Marifran Korb

Life is a celebration.

My Relationship with Cancer … and Creativity.

by on Apr.18, 2015, under Life is a celebration., Overcoming Cancer

Getting a diagnosis of any deadly disease can shut down your creativity. It is easy to be and stay in a shocked state. From my experience, the saying: “Plan for the worst and hope for the best” can be very wise. One needs to be practical. Yet the part about “hope for the best” often gets lost in the fear that comes up with that terrible diagnosis.

The timing for each of us is different in our shifting from fear to hope. Often both are occur simultaneously. The immune system, so important in health, can be lowered by fear. So it seems to me the more often we flip the switch, the better off we are.

Hope alone is a long shot. Most of us want to walk the fine line between whatever one thinks reality is, and what one thinks hope is. My thought is that creativity can help keep both in balance.

When you are creatively self-expressed, you tend to be upbeat and peaceful. Yet, many of us think we’re not creative and tend not to try things. With some friends, I spend an hour a week writing to prompts. This week we wrote to a quote that speaks to creativity: Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. ~ Mary Lou Cook

Anyone can relate to this definition. There are so many forms and so many directions to go with creativity. Most of my life, I believed what I was told … that creativity was just given to those few souls who were famous for their paintings or writings. The message I got was that the rest of us were riff-raft that had to find a way to live the nose-to-the-grindstone life. The feeling I was left with was depressing to the core. Despite myself, most of my life, I was being creative without seeing it as such.

This quote defining creativity includes me. I’m super good with making mistakes. Experimenting and having fun are innate. Teachers hit my knuckles for breaking rules and having too much fun in the classroom. Experimenting was how I learned.

Risk-taking, part of creativity, has run with me since I was an 18 month-old, climbing out of closed cribs and jumping across wide alleys. Breaking my collar bone twice before I was two, did not stop me. Wearing casts for a year, did not slow me down.

Later at age 17, I chose a college I had never seen, in a state I had never been to. Flying alone to Cincinnati that long ago September day, I started a new life where I knew no one.

Continuing to risk, I traveled to and around Europe alone, at age 23, with only a general idea of what countries I wanted see. Everything else had to be invented moment-by-moment. This was a time when, at every border, I had to obtain, learn and use entirely different kinds of money. It was also before the internet and booking long distant hotels. Getting into unforeseen challenges, I learned how to think quickly and create solutions.

For fun, I live life as an adventure. In my business: “Rising to the Occasion” I am a Celebrations Consultant. Some friends call me “Merry Friend,” and “Mary Fun” instead of “Marifran.”

Even difficulty can be greeted with creativity. That is when it is needed most. Challenges are opportunities for growth. My most recent CT scan was last December, and it had grown a little more. That was discouraging, given the many things I am doing to shrink the tumor. Still, I walk the fine line between hope of being free without surgery and the danger of the tumor spreading. For me, there are multiple dangers of a three-hour surgery that make it not an option. My reality includes the “damned-if-I-do” and “damned-if-I-don’t” predicament. Doctors offer only surgery as an option, despite admitted low chance of surgery survival. Living with cancer does not stop me from living creatively doing all I can for my physical and emotional health. Looking at the present and the past, I notice that I have invented a life that I cherish.

If your early experience around the topic of creativity was unhealthy like mine, examine what creative outlets you use regularly. Do you recognize how creativity flows out of you? Look at what other ways you might want to self-express. Knowing that creativity takes many forms, how does “… inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun” contribute to your life? How can it support you in challenging times?

Feel free to write your response to the questions in the comments section below on the blog.

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My Relationship with Cancer, Part 10

by on Jul.20, 2012, under Life is a celebration., Overcoming Cancer

After two years of living with cancer, and overcoming the physical challenge of losing weight and the emotional challenge of overcoming fears, I set a destination celebration that would test me to the core. What I chose was akin to aiming for the distant stars.

With my daughter Ilona, I planned an 18-day independent trip to Italy’s hill towns. For a long time I have wanted to go, and I figured I wasn’t getting any younger. It was a test of strength to stand up to the cancer and to defy life-long lung damage.

From a trip to Italy seven years ago, I knew what I was in for. Among a few Italian cities we visited, the so-called “hill” town of Siena was one. More accurately, it was a mountain town.

