Exploring health in fiction-3 books to consider

most fiction is based on real life, which is full of twists and turns related to our health and well being. Much if not all of what we do is based on our health, which can change suddenly and unexpectedly, and turn our lives upside down.

I hadn’t planned on writing book reviews when I started this blog. I love to read so  I started recommending health and medical books that I thought sounded interesting. After reading one myself, I thought it would make a good blog post, so my first book review was Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and The Making of a Medical Examiner- a review of words worth sharing

After that, I assumed I would review  non-fiction medical books, and most of them have been. I have reviewed  memoirs  and biographies,  medical history, health advice, dying, vaccination, nutrition, and medical care. I didn’t expect to review fiction, but I have.

That shouldn’t have seemed strange, since most fiction is based on real life, which is full of twists and turns related to our health and well being. Much if not all of what we do is based on our health, which can change suddenly and unexpectedly, and turn our lives upside down. Consider how many TV dramas are based in hospitals, involving health care workers, and sick or injured people.

Here are excerpts and links to 3 of my reviews of books that

explore health in fiction

EXPLORING HEALTH IN FICTION -www.watercresswords.com

My Sister’s Keeper a novel by Jodi Picoult

Now I didn’t actually review this book. I used an excerpt  in a post about hair loss.

Effective solutions if you experience hair loss

 

The book tackles several cutting edge health technologies that can create touchy ethical issues that I haven’t dealt with here, but if I do, I’ll revisit this book.

Here is what I did write about My Sister’s Keeper ,a novel that touches on  several medical themes including cancer, genetic engineering, organ donation, and medical autonomy. The book was also a movie which I haven’t seen yet.

 

 

The story is about Kate, an adolescent who as a toddler developed a rare form of leukemia, and has spent the majority of her life either in the hospital getting treatment or recovering from them. After yet another chemotherapy regimen, she has lost her hair.

One day her mother, Sara, offers to take Kate and her younger sister Anna to the mall for a day out. Kate refuses.

“Don’t say it. Don’t tell me that nobody’s going to stare at me, because they will. Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter because it does. And don’t tell me I look fine because that’s a lie.” Her eyes, lash-bare, fill with tears. “I’m a freak, Mom. Look at me.”

Sara looks at her and says, “Well, we can fix this.”

“She walks out of the room followed by Kate and Anna. She finds a pair of ancient electric grooming clippers, plugs them in, and cuts a swath right down the middle of her own scalp.

“Mom”, Kate gasps.

With another swipe of the razor, Kate starts to smile. She points out a spot Sara missed. Anna crawls onto Sara’s lap. “Me next,” she begs.”

As Sara later remembers:

“An hour later, we walk through the mall holding hands, a trio of bald girls. We stay for hours. Everywhere we go, heads turn and voices whisper. We are beautiful, times three.”

Say Goodbye for Now- a novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I was drawn to this book because the main character is a woman physician. I started it just for pleasure, but once drawn into the story, I knew I wanted to review it for the blog. Here’s how my review starts:

In 1959, Dr. Lucille Armstrong, or Dr. Lucy as she is called, practices medicine of sorts in a small Texas town. Although she is a “doctor of human beings”, she spends most of her time taking care of stray and injured animals.

SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW- A Novel
SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW by Catherine Ryan Hyde

To support them and herself, she occasionally treats people; “ it’s not a hobby, I do it for the money.” But because “people there didn’t take well to a woman doctor”, her patients are not always the town’s model citizens.

Dr. Lucy lives alone except for the menagerie of injured animals she has doctored back to life. She likes her life the way it is, until she opens her home to three  unexpected and unlikely guests.

Continue the review here-

Say Goodbye for Now- a book review

Labor Day-a novel by Joyce Maynard

Leaving for a trip, I bought a book to read on the airplane. After reading a few pages, I realized it was also a movie I had seen. So my subsequent review was a book/movie review. The medical themes in this book/movie were subtle, but no less real.

Here is some of what I wrote:

Henry, who narrates the story, lives with his divorced mom in a small town. At 13, Henry seems more mature than he should need to be, while his mother Adele seems childish and naive for a grown woman. As the story unfolds, you begin to wonder  if Adele’s eccentric behavior is due to something more than immaturity.

