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 , , , , , | 8 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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Why I Love ‘This is Us’

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In case you don’t know, ‘This Is Us’ is a new television show on NBC.

Yes, I am writing about a TV show. But actually, I am not really writing about a television show. I am writing about what I always write about. Life as I see it.

‘This is Us’ is a program about family, community, connection and love.

Even if you don’t watch the show you can read this blog (though I would highly recommend you get on the bandwagon)

I love ‘This is Us’.  It touches me. It warms my heart. It often makes me cry.

The show premiered in the fall and I was hooked after the first episode. Some reviewers said it was sappy, and maybe a bit manipulative in terms of evoking emotion. Maybe there is some truth to that but even so, I do not really feel that way. I feel connected to the characters in this crazy kind of way. Like I know them. Maybe it is because parts of my own family and me are in some of these characters.

‘This is Us’ is a show about life. It reminds us that we all have a story.  One that starts when we are born and continues until we part. The way we were raised by our parents or others shapes us into who we are today. The show forces us to see our own scars and maybe even dysfunction but in a reflective way. Families are not perfect, just like life is not perfect. Many of us struggle through and hopefully learn and grow along the way. In the end, it is often our deep personal connections that cause us to grow, change and become a bit more accepting.

What is it about this show that has me thinking about it all the time? The more I struggle to figure out the reason why I feel the way I do, the more I realize how many others feel the same way. The show taps into emotions about our own lives, our childhood, our parents. The characters are easy to connect to as they remind us of our own families, our own relationships. As someone in their 50’s, I find myself often thinking back to my childhood and analyzing how certain interactions with my family and community have influenced my habits and behaviors.

I have been thinking about writing a blog about this for months but it wasn’t until this week’s episode that I made the decision to do so. I was in tears watching it and it brought up so much emotion, especially around my own experience with cancer and my own mother’s death. Also, the storyline tapped into my personal beliefs about illness, cancer and death.

Our society places such an emphasis on life, at any cost, and often people think of death as failure. This program has taken a different tact, by showing that death is part of life; life goes on after we are gone and we often have choices how we want to approach our fate. Making a decision to stop treatment and preserve our strength to enjoy our last days, though they may be cut shorter, is a choice and a valid one.

This show taps into emotions we may not even know we had or at least thought about. It comes at a time in our world where there is so much unrest and for some people a conscious disconnection from others because of differing and polarizing views. Maybe this is why some of us have found some calm in the storm of everyday life on Tuesday nights. “This is Us’ makes us think and explore where we have come from, where we want to go, who we want to be and maybe a chance to reconnect with what is most important to us.

We are This is Us.

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My Life as a Playlist

How often do you hear a song on the radio and you are immediately taken back to some place 5, 10 or even 40 years ago?

I remember feeling extra nostalgic a year or so ago – thinking and thinking about middle school and high school constantly and couldn’t figure out why. Was my life coming to an end? Was I depressed? I was worried I was dwelling so much on the past and then I realized that I had been exclusively listening to the 70’s and 80s channel on my satellite radio. Each song immediately took me back to some time, some memory.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back to those days but the memories seem so vivid, which often leaves me in a reflective state of mind.

Music is powerful. It has the ability to embed itself in our brain and connect us to many of our life events and experiences. We could all create our own playlists of songs that bring us back to our first love, our first of many things or just places we have been. Music can help us relax and encourages creativity. It can boost our mood. Walking and listening to music is very therapeutic for me. It also helps me focus and gather my thoughts. I generate ideas and much of my writing benefits from listening to certain tunes.

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Music speaks to us in many ways. My playlist has always been diverse. You will find almost every genre of music in my library. If I put my phone on shuffle you will hear everything from 70’s rock, disco, Broadway, alternative, jazz, classical, country to today’s top 40.  What do your playlists look like?

My own exception to using music to calm my anxiety and gather my thoughts was back when I was 25 and diagnosed with cancer. I never listened to music. Never. Years later I thought back wondering why. Maybe I was subconsciously worried it tapped in to my feelings and I was scared. Maybe I was protecting myself from associating my illness and memories with certain songs. Maybe nothing could cheer me up, I just don’t know. I find the power that music holds fascinating.

You know that exercise called Word Association? Try Music Association. Play a song and what do you associate it with?

I could do this with thousands of songs but here are just a few. (DISCLAIMER. This in not representative of music I regularly listen to but these are samples of songs immediately bring me back to a certain time.)

