The Unexpected Losses of Autumn


It’s been a melancholy morning: Cloudy sky, falling leaves, flowers in the pots on their very last legs, snoozing beagle perhaps on her last legs, me with the flu.

But now the sun is out and life is brighter. The leaves are falling golden now. The beagle’s slumber is a healing sleep. The herbs, perhaps, are making her well. The Father’s loving-kindness abounds.

I’ve been thinking lately about unexpected losses. Things that come up in your fifties that are not on your radar in your twenties, thirties or forties.

Things like losing a trusted doctor.

I’ve encountered three really good doctors in my life. By really good I mean really caring. I’m sure many have been really smart, but only three showed they really cared.

Dr. Morris

In college I dated a wrestler. He came to Michigan State University from a suburb of Cleveland to wrestle under the coaching of Grady Peninger.

I became sick one summer weekend while visiting the wrestler at his home in Ohio. The wrestler called his doctor, the doctor opened up his office in downtown Cleveland just to see me.

He drew blood and looked at it under a microscope. He called me over, had me look and explained what I was seeing.

He asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I fibbed and gave him the money-making type of answer that I thought adults who asked that question expected.

And then I told him I what I really wanted to do.

“Do what you love and the money will come,” he said.

I’ve quoted him often since then.

After quite a long visit he said he better get going before his wife started calling, they were due at his granddaughter’s birthday party.

He was clearly doing what he loved.

That one and only meeting was enough to induct Dr. Morris into my Hall of Fame.

Dr. Ferguson

I went to Dr. Ferguson because I had a respiratory infection, his office was close and he took the insurance I had back then. I didn’t know, when I made the appointment, that he was an internist who specialized in gastroenterology.

I could barely keep my head up in his waiting room, even started to doze off. When the nurse called me in I felt guilty for exposing her to my germs.  “That’s what we’re here for,” she said with reassuring kindness.

Dr. Ferguson looked at my blood, too. Then he sat next to me on the sofa in his office and explained what he saw.  He prescribed an antibiotic and then sent me to the hospital for an x-ray just in case…

When I went back for the follow up (yep, a doc who actually followed up) I mentioned a pain in my abdomen. He asked if I’d ever had a colonoscopy and that’s when I realized he had a specialty.

I only saw him twice after that – both times for a colonoscopy – but the way he took time to explain things and draw diagrams, the way the nurses at the hospital raved about him and said he used the really good anesthesia, they way he seemed to really care about my health made him my second inductee.

Dr. Migdal

Up until a few weeks ago Dr. Migdal was my gynecologist. It’s not TMI, it’s a fact.

I didn’t see him much more than once a year but I loved him.

I became his patient 15 years ago. I knew Dr. Migdal cared, not so much by the things he said to me as by the things he said about others. He didn’t name names or give any identifying information, he just shared general concern about patients who needed specific tests yet their insurance companies wouldn’t approve them. I often wished, listening to him, that I had a lot of dough, so I could start a fund for the patients he seemed to care so much about.

Once he expressed concern for a young woman who went into very early menopause, another time for a woman who discovered she was pregnant at 50.  He never violated confidentiality, he just showed his heart. He lamented that when he was a young obstetrician he would get called in the middle of the night informing him that a patient was in labor. He counted it a privilege to get out of bed and go immediately to the hospital.  Now, he said, obstetricians are not allowed to go to the hospital in the middle of the night, even those who want to. Regulations. He was grieved by all the new regulations.

Medicine is no longer an art. It’s no longer a science. It’s big business.

And Hall of Fame docs are becoming rare.

The last time I was in his office I asked Dr. Migdal his age. I didn’t say so, but I was hoping he was younger than me.  Because I had often thought that if I ever got cancer like my sister did, I would want him to be the one to walk me through it.

He happily answered. Turns out he is a few years older than me.

“You’re not planning to retire any time soon, are you?”

He assured me he wasn’t. But he would be having hip surgery.

It was an unexpected, yet dreaded, loss.

