265 Overcoming Hidden Handicaps – Patty Emry

Patty Emry's Story of Seeing Humor in Life's Struggles:

  • Finding Humor in Life’s Challenge 
  • Overcoming Hidden Handicaps
  • A Surviving Twin’s Overcoming Story
  • If She Can Make Fun of Herself, We All Can 

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More about our featured guest Patty Emry

Patty Emry is an inspirational speaker, workshop and class facilitator, that educates, empowers and instills hope, help and healing to women (and men) who are experiencing negative life altering situations. Her newly published book “It takes A Sense Of Humour” tells her inspiring journey of overcoming hidden handicaps and adversity.

Full Transcript

00:02 Joel: Welcome to ReLaunch, your daily dose of fresh ideas, inspiring stories and practical solutions to help you build a life and business that you love. And if you are a daily listener, welcome back to the show, thank you for tuning in. And thank you for joining in the before and the after show online conversations. And if you are new here, here is what you can expect, unique insights, aha moments and actionable information from self-made successes as they share their trials, their tribulations and their come-from-behind victories. And joining us on the show today, she is the author of a fun book. And before I talk about the book and introduce her, let me explain this book cover to you, 'cause this is a riot.

00:51 Pei: Yeah, paint a visual here.

00:52 Joel: Yeah, I will, I will. Okay, so let's see, we've got a woman on the front. And she's got one leg kinda hiked up on one stair, she's on a stair and on this stair it says, “obstacles.” So, the image is, or the idea is to step on, to walk over your obstacles and this lady is wearing a tight leopard skin kind of a one-piece, would you call that tight, honey, what do you think?

01:19 Pei: Yeah, I'm looking at it from a distance, but…

01:22 Joel: Okay, she's wearing this tight kind of one-piece little thing. She's got her dukes up, it looks like she's ready to fight. And she's got some blingy looking rings on, so she's gonna take somebody down when she gets in…


01:35 Pei: But then she's got this big smile, so.

01:38 Joel: And she's got a big smile, and she's got this spiky looking hair going on, so it must have been a good hair day in the studio when she was shooting these pictures. Anyhow, so there you go, you got the visual? The name of the books is called “It Takes A Sense of Humor”, and with us today is the author of that book, Patty Emry, we'll call you our Canadian correspondent. Patty, how you doing?

02:01 Patty Emry: Well, I'm fantastic, thank you very much for letting me come on your show today. I'm up here in sunny, not really, Vancouver, British Columbia, and I'm really excited about getting the chance to get to know you two.

02:12 Joel: This is going to be fun. Patty, this show is all about the relaunch, and while we've all experienced numerous launches and relaunches in our life, I generally ask our guests to zero in on the relaunch that has been the most significant for them, or that's been the most transformational and then we just kinda unfold the story from there. And we'll do that with you, if that's okay, how do we just immediately jump into talking about Patty's relaunch and go from there, what do you think?

02:45 Patty Emry: Sounds fantastic. Well, my main relaunch when I was aware that I was going through a relaunch was when I was graduating from high school actually. And all of a sudden going back down to the United States, 'cause originally I was born in the United States, here from Canada. And because of all my medical treatments I have to take every night, I realized, “Wow, I'm really on my own.” And I have to figure all this out, I have to navigate. And yes, do I have the tools? Yes I did, I wasn't even aware I went through training for this. But basically it was learning how to take care of myself, my physical disability, which I have three, and did it with an awareness that I had to start actually talking about this birth defect. And luckily my roommate I knew from Vancouver, and I came in after talking to the den mother, who turned me down, I said, “May I use your bathroom? Or a bathroom that's private, that's got a lock on it?”

03:54 Patty Emry: And she just said, “Oh you can Canadian kids, you all come down here expecting to have this, this and this.” And I said, “No I don't!” So, I was kind of in shock, went back to the room and sat there and realized, “Wow! Patty, you're now an adult. You have to figure this out and you have to open up and start to talk once again.” So, I had been basically hiding my disabilities and my medical treatments behind a very athletic Patty O'Leary Emry.

