Welcome to Sharondipitous Moments

Welcome to Sharondipitous Moments

A few years back I started this blog.  At the time, I wanted to write humorous commentary but had no specific goal of which direction the blog would take.  Then on January 19, 2016, I had a heart attack.  Now as heart attacks go, it wasn’t really bad.  When I was able, I joined other patients in cardiac rehab and with my doctor’s advice started a weight loss program.  Then almost 1 year to the date after the attack, I experienced pressure in my jaw while exercising.  My cardiologist simply said,  “No more exercising until you’ve had another cardiac cath.”  I avoided a second attack, but my LAD (aka the “widow maker”) was 95% blocked.  I was shocked, discouraged and depressed.

Who would have thought something so horrible could be serendipitous?  I had started attending WomenHeart meetings at Baptist Hospital’s, Miami Cardiovascular Institute.  A member asked me if I would be interested in attending a WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota.  I did and graduated from the symposium with 57 other dynamic, fantastic women as a WomenHeart Champion and Community Educator.

While I’ll continue to write humorous commentary, you’ll also see some information on Health & Wellness, and this wonderful organization, WomenHeart, of which I am a part.  Enjoy!

 

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Aside

Au Revoir Clouseau

Five years ago, my neighbor came over, asking if I could help her.  She had a kitten that had literally been blown under her vehicle by a passing car.  She didn’t know what to feed him, had no litter, and no place to leave him when she went to work.  I explained I was unable to take him, and as you might guess that lasted all of about 2 minutes.  There he was — all one pound of him and that bewitching little face.

Compared to the other cats in the family he was small, but in his mind, he was also mighty.  His first toy was a turtle.  He amused himself swatting it a couple of times, then picked it up in his mouth and shook it emitting a deep growl.  He was surprised by my laughter, but the sight of him waving a toy turtle that was as big as his head while growling was hysterical.

His antics reminded me of the games played by Kato and Clouseau in the “Pink Panther,” hence his name.  In my house there were many Katos, none of whom wished to play the game.  In spite of their feelings, he would race across the room, jump on furniture, then fly through the air front paws outstretched landing on his prey.  He loved it.

The Vulture Pose

Monsieur Clouseau’s language preference was French.  He did not adhere to the Henry Higgins opinion, that “the French don’t care what you say, as long as you pronounce it correctly.”  Perhaps that is because his English pronunciation was so horrible (he literally murdered the word “room.”)

Clouseau would start his day with his sun salutation, then go up on the roof to “cat-scan” the neighborhood.  A devotee of yoga, he invented a new pose which he called the “vulture pose.”

As my boy grew in stature, he also became quite the man about town.  The stories of Clouseau are legend.  He actually enjoyed visiting the veterinary clinic when I was traveling.  Of course, he insisted on having full run of the place meowing loudly so he’d be freed from his cage. He made friends with neighborhood kitties, and when he met his girlfriend, Gabrielle, he begged his mom, “Puis-je la garder s’il vous plait maman?” (may I keep her please mama).

A few weeks ago Clouseau became ill, and we discovered he was acutely anemic.  My vet recommended that he go to an emergency veterinary hospital. Of course, Clouseau demonstrated his witchcraft at the new place.  He attempted to steal food from the dog in the next cage and demanded attention all the time.  After some treatment, it was determined he could come home, but the prognosis was devastating and by Saturday, February 10 any hope of more time was dashed.

Clouseau loved being outside, climbing on the roof, sleeping on the hood my car.  We spent his last hours in the backyard while we waited for the vet to arrive, and end his pain.  As he drifted off, I whispered in his ear, “Bonne nuit mon gentil garcon, mon petit bonhomme.  Je t’aime mon cher Clouseau.”

 

 

DO AS I SAY…

DO AS I SAY…

Editor’s Note:  Following is a speech given at Miracle Mile Toastmasters, February 8, 2018

WomanHeart is The National Coalition of Women WITH Heart Disease.  If someone had asked me 5 or 10 years ago, if I would be active in an organization that had as a criterion for membership having a disease, I would have said, “Not me.”  Yet here I am.  Every WomenHeart Champion has heart disease, and each of us has a story.

Let’s get personal.  On January 18, 2016, I awoke with the most horrible pain in my jaw.  I couldn’t believe it.  It felt as if I needed a root canal.  I looked at the clock, it was 12:30 am.  I went into the kitchen to get some water.  As I walked, the pain began to subside.  I was exhausted and thought, “Did I imagine that?  I must have.”  I went back to bed.

