I’m Back

Hello to all my loyal readers and fellow survivors. I apologize for the lack of blog posts. Prepare yourselves to get some great weekly updates. For most of June I was on a very special trip across America as part of the crew for a wonderful racer in RAAM, Janet Christiansen. If you don’t know what RAAM is, please visit http://www.raceacrossamerica.org. The Race Across America is the world’s toughest bicycle race that most of you have never heard of. I would have to say that this race is as tough on the crew as it is the rider(s). There is no comparison to the Tour de France, unlike the tour, when the clock starts it never stops. Imagine riding 3,000 miles on the seat of a bicycle in 12 days or less. No monetary prize, and if you don’t finish in the allotted time frame you are considered a “did not finish” even if you ride the entire route. Stay tuned, I will be publishing a short story about this experience.

July has also come and gone spending time with family. Now August has arrived and it is time to work on getting those bicycle wheels turning again. It is time to resume the path of random acts of kindness.

Write to me, let me know what you would like to see here. I would love for you to leave a comment, tell me where your favorite cancer center is and what makes it unique. Why I should put it on my list of centers to visit.

Stay tuned, I am going to work on a video post for you about what I learned from my trip across country.

A Day of Healing Cranes…

Warm, sunny weather and warm, sunny greetings is how my day at Moffitt Cancer Center started. With each visit to a new place there is always an excitement and anticipation of the unknown. I do my research before deciding where to visit but there are still things you cannot anticipate. I have discovered that no matter how comprehensive the website you cannot fully understand all that you may experience when you finally arrive at a cancer center.

Whether you are there as a patient, a caregiver, or simply a guest, there are so many unseen experiences to be found.

Moffitt Cancer Center is located in Tampa, Florida on the campus of the University of Florida. The first thing I noticed was that just the building alone had a welcoming presence. It didn’t have a cold, clinical feel.

My day began with the Manager of Patient Relations. We dropped my bike and bags in the office and there is where the day began. I had a small audience to share my story of survivorship with and since that is what this trip is about I was happy to oblige. Sharing my story would end up being a theme throughout the visit.

I was taken to many parts of this wonderful facility and I will highlight a few of what I like to call the lesser known aspects of the day.

An early stop was in the Arts In Medicine department where I was introduced to several people and shared my story again. It was there that I learned the story of the healing cranes, inspired by the family of a patient. In Japan the crane is a symbol of peace and healing and the tradition is to fold a thousand “cranes,” for healing. There were cranes on display throughout the area and I would soon discover they were on the desks in other parts of the center. The Arts In Medicine department decided to put their own unique spin on this tradition so instead of having each patient fold a thousand cranes, their patients are instructed to write a healing message on the inside of the wing and hang the crane where it can be seen a thousand times and used as a reminder of peaceful, positive moments. They graciously offered me the instructions on how to make my own healing crane. I can’t wait to try it. Arts in healing is so very important, it can bring a sense of calm in the midst of the storm. Arts is a way to focus the mind on something positive, energy flows where attention goes and therefore focusing on the positive brings positive results.

I heard them make an announcement for a soon to begin meditation session for stress reduction. That was the next sign that this center was treating the person and not just the disease. The sentiment with patients and families seemed in agreement, as I heard them express they were glad that they were receiving their care at Moffitt.

As we made our way through the different parts of the building I got an explanation for the things I saw along the way and the next place I would share my story was in the patient library. That is where I left my gift of Livestrong wristbands. That would also be where I would be introduced to the hospital president. A very welcoming man, he was sincerely interested in my story and the fact that I had chosen to visit Moffitt along the way. We chatted for a bit and then it was time to move on. I now had a new tour guide.

I was thrilled when I was shown HER Place, a special place for women where they can research and get information on the illness they have. Her Place is complete with computers, written materials and so much more and it is quietly tucked in a corner away from the hustle and bustle of patient activity.

Another wonderful, relaxing feature was a fairly large rock display with a fountain. It was very serene and in the warm, sunny weather of Florida would be a plus for anyone needing to escape.

Next I would be shuttled off the main campus to meet with a woman who is doing some wonderful work in risk assessment, detection and intervention. She has an amazing story and the work she is doing focused on HPV is certainly near to my heart. I think we could have talked for hours. Needless to say, I will spread the word wherever I go, on the importance of her work.

