The 5 Things I Learned About My Mid-Winter Slump

1.Acknowledge and Accept It

It’s official. I have fallen into my annual mid-winter slump. I don’t think in the past I named it as such or even realized it was a slump but I know it is and it happens like clockwork. 

The definition of a slump in this case is more about mood, lack of energy and motivation.

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 My husband says I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and I should get a lamp. 

Admittedly the light does affect my mood. I am always hungry around 5:00 pm. “Why isn’t my husband home yet for dinner?!!!” I look at the clock. Only another 2 hours to go.

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Hmmm. It’s dark. It’s cold. I could easily eat and slip in bed before 8 (though I don’t).

 

 

 

2. Talking about it helps. Knowing others feel the same way, helps.

I find myself unmotivated. It’s cold out, or it’s snowing or worse it’s rain and ice. Easier to just stay inside.

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I surf the web. On and off throughout the day. “It’s research,” I tell myself and research sounds important, right? Right.

I have notes all over the place with ideas for the future, ideas for blogs and other projects I might do. I am generating the ideas but lacking in execution.

I overwhelm myself to the point I don’t do anything on my list.

The brainless stuff that needs to be done around the house gets done, because it doesn’t take a lot of thought or real effort and I am just going through the motions.

Maybe it is a little bit like a crash and burn scenario.

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The Fall is so busy after the kids go back to school and I go into overdrive. There are social engagements, activities and just a lot of catching up to do. Before I know it, Thanksgiving is around the corner. There is the planning for the boys to come back home and cooking for the big meal. Christmas and New Years are next and there is this flurry of activity that lasts for quite a while. January comes, the boys go back to school and all of a sudden it is quieter, darker, colder. The slump slowly sets in.

3. Learn something from it.

People talk about setting New Years Resolutions and I think maybe February is a good time to really think about what to do next. Why set lofty goals in the frenzy of all the activity only to fall off the wagon when the slump hits?

Last year, I had an especially brutal slump. I was executing part of my new plan for the year, which resulted in being alone often. It wasn’t that the plan wasn’t good but it was the unplanned “side effects” of the plan that caused me distress.

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What I came to realize is that I need activity; the more activity, the better. I also need to be around people. My slight emotional breakdown led me to making a new and better plan.  I thought long and hard about what type of change would make me happier. I grabbed a piece of paper and started writing a list (yes, another list) of pros and cons of my current situation. This was my first step to making a big, big change.

4. Change it Up

If you embrace your slump, it might help you think about why you feel the way you do. What works for you and what doesn’t? How might you change your situation.? As I started to evaluate my life (in last year’s slump), I realized that unless I made some adjustments, my situation would not change. I decided to work through all my fear and make a life change that was emotional and scary but would lead to a happier existence. This change would involve packing up my life (and my house) and moving from the suburbs where I had lived half of my adult life to the big city. A city would provide me with a new energy, a shot of excitement and a new outlook. My change has given me what I hoped for. But it is still a work in progress, as I have found myself again in a mid-winter slump so will need to continue to make adjustments.

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Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

5. Be Grateful

Slumps are tough. We get stuck and often in our own way. It is easy to feel sorry for ourselves or just be plain cranky. We are human and those feelings are normal. I try to  acknowledge my feelings and then remind myself of all the good in my life.

Many people I have loved are no longer here to ponder a mid-winter “slump”.

I think back to my tough times and it helps me put things in perspective. There is always much to be grateful for. I let my thoughts help guide me into a better state of mind.

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

It might be nice to be in a warmer climate during the dark, cold days of a northeast winter and maybe some day that will be part of the plan, or maybe it won’t. If not, I will make some adjustments to lessen the effects of the inevitable slump.  

I haven’t been able to write for weeks. Actually, I have written but it has all ended up as many crumpled pieces of paper in the trash. Today maybe this is step one of helping me out of the slump. This article made it to the publish pile.

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Posted in life, motivation, Resilience, roadblocks, writers block | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Top 5 Blog Posts 2017

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A big thank you to all those who have followed and read my blogs this year. I never expected to get the reception that I have and it means so much to know my writing has connected with and touched you in some way.

