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

New Territory

In grammar school we learned all about explorers. These brave individuals circumnavigated the earth (once they realized it wasn’t flat) finding new lands. It didn’t matter why they were exploring, just the fact that they were risking their lives and the lives of their crews to find what may be possible. Obviously these individuals were vested in finding new lands for notoriety, money, or fame. Times have changed, but we have modern day explorers. Look at social media, technology, even space exploration, individuals and groups looking to go beyond what we believe is the end of the road.

Our lives are like undeveloped countries. We’d like to believe that we have mapped all aspects of our physical, emotional, and spiritual planes, but the truth is if we’re only using ten per cent of our brains, and our spirits have unlimited potential we have miles to go before we sleep (at least according to Robert Frost). So what lies in these unchartered territories?

If we knew there would be nothing to write about. The self-help book industry would collapse. Spiritual leaders like Echart Tolle and Depak Chopra would have to file bankruptcy. Fortunately for them, we still have places to explore deep within. We are human cartographers. Every experience we have allows us to add detail to our personal maps. It gives us insight into what makes us tick. It gives us leads to unlock our ultimate healing potential.

Like the explorers of the past these actions don’t come without risk. Your personal exploration requires training and/or preparation. It starts with a question or an experience. For many, this journey or pilgrimage begins with a stressor such as a death, divorce, or diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness. We find ourselves in a spiral and need to put on the brakes to stop the spinning. This is the beginning of your journey. Next is to think about what you’re hoping to achieve; are you looking for health and healing, love, or happiness? This is important because it allows you to narrow the immediate search or guides you to the path that will bring you answers.

In the beginning you may not have the resources to venture on such a journey. I encourage you to begin by consulting with a therapist, coach, or spiritual director. Read books, attend lectures, go on retreats with others who may be on a similar journey and develop a supportive community.

Setting out on this journey won’t necessarily bring you fame. It may not bring you riches in the form of money, but it can bring you peace! Coco Chanel used to say, “Some people are rich and some people have money.” Become rich! Start your journey and map your world. Become an explorer!

Facing adversity such as a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Hoping to find education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

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

Feel The Burn

I just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic. My parents brought the family together to spend time together and celebrate us as a family. The trip was fantastic! It’s great when you can spend time with people you love, know, and have your back. Being with people who are a lifeline reinforces our connection beyond our bodies. It provides us with a context for our lives and allows us to practice the art of giving and receiving.

I’m a water baby. I’m a cancer so I love the water. I lived on the east coast the first twenty-five years of my life, and the west coast the next fourteen years. Access to the water is life affirming. Currently I live in the Rocky Mountains at six thousand feet so any time I can see the ocean I’m ecstatic.

Ecstasy has its price. Upon getting to the beach I submerged myself in the ocean. I was in the water for quite a while. My family joked that if they wanted to visit with me they’d have to go to my office in the water. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

I knew I was sunburned even though I had on sunscreen. I didn’t reapply often enough and wasn’t wearing a shirt so my shoulders and upper back became sunburned. Actually, they became more than sunburned because after leaving the water the blisters began to appear. My back and shoulders were covered with blisters waiting to burst. I did this to myself and that pissed me off, but I couldn’t turn back the clock.

I wore multiple shirts keeping the blisters clean and dry. The big surprise when it was time for bed. As I tried to sleep the pain was excruciating. I changed positions trying to relieve the pressure on the blisters but my body was in full revolt. I was no longer in control, my body was at the reins and it wasn’t pretty. I needed a plan, a solution, a resolution to the pain.

I realized that the only way to get out of the pain was to go into the pain. I had to immerse myself in the pain. I had to be one with the pain. I dove in! As I was sitting up in bed I befriended the pain. I was focusing on my breath and settled down living in the journey. Trust me it wasn’t easy, but it did quiet my mind and my body. My body understood that although I had accosted it; I was trying to make amends. I wasn’t ignoring my body (not that I could even if I tried), but I was in the trenches experiencing the pain from the pain’s point-of-view.

This journey lasted for three nights. Unlike many of you experiencing chronic pain, mine was time limited. I did learn valuable lessons. I learned that my body, mind, and spirit working together create amazing results. I gave myself the gift of diving deep and emerging with a new understanding of pain and it’s relation to my body. I have come to appreciate the unity of merging with the what’s going on in my body.