Don’t Fear The Reaper Blue Oyster Cult (my first 45 record. I am lying on the floor in my bedroom and am in 6th grade.)

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Dust in the Wind- Kansas (I am in 8th grade and the song is on when I hear a girl I go to school with is killed in a car accident. I haven’t listened to the song since.)

Reunited- Peaches and Herb (I am in high school and there is a teen disco we all go to on Saturday nights. I am hoping someone will ask me to dance this slow dance)

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 I Have Dreamed- The King and I- (I am a sophomore in high school and am in the chorus of the school musical. I had a crush on the guy singing this song and even though have seen other productions throughout my life the song always brings me back to sitting in the auditorium during rehearsals and hearing him sing.)

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Bye Bye Love- The Cars  (I am driving around town after I got my license. This song also brings me back to all those high school parties )

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Thriller- Michael Jackson (Hanging out in “Who’s On First” bar in Boston)

Turn it On Again-Genesis (I am at Cornell walking to class and thinking about life, school)

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It’s A Wonderful World -Louis Armstrong (I am dancing to our song at our wedding)

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My Heart Will Go On- Celine Dion (I am sitting in the movie theater with my physical therapist after my breast cancer surgery. There is a lot of emotion as I ponder my future and what has just happened to me)

I Gotta Feeling- The Black Eyed Peas (I am at my sons’ Bar Mitzvahs and dancing up a storm)

He Lives in You- The Lion King (I am sitting in my car listening to this song over and over again the day before my mother passes away. I use this song for inspiration to write her eulogy.)

Fun- Pitbull/Chris Brown (I hear this song and it just reminds me of my son because it seems like a song he would like. He loves to DJ when we are in the car. It boosts my mood)

We all have our songs. Maybe even dogs listen. When I used to watch my neighbor’s dog I would always think she forgot to turn off the radio.  “The music soothes Zeke while we are away,” my neighbor told me.

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We all have our playlists. Some are more diverse than others and they reflect our personalities in so many ways. Music touches us. Music moves us. Music inspires us. Everyone loves music. Music reminds of us of where we have been and is part of our life as we move forward.

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What is your life playlist?

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Top 5 (Most Read) Blog Posts: 2016. A Year in Review.

It’s hard to believe another year has almost come to a close. The older I get, the faster the time seems to go and there seems to be no slowing down. I guess that is better than reporting that I spent the year sitting around watching the world go by.

I have enjoyed blogging on a variety of topics and am thrilled and touched to have had so many people, and mostly people I am connected with in some way, read my blogs. When you blog you tend to get caught up in how many followers you have and for me it has been  more about personal connection and have enjoyed hearing how things I have written about struck a cord and made some type of impact.  I didn’t expect my blog would provide me with an added bonus of reconnecting with people from my past and my blog has helped me to do that.

This year Life According to Somebody had just under 6000 views by 4200 visitors from 83 different countries.

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Each blog posts seems to connect with different people. For 2017 I hope to improve my blog by categorizing topics and potentially creating a spin off that is more focused on health issues.

A personal thank you for all those who have supported this blog and read, commented and shared articles.

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Keep sharing! Also, don’t forget you can sign up to follow my blog so you never miss a post as you may miss individual posts on Facebook.

 

And most importantly, I wish each one of you a very Happy and Healthy New Year! Cheers to 2017!

 

Here are the top 5 most read blogs of 2016

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My Baby is Home From College. Push and Pull.

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/01/19/my-baby-is-home-from-college-push-and-pull/

25 Life Lessons From a Two-Time #Cancer Survivor

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/07/26/25-life-lessons-from-a-two-time-cancersurvivor/

50 Something. And Still Missing Summer Camp

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/06/28/50-something-and-still-missing-summer-camp/

College Boys Are Home. Breathe.

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/06/07/college-boys-are-home-breathe/

TIE #5

Election Drama. Now What?

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/11/17/election-drama-now-what/

Boys Off To College. Part-time Empty Nester Rollercoaster Ride

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/08/26/boys-are-off-to-college-part-time-empty-nester-rollercoaster-ride/

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Election Drama. Now What?

Both before and after the election people approached me and said, “Wow, lots of material for your blog.” But I didn’t write. I couldn’t write about the election. I didn’t feel I wanted to take any type of political stand, publicly. I discussed politics with my immediate family and a few friends but the topic was so charged I felt it better to keep my thoughts private.