About 4 hours later, it happened again.  I woke up with severe pain in my jaw.  I’m smart enough to know that root canal pain does not come and then go on its own.  What to do?  Have you heard of Google?  Yep, that’s what I did, I googled angina.  What I read said it could be a heart attack, but then again, it might not.  Being the outstanding diagnostician that I am, I deduced it was not.  My doctor would be in the office in a couple of hours.  I decided to wait (yet again) and call her.  She said, “Go directly to the ER, do not pass go, do not collect $200.”

Ten and a half hours after the first pain, I was diagnosed.  I’d had a heart attack.

Fast forward 1 year.  I was at Cardiac Rehab exercising.  I was pushing up the speed on a treadmill.  I noticed some pressure in my jaw.  No pain – just pressure.  I stopped and had someone check my blood pressure.  It was okay.  I continued with my routine and only as I was leaving did I mention the mild discomfort I’d felt.  The nurse looked at me as if I had 2 heads.  “Why didn’t you tell me?  You need to see your doctor right away.”  I called my internist and explained what had happened.  The next thing I knew I was in her office where the staff told me several times all would be OK.  Oddly enough I wasn’t alarmed until the third, “you’ll be OK.”  The next day I was at the cardiologist’s office, the next week in the cath lab.  I didn’t have a heart attack.  However, my Left Anterior Descending Artery (aka the Widowmaker) was 95% occluded, making it far more dangerous than the attack I’d had a year earlier.

What can you learn from my experience?  You know the old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  What were my actions? I ignored symptoms, waited far too long to get help, even worse I diagnosed myself!

Considering that heart disease is the number 1 killer of men and women in the United States, here is what you should do:

Know your risks (some over which you have no control):  If you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, or if you have a family history, you are at higher risk for developing heart disease.

Know your risks Part 2 (you can change these):  If you’re a diabetic, if you are overweight or if exercise is lacking in your day — make changes to your routine, and diet.  And for heaven’s sake STOP SMOKING!

Know your numbers:  Is your cholesterol too high?  What about your HDL and LDL?  How are your triglycerides?  Do you have hypertension?  Remember the guidelines have changed.

All of these risks and numbers apply to everyone in this room.  You may ask, “But, what is WomenHeart?  Why is there a need for an organization just for women with heart disease?”

Let’s look at some facts and statistics.  While 1 in 31 American women die of breast cancer (which is far too many) 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.  Since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease.  Let’s say a woman goes to the best cardiologist on the planet.  And that cardiologist gives the VERY BEST advice available.  The reality is that “best advice” may not be the best at all.  Doctors recommendations are often tied to the results of clinical trials.  Today, women comprise less than 27% of the participants in cardiac trials.  Women are not little men.  Their biology is different.

Women’s symptoms during a heart attack are different as well.  Yes, they may have chest pain, but they are likely to present with various indicators such as nausea, feeling light-headed, having extreme fatigue, pain or discomfort in the arm or shoulder, neck or back — and don’t forget my symptoms — pain in the jaw.  With my second event there was NO PAIN — merely pressure in my jaw.  Is it any wonder that women are often misdiagnosed?

The most important thing to do if you have any symptoms of a heart attack is to go the emergency room.  Time is of the essence.  Call 911 or have someone take you.  Do not drive yourself.

Many of you work for companies in this area or belong to organizations that meet locally.  WomenHeart has a program called WomenHeart@Work.  We can design a power point meeting for members of your group, giving each participant facts about taking charge of their heart health.  I have some of our “Bags of Courage”  with information on protecting your heart health as well as my WomenHeart Business Card.  Call me, and we will schedule a presentation, which will be a gift to your company, its employees or members of your organization.

I implore you to “do as I say.”  Education can save the life of a colleague, friend, teammate or partner.  Take this life-saving opportunity.

 

A Rose By Any Other Name…

A Rose By Any Other Name…

As many of my readers know, I have six kitties. Three are about 18 years old, which in human years makes them much older than I. The remaining three are under five.

I take after my dad, who loved animals. He would have had several pets if possible.  My mother, on the other hand, felt one pet in the family was more than sufficient.

The latest addition to my lair is a fellow I call Teddy.  He’s named after my eldest brother.  Ted and I have a history of dubbing our pets with familial monikers.  It started with his naming his pug dog Bonnie after our mom. Mother was annoyed.

Over the years, I’ve had dogs and cats.  Mother liked them but became critical of the number of cats living at my address.  I recall several years ago, just before a visit from mom, a new cat appeared on the scene.  I knew she would have an opinion about the newcomer.

Mom arrived, walked into the kitchen and spied the foreigner lying on the floor.  As I recall, the ensuing dialogue went something like this:

Mom: “What’s this?”

Me: “A cat.”

Mom: “You know what I mean, what’s it doing here?”

Me: “He lives here.”

Mom: (deep sigh) “Sharon, why do you have another cat?”

