Day 545: Embracing the shadows

This past week, I’ve been dealing with some shadows.

Of course, we all deal with shadows, like these:


IMG_6409 IMG_6415 IMG_6421 IMG_6426 IMG_6430IMG_6396


If the sun — or another source of light — is shining, shadows are going to be part of the picture, somehow.

This past week, I’ve been dealing with lots of different shadows, including:

  • the shadows of envy,
  • the shadows of disappointment,
  • the shadows of annoyance/anger, and (most especially)
  • the shadows of fear.

These shadows have been within me and, I think, within others, too. However, I only know my own experience.

So, keeping the focus on what I DO know, I know it helps me to recognize and embrace the shadows that are there.

I could give you several examples of that, from this past week. For instance, as the week went on, I became more aware that I’m afraid to go to the dentist, this Wednesday.

I’m afraid to go to the dentist, this Wednesday, because

  • I am prone to a heart infection called endocarditis (and have gotten it several times before),
  • In order to prevent that, I have been receiving intravenous (also called “drip”) antibiotics, right before a dental appointment, for several years,
  • My team of doctors recommended that I switch, for this next cleaning, to oral antibiotics, because that would probably do as good a job and, in ways, would be better for me,
  • Nobody knows, for sure, why I get (or don’t get) endocarditis, and
  • While I trust my doctors very much, they are not psychics, and if somebody gets endocarditis … it’s going to be me.

Last week, as the dental appointment got closer, I found myself experiencing shadow-y reactions and feelings, in response to different people and situations. And I kept losing track of why that was.

When I was at work last week, I kept the door to my office closed, all the time. Since my usual style is to keep my door open when I’m not seeing patients, that felt weird. Unbalanced. Like I was hiding.

Each time I took a breath and looked more closely at my inner shadows, I was able recognize the biggest one: the fear of going to the dentist and, as a result, perhaps putting my life in danger.

That, my friends, felt very dark.

This all may sound overly dramatic. This may be an example of the very human cognitive distortion of catastrophizing.  But there were reasons I was having these thoughts (as there always are).

When shadows are all around, I know what helps. It helps me to

  1. shine a light on the problem and
  2. share it with other people.

So, on Friday, I wrote an email to my team of doctors, which included this:

Hi, fabulous team,

So, Dr. Kogelman and I, at our last meeting, decided to shift from 3 to 4 months between teeth cleanings and also from IV to oral antibiotics.

Now that the time is approaching for my teeth cleaning, at Dr. Del Castillo’s practice next week, I’m feeling a tad … anxious. Perhaps because of the two changes in the protocol. Perhaps because I still don’t completely understand why I’ve come down with endocarditis all the times I have before.

So this is just an anxiety-reduction email to my team, to get some reassurance.

As soon as I sent it, I immediately got an automated message that my chief cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, was away from the hospital, and not returning for another week. Knowing Dr. Salem, I wasn’t surprised when I soon got this email, from him:

There is nothing wrong with being anxious–keeps all of us rightly alert

I wrote back, to Dr. Salem:

It keeps you alert, even when you’re away from the hospital!

Are YOU anxious, at all, about this plan?

If the answer is no, no need to answer this email. I will see you soon (as a matter of fact, I’ll schedule something today).


 I didn’t hear back from Dr. Salem (which is a good sign). Also, I got too busy at work to follow through on my promise about scheduling a cardiology appointment with him.  We might call that procrastination, or avoidance, on my part. Or we might just say, “Hey!  Give me a friggin’ break!  I’ll make the appointment next week!”

Later, I got an email from Dr. Kogelman, who is my medical team’s endocarditis expert, which included this:

Ann If you would feel more comfortable only changing one thing at a time, I have no problem with continuing the pre-procedure IV antibiotics.  I was trying to switch to the PO just to make things a little easier for you.  I do think either the PO or the IV would work fine, but if you want to just switch the schedule for cleanings first, try that for say a year, and if all goes well, then switch to PO, that is totally reasonable. Just let me know so I can work with Kerri to set this up.

Kerri is my IV nurse, who has appeared before in this blog:


When Dr. Kogelman and I agreed, a couple of months ago, about switching from IV antibiotics to oral ones, I said, “Here’s my one regret. I’m really going to miss Kerri.” Dr. Kogelman replied, “I’m sure you can figure out a way to still see her.”