Fortunately the experience didn’t damper my trip at all. I got back in the water after a few days very protected and for a very short period of time, but I also know that salt water heals the skin. In my case it heals the body, the mind, and the spirit. I not only had a fabulous trip with my family, but I learned new things about my own capacity for renewal and resiliency. I learned new ways of coping when facing adversity. I have a new appreciation for what the body can handle!

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

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Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Medications, overcoming adversity

Mindfulness Demonstrated…It’s Amazing

We hear a lot about mindfulness and engaging in the practice of mindfulness, but have you seen the impact for yourself? We’re told over and over that mindfulness is the key to inner peace, allowing us to focus on what’s important. If you’re one of the skeptics allow me to share my most recent finding.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke about the importance of meditation as outlined by Dan Harris in 10% Happier. Harris had a panic attack while reporting on Good Morning America. After much soul searching, psychiatrist visits, and retreats he concluded that meditation is the one thing that brings him to center and has improved his life.

I’m a seeker. I love learning new things, exploring the things that capture my attention, and expand what I think is possible. I look for reporters that are covering topics we would like to breeze by because they make us uncomfortable. Lisa Ling is one of those reporters. Ling’s show Our America with Lisa Ling, airs on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), tackles tough issues that we grapple with every day. Her latest show was about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

There are fifteen million people in the United States diagnosed with ADHD, most of them children. It’s disruptive to the lives of the children and their families. It leaves school systems feeling helpless and at odds with how to provide an education to these kids without interfering with their regular school programs. The episode followed those who are taking medication, as many do, and a case where an alternative to medication was used.

Wilson, a child with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder was struggling through school. Things got so bad that in the second grade he told his mother that if he had to go back to school he was going to commit suicide. Fortunately his mother, an educator, hired an education advocate and they found salvation at The Hunter School.

The Hunter School is a unique boarding and therapeutic school helping young children with ADHD, Anxiety, Sensory and related conditions(taken from their website, The first shift in perspective came from the administrator. She reframed ADHD as a diagnosis to calling these children Energetically Sensitive.  It shifted the cloud hanging over these kids to blue skies of hope.

The school is truly unique. The student teacher ratio is 1:3, unheard of in the American education system. The school takes a holistic approach, no medication. In its place the children are taught to meditate. They are guided in techniques to center themselves. If a child is disruptive in the classroom he or she is taken out of the class and brought to the mindful room where the student and the teacher work on refocusing, centering, and strategizing about ways to regain control.

Wilson, the student I spoke about earlier is thriving. He lives at the school during the week. His life has totally changed. He feels re-invented. He’s learned to structure his life so it’s manageable. He is renewed body, mind, and spirit. He eloquently discusses his new lease on life.

I understand that not every child has access to an educational institution like The Hunter School, but the school model is one we need to explore. The next question is if it works for kids, what could the impact be for adults. Dan Harris talks about the impact of going on a ten-day silent retreat and other meditation revelations.

I’m not saying that mindfulness is a cure for everything, but explore it. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, angry or simply out-of-sorts, explore the impact of mindfulness. As always I’m not saying this is the definitive answer. You should always consult with a therapist, coach, or spiritual director to explore your options so your choices are made with informed consent.

Facing Adversity?  Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

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

Crazy Weather Crazy Life

I live in Denver and the spring brings crazy weather. Like so many parts of the country, unpredictability seems to be norm instead of the exception. The Rocky Mountain region has been hit with tornadoes over the past month. It started with daily hailstorms and moved up to those whirling winds that touch down and wreak havoc.

I’m not trying to play meteorologist. I am bringing your attention to the moments in your life when everything is calm and then in a moment everything changes. The tornado touches down in your life and damage on the physical, emotional, or spiritual plain may result.

Tornadoes are unpredictable because there’s no way to predict the exact spot they will touchdown, so we all sit in our basements or an interior room of the house hoping it passes over us. So many people do the same in their lives; they have a medical test and hope the diagnosis will pass over them. People engage in risky behaviors and hope, even pray, that the negative impact won’t land in them or on them.

How many times have you had this experience? You, or maybe even a doctor, tells someone they need to stop smoking and gives them all the information about the negative impact of nicotine and tobacco. The individual in all their glory will tell you about their eight-five year old aunt, cousin, or friend who smoked three packs a day and never suffered any negative results. They may be telling the truth, but explain that to the tornado that is passing through a neighborhood. Where will it land? In your life, were will adversity hit?

