Present Perfect Chapter 2

August 14, 2017

Well, how did you do last week with staying awake to noticing the presence of God in your daily moments?

The Chapter I’ll review today is entitled “Mere Christianity” and begins with this encouragement and prayer:

“So begin . . .

make that resolution.

Now! . . . Be daring.

None of us have a long time to live . . .

what years we have,

let us live them with God.”

Brother Lawrence

“Our ever-present Father,

We pledged to surrender our life to you,

but we confess

that most of the moments that make up our actual life

are not surrendered to you.

Help us,

to remember you

and offer ourselves up to you

in this moment

and in every moment.”

Gregory Boyd

In this chapter, Boyd briefly unpacks the secular world view and its influence on our lives whether or not we are aware. He says that we live as functional atheists – we compartmentalize our lives into spiritual and secular moments. He says we isolate “the ‘spiritual’ from the rest of our experience.”

“The call to practice the presence of God is not a hyper-spiritual exercise. On the contrary, it’s the core of what it means to surrender our life to Christ.”

Those of us familiar with C.S. Lewis recognize the title of chapter 1, “Mere Christianity” as the title of a book Lewis wrote. This practicing the presence of God is so basic. It’s the core of what it means to be a Christian.

Boyd says that in Western Christianity so many have this idea that because on a certain date they surrendered to Christ and prayed a sinner’s prayer that somehow that means they have a relationship with Christ.

“I believe this is the most prevalent and tragic misunderstanding that afflicts Western Christianity. We make a vow to submit our life to Christ but then spend 99 percent of our time excluding him from our awareness. We make him Lord over our life in theory, but we do not make him Lord over most of the moments that make up our life.”

There are so many examples in the New Testament where Jesus’ disciples are reminded (and thus we are reminded) to be aware of God’s presence. Here are a few of the exhortations given and a few of the many scriptures followed by a brief commentary by Boyd:

Seek First the Kingdom of God  Matthew 6:33  “This implies remembering that God exists and that yielding to his will is our supreme objective, even as we strive for other, less important, goals.”

Live in the Spirit  Galatians 5:16-18 “…we submit to the Spirit in the present moment. . .”

Remain in Christ  John 15:4-5   “Branches don’t visit a vine once in a while on special occasions . . . [they] are permanently attached to their source of life.”

Take Every Thought Captive  2 Corinthians 10:5; Romans 12:2  “Invite him into your thought process, and turn your thoughts into a conversation with him.”

The Body of Christ  1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:18; 2:19  “… before we can function as the body part we are called to be, we must stay continually connected to the head, ready to respond when he tells us to do so.”

Boyd ends the chapter with several activities which we can implement to increase our awareness of God in every now moment we have.

1. Game with Minutes

Think about a time when your mind is least engaged – like when you’re mowing the lawn or jogging or doing dishes, then set your timer and see if you can remember Christ at least once a minute. Doing this changes something mundane into something sacred.

2. Waking Up to God

In your first waking moments, instead of jumping out and rushing on with your day, lay in bed awake for a few minutes. Before allowing yourself to think about the day ahead and your schedule, and so on, train yourself to think about God and his ever-present love. Boyd says, “I preview my day in my imagination and offer up everything to God. I typically follow this by praying for whatever people and needs that pop into my mind.”

3. Inviting Fellow Travelers

As in anything we commit to, (like a diet, running a 5K or marathon) having others who are like-minded increases the probability that we will succeed. Find a few friends who are interested in joining you and encourage one another as you embark on this journey of being awake to God.

4.  Strategically Placed Reminders

I already mentioned the sticky notes, but there are other means of reminding yourself to be mindful of the presence of God.  A piece of jewelry, a phone or computer alert or alarm, little notes tucked in various places. I’m sure you can come up with some others that I’d love for you to share with me!

I want to pray for you (and myself) as we face another moment to practice our awareness of our amazing God and His astounding love for us.

God, it boggles my mind that You, the Creator of the world are interested in us and love us so very much! Forgive us for giving you our lives but then living as if we haven’t. I pray that you’d awaken us from the subtle sleepiness that has settled into us. Our secular, compartmentalizing culture sings its siren song, dulling us to the reality of life in you, right now. Let your Son shine through and burn off the haze we are living in and awaken our hearts and minds to the reality of your loving presence now.

