Monday, December 20, 2010

Lessons Along the River Bank

It was a dark and stormy night…. no it wasn’t. It was a beautiful fall morning. The orange leaves looked even brighter against a blue sky, proving once again that complementary colors make each other pop. The air had a fresh, slightly damp smell kicked up by the fallen leaves. I was all dressed and ready for work complete with new boots with heels. (It’s still a treat to be able to wear heels after almost a year in flats.)

I was moving toward the door, when I happened to look into the eyes of my beloved Labrador who was clearly indicating that she thought it was a beautiful day too, and perhaps there might be walkies in her future. What can you do? I grabbed a leash for her and for Cookie (her 5lb sister) and off we went. A walk along the river was the clear choice with meadows, protected woods and leash-free pleasure. I rarely have to use a leash for Ceilidh (kay-lee, the Gaelic word for celebration, which she is) but I always use one for Cookie (short for Christmas Cookie since she was born a year ago on Christmas day) because she’s very fast and makes her own decisions about responding to the word, “Come!” But she never strays far from her big sister so I felt secure in letting her enjoy some freedom on this glorious day.

It’s been interesting to see the relationship develop between my two companions. Ceilidh will be thirteen in January, still lively, enjoying life and relishing her raw food diet. She’s never met a dog or human she didn’t like so I thought I had a good chance with her accepting a new puppy. When Cookie arrived, she was eleven weeks and just under two pounds. She was about the size of one of Ceilidh’s ears. My fears of having her inadvertently squashed by a playful paw went unfounded with Ceilidh’s supreme indifference to the new member of our family. Cookie, on the other hand, had an immediate crush on the coolest dog she’d seen in her young life. Every opportunity to be in Ceilidh’s face was seized with gusto including swinging from that Labrador trademark -- soft, silky ears. Still, we scrupulously maintained the hierarchy and Cookie was clear who was top dog even though she tried to share Ceilidh’s bed and was firmly rejected.

On this beautiful morning, I have to admit that I was in my own world. I loved watching the dogs running, sniffing, exploring, living in the moment. I took a lesson from them and told myself that work can wait for half an hour while I drank in the gloriousness of this day and told the universe how grateful I was to be independent again and walking freely. I watched the river, swollen with recent rain, racing through over-hanging trees and foaming its way up and around those famous New England boulders left by ancient glaciers. I thought, “I bet its cold in there.”

It was then that I realized that Cookie wasn’t in sight. Unworried, I called. I called again. Even though her response time depends on her mood, she will generally show up, if only to make sure she isn’t missing a treat. I called again, this time I heard my voice go up an octave. Ceilidh was throwing side-glances at me. I walked towards the river bank which was particularly high and steep in this area. No way, she went down there. At five pounds, it must have looked like the Klondike. But I’d forgotten that she’s fearless. Ceilidh and I approached cautiously, me picking my way through the long wet grass in my new boots and trying not to get snagged by the various bushes. At last, close enough to peer over the edge.

And there she was, big round eyes looking up at us. Relieved to my core, I urged her upwards. She did try. I watched her as she backed up as far as she could without falling in the river and hurl herself at the slippery bank. She’d make it half-way up, suspend for a moment and then fall back down again. I was helpless having left all means of communication behind. It was then that Ceilidh took matters into her own paws. She surveyed the bank, walked along it and then cut diagonally across winding her way down until she reached the river. There the great Labrador stood, wagging her tail ready to lead Cookie to safety. Heart in my mouth, I watched Cookie get the message and walk forward perilously close to the rushing river – but she was thwarted by an impenetrable bramble; although she tried several times she couldn’t get through. Ceilidh stood for a moment, assessed the problem and climbed the bank back to me. Her look said, “Now it’s your turn.”

There was nothing for it; I had to go down. I eyed a sapling in the middle of the downward slope, set it in my sights and slithered towards it trusting it would stop my momentum, which it did. Fortunately, it was the perfect size to fix my heel around. Grieving for my boots as the mud oozed its way into the stitching, I reached lower and lower to try to grasp Cookie. She was tantalizingly close, about an inch away from my outstretched hand. I used all of my coaxing skills and finally, I was able to slip a finger into her collar and pull her towards me. Head-first down the bank, I twisted around and with one quick motion, I sort of threw her up the Klondike where I told her that if she moved, she was a hot dog.

Ceilidh had worked her way down the bank and was right by my side as I considered my options: a) remove my heel from its tenuous hold on this sapling and slide down the bank hoping that I don’t end up in the river, b) claw my way up the bank on all fours hoping that I don’t slide down the bank and end up in the river. Neither option particularly appealed. Ceilidh’s eyes said, “You’re stuck.”

Then I saw a root sticking out and I pulled on it. It released. I pulled again. It released again. Again and again until finally it held. Now we’re cooking. Bit by bit, pulling on this propitious root, I inched my way up the bank to victory and the three of us were on level ground at last. Cookie made no protest when I fixed her firmly to the leash. Ceilidh walked quietly by my side – mission accomplished.

