Get the Scary Skinny on Question 1

The general midterm election is finally here and with it comes more than simply electing the next wave of lawmakers, with it comes an opportunity for voters to have the power to help shape policy for our state. Here in Massachusetts, we’ve all seen loads of Question 1 signs scattered throughout neighborhoods across the state. The signs for and against the proposed mandate look insanely alike and the platforms each one is running also sound confusingly similar—patient safety being at the heart of each. Because quality healthcare is important to me, my family, and my community, I needed to learn more about this to see if the healthcare quality I’ve come to love and trust would somehow be at risk.


Here are the five basic truths I’ve learned about the proposed mandate that helped me go from confusion to clarity:

  1. Fact: Simple Is As Simple Does

At first glance the question sounds quite simple. After boiling it down, however, you realize that is exactly where the problem lies. Such a simplistic formula does not take into account the numerous factors that impact the level of staff a patient should receive. Mandated ratios without structure to help achieve ratios will undoubtedly force hospitals to make trade-offs in other services or investments with the end result being unintended negative consequences for patients.

This simple plan hasn’t been fully baked and like most half-baked, bankrupt ideas that come from a government mandate, Question 1 comes with oodles of caveats. It’s a frightening move that would impose rigid, exorbitant, and scientifically unproven nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.

Staffing is a collaborative process. While not always perfect, there are processes in place to appropriately staff each unit based on individual patient needs and the training, expertise and capabilities of the nurses, nursing assistants, case workers, nurse managers, physicians, and other caregivers on that unit. Hospital staffing models are continuously adjusted to ensure safe, high-quality care on the basis of patient need and the experienced judgment of nurses on the floor. A mandated, fixed ratio does not allow that flexibility and innovation in a care team.

  1. Fact: Quality of Patient Care and Safety will NOT Be Improved

I am proud to live in a state that is home to some of the highest-ranking hospitals in the world—many of which are consistently ranked nationally for health and quality of care. These hospitals are already held accountable and are consistently delivering a high standard of quality, safety AND adequate staffing levels by national and local organizations such as The Joint Commission, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the MA Department of Public Health. Many hospitals in the state (if not all) also voluntarily pursue additional accreditations and certifications from national organizations, such as the American Heart Association, the American Stroke Association and the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, to name a few.

There are no scientific studies or reports that credibly show that this mandate will improve the quality of care for patients in Massachusetts. There are also no studies that support or recommend specific, at-all-times ratios for nurses. Mandated ratios have unintended consequences and have not substantiated any improvements in patient safety outcomes. California—the only state to implement mandated nurse staffing ratios—is a prime example of how this mandate has caused more harm than good. Hospitals and nurses all over California have seen the harm it has caused including:

  • Increased safety concerns
  • Limits in technology and innovation
  • Increased costs and budget cuts
  • Poor Emergency Room experiences
  • Dismissal of key ancillary staff

Setting arbitrary, rigid ratios ignores the many variations in patient care, including differences in nurses’ education and experience, ever-changing patient conditions, the composition of the entire care team, and the varying technologies and physical attributes of different facilities.

  1. Fact: One Size Does NOT Fit All

The simple formula of this proposed mandate would apply to every hospital, in every unit, at all times—across Massachusetts. So regardless of the size or location of the hospital or the unique needs of each patient—staffing decisions would be taken out of the hands of experienced nurses and doctors at the bedside and put in the hands of a bureaucratic mandate. That means across the board: longer wait times, reduced patient services, and higher operating costs within every hospital across the state.

It’s seems fair to say the safest and best patient care is when staffing decisions are made in real time… not by union leaders and rigid government mandates.

Widespread implementation here in Massachusetts will slowly bankrupt the nursing profession as nurses become underpaid and overworked, some nurses at the top of their field even doing work in areas that were designed for non-nursing staff—making confidence and morale that much worse.

  1. Fact: Our Healthcare Costs WILL Go Up and Vital Community Programs will Go Down

This mandate is literally unfunded. That means more costs will be passed on to the consumers in the form of higher taxes, insurance premiums, copays, and deductibles. Don’t let anyone fool you into believing otherwise. So many people I know in this state are already struggling to pay for healthcare. This would make it far worse.

Additionally, to meet the staggering cost of this unfunded mandate, hospitals would have to cut vital community health programs such as cancer screenings, opioid treatment and prevention, early childhood intervention, domestic violence programs, and pre- and post-natal care.

