Live Like You’re Dying

Last year, I became one of the estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer to be diagnosed in 2016. Of that number, one out of three was projected to die from the disease.  While the diagnosis and statistics are daunting at best, for me cancer became a lesson in how to live like I was dying, in how to embrace life in whatever form I was allowed. Surgery and chemotherapy were fraught with unexpected complications and hospitalizations. I chose to share my diagnosis only with close friends, family and my managers at work. I did not rush to Facebook or Twitter to bemoan my state, because let’s face it, many people have it much worse. I didn’t want sympathy or sad-eyed glances. I wanted only to be normal once again, and that status could be found only in living normally. Between chemotherapy treatments, I returned to my job as a nurse, worked on my third novel, and tried to savor every special moment of every day. What I discovered is that every moment is extraordinary—especially if it might be your last—a last kiss, a last hello, a last glimpse of someone special, a final goodbye, and with those possibilities firmly in mind, I appreciated them all the more. There is magic in every moment and in so much around us. And the prospect of dying makes them that much richer.

The Gift of Hope

It’s that time of year again. And, though the very word — Christmas — carries a hint of magic as it twirls through our thoughts, stirring up wonderfully evocative memories of enchanting, never to be forgotten moments, it is also a time of short tempers, long lines, great expectations and, greater still, disappointments. The real meaning of the holiday has almost been lost in the flurry of sales and promised bargains and crowded parking lots, where cars are parked tight as teeth, and patience, or the lack thereof, is measured in the number of angry car horns and shouted expletives. The temptation to get lost in the commercialism and the frenzy of the season often clouds our best intentions. Our eyes glaze over at the man holding the sign asking for spare change, the man with the squeegee at the traffic light, the disheveled woman next to us. We watch warily as newcomers slip in among us. We burrow our hands deeper into our pockets, pull down our caps and hurry along.

One Year On: Reflections on a Tragedy

As the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing approaches, the echoes of that day still swirl in this city and in our own memories, for on a day when evil was intended, a city sparkled more brightly than it seemed possible. And the tiny buds of kindness and hope that first shot through the darkness of that long, haunting day have long since flourished and spread, and taken root in this city and its hospitals. We are a community forever bound, not by the scope of the tragedy, but by the eloquent and seamless scope of our response.

Weeds for Dinner

 In the icy grip of this all too frigid winter, I’d planned write about the miserably long, snowy weeks that stretch ahead, and how, like so many others, I am sick of shoveling the white stuff.  It’s lost its allure for me. It no longer represents a scene of hushed beauty, instead all I see are hours of shoveling just to get out of the house. And, let’s face it, in a year when even the south is snowed in, you know we’ve got problems.

Lighting a Candle Against the Dark

Malala Yousafzhai’s autobiography was released this week, an especially fitting time ahead of Friday’s UN International Day of the Girl Child.   Nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Malala is the teenage Pakistani activist known for her courageous determination to attend school. Last year, a group of Taliban brutes stormed her school bus and, after calling out her name, they shot her in the head at point blank range. Miraculously, Malala survived, but around the world, so many more young girls will not survive, and though it may not be a bullet that will take them, the global neglect that will allow them to wither and die, is surely as deadly.  At every stage of life, females are still at risk in places like Afghanistan and India, both of which were named among the “world’s most dangerous countrys [sic] in which to be born a woman.”     And it is not just the lack of medical care and outrageously high maternal mortality rates that account for the challenges that confront women and girls, it is rape, persistent violence and neglect that will stalk them throughout their often short lives. In India, the UN estimates that girls are 75 % more likely than boys, to die before the age of five. . That statistic alone is proof enough that, at least in India, females are still considered as worthless as yesterday’s bread.

The Power of Women

Women have changed the world, often one tiny step at a time, and our selection of those women who’ve had the most influence often varies with the years and with our own experiences. Twenty-five years ago, we might have chosen Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana or maybe even Mary Tyler Moore, but our choices today would surely reflect the almost revolutionary changes in the world around us.

Word Love

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve loved words. I love the sounds, the way a word can slip from my tongue like cool water thru a stream or the jagged way it might flow like rocks along a riverbed. I love the way a single word can change a story or a life for it is a well-chosen word that will stay with us forever, something I learned long ago.

Embrace The Ordinary

It’s that season again — the season of graduation and change, the season of lofty dreams and loftier still commencement speeches. For most of us, the sweetest words we can hear at commencement are — “I’ll keep this short.” But, more often than not, the speeches are grand appeals to the graduates to reach for the stars, to find their special bliss, to write a bestseller, to change the world. And off we go only to be disappointed by the ordinariness of our lives. But it is that very ordinariness that we should embrace and even celebrate.

I Am A Nurse

 Nurses’ Week is upon us, and this year, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, it seems especially fitting to celebrate nurses, those quiet heroes who walk among us. For in every hospital in Boston, it was a nurse who worked feverishly to stop the bleeding, start the intravenous lines, and cover the gaping wounds. And in the midst of that horror, it was a nurse who leaned in and gently whispered, You’ll be okay. Hold my hand.

Inside The ER

Monday, April 15th, the Patriots Day holiday in Boston, dawned clear and cool, a perfect spring day. The ER at the Boston Medical Center (BMC) hummed with activity – headaches, and chest pain and the wounds and complaints of everyday life. With Boston’s marathon winding down, ER staff were ready for runners with dehydration and sprains, and the rare cardiac arrest. An average day if ever there was one.