Tag Archives: health

A Friend In Need: Hospital Visits

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[Image: Courtesy of “Scattered Joy” blog]

Dear Readers,

We are all familiar with this question: “What can I do for my friend who is ill?”   Perhaps my story will provide some answers to that question!

It’s been quiet here at “Margot’s Corner” because I have been ill for a month, including a hospital stay for ten days.  I will spare you the details, which are interesting only to my family and medical team.  Happily, I  am now home, recovering  from my “mystery malady.”

I learned, through this challenging time, to ask for help.   One friend, in particular, was an “angel of mercy,” during my time of need.  She will know who she is, when she reads this entry:  This is my “thank you” to her and to ALL my helping and praying family and friends!

Note:  “Hints” are for friends of the patient.  “Tips” are for the patient.

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Hint:  No one receives adequate  sleep in the hospital and an ill person craves sleep more desperately than even nutrition and company.  So, always ask your friend if he/she is accepting visitors.

Tips:

  • When you sign the hospital admittance papers, specify “No Visitors”  and “Do Not Give Out Information About Me.”
  • Ask the staff to post a sign on your hospital door.  My sign specified:  “No Visitors, Except for My Family and Priests.”  You can, of course, give your room number to specific clergy, family, and friends.
  • Disconnect the “land phone” in the hospital room.  In fact, disconnect BOTH land phones, if it is a semi-private room.  They will, invariably, loudly ring and interrupt your sleep.
  • Use your cell phone, if you must, but turn the ringer OFF when you are sleeping.

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I asked my friend to ignore the sign on the door.  I have known my friend for over 30 years;  she practically IS family.

Having an eye for design, my lovely blue-eyed friend wore a beautiful Delft blue top, blue crystal earrings, and she carried a vase of “living” bright red tulips, still blooming from their bulbs.  When I saw my friend walk into my hospital room, I exclaimed, “What beauty!  What color!”   [Pause.]  “And just look at the tulips, too!”

Hint:  A patient in the hospital craves beauty and color:  As I gazed at those tulips, they were a living symbol of nature and a reminder of hope:  I would soon return home, to plant my spring flowers!

Hint:  Hospital rooms are very small, so be prepared, to [instead] deliver flowers to the home of your friend.  He or she will enjoy them during recuperation, I assure you!

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Tip:  No appetite for hospital meals?  From the Dietician’s Aide, request the “Fruit Plate with Cottage Cheese” or the “Supper Salad.”

Hint:  During my hospital stay, I had little appetite for solid food — yet I craved something cold, liquid, nutritious, refreshing, healthy, and not sweet:   My friend had the perfect solution:  She brought me, for three consecutive days, a hand-made “Green Smoothie,” from her own kitchen:  It was chock-full of organic vegetables and fruits, with no added sugar of any kind.  I kept the “Smoothie” cold,  in the styrofoam and plastic water pitcher on my “meal tray.”   I am convinced my recovery began after the first sip of that “Smoothie.”  My friend also provided the Smoothie recipe:

Green Smoothie Recipe

“If using a regular blender:  First cut up [the veggies and fruit] into smaller pieces because they can get “stuck” or frozen.  The key is to use small portions and blend, a little at a time, instead of putting it all in at once.

This will probably make enough “Smoothies” for two people.  It will last two to three days, in the refrigerator, or you may freeze it in small containers, defrost, and re-blend.  This recipe will yield about eight cups.

Put a few ice cubes in the blender and crush, to help solidify everything else.  Then, add ingredients, one at a time, and blend:”

1 hand-full of fresh baby spinach leaves

2 small heads of broccoli

1/2 apple [core but do not peel]

1 banana

a little bit of flax-seed oil, if you have it

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

4 frozen strawberries

4 slices of frozen peaches

Whatever else you may have in the refrigerator  . . .

Ice:  enough for desired consistency

 

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Tip:  The staff is very busy and does not have time to help a patient take a shower.

Tip:  Plan ahead:  Keep your essential toiletries in a travel pouch and grab it before you rush out the ER or Hospital.

Tip:  The hospital supplies some toiletries but they are not available in quantity or quality.

Hint:  While in the hospital, I was not yet strong or stable enough to take a shower by myself.  So, my friend brought me samples of her luxurious shampoo and conditioner and helped me with my shower & shampoo.  Now, that is a true girl friend!

