Archive | January, 2017

Encouragement

17 Jan

I mostly enjoy writing blog entries that are amusing in some way if not downright funny. I like making people laugh. I especially enjoy recalling events & incidents that have made ME laugh & sharing them  … but occasionally something serious comes along that really makes me think & I want to share it.

Just inside the large double doors of our church, the “greeter” Sunday morning handed us the bulletin with a smile. On the front of the bulletin in large bold letters were the words, “Encouragement is Awesome” & the message, “It can actually change the course of another person’s day.”

The minister’s message was also, “Encouragement.”

During the message that touched on many kinds of “encouragement” & how it can affect our lives, he also mentioned how negative messages can also change our lives. But his main message was about how encouragement affects us & he asked the congregation to think about personal encouragement we have received & how it may have been life changing. While he engaged us, he wasn’t actually asking for individual responses to his question but, instead, encouraged us all to reflect on those specific personal moments of encouragement that have been a large part of who we are.

The very first thing that popped into my mind was being told, “You have breast cancer.”

It’s unlikely that such negative news could hold anything even vaguely connected to encouragement, yet for me, it did. It wasn’t immediate, though, & not for a while.

After receiving the diagnosis & that awful news, I was totally overwhelmed. The first few months that included breast conserving surgery & my first 2 chemotherapy treatments I was existing in a fog that included confusion, disbelief & fear. It was a very dark time.

Two months following my first chemo treatment & the loss of my hair I began working on putting together my club’s 24th. Anniversary Party. Even with my husband’s help I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that around chemo treatments & my continuing confusion.

As I got into working on the party & attempting to be creative I decided that we needed to build a backdrop related to the theme of the party for people to stand in front of to have their pictures taken at the event.  Building the party around a Star Trek theme, from there I had an idea & told my husband, “We’re going to build a Holodeck!”  And so on the weekends when I didn’t have a chemo treatment, we DID build it.

As the Holodeck took shape so did my determination NOT to let the cancer change me or stop me from doing the things that made my life the joy that it was & had been before that awful diagnosis.

So how did that awful, negative statement, “You have breast cancer” become the huge encouragement that it was?

After completing the Holodeck & enjoying the party my determination grew. While completing chemo & 33 radiation treatments I had a bit of time to do a lot of serious thinking. I thought about all the things I’d hoped to do with my life; a number of them that I had put off, telling myself I could do them later. That frightful diagnosis brought home to me the fact that we really aren’t promised tomorrow & if there is something we’d like to do, we need to do it now. We may not have second chances.

Consciously & perhaps a bit unconsciously I made a mental list of things I still wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t anything I called a “Bucket List” because it really wasn’t like wanting to fly a helicopter or wrestle an anaconda or see the Northern Lights while standing at the top of the North Pole. My mental list consisted of using the talents I’d been given & enjoying them while I still had time.

Some of what I was able to accomplish & check off my list simply fell into my lap. I was offered a chance to host a local television talk show on an independent Comcast channel. For years people had told me I should be doing a TV talk show because of my sense of humor & ease in interacting with people, so when the opportunity came along I only had to think about it a few days before I signed the contract.

With the help & encouragement of a published author from New Zealand that I met through a friend on Facebook, I wrote a book. It took me 2 years but I did it & included another seldom used talent. I did the illustrations for the book & laid out the cover myself. It was a labor of love shared with my author friend from New Zealand who guided me through the process until the book was published.

I began speaking to seminars & groups about breast cancer, hoping I could make the journey through that darkness somehow easier for those facing their own dark journey.

Today I have realized most of what was on my list & have done just about everything I’ve ever hoped to do with my life. I am blessed.

I was especially blessed to host the Lynchburg Live television talk show for 6 years until the studio closed its doors due to increasing production costs. I realized that dream &, in the process, met some amazing people & brought attention to causes & concerns locally that eventually, & in some cases, made life more fulfilling for many of my viewers. It was one of the most exciting & rewarding times of my life.

