Archives for May 2015

LEAP! with Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith

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(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Well hello there, LEAPER! Welcome back to this inspiring series of LEAP! interviews featuring everyday women who aren’t afraid to LEAP in the direction of their dreams.  I launched this interview series in April with Jackie Bassett, and then followed in May with Vicki Flaherty.   This month, I’d like to introduce you to another one of my favorite ladies:  the UBER-talented, “stylishly healthy,” and ALWAYS admirable… drumroll please… Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith!!  Dr. Rajka is a superstar of a leaper– she’s an American Board Certified Family Practice Doctor, a Doctor of Functional Medicine, an entrepreneur, a blogger, a world traveler/expat….  Oh, and did I mention that she’s the mom to two adorable kiddos (Liam and Liv) and the wife of a jet-setting Kiwi who works on global construction projects?

Rajka and I met in 2010 when we worked together with a handful of other women to launch the Qatar Professional Women’s Network (QPWN) in Doha, Qatar.   I immediately admired Rajka’s professionalism, her “can-do” attitude, and her personal warmth.   Our friendship blossomed when we shared a hotel room (and a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc) during a mission trip to Ethiopia to benefit the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation and the Yezelalem Minch Orphanage.   After this experience, Rajka became a huge source of support and free advice when I was going through fertility treatments, and she happily threw my baby shower and gave me TONS of hand-me-downs when I was pregnant with lil Toots.  She was the only friend who brought me meals after my miscarriage and after I gave birth to Toots.  Rajka even let me practice my coaching skills on her while I was first starting up as my biz, and I learned so much from that experience.  Although we both left Qatar, Rajka has continued to be a loyal, encouraging friend.   Can you tell how much I love this lady????

To be completely honest, I could write an entire essay about how brilliant and beautiful Rajka is, but you are here to read about her story of LEAPING!  So, here are the highlights of our interview.  As always, I encourage you to listen to the 30 minute recording as well as reading the summary… some many great little nuggets of inspiration are tucked away in my conversations with Dr. Rajka!

XOXO Christina


 “Functional Medicine looks at the root cause of a disease, rather than just treating symptoms with medication.  We look at balancing four realms: the mind-body, the energetic/spiritual, the physical, and the biochemical.  Finding the imbalances and getting them back into balance is where we achieve optimal health.”  – Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith

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Photo Credit: Sheryl Patrizi

Getting to Know Dr. Rajka

“My name is Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith, originally from Cleveland, Ohio.  I’ve known since I was 5 years old that I wanted to be a medical doctor. I was inspired by my own pediatrician- I thought he was so well-mannered and I wanted to be like him.  What I didn’t know is that allopathic medicine wasn’t going to be my whole goal.  By allopathic medicine, I mean being a physician who prescribes medicine.  For the first fifteen years, I practiced traditional family medicine.  I delivered babies, and took care of the babies and their moms in the hospital. I worked with children through to geriatrics, along with performing outpatient procedures.  I joined a great practice in the Pacific Northwest, just outside of Seattle, Washington.  From there, I ended up meeting my husband, and imagined that we’d live in one community for the rest of our lives. We’ve really been on quite an amazing journey since those early days in the Pacific Northwest.  After 7 years in the Pacific Northwest, we moved to Chicago for a couple of years, and then spent 8 years living as expats in Doha, Qatar.”

Embracing Integrative Medicine

“When I had a little breather while we were expats, I started to ask myself where I was going next. That’s where the first leap occurred when I transitioned from traditional allopathic medicine to a more integrative, holistic practice.  What inspired me to go this route is that there were a small percentage of patients who I just couldn’t get better, and I’ve had a long interest in integrative medicine to treat patients. This stems from my Eastern European upbringing. My parents are from Serbia and would often use home remedies to treat illnesses, such as applying lard and garlic to our feet when we had fevers.  Although we dreaded the lard and garlic, it always broke the fever! Additionally, I was inspired by my own experience with a fertility acupuncturist while living in Chicago.  She had me doing acupuncture and guided imagery work to support our efforts to conceive our first child.  I just knew there was more to optimal health than just prescribing medication.

