I recently had a chat to a client which was so remarkable I think it's well worth blogging about.
She's a good client, I see her at least twice a year for her sons's birthdays. She's my age but her kids are young (6 and 8). This past week when I saw her she apologised to me for being tired and looking crappy - to which I laughed and said the beauty of ordering cake is that nobody cares what you look like! It's not the kind of place where how you look has anything to do with how you're treated. She then commented that since the last time I'd seen her (about 10 weeks ago), she'd been kinda tired and struggling to stay on top of things.
Ten weeks ago I made her son's birthday cake.
The day after that party, she had a mastectomy and some lymph nodes removed.
Ten days before I saw her this time, she'd had a breast reconstruction.
This woman planned these surgeries so that both would not get in the way of her kids' celebrations. The first one she planned to be immediately after her first son's birthday, and the second one she planned far enough ahead of the second son's birthday so that she could recover in time.
It turns out that she has been battling breast cancer for the last two years. I've seen her at least twice a year in those two years and there is no way on earth I would have told you that she was someone going through that ordeal.
She started to tell me about the experience - from finding the lump to being diagnosed and then going through treatment and getting the all clear. I told her I had no idea she'd gone through this, and I asked her if she was deliberately keeping it a secret. Apparently - her words - she dealt with the whole thing by remaining in total ignorance about it.
Early on in her diagnosis she was told that they had caught it early enough, and that she would survive, and that she'd have chemo and that should resolve it. She took everything her doctors said at face value - didn't go Googling things, didn't ask a whole lot of questions, just went along with the treatment plan. After her courses of chemo, her doctor felt the lump and said, "That's great, the mass is smaller, the chemo is working!" to which my client said, "What do you mean? Doesn't chemo work for everyone?"
She literally had NO IDEA that chemo had a chance of not working.
Ignorance is bliss, indeed. She did admit to having some bad days when she thought about the worst...but she'd always come back to what the doctor said about her surviving and so she was reassured that it would all be fine.
It reminds me a little of those "what would you do if you did not know you cold fail?" questions...this woman survived cancer in part because her attitude was about survival being the ONLY possible outcome.
I was humbled - and awed - by her story and I'm sharing it here because it served to remind me (again) that sometimes attitude really is everything. Like the cliche says, it's not so much about what happens to you but about how you deal with it.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
I recently had a chat to a client which was so remarkable I think it's well worth blogging about.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
I've been overweight for my whole life. I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb a chubby baby and just never really got much smaller. For obvious reasons this was an issue of concern for my parents, and I endured plenty of discussion and attempts to remedy it. Hell, they even sent me to fat camp...twice! (...which by the way was more fun than you would think.) Both my parents were overweight themselves, so they knew first hand what it was like to live in a body bigger than you needed or wanted. My Mom in particular tried to talk to me about the situation - and talking to her was always sort of amusing because English is not her first language. While her English is pretty near perfect, she has some very funny (to me) expressions which she uses - in this case, she used to call my being fat "The Overweight" - although I think she meant "being overweight" she always put the "The" there. I put the caps there because, as a kid (and young adult), it was as though she was talking about some sort of creature which kinda just hung around. The Overweight developed it's own personality and in my head I used to think of it as some sort of entity all it's own.
So her conversations would sound like this: "You know, it's because of The Overweight that you don't enjoy clothes shopping...," or "if only you got rid of The Overweight, you might have more friends," or "The Overweight makes me so worried about you," and so on. She definitely meant well, but I grew up thinking of The Overweight as a this creature outside of myself. People who battle with depression often call it "the black dog" which follows you around, lurks in corners, and makes a nuisance of himself...and I'd venture to say The Overweight is much the same sort of beast.