This year I had over 16,000 hits with over 4,000 readers from 73 different countries. It always amazes me to see readers from countries such as Bulgaria, Taiwan, Romania and Saudi Arabia to just name a few. My most read blog posts have been because of you, sharing with others. The more you share, the more reach for my blog and the addition of new followers. The Dana Farber Cancer Institute lists my blog on their website and undoubtedly the majority of reads outside of the U.S. come from their sharing. Others this year have shared on their sites as well. My blog post called “25 Life Lessons From a Cancer Survivor” was written in 2016 and then shared by other sites in 2017, which resulted in it becoming the #2 most read post of 2017 and the most read post of all time.

Here are the top 5 posts for 2017

#5 Ladybugs, Trucks and College Graduation, Oh My!

#4 The Big Move. Saying Goodbye to Our Childhood Home

#3 I Outlived My Doctor. Now What?

#2 25 Life Lessons From a Cancer Survivor

TOP POST 2017

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#1 Dear Superman

Once again a sincere thank you for all your support and I wish you and your families a happy and healthy 2018!

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My Dog Murray & What He Taught Me

The phone call was the one I didn’t want to make. The tears started streaming down my face as I hung up the phone. I knew it was the right choice, as hard as it was. In an unexpected way, it was my gift to him, sparing him any chance of suffering. He deserved it. He was the best, a real trooper, a member of the family. Honestly we all deserve the chance to not suffer in the end. I can’t do this for my closest friends or family members but I can do this for Murray. I try to not selfishly keep things going for my sake as hard as it is to say goodbye. The decision was gut wrenching at times, doubting myself but trying to remember to put Murray first.

Over the last few years I have been watching Murray turn into a senior dog and I have often wondered how different experience of life would be if I lived it as he did. What got me thinking was watching him age and watching how he handled it all, quite differently from how we might handle. What if we approached life and even aging a little more like dogs do?

Live in the Moment. Enjoy the Journey

Murray loved to just take in the world. He learned to open the car window on his own and take in the world.

 

 

Exercise is the key to good health and longer years

Walk, walk and then walk some more. Up until age 15, Murray walked every day. Twice a day. Long walks. 45 minutes was the average and if he wasn’t ready to go home he would put on the brakes and let you know. He was in great shape (and it didn’t hurt me either). He was muscular and strong.

From now on, every time we walk our favorite route we will think of Murray by our side.

 

 

Play and be social 

Murray loved to play. From early on he played daily with his best buddy Zeke. I remember them running through the yard together. Murray wasn’t that fast but he was agile. He would duck through the bushes in this way that he always won the race. When Zeke moved away, Murray became more sedentary and that just wouldn’t do so we brought home a new playmate for Murray. We introduced little Melby into the family and a new energy took over. At first, Murray like most big brothers was waiting for her to leave, go back to where she came from. Eventually he realized that wasn’t going to happen and he began to let her grab his long ears in her mouth and he would drag her around. He let her know he was the boss at all times and she was ok with that. The two of them in tow is something I will miss.

 

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Have confidence in yourself, always

Murray was one of the dogs that never let his size or looks define him. He was 20 pounds but lived his life as if he was the biggest and strongest dog on the block. Once, he took down a Bernese mountain dog and dared any big dog to take him on. Nothing rattled him.

 

Don’t hold grudges. Move on.

Despite two major attacks by a neighborhood dog that injured Murray, he shook if off and moved on. For the record, I didn’t.

All those times I stepped on his foot, others pulled his tail or the times in recent months that I dropped him while carrying him outside, he would shake it off and wag his tail and show affection like nothing ever happened.

What would life be like if we could all forgive and move on, I wonder.

Compassion

Murray had this sense when someone wasn’t feeling well. He was only a year old when my mother passed away. She never showed that much affection toward Murray but during her last days he lay next to her on her bed, with her. He did the same for everyone in our family when any of us were feeling sick. He was there. He gave us all comfort.

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Love unconditionally

Murray loved his family and friends. He especially loved those people who were not dog people who would come into my home and keep their distance. The more they did that the more he would great them and wag his tail. He wanted to win everyone over.

