The Self Talk Moment I Did Not Share

Part of the content for the US Navy training we recently completed included self-talk, positive self-image, and making a lasting impression.

I had a story to share and I did not share it. I am unsure why I held this close to me. I could rationalize that I am two years, and about three months from diagnosis and one year from chemo. I still have three years, seven months of a daily oral treatment and an injection every six months. I remain unsure if it is where I am in this cancer journey timeline. I suspect I was unsure as to how the story would be accepted. Most likely, how would I be accepted.

It was so important to me that no one saw me as a cancer patient. I think that is why I pleaded with Richard to save my hair. Losing one’s hair is such a cancer stigma. I know my limits and remain grateful to Richard for saving my hair, my dignity, my sanity.

I guess I was about three or so months into treatment at the Clearview Cancer Institute. I always dressed for treatment in nice clothes, heels, full makeup, and jewelry. My friend from high school, Chantal, shared that she dressed well and it would make a difference.

This particular treatment day, I had left the lab and was headed to meet Richard where I had a scan scheduled. A thirty-five year old or so looking man stopped me and asked if I could direct him to the pharmacy. I did.

As he walked away a strong sense of sadness filled my core. My self-talk was active saying he asked me because I look like a cancer patient and would, if course, know where the pharmacy is located. Then, I called him back and said, ”Did you ask me where the pharmacy is because I look like a cancer patient?” He replied, “I asked you because I thought you worked here and you would know.”

The stories we make up in our minds. The power of a stranger’s reframe.

Next time, I will share.

VhS

A Place Called Bath

We placed a bid for work with the US Navy in Bath, Maine.  We got the contract.

We drove to Bath.  Yes, we drove.  We wanted to experience parts of this Country firsthand as opposed to several thousands of feet above the ground.

Our Silver Wedding Anniversary was the day before the first day of training.  We started our road trip several days early not only to have our celebration but also experience America at our own pace.

We traveled the green pastures and farmlands of Pennsylvania.  Bounced along the rugged and rough roads of New Jersey.  Followed the coast line of New York seeing all the boats in the Hudson River.  We wondered if any of these boats and their owners were the people who recused half a million people on foot on 9 / 11.

Traffic changed in Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Truckers stayed in the right lane.  Other drivers kept consistent speeds and the appropriate distance between vehicles.  These cars had working turn signals.

New Hampshire barely has a full page in my Rand McNally Road Atlas, sharing a page with Nevada.  It is a pretty state deserving of its own page.

Then we hit Maine where the depth of green foliage reminded us of Christmas.  Our Bath experience was immediate and breath taking.  It is a beautiful city.  Once we unloaded the SUV it stayed parked until it was time to reload.  We walked every day to somewhere.

We discovered fried parsnips at the Kennebec Tavern and, as his desire, Richard tried the local wings.  We felt welcomed by the locals at the bar.  We met C. Ford who gave us her business card.  She’s a local artist and on one of our daily walks, we passed her studio.  She welcomed us with a personal tour of her bright and meaningful creations.

The hottest wings were definitely at Bath Brewing Company.  It is a new establishment selling local beers while awaiting their own brewery capabilities.

We found ourselves going back repeatedly to JR Maxwells.  “Someone” overheard us say that we had not been to the Maritime Museum and he gave us two free passes to the museum; a sizable gift.  I have got to figure out how to write that thank you note.

We shopped spending carefree hours walking the streets and selecting made in Maine gifts at Lisa Marie’s.  I think we finally got some great spatulas at Now You’re Cooking because the salesman took the time to explain why nylon holds up better.

Bath has a no waste policy pertaining to shopping bags.  If we wanted a bag, we paid a nickel for a paper bag, no plastics.  Merchants were happy to fill the bags we brought with us.  I gave our empty IGA grocery sacks to the hotel housekeeper who was grateful.

We did make it to the Maritime Museum.  We asked the hotel’s front desk person for directions because we planned to walk.  She looked at us kindly and as if we were nuts.  She politely shared that it would be a hike.  It was a hike.  Up and down for a little under two miles on the hottest day in Maine we had encountered.  It was worth every step.  We saw first hand much of the older architecture and what seemed to be miles of Bath Iron Works.  The Lighthouse Tour on the Kennebec was the highlight of our visit.  Richard said it was all he really wanted to do.  The guide shared so much history and filled the gaps from our independent study.

The museum’s volunteers helped us with catching the Red Trolley back to our hotel.  They were overly helpful when we shared we had walked from our hotel.  Again, we got  polite and are-you-nuts looks.

People were nice.  I am writing about genuine niceness not here’s a tourist niceness.  If we were looking for something and it was not available where we were shopping, immediately another local store was recommended.  I left all my flippies at home and wanted a pair.  The first shop we stopped at had “dress flippies.”  The sales clerk recommended Reny’s Department Store.  You can get anything at Reny’s.  If it is not at Reny’s, you probably don’t need it.

There is a real sense of community in Bath.  We could feel it.  Maybe we felt it because for once we took time to savor the moments and enjoy.

VhS

 

 

COMING OUT OF THE FOG

Richard’s computer crashed. He could not get to a restore point and eventually could not get it pass the blue screen of death.