When I look at myself in the mirror, nature-girl stares back. Leaves are woven liberally through my hair and mud decorates my cheeks. There’s nothing for it, I have to start all over again, (the older I get the longer it takes). But before I tackle the restoration, I realize that I’m feeling exhilarated and alive. It’s been years since I climbed a mud bank or used my wits to get out of a scrape. And I look at my partners in crime and see that they enjoyed it, too. But more than anything else, I marvel at the amount of wordless communication that took place in those few minutes. I marvel at the way Ceilidh figured out the problem and worked out a potential solution. Words can’t express how I feel as I look into her chocolate eyes, and loyalty and love look back. I pick up my little one and give her a hug; she licks my nose.

Now it’s December and the river that was cold in the fall will be frozen soon. We won’t be walking along it again until the spring. And in between are the holidays. So this seems like the right opportunity to wish you all the happiest of times. May you always have someone to help you figure out life’s challenges. May you always have someone who likes nothing better than just to be with you. And may you always have the experience of unconditional love, even if it means letting someone swing on your ears.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Early Breast Cancer Detection

For years, women have been relying on a combination of physical examinations and mammograms for early detection of any issues with their breast health. Mammography is a widely-used imaging technique that uses low-dose amplitude X-rays to examine the breast. Here in the United States, mammography is recommended every two years for women between fifty and seventy-four years of age. Mammography is a screening tool that can ultimately reduce mortality from breast cancer, but it is not without its problems. Women who are nursing, on hormone replacement, or who have fibrocystic, large or enhanced breasts, can sometimes experience difficulty with mammogram readings. For reasons that are unfortunately not yet understood, approximately 20% of cancers can’t be detected by mammography.

Enter Digital Infrared Imaging (or breast thermography), a new detection method at the frontline of early breast cancer detection. Breast thermography is based on the idea that metabolic activity and vascular circulation is higher around a developing breast cancer than it is in normal breast tissue. This method uses ultra-sensitive infrared cameras and computers to produce high-resolution images of any irregularities in temperature in the breast area. Mammography, ultrasound, MRIs and other structural imaging tools rely on the detection of a physical tumor. Thermography detects heat and other metabolic changes associated with a tumor’s genesis and growth. Because of its extreme sophistication, infrared imaging can detect temperature variations that could suggest a pre-cancerous state of the breast that is not large enough to be detected by other structural imaging methods.

Now, I’m not suggesting that breast thermography is better than a mammogram, nor that you should replace your favorite breast detection method with it. However, the absolute prevention of breast cancer is not a reality for us, yet. Until it is (and I have faith that it will be!) we have to be proactive and fearless about empowering ourselves with a variety of ways to detect irregularities in our breast health.

I’ve recently come across another way to assist with your breast health, and it’s something you can do on a daily basis. It even has a fun name: Phluffing! Developed by Breast Massage Specialist and Advocate, Cheryl Chapman, Phluffing stands for Personal Hand Lymphatic Undulating Flow Facilitation. It consists of exercises you can do two minutes a day, twice a day to move the all important lymph fluid which has no pump of its own. I’ve been doing the exercises religiously myself, and I’m so enthusiastic about the improvement in my overall well being that I’ve put together a video for you. You can watch it here.

That’s all for now! You’ll be hearing more from me as we head into one of my very favorite times of the year, the holidays. Talk to you soon!

Digital Imagery Infrared Screen image used courtesy of Yohei Yamashita through Creative Commons. "The Happy Breast Book" is by Cheryl Chapman. Available here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Pink October

Hello Everyone,

I’m excited to share news that will warm your heart as we head into the colder winter months. October marked the kickoff of our Rise Above with Love (RAWL) Campaign, and I finally have a chance to tell you about all the exciting things we did to celebrate.

We created RAWL to honor the support network around women living with, and through, breast cancer. Here in Great Barrington, we celebrated the launch with a whirlwind of events. Many lips were put to service in finding just the right shade of pink for our newest Sugar&Butter Lip Plumper and Exfoliator, which we named Phoenix in honor of the mythical bird that uses its own strength to overcome misfortune. We hosted an employee day at our home office where we had the chance to listen to three intelligent, inspiring and brave survivors: our own Business Consultant, Elaine Mahmarian; Elyse Spatz Caplan, Director of programs and partnerships at Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Bridget Hughes, Founder of The Pastures Cancer Retreat Center.

Several weeks later, we participated in a Face Forward walk that took place at The Pastures, which is a scenic drive from our home office. It took me longer to figure out how to upload photographs from this event than it took most of the participants to walk the hilly four-mile challenge, but I too, claimed victory. As you can see from the photographs, we had educators on hand to provide makeup tips to beautiful conquerors of all ages. After the walk, participants were invited to inscribe prayer flags with private messages, and share stories over homemade scones and apple cider.

Towards the end of October, accompanied by a serious case of the jitters, I travelled out to Albany to do an interview for NPR’s The Health Show. I had the opportunity to discuss our longstanding partnership with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, and was able to meet many of the people whose voices I’ve been listening to on air for so many years.

