Today is my birthday. I am sixty-one. Over half-way home and if my genealogy is any indication, I may live another 30 – 40 years. My mom always says, we are made of stout stuff, and are pioneer tough.
I love genealogy and learning about my ancestors. I am Daughter of the Utah Pioneers with ancestors on all 4 lines who crossed the plains in the mid 1800’s and settled in Salt Lake City. I enjoy discovering where and when they were born, where they lived, and when and how they died. Interesting, but I relish the stories that have been captured in letters, interviews & journal entries which provide personal insights into their lives. I am inspired by their strengths, grateful for their sacrifices and for the blessings of my life. I often feel “watched over” by them as I go about my days.
Just this week I came across a letter from my 5th great grandmother to her daughter in Pontiac, Michigan. It was sent July 31st, 1847 from Winter Quarters, Nebraska as she, at the age 77, of was preparing for the trek west. Her letter included a list of the things she needed as the journey was long and she wanted to be as comfortable as possible. Here is her list:
“A bee and quilt skirt, nightcaps, and stuff for day caps (both black and white). A good tea pot, pocket hanker chiefs and plenty of snuff, tea, loaf sugar, rice, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, oil of cloves, hemlock, peppermint and tanzy, a rocking chair, some cotton stocking yarn, and a set of hair for Almira. I want all my children to send me a little keepsake that I may have it to look back upon and think of them when I am far from them.”
I just have to shake my head and smile. My life is so very different. The stresses and challenges faced by our ancestors are ones we cannot imagine. Yet, in our day, though we do not face the same physical hardships, we surely have our own burdens to bear.
I have been thinking a lot lately about life and death. About my time on earth, my decisions, outcomes, regrets, accomplishments, joys, and sorrows. I wonder, what will my loved ones remember about me when my life in summed up in a dash on a headstone between my birth and death dates? I often joke with my kids that I just want my epitaph to say, “She meant well.” Because I do, and in spite of my mistakes, I do try to love and serve, be an example of goodness, and a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
Recently, our family has been forever changed by two unexpected, and devastating deaths. First, my sister Melody, who at the age of 47 died suddenly of pneumonia. The second, our son in law’s mom, our grandkids’ Nana, at the age of 63 from a stroke. Both were unexpected, shocking, and devastating. We are all still trying to adjust.
As I think of Melody, I remember her laughter and how she brought such overwhelming joy to me with her hysterical sense of humor. She loved life and taught her son Jesse, (12 years) to do the same.
When I think of Kris, I remember her for her genuine and unconditional love for her family. She was a giver in life and even in death as an organ donor. Our kids just received a letter from one of her kidney recipients. What a wonderful gift! Her selflessness has inspired me to also become an organ donor.
As I ponder the years that I have left on this earth, I have a renewed commitment to live a life worthy to be followed by those who will come after me. When my posterity and those I love, look at the dash on my headstone, may they remember me not just for meaning well, but for doing well.
In this challenging time in which we live, my hope for you is that you may find time to evaluate your life, have the courage and strength to make course corrections, changes and modifications needed to live your best life. May I encourage you to focus on what truly matters. To forgive, love, serve those in need, do more of what you enjoy, and make the most of your ‘dash.’
Yes, it’s been 25 years since I took control of my weight, improved my health and changed the direction of my life by choosing weight loss surgery. In 1995, many looked down on a surgical option as an intervention for the disease of obesity and making the decision to go under the knife was not an easy one. Especially when my insurance would not cover the cost. But I am so glad I did. My journey has been full of ups and downs, weight loss, weight gain, mistakes made, thrilling successes, and many lessons learned.
Throughout my years as a WLS patient, I have worked in the bariatric community. (Bariatric Support Center Int’l). It has been my great privilege to provide education, inspiration, and motivation to tens of thousands of patients. I have lost with you, learned from you, and celebrated with you. I will be forever grateful for my place in the bariatric universe.
As I look back, reviewing my life’s decisions, mistakes and accomplishments, the choice to have weight loss surgery a defining decision was surely a life changer for me. Since that new beginning, I have tried to focus on paying it forward, on supporting and encouraging others. Willingly, sharing the things I have learned along the way.
This year is a milestone; worthy of notice and a bit of reflection. I would like to share with you the following list of 25 lessons I have learned in my 25 years as a weight loss surgery patient. I have written books, many articles, blogs, produced videos, given keynote speeches, and I have referenced some of those in my list should you like to learn more about those lessons. Please learn and enjoy and may the next 25 years, (Oh my, I’ll be 85!) be full of more happiness, hope, and good health.
- Learn from long term losers. (Back to the Beginning Videos)
- Honeymoons are awesome! 5 Clues That Your WLS Honeymoon is Over and What to Do About It!