Hint:  A patient needs toiletries — without fragrances and with gentle [and, if possible, organic] ingredients. Ask your friend for suggestions.  I recommend:

  • Shampoo, conditioner, comb, headband, bath/shower gel, face moisturizer, body lotion, mouthwash, toothbrush, toothpaste, and lip balm.
  • To encourage sleep:  A sleep eye-mask, silicone ear plugs, and a homeopathic remedy:  Hyland’s “Calms Forte.”  [Of course, ask your physician about this remedy.]



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Tip:  Plan ahead:  Every morning, ask “Housekeeping” for fresh bath linens, sox, and two hospital gowns.  Also, ask “Housekeeping” to make your bed with fresh sheets, while you are in the shower.

Tip:  Tie the first gown in the back.  Over that first gown, tie the second gown in the front.  Now, you have a “gown” and a “robe.”  Clean sheets, clean gown & robe & sox, clean body & hair:  It is bliss!

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My friend recognized my need for stimulating conversation and indulged me by sitting with me in the “Waiting Room,” where we discussed theology for about fifteen minutes.

Hint:  Your friend is eager to hear about the “outside world” and craves stimulating conversation.  For myself, I was so weary of repeating my health issues that it was a relief to talk about anything other than my health.  So, dear friends, please do not ask your ill friend for details.

Hint:

  • Offer to read a favorite book  to your friend.
  • Bring an iPod with ear buds and recorded books and beautiful music.
  • Or, bring a magazine or a journal that you know your friend might appreciate:  Ask for suggestions, however!  A Birkenstock-wearing, silver-haired grandmother [like me] will prefer to read “Real Simple” or “Southern Living,” for instance.

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Even though my priest, Fr. Michael, referred to my hospital stay as a “Reading Vacation,”  the truth is that I was sleep-deprived:  my head hurt, my eyes would not focus, and I had difficulty concentrating.  I chuckled every time I glanced at the 1300-page volume of “Les Miserables,” which I asked my husband to bring me.  I was too weak to even lift the heavy volume!

I would have been much happier with “Anne of Green Gables,”  which I read, with glee, when I returned home.

Hint:  Everyone needs a “comfort book,” to read when ill.

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Visiting a friend in the hospital is an immense labor of love, time, and energy:  A visitor must park in the parking deck, find the elevators, walk through endless corridors, and find the room number.  After that Herculean effort, a friend does NOT want to find an empty room when he/she arrives.

[For instance, each diagnostic test, plus transport, requires one to two hours.]

Hint:  If your friend is accepting visitors, send a text message confirmation before you leave for your hospital visit.

Tip:  Text or call your family, friends, and clergy and advise them:

  • if you are going to be absent from the hospital room for any reason.
  • ASAP, after you find out you will be discharged.

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Gifts from Family &  Friends:

Tip & Hint:  I sent brief daily email updates to one friend and to one family member:  They “spread the word” to a wider circle of family and friends.  Family and friends knew how to pray specifically for me.  Such a blessing!

Hint:  Friends prepared simple suppers for Stephen, which were invaluable.  After working all day, Stephen came to visit me in the evenings in the hospital, knowing that he could look forward to a home-cooked meal.  All he needed to do was microwave the supper.  Soup and stews work particularly well.

Hint:  Once I returned home, friends prepared simple suppers for both Stephen and me, which were delicious and most welcome.

Hint:  Ask about strong preferences and intolerances.  Store the supper in containers that your friend does not have to return.  Or, if this is not possible, clearly label the storage containers and offer to pick up the containers.  This is such a huge help!

To all my dear family, friends, and priests who are reading this blog entry:  Thank you for your care, concern, and prayers!

Coram Deo,

Margot

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Filed under friendship, Help a Friend Who Is Ill, hospital

The Problem With Pink

Dear Readers,

You say you are tired of October and all the Pink Ribbons?  You say you are relieved that  November is finally here?  Well, I hear you!  

Yet, we should be grateful for the Pink Ribbons, despite their profuse, plastic tacky-ness, for they have accomplished their purpose:  By now, everyone, I sincerely hope, is aware that one out of eight women WILL be diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

Yet, the pink bumper-stickers continue to puzzle and irritate me:  “Save the Ta-Tas!”  

Why are we still so silly about the word, “breasts?”   I should not have to list the other euphemisms . . . and I will not.

That is one of the Problems With Pink.

“Save the Ta-Tas!”   That is, indeed, an excellent idea:  Women should learn how to do regular Breast Self-Examinations [BSE] and should submit to regular Mammograms.   We should contribute to Breast Cancer Research.