Leaping from Allopathic to Functional Medicine

“The leap into functional medicine fell into place when we lived as expats and I decided to become more entrepreneurial.  I saw a need in the expatriate community to educate expats on good healthcare abroad.  Repeatedly, I had friends and former patients approach me for advice, so I started to give general guidance through my blog called ‘Expat Dr. Mom.‘ Through my research for my blog, I found a compelling article by Dr. Mark Hyman on Functional Medicine.  I also met a physician who trained in Functional Medicine who told me that her training in functional medicine was life-altering and she could never go back to traditional allopathic medicine.   Once I found this field of Functional Medicine, I started to re-train myself while continuing to work in Qatar and doing telemedicine consulting work from Qatar back to the US.   We were interested in relocating back to the US when I found an opening for a Functional Medicine physician with a practice in Boston.   The job was a great fit, so we relocated to the Boston area in 2013.”

Getting Over Fears

“One of my fears stemmed from traditional medicine’s tendency to criticize integrative healthcare.  Would I be able to practice something that would be questioned by my colleague down the road? However, everything I’ve learned to date is backed up by research.   We all know that there’s an art to medicine, so when we don’t have research, we treat and tweak the protocol for each patient, perfecting it along the way.  Secondly, I was concerned about where would I train and would I learn how to apply Functional Medicine.   However, I overcame this fear by training with the Institute of Functional Medicine and then landing my current position which is a working fellowship, enabling me to work while being mentored and trained along the way.”

Leaping with a husband and 2 kids

“My husband, Kerry, works in the construction industry, which is totally different than medicine. He’s the yang to my yin, so we complement each other and he always gives me an honest answer.  He’s my biggest support.  When I showed him the job opening in Boston, he told me that the next career move was mine.  So, when I landed the job, the kids and I relocated while he continued to work in Qatar for several months.   Together, we have two kids, who keep us on our toes and trying to balance it all.  Sometimes this means getting up at 5:30 a.m. to get myself ready and cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner before we leave the house at 8:30 a.m. “

Next BIG LEAP!

“I’ve always wanted to have my own practice.  When I was practicing traditional medicine, I wanted to have a boutique-type office where patients experienced a highly personal level of care.  With Functional Medicine, I am now leaping to launch my own clinic. Part of it will be in person visits and part of it will be health optimization (via telemedicine) which can I can offer to anyone, anywhere.  I can connect back with people who live abroad and want optimization of their health.  I plan to start with a couple days in the office and then follow-ups with phone and/or skype.  I was planning to start my new business in August or September, but I recently had my first health optimization consult after receiving a number of referrals from abroad.  This opportunity to start my own practice stems from my husband landing a fabulous job in the Chicago area, so we’re relocating back to Chicago and then I’ll be starting my practice in a new city.”

Tips for Making a Big LEAP!:

“If I am faced with a tough decision, I use guided imagery and yoga to bring clarity.  I usually sit with a decision, let it soak in, journal about it, and then reflect.  I also go to my resources, like my husband and like-minded friends, to support me.  My tips are:

  • Surrounding yourself with like-minded others and leverage resources online like meetup.com, BNI for marketing yourself, and Ellevate, a global women’s network
  • Hire a coach
  • Set goals and track your results.”

“Dr. Rajka’s favorite mantra: Balanced and calm. Focused, flexible, and strong”

Want to connect with Dr. Rajka?

  1. Subscribe to her blog: drrajka.com
  2. Follow @Drrajka on Twitter or on Facebook
  3. Contact doctorrajka@gmail.com if you are interested in a consult

 

 

Mother’s Day Unspoken

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Source: LiveluvCreate.com

Four years ago, on Mother’s Day of 2011, I spent the day shuffling between my bed and the bathroom as I miscarried my first child.  What I remember about that day is my unending flow of tears… the uncomfortable cramping and heavy bleeding… holding what was left of my baby in the palm of my hand and not knowing what to do…the absence of tenderness in my breasts… the emptiness of my barren womb…. and an overwhelming feeling of utter devastation.  The stark white bathroom tiles offered little comfort as I laid on the floor next to the toilet, begging God to reverse this sick joke and give me my baby back.  Surely women don’t miscarry on Mother’s Day??? Oh yes, dear, oh yes they do.

