Vulnerability and Telling More of a Story


Coming to understand myself and the “whys” behind my beliefs about the world and the people in it has always been of interest to me.  I am also just as interested in others and their stories. As I tend to be rather curious and analytical, I have often been told that I “would make a good counselor.” I am not sure that it is truth, but I do see that I am willing to look in the mirror and find the connections with others and the correlations of experiences. It requires us all to be more vulnerable.

Recently, I have begun to “look” beyond some of the issues that have presented in my life. They seem to be inter-connected in so many ways.

It has been more than two decades since I have truly done anything to “celebrate” the Christmas holidays in my home. There have been some moments where one may have seen a glimmer; however (for the most part), it has been non-existent. I have cooked or helped to cook the holiday meals elsewhere, but it was never the same. Much of the time, I went to a restaurant for a meal…sometimes with a friend, sometimes alone.

“Hoarding,” or just Scared?

This past summer I began to open up and admit to “shutting others out.” The easiest way for me to do this was to not deal with clutter in my home.  This way, I did not allow others into my space.

I could have let others into my home, but there would have been some who would have been judgmental and then  would have told others how awful it was…I was.  Some would have accused me of being “a hoarder,” likening me to the extreme hoarders featured on the television show.

Truth be told, I bought into those visions of myself. I did not see reality, but saw myself through the judging eyes of others. So, I shut down not only from others, but myself.

One of the things that I would never have been able to tolerate is the filth of rotting foods, the scampering of rodents, and the other horrors that are sensationalized with the show.

Yet, the piled-up, unpacked boxes from previous moves kept me from “LIVING” in my home and accepting others into my home to celebrate life, friends and family, and the holidays we share throughout the year.

Preparing to Die

I moved into my current townhouse in September 2013, preparing to die. It was a year-and-a-half earlier that I was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs)/Carcinoid cancer, and told by an Army Lt. Col. and surgeon that I “…(had) six months to a year, two…if lucky.”

So, when I moved, I truly believed that I had less than a year to live. That being the case, why unpack?

Looking back, I understand the ideas or thoughts and how they manifested in the way that they did. But I also recognized that how I choose to look at my life and what I think, believe or do is MINE to choose, despite what others will tell me, think of me, or treat me.

Starting to Live Again

This summer, I have started to “let go” of the accumulation. I am unpacking and donating items that I no longer need to friends, family, and organizations.  I am beginning to see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.  It has much less to do with the condition of my home, but the condition of me and my view of life and the people in it.

I call this my “Clutter Project.”  I am facing my inner turmoil around letting others see who I am on the inside, which is difficult. It is not easy to be vulnerable. It is not easy to be open, knowing that there will be some who will act in judgement, and then reject and abandon. It is downright painful, and then very tempting to pull back and shut down even more deeply.  It is not easy, and their is so much more to do, but I have started.

This is where the choice to keep moving forward is so important. Trusting when it is scary to do so.

I have allowed two trusted friends to see the chaos on the inside of me and in my home. Each has been invited to dine with me, including Thanksgiving Dinner. Two other friends have come over (separately.)

There was an online friend from Australia who stayed with me for a week this month.  We had only spoken by phone for an hour total (two calls) in the 18 years that we had “met” online.

Last week, I committed to hosting Christmas Day dinner here in my home. It will not be formal, but rather informal. There will be seven of us for certain, and maybe a total of three more.  I must admit that I am a bit anxious about it.

Since I have opened up about my struggles to one of my sisters, and to my best friend (BK), each has shown me so much love and support.  The relationship between my sister and I has strengthened in ways I never imagined, and it is much more authentic than
any other relationship that I have had with a family member.

If not for BK’s help in going through things here in my place these past five months, I would feel paralyzed. She has been here to help me as I push through the process in my own way. She and I (together) are learning our own lessons of telling our stories, and listening with more love. Of course, it requires us to be truthful with one another, but more importantly…truthful with the person in the mirror.

So, Christmas get-together at my place!

I will likely invite others over during the season between now and the New Year holiday. It is getting easier to allow people that I know care and who are not going to walk in judgement of me into my home…into my heart. I am also confident that if I felt there were others who would walk in and look down their noses, I would be gracious enough to offer a coffee, but cut the time short.

Keep telling your story

I know my story. I know the characters in the story, up to this point in my life. I understand how the story has been written, but I also know that there are twists and turns in every story, and that we never know how any story will end.

Is it not wonderful that we get to write more chapters and change the direction of the plot of our stories? We find other characters along the way. When the story is all-told, as we come to the end, it is a far different story than we expected.