However, the time to “Save the Ta-Tas” is nowbefore a Breast Cancer Diagnosis.  The sober fact is that, once a woman receives a Breast Cancer Diagnosis, it may well be too late to “Save the Ta-Tas.”  

After the diagnosis, we immediately shift the focus: “Save a Woman’s Life!”

A woman, faced with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis, is willing to give up both of her breasts, if necessary, to save her LIFE.

I will be honest here:  The prospect, three years ago, of a bilateral mastectomy traumatized me.  The surgery is daunting yet it pales, in comparison, to the ravages of chemotherapy.

The spectre of chemotherapy mortified me and it was, indeed, more terrifying than I could ever imagine.

After I survived the surgery and the chemotherapy, there remained very few things, of which I was afraid.  I am certainly not afraid of facing my life without breasts.  Before the surgery, my breasts did not define me.  The loss of those breasts certainly will not define me now.

I have no Breast Reconstruction:  My bust area is concave and my collar bones are now more prominent than the place of my incision scar.  I can feel each one of my ribs.  By touching my hand to my chest, I can feel my heart not merely beating — I can actually feel my heart pumping.  [I mention these details to remind folks that not every woman is a candidate for Reconstructive Surgery.]

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When I was going through chemotherapy, I received offers of make-up lessons and free samples.  The good-hearted folks extending these offers assumed, perhaps, that my first waking thought in the morning was,  “Am I going to feel pretty and girlish today?”  

And that is another Problem With Pink.

I refused the offers — kindly, I hope.  My first waking thought in the morning was, instead, “Am I going to survive chemotherapy today?”  and “Will I live long enough to hold my second grandchild?”

I recently stumbled across a blog, written by a young woman, in which she listed her fears.  Her top two fears?   Wrinkles and grey hair.   She was fearful of the inevitable aging process, against which she has absolutely no control.

I am more fortunate than that young woman:  I know now what to fear and what not to fear.

I should not have to point out that some Breast Cancer Patients may not live long enough to enjoy the luxury of obsessing over their wrinkles and grey hair.

Now, can we stop being so silly about wrinkles and grey hair . . . and about the word, “breast?”

Can we now turn our attention to protecting the health of women and on saving the lives of women?    

To focus on all things “pink and girly” and “the Ta Ta’s” is to view women as bifurcated beings.  But we are integrated beings, endowed not only with bodies but also with intelligence, creativity, strength, wisdom, imagination, and a myriad of other gifts.

I have identified the problem and, in future blog entries, I will offer practical suggestions to women, on how we can protect the health of our breasts and how we can support and encourage the strong and heroic women among us:  those battling Breast Cancer.

Coram Deo,

Margot

 

 

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Milestones

Dear Readers,

There are dates of significant historical events that, I suppose, will never be expunged from my  mind:

October 31, 1517:

December 7, 1941:

November 22, 1963:

I’m leaving the “events” blank, in hopes that An Alert Reader will fill in those blanks!

There is one date, however, that is mine alone to remember.  It is significant and burned into my memory.  However, rest assured: I do not expect any greeting cards, phone calls, or gifts.

The date is June 2, 2009 and I just celebrated the Three-Year Milestone, past my original Breast Cancer Diagnosis.

The Third Year is significant because my oncologist, Dr. Robert Carroll, told me, after my mastectomy, that my Breast Cancer was very aggressive.  Without chemotherapy, he said, I had a 41% risk of having a recurrence, within two years of the diagnosis.  Within the ensuing two years after a possible recurrence, I would be . . . . well . . . “gone.”  [Even oncologists, it appears, revert to euphemisms.]

I dislike sounding sentimental.  Yet, in all honesty, what a gift are these “extra” years of life!

I do not mind telling you that I will celebrate another significant milestone this year:  I will soon achieve 60 years of age.

I do not expect any greeting cards, phone calls, or gifts for this milestone, either.

However, please have the goodness to be happy for me!  I consider my next birthday to be neither tragic nor humorous.  The gift of 60 years of life on this earth, to enjoy my family and friends:  What a rich blessing!

You may complain about your age, your silver hair, and your wrinkles. But you probably should not complain around me.

It is all a matter of perspective.  And, from where I sit, the prospect of aging is a very bright one, indeed.

Coram Deo,

Margot

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Filed under Breast Cancer