Posted in after the diagnosis

Life In Translation

The world is constantly evolving so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the same goes for our lives.  Every day we have the opportunity to create new experiences and deepen our inner lives.  Until you were diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness you may not have been thinking about the changes that could possibly be happening within your body.

Bill Weir, co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline, was doing a story on healthcare.  He had a full-body scan and the doctor found some calcification in one of his valves.  The findings weren’t necessarily surprising, but his reaction was the surprising piece of the story.  Until he had this scan he felt he was invincible.  He hadn’t had a physical exam in at least three years; I wonder if that’s denial, arrogance, or stupidity.  His reaction was common to anyone whose had unsuspecting information given by your doctor; his life flashed before his eyes.  He was foreshadowing what life would be like for his daughter without her father.

He’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last person who believed they were invincible to ill-health.  Weir has the fortunate opportunity to reverse the findings of his new diagnosis.  What we have to wonder is how will this new translated life play itself out.  We may never see a follow-up to Weir’s story, but what about the new translation in your own life?  What will you be doing to allow your life to evolve?

Unfortunately, Rosetta Stone doesn’t have a language program for learning the language of medicine.  The new vocabulary and life regimens can only be learned by immersion.  The do say that immersion is the best way to learn a new language, so how can you become fluent?  The easiest way is to live with lots of curiosity.  I encourage you to ask your doctor lots of questions.  I was fortunate because my doctor, after showing me my ultra-sound, figured it would be easier if he drew me a picture (good doctor, not so good artist).

How will you be living a life in translation?  How will you become bi-lingual and bi-cultural with the healthcare industry?

 

 

 

 

 

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

Believing in Faith

Religion and spirituality are often a component in our journey to health and healing.  There are those who make pilgrimages to sacred sites around the world, like Lourdes, hoping to be rid of their maladies.  We’re told that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, so looking for the meaning in our health challenge is one of life’s great mysteries.  However, what about those of us who engage in some type prayer to get better or well?  What part does faith play in our healing journey?

Why don’t we hear more about the part that faith plays in our lives when we’re facing a health challenge?  This morning on Good Morning America, medical editor Dr. Richard Besser shared that only about 10% of patients who use prayer tell their doctor.  Don’t you think that this would be important for the doctor to know?  After I heard the statement I thought about my own medical history and I have never discussed my spirituality with my doctor.  I’ve never shared what I do to improve my emotional and spiritual health resulting (at least in my own belief) in better physical health.

It’s interesting because faith, religion, and spirituality has never been one of the questions asked by my medical provider(s).  It’s as if it’s taboo to discuss this part of my life.  My first thought is to applaud the 10% who do share this personal information with their medical team.  I’d be interested to know if it impacts the care you receive or how the medical team handles this information.  I’ve read many stories about cultural healing beliefs and how those practices, at times, have been challenged in the courts like when people want certain ceremonies to be held in a hospital.

Are we missing out on an aspect of health and healing that could super-charge our immune systems?  What would it mean to us and to the medical team if we shared this information about ourselves?  Is it fear or skepticism about how the science community would view us if we shared this deeply personal side of our lives that inhibits us from utilizing faith in our journey to wellness.

Have you had an experience of sharing your faith with your doctor?  How did you bring it up and how did it impact your journey to getting better or well?

 

Posted in after the diagnosis

The Importance of a Great Doctor

I’ve been dealing with some health issues over the past six weeks.  I’ve become quite friendly with my internist as I’ve seen him three times in a month.  Each time he has been respectful, inquisitive, and proactive.  We’ve discussed treatment options and altered the medication I’m taking to resolve the issue.  At this last appointment he suggested it’s time to see the specialist.  I did what all of you should do, I went home and researched the doctor’s credentials.  I checked where he went to medical school, but more importantly, I wanted to see where he did his residency.  The residency is where the doctor get’s their in-depth training, especially for a specialist.  I was very secure in the qualifications of the physician easing my anxiety of having to see the specialist.

I arrived for my appointment to find a nurse who was terrific.  She was caring, polite, and really knew what was going on.  She explained how the appointment would go and when she took my blood pressure she found it to be a bit high.  I explained that I have “white coat syndrome” (where one’s blood pressure goes up just being in the doctor’s office).  In addition, I’ve been dealing with pain for the past six weeks and that has a tendency to raise one’s blood pressure.  She informed me that I should have my pressure checked in the next couple of days as that’s the new protocol from my medical provider, good to know!

