awesome location where they live here and check out their Facebook page.



I cannot finish this blog without mentioning the Most Honorable Outstanding UAE Volunteers:

-Nyssa Hanger, who went several times wrote this piece and won YM Magazine Coolest Teen award for her work with us during her last year of high school.  She was inspired to become a massage therapist and has a successful business Upward Spiral Center; and she is teaching aromatherapy as Assistant Director with Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy.

-Geraldine Zelinsky gave her loving support for many years running from the start. Most especially from Katrina on to the end she kept us going. From being VP/Assistant Director and overseeing all donations, shipping to Afghanistan, arranging for PR, to additionally keeping all our books and records, and so much more. I cannot thank her enough for her time and energy!!


-Karen Romanchek was a faithful volunteer extraordinaire for all trips.

-Mynou DeMey was logistics and liaison for our deployments.

-Sara Holmes served as Secretary, gave continuous support and supplies made by her students.

Thanks to all the LMT helpers who worked with us. Please share with us in comments your experience with this project!

Finally, a big THANK YOU to my brother Don Baucom or “D”. He kindly allowed us to raffle him for fund raising several times! including the first time when Jane Buckle wrote a poem about it.

This work may have been the greatest gift of my life. The knowledge and experience I gained was incredibly valuable. I learned so much, most importantly that giving back feels better than receiving. I also learned that one has to receive in order to ‘fill the cup’. My dear friend and colleague Trevor Stokes said during my cancer recovery, “you have to let people help because it is giving them a chance to do something, and they need this gift”. And so I did. I got what I needed and gave them the gift of helping me. When we help someone, its a win win. Giving makes the giver feel good, the receiver feels good for receiving, and anyone watching also feels good too because of the endorphin release which can occur for observers witnessing a good deed too! To keep it going now we local therapists volunteer with the James Haley Veterans Hospital here in Tampa, so we continue to accept a chance to give to the wounded warriors , and their caregivers too.

The moral of this tale is you never know what a random thought can do, even though it seems silly or impossible at the time! Go ahead, fly with it! It could become an important move. You could help a lot of people including yourself and if nothing else you will have a grand story to tell later.

I did not set out to write a book….

I did not set out to write a book….

By 1994, I had so many books to look up information on specific oils, I decided to create a wall chart for quick reference. Thanks to my hubby who set up the chart format on his computer, I was able to began typing it all in. Then I cut and pasted the first sections on poster board. Once I had it all together it became four double-sided charts; someone said that it should be a book instead and I thought, “What a great idea!” At this time I took over my husband’s computer and home office until he kicked me out at which point I got my first laptop. After a year or more of research, consulting, compiling all books available at the time, and creating indexes and cross references I thought I was done. My daughter says this is all she saw of me during that time……



I had the pleasure of meeting Bernie Hephrun of Butterbur and Sage at the NORA Conference in 1994. *** Bernie suggested I consult Martin Watt who had just created Plant Aromatics and was there as attendee! I met him at the end of the evening of the last day. Once home I began faxing back and forth to Martin (this was before email), and planned a visit to England to work with him in person. He took me to Stonehenge, Avebury, and Bath. He freely shared the massive amount of research he had with me, and the wonders of his small village Blackmore, Essex. I loved the UK and I devoured all he could show me. It was Martin who helped me revise my book, allowing it to become what it is today.

Me stonehenge


I honor Martin Watt for his contribution to the aromatherapy world and my path. He helped me to become recognized as a revolutionary in aromatherapy.


Martin had me question a lot of the proclaimed uses for oils, pointing out there is no evidence or research on certain uses, and the confusion of herbal properties with essential oil properties.


He was outspoken about the quality of essential oils, having experience and insight into the industry prior. He helped us open our eyes. Martin says he may be one of the first to start saying that the aroma trade training and oil supply fields was run by “con-artists and tricksters.” Before him anyone who had their suspicions “kept their mouths shut tight for fear of rocking the boat.” He was the first to introduce me to fractionated coconut oil, which was not available at the time in the US, but has since become a standard carrier oil (thanks to Rob Brown of Lebermuth).


After working overseas with Martin, I brought Plant Aromatics back here as the first USA publisher/distributor and the AIA sponsored Martin’s classes on Medical Aromatherapy in Florida, Chicago and Boulder.


Martin Watt is important in aromatherapy for many reasons cited above but in addition, he was the first to do a big study on sensitization:a type of allergic reaction that can happen with over-use of any essential oil. Before he spread the awareness, the US aromatherapy community had no clue about sensitization and unfortunately, some still don’t. Today, many people are sensitized from early undiluted use. Worse still is the amount of people that have become sensitized from the recent widespread use of undiluted oils in such practices as “Raindrop Therapy” and “AromaTouch.”


