When a stranger says “I Love You”

I was leaving a patients house a few months ago (I’m an Occupational Therapist working in Home Care) and yelled to the patient’s husband:  “Bye, husband”.  I couldn’t remember his name.  He yelled: “Bye, I love you!”  I was a little shocked, but in a good way.  How could my day get any better than when a stranger tells me he loves me, and within ear shot of his wife?  His wife, my patient, and I laughed, and both commented on how funny he was.

A short time before that, I was leaving another patients home for the last time when she hugged me and told me she loved me.  I loved her back.  She was one of those people who was easy to be around, and seemed to take her somewhat grave situation in stride.  She and I happen to share the same oncologist.    We had “Doctor” stories.

Yesterday, I was discharging another patient who I really connected with.  She was 90 years old, funny, spiritual, and accepting of her situation, and seemed to be happy with the way she lived her life.  When I was saying my final good-byes, she told me she loved me.  I loved her back.

A few weeks ago, a bunch of us were out having a good time.  We were seated near a woman who I came to know as Andrea, who had her tiny service dog with her.  He was wearing his “work” vest.  Before the music started, she allowed me to feed “Jerry” some leftovers, which he loved.  The live band started to play and the general concern from our group, and I’m sure people around us, was how assaultive the noise must be to this little angel.  I had hoped that Jerry was deaf.  He was old.   Andrea was staying at a local hotel, and after a while, she said she needed a ride, and was going to call a cab.  She was tipsy and tiny herself, so I offered to give her a ride.   (a friend rode with us just in case…)  In the parking lot at the hotel, Andrea hugged me and told me she loved me.  I’m sure it was partially the drink talking, but it touched me just the same.   I loved her back.

In our society, those three words are usually saved for families and for people who are romantically in love.  But love goes way beyond that.   As my brother’s friend was dying last year, he told my brother to tell me that he loved me.  I already knew this.  Perfect love (love itself is always perfect) need not be verbalized.  And when it is, it’s usually not a surprise.  It’s just surprising when someone you barely know says those three words, but often, deep down, you share the same emotion and about them.

I recently had a plumbing issue at my house.  When Gus the plumber was finished, I told him that I loved him in a fun tone.  I wanted him to know that I really appreciated his service and honesty.  He bent over laughing, but I think (I hope) I made his day.  He helped me, and did it in such a sincere and skilled way, that yes, I loved him for it.

As I’m writing this, I realize that it’s February, the month that Love is celebrated.  Since love goes way beyond romantic situations, and can mean endearment, fondness, warmth, adoration, loyalty, etc., and it can be with friends, family, or complete strangers, we have an opportunity and a special invitation to spread the goodness that lives in all of us.

I love you all!

Diane

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Posted in What Else: About Life | 8 Comments

Walk Towards the Sun

I took a public health course in college several years ago.  I don’t remember much about the specific lessons, but one concept still invades my mind as a citizen and community member.   We were discussing drinking and driving and the campaigns that surround the efforts of the public health professionals to convince people not to drink and drive.   There’s a lot of psychology that goes in to advertising, and what was discovered was that ads like “DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE” were processed by the average brain as “DRINK AND DRIVE”.  Spelling out the directive “DON’T” was not recognized by the average person, and statistics showed that the number of drunk driving incidents went up.

Now, when I see a public service announcement of any kind, I first scrutinize it for its content rather than it’s intended message.  Then I hope I don’t get too hung up on the psychology and am able to receive the intended message, as I’m sure it’s meant to enhance our lives and keep us safe in some way.

In a conscious effort, I try to apply this psychology to myself and the way I live my life.  It doesn’t work all of the time, but I keep trying.

Here’s a beginning list to myself about “What to Do”.  As an exercise to get to the meaningful lessons, I had to first write what I “Don’t Want To Do”.

-Don’t waste time.  Seize the moment, day, month, year.  Engage in meaningful activities.

-Don’t accept or believe the blame people put on you.   Know that your actions, past, present, and future are sound and well-meaning. 

-Don’t second guess your intentions.   Live with the best purpose in mind, always.

-Don’t criticize yourself.  Recognize your strengths and live freely.

-Don’t work your life away.  Take a vacation and enjoy the moments of  disconnect from your job and your responsibilities.

-Don’t put too much emphasis on money.   Spend some money on conveniences and experiences.

-Don’t hoard things for yourself.   Give possessions away if they no longer serve you, or if you see someone who needs them more.   

-Don’t try to manipulate people or situations.  Let things unfold naturally.

-Don’t treat your dreams for the future as impossible.  Believe in your imagination.

