All posts by CoachVicky

Cancer Thriver

I saw this quote on Facebook the other day:

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” — Maya Angelou

I have difficulty when someone refers to me as a Cancer Survivor.  It sounds as if I am barely hanging on.

An Internet search of the definition of survivor shows:

  •             a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in             which others have died: “the sole survivor of the massacre”
  •             a person who copes well with difficulties in their life: “she is a born survivor”

However, to thrive means:

  •             to grow vigorously (flourish)
  •             to gain in wealth or possessions (prosper)
  •             to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.

I think being a Cancer Thriver is a more accurate definition of my journey.  When I realized cancer was a part of my life and, in some ways, would always be a part of my life I was determined to make this the absolute best thing that could happen to me.

I asked Richard one day why he thought this had happened to us and he said,” You have become a better person.”  I hope I am.  I hope I have deeper passion, widely-spread and true compassion, laugh from the belly humor, and a style that better fits.

Leaders …

Do your followers survive under your leadership?

Do your followers thrive under your leadership?

How do you know?

-VhS

 

 

 

Footprints

When I think about a footprint, I think about an impact, impression, or effect.

I have encountered many footprints along this cancer journey.  The overwhelming majority have been positive impressions.  There was another “newbie” at the treatment center yesterday. She was in the chair next to us.  Her Oncology Nurse was so very kind explaining the procedures and encouraging her not to be scared.  I remain unsure how the Oncology Nurses whom I have encountered can stay so positive, upbeat, smiling when dealing with cancer patients repeatedly.  To me they leave kind and caring footprints.

Richard and I talked about footprints this morning at breakfast.  At Executive Leadership Skills International we define a Leadership Footprint© as an approach to application of a leadership learning.  We guide our participants through behaviors for applying their learnings in life and at work.  Using historical examples, various in class exercises, and one to one coaching sessions, participants explore their personal Leadership Footprints© as well as those that can be implemented by a class.

I shared with Richard the positive impact his life’s work has made on so many people.  I shared how his teaching on the power of choice led participants to make the steps necessary for a geographical rotation or deployment; gave them the courage and wisdom to hold underperforming subordinates accountable; and, made them want to be better leaders.

I write thank you notes to the medical people that have left a positive impact (footprint) on my cancer journey.  One evening during hospital stay, the Nurse came into my room, introduced herself, and said, “Let me fix this room so you are comfortable.”  She rearranged a few things and voila; the room functioned so much better.  Another time an Aide complimented my complexion as she wheeled me to the car.  She made my day.  They got notes, as did many others.

Followers … Who is the leader (or are the leaders) in your life who made a positive impact?

Who is the leader that left you a footprint?

Write that leader and tell them how they impacted your life.  Write … no email!  If that leader is no longer on the planet, write a member of their family.

-VhS

 

From the Bottom Up

I find myself taking many pills these days.  I have resorted to keeping them in pill towers so that I avoid opening several different bottles throughout the day.

Typically, these pill towers have an extra top so that the tower is sealed and an individual container can be removed and topped.

I always misplace the extra tops. I do not know why but I end up finding them in my purse, on the bedside table, with the TV remotes … just about anywhere.

The other day after I had exhausted looking in the usual places where I find the tops, I stared at the pill tower.  Why not remove the bottom container instead of the top container? The tower would remain intact.  I was working from home so I could keep the individual container at my desk; an extra top was not necessarily mandated.

Sometimes just looking a problem differently can help solve it.  I have come to realize that facing a life altering illness requires looking at that problem differently.

There are a couple of basic approaches to facing a life altering illness:

  1. Give up and accept whatever fate brings.
  2. Turn decisions over to the medical team in charge.
  3. Study the situation, gain knowledge, and be the one in charge.

For this cancer journey, Richard took the lead and put us in charge.  I remain so very grateful to his wisdom, commitment, and leadership.

Leaders …  How do you face problems? Are you doing the same things over and over or are you looking at the situation differently?  How often do you look at the problem from the bottom up (from your subordinates’ perspectives)?

-VhS

Stained Tablecloths

When we moved into our new home in October 2012, I purchased three new tablecloths for our dining room table.  The colors were cranberry, celery green, and a soft cream.  We have other tablecloths but these three are ones most often used and rotated.

Over the past four plus years there are some slightly visible stains appearing.  In many ways, losing the newness of the tablecloths and seeing some wear brings happy memories.  I think of the many meals we have eaten on these tablecloths and the many prayers we have offered before those meals.

When we returned home from the lumpectomy surgery on 2 June 2016, Scott and Gina had the dining room table set and supper ready.  They decided to stay an extra day with us after the surgery was scheduled.  Scott said to Richard, “Dad, I just can’t go back today.”  They did so much more than make supper; they even brushed the dogs and vacuumed the floors.  What they really did, though, was suspend their plans to support us at a time when our future was uncertain.