Amen.

Living Mindful of God

August 7, 2017

When I was in college I read a book entitled The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk. It was the first time I was ever introduced to a way of living that was intentionally mindful. I tried and failed countless times, but kept at it, trying various methods over the decades since to keep Christ at the forefront of my thinking. Last month I came across this book and it was perfect timing for me.

Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now by Gregory A. Boyd.

This is an updated approach to an ancient practice. In his book, Boyd draws from Brother Lawrence, J.-P. de Caussade and Frank Laubach as well as his own life experiences to breathe new life into living mindful of the reality that God is present in every moment.

In the introduction, “Now Is Where God Lives” Boyd tells his story of being out on a run one morning like hundreds of other mornings when his attention was arrested by a cricket chirping and he began to notice not only the sounds around him but the sights and smells. He had an awakening to all the things he had been oblivious to that were all around him every day – the glory of creation and the love of the Creator that he’d completely missed.

He says, “I realized that my trivial, self-centered mental chatter about the past and future – like a dark cloud blocking the sun – had kept me from seeing the glory of God that surrounded me every second of every day. Never before had I realized the extent to which our focus determines what we experience – and do not experience – in any given moment.” (emphasis mine)

Boyd points out how we spend most of our time thinking about the past, regretting, stewing, growing depressed – and about the future, the unknown, becoming stressed and anxious, but the irony is that we cannot live in either the past or in the future. All we have is this present moment.

“The past is gone. The future is not yet. We remember the past and anticipate the future, but we always do so in the present. Reality is always now. And the single most important aspect of reality is that God is present in it every moment.”

Boyd began the habit of putting post it notes around his house and in his books with the words “Are you awake?” written on them to remind himself to remain awake to God’s presence.

You’re probably wondering how on earth you can do that with everything else you have going on. Boyd says, “Remaining aware of God’s presence doesn’t compete with our attention to other things; it augments it.”

It’s important to remind ourselves that God created us to live in this tangible, hands on world, but with the capacity to be aware of and live in a spiritual realm simultaneously. Whatever is “going on in our lives, the ultimate goal must be to consciously obey what one senses God’s will to be. To ‘seek first the kingdom of God,’ as Jesus commanded we must first seek to submit to God’s reign in each and every moment. When we do this, de Caussade proclaims, we transform ordinary moments into sacred moments and our live becomes a living sacrament.”

I love this because then it doesn’t matter if I’m going to the grocery store or taking a walk or driving or babysitting my grand babies, I can enjoy God in each activity and know that I please Him in these ordinary moments. It isn’t just about doing spiritual things, everything we do is spiritual when done in concert with Christ.

Boyd says, “Remaining awake to God’s presence in the present moment is the single most important task of the Christian life. . . It is, I’m convinced, the bedrock of a vibrant relationship with God and the key to transformation into the likeness of Christ.”

He says the essence of this practice is to remind yourself that you are “submerged in God’s love. That is the practice of the presence of God.”

God is present right now. And now. And now . . . .

The challenge is remembering moment by moment. But Boyd says not to be hard on ourselves when we forget, because that pulls us back into the past and pulls the focus from God back onto ourself and derails us. Just pick up in the now because now is only moment we have. So in each moment, remind yourself that God is present with you. Don’t think about the future – how you’ll be able to keep at it. Just focus on now. Be awake to God’s presence in this one moment.

“…embrace this discipline as a way of being liberated from the prison of our self-preoccupation while waking up to the beauty and joy of God.”

I have experienced this joy and it is incredible. When I stop thinking about myself and my issues and my schedule and my activities . . . my my my ad nauseam; when I notice the delicate perfection of a flower blossom or the dappled leaves of sunlit trees, I exclaim, “God, you are amazing! The beauty of your creation is beyond description! Thank you for eyes to see and a heart and mind to appreciate and enjoy all that you’ve made! It’s inevitable that I will just eat to thank him and praise him for his presence in my life!

Boyd finishes his introduction with the encouragement to “never stop experimenting and growing.”

“As multitudes throughout history can testify, no other single discipline has the power to revolutionize how we experience life moment-by-moment as the largely forgotten and profoundly simple discipline of remembering God exists, right here and right now. God is now.”