Adele and Henry are in their small town store buying clothes for school when a man they don’t know approaches them asking for help. Frank seems nice enough and asking for help might not be a problem except for the fact that is is bleeding, and evasive about why.

He asks Adele to take him to her house and either due to fear or poor judgement, she says yes. Both she and Henry seem to realize that something dramatic is about to change in their lives, but what it is, they can only guess at this point.

You can read the entire post here.

Labor Day, a book more interesting than the holiday

 

 

 

 

You can probably borrow these books from your local library- I do. But if you do decide to buy books, please consider the affiliate links here and on the resource page. Purchases through them help support this blog and help share the HEART of health.

Happy reading! Dr. Aletha


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Must Read Posts- 2018 Year End Review

The past couple of years I have done a “Top 5 posts of the year” series in December. This year I’m changing it to a year end review of multiple posts. This will include posts that are reader favorites, my favorites, personal profiles, book reviews.

The past couple of years I have done a “Top 5 posts of the year” series in December. This year I’m changing it to a year end review of multiple posts. This will include posts that are

  • Reader Favorites-based on views/likes/comments
  • My Favorites– posts that are special to me
  • Personal profiles– posts about specific people who I think you should know and may have missed the first time
  • Book reviews– some of my favorites, and yours too
  • All time best– some of my all time best posts from the archives

I  introduce these posts with a back story-

  • what motivated me to write it,
  • how I researched it,
  • how I felt about readers’ response to it.

I have revised or updated most of the the posts with new information.

To my current followers-

Thank you so much. I appreciate your interest and hope you’ll enjoy re-reading some familiar posts and maybe discover some you missed.

And to my new readers and hopefully future followers, welcome and enjoy reading

watercress words- like watercress -unique, zesty,  and nutritious.watercress leaves on bread

Aching Joy- a book review

Jason Hague’s biography says he “writes and speaks about the intersection of faith, fatherhood, and autism”

Jason Hague’s biography says he “writes and speaks about the intersection of faith, fatherhood, and autism”  which is the main reason I requested this book to review.

(In exchange for reviewing books for Tyndale House Publishers  I received a free copy. This post also contains affiliate links.) 

Aching Joy Book Promo 

I have read and reviewed other books about autism for both professional and personal reasons as I explained in my review of Uniquely Human

But in Aching Joy I did not find much discussion of autism as a disorder. Although Jason tells us about his autistic son Jack’s diagnosis, therapy, and progress, that is not the focus of this book.
(As Jason does in the book I will use the term “autistic” rather than “with autism”.)

Parents of autistic children often become focused on learning about autism, seeking treatments and services for the child, and celebrating any progress, victory, or achievement no matter how small.

Jason didn’t do that when first confronted with Jack’s diagnosis of autism. In denial of what the doctors said and other family members recognized, he grieved over what he saw as the death of the father- son relationship he had dreamed of. Perhaps worst of all, his faith in an all- powerful loving God was shaken as it had never been before. Considering that Jason is a pastor, that was a crisis. 

Aching Joy is the story of Jason, and how he found his way back through the Land of Unanswered Prayer as he calls it.


This is a book about the treasures I found in my darkness and the greatest of all was this: aching joy.  The Lord taught me how to sigh in pain,  how to weep in gladness,  and how to trust during days of hope deferred. It was not an easy road to walk.  It still isn’t easy and it isn’t safe. Rather it is a confounding country full of myths and mirages. us here faith resembles denial settled this looks like a surrender and hope is the scariest creature of all.

As Jason narrates his son’s cycles of regression, progress, then regression again,  we also see the same happen to him;  his faith in God and answered prayer likewise waxes and wanes based on these and other life circumstances. He totters through expectation to disappointment,  from hopefulness to resignation, from faith to fear. 

But finally he comes to terms with the roller coaster that autism can be, and decided to put his trust not in a program, professional, or process,  but in a Person


If there is an answer to the mysteries and tensions  in this unfinished life,  we will not find it in philosophy or poetry or self-help religion. Rather  we only find it in a Person. Aching Joy  would be impossible if we were self- sustaining adults but fortunately we are much smaller than that. We are children of an eternal King. Courage and healing are in his hands and he waits for you to call. He waits for you to tell him where it is you ache and to rest under the shelter of his touch. 

Jason Hague, author of Aching Joy 

Jason Hague is an associate pastor at Christ’s Center Church in western Oregon. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Ecclesia College in Arkansas. 

