The Achilles Heel

county_frontcover-123kbYes, I am about to write about my own, but MORE IMPORTANTLY I am writing about (you should read this Op-Ed piece by Dr. David Ansell) The Achilles Heel of our human condition, and, in particular, that of American society.

Early in the summer of 2003, and with a noise loud enough to still the voices of participants and observers alike, I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing three-on-three tag football with young men less than half my age.  I wrapped my leg with an Ace bandage, took a couple OTC painkillers, applied ice packs and went to bed. I had no health insurance. In the morning I could not stand or walk – I crawled the length of house to use the bathroom. A couple days later I found a pair of old crutches and drove myself to the emergency room, it was too full to bother so I turned around and drove myself home.  I researched the optimal angle for taping my leg, stayed off it, and friends brought me food – for weeks.

What happened next illustrates what is wrong with America’s health care system and offers a shining example of humanity, compassion and of one man choosing to honor the Hippocratic Oath over pursuing personal gain.

Ten weeks later, primarily because I had to fly to Scotland for a job interview, I tried again. On this occasion there were only three people in the waiting room. I got my paperwork processed and was shown into an examination room where I waited, and waited and waited. At the hour and forty-five minute mark I got up, hopped into the hall and flagged down an attendant, informed him that ‘they’ had exactly 10 minutes to have a doctor see me or I would be walking out and they could tear up my admittance paperwork. Within twenty minutes I was in X-ray, forty minutes later referred to, and on red-cast.jpgmy way to see, an orthopedic surgeon. At the surgeon’s my X-rays sufficiently alarmed him to send me for an MRI, with a request for me to return within four hours and to have a friend drive me. At the ten week mark the MRI showed I still had a 10mm tear in my Achilles tendon. The doctor had the Buffalo Bills, American football, and Buffalo Sabres (hockey) teams as clients and couldn’t wrap his head around the pain I must have endured.  He gave me a choice of a cast or scar, but informed me that I wasn’t leaving without his caring for my leg. I was explained my lack of insurance and he replied “let’s get you healthy and then worry about that”. My leg was swathed in candy apple red a total of three times over the next two months. He made sure his physician’s assistants brought me basins of hot water at the cast changes so I could pumice my foot, loofah and shave my leg and moisturize. When my treatments were over I had to call repeatedly about my bill, when it finally arrived it was marked “Paid in Full”. I wept.

The Income Stream

Fast forward fourteen years and my friend is undergoing chemotherapy for his lymphoma in California.  In the absence of having the ‘right insurance’ he has constantly battled the system to ensure he gets the treatments he needs to live.  Jeffrey has been de-humanized, deprived of kindness, and treated as an income stream for the sole reason that dared to get sick and become a burden to profit. I find myself angry beyond reconciliation. Questions go unanswered, or are summarily dismissed on par with ‘mansplaining’ (I am sure there is a word which defines the experience of a patient being treated as an imbecile though I do not know it).

Molina’s personnel have repeatedly hung up on my friend. Amongst their many denials of treatment was coverage for an (expensive) anti-nausea medicine and the substitution of not one but two anti-psychotics (8 mg of ondansetron hcl and 5 mg of prochlorperazine) with the accompanying side effects of reducing the nausea of the chemotherapy, and a slew of other pills he must take daily. The anti-psychotics have thoroughly messed up his brain chemistry.  My hysterically funny, hyper-intellectual, highly empathetic friend, who has lived his whole life in a perpetual state of kindness to others is now a sporadically very angry man dropping expressions like “I want to stack these m*th*r*ck*rs up like cord wood.” The responsibility for this rests squarely on the desk of Molina Health’s interim CEO Joe White.

On 1 September he was able to leave Molina Health and their legendary money saving protocols behind.  Until that date (and more liberally now) their in-network doctors shared their experiences of Molina Health denying payment, and that only with persistence on the part of patients, nurses, patient advocates, and doctors will they cover drugs, care or procedures.  With his new Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance a single anti-nausea pill which (thank goodness) has no negative impact has replaced these anti-psychotics and Jeffrey is cleansing the former out of his system now – Chia seeds in his protein shakes, lots of water – but ‘normal’ is still likely months away.

