Saturday, February 15, 2014


As the quote from Steve Jobs states, you must love what you do to obtain greatness. I have been contemplating writing about this for awhile and then this came from Steve. I think that is serendipity. So here I go with my thoughts on this subject. I will speak specifically about hospice staff. Others often ask us how we can do this job, that it must be so depressing. Working in hospice is not at all depressing. It is the is uplifting. The very 1st thing we see is the relief on the face of the caregiver and the release of tension in their muscle groups as they open the door to us. Blessing number one for us. We then get to see the patient & hear from them how glad they are that we came to visit them. Blessing number two. If the patient can't talk, we see the change in them non-verbally when we are there. I have often said that if you don't really love working in hospice that you will soon 'wash' yourself out. That doesn't mean that you are 'bad'. It simply means that there is another area where you will shine. For me, I have had an on-going love affair working in hospice. Others may think that we are 'hardened' to death & dying. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are such emotional beings. We cry, we pray, we hurt, we grieve, and yet we go on giving of ourselves. We could never do this if we didn't love what we did! When we make a patient more comfortable, teach the caregiver something new or perhaps only iterate what we've already taught (with all of the stress on the caregiver it is easy to understand that they sometimes can't retain what we've previously said). We hospice workers are pros at practicing patience without ever having an attitude. Seeing the patient clean, safe, and having less symptoms is another blessing. Having a cup of tea with the caregiver and allowing him/her to express what they are feeling as we help them work thru these feelings is another blessing. The relationships that we build is awesome. Another blessing. As you may be beginning to see, we receive many more blessings than we think that we have given. My being a terminally ill patient now and relying on my many hospice friends as an important part of me having a support system, I can readily see the many blessings that they give that they are not even aware of. It truly is a love/love relationship. Here I must state; if you don't love what you do, PLEASE don't do it. I have also truly be blessed to have been directed to working in hospice many years ago. As of the present time, I am privileged to be able to be a volunteer with a longer time goal of going out into the field once again as an RN. To all of you in hospice care-giving, let your spirits glow! I am filled with so much love & joy to have known each and everyone of you. As my daughter always says, you make my heart smile!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Feb. 12, 2014

Well, wouldn't you just know it.  My 1st patient scheduled I was to see today. I had an early Dr's appt. for a pelvic exam.  Since I've had an increase in having abdominal pain, they wanted me to have cat scan today.  I had to cancel my patient's visit in order to do this.  I wrote previously that I never get around to exercising.  Today coming home from the cat scan procedure, we couldn't get up our hill and had to park way down on the main road.  From there I had to climb a hundred city steps to get to my house.  That's exercise enough for a week.  Luckily I was able to do it and breathe!  Bet my legs will be sore tomorrow!

More Cancer Lessons:

I have so many thoughts running through my mind with the underlying theme being; I must start writing all of this down. So, here I go not knowing what will come out of my head or where to start this.

Since I have cancer, I think a lot of the things one thinks of if they know their time here on earth is limited. It was then that I discovered what a blessing this time is. If you know you don't have all that much time, you tend to, at least mentally, write a 'to do' list. On that list are things like funeral arrangements, writing letters to my children, thinking about what songs you want played at the service, etc. The introspection is phenomenal. I am getting to know me at last. Just knowing me has been something that I have often pondered doing. Now it becomes a reality. I find so many things funny. I laugh long and often. Poking fun at yourself & this disease is so freeing. It has been influential with having my family members stop denying that I am going to die. They are learning to accept this diagnosis. There is no 'elephant in the room'. We make jokes about my baldness and my chemo brain although my grandson, Ryan, says that I was forgetful before I ever had cancer & chemo!

For awhile I became somewhat depressed. I came back to Pittsburgh 2 ½ years ago with nothing of my 'stuff' except what I could carry on the plane. It was and is still in Alaska. During this down time, I had decided that I would not have any of my things sent here as I didn't know how soon I would die. If it was to be soon then it would be a waste of money to ship anything. On the other side of this I have done very well with the chemo treatments. I did not have any problems with my blood. It stayed within normal limits through out. In fact, my oncology team has been amazed at how well I've done. As my mood began to lift (with the help of some 'happy pills'), I became able to plan for some future. I am now aware that no matter how long I have, I will have some of my 'stuff' sent to me so I can once again enjoy them for as long as I am here. I have just passed one year since my diagnosis.