  1. Fact: This will be Catastrophic for Behavioral Health

The number one issue affecting our state is behavioral health which includes the opioid epidemic. Statewide, it is projected that we would experience a 38 percent reduction in available inpatient mental health services. This will further reduce access to critically needed psychiatric beds statewide. There is already a nursing shortage especially for behavioral health nurses and recruiting the numbers of nurses required to meet the mandate means an estimated 1,000 of the approximate 2,900 beds currently in service, would need to close. Other hospitals and facilities providing behavioral health services would need to close entirely.

The overarching fact is: Question 1 would have a severe, negative impact on every hospital and community in Massachusetts.

Instead of taking steps to threaten the quality of care, increase costs to patients, and blatantly disregard the professional judgment of qualified healthcare professionals in hospitals throughout the state…

we should stay focused on implementing sustainable, thoughtful and proven solutions in an effort to make significant improvements to patient care and healthcare as a whole.


The Butterfly Effect: “13 Reasons Why” You Should Take a Closer Look at this Series


It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.

People who know me well, know I’m not one to jump on the bandwagon of any snake oil trend society is selling to make me feel more “progressive” as a human being. However, when the widely controversial 13 Reasons Why Netflix series came to my attention recently—first through my daily news feed—then as an important “Emotional Communication” from the schools, I knew I needed to take a closer look. The closer look for me came in the form of binge-watching 768 minutes to get me to Hannah Baker’s 13th reason why she killed herself. Yes, it’s true…if you don’t already know…the central character in this series is a young teen who takes her own life. While that sounds like something you’d rather run far away from, I implore parents to join me on taking a “closer” look. Because no one—not one—is immune.

At its core, 13 Reasons Why is a realistic exploration of the profound impact our interactions have on others. Our words, actions, tone—even our availability to one another—matter. Matter a lot. While it’s true that we can’t always determine who is struggling inside, we can certainly be sure that everyone struggles at one time or another. For teens, entering middle and high school means an increasing amount of independence, when many of them look to friends instead of parents for guidance. The fluctuation of teen hormones and the undeniable pressure to fit in with their peers, not only clouds the judgment of vulnerable kids, but can easily make them more susceptible to risky behavior.

As a parent of three boys ages eleven to fifteen, I stand firmly on the well-known scripture “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). To that point, I vigorously pray that on this parenting journey, I do my best to guide them effectively—supervising the right choices—because as a deeply flawed human being, I know full well that when temptation and opportunity meet, something can always go wrong.

13 Reasons Why examines a number of ways our kids encounter the crossroads of temptation and opportunity, and I won’t sugarcoat it—it’s very difficult to watch. The unyielding look into particularly difficult topics including depression, rape and suicide also make it a very important show to watch—especially if you have teens in your life that you care deeply about. Please don’t ignore these uncomfortable truths.

Here are 13 reasons (in no particular order) why we need to keep the conversation about these difficult topics alive:

#1—Your Kids Aren’t Living in a Bubble

“No one loses their innocence. It is either taken or given away willingly.”
–Tiffany Madison

While we’d all like to think of our kids as little pillars of excellence and innocence, sheltered from the scary realities of this ugly world, the truth is they aren’t. In fact, while we want desperately to protect them from anything bad that could come their way, without them understanding the dangers that may lie in wait, it would impossible for them to be a light in the darkest places. Knowledge is power.

It’s best to open a dialogue with your children about this particular series because unless you’re living in an ‘old order’ Amish community or North Korea, where technology is forbidden, chances are your preteens and teens have heard about it or have already perhaps binge-watched it without you. While the series is ABSOLUTELY too intense and graphic for children under 15 years old to watch, it still opens up a great opportunity to discuss social themes and situations with a younger, preteen audience, including the consequences of  bullying—without carrying the heavy burden of the show’s violence.

For my 15-year-old son, I think it is very important we watch the show together and/or explore difficult themes so that, even if he doesn’t encounter these issues personally, he can be a voice and light for those that do.

#2—Mistakes are Part of Life

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”
–John Dewey

We all make mistakes. In fact, there are times when we think we’ll never recover from our mistakes. For teens, who are still physically and mentally developing, it’s easy for them to find it difficult to see beyond the mistake and the consequences that come with it. Teaching our children (and ourselves) how to practice grace and forgiveness is so important for those friends or loved ones in our lives who may be watching us to model our behavior.