- Sugar is evil (Sugar Free Me)
- Don’t stop short of your goal. (Goal-Getting)
- Gluten is a problem for me.
- I must exercise every day. (Just Do It!)
- Always pay it forward (Paying It Forward Feature Article)
- I have learned to eat to live instead of living to eat.
- Good food is expensive, but so is chocolate!
- Peanut M&M’s are not really a protein.
- Old habits die hard. (Exchanging Habits)
- Intermittent Fasting works for weight maintenance. (Ways Intermittent Fasting Works For Me)
- My “Why’s” have become more important to me.
- I have both supporters and saboteurs in my life.
- Regain sneaks up; one pound a year… 25 years, 25 pounds
- I’ve learned to listen and to respond to my body’s signals.
- My food choices effect how I feel mentally, physically, and emotionally.
- Water rules (The Dangers of Dehydration)
- Vitamins are a must (Bariatric Vitamins)
- Embracing the Moments (Embracing Moments That Matter)
- Positivity is a choice every day (15 Positive Ways to Spend 15 Days)
- Knowing & understanding myself is essential Top 5 Things Every WLS Patient Must Know About Themselves
- I am my best self when I live in gratitude.
- To succeed, I must learn what successful patients know, and do what they did. (The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients
- God is good, life is short. No Tomorrow?
Perhaps like me, you wake up each morning wondering if there was an earthquake, or an explosion? If the government is still fighting? If COVID cases are going up or down? Our world is filled with crazy, chaos and confusion. And that’s exhausting.
So many things are simply out of our control, and that leaves us feeling helpless and so very unsettled. We know that things will never be normal again. But wonder what will our new normal be? Perhaps you have asked yourself these same questions, I share from a song, lyrics by Emma Lou Thayne from our hymn book:
“Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace When other sources cease to make me whole? When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice, I draw myself apart, Searching my soul?
“Where, when my aching grows, Where, when I languish, Where, in my need to know, where can I run? Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish? Who, who can understand? He, only One.”
So where do you find peace? The photo I used for this article shows my little dog and I kayaking last week on a beautiful, Star Valley, Wyoming day. Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? Yes, but I have come to know that peace is not a place. Peace is not a person or a thing. In fact, peace is inside each of us. Peace can be found even among chaos. It’s hard to find and even harder to keep, but I am grateful for still, calm moments that provide opportunity to connect with my Father in Heaven, find strength to meet my life’s challenges, and gather renewed hope for a bright, beautiful tomorrow.
May I share with you a few things that I do regularly to find calm among the chaos.
- Find a place of solitude and stillness. I love our rivers, lakes, and streams, but you may have a favorite park, a tree in your yard, a patio or even a quiet corner in your home.
- Turn off the noise, turn off the news! For more years that I can count, I have kept my cell phone on my nightstand. No more! It is in my room, (in case kids, grandkids call) but not within reach when I wake up. I spend my first moments of each day in prayer and meditation, quietly in my own mind before I let the world in.
- Try Yoga & Tai Chi. Though I am not the best at it, I enjoy these occasionally. They help me connect with my body, balance myself and clear my mind. I am intrigued by the history and science of these ancient rituals. I enjoy learning about energy and how it flows.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. There are so many things to complain about these days. It’s easy to find problems; they are everywhere. In these trying times it is more important than ever, to focus on all that is right, good and positive. Work to see the good and be the good each day.
- Connect with higher power. Those of you that know me personally, know that I am a Christian, (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). I cherish spending time in study and prayer. I love learning and serving. I draw strength, direction and most importantly peace from my Savior. Whatever your beliefs, may you find ways to draw closer to your higher power and may you find your peace.
- Change your tune. Music has always been a powerful motivator for me. I have several energy up music playlists that I listen to when I exercise. Just as music can energize, it can also calm and soothe. Here is one of my favorites songs I listen to when I am seeking peace. Enjoy. There Is Peace in Christ.
I challenge you to spend some time focusing on your personal well-being. Commit today to create the time and space you need to reconnect to all that is good and right in your life. And may you find comfort, strength and peace.
Just before the ‘crazy’ my husband Roger and I enjoyed a cruise to the Caribbean. My are there some incredible yachts! Some with helicopters, private islands and full-time staff. It’s fun to see them and we especially like to read the names. Some are funny, some creative, some obviously very personal. One particularly beautiful yacht was named “Plan A.”
That name seemed so significant, and I have thought about it many times since. Sometimes find ourselves having little hope in our life’s Plan A and when it gets tough, move on quickly to Plan B, C, etc. as time goes on. It was inspiring to me to me to see that this yacht owner apparently kept his (or her) eye on the goal, stuck with it and was rewarded with what I can only assume is a dream come true.
