Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘doctors’

More Alive Than Ever

Love: The Beat Goes On by Lynda Filler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51JCGXkVO9LHer life was flying, her heart was dying. Lynda Filler had a new job, loving family, and an almost too good to be true newly acquainted man she called “my cowboy”. There’d been for-warnings, “messages”, shortness of breath, but nothing really stopped her in her tracks (literally) until 2008 when she is told she has a form of congestive heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. Doctors told her it was a death sentence and she must “get your affairs in order”. Nine years later, after driving alone for many months between Canada and Mexico, visiting a shaman in Sedona, New Mexico, and realizing, “I was the change that needed to happen in my healing”, she wrote Love: The Beat Goes On. She’s more alive than ever.

I worked with hospice and bereavement programs for many years. Most people I met was dying, or had had someone die. Whenever I heard about someone having this or that “terminal” disease (or as the author calls it “dis-ease”), I accepted it as reality and tried to help them (and their loved ones) prepare as much as possible, and live whatever life was left to the fullest. Ms. Filler not only didn’t go along with the “program”, but somehow trusted something inside, and outside, herself. Against medical advice she took her own road. Her journey was not random. She learned to honor her intuition, take some risks, and, pardon the clique, follow her heart.

The chapters in this journal are most fitting and include – “The Widow Maker”, “Every Breath I Take”, “Swollen Heart”, “You Are Not Your Diagnosis”, “Red Rocks and Thunderstorms”, “Doctors and Doctorates”, “Is it a Miracle?”, and “It’s a Mind Game”. There is a perfect mixture of describing an event, what her personal reactions, thoughts, and feelings were about the experience, and her understanding and actions (if any) in response. Even though this pattern progresses throughout her writing, Lynda also becomes acutely aware that she is not what she writes about. “I have huge respect for all who survive anything, but I am not my story.”

Love: The Beat Goes On isn’t melancholy, or sanguine; it is as real as real can be. I know of few people who have learned to believe in something beyond themselves, willingly take steps into the unknown, and trust their own gut, as has Ms. Filler. Her life is example number uno of how to live a life of genuine belief and faith. Not in a religious sense, but with practical down-to-earth actions and spirit. This memoir is interesting for personal reflection, and provides a number of suggestions on how others can use what Ms. Filler learned for their own challenges. She doesn’t claim that her way is the only way, but her still being alive gives a lot of credence to what she has to say. “When I walked down from that vortex, my step was light. My heart beat normally again… and I knew it.”

 

A Bright Human Comet

215486_4979385855270_1291629348_n

A Bright Human Comet

Gianna Altano was and is, a brilliant comet on this earth and her family (Danny, Sydney and Marissa) are shining stars. Gianna died this week, at the age of 23, after a life-time of living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Her life and even her death, was a precious gift to all she touched.
 

Though many of her friends with CF died at the expected life-span for someone presently living with the disease, Gianna kept on going like a marathon runner who kept running the race one short sprint after another. She did things that many of us without CF cannot or would not do. She did everything a teen and young twenty-year-old would do, including martial arts and surfing. To say she was fearless would be an understatement.

Everyone fell in love with Gianna – family, old friends, new friends, classmates, colleagues, students, nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, the staff at Stanford, acquaintances, and friends of friends.

A few days ago Gianna’s Mom Sydney said, “We as a family got to receive the reality of both sides of organ transplantation. We also were able to give in a way we were hoping to get. The full circle of life and anticipation in every from.”

Gianna was on the donor list waiting for a lung transplant that never arrived. Yet, with her death (and her deepest intentions to donate her own organs) others now live and/or have regained function of vital body parts.

Gianna Altano’s life and death have been one gift of love after another… whether you were touched by her physical presence when she was alive or received part of her body after her death. To know her now or have known her before, is to be in the presence of gratitude incarnate and a being who lived every moment up to her last breath.

A celebration of Gianna Altano’s life is being held this Saturday, March 30th at the Seaside Resort.