There are so many emotional ups & downs when one has been told they have a terminal disease. There are many blessings that come with this. Knowing that I have time, I am able to save my family from having to make important decisions at a time they are less able to do so. I am blessed by having the time to let everyone know what they mean to me before it is too late. I am blessed by being able to live in the moment of every encounter. I am able to see the deeper meaning and purpose of each character trait and how it has served each of us. This alone allows us to love unconditionally. Forgiveness comes easy. Asking for forgiveness is easy when you have such freedom of your soul. Nothing is out of bounds. It all matters and is important as we each search for our meaning in this life. I have learned that it is ok to be dependent on others at times. By doing so, I am letting others have that joyful feeling you get when you help/give to another. So you see this journey is AWESOME!
My 1st blog was really my third.  I am posting the 1st two.


I have several things on my mind today. I hope no one minds if I post some of my random thoughts this morning.

As a certified hospice & palliative care nurse now diagnosed with a terminal illness, I am more grateful than ever to have been privileged for many years to have served those on their journey who have finished what they were put here on earth to do. I have learned so much from those warriors. I am now experiencing what many who have gone before me have in the past.
I believe that my hospice experiences have allowed me to come to the acceptance stage as a smooth transition from the original thought of “Oh, my God, this can't be” to the thought that “It is what it is, and that is all that it is”. When one knows they are facing death, a whole new perspective of living comes into view. While I still have strong thoughts that my task here on earth has not been completed, I am more than grateful that I am still alive and enabled to continue whatever that is. And then a thought creeps in that if I haven't finished my job here, then I can't die. Quickly though, another thought comes upon me stating that maybe I will just die before I know what else I am supposed to do. I can't let that happen, I tell myself, so I do some serious soul searching. What is it that I still must do. Time is running out and this puzzle must be solved. Do I still have lessons to learn? Do I still have wisdom to depart to others? If so, what is it and who are they? I think the answers are beginning to come. I must be still and listen to what the Universe is telling me. What is my path now?
Being a hospice nurse has been 'my heart'. I have known that for forever it seems. When I started my nursing career I worked in Critical Care. It was there that my penchant for helping those that were not going to make it and their families needed me. Elizabeth Kubler Ross was my mentor. She taught me to talk openly and honestly, giving hope yet not false hope was how to do it. Allow open expression from those in my care. I have practiced this through out my many years, both professionally and personally.
Having had made many choices in my life, some good and some not so good, they were all learning experiences. Looking at the negative ones I am able to see much of the good that has come from them. They have taught me so much. The main theme is that much positive comes from negative. One merely has to see the other side of them. Sometimes it was difficult for me to do this and so I didn't learn what I should have. Therefore, as I like to say, I had to repeat the class until I finally was able to pass that course! But I digress.
Back to death & dying. My hope is that I have taught many others to have an open discussion re this subject. Even singly, we all can make a difference. This is a difficult topic for many to face honestly. I have given it 'a good go' as they say. Some have found solace in what I have had to say, and others, I'm sure, will ponder my words down the road and then find their peace. I have never pushed anything on anyone. I accepted where they were on the trajectory and started from there. This has been most difficult to do with my own family. As any mother will tell you, we want our children to be quick learners and be at the top of their class. Even when we are dealing with such a delicate, difficult subject such as the death of their mother or their aunt or their cousin, sister, close friend, etc.. I have done my best to treat this subject with all as light and as bright as I could make it. My goal has been for all to see the joy of being on this journey with me. And make no mistake about it, it has been joyful most of time. They have been learning some really tough lessons which will hold them in good stead through out the rest of their lives. I am so very proud to have had something to do with them learning these lessons on their individual paths and to have led them in the direction of who they have become as caring, compassionate, loving, human beings and cognizant of the needs of others.
