Surviving So This is Christmas (When Grieving or Knowing Someone Who Is)

So, this is Christmas, and what have you done?  The song plays in my head a lot at this time of the year because I am writing a second book already about grief and the holidays.

There are a lot of books already written with suggestions that those of us who are grieving have Googled and read, cried and wished, and the pain is not truly lessened.

The words that will go into this book will be for those who grieve and those who don’t.  Unfortunately, there are many people who have never grieved and they do not understand it at all.  They are the lucky ones.  They are also the ones I usually unfollow on social media and in life because they can’t even say how sorry they are that someone we loved died.

Then there are the friends who just don’t think.  I would like to re-write the lyrics to “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” to show people that they clearly are not thinking when they address the cards and insert the family Christmas letter that is filled with all the joy they have had this year.  (Please, we know it hasn’t all been that joyous.)

At first I couldn’t even open the cards that arrived.  The words merry and happy are not in my vocabulary these days.  On the flip side of that though is that there have been cards especially chosen for me from friends, and one friend even crossed out the word merry and added her own message after the word Christmas.

These are the thinking friends.  These are the kind friends.  These are the empathetic friends.  As an empath I can recognize other empaths quite easily now.

This is the time of the year when people who are grieving need kindness.  We need acts of love.  Actually, we need the 5 love languages.

  1. Words of affirmation.  We need to hear these words from people we have allowed into our lives in friendship and those we were born into and possibly stuck with, family.

 

  1. Gifts. While this sounds like we are looking for something for nothing try picturing what it is like to not have wrapped gifts under a tree after years, make that a lifetime, of having them.  Furthermore, there is no greater act of kindness and love at this time than to send a truly meaningful gift to someone whose world was turned upside down especially when facing the first holiday without the person they love.  It doesn’t have to be wrapped either, there are many wonderful ways to gift someone.

 

 

  1. Acts of service. I did receive several of these over the past month and I am extremely grateful.  Owning a home on my own is a new experience and I have not learned everything yet.  There are still things I need to have done (I have a running to-do list available I say with a smile). Who can you do something for that they cannot do on their own?

 

  1. Quality time. I want everyone to know that I do not spend hours talking about my sadness and grief when I am with people.  I laugh.  I do have fun.  I have stories that are not about what I have been through this year.  None of us need to be telling someone what we have planned and suddenly realize they didn’t hear a word we said and they just move past your conversation and interject their own plans, like you never said a word. Also, this may not be the time to tell your grieving friend everything you are doing over the holidays with friends and family. It may be too soon.   It is so important to anyone who is grieving that they are asked about their plans, that they are listened to, and that means maybe they are a tad self-centered.  This will pass, we do heal a little here and there and we do move forward and we do find ourselves wanting to reach out with kindness to others.

 

 

  1. Physical touch. Hugs, we need hugs.  If you are a person who doesn’t like touch, maybe a hand squeeze with meaning would work.  Me, I get massages as often as I can.  Touch is healing.  We all need it, we even crave it, so who can you touch this season with meaning?

 

Yes, I can see new lyrics in my head, they go like this:

It came upon the midnight clear(ly) that using more kindness works

For people who are sad and lonely wherever grieving lurks

I will stop there I do like that Christmas carol and I don’t want to really change the words, I just want to share that there is so much you can do for anyone who is grieving.  We have worth please do not diminish it especially now. We need our friends and families to realize this.

 

 

We could all use a refresher course.

Surviving Christmas Now That You Are No Longer Alive

 

Surviving Christmas now that you are no longer alive is a major emotional chore every day.

When your heart is homeless for the holidays.

I tried this year.  I bought a tree, it’s rather ugly and sparse but it fit my budget.  I got the decorations out that I used on our small tree in our bedroom because I was always in charge of decorating that tree and my heart wouldn’t hurt as much or so I thought.

Then I opened all the boxes of decorations I had kept to see what I could put where.  It’s the same, yet different, because everything is different.

Instead of counting down the days till Christmas morning when our biggest joy was watching the dogs rip open their presents, I am not counting down the days until this season is completely over.