I am grateful to all who have become part of my life. I thank each for taking time to read and “listen” to more of my story.  I appreciate all who have shared their stories with me.

And I look forward to continuing the journey.

(Note:  Edited from original post by the author, “There is always MORE to the story, if one is willing to listen to the storyteller” written and published on 13 December 2017 at


¡Viva la cebra!

I have been auditing a Spanish class this quarter, not to receive a grade but simply to learn. It has been decades since I have studied the language. We have our final exam on Thursday. It is difficult to believe that the quarter is over.

Yesterday, our final project was to be delivered.  It had both a written and oral component. Orally, we were to deliver it from memory, not read it.

We were to tell a story of “Una Fiesta.” It was to be in third person, in past tense. and between two and four minutes in length, using vocabulary and concepts that we have learned these past 10 weeks.

At the last minute and with my professor’s permission, I decided to do it a little differently than what I might have first considered. I pushed myself to tell a true story. My story. So, I did not write it until Monday night, which made memorization of it more difficult, considering the words I would have to research and speak.

I began by passing out “Zebra Awareness” ribbons that I made the night before. It actually gave me some time to get comfortable. One might say it was a “stalling technique.” (There are some effective strategies that I have learned as a presenter over the years!) At the end of the speech, I passed out information sheets with symptoms, misdiagnoses, and websites for more information on Neuroendocrine Tumors (Carcinoid Cancer).

This was my first “speech” that I have delivered in Spanish. Though it was not long, and it may not have been completely understandable to the other first-year college Spanish students who had to suffer through my stumbles and less-than-perfect pronunciation,  I completed it, and I was able to plant the seed of awareness for eight more people.  That was as important to me as writing and speaking this message in Spanish.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tres meses antes, la mujer de 56 años escuchó palabras que nadie debería escuchar.

“Lo siento, pero tienes el cáncer carcinoide neuroendocrino de la Etapa 4 en todo su sistema. No hay quimioterapia ni cura.”

El doctor continuó y dijo: “Tienes seis meses o un año.”

Nada la preparaba para esas palabras. Era surrealista. Se sentía afortunada de estar, pero tenía pocas esperanzas de vivir hasta el final del año con este raro cáncer, representado por una cinta de cebra.

Ella planeó su fiesta de cumpleaños final en agosto en su restaurante italiano preferido. Ella invitó a 200 personas. Por supuesto, no todos podían estar allí, pero 40 invitados celebraron a su amiga. Una amiga, a quien no había visto en 20 años, la sorprendió volando desde California para cenar con ella.

Todos los invitados comieron ensalada, pasta y pizza. Bebieron vino. Se rieron juntos y disfrutaron de la noche.

La mujer no murió en seis meses ni en un año. Ella no murió en dos años. Esa noche fue hace más de cuatro años y medio.

Yo soy esa mujer. Soy una cebra. Y estoy viviendo CON cáncer, no muriendo de él.

¡A la vida!  ¡Viva la cebra!

(To read the English translation, click here.)


Time Runs Away with Me

00clocktimeFliesI am never quite sure to where time runs off. It has been nearly six weeks from my last post, which was not my own post, but a share of another’s blog.  I really need to become better at consistency wherever I write, and in whatever I do.

I also realized that I failed to share the outcome surrounding the issue I shared two months ago in When Things Become Too Familiar.  

I did, indeed, go to University of WA Medical Center for an MRI, and blood work. It was three months earlier than what the year out was to be.  All the results came back and there were no surprises.  Everything was relatively stable (again) after the nine months.

The liver lesions show virtually no growth and there a no new detectable lesions or new tumors in my system. My blood work came back as normal, though the levels in the Serum Serotonin and the Chromogranin A are elevated, as usual in someone living with carcinoid cancer/neuro-endocrine tumors.

So, the question becomes, “Why?” The attack that I had could be attributed to lesions in my intestine, healed from when they did the resection. Or it could be due to the one thing that I noticed on the report that I have never seen or paid attention to before:  Gallstones.

I have had no other issues since my June issue, which concerned me, other than the “normal” pains and symptoms that I deal with living with this condition.

Sometimes, I get a bit frustrated, angry, depressed, and whiny about them, but I try to get through those moments as quickly as I can. I do not want to ever beseen as someone who cannot deal with whatever life throws my way.

Thankfully, I have a couple of trusted friends with whom I can be honest, and let them see the overly-human person.  Although it is not pleasant for them, I am grateful that they accept me, love me, and (even) reach out to me in those moments.

With August right around the corner, my goal is to write daily.  To all who read me, thank you for your continued support.


When Things Become Too Familiar

carcinoidAbout four years ago, I began to have some episodes that I allowed to pass without consulting a physician.  I was able to explain them away.

