Monday, November 12, 2018

Adding Kindness, Compassion and Love To Our Holiday To Do Lists

As preparations for the holiday season begin and your “to do” list begins to swirl out of control, are you leaving room for kindness, compassion and patience?

I can easily recall a time in my life when I barely had time to sleep, much less time to have cheerful conversations with strangers. It was amplified by the fact that the holidays were the busiest time of year for my business.

And then something happened that changed all of that.

I had just left the radiology clinic. It was 2 weeks before Christmas. I had undergone a mammogram and an ultrasound and had been told that I had cancer. There was no one at home, and I felt frightfully lost and alone. I clearly remember stopping at the grocery store thinking I would pick something up for dinner even though I was not the least bit hungry. Cooking has always brought me such joy and comfort. A part of me needed to be among people.
As I walked into the store to the sound of Salvation Army bells ringing several people bumped into me but didn’t even bother to apologize. A child rammed a cart into me and the mother never even noticed. After what I had just been through, these actions seemed to really impact me.  I couldn’t help but think “please, just someone stop for a minute and speak to me. Say something kind, have a conversation with me.” It was really all I wanted. Truthfully, I would have been thrilled if anyone had even taken the time to just smile at me.

No one did. Everyone was too busy, rushing to finish grocery shopping, rushing to get home, rushing to shop more, rushing to pick up kids as my whole world was crashing down around me. I will never forget how badly I needed that kindness and compassion that day, and there was none.

We never really know what someone is going through. I’m sure to everyone in that Publix Supermarket that day, I looked like another frenzied career woman; another shopper rushing to get through the holidays. No one would have guessed to look at me that I had just been given the news that I had cancer.

I can think back to several days in my life when the only thing I felt was overwhelm.  You know the kind of days I am talking about. The ones where it is just one thing after another. Things that normally wouldn’t even impact you at all seem like huge ordeals until you shatter like a glass hitting the floor.  All you really want, is for everything to stop and for someone to be kind. Give you a hug. Ask if you’re okay? Tell you it’s all going to be alright. But everyone is simply too busy to notice.

I’m so incredibly grateful that I have learned how important it is to stop and be kind. Not because we are paid to do it, or obligated to do it, but because we care.

The truth is, at some point in our lives, we will all need a little bit of hope, compassion, kindness or patience. We all, with our good and kind hearts can spread a little bit of holiday magic and love just by simply stopping and being kind. But, we must make sure it’s a priority.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

I Have Perfected Lemonade; Can I Try Making Something Else?

The last 2 months have been seriously challenging.

I have been having some serious bone pain. On it's own or if it had visited and hopped the next train, probably not concerned. But, it wasn't alone; it's sidekick is chest pain and shortness of breath, some really goofy headaches and fatigue that I can't shake.

Kinda sounds like Lyme disease, right? That is what I hoped and prayed for. But, that test was negative. My blood work AMAZING: no vitamin deficiencies, tumor markers not elevated, and ANA tests were negative.

Unfortunately, my PA oncologist seems to have attended the Movie Doctors School of Medicine. "You look fabulous! You're fine!" HUH? Wow, if only it were that easy because I have perfected the art of looking better than I feel when I don't feel well.  Clearly, it was time to find someone with some real credentials and diagnostic tools.

Teaching Moment #1: Know your body. Recognize when something is not right. Unfortunately, as we age, things start going wonky and trust me; you're not popping up on any doctors crystal ball- and they aren't calling you to invite you in for a chat because they got notification that something might be wrong. A good rule of thumb: if it's more nagging and persistent than a baby with a wet diaper, it might be time to get checked out.

Teaching Moment #2: Advocate for yourself. Educate yourself. And push forward to get answers even if it means you have to be a pain in the ass. In all fairness, you're going to have to be a pain in the ass. Buckle up buttercup!

Enter a new oncologist and a script for a PET scan. And that folks, is how I found myself knee deep in Christmas decorations, covered in glitter on Friday the 13th of October waiting for results.

Teaching Moment #3: A cancer survivor waiting to be scanned and twiddling their thumbs (or in my case: decorating for Christmas way too early) waiting for their results is a very fragile creature. I was so thankful for my family and friends that had the good sense to make me laugh, distract me and keep me busy in the pre and post PET scan hours. How can you help a survivor tackle this mass insanity? Just be there!! Distractions are most welcome!

Having a fabulous imagination (which I do) and being seriously armed and dangerous with information (me also!) is a horrible combination in this scenario. I could probably type for the next 6 hours and not adequately explain my state of mind as all of this was going on. Suffice it to say, scanxiety is real and it's epic. I was instantly taken back to the days after Christmas in 2013 when I waited for biopsy results; everything hanging in the balance.

Thankfully, cancer has not decided to go another round with this little warrior. It was the sigh that made all boxers jealous- and it was heard for miles around. (Only my boxer people will get this one!)

Where does this leave me? Well, at this point, I know what isn't wrong with me. It has been suggested that I see a neurologist, a rheumatologist,  and a psychiatrist. And I need to have an echo. So, if anyone knows "1" doctor that specializes in neuro, rheumatology, cardio, and psychiatry- please send me their number- I'm really tired of waiting to see doctors.

Oh and...I'm a little tired of playing with lemons and my lemonade has been perfected. I need to move on!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hallelujah! I'm Another Year Older

Yep, you read that headline correctly. I am another year older. Additionally, I'm happy about it. I'm not drunk and I'm not insane, but I am thankful and 43!

Birthdays have become a bigger celebration for me since I beat cancer because there was one point when I wondered how many more I would see, or if I would see any more. Thankfully, not only did I see another birthday after that diagnosis, but this was my 4th birthday since hearing those crazy words.

I'd be crazy not reflect on the blessings that I have seen in the last year, the ways that my life has changed for the better and all of the fun that I have had. 42 was a great year (but 43 is going to be better!): I moved into a new home, made a ton of new friends, started a new business, and did a million other things that I'll never be able to recall. But all of those events, experiences and moments contributed to the serious smile on my face the morning of my 43rd birthday.

But, all of that is not why I am sharing this news with you. I'm sharing this news with you because I want you, the people who I care about the most, to reflect and realize that getting another year older is a gift. Age is just a number, and regardless of how high that number gets, it's still important to be thankful for the chance to see another birthday.

I wouldn't want ya' all to wait until something crazy happens in your life for you to start seriously celebrating the crap out of your birthdays and genuinely appreciating the fact that you are celebrating another year. Take this chance and this opportunity to do something amazing with this year, and the next one, and the one after that too.