“You may not control life's circumstances, but getting to be the author of your life means getting to control what you do with them.”
? Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
1. Choices for a Remarkable Life
We had been married just two years, our oldest son was only six months old and I was just beginning my second year of dental school when my wife, Cindy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Forty-two years ago Cindy's treatment options were limited and she was told that she would probably live 20 years or less. But being young, that dire prognosis didn't register so we went about living our lives confident in the rich promise of the future. For 42 of the 44 years we have lived our lives together, MS has been a not-so-silent partner in our marriage. I believe that we chose to live a “normal life,” just as all of us do, perhaps a bit more tenaciously than most, but by “choosing” normal we managed to live a life that has been beyond normal, one that has been remarkable.
For years I just took care of Cindy because that is just what you do; in many ways I was a victim of MS also. In my mind, I figured her condition would probably get to the point where I wouldn't be able to take care of her, and she'd have to go to a nursing facility. But everything changed, for both of us, one day when she was in the hospital and was desperate to go home. In that moment, I made a commitment to take care of her at home and erased the nursing-home option from my mind. Now, care giving isn't something I "have" to do. It's something I "want" to do; something I have “chosen” to do. I am happy to do it and I feel blessed to be able to do it. Now I am in control, dreams and my plans are no longer on hold and I am no longer the victim.
Even though our life is different than the life we envisioned 45 years ago at the beginning of our marriage, it is no less remarkable. We all face challenges in our lives, mine just happens to be caring for Cindy and provide her the opportunity to live a full and rich life, Cindy's is dealing with the devastating effects of Multiple Sclerosis; yours may be a job you don't like or the loss of a job. It could be the loss of a loved one or a new relationship. Perhaps it is helping a son or daughter find themselves in this crazy world. The list goes on and on. I made some critical choices that transformed caregiving from a task to a source of joy and self-fulfillment, and along the way I have been able to achieve some pretty remarkable accomplishments. These same choices can help anyone as they seek to overcome their own particular challenges. As I share our story and the lessons we have learned along the way, you will be encouraged and inspired as you face your own challenges. You will have renewed confidence that your life can be remarkable beyond your expectations.
2. It's All in the Numbers: Simple Tools for Big Results
As I passed the nurse's station at a local hospital recently, I was surprised at the sight of a bulletin board with numerous graphs. I was a little embarrassed when I made a return trip to check out the graphs until I talked to the nurses and saw how enthusiastic and invested they were. It brought back memories of my own staff.
During my 30 years of private dental practice, I managed by the numbers. What I began as a single doctor practice in a basement grew to one of the top producing private practices nation-wide. Numbers are the “magic beans”; they enable us to see where we are today in comparison to where we were yesterday and the ability to change the future, and that is MAGIC. In my presentation, “It's all in the Numbers, Simple Tools for Big Results.” I will share my first-hand experience of using numbers to create a quality patient-centered business with an enthusiastic supportive staff.
“This message is so powerful, it is important for all of us regardless of the challenges that we face in life. Your approach is so positive and practical.” J.M.
“I am involved with caregiving for my brother. Today as I drove here, I thought to myself, 'I am done. I can't do this anymore.' After hearing your presentation, I have renewed commitment. Thank you so much for your positive message of hope.” R.M.
“I loved your message. I thought this would be a 'downer' but you have made this topic interesting and positive. Your story is amazing, funny and inspirational.” P.H.
“I so enjoyed your presentation. I've found myself thinking of your stories and message this week. You have a gift for storytelling……..Thanks for sharing.” A.R.
“Interesting and informative with great visuals, Dr. Brad Larsen's excellent presentation is based on well-researched data and first-hand experience. I came away from this presentation equipped with fresh knowledge and a special appreciation of the role and needs of caregivers.” C.K.