Martin still resides in the UK, and has an active website ( with his articles and links, such as the old IDMA internet list archives. This was an early email discussion group where many of us in aromatherapy originally connected. I am truly grateful he still patiently answers my questions now via email.


I thank you Martin. Because of you, my book became more than it was, and has now been useful to practitioners for many years.

mwatt1**** shortly after posting this I received the sad news of Bernie’s passing from Martin. Bernie will one day have his own page here as tribute for those who made big contributions but having left us. Here is Martin’s tribute to Bernie.


Let the studies begin

Let the studies begin

After half a decade of playing around with oils on my own, I wanted to expand my offerings and share the knowledge I had collected. One big influence in this endeavor was Kurt Schnaubelt. Original Swiss Aromatics started up in 1983 and his Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy offered a home study course by 1985. Once I took this course in 1985 I felt I could add the missing parts of what I did as a practitioner, so I created my own course, less technical, more practical and down-to-earth, so I thought. My first classes were live but eventually I created the correspondence course and in 1989 the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy was created as my educational arm, separate from the oils. A few years later, I closed my salon, Rumors, where I had begun offering aromatherapy treatments and classes and moved my office to my home so I could focus on devoting myself to the collection of knowledge and experience within this field that had become my passion.


I was a founding member of the American Aromatherapy Association that formed in 1988 and served two terms on the Board. Besides meeting Robert Tisserand at that meeting, I met Kurt, Victoria Edwards, Jeanne Rose, Marcel Lavabre and many other people like me, either with a business or a passion for aromatherapy! A small group, we went on to have another conference or two before disbanding. More about that later!AATA



From that time on I studied everywhere I could. Here is my aromatherapy educational highlights timeline: 1987-present


Aromatherapist Certification: Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy, Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, 1987.
Certificate: Tibb Herbal Health and Healing, Hakim Moinuddin Chisti, N.D., 1988.
Certificate: Robert Tisserand Seminar, FL, June, 1988.
Certificate: Medical Aromatherapy Seminar, Dr. Daniel Penoel, San Rafael, CA, 1988.
Certificate: AATA, Maggie Tisserand, Dr. Daniel Penoel, CA, 1989.
Certificate: Medical Aromatherapy, Dr. Daniel Penoel, CA, 1989.
Certificate: AATA, Robert Tisserand, Dr. Daniel Penoel, Dr. LePraz, CA 1990.
Therapist Certificate: Herbal Essence Therapist Training, Dr. Dietrich Gumbel, FL, 1990.
Diploma: International Training in New Crops: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Purdue University, IN, and University of Illinois at Chicago, IL, August 1993.
Certificate: Medical Aromatherapy Training, Martin Watt, Essex, UK, 1995
Diploma: International Training in Essential Oils: Advanced Studies, Part One and Two; Purdue University, IN, 1996-97.
Certificate: Aromatherapy Intensive, Dr. Malte Hozzell, Orto De Provenco, France, 1997.
Diploma: Flowering Plant Systematics Course, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, 1999.
Advanced Certificate: Aromatic Energetics and the Five Elements; Gabriel Mojay, FL, 2001
Certificate: Aromatic Kinesiology 1, Robbi Zeck, CA, 2004: FL, 2011, 2009. and Level 2, 2014.


And during that time I worked with many others including Martin Watt, Dr. Trevor Stokes, Dr. Robert Pappas, Tony Burfield who helped me learn more.  Over time all this resulted in my most major papers and presentations listed below. ( * papers can be found on the AIA site under Research.)


Major papers and presentations: 1996 – present:
“Percutaneous Confusion or the Evidence on Cutaneous Absorption of Essential Oils,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., The World of Aromatherapy, Frog; Berkley, CA; 1996
*”The Ravensara Dilemma- A comparison study of the taxonomy, chemical constituents, safety and an aromatherapy market survey of essential oils from the plants: Ravensara aromatica, Ravensara anisata, Cinnamomum camphora,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., NORA newsletter, 2 (2); Feb 1997. Purdue paper.
* “Aromatherapy treatment of behavior and emotional disorders,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., Stokes, T., Aromatic Thymes, Winter 1999 Volume 6.4.
“Aromatherapy Treatment of Psychological Disorders,”, Sheppard-Hanger, S., Stokes, T., presented Australian Aromatherapy Conference, Sydney, 1998, (pic below) and also at the Canadian International Conference on Aromatherapy(CICA), Canada, 1999.