Me: “It isn’t something I planned.  He appeared and took up residence.  I couldn’t arbitrarily dismiss a fellow who is named after your father, and looks quite a bit like your husband.”

Mother often said I gave human qualities to pets, but naming him Fred and noticing a resemblance between the cat and Wally was genius!

At the conclusion of her visit, mom said, “You know he does look a little like Wally.  She never questioned Fred’s presence again.

While everyone referred to my brother as Ted, his birth certificate specified his given name was Raymond.  Ted would appreciate this little fellow dubbed Teddy, although I guess he could argue that I didn’t name Teddy after him!

Teddy is a big, long-haired, grey, creature.  His favorite things are eating, racing through the house with wild abandon, playing with the other kitties, trying to operate my computer, and sleeping on my bed.

The other day I said to him, “You’re just a big Teddy Bear.” That’s when I noticed his resemblance to a Koala “Bear.”

Let me show you:

 

On the left, we have a Koala Bear and on the right is my Teddy.  For all of you who like to point out differences, I grant you the Koala has a big black nose, and Teddy’s smaller nose has a white spot; Mr. Koala has round eyes, and Teddy’s are oval; the Koala has rounded ears, Teddy’s are pointed; Teddy has exceptional whiskers and, the Koala doesn’t.  But look at the massive amount of fur coming out of their ears!  They each have a white bib and both are grey!  Perhaps in a former life, Teddy was a Koala, or maybe he’s a Koala in drag!
Then there is the fact that a Koala is, in fact, not a bear but a marsupial. There was a marsupial lion that existed in Australia in the Pleistocene age. It allegedly looked like a lion, had incisors like a lion, but is not part of the cat family.

So there you have it. Teddy is named after my brother — only he isn’t.  He looks something like a Koala Bear, but he isn’t one.  Some might say Teddy looks like a marsupial lion, but they haven’t been around for thousands of years so who knows?  I’ve yet to hear him say “G’day” as he enters a room — so much for an Australian accent.

To paraphrase Mr. Shakespeare, “Teddy by any other name would be as sweet.”

Time to Remember

Time to Remember

In 1960, an off-Broadway musical took New York by storm. It was “The Fantasticks.” As I sat pondering what to write in my holiday epistle, I recalled one of the songs from the show, “Try To Remember.” The lyrics close with these words, “Deep in December it’s time to remember and follow.” As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time to remember the events that stand out in my memory.

At the end of 2016, I saw Shonda Rhimes’ Ted Talk, about her “Year of Yes.” I was so inspired I purchased her book.  Upon reading it, I decided if Shonda could have a year where she moved out of her comfort zone and expanded her horizons, then surely I can.  After going to two Vision Board parties, I graphically illustrated my aspirations for the future.  Once completed, the idea is to put the Board in a place where it can frequently be viewed.  Keeping your dreams in the forefront, helps you realize them.  This is my VB.

I didn’t expect that in January I would have another heart event.  I thought I was doing so well with my recovery process and then two more stents.  The staff at Miami Cardiovascular Institute can attest to my tears and depression.  The allure of my Year of Yes didn’t look too promising.  However, as is often the case, disappointment can lead to the opening of unexpected doors.  Imagine my surprise when my HeartSister Annie asked, “Would you consider becoming a Community Educator in WomenHeart.”  My Year of Yes was about to begin.

I was accepted as a trainee in the WomenHeart 2017 Science and Leadership Symposium at Mayo Clinic.  Fifty-seven other women and I graduated in October, becoming WomenHeart Champions.  One could say, to be a member of this select group is somewhat like a good news / bad news story.  The good news is this is a family of dynamic women who support, educate and advocate for other women who have or are at risk for getting heart disease.  The bad news is having heart disease is a requirement— not the sort of thing one desires.  The symposium was unforgettable on so many levels.  It was informative and entertaining, exhausting yet energizing, and always heart-warming.

Creativity plays an essential role in my Vision Board. I determined it was time to recreate my website, sharondipitousmoments.com.  Initially, there were only two pages (the blog posts and a bio).  The blog consisted of various commentaries, but now, I was interested in including more thoughts on Health & Wellness — including my journey with heart disease.  There is also a nod to Toastmasters and copies of speeches I have given. A menu now points to categories, so the feeling is less random, and it’s easier to navigate.  The look has changed materially and thanks to my sister-in-law, a professional photographer, I’ve added my picture.

For everyone not living in Florida, we did survive Irma.  The Keys had significant damage, but Miami was, for the most part, spared.  Many trees were down taking power lines with them. Fortunately, where I live, power lines are underground. As a result, I was without electricity for only 24 hours.

