Wednesday, January 15, 2020


"Blessed art thou.Lord our G-d,King of the universe,who has granted us life and sustenance and permitted us to reach this season."
The above blessing,traditionally said over the Yom Kippur(day of atonement) lights, is for me a very important blessing,a  celebration of  being alive.Being alive means an individual has an opportunity  to grow, to learn, and to partake in meaningful experiences that make life so interesting.
 Closely related to being alive is the blessing of good health and quality of life.Thankfully I have recovered from my personal illness and enjoy a high quality of life.At this stage of life,what one of my clients calls,late in the fourth quarter,one unfortunately hears almost daily of family,friends and colleagues who have major health issues, which place severe restrictions on them.
 Aging, a natural process, is clearly a blessing,despite it's many challenges including dealing with both physical and psychological losses.One of the keys to aging gracefully is to accept our new limitations.I often joke, I am an ex-athlete because clearly my athletic skills have severely diminished over time.When playing golf I now take advantage of my age , choosing to play the front tees.
 Despite my limitations, I feel blessed that I am able to participate in activities like pickle ball, golf,and attend my fitness club on a regular bases.
 Perhaps one of my greatest assets is my positive attitude toward life.When I wake up in the morning I am thankful to be alive. I know as the day progresses that my aches and pains will lesson.As we journey thru life we all face major obstacles,health issues, financial trouble,family concerns and a myriad of concerns that we must learn to cope and resolve.Yet thru all the ups and downs I remain optimistic about life. I feel an inner peace and self confidence that all will be right in my life.
I feel blessed that I am capable of practicing my craft.At the ripe age of 74, I feel blessed to have the intellectual and emotional resources to do so.I find it both a privilege and a passion that contribute to my feelings of well being.
To my clients thank you for trusting me with your most inner thoughts,demons and conflicts over a period of 48 years.I am truly blessed to have you as my clients and have learned and grown with you as we worked together to resolve your issues.
 To my professional colleagues, my friends, I thank you for your support ,your counsel and your wisdom thru the years. It has been a pleasure to be associated with you.
It is a blessing  to have friends from all walks of life,some professional others not , but all with compassion for their fellow man.Some friends I share a long history going back to school in Winnipeg, others I have meet since coming  to live in Ottawa.A few of my friends I would consider soul mates. Somehow we have this deep understanding of each other and are their for each other in our time of need.
Recently I shared Christmas dinner with a friend who I initially meet as a colleague but thru the years we became very close as we shared lives ups and downs including simultaneously successfully battling cancer together.She is positively the most caring person I have ever met.To these and many friends too numerous to mention,I feel blessed to have been part of .your lives.
Family,my 3 sons,their partners, my 6 grandchildren my brother and sister and their families,have all  been there for me over the years.All made the effort to visit me 3 years ago during my serious illness.An act I truly appreciate.
 We always get together to celebrate family milestones.
I sometimes joke I was brought home by the wrong family since I do not physical resemble my siblings. Although we occasionally disagree on our priorities, for the most part we get along well.As we age,we have all mellowed,bringing us closer together
I feel blessed for my recovery from major colon-rectal surgery some 3 years ago.Although I now face some limitations, for the most part I have regained my strength and am able to participate in most activities,  albeit at a slower pace.
 I am convinced,that my overall fitness level as well as my positive attitude is a contributing factor to my survival and recovery from cancer.
Finally I would like to thank my partner,who has supported me  and has made major changes to her lifestyle as I adjusted to my new circumstances.Thank you for your patience and understanding.
LIFE'S Lesson
Life is a blessing, one's attitude  and reactions to the vicissitudes of life is everything.Maintain your inner peace and integrity and life will bring you many blessings.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


As a wondering Jew(I have practiced many versions of Judaism), I chose to incorporate into my life, many concepts of orthodox, conservative and reform Judaism that I can personally relate to.By way of example, all male orthodox Jews wear tallis,(prayer shawls)while attending synagogue on Saturday mornings,when the Torah(5 books of Moses),is brought out. A custom I follow ,despite attending a Reform synagogue where this is uncommon.
 Personally, to be a Jew,is to be a responsible,caring human being who trys to help others.For an orthodox Jew, as I understand it, the goal is to make the world a better place,so that G-d will return.For this to be accomplished,it is incumbent on Jews to perform the 613 Mitzvahs(blessings),in the Torah.According to orthodox doctrine, any one mitzvah,can be the one that makes G-d return to earth. 
As a wondering Jew I subscribe to the concept of making the world a better place.(  Tikun Olam) I believe strongly that each of us has a purpose and it is incumbent on all of us to find our calling. For me it is to continue to practice my craft and to help my clients find their purpose in life.
 As a young boy of 10,I asked my agnostic father,"what is a jew?' A jew is someone who does good deeds." Simple but elegant.I read one scholarly argument that the difference between religion and spirituality is the difference between thought and action.In the view of one orthodox Rabbi, a religious person attempts to put G-d in all aspects of his/her life.
One way in which spirituality is defined is by Dr. Stephen Diamond in Evil Deeds,"Spirituality can be best be characterized by psychological growth,creativity,consciousness,and emotional maturation."Essentially spirituality is the process of seeing and understanding life as it is with both it's tragic events as well as it's more joyous experiences.
 My take it does not matter whether you consider yourself religious or spiritual ,as long as that means taking action to help others and make the world a better place.
 By way of background I am presently a reform Jew,  however at other times in my life I have been conservative with a healthy exposure to orthodox Judaism.From this personal perspective as a practicing clinical psychologist, I have concluded that G-d is a psychologist.How else to explain that the laws and customs of Judaism follow sound clinical principles of psychology..
 Let us look at "Shiva",the 7 day ritual of mourning the dead that almost all Jews, both religious and secular follow.After the burial,family and friends gather around  the mourners to offer comfort in their time of grief.This consists of providing food, sharing stories about the deceased,and generally offering emotional support to the bereaved.
 Psychologically  this is sound as it provides a celebration of life. The mourner feels support and is able to put the death of the bereaved into perspective with the life cycle.Essentially the mourner receives the time honoured ritual of support and love of his/her community.
Similarly. Rosha Hashana(The Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur(the day of atonement), are the perfect example of the marriage between psychology and Judaism.In preparing for Yom Kippur.where Jews ask G-d for forgiveness, there are required to do the same of people they have hurt in the past year. Similarly they are asked to forgive those who have hurt them.Psychologically, this process of forgiving, is extremely beneficial to both partners and allows, bitterness,hate and bad feelings to be discharged.This promotes healing  between the parties.
For an observant Jew, the process of preparing for the day of atonement, includes a period of self discovery,that prepares oneself for the cleansing of Yom Kippur. During this process, which typically occurs during the month preceding New Years, a person examines his//her life ,values,relationships, in order to become a better person in the New Year.Thus the goal is to try and become a more holy and compassionate person in the New Year.
 As a clinical psychologist who works with clients who have been traumatized,hurt and rejected, I see the process of psychotherapy as being an attempt to examine their lives and become more human and compassionate human beings. Clearly the process of psychotherapy. and  examining your life before the high holidays  are similar process leading to self grow and self fulfillment.
 Rabbi Hillel, a well known Rabbi, is perhaps most famous for the following quote.
 "If I am not for myself, who is for me?
If I care only for myself,what am I.If not now,when."
 The above quote addresses 2 basic human needs,namely the need to have your own distinctive identity and the need to belong to a community.
 Hillel's quote perfectly describes the balance between taking care of yourself and being there
 for others needs.
 The last part of the quote addresses the issue of living in the presence,a sign of good mental health.
During the latter part of my 48 years of practicing psychology I have intuitively felt that spirituality was an important component of psychotherapy enabling the client to find personal meaning in life.
In my view,there is a parallel process between psychotherapy and religious/spiritual pursuits.
 Simply stated there is more than one way to climb the mountain of self actualization and self growth
Follow your own unique. journey of life and path up the mountain. Find your passion ,live it and be open to the experiences and challenges of life.

 I wish all of you a warm,fulfilling and meaningful New Year.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Chapter 1-Bagging It
 Friday Nov.13/2016. one of the luckiest days of my life. I survive a 9 hour colon-rectal operation that saved my life. Unexpectedly I was assigned a senior surgeon who heroically attempted to perform the surgery laparoscopic-ally,despite the scarring of 2 previous surgeries in the same area.I will forever be indebted to her for her highly compassionate and professional care..Now, some 3 years later, I am considered cancer free.
For those of you(most I assume),unfamiliar with the inner workings of colon-rectal surgery,both my colon and rectum were removed to be replaced by an ostomy.. In my case I had a clostomy.A colostomy is a surgically created opening from the colon to the abdominal wall to allow the elimination of feces.In my case it was a permanent one.I am now an official bagger. Despite being told prior to surgery that this is a possibility,it is another matter dealing with it.Simply stated my body had been shocked and traumatized both physically and psychologically.I was left literally holding a bag.
 Suddenly overnight I became a member of a club I knew nothing about.I realized I had a steep learning curve to climb and set about learning .To my surprise, an estimated 1.3 million people   around the world have an ostomy.In North America alone,over 750,000 people live with an ostomy.In Canada,approximately 13,000 new ostomy surgeries are preformed each year. Suddenly I did not feel  alone adapting  to this life altering surgery.
 During the first days of hospitalization, you are extremely weak and your only concern is to diminish the pain.At times,during those first days, I was given  a strong narcotic that caused me to have visual hallucinations.I saw bugs everywhere in my room, Fortunately my training as a psychologist allowed me to recognize I was having hallucinations,I informed the nursing staff who substituted non-narcotic pain medication,which quickly ended my hallucinations. Immediately after surgery I was placed in a room were an elderly man was in the final hours of his life.Friends and family took an opportunity to say good-bye. I requested a transfer to another room, where I would become intimately familiar with my 2 room mates medical issues.Sharing a room is a forced intimacy and bonds are quickly formed. You have a choice,either go with the flow, or be miserable fighting the tension.I chose to go with the flow and developed 2 new friendships.
Despite my usual assertive and confident personality, when faced with a  situation where I am dependent on others, I become very passive and highly respectful  of the medical personnel. Twenty Four hours post surgery, you are expected to stand and walk.At times, it is a lesson in perseverance, a trait I posses to the maximum.
 For the next few days I did well, as liquids and soft food were gradually re-introduced to me. I was cautioned by a very wise senior nurse to go slow as often there are complications with the re-start of the bowel after major surgery.In fact, I was feeling so well, I stopped my pain medication and begin seeing friends and family, including my children and 1 year granddaughter.It was quite a scene walking through the corridors of the hospital,tethered to  my devices,being led by a very curious and active 1 year old.
Despite my promising  progress after 4 days I had a major complication.My bowels,as predicted by the senior nurse, would not restart. The Doctors had no choice but to place a tube through my nose into my stomach to drain it.Unfortunately, for me,  many years ago I suffered a broken nose when playing hockey that resulted in a deviated septum.Unfortunately I did not remember which side was broken.After 2 failed attempts to place the tube  into my right nostril I can tell you with certainty  that the right side was broken.Fortunately the third attempt was successful and I began to feel better immediately.
After 48 hours the tube was removed and on day 7 I was  re-introduced to liquids and soft food.My surgeon was happy with my progress and I was released to a senior home.
 Anticipating my vulnerability and weakened condition I had made arrangements to be transferred directly to a senior resident near my home,which had been highly recommended by a friend who had recuperated there after a recent surgery.
I was placed into a private suite,with it"s own washroom, located on the.medical ward,where residence needed additional care.In my case I was checked every 6 hrs.including taking my vital signs, for the first 48 hours I was there.The staff was exceptionally caring and compassionate including putting on my socks when I was unable to do so.
 The dining room was located 30 feet from my room.The food,prepared by a former chef of a foreign embassy, was outstanding,equivalent to any 5 Starr resort.The food was nutritious,tasty,and fulfilling. If  one did not like the designated meal you were free to substitute something to your liking.At times I was joined for meals by my family,arrangements quickly made to accommodate them.
 Most of my meals I was seated with a retired judge, who turned out to be a delightful companion.
 With time and exceptional care I began to re-gain my strength and mobility such that with the help of the recreation coordinator, we organized a Grey Cup party for the residents.
After 10 days,with the help of the staff, I was read to go home to continue my convalescence.
 .The first person to teach you about the care of your ostomy is a nurse who specializes in this area and is called an endoscopy nurse(ET)Teaching you to care for yourself is initiated 3 days post surgery..Before you leave hospital, you are expected to empty and change the bag attached to your abdomen.The ET nurse assigned to me had a PhD and was highly competent and compassionate..Despite my initial fears and anxiety I soon begin  the task of  learning how to take care of my ostomy. No doubt I was motivated by the desire to have a full and active lifestyle in this new body I had  acquired.
 After discharge, the task of teaching me fell to the community health nurse associated with the Community Care Acess Centre(CCAC).At first, like all timid students I was reluctant to engage,preferring to observe her do the work.Gradually,with supervision,I was able to perform the necessary tasks.One day,home alone , I had a major failure of my ostomy. What to do?
I felt like crying and giving up,but I knew I only had 2 choices.Attempt to get help or try to fix it myself.With considerable trepidation and anxiety I followed my training and was successful in re-attaching my ostomy.It was a day to celebrate! Not unexpectedly,when I told the nurse I was quickly terminated.
 What is daily life with an ostomy?After adapting to the physical appearance of a bag sticking out of your abdomen,distorted body image,and attending to cleaning and changing it on a daily bases,there remains a huge psychological adjustment.
 On a practical basis, one no longer has control of one's bowels.You have to learn new sounds and bodily cues that indicate an event will occur. Understandably,ostomates(people with ostomys),initially become very anxious when leaving the security of their homes.This loss of control is a major adjustment.Gradually with time one learns to trust ones perceptual skills.
Three factors make an adjustment difficult.Firstly the body is adapting to this radical change in the colon and rectum.Secondly,nutritional requirements, eating habits and hydration all must change.Thirdly,stress has a major impact on the system. Forthy,weather and exercise has a huge impact on the system. One must especially be aware of the proper hydration under these circumstances.
After 3 years of living with an ostomy,just when I began to feel comfortable with my ostomy it decides to go into overdrive, as if to tell me it's in charge. When my ostomy acts as if its on steroids I need to restrict my activities Although I have medication to control it, I am very reluctant to take it because of fear of  blockage.When travelling I reduce my intake before flying.
For the most part I cope reasonably well and have an active life style .Psychologically, it is important to see the big picture,that I am truly blessed to be alive and well . I try to enjoy life one day at a time.
During this life changing experience I  have received incredible moral and emotional support from myfamily and friends.You know who you are. I am extreme thankful and grateful for your presence in my life.
People come into your life for a reason.Shortly after I terminated contact with the CCAC nurse I received a telephone call from a representative of the firm I buy my health care supplies.After the usual chit-chat we discussed the specifics of caring for my ostomy. Over the phone and latter by E-mail she coached me in ways to simplify care of my ostomy. Ever time I change my ostomy I think of the good fortune of being contacted by this very caring and compassionate health care provider.
Bagging it means living with the danger of overflow, wind sounds emanating from strange parts of your body and other awkward and embarrassing moments.Recently I was playing bridge with my buddies, when suddenly a crescendo of noise,not unlike the wind blowing,emitted from my stomach.After an awkward silence, I said,"Excuse me".No one said a word and we continued on our game.
To live with a bag is to live with uncertainty,social embarrassment,and other unknown challenges.One needs to think about the bigger picture.I AM ALIVE,Well And Active And For That I FEEL TRULY BLESSED.

Count your blessings and be grateful for all the caring and compassionate people in your life.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Living With The Fear Of Cancer Returning

Presently I am a 3 year survivor of stage 2 colon rectal cancer. After 2 surgeries,brief chemotherapy,and 25 sessions of radiation, I am considered by my health providers to be in remission.
As is the right of any cancer survivor, I chose to be monitored in the wellness program run by the Ottawa Cancer Clinic.After a brief orientation I was to met with my nurse practitioner ever 6 months as well as to have a Cat scan ever year.The nurse is part of an oncology team that has 2 oncologist associated with it.
 As part of my biyearly wellness visit ,I am required to take a blood test that indicates inflammation in the blood stream. It is often an early indicator of cancer.However the test is also prone  to false positives.Unfortunately,during my May/2018 visit my blood levels were elevated.
As I have written elsewhere about this highly traumatic period of my life,I will not repeat it here
.Suffice it to say,after a PET scan, and a MRI, the doctors believe the test results are related to an inflammation of  my prostate caused by surgery and/or radiation.
 July 2019,I went for my biyearly wellness check and learned once again that my blood levels are .elevated.My first reaction was total devastation and the belief  that I faced a life threatening situation.
 However,after having time to process this information,and regain my composure,I realize it is far  to early to come to that conclusion. Once again, further tests, will prove definitive.
 How does one cope with this potentially devastating news..As always,I believe strongly in a higher power.If my destiny is short lived,it is my destiny. I truly believe I have not completed my mission on earth.I plan to continue to practice my chosen profession.
 Secondly,I am blessed with a supportive family,friends and partner who have always been there for me.Thirdly I remain positive and hopeful of the best case scenario,ie: this is simply a manifestation of my prostate problems.
 In the meantime,I plan to walk the walk.I tell all  my clients that good mental health means living in the present. I intend to try to live those words.
Have a healthy,safe, and meaningful summer.