Sunday, 28 July 2013

What a wonderful world?

I've been thinking of some of the big questions that affect us of late for a key piece of work I'm involved with. So when I saw the UN global survey on the kind of world we would like I thought I would know the answers. Here it is so you can do it too. But if you are like me, it will be harder than you think to choose. Lets's  be honest I want it all. But I know we need to prioritise, even here when we have so much more than most. Do fill it in it will make you think...

Demographic and climate  change in the developed world are some of issues that have been engaging me. Both in the world of work and in health and social care. And at some level too I'm living it. I'm part of the sandwich generation. In the UK I'm among the first age group of women who won't get their pensions until aged 66 but I also have an ageing, frail parent. I don't have grandchildren yet personally 
( although there is a certain
Jack Russell that has been known -allegedly- to refer to me as Grannie!) but many women and men like me are pulled between helping the ageing relatives and supporting grandchildren , whilst remaining in work simply because they have to.

If you throw in to the mix long term health conditions affecting people's ability to balance the challenging mix of their lives, especially in work you need to think very differently. Flexible working has been seen to be the answer to some if this. Working from home as an option we know can help people be more productive, have a greater sense of satisfaction in work and technology is starting to make that a reality for some. But it won't be the answer for all, especially in service, health and social care sectors. Will it begin to make it even harder to recruit to these challenging roles if they can't offer that kind of flexible working arrangements to those with carer or healthcare challenges?

My own move to the uncertain world of self employment is to enable me to work flexibly and working from home is part of that. I had of course had some experience of this and was a little nervous of the consequences. In a world where loneliness is the fastest growing long term condition , working on your own feels risky. And I know many of those I connect with, with a history of cancer have made similar decisions. One of the many hidden impacts of a cancer diagnosis. But the world of social media helps to connect even when illness or recovery affects full engagement in the world out there. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc mean it can come to you. I regularly Skype and FaceTime both for work and pleasure. I love the connection it facilitates without arduous travel and time away from those you love.

The other risk of course is having the right space to work and concentrate. Any work from home parent can tell of push pull of working and caring from home. Deadlines are met late at night while others sleep. It's not easy getting that right and getting time for your own needs to be met. How many of us have had important work related conversations interrupted by sudden yells from another room and known what we had to prioritise. But actually I like  working with people who give time to their children, older parents, partners, I don't need them to be automatons of work, I like that they are human. Wouldn't it be a great step forward if we truly recognised that all of our experience and vulnerabilities contribute to the richness we bring in the workplace too? Because its attitudes not just physical workspaces that need to change.

Reasons to be cheerful. I do enjoy working from home and if the dog joins me in her basket, it feels just right. OK I have had disguise my distraction at times while I ensure she gets out for a quick wee but I'm hoping its not been too obvious! There was a classic occasion in my last house when my distraction couldn't be hidden. I was sitting in our conservatory by the Christmas tree working on my laptop around my cat who was fighting for space on my lap. The dog was sitting with a toy in his mouth and all was right in the world. I started a phone meeting confident of peace and enjoying my rather lovely setting. And then I saw the window cleaner. The dog, alarmed, dropped the toy and the vibration set off the singing Christmas tree. And so to the tune of Rocking around the Christmas Tree, accompanied by loud barking I attempted to retain some professional reputation......
And I leave you with these beautiful reminders of our wonderful world and a reminder that we do urgently need to care for it better. I promise you will love them both.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

In service of something larger...

It's been a busy week, the sun is shining, the spare bedrooms are full, life is hectic so no blog this week. But I did watch this great TED talk I wanted to share with you. I have had such a good week, meeting some really wise and value based people. Listening to this talk I realise I am so fortunate to have had all the components of happiness this week. I have savoured the pleasures of life and work and had a sense of service of something larger......
I hope the week ahead offers that to you too. Do watch this and maybe plan your perfect day?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Deep understanding....the most precious gift

Since I left Breakthrough I have tended to blog less about breast cancer, recognising that some of my need to recover is to be less immersed in it. Its also shaped by my desire to assert myself as not just being about breast cancer-that it doesn't define me. I know that at some levels this has helped me but of course it's still a big part of who I am now-good and ill.

So when I heard that a friends second sister was diagnosed with breast cancer I recognised the impact on me was not insignificant. She is someone I have never met but she has joined our sisterhood, and I know that part of me grieves for everyone who joins. Part of me senses their pain and distress, however positive the implications are from the diagnosis. Part of me recognises the insistent cries of I'm fine in the face of evidence to the contrary. Part of me anticipates the ups and downs of the journey they have ahead and wishes it could be otherwise.