Healthcare Technology Reform

Quantum Units Education shares stories about mental and physical health, like what triggers domestic abuse and how to fight youth anxiety. But there are also big picture issues affecting the health industry, like the move towards replacing paper-based healthcare records with electronic medical records systems, as Cheryl Jacque writes about in today’s post. Cheryl also writes for http://www.healthadministration.org/, a website that aims to educate potential college students about higher education and careers in health administration.

The Future of Technology, Healthcare Administration and Reform
by Cheryl Jacque

Sweeping changes in healthcare will continue to affect the lives of Americans for the foreseeable future. Yet, while health care reform legislation has received the majority of media attention, advancements in technology are expected to play an important role in lowering healthcare costs in the coming years. In particular, the adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) by insurers and medical practitioners is having a far-reaching effect throughout the medical community, with many health industry professionals expecting an increased efficiency that will lower cost and improve the quality of care for every patient.

Research by The RAND corporation found that America’s health care system could save more than $81 billion annually while improving the quality of care by broadly adopting computerized medical records. The study, published in the journal Health Affairs in 2005, stated, “The U.S. healthcare industry is arguably the world’s largest, most inefficient information enterprise…Most medical records are still stored on paper, which means that they cannot be used to coordinate care, routinely measure quality, or reduce medical errors.” Since then, many health experts have claimed that EMRs will improve quality and efficiency as well as reduce costs by tens of billions of dollars annually by limiting orders of duplicate tests and procedures. The Obama administration has even included assistance to accelerate the adoption of EMRs as part of the Affordable Care Act reforms.

As with almost any rapid adoption of new technology, early word on EMR use has been mixed. A recent study found that physicians with access to electronic records are actually more likely to order additional imaging and laboratory tests than doctors relying on paper records, perhaps due to the increased ease of ordering tests, speculated Dr. Danny McCormick, lead author of the study. However, many early adopters of EMRs are quick to defend the technology.

“Electronic medical records can guide evidence-based care, prevent unnecessary duplicate testing, enable better and more informed care coordination for patients, and generate quality data in real time to help us measure the efficacy of rendered care to improve health outcomes,” writes Alan D. Aviles, President of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. A study from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology offers further support, with its findings showing 92% of articles on health information technology reach the conclusion that technology advances provide overall positive benefits such as increases in quality and efficiency of health care.

American Medical Software, one of the developers of electronic medical records systems, describes the process used by the system. When a medical professional creates a new encounter note using EMRs, macros and templates that incorporate key phrases and conditionals that reduce keystrokes and input errors. Coding guidelines then suggest the proper level of visits based on documentation during the patient meeting, as well as aiding in ordering labs, setting reminders and linking files. Fox Meadows Software, another company responsible for EMR migration systems, provides electronic features such as scheduling, billing, document management and authorization tracking. These advances in medical and information technology are developed with a goal of streamlining processes, reducing costs and raising the quality of experience for medical practitioners and patients alike. While any new technology takes time to fully develop, the promise of higher quality patient care is a benefit worth the effort.

Government Mandated Medicine

Gabriel —

Last week, I told you Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was getting ready to sign the “ultrasound bill,” an atrocious proposal that would force all women considering abortions to get ultrasounds and require their doctors to ask if they’d like a picture.

Well, he signed it.

We didn’t stop the bill this time, but we did make sure the entire country knew exactly what was going down in Virginia.

There are still 450 other bills on birth control and abortion in state legislatures across the country. With a far-right faction of the GOP holding a majority in many of them, it’s unclear how many we can stop. But let me just say this: We need to be prepared to win in November.

As long as women’s rights are being attacked, we’re going to keep fighting back — in Congress and in the states.

Say that you’re ready to stand with Democrats as we stand up for women. Add your name today.