You may wonder: Why walk when you can drive? The only cars and motor cycles allowed are ones belonging to the towns folk. And yes, the police know immediately if you are a local or not. They will find you and ticket you, even if you are from a different country. As a non-local, you can drive to the town. Then, you have to park at the foot of the hill and walk up, and up, and up. In Siena it felt like my lungs would explode, even while I was moving at a sloth’s pace.

Knowing what I was up against, I trained on a treadmill from January to May 2012. No stranger to the treadmill, I’ve been walking on it for years at the lowest level. Due to the pre-condition of serious COPD, that is all I thought I could, or should, do.

Twenty years ago, I told my pulmonary nurse that I planned to expand my lungs through vigorous walking and exercising. Kindly and gently, she told me that my lungs “do not do the whole alphabet.” “Your lungs,” she told me, “only go from A to B. You cannot expand your lungs.”

In spite of the advice, I continued to climb steps, walk fast and lift weights. Regularly, I go to a gym. So when I knew I was facing and embracing almost vertical hills, I set goals to see if I could go beyond my most recent best efforts. Each day I pushed myself for a few minutes more on the next highest level on the treadmill. By the time the month of May came, I had moved as far as the treadmill goes. Besides walking a few minutes a day at level ten, I did not go lower than level eight. It was very strenuous for me. Still, I was not sure it was enough.

Level ten on the treadmill was nothing compared to the hills I climbed. They were equally as vertical as Siena. Fortunately, Cordova, Orvieto, and Perugia have escalators to get into the towns. Once inside, only your legs will get you up the steep streets within the town.

As a result of my work, I made it up ALL the slopes in the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria. It was slow and steady. Usually, Ilona insisted on going slow with her mother, the turtle. Once, I sent her ahead so she would possibly see the Rocca Maggiore Castle before it closed. It was situated at the highest hilltop in the precipitous town of Assisi. Eventually, I got there, though it was already closed for both of us.

Assisi has buses. Yet, those buses only go so far. There still remain at least half the hilly streets where buses do not go.

Ilona and I walked up the arduous streets and alleys of Volterra, San Gimignano, Cortona, Orvieto, Perugia, Spello, Spoleto and Assisi. And, we spent a day in each of two easier walking cities of Milan and Bologna. When we enjoyed two days near Rome, one at Hadrian’s Villa and another at Villa D’Este, both had innumerable steps. Yet these two days seemed less strenuous compared to the hill towns.

Travel is invigorating. We experienced sights we cannot see anywhere else, foods we cannot eat anywhere else, and met people we cannot meet at home.

While I ingested lots of pasta, gelato, and wine, I did not gain a pound. All that walking and climbing paid off. Yes, I went off my sugar free diet for cancer, but it was only 18 days.

Besides the ancient towns, the medieval buildings, the art museums, and the sensational scenery, we loved the people we met in Italy. On every trip, we meet people from all over the world. With our limited knowledge of Italian words, we connected briefly with some who speak no English. The language of love really is universal.

Some memories include Ilona and I surviving a level 6 earthquake and two aftershocks that happened at 4 AM on May 20. We were in a modern hotel that withstood the quake. Most homes and hotels evacuated people immediately. some people died. Two weeks later on May 29, a second earthquake occurred in that same area. At the time, we were safely in Assisi, about 120 miles away. Sadly, the epicenter was turned to rubble. Thousand year-old homes, museums, and churches were destroyed entirely.

Other memories include facing the fact that we did not like the hotel in Assisi as much as we expected. So we arranged to go back to Orvieto, where we were the happiest. It was there that we excitedly and cheerfully talked politics with like-minded couples from four different states all at once.

We enjoyed the many kindnesses of B&B owner in Orvieto. On returning, we were treated like royalty. When we left, the owner and his staff lined up to hug us and wish us farewell.

Another experience was staying up to wee hours drinking wine and limoncello with an English speaking couple from Belgium. For several nights, we had animated discussions on their culture and ours. Now we have a standing invitation to visit them. They are invited to visit us. Meanwhile, we stay in touch by email. Cheers to them, and to all the delightful people we met.

It required patience and perseverance to prepare mentally and physically for that journey. It was a personal triumph for me to overcome every challenge and to scale those hilly mountains.

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