Profile Picture Change

I provided my picture and a quote for a www.breastcancer.org campaign. Here is information about breastcancer.org from the website:

“Breastcancer.org is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the most reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer.  Our mission is to help women and their loved ones make sense of the complex medical and personal information about breast health and breast cancer, so they can make the best decisions for their lives.”

This site provides valuable, researched information to us throughout this journey.

A breast cancer woman’s body undergoes many changes.  The scars, though fading, show the surgeries almost like a roadmap. Treatments affect the nails, skin, eyes, hair, and every internal and external part of the body.

For over a year, I have looked in the mirror wondering when I would look like myself again.  I believe if a stranger saw a picture of me pre June 2016 and today, they would not believe I was the same woman.  I do not see who I was.

When asked to provide a picture for the campaign, I finally realized there is no going back to how I used to look.  This now is how I look and the changes I have undertaken will go with me into the future.

The strange thing about this is that I really like my curly silver and black hair. I am happy with the texture and ease of styling.  As Richard reminds me, I get a lot more compliments from strangers on my hair today than I ever did before.  I wish I had thought about this look.  What I struggled with is that I did not see me making the decision for this look; rather, the chemicals made this change.

I changed my profile picture on Facebook.  Overwhelmingly, people poured support and love.  The only person holding me captive to the past was me.

It is past time to accept and move forward.

Leaders…

What are you clinging to in your past that halts your acceptance of where you are today?

How are you holding your followers prisoners to the past?

-VhS

 

 

It’s Independence Day

Funny how numbers and statistics shape my thoughts and reactions.

My Oncologist gave me an 85% opportunity for no cancer recurrence when comparing my cancers to the general public of other breast cancer patients like me.  That was a good number but I always kept the 15% in the back of my mind that cancer could return.

I insisted on genomic testing on the most severe of my cancers’ tissues.  My results reveal that if I completed my five-year treatment plan my opportunity for no cancer recurrence is 94.6%.

A five-year treatment plan comes with side effects.  Many women choose quality of life over the five-year treatment believing the small increased in odds for no recurrence are not worth diminished quality of life issues.  I understand their decisions and respect their decisions.

I have declared my independence from cancer.  At 94.6%, I know I have this beat.  Again, we won.  I feel a difference in my depth of determined commitment to my treatment.

It must have taken a deep, determined level of commitment for those who founded our Country to leave the safety of the lives they knew, board a ship, cross the ocean, and start anew in what would become the United States of America.

Leaders … What is your level of commitment to yourself?  To your values?  To your mission?  To your followers?

Happy Independence Day.  Always remember freedom is not free.  Thousands have given the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we have.

-VhS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEVER THE SAME BUT BETTER

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

The Kubler-Ross quote is so applicable to our cancer journey.

I believe we are both in a much better place today than we were June 2016.  Physically we are healthier.  Emotionally we are stronger.

I would not want to go back to the life I once had.  It was a great life and I miss what I have lost.  However, I could not go back and try to make that life make sense.  What was important to me then is so differently important to me know.

I savor those few moments after breakfast when Richard and I finish our last bit of coffee.  I love the way he offers another cup. Sometimes we talk and sometimes we just remain in each other’s presence.  A year ago, I would have hustled to clear the table and rushed off to work.  I believe I enjoy life at a better pace today.

I place a much higher value on my friendships today.  I hold more love for the people who have “showed up.”   I have discovered who our true friends are in the love and support they have given freely.

Cancer sucks.  It is a horrid disease that affects the entire family.  This journey is no cakewalk.  There are days that my “suck it up cupcake and keep going” has run out of fuel.  I often wonder why me?  Why us?  Why now?

I do not know the answers to those questions.

What I do know is that I will not let cancer defeat me.  It has changed me and changed us.

We won.

Leaders…

How is your work life balance working for the best outcome?

What work life balance are you teaching your followers?

-VhS

 

 

 

Fractured, Fragile, Fatigued

Often my close friends ask me how I am feeling.  Acquaintances who know politely ask “How are you today?”

I typically have three responses:

Today is a great day!

I am doing well.

I am OK.

Something fundamentally changes a person who has experienced cancer.  I refer to this as the three Fs.