Instead of attending celebrations and concerts I listen to certain Christmas songs on my phone.  There is just music my heart cannot handle yet.  For example a year ago tonight we were at the TSO Concert in Tampa and that is where we had our last photo together taken.

While I write my thoughts every day, I sometimes wonder if I sound too happy and if I do that means people don’t realize that a large part of me is missing everything so much that at times breathing hurts.

I am fighting an impulse to rip all the decorations down and pack them up because I know now it was too soon.  I thought I could do this.  I believed I was braver than I am. If you were still alive you would want me to leave them up all year.

The magic is just not there.  When you were alive there was magic every day throughout the season.  You loved Christmas so much and you loved to make my eyes sparkle with excitement.

There is no joy in this house this year.  The magic is gone.  The sparkle is not there and I realized this morning my heart is homeless from the holidays.  That is the best way I can describe my feelings.  No matter how many decorations I put up, no matter how many candles I light, no matter how many cards I receive, no matter how many songs I listen to, I am homeless in my heart from the holidays.

There are no gifts under the tree, no gifts in the mail to family, no big meals planned, no baking and if there is a lesson to be learned in all of this it is that being alone at this time of the year is tremendously sad not just for me, but for everyone who is homeless in their hearts from the holidays not to mention homeless in life..

If you were still alive my heart would be full of the joy of the season and we be watching Christmas movies together, drinking wine, and the dogs would be on our laps.

If you were still alive, I would feel alive this Christmas.

Surviving in the Grief Wilderness

Always

Hope Endures

Surviving in the grief wilderness is hard.  There is no road map, no supplies, no flashlights, no warmth. It is no secret to anyone reading this that I have been living in my own private Hell I call the Grief Wilderness.

I have tried so many different ways to help light and smooth out this dark craggy place that feels like a dungeon at times.

I have been working with a bereavement counselor for 8 of the 9 months on a weekly basis.  I have read everything suggested to me, and more that I found on my own on the topic of grief.  I took an 8-day road trip always spending the night with friends.  I flew to my home town to be with a dear friend and her family for comfort.  I flew to an experiential spa in New Mexico where I spent 6 days in therapy, meditating, doing sound therapy, and somatic experiencing.  I sat in the Native America Medicine Wheel with a therapist where he told me I had a double dose of PTSD.   I meditated some more.

I have private yoga instruction that also begins with deep meditation.  I have my Reiki practitioners on speed dial.

I journal every day and I write very publicly on Facebook about my journey.  I moved the grieving part of my life to a Facebook page called Fractured.  I am writing a book by the same name.  I move forward, I am in continuous motion but I kept hitting a road block.  I kept hitting a wall.  I could only go so far.

It has been 9 long months of feeling as if I were up to my breast bone in quicksand and my breast bone aches.  It physically aches.  I called it “heartbreak ache”.

No one prepares us for the devastation we will feel when we lose a spouse and because that is where my loss lies that is what I write about.  I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, I know the pain of losing my parents and my brother and it was sad and I still mourn.  However, losing a spouse who has been your best friend for years, who has been the person who knows you best, who takes care of you, who does the things you don’t know how to do is to me the worst loss imaginable.

At my 8th month my bereavement counselor approached me to ask if I would be interested in a medical study on using Accelerated Resolution Therapy with people who are in deep grief.  I jumped at the chance and I immediately went to Google to learn more about it.

I was stuck and my counselor knew it.  It was as if my life was being played out on a gameboard and my feet were super glued to the shock spot.  I was frozen there.  I could not move off that spot.  Every time I thought about Larry walking out the door to feed the roses and walk back in and die in my arms I felt as if I had been punched in the head and kicked in the gut.  I would cave to disbelief that this happened.  I would cry.  I couldn’t even talk about it without crying.  That night replayed in my head every day and every day I felt the shock that this ever happened.

The last words he ever said to me were “I am going to go out and feed the roses and then I will come back in and have another glass of wine with you.” Then he died.

I went for an evaluation, answered pages of questions, had an EEG and made my first appointment with a licensed professional mental health therapist.  I learned there would be a total of 4 sessions and in my research, I had read that many people achieve success with the first session.

I was in this session for 2 hours.  Part of that time was spent hooking up another EEG (they are done on visit 1 and 4) and the rest was spent doing EMDR.

