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Mary Ann
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ANAwareness Week


In or around 1982, I was invited to attend a unique conference.


A large Seattle based re-insurance company had selected a group of 25 business women from around the country to visit their Home Office and enjoy several days of events designed to educate and entertain us. My employer had no qualms allowing me to attend, especially since all expenses were paid by the hosting company.

Though I had achieved some career success by that time, it was infantile compared to the impact of business women on today’s global opportunities. At thirty-something, I was excited and also a bit anxious, hoping there was no quiz when I arrived.

Once checked into our luxurious individual hotel rooms, the group enjoyed a reception and overview of the days to come. The two events that caught my immediate attention were:

  1. Georgetown University Professor speaking on “Potty Parity”

(Very interesting and entertaining, sorry I don’t recall her name)


  1. Dinner cruise on the Puget Sound


As we moved into the second day of our conference, new faces became immediate friends and I recall a group of about 5 of us staying up half the night exchanging work “war” stories and girl talk.

The last evening of our stay was celebrated with the highly anticipated dinner cruise. The vessel’s dining area revealed round tables glistening with lovely candlelight, flowers, and pristine linen. My assigned seat was between two attendees I had noticed earlier.

I turned to the one on my right for a brief introduction and then met the attendee on my left. I have a standard statement prepared for anyone seated on my left, at a table, on an airplane, bus, etc. So I turned to Sally and said, “Since you’re sitting on my left side, I need to warn you that I’m totally deaf in that ear. So, if you’re speaking and I’m ignoring you, please just tap my hand to get my attention.”

She took my hand, looked into my face, and then said, “Did you have an Acoustic Neuroma?” “How on earth did you know?” I responded. She then explained that her best friend back in Pennsylvania, Ginny Fickel, had the same surgery in 1977 and also had no hearing in one ear.

What a coincidence you might say. I say it was God’s grace. There were no MRI’s or CT scans when I was diagnosed in 1975 and had surgery 4 weeks later.  Though these tumors are not usually cancerous, they can overtake important nerves as they grow leaving the patient with lifetime challenges. Today, an Acoustic Neuroma is often diagnosed prior to the appearance of symptoms. For instance, after a car accident an MRI is performed and a small unexpected AN is diagnosed and watched or treated.

Sally was well informed about the surgical procedure and accompanying details. She further surprised me when she revealed that Ginny had recently started a national support group for AN Patients. There was so little information available for us as the surgical procedure was only performed by a few doctors in the country. Ginny’s desire to help other patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options has been fulfilled.

Over the years the ANA has grown to serve nearly 5,000 members including patients, families, friends and health care professionals. Thank you Ginny!


Please join me in celebrating


ANAwareness Week     May 8 – 14 , 2016


For additional information please visit


The Merry-Go-Round of Work


Maybe you’ve always called it a Carousel.  I prefer the joyous feeling and heightened anticipation that accompany the term Merry-Go-Round. This particular Merry-Go-Round is the prerequisite for Retirement and has a unique ticket cost……………….

picture of colorful carousel horses

image courtesy of Simon Howden at

You wait in line with your education and experience ticket, anticipating the ride of your life.  Disappointment clouds your face as you discover your ticket is not valid because your education and experience don’t match the opportunity.  Now, you’re required to stand in line all over again and maybe again and again, until your ticket matches the ride.  Once matched with your job, the attendant opens the gate.


A particular horse catches your eye and your foot is in the stirrup quickly.

That first job may be brief and paycheck reality often provides inspiration to beef up your resume or go back to school.  Time, opportunity, and necessity help develop your career path as you sit astride your horse expecting to enjoy the ride.


Occasionally, there’s a malfunction and you are at the mercy of the carnival repair guy.  You didn’t create the problem and you experience frustration because you can’t budge until his work is finished.  Safety rules force you to stay put until the motion begins again.  By that time, you will likely be so involved with the catch-up activity it will cause you to forget your earlier frustration; sort of like forgetting the pain of childbirth.  The cycle continues as the calendar pages fly off into thin air. Just riding along smoothly with occasional malfunctions until one day you receive an email congratulating you on your 5th anniversary with the company!


You’ve got this now, the corporate world thing. Maybe you’ve stayed in that original company and moved up in the organization.  Or perhaps you tired of that first ride and found another one that was more challenging and rewarding. Either way, you’ve learned so much throughout your career and honed your ability to “read” the other riders.  Some are typical co-workers in most organizations:

Mrs. Mom:

She’s properly seated on a carefully selected Tennessee Walker.  Her zippered tote contains a remedy for any mishap and a complete list of emergency contacts for everyone in her group.  She will take care of you.


Mr. Stuffy:

He’s not even on a horse; he opted for the bench seat with the swans on the side.  You can count on him to obey all the rules and file a report if you step over the line.  No ambition, just imbedded in his spot for the duration.


Ms. Wild Child:

She’s on a horse and can’t sit still.  She has all the moves of a circus bareback rider, with the ability to adjust to the motion of the ride. She’s always maneuvering to assure the spotlight illuminates her “best side”.  She’s highly unlikely to notice your struggles, even if you’re barely hanging onto your horse.


Mr. Leader:

He’s seated atop the one and only black stallion on the ride.  The horse’s mane appears to be flying in the breeze and the rider sits a bit taller to catch a glimpse of himself in one of the many mirrors festooned on the ride’s inner circle. Together, horse and rider exude assurance, power and control.   You can see their success and you are drawn to it.



The cycle of work and malfunctions continues.  Years fly by, as you deal with co-workers, managers, corporate policy and increasing responsibilities. You raise children, take care of your aging parents, maintain a reasonable lifestyle and convince yourself you’ll work forever because you can’t afford to retire.  As a senior staff member, you are respected and appreciated by your employer.  You may find yourself perceived as essential to the company’s success. You may be at the height of your career, challenged and loving it! So how can you possibly retire?


Then it happens; your friends start to retire and they tell you how wonderful it is and how you can do it because you “don’t need as much” when you’re retired.  And maybe you lose a dear friend to cancer; so young.

And you’re getting tired yourself.  It takes so much energy to get through the day and there’s not much left for evenings and weekends. Subtly the seeds are planted and your subconscious begins to evaluate your options. Eventually, you come to the realization that you really want to exit the ride and go home.


Stop by next Friday and I’ll tell you how……………….Mary Ann