Sharing Jeffrey’s experience, even at arms’ length, I wonder if providing care (in every Pope Francissense of the word) in conjunction with treatment such as my experience of fourteen years ago can even be recaptured. Is it doomed to be the anomaly?

Senator Bernie Sanders did not cease in his commitment to universal health insurance for all when the 2016 primary election cycles left him behind.  All 330 million Americans should want, and work toward realizing, universal healthcare for themselves and their neighbors.  Are we on the threshold of monumental change, or business as usual?

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

Edinburgh, This is Home.

After an absence of nearly two years, I have been ‘home’ for a week. Things are always subject to change, but Edinburgh’s constancy resonates with me at a deeply cellular and emotional level. Though I have lived in a wide variety of American and European cities, DSCN9227and I loved everything about living in Boston for nearly a decade, Edinburgh is certainly the only place I have ever truly felt/thought of as home without actually ever living in it.

While I have gotten a sunburn here in February – with temperatures that hit nearly 80°F (27°C), incredibly, in the nearly 15 years I have been visiting Scotland I cannot recall being here just after The Festival – and I have never been here for ‘it’ because I hate crowds. September in Edinburgh is as close to perfection (for me) as can be imagined. The weather, let’s start there, is perfect. As I write this the current temperature is 18°C – 64°F. The sun is out, the sky both blue and streaked with puffy grey and white clouds, less than a half hour after hanging them the clothes on the line nearly dry with the soft breeze that is blowing.

For most of the week, I have been back I have been writing.  My ventures out have been limited to short bursts of exercise gained from making forays to the grocery store. My day started with an email from a stranger who felt compelled to write after reading a letter to the editor I had written on Thursday evening had been published (I had not a clue until this man told me; I am having lunch with him tomorrow). I had deemed a ‘soak up beauty’ day for Saturday and so it was off to an auspicious start.

10,000+ steps starting in Morningside, 20160409_105153advancing to Bruntsfield then up to Edinburgh College of Art, down to the Grassmarket, up Victoria Street to The Royal Mile, down The Mound to the Princes Street Gardens before finally hopping on a #36 bus (my bum knee was complaining loudly) on Lothian Road back to Morningside.

Along the way, I nipped into shops whose managers greeted me as if the last time they saw me was three days ago. Odd Bins was sampling Champagnes and Beers (fizzy being the theme).  15 minutes into my day of beauty it seemed only reasonable to enjoy a properly full glass of Pink Champagne while reading the labels on their collection of small batch gins. I bought duck eggs and two Majorie’s Seedling plums (amazing) from a green grocer at The Grassmarket. I poked in a vintage shop and found three 1980s vintage Hawaiian print shirts for a friend in Los Angeles, sadly all of them were made in China so I had to pass. Walking up Victoria Street – sigh – I succumb to an Oink!, shared a table with a German couple who were visiting Edinburgh (and the UK) for the first time. Asked the girls at Oink! to let them have a piece of crackling to try and was assured by words and moans of pleasure that they would be back today for a second round before flying back to Cologne. (Mission accomplished, repeat business and tourism guaranteed.) At the top of Victoria, the last time I was in this neighbourhood sharing Edinburgh with my girlfriend Kiki visiting from Minnesota, having shared an astonishing meal at The Tower before driving up to Aberdeenshire and staying at another favourite haunt of mine Norwood Hall. I hang a left and walk up The Mound to The Royal Mile. Smile at the collective memories had standing in front of the inlaid brass along the bar (below) at Deacon Brodies. 20160202_132945~2~2

The Prince’s Street Gardens (on my left) are in full glorious bloom with picnickers, meanderers and solitary readers, ice cream vendors, dogs being walked.