I am not going to go into the psychiatric details of what EMDR is and how it works, there are plenty of articles on line about it.  Suffice it to say that many lives have been saved, and people have been pulled from the brink of suicide due to this therapy.

I was watching the news on a channel I do not usually watch and this local station had done an interview with a veteran who was on that brink. He is here today because of ART and EMDR therapies.  I listened with intent and the therapist that was interviewed is the very therapist I am seeing.  I knew I was meant to see this interview.

I am not saying that these therapies are a cure all for many mental illnesses however this is an incredible start in treating those of us with trauma and shock that can lead to phobias and anxieties.

I woke up the next morning after my first session, I said my usual good morning to Larry as I looked at my favorite photo of him and I started my day.  My phone rang and a friend asked me how my first session went.  I started to tell her all about it and for the first time I was able to go to the night he died and not cry.  I didn’t cave and my breast bone didn’t ache.

I tried to trigger myself on and off all day and got the same results.  I was unstuck.  The super glue that had been holding me in place had dissolved and as the day continued, I had new thoughts and new ideas and I had excitement over them.

I will mourn and I will grieve every day for the rest of my life that Larry died so suddenly.  I miss him all the time and I love him with all my heart.  Everything I do reminds me of what we did together.  And, yes, I still have tears.  The sadness doesn’t go away with these therapies.  All that happens is we can finally move forward.  The positive pathways in our brains connect again.  We have hope.

This is a great description I found about ART. Again, I highly encourage you to do the research because it may help you, or someone you know be better, be in control, move forward, and let go so much while holding onto what needs to remain.

What is ART?

ART is an evidence-based novel psychotherapy that fosters rapid recovery by reprogramming how the brain stores traumatic memories and imagery.  ART has roots in and includes elements of existing evidenced-based modalities.  The treatment program incorporates memory visualization techniques that are enhanced by the use of horizontal eye movements, as well as memory re-consolidation, a way in which new information is incorporated into existing memories.

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Larry’s Sudden Death

Surviving Larry’s  sudden death isn’t a title I ever wanted to write.  Truthfully I wasn’t sure I would ever return to blogging on a regular basis.  Around 7 months after he died I realized I wanted to blog again.  I have a lot to say.  I even have a new blog site called fractured.life.  I started it, I have not moved forward with it and really and truly that is where my writing about death, mourning, grieving, bereavement, and all new words and feelings I live with belong.

Fractured is the title of my book.  Fractured (but still beating) is the title with the tagline my publisher said I need.  The cover art is a heart with a fractured line going through it.  That is how I feel about love, life, and everything that has happened since the night he walked outside to put fertilizer on the rose bushes and walked back in and died in my arms.  My heart is fractured.  My life is fractured.  The love we shared is fractured.  My world is fractured.  This is a fracture that will never heal so how the hell does anyone think or believe I will survive this?

I have ugly moments, ugly days, ugly tear-stained cheeks and this has aged me.  I have lost a lot of weight because food was our fun place.  Food was something we did together.  Food and creating delicious meals was our date night.  Over dinner he was completely mine.  He wasn’t in his office working, he wasn’t on the phone doing research, he would sit and savor whatever I placed in front of him and tell me I should own a restaurant the meal was THAT good.

Now I make food so I can eat.  Food doesn’t excite me any more.  Many times I make a meal, eat 1/3 of it and throw the rest away.  I am thin.  I do weigh myself, and if I continue to lose more weight I will seek help.

There are days I only exist.  I take care of Willie, I drink coffee, I do what is expected of me and not much more.

There are days when I do a lot.

I vacillate between the two.

Writing helps.  I write every day, every morning on Facebook.  Those are the thoughts that will become the book.  That is when what I write here will actually be shared on the fractured.life page along with a podcast sometime in 2020.

Writing sometimes doesn’t help.  Like right now I am not feeling especially inspired.  I am just allowing my fingers to move all over the keyboard while pouring out my feelings that for some reason are bland right now.  I don’t have passion firing me up to write how goddam pissed off I am at the carelessness that happened that night starting with the paramedics and ending with being told 10 days later there was nothing more that could be done.