Teach your kids to view each mistake as an opportunity to learn, grow and potentially…teach others.

#3—Bullying Wears Many Disguises

“Never do a wrong thing to make a friend–or to keep one.”
–Robert E. Lee

The children’s rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me” was a blatant lie. Words can—in fact—break one’s spirit.

Bullying occurs every day, in every school. Yes, I mean every.  So if you think you’ve placed your child in a Christian or other private, “sheltered” environment to avoid this…you’re in denial. While it’s easy to identify the prominent effects of a fist fight, the subtleties of bullying range from hurtful gossip to emotional attacks, to social media harassment. Regardless of the disguise it takes on, bullying is destructive.

I laugh when I hear parents of toddlers, gently telling them things like “use your words,” because the truth is, often the wrong word can create irreparable damage to one’s integrity. Talk to your kids about the destructive power of words and how one otherwise, “innocent” comment or suggestion can put a permanent mark on someone’s reputation. Just as importantly…open up a dialogue with your child to make sure help is sought if they are a victim of bullying.

#4—The Power of Social Media Can Leave a Trail of Destruction

“Distracted from distraction by distraction”
–T.S. Eliot

Don’t lie to yourself, we are all distracted by social media. One of the things I tell my boys all the time is: when you take part in social media of any kind, you’re leaving a permanent digital footprint, one that can help or hinder your future. Having the instantaneous ability to send or receive information—and disinformation—can lead to just as instantaneous, even devastating consequences. Remember the Public Service Announcement from the 70s and 80s: “Do you know where your children are?” While it’s easy to think we’ve got the lowdown on everything going on with our kids when they’re with us in the home…it’s 2017 folks—so unless you’re shadowing their every virtual move, do we really know where our kids are?

Our crazy world treats social media like a reality TV show. Because of that, our youth have less self-esteem and less of an ability to sustain themselves through adversity. Teens see themselves through a reflection of pixels…with Snapchat photos and Instagram posts dictating their identities.

When you take one look at the opioid crisis facing our nation right now, it’s easy to see the connection between the “virtual” numbing we do with our feelings through social media to the physical numbing some do with the rampant availability of drugs like heroin. Young people are increasingly becoming strangers to real feelings. In many ways, social sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat have become the popular drugs our teens are overdosing on…every single day.

Do you know where your kids are?

How often do you talk to them about their social media use? Do you know which accounts your child uses? Do you have access to the content they see daily? Remember, ignorance is dangerous.

#5—Kindness Matters

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
–Mark Twain

Kindness wins every time. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to opt for kindness. Every. Single. Time. I don’t like my boys using the word hate…because we should teach (and model) the fact that we should never hate anyone, even our “worst enemies.” Everyone has something good about them (even it’s like digging through 70 tons of muck to find it). Find the redeeming quality and love the person for that. Always remember a smile or a hello could make someone’s day…perhaps even be the one happy point that gives someone the hope or encouragement they need. Imagine if your smile gave someone the courage to reach out for help? Make a difference…every day.

In one of the final episodes of the series, the main character, Clay says to the school counselor:  “It has to get better, the way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.”

Imagine if we all did just that…would the world still be so dark?

#6—One Authentic Friendship is Far More Valuable Than 10 million Facebook “Friends”

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
–Bob Marley

People always disappoint. It’s a given. The sooner we come to terms with that fact, the more time we’ll have to start improving our own character flaws. Authentic friendships are the “gems in the rough” of relationships which have the power to save lives. Seeking deeper, trusting friendships instead of popularity, allows you to be yourself with ease. Having an authentic friendship allows you to not only notice changes, struggles and out-of-character behaviors in that person, but that person can notice changes in you too—which can be lifesaving. When we are vulnerable, others feel comfortable to be vulnerable too. Encourage your children to make meaningful connections with their peers—letting authenticity guide the way.

#7—There’s Wisdom in Going With Your Gut

“Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Teach your teens to trust their instincts. When they find themselves in a situation that doesn’t feel right or look right, change course. If someone’s behavior concerns them or seems off, teach them to not be shy to ask or seek help with compassion.

I encourage my boys to pause and pray when they feel that gut instinct kick in.

#8—Create an Atmosphere of Love and Trust

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
–Anne Frank

For my boys, roughly 10 hours of every day is spent on a bus, in a classroom or on the field for sports. Combine that with sleeping and homework and that’s a lot of time during the week without active family communication. So while I need to trust and pray that they are making good decisions when they leave the house in the morning, we as parents need to make the time we do have together count.