Last week, we had some friends visit and we joined them on a white water rafting adventure on the Snake River. The guide, obviously very experienced, explained that there were only 2 plans for our trip. Plan A, the one where we paid attention, followed the rules paddled when and how he directed, and we all stay in the boat. Plan B, however, promised a vastly different outcome. Plan B, he explained was the one where some, if not all of us would fall out of the raft because we failed to trust our guide and follow his instructions. We all took a vote. Plan A it was. He made his point well and as none of us were keen on going for a swim, we listened and obeyed the rules with careful precision.
Plan A was hard work! We had to listen carefully to his directions, follow through as directed and stay focused on staying on the boat, even through level 3 and 4 whitewater rapids. Fun, but sticking with our Plan A took commitment, dedication and follow through even through the most difficult times.
Such it is with our lives. Right now, we all seem to be focused on responding to the chaos, trying to survive, and preparing for what may come next. Much of our energy is being consumed with uneasiness, anticipation, and uncertainty. Plan A may not seem even remotely possible right now, as our lives have been derailed, sent off course, and upended by things beyond our control.
Like the rapids on the river, this too will pass. Many prayers for calmer waters ahead, but in the meantime, we must stay in the boat, hold fast to our Plan A, and keep paddling.
Finally! At least we hope that your bariatric surgeries are on the move again. We are pleased to hear reports of bariatric programs resuming surgery schedules and providing once again, access to this important intervention to those who have been waiting.
With new protocols, added tasks and an anxious weight list, you may find that there is more expected of you than ever before. Here are a few ideas that may help.
- Engage the help of successful veteran patients to provide peer support for new patients. If you ask, you will likely find many who are willing to volunteer and even manage and maintain your buddy groups. They are also potential administrators for your social media accounts. And yes, they will need to know when and how to refer questions to medical professionals and only speak to their own experience. But once organized, these grateful and willing volunteers will expand your outreach and enhance your patient’s experience. The Dangers and Benefits of Using Patients in your Program.
- If you have not already done so, consider recording your informational session and make it available online. Easily done by recording a live session on Facebook, Google or YouTube, or consider offering even more educational modules on an elearning platform such as Thinkific.com. See Bariatric eLearning. Offer a test or quiz to ensure patient understanding of the materials. Providing 24 /7 access to these essential, but general basics, will free up your time for one on one appointments to answer questions and discuss individual needs and expectations prior to surgery.
- For those of you requiring pre op attendance in a support group consider, referring your patients to one of BSCI’s online or telephonic groups. Facilitated by BSCI’s experienced and skilled bariatric educators, these groups provide insight, connection and encouragement. Participants can request a letter of attendance for their file.
Among her many talents, my dear friend, Doreen was famous for her bread baking skills. Every week without fail, she would bake 6 beautiful loaves; sometimes from the wheat she ground herself. As they came out fresh from the oven, she would first, select the very best loaves to donate to our church for our Sacrament. (The Lord’s Supper). It was her gift, and it was filled with gratitude and reverence for our Savior’s atoning sacrifice.
Then, remaining loaves also became gifts. She strategically and thoughtfully selected people, families and sometimes even strangers to receive a loaf.
Throughout these past few months of COVID19 distancing, Doreen continued to bake and have others deliver her bread to people she felt prompted to serve. She kept a list of those who had received a loaf, and each week she would ask about families who were moving in or out of our neighborhood, someone who who might be struggling or who might need a little cheering up, or someone she wanted to thank. A few weeks ago, I was asked to deliver Doreen’s loving gift to 5 homes, and as a thank you, she wanted us to have one!
This week, suddenly, Doreen passed away at her home of natural causes. Mindful of how much it meant to her, her family arranged for the last loaf to be delivered to Doreen’s selected recipient; a young couple who had just brought home their first baby. The perfect family to receive her last loaf.
As I have recalled the last time I saw Doreen and our last conversation, I am inspired once again by her consistent focus on others and her unwavering commitment to love and serve. Throughout this sheltering at home time, she reached out to others in any and every way she could. She sent messages, Facebook posts, thoughts and pictures. Just hours before her passing, Doreen posted this message:
Perhaps, you too find meaning and significance in one’s final words and actions. I only knew Doreen for a few short years, but am so very grateful for her life, her love and her example of goodness.
Even in the best of times the wait for bariatric surgery can be substantial. Most pre-op patients are given a long list of to do’s like informational sessions, lab work, evaluations, medical tests, visits with the dietician, and psychologist, etc. All important to be sure, but consider what else might be offered to keep them motivated and excited about their upcoming life changes.
During this time of temporary shut down / slow down of non-essential surgeries the added wait time for a bariatric patient can be beyond discouraging. Here are a few ideas that you might share with your pre-op patients to encourage them to spend this time learning, connecting and staying excited and enthused about their upcoming weight loss successes.