Today I am a freelance writer. I’ve been published in several magazines, in our local newspaper & in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses. I’m writing this blog & it’s the most enjoyable writing that I do. Even though I don’t get paid for it, it’s an opportunity to share my thoughts & experiences with those who wish to read it. I am able to share MYSELF.

My book was remarkably well received. I received notes & emails from readers that brought me to tears. My goal for the book was never to make a specific amount of money but was, instead, that it resonated in some personal way with my readers & touched them on some personal level that we shared.

Not only do I still speak to seminars & groups about breast cancer, I also speak about fundraising, being a professional woman & various nursing topics. No longer afraid to speak publicly, I’ve found joy in speaking about those things about which I am passionate.

Because of that terrifying news, “You have breast cancer” & an unexpected determination, I have been able to do all those things I’d wanted to do but never really thought I could. It was a negative ‘kick in the pants’ that opened my eyes to the joys of using my talents. It also opened my eyes to the joys around me … the beauty of spring & fall, the quiet of a rainy day, the joys of having breakfast in the sun room on a snowy morning. I saw those things before but not with the depth & appreciation I see them now.

So when our minister asked us to reflect about our most positive encouragement & my first thought was being given the frightening news that I had cancer, it made me think back to how those events unfolded. I wanted to share how sometimes the most unexpected, terrifying negative news can be our greatest encouragement. It goes hand-in-hand with, “Never give up …”

Our minister is new with us this year & he is young but sometime when he has a moment I want to tell him this story & tell him how his sermon led to my response & eventually this blog entry.

We never know what we can do until we try. And we never know how strong we are until we HAVE to be …

 

conference psych may 2016 14

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Building Character

7 Jan

If drama, like adversity, builds character, then I’ve got enough “character” to last a lifetime. When you get a sustained bunch of both at the same time, well, I’m not sure what that builds, but I’ll let you know.

I think it all started when I didn’t get my flu shot. I haven’t gotten the flu but I think not getting the shot is when things started to go south & this winter became “The Winter of My Discontent.”

I kept forgetting to make an appointment with my doctor’s office to get a flu shot & I definitely was NOT going to the same local pharmacy where I got the shot last year. The pharmacist who “administered” my shot also administered to me, as his captive audience, tales of his divorce, child support & what lessons he learned from his dad as a growing boy. It wasn’t that his stories were dull. On the contrary, they might have been spell-binding were he not sticking a needle in my arm. At the end of the injection he removed the needle & kept talking while continuing to squeeze my arm. I quickly stuck my finger over the injection site & applied pressure to keep the serum from leaking out & running down my arm … as it had started to do just as the pharmacist began wrapping up his tale. I didn’t want to run the risk of getting THAT particular pharmacist again unless I had a free afternoon & most of an evening.

November was a flurry of activity. Our club was planning, & eventually constructing our float entry for the local Christmas Parade. As club president, I was right there “constructing” while also planning the Annual Christmas Party for our chapter & I was looking forward to an early December cocktail party.  I’d bought a fabulous new dress.

So I didn’t get the flu shot but the last of November, when I’d planned to make an appointment to GET the flu shot & didn’t, what I DID get instead was a month-long attack of a G.I. condition that started in 2009 … way back when I was getting chemo for breast cancer. I’m used to getting those attacks several times a year but this one started on November 30 & lasted the entire month of December.

Fortunately, as truly miserable as the attacks are, they were spaced so I was able to be in the parade, go to our club’s Christmas Party & eat a wonderful Christmas dinner, minus my homemade pecan pie that would have had Martha Stuart drool with envy. Missing the cocktail party was disappointing but one out of several wasn’t bad.

To make a long story short, I’ve spent a lot of quality time recently with my gastroenterologist. He has had a thoughtful look at all of my bloodwork (normal), biopsies (normal) & my anatomy literally from the inside out. With one more test left to do I’m hoping to find a resolution to this on-going problem because I simply don’t have another body part or square inch of flesh … inside or out … to be examined. I can only hope …

I’ve lost 12 pounds during this on-going experience & my diet has mostly consisted of BLAND  … grits, potatoes, rice, oyster crackers, green beans, Jello & an occasional chicken breast baked in the oven – no seasoning, no marinade. I wouldn’t recommend this as a weight loss program. I’m starving! I hope the “babbling pharmacist” is having a better month.