We’re taking on this fight both nationally and in the states. In Virginia, that meant helping to fund the state party’s rapid response communications team — they pushed back on the ultrasound legislation, supported the Democrats who opposed it, and publicized peaceful protests of it at the capitol. That work helped put this bill on the national radar.

Right now, New Hampshire, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, and many other states are considering similar legislation.

The Texas legislature is in the midst of a bitter fight to eliminate state support for a wide range of women’s health services. They’ve already eliminated two-thirds of their funding for women’s health, closing more than half of the state’s Planned Parenthood and other clinics. And now they’re voting to reject aid for the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. They claim they’re doing this to fight abortion, but what they’re actually doing is denying hundreds of thousands of women access to basic health care.

Clearly, this fight is about more than abortion and birth control.

I won’t stop speaking out across the country about a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, and Democrats in the states won’t stop pushing back against these bills.

I hope you won’t stop fighting either.

Support the fight state by state and nationwide. Stand with the Democrats today:

http://my.democrats.org/Stand-for-Women

Thanks,

Debbie

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Chair
Democratic National Committee

My Son Ryan and AIDS

Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

In 1984, one week before Christmas, Jeanne White was told that her son Ryan had contracted AIDS from a blood product he’d used to control his hemophilia. The doctors gave him six months to live. Struggling to make life as normal as possible for her thirteen-year-old son, she attempted to have him return to school as soon as possible. She did not realize the amount of fear and prejudice that would result when the school heard of his illness and refused to allow his return.

After numerous court battles, which brought he and his mother to national and international attention, Ryan was allowed back in school only to be inundated with hate, ignorance and abuse. As a result of their struggles Ryan was befriended by numerous celebrities such as Elton John, Michael Jackson and Phil Donahue and began to educate children and parents about AIDS by speaking at schools, appearing on numerous talk shows and news programs and having a movie about his life broadcast on national television. On April 11, 1990, five and a half years after his six-month prognosis, Ryan died. His funeral was one of the most publicized services of that decade.

Shortly after Ryan’s death his mother Jeanne, who had always been behind the scenes publicly, was asked by several senators to speak about Ryan to Congress in order to pass national legislation for AIDS education. She reluctantly agreed and was instantly thrown into the media spotlight. The bill, THE RYAN WHITE CARE ACT, was subsequently passed and Jeanne White became one of the most sought after speakers in the country. She founded the Ryan White Foundation and continues advocating for AIDS education and prevention with children, teenagers and their peers.

JEANNE WHITE:

A lot of times it takes a little push. Everybody likes feeling sorry for them selves over the death of a loved one. That’s kind of normal. With me it was Senator Kennedy and Senator Hatch who got me going and I fought it every step of the way. Ryan was always the public speaker not me.I was just following Ryan around. Senator Kennedy and Hatch had just named a bill after Ryan called the Ryan White Care Act and they wanted me to come to Washington DC. It was too soon. We had just buried Ryan two days before and they asked me to come anyway. They knew it was going to be hard, but they said, “You know, this is the first chance that we have of getting something done for people with AIDS.” They said, “Ryan’s death is so fresh on everybody’s mind, his illness and funeral was carried by every network for the last week and a half. This is the first chance of someone being in the public eye that takes the focus off the disease and puts it on to the fact that ‘anybody can get it.’”

I said, “Yes”. I said, “No”. I said, “I can’t, I really can’t. Ryan used to do that, not me.” On the second day people from Senator Kennedy’s staff called me again. They said, “Terry’s going to be there.” Terry and others had helped me through a lot of bad times. During all the years that Ryan fought AIDS the more people I knew that died of AIDS. And I had seen so many families just like me. Even though I didn’t want to get involved, so many people helped me that I kind of felt like I owed it to them. Then Senator Hatch called me and said, “You know, we’re not going to take ‘no’ for an answer. I have twenty-three senators lined up for you. All we want you to do is tell what it’s like to watch your son live and die with this disease.”

