Personal growth and progress

Each day starts and ends the same way each week. You really don’t give it much thought until one day you realize you’ve gotten into a routine that’s causes you to exist, not live. How did you get here and what do you do about it? I believe at some point in our lives we have that day, especially after a certain age. We get so caught up in surviving this life that we forget to live this life. Once you get the job, get married or have children, you start a routine of taking care of everything and everyone but yourself. The only way you arrive at this dead end station of existing is to stop progressing or having personal growth. Most people think of personal growth in terms of going back to school or taking a spiritual journey in a temple with monks. Personal growth and progress can be anything you chose that brings you to living. Each day set a mini personal goal such as reading pages from your favorite book or taking 15 minutes to go on a walk. Something as simple as not yelling at a telemarketer is a sign of personal growth. Every time you set these mini goals and complete them, you’ll then progress into larger ones such as starting a garden or learning a new language. Never be afraid to try something new that allows you to grow as a person. If you can’t think of anything that allows for personal growth, think of things related to making another person’s day better or discovering new ones to complete you tasks at your job. Every morning, ask yourself how can I grow today. Don’t discount the small or simple things that pop up in your head but make sure it’s psomething attainable. When you began to start doing these things, you will start to live and not just exist. Personal growth and progress makes your life worth living and keeps you from becoming stagnant. We only get one life to live so we might as well get busy living!!

Guns, knives and everything else

Initially I wasn’t sure if I wanted to discuss this subject. Depending on which side you are on, whatever is said regarding it would either offend or garner support. I myself am a gun owner so I’m not against people owning guns. However as a gun owner, I don’t want my grandson’s kindergarten teacher armed with a gun in the classroom. If we are going to address gun violence, then all violence in all communities need to be addressed. A school shooting is a tragedy but a mother being shot just walking to the store is also a tragedy. I would like for people to take the focus off gun control or the second amendment and deal with what is missing from the conversation.

I think the one thing missing from the debate of gun issues is active listening to each other. Every one is so hung up on what they believe that they fail to listen to one another. I believe there is a solution to the gun violence and other issues plaguing our society but we first have to be open to listen to what the other person has to say. We also need to get to the root of the problem and it doesn’t start with a gun or a knife. It starts with the lack of empathy for one another and the lack of implementing conflict resolution. Whether it’s a gun, knife, tire iron or bat, people have forgotten how to resolve their issues without violence. When you are cut off in traffic, the immediate response is anger or thoughts of some type of retaliation. As I said in a previous post, I think that conflict resolution should be taught along side subjects such as math and science. We have inherently become a violent nation and it’s not just done by weapons. We seem to yell or get angry at someone who doesn’t agree with us. Some may think it comes from video games, music or movies whereas others may see it as a spiritual disconnection or mental health issue. Regardless of where it comes from, if we don’t get to the root of the problem, violence will continue whether it’s by guns, knives or fists. Even if you remove any possible weapon from society, if someone is determined to cause harm, they will just find something else to use. The question is why. If we are to continue this civilization, we first have to be come more civilized to one another. If we don’t start having civil discussions and actively listen to one another, we will continue to get the same results with the next generation. The next time you have a conversation with someone with different viewpoints, try to actively listen to what they are saying. If we begin to do that, then we can work together to resolve any issues that arise in this nation. I chose to believe that at some point we will get this right for the next generation.

News in America

At any given moment, you can have the local, national or worldly news at your fingertips. You can turn on your television and there are countless 24 hour news cycles ready to engage you. If you are like me, you are wondering if they are really there to report the latest news or are they there to push their own agendas. Over the past few years, the news had focused on discussing issues that everyday Americans aren’t concerned with. Do we really care that the President slept with porn stars? Do we really care about space debris that has a trillion to 1 chance on hitting you? It seems that the topics such as healthcare, Veteran’s care, children hungry in America or Flint’s lack of clean drinking water is routinely ignored. We are constantly saturated with useless stories that are meant to sway your view to the left or to the right politically. Some of the nightly news shows have attempted to end the newscast with a feel good story after spending 25 minutes of sharing bad news or news that has no affect on your daily life. If there is 1 good story out there to share, I’m sure there are countless others that can be shared. Instead of informative news, each news channel is trying to outdo each other with the most scandalous story. Most of the news that is being shelled out today is based on another person’s opinion without any real fact checking. They focus on headlines to get you to tune in but they never have any other purpose than to pull you into irrelevant conversations by a panel with their own biased views. If the news is really there to keep America informed, why don’t they discuss things such as bills being passed in Congress that will affect everyone. Where are the news stories on the profit driven pharmaceutical and insurance industries fleecing Americans to bankruptcy? Why are we not hearing about the lack of safety in large cities such as Chicago or New York? I’m sure Flint residents would like the everyone to know that they still don’t have viable drinking water and those responsible are still not being held accountable. I’m sure Puerto Rico would like everyone to know that a huge chunk of the island still doesn’t have electricity or homes to sleep in after the hurricane. A parent preparing for their kid to go to college would like to hear about what colleges are doing to deter hazing. As a Veteran, I would like to know what steps are being taken to improve Veteran healthcare.