Surviving Larry’s sudden death is not something I ever thought about, most of us don’t.  That is my purpose, that is my reason for writing.  We need to think about death of our loved ones even if it hurts, even if it is disturbing, even if we don’t think it will happen, because guess what, it will happen.

The look of love is all over his face.

 

Surviving the Rabbit Hole

Is anybody out there?

Does anybody care?

Hello, are you there?

Anyone?

I have not written in a very long time however this blog site called my name today and I thought it might be time to come up out of the rabbit hole and let you all know that I feel as if I have been dumped in rabbit shit.

Get it?  Rabbit hole, rabbit shit?

I am trying to climb out.  I am trying to catch my footing.  I am trying to wrap my brain around the fact that the last time I wrote a blog article here I was a very happily married woman, and now I am alone.

I don’t use the W word.  It turns my stomach inside out to use it.  Why is there even such a word?  We are born, we are various ages of children in years, we get married, we get divorced, we stay single, our spouses die so WTF do we need a moniker for that?  Also WTF do we need to acknowledge being divorced.  I am single now.  I was married, he died, I am single.

Labels – I am sick and tired of labels.  I am Carole Sanek, period. Who does the rest matter to anyway?

Here I am, back again behind the monitor and the keyboard letting the world know (is anybody out there?) that after almost 19 years of marriage, over 20 years of knowing each other Larry went and stroked out with such violence that he could not recover.

The clot was that big.

It took out about 50% of his brain stem where most major functions stem from and he was semi-comatose and would be the rest of his life.

He had advanced directives, and after a discussion with his kids we had him removed from everything and transferred him to hospice where he died 3 1/2 days later.

I have written about he and I every day since this happened.  It is all on my very public Facebook page and today was Day 143, the day I decided to move forward and write the damn story of love, grief, and fucking bad timing.

I know as I re-read what I have written here that I sound angry.  I wouldn’t call it anger.  I am frustrated.  I am sad.  I am mourning in writing here.  I am deep in my grief wilderness at times.  I can’t believe he is gone.  I can’t believe we didn’t get 10-15 more wonderful years.  I am tired.  I am tired of it all to be honest.

I wish I could wake up and find out it was one big bad dream.

It wasn’t.

I miss him with every breath I take.

Let me give you all one big piece of advice, talk about death and dying.  Make plans, have a will, have a living will, have a durable power of attorney, get this all done, we did.  It helped.  We just didn’t talk about it enough.  TALK.

That being said I am not leaving Larry’s ashes where I want to leave them not necessarily where he wanted me to leave them because he never told me.  I know he likes the vineyard where I left some of him, and the mountains where I left even more of him so when I go back I can talk to him.

Also maybe go over to my FB which is Carole L Sanek and read Day 143.  It’s public, you can see it.

143 Larry always.

Born 5/14/46 Died 3/3/19 and loved by many.

 

 

 

Look for the Helpers

When I was in high school I chose to follow a career in nursing. Back in the dark ages women did not have many choices. We were encouraged to be secretaries (the descriptive word then), a teacher or an RN. I chose nursing. It was something I really wanted to do.
 
I started as a candy striped volunteer first at Deaconess Hospital on Saturdays where I read to children in the Peds ward. I had to take a bus both ways to get there and I always looked forward to my 4 hours. Then I volunteered at Parma Community Hospital where again I was assigned to the Peds Ward – what teenager didn’t want to help with the children?
 
I liked helping and working around the sick and injured and I knew I had chosen the right career path.
 
I went to nursing school and I passed my State Boards with a score high enough to earn reciprocity to work in all other 49 states, that was a very proud moment.
 
I have always been a helper. Mr. Rogers told children to look for the helpers – I am one. #Bear knows this, I stop at accidents, I saved a choking child in a McDonald’s, I did CPR on an airplane, I cared for a diabetic patient on an International flight who went into a diabetic crisis and our flight had to make an emergency landing, I saved my husband’s life. 

Always a helper, always with love.

I also worked in a busy ER, I changed direction and worked Oncology, I changed again and worked in wound care.

 
I got breast cancer and I left hospital nursing but I stayed in medicine.
 