So things settled down to a routine … kind of bland like my diet … until last weekend when I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window. I noticed our neighbor walking what looked like a new white, kind of fat dog on a leash. The animal took off at a trot past the mailbox, pulling on the leash, headed across the street seemingly intent on terrorizing our across-the-street neighbor’s dog. She yelled, ran into the yard & scooped up her dog while the woman next door pulled on the leash. I was thinking how our next door neighbors really didn’t need to add yet another animal to their menagerie. Their 2 dogs (that seem more like 10) have not stopped barking since they bought the house next door a year & a half ago.

I kept watching & noticed that the animal on the leash was not a dog at all … wasn’t even vaguely canine, but was, instead a white pig. Yes, of course I blinked to see if I was seeing what I was seeing … you don’t even have to ask me that question.

I called Willy on the intercom & told him about the pig. His response was, “You’ve been sick a long time & I’m sorry it’s affecting you like this.” I told him to come upstairs & see for himself, which he did & eventually admitted that it was, indeed, a pig. For at least 30 minutes we went from window to window with cameras trying to get a photo of the porcine pet, but to no avail. That pig is way talented at staying behind the shrubbery & avoiding the paparazzi.

I’m not really sure, even considering the shock value, that a neighbor walking a pig on a leash is “drama,” but it does speak volumes about how little it takes to amuse Willy & me. I’m blaming that mostly on my being sick for a while & us not getting out much lately. Mostly I’m blaming it on that pharmacist & his rather annoying stories that have kept me from getting my flu shot & probably included a pig on a leash somehow.

Jumping ahead to our biggest drama lately … Last night Willy started a fire in the woodstove in our family room. It snowed all night last night & half of today so the air was heavy & dense & a gusty downdraft forced a rather huge cloud of smoke out of the stove around the closed door. It was a freaky thing. I started closing doors to keep the smoke from reaching our smoke alarms but was too late & that awful alarm went off, piercing the night & sending the cat as far under the bed as she could go. We have ADT Security & Fire Alarm Protection but with no call from ADT I figured I’d disarmed the system in time.  Willy had turned on ceiling fans & opened a window.

But much like that old familiar, recently read story, “The Night Before Christmas,”  I disarmed the alarm & was turning around when a fireman landed on our porch with a bound.

ADT had called the fire department & they responded immediately.

We invited the fireman in, told him our story & while he was in the family room checking out the stove, a second fire department vehicle arrived followed by the hook & ladder truck; lights twirling & blazing, lighting up the neighborhood. Thankfully, there was no siren. That would have certainly disturbed our neighbor’s new pig.

Everything checked out, we apologized & the fire department (half of them were in front of our house) said they would rather respond to something like that than a real fire.

I finally coaxed the cat out from under the bed with cat treats. She’s a pussy for a treat.

This morning I heard from a couple of neighbors who realized what had happened & who let me know they were glad there wasn’t a real fire. I told them it was the pharmacist’s fault & advised them never to let him give them a flu shot.

So I’ve been thinking about drama & character-building & here are the conclusions I’ve come up with:

  1. My glass is half FULL – we didn’t have a fire
  2. ADT really ROCKS!
  3. I got to do most of what I wanted to do at Christmas, even though I was sick
  4. My beautiful cocktail dress will look even better on my 12 pounds slimmer body even though my face looks like a refugee
  5. If you THINK you see someone walking a pig on a leash, even if you can’t get a picture & you’re not drunk, it probably IS a pig on a leash
  6. Most cats are pussies for treats
  7. I have enough character to last several lifetimes
  8. AND … Never EVER get a flu shot from a pharmacist who is a story-teller, even if he’s walking a pig on a leash at the time.

pharmacist