If you are truly exhausted by the doom & gloom being reported everyday or useless segments, then why are we still tuning in. All of these stations are driven by viewership and sponsors, so there are countless people tuning in and complaining at the same time. If you don’t like what’s being reported, stop tuning in. Stop listening to people giving their opinions just to change your mindset to believe what they believe. Some Americans agree with President Trump for always talking about fake news but they are also forgetting to add their beloved Fox News, CNN or MSNBC. Most of these stories being reported are not fact driven but politically motivated or focus on racial/religious bias, which only adds to the division of America instead of unification. I think it’s time we start using common sense and take the news with a grain of salt instead of taking it as accurate as the Bible. We all need to stop having itchy ears to only pay attention to the things that we agree with versus actually checking these reported stories for facts. This also goes for information being shared on social media. If we want to see changes in our news, then we have to stop tuning in to things that don’t matter & tuning into things that do matter. I’m not so naive to think that people always want relevant news because we are naturally drawn to gloom and doom. But the first fifteen minutes of the news shouldn’t be focused on whether the President slept with a porn star or a panel discussing the possibilities of who bit Beyonce. If viewership goes down and we demand change, then they will be forced to change and start reporting what truly matters to all Americans, not just what matters to Democrats or Republicans.

 

Conflict resolution education

Everyday when you watch the news there has been a shooting, whether it’s a mass shooting, domestic violence or an armed robbery. More times than I can remember, arguments over frivolous things has turned into a shooting, stabbing or some other forms of violence. It seems that people are oblivious to how to resolve conflict an no longer value another person’s life An argument over an online comment erupts when the people involved do not agree. Instead of engaging in a respectful conversation, the natural response for a disagreement automatically results in name calling or a violent response. When children start school, they are taught their ABC’S , counting or spelling. As their education progresses, they are taught more difficult subjects such as algebra or physics. Should conflict resolution be a mandatory subject taught in school?

Lymphadema: commonly ignored complication of breast cancer

After I had surgery in November 2015 for breast cancer, I was advised that they removed a small amount of lymph nodes in my armpit to check to see if the cancer had spread. Thankfully I was advised that it had not spread to my lymph nodes. During this time, there was never a time that my surgeon or oncologist discussed the possibility that I could develop lymphadema. It wasn’t until a visit with my friend Teresa that we noticed how swollen my right arm had become. I had noticed it at home but I thought I was just gaining more weight. When I would get pain in my armpit, I thought it was just a residual from the surgery. As I began to research what could cause this type of swelling, I finally had a name for it: lymphadema. Lymphadema is swelling in the arm or leg caused by a lymphatic system blockage. It is most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. Some additional symptoms include restricted range of motion, pain or discomfort, infections and a feeling of heaviness or tightness in the arm or hand.The more I read about lymphadema, the more concerned I became because this condition was largely being ignored by the medical community but is considered incurable.

