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

Is Driving When Ill Dangerous?

You may be thinking that the title of this post actually refers to the act of driving.  I don’t have any opinions or data on illness or driving, but I am referring to driving in the metaphorical sense.  When we drive one of the tools that keeps us safe is the rear view mirror.  We’re taught to check it regularly and we use so we’re aware of our surroundings.  Is there a problem with the rear view mirror?

The only problem is that many following their diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness keep looking in the rear view mirror and the only thing they see is what’s behind them…the past.  When you look in the rear view mirror what you’ve passed becomes smaller and smaller until it vanishes and is only a memory.  I often wonder if we look in the rear view mirror hoping that as long as we can get a glimpse of our lives before our diagnosis that we can retain some of that illusion of perfect health. 

The other problem with focusing on your rear view mirror is that you’re not paying attention to what’s in front of you.  What opportunities are you missing to heal the body, mind, and spirit connection?  What opportunities for optimistic thinking are you passing and once you pass them and you see them in the rear view mirror they become pessimistic thoughts.  Optimists have greater odds at health and healing according to numerous reports and studies so it’s something to grab hold of tightly.

The other difficult situation when you focus on the rear view mirror is that it’s dangerous.  When you’re not engaged as an active driver of your life accidents happen.  I’m not talking about hitting a tree, at least not literally.  I am talking about crashing, and for many with a health challenge that’s an emotional crash.  We can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought so keeping your eyes front and center is critical on your journey to wellness.

Posted in Caregiving

Company for the Journey

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

I encourage people to watch television because I believe, in some cases, it mirrors pop or current culture back to us in profound ways.  I keep a pen and pad near me while I watch television because undoubtedly I hear a quote that sparks a thought that lingers and teases me into further consideration.  So what did I hear?  I’m paraphrasing, but here it is…”We are born alone and we die alone and in the middle we gather company for the life we live”.  How does that fit with your life as a caregiver/wellness partner?

Companies talk about acquisitions so why don’t we think about that in our daily lives?  It’s not about taking over someone else’s life, but integrating the energy of others and acknowledging that we’re interdependent.  Just as the person with the injury or illness relies on you, you need others to rely on.  You need “your” people; those who will provide the company you need for deep discussion or simple contemplation.  It doesn’t matter; just knowing your part of a tribe is incredibly empowering and healing.

We don’t often talk about healing for the caregiver/wellness partner, but healing is an important aspect for maintaining compassion.  It’s not possible for you not to be triggered by what’s happening with the person you love.  It’s not possible not to wonder if you got sick who would do this for you?  We’re human and we all have primal fears about death and dying, as well as pain and suffering.

When you have company for the journey you can discuss these thoughts and know that it’s not taboo to have these thoughts, but it punctuates your humanity.  It doesn’t matter how you go about gathering company for the journey, but having the notion that the lone ranger is not in your best interest is a big step.

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

Are We Acting Like Cancer Cells?

There is no denying that we are interdependent with the Earth.  She is the mother of our existence and without her we wouldn’t survive as a species.  Life on this planet has certainly changed over time and with all the talk about climate change and changing environments is it any wonder that the number of people being diagnosed with chronic and life-threatening illness is on the rise?  Wouldn’t you think that our life as a species mirrors that of the planet?  I know there are some doubters out there, but that’s the position I’m putting forth.

I was reading Michael Dowd’s book,  Thank God for Evolution, and in the book is a comment made by an audience member at one of his talks.  This is what the audience member said,

 “I’m an oncologist,  I work with cancer patients every day.  From my vantage point we are inadvertently destroying our larger body because we lack evolutionary guidance.  We’re acting like cancer cells, rather than immune cells.” 

He continued, “A cancer cell is a normal cell that, for one reason or another, loses its genetic memory.  Cut off from the wisdom of millions of years of developmental guidance, it stops cooperating with the rest of the body.  It experiences itself as separate from the body, overpopulates, and proceeds to consume the very organism that supports it. 