Waiting to catch the #36 a raucous group of twenty-thirty something men, some in dresses and wearing makeup (badly) approach. I said to two of the group, “I don’t want to know, do I?” They shake their heads in unison. In all the years of ‘being here, ‘ I have never run into a stag party – the mirror image of Maid of Honor I had watched the night before last. I am asked (verre politely) by the about-to-be groom for a kiss, he pecks me 20160118_224438~2~2on the cheek leaving a smear of horrid pink lipstick.

All of this is life everywhere but in Edinburgh, it is more, somehow. This Is Home.

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“This is an ex-parrot”, Hippocrates and Cancer

There are words received via text that shatter your heart.  Sent from a friend during their latest round of chemotherapy more than 5100 miles and multiple time zones away these are debilitating words. #notadamnthingIcando words. I respond to each line of text, being present without being physically there. In truth, it feels beyond inadequate. I want to jump on a plane and just sit next to him while he has these poisons dripped into his body via a port in his chest – and not only does he not want that, but I can’t. I scan hundreds of YouTube videos and send these as a possible lightening of spirit parrotor at least distraction but he can’t watch them because the noise in the room where he sits with other cancer patients is loud. Very loud. A man sitting someplace behind my friend was evidently screaming from the pain of his infusion for hours. The time before last a woman was bitching non-stop, unnerving everyone around her and especially her family.  (He survives this assault to the psyche earning platitudes from the son for his ability to crack jokes, and generally lighten the environment of suffering around him.)

The last time I was (physically) present to a chemotherapy session was more than sixteen years ago; the brother of my best friend, the uncle to her children, the husband of another dear friend and dad of three kids the youngest of whom was a toddler at the time, brother to another brother, uncle to his three kids, son, friend, et al. I haven’t been in the Beverly Hills Cancer Center (BHCC) to witness first-hand what I perceive as being the antithesis to luxury on which so much of Beverly Hills reputation rests but I was present at the Wilmot Cancer Center at Strong Memorial (Rochester, NY) and the contrast between the two care environments couldn’t be clearer to me.  Sixteen years ago Mike was surrounded by family and friends, shifts of love floating in and out of the room like sunbeams streaming through clouds, there was raucous camaraderie (he being a former Major League Baseball player, the baseball coach of the local Jesuit high school, a widely and much-beloved friend) and I recall at least six people being in the (memory driven) seemingly private room besides myself and Mike.  I could not tell you why I was there.  As Jeffrey describes it BHCC is a ‘factory’, 12 reclining chairs crammed into a single visually sterile room with half walls separating patients, everything everyone says can be heard by every other person in the room, all the bitchingmoaningandcomplaining, the comings and goings of the staff and their commentary.

I didn’t think of this last night as I responded to the texts, but I had two vastly different dreams about those treatment rooms after I went to bed. And it strikes me that the experiences of these two men hang not simply on the distance of years and geography but also insurance coverage.  Mike had robust private insurance and friends and family offsetting some of the costs, my friend Jeffrey was ‘covered’ by Molina Health as part of its participation in an Affordable Care Act Exchange.

The other component is two decades ago, regardless of the circumstances, we were as a nation and as individuals more compassionate toward one another.  That compassion manifest in Rochester in an environment that was calmer and more conducive to healing. The perception of Beverly Hills Cancer Center I have gained through my texts and conversations with Jeffrey reflects an odd dichotomy, on occasion extraordinary but all too often disconnected from the very compassion which Hippocrates advocated and swore to uphold. His first oncologist failed to speak a single word to him in the first nine hippocratesweeks after his diagnosis. His current oncologist, though certainly mending Jeffrey’s body and on a scale, infinitely more attentive, had the most outrageous response imaginable to Jeffrey expressing that he didn’t like the smell of his own burning flesh from the cauterizing knife used to install the port (replacing the defunct PICC line). My head is still reeling from the quote in the text I received on Thursday night.  Compassion. Seriously. Lacking. (Say nothing rather than do harm.)

It pains my heart, my psyche and every aspect of my humanity that Jeffrey’s experience is a mere glimpse into a state of being under-insured in the United States. That “the haves”, those with robust private insurance, and the “have-nots” relying upon a broken system commandeered by shareholder value are somehow less human, less entitled to care and more inclined to be denied basic human dignity, less likely to be approved for the very treatments that they need to get healthy despite paying the disproportionate percentages of their wages to have insurance.