My heart was already thick with grief having lost my mother to ovarian cancer just before Mother’s Day in 2010.  The news of my first pregnancy had buoyed me through the first anniversary of her passing, giving me comfort and renewed hope for the future.  While my husband was cautiously excited, I was beyond certain that this baby was a divine blessing and an answer to our prayers at a time when we needed it most.   What I hadn’t expected was that this pregnancy would end in miscarriage– that the little soul who had built a small nest in my womb would take flight much earlier than I expected.   Curled up in fetal position, I comforted myself by envisaging my child, whom I named Gabriel, joining my mom in Heaven.  She had always wanted to be a grandma, and she finally had a grandchild to call her own.

After my miscarriage, I felt shattered in a way I had never imagined.  I struggled to socialize or work as I attempted to hide my fragile emotional state.  Only a few friends had known that we were expecting, so telling people about my miscarriage also meant telling them that we had been pregnant.  Inevitably, this would lead to questions about us trying to get pregnant, which I just couldn’t handle.  I stayed close to home and grieved in silence, until I finally felt like I could open up about my loss to more of my friends and a few colleagues.  Many of them reacted with empathy and compassion, validating my grief.  One friend brought us a meal, which was a touching gesture that I will never forget.  Not knowing what to say when I shared the news of my miscarriage, some friends made comments like, “At least you know you can get pregnant,” in a feeble attempt to offer me hope.  One friend reacted thoughtlessly by saying my baby wasn’t really a baby- her underlying tone was “get over it.”

But I couldn’t get over the loss of my first child, and frankly I don’t think I ever will.   About 6 months after my miscarriage, we conceived our “rainbow” baby (a rainbow baby is a baby conceived after a loss).  After experiencing some light spotting not long after my pregnancy had been confirmed, I drove myself in hysterics to the OB-GYN’s office for a repeat HCG blood test.  While I anxiously awaited the results, I sobbed on an exam bed, begging for God’s mercy.  I felt absolutely certain that I was miscarrying again.  When the nurse explained that my HCG levels had tripled overnight, I looked at her in disbelief, and my tears of anguish transformed into tears of gratitude.  Although the spotting only lasted a day, my OB-GYN took every precaution with me during the first trimester, which included supplemental hormones, regular blood tests and ultrasounds, and a long list of things NOT to do.  The usual “laissez-faire” approach to pregnancy wasn’t an option for me.

Needless to say, I was a complete mess through most of my pregnancy.  I felt horribly guilty that I wasn’t more excited about my pregnancy—I absolutely wanted to be pregnant, but I was still traumatized by my miscarriage and the anxiety associated with a “high-risk” pregnancy.  I realized that I would never experience the same carefree excitement that most of my friends experienced during pregnancy.   In losing my first child, I also lost my innocence as a mother.  There would be other losses, but none would be as devastating as my first miscarriage on Mother’s Day.   The way I viewed the creation of human life was forever altered.

But maybe this was just the lesson that I needed to learn, although I would have preferred a gentler alternative to this emotional triple shot to the chest. Because what I gained through my miscarriage was a greater appreciation for life: how miraculous it is, how fragile it is, and what an extraordinary gift it is.  The miracle of Gabriel prepared me for the miracle of my take-home baby (aka Toots).  Because of Gabriel, I became acutely aware of just how badly I wanted to become a mother and what I needed to change to make space for another miracle to unfold in my womb.  So, despite all of my anxiety while pregnant with Toots, I also felt (and still feel) tremendous humility and gratitude– I knew that the life growing inside of me was such a divine blessing.

What I also learned through both my mother’s death and losing Gabriel is that a mother’s love transcends all boundaries.  While we often crave physical presence, the love between a mother and her child flows freely, unbound by the human form.   Nothing ever stops us from being in the presence of our mother or our child.   Experiencing this spiritual connection has comforted me during times of grief and heartache, reminding me that their love is not confined to this physical world.  All I need to do is find a quiet place, close my eyes, and connect with their love… God’s love… a universal love which floods me with its golden-white light and soothes my soul.

