Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Keeping Secrets from Your Partner

Does this topic make you nervous? It makes me nervous, I know that.

It might be who you spend time with, or what you spend money on, or how you really feel about your ex or your partner's mother. You might have a big secret like never having an orgasm with your partner, (no cheating just vibrators), or you have a seemingly less harmful one like you say you are vegetarians together  but you eat burgers when you are alone.

Are they secrets or just nobody's business? It's about the relationship--you know that. I have lied about clothes I bought, when I shopped, and yes, sometimes who I saw that day. What he doesn't know can't hurt him--I actually believe that's true. But what I know for sure (me and Oprah) is that what he doesn't know will usually hurt me.

I have had to learn that over and over. My secrets become my paranoia:  I decide not to mention the card from my ex and a week later I find myself wondering what he's reading on his phone. If  fake an "O" I'll  later wonder if he's having as a great a time in bed as he says. It always comes back to burn me and that, inevitably hurts us.

Now here are the facts so we don't feel shamed and alone in this: The Normal Bar--a statistical study of American relationships --reports that 43% of men and 33% of women have kept major secrets from their partners. And even 27% of the happiest couples (studied and confirmed happy) keep secrets from each other. The most common secrets include emotional and physical infidelity, masturbation, shopping and spending, and secret eating, smoking and drinking.

Maybe the criteria for your secret needs to be: Why and I keeping THIS secret, what do I fear would happen if I kept this behavior but not in secret, and what am I risking if and when this is revealed?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stand Up to Cancer on Friday September 5th

Mark Your Calendar and plan the snack menu: The celebrity hosted and star-studded tribute to cancer returns on Friday September 5th at 8pm. Yes--it's a fund raiser and packed with teary tributes and fashion moments and certainly some good music--so watch it as entertainment and to see cancer and cancer research get center stage treatment.

Trigger alert: The "battle" and "war" metaphors will get a work out, and the conceit that if cancer is cured no one will ever die will be played. But still, even with that, September 5th will be cancer's night so I'll suspend my rant for that good production.

 Be sure to Stand Up, and sit down, to watch.

Here's a link with more info:

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Family Caregiver at Work

I had a conversation with a new colleague today about caregivers in the workplace. She’s an HR (Human Resources) professional and we were talking about how many people are family caregivers and are working full-time.

It’s incredibly stressful we agreed, and we agreed that HR departments or senior managers need to know the ins-and outs of caregiving simply to better manage this big workplace issue.

The conversation got me thinking.

As the Boomer Bump moves through these next eight years we do know there are more and more people who are caregiving and many of them are in the “Sandwich Generation”—those who are squeezed by caring for children or grandchildren and also for an older adult. It’s so hard.

We do give lots of props and admiration to those folks but –at work—not a lot of really practical help. A few years ago I developed a Caregiver 101 workshop that can be delivered in an hour, or even better an hour and a half and provided in workplaces for employees.

What is especially hard for caregivers at work—even though coworkers and supervisors may be sympathetic is that there is shame attached to family caregiving. Does that sound crazy? It should be crazy. But it’s a reality. Caregiving is still done in relative isolation so folks can easily have the feeling that they should be doing it better. We have the “made-for-TV-movie” mentality that shows family caregiving as such a loving, dedicated, heartfelt thing to do that family caregivers who feel like screaming, spitting or hitting are sure that they are defective. So who wants to talk about—and admit to—that.


So at work we have to head that off. For the employees sake which is a caring and right thing to do—but also for the sake of the department, team and organization. Caregiving employees cost money. A lot of money. They need time off, they are distracted, in pain, on the phone (a lot) and they get burned out. They make work mistakes and coworkers get frustrated. A good employee can go “bad” after just a few months of caregiving. And then everyone loses.

So if you work outside the home talk to your HR department about offering a Caregiver 101 class or a lunchtime caregivers support group. There are guidelines for groups that are facilitated and also for those that operate with no facilitator. If you are a manager or director think about bringing a caregiver workshop into your workplace and make space available for a caregiver support group—weekly or once a month. The benefits will return tenfold to the health of your good employees and to your organization as a whole.