In recent years, I've gotten rid of a fairly large portion of the excess weight I was carrying around. Amazingly (to me), even with all that effort, The Overweight is still hanging around! (bastard!) The Overweight is why I eat if I'm bored or grumpy, The Overweight is why I'm not comfortable walking into "normal" clothing stores even though I easily fit into their clothes, The Overweight is what makes me socially awkward. The fact is, it's probably TRUE that being overweight is a symptom of all those things - but in reality it's the mental part of being overweight, not the ACTUAL weight, which makes those things happen in the first place. In other words it's not the weight you've got hanging on you, it's The Overweight you've got which is the problem.
One of my employees is actively in weight-loss mode at the moment, and so it's her ongoing topic of conversation. No pun intended, but the weight loss efforts totally consume her. Surprisingly (or maybe not), the topic of conversation is not the exercise and food (although that's definitely there), but the emotional experience of dealing with The Overweight. How awful she feels when she misses a day of exercise, how hard it is to resist the treats which are around when she is out with friends, how much she'd rather be a hermit during this stage just so she doesn't have to deal with the commentary she inevitably gets. Like a lot of people dealing with some sort of monkey on their back, she believes that once she loses the weight the rest of her life will magically fall into place. She'll find a partner, be a happier person, be better able to handle social situations, won't be embarrassed to learn to surf, etc.
Having been there and done that - I just want so much to tell her that while the excess weight does in fact curtail your life, it doesn't DEFINE your life by any means. You can be thinner and still feel shitty about missing a day of exercise. You can be thinner and still be unhappy sometimes. You can be thinner and still be socially awkward. Just like there is no magic pill for weight loss, there is no magic pill for life satisfaction.
Ultimately, I don't have the heart to tell her that even when you lose the weight, you're still stuck with The Overweight.
Monday, August 19, 2013
A couple of months ago I was driving down the road with the kids in the car when DD2 said, "Hey! Mum! Check that out! I just saw something which is going to make me happy for a week!" It turns out that what she had seen was one of those giant fit balls - a bright blue one - stuck in the top of a 2 story tree. There was a small apartment building with a tree in it's front yard, and wedged within it's branches was a bright blue enormous fit ball. It was just sort of ...there. It even looked as though it had been there for a while.
You know, she was right about that sight making her (and me) happy for a week. It was so ridiculous, so unexpected, so...smile-worthy, that even now when I think about that ball I smile to myself. How did that ball get there? Why wasn't anyone trying to get it down? Would it just blow out during the next storm? Who knows? All I know is that a giant ball stuck in a tree is going to make me smile for a week. Since then, the concept of seeing something which makes you "smile for a week" has become a bit of a family thing.
DH came home a few weeks ago and said he saw something which would make him smile for a week - it was a little patch of rainbow in the sky. Not a double rainbow or a full arc or even a half arc - just a little patch, to the eye maybe only 3 inches long, hanging out there in the sky in all it's rainbow glory.
Last week, I was driving home in a torrential downpour. I stopped at a traffic light and a man crossed in front of my car. He was a really, really tall man - I'd venture easily 6'3" or more - and the umbrella he was using was a teeny tiny bright yellow kids' umbrella, which pretty much just covered his head (and not his shoulders). He crossed the street in the pouring rain holding up this little ray of sunshine...and looking as though he didn't much care that he was getting soaked through.
A few days ago, we were in the car and DD2 looked out her window, and saw a 10 person van filled with elderly people who were all dressed to the nines. I have no idea where they were going, perhaps the theatre or maybe just out to the shops - but all of them were sitting up nice and tall and all of them were dressed beautifully. A van full of beautiful oldies can make you smile for a week, they really can.
I love that my kids notice these things, and that they recognise the great feeling which comes from seeing them. The ridiculous, the absurd, or just the every day things which occur around us that we often are too busy or to preoccupied to notice - those are the things which make us smile for a week.
When I say my children teach me things all the time, I'm talking about these sorts of things. They remind me to notice, to acknowledge...and then to actually smile for a week about those kinds of things. When's the last time you saw something absurd and let it just...sink in?
Last week, I went out of my way to check on the fit ball in the tree.
It's still there...hopefully making someone else smile, too.