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Find a sunbeam, take a nap, wherever

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Age Gracefully 

What would we feel like if we didn’t count the years and let them define us?  Humans often get weighed down with the number. “I am this age and so I can’t do this or that.” Murray didn’t care because he didn’t know. He went full speed ahead. Not always the best idea especially when attempting inappropriate things, as Murray often did. He was convinced he could go down a flight of 13 stairs, which never went well. Attempting to climb the stairs could also be disasterous. But he didn’t let anything hold him back. He was amazing. He would fall in the most horrific way and as I stared down at the bottom of the stairs in shock. I watched him stand up, shake himself off and move on about his day. When we moved into Boston and Murray was losing his sight, he would regularly fall off  the sidewalk or walk straight into a light post (ok some of this is on me) and just shake it off. Every time. He was so resilient.

Sometimes, he accepted help and let us carry him up to bed, in his bed.

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Life is better with a dog and with a family

Murray was with us for a long time, 16 1/2 years. We were so blessed to share so much of our lives with him and it is hard to remember a time without him. Our boys were 5 and 7 when we took Murray into our home. He was so little. They were so little.

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Murray was with the boys through elementary, middle, high school and college.  He grew as we grew. We enjoyed having him in our lives so very much. He always put a smile on our faces, day after day. He was the boy, the man, our friend.

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My arms wrapped around him, I watched him take his last breath. He was at peace. Murray will always have a piece of my (our) heart.

Posted in Resilience | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Dear Superman,

Dear Jack,

I don’t think I have ever met anyone like you. Sure I have met strong, inspirational people but they broke the mold with you. I wish there were more people out there like you. You exhibited incredible strength, compassion, spirit and love.

I liked you the day I met you. There was just something about you. You had this presence and I could tell you were a doer.  I also liked that full head of hair, red shirt and the stylish shoes and socks you were wearing.

I think the turning point for our friendship was when we met for lunch.We had sushi and we talked about you getting involved as a co-chair for a patient family advisory council. We connected on this level only cancer survivors can understand. We talked about our treatments, our families and our fears that we often don’t even talk about with friends or family. You asked me if I thought about when it might be my turn again, when I might succumb to a cancer that could come back. You shared your own fears but it all felt a long way off. I knew as we shared our lunch, we were in it for the long haul and would always be friends.

You told me about your incurable cancer and how you became your own advocate in your fight which had extended your life. Patients need to take control, need to be educated and empowered to manage their care. You were damn sure you were going to get the word out and help patients navigate the often scary and confusing process.

I respected you for your determination and unwavering passion to make things better for patients. Many people would have given up when the going got tough but you never did. Even when people told you to step back, you stayed the course. I was amazed and inspired by your spirit. It was just non negotiable with you. You never gave up.

You taught me that if you want to make a difference, make change, it isn’t easy, it takes a lot of grit and determination and little by little people will start to listen.

You were relentless in your fight, continually looking cancer in the face and saying “I dare you. You don’t know who you are messing with.” It did work for a while, actually more than a while, you defying the odds for 10 years. And then as things seemed to be stable, cancer threw you the biggest curveball of all, a new virulent cancer, totally unexpected and unrelated to your daily fight. You took it on and we all started to get lulled into that place where you actually think mind over matter will work. Hope is so powerful and Jack you were the king of optimism, hope and persistence. You became our Superman. Even as you were regularly undergoing treatment that would give you all kinds of horrible side effects, I would often forget how hard it was physically because you always had a smile on your face. You would push through and would hop on a plane to fly across the world to give a speech to ensure that the patient voice was heard. You were racing against time to fix all these problems you faced and many other patients faced.

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Several times over the last year I told you in many of our conversations that it was ok to not be Superman, even just for a little while. Not to put so much pressure on yourself to be that role model. You didn’t always have to act to tough, so strong, it could be exhausting. We would understand if you took a break.

You agreed but it just wasn’t you.

You never stopped moving.

You lived your days, intentionally. Despite all the noise. You reminded me to try to block out the chaos around me. The twists and turns that are not planned and try to throw me off my game. To stand my ground. Fight for what I believe is right, no matter what. To take in each day and remember how lucky I am to be alive. To live and die gracefully and with courage and resolve.

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Cancer survivors are often inpatient, in a rush to do things, before our time ultimately comes. We stare our mortality in the face. In typical fashion, you worried as your health deteriorated that you would miss the biggest gathering of your friends and family. “Everyone will be there except for me” you said, and so you made sure that party happened while you were still here. The night was a beautiful testament to a wonderful man and a wonderful family. You looked your dapper self and tried to hide your physical pain. I didn’t want to believe that our farewell hug and kiss at the end of the night might be the last.