Last but not least (I told you it was a whirlwind!), the technological magicians in our digital department set up an inspiring microsite where people can upload their own stories and photographs to show the world how they have risen above, with love. I have no idea how they performed this technological miracle, but I do know you’ll enjoy it, so please do visit

One of my goals for 2011 is to invent a contraption that will allow me to be physically present in three different places in one time, and let me tell you, I really could have used it in October. While we were certainly busy here in Massachusetts, our wonderful partners were even more so, organizing their own Rise Above with Love events all across the country.

Our dear friends at Belfiore and Day Spa in Texas had a turnout of over 150 people for their all-day event. Complimentary makeovers and mini-hair, nails and massage treatments were offered to all attendees to make them feel special and beautiful. The director of the Waypointe Breast Cancer Center for Women came out to speak, a local business sponsored a sassy fashion show, and balloons with handwritten messages were released to the uplifting sounds of a live jazz band. A local chiropractor was even on site to offer free spinal analysis and body composition measurements, and a local caterer donated all the food. You see why I wish I could be in multiple places at one time?

Further north, in Missouri, at the Belladona Salon and Spa, six hundred people turned out for a lively, fun event. Music was provided by a fantastic band, the lead singer of which is a breast cancer survivor herself. Businesses from all over town brought gifts, and the local hospital donated mammograms all day. The creative geniuses at Belladona put together bouquets made out of strawberries as their centerpieces. Pretty as a picture, and mouth watering, too!

Closer to our home office, at C.O Bigelow in Manhattan, our business consultants Elaine Mahmarian and Mary O’Connor were on hand to provide makeup tips and touchups to consumers whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. We had a window display throughout the entire month of October, and as you can see from the attached photo, it was such a lively space, the store’s cat, Allegra, decided to adopt it!

How do you work to raise breast cancer awareness among your family members and friends? I'd love to hear your ideas and feedback.

Monday, October 04, 2010

See how our garden grows!

Here butterflies and bees fare far to rove

Amid the crumpled leaves of poppy flowers;

Here four o'clocks, to the passionate night above

Fling whiffs of perfume, like pale incense showers.

A little garden, loved with a great love!

-From “A Little Garden” by Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

I’m going to take a little time off from regaling you with stories of my rocky road to rehabilitation with news of an exciting event that took place at our headquarters here in Great Barrington, MA. Last winter, I joined the other members of our Green Team to discuss the creation of a company organic garden in the empty plot behind my mum’s house. We’re fortunate enough to own a lovely bit of sun-drenched land within walking distance of our local food bank. I had a vision of us toiling away in the garden, rewarding our efforts with lunches of crunchy carrots, crisp lettuce, and mouth watering berries, and putting together a basket of surplus produce for the food bank across the way. Well, dear readers, it happened. As I write this, I’ve got a mason jar full of fresh cut flowers on my desk, we’re reaping the benefits of a tasty fall harvest, and we’ve got a basket of juicy tomatoes and leeks en route to the food bank down the way.

It took quite a bit of effort to transform our cozy Green Team discussions about the garden into a garden. Now, I’m no newcomer to gardening. You might even say I have quite the green thumb. But when my husband announced that he intended to plant 20 yards of asparagus, I realized that we had to get organized. Really organized. And let me tell you, we did.

Because of its promises to save us (and our backs) from an invasion of weeds, we decided to adopt Mel Bartholomew’s square foot approach to gardening. We started out conservatively with a 42 x 18 plot, and got right down to the dirty work: we tilled the soil, brought in compost, dug soil beds, spread wood chips…we even constructed a compost bin! Somewhere around May when the black flies threatened to turn our joyful project into something of a nightmare, many non-Green Team members stepped in to get us past the least glamorous parts of the job. Bob did much of the digging with an impressively large and rented rototiller, employees brought in extra tools and contributed wood to make the bins, and many local farmers donated seeds and starter plants to help us with our exciting project.

From an initial list of about 40 vegetables, fruit and flowers we hoped to plant, we narrowed the selection down to 29. I’m proud to tell you that Bob’s 20 yards of asparagus did indeed, make the cut. (Check back in three years to find if they grew or not!) After a luscious, hot summer, we can’t give our heirloom tomatoes away fast enough. Beans, summer squash, kale, chard and leeks have also thrived. Our blueberries and strawberries have, too.

I want to give special attention here to three irreplaceable members of our Green Team; Margherita Lamanno, Megan Choquette and Mery Chaires. These three women put immense amounts of brain and muscle power into this garden, and set a great example for the rest of the team. Margherita worked extra hard to keep everyone informed with regular updates and photographs, along with seasonal recipes. I caught up with her recently to share our impressions of our first harvest. “What a fantastic first year garden we have!” She said. “It is a beautiful reflection of all our hard work and efforts as a community. It makes me smile looking out in the sunshine and to see butterflies dancing around our bounty.”