04:25 Joel: Okay, so let's get everybody caught up to speed. Your medical challenges actually happened for you pretty much day one.

04:35 Patty Emry: Yes.

04:36 Joel: Okay, so if you can backup and give us a little bit of a foundation, and then we'll go from there.

04:43 Patty Emry: Okay, well, my twin and I we're born preemies, and twin A, being me, was baptized because it was a Catholic hospital, Mary Ann O'Leary. And Catherine was moved upstairs into another incubator because they basically told my parents, literally right after we were born, “Baby A has no exit from the bottom half, she will not live past two days old. And so, would you like to hold her and say goodbye?” And so, the long story short of it, of course, my parents being strong Catholics said, “No, we're gonna pray. Yes, we wanna hold her, of course.” And, of course, my mom and dad said it was the most difficult thing to hand me back to the doctors, because the doctors said I would not survive any surgery because of how small we were, and etcetera. So, what they did do is they were convinced, and they decided to a groundbreaking operation. And basically they kinda cut me almost in half, and pulled things down, reattached some things, but of course they couldnt' do it all, because they couldn't see, I was so tiny, and they didn't have the instruments.

05:52 Patty Emry: So, what that created for me was for the rest of my life, from day two, was when I had the operation, I would have to do medical treatments which are basically irrigation or taking enemas every night. And so, I had to navigate through my whole life with that and never really telling anybody about it. We kept it in the family. It was something I was told you don't talk about and so I, even though a third of my body wasn't functioning very well, I learned to find times and know my schedule. And I'm still learning it, it's an ongoing thing with this because as I age, things pop up or don't work. And so, once I was all through high school, I had to deal with that, and my mom basically stopped doing these things for me at only eight years old. I was actually too young to be doing it on my own. So, I would in turn also get E-Coli poisoning and all sorts of things along the way. And then also along the way, I didn't have a vagina, so my periods backed up for three months and nobody knew what was wrong with me. I was eleven. And then also, I had kidney infections all of the time because of things that they thought they repaired when I was, I guess four with one of my operations. So, that's basically it in a nutshell if you can. I had major lower intestine, basically not there.

07:22 Pei: Wow!

07:22 Joel: Now one of the things that you mentioned in your book is that you actually, your sister, your sister, your twin sister, she unfortunately didn't make it out of the hospital.

07:33 Pei: Really?

07:33 Joel: Is that, did I get that correct?

07:36 Patty Emry: Yeah, she, it was, it's interesting. My mom, she died at three and a half months. They told my parents that baby A was gonna die which was me, and that Catherine would live. And so they got sort of, they were sort of preparing for her to live and for me to not make it because the doctors kept saying, “Listen, even though she has this surgery, she's gonna need 22 or 25 more operations and she's just not going to survive this, she's too small.” I was, we were very tiny. So, Catherine at three and a half months one day just started gurgling, and my mom thought it was a cold, rushed her to the hospital, and she didn't make it, she died in my mom's arms. But the thing that's interesting is, we found out when I was doing the research for my book, talk about an a-ha moment, that it was actually an oversized heart and a few of my doctor friends have said, “You know they're now finding that there may have been a third baby.” So, I have decided at a very, very young age, I get very emotional when I talk about this.

08:43 Joel: Sure.

08:43 Patty Emry: That I'm going to live my life, I'm just gonna live my life with gusto for her. And I think I'm succeeding. I'm still working at it, but I know when I see her one day, she's gonna pat me on the back and say, “You did it, girl.”


08:58 Pei: Oh. So, Patty, have you always had this sense of humor in this…

09:04 Joel: Yeah, and how do you develop that, I mean…

09:07 Pei: Does it come natural to you? I'm curious.

09:10 Joel: Yeah, and I wasn't there, so I mean, there's no way I can, I'm not even gonna pretend to have understood what it was like for you or your parents or anyone that was there.