As preparation for the next chapters, why not make yourself a post-it note or two asking yourself if you’re awake. Take some time to really notice your surroundings – sights and smells and sounds. Have a conversation with God about what you see right now. Thank Him for being present right now.

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My passion to share my passion!

August 4, 2017

I enjoy reading. A lot.

Like anyone who delights in something immensely, I assume that everyone experiences as much satisfaction from reading as I! There is a certain person in my life that I am constantly giving books to – I long to encourage and bless and help, but these books just end up on a shelf or at a Goodwill store, unread. This is mind-boggling to me! Who doesn’t want to read?! I just can’t relate!

I find myself recommending books to my family and friends and acquaintances. I have lost count of how many books I’ve given away. I love sharing books with children and adults alike and don’t see that ever changing!

Over the years I’ve learned, as much as it saddens my heart, many, many people don’t read. There are reasons, some of them even sound good. (wink)

No time.  (Really?)

Other priorities. (I get it, a little.)

Never learned to like reading – bad experiences in school. (This breaks my heart! The purpose for school is to foster a love of learning and reading is a huge pathway!)

TV (Don’t get me started. . . .)

Full schedule – kids’ activities. (Take books with you.)

Learning style – would rather listen. (Then listen!)

Making time to read feels selfish. (Then be selfish! It really isn’t though.)

There are always good excuses, but rarely good reasons. I’ve had to tweak my life to get back to reading more myself. We ultimately make time in our lives for the things that are the most important to us. (I’ve had the following conversation with myself, more than once: Do I really benefit myself and those I love by playing one more game on my phone? It’s ok to play while I’m waiting in the car or at the doctor’s office, but is playing Hay Day or Moxie or Solitaire really going to change my life for the better? N.O. Is it a good use of my time? N.O. Is it a giant time-sucker? Y.E.S.)

I heard a quote years ago that impacted me: “You are the same today that you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.”

Whether or not this is exactly true, it has a lot of truth to it. I think the essence here is learning. Whether we learn from books or podcasts or people we meet, the reward is learning which hopefully will produce positive change in us. (Otherwise, what’s the point? Just stay home and watch tv and do virtual reality stuff and live a pretend, non-life.)

This summer I’ve read more books than I have read in several years. Some fun and light, and many rich and thought-provoking.  All enjoyable and worthy of my time.

One day on a walk with my husband, I was sharing my desire for those I love to be able to glean from these books but I know they don’t enjoy reading or their lives are too full, or both. He made a suggestion to me that I thought was really smart! He said I should blog about what I’m reading so that others can benefit without having to put in the time.

I’ve taken that to heart and have decided to give it a try.

If you’re interested, I’d love to share what I’ve read/am reading with you so that even if you don’t have the time or energy or desire to pick up a book at this point in your life, you can still glean from the excellent books that are out there, available to you. You don’t even have to buy a book or go to the library!

The format may vary book by book. I’ll figure it out as I go. But the point is, if you would like to be a different person next year, one changed and enriched by learning, then jump in and we’ll grow together!

Here goes!

If you’re interested in joining me for my book summaries, let me know!

Now I need to decide which book I’ll present to you first!

In the meantime, here’s an interesting article about Charlie “Tremendous” Jones to browse! His love of books and reading is contagious! Let me know what you think!

14 White Plates

April 22, 2016

I will have been married 34 years this June 1st. For special and marginally special occasions, I use the same white dishes that I registered for when I was a wee 20 years old. My mother suggested I choose a white pattern; I wasn’t sure I wanted white. My older sister had registered for some really pretty square dishes with seafoam green and mauve and some other fashionable color that escapes me now. My mother and she had disagreed about the wisdom of getting dishes that would be out of style in a few years. My sister won but my mother was right. (Those are some hideous dishes.)

This relating pattern was typical. My older sister pressing for what she wanted. Me rarely ever pushing back. I don’t know if it was because I learned from watching my older brothers and sister in their battles, or if I had no self confidence from my older siblings pushing me around. When it came to wedding dishes, I knew that maybe someday something would be worth the fight, but I didn’t think what I put on the dinner table was. So I allowed my mother’s wisdom to prevail. If she said I’d be glad one day, that these would never go out of style and that I’d always enjoy them, then I believed her.