The man pauses, and then asked rhetorically, “We call our society a consumer society, and to consume something is to eat it up, right?  I believe we are consuming the planet because, like cancer cells, we’ve been trying to live without evolutionary wisdom.”

Even if you don’t have cancer, there’s a bigger question.  Are you acting like an immune cell or a diseased cell?  This is an important distinction because it means that as an immune cell you’re engaged in activities that build resilience and foster an environment conducive to health and healing.  As an immune cell you would be engaging in activities that continuously and aggressively combat intruders that try to derail you from the journey to wellness.  It means you have to work hard because immune cells have a tough job keeping out the intruders.

As with anything and everything in your life you have choices to make.  You can go with the wisdom of the mind, body, and spirit and act like an immune cell or you can play the odds and be freewheeling and reckless.  You can give yourself every opportunity to engage in health and healing practices or you can abandon your body thinking or believing that your fate is already sealed.

Immune cells have a difficult job, but I believe we’re all up to the task of promoting health and healing.  There is an evolutionary consciousness that has gotten us (humans) to this point in our evolution and to abandon that knowledge and wisdom negates millions of years of evolutionary vision.  Be an evolutionary visionary and act like an immune cell.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

What Does Hope Look Like To You?

Art and Healing Wednesday…

We are such a verbal culture and we use words to describe everything.  What if you could only communicate non-verbally?  Would you be able to represent a thought, a feeling, or an experience without words?  That’s exactly what the art students at Chaparral High School in Parker, CO (my home town) were asked to do. 

Jude Keller, the manager of volunteer services at Parker Adventist Hospital teamed up with the high school and asked them to create a piece of art in response to the following quote:

     It is the singular gift

     We cannot destroy in ourselves

     the argument that refutes death,

     The genius that invents the future.

      ~ Lisel Mueller

Yes, hope is an amazing experience.  It fuels our potential for health and healing.  It is the catalyst to continue on the pilgrimage to wellness.  The students created works that were inspirational and insightful.  It’s incredible important that we begin encouraging the exploration of hope in our young people because it’s a crazy world and we don’t know when we’ll need to rely on our inner storehouse of hope to get through a challenge.

When I spoke with Jude Keller she told me that she hopes to make this an annual event with the high school.  It is forward thinking of a hospital to encourage the community to become part of its healing team.  It’s this type of collaboration that lets each and every person in the community who comes to this hospital know that there are others who are holding a healing space for them.  No one ever wants to go to the hospital (except maybe if you’re having a baby), but feeling the healing energy that accompanies these works of art is priceless.

I feel fortunate to live in a community like the one served by Parker Adventist Hospital because they understand and support the healing power of art and creativity.  They exhibit this commitment not only in the art that is hanging but in the building’s architecture and obviously as in the case of Ms. Keller, in the people they employ.

How do you visualize hope?  Does the word spark any colors or textures?  Does it conjure up landscapes or cosmic representations?  Playing with your own representation of hope in a creative fashion is a great way to explore your beliefs.  Knowing what hope looks like will serve you in so many arenas, but especially if you are faced with a health challenge.  Give it a try…I hope you never face a health challenge, but if you do you’ll already have the foundation of hope at your fingertips.



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

Are You an Illness Whisperer?

Life is full of choices.  When we get surveys we always have to check a box that represents something about us, but is it accurate?  What if we’re more than just one thing (other than gender and age)?  We get caught up in being one thing and one thing only, but we’re multi-dimensional and following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness you become even more dimensional with new roles and experiences.

The fact of the matter is that you’re both a lion and a lion tamer?  It’s like the person who is a horse whisperer, being diagnosed with an illness engages you to become an illness whisperer.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that there’s a level of trust you develop with your own self.  It means that you are committed to a process that fosters and expands the possibilities for health and healing.  As a lion tamer the vision is beating the illness into submission, and that’s what treatment may do, but it’s not what you as the container are trusted to do in these instances.  Your body, mind, and spirit trust you to preserve the integrity of the self, seeking solutions to your health challenge while continuously looking for ways to improve your quality of life.