After my follow up with my surgeon, I showed her my arm and it was only then did she mentioned lymphadema. She said that it wasn’t discussed initially because it’s a 50% chance that you won’t develop it. Since that’s not 100%, then there is a 50% chance you can develop it. I was scheduled to begin physical therapy but because I was starting radiation, I couldn’t receive treatment. I was informed that the radiation treatment would cause major changes to the breast, which defeats the purpose of being treated for the lymphadema. Keep in mind I had also been seen by my oncologist but she still had not mentioned lymphadema as a complication from breast cancer surgery. Since I was going to have at least 6 weeks of radiation, I decided to continue my research on lymphadema. The medical studies and discussions were very limited as was the treatment. Most women/men were told it was just something they had to live with, that it was all in their head or they should lose weight. Many oncologists/surgeons fail their patients by not acknowledging the issue or even trying to find a solution. If you decide to locate a lymphadema specialist in your city, you may not find one because they must be certified to treat lymphadema. I found that there were a few physical therapists and massage therapists that offered lymphadema treatment but they were not certified. Certification is important because they are trained for a minimum of 135 hours per the National Lymphadema Network and Lymhology Association of North America. However since there are no national standards, certification does not guarantee quality of treatment.

Physicians still don’t see it as a medical issue because it’s not life threatening. I would think that if your patient is experiencing pain & swelling affecting their quality of life, it should automatically warrant further investigation. Initially where I was receiving treatment , the medical director was threatening to shut the program down because it was not considered a serious issue. Since I started treatment, more breast cancer patients are receiving treatment for lymphadema so the program is no longer in jeopardy but it shows the blatant disregard for this medical condition. My physical therapist continues to educate herself on lymphadema so that she can better treat her patients but it does not come with much support from her superiors.

I believe that because lymphadema is not widely known or addressed, many patients suffer in silence and do not know what to do. I have noticed on my job and my experience with physicians, that the lack of concern or compassion is very prevalent . I would like to believe it’s based on ignorance of the condition but there’s no excuse for ignoring a medical condition especially when physicians take the Hippocratic Oath, which includes first do no harm. I would say to the men and women that suffer with lymphadema, be persistent with your physicians on requesting treatment because it will only get worse in left untreated. I have found out that it affects every aspect of my life and it was made worse after radiation treatment even though I completed radiation treatment almost two years ago. Each day I have to wear a compression sleeve and glove to help the swelling stay under control. At night I have to wrap it in ace bandages up to 3 layers, which is time consuming. I also have to make sure I don’t lift anything heavy because it only aggravates the lymphadema. Other treatments include physical therapy everyday, self massage at home, lymphadema pump and compression bras. I hope soon more research will be done on lymphadema and included in the discussion of possible side effects from breast cancer surgery. Komen.org has some information but I believe more education for our medical community is greatly needed. Change will only come when we are more proactive and persistent in requesting change in our healthcare.

Taking the bait

Every day when you turn on the news, we are flooded with stories that they insist is informing Americans. Every newscaster or talk show pundit swear that they are keeping you informed. If that’s the case, why do they knowingly share false information or constantly tell the same stories that does not inform the average citizen. Each day we are bombarded with information that only serves the agenda of the news channel. Their job is to convince us to think according to how they believe or according to the left or right political leanings. I don’t understand why the evening news or the 24 hour news stations aren’t considered entertainment with the likes of HBO or E News. Most of the stories told are recycled information given by whomever is speaking at the time. If they were truly informing us without any bias, we would hear about the different bills being passed in Congress that directly affects the American people. We would hear about the true research being done to fight cancer and other diseases. The news would find it their purpose to research & provide information that has true value to us all regardless of race, religion, gender or political party.

Everyday I watch how individuals take the bait of a news story or a headline without fully researching what’s being told. If you hate Trump, then you believe every broadcast that has something negative to say. On the other hand, if you fully support him, then you believe every positive story told about him via the news. Depending on the political leaning of the news channel, 1 story can be dissected and told according to their political affiliation. If you visit a news channel with another political leaning, the story will be told according to their political affiliation. Each day Americans are becoming more divided due to what they chose to believe according to their political affiliation & our news channels are taking full advantage. Why do we so easily take the bait? Instead of focusing on the carrot dangling in front of you, pay more attention to who is dangling the carrot. God gave us all brains so that we can be individual thinkers, not group thinkers according to the information presented to us. Most of us thinks that we could never be brainwashed by a cult but in a sense we are. It’s the cult of news broadcasting & we follow it blindly without asking questions. So which cult do you belong & are you willing to separate from it?

Tamoxifen and it’s residuals

When a woman is told she has breast cancer, most of the time she believes once surgery is complete, then that’s the end of it. That is the farthest thing from the truth. Depending on your diagnosis, most women choose lumpectomy, mastectomy of one breast or bilateral mastectomy. Depending on how honest or forthright your physician is, they will inform you of what all your options are prior to your 1st surgery. So many times I have heard women express that they were rushed to make a decision regarding surgery, reconstruction and additional treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation. Once the residuals kick in, they feel less than informed about the entire process. I was fortunate enough to have a physician that was patient and allowed me time to process the information given and do my own research.