He served with YWAM (Youth with a Mission) for eight years, most of that time training international missionaries. He still occasionally travels to teach YWAM recruits. He blogs for the One Hope Network and for the foster care organization “Every Child of Lane County.” He is a featured speaker for Restoration Ministries’ flagship DVD and online course, “Rebuilding the Foundations of Life.” 

Jason has been married to Sara for seventeen years. They have five children.

Jason chronicles his family’s journey at his blog, where you can read the first two chapters of his book. 


Faith-Fatherhood-Autism

Jason’s wife Sarah writes about the “fog of autism” that their son Jackson went into, and how they they are “finding him”. She hasn’t posted recently but you can read about their journey in her blog archives at 

FINDING JACKSON 

Aching Joy is published by NavPress and distributed /marketed by Tyndale. 

Come read with me. My Reader Rewards.
My Reader Rewards Club 
As a member, you’ll have access to inspiring literature, Bibles, special promotional offers, and much more. Earning points is easy—you’ll receive 25 points just for signing up!

You can earn points when you:

  • Shop at Tyndale.com or NavPress.com
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  • And more!

My Reader Rewards Club is a great way to earn free books and Bibles for yourself, friends, and family! Your journey to earning free faith-based products starts HERE.

(By your signing up through these links, I can earn free books that I may review for this blog.)

I would love to read your response to Aching Joy. If you have or do read it, let me know what your think. Contact me here

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

exploring the HEART of health through reading

                              Dr. Aletha 


How a woman doctor finds joy in an unexpected way

I’m sharing with you a guest post from another woman doctor who faced a similar dilemma (most of us do) . She solved her problem in an unconventional creative way. I think you will enjoy meeting Dr. Joanne Jarrett

When I finished my family medicine residency many years ago, I was excited to start practicing medicine for real. I joined the staff of a small town hospital (the only female doctor by the way) and soon was busy treating patients in the clinic, rounding on hospital patients, delivering babies, and covering the emergency room.  I enjoyed doing what I had dreamed of and trained for, but eventually found I spent more time there than with my husband and toddler son.

Since we were planning on adding a second child, I knew I could not sustain that pace. Fortunately I found a position with a medical group in a nearby city where my schedule would be more predictable, with no obstetrics or ER responsibility.

I’m sharing with you a guest post from another woman doctor who faced a similar dilemma (most of us do) . She solved her problem in an unconventional creative way. I think you will enjoy meeting Dr. Joanne Jarrett, who blogs at Creating Cozy Clothes .

My Unexpected, Crazy Journey from Medicine to Fashion

By Joanne Jarrett MD

woman in an apron holding a wooden sign-
Dr. Jarrett enjoys cooking too.

 

Hi! My name is Joanne Jarrett, and I am a retired family physician. Not the “golden years” kind of retired, but rather the “retired sounds better than I quit” kind.

 

a career in the making

If you’d told me in my twenties that I would be designing loungewear for women and preparing to move to a farm in rural Montana in my mid-forties, I’d have said you had the wrong girl. I was a determined, sharp, ambitious, successful medical student and resident, and I was planning to have it all.

My husband and I wanted kids, but that would have to wait until all of our training was complete. We took turns going through our residency programs, and we moved home to Reno, Nevada from a two year stint in Lincoln, Nebraska with 24 weeks of my first pregnancy under our belts and a new practice to run.

Needless to say, my being a stay-at-home mom was not plan A for our family.

 

a fast track career

When I became pregnant, I was working a full time family practice, seeing patients at 3 hospitals before and/or after my full day, doing urgent care some nights and weekends, and taking call for our large group a week at a time every 7 weeks. I knew that schedule was completely incompatible with motherhood, but we thought I’d work 2 or 3 days a week and have my mom nanny while I worked.

Then Delaney was born, and reality set in.

I realized that I didn’t have room inside of me to be the physician my patients deserved and to be the wife and mother I wanted for my family. I already knew that during those 6 years of marriage before kids I worked hard all day, gave every bit of myself away piece by piece, and then came home and offered my husband the crappy leftovers. He knew how hard I was trying and didn’t complain much.

It worked, but a baby tipped the scales. We couldn’t both work jobs where emergencies make the schedule predictably unpredictable. I was exhausted and knew there was no way I could face the emotional lability and intellectual demand of being a physician in my state. And I loved being with that baby girl. When I was away from her I felt an undeniable tug back.