My body from our cancer journey has been like a stained tablecloth.  On close scrutiny, there remains faint scars from my drainage tubes and with less scrutiny more prominent scars.  Over time, the more prominent scars will fade but not the memories. My body’s markings are a roadmap of this journey.

I think of how far Richard and I have come on this journey.  As the one-year anniversary of so many “firsts” approaches, we have crossed many milestones and much of the journey is in our rear view mirror.  We know the routine.  We now have a good idea of the future.

Leaders … What are the “tablecloth stains” on your leadership journey?

Are these stains happy memories?

Do these stains require a conversation with another person to wash out the stain?

-VhS

The Telescope

Richard’s Father was notorious for shopping on line.  When Richard’s Brother, John, was cleaning out his Father’s garage, John came across unopened boxes of new stuff.

One such box contained a telescope.  It was a brand new telescope.

Richard assembled the telescope the other day.

Probably like you, I have gazed at the night’s sky and wondered what all the shiny things were blinking back at me. Now, I have the opportunity to know!

I ordered the book 50 Things To See With A Small Telescope from Amazon.com.  It arrives today.  Yes, like Richard’s Father I order a lot on line.  The difference is I rip those packages open immediately!

As I gaze at the night’s twinkling objects, I see some that shine brightly and some that are dim.  I think of my body like the bright and dim objects.  I had many good cells, something happened to dim one of those cells, and that grew aggressively to cancer.

In October 2012, we moved into our new home. Richard spent one night in our new home before we hit the road for weeks. I remember about 2012 Thanksgiving that we ate among unpacked boxes only to leave them unpacked because we were hitting the road again.  We also undertook supporting another family member. It was a huge, stressful time where I believe fatigue and an unbalanced life / work relationship allowed my body to become susceptible to disease.

As we share in our Emotional Intelligence Workshops:  Emotional stress was more predictive of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease than smoking;  people who were unable to effectively manage their stress had a 40% higher death rate than more emotionally managed individuals.  (Various researched sources).

There is no going back for me.  I share my reflections so that those who read these can stop and look at their lives.

Leaders … How are you handling stress?  More importantly, how are you training your followers to handle stress?

-VhS

 

 

 

 

Prayers, Civility, and A Little Peace

Memorial Day is typically a day of reflection for me.  I think of all the people that laid down their lives for the principles of our Country.  They believed in something far more important than themselves.

I cringe when I hear “Happy Memorial Day.”  I am sure for those Mothers and Fathers that received a folded US Flag from a “grateful Nation” there is nothing happy about Memorial Day.  As Richard reminds people, saying “Happy Memorial Day” is like saying “Congratulations” at a funeral. He just would not say that.

A cancer diagnosis brings a different perspective to life.  Some things that use to grate on my nerves are just not that important to me anymore.  Some other things, however, irritate me more than ever.

A friend of mine was called hateful on Facebook because he supports the President.  Really?  He is one of the kindest people that I know and a man of God.  What would it be like if everyone prayed for our President?

The news this morning was filled with a Texas Legislature physical fight.  Really?  What would it be like if everyone first thought about being civil to each other before speaking or taking action?

Yesterday I mended the many wind chimes Richard has in our backyard and garden. I hit a great sale at Michaels with their beads 60% off plus I had an additional 20% off any purchase so I had all the equipment to complete this project at a phenomenal low price.  This was a tedious task requiring a great deal of patience.   As it turned out, I tackled the chimes most in need of repair first.  I realized this was going to take more time than I originally allocated. My choices were to complete a few repairs or re-shift my morning and finish all the repairs.  I chose to finish all the repairs. I discovered as I completed the repairs the less anxious I became and more at peace I was with the slow, deliberate restringing and repairing.

What would it be like if everyone found peace in their undertakings?

Leaders…

How civil is your tongue?

What are your prayers beyond you and your immediate connections?

Where do you purposefully find peace?

-VhS

 

 

Anchors Aweigh

My Daddy retired from the U.S. Navy when I was around six years old.  He always had an anchor somewhere in our home.  Richard and I have his anchor today.  I see it every day and think of Daddy.  I wish Richard would have known him.

I have many anchors from this cancer journey.  As the year of “firsts” is happening, I am reflecting on many of those anchors.  An anchor is simply a connection between a stimulus and a certain emotional response.

I feel safe when I go to Crestwood Women’s Center.  I know Julie and her staff will somehow make physical, reassuring contact.  It is a great anchor especially during those first appointments when I was in shock.  As my six month mammogram is due in July, I want to keep this positive anchor with me when I re-enter the Center.

I know those of my family and friends who are true anchors.  That is such a blessing!  I have let go of the disappointment I have had with those family and friends who said nothing when they found out I had cancer.

