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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Welcome to Sharondipitous Moments

Welcome to Sharondipitous Moments

A few years back I started this blog.  I wanted to write humorous commentary.  The title, Sharondipitous Moments, was a play on my name and my belief in the brilliance of serendipity.  Then on January 19, 2016, I had a heart attack.  As heart attacks go, mine wasn’t particularly severe.  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 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 Health Systems, 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.

I love writing.  I particularly enjoy story-telling and humor.  That will continue to be part of this blog.  Now I have an opportunity to share some knowledge I’ve gained as a cardiac survivor.  So in addition, you’ll also see some information on Health & Wellness, and this wonderful organization, WomenHeart, of which I am a part.  Enjoy!

 

Making Lemonade

Making Lemonade

Editor’s note:  The following is a speech given at the Miracle Mile Toastmasters Club on July 13, 2017.

We all experience events which render us vulnerable – as if caught in a vortex, incapable of controlling everything swirling around us. At moments like this we find ourselves thinking, “How will I survive?”

In her book, “Option B,”  Sheryl Sandberg states, “We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events.”  What are the narratives we tell ourselves about the event?  Are we personalizing it – perhaps even blaming ourselves? Do we believe the event is pervasive – that it will affect all areas of our lives? Do we tell ourselves that we will feel like this forever? The negativity of the 3P’s (personalization, pervasiveness and permanence) can impede our ability to recover.

I have 3 stories to tell you. In my first, he is 33 years old, 6’ 11” and a remarkable basketball player.  One of the Heat’s Big Three, he was number 1 in more ways than one.  In 2014, the first sign of a career ending problem – pulmonary emboli were found in his lungs.  Imagine that.  When most people his age are in careers that are just taking off, his was coming to an abrupt end.  The game he loved, that was his passion would continue, but without him.  In May, it was announced that Chris Bosh and The Heat would part ways.  In July, Chris wrote on his website,  (http://www.chrisbosh.com) an extraordinary open letter to Miami.

He spoke of the support he’d received from his family, teammates, coaches, fans and the entire community.  He thanked Miami for welcoming and encouraging him as “we” traveled together on this journey.  While he spoke of his discouragement and “down” moments, he somehow broke through the 3 P’s and made a conscious effort to dwell on all the wonderful moments he had here.

Wow!  Chris Bosh took a bunch lemons and made lemonade.

My second story is about someone who is part of our Miracle Mile family – Susan Racher.  Some of you are aware of her story – some not.  Susan has an MBA in accounting and finance, and is Vice President of the Walter H. Coulter Foundation.  As such she is in charge of the endowment’s investment portfolio and has experience in obtaining grants.  Little did she know that these skills would help her in a larger way.

A few years ago, her son became ill and was hospitalized.  As Susan puts it, “if he had kidney stones there would have been a good deal of support.”  However, her son had a mental illness.  There were support groups for families overwhelmed by other illnesses, but nothing to support families of people with mental illness.  As a family member who was dealing with new problems and concerns, Susan recognized the need to do something and do it NOW.

A friend suggested she get in touch with NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  Unfortunately the organization in Miami was practically non-existent, what she called a “zombie organization.”  Susan started from scratch – at first going to Broward to get better educated and then worked with others to rebuild a new Miami-Dade NAMI organization.  This group is providing support to families throughout Dade County, raising awareness and educating the community.

Susan observed that when the unimaginable happens, we feel like victims,  Working to help others is empowering.  When she was given lemons, she made lemonade, and has helped many people she doesn’t personally know.

My 3rd story is about me.  As most of you know, in January of 2016 I had a heart attack.  I made many lifestyle changes and thought I was doing great.  Almost a year to the date, I was exercising and felt pressure in my jaw.  Since the heart attack presented as intense pain in my jaw, I mentioned it to the staff at cardiac rehab.  Before I knew what was happening my cardiologist had me scheduled for another cardiac catheterization.  The result was an additional stent.  My medical records indicated an occlusion in the LAD (left anterior descending artery, sometimes called the Widow maker).

What a shock!  What did I do wrong?  Whoops, there goes that narrative personalizing the event and blaming myself. Changing that  story wasn’t easy, but with some outside help and persistence I did.  In the last few months, I’ve done more investigation on my specific condition and worked with a number of medical professionals at the Miami Cardiovascular Institute at Baptist Hospital to improve my health.  A couple of weeks ago, I was nominated by the Institute to represent Baptist as an educator for the WomenHeart organization.

