Monday, December 15, 2008

Because you asked me.

It has been and continues to be my pleasure and great privilege to share my perspectives with all of you. As of this writing, my blog has been viewed many thousands of times and I have received hundreds of responses.

Recently, I received some questions from people asking for my advise, or at least my perspective about their circumstances and challenges. The questions were so great, I wanted to share them and my response with all of you. I do hope that you will find these of value.

Please know that if you have a question, you may write to me directly at I promise you that if we publish your question and answer, your privacy and anonymity will be preserved.

Do know that I am not a mental health professional. But I am a big believer in them. If someone is struggling with adjusting to their new life, seek out professional help. It may be what is needed.

The first question and my response are below.

Dear Michael,

About two years ago, my mother had a brief but dramatic bout with brain cancer. My mom is a powerful and successful woman who has spent her career defying expectations and inspiring others, and so being in the role of a patient was already difficult enough for her. Her way to deal with it was to just not tell anyone about her cancer or surgery.

Thankfully, she lived through it and is now cancer free, but occasionally the evidence of the surgery is more obvious than she would like. The obvious clues are there, a faint but visible scar around the hairline, a few months of wearing a wig, a few missed big family events during the recovery period. Its the less obvious clues that seem to be the most upsetting to her - random and occasional stammering mid-sentence, difficulty focusing, less balance, and so on. As the visible scars healed, her behavioral ones seemed to increase. Now clients think that she is not the same, effective, powerhouse that she was before and they don't know why. She, understandably, doesn't tell them so not to seem unprofessional or needy of attention.

Doctor's say that the mental side effects of the surgery are probably permanant and may potentially worsen over time. How can I help my mother come to grips with her condition in a way that allows her to still feel in control? Is it right to share her medical needs with her clients? Is it okay that she's embarrased about these things?


Concerned in Concord

Dear Concerned in Concord;

Let me begin by saying "Good for Mom." She made it through. She is a survivor. She also sounds like she is a very strong, independent and proud woman, all characteristics that probably helped her to get through this ordeal. She also sounds a lot like my own mother did.

A great challenge for many of us, especially those of us who feel in control, is accepting that sometimes we are not in control. What I have learned and accepted is that life's events fall into one of three categories. They are those that we control, those that we influence and those that we have no control over. Much of our health is beyond our control, but it is subject to our influence.

What may help Mom is having a conversation about what is beyond her control and then discussing what options she may have to influence the course of her health. Discussing, hearing and accepting these truths, and her coming up with what she can do to influence the disease, may help her with acceptance and that helps a lot.

Does she tell people about her disease or does she hide it? If she has obvious symptoms and does not explain why, customers and friends will spend their time wondering what is wrong with her. Not addressing it may be like not addressing the elephant in the room. But by addressing it up front, the issue is diffused and the wondering can cease. Better than that is the potential for bonding, strengthening relationships and building trust, which is what we really want in our relationships, be they business or personal. After the elephant has been addressed, the elephant, or rather the disability can become invisible and everyone can focus on business. Then she can be seen as the strong, determined, knowledgeable professional that she is.

Embarrassed? Your mother needs to feel proud of her self and of what she has overcome. Your mother is out there in the world, participating and living. Whether she wants this or not, she needs to know that she is now a role model for all people of what it means to be alive, even with challenges. She also needs to know that by not sharing her story, she may be missing out on all the kindness the world has to offer her and all the experience and knowledge that people have to share.

Your mother sounds like a woman of extraordinary dignity and strength. Her continuing to participate in this life can and will inspire others. In return, she may get much more than increased business. She will get a new found respect, admiration and an out pouring of love and caring from all whom she touches. Sort of a bonus prize for being the champion she is.

I know this is true for me. Sharing my story and being the example to others that I want to be, has made my life richer, better and so very worth living. I hope your mom feels that way too.

You are lucky to have a mom like her. She is lucky to have a concerned family like you.


1 comment:

  1. Dearest Michael: What an inspiring Blog. This one, as I was reading reminded me of your beloved mother Lila. Yes she was strong and loved by everyone who knew her and her battle with Cancer. This women has soooo much to be greatful for, and yes she should share the fact that she is Cancer free. This will be an insperation to others who are fighting this mental battle of should I or should I not tell. Love Jean