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.
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.
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!!
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.
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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