-Don’t rush through life.  Practice mindful walking, eating, driving, etc.

-Don’t think your life is indestructible.  Recognize the fragility of life and live as though your life is a gift…because it is. 

-Don’t dwell on the past or spin future events.  Live in the moment while learning from the past and fostering hope for the future.

This painting is not turning out the way I had envisioned.  And instead of saying to myself “Don’t give up”, I’m thinking that “keep trying” is a better way to think of moving forward.

Painting after artist Chrysovalantou Mavroudis from Australia.

Happy New Year to all.

May 2018 bring fun surprises, unexpected blessings, and the best of health and happiness.

Diane

 

 

 

Posted in What Else: About Life | 2 Comments

Fruit Fly Living

Before I write some thoughts about today, I want to announce the winners of the book “Live Like a Fruit Fly”.

Ferne and Donna!

I will be in touch with you ladies and will arrange to get the books to you.

Thank you to everyone for playing along and for taking your precious time to read my posts.

I spent the morning at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Club.  I was there for a session of NIA Dance, and then had an hour Reiki session with a very intuitive practitioner.  In between my appointments, I enlisted Miriam, who is a volunteer that sits at the front desk as a greeter, to be the official name picker from a bag of over thirty names to see who the winners were.

The Hope club is full of volunteers like Mariam, including the NIA instructor and the Reiki practitioner.   I’m so grateful for these people who donate their time, talents, and love to bring hope to people who are searching for a wholeness that they fear they have lost.

These morning activities grounded me and allowed me to be open-minded about a meeting I had with Hospice staff about my mother this afternoon.  Mom has been failing right along, but even more so since her hip fracture in September.  She’s not eating much and weighs a mere 82 pounds.  Hospice will begin their services today with Mom and will be extra sets of compassionate eyes, ears, and hands, and will provide an extra measure of attention.  It was a no-brainer to agree to having them as part of her care team.

My mother said many times to me throughout my life that she’s not afraid to die, she just doesn’t want to suffer.  We will do everything in our power to grant her this wish.

And knowing my mother, if I asked her how she lived her life, I believe she might say that she lived like a fruit fly.

 

Posted in Heavenly News...and Other Nice Happenings, Life with Mom, What Else: About Life | 5 Comments

Remission

I’ve spent the last 19 months wondering if I was going to live or die from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.   The truth is, there’s never been a better time to have this diagnosis as the treatments just keep getting better and better.

I spent last weekend at the North American Lymphoma Conference in Brooklyn where the collective energy from the presenters and the conference-goers was palpable.  The front liners, AKA the physicians, researchers, and the staff at the Lymphoma research Foundation mentioned on several occasions that their mission is to eradicate lymphoma, and in the meantime, develop successful treatments that may lead to a cure or at least provide borrowed time for some who continue to wait for the magic bullet.    The conference goers brought just as much hope with their promising stories of success, their commitment to persevere, and their acceptance of the position they’re in.

I came home from this enlightening weekend to prepare for another PET Scan on Monday morning.  I met with my Hematologist yesterday morning about the results and was given good news.  Some people achieve NED (No Evidence of Disease) with their scans right after they finish chemo, but I have a persistent area that keeps lighting up and causing doubt.  This scan, compared to the two others I had when treatment ended (one in November, 2016, and one on April, 2017) shows a decrease in the size of the area and less uptake of the tracer used in the test.  This means that the area likely does not harbor lymphoma cells and is just scar tissue, which my body is actively absorbing.

I asked if I could consider this a remission and if so, when did it start.  I fell in to the “time will tell” category, and time has revealed that from a medical standpoint, I’ve been in remission for about a year, since my last chemo was given in November, 2016.

I have not put all my eggs in one basket during this year of recovery.  Although chemo and western medicine are invaluable and necessary, there are so many other things that can be done in conjunction with standard and conventional treatments.  For instance, I now have an Integrative Medicine physician who has made an enormous impact on me and my understanding of my disease and how to live well.   I schedule Reiki and massage appointments routinely through our local Hope Club run by the American Cancer Society.  I have a standing monthly appointment with a wonderful Reflexology practitioner, leaving each time feeling relaxed and centered.  I practice guided meditation every morning and before sleep.  I eat organic food, and drink filtered water.  I keep a group of people close to me who I consider my soul mates.  I ride my bike and often meet friends out for fun at an out-door music venue.  I keep on painting, which is a form of meditation, and I read books that inspire me.