Let’s be clear, as of 1 September my friend Jeffrey is no longer insured by Molina Health, his Screen Actors Guild Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage went live at 12:01 AM. I think about something one of his doctors said about Molina Health’s consistent position to deny coverage first and then if the patient gets loud about it, or the doctor treating chooses to advocate on behalf of the patient, then approve and eventually pay out. This seems like a path to protecting golden parachutes and seven figure salaries and double or triple digit earnings; to me, this seems more like a Ponzi scheme than health insurance. This strips the humanity from Molina Health’s employees and isn’t a terribly efficient manner of running a company given the human resource cycles of answering phones and ensuing paperwork.

Societies have always been measured by how they care for their most vulnerable citizens, it’s clear we are failing. The three hundred year expansion, supreme dominion, the subsequent decline of the Roman Empire and the resulting Dark Ages seem as though they could be minor in contrast to whom we are becoming.  Maybe a tiny private room for receiving chemotherapy is insignificant in the grand scheme of things but the dignity such affords seems as important to healing illness as putting the ‘civil’ back in service.

This is the fourth instalment in my series on having cancer in America.


If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

(Not dear) #MolinaHealth

This is my third instalment of a series on the state of (un)health insurance in America and specifically Molina Health’s role. It should be noted that it took seven days for the courtesy of an 89 word, non sequitur reply to my email to Molina Health’s acting CEO Mr. Joseph White. 89 wordsI very purposefully channeled my outrage at the way my friend has been ‘handled’ into viable solutions in keeping with the historic efforts of the Molina family, and the company which still bears their name, to provide healthcare to people who need it. From a reputation management perspective a great deal of good could have been realised for Molina Health and enormous benefit for their employees and those insured by the company had their executive team actually chosen to address my points of contention.

It’s said that the fish rots from the head down and I think this adage is particularly relevant to Molina Health’s new leadership. In case you are unaware Molina Health is a Fortune 500 company with $14.8 Billion USD in assets under management and some 3.5 million Americans identified (figures from 2015) by Wikipedia as being ‘insured’ by them.

I found the Wikipedia link ‘interesting’ primarily because of my personal interaction with one of the founder’s sons Dr J. Mario Molina.  Let me express that it is entirely possible that the Molina family are as much the victims of shareholder and board greed Molinasand enmity as my friend Jeffrey Scott Hendrick and very likely hundreds of thousands of other Molina Health policy holders.  To Dr Molina’s credit, and a hat tip to how social platforms open up previously unimagined channels of communication, he tried on more than one occasion to act as an advocate for Jeffrey.

Under Mr. White’s ‘leadership’ it took Molina Health fifteen (15) days to push through the paperwork to replace the PICC line rendered unusable as a result of the incompetence by one of the home care nurses contracted by them to come and clean it. Had Molina Health simply approved a port for Jeffrey’s chemotherapy in the first instance, instead of this PICC line, it would have been more cost effective from financial and human resources perspectives and mitigated Jeffrey’s associate stress levels and his efforts to get the care his insurance policy should have provided.  I hear my grandfather say ‘do the job right the first time, it’s cheaper’. At the Eleventh Hour, coincidently within 36 hours of my letter to Joseph White (as follows), Jeffrey received a phone call from Molina Health CANCELLING his approved ride to and from outpatient surgery to install the port in his chest. Molina Health policies seem to be driven by the same level of incompetence and pettiness the world is witnessing from the current inhabitant of The White House and the Republicans in Washington with whom Dr Molina ran afoul.

Follows, in its entirety, is my email to Molina Health’s interim CEO Joseph White of 22 August 2017 which I have now also shared with Karen Kaplan, Health Editor of the Los Angeles Times (though it is unknown what investigative reporting efforts might be realised as a result).


Joe White
Joseph White, Molina Health interim CEO. Photo from CNBC.



