Don’t Fight The Good Fight


Do you remember the old song that had the lyrics: “I fought the law and the law won”….

Well, I sort of feel like this…not exactly that I have been fighting the law, but a similar looming entity in America that, to me at least, now just feels like a gigantic monster that no longer has the capabilities, abilities or desire to do what it originally was set up to do.

Can you guess?? It’s health care. For months now I have been trying to schedule a routine mammogram and have been getting nowhere. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I have been lead down the dark alleyways of jargon, insurance codes, doctor referrals (or refusals to do so), authorization and the inability of one organization to speak to another –therefore leaving me, the patient, in the middle….

….With no idea what anyone is talking about. I’m in the unfortunate situation of being on Obamacare (or not, depending on how you see this), so the waters become very murky;more shady than usual. No doctors take it where I live, so most everywhere I go is an out-of-pocket expense.  I have it mostly for my one medication. But my understanding was that a routine mammo was covered…. So, I was determined to GET it covered!

After fighting with my doctor, and central scheduling, then trying Planned Parenthood, then central scheduling again, then speaking with Blue Cross at least three times and getting three different stories (all of this over and over)…. and this all after having three appointments scheduled and canceled over a period of months—I decided enough.

Healthcare? I was losing my mind. This all was causing me so much stress; I couldn’t sleep. I’ve had a concern too and really needed this mammo yet was getting nowhere! Only two people I spoke to on this entire messed up journey were actually sympathetic. Most either could barely speak English or just read off a script, and contradicted each other. One I actually spoke to her manager to compliment her because I had to talk to her so many times; she at least seemed to care.

So finally, I made a decision because I could see the fight was leading me to a dead-end and draining me of energy. It would be yet another out-of-pocket expense… I would just have to pay for the thing myself. And miraculously I had an appointment the next day!

I guess the moral of the story is that they wear you down until you succumb. Maybe this is part of the plan now. Read the small print…. If they can drive you crazy and stress you out bad enough over enough years, maybe you will die sooner.

So anyway, I fought the healthcare system and I lost bad….

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The Good Battle


There are certain moments in life where we are given a gift that sets us free. News that lifts us high and helps us to remember life is good and beautiful. Lately I have been given many of these moments and for them I am truly grateful.

It is so easy, with our fast paced, whirlwind lives, to take life for granted. To forget our connection to family and friends. We press on so hard into our daily tasks that we may not stop to look around us to see the wonders that abound. They are all around if we just take a second to see them.

Feeling compelled by life to have material wealth, we sometimes lose spiritual well-being. We take jobs that make us unhappy or keep people near us that really prove to have negative energy.

Because I am getting older and finally see the wisdom in serenity rather than money, my choices from now on will be very different.
This is my promise to myself.

As my Mother heals, I reflect on my good fortune to be able to be near her and help get her stronger. It is a blessing that such an awful thing can actually turn out to be something wonderful because it has bonded us so closely together. She is an amazing woman and together we are invincible.

And I also got a new lease on life today, which I will not take for granted. I’m grateful because I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am. I wish it could be so for all whom I love. But together we fight the good battle, and we’ll win anyway.

Because in the end, our spirits will all collide and meet somewhere someday anyway…….

Finding Heroes


beech tree1As I was done with my morning routine today and was leaving my sacred space, I spotted of photo a friend had given me. It was of the two of us someone had taken on a past holiday. The photo made me sad because we don’t talk much any longer as the way of friends–sometimes good friends.

But it gave me pause and made me think about the nature of relationships. How we pick our friends, who or why do we tend to attach to or look up to in a person? Is part of it that they become someone we admire? And do they, in some way, become our heroes?

For me, this is most certainly true, not just with friends, but with people in general I may admire. In my lifetime though, there are some special people who I can think of that are truly heroes in my eyes. And not for the reasons one might think…

While it’s true that I am in the emergency service business, one would most likely think I come across these people every day. But these aren’t really the people I am talking about. Honestly, we are trained to do a job and I personally cannot stand when someone calls me a hero. I am not in that sense of the word to which I am referring.

