patient advocacy


I recently attended an interesting conference about how to be your own advocate, especially after a diagnosis.

Navigating the healthcare system was really tough when I was sick. The truth of the matter is that between my diagnosis and beginning treatment, I felt lost, as if I were standing in the middle of a dense cobweb-filled forest, one in which I had never been. I had no idea where to turn or how to proceed. Though my limited caretaking experience for my parents had prepared me to understand the science behind their diagnoses, nothing could have prepared me for the emotional f-bomb that would come with my own diagnosis. The Shining Moment for me was that my compensatory mechanism was to put on my professional cap as teacher and consultant and treat myself the way I would a student or client.

Here are a few things that helped me advocate for myself and I hope will help you, if you ever need it (though I certainly hope that you don’t!).

  1. Build & Engage Your Healthcare Team. Become an empowered health care consumer. Interview the people with whom you will be entrusting your care. Feel comfortable and confident. Trust your instinct.
  2. Understand Your Diagnosis/Illness. Please don’t use Dr. Google as your guide. Rather ask your health care team for trusted and reliable sources of information and then dig in and learn as much as you possibly can.
  3. Ask Questions. Lots and lots of questions. Be sure to write these questions down before going to each and every appointment. If you don’t, Murphy’s Law will guarantee that you forget something. Trust me. I know.
  4. Know What to Expect/Be Prepared. I have written a ton about preparation. This is so so so important and will help you enter each phase of treatment feeling – at the very least – somewhat prepared.
  5. Keep your Medical Records. Right now, it’s still the old fashioned way of building a file with papers. From the time of your first appointment, begin to accumulate your documents in chronological order. Include all test results and reports. Take your record(s) with you to all of your appointments. The Shining Moment is that there is new, exciting technology that is coming down the pipeline that will enable you to carry your record with you on your personal device (e.g., phone and/or tablet).
  6. Know Your Medications: what they do, dosages, etc. Also, be sure to record when you take medications and how they make you feel. This is really helpful for assessing what works making changes when medications don’t work.
  7. Understand your Medical Insurance Policy. Ideally, prior to starting treatment, call your insurance company and learn about what benefits you have and which physicians will be covered. The thing of it is that you can always ask for help with insurance and bills. Some fees can be discounted and negotiated. There are some great organizations that have financial assistance programs & resources. One example is the Patient Advocate Foundation.

I’d love to hear what helped you as you entered this simultaneously complicated and incredible health care world?



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You are only truly great when you act from your passions. - Benjamin Disraeli

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Cauliflower Couscous 

This delicious 20-minute meal will definitely make you feel great about eating. Did you know that cauliflower is rich in glucosinolates, a type of nutrient that may help prevent cancer? Plus, this vegetable contains vitamin C and fiber, both of which work to lower blood pressure and balance your mood. This is a must eat meal, AND it’s so easy-peasy to make.


  • 1 medium head cauliflower (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup dried apricots (or 3 fresh), roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ seedless cucumber, cut into ½-in. pieces
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  1. Remove and discard any leaves from the cauliflower.  Thinly slice the head and place it in the bowl of a food processor.  Roughly chop the thick stems and add them to the food processor.  Pulse the cauliflower until it is finely chopped and resembles couscous (re-pulse) any big pieces separately, if necessary).
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the cauliflower, apricots and ½ tsp each salt and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice and 1 Tbsp oil.
  3. Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining Tbsp oil over medium heat.  Season the shrimp with paprika and ¼ tsp. salt.  Working in batches, cook the shrimp until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  4. Add the cucumber and mint to the cauliflower and toss to combine. Serve with shrimp.


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I am a genius


At a speaking engagement a few weeks ago, the person who presented me is a member of Mensa. When I leaned over to my friend and asked, “WTF is Mensa,” she smiled and said, “It is the society for geniuses.” Well, clearly I am not a member!”  The Shining Moment is that I could laugh about it!

The one thing that I do share with geniuses is a love of daily routines. Traveling can put a crimp in my routine, but I always try my best to create mobile routines, e.g., tea or coffee every morning, jumping jacks and push-ups or planks as soon as I got out of bed…that sort of thing.