“Collaborative psychotherapy aromatherapy treatment of behavior and emotional disorders: Psychosensory Aromatherapy Research Project”, Sheppard-Hanger, S., Stokes, T., Research Project. University of South Florida, Summer 1997.
* “Super Clone “88 ” Melaleuca alternifolia – what is its value?”, Sheppard-Hanger, S.,Burfield, T., presented at First International Phyto-Aromatic Conference, France, March 2000.
* “Artemesia– a new high azulene oil from the Pacific northwest”- Sheppard-Hanger, S., Pappas, R., presented First International Phyto-Aromatic Conference, France, March 2000.
* “Use of Essential Oils and Natural Products to counter side-effects during Radiation Treatments for Cancer”, Sheppard-Hanger, S., Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy Conference, November, 2000.
“Aroma as a sensory reinforcement to motivate engagement by children with autism,” Poster presented at the 17th Annual Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, New Orleans, Fisher, B.L.c Stokes, T., Mowery, D., Medina, C, McQwown, S. Sheppard-Hanger, S., Bryant, J.B., and dePerczel, M.Y., November, 2000.
* “The Essential Oil of Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehn. From South Florida: A High Cryptone/Low Cineole Eucalyptus,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., and Pappas, R., J. Essent. Oil Res., February, 2000.
“Assessment of the effects of music and aroma on relaxation and animation,” Poster presented at the 27th Annual conference of the Association for Behavior Analysis, New Orleans, LA, Wright, M.F., Wallace, J. Healey, C., dePerczel, M.Y., Sheppard-Hanger, S. and Stokes, T., May, 2001.
“Evaluation of Aromatherapy and Core Curriculum Training,” Sheppard-Hanger, S. and Kirk-Smith, M., International Journal of Aromatherapy, Vol 10, 3/4, 2001.
“Effects of contingent touch and aroma on relaxation by children with developmental disabilities’. Wright, M.F., Sheppard-Hanger, S., & Stokes, T. University of South Florida, Tampa. (2006 in review for publication).
* “Aromatherapy Undiluted- Are We in Denial?,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., NAHA Conference, World of Aromatherapy, Boston September, 2006.
* “Scoliosis – Effective Alternative Methods of Treatment”, 2 Parts, Sheppard-Hanger, S., and McCann, D., website, April, 2009
“Aromatherapy in Afghanistan? UAE expands outreach to Troops in Afghanistan -Update on the United Aromatherapy Effort, Inc.,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., New Zealand Registry of Holistic Aromatherapists Journal, Summer, 2010. (see United Aromatherapy Effort site)

I Will Not Die an Unlived Life Part 2

The word ‘cancer’ encompasses over 200 different diseases, yet when it affects an individual it takes on a greater significance, a different tone, and much more meaning. The day my doctor told me I had breast cancer, she also said it would not kill me, but it would change my life. A diagnosis of cancer is a chance for deep reflection and profound change. It is a balance of hope, optimism, and being realistic. It is about figuring out priorities, understanding relationships, and considering future plans. And she was right. With my cancer, an uninvited teacher had arrived.


I had a lumpectomy in August 1998, after having discovered a lump in my right breast earlier in the Spring. Several weeks later, I underwent removal of lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread. I was lucky, the lymph glands, bone, and liver scans were clear. Only a course of radiation was in order. During the following six weeks, I had radiation treatments 5 days a week, and coped with the physical and mental side effects of extreme fatigue and skin irritation.


Over the last few years I have been able to look back at my own treatment experience from a different perspective. HERE is my account of how aromatherapy helped me cope. You can click HERE if you are interested in the full-story via audio interview with K. G. Stiles.


Many supported me during this time of my life and one particular gift stands out. Robbi Zeck, ND and aromatherapist from Australia gave me a book called “I Will Not Die an Unlived Life” by Dawna Markova. She who wrote the poem of the same name that mentioned in a previous blog. This became my mantra for the years following my cancer. I knew I still had some living to do.


Interestingly enough, there was no research for me to look at back then. Now we have the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information, a summary which provides an overview of the use of aromatherapy and essential oils in improving the quality of life of cancer patients. THIS SUMMARY includes a brief history of aromatherapy, a review of laboratory studies and clinical trials, and possible adverse effects associated with aromatherapy use.


Over the last few years I have been able to look back at my own treatment experience from a new perspective. I am grateful for the experience, for the awareness of better health and habits. I don’t call myself a “survivor”, which promotes something awful happened and keeps it alive, but I choose to be a “thriver”. I don’t support the pink ribbons due to understanding the pinkwashing that goes on. Now 15 years later, I have an exit letter from my surgeon. No more yearly visits, no checking, and certainly no worries. In reality, I forgot about it long ago, fired my oncologist for making me wait 45 minutes, and have released my contract with all negative health issues. This body is healthy and this is my greatest gratitude. Cancer was the greatest teacher, uninvited or not!