In fact, I finished a book on the train back from NYC Sunday night called “Live Like a Fruit Fly”, by Gabe Berman.  In a funny and meaningful manner, he shares his thoughts and experiences about how short this life is and how important it is to live in the moment, forget about the past, and to consider the future only when it becomes the present moment.  The book doesn’t claim to cure disease, but it promises to illustrate how importance our choices are, and the impact they have on how we live each day.

I loved the book so much, I ordered two more copies and would love to give them away.   Leave me a message either on this Blog post, on Facebook under this post, or email me at:  merganserscrossing@gmail.com, and on November 1, I will pick two names and send copies to the winners.  You can always order your own book.  It will be a sound investment, I promise.

As I close this post, I’m reminded of something I read last year from a fellow Lymphoma survivor:  “Remission, I couldn’t wait for it, then I got it….its like being in the Witness Protection Program and someone is always trying to still kill me.”

Although this thought is completely normal, and I fully understand it,  I will do my best to leave worry out of my life.

And when I find my self worrying, I’m committed to remembering to “Live Like a Fruit Fly”.

A painting I did of my cousin’s house. I added some flowers, a bird bath, a cat, and a Adirondack chair. Artistic license, as they say.

 

Posted in Heavenly News...and Other Nice Happenings, What Else: About Life | Tagged | 9 Comments

OMEGA Magic

Last year, while going through treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I read a book called “Radical Remission”, written by Kelly Turner, PhD.  I heard about it on one of my Lymphoma Facebook Groups.  It promised to be a good read and bring hope to people with cancer.  It proposed that there are other valuable things to focus on while trying to get well, and that although conventional medicine is relevant and many times necessary, there are things that can be done individually and without a prescription or doctor’s order that have shown to have a positive effect on healing and curing, many times, against all odds.

Dr. Turner and her husband, Aaron Teich came to the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY this weekend and presented a weekend-long workshop on the principles that she discovered during her research.  She had traveled the world with Aaron to interview people who continued to live, and live well even when medical science said they wouldn’t.  She found that there are nine key factors that these people engaged in or kept in focus after given a grim prognosis.

In my own words, here they are, and in no particular order of importance (they’re all equally important):

  1. Having a reason(s) to live.
  2. Taking personal control of your health.
  3. Making significant changes to your diet.
  4. Herbs and supplements
  5. Fostering positive emotions
  6. Identifying and letting go of suppressed emotions
  7. Recognizing and following your intuition
  8. Embracing social support
  9. Spiritual connections

The information from the workshop will take a while for me to process.  It wasn’t really learning new things, especially since I had already read the book, but to reflect on the in-depth discussion of each area, what each concept meant to me, and how the people in the workshop processed the information.  We all shared a lot with each other.  Most of us have or had a cancer diagnosis of some sort.  Some were there as a support to a friend or family member, and some were there out of interest.  It was an exceptionally enlightening weekend.

The Omega Institute was a magical place.  No matter where you went on the 250 acre campus, there was a feeling of support, love, and wellness, and an urging to be creative and to discover.  There were comfortable places to sit quietly and read, a lake with a nice beach to enjoy, hiking trails, and little treasures “hidden” all over.

The first day, near the meditation sanctuary, I came across theses stones which were arranged to spell out DIVINE LOVE.  Two days later, the words were eliminated and the pile of stones were inviting anyone who wanted, to arrange their own message.

I came across this interesting creature during one of my wooded walks.

The story about this is if you ask the Green Man to guide you, he will.  You can leave an offering in the little metal container.  All I had was a little metal clip.  I dropped it in and walked away knowing that if I ask, I will receive.

Before dinner one evening, I spotted this Adirondack chair under the illuminating yellow tree, and took up residence in it to read a while.  On one of the arms, “capture life’s moments” was messaged for anyone who sat for rest.

I was walking through the grass when I spotted something yellow on the ground.  And this is what I found.

This beautiful pathway leads to the dining hall on one end and Guest Services on the other.  A path well traveled.

The Omega beach from my kayak.

A quick painting on the beach.  The hammock defies physics, but it was so much fun to do.

There were other workshops going on at the same time, including a Women and Power Retreat which drew 500 participants.  So, there was no room for loneliness.  If being alone was something you wanted to do, it was easy to escape into the woods, catch a hammock on the beach, sit quietly in the meditation room or the Ram Dass library, or retreat to your dorm room.

If meeting people from all over the world was your thing for a while, there was no shortage of far-away guests.

Hawaii, Oregon, Illinois, New Mexico, California, Australia, Africa….

 

 

Posted in What Else: About Life | 5 Comments

Kicking it up!