So, when Mother’s Day rolls around, I prefer to spend the day in quiet reflection, soaking myself in maternal love.  I hold my precious son tightly in my arms and whisper my deepest thanks for the miracle of his life.  I thank God for choosing me to be his mama and trusting me with his life.  As I hold him, I silently honor my angel babies, as well as my mother and grandmothers who are no longer of this world.   I step into their presence and feel their love and encouragement surrounding me.  Then, I take some time to remember my friends who too are missing their moms and angel babies. Sadly, several of my friends have lost their babies in utero, just after birth, or as children:

  • A resilient friend who experienced multiple miscarriages before the arrival of her baby boy. She was the first person to openly talk about miscarriage with me.
  • A high school classmate who has publicly shared her stories of miscarriage and infertility through her blog and newspaper column. She is now the proud mama of twin girls.
  • Two courageous girlfriends whom lost their first daughters in utero and were induced to deliver their stillborn angels. Both friends went on to give birth to rainbow baby girls who are the lights of their lives.
  • A dear friend, who is a mom to two teen boys, an angel in Heaven, and a preschooler. She lost her sweet daughter to a heart defect when she was just a baby.  A few years after her daughter’s death and a few miscarriages, she gave birth to her fourth child (another daughter).
  • My childhood friend, Sarah, who lost her son, Jack, to pediatric cancer.  His legacy lives on through Gold in September and the I Back Jack Foundation.  She is also the mother to Annie (Jack’s twin) and little Tommy.
  • All of my friends who are still waiting for their rainbow babies. If I know your story of loss, then I remember you and your angels and I pray for your take-home baby to arrive soon.

To these friends I say:  Although our society may not recognize you as a mother or may not recognize ALL of your children, I hope it comforts you to know that I do.   I hold you and your babies in my heart today.  May you find time to quietly honor them and experience that unbreakable bond between mother and child.

XOXO

Christina


Have you experienced pregnancy loss or the loss of your child?  How have you coped with your loss? How do you feel on Mother’s Day and other trigger holidays?  How do you honor your angels and connect with their spirits?

If you or a friend would like support in dealing with pregnancy loss, here are a few resources in addition to joining a local or online community:

http://miscarriagesupport.com/

http://www.aplacetoremember.com/

www.fertileheart.com

For family and friends who want to support you:

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-loss/supporting-others/

Are you struggling to conceive after a loss? I’m here to listen and support you.  You may also find my FREE download with tips for improving your fertility naturally helpful when you are ready to start trying again.

 

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Source: Pinterest

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Source: Pinterest

LEAP! with Vicki Flaherty

leap collage 2(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Welcome back to LEAP!, an inspiring interview series featuring women who aren’t afraid to leap in the direction of their dreams!

I hope you enjoyed last month’s interview with Jackie Bassett.  This month, I’m excited to feature Vicki Flaherty, an IBM leadership development professional, a poet, and a breast cancer survivor.  Vicki and I met in 2007 while working on an internal project at IBM and I immediately felt a strong click with her soulful way of being.   After I left IBM, Vicki became one of my first coaching clients and I learned so much from our coaching relationship.  She was—and still is—one of my favorite clients because of her openness, vulnerability, and willingness to go DEEP.  I chose Vicki for this interview series because of a significant leap she took after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  This leap culminated in her published collection of poems titled, “Mostly My Hearts Sings.” As you listen to my interview with Vicki and read the highlights, I hope you will feel inspired to listen to your heart, connect with your own truth, and tap into your creativity just as Vicki has learned to do.

Below are the selected highlights from my recent interview with Vicki.  However, I highly encourage you to listen to Vicki’s interview (approx. 30 min).

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback!

XOXO Christina


 “Listen to your heart and be intentional about how you want to move forward in the world. Listen to your truth and let your truth guide you.”—Vicki Flaherty

Vicki Flaherty

Vicki Flaherty

Meet Vicki Flaherty… PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.  Learning & Development Guru.  IBMer. Runner.  Yogi.  Gardener.  Writer.  Poet.  Breast Cancer Survivor.  World Traveler.  Lives an “abundantly delicious life” with her husband, Jim, in the heartland of America (Iowa).

A Calling to Help People Succeed

“About 20 years ago, I worked for a small start-up company in workforce development and was awarded a corporate award called ‘Helping People Succeed.’ I didn’t realize it then, but that was the sign on the path of my career.  Today, I’m an IBMer and thrilled to work in the learning organization in leadership development. I’ve worked for IBM for 17 years and I’ve had 3 or 4 careers so far.  I started in our services organization doing consulting work to start, then I switched to doing career development work, then I moved into our learning organization, and have shifted into leading programs related to leadership development.  My latest responsibility is to support new executives in making that transition to the executive level, which is a pretty big leap in our company.  One of the initiatives I’m leading now is around mindfulness, bringing mindfulness and focus to the work that we do, and helping leaders to do this.”