In April 2012, however, I found myself in the emergency room (ER) with an intestinal blockage, and thus began my journey with a new knowledge of what was going on with me.  I had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Carcinoid Cancer/Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs).

The reality of the matter is that I had been living with this for years, probably several decades. The difference was that now I knew about it.

Knowledge can be a wonderful thing.  It can also be something that we want to ignore, because what we know is not always pleasant.  Then we make a choice to turn away, or face it head on.  It is not an ideal that I always care to visit.

This weekend, I had a situation that was way too familiar to me. In fact, it is the second of episodes I have had in the past few months, with similar symptoms to what I experienced several years ago.

As much as I would like to “ignore it and hope it goes away,” I chose to write to my specialist and explain the situation.  I suggested that we not wait until September for my next CT scan and follow-up appointment, which would have been a year since my last. I am awaiting a response.

I do not relish the idea of the possibility of having to go through more surgery, but I recognize that it may be necessary. I also realize that I have to face my life head-on, though sticking my head in the sand would be easier in some ways.  Unfortunately, by ignoring it, I cannot guarantee that it will go away.

I have to keep reminding myself that I am LIVING with this disease.  That will require me to be ever-vigilant in paying attention to what my body tells me, and not letting my mind lie to me.  That is one familiar behavior I do not need to repeat.

Three Years Ago Sadness But Today a Different Story

chinese-675117_640Today, I give you short and sweet.

It was Carl Jung who said, “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” 

Three years ago was a very bleak time for me and for those who were closest to me. Much has transpired over these three years.

Yet, in the midst of the darkness came a flicker of light, which was not able to be extinguished. And for that, and the wonderful people in my life, I am truly grateful.

I invite you to read these other two posts to hear more of the story: Three Years and Continuing to Make Memories and Suicide: The Night I Took My Life.

“We all have a personal pool of quicksand inside us where we begin to sink and need friends and family to find us and remind us of all the good that has been and will be.” ~~Regina Brett

Can You H#$% Me?

HELPWhy is it that people have so much trouble asking this question?

You know…the “H” question.

So many people avoid the utterance of the H-word like the plague.

Yet, they will freely litter their communication with S-words, B-words, C-words, R-words, and N-words.  Of course, some also use every variation of the F-word known imaginable to man. I cannot discount the fact that the well-placed F-bomb can be highly effective.  But we will leave that for another day.


Does spelling out this four-letter word make it easier for you to say?

Asking for help is not always easy, especially for those having been raised that it is a sign of weakness to do so.

Perhaps, early life lessons were taught that one should never “owe” another, so receiving any help obligates someone for life?

One must know the difference between need and want. The intention must not be to purposefully manipulate others to take advantage of them and their generosity. It requires humility, honesty, openness, and vulnerability.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when help, support, or assistance is needed. Even though it may be difficult, accepting occasional help is a reminder of humanness, and offers healing. It offers a way to show heart from the giver, as well as the receiver.

Yes, HELP is a four-letter word, but the utterance of this word does not mean that shame or guilt must accompany it.

Just like the F-word, it can be quite effective when used properly. Learn how to use it wisely.

Enslaved to Fear

fear-617132_640This weekend I rented the movie 12 Years a Slave, based on an autobiographical account of Solomon Northrup, a free man who was sold into slavery and kept as a slave on the plantations of Louisiana.

Other than being a profoundly well-acted and directed film, which took Oscar’s 2013 Best Picture, Supporting Actress, and Screen Play awards, it was one of the most thought-provoking films I have ever seen.

I appreciate films that make me think and ask more questions.  This film did just that.  It made me wonder about the fear that is in all of us and how we can become the epitome of that which we fear the most.

Of course, it goes back to the age-old notion of the thin line between courage and cowardice, strength and weakness, or sanity and madness, and when I asked this question at my other blog earlier this morning:  Is Fear Your Master?

Fear is often used to manipulate us in order to control us.  We do it to ourselves, and it is often done to us.  Is there a reason for such fear, if it holds us back from experiencing life, as it is intended to be?

These are the many things that are on my mind today.


© 2015 Coral Levang


April 16: Many things to celebrate

word-cloud-680706_640Three years ago today I was in an emergency room.  It began a whirlwind of events over the next 30 days that led to a diagnosis that has drastically changed my life.

April 16th is also the birthday of RGD, someone I have known since 1981. We, too, have had our own whirlwind of events in the 34 years we have known each other. Thankfully, we have remained friends over the years.  He was in the ER with me three years ago, and has been of great support since.