I got a call on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend from a nurse at my mother’s facility telling me that she fell, but seemed OK except for a few skin tears.  The next day, the phone rang again with new information:  Her hip was broken.

I whispered to myself “Here we go!”

I know all too well what that means for her future, and then for the immediate moment.    It was a holiday weekend.

Mom languished for 3 days in the hospital on morphine before a surgeon could operate.  She was restless, confused, in pain, not eating much, but being well cared for by my observations.  She needed a “sitter” because she kept trying to get up.  She had no idea that she broke her hip and that she was in line for surgery.

Mom finally had her surgery and was sent back to her facility two days later.  Now in a wheelchair, she goes to physical and occupational therapy every day, and has amazingly improved with her walking, although not to the level she was before the fall.  And I know in my heart that she will never rise to her previous level of movement.  I knew this injury would spell out a new life for her, one that is smaller than the previous one, which began the day she moved in to the facility almost 5 months ago.   By small increments, her life was fading away any way.  Her dementia is mostly responsible for that.

I took her to the orthopedist the other day as a follow-up from her surgery.  We had some interesting conversations that convinced me that her reality is so different that her real life.  She told me that she had to find a place for Grandma to live (her mother).  Her mother has been deceased since 1979, and would be over 120 years old now.  She couldn’t figure out why the x-ray people in the doctor’s office never mentioned Grandma.

She also told me that her husband is deceased (my father), which is true, and that she’d like to find someone to “Kick it up with.”  I asked her if she meant she wanted a boyfriend, and she said “Yes.  I’m in pretty good health, and it would be fun to have someone to do things with.”  I was thrilled to learn that at least for that moment, she had hope and plans for her future.

I was cleaning some things out of her apartment today.  I found a small scrap of paper with her hand writing.  It said:  “He taught us how to live and now he taught us how to die.  That rainy day is here.”  Maybe this is written in scripture somewhere.  Maybe she saw it in something she was reading.  Maybe she made it up.  There’s no date on it, so I can’t match it up to a time in her life when she may have been assessing her status and future.  But it does give a clue about how she was thinking on the day she wrote it.

This all makes me wonder if it’s better to be able to contemplate life, death, and everything in between?

Or is it better to think that you’re OK when you’re really not, and have no capacity for anticipating the unpleasant things that the future holds?

I’m not sure I would know the answer if the questions were about me, but as my mother’s daughter, I’m comforted knowing that she has an alternate reality than the one I see for her, and according to her, she plans to have some fun.

This was Mom almost 5 years ago when we first moved in with her.

Posted in Travels with Dad | 6 Comments

Mama Bear

Almost four months ago, I gave my mother up and moved her in to a facility.  “Gave her up” is what I feel like I did, meaning I could no longer be her caregiver.  I feel in some ways that I’m a failure, but know for a fact that I’m not.  But that feeling creeps in every now and then, and I have to remind myself that what I did was necessary for her and I alike.  As my friend Madeline said to me recently:  “You are now free to be her daughter again.”  And that’s the truth.  And although I still manage her care, it’s on a different level which allows me to work, have some fun, and most importantly, be my mother’s daughter again.

My mother has made this transition so easily, really.  She has always been someone who understands that life is full of beauty and challenges, and how we accept the things that come our way will dictate how well we live.  Even with her dementia, her natural personality still shines through.  I know this because I see her smile when she’s resting with her eyes closed.  When she’s asleep, she smiles the moment she awakens, brightening up her surrounding atmosphere.  She dances a little with an arm in the air while hanging on to her walker with her other hand when a staff member interacts with her.  And when I hear people in passing saying things like “She’s so cute, I can’t stand it” or “Look at how beautiful she is” or “I just love her!”, I know she’s still her, sharing her best with others.

Her facility had a Luau today.  I found her in her recliner smiling with her eyes closed.  I got her to her feet, donned our straw hats and leis, and we went to the festivities.  She ate almost two plates of food, played some games, had some cotton candy, and bet on a stuffed animal pig race and won.  Then she had a rainbow sherbet and settled in to listen to live Hawaiian music.

She’s still making the best of her life and accepting the good with the bad.  I continue to learn from her because she’s my mother and that’s what a mother does…she teaches.  And I know I can still learn, especially from someone one who I looked up to and admired my whole life.

So when Mom tells me that her mother sold her house and then it was demolished, and that’s why she has to live where she’s living, I don’t attempt to correct her.  I say things like, “Well, looks like you found a great place to live…” and I leave it at that.  It’s better for her and I both that she not really understand or remember the truth.   Sometimes, believing in alternate explanations is a good thing.

Posted in Life with Mom | 7 Comments