When I got Dr. Kogelman’s email, I realized that the decision was up to me. I like being an adult, being treated like one, and making my own decisions, but …. there are shadows to all that, too.

What would you do, in this situation, if you were me? How would you assess the risks, balance the familiar with the new, embrace all the shadows,  and make a choice?




Time’s up!  I’ll tell you what I decided, by showing you what I sent back to Dr. Kogelman this morning:

Hi Dr. Kogelman,

Thanks for this great email.

This is what I’ve decided:

(1) If you can book me for an IV at 12 noon this Wednesday, July 2, let’s do that.  (My dental appointment is at 1:15). That would be my preference, at this point.

(2) If that is not possible, please call in an Rx for Avelox to my pharmacy.

All the best,


Here’s what I’m noticing about that: I expressed a preference, accepted both possibilities, and left some room for luck, too.

Thanks to shadow-makers everywhere, Dr. Salem, Dr. Kogelman, Kerri (who I may or may not see on Wednesday), everybody on my team, and to you — of course! — for the shadows and light you bring today.

Categories: inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism, quiz | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

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39 thoughts on “Day 545: Embracing the shadows

  1. I do not think your fear is being at all over dramatic, Ann. You have had the infection, and do not know why, after all. The shadow of mystery breeds fear.

    I do think you handled this very well. You’ve eased your mind, you’ll see your IV-providing friend, and you’ll stay well. Win-win-win.

    Enjoy your Sunday, and I hope you feel sure enough to open your door between patients tomorrow at work.

  2. I am shit scared of dentists. I think that they are more evil than doctors…. We all have our fears and our shadows!

  3. Very good post Ann. Send you my best thoughts and wishes,

  4. I don’t think you’re being overly-dramatic at all. It’s not as if you don’t have a history to back up your very rational concern. It’s fantastic to see that your doctors are willing to be flexible and go with a plan that makes you safe and comfortable.

    I’ll be thinking about you on Wednesday! 😀

  5. I love your team of medical professionals Ann! They are approachable and that’s amazing to me. The way you confront your shadows, rather than pretending they are not there, is an inspiration to me Ann. ❤
    Diana xo

  6. Best of luck on the day Ann.
    xxx Hugs xxx

  7. Gene Phillips

    Thank your for this great post. People who say things like “No Fear,” which I think is a slogan of some sort, are idiots if I my be so judgmental. Fear is one of our guides in life; we just can’t follow it blindly or let it jerk us around, and your post shows you don’t.

  8. Recognizing our shadows throws light on what can be done 🙂
    Good luck with the cleaning!
    Val x

  9. Peggy

    Great choice. You deserve to feel anxious about all of this, Ann. And you figured out a way to see Kerri, an important person in your support system. Congratulations!! I’ll be thinking about you on Wednesday.

    And by the way, I am SO impressed with your team of Doctors! You’ve trained them well 🙂

  10. I learn so much from you, Ann. I learn how to identify my feelings and fears. I learn how to find a corner that I can grab onto, and to work towards the middle from there. I learn about shadows, and I think I’m learning that sometimes when the dark is deep within us, the shadows can be from our own bravery, leaning in.

    This week, I am taking the train halfway across Canada to bury my parents’ ashes in the city where they met. I will need some of the bravery I’ve learned from you. And I’ll think of you, hoping that everyone you meet will smile at you (as they always seem to), and that you will get through another dental appointment without endocarditis. If the physics make it possible, I’ll send a little light your way to nudge out those shadows.

    • I’ll be reflecting the light you send back at you, on your trip of bravery. And I’ll be thinking about this comment, smiling for me and you, through all the plays of shadow and light.

  11. I think this is a good time to post a link to Said the Whale’s “The Light is You.” My friend’s daughter is in this band. I never hear it without smiling.

  12. Michele Seminara

    Love this post, Ann. Yours is a good example to follow. Mx

  13. Love the idea of understanding the shadows, wish you the best Ann.

    • Always love to see you, Randall! Thank you for the light of your wish and all the rest that you brought here today.

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  15. You reached out, expressed your concerns, and took the right action! We all have those pesky shadows. I think a lot of people have fear of going to the dentist. I know I do, and I’ve had problems with my teeth since I was old enough to have teeth and, consequently, have spent an inordinate amount of time in dentists’ chairs. You handled your situation nobly!

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