I, too, feel proud of our garden. The parallels between our growing garden and our growing company warm my heart. Both require hard work, dedication, a little bit of sweat, and some intuition. Both demand patience, and watering, too. One with real water, and one with ideas. I just can’t wait to share more of mine with you as our garden grows.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Jane with physical therapist, Don Carlos.
Both well protected from UV rays.
June 13, 2010
My friend took care of me so well that by the time she left, I’d graduated from a walker to the flashy cane that she bought me. The first few steps on the cane were a miracle in concentration. I fell into the therapist’s arms the way a baby does the first time she puts one foot in front of the other. There was even applause from my proud mother.

Later, I stayed with a friend in warmer climes and did physical therapy in her pool. It was the most fun I’d had for a long while. It felt so good to be weightless; gravity can really get you down.

Now I’m walking without a cane although I do use it at airports where people are much nicer to you when they see it. The same doesn’t apply at security. I was fully expecting to be hauled to one side as a suspect because my surgeon had warned me that I have enough metal in my leg to set off every alarm in the airport. I know it’s true because I made the mistake of looking at the x-ray, which I don’t advise. Somehow it makes it very real. What I saw was not only the 16” of titanium down my femur but also a diagonal rod that was holding the bone together. A new technique, my surgeon told me. “If you’d had the same injury five years ago, you would have been in traction for three months, by which time all your muscles would have atrophied. People used to die from this injury.” I feel much better now.

He gave me one of those cards to show when you go through security explaining why all the whistles and bells have been triggered. I was pulled out of the line (so embarrassing) and thoroughly frisked by a human in a uniform with gloves on; she even examined the bottom of my feet. (I’m convinced that it won’t be long before we have to go through security naked.) Anyway, I got to thinking that the next time I should try it without wearing my twelve inch belt buckle to see if it made a difference. So, on the return trip, I did, and sure enough, I got through without raising the constabulary. When I related this to my surgeon, he posited this question: “If you can get through with that much metal, doesn’t it make you wonder what other metal people can get away with?” I don’t want to think about that one.

  • Black ice doesn’t discriminate.
  • Appreciate the hospital staff. It isn’t their fault.
  • Never underestimate the power of a flower.
  • Keep hospital visits to thirty minutes. You’ll get more visits that way.
  • What you resist persists.
  • It wasn’t meant to be. It was an accident.
  • Eliminate “if only.” It was an accident.
  • Positive thoughts from those around you really do help.
  • Your own positive thoughts really do help.
  • Any improvement is better than no improvement. Then pat yourself on the back.
  • This is an opportunity to find out more about yourself.
  • Breaking your leg is a great excuse for afternoon naps.
This would be a good time to thank all of you who have read this series of posts and sent me encouraging words as well as sharing some of your experiences with me. All you Facebook fans, you’ve been wonderful. It was this incredible support that I received from people I know and people I don’t know that turned this experience into something that I could almost consider worthwhile.

There was one other thing which I’ll tell you about later. Her name is Cookie and she’s our new puppy. Born on Christmas day, she was one month old when I was taken to hospital. She, of course, was still with her mother, brother and sister and blissfully unaware of us. But she soon became an important part of my determination to get strong fast. She’s almost six months now and at last I’m fit enough to be able to take her and my beloved Labrador on walkies. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

It's a Wrap

February 2, 2010
Dear Diary:

I’m used to doing my own hair and makeup. I do it every morning – well, I did. I haven’t looked at my face since the accident and I really don’t want to but today I confront the option of going on camera naked or with makeup; I’ll choose makeup. The lighting in my room is anything but flattering. I have no option but to sit with my back to the only window. I’m reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s song, "She could easily pass for forty-three, in the dusk with the light behind her.” I peer into a magnifying mirror about 4” wide. (Never look into a magnifying mirror after the age of 25.) I get through my well-honed routine strictly by feel. I know a few tricks, like applying color a bit more heavily than usual because the lights and camera will fade out everything. I look at my tired eyes and wonder if I’m going to fool anyone.

That’s done and here comes the hair bit. Everything rests on whether I can pull this together. I don’t have the kind of hair that looks great no matter what you do with it. It needs work – the right dryer, the right product, the right brush, the right spray. Perhaps I’ll wear a hat. Yet somehow even though I used nothing but soap, no conditioner, no leave-in moose, it’s a good hair day. Thanks Venus.

My friends arrive and help me to dress and then I’m pushed up to the room with flesh-toned walls. The crew has found a plastic Ficus for the background and we put one of the beautiful flower arrangements that have been sent to me on a table next to my chair. The camera frames the scene and it doesn’t look bad. What it doesn’t show is my leg propped up on a coffee table and my hospital slippers but that’s the magic of show biz. There are seven people crowded into a very small room which feels comfortingly familiar – sort of like my low-budget PBS shows.

We rehearse. The dreaded final paragraph, the paragraph that I’ve refused to change in spite of the fact that I can’t get through it without voluminous tears, looms up in my mind. Somehow this time I make it even though my throat feels as though it has a vice around it. What is it about these words that turn on the faucet in me? I think it’s because so many of the people who will be watching the video have known me for years. They really know me. We’ve shared happy, sad, challenging and victorious times. They’ve represented our brand with integrity and caring and I’m so appreciative that when I try to say thank you, it all spills over. Add the ingredients of missing them and feeling lonely and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Still, I’d rather be at our sales meeting electronically than not there at all so here I go. “Action!” I concentrate hard. I want to get it right so I can hear the magic words, “It’s a wrap!” Here comes the touchy bit and I sail through it without embarrassing myself. As we look at the play-back it’s clear that I didn’t exactly sail through it. The clenching of teeth and stiff upper lip don’t look massively attractive. We go for another take. I’m concentrating so hard when I come to the closing that I don’t even know what I’m saying. At the end, I smile. I’m done. Not so fast. My friend acting as the producer says, “Let’s just pick up this middle section. Stop when I say cut.” That’s easy. The middle section I can handle. I set off again and wait for the word cut, but it doesn’t come. So I keep going. I know this is a trick but it’s working and so I keep going until I’m right through the final paragraph. No clenched teeth, no stiff upper lip just me and my pals. This time, when someone says, “It’s a wrap,” I know it is.

When I’m rolled back into the room and everyone leaves, I experience what I used to experience when I’d finished a six week shoot – let down. The illusion had worked and fooled me into thinking I was back to life. Instead, I’m back in the hospital bed with a leg that feels as if it should belong to someone else. This isn’t the leg that ran me around a tennis court. This isn’t the leg that helped me dance the night away. This isn’t even the leg that took my dog on walkies. I feel so badly about what I’ve done to it that I start to go down that familiar path of torturing myself about what I could have done to have avoided it, and then – the phone’s ringing. It’s a friend from California. “I’m getting on a plane tomorrow and coming to look after you.” “You can’t do that! You’re three thousand miles away.” “I’ll be there tomorrow evening and see you Thursday.” “They’re kicking me out of here on Thursday. The insurance company won’t pay for any more physical therapy.” “Great. I’ll look after you at home. I’ll be there till Bob comes back.”

I can’t believe she’s doing it. She’s giving up ten days of her life to take care of me. I know she’s the perfect person because she’s a born nurturer and went through a similar accident herself. Still, I feel guilty about this enormous gesture. But, I’ll accept the sacrifice with a full heart.

Today, in the physical therapy room, I’m the only one in full makeup and I feel kind of conspicuous. But not so conspicuous that it stops me from answering makeup questions that come my way. By the time I leave PT, I’ve given a workshop on how to cover under-eye circles. I’m so buoyed that I go on a walk-about and tackle an incline that looked unconquerable to me a few days ago. But, today my trusty walker and I make it down and back. I feel like bragging but don’t because the other patients in PT are busy with their own challenges and I see so much hopelessness in their eyes.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


January 29 – February 2, 2010
Dear Diary:

The day I’ve been dreading has finally arrived. Everyone’s going to Scottsdale to our Global Sales Conference. To be precise, they’re going to the Fairmont Princess in Scottsdale – a place I love. To be completely precise, not everyone’s going to Scottsdale. George Clooney will be staying in Hollywood, but all those people I work with during the year are going, and that’s tragedy enough for me. Not only will I miss them but I will also miss seeing our distributors from over twenty different countries, our educators and all of our national sales force – combined about 130 people.

It’s been a major endeavor pulling this week-long conference together; making sure that the content is informative and inspirational and appeals to everyone from Malaysia to Milwaukee. We have a lot to catch up on since so much has happened since we were together two years ago. We’re calling this year’s conference Beauty in Balance which seems rather ironical to me since balance is not one of my strong suits at the moment. Come to think of it, neither is beauty.

Bob is packing up his things and telling me that he’s only a BlackBerry away. But before he goes he’s going to supervise my trip. Yes, I’m going on one, too. I’m going one floor down to Physical Therapy. The insurance company has determined that three days is enough pampering when they discover that I can get out of bed on my own. The gadget that makes this possible looks like a stiff lasso that I loop around my left foot and pull. Miraculously, the leg follows and, presto, I have two feet on the floor. This simple gadget has made the impossible possible and I intend to write to the inventor expressing my appreciation as soon as I can find out who it is.

So now, I’m able to sit smugly on the edge of my bed and with the aid of my trusty walker, I can raise myself to my full height and stand on my own two feet. I’ll never forget the first time this occurred. I straightened up my body and thought, This feels excellent. Watch out world! I don’t have any infant memories, but I bet I felt just like that when I pulled myself upright for the first time.

The insurance company has approved a week in Physical Therapy. They obviously think this is enough time for me to reach independence again. What the insurance company doesn’t know is that at the moment I can’t put one foot in front of the other – walker or no walker. My angels of mercy assure me that this will happen. I’m going to take them at their word.

Wheelchairs are very useful, especially when moving. It’s amazing what one can pile on them. I’m simply astonished at how much I’ve collected in less than a week considering that I came in with nothing. I refuse to leave my flowers behind, which complicates the move a trifle, but the trail of petals is pretty. With the help of willing nurses, who I’m going to miss almost as much as my husband, the caravan moves inexorably toward what has been described as the torture ward.

When Bob leaves that night, he tells me there will be a camera crew in on Tuesday to film me for the conference. The gala dinner and awards presentation is on Wednesday and they want to play the film as the evening begins. I realize that the game is up, and I let go of my resistance to this insane idea. I remind myself of the story I heard that was attributed to a Rabbi. He was listening to a woman who was bewailing a tragedy and lamenting that it happened to her. The Rabbi counseled her not to resist the tragedy but to lean into it. O.K. I’m leaning… it’s just that I have to go on camera and I don’t know how I’m going to wash my hair. I haven’t even seen a shower yet!

Pulling out all the stops with my hairdresser, he assures me that he will have someone there first thing Tuesday morning. Great! Now the most important thing has been settled, I guess I’d better write my short speech. Surprisingly, it comes very easily because it really does come from my heart. The only problem is that when I rehearse it, I can’t get through the final paragraph without sobbing. I don’t mean gentle Vivien Leigh tears rolling down my cheeks; I mean uncontrollable sobs. You know, the kind of emotion that is really, really embarrassing to everyone but especially to the one who’s sobbing. I consider rewriting the last paragraph and then decide to put it away and try again tomorrow because I’m probably over-tired with the move, already missing everyone and lonely without my familiar nurses. Time for the Venus Boots and some well-earned sleep.

The next morning, I try the last paragraph again. No better. Friends arrive with an assortment of clothes and makeup. I rehearse my speech in front of them. I see the shocked expressions on their faces as I dissolve yet again. Never mind, I have two days of physical therapy before the shoot. That should toughen me up. I make a pact with myself to work very hard and I do. Of course, I overdo it so much that even the therapists take pity on me. They turn their attention instead to teaching me how to dress myself and make a cup of tea. The latter, being essential to life, cheers me up to no end.

The morning of the shoot the phone rings early. “Hi, Jane, just checking to make sure you’re OK with your hair today.” My hairdresser is not coming. Pride won’t allow me to beg. “I’ll be fine, thanks.” What is it about hair that makes or breaks the way we feel about ourselves? I know bad skin can devastate self-esteem, but I once read a study that concluded that women would choose good hair over good skin. I found that really surprising at the time, but this morning, I’m convinced. Then, out of the haze, one of the nurses enters with a plastic chair on wheels and a hole in the seat. “I bet you’d like a shower,” she says. I’m so excited that I find a strength I don’t know I have; I grab the walker and stumble towards her. She pushes me down a long corridor – nurses say good morning, patients peep out of doorways, cleaners stop mopping. It feels like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because, firstly, I must be crazy for even attempting to go on film today and, secondly, I know I probably look the worst I’ve ever looked in my life and I don’t care. There’s a shower in my future!

In the handicap bathroom, my savior hands me a sachet of fragrant liquid soap left behind by someone else. “Better than our soap,” she says. I wash my hair in it and it feels good – really good.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


January 28, 2010
Dear Diary:

Even given hospital routine, there seems to be an unusual number of people taking blood from my arm. They only have one to choose from because the other one is already taken. It’s siphoning off something from a bag way above my head. Just to increase the interest, the nurse who put in the original port placed it right in the crook of my elbow so every time I remotely bend my arm, such as scratching, it sets off an alarm bell which is only satisfied by a bustling body. To avoid giving the already over-worked staff so much trouble, I lie with my arm rigid and immobile. This matches my left leg.

I don’t concern myself with the numerous vials of blood until white coats enter the room with glum expressions on their faces. “You look very pale.” “No blush,” I say. “Are you always this pale?” “I haven’t looked at myself and I don’t want to. I’ve never gone this long without bronzer.” “We’re concerned about your blood levels.” “Oh!” “They’re dropping quite alarmingly.” “Oh.” “You’ll feel a lot better if we give you a transfusion.”

Transfusion! Arthur Ashe! Hepatitis! Rare blood disease! Someone else’s blood in my body!

“You know, the screening processes now are so thorough. There’s a one in a million chance of anything getting through.” I know that. We have the Blood Mobile come to our company. I’ve been through the screening process and in my view it was too thorough. However, I still don’t like the odds of one in a million. I’m finally convinced when I collapse trying to make it to the commode. Blood it is.

Not so fast. The insurance company has to approve it first. I wait breathlessly. Then finally, it’s a go. A nameless, faceless person somewhere in the ether has checked the box.

I expect the transfusion to be a half-hour job. In fact, it takes sixteen hours – eight hours for each bag. Whoever you are who donated two pints of A+ blood to Berkshire Medical Center, thank you because I do feel a lot better afterwards. That is until Bob repeats his idea of beaming me into the conference. YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!

I double my efforts with my home-grown nutrition program, mixing together concoctions that baffle the nurses. They tend to congregate in my room to smell the flowers and to read the labels in my health food store. They assure me that it won’t be long before I can put one foot in front of the other again. I tentatively ask them that if I had to shoot some video, is there a space they could recommend. I tell them that I don’t want grey walls – something flesh toned. One suggests the chapel with the stained glass window behind me. Perhaps we should have organ music for some background ambience!

