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Toe tag or live tag? Facing the fear of the “D” word

Posted Dec 05 2012 11:15am
December 5, 2012 - Posted by tamilb

A sense of humor goes a long way when it comes with our mortality.

I introduce you to Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld, today’s guest blogger. I met Sharon on Linked In through her group, the Cancer Survivorship Coaching Coalition. She calls me the Chutzpah Lady, which given my Jewish background, makes me smile. I think Sharon has a lot of chutzpah herself, given the topic I asked her to cover. Here’s Sharon:

Today I am going to talk about the dreaded “D” word. You know, death and dying. Other phrases are; bought the farm, kicked the bucket, cash in the chips, depart this life, pass away, or in a better place. In the end it all means the same thing. The body stops working. The soul leaves the body, either to live on or ends depending upon your belief system.

No matter what, this subject brings trepidation, fear, anxiety sadness and pain. The reality is we are all going to die at some point. We just don’t know when. It’s not like we were born with a toe tag that has the date engraved on it. So why is it we sometimes live our lives as if we already have the toe tag on?

Simple answer: When we hear the words, “you have cancer” or “your cancer has metastasized,” the “D” word rises up, and we are forced to face it and our own mortality. Most of the time, it’s not on our own terms. We feel like we lost control of our destiny and our how we live our life. So it’s very normal for us to take out that toe tag mindset and put it on.

It’s actually OK to put on the toe tag. Yes, I know that sounds counter-productive and maybe a bit morbid; however death is the NATURAL part of life. It’s OK to talk about death and dying, even though our society is taught not to. By shedding the light on it, we release the darkness around it. It’s all right to take the big “D” out of the closet, into the center of the room and bring it into life. Then and only then can we take big “D” along with the toe tag, put in a box, on the back shelf of the closet and take it out when we need to.

As a life coach, specializing in metastatic cancer, palliative care and hospice, I have seen first hand the toe tag phenomena not only with my clients but in my own life, too. I encourage people to have the “D” conversation with yourself and with others.  Uncover the beliefs, values and experiences around the “D” word and create a lot of awareness about why you are wearing the toe tag. I have found it to be a very healthy step in living.

Then I help people to untie their toe tag and put on their live tag. Yes, the live tag. That is the tag that says, “hey you’re not dead; you’re alive, so live life with emotional well-being.” Put the toe tag on when it’s really time to wear it or when the need to take it out again surfaces. Other than that, choose to wear the live tag. That live tag mindset option is truly available. Gather the support, use your strengths and values and go create a live tag. We do get to design it so it fits with comfort and ease.

Which ever tag is being worn, we can wear it in healthy ways. Here are some quick tips to help:
  • Acknowledge and validate thoughts and feelings. It is a powerful tool that connects to who we are and helps us gain a sense of normalcy and understanding when the toe tag is on. Also find people who can do this, too.
  • Laugh … A LOT! Humor heals and truly helps in wearing a live tag. There is humor everywhere.
  • Learn to see it, allow it in and practice it daily. Turn that frown upside down.
  • Start where you are. It truly is the only place. Take small baby steps by choosing one action step that would make you feel like you were in the driver seat and in control. This helps create the pathway from the toe tag to the live tag.

We have the freedom of choice on either a toe tag or live tag. We even have a choice on how to wear it. The question is … which tag do you really want to wear?

Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld, ACC, CPC, ELI MP, BFA, QBE, is a Certified Professional Life Coach, Energy Leadership Master Practitioner. She is the Head Honcho of GoodGrief Coaching and the co-founder of The Cancer Survivorship Coaching Coalition. She has been published in Coping with
magazine and Breast Cancer Wellness. You can contact her via email or visit her website at

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