For those who have had medical challenges in your life, you have already played the waiting game. Maybe you are unlucky enough to be experiencing it right now and have the added concern of dealing with COVID-19. Or maybe it is the virus or you think it is the virus and now you wait.
Waiting to see if you feel better.
Waiting to talk to/see the doctor once you decide you are not well.
Waiting for test results (excruciating).
Waiting for a diagnosis.
Waiting for a treatment plan to come together.
Waiting for treatment to start.
Waiting for treatment to be completed.
Waiting for more test results to see if the treatment worked.
Waiting for the next appointment to see if your malady has returned, you are in remission or “cured.”
Yes, the waiting game sucks. And now more people know about this place of personal hell.
Today much of the world is waiting. Paused. On hold. Fear grips us instead of hugs. Panic shopping prevails instead of social outings. Hand washing replaces hand holding. For now at least.
As we self-quarantine to wait out the virus storm that is sweeping across our country and the world, we need to take a deep breath to remember what’s important – family, friends, faith and the well-being of our neighbors, including those on the front of this pandemic.
We can wait in fear or wait with purpose. Some will turn inwards in a self-preservation mode and shut out the world while others reach out to help those who are also waiting, but don’t have a home or food in their waiting room.
You can do both.
Stay at home if you are vulnerable and isolate. Engage with ways to help virtually or at home. Or be part of relief efforts practicing good hygiene and social distancing if you are able. Donate to local charities on the front line of this fight to help them secure needed resources now.
We can all do our part. What’s your plan? #doyourpart
As an avid gardener, I know a key to yard work is to regularly schedule my time to maintain gardens. Planting and harvesting get much of the attention, however a hidden secret to a successful harvest lies in weeding. Yes, weeding is cruicial, not just for the look, but because pesky weeds steal away nutrients and water from the good things we are intentionally growing. Weeds are manageable if you pull them at frequent intervals. Tweny minutes a week is not too bad once you have a yard under control. But if you are gone for a month and come home after a rainy and hot June, guess what greets you? A forest full of happy weeds. You can either let them grow and lose control or get to work.
Just like our gardens, we need to stay on top of things that creep, unwanted, into our lives. That means doing regular maintenance of things we may not want to do or pruning back parts of our lives that have gotten out of control. Once you begin working on your personal gardening, you’ll realize the benefits to all parts of your life.
How do we start weeding out? First, you have to be ready (emotionally and physically) to get weeding. Second, identify the weeds in your life and prioritize them. Third, grab your gloves and get weeding!
So what do you weed out first? Is it bad habits? Friends who wear you down more than bring you up? A cluttered house? Toxic relationships (personal or professional)? An unhealthy work environment? Whatever it is, you are your own master gardener, so own your gardens and get to work. All you need is a pair of nice fitting gloves (in case you run into particularly prickly weeds) a bit of time and the right mindset.
In the spirit of personal gardening, I’ve taken this last year off from paid work, focusing on a personal sabbatical to do my own weeding. And the benefits have been many. A year of trying new things, cleaning out the house #mariekondo style, painting, gardening, traveling, sharing 69 cups of coffee with the community, spending time with friends and family, reading and writing. Yes, lots of me time. And it has been such a gift. And now I’m ready for the next big thing in my professional life because I did the weeding I needed to do. For me. I encourage you to do the same, whatever that looks like for you in your life at this moment.
Are you motivated to start your own personal garden weeding? Here’s a weeding exercise if you are ready to get to work. Answer these three questions (really, get a paper and pencil), then prioritize your lists.
What (or who) are the “weeds” in my personal life that need attention? (Think physical and mental health, friendships, life surroundings – home/garden, and groups I associate with or volunteer for regularly). These are things in my life that suck out my energy or invade my time, leaving me too busy to focus on things I really want to do or be someone I’d really like to be.
What (or who) are the “weeds” in my professional life that I am in control of pulling? Work is never perfect. Even if you work for yourself. So what parts can you weed out or delegate to make time and space for the things you are really good at and love to do?
If I could weed out things in my life, what would I like to do with new found time and energy?