White letter

Mr. White:

In the interest of transparency, I have your email address courtesy of Dr Mario Molina who made a couple of calls to staff within Molina to try and put this debacle to right – he was unsuccessful despite his family name still being on the marque.  Also in the interest of transparency, I have Cc’d Dr Molina and Bcc’d Jeffrey on this email. Your response will determine whether I share this with Karen Kaplan, LA Times Health Desk editor and publish as an open letter to my blog and LinkedIn.

Before you read any further I would like to invite you to go to the bathroom in your (presumably) lovely C-suite office and take a look at the man in the mirror. Done? Good. Whether you choose to embrace the responsibility and the effects which your decisions have on other peoples’ lives you are indeed RESPONSIBLE. I invite you to think about that responsibility when you next catch your reflection in a mirror or a pane of glass because from my perspective your soul is damned to a karma unceasing misery.

As Molina’ Health’s interim CEO you are responsible for so much more than the corporate bottom line, the actions of every employee and the policies of Molina Health which impact the lives of your insured’s are also your responsibility.  So let me be very clear, ‘your actions’ are negatively impacting the life of a friend of mine dealing with lymphoma.  It’s unclear whether Molina Health has chosen to serve as a ‘death board’ focused on pure profit or if the sheer level of incompetence, indifference and obstruction at Molina Health are endemic to your corporate culture but to quote my friend: “I don’t trust you to help me cure my cancer.”

That quote comes from a conversation between one of your employees and my friend Jeffrey Scott Hendrick as a follow up on a report that one of his slew of doctors had laughed ‘at him’. This doctor did not laugh at Jeffrey the laughter was in response to his sharing the name of your company as his insurer.  As I understand it with each revelation in that 25-minute conversation there were pauses of stunned silence as she captured the details of Jeffrey’s ‘care’ as a Molina Health insured.  Your employee was also unaware of that 1400 Molina Health employees are about to lose their jobs and of the pending lawsuits and various settlements in which Molina is involved.  I am certain the file exists unless Molina has a policy of scrubbing its negative internal documents, so I would encourage you to request the report in Jeffrey’s own words.

You know what’s so interesting to me? Fortune recently ran a feature on how companies perform better financially when there was a positive perception of their leadership.  Self-serving as it might be now would be a great time for Molina to realign its focus to care to ensure its fiscal solvency.

You will find the first two of my blog posts about Molina Health here and here; be assured I am far from done.  The latest obstruction in Jeffrey’s journey back to health includes a home care nurse (from Gentle Care) contracted by Molina Health to come and clean his PICC. This incompetent woman displaced the PICC two and a half inches (2 1/2″) rendering it useless for Jeffrey’s forthcoming chemotherapy infusion (scheduled and pre-approved by Molina for this week). The PICC needs to be cleaned again to prevent infection, but it also needs to be replaced with a surgery to install a port (already approved).  And just HOW does the chemo session scheduled for this week take place this week without a functioning PICC? Or without the surgery (which should have taken place last week) to install the port? A week has passed without a response from Molina Health.  The PICC still needs to be cleaned. The surgery still needs to be scheduled (for this week) and, yet another, chemotherapy session rescheduled because of the collective incompetence and indifference of your staff and your contracted resources.  WHO. ARE. YOU. PEOPLE., that this kind of work ethic is allowed to continue? A person purchases in good faith thinking they will never really need it when they are healthy your fiduciary responsibility in this transaction is to ensure coverage if and when they ever needed it. Someone with cancer doesn’t need more stress and their insurance company should certainly not be the cause in my humble opinion.

I could, of course, just ‘go away’ but you would have to fix things to my satisfaction first (I have a pretty considerable list which fulfilled would provide a much-needed boost to Molina’s public perception in the process).  Make this better before I blow this up further, I am sharing the screen shot of my Twitter direct mail conversation with Dr Molina (attached) to offer up my requirements.

Dr. Molina continued

Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to your prompt reply.

Kindest regards,

Teresa Fritschi

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 





C’est Normal. (Not where I’ve ever been.)