I registered for 8 place settings because that’s what she said I should do. I don’t think I took my fiancé with me to make all the house stocking decisions, but rather, my mother. She’d raised 5 kids, worked multiple jobs, entertained and knew more than a thing or two about dishes and about life.

After I was married, my mother would scout the sales. I remember her telling me that my china pattern was going to be discontinued and she was concerned I didn’t have enough. 8 seemed like more than plenty, so when she rustled up 6 more dinner plates, I was amused. “Mom, when will I ever need that  many plates?!”  She told me she knew that I couldn’t imagine ever needing that many, but indeed one day I would. I don’t know how she knew, but she knew.

My husband was in grad school for 5 years and the dishes were stuffed in our small apartment. When he took a job in Omaha, NE, we packed up our few belongings and our 14 white Noritake Swan Lake dinner plates and the 8 place settings and headed northwest.

I have used those dishes for nearly 34 years and as she predicted, have never gotten tired of them. They go with everything. Pottery Barn, Pier 1 and Crate and Barrel sell white dishes galore and none of them are as pretty as mine. Not too masculine, not too feminine, but just right.

I threw a baby shower for a friend today and pulled out the white dishes. They looked lovely stacked on the blue table cloth surrounded by white serving pieces of a variety of designs. Guess how many guests we had? 14.

FullSizeRender

Mom, you were right. You were always right.

Thank you.

I love you.

I miss you.

In awe,

Your grateful and impressed daughter,

Kris

With

December 11, 2014

I spent some time this morning reading from a book I’ve been enjoying: The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. I actually reread the chapter from yesterday. It expanded my mind and brought insight that was breath-taking. The author described the giving of the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai in terms of a Jewish wedding; the components of the (cloud) covering, the time of purification, and the contract. Seen in this light, the 10 Commandments are a reflection of a loving relationship and not an angry set of rules. This longing for relationship and loving commitment from God for those He created is absolutely astounding. It is at the same time beautiful and powerful and desperately sad. So much love and blessing and relationship God offers his people; so many lies and betrayals his people give in return. Not just the Israelites of ages past, but anyone who is a Christ-follower today, me included.

Oh how I want my heart to long for Him the way I long for a vacation or a warm breeze on a spring day. I want my heart to be fully given to Him, my thoughts to be about Him throughout each day, longing for a chat, sitting near one another and sharing thoughts unspoken. Just being together.

The kindness of God I take for granted too regularly, as He waits. It’s not like He isn’t doing anything else, but in His expansiveness, He can be caring for the entire world and still long for me to long for Him. Long for me to make space for Him. And time.

God is with us in our difficult times and it’s easy to forget Him during the good times. The relationship God wants isn’t that of a paramedic, but a bridegroom, the closest most intimate friend. God is the Alpha and the Omega, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace; He’s our Physician, Wonderful Counselor and our Shepherd. He’s the Bridegroom. And all year long, not just at Christmas, He is Emmanuel.

Emmanuel…God with us. With. With us! With me, with you!

What a marvel!

This time of year maybe a bit more than at other times, I scurry around, busy and distracted and I don’t allow God With Us to be with me. Unintentionally I shun His mind boggling gift and end up hurting myself and hurting His heart. How can God be with me if I don’t slow down and make the time and the place; if I don’t make our relationship my priority?

I’ve gotten pretty good over the years with starting every day reading God’s Word and journaling and praying, but I’ve found of late that I’m not very good at listening, just being with Him.

I’m like a puppy put on a leash – pulling, twisting, tugging, and I just need to wear myself out, reach the end of my tether and finally lay down. My mind is busy, my body is antsy and I need to ask Emmanuel to help me stop. I need to ask the One who longs to be with me to help me be with Him.

The amazing thing is, He will! He stops and stoops and joins me in my little world, my little life because He is Emmanuel. He is God with us. God with me. God with you.

What a mystery He is – His attention is completely undeserved – His kindness a glorious gift of love.

Maybe I’ll bake no cookies this year. Maybe the house won’t get decorated as extensively. But I plan on becoming better friends with Emmanuel. My King, my God, my With Me Friend.

Spring

April 10, 2014

spring

you’ve been so slow to come

are you reticent or just lazy?

what’s to be done?

