Monthly Archives: May 2018

Shannon Villalba an Unsung Hero

Shannon Villalba earned a 2018 Unsung Hero Award from Cancer Family Care. She founded HIME Wellness in Cincinnati, Ohio, to connect complementary health practitioners with those seeking care. With Heidi Bright, 2017 Unsung Hero.

Shannon Villalba was sick for six months before she heard the words, “You have cancer.” As a result of those three words, she resolved that she would hear the words, “You have no evidence of disease.” And she did. Five months later.

Shannon promised herself she would do what it took to help heal her body, so she used a variety of complementary and holistic medicine therapies in addition to traditional chemotherapy and radiation. She says she is grateful this strategy worked for her, and she realized that there are many other patients who could benefit from these strategies as well. She took a look around and noticed that many of these types of practitioners were hard to find. That’s when she decided to create HIME Wellness – Healing through Inspiration, Motivation, and Education.

HIME Wellness is a company that educates the community about holistic and integrative medicine by showcasing the expertise of its practitioner members. Shannon wholly believes it is her purpose in life to assist others with their wellness journeys and to inspire them to help others as well. Together we can make a difference in the way we approach our healthcare today.

She enjoys learning about what types of therapies are available, and connecting the practitioners with those who are seeking their services. Each month she hosts a big event with speakers such as integrative doctors, chiropractors, holistic nurses, physical therapists, and energy therapists. HIME also features demonstrations of various types of therapies.

She says it feels great to see so many people who are open to these types of therapies, and then hearing them say, “This is exactly what I am looking for to help me heal!”

Additionally, at every event, HIME Wellness gives back to various charities such as the Pink Ribbon Girls and the Women’s Health Initiatives Foundation.

HIME also offers classes and resources for those searching for answers.

Shannon clearly loves being able to pay it forward by helping others in any way she can. With the blessing of a second chance at life, she is choosing to live it by serving others. She expresses gratitude because she will never know if something she does makes a difference to someone she’s never met, because the end result is all that matters to her. If someone is inspired and motivated to take charge of his or her own life and health, that’s what she wants.

She says she fully believes that inspiration through motivation and education is the key to eliciting change. The more people know about healthcare therapies, and the more people are motivated or inspired by stories about health journeys, the better we are as a society.

Shannon’s mission is to inspire others through teaching them to take charge of their lives and change them for the betterment of the human race. She does this one step and one day at a time, whether it’s inspiring someone by telling about her own cancer journey, or by connecting someone with a class, a blog post, or a bit of knowledge.

Each day Shannon knows she can accomplish this mission through those she is meant to help, who in turn will help others, and that makes all the difference. Shannon lives the unsung hero honor each day.

Remember the Rachels on Mother’s Day

Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.

Matthew 2:16-18, New Living Translation

Rachel was an early biblical character who died giving birth to her second son. She was buried by the road to Bethlehem. Bethlehem would later become the birth location for a king, according to Matthew’s gospel. And Herod, the jealous and frightened ruler at the time, sent his soldiers to kill all the male infants and toddlers near Bethlehem to remove this new threat. One cannot imagine the kind of imperishable grief such an act would produce on a vulnerable population.

This story is part of the birth narrative of Jesus. When was the last time you heard a preacher talk about this trauma in connection with the nativity story? It seems to me that mothers who grieve their children appear easily overlooked.

The world is full of Rachels who weep disconsolately for their deceased children. My friend Joan just lost her daughter to diabetes.

With the current opioid epidemic, mothers who are cancer patients need to be wary. I was told in 2011 to “stay ahead of the pain,” and was sent home with a month’s supply of what I now realize were heroin pills. Recently I talked with a cancer survivor who also had leftover opioids and a teenaged son at home. I urged her to get a digital lockbox or return the pills to a pharmacy. Even if her son doesn’t find or use them, a friend of his might. Then the treacherous slide into heroin overdose begins.

