Sunday, July 3, 2011

'The Magic Words' (TEDx Talk, published)

Previously published in Cell2Soul, Health Story Collaborative, TEDx Talk (India)

Years ago while living in Los Angeles, dealing with my breast cancer treatments, I met a remarkable Nurse Practitioner named Sherry Goldman.  She was in charge of a special breast cancer unit at UCLA which I had reluctantly attended figuring they couldn’t do much for me since there wasn’t much left of me to repair. The side effects of my chemo and radiation had not only gotten the best of my body but my mind as well. I was a heap of flesh, muscle, and nerves, something that resembled Marla but I wasn’t Marla anymore or at least I didn’t feel like I was.

When I walked into her office, Sherry met me with a professional yet warm demeanor. She shook my hand, asked me a few preliminary questions and then got right into it, giving me a detailed and extensive physical examination, which surprised me. Not at being examined per say but she was a nurse practitioner after all. I expected less detail, less hands-on, less something. Then she looked me in the eye and did something that was very unexpected. She asked me how I was feeling not just physically but emotionally as well. What was even more remarkable was that she waited for my answer. My honest detailed feelings of destitution didn’t rattle her bones for one moment. She took my hand and with a focused eye lock, told me that everything I said made sense and that it was brave of me to admit these things because most people cover it up. I felt validated by her and less alone with my hidden secret thoughts. She sat back and took time to assess my situation and then came up with a new course of treatment for me.
Her medical suggestion to improve my physical and mental well-being? Take walks every day.
            “Start small,” she said. “Short distances, a block or two at first and then make it longer with each day.”
My response to her was a resounding, “NO!  I don’t want to. I don’t feel good, I don’t look good, and I don’t have the energy and I don’t care how short or long the walk is. I just can’t do it.”

Well, Sherry sat quietly, absorbing my passionate declaration and then uttered to me what I like to call, ‘The Magic Words’. These were words that only one could say to another if one really took the time to listen. Not only did Sherry listen but she also had the keen observational skills to sense what the problem truly was with a simple walk and me. What were Sherry’s magic words?
            “Then don’t walk for you Marla, walk for ME...and I want to hear how much you’ve walked when you come back to see me in two weeks.”

Suddenly my eyes lit up, my back straightened and a fire was in my belly and it wasn’t acid indigestion. That day I went home and started to walk and with each day I walked more and more, and longer and further.  Soon, I was walking 3 hours a day, maybe more, chomping at the bit to report back to Sherry with pride at my new accomplishment. Two weeks later when I saw Sherry Goldman, I looked like a new person, and I was.

There is a belief that one shouldn’t do things just to please another but rather to do it to please oneself. Well, that’s all well and good some of the time but there are other times when it’s imperative to break that rule. If pleasing someone else is the key to getting a person back on track and healthy again then so be it and that’s exactly what happened with me.  Not only did my health and strength improve, but I also took up jogging and now I walk and run every day, FOR ME! And I have not stopped there. I ran my first 5K Marathon in March and came in 187 out of 600 people. Not bad at all, I say. It’s been years since hearing those 'Magic Words' and I haven’t had that kind of positive medical experience in a very long time, BUT I will NEVER forget what that incredibly smart and talented Nurse Practitioner did for me. NEVER!

Marla  Lukofsky
Keynote Speaker on Breast Cancer/Writer/Comedian/Singer

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