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?
@merpreb: I was looking for a community supportive of people with health problems — a place where its leaders didn't lecture and that didn't just repeat humdrum answers to questions about illnesses. And I love the fact that there is a “no B.S.” filter! If you aren't being honest about yourself, someone will point it out in a loving but straightforward way. A lot of patients on Connect are very ill, and treating them with respect and honesty is one way to help them feel more in control, more dignified and help them more with their own health management. I bring 21 years of lung cancer history, treatments and tests to the table. I knew that I could offer at least one person hope, support and information.
JOHN: What about Connect makes you feel comfortable to share and to be open with the community?
@merpreb: What makes me feel comfortable about Connect is the lack of airs that the fellow members have in greeting people and supporting people. They are there, with everyone, feeling the discomfort, pain and hurt, not up on the "I know everything cloud." Connect has an incredible vision for this new idea of connecting patients who can help each other, encourage and guide others to a healthier way of managing their own health. This leads to more openness and a feeling of safety. Everyone is very open. And after being a patient for so many years, what's to be shy about?
JOHN: What groups do you participate in?
@merpreb: I participate in the Lung Cancer and the Lung Health groups. This is where a lot of my experience lies. I have multifocal adenocarcinoma of the lung, a subset of non-small cell lung cancer. My journey began in 1997 with a fast-growing adenocarcinoma, and ten years later it changed. The medical profession is still stumped about this indolent cancer where there are multiple nodules at one time. Scientists are asking themselves, are all the multiple nodules primary cancers or small metastases? Multifocal adenocarcinoma of the lung: Factors predictive for local therapy.
I also joined the Depression & Anxiety group. I had never met anyone else who had been depressed for as long as I had been or who had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of cancer. I was thrilled and knew that I could at least sympathize and support anyone else who felt as I have.
JOHN: Who has been a special connection for you on Connect?
@merpreb: @parus has been a special connection for me because she comes from an entirely different background than I do and challenged me to be more empathetic and open minded to other's plights. She was one of the first people on Connect who challenged me to be more real. I think that I fell from my high tower with a loud thud. She has an insurmountable amount of strength and insight. She helps other members a lot and is a perfect example of how Connect can bring people together into a healthy community of people who have problems.
JOHN: What surprised you the most about Connect?
@merpreb: What first surprised me was how easy it was to fit right in and the warmth that greeted me. It felt like opening the doors to a cozy, warm room full of accepting and supportive friends. And I was challenged to be more honest with myself and more sensitive to others whose history and upbringing were different than mine. The mentor has become the student in many ways!
JOHN: What energizes you, or how do you find balance in your life?
@merpreb: Ha — who says that I have balance in my life? I have PTSD, so I have to keep an eye on fatigue. I stop when I know that I'm not working at the top of my game. Having lung cancer has made me vigilant with being healthy, staying away from ill people, eating well and exercising. And listening to my husband: Dave keeps me balanced and grounded by helping me see reality more clearly. Talking to everyone on Connect energizes me! I love helping and guiding people in this fashion and feeling that I am a part of this exciting forum.
JOHN: Tell us about your favorite pastime or activity.
@merpreb: My favorite pastime is spending time with my younger sister and her family, and my son and daughter-in-law. We all have similar likes — hiking, the beach, birding, animals and joking around. And, lo and behold, we all get along! There is such a feeling of love when everyone is together, an other-worldliness that sometimes has me shed a private tear or two. Other than my friends, my family have been my support system, way beyond what I could have imagined.
JOHN: What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
@merpreb: I appreciate honesty and loyalty in my friends. All of my friends have been my friends for over 35 years. Honesty is a big thing with me. I'm talking about being honest about life, being realistic and helping to steer me in the right direction when need be. And I do the same for them. They are my lifeline to the world outside of my close-knit family.
JOHN: What do you love about where you live or vacation?
@merpreb: I live in a beach town on the coast of southern Rhode Island. People come to vacation in my town! We have a beautiful shore, and there are walking trails behind my house. Rhode Island has a slew of gorgeous trails. Near me is my university, which opens its doors for cultural events, additional classes that I can audit, and a slew of new energy that fills out streets with college students and the hope of the future.
But my favorite vacation place is Paris. I just love it there. It feels like my second home. I am so relaxed there. It's a place that brings today and all the yesterdays together, without any boundaries or rules. One minute I can be in a shop, buying the latest, most chic sweater, and the next minute I can step outside its doors and step down into the Roman ruins or their communal baths, or see beautiful jewelry worn by women or their slaves. I just love it there.
JOHN: Puppies or kittens?
@merpreb: Haha — I am a dog person, but don't let my 5-pound cat hear that! Two years ago, I lost my “soul puppy” at 15 1/2 years old. Amelie, my cat, a gray tabby, was her best friend. Brandywine, our dog who passed away, was gorgeous: a mixture of Pointer and Lab. She was a rare sweetie, and I miss her desperately. She comforted me through most of my lung cancers and helped prevent me from falling into a permanent abyss of depression. Amelie is a sweetie too, often curling up with me when I read or watch TV. And, of course, I can't move since she sleeps as tight against me as she can. But her favorite place is sitting in front of me, right in front of the computer, especially when I'm typing. She was so tiny when I first got her that when she stepped on the keys of the computer they wouldn't depress! Although I've had four cats in my life, Amelie has been "my" first ever cat, who is all mine.