Then Bailey arrived less than 2 years later and it was decided. I was staying home. For good.

a career crossroads

At first, I was in survival mode and didn’t care about the changes I saw in myself. I just wanted sleep and ice cream. But eventually I started to wonder if who I used to be would ever matter again and how to find her.

Over a decade in, that woman is back. But she’s better than she used to be. More patient. More settled. More fulfilled. Less scared. Looking back, I’ve transitioned from professional to harried new mom to seasoned household CEO, self respect and vigor for life mostly intact!

a woman walking with two girls on sand
Dr. Joanne’s grand mother  with her daughters

 

Running my family has been pretty much all consuming, but I’ve always had a creative side and, through the years, I have developed hobbies that foster that. Scrapbooking made sense when the kids were babies. Combining creativity with a means of wrangling the millions of photos we were taking was a win win.

A limited decorating budget and a very picky décor taste lead to me borrowing my mom’s sewing machine and making an entire house worth of curtains, learning on the fly.

 

 

 

And I have always had a thing for wrapping a beautiful gift. To the point where I have a whole wall full of paper, ribbons, and other do-bobs to help me wrap a stunner at a moment’s notice.

Sewing flat, square things like curtains and pillow covers slowly evolved into kids’ costumes and then street clothes. I have a thing for fabric, and the combination of creativity and precision that following a pattern requires satisfies my creative flair and my bent towards the analytical.

I began altering clothes in my closet to better fit my (ever varying, eye roll!) shape and began seeing the potential in clothes instead of the mere reality of what was on the hanger.

I also have a passion for downtime. This wasn’t always the case. Scott and I have been married 20 years, and at first I had no idea how to relax. Saturday would come and I’d say, “What do you want to do today?”

From the couch, he’d say “this!”

My skin would crawl .I just didn’t know how to have a recovery or leisure day.

Well, I’ve learned well! You’ll never catch me hanging around at home in my jeans and underwire bra. Huh-uuuuh! As soon as I get home at the end of the day, I head straight to my closet to get into my cozy clothes. I live in them when I’m home. Even if I’m busy with this and that, I like the psychological change triggered by putting on those comfy clothes.

But those clothes aren’t perfect. I’m setting out to change that! We need a little coverage and support despite that fact that the bra is off the team at home. I discovered shelf-bra camis and began wearing them as loungewear and pajamas. I could never figure out why this concept wasn’t expanded into other pieces.

 

a career changes directions

After years of googling “shelf bra pajamas” and “shelf bra nightgown” and coming up with nothing except slinky lingerie (get real!!), I decided to design a line of cozy loungewear for women who want to be comfortable at home in something soft, cute, flattering and supportive. Something that feels and looks great to wear in the “no bra zone” but that is fit for public consumption should the need arise. I figured if I couldn’t find them, I’d make them and maybe other ladies will like them too.

And not all shelf bras are created equally, if you know what I mean. I set out to design the perfectly soft but flattering shelf that has enough thickness for coverage and enough separation to look great. I embarked upon a know-nothing journey into apparel production and have learned an entirely new industry over the last year.

I call the line “Shelfies.” Shelfie Shoppe launched on May 8th , taking preorders as part of a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first production run. I’d be honored if you’d click the link and check it out!

And because life is crazy, on June 20th my entire extended family is making a northerly migration from Reno to rural Montana. We are moving to the town of Huson, 20 miles outside of Missoula, to a farmhouse on 20 acres with a river running through it (no, really!). The four of us will live in the house, my parents and two aunts are building a barn residence next to the house, and my sister and her family have purchased a home a few miles away.

So we don’t have much going on!

What are you doing with your life that you could never have predicted a decade or two ago? Leave a comment and let me know!

a shirt with a tag-shelfie

 

update June 15, 2018

I’m happy to report that Joanne’s Kickstarter campaign is complete and Shelfie Shoppe is fully funded! I committed and will receive one of her “cozy” dresses as my reward.

 

Whether  you need “cozy clothes” or not, I think we can all learn a lesson from Joanne’s life.

When the circumstances of life leave us feeling

  • impatient

  • unsettled

  • unfulfilled or

  • scared

 we may need to evaluate if change is necessary.

