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

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day … A Mixed Blessing

My Mother, Alice Marie Lowe Hickerson, passed the week before my marriage to Richard.  We say, “passed” in the South to identify someone who has died. I do not know why; it is just the way it is.

She asked me once not to go on a reality TV show and ever talk about her.  She said she did the best she knew how to do.  I believed her.  I know she loved me deeply.  She was a hard worker and made a good home.  She pushed me beyond my self-defining limits and I remain grateful for those pushes.

I wish she was still with me and:

I could fall into her arms and be held as only a Mother can hold a child.

She would have met and known Richard as the wonderful husband to me that he is.

She would have known our son, Kelly, for the short life he had with us.  Kelly would be 24 years old in October had he lived.

She would know how I turned out as a mature adult.

I am also relieved that she is not with me to know that I had breast cancers.  This diagnosis would have broken her heart.

Mother’s Day is a mixed blessing to me as I reflect on Momma and Kelly.  I remain grateful to Richard and the family he has given me … especially those beautiful grandchildren!

Leaders …

Remember not every holiday is a happy memory holiday to everyone.  For some people, holidays can be a mixed blessing.

Know your followers personally.

Note:  I am posting a day earlier than usual.  We have a BIG DAY on Thursday.  Richard is having eye lens replacement surgery tomorrow on his left eye and next Thursday on his right eye.  He is kissing his glasses good bye!  Please remember him in your prayers for a successful surgery.  I will be doing the driving for at least a week.  He’ll probably need some prayers for that experience as well!

-VhS

You Never Know …

Richard donates his Kentucky Oaks tickets to Warfighters at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He has done this for several years.

The organization typically holds a raffle for the eight tickets.  This year one of the winners could not make the date and our POC said she would hold an additional raffle.

She continued to say that she really wanted one individual and his wife to win.  She shared that his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer and recently underwent a bilateral mastectomy.  I handed her my breast cancer bracelet and asked that she give it to the wife.  Our POC had no knowledge that we were also on a cancer journey until we shared our story.

Seldom does Richard get involved in who gets the tickets.  This time, he asked for this couple to have two Kentucky Oaks tickets.  They went!

Your never know …

Where a journey can take you.

Who you will encounter on your journey until you open your eyes to all around you.

The journey another couple takes until personal, open conversations happen.

How deeply connected we are to each other.

Leaders … How connected are you to those people you encounter on your journey?

            Are you leading with openness, giving of your authentic and personal self?

-VhS

 

 

 

A Voice From Above

Several years ago, my sister-in-law, Nancy, shared with me that I could do a better job listening to the voice in my head that guided me.  She shared that if I listened better I would most likely change some of my behaviors.  I accepted her feedback.

I believe that voice is sometimes my intuition and sometimes it is the Holy Spirit guiding me.  Since my diagnosis in June, I have paid more attention to my intuition and to my relationship with God as the Holy Spirit guides me. Some people may define this guidance by the Holy Spirit as spiritual discernment.

“Spiritual discernment is calling on the Holy Spirit to lead or give direction on a matter. Discernment is more than just a skill. Discernment is a gift from God before it is anything else. Yet there are clearly skills you can put to use when using your gift, and you can become better at it through training and experience … it is something which emerges from hard work and close attention.”  (Reference: http://www.spirithome.com/discernment.html#whatitis)

There are available to us many sources of guidance beyond the limits of the keyhole each of us looks through and views the world.  In many ways, my keyhole to see the world is larger.  I work to be a kinder and more generous person.  I work to put into letters and notes things I want to share with others.  I realize that I may not get a second opportunity to show kindness and generosity in an encounter.

In many ways, my keyhole to see the world is smaller.  I find myself interpersonally open with fewer people and at a deeper level with those few people.

Leaders … How does your keyhole to the world limit your interaction with the world?

Are you listening to all the sources, spiritually and worldly, to live the best life that you can?

-VhS

 

 

 

 

 

Another Day of Waiting … And Empathy

Richard has the patience of a saint.  It takes that depth of patience to tolerate all the falderal around cancer treatments without getting upset.

Take yesterday for example.  He waits while I get my labs.  He waits while the assistant takes my vitals.  We wait for an exam room.  We wait to see the Oncologist.

We get to the treatment room and we wait for 30 minutes for the Benadryl and Tylenol to take effect.  We wait for the Herceptin drug to drip slowly through my port and into my body to kill any HER2 genes that try to mutate to cancer.

I would imagine that in the last eleven months he has accumulated numerous days of waiting.  We learned to make the best use possible of this wait time.  We have hand-held devices to check mail, write, and work on proposals as well as folders with work to review.  Still there is a lot of waiting.

Richard prays every day and throughout the day.  He prays while he waits.

Then there are the distractions while waiting.  Yesterday at treatment there was a woman having her first treatment.  She chose not to use the curtain to enclose her area.

You always know when it is a “newbie” by the depth of interaction with the Nurses.  The Nurses explain the protocols.  As each IV bag is emptied and replaced with another bag, they share the contents and purposes.  They state what you may taste or feel while flushing your port.  We probably have the words memorized because we have heard them so often.

Newbie was loud.  We could hear every word of her conversation she had with her Caregiver.  I know she does not like the President, which family member is the control freak that teaches ESL, and, although she denies it, she is scared about returning to treatment alone.

Most treatments are quite and patients tend to respect each other’s privacy. Monday was unusual.  Richard kept busy while waiting and he was the one that said, “She must be so scared.”

At a time when I would like to shout across the treatment room “shut up woman,” Richard finds empathy for another human being whose behavior gives off her fears of the unknown.   He reminds me through his empathy that once I was in a treatment chair unknowing what lay ahead, scared, and a “newbie”.

Leaders …  How do you show patience, empathy, and understanding to your followers when they are scared or facing the unknown?

-VhS

 

 

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