Today, I had an overdue diagnostic mammogram. It had been two-and-a-half years. And, as I waited for the results, I began to allow some fear to creep into my brain. Would this be another diagnosis (my third)?

I found myself planning in those few short minutes.  Planning for the “what if.”   I jump into the until it happens mode.  It is difficult for me to let that go and not concern myself about it unless it happens. It is a subtle difference that makes all the difference in the world.

The good news is that things are fine and I am cleared for another year for breast health. Another small victory to celebrate.

There will be a birthday celebration for RGD, but it will wait for a few days. And there are a few other things that need to be celebrated, like LIFE itself.

As I grow older, it becomes more and more apparent that we need to learn to appreciate each moment, as it comes, instead of our once-a-year habits.

© 2015 Coral Levang


Intuitive Painting Is Much More than Art

Getting through the pain and ugliness that comes with life so that we can get to a point where we might come to understand and feel peace is not an easy journey.  Far too often, we stay stuck in old patterns of behavior or struggle with new ways of thinking.

If we continue to challenge ourselves, we can find moments of peacefulness, but only if we allow ourselves an opportunity to trust. Simply trust.

Trust others. Trust ourselves.

Peace Pain Ugliness 111614

It requires such vulnerability and we often do not know how we can ever open ourselves up to others.  Sometimes, we do not see it coming and we are in the throws of it, before we know it.

We allow someone to see the crack in our armor.  Before we know it, they ask a question that touches the open wound and it begins to seep.

And then we bleed.

Fuck Cancer 111614

Oh, so carefully, that someone begins to dress our wounds, offers us a tissue or a shoulder as we cry, and allows us to be human in a space where we are safe to do so.  Where we feel safe to be ourselves.

It is in these moments that we begin to experience love, connection, and peace. But we must be willing to let go of part of the pain and anguish that life has not just offered us, but dumped on us.

And  we start anew.

Purple Yellow Lilac 111614

We focus on something different.  Something that might bring us some joy. We see the possibilities of what can be by letting go, even for just a moment.

Then we share our laughter, the gifts of new-found friendship and a bit more peace that when we begin.  And we begin to realize what it is

…to have some fun.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you would like to “awaken your creativity, empower your life, (and) come play,” read below!

Credits:  All photographs and artwork shared above are owned by the author, created on 11/15/2014 at an Intuitive Painting workshop at Artful Dreamers Studio in Tacoma, Washington offered by Creative Coach Nadine Hamil.

To learn more about Nadine, Artful Dreamers Studio and the Intuitive Painting workshops and other creative classes offered,  or to signup for a workshop, check out the following links:

My Artistic Journey Continues

In Why I Have Hated Creating Art and What I am Doing About It, I shared about my trepidation toward things creative, especially as it is associated with painting and drawing.

FinalTransformational Painting: I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar showed the process for the first painting I have ever painted that I can remember.

I have also dabbled in other art and creative forms–glass, jewelry, crochet, and more. Each time I try something new, I walk in with such fear.  But it is a way for me to explore and learn what I find to be most enjoyable for me.

A week and a half ago, I took a workshop in Mixed Media with Nadine Hamil of Artful Dreamers Studio.  I have not yet finished the project.  The fact is that I barely started, but my goal is to work with Nadine and finish the piece before the end of the year month.

I have signed up to take an all-day retreat this Sunday, called “Intuitive Painting” with Nadine, who claims:

There is not a right or wrong way, no judgment and no criticism. When you let your intuition takes over, true creativity is allowed to bloom.

ANYONE and everyone can paint. If you can hold a paint brush you can paint! When you have no idea what you are doing… it is wonderful… That means you have let go of the mind… you are in the present moment touching the space in you that allows creativity to move through you.

She also asks her workshop participants to “LET chaos in and see what appears in your painting, (opening up to) a spiritual experience.”

As I look forward to this workshop in three days, I do so with some fear.  Nadine asks me to let this chaos in.

Chaos has always seemed to be a part of my life. I seem to have been born into it, am accustomed to it, and I have most often felt a need to control the chaos that comes from within.  It was a way for me to survive life and all that gets thrown back.

Perhaps, this intuitive painting workshop will be a way for me to release the chaos onto canvas.

Whatever the process becomes for me, Nadine has been placed in my path for me to learn DSCN0306something about myself that I have not yet discovered.  She is a kind, loving, gentle leader who accepts me exactly as I am. I embrace this challenge, though it is certainly difficult for me, because I trust her.

Perhaps you are interested in exploring more of your creative energy.  If you are and you are in Western Washington, I hope you will join us on Sunday.  For more information or to register for the retreat or any other of her classes, contact Nadine Hamil at:  or sign up at the website

And the journey continues…