Posted in after the diagnosis, art and healing, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Is it curing or healing?

There is a big difference between curing and healing.  Curing involves eradicating the disease from the body or bringing the body to the point where the progression has halted any and all progression.  Healing is more of an emotional and spiritual component linking the idea of acceptance, peace and meaning of life to the process.

When we are creative we learn new languages.  Having the capacity to  express ourselves honestly and authentically is a gift.  It’s amazing that we can communicate without ever having to utter a word simply be expressing ourselves through art.  They say that art is a universal language and that may be true, but it’s in the expression that healing takes place.

I recently had the honor of spending time at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida.  They began one of the first artist-in-residence programs in the country for patients in the hospital.  They currently have artists in all disciplines and the results are amazing.  Creating art can lessen pain, creates a diversion during treatment, releasing negative thoughts that have been impacting the outcome of treatment and other medical prescriptions.

It allows the patients to be whole because we are thinking holistically.  We are integrating mind, body and soul in the process and when these three aspects of our selves are in sync there is a synergy that can have amazing results.  It may not cure every illness, but it will impact one’s quality of life and that’s always the key component to living a “successful” life.

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Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Having a Voice, In the Know, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Are You Integrated?

I’m getting ready to leave for Gainesville, Florida where I’ll be taking a week long course on Art and Healing.  The assignment we need to bring to class is to write a paper answering the question “What do you need to heal in your life?  I’ve been thinking a lot about that question because most would say their illness.  That’s true and that’s the immediate, gut response.  The difficult part is differentiating between healing and curing.

As I mentioned in one of my previous sharings, curing is limited for most diseases.  Most life-altering illnesses the hope is to ward off the impact of the disease or the disease progression.  So what is healing?  Healing is about peace.  Healing is about removing the baggage that you keep tripping over while you’re trying to tackle the health issues that are in your body.  Healing requires that you BREATHE!

I asked the question about integration because so many people in the world live compartmentalized lives.  The illness persona is one aspect of their lives and most work very hard to isolate it from the rest of their being.  Integration acknowledges the illness as a part of the whole but not as a defining factor.

When I worked in HIV/AIDS services I would continuously  hear clients say they are HIV+.  I would ask them to stop and rephrase the statement to “I have HIV”.  The difference is in does the illness define your or is it a part of you?  When it’s  a part of you it’s possible to integrate it into a larger picture.  Yes, it will undoubtedly shade your thoughts, visions and ideas about the world, but who you are hasn’t changed, maybe you are more integrated now and there is a  more complete picture waiting to be shared with the world.

Posted in Personal Conviction, Self-Nurture

Future Tripping

How far into the future are you projecting treatment results?  From the moment of your diagnosis what’s the time line you’ve been living with and what’s the yard stick you’ve been using to measure your progress?  It’s amazing how lost we can become by future tripping.  Abraham Lincoln said, “The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.” 

 How much of a relief is living one day at a time when considering the big picture?  It’s difficult to live “in the moment” when we’re waiting for test results or the doctor’s call following up on concerns or uncertainties.  Being present for yourself is important because you can go deep within and see who you really are and what you’re made of…the values and priorities that give meaning to your life.

When facing a life-altering illness there is always a time line.  Some have a daily regimen of medication, often many times during the day.  I used to hear clients wish for a medication holiday, not probable unless changing regimens but a wish.  There may be daily therapies to improve quality of life.  There are specified times for lab work, scans, or regular doctor visits for assessment and going over results.

If you were to really look at the entire calendar it creates a sense of overwhelm that can be discouraging.  I’m find that if I take the day in smaller chunks I don’t get discouraged about the number of pills I have to take.  I’m more compliant and that the treatments more successful and the doctor much happier.

I’ll deal with the lab when I have to deal with it and not a day before, well maybe a day before because I often have to fast prior to the test.  I can look at the choices I make daily regarding exercise and diet to determine how best to nurture myself and not feel deprived or that my life is being taken over by external forces telling me what and how to do things.

It’s all about today, so how are you going to live your today and remember the future is hours away.

Posted in Having a Voice, Self-Nurture

Let it all hang out

How does anyone know who you are?  How do you know about your inner core?  What do you want to say but haven’t found the words for?  These are important questions because the answer may not be spoken, but artistic.  Consider putting your message out creatively through some form of artistic expression.  It’s amazing what happens physically, emotionally and spiritually when you use your creativity to communicate.

 There are so many forms of creative expression that there is some gift or interest you have that will serve as the language you use for your message.  I’m a textile artist so that’s one form of my self-expression.  In addition, I’ve included writing both in articles like this, but most recently in writing Haiku poetry (I’ll share some of my work down the road).  It’s a great release and translate the deepest of emotions in a safe and eloquent manner.

There is an ever increasing body of knowledge about the connection between art and healing.  It’s important to remember that we all have something in our lives that need healing.  It’s not about curing an illness, but healing those wounds that get in the way of treatments we’re exploring to achieve a cure.  Remember that in this day and age not all illnesses can be cured, but that doesn’t exclude you from experiencing a healing.  When you experience healing there is a calm, a peace, a reconciliation of your inner and outer worlds.  Give it a try and see what you creativity has to say.  I think you’ll be surprised at how verbose you can be without words.

Posted in Community, Relationships

That’s what friends are for…

“To have a true friendship, you have to do more than exchange Christmas cards or call each other once a year.  There has to be some continued support and attention; otherwise the relationship is a sentimental attachment rather than a true friendship”  – Dr. Dolores Kreisman

Friends are the people who know our history.  They are the people who know when the persona we display is real or a show.  Friends are the people who will laugh with you and cry with you.  They are the people you want to call when good happens and when bad news is received.

Following a diagnosis you will see who your true friends are and how they support you.  You’ll be surprised as to who steps up to the plate in a way you never would have imagined.  You’ll also be surprised at the people who sink into the background hoping you don’t notice their absence. 

This isn’t about blaming anyone.  Everyone has their own pain threshold, both for themselves and when they interact with others.  It’s important to know who the people are that will support you when all you need is someone to listen or to cook dinner for you and your family, or to make you laugh. 

True friendship is precious and when certain friends opt-out of your life it makes way for new people to enter.  We have to remember that when we are faced with a challenge like a life-altering diagnosis our growth curve is very steep.  Everyone in your life will not be able to make that steep climb so you may have to leave some behind on your trek up to the summit.  You will find others on the summit, or along the way…that’s the pilgrimage process.

Treasure the friends you have.  Reflect on the kind of friend you have been and you are and remember there is always an opportunity for a mid-course correction.