We called a local computer company. And then our technology world turned upside down.

The question the computer-genius asked was: When was the last time you reviewed your total technology plan, equipment, and costs?

We looked at each other and answered about two years. June 7, 2016 was our breast cancer diagnosis date.

Most medical professionals and Breast Cancer Thrivers (far greater than a survivor) I talk with consistently remark that around the two-year mark things begin to feel different. This is not necessarily a return to the old life rather an acceptance of the new life. At the two-year mark, prognosis is set with less questions and a continued treatment plan becomes routine. Medical appointments become less frequent occurring every six months for some and annually for others. My treatment ends 4 April 2022.

What happened to our technology? Richard has a new SSL hard drive. I have an ultra-thin laptop. Wi-Fi, modem, router, phones all new and faster. We are both on Office 365 with an upgraded security system. We are getting off cable going to streaming TV.

Richard’s website (Executive Leadership Skills International, www.els1.com) is fully functioning. We have new emails leaving EarthLink after eighteen years. My website (Essential Living Strategies, www.els1.net) is under construction and should functioning soon.

We had a long talk about how we got to the state that our technology became inefficient, costly, and lacked full functioning. Richard reminded me that he was focused on saving my life. Everything else became unimportant.

Cancer takes a financial and emotional toll on a couple. I am unsure if I will ever understand the full impact of how our lives have changed.

We are waking up. It is time.

VhS

BENTLEY

Bentley came into our lives when oldest son, Scott, and family moved to North Alabama for a job promotion.  They are living with us while they house hunt.

Bentley was a member of a two-pack family until Molly, a beautiful black lab, passed a few years ago.  He lived a structured life.  A large dog bone every morning and his daily feeding right after Mia Grace (granddaughter) came home from school.

Enter our doggies, Baxter, Bailey, and Sarah.  With just a couple of hiccups, the four doggies integrated well and are happy as a new pack.

Bentley finishes his meal in about 30 seconds.  He loves every morsel.  Our doggies sniff their food and then decide if they will eat or not.  I find this very frustrating.  Somehow, our doggies know that Bentley is getting “something” different.  Bailey made a dash for Bentley’s food one day.  Food went everywhere and clearly yet forcefully, Bentley gently told Bailey to back off.  Bailey backed off.

We feed twice a day in the morning and afternoon.  Bentley gets so excited about his feedings.  He is so happy.  It is a ritual of jumping, barking, and pure, genuine excitement.  He reminds me of myself when Richard makes pork belly.  After the first bite, I slap the table in sheer enjoyment.

Bentley has taught our dogs to eat.  We have all empty bowls with “nothing but shine” remaining.  I am not longer frustrated.

Sarah has adopted some of Bentley’s habits.  She stays closer to us as we prepare food.  She is more talkative doing an up and down head shake as she watches us.  She grins a goofy Basset Hound grin raising her mouth a little bit.

As I have watched this pack develop and come together, I reflect on the many work groups, teams, and organizations I have been a part of.  Often, it took one person to make or break the group.  Often, it took one person with courage to question a decision or way forward.  Often, it took one person with empathy to feel when someone needed help.

Richard and I have met many “one person” on this cancer journey.  As I reflected last month on this journey and the new path it is taking, I remain grateful for those “one persons” who showed up.

-VhS

 

 

Rainy and Reflective Day in Alabama

I have gone deep inside lately.  I took most of September to reflect on our Cancer Journey and what I have learned.

Last week Richard and I attended The Human Element (THE) Update in Sonoma, California at the Westerbeke Ranch.   (http://www.thewesterbekeranch.com/)

Richard and I were looking forward to the THE Update.  For many years, we have wanted to attend but we were always on the road doing work.  We have been Human Element Practitioners for many years and use these principles in our daily lives.

We arrived the day before THE Update began.  We spent the morning with Bill Chadwick who once trained with us.  In the afternoon, we had a lazy lunch and wine tasting.

Nate, at the Westerbeke Ranch, was kind and let us drop off our luggage and other items early.  We were in the Yellow Cabin that had a small kitchen.  I needed a refrigerator for some medicines.  Nate said to go, drop off our belongings, and that the cabin was unlocked.  I asked when we would get a key and he shared that there are no keys.  Everyone is on the honor system.  Westerbeke Ranch uses the honor system for wine and beer purchases as well as purchases from their Gift Shop.  It works.

It was around this time that I figured out asking about the workout room was most likely unnecessary.  I also figured out that we would be walking throughout the beautiful landscaped ranch and that would be my workout.  It was.

For the first time in all the many years I have traveled with work, I came home weighing less than when I left.  I ate three great meals a day.  The food was phenomenal and healthy.  Fresh ingredients presented in a family style environment.  We talked often with the Chefs and they shared several recipes for me to use at home.

Westerbeck Ranch is near the ongoing fires.  I wish they had our steady rain from Tuesday.

I awoke Tuesday morning feeling a little saddened that we were not at Westerbeke Ranch.  I enjoyed not having a TV or phone in our cabin.  We fell asleep with the moon and awoke with the sun.  I miss the sounds of nature and the crispness in the air.