The more I saw on Facebook, people taking sides, the more I backed away. I am writing now because I believe it is the best way to handle what I am feeling and because it should be a logical article for a blog that gives a person’s perspective on a life event.

Like I said, before the election, I stayed away from a blog article and naively thought like everyone else soon enough it would all go away and I could quietly slip out of writing anything. Remember all those posts on FB saying:

“Can’t wait until this is all over. Time to move on.”

And then things got worse. And there was no moving on. So now here I am,  giving my two cents.

I have been feeling sick to my stomach and so saddened by the fallout. Rather than focusing on who won and who lost, I have been overwhelmed by the hate that is going around on all sides. This is not one party or another. It includes people from every side. It sickens me. People who are condemning bigotry are spewing hate at those they criticize. It is just awful.

This is what I learned on election night. There are a lot of people in pain in this country, enough people to create a movement and sound an alarm. Voting for a candidate was far from black and white. The issues and reasons for a vote were complicated.

I am a person who looks at all angles of an issue and it is clear to me that this vote signified how many people wanted their voices heard. Many of these people were quiet and didn’t express whom they would vote for because they didn’t want to be judged. I was quietly saying all along this could be a close race, even an upset because I was getting the sense that there were a lot of people out there not admitting who they were going to vote for. And I guess I was right.

And why were they silent? Because they were afraid they would be judged. And history has shown they were right.

I was brought up to respect people’s differences, to approach life with an open mind and to do my research before forming an opinion. I was taught tolerance, compassion and understanding and the importance of hearing multiple viewpoints, which often challenged my own. These are the values I wanted to pass on to my children. It was important they go to a college or a university which would open their minds, challenge their beliefs and create open and free dialogue.

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The Millenials have taken a hit in terms of how they have responded and honestly I agree with the criticism. Not that long ago I wrote a blog article about why it is important for our children to experience failure. I was worried they wouldn’t know what failure looked like and how to cope. Maybe my article was a premonition of what was to come. Comments in the last week like “feeling hopeless” are commonplace among young people. Feeling hopeless? Really?

Throughout Election Night and the days following, I spoke often to my sons. I was disheartened to hear my youngest talk about how people were crying all over campus and when he entered his first class of the day, his professor was crying as well. Rather than an open discussion and post-election analysis, the professor conducted the class based on her own emotion and asked the students to rebel. My son felt anyone with any other viewpoint would be “massacred”(so to speak) if they spoke a word to the contrary. What to me seems like such a wonderful learning experience has instead become a campus filled with students who are fearful, anxious and some who have been targeted and harassed.

What is happening?

“Why do people feel they have the right to tell me how to feel? How to vote? What should be important to me?” my son asked. He abruptly signed off all social media.

“What do I tell my children?” This appeared all over social media.

This is what I would tell my children.

Life is not always fair. We don’t always win. Throughout history, there have been winners and losers. It is the true test of our character what we do next, how we handle ourselves. Let us look beyond ourselves in order to understand what happened and move forward in a productive way.

Fight for what is important to you, by taking action. Roll up your sleeves and become part of something bigger than yourself to make a change. Spewing on social media is not taking action.

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Next week is Thanksgiving. A time for reflection and to give thanks for what we have. Our relationships with people are most precious and how we treat each other is really important. As we sit at the Thanksgiving table, with family members and friends lets try to keep the politics at bay.

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Blog Article “Why Our Kids Need To Experience Failure”

Are We Overparenting? Why Our Kids Need to Experience Failure.

 

 

 

Posted in Resilience | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

I Owe it To My Mother. Improving The Patient Experience.

I have been through a lot. Sometimes I feel like a walking medical experiment. Cancer twice, and the loss of my mother who also had cancer. Hundreds of appointments, blood tests, and procedures and enough radiation to light up the sky.

Please do not misunderstand, I am not complaining (ok sometimes I do complain of my aches and pains like anyone else) but this isn’t about that. I am lucky. I am living an active and normal life.

When I left my career to raise my children, I knew I needed to find a way to use my professional experience and health experience to do something to give back. I did some work volunteering for various cancer organizations but it wasn’t until my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away that I became passionate about taking my experience as well as hers and working to improve the patient experience. There were so many ways my mother’s experience could have been better if doctors had actually talked to her, listened to her and understood what was most important to her. She didn’t see things the way I did as her generation was taught “the doctor knows best” and not to question or explore alternatives. But the truth is we should question and shouldn’t feel guilty about asking the questions. After my mother’s death, I was pretty fired up and began to explore ways I could lend my voice and make a difference.

