Cynthia Long, ACB, CL, is the plastic surgery clinical leader at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. A mother of two, she has had to rebuild her life after tragedy stuck in 2008 and she suddenly became a widow. To help her cope with the loss, she was introduced to GriefShare, a program that aids participants in the grief process. She eventually became a GriefShare facilitator and has been leading classes for others since 2009.
The operating room nurse of 38 years is a Ph.D. candidate in communications at Regent University, Virginia. She shares her journey below.
What inspired your growth?
The movie The Bucket List inspired me greatly after my husband’s death. I made a list of things I wanted to do each year, and then in 2014, I finally acted on one item on my list: I joined Toastmasters. And in 2015, I attended a friend’s celebration ceremony for his MD/Ph.D. I was excited for him but felt a little jealous too. I realized then how I had always wanted to go back to school but did not have the courage. It had been 22 years since my last degree. I asked myself: What are my passions in life? What knowledge do I seek? I love my career in healthcare and I love being a Toastmaster. I wanted to pursue my passion in the medical field but did not know exactly what avenue to pursue until I became a Toastmaster. It was my commitment as a club member that developed my love for the art and science of communication.
I became a better speaker in Toastmasters, but I also became a better conversationalist and communicator. The seed was planted. I put the two together and started my journey as a scholar of Healthcare Communication.
How has Toastmasters helped you in your work?
The staff has noticed my advances and ease of public speaking. Many surgeons know I am a Toastmaster, and they ask me for suggestions after giving a presentation. In surgery, it is vital to have efficient and effective team communication. Professionals in the healthcare arena are becoming more knowledgeable of its importance.
What topics do you speak about?
I enjoy speaking about courage, perseverance and humor. One humorous speech I delivered, “Dating after Widowhood,” won first place. I had no idea that having started a fire in my date’s bathroom was so funny.
It is imperative to deliver the humorous side of stories for many reasons, including health benefits and stress elimination. I am passionate about a healthy lifestyle, which includes enjoying humor on a daily basis—it’s a great medicine. One of the plastic surgeons I work with and I even deliver jokes during what we call the “pre-emptive analgesia” part of a medical procedure when we wait for the local anesthetic to work. I have become an excellent joke-master and storyteller during surgery.
Can humor help heal grief?
Humor opens the door for healing. It allows us to be vulnerable with each other through sharing our funny stories. I have many funny stories and, as a Toastmaster, I do not hesitate sharing to lighten the atmosphere.
What are some other items on your bucket list?
I am an avid cyclist. I cycled last year in Oxford, England, while I was there taking a class on [the author] C.S. Lewis. This year I will cycle with my daughter along the Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania and next year in Holland. I will continue writing and giving extraordinary speeches in Toastmasters to entertain and educate about the importance of communication, health habits, and life’s lessons.
Mary Nesfield is associate editor for Toastmaster magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.