I plan to return  …one day.

VhS

Always Remember

Sadness and loss consumed me once again this morning and then I remembered …  there were great people doing great things that day.

A couple of years ago Leon J. Moreau IV (Level 3 Leadership Graduate) sent us the attached video.  I had no idea this leadership happened on 9 / 11. Average people (real leaders) stepped up and did what they had to do. Over 500,000 people rescued in less than 9 hours.

Please watch to the end and, then, watch again every year.

http://www.americanwaterways.com/media/videos/boatlift-0

VhS

IT IS OVER!

Monday, 14 August, was more emotional that I had anticipated.  I cried happy tears.  I am finished with the 18 rounds (one every 21 days beginning 22 August 2016) of chemotherapy drugs and Herceptin infusion.

Once the infusion was completed, many of the Clearview Cancer Center Oncologist Nurses gathered with us and I rang the bell to announce that this was finished.

The plaque next to the bell says to ring the bell three times.  I rang one long time as hard as I could.  I wanted the world to hear that this was finished.  People hugged me and said goodbye.

I saved the last hug and kiss for Richard. As always, Richard was by my side loving and caring for me.  Throughout this journey, I never wanted to let him down.  He has postponed so many business and life events to complete his mission “to save my life.”

The attached picture is of us kissing after the bell ring.

I understand better as to how my life has unfolded.  I know why my parents died in what seemed to early in life because they could have only seen me as a victim, as their injured baby in this journey.

I know that Richard entered my life to be there for me to thrive through this journey.

He is the love of my life.  So many medical people have told me that I am fortunate.  They share that many men remove themselves not only physically leaving the relationship but also emotionally distancing themselves from their wives / partners.

Here are some of my reflections since diagnosis in June 2016:

Positive relationships are at the core of beating cancer. 

Richard and I had a great relationship going into this journey and our relationship is stronger today.

The relationship I have with myself must be positive as well.  I had to believe in me that I could beat cancer.

Long after the appointments and treatments end, I am left with my body and what it endured.  It is critical to have a holistic team beating cancer.  Richard’s approach to confront this cancer treating the mind, body, and spirit allowed all of my resources to grow to defeat cancer.

Relationships with the Care Team must stay positive as well.  If a relationship is not working, tell the medical person why and what to change.  If that person will not work with you to meet your needs, fire them.  There is simply no room for negativity when on a cancer journey.  Trust me; there are plenty of treatment centers and doctors to meet a cancer patient’s needs.

Finally, we have learned who our “showed up” family and friends are.  The “showed up” are the people that gave love and support continuously.  At first, I was surprised when some people said absolutely nothing.  I understand that sometimes people may not know what to say but to say nothing is a loud conversation about the relationship.

Leaders …

Are you showing up?  Are you present?

-VhS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday About Noon…

My last infusion will be over at Clearview Cancer Institute.

We will come home and remove my chemo schedule from the kitchen refrigerator.

It has been a long year of treatments, learnings, and most importantly love.

I would not wish this journey on anyone but I would not go back to the life I once knew.

Have a great weekend.  Richard and I plan to.

It will be steak night at the Scherberger’s tonight with Scott, Gina and the grandchildren.  From diagnosis, Scott and Gina “showed up.”   It is wonderful to celebrate this year’s ending with them.

Until next week and a new beginning … Vicky

 

I Had A Mammogram This Morning

Because of the type of implants I have and the fact that my Plastic Surgeon is first a highly skilled physician and then an artist surgeon, I am required to have a six-month mammogram after reconstruction.  FDA required follow-ups are every year for two years and then an MRI at year three.  It is the only time in my Libertarian life that I am OK with a Government Agency tracking me.

I was nervous.  I asked Richard to go with me and once again, he would be waiting.  I returned to the Crestwood Women’s Center.

This is the place where it all began; where the journey started. The place where I learned a new vocabulary.  The place where I learned that I had breast cancer.  The place where Dr. S retrieved film after film showing these cancers were not visible on mammogram — only a suspicious lesion was visible.  The place where women medical professionals and radiologists guided me through the shock of breast cancer as they poked, filmed, and extracted parts of my breasts to give my Surgeon and Plastic Surgeon everything they needed for my emotional and physical recovery.  Despite a cancer journey starting at Crestwood, it is still a happy, caring place for me to go.  It is the place that started the work to rid me of cancer and save my life.  I remain grateful to Julie, Teresa and the others at Crestwood for being with us on this journey.

As I updated my paperwork, I noticed on the left side a long list of appointment times and procedures at Crestwood.  I did not read the list. I did not want to go down a road that is behind me.

For longer than many of my blog readers are old, I have had mammograms.  Each year I would look at the images of my former dense breasts and wondered when and if “something” would show up.

Today, the images I saw are 100% cancer free.  I will no longer wonder.  I am free. 

 I got a really nice rack in the deal too.

 Thanks for going with me, Richard, and holding my hand.

Leaders …      What roads do you want to put behind you?

What are your new roads to travel?

Who is on your journey?

-VhS

 

 

 

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