So I went to Washington and I’m so glad I did. It made me feel good. I didn’t feel I did great, not like I wanted to. I could have done better but I knew I was sincere in what I felt and said. After that, people wouldn’t let me stop.

Phil Donahue, who was a pallbearer at Ryan’s funeral, has become a very good friend of the family. When he was in the hospital visiting Ryan he noticed all the mail and could not believe how much was pouring in. He took a bunch of the letters back to New York with him and called saying, “Do you realize these letters are all from kids?!” I said, “Well yeah, that’s who generally wrote Ryan.” He said, “Jeannie, you’ve got to continue this work. You’ve got to answer this mail.” Phil said, “I’ll hire you an assistant.” There were over sixty thousand letters! Phil kept his word and with the help of Marlo Thomas and the St. Jude volunteers, they were able to find a lady that lived close by.

I was so impressed with Ryan, so proud of him. Sometimes I’d think, “Golly, is he really my son?” To me he was just my little kid, but to the nation, he was this celebrity and hero. I hated to even think that I could follow him, his impact was so great and people listened. When I speak I’m always a nervous wreck, even though I’ve been doing it now for years. I’ve messed up a lot, but I’m me. When I introduce myself I say, “I’m just a mom. I’m a mom just like your mom and because of this misunderstood disease called AIDS, my life changed overnight.” I say a prayer every time I go out. I say, “Lord, please help me to get through this. Help me educate these young people. Help me make a difference in their lives with my story.” Then I say, “Ryan, please be there with me.” Then I have this kind of surge that goes through me and I feel like its Ryan saying, “OK, Mom, I’m with you.”

I think we’ve made a lot of progress. By “we” I mean everybody who has committed so hard to fighting this disease with education and through therapy and drugs and medical treatment. I think we’ve come a long way. The people who have to be commended the most are the people that are not here. Their lives had to be lost for us to get where we are today, to show compassion. Even though I’m tired I’m still doing it because of the Terry Burns, the Mike Callums and the family members that I’ve seen.

One day we were riding in the van and Ryan reached over and grabbed my hand and started swinging it. I looked over and said, “OK, what do you want?” He said, “I don’t want anything.” “Come on Ryan, what do you want?” I continued. He replied, “Can’t a son hold his mother’s hand? ” I said, “Come on, you really don’t want anything?” “Mom, I just want to say thank you for standing by me, for always being there for me.”

I remember that moment when I speak to teenagers. You know, we always think everybody’s going to be here tomorrow, but one day you’re going to wake up and somebody’s not going to be there. I say, “You might think this stupid old lady up here doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but I do. The next time you go home from school, even if you think it’s the corniest thing you’ve ever done, write a letter to your parents. If you think you’re real cool and you can’t go up and hug them around their neck and say, ‘Mom. Dad. Thank you. I love you.’ Then write a note and put it on their pillow. Do something so that you’ll never be sorry.”

It would have been easy to be mad all the time at the people who ridiculed us, who discriminated against us, but we had to put our lives in perspective and look at what was really important and what wasn’t. Everybody saw on the news that it was this fight for Ryan to go to school, but the number one priority in our life was keeping him healthy. Second, was keeping my job at General Motors, because we had great insurance and it paid for all his medical bills. And the third part was my daughter Andrea, keeping us together as a family.

At first, it’s like, “Why?” Everybody wants to know why. Why wasn’t he given a miracle? All my life I was taught if you pray hard enough, if you believed hard enough, that you would get a miracle and you could never doubt that or you wouldn’t get one. I never thought Ryan was going to die. I just couldn’t quite understand that. I thought nobody had more people praying over them than Ryan did. I prayed, “Lord, wouldn’t it be nice to show this kid a miracle in front of the whole nation.” Everybody knew he’s lived with AIDS for five and half years. He’d been in and out of hospitals. He’s been blind twice. I mean, this kid had a heck of a life, why couldn’t he be given a miracle? When he died, it was like, “Why? What more could we have done?”