I am an American. I grew up near Buffalo, NY known as The City of Good Neighbors. I have lived in cities on both American coasts – notably Boston and San Diego – as well as in Atlanta, Georgia and in many smaller communities in states along the East Coast. I have had jobs which had a commute into New York City. I have had the enormous pleasure to have lived (for considerable blocks of time) in Edinburgh, Scotland, in Trogir, Gospic, Pula, and Motovun, Croatia and in Villardebelle (in the foothills of the French Pyrénées), Angers, and outside Rouen, France.  I have travelled, extensively. And, I can honestly say that NEVER in all of my experiences have I ever encountered the scope of kindness which the people of Paris, France extended to me on 10 August 2017.


love locks

Love locks at Pont Neuf

The day started with a creepy, obsessively religious narcissist complaining that I was able to shed tears for his dog but wouldn’t cry tears for him. (The dog was an angel well-deserving of my sadness of leaving her.)  Eager to remove myself from his toxic energy I set off walking to the Sannois, France train station with my 40 kilograms of luggage on a little two wheel cart.  ‘The shift’ was immediate.

All the time who hear people say to be on your guard while travelling. I am not that person. I trust. There are the lines from Ithaca reminding me not to look for Cyclops and none will appear but it is something more. It has consistently been my experience that when I most need protection it will appear.  Of course, there is also some logic to my belief that no one is crazy enough to steal 40 kilos of luggage!

I needed to buy a ticket for Paris, the station was closed. The ticket kiosk wasn’t on the Paris bound tracks I needed but on the other, and at the opposite end of the station. I had an acute awareness that every step of my journey was as though I was a participant in Extreme Fitness Travel Edition so I girded my loins and determination for a long morning. I never assume someone will speak English (in their own country) so I sloughed on with my woefully inadequate French trying to convey politeness, and make my queries understandable.

As I approached the Sannois train station a lovely French woman helped me with the luggage and uttered repeated passionate « Madame, regarde à Votre sac » reminders (guilty as I was of being distracted by the desire to escape the possibility of running into the narcissist again at the station). We secured my ticket. And then she quite literally walked the city block, down an impressive ramp, helped me carry my luggage up a flight of stairs, settled me on the platform and waved me off with kisses, an ‘a bientôt’ and another reminder to watch my purse! Fellow passengers helped me get onboard for our train to Gare Saint-Lazare. At Gare Saint-Lazare things got more complicated by the sheer magnitude of the station, the converging trains and the hundreds of thousands of passengers commuting around Paris each day.  Eventually, with many, and I do mean MANY, more stairs both up and down, one elevator, lots of walking and turnstiles and the assistance of a dozen random Parisians I eventually found the correct Paris Metro track toward my ultimate destination in the 18th Arrondissement.

paris_metro_map_con_eutouring_lrgEvidently ‘my’ metro is one of only two lines which split, and I took the wrong train.  I discovered this as the train left the station at the split and I got off at the next stop. A man about my age also got off at this station. I stood on the platform with my luggage trying to get my bearings, and determine a Plan B course of action. He stopped. He asked en francais. All I could do was share the directions on a crumbled piece of paper in my hand and say « que je suis bete, le metro » and put my hands in the air.  He took the cart from me. We hauled it up three flights of stairs. We got onto the street and approached the enormous (and helpful) maps found at each bus stop in Paris. It started to rain. He parked me under an awning and disappeared. I waited. An Algerian French man noticed that his smoke was bothering me and extinguished his cigarette. And I waited. I got my bearings and started around the corner and walking. The Algerian Frenchman suddenly ran up asking me to wait, « Monsieur arrive ! » I stop. He had gone and found someone to give him directions. That person had photocopied a map of the area and highlighted the route (blocks and blocks). He took my luggage again. We walked. And walked. And walked. There were periodic stops where he asked for clarification of where we were against the map. There were lots of gestures in my direction along the way. More than an hour later we arrived at 9 rue Désiré Ruggieri where he put me into the elevator of Olivia’s building and then brought my luggage up after I got up to the third floor. His name, unknown up to this point, was Alain. Throughout my time with him I could only express « vous etes tres gentil homme, mille merci beaucoup ». He never replied. Now, safely settled, his reply was, « c’est normal ».