It’s easy for a teen to lose a sense of comfort when communicating with you if they know that anytime they open up they will be met with the third-degree. Be open, so they’ll feel comfortable to do the same. Don’t get me wrong…I am definitely not saying we need to create a more laissez-faire relationship when it comes to discipline with our kids, but teens need to know that talking to you and advocating for themselves will be met with love and respect.

If your child was being bullied in school, would he or she feel comfortable telling you? What if they were sexually assaulted? What if your child made a terrible mistake, one that might even be illegal, do you trust that he or she would confide in you? Remember, our kids are watching our responses to our own struggles and missteps. I’m preaching to myself when I say: be your best self for your kids. Admit your mistakes in front of your kids, so they see that it’s okay to share and discuss our imperfections.

#9—Turning a Blind Eye to Underage Drinking and Drug Use Has Deadly Consequences

“We are only as blind as we want to be.”
–Maya Angelou

It’s never okay to allow underage drinking and drug use…regardless of the liberal viewpoints you hold dear. Rationalizing substance use and abuse with things like, “They’re going to drink anyway. They might as well do it at home” is a poor excuse for parenting and simply WRONG. Condoning illegal (and potentially addictive) behavior puts children at risk for SO many things. Let’s face it, even adults under the influence make bad decisions. Turning a blind eye to the illegal drug and alcohol use of (still-developing) teens puts them at a heightened risk of hurting themselves and others.

#10—Your Identity Should Be Rooted in Faith, Not Peers

“Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.”
–George Mueller

Teens need to root their identity in something stronger than their reflection or their peers. While the world is full of counterfeit truth claims, the most important thing you can teach your teen is choosing God’s reality rather than fake versions of reality.

Teaching your teen how to discover what it means to live out their faith is a lifelong journey as we integrate what we believe with every area of life…including middle and high school. In my house, we feel it’s imperative to help our boys understand that God is personal and desires to reveal His truth to them. Prayer, scripture, church and meaningful discussion help provide the necessary tools to let them know that He communicates with us all the time when we acknowledge His powerful presence in our lives.

#11—There’s Value in Positive Interactions with Others

“All positive interactions with other human beings involve, to some degree, the experience of visibility– that is, the experience of being seen and understood.”
–Nathaniel Branden

It is important to encourage healthy interactions among peers…in the classroom, on the basketball court, and even through our technology screens. We all want our children to associate with kids who will have a positive influence on their lives, and obviously we want them to stay away from those who will do the opposite. Make an effort, to support their peer relationships by giving them unconditional love, time, boundaries, and encouragement to think for themselves. Above all, get to know their friends…what their interests are, where they live, etc. While you don’t have to stalk the families, casual conversations around the dining room table on a Sunday night may spark more insight.

No matter what kind of peer influence your teen faces, he or she must learn how to balance the value of going along with the crowd against the importance of making morally-based decisions.

When the only interactions for your teen come in the form of screen time through video games, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Youtube, your kids will never achieve the level of interaction necessary for real communication, connection, admiration, or respect. Encourage them to be involved in healthy extracurricular activities that give them a break from the fake realities society wants to sell them.

#12—Don’t Shy Away from Talking About Sexual Assault

“No” is a complete sentence.”
–Anne Lamott

Raising Princes in a Pauper society (as I like to say) is no easy task, but should certainly be every parents’ goal. Bottom line, we need to be intentional in our parenting. While I want my message as a parent to inspire my boys to return God’s love with a lifestyle that loves Him, we have to invest the time and attention to model the right behaviors ourselves, so that we become the muse to instill that message. Let’s face it, none of us are perfect—despite the fact that you may try to convince the world otherwise on Facebook.

“Sex talks” are not nearly as important as crafting a lifestyle for our children that leads them naturally into making the right choices that produce good consequences. Just as we teach our children the importance of proper hygiene and how to brush their teeth, sexual health has to be part of an overall approach to wellness. One thing should always be crystal clear when talking about difficult subjects like sexual assault. We need to instill the message that it is never acceptable…ever…for one human to force his or her body on another human. Say it often…and then say it again.