The doctor entered the room and jokingly welcomed me to the specialty practice.  He was acknowledging that no one really wants to the see a specialist because it means that the situation has been elevated to the next level of seriousness.  He did an exam and seemed hopeful, a very good sign.  He invited me to his office where he started to show me my ultra-sound and then decided to make a drawing to explain what was happening.  Following his artistic creation he did show me the ultra-sound so I would have a better understanding of my current health status.

He prescribed some medication and emphasized that he was committed to resolving my current health challenge.  He also was kind enough to let me know that it could take some time because sometimes the body or in this case, an infection, can be quite stubborn.  I left the appointment feeling relieved because like so many of you I figured I had something much more serious.  I had already gone down that dark tunnel, only to be lifted back to the light.

Having a doctor who instill confidence is vitally important!  Having a doctor who instills hope is vitally important!  Having a doctor who makes it clear that you’re a team is vitally important!

If you have other things that you think are vitally important please share them with us!

 

 

Posted in after the diagnosis, Emotional Health

What Forces Are Holding You Down?

The diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness leaves most of us dazed and confused.  Shifting our consciousness to health and wellness may be new to you and for those of you who have had this on your mind, the thoughts become more intense.  After the diagnosis it takes commitment to work toward getting better or well. It never ceases to amaze me how many times I hear people ask what it takes to get the obstacles or challenges out-of-the-way.  Really what they’re asking me is, “How can I lift the forces that are holding me down?”

Have you ever heard the phrase, “We’re our own worst enemy?”  I bring that up because it’s too easy to shift the locus of control to external forces.  What if we made a shift and asked, “How am I holding myself down?”  There was a book that came out many years ago that speaks to this issue, “You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought.”  Negative thoughts are certainly one of the forces that would be holding you down.  Believe it or not, negative thoughts are very heavy.  They feel like a ton of bricks.  The problem is that we’re a culture that seems to thrive on negativity.  One of the things over the past few years has been a move toward positive affirmations, positive thinking, and empowerment.  These are some of the things that can lighten the load.

Another huge force that holds many of us down is isolation.  We’ve become so busy that we don’t take the time to connect with others.  Social networking attempts to create connection, but virtual connections only carry us so far.  We’re social animals and we need connection.  Having in-person social interactions allows us to experience things with people in real-time.  We get to share of ourselves to others and reap the rewards of the sharing from others.  This is one of the reasons that following a diagnosis, a support group is so important on your journey to wellness.

I believe that another way to lift the forces that may be holding you down is believing in what’s possible.  What’s possible is maximizing the things you can control.  You engage a medical team that you believe will provide you with the best possible treatment possible.  Having faith in your medical team is a force that can lift you up instead of holding you down.  Engaging your body, mind, spirit connection will fortify your inner strength.  When you feel empowered you make better decisions and that can’t help but lift you up.

The first step in lifting the forces you feel may be holding you down is believing that you have some control over those forces.  Make it a point to exercise your voice in all aspects of your life.  Question everything!  Feeling empowered is good for the soul!

Posted in Storytelling

Do You Really Know Your Own Story?

Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air” is one of my favorite talk show hosts.  I think she’s inquisitive and very smart.  One of the things about the show is that they often replay interviews with individuals when they die as a memorial.  A couple of weeks ago I was listening to Gross interview Barbara Lea, a cabaret singer who died on December 26, 2011.  The interview was fascinating.  I went on to read her biography listed on her website, www.barbaralea.com, in the biography it states that she had a been a minister for 20 years in the Church of Actualism.  When I read that the statement she made came to life.

We all know how I feel about stories; I love them.  I believe that our stories are the portals to wholeness.   I believe that our stories are the threads that connect us to each other.  I believe that our stories unlock the mysteries to our body, mind, and spirit and that is crucial when we’re looking to get better or well.  Our stories are why pathographies, telling our story in support groups, and our personal experience of our health challenge directs our journey to wellness.  During the interview with Terry Gross, Barbara Lea stated, “You have to know the story before you tell the story.”

It’s a rather simple statement, but it’s something that I believe in very strongly.  Too many people like to tell their story, but aren’t necessarily connected to their story.  We have a tendency to tell a story that makes us look good because we believe that we’re being judged based on our story.  The problem with this modus operandi is we begin to distort our story the more times we tell it.  So what was Barbara Lea encouraging us to do?

Lea was encouraging us, possibly even challenging us to become one with our true story.  Our story is our legacy.  When we connect to our true story we stand a little taller.  We unify our body, mind, and spirit decreasing the inner struggle that takes place with so many people.  The big question is how do we connect to our own story?

If you haven’t engaged in deepening your connection to your own story, now is the time.  Creating a sacred space to engage in this exploration is important.  We need the safety and open environment to allow ourselves to begin this personal pilgrimage.  There’s no doubt this is a journey.  It is an ongoing process and each time we engage in this type of self-exploration we add more details to the story.  Our stories become more colorful, rich, and healing.