It’s the everyday person, that has no intention of doing something amazing, good, kind, brave or honest that raises them in my eyes to this special status. The folks that go beyond their limits, or the average person’s limits for someone else or even what they thought they could do.  And it’s not their ‘job’ to be a hero. These are truly the stand-outs.

To name a few:

The friend who extricated herself and her child from an abusive marriage after 10 years of isolation and fear. She did it alone with guts and with no knowledge of what would happen to her and her child, no money–barely any hope. Just a leap of faith and a knowing it was what she needed to do.

A friend who was fired after many years of being the Chief of an ambulance service. A woman who gave her heart and soul to the place, but was turned on by petty politics of small town. She only took one day to cry, then pulled herself together and found another job: as a grunt paramedic–and loved it; continued to serve the public she always had with dignity and professionalism.

My Mom, who after years and years, could finally admit that our relationship was less than it could be and agreed to make it right with me. This is not easy for someone her age and generation.

And my oldest daughter, who had struggled with drug addiction, but has been clean for years. She kicked it on her own and now has graduated with honors from college, has a wonderful job and is doing beautifully. She fought demons and won.

One who had turned her young life of living with alcohol into a healthy life of gardens and good food, and then found herself facing cancer. But she has battled it bravely and honestly, doing it her way despite the paths of others. She now has a new body and continues to come up against new struggles at each corner, but she is undaunted and doesn’t complain, continuing to honor and love life.

Another dear friend who grew up amidst sexual abuse but never gave up her struggle to be whole and free. Always kind and loving, never letting her inner suffering turn outward onto others; instead her love is always felt by those around her and we are always grateful.

Of course, the countless reporters that put themselves at risk doing stories in violent places when they could just as easily could be here at home; or the medical people who go to help in countries where people have diseases like Ebola; or teachers or workers that go to places to help at their own discomfort; or the dreamers, scientists, philosophers, musicians, artists or anyone that steps outside themselves or comfort level for someone else’s benefit. It’s hard to pick them out with the news filled with pain and suffering, but these heroes exist among us!

And finally, this may sound selfish or lame, but slowly I am unearthing the hero buried deep within myself. She has laid dormant but is starting to awaken. She is the person that wants to be on the edge of human need, face her dragons head on banish them, face every day with joy and courage and try to love a part of each human she meets. This may be the true test of a real hero!

birch magic

Poem: On Gardens And Dogs


When all else is dark

Laying in bed

Being alone

Feeling no-one cares

Those creeping deep

And cliff edge feelings

Wanting no more~

A nose wet and cold

Sniffs and snuggles

Circles and digs

Making a bed

Back to your back

Protecting your last bit

Of draining drive~

Stricken cells swollen with growth

Illness-unwelcome squatter

Slash and burn the body

Turning familiar to foe~

And then the walk

Into your garden past

The years you toiled soil

Pink Peonies know no pain

Hardy Hosta, reliable and constant

Unlike the ride you take to heal

New green and blazing colors!

Warming heart, healing body~

Ever faithful

When family flees

When promised friend

Through thick and thin

Leaves echoing silence

And invisible visits~

Our canine companions

Sensing

The aching loss

Or persistent pain

Our utter gut hit

That we are completely

Alone~

And they come

And comfort

Ask for nothing in return

Just sit near

And maybe

Love us~

So we will walk

Through our gardens

And breathe the petals

Seize the colors

Heal with the growth

With our dogs

Walking

Right

By our sides!

 

 

 

Lessons


As my friend slogs through her second and more threatening bout with cancer, she raised a question to me recently. She asked me about life’s lessons and why we have the repetitive patterns in our lives and what we are meant to learn from them. Having had some myself, while not physical, it gave me pause. I’ve asked this same question myself a multitude of times with regards to my own journey. My circular patterns seem to chase the tail around relationships, the inability to attach, fear of abandonment and the search for love. But while these designs may not show outward scars, they have certainly left inward ones, leaving me wondering why I keep coming back to the same place all the time. So when my dear and brave friend is once again going through this uncalled for episode in her life, it’s no wonder why she is questioning the reason.