Here I am again, staring out into the sea of clouds thinking about someone I lost. Fuck you cancer. Fuck you. I have no better words.

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We lost one of the hardest working, most compassionate and driven patient advocates. We lost a loving friend.

Jack, it is our turn to take over. Your work should only inspire us to work harder, in your name, in our name. I will miss our conversations though I can still hear your voice and I believe I will always hear you cheering me on to continue the work you were so passionate about.

You inspired me every day that I knew you and will continue to inspire me for the rest of my days. Your warmth and love shined through and will continue to shine through your family and friends.

I am heartbroken yet inspired to move on with intention. Until we meet again, my Superman, our Superman.

Jack Whelan

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Jack wins PVI Lifetime Achievement Award

Jack Whelan Obituary

Cancer Today Article Jack Whelan

Posted in cancer, Resilience | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

I Outlived My Doctor. Now What?

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This wasn’t supposed to happen. I feel like I was just punched in the stomach. It was his job to make sure I was ok, survived my cancer and lived a long life. He researched all the late effects of my treatments, enrolled me in studies, informed me at every turn what I should watch for and how to be pro-active in my long term care. I never thought I would outlive him.

Recently, I found out that my radiation oncologist who I have known for 28 years passed away. He had metastatic cancer which apparently ravaged his body quickly. It didn’t matter how educated he was, who he knew or the fact he had access to the most innovative and state of art treatments in the world. Nothing worked and he is gone. And way to soon.

When I first met him, I have to be honest, I was a bit nervous. He was quirky, often didn’t make eye contact and was flipping through all my files seemingly looking for something. He was renowned in the field of Lymphoma and in my case, Hodgkin’s disease.  Patients came from all over the world to see him.

Shaking his head he told me my situation was serious and the odds he gave were not what I wanted to hear. I kept thinking “How do I break through with this guy, will he ever warm up?” What I didn’t know was he would be one of the most compassionate doctors I would ever come across. He was practicing patient centered care decades before it was even a term.

My doctor spent hours getting to know me and even interviewed me in my home for the afternoon when he was writing a book. We ate brownies and drank tea and talked about life. I saw him at the tennis club and years later he was the one who sat with me and my husband when I was diagnosed with breast cancer though we didn’t have an appointment . He walked me into a conference room and we talked about what we had been through and our fears for the future. The guy who seemed a bit frosty and unapproachable when we first met was taking time out of his schedule just to talk. He gave me his number so I could page him when my scans (determining the extent of the disease) were over so he could give me my results immediately after the tests (that another doctor ordered) because he knew I would worry. He truly loved and respected his patients.

Throughout the years I have had appointments with him and also seen him in professional settings as I engaged in patient experience work. Last year I was supposed to have an appointment with him and his secretary called to say he was no longer seeing patients though he would be in the hospital continuing his mentoring of residents and continuing his research but just a day or two a week. I assumed he was making time to do other things as he had young children despite his older years. I thought of sending a quick email but got distracted and figured at some point I would just reach back out. I had no idea he was sick. I took time for granted. And now I am sad, so sad. He was my protector and also my friend.

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We all take things for granted and life moves quickly. I didn’t take my own advice and reach out when I was thinking about him. When you have had cancer twice you sometimes feel like you are racing against time which causes an urgency to do things while you can. And I fell into the trap of letting life pass me by. I just wish I could have told him how much his warmth, compassion and friendship meant to me and how he made such a scary time in my life just a little bit easier. He made me feel safe. We should all have a doctor like him.

On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.

Henry David Thoreau

And so I will. I will never stop talking about his compassionate approach to caregiving and using his story to influence others to do the same.

In Memoriam: Dr. Peter Mauch

Posted in cancer, patient centered care | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

The Big Move. Saying Goodbye to Our Childhood Home(s)

I drive down the road, windows open, breathing in the summer air and the smells of the country. I am soaking in the beauty of the land. It feels safe, comfortable and like the many times I have driven down the road. Except today is the last time it will be mine. A piece of my heart will always be in this place where I grew up. It is not about the actual house, the specific structure but rather the place, my roots.

Emotions are mixed. The practical side says it is time. The emotional side tugs powerfully not to let go.

