Today I am grateful for working heat in our house and for quiet solitude in the early morning.

NEIGHBORHOOD is a word that first brings to mind the neighborhoods I have lived in. I think of the farm I grew up on and our neighbors down the road or through the field. We had some distance between us but could still hear one another's dogs barking. I think about the six years I had my own apartment in Spencer, Iowa where I was teaching. I liked the neighborhood because across the street was open space and a park, and the Little Sioux River flowed nearby. It was my longest place of residence in my adulthood prior to our current home. It's part of my history. We appreciate our current neighborhood because it is a friendly and safe one, and puts us across the street from a nice trail and open space.

The word neighborhood also gets me thinking about my mind as a neighborhood. Is it a safe place? Am I in good company there? It is a legitimate question for those of us in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions. A humorous but accurate phrase you will sometimes hear is "My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I never go in there alone." That reminds me to consider the importance of not isolating and also of seeking a Higher Power who can help make the dark corners of my mind more livable.

When I first read Dr. Susan Love's description of how cancer develops, and she used the term "neighborhoods," I was intrigued.  It was an interesting way to describe what researchers are learning about cancer. Here is a brief description from the Dr. Susan Love's Research Foundation website at

Cells & Their Community
For a cancer to occur a cell has to "mutate" and its behavior has to change. We used to think that was all it took. But we now know that this is not enough by itself to create cancer. The mutated cells are in a neighborhood of other cells—fat cells, immune cells, blood, etc.—known collectively as the stroma. If these cells are all well behaved, they will have a good influence on the mutated cell, which will coexist peacefully with them, and no disease will occur. But if the neighborhood is not so "law abiding" and stimulates or at least tolerates bad behavior, there may be trouble. The combination of the mutated cells and the stimulating, or tolerant, neighborhood will create breast cancer. 

Cancer remains mysterious, but it seems that progress is being made in solving some of the mystery. I am grateful for researchers and experts like Dr. Susan Love and what they are learning. Some day, maybe we will know for sure what constitutes a bad neighborhood and how to avoid it and therefore prevent cancer. In the meantime, I will do what I can to try to have healthy neighborhoods in my body. Exercise. Take Vitamin D. Drink lots of water. Be mindful. Practice gratitude. Take tamoxifen. Stay in recovery. Eat more healthy foods.

My body, heart, and soul share neighborhoods. They are not separate. Their wellness is interdependent, so my actions and practices need to be as well.

What do you think of first when you think of your body's neighborhoods? What can you do today to make a difference in their health?