I am still in medicine. I am still a helper. I have never left Oncology, I just work it in a different way. I was a breast cancer patient advocate for years with a well-known organization. I worked teaching doctors and technicians how to use Ultrasound Hyperthermia for cancer treatments.
 
I made TV appearances, I was on radio talk shows, I wrote for a magazine, I took a position with another breast cancer organization.
 
I looked back recently and realized I have never really left being a helper especially in breast cancer.
 
I still advocate for women, I listen, I advise. I suggest 2nd opinions because I have seen errors in pathologies and I cry with people.
 
I lost 2 beautiful friends this year. I have more living daily with MBC (metastatic breast cancer) and Stage IV. This has propelled me into trying to film a documentary.
 
As 2019 started to get close I realized I wanted to return to helping more, I wanted to come back to breast cancer and do more than I had been doing.
 
I am a helper. It is natural for me to offer help. Sometimes I get shut down and that’s ok I will still offer assistance, it is in my blood.
 
I am now working with a cancer organization that is just getting started and I am so excited to help. Like I said it is in my blood.

HEART ATTACK

Heart attack!

One minute I was walking in the house from my PT session and the next minute I had chest pain that brought me to my knees.

That damn elephant was sitting on my chest too and there was a strange pain radiating into both sides of my face.  I was nauseous and for the first time in my life I felt very mortal.

The main area of pain was behind my breast bone.  It flipping hurt.

I was terrified and so was my husband who started to throw his clothes on as quickly as he could.

The pain started to lessen enough that I was able to go into my bathroom but then it started again and I knew this was turning into a trip to the ER.

Heart attack symptoms in women are nothing like the symptoms that men get, of course not.  That would be too easy.

Memorize this, better yet copy and paste this and keep it where you can see it if the big one ever comes to pay you a visit.

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

I had every thing but the shortness of breath.  I was positive I was having a heart attack.

I wasn’t.

Every second counts, know the symptoms.

Never ignore these symptoms ever.  Go to the ER get checked out.  Yes, chest pain will buy you an overnight, but it is better to be cautious than to go home and die.

I did have a CT of my heart before heading home.  Blessedly it showed I have no heart issues at all.  I have one coronary artery that has narrowed but it’s my right coronary artery and the narrowing is not an issue.

Now I get to tease my husband that I have a better heart than he does and I do.  His previous bad boy behavior from the days he owned a night club and inhaled second hand smoke not to mention Grand Slam breakfasts with his crew caught up with him.  He had a double bypass almost two years ago and almost died.  Yes, my heart is better than his but this isn’t a contest.  His is repaired thank God mine did not need to be repaired.

What was it?  No one really knows.  It could be costochondritis from radiation therapy I had when I was treated for breast cancer.  It could be GI distress.

All I know is this, it wasn’t a heart attack BUT it could have been.

Surviving and Thriving One Year Later

One year later we are in a much better place in our lives.  I call it “thriving after surviving” and I have used that phrase in my personal blog, which sadly I have not written for in quite a while.  I also use it in my Tuesday night Facebook Live segments at 7:30PM (shameless plug I know).  I call these segments “Thrive”.

I intend to repurpose blogs I have written and talk about these stories, I plan to talk about people I interview with my new podcast “They Dig Deeper” where people share their stories on doing good things without thinking about them, and yes, I will also bring my book on board eventually, just not today.

This is the year I looked back at all the times Larry and I were just expected to do what was asked of us and we did these things to keep the peace.

While Larry was in the hospital I listened to the concerns his kids had regarding how they feel about certain things their dad does or doesn’t do.  I listened, I took their concerns back to Larry and we discussed everything.  Newsflash, Larry is not really going to change that much, he is whom he is.  I throw little reminders at him from time to time but it is not my “job” to get him to do what other people expect.  In fact, when you want change, you need to be a part of that change.  It is not a one-way street.

Change is often inspired because something in your life is hurting you much like ill-fitting shoes pinch your feet.  Change also happens when you realize how old you are in actual years and think of all the things you still would like to do but time is not really on your side. One year later we are understanding ourselves more.

The latter hit us as Larry recovered from his open-heart surgery and his emergency exploratory thoracic surgery within hours.  We almost lost each other.