In some religions there are those that may believe that this life is part of many lives, and each life brings us a lesson towards the perfect life. Then there are some that reason we work this life out the best we can to end up in a more perfect place when we die if we do all the right things when we are here. And then there are some (like my Grandma) who simply believe that ‘dead is dead’. She certainly lived a life being the best person she could, but I’m not sure that she felt there was some lesson to end up somewhere else or having to do with multiple lives. These are the more mystical aspects of the ‘life lessons’ and maybe far beyond my understanding. And many more that I don’t even know.

Another aspect of a lesson learned implies there’s a teacher. So who might that be? If you are part of religion that believes in a higher power, maybe you believe it’s God (or whatever name you call it) that is presenting you with it. Or maybe you believe you are carrying it from another lifetime, or from the animal soul that you carry within you. But here again, thinking deeply about these things for me I found, just wasn’t the right question.

Laying in bed last night, wondering about lessons, what is the lesson, where do they come from–I recalled all the times I became overwhelmed by a sense of emptiness or loss. That maybe I would never know the answer to these questions. Maybe one doesn’t know until the end? And then how is this helpful? Or maybe one doesn’t know until the next lifetime, but then how does this help me now?

So I realized maybe I am asking the wrong question.  Maybe it’s not about the lesson. Maybe it’s more about the patterns and how best to deal with them.  I started to break the patterns down into little pieces so they were manageable, otherwise I would once again be overwhelmed by anxiety or fear. As I turned each piece over, I began to learn more about myself: now, here while I existed on this plane. Some stuff wasn’t pretty I must admit, but this learning was freeing and I could grow from it. And slowly in breaking them down bit by bit, the patterns slowly have been changing. And maybe this is the goal.

While breaking the pattern of cancer may be a tougher lesson/pattern to break, being overwhelmed by thinking of it in little pieces could be helpful. And at the same time, not thinking of it as some life lesson that has been dropped on her from some mysterious force or  some harsh assignment to suffer through along with everything else. But rather just another one of life’s moments (albeit difficult) to get through and come out the other end taking each piece as it comes, looking at it, learning about it and dealing it the best we can.

And should we fail some of our lessons, well, maybe we take that class again, keeping in mind that really truly our best teacher is within us.

Simply Strong


Today I got some news while I was at work. They say no news is good news, and so, this wasn’t good news. A very dear old friend of mine had been battling breast cancer and had been doing well. She is a very low-key person. It had been her way not to initially tell many people, including me, even though I’ve known her for almost 25 years. When I found out, I was a wreck. She had to console me–it was rather pathetic. But by then she was well into her processing and getting ready to start treatments. Plus she’s just simply strong.

Today when she emailed, she said she had discovered some bleeding. As a medic, I always wince when I hear ‘bleeding’ come over the radio. We only imagine where the bleeding can be coming from…. She figured it was probably nothing, but when she went to the doctors, they found she now has rectal cancer. Upon discovering this, they quickly ran more tests, and discovered her breast cancer is back.

Although she opted for a double mastectomy originally, it’s still back! The good news, if there is any to be had in all this, it hadn’t spread to any ‘major’ organs….yet. And now she’s back in treatment.

I can hardly type this blog article now. Throughout the day, I just cried. While she was pretty upbeat in her email, I know how she must really be feeling. This all went down in the fall. Like I said, she’s pretty private. It made me feel like I wish she had told me sooner! Here I’ve been running around feeling happy about life, and one of my best friends has been so sick . Sick and scared witless. How dare I be OK?  Gads.

When we met so many years ago, our kids were babies. We were nursing and went to the same very liberal church. Our spiritual preference then was earth based and I still follow that path. She, on the other hand, has moved in an extremely different direction over the years. My friend found God in a big way over since we have lived apart–and I’m glad for her she has done so. I can tell she finds comfort in her religion now.