I read the letter and cried. Dr. Migdal’s recovery from hip surgery was not going as well as he had hoped. He was retiring, effective immediately.

I’ve never been one to cry over change. In my twenties, thirties and forties, I would have taken the letter in stride. Oh well, I would have shrugged, there are plenty of docs in the sea.

But in autumn, when leaves are falling all around you, you begin to feel vulnerable. You begin to not only appreciate a good doctor, you feel the need for one.

Since I received his letter 3 weeks ago, I’ve been meaning to send him a note. I want to tell him that he is inductee three in my Hall of Fame, that he’s up there with the greats. I guess this post is the rough draft.

Thank you for caring, Dr. Migdal. I’ll always have The Great Physician, but I wanted you for the duration, too.







Silence Hates

Linda over at Just Writing! wrote about the fallout from our country’s crisis of faith.  As a counselor, she sees much devastation from our casual and ignorant attitudes toward sex.

As an abstinence speaker, former social worker and former crisis pregnancy center director, I’ve seen the devastation, too.

So I added my amen to her post by leaving this comment:

99.99% 0f all cervical cancer is caused by strains of HPV.  There is a rise in mouth and throat cancers due to the epidemic of HPV. There is a link between breast cancer and aborting a first pregnancy.

Some of us think God is a killjoy.  God is a protector.

Some think God punishes sin. God protects from sin.

If a mom tells her two year old not to touch a hot stove, it’s not to spoil her two year old’s fun.

If the two year old touches the hot stove anyway and gets burned, the burn is not a punishment for disobedience, it’s a consequence of not heeding her mother’s protective warning.

Foolish people.  We aren’t sheep without a shepherd, we HAVE a Shepherd. We’re sheep with wool over our eyes.

Do yourself a favor. Do your kids a favor. Do your country a favor.  Educate yourself. Educate them.  You can start here: Public Service Announcement: It Ought to Come with a Warning.

And then speak up. Speak up and Love.




Circumstantial Evidence

Something is wrong with my eye. The lower lid is tender, red and swollen. The eye doc prescribed antibiotic drops and said if it doesn’t improve by early next week, I’ll have to be evaluated by an ophthalmic plastic surgeon.

Praying it doesn’t come to that.

I am to administer a drop every 6 hours. Normally, I am a diligent patient and when a prescription says every six hours, I take it exactly every six hours around the clock. Because it works best that way.

But Wednesday night I thought a good, uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep might be more beneficial to my healing than strict adherence to the schedule, so I decided I would put a drop in when I woke up instead of setting an alarm.

Early Thursday morning I awoke while it was still quite dark and the house was still completely quiet. I pried my eyes open enough to check the clock on the nightstand. It was 5:45. The EXACT time the next drop was due.

If God woke me up for the drop, then I needed it now. So I got out of bed.

Yesterday my eye was worse.

Again last night I decided in favor of eight hours of sleep, especially since the drops didn’t seem to be working anyway.  Again this morning God woke me. At 5:40. His timing, again, was perfect. I administered the before bed drop a few minutes early because I was tired and wanted to go to sleep.

So even though my eye doesn’t feel any better and looks worse, I’m thinking the eye drops MUST be working. Otherwise, God wouldn’t keep bothering to wake me up.

Of course they might just be keeping the infection from raging out of control.

Staying home today with warm compresses. Gonna’ go eat something to boost my immune system…

I blame the Christmas tree.



I tried to do it properly, I really did. But last night, right before bed, I wondered whether I would have to borrow Buddy Boy’s epipen jr. – maybe both of them.

And then I dreamed about dying in my sleep.

When I awoke, congested, my eyes looked like Donny’s – at the point when Rocky was about to call the fight – minus the blood.

I found the hub in the dining room working on the jigsaw puzzle we started last night.

“Let’s skip church and take down the Christmas tree, I think I’m allergic to it.”

He chuckled, “You said that last year.”

“I did? Then I probably am.”

My daughter was heading out to church. “Say good-bye to the tree…”

“What? The Crawley’s wouldn’t approve!”