When I began to do research on tamoxifen, I was surprised at how little research has been done since the introduction of tamoxifen. Most oncologist stated that since tamoxifen works so well with prevention and reoccurrence of breast cancer, the benefits far outweigh the side effects. It always amaze me that those that never take the medicine try to tell you that your body’s response to the medicine isn’t that bad. In my research, I’ve found several discussions of women regarding tamoxifen and the side effects that the pharmaceutical companies and physicians fail to or purposely leave out. If there are so many women experiencing similar issues, why isn’t it included with the other side effects? In my own personal journey I’ve experienced depression, hot flashes, heart palpitations, fatigue, compromised immune system, no sex drive, vaginal dryness, brain fog etc. Instead of celebrating the fact that you beat cancer, you now constantly fight a new battle daily while taking tamoxifen. I believe with all the technological advancements, there should be a conversation regarding treatment with more than just scientist, physicians, and insurance companies at the table. I believe if pharmaceuticals and physicians would be more honest with the patients regarding the side effects of medications, they will feel more informed about the next journey in their fight against a disease or cancer diagnosis. During my next oncology appointment, I plan on having that conversation with my oncologist so that we can come to an agreement on all the options available to me. We need to become more proactive in our help and research all options because at the end of the day, our physicians are people and only delegated to their mind for the appointment, not every day.

 

 

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We are sorry to inform you……

May 18, 2015 was the day I received those words on the phone. The radiologist was sorry to inform me that I had breast cancer. Initially I wasn’t moved as if I expected it. It didn’t help that my mom had died February 9, 2013 from breast cancer & I was her only child. As I listened to the radiologist talk, all I could think of was how I was going to tell my children and the rest of the family. My family was already worried that some day after my mom’s passing that I may suffer the same fate so how do you make the phone calls. Initially I continued on with my day as if nothing had just transpired and was thankful that I had a trip to Aruba booked for my birthday in July. As I sat at my computer to work, the emotions came over me like a tidal wave. I initially told my sons & then sent the texts to my cousins Tina & Von. I knew Tina would stand in faith but for Von it was an entirely different response. As I slowly made the phone calls to daddy & my grandparents, it started to settle in that I indeed was told I had breast cancer. I knew in that moment I had a choice, play the victim & wonder why me or trust God. I allowed myself to cry for the challenges I knew I was going to face & then I decided, “they” said I had breast cancer but God said differently. It was during this time that I really wished my mom was alive for encouragement and to just have a hug. But I could hear her saying trust God and stay in faith. Considering everything I had endured through my childhood and early adulthood, it would be easy to play the victim & ask why me but I knew that wouldn’t lead to a positive outcome.

Once the realization had sunk in, there were many decisions to make. What were my options? What would be the results? Is this genetic that would eventually affect my children? I was determined to not let all the information overwhelm & not allow the doctors to rush me into a decision that I wasn’t ready for. I informed my doctors that I would see the surgeon, oncology, plastic surgeon and do the BRCA test but I wouldn’t make a decision until I returned from my trip in Aruba. That turned out to be the best decision I made. Since the genetics test was negative, I opted for a lumpectomy & radiation. I was naive enough to think that once I had surgery, that would be the end of it. However, since some of my lymph nodes were removed & I was diagnosed with lymphadema. Radiation was ok until my skin under my breast resembled a severe sun burn that was painful. I’m a firm believer that my introduction to essential oils in 2014 assisted in the recovery from radiation. My doctors informed me that the lymphadema was permanent but I refuse to believe that. Indefinite sickness is never an option. I soon learned that i needed to take tamoxifen for 5 years or more to prevent breast cancer from returning. However, the doctor did not inform me of all the side effects that comes with taking it. As I sit here today, I wonder why scientists have not found a cure for cancer or improve the drugs that are supposed to save your life. Is it possible that there is more profit in the disease than the cure?

Hello, my name is….