 

in like a lion

out like a lamb

you’ve been roaring and bullying far too long

lion, get on your way, be gone!

 

spring

signs of hope and 

new beginnings 

longer days and fresher leanings

 

spring forward 

like a doe leaping

a new lamb bleating

it’s time for a rest from winter’s ruthless beatings

 

spring

change your costume

from predator to prey

bring us sweet scents and warm breezes today

fuzzy yellow hope

March 4, 2013

My husband pointed out to me the aspens in our backyard this morning. He said, “Look up and down the entire tree and tell me what you see.” Isn’t it amazing how growth happens right before our eyes, often without our even noticing it? The trees are full of little fuzzy bulb-buds where leaves are growing secretly within, awaiting the right moment to emerge and salute spring!

I’ve noticed over the last week or so that our goldfinches are changing also. I always enjoy the transformation. Bright yellow feathers begin peeking beneath the dull feathers of their chests and heads hinting at the brilliant gold they will sport in the spring and summer months.

Hope wears feathers. It wears leaves. After the interminable winter, they are a happy testament to new life, warmth, growth and joy to come! Hope is embodied in buds and feathers.

Even when more snow falls this month, I will remind myself that I’ve seen those buds and yellow feathers. I know without a doubt that although winter tries to maintain its grip, it can’t last against the power of Spring. Fuzzy yellow hope will carry me through until then!

pink torrent

September 22, 2012

Today I’m going to volunteer my time in a local mall sitting at a table for two hours. (Westroads Mall – my shift is from 2-4 if anyone wants to come by!) The Komen people are hosting some kind of event there and have allowed our group, the Community Breast Health Navigator and Cancer Support Program to have a table to introduce ourselves and our services to people. The event will be held from 10am til 7pm I believe, but we’ve only got three of us to cover three two-hour shifts today. We’ll be there from 10-4.
I’m hoping that women and men will stop by and ask questions or share their stories. I’m hoping that I can be living proof that there is hope for people diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m hoping that our name will become well known so that when a woman finds a lump in her breast, she’ll call us for help before going to see a surgeon!

I’m hoping that this one small act on my part will become a droplet which helps form a flooding torrential movement that rescues women from unnecessary fear-based surgeries.

You see, most women when they find a lump, if they get the proper kind of needle biopsy, will find that they don’t have cancer, but a cyst of some sort. If they do find it is cancer, most surgeons won’t tell them that having chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor will allow for a relatively simple outpatient lumpectomy, saving the patient physical trauma, expensive hospital care and their breast.
Having chemo first will allow for two important things to occur. First, it will show the doctor and the patient if the chemo is effective. If the tumor shrinks, they’ll know that it’s working! Then, if the tumor shrinks, that means that the breast won’t be completely disfigured and she can save herself all the discomfort of a mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive surgeries, (not to mention time and money and her own body part!)

Yah, yah, I know, nobody wants chemotherapy. Believe me, I get it. I’ve had it twice! I’ve been bald twice and have lived through both times and now have long lovely hair. What I don’t have is my breasts. Hmmmmm, hair or breasts. Hair that grows back or breasts that don’t.

Let me tell you also, that despite what you may think, reconstructed breasts, no matter how close to the real thing they might get are still not the real thing. They have scars bisecting them. They don’t have the same feeling/sensation ability. They look pretty good under clothes, but that’s about as good as it gets. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’ll be the same. It isn’t.

Well, I got off track a bit. There I go again, getting passionate and running with it!

Hope to see you at the mall!

Kris

summer linguine

September 17, 2012

Several months ago I came across a recipe in a little insert to the Sunday paper called “Relish.” It looked interesting, and I didn’t take the time to read it, but tucked it away for the future (as I do so often – my Pinterest behavior before Pinterest ever came along!)

Mid-July I finally took the time to peruse it and came across an interesting recipe I wanted to try, but knowing my family would balk at me adding blue cheese to anything, I made a few changes.

original recipe

I loved the concept of cooking the dish in one pot plus it included ingredients I already had on hand (minus the blue cheese) so I gave it a try one evening. It was a hit!

I substituted a few cheeses I already had on hand – feta and parmesan instead of the blue – and I don’t think it deterred from the flavor one bit.