09:22 Patty Emry: Well, you know what? Here's the thing, you guys. I think I'm very, very lucky that I grew up with it. I was teaching myself, plus I have a father that's kind of a nut; he's really quite funny. Some of the stories that he's done with us was always to make me laugh. And one of them was when I was in the hospital. He got kicked out twice by coming in and reading me Huck Finn which was a combination of Tarzan was flying through the trees, and I'm holding my stitches on my stomach, this particular time, and he's just got everyone in the room howling laughing. And guess what? I split three stitches.


10:06 Patty Emry: So I'm… Okay, and so the nurses come in, Mr. O'Leary, you must leave. Stop making her laugh. He goes, “No, she needs to laugh, she needs to laugh.” Because we always were teasing and then he showed up the next day with a friend dressed up in a long trench coat that were lined with all sorts of funny things. And at the window, you can picture this very small little window, and he tapped at the window. And then he started in one corner and he walks across the other pretending he was going down stairs.

10:37 Joel: Oh, Okay.

10:37 Patty Emry: And then his friend went back up the stairs, so I'm already laughing, and he hasn't even come in the room, so once again, the nurses, I heard them in the hall, “No, Mr. O'Leary, no.” Because they had just stitched me up again, and I said, “Dad, you can't keep doing this!” And he said, “Yes, I can.” So, I think I came by it kinda naturally. And the other thing is, how many of us stub our toe, we have one of those days where you don't mean to make mistakes or you hit somebody, you bump somebody when you're trying to parallel park, and all day long things are going bad and you just say, you throw your hands up you say, “You just got to laugh.” Or you can say, “You gotta have a sense of humor.” So, with my treatments that I do every day and with accidents where I would hemorrhage through all sorts of clothing at school and have to line up all my girlfriend behind me walking through the halls. I would turn and I found myself making jokes because it made others feel better around me. The things that they did in hospitals.

11:36 Patty Emry: I would make jokes even as I was going down to surgery, and I didn't know if I was gonna have cancer or not. I found that it relaxed me and I saw people smile and that came back to me. It was like a circular medicine if you will, and what was really also amazing was, I noticed sometimes I could hear somebody down the hall calling “Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!” And they wouldn't leave my bedside. I said “Look, somebody needs you down there.” “No, Patty. We like to hang out with you 'cause you're more fun.” And I'm going, “Yeah, but come on, guys. You gotta go down… ” And this is after I knew the nurses because I'd been in and out of hospitals so much…

12:13 Joel: Sure.

12:13 Patty Emry: Through my 30's and stuff, so I'd walk in the hospital for another operation. They'd go, “Oh, that's too bad, but we're glad to see you.” I'd go, “Yeah, right.” So, anyway, that's, I think, why, and then the other thing is as a teacher for my whole life, I found I could definitely keep my students' attention by making little wise cracks or just making funny things or acting silly. ‘Cause being silly is medicinal. Even if you're in a very serious situation, sometimes even the top executives will appreciate a little joke during a meeting. So, that's probably why I use it. I've just found that it's medicine.

12:51 Joel: I love that. It is medicine.

12:53 Pei: I agree.

12:56 Joel: It actually cured not only… Helped you heal, but also the people that you came into contact with. It sounds like it started at a pretty early age for you.

13:05 Patty Emry: Yeah, it sure did. Yeah.

13:08 Joel: So, go ahead, Pei.

13:09 Pei: I was just gonna comment. Laughter is one of the most healing things, and they say laughter's the best medicine. But also, as a speaker, what I heard was when people laugh, people in your audience, when they laugh, it's almost like… What did they say? A part of their brain kinda light up and the rest of the message you share with them, they're actually more receptive.

13:36 Patty Emry: Yes.

13:37 Pei: And that's one of the reasons some speakers actually…

13:40 Joel: Start with a funny story.

13:41 Pei: Yeah, they go through some comedy training too.