My blog has led me to do other writing and my first article was published this month in the Beryl Institute’s PXJ (Patient Experience) Journal. I talk about using Human Resource policies and procedures to improve the patient experience and I hope my observations and suggestions create a dialogue for reflection and maybe even change.

Here is the link to my article

Why human resources policies and practices are critical to improving the patient experience

 

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Resources:

Check out the Beryl Institute

http://www.theberylinstitute.org

Posted in cancer, patient centered care | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Doctor. Please Understand I Am A Person And Not Just Another Case.

attitude

 

When you think about going to the doctor, what is one of your biggest pet peeves?

Waiting to be called? Having to fill out forms over and over? I could put together an extensive list but in the end what is most important to me is my relationship with my physician. It really gets under my skin when I hear a story of an interaction with a doctor that shows the patient was clearly not respected as a person. In a new era of healthcare, we are beginning to think of our care like any other product or service. We want the best.

So, if we want the best in care, why should we settle for a doctor who doesn’t give us what we consider to be the best level of care?

In the last few weeks, I have had two medical appointments with two new physicians. One was a wonderful experience and the other the exact opposite. My guess is anyone reading this has had the same experience at one time or another. Unfortunately, this is the state of healthcare these days, an inconsistent not always patient-centered medical experience.

My first appointment was with a surgeon who I went to see to address a late effect from past surgery for my breast cancer. He walked into the room and within seconds I felt his warmth, compassion and we made a personal connection. He listened to me, my concerns, feelings and we talked about various options. He was honest, sincere and validated my emotions. After the appointment, I processed all the information and was easily able to reach out to him with new questions and he responded quickly. I felt fortunate to have found him.

Giving a helping hand to another , helping concept

Two weeks later I went to a different medical office to see a specialist about a pain I had in my arm from playing golf. I thought maybe I had tendonitis or golfer’s elbow. The physician entered the room and introduced himself and within a few minutes, I found him slightly abrasive. He was talking at me, did an exam and gave me his diagnosis, which was not tendonitis but a condition having to do with my muscle and my radial nerve (similar to carpal tunnel). Everything he explained lined up with my symptoms. The treatment included rest from the repetitive motion of golf and a wrist brace to wear at night.

As the appointment neared the end, the doctor told he wanted me to have an x-ray of my arm before I left. I pushed back. I told him I am concerned with radiation exposure and I like to ask the question every time an x -ray is recommended. My past history includes intensive radiation therapy and years of radiation from follow-up x-rays and scans. I wasn’t sure why an x-ray was needed in this case. At this point, he became agitated. He looked at me in disbelief that I would question him. He talked for the next 5 minutes about “standard of care” which I understand and appreciate; however, I realized, as he was talking he wasn’t listening to me and was not empathetic to my situation. He didn’t care what I was saying, at all.

xray

I began to defend myself and brought up another example of a time I pushed back on the x-ray and the physician said that actually there were other ways to determine a diagnosis without doing an x-ray. This new guy didn’t really care. I now felt like I was defending myself for asking the question and wanting to explore different options. The truth is I was a bit rattled as we had the exchange. Finally, I agreed to the x-ray. The x-ray was normal and showed nothing.

Protocols are in place to potentially rule other out other problems and the physician certainly doesn’t want to make an error in diagnosis. I get it. But the current diagnosis seemed pretty reasonable and I wonder if it made more sense to see if the treatment recommendations worked before taking things to the next step. Right or wrong, I was feeling remorse that I caved and more importantly I didn’t feel good about the whole thing.

I always tell people to advocate for themselves and not just accept recommendations because we don’t understand and assume the doctor knows better. Truth be told, it may be difficult to do so. But it shouldn’t be. If this doctor really listened to me and understood my concerns and fears he may have been able to address them differently. This type of example is exactly why I decided to volunteer my time to improving the patient experience. It all started back when my mother was ill and was treated in a similar way, as a case number and not a person. Writing helps me to gather my thoughts and share my experiences and my guess is we can all relate. As hard as it may be, we, as patients, need to demand respect and better care and I believe our voice will influence change.

 

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attitude

Posted in cancer, patient centered care, Resilience | Tagged , , | 2 Comments