I’ve got a mini Cuisinart that made chopping the almonds a snap!

Here’s a pic of the final product – doesn’t look nearly as good as it tasted. I’m going to make it again tonight!

my rendition

my rendition

Here is the original recipe; you can alter it as you like!

Linguine with Greens, Yogurt, Almonds and Blue Cheese

This Greek inspired one-dish meal embodies the Mediterranean diet. You can use almost any greens and substitute feta or Parmigiano Reggiano for the blue cheese.

1    pound linguine

1    pound mixed greens or spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

4    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2    garlic cloves, minced

2    ounces Roquefort, Gorgonzola or Stilton, mashed with a fork

1    cup creamy Greek yogurt or whole-milk yogurt

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup coarsely ground unskinned almonds

fruity extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. One minute before the end of cooking drop greens into the pot. Drain pasta and greens, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.

In the same pan, warm olive oil over medium heat Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add pasta and greens, cheese, yogurt and about 1/2 cup or more cooking liquid, enough to moisten pasta. Add salt, pepper and almonds and toss well.

Serve in a warm bowl or platter. Drizzle with fruity olive oil if using. Serves 8.

Recipe by Aglaia Kremezi. Reprinted with permission from K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott’s The Oldways Table: Essays and Recipes from the Culinary Think Tank (Ten Speed Press, 2007).

Per serving: 396 calories, 17g fat, 11mg chol., 369mg sodium, 47g carbs., 4g fiber, 14g protein

September Sorrow

September 11, 2012

Yesterday, 9/11/12, was a day of remembrance for our nation. Eleven years ago our country experienced our most egregious attack and thousands of people mourned the loss of loved ones, stolen from their lives forever. Our losses and their effects have forever changed our lives.

September is annually a time of grief for me for another reason. It was 19 years ago this month that my mother was taken from me, my family, my children and our lives, forever. The cost of this loss of her precious life is incalculable, and try though I may, I will never get beyond the heartache of life lived without her.

Monday night, I attended a class of a group of women who have met together monthly for a year, learning and preparing to help navigate women through the maze of information and procedures involved with breast health and breast cancer treatment. The program is the Community Breast Health Navigator and Cancer Support Program.

We were sharing stories of women we’ve spoken with, advocated, navigated, and encouraged. Sadly, nine times out of 10 it seems, regardless of the information given them, these women opt for a mastectomy even though in most cases the much less invasive lumpectomy would take care of things. We were discussing two causes for their poor decisions: Fear and Ignorance. Ignorance not only on their part, but quite often on the part of the doctors these women choose.

These are topics for future discussion, but what struck me last night was the heart ache that we all carry, but seldom reveal.

I was chatting with a friend I was sitting next to, I’ll call her Sue, and casually asked her about her mother. Sue shared how her mother had fought and won a battle with esophageal cancer. Stupefyingly, in the myriad of doctors appointments this woman had, no doctor ever checked to see if she’d had a mammogram. So at the age of 69, sixty-nine, she got her first mammogram. And wouldn’t you know it, there was a lump which later she learned was breast cancer. In less than a year, Sue’s mother had died. This is a tragedy of negligence in medical care – slipping between the cracks. A hero who fights and wins an impossible nearly incurable disease, falls prey to a very curable one afterwards. It was September when she died.

I asked my friend if she feels the grief every September. She said she didn’t think so, but that every time she heard the National Anthem sung, she’d lose it. Her mother had a beautiful singing voice, and was always the one asked to sing the anthem at various events. As my friend told me this, her eyes welled up with tears and she said maybe it effects her more than she realized. September is a difficult month for her, and hearing a song sung that used to bring her delight, now brings only sorrow and the reminder of her loss. Untimely, wrong, death by oversight.

Another friend was standing across the table from us. She said September is a very difficult month for her, and it showed in her face. She told us that her mother had died of breast cancer at the age of 39. Unbelievable. That’d mean my friend, let’s call her Jill, was probably in middle school. There were 4 sisters, all left without a mother. Sadly, that’s not the whole story. These girls grew up motherless, yes, then one died of cancer, young. This prompted Jill to find an excellent doctor who encouraged her to get genetic testing. All the sisters were tested. Jill was the only one who tested negative for the gene. Unfortunately, Jill’s sister didn’t have as good a doctor. He wasn’t as aggressive or quick to respond. Her sister listened to his advice and died of breast cancer within the year.