There are times when it’s important to be the lion and come out with the biggest roar possible.  Being the kingdom of your domain is important because your health is your responsibility and recruiting the best people to guide you in that process is critical for health and healing.  Your lion persona asks that you have an inner confidence, not that you’ll come up with the answer or cure for your illness; but that you have the bravado and the intent to do everything in your power to create change, both internally and externally.

Don’t get caught in one role.  Make sure that you allow yourself the flexibility to step into the shoes of person you need to be in any given moment.  This isn’t about dominance and submission, but about trust and cooperation.  Your body, mind, and spirit need to work as the driving force on your journey to wellness.

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

Has Spring Sprung?

It’s been a couple of weeks since daylight savings time began and I don’t know about you but I’m loving the extra sunlight.  There is something about turning the clocks forward that offers hope.  The hope that spring is coming and that means emergence and renewal.  We are provided hope that the next season is coming and going forward in time is a testament to your strength and conviction to live your life to the fullest after being diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness.

This time of year is symbolic in so many ways so taking the opportunity to explore its personal meaning for you is a good place to begin.  As spring approaches (even though technically it’s already here) what thoughts and emotions are in the spotlight?  What associations do you make with the spring season and how does that show up in your daily life?

The landscaping company came this past week and aerated the lawn.  Now it’s time to fertilize and rake away the dried grass that won’t return new and revived.  It’s these types of rituals that come with the season or renewal.  What do you need to do to prepare your mind, body, and spirit for the new season?  New seasons don’t only need to correspond to the weather or time of year; we can create our own seasons.  Maybe your season changes when you finish a course of treatment; that would feel like spring.  Perhaps a flare has subsided and the angst that comes with the flare has subsided; that would feel like spring.  It’s even possible that you’ve had a spiritual awakening; that would definitely feel like spring.

The process of renewal is part of your journey to health and healing.  It provides you with the support and encouragement to continue on your journey.  It brings you the idea that living in the place of possibility is not only within reach, but essential to the healing process. 

How do you manifest spring in your life?  What does spring feel like, smell like, taste like, sound like, and look like?  How does it get translated into real life occurences on your journey to wellness?

Posted in Caregiving

From the Bible to Real Life

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

For centuries, scholars from around the world have been working tirelessly to interpret the Bible.  One of the big questions that has been used over and over in modern times is the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  It’s a great question and one that probably brings up a lot of feelings for you, especially now that you’re a caregiver/wellness partner, but it’s a question that’s important to ponder.

Actually I think all questions are important to ponder (I guess that’s my attempt at living in the question), but this question seems to strike a nerve for many and for various reasons.  The biggest is that most people feel it’s tough simply being responsible for themselves without having the responsibility of watching out for another.  Let’s take it one step further and ask, “Is it being my brother’s keeper, or are we interdependent as a species and brother keeping is really second nature or part of the cosmic consciousness?”

For some that question may ease their burdens and for others this puts them in the midst of the struggle.  Think of it like quicksand, the most you fight it, the more it will devour you.  What if you relaxed into it?  How would your life change as a caregiver if you didn’t feel resistance either from the person you’re caring for or from within?  That feeling of a tug-o-war is frustrating and doesn’t forward your personal mission of health and healing much less being a cheerleader and a catalyst for wellness for the patient.

I’m not sure how religious scholars interpret the “brother’s keeper” lesson, but it does bring up a lot of questions about morality, values, and our interconnectedness.  It punctuates the importance of having people in your life, even if it’s not a relationship about responsibility, but simply being connected (not sure how you can be connected but not responsible…leave that for another discussion).  Whether or not you feel as if you’re “your brother’s keeper” or not, there is a knowing about the journey to wellness that propels you to share your thoughts about the path to be taken, isn’t that “brother keeping”?