The first F is FRACTURED.  Both the body and mind are broken.  What I once knew as safe and solid are no more.  To heal, I must take those fractured pieces and realign them to a new meaning.  For my mind, I focus on what this journey teaches me.  For my body, I focus on how to improve it.

The second F is FRAGILE. I remain vulnerable to infection due to my low blood counts.  I focus on sanitary conditions in all my encounters.  My body is damaged from the chemotherapy.  I focus on cut-short nails to avoid nail lift (the nails lifts off the nail bed).  I focus on quality products to deal with damaged skin and hair.

The third F is FATIGUED.  My friend from high school, Chantal, told me I would be tired like I have never experienced tired.  She was right.  I still complete most everything I did before this journey; it just takes longer and requires help from others.  My medical team shares that by December I should experience an improved change in my energy levels.

I share this with you so that you might better understand what a cancer journey is like.  Fractured, fragile, and fatigued all have silver linings.  The three Fs have taught me:

Better care physically for my body.

Better care nutritionally for my body.

Better care emotionally for me.

Leaders … What is damaged in your organization that you must nurture for a better outcome?

Who, of your followers, needs care?

-VhS

Fillers and Other Stuff In Life

I joined a Fit to Fight Program at our local YMCA.  It is geared to cancer patients. The program helps cancer patients use fitness to address the side effects of cancer treatments and improve quality of life. Exercise, although difficult at times, greatly reduces cancer-related fatigue as well as helps confront many chemo-related side effects.

I have kept a rigorous exercise program from the day of diagnosis.  I believe that my exercise program has improved my quality of life while on this journey.

Here is an article on this subject: http:/www.nbcnews.com/health/cancer/exercise-best-cure-fatigue-caused-cancer-study-n728241?cid=eml_onsite

(If the link is not live, simply paste into your browser.)

I met three other cancer patients in the Fit to Fight Program.  We chatted for a few minutes, each sharing a little of our history.  I was STUNNED at our vocabulary.  We tossed around medical, clinical, and treatment words that a year I ago I would have never used, much less know how to pronounce.

One word that has become very important to me lately is “fillers.”  It appears that drug manufacturers’ “fillers” in generic drugs vary from one manufacturer to another and may be the culprit causing particular side effects.  I requested a manufacturer change to one of my oral drugs that I will take for five to ten years.  The pharmacist I spoke with was very understanding and made the change immediately.  She did ask what my plan was should the side effects from my requested change manufacturer be worse than what I am experiencing now.  I replied my general plan during this cancer journey has been “suck it up, cupcake.”

Leaders … What are the “fillers” in your life that may be causing less than optimum side effects?

Are your regularly scheduled meetings a useless filler of time, or are your meetings producing the outcomes you want?

Are your performance reviews a filler just to meet an organizational HR requirement, or are your performance reviews developing your people to their fullest extent?

What are the other less than optimum fillers you must challenge?

-VhS

I Can See Clearly Now … Not!

I had a conversation with my friend, Ashley, about how the mind controls the body.  We shared how that believing something is a limitation makes it a limitation.  Until we challenge that limitation, we are unsure if the limitation is true or not.

My husband, Richard, when on active duty, was working in psychotronics and put forth the idea to use collective minds to alter the trajectory of missiles.  Unfortunately, that idea did not go very far and he got the WTF Award.  His idea does, however, raise the question of what if we could use our minds in more powerful ways?

Yesterday after a nice swim and visit to the garden, we were sitting on the deck.  I saw what I believed to be a dead white and grey baby rabbit under one of the deck’s benches.  I have seen a couple of large rabbits in the yard and believe we have a nest in our bamboo.  I have not seen the nest but I believe we have one.

One of the benefits of my chemo treatment has been improved eyesight.  This common side effect may or may not remain with me.  Most days, I can see without my glasses or contacts and I only use them for driving.  Yesterday, I was not seeing clearly.

The baby dead rabbit was a knotted piece of cloth that Richard used to clean the hot tub.  Even after he told me what it was, I still saw the baby rabbit.  I saw its grey ears and perky nose as it lay on its side.  Richard reminded me that if it were any type of animal our three dogs, nestled with us on the deck, would have alerted to the animal.

Oh the power of the mind!

Leaders … How cloudy is your vision?

Are you clearly seeing your impact on your followers?

Are you clearly seeing the potential of your followers?

-VhS

 

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

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