I listened to a woman who checked herself out of hospice as she talked about living and extending her life. She said she wasn't ready yet, that she still has more to do, but she is realistic about her illness. While there is no cure for her now, she knows that science progresses everyday - new treatments are discovered and there is always hope. While studying Thanatology, I was taught that hope changes when you enter end of life care. Hope is not necessarily about finding the right drug to make the illness go away completely. Hope transforms to something much bigger and more powerful - I hope I can enjoy living for a while longer, I hope that I am forgiven by people I have wronged, I hope my children are proud of how I have lived my life, I hope that my end is peaceful. This incredible woman expressed that what she seeks is extension - continued life for just a while longer - to live, and not just to be alive, but to really live. We are trapped by our monotony in life sometimes and forget to live beyond just being alive on autopilot and getting through each day passively. When this woman spoke and while I listened, I was really living - I was using my senses and craving contact with my loved ones. She gave me a gift, as many people I am so blessed to work with do every day, to remind me to be truly alive in my life and to give love and hope to those around me. Please take this gift, this reminder, and live mindfully - find joy and peace, do things that make you happy, and be present with those you love.


The Benefit of Fear of Recurrence

Fear of recurrence is a common source of stress and anxiety for people who have completed cancer treatment. “No Evidence of Disease” is a title for some that bears the weight of when will there be evidence of disease again? Will my next scan show something? Is that ache in my side a new tumor? Particularly for people who were staged three or four, many people find themselves wondering when the other shoe will fall. But some people who have had a recurrence look back and find that there was purpose with their fears – it created a buffer between this horrendous news and having to incorporate cancer back into their daily lives because they were able to say, well I kind of saw it coming or at least it wasn’t such a surprise. Some people put cancer totally behind them when they get a clean scan and don't want to spend time or energy thinking about recurrence - if that works for you, great. Most people, however, at some point wonder if recurrence is in their future. It is normal for people who have had cancer to consider what would happen if they are again faced with cancer and with treatment. Now, not all cancers recur. And people who live their lives consistently focusing on recurrence to the point where it interferes with living urgently need to seek help to manage this coping tool and allow it to be effective without becoming damaging. But, as with many fears, it may be less effective to push so hard against having negative thoughts as opposed to allowing a reasonable space to acknowledge them and work through them. If thoughts of recurrence and “what if”s pop up and someone immediately dismisses them without figuring out what they mean or why these thoughts are valid, only to be later diagnosed with a recurrence, time spent dealing with what recurrence would mean may be wasted. If we think in terms of grief work, this is akin to anticipatory grief – grief work that takes place prior to the loss. Recurrence may not occur, but exploring the possibility of recurrence is normal and can be healthy if it is managed appropriately. If you find that you need help exploring the possibility of recurrence or if thoughts of recurrence are becoming overly pervasive, please find a peer support group such as Gilda’s Club and/or a therapist to assist you in managing these thoughts and feelings.


Therapeutic Benefit of Blogging Presentation

Here is a copy of the handout from the presentation I gave at the Broward County Main Library for Gilda's Club South Florida about the therapeutic benefits of blogging:

What is the therapeutic benefit of e-journaling / blogging?

Two beneficial viewpoints –

Narrative Therapy

- Peoples’ lives are a story and problems are a product of social, cultural, and

political contexts.

- Post-modernism / social constructionism – there is no singular truth – there are

multiple interpretations of any one event.

- Through story telling, people discover hopeful, preferred, and previously

unrecognized or hidden possibilities, your story can be told in another way – this is called re-authoring your story.

Journaling has long been recognized as a way to reduce stress, to encourage self-insight, to set goals, organize, help focus, improve well-being, create self-accountability, as a gift to your future self, to create personal time for yourself, and to establish a record of life events.

Why blogging?

The outside observer

Gain insight from others and hear their interpretation of your story

Bearing Witness

Deena Metzger (1992) writes “when it is our own life story that we are telling, we become aware that we are not victims of random and chaotic circumstances, that we, too, despite our grief are living meaningfully in a meaningful universe” (p.55).  She states “we cannot cloister our inner selves…or we will find ourselves bereft of one of the essential components for the process of transformation: interchange” (p. 36).  A therapeutic connection can be a context for restructuring the narrative.  The therapeutic conversation can hold, change, and reconstruct one’s meaning of what has happened.  In grief, we need persons who will bear witness to the evolving story with its nuances of meaning, characters, emotional patterns, consistency, and uncharted courses. “Stories heal us because we become whole through them.  As in the word ‘remember’, we re-member, re-store, re-claim, re-new” (Metzger, 1992, p. 71).

