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Before Covid-19, General Martin Dempsey Remembers Soldiers Who Died

General Martin Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, keeps a special walnut box on his desk at home. It is full of photographs of soldiers who died under his command in Iraq. General Dempsey says the box is a tangible reminder of each life that was lost, and the pictures push him to always consider what’s really important.

A few years ago, I was honored to meet General Dempsey as part of my work as an Advisory Board member for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). I am grateful he agreed to share his thoughts with me about grief and resilience, especially now as so many of us are coping with loss and needing courage and strength.

General Dempsey’s new book, No Time for Spectators: The Lessons That Mattered Most from West Point to the West Wing, reveals his unique and wholly unexpected perspective on love, life, and loss. Every chapter is a gripping read and I really enjoyed learning about his behind the scenes relationship with President Barack Obama. I tore through his book in just a few days and truly could not put it down. I’m honored to bring you this special Q&A.

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Preventing Cancer – What I Did to Stay Alive

I woke up this morning without breasts. Not a surprise. This is how it’s been since I underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy six years ago on August 7, 2012 – to prevent getting breast cancer. I still think, as I imagine Angelina Jolie believes of her life-affirming surgery, it’s the best decision I ever could have made.

For more than a decade, my gynecologist warned me I was high-risk for developing cancer. My mother had died of ovarian cancer and I tested positive for BRCA1, the genetic mutation that bumps lifetime risk of breast cancer from 12% (the general population) up to 85%. Couple all of this with the knowledge my grandmother died of breast cancer, and surgery actually felt like an opportunity, not a sentence. Doctors promised the 11.5-hour procedure (the plastic surgeon created breast “mounds” out of my own belly fat so I could avoid getting implants) would free me from many more years of medical surveillance – a battery of non-stop breast exams, mammograms, and MRIs. And it did. Even better, when the anesthesia wore off, the relentless fear of being diagnosed with breast cancer was gone. I was free. …Continue Reading