It may not be as drastic a change as she made, but even small steps can get us to a place where we can use our talents and passions to create a life that satisfies us and blesses others.

Please  spend some time on Joanne’s blog. She has a variety of posts on health, family, kids, food, and humor. Here’s a sample of a hilarious but thoughtful post about

Why I’m glad I got toilet paper stuck to the seat of my pants

 

a wooden door with a heart shaped hold

 

And please follow watercress words and me on social media, and explore the

                   HEART of health with me.                 Dr. Aletha stethoscope with a heart

Finding Holiday Joy Amid the Grief

Coping with grief during the holidays

group of lanterns

Although this season brings  fun and festivities, many of our friends

find it hard to feel joyful when their hearts are heavy with grief.

Whether from a  recent loss, or  one many years ago, grieving for the loved ones who won’t be here to celebrate with us can dampen our holiday spirit and  lead to depression. 

  • I think of my friend  who has lost both a sister and a son this year.
  • I remember my friends who tragically lost their teen aged daughter in a car wreck just a few days before Christmas many years ago.
  • I consider my medical colleague who is battling cancer.
  • My heart aches for my friends who lost a young aunt to an undiagnosed medical condition which suddenly proved fatal .
  • I’m sad for my friends and their children who will spend their first Christmas after a divorce.
  • And my husband and I  still grieve the loss of our parents and siblings at Christmas even after many years.

As one friend wrote-

“This is my second Christmas without my husband.  It has been tough, but also a reminder that God is the god of all comfort. That works for me. And… it is a reminder to pray comfort to anyone who has faced a loss of a loved one including precious pets. Loss from any source needs a comforting friend.”

If you know someone who needs a “comforting friend”,  please take the time to reach out to them so they know someone cares and they are not alone.

 

Here is advice from Nancy Guthrie on

What to say to grieving people. 

“Honestly, the most painful thing is when you’ve had a loss and someone around you—because of the awkwardness — never acknowledges it. That’s what hurts the most.”

 

xmas house

 

 

On the Harvard Health Blog, Dr. Anthony Komaroff  advises on 

Coping with grief and loss during the holidays

 “Grief is not a tidy, orderly process, and there is no right way to grieve. Every person—and every family—does it differently. This can cause emotions to collide and overlap, especially during the holiday season when the emphasis is on rebirth and renewal.”

 

 

My family and I wish all of you health and wholeness in body, mind, and spirit.

                              Dr. Aletha 

man and woman in front of the Alamo at Christmas
My husband and I at the Alamo in San Antonio Texas at Christmas

More holiday tips from Watercress Words at these links-

How to anticipate and relieve holiday stress

Healthy holiday eating made easy

And please consider my affiliates and advertisers for your holiday gifts, your support helps  fund this blog and increase its value to you. Thank you!

How to anticipate and relieve holiday stress

While we welcome celebrating with family and friends, those encounters can create emotional tension and strain. When we feel sad that loved ones can’t be with us, either through distance or death, the season can become the worst of the year.

Halloween has barely come and gone, if that long, before magazine articles, television programs , retail advertisements, and radio music  tell us that this is

“the most wonderful time of the year.” 

That is until the extra work of shopping, cooking, decorating, wrapping, planning and entertaining makes it the least wonderful time.

While we  welcome celebrating with family and friends, those encounters can create emotional tension and strain. When we feel  sad that loved ones can’t be with us, either through distance or death,  the season can become the worst of the year.

By anticipating these events and feelings, we can prepare ourselves for the physical and emotional stress of the holiday season, and find a way to enjoy the festivities with “hearts all a glowing.”

snowflakes making a Christmas tree

These  resources offer  sound advice for confronting  and conquering holiday challenges.

Writer Bruce Y. Lee takes a lighthearted but serious look at the holiday season and suggests music may help us cope better in

 How To Reduce And Deal With Holiday Stress

Twelve Days of Christmas”: Keep perspective and if the Holidays are tough for you, remember that the Holiday season is temporary and will pass. Try not to take yourself and things too seriously. Just make sure you maintain healthy habits and avoid behaviors that will lead to health problems (such as gaining weight) beyond the holiday season.”

colorful wrapped packages

Consider this advice from WebMD before going 

Home for the Holidays 

“Don’t worry about how things should be. Most people have less than perfect holiday gatherings — they have family tension, melancholy, and dry turkey too. If you have negative feelings, don’t try to deny them. Remember that there’s nothing wrong or shameful or unusual about feeling down during the holidays.

a cute snowman

31 Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas from Woman’s Day

#23 Know when to say no.