How to get started –

Setting up your blog – decide if you will host the site or not

            Free blogging services such as blogspot – but you don’t own the blog

For people with any type of medical condition, there is –

with free blog sites for the person who is living with the condition as well as

“support planner” sections for caregivers to arrange meals, coordinate care, etc.

            Cheap hosting services such as wordpress (see handout)

* Note - If you host your own site, you need a web host for your blog, such as GoDaddy. There is a process to setting up the blog that can be reviewed at

What to blog about?

- Events – things that are important, things you need to just “get out”, events that you want feedback about, updates about your progress (blogging is an excellent way to update all of your friends and family at one time instead of having to update people individually)

- Themes – take an emotion then break it down into subcategories, then break it down further. For example, “Fear” would be broken down into fear of needles, fear of test results, fear of being hospitalized, then explore what is it about each of these fears?

- Positive Thinking - how do you want to see or engage with the world? What are your hopes, expectations, visions of something coming up? Make up a story or project positive thinking into situations that you are planning for

            Gratitude List

            Forgiveness List – to yourself and to others

Then What?

* Look back through blogs and find common themes or recurring difficulties and strong emotions and see if that is something you want to give attention to? Do you notice a consistent period of sleeplessness and agitation in your writing that coincides with three or six month scans?

* Give your future self a gift – write a blog post to yourself in the future about where you hope to be at after some event or amount of time. This is setting the stage for positive thinking and also a way to create self accountability. Look back at old blog posts and see how far you have come and how much you have changed or how much you have remained the same.

Above all, be open to learn and grow every day! When you feel like it, have fun and use humor! And when you are in a serious mood, give yourself the time and attention that blogging provides!

For more information, contact me at


The World Wide Truth: Deciphering Fact, Fiction, and Opinion on the World Wide Web

  • Tuesday January 22, 2013 at 6 PM

  • This FREE workshop will cover how to find reliable information online which can be used to find breast cancer and other cancer information, how to discover the therapeutic benefits of blogging, and how you can start your own blog.

    Featured Speakers:
    Eileen Fischlschweiger, Broward County Librarian
    Lisa Zucker, MSW, LCSW, Blogger

    Metered parking is available. Use 1st floor entrance.

    RSVP to Betsy at 954-763-6776 or betsy@gildasclubsouthflori
100 S Andrews AveFort Lauderdale, FL 33301-1830

How does music touch your soul?

Music has a way of speaking the words we can not say, of expressing the emotions we can not or will not express, of comforting or motivating or transforming us in ways that are profound. Music is a critical piece of grief and loss. There are times when music can be the glue to help two people who are experiencing or expressing grief in different ways to come to a place of togetherness. This tie, this bridge, can be powerful enough to hold these people together in their darkest time. The music that is chosen for memorial services or celebrations of life reflect the life lived and lost and often the inner feelings of the grievers themselves. Many people have told me that the time when they did the “hardest” grieving, the real throw into the darker emotions that one must work through to get to the other side, was while listening to music – often alone in the car (if this happens for you, please pull over until it is safe for you to continue driving). So we know that music is a strong force that finds something within us that is so powerful, how do we utilize music to assist in the grieving journey? One way is to make a playlist of music that inspires memory of the person who is gone – songs that conjure strong emotions, but interspersed with songs that arouse beautiful memories. Another way is to free flow the words that come to you directly from your emotion and put them on paper or record yourself saying them. Then these words can be transformed into lyrics through the addition of rhythm, melody, and/or instrumentation. Now some of you may say, I can’t write music, I can’t play music, there is just no talent there. Well to all of you, I say that is simply not true. Take a young child and give them a stick and a metal pan, they will without a doubt create a drum. Give the same child a cardboard tube filled with rice and that tube will become the liveliest of maracas with dancing likely to follow suit. Music is born in us. We are all capable of loving it just as we are all capable of producing it. The fears of what others may think are usually what hold us back. The good news about that is that this can be all for you, you never have to share this music with anyone else if that is what you desire. But the world has something to gain by being privileged to join in the music of sorrow and the music of memory. So find music out there in the world that speaks to you and soak it up, allow it to take you on a journey. And if the inclination is there to release some of yourself into a song, allow yourself to be free. What are some other ways you utilize music as a tool on the grieving journey?