When he died I was really taken aback. I started questioning my faith. I think that’s normal. I mean, I started wondering if there really is a god? How does God let things like this happen? I see people around me all the time asking that question. “Why do young kids have to die?” I mean, anybody really, lots of other good people have died too. So then I started trying to find reasons.

After awhile it started to get clearer. “Look at all the things he’s done in his short life. He’s educated so many people. Wouldn’t we all like to say we had accomplished as much as this kid did in only 18 years?!”

I tell the kids that when I get to heaven I’m going to be angry. I hope the Lord forgives me for being angry, but I’m going to say, “Why did you have to take Ryan?” Then I say, “You know what I think he’s going to say? He’s going to say, ‘You know what, he was only supposed to live three to six months. I gave you five and a half years and you’re still not happy.’” Maybe I got a miracle. We had quite a few Christmases that we never thought we were going to have.

I didn’t want to lose my faith. I was mad at my faith. I was mad at my church. I was mad at my religion. I was mad at God. But I wanted to find a reason. I eventually started seeing things around me like the Ryan White Care Act and Elton John go through rehabilitation and get off of drugs and alcohol and I thought, “My goodness, Ryan touched more lives than I ever knew. Perhaps those people got miracles and they don’t know it.”

Michael (Jackson) was a real good friend of Ryan’s. When Michael called Ryan in the hospital once, Elton said, “With all the money that’s in this room, we can’t bring this boy back to life.” That was a real big realization to Elton . . . that he had all the money in the world, he had everything he could ever buy, but he could not buy his health. That’s why he entered rehab. When Michael called me after Ryan died, just to see how I was doing, I said, “I’m doing OK but what made you and Ryan so close?” When Michael would call, they would have long phone conversations. He said, “You know, most people can’t get over the awe of who I am, so nobody can ever act normal around me. Ryan knew how I wanted to be treated, because that’s how he wanted to be treated. I can’t trust anyone because everybody always wants something from me.” He could tell Ryan anything and Ryan wasn’t going to go blab it or tell it, you know. “I promised Ryan he could be in my next video and now that he’s gone I want to do a video for him.” He made a video called Going Too Soon, which was about Ryan.

It’s hard to talk about death. I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t really think he was going to die. I can remember him saying what he wanted to be buried in. I told him I really didn’t want to talk about it but he went on anyway, “I know you like me in a tux but I don’t want to buried in one.” I said, “OK, Ryan, what do you want?” I mean, it’s like, I’d say anything to get this conversation over with. He says, “I want to be buried in my Guess jeans, my red T&C (Town and Country) shirt, my Air Jordan’s and my Jean jacket.” He pauses, as I’m fading out, then says, “You know how people are when they’re lying in a casket and everybody is watching their eyes to see if their eyes move? I want my sunglasses on and I want to be buried in my boxer shorts.” “Your boxer shorts?” I exclaimed. He’d just switched from wearing briefs to boxer shorts and really liked them. “Why your boxer shorts?” I deadpanned. “You know that hernia I got? I want to make sure I . . .” He had a hernia that they couldn’t operate on because he had no platelets. “I want to make sure I’m comfortable.” And I thought, ‘Well, if you’re dead, I mean . . .’ “OK, just talk,” Ryan said. “You know, as a mom.”

One of the best things after Ryan died was when people talked about him. I think it was also good for me to get involved in something I truly believed in, doing something, instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. That’s the easy way to go . . . feeling sorry for yourself. People didn’t let me, although that’s what I probably would have done if not pushed. But people were always talking about Ryan and people still do and that kind of keeps him alive within me.

CONTINUED

A Picture of Success

An excerpt from the book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. Interview with Sybil Anderson-Adams.

Her life was the picture of success. Her husband was an attorney, they were drawing up plans for their dream house and she recently quit her teaching job to spend more time with their three young, healthy, happy children. Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under her feet and before she knew what hit her, her life was turned upside down. What started out as a headache in court, turned out to be a leaking aneurysm. In spite of the doctors’ assurances to the contrary, within three weeks Sybil Anderson-Adams husband, father of her children, was dead. Without comprehension or time to have said good-bye, she struggled to survive and make sense of the incomprehensible.

