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

The Heroes You Meet Every Day

You never know whom you will meet on your journey to health and healing but I it may surprise you.  I’m constantly amazed at the bravery, tenacity, and perseverance of those facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses.  It can be a lonely life facing a health challenge, but connection is possible and certainly encouraged.  I love reading stories about those who are proactive about getting better or getting well; it’s heartwarming.

One of the things about reading magazine articles, blogs, listening to interviews, etc. is the ability to connect with these individuals without ever meeting them.  I always loved Michael J. Fox, but I have a new love, respect, and connection to him after reading his book, “Always Looking Up”.  There are so many stories that bring us closer to others, and it’s those stories that excite us, encourage us, and move us forward on our journey.

One of the most beautiful lines I heard in response to hearing someone’s story about bravely facing illness came from a viewer of a television show.  The person’s response to the woman facing cancer was, “I don’t know you, but I’ll never forget you!”  Doesn’t that just capture the essence of connection?  Doesn’t it provide you with a sense that you’re not alone?  Doesn’t it make you feel supported, acknowledged, and strong?

I just completed interviewing artists with life-threatening illnesses, and although I did meet them; I’ll never forget them.  They’re courage, their stories, and their authenticity are definitely models for living a good life.  My time with these heroes was a life-changing experience and I’ve been doing this work for 25 years; that’s epic!

Who will you meet in person or through some other means during your day?  How will their story impact your life?  What’s the take away from their story and what will you do today that’s different from what you did yesterday.  For more information about facing chronic and life-threatening illness go to www.survivingstrong.com or email me at greg@survivingstrong.com.

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

If Mary Chapin Carpenter Sang It; It Must Be True

I was in the car yesterday listening to NPR and there was a segment with Mary Chapin Carpenter, the fabulous musician.  The intro to the segment talked about the loss she had suffered in the past couple of years: a pulmonary embolism,  a divorce, and the death of her father.  She lived through enormous grief and took those experiences to the studio to create her new album.

I always keep a pad and pencil ready because inspiration and questions arise throughout the day.  When Mary Chapin Carpenter began to sing and reached the chorus I was hooked.  The song she was singing is titled, “Chasing What’s Already Gone”.  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

I started to think about all the thousands of stories I’ve listened to over the years about how individuals and families survive an illness.  There are many, whether they realize it or not, who are chasing their life prior to their diagnosis.  Even if your health returns, you are not the same person.  Chasing the person you were is impossible.  These new experiences on your journey to health and healing have changed you forever.  It’s amazing how subtle the changes can be, but if you’re willing to be honest with yourself you’ll notice those internal shifts.

My concern is for those who are chasing what’s already gone; a life without illness.  There are people who will face chronic conditions, but are striving to be the person they were before the diagnosis; how is that getting in the way of your inner peace and happiness?  We’ve discussed creating a life with a new normal and that seems to reap the most rewards.  “Chasing What’s Already Gone” potentially seems like a bigger drain of personal resources than the health challenge.

My question for you is how can you chase what’s possible instead of what’s already gone?  How will you set yourself up for success instead of grief and strife?  If you’re looking for some extra support, feel free to email 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

What If Your Story Made It To National Television?

I was watching “The Jeff Probst Show” yesterday with his special guest, supermodel, Paulina Porizkova.  The conversation centered on beauty in our culture and how it impacts us as a society.  During the interview Porizkova mentioned a woman she felt is truly beautiful.  The woman, Kelly Pozzoli, was Jeff Probst’s first guest.  Pozzoli is  a woman from St. Louis who is battling cervical cancer.  It just so happens that Probst had already planned an update with Pozzoli, so she was on standby on Skype.

When Probst checked in with Kelly Pozzoli, they discussed the ups and downs of dealing with a life-threatening illness, along with her current treatment strategies.  Her upbeat demeanor and determination for recovery is inspiring.  She even revealed a rather invasive treatment strategy that she’s considering since chemotherapy hasn’t had the impact she or her medical team would like.