It's estimated that there is one woman diagnosed with breast cancer every 11 minutes in the UK. For every person diagnosed there is an impact on so many others- family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours. Their diagnoses triggering many different and similar reactions in those around them. Fear of loss, what does this mean for me, what can I do to make a difference. It's why every pink framed event from Moonwalks, to Race for Life to Big Pink Bake-offs and the like has fresh audiences year on year, because another group of people have seen the impact of a breast cancer diagnosis and want to change the future. Because although we recognise its a common illness now, that does not mean its common for those individuals. Their lives are changed for ever, often in very devastating ways. The Scar Project has a mission of raising awareness of breast cancer in young women in particular. The images are incredibly powerful and tell eloquently of both impact and survival.

A second diagnosis in any family of course has a ripple effect at any age. Depending on the persons age this has, however, different implications. I recommend Breakthrough breast cancers Family History Guidelines to help you know what to do and expect from your health service should you have a family history.They also have BestTreatment Guidelines for across the UK which has hugely valuable information about what you need to know and lets people affected know their rights around care and treatment. From my experience good information is crucial, beware of google but do link with others with the lived experience. Its a different kind of expertise, its a sisterhood ( in the main) with empathy at its core. The love and support I see within this community is outstanding. ...deep understanding is, I believe, the most precious gift one can give to another. - Carl Rogers

Reasons to be heartful
For every person who disappears when cancer or other hardships knock on the door, in my experience there are others who emerge-often from such unexpected places-you just need to remain open for them to help......
And for me here in Edinburgh its been a lovely sunny July here so far and we have friends to share it with this weekend. Cant wait..

Friday, 5 July 2013

A vast amount of silent good work..thank you and Happy Birthday NHS.

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
Today is the birthday of the NHS in Britain. I feel great pride when I think about the difference it has made to so many. It was a visionary decision in a time of great austerity. Times were truly tough for most. And ill health is a leveler. Fame and fortune does not save us from ill health-the recent sad death from breast cancer of Bernie Nolan reminds us of that. But to  be freed from the worry of the cost of treatment at the time of need was and is ground-breaking and unique. 

Of course economic hardship can remain due to social factors like work and housing but its not because our treatment has bankrupted us. Or that we have had to choose between cost or survival, cost or long term pain and disability, cost or return to health, cost or a healthy baby. We are right to celebrate it.....and fight to retain it if we think that's at stake in some places.

Sixty five years! Now there is no mention of it being pensioned off in Scotland, that may look different across the UK but I'm glad to say not here. But neither is there a suggestion that it can slip on the "baffies" and put its feet up. The country has changed, one third of girls born today will live to be 100, we live longer with more and more long term conditions, most of our care will not be in hospitals-we will self manage, we will require support at home. We need new approaches, new wisdom's for tackling fresh challenges. But look at what has been achieved that others can only marvel at. With the right mindset, commitment and vision we can make these maturing years the next generations legacy.

When I was on holiday recently I finally got around to watching "The Bucket List". I had always been reluctant about watching what I thought to be a weepy. But it's a great film, made great by its fine actors and powerful message because of course it's about living not dying. It's about having dreams and being brave enough to go for them. It's about having no regrets and tackling the hard stuff too. It's about love.

It made me think about not only my own health scares and their impact on my life but also the challenges for so many in healthcare. So I thought I would articulate my wish list that's about living-absolutely not dying-and the future of the NHS. There are policy documents aplenty lining shelves across the land setting out future policy so I don't intend to re write any of those...what I'm picking out are some of my favourites! Please join in and share yours too, wherever you are.

My wish list for the NHS

»        A person centred service where "what matters to you" is what matters to the service.
»        Investing in relationships, with social care, with third sector so that people feel supported wherever they are.
»        A top quality service with our collective commitment to invest in it and willingness to embrace the future to make it happen,
»        Showing respect and care for all involved;the teams providing services as well as  patients and carers.
»        Equality thats evident in all caring and working relationships, true partnerships of equals.
»        And of course-love and compassion for all-too much to hope for? I don't think so.

Reasons to be heartful
Celebrating sixty five years of "A vast amount of silent good meet a vast amount of silent suffering" in Nye Bevans own words is something to be hugely proud of. Here's to embracing the next 65 and more with equal vision and compassion.