Would You Like Fries With That Praise Sandwich?

I can’t remember who told me about the Praise Sandwich. It sounds like something you could order a la cart during the House of Blues Sunday Gospel Brunch. But it’s actually a management technique.

If you have to criticize an employee you start out by saying something positive: “No one can collate like you do.”  Then you address the performance issue: “…but unfortunately you’ll need to revise virtually every page of this report.” And then you end on a high note: “On the bright side, you have  a real talent for spelling. Let’s play Scrabble sometime!”

In the same spirit, I have a three miscellaneous items to share.

Item No. 1: Sound advice from a Piano Man

David J. Hahn, a  pianist and Broadway musical director, did something most of us can only dream about. He spent months aboard cruise ship and actually lost weight. Unfortunately this happened because Dave had Stage IIIB Hodgkins Lymphoma. Today,  he says he’s pretty much back to normal.

On August 9, 2005, Dave started six  months of ABVD chemotherapy. Between July 2005 and May 2008, he wrote “The Chronicles of a Cancer Patient.”

Dave’s blog will resonate with many cancer patients. Here is an excerpt from his advice on what not to say to a cancer patient:

 Most people would be shocked, or worried, or both, but some  people would totally ignore it. Like I never said it. Or they’d act like “I have cancer” is a normal thing to say. Or worse, some people would mark that as the end of the conversation. “Ok, well, I got to go,” they’d say hurriedly. Or they’d change the subject immediately. The news would just send them directly into fight or flight mode, and they’d start running. It was interesting.

The worst, I thought, was when someone knew about it, but would play dumb until I told them. They’d ask me what I’m up to and then stare at me. It would be the stare that would give them away. They’d just be too interested in my response. So I’d hint at it a bit, “Oh, I haven’t been feeling that well,” or, “Well, things have been better…” Hoping they’d just say, “Yes, I heard.” But instead, they’d say, “oh?” So I’d have to go through the mix of emotions that always came whenever I’d have to tell someone that I had cancer.

And once I went through all that, they’d say, “oh, yeah, I know.” Still staring. Waiting for the show I guess.

Hahn’s ongoing projects include MusicianWages.com, a great resource for working musicians and an interesting read for everyone else.

Item No. 2: We’ve come a long way, baby (sort of)

CURE Today magazine   presented its  Extraordinary Healer award event at the Oncology Nursing Society meeting in Boston this past weekend. According to presenter and CURE editor Kathy LaTour, 850 nurses RSVP’d for the event. Kudos to oncology nurse Marie Hyack from Columbus, Texas and the patient who nominated her,  Martha Hastedt.

Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame presided at the ceremony. In addition to reading tributes from other essays, Nixon, a breast cancer survivor, shared some anecdotes from other cast members. Evan Handler, for example, was diagnosed at age 24 with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a disease he wasn’t expected to survive.

LaTour noted that Nixon graciously posed with attendees for 45 minutes before she had to leave to catch her train. According to LaTour:   “The nurses clearly loved Nixon, with more than one squealing with delight as the shutter snapped.”

“Squealing with delight?”

I once attended a trade show in McCormick Place where the legendary Chicago Bear William Perry was signing autographs. Most of the people lining up for photos were men. I would say a few  were awestruck.  I would not have said they chuckled or grunted or  brachiated.

I wouldn’t have picked that particular nit, except it came of the heels of another blog entry also concerning the ONS meeting.

“I am reminded again that these [nurses]  are not ordinary people as I walk from the hotel to the convention center…” LaTour reports. “They aren’t embarrassed to sing along with Charlie Lustman, a singer-songwriter and head and neck cancer survivor who told his story and then sang to–and with–the nurses at the opening this morning. This kind of simple humanity is real for these folks, who are probably looking at this young man and thinking about a patient they cared for who didn’t make it–and being glad he did…”

Ok, here’s the part that set my teeth on edge:

They [the nurses] aren’t stylish, and elastic waistbands dominate. It took me a minute this morning to realize that there wasn’t a pair of 7-inch spike heals [sic] in sight. At this meeting, sensible shoes are the norm. These are people who have their feet on the ground and their hearts in the right place.

“They aren’t stylish?” “Elastic waistbands?” “Sensible shoes?”   M-e-o-w, Kathy! I have met a good selection of oncology nurses–all with a decent sense of style. I work in a large and fashion forward city. Very few 7-inch spike heels are in evidence in our oncology wards or corporate boardrooms.

There are many fine and dedicated male nurses. I must assume some attended ONS. Did they wear Sans-a-Belt slacks? Perhaps Dockers from the Big & Tall store?  How about flats?

WHY is this detail actually relevant in 2011? It sounds like something that used to be a staple of  the society notes in a small town paper.

Item No. 3: Ending on a high note

Helen Dunsford, a 66-year-old with Stage 4 cancer,  tackled a would-be bank robber in Oakland Park, FL on April 1.  Renne Breen allegedly pulled a gun and demanded $10,000. But Helen wasn’t having it.

“She got on my last nerve,” Dunsford told MSNBC. “I have cancer, stage 4, and I figured if I’m gonna die it’s God will when I die. She’s not gonna shoot me.”

You go, girl!

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