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Life can knock you off your feet! I take care of everything and everyone…this is what I do and a large part of who I am! One day while at work I had this intense squeezing in my chest, everything started to spin, I was nauseous and dizzy. I thought I was having a heart attack. After being checked out in the ER, thankfully my ticker is in fine condition but what I experienced was a panic attack.

Last semester was very difficult: working 50+ hours a week, dealing with the news of my brother being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, caring for him during treatment, all while working towards finishing my degree, and the pressure was taking its toll. This panic attack was an eye opening experience.

I was not taking care of myself at all and it was evident. It was time to make some healthy changes. The hardest one was acknowledging that it wasn’t selfish to take time for self-care. I worked on trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, took some walks (even short 15 minute ones helped) and—this is a big one—turning off all electronics (YES, no Facebook!!!) at least an hour before going to sleep. However, the most important form of self-care for me has been the practice of active listening and affirmation towards myself.

Active listening is when we listen to someone, acknowledge their feelings and restate it so they feel understood and validated. It might sound, and feel, weird doing this, but give it a try. I would say things to myself like, “working so many hours and caring for Anthony (my brother) is really exhausting,” or “it’s ok to be scared and sad to see Anthony so sick.”

So many people suffer with anxiety, many in silence. I was ashamed to admit that at one point, but not anymore. This makes me human. If you find yourself in a similar situation, practice some self-care. Be kind and love yourself. Allow the truth of your emotions to have a safe space with no judgment. Give yourself time to feel, grow, and heal on this journey of life.

Life can knock us off our feet, but it’s okay because sometimes we need to lay down and rest.

Be kind to YOU today!

Dianne Galasso is a Brooklyn native since birth! In 1991, she received her AAS in Journalism from Kingsborough Community College. She studied at St. John’s University from 1993-1999. Dianne has had photographic and written work published, as well as has edited for other published authors. Since 1991, Dianne has worked at a medical center in Brooklyn in various job functions, currently as a Manager in the Nursing Education Department. She has coached girls’ softball, volunteered in the women’s and children’s ministry in her local church and is an active resource in the lives of children. After a 15 year hiatus from school, Dianne is currently a student at CUNY SPS where she is pursuing her BA in Psychology.


To read books like this, I have to be in a certain mood. Just like any other genre, be it mystery, true crime, or forensic psychology related. I knew from the moment I was about 80 pages in, that this was going to require a certain state of mind from me to be able to finish it. So over the past month, in between reading thrillers, etc., I finally finished it.

The book was about a neurosurgeon that was diagnosed with cancer and his journey until his untimely demise. The book offers an interesting perspective into the journey of someone who’s life is cut short by such a serious illness such as cancer. There were a few quotes that stuck with me and a few thoughts that I’d like to share and understand your thoughts.

At the end of it all, what really matters? There came a point where he was diagnosed with cancer, would he return to neurosurgery—his passion? Where would he go? What would he do, and most importantly, what really mattered? I often think about my own demise, what have I accomplished, what have I not, what do I want, and what would I do but my own question of what really matters. Now that I am a mother, I have an Achilles—my daughter. Had I not been a mother the answer would be simple, what matters to me is money and my friends. Now I find that what matters to me is the ability to see my daughter grow and guide her through life. Money is still there, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a sordid affair with money. It is the root of all evil after all and everyone has a price, or at least I’m honest enough to own that I have one.

The book was a good read, again heavy in the content and the reflection and understanding that we all have a counter over our heads, just ticking the minutes and days away. But the takeaway is much larger in scale, because I reminded myself to take more time to myself, more time to slow down and enjoy my surroundings, more time to see and be one with nature and the things that I enjoy and love.

So at the end of the day…what really matters to you?

Here are the quotes:

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget. You may decide you want to spend your time working as a neurosurgeon, but two months later, you may feel differently. Two months after that, you may want to learn to play the saxophone or devote yourself to the church. Death may be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

It’s October and two big things are happening: The NY Mets are in the World Series for the first time in 15 years and it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. BOTH are super exciting!

I know this might seem like a “female” topic, but men should get checked out too so keep reading!

Getting a mammography can be a scary thought, so I wanted to share my experience to help.

I made an appointment at Maimonides Breast Center in Brooklyn; after arriving and filling out the necessary paper work, I was escorted to a room called…..”The Dressing Room.” More appropriately—it should have been called “The Undressing Room.” I was told to get undressed from the waist up which was very good news because if they asked me to get undressed from the waist down for a mammography, I would have questioned their medical practice!

I was given a lovely (not really) white robe and once undressed (from the waist up), I was told to have a seat in the waiting area with the other ladies wearing the same lovely (not really) white robe, also half naked. I’m not going to lie—sitting there thinking about my boobs having their photo taken was a bit nerve-racking.

Once called in, a lovely technician asks……”any CHANCE of you being pregnant?”

“NO,” I reply.

“Are you sure?”

“I would know.” Just saying!

She now says, “Let me see your breasts honey.”

I think to myself….okay….please don’t call honey while you’re eyeballing my woman-hood! She now takes these two little stickers with metal beads and sticks them to my nipples! Apparently this is to let the person reviewing my film know that these are my nipples and nothing more. Great….because I want someone who can’t tell where my nipples are reading my film.