Me being me, while I know I must ‘be positive’ as everyone says, I am a realist. I’m also a paramedic and live this stuff all the time. One of the first things I did was to google rectal cancer. It was depressing. She’s no fool either.

It’s funny sometimes where life brings us though… It always kind of boggled my mind how religious she had become and how much she now spoke about God and Jesus. But maybe it was all for a reason. Maybe for her, they really did have a plan. While I can only hope her stay here on earth isn’t painful and is as long as possible, I pray her Heaven is waiting for her too.

But all I know is that I surely hope they hurry up and find a cure, because there are too many people who I end up missing terribly.

Dis-Ease


My blog has become such an important and integral part of my life on many levels. It started as a project as a ‘public journal’ to help me discover myself more and dabble as a writer. But over the last year or so it has come to be so much more. The friends and followers I have come to connect with has made it greater than a project. In fact, I got off of Facebook so I could spend more time on my blog  rather than waste time reading silly posts on FB.

This all leads into today’s topic. One particular avid follower of mine, who has become to be an “off blog” friend, emailed me yesterday to say she has been ill. She is such a lovely woman, amazing photographer and creative writer. I’ve been honored to have her as a follower and now as a pen pal. The news of her illness really struck me. It made me think of illness– and being a medic, I’m surrounded by the topic on a near daily basis.

I once read about the word disease. How if you break it down it becomes: dis-ease. Our bodies being not at ease with ourselves. Made perfect sense to me. After hearing this I began to look at where disease landed in a particular person. What part of the body does the disease live and does it correlate to the person’s personality and lifestyle?

The closer I looked, the more often I found it to be true. The above mentioned blog friend has such a huge heart and has suffered many emotional struggles related to love, family and other ‘heart’ related issues. Her illness is now cardiac, obviously one directly attacking one’s heart.

I have a dear friend, a woman completely devoted to her children her whole life for all the years I’ve known her and from when they were babes. She nursed them, cared for them, was a stay at home Mom, doing all a woman could do. She’s lived a healthy life and discovered a year or so ago she had breast cancer. This, to me, is such a dis-ease of we women that carry all the weight of womanhood, motherhood, sisterhood and femininity in our core.

Recently I watched an amazing TED talk where a woman who studied strokes had a stroke herself! One wonders if we almost create our own realities? She studied her own stroke while she was having it! I actually did this while I have having my own first seizures.

And I’ve thought about why I have my mild seizure disorder-a neurologic disorder of the brain. Mine are caused most likely from traumatic injuries to the head. I’ve had repeated ones. Why do I keep injuring my head? Do I live too much there or do I need to live more there? Is the Universe giving me some messages? Many famous people had seizure disorders and were able to use them to create. Is my disorder truly a gift?

Maybe there is food for thought about where we hold our dis-ease, our anxiety, our pain. What parts of our bodies do we make ill? Our minds do control our bodies. This is proven. And if this is true, can we control these things and be more healthy? We all know mediation, calming thoughts, happiness, positive relationships make for better health. The question always is how to attain it with regularity.

Then of course, we have always met the person we believe is at utter peace but falls ill. And this is the mystery of the Universe. What each of our cells holds may not be ultimately known by us. All we can do is the best we can is to relieve ourselves from any unnecessary noise, feelings or emotions that may produce possible dis-ease within us. To this end we may lead the healthiest and happiest life we can.

Ghost


I saw a ghost on my way into work this morning.  It was a pretty good day–it was ‘stay at home and work out’ morning. This involves doing my yoga and walking dogs and whatever else I decide to do now that it’s getting colder. Usually I leave really early and swim my mile after walking dogs. But I’ve decided four days a week of swimming is plenty and I wanted a change in routine. So now I break up my week with Wednesday being my home workout day.