13:44 Joel: Sure, oh, yeah. That's right. That's right. They absolutely do. I know who you're thinking about, Pei. Okay, so Patty, I've got this book in my hand here, and oh my gosh, I'm looking at the table of contents. Okay. Here we go. So, we've got “menopause”; we've got “post hysterectomy”; we've got “bare ass naked.”

14:01 Pei: Should I read that?

14:03 Joel: We've got “drinking buddies.” We've got… This is a family show.

14:06 Pei: Give me. Give me.

14:09 Joel: I stress… Okay. Here you go. Here you go. Take it. So, what inspired you to write this book, and it's easy for authors to talk about, “Okay. Here's what you'll get from reading my book.” And then bam, bam, bam, right? They've got their bullet points memorized, and figured out, and they know how to sound byte it pretty well. But I always like to ask this question. Talk about the motivation for writing the book, but also what did you get out of writing the book?

14:37 Patty Emry: Well, I'll first start, stop… Stop, I'm not stopping. I'm gonna keep going. I'm gonna start with the motivation was I noticed that when I would tell little bits to my seniors when I was coaching volleyball, and I'd have to take them away on a trip, and we didn't have assistant coaches in those days. I was all by myself, and I was making sure I was sitting in the hall, making sure they didn't get in trouble and wander down the hall and all that sort of thing. I found that I was getting… I was giving people help, and they were opening up when I would just tell them even a little bit about my story, especially women. I have found when I talk about intestinal disorders, men come to me, but, of course, I've had a lot of infertility problems with all that. And so I found that it was also medicinal for me to start talking a little bit about this with people. So, it was… It was something that when I would tell them, everybody would say, “You know, you should write this down, Patty. You should write this down.” I'd go, “No, no, no. It's too private. I can't talk about this.” And I was raised with “you don't talk about this.” People didn't go to dinner parties and talk about pee, poop, and blood, right? They just didn't. So, what motivated me to actually write this down, originally, it wasn't really my idea. I went to Colorado. I was painting murals in restaurants etcetera, and I stayed with my brother and sister-in-law who are both… My brother's a doctor.

16:02 Patty Emry: She's a nurse. And he knew I needed my own bathroom, and we started talking about why, and even though he's my older brother, he was never really distracted or anything because we had a couple bathrooms in the house, so I didn't disturb him more than what he thought was normal because he grew up with it. So, he said to me, “Patty, you need to start writing down these stories because I have patients that could learn from it and be inspired by it.” And the other thing is I want to add very quickly to here is, like I mentioned earlier, I was born with this. I've taught myself to deal with these things, and so I wanted to put a book out there that gets other people that are, say, new at being ill, or even if they've had something all their life or some things all their life, that it's okay to talk about these things. I mean, after all, we're able to talk about skin cancer. We're able to talk about heart disease, etcetera, etcetera. But you don't hear too many people at a dinner party talking about their IBS or anything like that. It just has never been done. In fact, the interesting thing is I have an advisor who was telling me, “Patty, when you keep talking about enemas, it makes me cringe. It makes me cringe.” And I said, “You know what? That's exactly why I wrote my book! Exactly!” And he's like, “How dare you say that?” And I said, “It took a lot of guts to write about that.”

17:33 Joel: For sure. Oh my gosh, yes.

17:37 Patty Emry: I mean, I talked about like the blue bathrobe chapter on how to take… TO how to do all this stuff, and I remember coming out of my office numerous times and throwing the computer almost on the couch and saying to my husband. I said, “Dino, I can't do this! No one's gonna wanna read this.” He said, “It's not just about that, Patty. You have a lot of really good stories in there. You're a storyteller.” So I went, “Ah-ha, yes. I can write this book because I am telling short stories.” And then one day, I let my dear parents read the… I don't know how many books I rewrote in six years, you can imagine. And papa's sitting there… And my father is a well-known businessman. He was president and CEO of Scott Paper company, you know Scotty's little softies and all that sorta thing. And well-read and does speeches and everything and he says, “Mary Ann Patricia, get over here.” So I sat down. He goes, “Why haven't you written anything in here about your accomplishments? That's your story.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean, dad?” He said, “Well, you ran marathons. The doctor told you you should never run? And you did this and you did that and you got a degree and you taught phys-ed.” Blah, blah, blah, blah. And I went, “But dad, it's just normal everyday stuff.” He goes, “Not for you, it wasn't.” He said, “You overcame this. You overcame that.” And he just looked at me… I'll have to say this, 'cause I have to throw in a little bit about my twin.