#13—Suicide is the Second-Leading Cause of Death in Teens

“When people kill themselves, they think they’re ending the pain, but all they’re doing is passing it on to those they leave behind.”
–Jeannette Walls

Suicide is the second-most common cause of death among American teens ages 15-19. While suicide itself is not a mental disorder, it is a leading cause of death for people seriously affected by mental illness including Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorders. When Hannah’s spirit becomes absolutely broken, she begins to embrace the emptiness of not feeling anything at all. While life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect, hope exists and it’s stronger than anything coming against you. Sadly, talking points on mental illness cannot cause someone to “snap out of it,” instead, it’s watching for indications of depression and hopelessness that can prompt medical treatment to restore one’s hopefulness of life.

The warranted controversy surrounding the suicide scene in the series was too painful to watch…and I closed my eyes for part of the scene. It was too real. But don’t we need people—maybe those who have become so desensitized by society’s temptations—to see and acknowledge the horror of taking your own life?

There is nothing…I repeat NOTHING glamorous about killing yourself. While there is much controversy over the thought that the show romanticizes suicide, personally, I didn’t walk away with that message. I wanted to. I wanted to be enraged by yet another senseless Hollywood drama instilling more notions of violence and hatred in our kids. Instead, I walked away with the simple fact that Jay Asher, author of the book leading up to this story writes:

“Everything…affects everything.”

We are all part of that everything and need to be accountable for the affects our interactions have on the everything we touch in our lives.

When our teens are equipped with the right tools, they can combine their gut instincts with some basic, but distinct warning signs to spot if a friend or school acquaintance may be at risk for suicidal or depressive thoughts:

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage/anger
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Feeling trapped (like there is no way out)
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from family/friends/society
  • Agitation or intense anxiety
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • No reasons for living/no sense of purpose in life

According to the American Association of Suicidology, a warning sign is the earliest detectable sign that indicates heightened risk for suicide in the near term (i.e., within minutes, hours, or days).

The Butterfly Effect…


conceptualizes the theory that even the most subtle and unobtrusive change effects other things, which build upon each other, and may eventually result in a massive change, which for some, would be quite unexpected or even tragic. In the fictional story of Hannah, the cumulative effect of the actions of others and her inaction to seek further help resulted in her tragically choosing hopelessness.

The Butterfly Effect is one of the most important reasons to believe that a single life can have a profound impact on the world. It’s really our call to action. 13 Reasons Why makes poignant points about what we owe one another as humans. Let’s make our daily actions and interactions become the Butterfly Effect for change by altering the tapestry of the world in a positive way.

Even the smallest step one takes in his/her life can change the course of said life immensely.

Sailing Strong in the Winds of Affliction

Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.

Thomas Carlyle 

On the tender heels of Thanksgiving, my 11-year old, Colby asked to share a bit of his heart from this past year.  I’m overwhelmed posting this … but it’s wonderful to see my 3 beautiful boys holding on and pressing in to the gift of Faith that they have eagerly unwrapped.  I am blessed.

A Year of Cancer through the Eyes of a Child


Thanksgiving was a really good time for me to look back on my life, including the rocky road of the last year and find all of the blessings that abound.  I truly thank God for my life, my health and SO much more … my family, house, food in my stomach, a free country, my Mom’s health, my education, and the very air I breathe.  I realize that sometimes God throws tough times (tests) at you.   In order to get an A+ on each test, you must remain faithful to Him, and never give up.  Even though this was a struggling time in our family we never gave up on Mom, or God.

So the big test, the journey we never expected to take was this past year.  The test has been the most difficult one I’ve taken so far in my 11 years.  On December 26, 2012 my Mom and Dad called my brothers and me into their room.  As they told us that the call came and a stage III breast cancer diagnosis was confirmed—I felt a sudden pain in my gut.   At that moment I knew it was serious … this was really happening.   My parents were open and honest about everything they knew, and that alone helped to make us feel safe.  Though I know people who have gone through cancer, it’s hard to imagine it happening to my Mom.  It was very hard to believe, and though at first I didn’t want to, I knew that I had to face reality and trust God to take the wheel.

Before that dreaded day, we knew “cancer” was definitely a possibility.  But regardless of that thought lurking days before Christmas, my parents made everything as normal as possible and full of love.  They still showed us the wonder and generosity of the season in the face of such upsetting news.  Shortly after diagnosis, the next challenge was learning that chemotherapy treatment would be the first thing my Mom would experience.  My parents helped to explain chemotherapy and the side effects that would likely happen.  It helped me to know that if and when Mom was sick, it was not because the disease was making her sick, but instead because the medication was attacking the cancer cells with the intent to make her better.