While Probst was wrapping up this segment of the show he mentioned that along with checking in with Pozzoli, following her journey, that two oncologists had contacted the show and wanted to review Pozzoli’s chart to see if there was anything they could offer this new celebrity.

I started thinking about what would your life be like if your story made it to national television.  Who would see your story and want to extend their expertise to help you on your journey to health and healing?  How would your life change if the country could support your, even if just virtually?

It definitely changes the playing field to have the world know your struggles and triumphs.  You may not be able to get on national television, but I’m wondering what can you do to expand your world?  How could you rally the support you need to get better or get well?  It’s interesting that we, the audience, get to travel the journey with Kelly Pozzoli, how can we follow you?  What would it mean to you to have mega-support?

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

As Life Gets Bigger and Smaller

It’s getting cooler as we move through the fall season.  Unfortunately, as the months go by we know that winter can’t be far behind.  One of the things that happen when it gets cold is that everything contracts.  You might notice your rings getting loose around the cooler weather and expanding during the summer when you’re warm.  It’s amazing how physical aspects of science, expanding and contracting, represent the emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives.

The diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness can be like the cold of winter, giving you’re the experience of your life contracting.  It’s not unusual to feel that your life gets smaller following the diagnosis of a health challenge.  You may go through transitions that limit your activities or ability to concentrate.   Many people start to experience anxiety and depression when their life contracts, so there’s only one solution…make it expand.

You may be wondering how in the midst of chaos you can expand your life.  First ask yourself how you want to expand your life.  What do you want to be able to do that you feel is slipping away from you.  Please realize that depending on the diagnosis there may need to be alterations to the plan because there may actually be limitations to your physical abilities.  Find out what you can do and continue doing it!

On the emotional level expand your life by expressing yourself authentically and creatively.  Explore ways sharing your story.  Seek opportunities to find aspects of your story in the Universe.  I had this experience a few months ago.  I decided to go to the movies and I went to see “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.  The movie was outstanding, but a sleeper at the box office.  I left the theater feeling exhilarated and inspired to explore what possibilities exist in my life.  The movie serves as a catalyst to seek a lifetime adventure that I know is part of my journey.

When it comes to your spiritual life, expansion comes from questions.  It comes from transitions your life from wondering “If Only” to “What Next”.  It requires that you go deep within the well in your soul to seek what has meaning for you and what you would like to explore on the journey to health and healing.  Reflection is an important part of this part of your life expansion.  This is a time to find the lessons learned in each and every experience.

How will you expand your life if it has been contracting?  What moves your body, mind, and spirit to find those expansion opportunities?

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

What Kind of Day Are You Having?

Every day that we wake up we begin the day with a routine.  We wonder what will come our way during the day and what types of adventures will occur during the day?  How are we going to make the most of our day?  What does it take to fill out the day with possibility?

I guess the real question is, “How Can You Have a Breakthrough Day?”  What does it mean to have a breakthrough day?  That’s the great thing about being the author or your day, it’s whatever you want it to be.  You get to decide how you will breakthrough what has been the usual.  You get to create experiences and interactions that will take you one step further than you’re comfortable.  Robert Fritz wrote a book titled Creating.  One of his central premises is that we need tension for there to be creativity.  What type of tension is mounting through your day?

When I ask about tension, I’m not discussing stress.  I’m talking about that internal sense of discomfort like an itch you can’t scratch.  That type of tension makes you squirm a bit and tempt you to try and scratch that itch.  It’s that type of tension drives you to come up with amazing solutions, and that’s what creates a breakthrough day.

As I’ve mentioned I recently interviewed a group of artists with life-threatening illnesses for my dissertation.  Throughout these interviews the artists repeatedly speak about how to exceed the expectations of the day.  They look to create experiences that they will then translate into amazing pieces of art that continue to tell their stories.

You don’t have to be a fine artist to have a breakthrough day; you have to be a life artist.  Every day is your creation.  Every day can be a masterpiece!