“I know, but the Crawley’s probably wouldn’t want me to die either. And I really wanted to enjoy it tonight while we watch Downton Abbey.”

After the hub dragged it outside, I vacuumed up all the needles and then typed “Can you put bleach in Christmas tree water to combat mold?” into my search engine because when I dumped the water it smelled really bad/moldy.

I’m sharing the useful information I found in case you, too, have an undiagnosed Christmas tree mold allergy.

Oh, and while I was vacuuming, I was thinking. I won’t bore you with the train of thought that lead me there, but I was thinking that those who call Christianity/religion a crutch often have crutches of their own. Things that get them through stressful, tough times. Alcohol.

I realize that thought isn’t groundbreaking and I’m sure it’s been thought a lot, and said, by lots of people. But for me, today, it was an epiphany.

Happy Sunday.



Public Service Announcement: It Ought to Come with a Warning

Last I heard, six partners or more is considered medically promiscuous. That’s six total partners – consecutive and/or concurrent.

I grew up with a girl who became sexually involved with a man from the neighborhood. She was sixteen, he was thirty-two and married – he said his wife was a bitch. She was too young and naive to know that the wife is always a bitch, and never that he is simply a cheating bastard. So she gave him her virginity and he gave her HPV (human papillomavirus) – the gift that keeps on giving. He gifted her with one of the strains that causes recurrent genital warts.

She was not promiscuous, medically speaking, and yet she still contracted a disease. Because it only takes one rogue partner.

I remember how much pain she was in when the doctor burned them off, how she couldn’t sit down.

After all that, the warts came back.

She is married now and avoids intercourse with her husband when she has an outbreak, which is good, I suppose, but HPV is contagious even when there are no lesions present.

She is lucky, though, because the strains that manifest as warts are usually not the strains that cause cervical cancer.  Those strains have no visible signs.

I learned about the connection between HPV and cervical dysplasia/cervical cancer years ago at a conference on the epidemic of STDs among adolescents. I also learned from one of the speakers – a doctor specializing in adolescent health with a practice in the Boston area – that the AMA (American Medical Association) made a decision to NOT share that connection with patients.

My head reeled, sitting there in the audience, as my stomach and my naive trust absorbed the blow: Doctors withhold information at the direction of the AMA?

I raised my hand, “How can they not tell?”

“There’s nothing doctors can do about it, there’s no cure for HPV, so why get patients upset?”

“Well there is something patients can do about it,” I countered, “they can choose to be less promiscuous, they can make informed decisions about their sexual behavior.”

“There are people who don’t want them to be less promiscuous,” he shrugged. “Sex is a huge money-making industry.”

Don’t get me wrong, the speaker is a good guy who takes time away from his practice to travel around the country speaking to kids about the risks casual sex poses to their health. He was just telling it like it is.

As I drove home from the conference I thought about friends who had cervical dysplasia and who had no idea they were at risk of developing cervical cancer; who had no idea of its connection to HPV. I thought of the “medically promiscuous” teens and young adults who came to the center for free pregnancy tests. I thought of the young client I had seen recently, the one who had already had seven different partners and she was only seventeen.

I started to sob those I-need-windshield-wipers-for-my-eyeballs kind of sobs.  “Lord, you have to warn them,” I begged.

I shared what I learned at the conference with the volunteers back at the pregnancy center. One of them, a nurse, confided that she was diagnosed with cervical dysplasia – a pre-cancerous condition – and she had to really press and insist before her doctor would tell her the cause of her condition – HPV.

She was a virgin when she married her husband and her husband had had only one previous sex partner – his first wife. So how did she contract HPV? His first wife was unfaithful, hence their divorce.

A few years later I traveled to Houston for a conference on adolescent sexual health. The main speaker told the story of a man whose wife – her patient – died of cervical cancer at Scott and White. He remarried. His second wife also became a patient at Scott and White and she also died of cervical cancer. The man became angry, blamed the hospital. The hospital pointed out that they were not the common denominator, he was.