So what did you learn about yourself? Your “home” self versus your “work” self? Is it time to start plucking the weeds or should you grab the pruning shears? What is holding you back? The weeds are only getting thicker and sucking away the nutrients you need to live a happy and healthy life. Remember, you are the master gardener of your life. Whatever weeds have crept into your life, you only have to open your eyes to see them, squat down and start pulling. Even if it is a field of weeds, you start by pulling the first one. With each weed pulled, you will gain satisfaction and eventually, reclaim your garden.
Once your weeds are under control, you can look forward to spending more time at your happy place doing things you really want to do. For me, it is sitting on my front porch with feet up, favorite beverage on hand and hours ahead with no set schedule. I hear the birds singing, the lawn mowers humming, the softball girls in the park cheering, have books to read, a journal to fill and a blog to publish. Here’s wishing your garden gets free of weeds soon.
I had an annual physical with my GP last week. The same old pee in a cup, take some blood, step on the scale, listen to your heart and lungs and analyze your poop. Somehow, these normal tests have made me feel like I am once again myself. It has been just over five years since I was diagnosed with DCIS and about four and one half years since my treatment ended. Now, about the only time I remember I have lived through “this” is when I get a glimpse of my reconstructed breast in the mirror while hopping out of the shower. If I look quick enough, it doesn’t even register in my brain that I am different. Heck, I have even unsubscribed to many of the breast cancer resources I once followed diligently.
But all this has taken time.
The time to heal, both physically and emotionally. And now I feel good and sound and whole once again. My GP proclaimed me “healthy as a horse” with unremarkable test results and low blood cholesterol (with the good stuff very good and bad stuff, very low). My weight is in the normal range and so is my BMI. I exercise regularly, sleep 7-8 hours a night and eat wisely. So, all in all I am quite normal and am relishing that thought. Before my diagnosis my normal state was taken for granted. Five years ago at this time, all I wanted to be was normal. Today I am glowing with this revelation that to be normal is to live. And I’m living in the moment and planning for the incredible future ahead. Weddings, grand openings, new gardens, traveling, and sharing life’s adventures with my biggest gift – my husband Steve.
My wish for you is that you too find and celebrate your normal. If you currently have it, don’t take it for granted. For those of you working your way back to normal, know that I am and others are cheering you on. Just remember to celebrate when you get there and be mindful of what a gift your normal truly is.
As we enter into the season of giving, this blog seems most fitting.
My mother passed away unexpectedly 31 years ago. I was in college at the time and remember returning home for the funeral only to discover a partially packed box mom had been preparing to mail me for Halloween. The box contained a macrame skeleton and a hand stitched and stuffed orange pumpkin. I remember thinking at the time, and every time I touched these items, that these were my mom’s final gifts to me. But little did I know that over three decades later I would receive an unexpected gift.
The macramé skeleton enjoyed years of decorating our front stoop or porch while the boys were growing up. The toll of inclement fall weather deteriorated the gift; a tumble off its hook on a blustery day caused the already brittle scapula (wooden rod) to break a few years ago. The skeleton received a simple burial in our waste can. It was difficult to throw the battered skeleton away, knowing that my mother’s hands had lovingly made it for me. A mom who found her way through pottery, painting, batik and other arts to express herself; a mom who regularly shared her gifts, material and personal, with others. Unexpectely, my final gift perspective changed last summer during a visit to see my dad and step mom, Ruta.
My visits to Marietta had become more frequent the past two years, as Ruta’s health was declining due to her ALS, Lou Gerig’s disease. It was during my final visit while Ruta was alive that she asked my dad to bring me something. In a weak voice that I could barely understand, Ruta strained to say she had been meaning to make sure I got this for some time and apologized it took so long. Ruta said the she was uncertain, as was my dad, of whether this item was intended for me or whether my mom had purchased it for herself. Minutes later, my dad presented me with a spectaular hand carved round box. Upon opening the top of the box, I could see that a well preserved item was nestled inside; I unfolded the cotton and carefully unearthed the gift. The round box was obviously made by a master artist and was a gift in itself, but what was found inside made my heart pause. It was a ring that may never have been taken out of its encased nest. A gift waiting to be given for over three decades. Ruta reminded me that it was probably purchased during my mom and dad’s trip to China (my mother passed away shortly after that trip). My dad didn’t have much memory of the ring or its’ intended finger, but Ruta felt strongly it was meant to be a gift to me since it was still wrapped so perfectly and may have been intended to be a Christmas gift in 1983.