About six and a half hours later I went back out to collect Olivia’s weekly subscription box of organic vegetables. It was raining. In the middle of the street an ancient wren-like French woman walked with her grocery handcart while a car came up behind her. I said « Regardez Madame, un voiture ! » and escorted her onto the sidewalk where she clung to my arm to steady her journey. We stopped for her to introduce me as her new American friend to the baker, the Japanese owner of a takeaway restaurant and a woman at a dry cleaner to whom she gifted crepes. Outside the dry cleaner’s a Muslim woman stopped to chat with her and said to me in English that she would make sure Madame got home safely.

With so much evidence around us it is easy to believe that the world is cruel and ugly. If it is through your lens it is perhaps because you look for Cyclops.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

(Cancer) FaceTime

So much about who we are is defined by how we look. How others see us, how we think others see us, how we see ourselves. I don’t think this is different when you are an actor but maybe it is larger, weighs heavier on the psyche. Selection for roles tied to art direction criteria established in offices of polished chrome and laminate is a harsher reality than most of us will ever subject ourselves to in the pursuit of earning a living.

Jeff's hairIn front of a live audience consisting of members of his ‘tribe’ – people known in real life (IRL) and those of us fortunate enough to have met him through the wonders of the social media – he did ‘it’.

In Los Angeles, Jeff took an electric razor fitted with a number 3 blade to his head before chemotherapy could claim his hair, a friend there to live stream, afterwards they opened a bottle of something. In Stockholm, I cried for the continuing expansion of Jeff’s ‘I got this’ attitude.

In the first moments of the video Jeff shows us ‘why’. He reaches up, with index finger and thumb and (far too) easily plucks a clump of hair from his head… we witness his action and we feel it. We think about the totality of the gesture and what we jeffrey Scott Hendrick hairwatched long after the video ends. Jeff’s narration earns our solidarity and our running commentary included YouTube videos, GIFs and emoticons, humour, awe, love, respect and lots of encouragement. Some called his action brave – he was emphatic that he wasn’t being the least bit brave. Bravery, Jeff said, is many other things but it is not fighting cancer. Bravery is defined as a selfless, heroic action which benefits others, but to be brave, as a verb, “to defy; challenge; dare.” Oh yes, this is Jeff. It wasn’t the actual shaving of his head, or subsequently his beard (due to, as he described it, a newly developed ‘mange patch’ on his cheek), what is so brave it is Jeff’s willingness to publicly document his path to being #CancerFreebyXmas each day. To be honest I don’t know where he finds the stamina. That documentation, his ability to nominally separate himself from his experience and tap into his comfort zone as an actor/spokesperson and generally taking the bull by the horns when the health “care” system in the United States is doing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g imaginable to hinder him leaves me in awe.

In two chemo treatments Jeff has wrestled the softball size mass known as “Lumpy” to less than a third of that. He has accomplished this through grace, a formidable example of positive-ness, eating well (organic Paleo) and, I think, the cyclical path of the universal kindness he freely offers to the world around him returning to his doorstep in abundance.

The greatest violation our world knows is the systemic stripping away of dignity.  The premiums Jeff willingly parted with each month to Molina Health long before Lumpy took up residence (from my perspective) seemed designed to finance a black op site rather than serve as a critical component to the restoration of his health.  Had Molina been ‘better insurance’ the necessity to shave his head would have eliminated by the use of a Cold Cap, shouldn’t insurance cover expenses related to treatments and the loss of income (enter the Aflac duck voice)? If you’ve ever been 8,000 miles away from someone you have come to care deeply about when some publicly traded behemoth is trying to break them into tiny shards then my words will resonate with you – each of Jeff’s sorties in his battle have become very personal to me, and to all of his tribe.