Awakening the Inner Poet

“In 2005, I had gone through a workshop which was a very powerful, transformative experience.  Through the workshop, I determined that I wanted to find my joy, and I hadn’t even realized that I had lost my joy.  The workshop began this awakening process, and I started to dabble with poetry and words.   It was an important impetus to how I handled being diagnosed withbreast cancer in 2011. I’m very achievement oriented, but I didn’t always slow down enough to experience what I was feeling or celebrate what I was accomplishing.  With cancer, there were a lot of experiences and feelings I never experienced before, and I found myself needing an outlet to understand what was happening.   I sat down with a piece of paper and a pen and started writing some words that described what I was thinking, feeling, and experiencing.  The words started turning into phrases, and the phrases started connecting together.  Suddenly a river of words and emotions was flowing and felt so cathartic.”

Leaping into the Darkness

“My poetry helped me process what was happening and lean into my fears.  I tend to be a very positive person, so, when I experienced negative emotions, I often didn’t have words for what I was feeling.  I knew I was going to have to physically change my body and the poetry helped me move through this. My poetry helped me get comfortable with putting my heart out there and being vulnerable.  I showed parts of me that felt very intimate, but I felt such power and comfort in sharing my poetry and knowing that others could relate to it.  I wrote a poem called ‘The Struggle,’ which is about the dark side of myself that was so difficult to face.”

The Struggle by Vicki Flaherty
feeling the walls
surrounded in darkness
in the cocoon
no light
only tiny fragments
of hope linger
in the air
like smoke
from a fire smoldering
into the unknown
tension thick
like mud unsure
what’s in here
even more uncertain
what’s out there
fear filling the air
wanting desperately out
struggling against the edges
the barriers
holding things in
spinning circles
dizziness pushing ‘round
falling to get up
only to sit still
in the gray silence

© 2015 Vicki L. Flaherty

Leaping into the Light

“Even during this cancer experience, I leaned toward finding the light, finding the grace, finding the opportunity and possibility, while going through struggles and moments of darkness.  The poetry told the story of my diagnosis, my journey to acceptance, the dark moments, the coping, and the release toward the end.  Sharing my poetry, being vulnerable enough to share my deepest feelings – was my LEAP.  Facing head on my emotions – the dark and negative ones, the ones I typically rushed over or pushed away – was the opportunity that came with my cancer diagnosis and treatment.  My book, ‘Mostly My Hearts Sings,’ really opened the door for me to more fully listen to my heart and follow it, especially in my work.”

Leaping with Grace, Joy, Hope, and Faith

“Through my journey of looking inward, I found parts of myself to call upon for support.  I have a friend named Grace who brings calm and confidence to me. I have a friend Joy who brings light and gratitude whenever I go. I constantly hold Hope in my heart and she helps me to dream and make the leaps towards my dreams.  I hold Faith in my gut and she gives me the courage to let go of my fears and believe in things that I can’t see but I know might be possible.”

Leaping into the Future

“When I interviewed for my current leadership development job, it took a lot of courage to be completely authentic and honest during the interview process.  I wanted my new manager to understand that I was going to be bringing not only my mind to work, but also my heart to work.  I’m bringing that singing heart to work, and I have some great opportunities to let my heart sing at work, especially related to cultivating a culture of mindfulness.  As for my poetry, I’ve written more poetry since I published ‘Mostly My Heart Sings.’ I’m thinking of pulling together another collection. I’m open to the possibility of publishing more, but I’m not sure what it will look like yet.”

Parting Words

“Listen to your heart and be intentional about how you want to move forward in the world. Listen to your truth and let your truth guide you.  My poem, ‘Truth’s Whisper,’ is about tuning into your inner truth.”

Truth’s Whisper by Vicki Flaherty
My truth
speaks quietly.
It whispers
so that sometimes
it is hard to hear.
In quiet moments
of stillness
I feel its breath
upon me.
It’s voice is clear:
Be who you are, completely.
Your light is for giving.

© 2015 Vicki L. Flaherty

Want to connect with Vicki Flaherty, buy her book, and continue to enjoy her poetry and inspirational writing?