Posts Tagged With: Dealing with congenital heart conditions

Day 743: Be nice to me

Exactly a week ago, I attended a meeting of doctors, nurses, and other treaters at the large hospital-based primary care practice where I work. We started the meeting by taking turns talking about anything we chose — work, personal life, whatever.  The person who went before me described something stressful going on her in life, and then said, “So, be nice to me.”

During my turn, I spoke about the therapy groups I offer for people with depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as my new in-the-moment responsiveness for patients expressing  need and distress during their doctor visits. To end my check-in, I mentioned how I’ve been dealing with personal medical issues and uncertainties recently, and I ended with the same request: “Be nice to me.”

It’s nice to ask for niceness from nice people around you, isn’t it?

The day after that meeting, I consulted with a new cardiologist — Dr. Landzberg at Boston Children’s Hospital — which I wrote about here. Yesterday, I heard from my long-time chief cardiologist at a different hospital, Dr. Deeb Salem, who is always nice to me. Dr. Salem nicely sent along to me Dr. Landzberg’s nice note about last week’s consult.

Before I reveal that, I’m going to request this:

Be nice to me.

Despite my dreams/hopes/wishes to the contrary, Dr. Landzberg agreed with my other cardiologists who believe that I will most likely need heart surgery to repair or replace my valve. When? That is unclear, at this point. Even though it would be nice to think surgery is in the distant future, it might be sooner than nicer/later. To determine the timing, I’ll be undergoing (with various degrees of niceness) lots of tests, including a test I’ve had once before, which was definitely not nice to me.  That test is a transesophogeal echocardiogram, which I shall not discuss in detail here, because I want to be nice to you. Instead, I shall offer this nicely short description: gag me with a spoon (or a medical device).

Here’s some nicer news: I asked Dr. Salem about my plans to visit California at the end of February with my son, and Dr. Salem nicely approved.

I received all that not-completely-nice news yesterday afternoon, when I was at work.  Earlier in the day, I had met with two nice people, in individual therapy, who were hurting emotionally. My main prescription to both of them was

Be nice to yourself

… because — as I’ve noticed in my many nice years on this earth —  people in pain can be the OPPOSITE of nice to themselves. That’s neither nice nor helpful.

Nicely inspired by that, I am ordering myself in this moment (and — why not? — every nicely subsequent moment) to

Be nice to me.

Nice. Feel free to nicely join me in that nice commitment to be nice to oneself, whenever possible.

I think it would be nice to share, at this point, some nice photos I took yesterday:


I don’t know if this is nice or not, but when I’m stuck in nice traffic I sometimes take photos to nicely pass the time. That bumper sticker nicely caught my eye on my drive in to work, because “Lax” is the abbreviation for the Los Angeles Airport, the February destination for me and my nice son (who will turn a nice 17 years old during my time in California).

Next nice photo?


The above is another nice prescription I offered one of my nice patients yesterday morning, as I invited him to gain some nice perspective on a worry that was not-so-nicely taking up a lot of time and space in his head. Hmmm. Maybe I could nicely give myself that same nice prescription, as a helpful reminder about future heart surgery.


That’s Mike, one of the very nice nurses who was at the meeting last Tuesday. Since that meeting, EVERY TIME MIKE WALKS BY ME OR MY OFFICE he says, “Be nice to Ann.” As a matter of fact, Mike is saying “Be nice to Ann” as I’m taking that freaking photo. Nice, Mike.

I’ll have to tell Mike how nice that makes me feel (even though we’ve only been nicely teasing each other about it, so far). I’ll take that nice action, today. Here’s another nice idea: why wait letting people you know you appreciate them?


That nice photo shows Mary, one of my incredibly nice co-workers (nicely appearing previously in this nice post) showing me a gift one of her artistic patients appreciatively and nicely drew for her. Isn’t that a wonderfully nice present for somebody who listens so nicely and so well?


There’s a nice, healing heart that previously appeared in this post, many months ago. That heart is nicely requesting that we take what we need. From the two nice choices there — understanding and strength — which one would you take? I also want to nicely remind you that this doesn’t have to be one-or-the-other: you could nicely take both, if you choose.

For my last photo in this nice post, here’s another nice heart for you:


Speaking of nice, here’s Nicely-Nicely Johnson from Guys and Dolls, singing a very nice song:

(YouTube has that very nice version of “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” here.)

You know, writing this nice post for my nice readers has brought some things home nicely to me, right now:

  1. If I’m nice to myself, I don’t really need everybody else to be nice to me all the time.
  2. We all have to deal with nice and not-nice things in our lives.
  3. If we’re too nice and too afraid to rock the boat, we might not make some very nice and important changes in this world.
  4. It’s still nice to be nice to each other, as best we can.

I would truly think it nice if you leave a comment — nice or not-so-nice.

Many thanks to all the nice people appearing in and contributing to this post and to you (of course!) for nicely visiting my blog today.

Categories: inspiration, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 57 Comments

Day 674: Past —> Present

I’m going to start this post, in the present moment, by bringing in the past.

Yesterday, in a therapy group, after every person had checked in, uninterrupted, somebody identified this common theme:

How the past comes into the present and affects us, in many ways

which I wrote up on my whiteboard as

past –> present

… as you can see in this photo.