Recently, a friend sent me this great article by Sarah Green (a senior associate editor at Harvard Business Review) on the HBR blog network discussing the daily routines of geniuses.  I thought that I would share this post with you because I found it interesting, inspiring and aspirational.

The Daily Routines of Geniuses by Sarah Green

Juan Ponce de León spent his life searching for the fountain of youth. I have spent mine searching for the ideal daily routine. But as years of color-coded paper calendars have given way to cloud-based scheduling apps, routine has continued to elude me; each day is a new day, as unpredictable as a ride on a rodeo bull and over seemingly as quickly.

Naturally, I was fascinated by the recent book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Author Mason Curry examines the schedules of 161 painters, writers, and composers, as well as philosophers, scientists, and other exceptional thinkers.

As I read, I became convinced that for these geniuses, a routine was more than a luxury — it was essential to their work. As Currey puts it, “A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.” And although the book itself is a delightful hodgepodge of trivia, not a how-to manual, I began to notice several common elements in the lives of the healthier geniuses (the ones who relied more on discipline than on, say, booze and Benzedrine) that allowed them to pursue the luxury of a productivity-enhancing routine:

A workspace with minimal distractions. Jane Austen asked that a certain squeaky hinge never be oiled, so that she always had a warning when someone was approaching the room where she wrote. William Faulkner, lacking a lock on his study door, just detached the doorknob and brought it into the room with him — something of which today’s cubicle worker can only dream. Mark Twain’s family knew better than to breach his study door — if they needed him, they’d blow a horn to draw him out. Graham Greene went even further, renting a secret office; only his wife knew the address or telephone number. Distracted more by the view out his window than interruptions, if N.C. Wyeth was having trouble focusing, he’d tape a piece of cardboard to his glasses as a sort of blinder.

A daily walk. For many, a regular daily walk was essential to brain functioning. Soren Kierkegaard found his constitutionals so inspiring that he would often rush back to his desk and resume writing, still wearing his hat and carrying his walking stick or umbrella. Charles Dickens famously took three-hour walks every afternoon — and what he observed on them fed directly into his writing. Tchaikovsky made do with a two-hour walk, but wouldn’t return a moment early, convinced that cheating himself of the full 120 minutes would make him ill. Beethoven took lengthy strolls after lunch, carrying a pencil and paper with him in case inspiration struck. Erik Satie did the same on his long strolls from Paris to the working class suburb where he lived, stopping under streetlamps to jot down notions that arose on his journey; it’s rumored that when those lamps were turned off during the war years, his productivity declined too.

Accountability metrics. Anthony Trollope only wrote for three hours a day, but he required of himself a rate of 250 words per 15 minutes, and if he finished the novel he was working on before his three hours were up, he’d immediately start a new book as soon as the previous one was finished. Ernest Hemingway also tracked his daily word output on a chart “so as not to kid myself.” BF Skinner started and stopped his writing sessions by setting a timer, “and he carefully plotted the number of hours he wrote and the words he produced on a graph.”

A clear dividing line between important work and busywork. Before there was email, there were letters. It amazed (and humbled) me to see the amount of time each person allocated simply to answering letters. Many would divide the day into real work (such as composing or painting in the morning) and busywork (answering letters in the afternoon). Others would turn to the busywork when the real work wasn’t going well. But if the amount of correspondence was similar to todays, these historical geniuses did have one advantage: the post would arrive at regular intervals, not constantly as email does.

A habit of stopping when they’re on a roll, not when they’re stuck. Hemingway puts it thus: “You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.” Arthur Miller said, “I don’t believe in draining the reservoir, do you see? I believe in getting up from the typewriter, away from it, while I still have things to say.” With the exception of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — who rose at 6, spent the day in a flurry of music lessons, concerts, and social engagements and often didn’t get to bed until 1 am — many would write in the morning, stop for lunch and a stroll, spend an hour or two answering letters, and knock off work by 2 or 3. “I’ve realized that somebody who’s tired and needs a rest, and goes on working all the same is a fool,” wrote Carl Jung. Or, well, a Mozart.