Lesson learned through all of this was that we truly only have each other and if we intend to make loving memories we have a second chance to do that.  We are moving forward with gratitude and appreciation of the fact that we have been blessed with another chance and we will take advantage of all that life has given us.

What about devastating crises?  What if I had lost Larry?  I cannot answer what I would have done because it did not happen, yet life crises happen to all of us and unfortunately some do come with irreversible sad or tragic endings.  Can we thrive after these crises happen?  It depends on what lies inside of us.  Things will never be the same again and in times like this we may not make it through on our own.  There is no shame in asking for help.  I have been there, in fact I was there as recently as a year ago when I did some life counseling to understand some baggage I was carrying all these years.

Crises we survive and then move on to thrive afterwards often come with people making positive changes in their lives.  Whatever your higher power is, when you come face to face with what happened and are still standing above ground chances are you will make changes.

Do we regress?  You betcha we do, however with practice regaining your new direction in life is easy because you will feel that pinch again.  It is up to you whether you will kick off those shoes or keep wearing them thinking they will stretch and stop pinching, they won’t.

One year later life is better.

 

 

Surviving a Bad Year

Surviving a bad year takes a whopping load of stamina.  On one hand rests a heavy load of gratefulness, on the other hand a heavy load of exhaustion.  2017 took so much of my energy away and replaced it with days where getting out of bed was the only thing I did.  Big scares, many tears, and a lot of the times having to handle things alone made it a complicated bad year.

When we go through very difficult times and come out the other side in a better place we don’t immediately rev up our engines and hit the road at top speed.  Fooled me, I thought when I could finally breathe without hurting that everything would be wonderful again. It wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for the good that I have been blessed with, the good that followed the bad, but the events that caused all this leave me puzzled as to where is the lesson.

When I look back over all the years I have lived of course there have been other bad ones.  Losing my father when he was so young and would have loved being with his grandchildren is still hard for me to write about, and I still cry.  The lesson here is appreciating every day we have with those we love.

My children’s father committed suicide.  He was a vile human being, a despicable man who did terrible things and choosing to take his life was the icing on the cake he baked of deconstructing our family.  You don’t get over this ever and this is the year I will write about what he did, why he chose to die, and more in my book “Suicide Elegy” which will be my story, along with the stories of others who have been dealt this devastating blow, and how they have coped and carried on in their lives.  The lesson here is I cannot “fix” my family, I can only “fix” myself.

The year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through it alone, totally alone.  The lesson here is that I am strong, I made it out the other side on my own.  Even when I was fired from my job in the middle of treatment, and had to file an ADA lawsuit to stay employed and have insurance, I stood tall and proud and strong. The lesson I learned here was truly only trust yourself when the chips are down.

There have been other years with shitty happenings and I don’t want to sit here in front of my wailing wall on line and continue because I know everyone reading this has had shitty years from time to time. Growing from one, learning from one, and moving through one are easier when you can look back and see the lesson.  I have not reached that lesson point yet.  That is probably why I am exhausted (still) and why I have days where motivation isn’t in my head.

I do know that things are better, I am grateful that our lives are vastly improved, and I know where I need to put my energies in 2018.  I chose my 3 words to live by, my 3 words that I will write down and carry with me, 3 words I will tape up in places where I will see them daily, 3 words to remind me what I am working towards in 2018.  My words are heart, map and win.

Heart…Map…Win!!!

Heart – I want to reflect deeply on what people write or say.  Too many times people put their thoughts out on social media and people don’t understand them at all.  Many times people find fault, give advice that wasn’t asked for, judge (this happens so much) or actually become argumentative or sarcastic.  I want to use my heart more, I want to reach out and ask questions before I open my mouth or keyboard.   I want to use my heart to remember there are people I need to move away from to protect my own heart.

Map- I am determined to be more on task, to schedule my weeks better.  I want to stick to plans and complete them, I am the world’s worst procrastinator.  No excuses this time around, I am mapping things out from this point on and I will learn how to live with it.