The day you have longed for has finally arrived. As you sit there with camera in hand, you reminisce over how you came to be here. In your mind, you replay those life events in your head from inception to today. Yes, your last or only child is graduating from high school. You are both relieved and excited equally. In a moment, you will sit there awaiting to hear his/her named called as you erupt in screams and cheer as a huge milestone is achieved. All of a sudden, anxiety fills your heart & mind because you realize, if I’m not mothering, chauffering or cooking, etc. what will I do? You patiently waited for this day to arrive but it never occurred for you to plan for this day for yourself.

Family, friends & coworkers all simply tell you, do the things you like to do. You quickly agree but then you realize, what do I like to do? As you embraced motherhood, you neglected individualism. It was never your intention  to forget yourself, but here you are. You have taken the route so many others have without blinking an eye. You wanted to make sure your family had your undivided attention so you immersed yourself into everything mommy. As the years ticked away, your name became mommy & not the birth name given by your parents.

So as you sit in the land of emptynestville, you ask yourself who am I. Next comes the painstakingly task of reintroducing you to yourself. Hello, my name is. Instead of despair, you begin to experience delight. At this stage in your life, you are more confident in who you are & you have now had more life experiences. Don’t fear this new season in life but embrace the possibilities. It’s time to rediscover who you are & do things for yourself without feeling guilty. Yes, it’s ok to say I’m going to put me 1st! Remember to thank God for being able to have this opportunity because many did not.

Nobody Told Me: Facing the Death of a Parent as an Only Child

On February 9, 2013 my mom died. This sentence is short but the impact of those words are monumental. Growing up, it was just my mom & I. Due to circumstances in her marriage to my dad, she chose to not have more than 1 child. Even though I begged her for a sibling, she told me I would understand her reasoning when I was older. Because I love babies, I couldn’t understand why anyone would not want a house full of them. As I got older, the desire to have a sibling never left but I did understand why she didn’t do it.

I found out once my mom died, the weight of grief is beyond anything you can imagine. It’s a pain that no words in a thesaurus can explain. I soon realized that no one wanted to discuss death & grief. It’s treated like a dirty family secret that is whispered about or pushed behind a locked door never to be discussed. Everyone treats you as if you have the plague or that you are mentally unstable. I don’t think people are aware of it but because they are uncomfortable with the subject,  they want you to rush your grieving process or avoid you altogether.

My intention isn’t to say another person’s grief is worse than the other. I just wanted to shine a light on how it’s viewed from an only child’s perspective. Life as you know it changes but you are never prepared for the aftermath and you are never the same person.

Nobody told me that you will feel like your mother/father left you on this earth by yourself. Nobody told me that you feel orphaned. Nobody told me that even though you are surrounded by family, you feel alone in your grief. Nobody told me that you begin to long for a sibling to share in your grief because you feel so alone or no one understands what it feels like to lose that significant family member. Nobody told me that instead of people supporting you, the phone calls go silent. The church pretend you don’t exist because the church has to move forward while you are standing still. The holidays,  birthdays or other significant days remind you this person is no longer here. Nobody told me that on Mother’s day, the thought of not having a mother is like being stabbed all over your body & you question your existence. How can you celebrate a birthday when the person that assisted God to bring you into this world is no longer here.

Nobody told me that anger sets in because you are left alone. Nobody told me that once the anger passes, you feel guilty because you think about the conversations you didn’t have or you question if you could’ve done something different. Nobody told me that once you are able to function in life, you secretly hide your grief because everyone is pushing you to move on or make you feel guilty if you’re grieving longer than 90 days.

My hope with this blog is that everyone starts a dialog about death & grief. Even if you decide it’s something that’s just another subject to avoid or the topic is uncomfortable, we will all experience it. We all are destined to experience death and grief. Remember that long after the funeral, hearts are still hurting & tears are still being shed. Make that phone call or send a text message because it is truly needed to reminded the person they are not alone. It’s ok to say I don’t know how you feel, but I’m here for you.

After almost 2 years, I still want to talk to her, I still want to hug her or cry on her shoulder. I still secretly cry at night asking the same questions I asked 2 years ago. The one thing I take comfort in is that I had a great relationship with my mom & that we weren’t estranged. I remind myself that before she was my grandparents daughter, before she was a wife or my mother, she was God’s daughter & I’m blessed to have a mother like her. Because I believe she is with the Lord, I know I’ll see her again. Cherish every day with your loved ones because you never know if that day will be the last day you see them again.

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