A supportive partner. Martha Freud, wife of Sigmund, “laid out his clothes, chose his handkerchiefs, and even put toothpaste on his toothbrush,” notes Currey. Gertrude Stein preferred to write outdoors, looking at rocks and cows — and so on their trips to the French countryside, Gertrude would find a place to sit while Alice B. Toklas would shoo a few cows into the writer’s line of vision. Gustav Mahler’s wife bribed the neighbors with opera tickets to keep their dogs quiet while he was composing — even though she was bitterly disappointed when he forced her to give up her own promising musical career. The unmarried artists had help, too: Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra, took over most of the domestic duties so that Jane had time to write — “Composition seems impossible to me with a head full of joints of mutton & doses of rhubarb,” as Jane once wrote. And Andy Warhol called friend and collaborator Pat Hackett every morning, recounting the previous day’s activities in detail. “Doing the diary,” as they called it, could last two full hours — with Hackett dutifully jotting down notes and typing them up, every weekday morning from 1976 until Warhol’s death in 1987.

Limited social lives. One of Simone de Beauvoir’s lovers put it this way: “there were no parties, no receptions, no bourgeois values… it was an uncluttered kind of life, a simplicity deliberately constructed so that she could do her work.” Marcel Proust “made a conscious decision in 1910 to withdraw from society,” writes Currey. Pablo Picasso and his girlfriend Fernande Olivier borrowed the idea of Sunday as an “at-home day” from Stein and Toklas — so that they could “dispose of the obligations of friendship in a single afternoon.”

This last habit — relative isolation — sounds much less appealing to me than some of the others. And yet I still find the routines of these thinkers strangely compelling, perhaps they are so unattainable, so extreme. Even the very idea that you can organize your time as you like is out of reach for most of us — so I’ll close with a toast to all those who did their best work within the constraints of someone else’s routine. Like Francine Prose, who began writing when the school bus picked up her children and stopped when it brought them back; or T.S. Eliot, who found it much easier to write once he had a day job in a bank than as a starving poet; and even F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose early writing was crammed in around the strict schedule he followed as a young military officer. Those days were not as fabled as the gin-soaked nights in Paris that came later, but they were much more productive — and no doubt easier on his liver. Being forced to follow the ruts of someone else’s routine may grate, but they do make it easier to stay on the path.

And that of course is what a routine really is — the path we take through our day. Whether we break that trail yourself or follow the path blazed by our constraints, perhaps what’s most important is that we keep walking.

I couldn’t agree more!  Do you have any favorite routines?


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Have you ever had one of those “I reaaaaaaaly need to go for a run” moments (or hours)? They typically occur after days like – SuperBowl Sunday or birthday parties. You know what happens!! I eat a bunch of things that I would never normally eat. A few months ago, my oncologist suggested that rather than focus solely (or is it soul-y) on the elliptical or hiking, that I add weights to my workout repertoire.  I did an internal eye-roll (or actually maybe he saw it!) because I’ve never been a weights kinda gal.  I have always been worried that it would bulk me up Terminator style (btw, did you seeeeeeee the ad for the new Terminator movie-grandparent edition?  Quelle horror!!!). Anyhoo, my oncologist assured me that no, I wouldn’t bulk up. Rather, it would be an excellent way to convert fat (yes, he used the word fat) into muscle which not only looks better but – the BEST Shining Moment! – is that it will help reduce my risk of a recurrence.

Let me explain:  We have an enzyme in fat tissue (called aromatase). It changes fat into estrogen. In a gal like myself who had (love saying had) estrogen positive breast cancer, I do NOT want estrogen in my body!  Ok, so the less fat that I have the less estrogen that I have.  Make sense?

As if I needed another reason for not having fat, here are 5 other great reasons to spend more time lifting weights and less time doing cardio:

1. Muscles increase your metabolism. Regularly lifting weights promotes the growth of lean muscle mass and reduces your insulin sensitivity, which stimulates fat loss. Put it this way, the more muscle your body has, the more calories it will burn when you are at rest.