Jill told us how she’d teach Monday through Friday then catch a plane to spend each weekend in September caring for her dying sister; her eyes welled with tears, but she held them in check. This is the second September since the death of that sister and she grieves her colossal loss. She’s angry, and rightly so. She’s angry at the disease, and she’s angry at the lackadaisical ineptitude of some doctors, particularly the one treating her sister. With hardened face and red-rimmed eyes she swore under her breath as she walked away from us. “Damn waste.”

My mother died at the age of sixty. She’d gone to the doctor several times over the course of a year complaining of a ‘fullness’ in her abdomen. Her doctor told her to lose some weight. He told her she was imagining it. He finally relented and ordered a test – by that time the tumor on her ovary was the size of a grapefruit. During surgery, they accidentally broke it open, spilling the toxic waste throughout her entire abdomen. They ‘did their best to get it out’ and sewed her up. Rounds of chemo and hours of pleading with God for her life, she made it through – for almost five years. Another situation with that doctor finally motivated my mother to find another doctor who mis-interpreted her scan results. She picked them up and took them to a third doctor who gave her the news she’d suspected. Yes the cancer was back, and it was bad. Too little, too late and a husband and five children and 8 grandchildren were left without the warmth and love of the only wife, mother and that special one-of-a-kind grandmother they’d ever have.

My son had just turned 5 and my daughter 1 when we attended my mother’s funeral.

I think about the twinkle in her eye they’ll never see again and the warmth of her soft skin that they’ll never feel and I ache.

If all the stories of bad medical care were recounted, we’d have a murderous mob rioting at hospitals around the country. But most of us suffer our sorrows silently, doing nothing to promote change.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely thankful for medical professionals. I’m indebted to a great many myself. If only every doctor was like the excellent ones I’ve found throughout my own cancer journey. Kind, compassionate, extremely intelligent, full of integrity. It isn’t these doctors I have a problem with. It’s the ones who are proud, ‘comfortable’ underachievers, willing to continue practicing using an outdated formulaic approach. The status quo is their friend.

I have met three doctors in my 50 years that I would nominate as “Best” doctors. Dr. Edibaldo Silva, Dr. Nagi Ayoub, and Dr. Jimmy Khandalavala. They don’t have an attitude of arrogance or complacency. They are learners. (To be a learner, one must be humble, because wanting to learn automatically expresses the acknowledgment that they know they don’t know everything there is to know. I’ve met some who actually believe they do know it all and I should feel lucky to be in their presence!) Best doctors are always reading, studying, keeping current on the latest studies and procedures, pioneering new methods and treatments. That’s the reason they get amazing results. These doctors are continually striving to improve, to hone their skills, perfect their practice and challenge the status quo. If only all doctors could be so excellent.

That’s why the medical profession is called a practice. It’s a place where they are learning and growing and practice is supposed to lead us toward perfection. Sadly, many doctors, once they get their credentials rest on their laurels. The women who go to them for treatment don’t receive the best care and consequently don’t experience the best outcomes either.

That’s why my friend ‘Jill’ is angry. That’s why Sue is sorrowful. That’s why we are a part of this fledgling group trying to advocate for women and bring about positive change.

We want to educate women before they find a lump. Before they’ve made up their minds (because of fear) to ‘just get them cut off and be done with it’. Our country has a campaign encouraging women to regularly examine their breasts and get a mammogram, but what is a woman to do once she finds a lump? Subject herself to an unknowledgeable or unscrupulous surgeon who will be happy to remove those problem breasts?

There are new procedures. New options! Mastectomies aren’t even necessary most of the time any more!!

I have said it before, and I will say it until I have no more breath. THE RIGHT INFORMATION + THE RIGHT DOCTORS = THE BEST OUTCOME!

Please, tell the women you love, think before you cut. Become informed, ask questions, challenge your doctor, and get a second opinion, or a third if necessary! It’s their life at stake. And it’s your future, spent enjoying the women in your life, or grieving their loss.

And stay tuned in here as we will bring articles and information that will empower you and those you know to make the best decisions and receive the best care possible.