Less Stress More Success

The world breaks everyone, and afterwards, some are stronger in the broken places.  Ernest Hemingway

Everyone remembers when cancer pierces the normalness of life. My friend mentioned she noticed a small mass in her breast. I told her not worry, she was a month from her last mammogram, which was clean. I told her it was probably a cyst and to keep me posted with the result. The rest is etched in my memory. It was a early spring afternoon, I was straightening the bathroom when the phone rang. I remember her words “the doctors say it’s cancer”. I remember where I was standing in the bathroom and what I was wearing. I immediately called my husband, I wanted him to come home early to watch the kids so I could go with her to a meeting with the oncologist. It was surreal sitting with her in the oncologists’ office, recording everything the doctor said and asking the questions she was too stunned to ask. What about her fertility, what are the odds of it returning, how was this missed three short months ago? I remember actually realizing the possibility that I could lose my friend and what that meant-we were mortal.

Forever, our friendship will have the B.C.: Before Cancer. The times we bonded in the cold air on Michigan State’s campus. The trip to Italy when we ordered porn on the hotel TV by mistake and tried to get the charges removed using the worst broken Italian. How she, the childless woman, made my baby registry for my baby shower when I went into labor early. Then there is the AD: After Diagnosis. My small son holding a “Get Well” balloon as we waited for her to come out of surgery. He was too young for school, so he was my unknowing companion.  I’m not sure if I hurt his little hand, I held it so tightly. The follow up surgery to make sure the margins were completely cleared. The day my husband shaved her head in our dining room because her scalp was itchy from chemo. The searching as I looked for story after story of women her age that conquered cancer, and the aching whenever I heard a news report of women who lost their battle. Now there is my inquisition of her latest scans, blood work and numbers. I actually know what such numbers mean. Birthdays mean more as I mentally tick off another year without incident, without another trip to the doctor, as her hair grows in stronger, black and longer.

Our A.D. has normalized, or rather we have a more radicalized version of normal. Often as she was convalescing we discussed how she could spin her medical lemons into the proverbial lemonade. It’s all so sketchy when you’re in the midst of the fight, but eventually she found her footing again. She began speaking about the importance of managing your health care and being empowered to ask your physician the right questions. Then, she ignited her cause in the part stress can play in railroading your sanity, your quality of life and eventually your health. From her website she went to her first book Less Stress, More Success. In her book, she explores the role stress plays in our lives and how it has become trendy to be stressed. The more stressed, the more productive, and therefore more successful, we want to seem to others. However, this stress is leaving a bad stain in many of our lives, especially women. I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but my friend is a practicing physician, so the research is thorough and clinically sound. She balances the science with the sense of a woman who has been on both sides of the stethoscope. She is candid and friendly, but assertive in her views. She starts from the inside out, not leaving any bases uncovered. From nutrition to exercise, meditation and spiritual health, she is a great authority in patient advocacy and stress reduction.

Obviously, I am proud of my friend. She has been the strongest warrior against an insidious disease, never letting it dampen her spirit of her dedication to the health industry. I’m glad she’s taken the leap from physician, to patient and now patient’s advocate. She’s just as competent as an author and advocate as she is a friend. Get a copy of her book and begin a new relationship with yourself and your health.

 

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