So, as I now stand topless with pretty little silver beaded stickers on my nipples I’m asked to place my breast on this cold plate. As I place my pretty little silver tipped boob down, there was obviously some confusion—she mistook my girls for pizza dough!! She handled them as if she worked at Mama Leone’s. Finally, after much kneading, they were ready for their selfie! Slowly the machine comes down……a little more……….a little more…….technician says, “Hold your breath,”….then ……PANCAKE and release!! YEP, it’s that quick!!

This was my fun experience on mammography day! All kidding aside, cancer is a serious and scary diagnosis and I know fear keeps us from getting this test done, but early detection really is so important. I make light of it, not to minimize breast cancer or those who are and have battled. My hope is to inspire others to get checked through some light and laughter.

If you want more information on where to get a mammography or just need information, you can call the Maimonides Medical Center Breast Center at 718-765-2550 or visit their website.

SO, make October count….schedule an appointment for your mammography and make your boobs winners too!! Go METS!!!

Until next time……


Dianne Galasso is a Brooklyn native since birth! In 1991, she received her AAS in Journalism from Kingsborough Community College. She studied at St. John’s University from 1993-1999. Dianne has had photographic and written work published, as well as has edited for other published authors. Since 1991, Dianne has worked at a medical center in Brooklyn in various job functions, currently as a Manager in the Nursing Education Department. She has coached girls’ softball, volunteered in the women’s and children’s ministry in her local church and is an active resource in the lives of children. After a 15 year hiatus from school, Dianne is currently a student at CUNY SPS where she is pursuing her BA in Psychology.

Before a run, I wake up—excited… Usually it’s about 4 a.m. and I begin forcing myself to eat some oatmeal and a spoonful of peanut butter. I am anxious to leave the house, but I take my time filling up my water bottle, eating my breakfast and dressing for my big run. My mind wonders over every laborious bite of food. Is today the day that I will fall in love?

Okay, I am going to be honest. Please forget what I am about to say after you read it. I am so embarrassed to admit, I do not like running, not one bit! Even so, every time I tie up my laces and head out; I am hanging on to a glimmer of hope. Today will be the day that I magically turn into a real runner!

I see real runners every time I go out for my runs. Real runners love to run. Real runners don’t feel the pain that I feel while running—especially the pain I feel after a run. Real runners enjoy the solitary moments of thought while running. At least, that is what I imagine it is like to be a real runner.

Last Saturday, I set out to run 12 miles. I arrived to Central Park; running for the first time with the Manhattan team instead of the Brooklyn team. At first, the run was going well. I enjoyed the company of a couple of runners I hadn’t met yet—both of which actually ran my pace. It was the first Saturday that I was running comfortably with others. The first 8 miles went so well. I was actually enjoying myself. My inner voice proclaimed, “This is the day! I am falling in love!!!!” Well, not so fast. It was so hot outside. I filled up my water bottle at every fountain and kept drinking. I felt tired. I had packed one packet of the Jelly Belly Sport Beans, but apparently that was not enough. I started to feel dizzy and, believe it or not, hungry!

After I hit 11 miles, I knew I had to stop. I ran back to our starting area (after 11.2 miles) and bought a Gatorade and a hot pretzel from a vendor. I knew if I didn’t get some energy right away I might have gotten sick. After stretching, my body felt as though I was hit by a car. Defeated, I made my way back to Brooklyn. Wouldn’t you know it, the trains were delayed and running slow!? Frankly, even though it was a hot and long commute home; it gave me time to think. The reflection on the train home helped me build the courage to admit it. I DO NOT “love” running right now, but I am falling out of hate with it. I am enjoying the fact that I am active. I love that I am now a non-smoker. I love that I am busy doing something healthy for myself.

So, I am courting “running” and eventually, I know that will grow into a very strong love of running. When I get discouraged, I will force myself to think about the days that I couldn’t run for more than 10 minutes. I force myself to remember what it was like to race out of the subway so I could quickly light up a smoke before heading into the office. Instead, I am running up the subway steps for a little extra push in my fitness. I will cling to the excitement I feel every time someone tells me that they notice I’ve lost weight… Well those are the things I am hanging on to that push me to my runs.

This Sunday, I will be sharing my new habit with supporters for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I am excited to join our team of 20 (and counting) for this 5K run (or walk). My goal will be to beat my fastest time of 39 minutes and 12 seconds. I hope you will consider supporting your school’s team. You can support in a couple of ways. Click here to participate as a runner or walker. If you have a schedule conflict, you could donate and support the fight against breast cancer (at the same link). If those options don’t work, why not come out and cheer us on this Sunday? The cheers from the sidelines are so meaningful to runners in the race. I am so excited and can not wait for Sunday to arrive. Maybe this will be the day I fall in love!

Komen Greater NYC Race for the Cure
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Central Park at 9:00 am
The SPS Team will meet at Strawberry Fields at 8:oo am

Alexandra Hertel is an Ohioan living in Brooklyn, New York. She attends CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and works full-time in the events industry.

Images Used:

ha1flosse “Illustration of Zebras” Image. Free Stock Photos.biz2012. Web

“Racers on A Starting Line” Image. Free Stock Photos.biz2012. Web

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