As I slipped the jade ring on my right ring finger, I admired the simple beauty of the stone and gold setting and then thought of my mother. Choking back the tears, I managed to whisper a “thank you” to Ruta, not knowing that this would also be the final gift she would give to me in person. It was only three months later that Ruta passed away from ALS.
Now, each time I wear the ring, it reminds me of the wonderful gift of my mom the first 22 years of my life and also of Ruta, the mom I was lucky enough to have for nearly 30 more. I find that the ring gives me the strength of two accomplished women, which both comforts and empowers me. Although I cherish my hand sewn pumpkin, I now have a new “final gift” to remember my mother by and a special memory of how that gift was given to me by Ruta.
We never know when we won’t have the time to present our loved ones with a final gift. Don’t wait to give yours to those you love. Simply saying “I love you” or giving a hug is a gift we can all afford to give. Who needs your gift today?
My husband surprised me with an unusual gift for our 30th anniversary, a caddy. It was not just a caddy, but a round of golf with a caddy as part of a very romantic getaway. But it was the caddy that threw me for a loop.
As we were walking up to the bag drop area, I quickly texted a golfing friend of mine, asking him what I should “do” with a caddy. He texted back the following: “Make sure he finds your ball, reads the ball for putts, clean your ball and equipment, give shot selection advice, holds the pin and fixes your divots.” Wow, not only did I have to think about my game, but I was going to worry about a stranger watching my every move and then have to figure out how to use him to help my game. And so the round began.
My first hole was a disaster. I was totally distracted by this person carrying my clubs and didn’t like someone in my space watching my every move. But as we went along two things happened. I started consulting with my caddy and, with a few better shots, was gaining some self confidence. As I got to know him, I’d ask his opinion, though he was reluctant to give it (he was a brand new caddy). He shared with me what his coach would tell him if he was in a situation like I was. I started filing away the tips and strategies and found many occasions to use them on the course. The back nine was a much better experience for me. The golfing improved somewhat, but my understanding of the game and ability to work as a team with my caddy made it more fun and rewarding.
For a moment, I closed my eyes to make believe I was on the LPGA tour. And then I opened my eyes and was extremely grateful there was no gallery. I did get a taste of what it must be like to have a close working relationship with a caddy and can see how relying on someone who knows that course and you can be quite valuable. I had only walked 18 holes carrying my clubs once before and remember being very tired after that round. By just walking the course and having someone else carry my clubs left me with more energy to play the game and finish strong. When I was able to ask my caddy which club to hit and have him confidently hand me a club, that confidence rubbed off on me. I had to laugh when he handed me a 7 iron and I was still over 200 yards out, but I’m happy he was honest about my ability and he knew what club I was hitting well.
There are three takeaways from my caddy experience that don’t just apply to golf. First, learn how to rely on others to share their knowledge and experience for a better outcome. Second, let others carry the load for you leaving you with more energy. Third, teamwork trumps an individual effort. It is these three tips, I’ll leave with you and encourage you to find special people to caddy for you in different areas of your life. Fore!
As winter lingers and snow showcases a white crystalline landscape all around me, I become mindful of waiting. Some of my midwest friends are sick of winter and others are taking a midnight walk to enjoy the snowy magnificence that has enveloped us. Some are counting the days until spring and others refuse to wait and have hopped a plane to escape the polar vortex that has gripped us this season. Looking out the window on a sun soaked morning, the snow has encased our backyard. I reach for my coffee cup and click on the Olympics, where an athlete is about to start their race. The clock ticks down and finally, their personal wait is over. Yes, waiting is just part of living. Waiting is part of our preparation time. There are so many times in our lives where waiting creates anxiety or prepares us for the future. It is all about how we interpret the runway.