- Attend Telephonic and online support groups
- Subscribe to eNews, Articles and Insights
- Learn and be inspired by veteran patients
- Attend Colleen Cook’s “Three Essentials Before Surgery Webinar”
- Download the free copy of “3 Essentials You Must Know Before You Have Surgery”
- Enroll in The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients eLearning Series
- Participate in Bariatric Support Facebook Group
Most of all, an outreach call, text or email from your bariatric team might mean the world to them at this difficult time. Let them know you are thinking of them, that you understand the wait is challenging and that you too, are anxious for them to move forward towards a happier and healthier life.
In the midst of what is thought to be the peak of this horrible pandemic, I know that this too shall pass. Life will never be the same as it was pre COVED-19, but I suspect we are not too far from getting back to some normality in our work lives.
As I look towards that time, this thought occurred to me. When this is over and I look back at the many days and weeks of ‘at home’ time, will I wonder where the time went and what I did with it all? Will I be proud or disappointed in how I spent my precious time? When I look back, will I say to myself ‘How I wish I would have…”
In 2016, when my husband Roger and I left Salt Lake City to build a log home in the woods, we took a great risk. It was a hard decision and we were very brave in actually taking the leap. We sold our home and other property, put our ‘life’ in a storage unit and set off on a challenging adventure. Recognizing that we were both getting older, we decided that we did not want to look back on our life and say, “I wish we would have…” but rather, “I am so glad that we…”
So it is with this unprecedented gift of time. As I shared in my article “The Time You’ve Been Given” healthcare workers aside, each of us can decide what we will do with this time. Try this technique. Take a moment and consider yourself and your life three months from now. That brings us to mid-July. You will likely be back at work, and you will be back to your crazy, busy, hectic, non-stop neck breaking daily routine. You’ll be grateful to have your “life” back to be sure, but looking back to today and the current situation you now find yourself in, how will you answer this question,
“What do I wish I would have accomplished when I had the time?”
This has been a great technique that I have used many times in my life. Projecting myself into the future 1 year, 5 years or even 10 years hence and then looking back to imagine how that time played out. The key for me is the recognition that my life was, is and will be of my own design. Those people who accomplish great things and enjoy successes, did not simply allow their lives to happen by chance, but deliberately by choice; by setting goals and managing their time.
This time, right now can be a life changing, relationship renewing, self-improving time like no other. Roger and I have been so grateful for this time to spend with our grandchildren as we help our families through this crisis. We have made more calls to our parents, reached out to neighbors, sent letters and notes of love and encouragement. Important things, essential things that should, but usually never get done in our ‘normal’ life.
As you consider this strange time in your life, I challenge you to use it wisely. When you look back, what will you have accomplished? Whom will you have served? How will you have improved? What will you have learned? What relationship will you have strengthened? Because like the country singer Trace Adkins song suggests, I suspect….
You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this
Though some restrictions have been lifted, we still live in a world of change, uncertainty and for some, fear. The extra stress of current circumstances may find your patients continuing to struggle to maintain their healthy habits and stay committed to their weight loss goals. As a bariatric coordinator, program director, support group leader, nurse, dietitian, coach, or mental health professional, you see the picture quite clearly but may not know what you could do or what should do about it.
We can help you, help them. For over 20 years BSCI’s contribution to the bariatric community has been helping patients learn and embrace a healthy, lasting bariatric lifestyle; day in and day out. Here are a few of ideas that you can offer to help your patients stay focused, connected and engaged in positive behaviors.
- Subscribe them to Bariatric eNews, Articles & Insights
- Inspire them by watching “Back to the Beginning Interviews” with successful long-term patients.
- Encourage them to join us for our free Telephonic and Online Support Groups.
- Help them stay accountable by weighing each week and posting picture of themselves on the scales to your website or Facebook page.
- Offer a cooking show with your dietitian, or daily workout with your exercise specialist.
- Organize a buddy system to connect new patients to veteran patients for calls, texts, chats, etc.
- Connect them to BSCI’s Facebook Bariatric Support Group for helpful posts, insights, & videos.
- Gift them a copy of the #1 Bariatric Best Seller The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients (hard copy or ebook)
- Video broadcast live interviews with your most successful patients
- Arrange an online Q & A panel discussion with your bariatric surgeons and staff for those awaiting surgery.
Helpful ideas, we hope. Now what about you? How are you managing through these difficult times? How are you keeping yourself engaged, moving forward, learning and serving? Now may be a great time for you to invest in opportunities to sharpen your skills, improve your program, support your staff. We can help there too. Visit Bariatric eLearning for some wonderful online resources.
And for a little personal boost, you may enjoy Colleen’s latest article, “The Time You’ve Been Given – 15 Positive Ways to Spend 15 Days.” Enjoy!
Our best to you, your family, your bariatric program and patients.