2. Setting personal records keeps you motivated. Personal records allow you to continually grow. When you surpass a previous record, whether it’s the amount of push-ups or chin-ups you can do, you are motivating yourself to keep reestablishing a new record. This instills a sense of pride and keeps you coming back for more because you now have a sense of purpose in the weight room. I’m still working on this one.  As I mentioned, I don’t want to get bulky, but I do want to get more-lean. Ok, I guess THAT there is my motivation!

3. Being strong makes everything else easier. Exercising to be stronger, mobile, and fast makes being efficient at everyday tasks much easier. Moving furniture, carrying multiple bags of groceries, lifting a heavy box onto the top shelf. It is tasks like these that become much easier when you are physically stronger. I am already feeling stronger and I have to tell you that it makes me feel really happy!

4. Strength is a potent confidence booster. Physical strength contributes to strength of character, which in turn boosts confidence. The first time I was able to do 2 pull-ups in a row (yes, in a ROW!!!) I was amazed!! Just by lifting weights a few weeks for a few weeks I gained enough strength to do 2 full pull-ups! Yes, I’m patting myself on the back. When I left the gym that day I felt more confident than ever. I felt as if the strength I earned in the gym could be translated to my life outside of the gym, which was a great Shining Moment.

5. Weight lifting is efficient. As a worker-bee I COMPLETELY understand that time is very valuable. There are days where I physically can’t dedicate an hour or so to exercise because of my other obligations. The Shining Moment is that weight lifting saves a lot of time because it is so efficient. You can get a very efficient work out in just 20 minutes. By speeding up the rate of intensity of your lift you actually gain more strength and lose more fat, which is quite a win-win!

Do you lift weights?  If so, how do you do it? Have you noticed a difference?



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A beautiful thing is never perfect. - Proverb

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life lessons


Since having breast cancer, I’ve learned many lessons. I hope they inspire you as much as they do me (Shining Moment).

  1. Think before you speak
  2. Have integrity
  3. Don’t gossip
  4. Learn to politely say no
  5. Wear well-fitting clothes
  6. Always take a gift to your host or hostess
  7. Only wear sneakers for exercise
  8. Light candles in your home
  9. Say please and thank you
  10. Take the time to stop and listen to others, especially children


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Animal images always inspire me. I happen to believe that they are true Shining Moments in life. I was once told that in a past life I was a Puma. Whether or not I believe this, it does explain my affinity for the cat family and any and all animals! Hmmm….

Lukas Holas is a photographer and graphic designer from Frydlant, Czech Republic. In a series on Behance entitled, Portraits of Animals, Holas expresses his love of animals with a collection of breathtaking black and white portraits. They are SO.AMAZING.

The detail in each photo is truly spectacular and really pinpoints each animal’s individuality. To see the entire 14-picture gallery visit Lukas Holas on Behance.

Hope that you enjoy these images as much as I have!


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Ireland looks like one of the most beautiful and welcoming places in the world. The people, the landscape, the music, the architecture…all appear so magnificent (from what I’ve seen in books and online)! If I ever have the chance to go, I’m not hesitating!  One day, if I am lucky enough to travel to Ireland, I know I will be delighted and inspired the whole time!

Here are some fun facts about Saint Patrick’s Day:

  1. St. Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17 because that is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is believed that he died on March 17 in the year 461 AD. It is also a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and history. St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, and a provincial holiday in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  2. The actual color of St. Patrick is blue. Green became associated with St. Patrick’s Day during the19th century. Green, in Irish legends, was worn by fairies and immortals, and also by people to encourage their crops to grow.
  3. St. Patrick’s given name was Maewyn Succat.
  4. The very first St. Patrick’s Day parade was not in Ireland. It was in Boston in 1737. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the 17th because it is the day that he died in 461 AD.
  5. Shamrocks are worn on the lapel on this day. In Gaelic (the Irish language), shamrock means “young clover.”
  6. Many people wear green on this holiday to avoid being pinched.
  7. St. Patrick did not actually drive snakes out of Ireland; the snakes represent the pagans that he converted to Christianity.
  8. The phrase, “Drowning the Shamrock” is from the custom of floating the shamrock on the top of whiskey before drinking it. The Irish believe that if you keep the custom, then you will have a prosperous year.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

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Good enough is the new perfect. - Becky Beaupre Gillespie

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