So I was feeling all yoga’d out–mellow and serene. It was cool, but bright and crisp. I was listening to a quiet CD when I looked up at a car coming towards me when I saw a ghost driving a car! Let me explain.

Last year I lost a very dear friend to breast cancer. I’ve written about her here numerous times. She was one of my first EMT mentors, a mother of 11 children, humble, lovely, kind, quiet and competent. When she received her diagnosis she had just started nursing school. She didn’t tell people in her ambulance service until she began her treatments and it became obvious. And she courageously fought and finished her degree, but never practiced.

Needless to say she would have been an amazing nurse. The kind we rarely see these days. Partly because she was a natural caregiver, but also because she had life experience and she truly wanted to help. It was in her soul to be kind.

And I’m driving down the road and there’s my friend, behind the wheel: smiling the same unassuming smile she always had, hair parted and behind her ears like we had in the 70’s, with the sun beaming down on her face! My heart just jumped!

To top it off, today I was planning to teach CPR to the nurse from our local factory. She also is a lovely and gentle woman. Soft spoken and helpful, always there on the calls for service when we come to help. I called her house to set up the time for her CPR recert, but her husband told me she wasn’t home because she was getting radiation. I was stunned! He told me they had discovered breast cancer.

When I spoke to her, she informed me that in March she went for a routine mammo and they found two lumps. They were both removed and she was lucky. She only needed radiation and no chemo. But still…is that really lucky? Compared to what? But thank goodness she went for her routine one!

Was my friend trying to tell me something? Was she just telling me not to forget? Her? Exams? To enjoy life? I just walked a race in her honor. I never will forget her. In the Jewish religion they say every time you speak a dead person’s name then they are still alive. Well if you see them, then I guess they still are too!

As Long As You Have Your Health


Today I walked in a race in honor of my friend who died this year of breast cancer. She was an amazing and wonderful person, a little younger than me (in her 50’s). She had 11 children, had been an EMT for many, many years and had just signed up to become a RN when she got her diagnosis. But she pressed on anyway and graduated just before her death, never to practice. My friend would have been an incredible nurse as she had the gift to heal. Just her presence calmed a patient. Her gentle demeanor and quiet tone always defused any scene that had started to unravel. I’m sure if she was watching today’s festivities in her honor she would have been annoyed that we all had made such a fuss, because that was her humble nature. She was loved and is missed constantly.

I learned today that another EMT recently turned paramedic just learned she has stage 4 colon cancer! This woman too is in her 50’s and was in my first EMT class. My heart sank. This is has been such a bad year for that service and for all of us. I lost my Fire Captain to liver cancer, found out my cousin has breast cancer and two dear friends have breast cancer.

While I teach CPR classes all the time and catch every class with the question: What’s the number one killer of women in this country. The answer I get all the time is: breast and ovarian or uterine cancer. I have to correct them saying that no, rather it’s cardiovascular disease. But it’s hard to believe with what I’ve experienced recently.

On this amazingly lovely Autumn New England day, as I walked along the paths of the ski trails, I thought of all the people I know struck by this mysterious disease. I think about all the technologic advances we make all the time! Some are mind boggling. And yet, and yet….we can’t figure this cancer thing out. Not really.

Sure there have been some good changes. I had my yearly mammo this year and they used the ‘new’ machine on me (as well as the old). It’s suppose to detect to a greater degree any abnormalities. What I couldn’t believe was that insurance didn’t cover it! If I wanted the ‘better’ scan, I had to pay for it myself! Wow. Surely I did it, but that doesn’t seem right.

So I guess we will all just have to keep walking, running or whatever it is that we do to continue to raise money to figure out what this disease is and why it kills people. Sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason.

Which reminded me again: be grateful. Be grateful for each day. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry, be happy. Say you love people before you leave them for the day. Fill your bucket list. Follow your bliss. All the clichés plus the one I made up: peace, love and granola.

My wonderful Jewish Granny used to say (with the NY Jewish accent): As long as you have your health….   Ain’t that the truth!