19:02 Joel: Sure.

19:03 Patty Emry: He said, “And by the way, whenever I see you succeed,” and he smiles with his sense of humor, twinkle in his eye and he says, “Gosh. Can you imagine two of you on this earth? Lord help me.” And he said, “But wouldn't that have been wonderful?” And then he just smiles, and my mom gets up and leaves the room because it's pretty… It's hard for her…

19:23 Joel: Oh, of course.

19:23 Patty Emry: But he just smiled and said, “Two of you! Can you imagine two of you, Patty?” And I said, “Yeah. It would be pretty cool.” So he… All these people, family have encouraged me, and I found that it was helping people. I wanted people to be able to have a private conversation with someone without actually having to speak; they could just read it.

19:42 Joel: I gotcha.

19:43 Pei: Yeah. Well, Patty, I'm curious. I mean, we're all human here. Didn't you have… What… How do you apply humor when, at the certain moment, I have to say, you feel like this is not fair that's happening to you or when your body's not feeling good. I mean, just be practical here.

20:03 Patty Emry: In the book… Yeah. No. Because, I mean, you're absolutely right. I mean, there is one chapter in my book, “It takes a sense of humor,” it's called Rock Bottom. And I have days where I don't feel well… In fact, I have weeks where I don't feel well. My torso is killing me. My back is hurt because it's twisted. But at the same time, on my own… Like if I'm in the bathroom, let's say, and things aren't working or when I was… When I would hemorrhage. ‘Cause I would hemorrhage when I would be at track practice. I'd go to track practice, and I ended up having to quit track because of it. I would just walk over and say something to somebody funny because it was just kind of… It was just me. And, yes, I had to teach myself how to do that, and I think that's another reason why I wrote the book. Not everyone has a sense of humor, but we can all make fun of something if it's about us. And I think that you could also say… You know, if you're talking to somebody that has been there, done that, understands, it's even easier to make jokes. I'm actually speaking at the Disability Association out in Richmond, British Columbia, here soon. And they're all people with hidden handicaps, so some of them are in wheelchairs where it's more obvious. But my first question I asked them is, “How many of you try to laugh at yourself at least once a day?” Or are… Or, more importantly, you've taught yourself how to laugh at yourself? It helps…

21:32 Joel: That's great question.

21:33 Patty Emry: Yeah.

21:33 Joel: So let me ask you this. So when you ask people, how many of you laughed at yourself once a day, what's their reaction? Are there blank stares? Are people raising their hands? Is it a new concept for folks?

21:46 Patty Emry: Yeah. I think it's okay to be… To chuckle with yourself. I mean, let's face it. You've gotta… The person that you have to be happiest with on this earth is yourself.

21:56 Joel: I agree.

21:57 Patty Emry: The person that you have to take… Carry around. Like it's funny, I do sometimes look at myself and go, “Dang-nab-bit, I want out of this body. It hurts too much. It's not functioning. I wonder how long I'm going to be able to live with this? I wonder how… If I'll ever have children? I wonder if I'll ever have sex? I wonder if… ” You know? Those questions are real, real questions. But I have once again taught myself. Now, the audience is interesting enough. A lot of times, somebody will put up their hand, but mostly it's just nodding of the head and a small smile. And that's all I want. It's a type of communication, obviously. They're communicating with me. And I'll say to them, “It's okay. It's okay. It's okay.” And it is between you and yourself, and that's it. I mean, that's the bottom line. You have to be able to take care of yourself. Because if we don't take care of ourself, as we all know in the old saying, we can't take care of anything else. And, you have to just fake it. I mean, trust me.