My Mom was strong and worked through treatment.   Every Thursday for 20 weeks starting in January, she would go into Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Though I was not able to go with her every week, my Mom made special arrangements to be sure we went with her at least a few times.   I think my mom wanted my brothers and I to see that chemotherapy wasn’t scary.  The first time I went to Dana-Farber I was a bit nervous, thinking it would be creepy with a lot of very sick people there.  It didn’t take long to learn that my fears were far from the real thing.  Though difficult for the patients experiencing chemo, the people and atmosphere were both warm and welcoming.

Chemo was still sometimes scary for my brothers and me.  It’s awful when you want so much to take away someone’s pain but can’t.  During this time I tried to help in every way possible throughout the house.  Since mom was getting weaker after many treatments, her ability to do all the things she used to do in the house decreased.  I tried to spend time after school doing some simple cleanup and chores around the house.  It felt good to give back to her, especially when she was tired and struggling with a serious illness.  I hated seeing her sick and really loved making her happy. I knew that as tough as chemo was, it was made to help stop the cancer in its tracks.

When my Mom started to lose her hair during chemotherapy, as a family, we gathered and made a family time to shave her head.  I know it was hard for her to lose her beautiful hair, but we helped to lighten the mood with a little “buzz” party.

Chemo was a very difficult time, but we got through it as a family.

Things moved fast.  After Chemo was finally over, Mom was trying to get strong for surgery.  The goal of surgery was to remove any remaining cancer out of her body.   I was very scared for her. Every night I prayed, and prayed that she would be fine. The day of surgery finally came (actually on my younger brother, Logan’s birthday).  My Mom was a brave person on that day.  She was in the hospital for 5 days and we missed her so much.  My grandparents watched us and helped prepare for Mom coming home.  Before she arrived, we made her a big “WELCOME HOME!” sign.   She lit up seeing that and it made us so happy!  When she got home, things were tough for a while.  She was always very sleepy and never felt good.   But, The Lord is good.  He kept her safe through all of this.

Radiation treatment came next.  Mom was a little anxious at first, but then she learned that it wouldn’t be as bad as the other treatments.  I was so thankful that she had gotten through the treatments before. Through the house, all of us were asking questions like “Doesn’t radiation give you cancer?” and “Won’t you get burned?” All of the questions were answered, and we weren’t as anxious as before. The family got together and prayed that mom would get through the last treatment. Mom did get some burns, but she took it in stride … nothing too bad.

I love that my parents have been honest with everything going on.  They always make us know that we can go to them anytime with any question and we trust and believe that they will answer it honestly.

I thank God every day for Moms health. I hope and pray that God will always keep her in his healing hand.

My heart goes out to other kids traveling this same road.  My prayer is that they will have Faith and believe that God has them in the palm of His hand regardless of the situation.  Thieves can’t take you away when you’re resting in the palm of His hand.


“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”      —Ephesians 2:8-9

When Life gives You Lemons … Indulge


Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.

~ William Shakespeare

“Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeezy” is a tune each of my three boys has declared on more occasions than I can count.  The expression was mastered by the boys in Kindergarten, and has since become a jingle of choice, my little mantra in times of difficulty.   What I never realized, however, was the amazing truth behind the cutesy rhyme—in its very literal sense.   Lemons are truly an easy solution to a multitude of problems.

Many people have asked where I’ve been these days.  The normal “zest” I try to tap into every day in some ways turned sour this past month or so.  I think I’ve been in survival mode since Christmas, and as deep fatigue and malaise set in with the last phase of chemo, I guess the reality of the “big C” has really weighed on my mind much heavier.   I have found it difficult to find inspiration in the things around me that usually bring clarity and joy to my daily life.  Instead, I’ve been “puckering” up to the sour circumstances of this thing called cancer and all the un-pleasantries that come with it.

Chemotherapy is now done.  Finito.

The last few visits to Dana-Farber had me physically ill before arrival.  I guess you’d call it a psychosomatic response to the dreaded poison that was about to make its way into my veins.  Ironically, the last infusion of AC was bittersweet—a real sense of relief that chemo was over coupled with the real fear that chemo is over …. surgery looming on the horizon.  There were tears, hugs, well-wishes and love poured out on me and my heart ached a bit knowing that the very poison I dreaded every week , the very thing that made me so sick and tired was no longer going to be beating me up to make me well.  It sounds sort of warped, but there was a sense of trauma that accompanied me out the door that day.