Testing showed that HPV had made a comfy home for itself just under the surface of his skin. No warts, no visible signs on his body. He had lost two wives to a virus he did not know he carried.

One of the aims of that conference in Houston – though it was not advertised as such – was to introduce a new vaccine that was about to hit the market, a vaccine that would protect against six of the over one hundred strains of HPV. The keynote speaker was on the team that developed the vaccine.

Not too long afterward, I received a postcard in the mail urging me to “Tell Someone.” It was from the maker of the vaccine.

This is the postcard I received in the mail, to which I added some of the facts I learned at the medial conference.

This is the postcard I received in the mail, perhaps you received one, too, minus the facts, which I added based on the information I was given at the medial conference.

Oh yeah, now you want me to tell someone, now that there is money to be made.

I’m not even going to go into the pros and considerable cons of the vaccine. Not today anyway.

Here’s the bottom line: You can be a sixteen year old virgin, have sex with one rogue guy and get HPV. You can save yourself for marriage and marry someone who had only been with his (cheating) wife, and end up with HPV. So how the heck do the “medically promiscuous” think they are going to escape disease?

The American Lung Association (or maybe it’s the American Cancer Society) has been running frequent ads featuring people who were filmed speaking with voices distorted by tracheostomies and showing torsos maimed by surgeries and painful lung drainage tube removals, who have since died, in an effort to convince smokers to quit smoking. Though I hate to watch the ads, I am glad they are being shown so frequently and I pray the campaign will be highly successful.

If it is, then I pray it will be followed by a similar campaign featuring infertile couples (last I heard, infertility rates were up 300% – much of which is due to scarring from pelvic inflammatory disease caused by chlamydia and other sexually transmitted bacterial infections); featuring women fighting cervical cancer, men suffering from epididymitis; men and women battling virulent oral cancers caused by HPV, etc.  Show young and old what can come of the fun, cool, casual sex they see on tv. Perhaps urge them to do what God told them to do in the first place:  Keep their (future) marriage beds pure.  Without mentioning God, of course, so people will listen. Keep it purely scientific, without giving props to the One behind the science.

Sex ought to come with a warning – a parental warning, a medical warning, a societal warning, like it used to – before infertility rates were sky high and STDs were epidemic.


Workout Wednesday

My blood pressure is low to begin with.  And I am chronically dehydrated.  So if I don’t drink at least 16 ounces of water before I go to the gym my heart rate won’t even register.

This morning I was on the treadmill for 10 minutes and my heart rate was only 60.  I use the cardio program so the incline increases gradually until you reach your target heart rate and then it adjusts accordingly.  The incline 10 minutes in this morning was 8+ and I was still only registering a heart rate of 60.  I was red-faced, perspiring and breathing heavy.  There is no way my heart rate is only 60. This machine is going to kill me if it doesn’t register an increase soon.

The incline increased to 10 and still nothing.  I switched the program to random to prevent a heart attack and set the incline at 5.5.  My heart rate finally climbed to 112.  Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.  But not somewhere enough.

I pulled myself out of my thoughts to investigate.  As soon as I got out of my head and into my surroundings and engaged with the music that was blaring from my earbuds, my heart rate registered 154 – which is dangerously close to the limit for a woman my age.

I set the program back to cardio in order to keep a steady heart rate and went back to my thoughts.

I started wondering some stuff:

Does a person’s body go into a low biorhythmic zen state when deep in thought?  Deep in pleasant or neutral thoughts that is – angry thoughts surely raise the heart rate.  Is that why my blood pressure is always so low?

Does the mind trump the body – does deep in thought trump walking at 3.7 miles per hour up an incline of 10 on the treadmill?  Or was I just on a bum machine?

All I know is that when I went back to my thoughts my heart rate dropped to the mid-one twenties.  I had to actively engage with the music to stay at my target rate of 132.

I’m going to tag this fitness, etc. and hope an exercise physiologist and/or exercise guru or two will shed some light.

Cool down song of the day: