Friday, July 30, 2010

Bringing Sanity to Mass Communication

Back in January, as I was beginning my journey with breast cancer, I quickly discovered that, one of the biggest challenges of getting sick, is that
my friends all wanted to know how I was doing, and more they could help me. I found myself fielding lots phone calls at all times of the day and night, and I felt like I was always repeating myself...."haven't we already talked about this?"  I didn't know who I'd spoken to, couldn't remember what I'd said or who I'd spoken to, and frankly, it was tiring for me.  But I clearly understood the love and concern of my friends, and their need to know what was going on, so that I didn't feel alone.  

In frustration one day, as I chatted with my friend Patti, I remember saying that "I just needed an easy way to communicate with my friends and family, you know, post it once and let them log in to see what was going on."  I've been around technology long enough that I was sure there was a solution, I just didn't know about it.  Her answer,"why don't you just set up a CaringBridge site?"  My startled response, "I've never heard of CaringBridge."  Turns out this is the best kept secret on the internet!! 

It was easy to get started.  You can do this as a patient, or someone on your caregiving team can work the magic!  Once the basics were in place I could start typing my thoughts into the journal section.  I can share thoughts, test results, updates and more, once.  Then friends and family can log into the site with a web browser and get the exact same information, when it's convenient for them.  Did I mention that the best part is I only have to post it once!?  My CaringBridge journal has significantly cut down on the number of phone calls, which allowed me to get the rest I needed and heal.

I still get lots of calls, but now it's to offer good wishes, fill in some of the details on what I posted and catch up on their's the best!  Since I started using Dragon Naturally Speaking, I just speak my thoughts into their journal site and it's even quicker!  The guestbook section allows anyone to leave encouraging messages, which has proved invaluable over the past few months, helping to keep my attitude positive and strong.

CaringBridge is easy to setup, easy to maintain and more importantly it easy to share the login credentials.  This was a huge help when I was in the hospital, when everyone was the most worried!   No one had the burden of answering a million phone calls to find out how I was doing!

The most time consuming part of getting started was collecting all of the e-mail addresses of friends and family and sending the URL once I had the site set up.   This part requires a bit of advance work, but it's worth the extra effort.  To the Dev team at CaringBridge, if you're would be awesome if there was a built-in tool to import an address book!! 

I use Outlook.  I used the export feature and created a master list of friends and their phone #/e-mail addresses.  From there, I created about 10 logical categories, based on a common thread (e.g. church, relatives, colleagues, belly dance, etc) and asked one friend in each group to be the point person.  I gave each point person a list of close friends associated to that group and then gave the master list to my friend Cindy.  Several friends sent out an advance notice, pointing their list members to the site early!

The best part of all this, in my opinion, happened on surgery day.  Cindy made about 15 calls and one posting to the site to start the communication tree; notifying about 450 of my friends and family members, scattered across the world, that I had made it through surgery with flying colors. It was awesome!

To get started, go to  Have fun, pass the word about this cool resource, and let me know how it's going!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

School was NEVER this much fun!

I'm a student again!!!  I've returned to a learning mode, working to learn the craft of blogging.  In the past few weeks, I've read a number of blogs and have stumbled onto some great practical resources. One of them is On July 15th, Darren Rouse, the author of posted a challenge to his readers to take part in the 7 Link challenge.  The idea is to publish a post a list of seven links to posts that you and others have written that respond to the seven questions listed below. This sounded like a lot of fun.  

So, while it's a little after the fact, here is my entry for Darren's challenge:
This was a fun challenge to complete! I urge you to check out some of the posts, then head over to Darren's site to check out other entries.   If you are a fellow blogger, consider sharing your entry with me and I'll check out as many as I can.  If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or become a subscriber. 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Off the Bench…Back in the Lineup Again!

I am a huge baseball fan! And…even though they regularly break my heart, I remain true (29 years and counting) to the orange and black jerseys worn by the San Francisco Giants. My brother, an equally devoted Oakland A’s fan, and a few other friends have offered to pay for therapy! Hopefully, this bit of insight into my psyche sets a context for this post.

I’ve missed writing. I’ve been on the bench for 6 months after taking an “I found a lump” curve ball to my left breast on January 21st. Four little words that have significantly changed my strategy to playing this game called life. Turns out, I was lucky to get a “brush back” which allowed me to assess my life and make some changes, so that I have the stamina to stay in the game.  Here are just a few of the life lessons I’ve learned from baseball and my time on the bench:
  • In January, when it’s still gray and icky, my heart leaps hopefully when I can start counting the days to spring training, along with all of the sports pundits. Hope springs eternal in January – it’s a new season and this could be the year we go all the way!  Every 365 days, I get to be hopeful - to start over to reach my personal dreams.
  • There’s a lot of strategy to baseball. Pitching rotations and match-ups; hitting lineups; officiating; home or away; number of days on the road, and so much more. Same as life. Lots of things to consider when making changes, but it helps to know my team, how rested I am, am I on my home turf or on the road, what/who can I always count on?
  • It’s a team game that takes 9 players, plus a cast of back-ups. And…any one player can be the hero or the (scape)goat for any given game. I’m only as good as the people I surround myself with.
  • One game does not a season make. One has to shrug off a bad break or performance and mentally get into the next game fast. There’s never a lot of time for boo hoo-ing or second guesses. Equally important, a good performance today, does not guarantee a good performance tomorrow!
  • Each player is a specialist, but there are times when opportunity knocks and one needs to abandon specialty to get the job done.
  • 168 games makes for a long season, so players must have endurance and be resilient to make it through a full season. Health, training/preparation, attitude, support and flexibility, all play into one’s ability to make it through a long season.
  • The game is on the field! Fans and coaching makes a difference, but in the end, the coach and fans are not on the field, the players are. If it is to be….it’s up to me!
  • For a variety of reasons, players can spend a lot of time on the bench and not on the field. No one wants to be on the bench any longer than they have to! Time off is good. Too much time off is not good – at least for me!
  • From a purely biased perspective, San Francisco has the cutest little ballpark in the league, and where else but a ballpark, can you enjoy beer, friends, and the smart crack of a line drive? It’s good to remember to stop and smell the roasted peanuts!
Six months has brought many changes and insights which are great topics for a blog about meaningful giving. For now, I am ready to play ball, so I’ll see you on the field - or in this case - on this blog!!!  For all the baseball fans, what are your favorite ballpark memories? What life lessons has baseball taught you? Please comment and share your stories!!

If you are interested, my CaringBridge online journal chronicles much of my personal journey with my breast cancer diagnosis.

Photo by Backpacker.