Lemons.  A while back, my sister, Michelle lured me into a lemon love-fest, leading me on an exploration of this citrus gem and all the wonderful medicinal properties it delivers.  I won’t lie, as a woman, I love learning about hidden beauty secrets that…well, help me look and feel 20 again.  Who doesn’t?  So learning that this citrus fruit full of Vitamin C is also a great source of protection from free radicals, y’know those pesky little things that, theoretically speaking—“age” us … led me to begin my love affair with the savant of the citrus family—limones.

Cancer treatment does a number on your body.  For many, that number is called something like whopper-doozie or as I like to call it:  “le destructeur” to the enth degree.   Chemo is cumulative.  In short, different symptoms present at different times, many worsening as you go.  Completing 20 weeks of chemo—my “le destructeur” wreaked havoc on a few different areas of my body, some worse than others.

First up—Anemia.  This past month, my red blood cells were at a relatively speaking all-time low.  For me that equated to difficulty walking up a flight of stairs without looking like that annoyingly under-exercised person gasping for air at the top of mere 10 steps (no judgment here).  Yup.  I was that chick.  Only as I was gasping for air, chest pain and often severe headaches accompanied it.  It was frustrating.  I’m usually the one racing up six flights of stairs in 4 inch stilettos, with a resting pulse rate at the finish line.  Seriously—BEYOND frustrating.  On the bright side:  I could walk up a flight of stairs.  After all, some struggling with severe anemia can barely get out of bed because they’re just too exhausted to even put their feet on the floor.  Little by little, I am gaining back strength and stamina, but adding the bitter-tasting, yet miraculous power of lemon juice has the added benefit of aiding the body to produce red blood cells, thus speeding along the process.

The beauty of this little yellow fruit knows no bounds as it also helps ease anxiety.  Lemon balm has a calming effect and therefore may be able to help remove fatigue and exhaustion, anxiety, nervousness, and tension—pretty much the very things that sour my spirit.  I’m not saying Valium can be completely tossed to the curb, but hey…I’ll pucker up.   Ironically, I also earned that though I’ve been in a state of brain fog from the chemo, apparently inhaling lemon oil helps to increase concentration and alertness.   (I wish I had remembered this fact during all of my forgetful chemo-brained moments … that still plague me).

In many ways my lemon in life has been the source of much sweetness.  Cancer’s sour taste has become the old adage:  “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”   My lemonade has been tasted in the sweetness of new relationships and the beauty that comes with having people to love and be loved by….so many bringing light and joy to my life.

Last Wednesday I had an MRI to see how the cancer responded to the chemo.  I won’t learn results until this Thursday, but ultimately know the full picture won’t be revealed until I’m opened up.  My prayer is that chemo did its thing … which will help guide the surgeon to a goal of a better outcome.  My surgery date has been set:  June 14.  I felt a pit in my stomach when I got the call confirming the date… but I know it’s time.  The date however does bring special significance—Logan’s birthday (also Flag Day).  I was further inspired by my friend and colleague, Sarah—her Grandmother also sharing that birthday, a precious soul who lived to be 101.

Nothing in life is a coincidence.  His timing is perfect.

My son, Logan recently placed a scripture on my bathroom mirror.  His note brought tears to my eyes as he wrote:  Mom, Isaiah 43:1-4 says it perfect— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”

Thank God, I am His.

Little by little, I’m shaking off my sour to make room for the sweetness and zest that comes from indulging in the lemon that has been sent my way for a season … for a reason … for a greater purpose than I may not be able to grasp just yet.  Though I feel changed, I know that my Father has not changed and will forever be in the business of unfolding His plan and purpose for my life.  That fact alone brings me peace that passes all understanding.

All my love . . . Nicole



We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.

~Winston Churchill

I’ve missed you all.  I’ve had “behind the keyboard withdrawals.” I find this wonderful forum or as I like to call it:  my c-blog therapy sessions behind the computer, help to keep my spirit soaring as I express my heart.  I won’t get into too many details about my computer drama causing my longer than normal absence, but let’s just say when the hard drive goes unexpectedly on your computer and you lose all your files and pictures because they weren’t properly backed up . . .big girls do, in fact, cry.  Actually, they bawl.