If I ever doubt myself as a mother fighting for her children, all I have to do is look at this Mother’s Day card my deceased son made for me about ten years ago. I’m seen as firm with my words and my sword… with a kind smile on my face, all centered in a heart glowing with love.

I’m hardly alone. Even my son’s memorial garden was just visited again by Rachel’s weeping. A mother bird in the sweet gum tree had fought valiantly for her eggs, evidenced by the circle of feathers; but her efforts simply weren’t enough. The nest fell to the grass and her babies were hungrily consumed.

Mother’s Day is approaching. Ugh. For me, and for perhaps hundreds of thousands of mothers, this time on the calendar is a terrible reminder of broken hearts and empty arms. Despite all we do, sometimes we still lose our children. Some mothers lose their only children—I know two such women who lost theirs to heroin. I have heard of one woman who lost all three of her children to heroin overdoses. Losing your children is bad enough. Add on the stigma of death to drugs and you have an unfathomable nightmare.

I am most fortunate that one of my brothers will be here and we will spend the day making and eating delicious meals our mother made when we were growing up—a time of innocence. My younger son will get to indulge with us. (He loves to tell me there’s no food in my house.) Foods I typically now avoid, yet that give comfort and solace to an empty heart. Corn fritters, hamburger pie, cheesecake, springerle. I’ll still be weeping for my child, as I do nearly every day, yet with social support I also will have some consolation.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Mothers fight for their offspring, though not always successfully. Many of these mothers are single. It can be such a lonely time, especially with the isolation that can come from losing a child to drugs.

On Mother’s Day, please pray for or send positive intentions to the Rachels everywhere. Those who have suffered heavy losses need comfort and love—a kind word, a simple text, a card—something to let them know they are not entirely alone.

Message in a Cardinal

If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young;

Deuteronomy 22:6, JPS Tanakh 1917

The compassionate act for a hungry person of ancient times was to take only the eggs from a bird’s nest and leave the mother. This created benefits: humans had food and birds could again reproduce, making more human food.

Fortunately I can walk to a store open 24 hours every day and get a variety of foods to eat. I don’t need the eggs in the nest by my porch to satisfy my survival needs.

The cardinal nesting by my side door probably is the one that tried to create a nest on my porch light. Hanging from this light fixture is the beautiful wind chime given to me by Kay so my deceased son could make it sing for me.

Perhaps the mother bird gave up when the door kept swinging open and shut, open and shut. So she moved to the tree next to the porch. As close as she could get without the constant disturbance.

Her nest cradles two eggs. I enjoy seeing her as I walk by.

How did those eggs get out of her little body?

How does she know to sit on her eggs? The sea turtle lays her eggs and abandons them, returning to the sea.

How does she know to leave the eggs alone? If she were human, I imagine she’d be neurotically inspecting the eggs, rolling them around, listening for any sounds.

Nope. She sits calmly, quietly, still as stone. Watching. Waiting. Being.

She makes me wonder about my way of being as a mother. I was anxious, wanting everything to work out perfectly for my two offspring. Instead, one turned to drugs, and three years ago lost his life.

Would I blame the bird if one of her eggs broke, or if a hatchling fell out of the nest, or if a creature ate one? Today I found a broken robin’s egg on my driveway, not five feet from the tree where the cardinal nestles. This is life. These things happen. We do not control outcomes, especially with terrible illnesses like cancer and addiction.

James Hillman (American psychologist, 1926 –2011), in his book The Soul’s Code, calls the inordinate self-blame of grieving parents “the parental fallacy.” It is false to think we have enough control to manage every outcome. We can try and influence, yet ultimately, it is not up to us.

Perhaps this is why the cardinal tried to build a nest right above my son’s wind chime and the robin lost her baby. Maybe it’s a message, like, “It’s not your fault, Mom. You did everything you could. Sometimes terrible things happen. And I am near you now, singing through the wind chime, watching you through the eyes of a bird nesting by your door.”

They are reminders to have compassion for myself, as I have compassion for these mother birds.