I don’t know how this crazy idea can possibly work. It certainly can’t be live because who knows what would happen. I mean, I might even cry. The only possibility is if it’s taped and edited to cut out any embarrassing bits. But how am I going to do my hair? My makeup? I can’t even sit in a chair yet. Oh, just forget the whole thing!

I lie in bed and look at the white/grey wall in front of me with its boxes of Latex gloves and the bulletin board with the daily schedule. My eyes drift right to take in the flower arrangements on the shelves by the door. I feel better. They lift my mood. And then, as if in a wave, I see all the spas I’ve visited over the years, all those caring people who work there, all the beautiful rooms, the fragrance, the candles, the music, and I understand in a way I’ve never understood before that this is what our bodies want and need. This is the way they heal surrounded by things that nurture our spirits, that make us feel more positive, that drive away negativity.

I begin to fantasize an experiment. What if this hospital, instead of putting Latex gloves and a bulletin board on the wall, showed a mural of a garden in full bloom or a beach with coconuts washing up on shore? I wonder if patients would heal faster and be released sooner. I bet the insurance companies would love that. I bet they’d even pay for the murals.

Wait, here comes that familiar sound. “Just checking your vitals. Which is your bad leg?” I start to answer and catch myself. “It isn’t my bad leg; it’s my injured leg. And soon it’s going to be running a mile again – in high heels.”

Monday, March 08, 2010


January 24, 2010
Dear Diary:

As my stretcher is rolled into the emergency waiting area, it’s clear that it’s a busy night. Our small quiet country hospital has been transformed into what looks like a frantic scene from a television pilot – Black Ice Blues. Amid the chaos, I have absolutely no recollection of losing my exercise clothes for a hospital gown and so the anticipated embarrassment of being caught wearing no underwear is a non-event. See, mum, I told you that you worry too much.

And I still don’t really know what the injury is. I know I’ve broken something but what? The x-rays are withheld from me partly because the pain killers have left me so out of it that I couldn’t make a decision anyway and partly because I don’t want to see them. Eventually, I’m told that I’ve shattered my femur and that I’m to be transferred to another hospital for surgery the next morning. The sooner one repairs this kind of break, the better the result one can expect – expert that I am. (It’s six weeks before I eventually see the x-rays and understand what I really did to myself. I wish I’d never known.)

The 45-minute journey by ambulance to the next hospital ends with a bout of motion sickness performed for the amusement of the milling throng in the waiting room. It’s amazing how fast those little pink trays appear.

The next morning while I’m answering some e-mails, a delegation enters to tell me that surgery will be at 2:00 pm. I feel remarkably calm and I can’t understand why. All the things I’ve dreaded for so long – serious injury, major surgery, anesthesia, drugs, confinement, loss of independence – should conspire to render me a nervous wreck… but I’m not. I feel calm and lucid with a sense of acceptance that surprises me. Let’s just get this done.

An interesting conversation with the anesthesiologist completes my morning. He lays out some choices for me – general anesthesia or epidural. Actually, I’m the one who asks about the epidural. “We could do that,” he says, “but there’ll be a lot of sawing and drilling going on and you’ll be lying on a stainless steel table for three hours which isn’t that comfortable.” “Give me the general. I’ll live with the consequences.” As I’m wheeled into surgery, he puts a mask over my face and says, “Just some oxygen.” You can’t fool me! In my last act of independence, I take the mask off my face and say: “This isn’t oxygen.”

And that’s it – gone. Then, “Jane! Jane! Jane! Wake-up!” It’s over. I have 16” of titanium and four bolts holding my femur together. Actually, that isn’t all but I don’t know about that yet.

The surgeon reports an excellent result and that he expects full recovery. I suppose I should be enormously relieved to hear this, but honestly it didn’t occur to me that there wouldn’t be full recovery. Perhaps if it had, I wouldn’t have been so calm.

Since hospital routine is new to me, I’m quite impressed by the number of people who are in and out of my room wheeling in all kinds of contraptions. “Just getting some blood.” “Just getting blood pressure and temperature.” “Did you fill out the menu for meal service?” “Bed pan or commode?” “Give me the one where I don’t have to move.” “You have to move. The sooner you move, the faster you’ll heal.” At the moment moving seems like such a remote possibility that I just lie back and listen to the Code Blue announcements. Wait; here comes someone else, “Just checking your dressings.” On go another pair of Latex gloves – the eleventh pair this afternoon that have been removed from the dispenser on the wall opposite me. It’s unfathomable how many gloves a hospital must use every day. Do they get recycled? Do they biodegrade? I make a note to find out when I’m back in the real world.

And then in comes the first floral arrangement. Its beauty against the starkness of the hospital room quite overwhelms me. I lie staring at it marveling at the shapes, colors and delicacy of this fragrant visitor. I feel my spirits rising. I will get over this. And then Bob arrives with my supplements and grocery order. He stacks packages around the room – hemp milk, almonds, sprouted soy, raisins, cooked salmon, home-made soup, probiotics, colostrom, omega-3 capsules. So much stuff that the nurses wheel in another table for me. It isn’t long before my room looks like a cross between a florist and a health food store.