Speaking for myself, I know that the past has been affecting my present in many ways,  including:

  • I have trouble wearing my CPAP mask, at night, to help me sleep, because of memories of the many anesthesia masks I encountered in the hospital, as a child.
  • I had trouble, last night, at the So You Think You Can Dance concert, as I was trying to see, when the person sitting behind me tapped me on the back and said, “Could you please not lean forward?” I’m not sure why this bothered me so much, but I’m sure it’s related to my past. I dealt with it by moving over to a nearby seat, which was empty.
  • I have trouble doing a portion of my job that I find so difficult (probably because of past associations) that I have (over-)dramatically announced to my managers: “it’s killing me.” My managers and I are trying to figure out ways for this NOT to kill me.

Why am I writing about these past –> present things, here and now?

As a way to understand them. As a way to get some sense of control over them.

Why am I writing in incomplete sentences today?

Because I’m anxious, I think.

Why am I anxious?

Because I’m getting my teeth cleaned today.

Why is getting my teeth cleaned so anxiety-provoking?

Because I have gotten endocarditis — a very serious heart infection — three times before, and the doctors think this has been caused, each time, by bacteria that exist in everybody’s mouths.

Why have i gotten endocarditis three times, because of bacteria that everybody has in their mouths?

Because I have a very unusual heart — with a leaky valve (among other unusual things) — that makes me prone to endocarditis.

I can’t control or change the past. What can I control, here and now?

My fear, by reminding myself that

  • I have gotten my teeth cleaned hundreds, if not thousands, of times and
  • I have only gotten endocarditis three times and
  • I have never gotten endocarditis since my doctors and I instituted my current method of teeth cleaning, which involves getting intravenous antibiotic before the cleaning and getting my teeth cleaned once every three or four months.

Ahhhh.  The above list is an example of how bringing past–> present can help.

What other aspects of the past to I want to bring into the present, in this post, before I end it?

Let me check my notes, from yesterday.

I wanted to share this song with you, today:

(Here’s where I found Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers playing “Minute by Minute” live WITH PIANO CHORDS!)

I’m going to bring the past–> present again, by acknowledging that some people who read these posts have told me they do NOT watch the music videos I include here. No pressure to watch that one either, but it IS particularly awesome (I think).

Here’s another example of past–>present, with the pictures I took yesterday, as I went from voting –> work –>  So You Think You Can Dance:

IMG_1733 IMG_1734 IMG_1735 IMG_1736 IMG_1737 IMG_1738 IMG_1739 IMG_1740 IMG_1741 IMG_1742 IMG_1743 IMG_1744 IMG_1745 IMG_1746 IMG_1747 IMG_1748 IMG_1750 IMG_1752 IMG_1753 IMG_1754 IMG_1757


Why did I take those photos?  Do you have any guesses, about any of them?

One more way to bring past –> present, in this post. Last night, I saw this past favorite performance repeated, in person:

Thanks to Zack, Valerie, and the other amazing dancers from Season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance, to all those I encounter (including people who tap me on the back and ask me to sit back in my seat) who help me learn, and to anybody else who brings their past into their present in any way — including you!

Categories: inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Day 387: Why I’m not afraid of going out today

There are lots of reasons why I SHOULD be afraid of going out today, including:

  1. It snowed last night.
  2. It’s 9 degrees, in these here parts 1.
  3. The expected high is only 18 degrees.
  4. I don’t know what the friggin’ wind child factor is — how the outside world is SUPPOSED TO FEEL, according to some cockamamie calculation by some weather wonk — but, I can tell you this: that’s not good, either.
  5. With all of the above (plus my personal health “conditions”) 2, today has more obvious dangers, than yesterday did.

And in posts past, I have certainly written about my fear of the elements (see here, here, here, here, here, or basically any post I’ve written during the winter months,  for obvious or subtle clues about same).

So why aren’t I scared, this morning?

Well, I’ve had some practice — at this point in the winter of 2013/2014 — of dealing with all of the above. And I’ve lived — no worse for the wear. So that definitely helps.

What else helps?

In a previous post, I referred to books I’ve re-read many time, including The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, by Mark Toby.


Several years ago, I ordered this book, from Amazon, so I could own it again.  While I did not take the photo above, I thought I could have when I wrote that previous blog post, because that book I ordered (plus the one I owned in the 1960’s) looked just like that picture.  However, when I was writing that previous blog post, it was easier to find a photo online, rather than look for the book.

Why?  Because of something else that usually scares me: Looking for something I own, for fear I will not find it.

I’m upstairs, while I’m writing this portion of the blog post. I believe that book is downstairs, somewhere. Today, I’m not afraid of looking for that, either, and I will, in just a moment.

But, wait!  I haven’t revealed WHY I want to look for that book.

Here’s why: This is my memory of the last line of that book, which has been echoing in my head, since I started writing this post:

Fall in love. Love will make you brave.

Aha!  There’s another reason I might be afraid to look for that book: fear that my memory might not be good enough.

Hold on. I’m venturing downstairs.


While I found other treasured books from my past:




…. no sign of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

What do I deduce, dear readers, from that?  Well, the book could have been destroyed, when the basement flooded at our previous residence. Or, it could be somewhere else, lurking, where we live now.

But, you know what? I’m not scared about any of that. And I’m not disappointed, either, even though I can’t use  my original plan for the ending of this post: A photo of the last line(s) of that book, which I figured would be close enough.

Instead, here’s another ending, which I love.

Thanks to all those reading, today, who love, are loved, or are brave for any reason. And that would include you (even if you don’t know it).

  1. That’s just my way of saying “Fahrenheit”, these days.

  2. Not to worry. I have a pacemaker and recently received a new diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, but I’m fine.  Really. I’m not just saying that! I just need to be more careful about injuries — like slipping on ice or getting into a car accident — because I’m taking anti-coagulant medication.

Categories: inspiration, Nostalgia, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

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