Win – well of course we all want to win, but for me I chose the word win to cover things I know it is past time to handle.  I am in excellent health but I have known for years I need to be more active and I want to lose some pounds.  I want to look and feel better.  Winning also goes to heart and map.  I will be using a lot of check marks this year, check marks to show accomplishments and I am excited about this.

My 3 words are my resolutions if you prefer that word.  I don’t, for me I know that all 3 words will lead to a better year for me and those around me.  Maybe these 3 words are my lesson, I don’t know but I will try to build my year from the ground up so I can soar.

Surviving a bad year – I did it, it was never easy, but I made it through.

Surviving #MyHarveyWeinstein

 

 

#MyHarveyWeinstein

Yes, today I am blogging about surviving #MyHarveyWeinstein which is the correct hashtag to use if you want to talk about your experience in a blog post, on line, wherever.

I feel most women walking this earth have had a #MyHarveyWeinstein problem, and some from a very young age.

We all have a story from the little touch that just did not feel right, or the invitation to “come sit on my lap” to full blown sexual assault.

Meet my predator.  I cannot reveal his name but I will use his initials, meet R.S., MD.  Yes, a doctor, a medical oncologist and former surgical oncologist at a well-known cancer hospital I once worked for, and where I became a woman literally in the hands of a sexual predator, #MyHarveyWeinstein.

I was in charge of a sub-department under radiation therapy.  Most of my patients were dying but as it is in the world of cancer we will all try just about anything to live longer or even perhaps be cured.  I was hired to give patients a treatment that did work in certain cancers and for others was a last hope.

I worked alone in a small area with a treatment room and a small office area and I truly loved my work.  I had worked most of my nursing career in Oncology.

When I was hired I was sent for training to Houston, and then on to Los Angeles.  I spend the first two weeks learning how to treat patients, and my 3rd week Dr. R. S. came to learn too under the watchful eyes of the Medical Oncologist who had pioneered this therapy and it was now being rolled out to the world.

Nothing happened while we were in California, we kept long hours in training and did not even fly back home on the same flight.  I respected him, he was a well-trained Surgical Oncologist, little did I know he was a sexual predator.
As time went by Dr. R.S. would show up in my outer office and perch on the corner of my desk and we would discuss his patients.  Eventually though the conversations went from friendly and professional to personal and very unprofessional.  He knew my husband traveled for his work, and he started to call me at home asking me to meet him.  I never did, I rebuffed his advances, and after a while I feel that my constant cold attitude pissed him off.

It did not take him long to escalate his advances, he moved from sexual comments to touching, except it wasn’t really touching, let’s call it what it was, groping.

He would come up behind me and grab my breasts whenever he could.  I talked to administration about this.  I filed a complaint with HR.  I am writing this to tell you they did nothing.  He was their money-maker.   He stalked me, touched me inappropriately, and assaulted me.

The final straw was the day he was walking down the hallway with the CFO of the hospital and he came up to me flipped open the lab coat I always wore and said “Are you surprised to see she has breasts under this lab coat?”

That was it.  The CFO while embarrassed did nothing.  I did something.  I called an attorney who was well-known for handling sexual harassment cases  and by the time she was done investigating this hospital, this doctor, more women filed complaints.

We did not go to trial; everyone settled which is why I can’t name names.  In fact I had forgotten his name until the news broke about Weinstein and it all came back to me immediately.  I googled his name, he is no longer affiliated with the cancer center.  I am sure he never has stopped being a predator, and I can still see my attorney when she deposed him and asked him what he believed had given him the right to touch women inappropriately.  He replied saying that in his country when a woman smiles at a man she is giving him the okay to make sexual advances.  My attorney tipped her chair back slightly, folded her arms across her chest, informed the court reporter that she was going off the record and said “You better table that bullshit answer right now because there is not a jurist in this country who will allow you to use that as an excuse.”

I moved on in my career knowing that I now had more power than ever before and #MyHarveyWeinstein, while a memory, will continue to happen to women and young girls.  We need men to step up and speak out against the friends and family members they know behave badly.  Weinstein’s family knew, they looked the other way.  Money talks, bullshit walks, well not any longer.  We need to stand tall, stand strong and be heard.  I often wonder what would have happened if I had called the police that final day.

Thank you.

Love,
Carole