The beauty of the flowers, the touching messages, the sense of taking charge of my healing help me to face what I know has to come next. Everyone’s leaving to go to the conference and I’m not. My whole support team is going to be two thousand miles away hosting our national sales team, our international distributors and our world-wide educators. I can’t bring myself to think about it. One hurdle at a time. Let’s conquer the commode first.

Before Bob leaves for the night, he mentions something about videoing me into the conference. I dismiss the idea as ludicrous. No one’s going to see me like this.

I’m not alone that night. I have unexpected companions called Venus Boots. These white cuffs wrap around my lower legs and vibrate up and down them all night long. This electronic massage is designed to lessen the risk of blood clots. (Another wonderful gadget.) I don’t just feel massage though, I feel something else from the Venus Boots; I feel less alone. With every cupping and uncupping of my legs, I hear Venus saying, “It’s OK. I’ve got you.” When I tell the nurse the next morning that I’m so enchanted by my night visitors that I’ve dubbed them angel hands, she gives me one of those looks that says: Let me know if you’re still saying that a week from now.

So the journey begins. Tomorrow, I learn how to make my bed go up and down.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Black Ice

January 24, 2010
Dear Diary:

I’ve been lying in the driveway now for about twenty minutes. The soft mist is still falling and freezing as it touches the ground. Around me is darkness punctuated by a few lights. I can see the cars going by on Main Street just a block away. Life oblivious to my cries of: “No! No! This can’t be happening! Help! Someone please help! Bob! Bob!” I don’t expect any response – there’s no one around on Sunday evening at five o’clock with the football play-offs in full swing – but I can’t lie here doing nothing.

I was just going to do my workout but first I’d thrown on a ski jacket over my shorts and t-shirt to pop over to see my mother before she went to bed. I’d been in and out of that door all day but in classic New England capricious weather in one hour the ground had transformed from harmless mush to lethal black ice. For those of you who’ve never experienced it, it’s the element most feared in our neck of the woods – more so than six feet of snow or our occasional tornados. It's the invisible, uncaring enemy that spins unsuspecting cars off the road, turns familiar walk ways to booby traps and fills our hospital emergency rooms. It’s the thing we warn each other about and the thing that always ends up surprising us.

Tonight, I’m lying six feet from where my first foot touched the top of the mound. The speed with which it happened amazes me. So much so that I have the notion that it would be easy to turn back the clock just that nano-second and life would be the way I had it planned. Say goodnight to mum; do my work-out; warm up the lamb shanks from last night and have some down time with Bob over a glass of pinot noir. Tomorrow begins the count-down to one of the most important events of our year – our Global Sales Conference starting in Scottsdale a week from today. People are coming from all over the world. It’s been a year in the planning.

No! No! This can’t be happening!

Part of my brain is marveling at the experience. Yes, it took less than a second but there was another dimension, as well – the “time stood still” dimension – that moment when I left the ground and waited to return transcended time. Waiting, waiting for the eventual impact. When it happened it shot my spirit out of my body so that I was looking down on myself and moving farther and farther away until the physical part of me became a tiny, insignificant spot railing against the universe. I looked ridiculous in the immensity of it all.

Well, I can’t lie here forever. A girl could freeze to death. I’ve got to roll over and get to the back door somehow. Hold my breath – roll. Made it. Now start moving. How?

“Are you all right?” The wicked part of my brain wants to say, “Oh, I’m fine thanks. Just testing out this new yoga position.” The practical part of me says to Cody, my 15 year-old savior: “Would you run up those stairs and tell my husband I’ve broken my leg?” Seconds later, the door flies open, Bob flies down the walk-way and slides on the same ice. He careens towards me. I think it’s funny.

Cody, brilliantly, pulls a phone from his pocket and dials 911. Clearly, he wants to save us from ourselves as fast as possible.

The police are the first to arrive and stand guard waiting for the ambulance. Here it comes reversing down the driveway. I hope they know where I am!

I’m suddenly overcome with a sense of relief and gratitude that’s hard to contain. I think of Haiti and those people still waiting for attention from exhausted doctors. I can’t envision such courage, such suffering. I count the people who have surrounded me in minutes – seven – all trained and all with one thing in mind. But right now I don’t want anyone to touch me. I’m holding my leg together with my left hand that has transformed itself into a vice and refuses to let go. Please don’t move me, just leave me here; I’ll be all right tomorrow.

But they have this wonderful gadget that’s a stretcher in two parts. One part slides under my left side and the other under my right. The medics push gently and the two sides lock into each other. Whoever thought of that should be in the Gadget Hall of Fame. A gentle lift and I’m slid into the back of the ambulance. It’s then I remember that I have no underwear on under my shorts and t-shirt, but I did give myself a pedicure yesterday and that’s really all that matters.

It’s a short trip to the hospital but one that represents the beginning of a new chapter, the beginning of a new experience, the opportunity to find out more about myself. This is going to be interesting.