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

Are You a Screenwriter?

Ever watch a television program or movie and wonder how the actors memorize all the lines?  It’s amazing when you think about all the work it takes to put together a script that is well-written and cohesive.  It takes a team of people to write a screenplay that eventually gets produced into the final product you see on the screen.  So what about your life?  Who writes the script of your life?

If you take a step back you’ll see that life is a script and you’re the writer of the script.  The daily events of your life are the factors that influence the script, they are not the script.  It doesn’t matter what happens to you because the events are raw material for the script you’re about to write.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently after returning from a four-month work assignment away from home.  I’ve been wondering about my identity and how the events and people I encountered shaped the script I write on a daily basis.  After my doctor appointment last week I, once again, had to think about how this event would be accounted for in my daily script.

It would be easy to abdicate responsibility for our lives, but the only place that leaves us is as a victim.  I’ve played that role as I know many of you have since your diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness, but at some point I made shift because empowerment was part of my treatment plan.  Trust me, I need reminders along the way because it’s truly a slippery slope, so anything that reinforced the fact that I have control in my life and to some extent my body, that’s crucial to living my best life.

What type of script will you be writing today?  How will the events and people you meet today show up in your life script?  I’d love to  know how your script is developed, send me an email at greg@survivingstrong.com

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Posted in Caregiving

Importance of Being Flexible As A Caregiver

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!

I’ve been thinking about all the responsibilities that you, a caregiver, take on when someone you love is diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness.  It’s mind-boggling the amount of stress involved (thus the term caregiver stress) and the commitment to your loved one to help them through this challenging time in their life.  When we think about caregiving it’s easy to believe that once you begin this journey it’s never-ending, but that’s not the care.  The obvious ending of the caregiver role is if your loved one dies, but there is another time when this may be the case; when your loved one is doing better.

This last hiatus in caregiving would apply to those patients who are in remission and I’m not just talking about cancer.  If the symptoms and disease progression are at a standstill then it may not require you to devote so much time to caregiving.  I began thinking about this yesterday when I went to the doctor and we had our usual discussion about my health.  I’m in an in-between state of my bodies rhythm where it could go either way depending on the next steps by me, the new medication I was prescribed and how my body reacts.  Up until recently things have been smooth sailing, so is the case for many patients, and then there’s a precipitating event require the support of you, a caregiver.

How do you feel about stepping in and out of the caregiver role?  Is it easier to be in caregiver mode all the time, or are you comfortable stepping in and out of the role as needed?  It’s an interesting question, and a question that you may need to wrestle with depending on the diagnosis and disease progression of the one you love.  It can be confusing to know when and where you need to step in as a caregiver unless you and the patient have well-defined parameters and a solid foundation for your communication.

This is one of the reasons that it’s so important for caregivers to have a support system for themselves.  The possible revolving door type of caregiving is becoming more and more prominent as new medical treatments are coming on the market helping patients on the journey to health and healing become better or well.

How do you feel about this type of caregiving?  It would help all of us if you would share your coping strategies, simply hit the comment button and share your thoughts or you can always e-mail me at greg@survivingstrong.com.

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

Everyone Has An Opinion

Ever notice that following your diagnosis everyone you meet has an opinion about your health and your care?  It’s as all these people overnight attended a crash course in the health field and feel compelled, and more interestingly, qualified to give you an opinion about your health.

There is one up side to this and that is, if the person is sharing information gained through an article read, a news cast, or some other credible source then that’s different from offering an opinion.  In those instances the person is expanding your knowledge base while taking an interest in and showing you that they care about you and your health.

It’s important to weed out those conversations that are opinion based and not fact based.  Making decisions about treatment is difficult enough without the fear factor thrown into the mix.  If you’re going to have a consulting circle of friends and family there are a couple of things to consider; what’s their motivation? and what are their qualifications?  Just because someone themselves has had a health challenge doesn’t make them an expert on anything but their own health challenge.

The first step is to set limits with those that are causing you more harm than good.  It’s your prerogative, your right, and your choice to let others know when and how you’d like their input on your health.  It’s your health so drawing a line in the sand saying only pass on credible information is within your rights as it’s your life and your health.  Don’t let others sabotage your health and healing efforts with scare tactics or what if situations.  If you have any concerns please consult your medical team as they are prepared to answer your questions.  If you feel you need even more information I suggest you ask your primary care physician/internist for a referral to a specialist.