I admit the beauty of my surroundings was sometimes lost on me when I was young.  I found the place too rural and couldn’t wait to leave and get on with a different type of life. First I left for summer camp, then college and then a job in Boston.

But overtime something changed. Each time I returned for a visit, I began to fall back in love with my home. I didn’t want to leave. It felt safe and I was relaxed. I found myself bringing friends to visit and coming back for my vacations. I started to see my home through their eyes and many of them were surprised where I had come from.

My husband “to be” and I decided it was the perfect place to get married. A garden wedding would be beautiful. Though I no longer lived there I called it home. I can still hear my mother’s voice. “You love it here. You really love it here.”

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Soon the rooms took on a new look with my toddlers running around and as they grew older, my boys developed a special fondness and their own memories and favorite spots to visit each time.

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A childhood house is flooded with memories. New beginnings, birthdays, holidays and dinner parties, bat mitzvahs, a wedding and sadly, a funeral as my mom took her last breath in this house.

My last night in the house, I lay in bed and heard the familiar creak of the stair as someone walked up and the sound flooded me with memories of my father or mother retiring to bed or waking in the morning. Each wall of my room brought me back to the nights I dreamed about what my life would be like, cried and cried about a relationship I wanted or one that caused me heartache. The roof outside my window, I would sit on for hours, staring at the mountains consoling myself when things were not going well.

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So many memories, too many to count and they all flood back with every step throughout the house. Almost 50 years of memories.

This was a year ago.

I wrote my thoughts down at the time but didn’t seem ready to share, to let go. And before I had a chance to publish these thoughts, my life took another unexpected twist. After 25 years in the home I moved to and raised my own children in, we decided to pack up and move. Two life changing moves in less than a year.

Last week my sons said goodbye to their childhood home. I said goodbye to the home I raised my own family in and the town I lived in for the second half of my life. As I read through my unpublished draft from last year, many of my thoughts for this move were the same.

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Let’s just say I have been on an emotional rollercoaster.

Some days I was just focused on the task at hand (throwing out and packing) and other days feeling the tug of not wanting to leave something familiar.

I think the older you get the more memories there are to flood back, sentimentality taking a front seat. My job is to go through all the pictures. There are thousands. And all the things I have acquired over the years. The process takes days, weeks. How do you choose which memories to preserve? Where will the pictures and other mementos go? A house, full of stuff, each item important in some way. How do you pick and choose? Letting go is so hard as I toss things I saved for years that I just can’t keep.

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I am surprised I don’t feel so bad after the deed is done. It is cleansing in a way. A new start.

In all honesty, I suffered from more than a few panic attacks. Sometimes, I couldn’t catch my breath. What am I doing? Am I nuts? So many people wondering why I would move from the suburbs; a pristine beach town with glistening ocean to the gritty, noisy, demographically diverse city.

I don’t know if my sons felt the emotional tug I did. Maybe down the road they will or maybe they have moved on to their new chapters, their own clean slate. The last night in our house, I lay in bed (as I did in my childhood home) and thought about my boys and all the memories the house held for them and for me. It would be the last night they would sleep in their room and I filled up with emotion. The next morning my oldest son was not to be found and it turns out he slept in the basement on the couch in front of the television. CLEARLY, I AM THE SENTIMENTAL ONE.

The house is emptied and it is time to leave.

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People keep asking me questions about how I am feeling. Am I sad about it all?

Honestly, I am not sad. Am I supposed to be sad? Maybe the questions are more about how they would feel, if they decided to make a move, later in life.

mov·ing
ˈmo͞oviNG/
adjective
  1. 1.
    in motion.
    “a fast-moving river”
    synonyms: in motion, operating, operational, working, going, on the move, active; More

  2. 2.
    producing strong emotion, especially sadness or sympathy.
    “an unforgettable and moving book”
    synonyms: affecting, touching, poignant, heartwarming, heart-rending, emotional, disturbing;

All of this is true. The “day to day” getting the job done and the other side which is feeling the emotion about doing it all.

The move has happened. It feels strange and good at the same time. It will take a while to get through the boxes and recover from the emotional and physical toll of moving.

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In the end, this is about starting a new chapter, one that is unknown, takes a bit of courage and one I believe will be energize me and keep the blood flowing. I don’t know what life has in store for me, how many days I have, so why wait to make a change. To be at this point in my life where I can do this, is honestly unexpected and a blessing. This is going to be good.