I feel happier about my life and my life with Richard.  For someone who has worked since 17 years old, this forced stoppage off the fast-paced treadmill has been another great anchor to reflect on our future.  What surprised me the most at tax time, when we reviewed our income, was the realization our income did not really suffer despite taking greats amount of time off from work.  I have a better anchor for work / life balance.

Richard and I were on the deck the other night reflecting about this past year.  I commented that I just did not understand why this had happened to us.  I still struggle to figure out the lesson(s) I was learning.  He asked me if I wanted the answer and I replied, “Yes”.

He told me I was a better person.  I wish there was an easier way to become a better person than a cancer journey.  However, living and fully experiencing life’s joys and sorrows is what makes the journey worthwhile.

Leaders … What anchors do you give your followers?

Are your anchors personal, motivating words and actions that excel your followers to be better?  If not, what are your plans to rectify this?

-VhS

 

 

 

 

Monday, 23 May 2016

A year ago, I was at the Crestwood Imaging Office on Hughes Road for an annual mammogram.

Later I got a call back from Julie for a repeat mammogram and ultrasound.  I thought it was a fluke.  I had been down this road before.  I didn’t even take the first available appointment but after talking with Richard, I reconsidered and scheduled the repeat on 25 May.

At this point, I did not know what a caring medical professional and friend Julie would become.

Deep inside, my heart / gut / intuition told me something was wrong.  In my head, I stayed in denial.

By 12 July, I had undergone two biopsies, one lumpectomy, and amputation of my breasts.  I learned the nice terms:

Bi lateral mastectomy

Skin-saving mastectomy

Double mastectomy

Sparing mastectomy.

The hard truth is that I chose amputation.  My breasts were killing me.  I was so blessed that my surgeons could save my breast skin and reconstruct me as close to natural as possible.

It is hard to comprehend that it has been a year since this journey began.  I spoke with my Oncologist yesterday.  I told him I had reflected on the past year.  He shared, almost as an apology, that so much is thrown at a cancer patient early on and we are asked to make life-changing decisions in a short period of time.  I shared that those decisions were made while I was in shock.  He told me that he believed I had made the right decision.

I know I made the right decision but it sure felt reassuring to hear it from my Oncologist.

For anyone reading this, please make sure that the women in your life have scheduled their annual 3D mammogram.  Mammography is one part of breast care awareness.  Monthly exams, annual physical exams, and listening to your body are also part of breast care awareness. 

I have found it incredibly helpful to reflect through journaling about my cancer journey.  I am able to reread my reflections and see my progress.

Leaders … What purposeful reflection do you undertake for your personal growth?

-VhS

 

 

 

Seeing Is Believing

Richard had his second lens replacement surgery this morning.  I am happy to report that he can see, without glasses, in both eyes.  His less dominant eye was corrected to 20 / 20 last week.

He has waited a long time for this surgery.  His eyes are, fortunately, very healthy. So healthy that insurance was not an option.  Had he waited for the degree of deterioration for insurance to cover these procedures, it would have been a long, very long, very, very long wait.

If there is one thing, among many things, that we have learned on this cancer journey, life is too short to wait for “wants” in life.

I am thrilled Richard got what he wanted: a life without glasses.  He awakes in the morning and can see clearly!  He can kiss me good morning without putting on his glasses first.

In a training we conduct for entering scientists and engineers, we ask in one of the modules for each individual to specifically indentify where they want to be in 5, 10, 20 years.  Typically, answers are about owning a home, getting married, having children … personal, … life wants as opposed to work-related wants.

Richard will ask, “Does your boss know this?”  The answers 95% of the time are no.

Leaders … What are the wants of your followers?  How are you finding out?

-VhS

 

 

Let’s Get Dirty

I love dirt. I love the way it smells, how it crumbles in my hands, even how it looks under my nails.

We planted our garden yesterday.  I always wait until after the Kentucky Derby to plant our garden.  I am sure living in North Alabama I could plant earlier but I like the ritual we have established.

Kathy B and Dan A were so gracious and helpful tending and gathering the garden last year after my diagnosis.  I will remain forever grateful.

When people came to visit me over last summer, I would always ask them to walk with me to the garden.  Then I would have them gather food and herbs to take home.  Some friends were very surprised that I had work for them but they complied with humor.

It felt so wonderful during the summer of 2016 to get outside.  I was under strict orders from my Plastic Surgeon not to swim or sweat.  I was only allowed to walk in a controlled environment.  Any outside venture was a wonderful escape. BTW, I guess no one ever told my Plastic Surgeon that Southern Women don’t sweat … we just glow.

Now the fun for summer 2017 begins.  I will awake early foregoing email and Facebook until I check our garden.  There will be weeding, fertilizing, and gathering most every day once growth starts.

I will post pictures as the garden begins to grow and multiply.

Leaders … How do you grow and cultivate your followers?  Is it daily nurturing or is it sporadic?

-VhS