As many of you can guess by now, I’m about as right-brained as one can get.  As such, my scattered mind makes me more of a creative thinker than other, perhaps more organized folk.  I’m wired by feeling and intuition as opposed to sequence and logic when gathering information.  I tend to visualize the whole picture first then work my way backwards to fit the pieces together that create that whole picture.

Over the weekend, the boys wanted to rent a movie—one that in all honesty, I’ve had no interest seeing, despite all the acclaim it has received.   Life of Pi was the chosen feature presentation and all I can say is that my initial “non-interest” turned to—WOW!  I was truly blown away by every aspect of the film.  Sadly, I’ve never read the book, a New York Timesbestseller that the movie is based on.  Perhaps if I had known how incredibly rich in symbolism and full of deep truths this gem was, I would have read the book ages ago and been more than eager to see the movie.  Actually, I’m usually not fond of endorsing movies based on novels, because often the film doesn’t live up to the book.  However, book or no book—the movie was wonderful and moved me to tears.

Pi, the film’s protagonist, is a shipwrecked castaway that spent over 220 days at sea.  This boy, in the face of unimaginable tragedy and inconceivable adversity, brings the viewer into a truly magical journey—weaving a fantastic story in the face of a cruel reality— the story, becoming his life vest of survival.

Do you ever notice that during times of great suffering and tribulation come unexpected, powerful moments that give meaning and purpose to life?  Often these moments become the very necessary tools for survival.  Pi’s storytelling became his means of survival.   In fact, the Bengal Tiger in the life boat with Pi, is the symbolic side of him that though he wishes to escape from, he instead embraces, learning how to live in both opposition and partnership with it.

Though I refuse to be defined by it, breast cancer is unfortunately in my life boat whether I like it or not.  Though I’m also opposed to embracing its hold on my life, the truth is . . . it’s real and I need to be in partnership with its place in my life, so I can positively bring hope and light to others who may be a castaway in the face of darkness.

My appointment on Friday was semi-optimistic and difficult all at once.  The oncologist confirmed that what I’ve been feeling on my skull is real, discovering that in addition to the lymph node at the base of my skull, the bone above that area feels different because there is another lymph node on top of the actual bone.  She honestly felt these areas were “normal” and not to worry about them because the size of the lymph nodes are not at a worrisome size.  Meanwhile, the pathology report I’ve never actually held in my possession finally was printed . . . and honestly, that was more difficult to look at than I had thought.  Though I have hope and trust in the plan laid out before me, the truth is the staging is a bit scary to look at in black and white.

The same earnest hope in the face of a cancer diagnosis still comes with the reality that there’s a bad side of breast cancer—not all “pretty in pink” as the awareness ads dangled in front of us make us believe.   In fact, the reality is that in the U.S. alone, breast cancer death rates among women are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.

Reality can indeed sometimes scare us . . .  but it’s okay to acknowledge it and even talk about it, as long as it exists in partnership with God’s promises.  Like Pi, I’m but a castaway on the open sea, ready to use this moment to produce an inspirational story of hope and survival that blesses many.

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.   

~Psalm 119:50



(originally posted on my CaringBridge page on 1/9/13)

A feisty little southern accent is spinning through my head right now as Scarlett O’Hara’s favorite quote repeats in my head:  “I can’t think about that right now . . . I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

My best practice in procrastination always came when preparing for exams in subjects I had little to no interest in.  My golden study rule went something like:  Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. That was until, of course, the night before test day when I would Cram. Cram. Cram.

Tonight I felt that urge to take a crash course in chemo . . . perseverating on likely side effects to the hoped-for trial drug . . . and standard medication that will become my life for the next 20-22 weeks.  Things like kidney failure, liver failure, heart failure, thrombosis . . . all cramming in my brain.

I laughed out loud thinking of Scarlett and how apropos her famous line was to my situation right now.  It’s not as if I need Vivien Leigh’s memorized script from Gone with the Wind to remind me of God’s Word.  My 10-year old son, Colby periodically started placing encouragement for me to look at on my bathroom mirror.  This wise young man placed the scripture Matthew 6:34 most recently on that mirror.  “Never worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Let’s be honest here . . .  this is not a favorite subject I wish to master through cramming the night before—in nervous anticipation of an exam.  The results of this “test” will not be measured by how well I hold on to researching the details, but instead, how well I let go of the details and let God determine the outcome.

So let’s hear Nicole’s best Scarlett one more time . . .  “I can’t think about that right now . . . I’ll think about that tomorrow.”