As a result of her desperation and need to find answers, she reached out to her friends, neighbors, doctor and church and formed a support group for young adults who’s partners had died. The first meeting brought together twenty-five people who’d previously thought they were alone. With her need and ability to communicate her process and grief to others, she continues to open the door of life for those who thought it had been slammed in their face and locked shut forever.

SYBIL ANDERSON-ADAMS: When I arrived at the hospital the doctor said, “I have some bad news to give you. Your husband stopped breathing.’ I’ll never forget those words. ‘He stopped breathing.’ He finally said, ‘I’m sorry . . . he’s passed away.’ It was then that it hit me . . . like a wosh. (she hits her chest with the palms of both hands). I doubled over . . . just like you see in the movies.

After the shock had subsided I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was the loss of identity. I was the type of person who always had my entire life planned out. Before Neal died, I’d never really had a traumatic event. I had things all figured and scheduled . . . which, as you know, gives you a sense of control. But I had no control over this one and that was my undoing. I had to decide where I was going; who I was. There was an urgency. I remember going to a counselor and saying, ‘When will I not feel this way? When, when, when?!’ The reality was so strong that I wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to cry anymore.

Then one day I remember making a decision. it was something one of my kids said. You know, ‘Out of the mouths of babes!’ One of my sons says, ‘If you hadn’t stopped and talked to Dad that one day long ago, you might never had known him or gotten married.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right.’ And I had this vision where I decided that whatever came up I’d say, ‘Yes!’ That I would do things no matter how hard it was. When my kids had stuff they needed to do . . . cub scouts, swimming . . . I made a decision that no matter what, I wasn’t going to hide at home anymore, I was going to go. And what I found was that doing that made me stronger, even though a lot of the events I attended were absolute disasters! Taking some kind of action made me feel brave. it gave me confidence.

I remember sitting with another friend who was at that same juncture. She said, ‘I hate this. I want to be out of here.’ I felt the same at the time and replied, ‘Yeah, just get me out.’ And that’s one of the reasons I started a support group and keep it going to this day. I needed those people so bad. They were my reality. If somebody else could make it, so could I.

For awhile I could only live for the day. The future was nonexistent. I’ve met many people throughout the years that say the same thing. hey said, ‘Good-bye” in the morning and their spouse was dead by the afternoon. It changed my whole concept of how I look at things. I laugh more often now. We’ve got three teenagers and one in early adolescence. They can make you laugh or cry. If I wasn’t able to laugh once in a while our life would be one miserable hell.

I think all survivors make that decision at some point. You have to decide to live. My kids forced me into it. I’d be in bed with the covers pulled over my head, not wanting to get out and one of them would come in and say, ‘What’s for breakfast?’ What are you going to do; I couldn’t stay in bed? I had to get up. I was the only one they had left.

We had a saying in our house, ‘Life sucks.’ It was kind of our motto for awhile. The kids would say, ‘Life sucks!’ and I’d look at them and say, ‘Yeah, then what?’ They’d answer, ‘Then you die.” I’d continue, “So, then what are you going to do about it?’ They’d look at me, roll their eyes and say, ‘Come on Mom.’ It’s made them real. They see a different reality then most kids.

Life has become a really interesting place. Neal’s death and where my life has gone since, has added another dimension. God knows I wish it hadn’t happened, but without it I could have lived until I was eighty-five and never discovered this! Life is such a gift, though I’m not thrilled with the way I had to really find this out. I love being in this state of mind. I’m doing things that I never knew I could or would do. There was a point two years after he died when I realized, ‘My God, I can do anything!’ I survived something that at first glance seemed like an endless hole of despair. I didn’t think I’d ever climb out . . . but I did.