22:56 Patty Emry: Okay, every night I come out of the bathroom and my dear husband of 44 years, “How are you feeling, honey?” “I'm good, hun. I'm good. How are you?” I throw it back to him, and he knows that means I might not be feeling so hot, but at the same time, it makes him feel better so then I feel better. And so, he knows that I'm just doing the best I can and he's gonna be there for me. But at the same time, we don't want to… I don't want to talk about it too much and I know that he's going to be worried about me. And if he's worried about me, then I spend the whole night going, “Oh, damn. I should've said, ‘I'm fine.'” Because it's kinda selfish sometimes, like I have a client I was talking to… There was a group of us, actually, couple of weeks ago.

23:42 Patty Emry: And this one man… We went around the room and this one man was talking on and on about how his wife is not understanding him, etcetera, etcetera. And it was, “Oh me, oh my.” And, of course, in a situation like that, you kinda have a license to be able to do that so I had to sort of put my hand up a little bit and say, “Now you were just complaining that your wife asked how you're doing it, and asks you all the time. So are you complaining all the time?” “Well, yeah, sometimes I go in the other room.” Don't mind me saying this, but it's kind of selfish to complain out loud all time when your wife or your husband already know you don't feel well, and you already know that your gonna have to go through this, what good does it do? And that's the way I look at it. It doesn't really do me any good. Now granted there are those days and those times when I'll just look to him and he'll say, “You're not feeling well are you?” And I'll say, “I'll be fine. I just have to go through this.”

24:46 Patty Emry: Here's my comparison, if someone throws you into the lake or the ocean and you know it's gonna be cold? And before you're going in, you probably think, “Okay I know this. I know how long this is probably gonna take. I know how it's gonna feel. I know that I'm gonna survive it. I'm not gonna die; it's just gonna be cold water and I'm gonna come out and go, Oh!” And what you can do is say, “That was fun!” so they won't throw you in again. Now I'm not quite five feet tall, you two didn't have a chance to see that so I'm kind of a target for people to throw into the ocean. But at the same time, I compare it with it's no different then when I have to go in and do two and half hours of taking care of myself. I know what it feels like. I know I'm gonna survive it. I know it's uncomfortable, but I also know I don't have a choice if I'm going to keep living. I have to do this.

25:45 Joel: Very good.

25:47 Pei: Yeah, I was gonna add something real quick. I caught something you said earlier that I really like. You said “We can all make fun of it when it's us,” but the common thinking actually I heard this quite often is, “Everything's funny when it's not happening to us.” So you take it around and encourage people to find something fun, to laugh at themselves. That's really encouraging.

26:14 Joel: Laugh at yourself every day. Find a reason. Love it. Talking with Patty Emry today. Running out of time; thank you for your time today, Patty. The name of the book is called, “It Takes A Sense Of Humor.” And of course we're gonna have the link to the book and all the social media hot spots available on the blog article that accompanies this episode. Patty this has been fantastic. Thank you for your time today. I know it passes really, really quick, and we just appreciate you sharing a little bit of your time with us today.

26:48 Patty Emry: Oh, darn! I didn't get to sing my Marilyn Monroe Happy Birthday song to you. [chuckle] Thank you very much for having me on, and you two have a wonderful life together, okay?

26:57 Joel: We will. Thank you, Patty.

26:59 Pei: Thank you so much, Patty.

27:00 Patty Emry: Bye-bye.

27:01 Pei: Bye.

27:03 Joel: Thank you so much for tuning in. You can also access our show from many mobile apps or by visiting our website. For today's show, just go to joelboggess.com/265. You'll also find show transcripts and additional resources to support your relaunch into the life and business that you love.

Connect with Patty on Twitter and her website.

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Joel Boggess

Keynote Speaker | Corporate Trainer | Award-winning podcaster I help teams ignite their courage, take bolder steps, and get greater results. Together, we create possibilities that bring empowerment, meaning, and financial impact.

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