Friday, May 28, 2010


I finally tracked down a woman from patient relations at St. Joseph Med. Ctr., Burbank. It took a lot of detective work, since I found no phone number on the web site. Twice now I accidentally wrote customer relations. Actually, that’s perfectly reasonable since a friend taught me that in medical matters, I am the customer. Just look at the bills for my insurance.

The call turned out to be wonderfully validating and comforting. The woman listened better than I usually do. She admitted (how refreshing) that the scary call and the rest should not have happened. At the end, she assured me that she would pass the entire scenario to the head of the mammography center. When I told her I had blogged about this, she asked to read HENBACKTALK.

I reminded her that I want to reward the tech I met at the return visit. That person explained about older women’s breast tissue and why more films were needed. She would be a great person to train whoever calls women for follow up.

This was a big step for me. I am not good on the phone when it’s something personal, or something medical. I forget part of what I need to say.

Days later: a woman from the mammography unit did call me. She said she had taken action with the person who does telephone callbacks and with the radiologist. She reminded me that they also send a letter to my primary physician. She said patients could ask to talk to another person during the initial phone call. I assured her that on hearing the words “they found” a patient can basically go into shock and forget to talk to more people.

We did not enjoy each other’s tones of voice on this call. I felt that I was hearing justification. Finally she did assure me that no one would receive any more calls like I one that scared me, and she ended the call.

If you can possibly find it, I recommend How to Cope with Your Doctor. Bernard Virshup, M.D., Praxis Press.

Please tell us your experience or adventure complaining about anything medical.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Okay, Twilight is not the whole story of women and love. I just thought it was the key fantasy of the girl inside us, ever hopeful.

Somewhere along in there I stumbled into books by two women (and a man) who tell the day-to-day marching that follows when an amazingly brave woman reaches for what she wants and it turns out to be for life.

Since my own marriage left me with more questions than answers, I grab onto every sentence in these three books that gives me clues to the question with no answer—what makes love last? And how do you get through the yucky times that one self-help team called Stage Two? (As in after the honeymoon is over.) How do you get to the part where the smiling old couple stroll slowly holding hands?

Actually I don’t stumblepon Jill Robinson’s books—I search for them. And in case you need a rating let me mention that Falling In Love When You Thought You Were Through has mysteriously disappeared! (Moral—don’t leave anything valuable on the table when you go to the ladies’ room.)

THE SUM OF OUR DAYS remembers Willie’s traveling to meet Isabelle Allende. Then, to be brief, she just plain followed him home. And the love story was still going on when I bought the book. She does tell things I had never heard of to make a family well and strong—she and her son even went to counseling and signed an agreement of acceptable behavior. That’s what I mean about the day-to-day.

And of course there were tough tests in the long romance that started with Jill Robinson asking to borrow a cigarette, and lasted through marriage. Tests like Jill’s moving to another country. And the big test for both of them that led to writing Past Forgetting.

I’ll probably never marry again, but I was hungry for what has made it work for some couples.

Falling in Love When You Thought You Were Through, a memoir written with Stuart Shaw (HarperCollins, 2002)Past Forgetting, a memoir (HarperCollins, 1999
The Sum of Our Days, 2008. (English translation, Harper Collins)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


This is hard to write. And like some other blogs, I expect to make somebody mad.

Jewelry can be nice, if you know the person’s current tastes. I even give myself some, though not the kind that would put me through graduate school or even traffic school. Being taken to lunch is nice, especially if the host doesn’t look at his watch mid-entree. Candy is nice, in small amounts with no comments about calories. I don’t even know if they make gift hankies anymore.

What I really like is something that lasts my whole life. Respect.

I guess most people are sure they respect their mothers. Do they? Here are some clues. Sentences that start with “You won’t. . .” are rarely respectful. Jokes about Mom’s fiber supplement are ugly. “You’re not allowed to eat that.” That’s a thing you say to a three-year-old. Here are some others.

“I’m taking you to my doctor.”

“ A boyfriend at your age? Don’t be silly.”

“Watch out (grabbing Mom’s arm) there’s someone behind you.” The person behind Mom is probably grown up and capable of saying “Pardon me.”

What you just said to Mom-- Would you say it to your boss? To Cathy Bates? To Bionce?

I love sentences that start with “May I . . .” and “Would you like . . .?”

I remember the Happy Days episode when Fonzie decided his grandma was senile. She set him straight with a few demonstrations like what it’s like to have arthritis (pebbles in his shoe.) Her bird that Fonz thought was imaginary flew in. I don’t remember the rest , but I think it deserved an award.

A good thing to call mom is Mom or Mother, no matter how many grandchildren she has.

How many people call Mom when it’s not Mother’s Day, and ask her if she’s having fun? Do the kids want to get to know her? Ever ask Mom her opinion, and not tell her why she’s wrong? Tell her you love her, before she tells you?

My daughter, seeing so many doctors and dentists on my calendar, urged me to give myself a break from that stress by telling the docs I need a little slack on the appointment schedule. That was a gift.