My Sister’s Keeper

It felt like I had been hit by lightening.

“Gabriel,” my sister Candace said, with a voice that was close to breaking. “I have breast cancer.

After a moment of stunned silence, not sure I had heard her right, I said something stupid like, “Are you sure?”

“They’re doing a lumpectomy and then they’re talking about radiation, chemotherapy and hormone treatments,” she continued, while I sat numb, listening on the phone to the litany of assaults upon her body that she was about to endure.

“Do you have to have all the other stuff after surgery?” I wondered out loud. “If it’s all in one area and they remove it, why do you have to still do everything else?”

“Just to make sure,” she replied. “The other therapies make it less likely that it will ever reappear and since I’m so young, with children, they don’t want to take any chances.” She paused and swallowed. “And neither do I.”

I still couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My little sister, the only biologically related sister I have (the other eight being foster sisters) and the one I’ve known since her birth, two years after mine, just told me she had a disease that she could die from. And, because I had worked at a hospice for many years, with people living the last months and days of their lives due to cancer and other diseases, my first reaction was that she was going to soon join the dead.

As if she was reading my mind she said, “The odds are really good that it will all work out fine, but I wanted to let you know.”

She was right, the odds for full recovery from early-detected breast cancer are very good and have continually improved over the last number of years, but knowing that didn’t help much at the time.

“Have they told you about all the side effects?” I asked, aware that, at least in the past, physicians and nurses sometimes minimized the amount of discomfort and reactions that can occur from chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapies.

“Yeah,” she said. “They told me about all the worse things that could happen. They said they had to tell me, even though none of them would probably occur.”

“Sure,” I thought to myself. “I’ve heard that before, then seen people get as sick and tired as an old dog and feel like the treatment was killing them worse than the cancer.” But, I couldn’t tell my sister that. At least I didn’t think I could at the time. I wanted to be hopeful and supportive so I said, “Good. I’m sure you’ll do great.”

She went on to describe when, how and what would happen and how she had discovered the lump. She said that in some ways it was a relief to at least know what it was and why she had been feeling so uncomfortable in that area.

I asked the usual questions. “Do you want me to come up and help with the kids? Is there anything I can DO?”

“No,” she said. “Mark (my brother-in-law) will watch the kids and work told me to take as much time off as I need. I’m a big girl now, remember.”

“I love you,” I said.

“I know, big bro,” she replied. “I love you too.”

I wish there were a switch we could turn on when we hear bad news, a switch that takes us immediately to hope meaning and compassion. But, more often than not, anxiety and apprehension are the first visitors that take me on a roller-coaster ride of grief. My first reaction to Candace’s news had been fear, but after her surgery was over and the treatments started, I began looking at our relationship in a different way and discovered how much I appreciate how close we’ve become as we’ve gotten older and had children of our own.

If there is any blessing or “hidden golden lining” in confronting and living through or dying with a life threatening illness, it must be the sense of presence and appreciation it can give us for the short lives we are living. It makes our mortality real and thus provides a container for the preciousness and value of every life.

Before Candace was diagnosed with cancer, she would have been the last person in the world to ever seek counseling or attend a support group. But, after her surgery she started seeing a private therapist and then attended a cancer support group. I was really taken aback when she first told me she was utilizing such support. As the months went along, she told me of the insights and changes that counseling and the group were creating within her and how she was realizing that she has far more choice in how she chooses to live her life than she had previously envisioned. I guess that’s what people mean when they say that having cancer was or is a blessing, because it helped them to “wake up” and live life instead of being a victim of life.

Luckily, after about two years of treatments, Candace was free and clear of any signs of disease and remains so to this day. I think she sees life differently now and has a deeper awareness, understanding and compassion for others. I have never taken her for granted, but ever since receiving that first phone call, when she told me she had cancer, I’ve appreciated and loved her more than ever and not only contacted her more frequently, but don’t hesitate in letting her now how deeply I care.

Tag Cloud