What a journey this has become.  It was surprising, then frightening, then depressing, but now enlightening.  It was as if the Universe was waiting for the right moment to give me this opportunity.  I was telling my friend Leisha about this possibility and she said, “You’re just like Susan — taking lemons and making lemonade.

I may not have made the lemonade yet, but I’m working on the recipe.  How cool is that?

GONE WITH THE WIND

GONE WITH THE WIND

Eighteen years ago some children came running to my house announcing they had found some kittens.  There was a white kitty, an orange tabby, a tuxedo boy, a tortoise-shell girl and a beige female.  The kids quickly told me the mommy was dead.  Thinking back, I have no idea how true that was.  They were all about 4 – 5 weeks old.  After a couple of weeks of care and feeding, I found homes for 2 of them.  The remaining 3  (orange tabby female, male tuxedo cat, and tortoise-shell female) needed names.  I was in a literary frame of mind and the 2 girls were named Melanie and Katie Scarlett (GWTW).  I actually considered naming the tuxedo cat Rhett Butler, but it just didn’t fit his personality. The runt of the litter when he arrived, he appeared to have dreams of becoming larger than life.  As a result he became my Great Gatsby.

Melanie was the family “greeter.”  She figured anyone entering our abode was there to see her.  She would attempt to ingratiate herself to any new comer — never thinking they might be allergic to her.  “To me?  Never.”

Originally she was a rather quiet girl, but in more recent years found her voice.  This often came out in anger.  If I tried to arise and she was on my lap I heard, “MEOW….MEOW.”   She also informed me that what I considered my side of the bed, was actually hers. with a very loud, “MEOWWWWWWW!”

Mellie (her preferred nickname) started loosing weight about a week ago.  Her usual zest for eating was different,   and then all of a sudden her tummy was distended.  I was sure she wasn’t pregnant.  Aside from being neutered, she’s 18 years old (93 in human years).  We were off to the vet.  After an x-ray and exam, he said, “It doesn’t look good.”  He suggested I take her home and “just love her.”  It’s amazing how quickly she deteriorated and on April 22 she breathed her last.

There is a down side to having pets.  They give unconditional love, and are wonderful companions.  However their life span in human years is predictably shorter than ours.  For now, I find an emptiness I didn’t have only 72 hours ago.  And, my little girl, has quite literally gone with the wind.  Sleep tight Mel.

MELANIE

TWO WOMEN

TWO WOMEN

I had a birthday last week and it brought to mind 2 important women in my life.  The first was my mother.  The second was my mom.

“Huh?” you say.  “I thought you said 2 women.”

I was born in a very conservative Midwest.   At that time, a stigma existed with regard to pregnancy without benefit of marriage.  Judgment and criticism had not evolved much beyond the puritanical beliefs noted in “The Scarlet Letter.”

My mother, Florence, was a self-reliant woman who supported 2 young children from a previous marriage.  There was no place to hide, when she found herself pregnant.

A relative and close friend, Bonnie, approached her regarding her pregnancy.  What could she do to help?  After some conversation, Bonnie had a suggestion.  She said, “I’ve always wanted a girl and I can’t have more children.  If you have a girl, would you consider letting us adopt her?”

I don’t know how long the 2 considered this proposal before they agreed.  And, that is how my “mom” came into the picture.

I grew up in a family of 4 — my mom, dad and 2 older brothers.  I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I was.  Despite a large age difference between my brothers and I, we’ve always been incredibly close.  My parents were encouraging and supportive of my efforts.  I never questioned the love that surrounded me.  From the beginning, I knew I was adopted, but never knew the circumstances.  Nor did I have a clue Aunt Flo was actually my birth mother.  She did not want me to know and that fact remained undisclosed until her death when I was 18.

My mother gave me life.  My personality is a lot like hers, as is my independent nature.  In many ways I think, as strong as I am, she was so much stronger.  I’ve often wondered how difficult it would be to see your child and never be able to acknowledge it.

My mom brought me into a fantastic loving family.  She was a great parent and as we grew older became my best friend.   She introduced me to theater, opera, and writing — things I still love.  Who I am today is largely due to her.

Many years ago 2 women set forth a plan for my future.  What they decided has affected every aspect of who I am.  There are no words to adequately express my love for them both.