You can contact me at for more information.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Battle with Fighting Cancer

For years I have battled the idea of battling cancer. I fought against the fight and I declared war on the war on cancer. But now I have read an essay that more elegantly--and eloquently--makes the case and accurately describes that rub when women and men are celebrated for their "courage" in "fighting" cancer.

So today, enough of my words. Instead read this heartfelt and heartening piece by Peter Bach in New York Magazines's The Cut:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Be a Better Lover

This line always makes me laugh:  “The reason that so many women fake orgasm is that so many men fake foreplay.”

Yep, it’s both funny and true—and now there is proof.

I’m reading the book, “The Normal Bar” which is an “improve your relationship” book, which is completely based on scientific study and longitudinal research. It’s no one’s theory—rather everything the authors address from marital money to the impact of weight gain in marriage is evidence based.

Since I am super curious about all things sexual I was happy to read the chapter called, “Keeping the Flame Alive” in which the authors report on the results of research about what we really want—“we” meaning men and women. What do women want (besides that perfect black skirt)? And what do men want (other than to be left peacefully alone with the remote on the day of the Masters Golf Tournament)?

Well, here’s what years of couples research has to tell us:

What men want most from their partners:
#1 Sexual diversity (new sexual acts)
#2 Less passivity (more passion)
#3 Sexual noises (more feedback)


What women want from their partners:
#1 Foreplay (more touching)
#2 Romance (more loving passion)
#3 Less predictability (more spontaneity and fun)

Isn’t it helpful to know this stuff? Each of those things can be tried, practiced and learned—and talked about. I’m a believer that sensuality and great sex can be learned and yes, re-learned. Even if it’s been a really long time and even if you are hanging out in CancerLand.

Here's a link to the book:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

We All Have Cancer

I’m reading the book, “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber. He was one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders and an accomplished neuro-psychiatrist when, at 31, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. His book is about what he learned about cancer, and cancer treatment and cancer prevention.

Some of what he has to say is not new: the importance of exercise, diet, alternative treatments etc. But what is new is his description of roles we play in CancerLand--the patient’s role in his/her own care versus the doctor’s role. He also gives great guidance on how to sort medical info, nutritional info and he writes a lot about the physiological impact of stress. And the stress of cancer. He’s got lots and lots of facts.

But this is the fact that blew me away: “One hundred percent of people have cancer cells in their bodies after the age of fifty.”

100% of us have cancer after the age of 50. We all have cancer. Again: We all have cancer. In some people it develops into tumors or wild growths that become life threatening, in others it does not. But after age fifty we all have cancer cells in our bodies.

That’s wild and powerful information to process when you think about prevention and what it means to maintain your health but also relevant to screening and tests and it’s a great starting point to start wrapping our heads around our consistent denial or mortality and death. Cause that’s the other absolute health statistic: 100% of us will die.

We all have cancer and we will all die. That’s not really bad news. Freedom lives in that last sentence. It makes me think of Mary Oliver’s poem: “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Writing Aids Cancer Recovery

In my cancer and caregiver classes we do a lot of writing. It's not news that writing is a comfort and an anchor but now we have additional evidence that writing about one's cancer experience can effectively reduce pain, fear and trauma.

An article in the journal Health Psychology reports that ASian American woman dealing with breast cancer experienced better recoveries when they were introduced to the practice of "emotional writing."
Qian Lu, director of the Culture and Health Research Center says that the research was focused on specifically writing about the traumatic aspects of the cancer experience.

“Cancer patients, like war veterans in Iraq, can experience post-traumatic stress symptoms. Many times when cancer patients get diagnosed, they face lots of emotional trauma. There’s a sense of loss, depressionanxiety about going into treatment and how they are going to face the future,” said Lu.

While this particular study focused on breast cancer I can easily imagine related benefits for using emotional writing with all cancer patients--and of course with cancer caregivers as well. The hard part, of course, is allowing yourself time--and permission--to write daily but knowing that it is having a health benefit may allow patient and caregiver that permission for toward the healing benfits of writing.

Here is a link to the full article. Take a look and share with others in your CancerLand.

PS. I am always available to lead a class on Writing for Caregivers or Caregiving 101 for your group or organization.