This IS good.

 

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Posted in life in your 50's, Resilience, transition | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Another Birthday and Big Changes Ahead

Another year. Time seems to pass at a record pace. It felt like just a few months ago I was out to dinner with my family celebrating my last birthday.

Do you feel time moves faster the older you get? Here is an example of how I have lost track of time. The water heater breaks and I tell the guy it doesn’t need to be replaced because it is fairly new. “We bought it a few years ago,” I say. Then he checks the label and says, “It was purchased in 2005.”  “YIKES. REALLY????”

Hmmm, just off by about 10 years.

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All those years raising my children turn into one big blur. The kids move away, you come out of the bubble like no time has passed and you realize all of a sudden you are in your 50’s, not your 30’s.

Each birthday, I step back and reflect on all I am thankful for which first on the list is always that I have been given this gift of time. I never take that gift for granted.

Then again, I will be honest. I struggle with the reality that I am not getting any younger and as the number creeps up, I feel mixed emotions. Blessed that I am doing well and have had so many good years since being sick but also feeling like I could be running out of time and I am impatient. (This impatience to do things before “the other shoe drops” is a side effect many survivors experience.)

I try desperately to find a way to ignore it. It is only a number, right?

I have to say a lot has happened this year and I am beginning to see more and more people in my age group, face challenging health problems and/or suddenly lose their lives.

Months of alone time (my husband travels a lot)  have allowed me time for reflection. What is my next step? How do I want to spend my days? What makes me happy?

So here goes. In order to make a change, I have to let go. Let go of the fear of change and the unknown. Move on from reminiscing about the days when my boys were young and the house was bustling with activity and move on from feeling sad when I pass their old school and think about all the time that has passed. Find something that energizes me and gets the adrenaline going on a regular basis. Start that next chapter like I always talk about in a focused way. Vibrancy and engagement are key to feeling youthful and distracts us from focusing on a number (how old we really are).

Let go of my stuff. Join the downsizing/anti-clutter movement. But to do that, I have to sort through years and years of memories and commit myself to leaving the possessions that represent those memories, behind.

This is not an overnight exercise. I have been thinking and slowly embracing this for years. It all started when my mother passed away just about 14 years ago (no I cannot believe it has been this long). I started to go through her things and realized she had kept everything; every apron, bathrobe, shirt, sweater, scarf, tablecloth, bowl, glass, wedding invitation, thank you note, pencil, notepad, book. The list goes on and on. It was overwhelming. Many things I didn’t want to throw away because I felt guilty, felt like I should keep them. So I did take some of her clothes and shoes back to my home thinking I would wear them. Which by the way, I never did.

I also started reflecting on the personal items she kept and realized they didn’t mean much to me and started to think about my own possessions that I have kept and realized they wouldn’t mean much to my children. And so I went back to my own home and started to be more thoughtful about what I wanted to keep. I donated more clothes than ever before and I started to develop the mentality of minimizing clutter. It was all baby steps.

Two moves later, (first my uncle (a hoarder) who I had to move to a new apartment and then my family home which we sold last summer) and I am finally ready to let go of many of the things I have been saving. I tell my husband, “Don’t throw out these stuffed animals and children’s toys because I will save them for my grandchildren (someday). Let’s save these household items and our bedroom set for the boys. Someday they will move into an apartment. I should keep my bowling and tennis trophies, college term papers and my postcard collection because the boys may want to look at them someday. Oh, and of course keep my photos, all 100,000 of them, give or take.”

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Sound familiar?

The truth is the boys don’t want any of these things. Who wants brown furniture anymore? Ikea; simple, minimalist and white is the deal. Family heirlooms seem to end up at the local donation center. As much as I think my boys will be interested in the tchotchkes (knickknacks) of my life, they really aren’t. They aren’t even interested in keeping their own!

So, I spend hours weeding through years and years of memories, keeping some things to probably discard later and junking and donating 70% of what I own. As hard as it is, I have to say I feel freer, lighter and much better than I thought.

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Reinvention can be overwhelming but change is what I need. Will it be in the suburbs or the big city?

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This is what I do know to be true.  You are never too old to have a new adventure. You are never too old for a new start. Here is to a new year.