Can’t say no? Then keep your gatherings small and intimate. Get together with a few of your closest friends or relatives for the holidays. Choose to throw the big blowout parties at another time of the year, when you and your guests will have fewer commitments competing for your precious time.”

glowing cancles

 A Simple Christmas: A Faith-filled Guide to a Meaningful And Stress-free Christmas (Spirit of Simple Living) 
A Simple Christmas book cover

by Sharon Hanby-Robie

“The secret to a happy holiday is learning to collaborate and to create a plan that is uniquely yours with a goal to experience more serenity, more joy, and more opportunities to nurture the souls of those you love.

But, most important, it is to remember the greatest gift ever given, the gift of the Christ Child. Take time to simply sit and ponder this amazing miracle. “

(an affiliate link provided for your convenience and to help support this blog)

a nativity arrangement of the manger

And in his blog post

Choose Holiday Traditions That Serve You

Joshua Becker reminds us that

“Traditions should draw our attention to the underlying reason for the season.

Traditions should not detract from the season, they should elevate it.”

5 keys to manage holiday stress before it manages you 

  1. Set realistic expectations for yourself and others.
  2. Anticipate stressful situations, places, and people.
  3. Plan and prepare carefully, but stay flexible for the unexpected.
  4. Keep your  health maintenance routine- healthy eating, exercise, adequate sleep.
  5. Remember what is most important about the season-family, friends, faith.

sharing the HEART of Christmas

Thanks to Pixabay for the Christmas photos used in this post.

I would love for you to share this  information  on your social media pages.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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Featured Blogger Sunday's Best Linkup
This post was featured here.

Two Words That Changed My Life

our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant  and we did not understand why. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

In college I joined Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating  a young man of a different belief, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. . We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

I felt it only fair to end the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although I felt the breakup was necessary, I grieved for the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending our college.

He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset at the reminder. I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I puzzle why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship with anyone. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He separated from the Army after serving for three years. He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base
various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and was drafting them, which which they and their families  dreaded. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet  or social media then).

Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. Service members and veterans of that war were portrayed in the media as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.

Today military service members and veterans are honored and considered heroes . Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; not so for those who served in Vietnam.

library interior
The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

Over dates at  football games, church, social events and study times our feelings for each other grew. from friendship to love. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later, but I wouldn’t commit so soon. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, traveled, attended church.

But our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant  and we did not understand why. We did not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

family skiing on mountain
one of many family ski trips

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

My husband said little about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize the service of Vietnam veterans and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

army veteran standing next to a floral bouquet at a memorial
We always visit the traveling Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall when it comes to our area.

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and gained a will to move forward. After reading a book , A Missing Peace, written by another Vietnam veteran, he considered taking a trip back to Vietnam and after much thought and prayer, signed up, although we were both apprehensive.

He chose to travel with Vets with a Mission , VWAM,  a faith based non-profit organization whose mission is “reconciliation” between former enemies in the Vietnam war, and also within the veterans’ themselves.

By touring the country and meeting Vietnamese people in peacetime, Raymond began moving past the painful memories and creating a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing
Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips  serving on volunteer teams to Vietnam with VWAM.  He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years honing and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skills like his.

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.

Raymond found “reconciliation”  for himself and we experienced it in our marriage.  It was a process and still is.


All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

2 Corinthians 5:18, VWAM motto
man next to concrete bunker
visiting an old war bunker on China Beach

As  a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. I developed an interest in  health care through that and other books, and decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he and other doctors did.

I didn’t remember anything  about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found his story- Dr. Tom Dooley. Now deceased, he served  a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam. (After his military service, he founded a humanitarian organization and tragically died young of melanoma.)

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would indirectly help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

man and lady dressed in dance costumes
And I never expected us to do a ballroom dance routine for an audience

 

 

 

 

Battle for TraBong Vietnam by Raymond Oglesby 

Raymond wrote a gripping account of his experience when his firebase LZ Cindy was  attacked in September 1970

 

We also recommend

A Missing Peace: Vietnam : Finally Healing the Pain 

by Robert Seiple and Gregg Lewis