A couple night’s ago I penned an email to a contact in the public relations department of Lowe’s primarily because she had expressed, on behalf of Lowe’s, their best wishes for Jeff’s health.  As I have written previously Jeff plays “Matt” in a commercial for them. What that commercial has done for Jeff is beyond financial gain, it has removed a torturous contributor of stress generated by indifference, ineptitude and bad policy. As an actor you earn equity in the Screen Actors Guild, SAG, through each appearance you make.  At a certain point that equity generates benefits including the ability to participate in SAG’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance. With Lowe’s “Matt” commercial running in multiple markets Jeff has earned sufficient equity to qualify for and be accepted into SAG’s insurance. He was covered by his new SAG policy in moments. Jeff was then able to put the decaying stench otherwise known as Molina Health and their rendition co-conspirator Global IPA to the curb like yesterday’s trash. As every ‘happy ending’ has an element of karma running through it, Reuters ran a story concurrent to Jeff’s migration noting that the interim CEO of Molina Health was letting 1400 employees go in an effort to improve Molina’s financial picture. I take incredible satisfaction in their downward spiral, and will gladly assist in any possible way to their ultimate demise. Molina Health and Global IPA are prime examples of the rotting abscess of greed destroying American society. Their employees and shareholders alike are culpable for allowing internal protocols to perpetuate an environment of suffering and stress at a time when no one has an extra ounce of energy to spare. Damn them all.

* This is the second in a series of posts about my friend Jeff, his cancer and the rationale for establishing single-payer, universal health care in America.

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Disruption, Are You Rigid?

According to my dear friend Marilyn there are two kinds of people, those who prefer towers and the others which prefer caves, the former observers and the latter shelterers I would add that neither of these can hold off the ‘inconvenience’ of disruption.

The result of our cumulative experiences makes each of us shelter in uniquely different ways. Despite our protests we all have finely defined boxes, sometimes our boxes include massively built walls, which make us comfortable and ‘safe’. Entrenched in our comfort we grow ever less capable of being expansive. Our self-imposed exile of stability restricts our movement as surely as shackles might. Disruption is going to happen so I think it is prudent to recall Dr. Wayne Dyer’s words:

karma jpegBrainyQuotes image.

When we close ourselves off from disruption can be as small as the cap left off the toothpaste, or the toilet seat left up by a new lover, a guest in our home slicing a lemon differently or being a fresh air fanatic living in our homes with the windows thrown open (my hand is raised high here). Disruption, after all, is unsettling, upsetting, annoying and it is an enormous opportunity for growth.  The irony is, that if asked, those who are the most thoroughly entrenched truly believe that they are functioning in a state of expansive love, generosity and kindness – the truth is only on their terms.

Rigidity is not my friend, or yours. In the two years I spent as a digital nomad I have had ample opportunity to serve as ‘the disruptive force’, and I do mean “serve” in the truest sense of that word.

Lots is made of ‘being agile’ whether an organisation or an individual, embracing change, rather than fighting it, allows the best possible outcome to manifest. And yes, I really do believe that on our spiritual path in attaining at-one-ment with The Universe, or God, having our comfort zone pushed and pulled out of its normal shape is very good for us, necessary even. Disruption forces us to confront what we fear and let it lead us forward, or we can beat a hasty retreat from it returning to what makes us comfortable.

Recently I made a choice to help someone spend more quality time with their elderly parents prior to their departure on a rather long trip, but I needed to establish boundaries around my offer. Those parameters would allow me to be generous with my time and culinary talents but ensure that I didn’t bear an undue financial burden. We are always free to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices. The response to my words came with consequences, disruption to the stability of my life and a hefty financial cost for the individual. Here is where personal responsibility kicks in, but it could be something ‘more’. I fully accept the karma of my choice but I have to wonder if The Universe was really using me as an instrument, or somehow protecting me (yet again). What if my words were meant to as an opportunity to help move this person dramatically away from the entrenched rigidity of their life? (my perception). Their subsequent choice denies their pets my love and companionship and their home security, and they will subsequently incur a cost of €50 a day for eight months while I am denied a measure of stability to write and conduct business. Quel domage.

Rigidity or resilience, how do you deal with disruption?

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you!