Oh yes, there is still a menagerie here — 24 padded paws reside at my house.  The kitties rule…I’m just here to feed and care for them.  Anyone who has a cat will understand.

Looking at my Vision Board at year-end, I see things I didn’t accomplish, but I’m surprised at how much I did achieve.  I’m ready to start a new board with dreams for the future after the first of the year.   Hey, that’s a great reason to have a party! Anyone interested?

I have such a profound feeling of gratitude for my family and friends and my work with WomenHeart.  I hope this finds you well and that you have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Healthy 2018.

Love from,

Gatsby, Scarlett, Daisy, Clouseau, Gabrielle, Teddy

and of course, Me.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering the 2017 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium – Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

Remembering the 2017 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium – Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”  Nora Ephron

“Attending the symposium will be life-changing, and you’ll be surprised at how the stories of other women will impact you.  In the end you will feel empowered.”  So were the words of Ann de Velasco when she described what I might expect when attending the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium.  So, what did I learn?

Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed in an ER.  Women are more likely to have a second heart attack within 1 year of the first.  The symptoms of a heart attack are often far different in women than in men.  While there has been significant research and trials for heart disease, participants tend to be men.  As Dr. Sharonne Hayes said at the symposium, “Women are not little men.”  We have different hormones, women give birth to children.  Our genetics are different from men.  As a result, the best advice from a doctor is not necessarily the best advice.  That advice is based on research that simply is not women inclusive.

WomenHeart is the National Coalition of Women with Heart Disease.  A non-profit organization, we support other women through programs like SisterMatch, and HeartScarves.  We let newly diagnosed women know they are not alone.  WomenHeart educates women through local Support Networks and programs like Women at Work as well as presentations at Health Fairs.  As survivors of the number 1 killer of Americans, we advocate on public policy and health care reform.

Fifty-eight women from all over the United States attended the symposium.  All of us have heart disease — some of us have had heart attacks, others required valve replacement or repair.  A few have arrhythmias — a malfunction of the heart’s electrical system.  Some even required heart transplants.  Our specific problems may be different, but upon completion of the symposium we became WomenHeart Champions, prepared to support other women with or at risk of getting heart disease.

To accomplish this, we addressed our ability to tell “our stories.”  That turned out to be much more involved than we imagined.  We had to make our stories short, captivating, and engaging — not an easy task.

Before I attended the symposium, I had a picture in my mind of what the face of a woman with heart disease would be.  I figured it would be a face much like mine.  So imagine my surprise when I met my “roomie,” Amy,  a young woman in her 30’s.  Nor did I expect to meet several other young women, who in the prime of their lives experienced SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection).  Heart disease does not discriminate when it comes to age or ethnicity.

Almost 2 months have passed since graduation.  I was touched by the stories of my fellow graduates.  For me the symposium was  transformative.  As mentioned above WomenHeart has 3 prongs — support, educate and advocate.  So often you hear a phrase that begins with “We advocate for…”  Too often the next word is “victims.”  The women in my graduating class and previous classes are not victims — but survivors!  Meet the class of 2017.

 

Breaking News…

Breaking News…

Thursday, Nov. 23:  It’s just been announced that the biggest Black Friday deals will appear today, Thanksgiving Day!  I don’t know why we talk about Black Friday as it is really, “Black Thursday extending into Black Friday and the Black weekend.”  Wears you out just trying to say that.  I marvel at people who get up at an ungodly hour to get the privilege of standing in line, regardless of how good or bad the weather is, to get really “unbelievable” merchandise.

When I was a little girl, my mom and I went downtown because Marshall Fields was having a ” bargain-basement” sale. I’m not sure how it happened, but we became separated.  There were all these gigantic people around me.  Some were fighting over merchandise and most were stepping on me.  I was frightened because mommy had disappeared and these mammoth creatures pushed me one way, then another.  With no mom in sight, I started screaming through tears, “MOMMY, MOMMY!”  We  were finally reunited, but the memory of that event lives on.  Perhaps it’s a form of PTSD, but at the mention of a “sale” I’m reduced to panic and dread.  I would rather go through a root canal without anesthetic than participate in a Black Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday Sale.  Each year we hear about fights breaking out and people being injured (sometimes severely) at stores.  Mind you, all this occurs at a time of the year in which we commemorate a harvest festival by the Pilgrims — way back in 1621 — a time of thankfulness.

My experience of course was “pre-mall.”  We are now entering a “post-mall” era and the good news is rather than fight the crowds we can surf the web!  But Thursday, I’ll be preparing a turkey with yummy sides while my home becomes filled with the aromas of Thanksgiving.  Rather than searching for gifts, I’ll be arming myself with gratitude.  After all, it is Thanksgiving.