Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur

Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur
Valerie Anne Burns

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

From Cancer Turmoil to the Sublime Gift of Italy

From Cancer Turmoil to the Sublime Gift of Italy

As breast cancer awareness month began to wind down as I just returned home from Italy, I felt compelled to write something. This last several years has been tumultuous, exhilarating, grueling and beauty-filled. 

Surviving cervical cancer in my late 20's (curing myself holistically) and following a healthy path since, genetic breast cancer still caught up with me decades later. It made me think of my mother dying so young of breast cancer (I was age three) during a time when there was little support. It must have been so lonely for her. When I was diagnosed with a tumor in each breast, (5% category) my ordeal was launched. No one could've imagined (least of all me) that following a radical double mastectomy, I'd end up with a staph infection in the breast (due to genetic autoimmune) and more surgeries ensued with a 2nd staph infection that could've sent me to the other side. 

Through all of it, and at times, wondering if I would survive, I sought moments of magic and beauty, kept writing (surprise acceptance & scholarship to Prague Summer Writing Program); continued surgeries and recoveries, relied on my indomitable spirit and a few close friends (indomitable spirits themselves) for counsel, love and support; continued to focus on time for writing/blogging even when I was foggy brained or not, and found myself with a book and (after four-years) on the other side of breast cancer. 

I received a surprise gift when I was awarded a beautiful mermaid (ironic since 'mermaid' is within title of my book) healing retreat by I wrote a blog about my experience in Mexico with this important and special nonprofit organization, which was posted on SMOV's website and developed a special connection with the founder/director, Cathy Backus. Several months later, found myself invited to be an alumnus to attend the retreat in Cortona, Italy (Tuscany) as both mentor and facilitator where I'd share my workshop, "Healing and Living in Color". 

While my breast cancer journey was brutal (as it is for most women going through this), creating beauty and purpose became a drive to keep inspired and engaged in life. If my raw words of truth and the ways I found grace throughout, resonates or makes anyone feel less alone in their own challenging journey, then I have achieved what I'd hoped to. A first step in launching into this, was the honor and privilege of sharing time, as well as my workshop with the remarkable, engaging, and fun women at our SMOV retreat in Cortona where we stayed at the beautiful Resort and Spa.

When I received that fateful call that my round trip ticket was sponsored by a kind supporter of SMOV who donated miles, I knew that I was literally manifesting dreams from my writing in real time. One of my greatest visions was to be back in Italy once again after an extended stay in Europe as a 19 year old on a fashion/design study trip. I'd spent six weeks in Italy and felt so at home that I held the lofty dream of returning regularly. Life took many turns but the opportunity finally came into my life decades later. From Cortona, my adventures took me to Florence (where I spent my birthday), Lucca, Barga, Pietrasanta and then two-weeks in the glorious Liguria region on the coast where I stayed in Trebiano and ventured to many old villages and squares, Cinque Terre, and colorful fishing villages.

Sublime memories create powerful visions to hold close and recall whenever I choose to--A perfect way to 'live and heal through color'. Thank you, SMOV, Universe, as well as gratitude for my own strength, faith, and drive for truth and creative beauty.

Stay tuned: More on my many Italian adventures in the next blog.

Keep on swimming through life,

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Written Word Manifesting in Real Time

Written Word Manifesting in Real Time

Photo of me in Florence at age 19

Writing essay after essay without ever thinking it would become a book has finally brought me to a final draft... as much as one can ever really reach a final draft. Years ago, when I was in a writing group, two of my co-writers generously gifted me the book, "Bird By Bird" knowing it would give me hope. I just couldn't cope with the idea of managing an entire manuscript. Thinking of writing in terms of frame-by-frame felt doable.

After my acceptance and scholarship to the Prague Summer Writing Program in July 2016, I gained the confidence to believe I had a book, albeit raw and in need of many reincarnations. What I learned from the instructors who were all published writers, English professors and artists-in-residence is immeasurable. One of the instructors (famous author) described an essay I work shopped as a piece about a woman day-dreaming and night-dreaming through life. Indeed.

I wrote through 8 surgeries, 8 recoveries and 8 moves while going through 4-years of breast cancer and complications. The writing gave me purpose. Devoted writing proved to be exhilarating, exacerbating, cathartic, maddening and rewarding... sometimes all at once. 

Throughout the book, I demonstrate that while I've been swimming through harrowing waters as far back as a toddler, I am, and continue to be a seeker of beauty. There is longing for passion and romance; to live life as if it were a movie. I speak about my experience of being in Europe for a 2 1/2 month fashion study trip at the age of 19. When I was in Rome and Florence, it was the first time I felt at home. It was also the first time I had a cappuccino and a ritual I've cherished ever since. I realized that I'd never felt 'at home' in my own family home but in Italy, I flourished. Back then, in a dreamy youthful state, I thought I'd live a fabulous creative life in Manhattan and travel to Europe every year. Life has a life of its own leading us down paths we did not anticipate

Decades later, with a final draft just sent back to my editor that will be put into a Pdf so that I am ready to take the next step toward the daunting world of publishing, I'm off on an adventure to Italy. It's dawned on me that I'm literally manifesting desires I write about in my book. 

I head to Milan today and make my way to Cortona as a mentor and facilitator for a breast cancer survivor retreat. I will be sharing a workshop that I created titled, "Living and Healing Through Color" developed from my background in fashion/design, writing and my own experience with a health ordeal. I'd been awarded a retreat with sendmeonvacation,org to the Caribbean of Mexico August, 2018 and it was so lovely and transformative. 

Since then, I became friends with the founder/director, Cathy and wrote a blog for them describing my experience, which they posted on their site. Several months later the idea of being an alumnus was presented to me and everything just magically fell into place, including a supporter of the organization donating miles for my round trip ticket. I'm staying a month and will spend my birthday in Florence. It's an amazing gift.

I intend for this adventure to be the beginning of my 2nd book. Although I brought my laptop to my friend's place where I'm staying overnight, I'm leaving it behind. I will be schlepping on planes and trains and realized it's too damn heavy and cumbersome. Instead, I'll journal, take notes. But mostly, I'm going to immerse myself in the ambience and culture and let go of sitting in front of the screen.

On another note, I also write about being a hopeless romantic who longs for passion but rarely finds that ever-illusive connection, Sparks. Self conscious after breast cancer and many surgeries, aging rapidly, and isolated about a month ago and out-of-nowhere the stars lined up in a very particular way for a very particular man to land in my orbit. Younger, worldly, passionate, intelligent and confident he catapulted me out of my traumatized stupor. While it's unlikely this will be a true partnership and relationship for many reasons, it's a gift from the heavens and an awakening of my true self.

I return to California on October 21st and once settled, I will take a look at the journaling and note taking I'll do in Italy so I can launch into a 2nd book of creative non-fiction. 

I feel so blessed that I am manifesting dreams I write about in my book where it's jumped from my imagination into real time. I am also grateful that I stuck with the writing even though I wanted to give up at times since writing (writing well) is the hardest work I've ever done. What I've envisioned for this new chapter in my life (on the other side of a life-threatening ordeal) is not just getting published but to be launched into public speaking and sharing my work shop. My only wish is that my raw honest words resonate with those who've gone through their own choppy waters so that they might feel less lonely and deeply supported. 

I wish for all of us to be manifesting our hearts desires in real time.

Cortona, Italy where SMOV retreat will be held

Keep on swimming through life,