I encourage you to find a way to start this personal pilgrimage and begin your journey to wellness.  It’s a life-altering experience for the good.  When you’re facing any kind of personal challenge, health or otherwise, knowing your story allows you to tell your story with stronger conviction.  Our capacity to tell our deeper story allows our healing to unfold; this gives our bodies the space to expand its wellness capacities…isn’t that what we all want?

 

Posted in after the diagnosis, Emotional Health

Are You Chasing Your Own Tail?

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that perfection is a great ideal, but in reality just makes you chase your own tail.  You move very fast, but don’t get very far, and that’s exhausting.  So what is it about perfection that drives us to have ridiculous expectations of others and ourselves.  Perfection is a nice idea, but as a goal to strive for seems pointless.

Last week on, “Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class”, Jane Fonda put it so simple and elegant, she said, “We’re not meant to be perfect; we’re meant to be whole.”  At first glance you may expect that perfection and being whole would be synonymous, but perfection leads us away from being whole.  It drives us deeper and deeper away from our true selves.  Trying to be perfect creates an emotional and spiritual wedge that prevents us from achieving peace.  It doesn’t give us the momentum we need for health and healing.

After receiving a diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness you would think that perfection would mean being well.  However, for many, the illness creates deeper problems than just physical.  Creating a space of inner wholeness will ignite your immune system to work at its best level.  Whether the outcome is getting better or getting well, wholeness allows you to eradicate the negative that often compromises your immune system.

Let’s face it, no life is perfect.  When you feel like you’re a hamster on a hamster wheel stop and ask yourself if you’re expecting perfection.  If you dig deep enough and the answer is yet, you’re sabotaging your own wellness and happiness.  If this is the case, then I urge you to begin looking within and asking yourself what would make you feel more whole in the moment.  How can you create a space that will promote wholeness.

Consider what’s keeping you from feeling whole.  Resentments, tolerations, and unrealistic expectations are often the culprit that tease us to work toward perfection.  You think that if you work hard enough you can reduce the impact the resentment, toleration, or unrealistic expectation has on your daily life.  Stop and think about that for a moment, does that make any sense?  What could you accomplish if you released those negative energies and apply all that focus on your own wholeness.

Be like Jane Fonda and stop striving for perfection and strive for wholeness!

Posted in after the diagnosis, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Are You Hoping to Get a Scholarship to Life?

Life is expensive, not only financially, but physically, mentally, and spiritually.  It seems that everything we think and do has a price on some level.  How do we keep coming up with the payment for life?  Do you have the life resources you need to lead a good life?  It may be that just like when you were applying to college hoping they would provide some financial aid, you’re hoping for a scholarship to life.

Unfortunately there are no scholarships.  Everything in life needs to be paid in full on the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.   If you’ve ever read Stephen Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he discusses making deposits into the emotional (and I’m going to add spiritual) bank so when the day comes that you need some extra resources you have somewhere to go to make a withdrawal.

I guess the next question you may have is if life is so chaotic, where do you get the extra resources to put in the emotional/spiritual bank?  Connection pays high dividends.  That extra dividend allow you to make a deposit in that emotional/spiritual account.  I travel around the country for work and I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing people who will be in my life forever.  It’s an important thing because e-mails, texts, and phone calls are certainly one way to feel less alone when traveling.  It also allows me to be a part of people’s lives from afar.

Creativity fuels my passion and my soul.  When I engage in creative activities I feel energized and alive.  The opportunity to create something from scratch is about birthing something.  It allows me to bring an idea to fruition.  In addition, the finished piece is a reflection of my life.  It may exist long after I’m gone.  The more I create the more I have to deposit in my emotional/spiritual account.

Engaging in a spiritual practice is one more way to create extra “income” to deposit in your emotional/spiritual account.  It doesn’t matter what that practice is, but to have one and to keep it going on a conscious level is important.  I find that writing and creative activities are my spiritual practice.  I’m not the type to sit on a cushion and meditate.  I find that engaging in a repetitive activity while listening to music like Gregorian Chant keeps me in my sacred space and that promotes a soul energy that can carry me through the day.  I may not get to engage in my practice every day, but I’m conscious of keeping reserves in my emotional/spiritual account.

So if there are no scholarships to life, what are you going to do to keep yourself pumped up on your journey to wellness.  Health and happiness are paramount to a good life, especially when you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness.  I would love to hear how you create resources to deposit in your emotional/spiritual account.  You can tell you story in the comment section or e-mail me at greg@survivingstrong.com