I lost count of how many times I shared my story that day. To be honest, the time just seemed to slip away. Everyone at this facility went out of there way to make sure I had a successful visit. When the day was done, I was given a ride to my host’s home and all ended beautifully.

For more information on Moffitt Cancer Center click here.

Inspiration in the most unlikely places..

You may ask yourself, why I am visiting places along my journey that most people try to avoid. The answer would be a simple one, love and inspiration. I have learned that some of the most inspiring people are those you meet in some of the most typically uninspiring places. With my family history of cancer it is only fitting that these destinations be on my agenda. And I must say, using the Brompton is making that process a whole lot easier.

I received a very warm welcome to MD Anderson, Orlando from the moment I contacted them right through to the end of a wonderful tour. I was guided through the history of this premier health care facility and shown many unique features and programs by the centers Manager of Customer Relations. She has had an impressive 23 years with this organization and her dedication and pride show, not only in her smile, but in the wealth of information she imparts.

I arrived at about 10:15am and was greeted by two smiling happy women working the reception area. As I waited for my tour guide to arrive I watched and listened. This wasn’t about what I saw as much as what I didn’t see. Yes there were people who were very sick coming and going from their appointments and treatments. What was not present was sadness or an air of negativity. I would find later in my tour that it didn’t seem to exist anywhere in the building.

I won’t linger on the history of MD Anderson, for that you can visit their website www.mdacco.com
I will instead touch on things that I think go above and beyond in making this a stand out facility. The first thing you notice when looking at anything concerning MD Anderson is that the word Cancer in the name has a strike through it and underneath the name the words, “Making Cancer History”. This is one very powerful message.

This beautiful lady sits in the lobby/reception area, her name is Sophie and I was told she is the “Cower of Hope” and her name holds a special meaning. Rearrange the letters, have you figured it out? Hope Is! She is adorable and fun, loved her rain boots and beads. She helps to set the tone and lightened the mood of what could otherwise be a very somber environment.

I noticed a gentleman coming in with a wheeled cart filled to the brim with fresh citrus. He was immediately greeted at the reception area with a smile and a hug. He explained that this fruit was just a small token of his appreciation for the care his wife had been receiving. He went on to explain what all the things in the basket were and then talked a bit more about his story. I politely spoke up and said I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation and that I was grateful to hear such an inspiring story. He explained that he couldn’t express how grateful he was and that if it weren’t for the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson, he didn’t believe his wife would still be with him. This was just the beginning of the gratitude I sensed from so many people on this tour. If you are reading this sir, thank you for the grapefruit!

Up we go to a testing floor. The first thing you hear and see when you come off the elevator is Craig. He is playing a soft, soothing tune on his guitar, it was almost Zen like. I was told that he is part of the Arts Program and moves around to different areas to play as a way of additionally soothing the patients. It was amazing, thanks to Craig for taking his picture with me.
It turns out that music is only a small part of MD Anderson’s Arts Program and I would see some of that later in the morning.

The little touches that make a big difference didn’t end with the Arts Program. Even the art on the walls was carefully chosen. Next floor of the tour, I met a wonderful woman who had just come back from running with the Team Livestrong in Austin. It was clear that she loved what she was doing. Livestrong is a resounding message throughout this center.

One thing that stood out as I made my way around this facility was that they are treating the patient, not just the disease. I was taken to an area where integrative medicine or mind/body medicine is offered. The most fun for me with my massage therapy and Reiki background. Once again it was the little touches that stood out. Yes they offer presentations on healthy living, and nutrition, but who would have thought about a drum circle, tai chi, and a Labyrinth. Better yet, how about afternoon tea.

Or how about the small class we passed along the way learning how to make healthy dessert choices. I was introduced to the leaders in that class and I could immediately see they were very passionate about what they were doing. They certainly had everyone’s attention.

Just outside of this area where they held afternoon tea was a special bell hanging on the wall. This bell is for anyone who has finished their treatment. They are told to ring it in celebration of life and the end of treatment. How cool is that.

There are many more great things I could say about the couple of hours I spent at MD Anderson however I would just like to end this post with a thank you to all the wonderful people at MD Anderson. You are doing a spectacular job. I think this last picture sums up in one word what the atmosphere at MD Anderson speaks volumes to. So you see, many inspiring moments can come from the most unlikely places. Share your inspiring moments in an unlikely place in the comments below.