Stay tuned.

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Posted in life in your 50's, Resilience | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mother’s Day Memories

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Last year I wrote about my mother and how difficult Mother’s Day can be for those of us who have lost their mom’s. We have our memories and we also yearn to have our mother’s back with us. Here is the post if you missed it or would like to read it again. Click below on the link “I Miss Mom Today. Everyday” to read this post.

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I Miss My Mom Today. Everyday.

I have memories as a child of spending every Mother’s Day with both of my grandmother’s as well. I would pick some lilacs which were just beginning to bloom and come back to the house excited to see them.

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With all these women gone, our Mother’s Day celebration is small, with my boys and my husband and we have over the years started our own tradition.

This year, as I was going through my things and getting organized I found a Mother’s Day gift that my boys both gave me (each when they were in Kindergarten) that I thought would be fun to share.

Old memories, new traditions….

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“Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown. In my heart it don’t mean a thing.” – Toni Morrison

Motherhood has been incredibly joyful, inspiring and challenging and I can’t imagine my life any other way.  On this Mother’s Day, I reflect, appreciate and embrace what is to come.

 

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Posted in life, parenting, Resilience | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Ladybugs, Trucks and #College#Graduation. Oh, My.​

Once he was 4 years old. He had these big blue eyes that everyone noticed. He was smart, sensitive, inquisitive, funny, and didn’t stop asking questions. Question after question about everything under the sun.

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My first born has always been interested in the world around him. He has this passion for learning and understanding.

Our first philosophical debate came quite early- when he was 4 years old. We were driving in the car on the highway and we passed a truck. My son, like most young children, loved talking about trucks. He turned to me, and nonchalantly said,  “Ladies don’t drive trucks.”

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Hmmm. Kind of random comment but that is what tends to happen with a 4-year-old. At the same time, I took his comment seriously. I had gone to a women’s college for 2 years and thought of myself a bit of a feminist. As a mother of two boys, I had actually put thought into how I wanted to raise them to think of women as equals, capable of doing anything they wanted.

Sam had caught me off guard and I wasn’t prepared to have this discussion so early. I gathered my thoughts and emotions and responded, “Sam, ladies can drive trucks. You don’t see them driving them as often as men but yes they can drive trucks just like men.”

He responded, “ No ladies can’t drive trucks.”

Wow, this was harder than I thought and so I gathered my thoughts again and made another plea this time to Sam explaining why ladies can and do drive trucks. “Even I could drive one if I wanted.”

Again he said, “No. Ladies can’t drive trucks.” This went back and forth and each time I thought of a better answer but Sam wouldn’t budge.

Then when I was at my wit’s end, a little ladybug flew into the car and landed on Sam’s hand. He exclaimed, “ Oh, look! It’s a lady.”

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I replied, “Sam that is called a ladybug, not a lady.”

Sam replied, “See Mom, this is a lady. Ladies can’t drive trucks.” (He didn’t seem to notice there was a difference between the word “lady” and the word “ladybug”. )

In the end, Sam was right – Ladybugs don’t drive trucks. Sam 1, Mom 0

My son has challenged me in many ways and has encouraged me to learn with him through the years. I am still learning.

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In a few days, that same big blue eyed little boy will graduate college. My head is spinning. How did that happen?

I swear it was just a minute ago we were talking about college choices, applications and SAT’s.

I gather my thoughts as I listen to Stevie Nicks as she sings.

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Can I sail through the changing ocean tide?

Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’

Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older, too

Transitions are hard for me. I am still adjusting to my new life and in what seems like a blink of an eye, the reality has truly set in. My little boy is no longer my little boy. He belongs to the world now. He is his own person who will make his own choices and decisions. Though I can’t wait to see how he conquers it all, the feelings are bittersweet. This is what I prepared him for. This was the end goal but selfishly I am not quite ready. It went too fast. He is getting older which means so am I. This is my struggle.

And for my son, his own struggle is thinking about leaving his youth behind and tackling the challenges of life that lie ahead.

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It is hard to get older sometimes. I need to sometimes remind myself of how fortunate I am to be in this spot, as emotional as it might be. He was only 3 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer a second time and I didn’t believe I would see this day. I have watched my son become an adult and  I am blessed with the gift of time and the chance to see my boy go out into the world as a man. There will still be the phone calls asking for advice and visits home but the relationship will change. My hope is it will strengthen and get better and better as we grow older together.