When one is waiting for test results or left outside an operating room in an emergency situation, waiting resembles some sort of hell – a separation from those we love or from information that might give us solace. But waiting can be a wonderful part of preparation. In a world of immediate gratification, waiting gives us time to prepare. Watching the athletes at Sochi just before their race or event starts, I can feel the tension that waiting creates. I’ve been there. Once the event starts, the wait is over and it’s all you and how well you prepared. The gift is in the waiting if you let it be; the journey is in the preparation.
And so, I now begin my preparations and waiting for a new adventure ahead. My husband and I are headed to Spain to walk the el Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James later this spring. Our waiting is composed of preparation and distance walking training. I experience a walking rigor to prepare for the Avon Walk two years ago for pink and personal rehabilitative purpose; now I share that waiting with my husband as we are counting down towards thirty years of marriage. We are pilgrims still on the journey, together.
What are you waiting for? And how can you make the wait part of your journey?
May your wait be spiritual and not painful, may your wait make you mindful and more prepared. Find your wait purpose and use that to be stronger. Don’t waste the wait, it is a gift unto itself.
Let’s face it, some people don’t consider DCIS breast cancer.
The reality is that treatment of DCIS is much the same as cancer – lumpectomy followed by radiation and oral meds (like Tamoxifin) or mastectomy. No, we don’t undergo chemotherapy because the cancer (or pre-cancer as it is also termed) has not spread.
So how are we DCIS patients to feel? Not accepted as breast cancer survivors? As amputees? Misfits? Just because medicine can’t figure out exactly what “box” to put us in, doesn’t mean that we haven’t faced a life changing ordeal that needs to be monitored the rest of our lives. For me, I’m proud to project pink (or purple) because it’s about my breasts.
I was happy to hear from Lisa on my DCISMyStory Facebook page (‘like’ us if you haven’t yet!). She sent me this personal message and I asked her if I could share it with you all on my blog and she enthusiastically agreed. Do you have a story to share or feelings you’d like to explore? Send me an email to: email@example.com or message me off my DCISMyStory Facebook page. I’d love to share YOUR story with the thousands that visit this website each month.
Meet Lisa, 54, from Glen Ellyn, IL
So happy to find this site. I too was diagnosed with DCIS on my left side in June of this year. I had a mastectomy on July 10 with immediate expander placement. I am now 4 weeks post-surgery. I have been very fortunate – no complications and well on my way to healing. But, reconstruction will be part of my life for the rest of the year and probably into 2013. After 15+ years of biopsies and other breast procedures, all on my left side and always resulting in benign results, I was quite surprised to be diagnosed with DCIS this year.
I have been very fortunate to have my husband accompany me to every appointment and procedure. He has been assigned with remembering everything. In addition to his presence, comfort has been key to my recovery… lots of pillows, gel ice pack, and soft cotton clothing. Here is a site all about pillows – . I personally have 5 pillows in my bed. I had to place them all around me – to keep me from moving around too much, to support my back so I could sleep slightly on my side, and to keep my arm in a comfortable position. My favorite down pillow accompanies me everywhere and serves many purposes such as protection under my seat belt, comfort under my arm or support for my ice pack.
I am 54 years old and have faced so many of life’s challenges – I am sure you agree that it is so important to advocate for yourself: Search the internet, ask lots of questions, talk to people you know, find someone who you can talk to about your feelings (scared, confused, overwhelmed), and surround yourself with positive people. I have friends and coworkers that I did not even realize had gone through a similar situation and also so many friends and acquaintances that connect me with other breast cancer survivors. We survivors are wonderful people – supportive, encouraging, and a wealth of information.
I have also recognized that even though we all have been faced with a similar situations, there are so many different variable and outcomes. Words like hormone receptors, HER2/Neu Status, BRCA gene, tumor grade; and all the options for reconstruction that you may or not be a candidate for. It is mind-boggling.
After breast surgery, you may need to do some arm exercises to regain strength and flexibility. Before you get started, talk to your doctor about doing arm exercises after breast surgery. Here are several easy arm exercises you can do, to keep or regain your range of motion.