The hard parts of this journey? Well, it has not been the hair loss! I now can take a three minute shower, it takes no time at all to dry my head. I do not have to fuss and claim any bad hair days, I save money on the electric bill not using a hair blower or curling iron. I'm sure you get the point. The chemo? Whatever pain I've had has come after receiving this. I have pictured the pain (notice I did not say, 'my pain') as the good cells and the bad cells in battle. My good cells always win and the battle ceases after a week of fighting.
I have been enormously blessed to have a most wonderful grandson, Ryan, who has moved in with me and is my primary care giver. He moved to Alaska from Florida to help me when I broke my leg and then back here to Pittsburgh where I have marvelous relatives/friends (and guardian angels) to help if anything else happened to me. Well, lo and behold I have was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and here is Ryan at the forefront once again! I am so proud of the young adult he has become. He now does the cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, and anything else that needs done as well as working full time! Although he is scared and emotionally exhausted at times, he is learning to cope with all adversity in a most positive way. He is my sounding board.
I would like to mention that when one is aware of their own demise, they become concerned about what legacy they will be leaving for posterity. I have found this to be true with my patients and now with myself. I hope and pray that I have had a positive influence on all with whom I have had cross my path or whose path I have crossed. Everyone is where they are for a reason. If we thought at the time that these engagements were negative, I hope we learned the lessons that were brought by them.
I say now, “Fasten your seat belts everyone, you're in for the ride of your life”! More to come!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I will just start writing as I can't figure out what to start with. It has been quite awhile since I've given you all any information as to what is going on with me. My chemo via IV ended several weeks ago. I am now taking an oral chemo called tamoxifen. I will have regular labs drawn which include a CA 125 which is a cancer marker. I must say here how wonderful every staff member at the Passavant Cancer Center have been. I am so pleased with everyone there. They never cease to smile and greet you (most often by name) whether or not they are part of your individual team. Physically I am not where I would like to be but then I have been pretty lazy about doing any exercises. I am sure they would help but I never think of them until I'm ready for bed. So much for that. Also, each day brings a different activity level that I can accomplish and still be able to breathe. Living with this disease brings one to an entirely different life style. Being one that had to be productive every waking moment, I am now content to do next to nothing that is really productive. In my mind I am very active and think of many things to do. I just don't get around to doing them. Soon I won't be able to blame it on the chemo that has slowed me down. You will all know that I am damn lazy! I have become a pro at changing thoughts. I'm a believer that what one thinks becomes what is. In other words, thoughts are things. I am a realist and know that this disease will take me to the afterlife, but in the meantime I am in control! Ask my kids, I have always tried to be the 'controller' (as they grew older, it seldom happened successfully). Don't get me wrong...I'm aware that my demise is likely, I just won't entertain negative thoughts for longer than a few seconds. Remember, we cancer patients live with this disease 24hrs/day, 7days/week. Think of how awful life would be if one were to dwell on thoughts that are not happening at the moment! I prefer to live in the moment...besides, I can't 'control' the future. So, in thinking about what/when something will happen is a lesson in futility. I am happy that I have been able to accomplish as much as I have. I am so looking forward to speaking to my colleagues about a clinician having become a patient. I think that what I have to say will surely help others be more comfortable in conversing with a terminally ill patient. As I have said before, I am the lucky one. I get to deal with my mortality and I consider that being one step ahead of the rest of you! Love is the answer. Make sure you show it with everything you do. Love what you are doing. That includes doing the dishes or polishing the mindful of everything you do or think. Keep changing those awful, sad thoughts. Our brain is a marvelous organ. But, even it can only think one thought at a time. Think about that. If you were a carpenter and wanted to place a nail where another nail exists, you would have to push the first nail out with putting in the new nail! The same is true of thoughts. I've probably rambled enough for this time. I have created a blog page. The address is: The title is: meandcancer I also had to get a new e-mail as my yahoo acct. was hacked. New e-mail: I used my name for these as it's one thing I might always remember!