The difficult part is that those offering opinions overwhelmingly are doing it out of love.  Unfortunately, they are unaware of the impact their sharing is having on you as you make difficult decisions about your care.  Information that provides clarity should always be welcomed or information that allows you to go to your next doctor’s appointment with informed questions is a plus.  Communication that places doubt or fear on your radar screen has to be quarantined and eliminated.

Setting limits is difficult and may be difficult at first.  If you have any questions about how or when to set limits feel free to e-mail me at greg@survivingstrong.com.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Why Do They Dance?

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

I was working out-of-town  the past four months and didn’t have a television in my temporary digs.  Believe it or not I didn’t miss it, but now I’m back home and of course the television is readily available.  One of the things I do love about the media, in all its forms, is the opportunity to pick up little nuggets that are great to ponder.

If you’ve read the blog you’ll know that I’m a big fan of So You Think You Can Dance (SYTUCD).   I think it’s an amazing competition, even for a non-dancer such as myself, and gives these passionate dancers a platform to move their careers forward.  What struck me this week was the commercial for the new season.  The commercial shows dancers doing what they do best…dance, and then the big question, “Why do they dance?”, followed by the bigger question, “Why do you breathe?”

When I saw the question I was stopped in my tracks.  These dancers (not the crazy ones you see during the auditions) have devoted much of their lives to their art.  They have sacrificed time, injury (at times), money, and devotion to becoming better dancers.  It’s not just something they do; it’s something they are.

If you ask artists I believe you’ll find this to be true, that creating something is vital to their health and well-being, not to mention their sanity.  I know when I get out-of-sorts I’m sent to my studio, guess it’s better than psychotropic meds.

You may not be an artist dedicated to creating works of art, choreographing the next ballet to be performed at Lincoln Center, or the next great screenwriter/director/actor; but you do have creativity.  We seek beauty in our lives.  We’re caught by a beautiful flower, a lovely plate of food, an amazing piece of clothing, not to mention paintings, sculpture and the rest of the art mediums.  We doodle on our notepads at work, buy colorful pens to write with because their fun, and decorate our homes to reflect our style and taste.

Our creative tendencies are part of our story.  Art may not be your lifeline to the world, but finding an outlet to continue telling your story is imperative to health and healing.  The shelves at bookstores are lined with books about famous people who tell their illness story.  They feel the need to share their experience and have us serve as a witness to their journey.

When I hang a piece of art I hope others will share my story, create their own story, and then see how our worlds interact.  We may not all be artists, but we have or do something that is our lifeline to our health and well-being…what’s yours?  Are you actively engaged in the activity that brings joy and meaning to your world?  How does it impact your efforts to get better or well?

I’d love to hear how you tell your story….simply hit the comment button and let us know or you can e-mail it to me at greg@survivingstrong.com.

Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness

Are You a Member of the 700 Club?

Don’t worry…I haven’t become part of Pat Robertson’s entourage.  Actually, I’m celebrating the 700th post on this blog.  Over the past few years I’ve had the honor and privilege of spending time with you as I offer ideas, thoughts, and inspiration about how to live your best life with a chronic or other life-altering illness.

I can tell you the time goes by quickly and when I saw I was approaching the 700th post I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised.  I’ve had the joy of spending time with you as you navigate the maze of reorienting your life and creating a new normal.  I’ve been challenged by questions by you about specific instances following your diagnosis that have made me stop and contemplate my own life and then offer reflections for our mutual journey.

As I write this I began thinking about what have been my favorite posts and then I decided to ask you that question.  What is your favorite of the 700 posts?  Is there any tidbit of encouragement or piece of information or advice that stands out for you?  I ask that because if it resonates with you it resonates with others and that’s how we form a community.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about your journey to wellness.  I’d love to be able to offer you more insights and inspiration as you move toward getting better or well.  Simply leave a comment on the blog and let’s see what’s been important to you on your path to health and healing.

You can also e-mail me at greg@survivingstrong.com.  Peace on the journey!