Graduation is not an end but a new beginning. For all of us.

And so the adventure begins…

 

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Posted in cancer, parenting, Resilience, transition | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Inspiring Stories =Food For The Soul.

I don’t know about you but I have been in a bit of a funk for the last few months. Maybe it was the cold and often erratic weather, less daylight during the winter months or the fact that I was alone a lot, with boys at college and a husband who travels regularly for work. The volatile political climate didn’t help much and like others, caused me great distress and I was worried the environment might cause me to pull away from people rather than talk, debate and connect in my usual way.

My outlook took a dramatic turn as I traveled to Colorado to participate in a health care conference for an organization I am associated with that works toward improving the healthcare experience for patients. Though this was healthcare conference, the themes were applicable to all of us as we discussed how people (patients) want to be treated and cared for and importantly respected as human beings.

I wanted to share with you a small piece of the inspiration I felt on my journey to Denver.

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The three days in Denver provided new connections and lots of inspiration. It all started in the airport, waiting at the gate when I met a woman sitting next to me. We started talking about general things like the weather, how I wipe down my tray table with Purell, you know the real important stuff.  As we talked, we connected more and more. In the 30 minutes we spent together I told her my story as a two-time cancer survivor and she then shared her heartbreaking story. After her son married and had two young children, his wife was diagnosed with aggressive cancer and passed away a year later. We bonded over our stories and it was hard to say goodbye as we loaded the plane and took our different seats.

From time to time, I need to remind myself how important personal connections are to me.  These connections and conversations nurture, energize and feed my soul.

I arrived at the conference only knowing a few people. The morning before my presentation I was walking into the ballroom, balancing my breakfast in both hands looking into a sea of people I didn’t know and hoping to find a place to sit. Just then a woman sitting at the table closest to me waved me over and asked me to sit down. I started chatting about how I am a klutz and not wanting to drop and spill my food and other silly things and every time I mentioned one of those things she smiled and said, “that’s just like me”. Two hours (of non-stop talking) later we felt like we had known each other our entire lives. We shared so much, standing in the hallway, in between sessions, talking.  Our ages, backgrounds, religion so different yet we connected on such a deep level.  I think we both felt energized and inspired after meeting each other.

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As part of the Patient Experience Conference, I was asked to participate on a panel with three other patients who would tell personal stories and then answer questions about the experience as part of a panel discussion.  Our stories were told in two videos and the discussion was live in front of a crowd of 1000 people and much more watching on Facebook live around the world.

My personal connection with my doctor and nurse when I was diagnosed with cancer gave me strength and positive energy to get through some rough times. It is because of those connections I have chosen to become involved in the healthcare field, giving my advice and feedback to hopefully make other patient’s experiences as positive as many of mine.

Below are the links to the videos. They are short and I encourage you to check them out.

Watch these inspiring videos by clicking on the links below!!

Patient Stories Video

Opening Video Patients/Caregivers

The experience was moving, inspiring and a bit overwhelming. I was touched when I met the other panelists for the first time and heard their stories and met their families. (A young college student suddenly faced with a life-threatening infection, a young single mother dealing with a premature baby born with a lifetime of medical issues.)

What I didn’t expect was after the presentation, the number of people who stopped me in the hall, on the shuttle bus, at breakfast; lunch and dinner to connect with me and often share their own stories. One woman approached me and said how much she related to my story. She said “I have had cancer twice but not like you” as if my experience was bigger or more important because I was on the stage telling it. The truth is I was up there because I have chosen to share it publicly and by no means does it make it more important than someone else’s.

 

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I also had the opportunity to meet Christy Beam, author of Miracles From Heaven (a book and motion picture starring Jennifer Garner) and hear her share the story of her young daughter Annabel, who was plagued by a chronic illness; of the trials she and the family endured while working towards a cure; of how this brave girl survived a dangerous accident and of the remarkable disappearance of the symptoms of Annabel’s chronic disease.

There were many stories shared and each one more incredible than the next. I admit sometimes I need to remind myself when days are long and skies are dark that there is light in others and in each of us and we need to remember to feed our souls with what nurtures and fuels each of us.

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Posted in Resilience | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments