Finding energy and purpose by giving back: meet @artscaping
Member Spotlights feature interviews with fellow Connect members. Learn more about members you’ve connected with and some you haven’t met yet. Nominate a member you think should share the spotlight.
JOHN: What brought you to Mayo Clinic Connect? What motivates you to take part in the community?
@artscaping: My life partner had surgery in Rochester, Minnesota, a couple of years ago. I was over-the-top amazed with the Mayo Clinic facility and its staff. I experienced transparency, authenticity, genuine care and compassion for the patient’s family as well as the patient, all in a non-competitive professional team environment.
I began snooping around the internet and just happened to find a link to Mayo Clinic Connect. The definition, “online community,” was a welcoming sign that this form of communication just might have value for me. Since I had just received a diagnosis of a chronic condition I knew virtually nothing about, I chose to venture in, sign up and participate.
JOHN: What about Connect makes you feel comfortable to share and to be open with the community?
@artscaping: You must be comfortable before you can trust, just as you must trust before you can share openly and interact with a large community of “strangers.” I continue to note folks new to Mayo Clinic Connect often become thoughtful participants by first dipping just one toe in the water. They seem to seek answers to the questions: What did I see? Was it valuable for me? How will I be treated if I begin to share? How much can I risk? Will I be judged or accepted unconditionally?
There is an openness I find when dropping in on the Connect online community. The mentor program is essential because it includes former and current patients who extend a welcoming hand as well as an invitation to share. There is also an adherence to the guidelines for online behavior presented in an instructive manner. Once I decided to jump in, I was guided by three simple components of mindful speech for my contributions: 1. Is it kind? 2. Is it necessary? 3. Is it true?
I now recognize folks on Connect by the way they compose their statements. I can discern which member is responding without referring to his or her name. And I am thrilled when one of my efforts to empathetically acknowledge a post results in continued discourse.
JOHN: What groups do you participate it?
@artscaping: I am currently participating in two groups and monitoring two others for my life partner. My diagnoses of chronic myofascial pain syndrome and idiopathic small fiber neuropathy fit well with the Chronic Pain and Neuropathy groups. I also follow the Cancer and Men’s Health groups for him.
JOHN: Who has been a special connection for you on Connect?
@artscaping: Volunteer mentor @johnbishop has been a very special resource for me. He uses Google well to find resources for everyone who is in need of information on clinical studies, medical treatments and helpful lifestyle hints. Because of his interest and support, I attended my first Minnesota Neuropathy Association meeting this year. There I was able to meet John and his wife, and thank him personally for being my guide through the maze of knowledge to help address my medical issue.
JOHN: What surprised you the most about Connect?
@artscaping: First of all, I was surprised by the commitment of the moderators to guide me to the discussions with the most relevance for my health issues, even when it meant moving my posts. Secondly, the confirmation by other members about the value of my replies came as a surprise. This underlines, however, what I’ve already believed: I am an enthusiastic proponent of the need to be an active participant in one’s healthcare. I think providers and patients are a team, and that patients also can be knowledgeable and have something to contribute in healthcare. I see my own patient advocacy as a responsibility and never as a role I can dump on others.
JOHN: What energizes you, or how do you find balance in your life?
@artscaping: A balanced life … the elements of this change as we age. What energizes me currently is giving back, using all of the talents, gifts and experience I might have to make a difference for others.
For several years, I have been the volunteer marketing director for an effort to build a community center in a small California mountain village. As a member of the design team, I have been able to participate in the planning every step of the way. My role as the public relations person has introduced me to new friends and supporters.
Now, as my cognitive issues become more apparent to me and my energy level and pain tolerance wanes daily, I am turning that responsibility over to others more capable and definitely younger. I know that as we grieve for the loss of an activity in our lives, we need to find a replacement within the scope of our new reality.
I have been looking for a replacement like this, and Mayo Clinic Connect offers me a way to give back.
JOHN: Tell us about your favorite pastime or activity.
@artscaping: I enjoy the participation in and the benefits of my practice in mindfulness, yoga and meditation programs. After getting over the shock of finding these treatment modalities when I was 70 and wondering “where I had been” all those years prior, I actively seek opportunities for retreats, an open gate sangha and a daily ritual of gentle yoga.
You know, everyone needs a spiritual leader to listen, encourage and explain. That person, for me, is Patsy. After requesting a private session during a retreat, I asked Patsy for help dealing with my increasing chronic pain. She simply said, “Welcome the pain, study it, learn from it. Don’t disassociate your body from your mind. They work better when they are working together.”
Absolutely, one of life’s rarest gifts … and my advice to you … go find your Patsy. She exists.
My other favorite activity is being the recipient of an expert-level myofascial pain release therapy session every week with Amy. I’ve really benefited from Amy’s commitment to this gentle, yet focused treatment.
And you are right if you guessed I also think everyone needs an Amy. I now have feeling in my feet. I can still safely drive because my feet know if I am putting on the brake or stepping on the gas. I can walk across the grass at the river and feel in touch with nature. I can breathe without discomfort and know how to sit properly in a chair to avoid leg pain generated by unhappy hips suffering from poor posture.
JOHN: Do you have a favorite quote, life motto or personal mantra?
The act of just being present, or mindfulness, can be learned and practiced. No matter what you are dealing with physically or how you are feeling emotionally, learn to be present and it will change your life.
JOHN: What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
@artscaping: I am still friends with and communicate with my classmates from grade school, colleagues at my first job and my neighbors from across the country in all of the places I have lived. Friends need to stay in touch. Social media helps … but we have to welcome and nurture the connection. I look for forever friends, who love and respect you unconditionally.
JOHN: What food can you simply not resist?
Allow me to explain … my partner and I used to buy a commercial fruit dip and thought we could do better. We worked on perfecting the recipe for a couple of years. When we got to our third version, everyone in my Mahjong group — the testers — liked it the best.
I'm happy to share it with you here:
Chris and Jay’s Fruit Dip #3
Blend all of these ingredients together, using a stick blender for best results:
2 tubs of original whipped cream cheese
1 cup of extra-creamy whipped topping
Zest of one extra large lemon
2 capfuls of vanilla (some caps hold more than others — be generous)
One 6-ounce can of 100% pineapple juice
Two 7-ounce jars of marshmallow cream (it is sticky)
Blend it all in, and place in a covered container in the refrigerator. Enjoy!