I’m not saying that all of life is random. We have enough data and anecdotal evidence showing us that our actions have consequences. It’s not only on the negative end on the continuum! Eating right, getting enough sleep, and having fun gives your body, mind, and spirit the fuel it needs to promote healing.

So what will you do with this information? You have many choices; that is where you have control. How will give yourself every advantage to prevent a tornado from touching down in your wheelhouse? What can you do today that will improve your life? Who will you go to for support, guidance, and love?

Life is crazy! We’re all so busy and that often impacts our level of consciousness. We switch over to autopilot and keep on cruisin’. Be conscious! Be in your body! You never know when a tornado will hit or what it will drop, just ask Dorothy. You do have the power to build a shelter for your body, mind, and spirit so that if a tornado does strike, you’ll be in a place where you’ll survive. You may have to rebuild, but you’ll survive!

Facing adversity in your life?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

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Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, newly diagnosed illness

Scare Away the Dark

One of the things I’ve always liked about Halloween is the idea of scary masks, parties with dry ice making smoke/fog, and of course candy. Horror movies try to scare us by catching us off guard, utilizing the age-old element of surprise as its weapon. Our fears are also scary. Yesterday I was asked if I was scared of anything and all I could think of was really high heights. I’m sure there are things lurking that I’m unaware of, and when they arise, I hope I can scare away the dark.

When we face adversity we often experience darkness, and heaviness sets in our body, mind, and spirit causing despair. Its goal, if you let it, is to deflate you. Utilize all your resources to fight the dark; you need those forces for health and healing. Those dark places want to take hold with the force of a vice and convince you that there are no better days ahead (the reality is there may not be, but scaring away the dark to gain a sense of peace is helpful).

The other problem with those dark places is they distort reality. Ever go to the carnival and look at the mirrors that elongate your body, or make you look like the Michelin Man? When we live in the dark (not insinuating you’re a mushroom), we lose perspective. Every experience is filtered through these dark lenses and it leads us to make less than helpful or healing decisions.

What can you do to scare away the dark? My go-to response it gather support. There is something amazingly healing when you receive love and friendship from others. I assure you their perspective is quite different from yours and at least you can see things from another point of view. Support groups are helpful because the folks in the groups are on the same pilgrimage. You’ll get lots of perspectives, some helpful and some not so helpful, but it opens you up to the range of possibility.

Read lots of autobiographies, memoirs, and pathographies, even blogs. See how others have used their internal resources to scare away the dark. It takes effort and it takes work. Depending on the circumstances of your life it may be ongoing or it may be short lived, either way you need to seek out sources of light.

Pretend every day is Halloween. Go find your scariest mask, it may as simple as a thought, and use that mask to scare away the darkness. Who knows, there may be a treat waiting for you on the other end.

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness or facing some other adversity?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Interested in how Art Heals?  Visit

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

Stop the World….

Often we hear the saying, “Stop the World I want to get off”. These are the words of a very stressed person. We’ve come to believe that if we can get off of life’s merry-go-round things will be easier. We’ve been conditioned to believe that by disengagement our problems will ride into the sunset. We believe we’ve been relieved of the stress and strain that comes with facing adversity. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth!

The main freeway where I live parallels the light rail tracks. I was driving and looked over and saw the side of the light rail car. It said, “Stop the world I want to get on”. I realize that they are referring to using mass transit in hopes of decongesting the roads and minimizing the impact of car exhaust into the environment. For me, it was like a light bulb going off in my head. They had the right idea and I’m not only talking about mass transit.

Why do we want to stop the world and get off? Too many of us sit on the sidelines to begin with and getting off only separates us more. It’s like when we were in school and if you didn’t know the answer or hadn’t done the work you try and vanish into the walls hoping not to get picked on. It’s the same with life, if we haven’t done the work we hope we won’t be asked to step up and act.

The problem is that when life throws you a curve ball you can’t afford to be disconnected. You don’t have the luxury of disengagement from body, mind, or spirit. It’s the time when you have to engage. I know that sounds easier than when you put it in action, but maybe that’s the bigger challenge than the adversity you’re facing.

Facing adversity such as a chronic or life-threatening illness is the time when you have to become more deeply engaged in your life. It’s time to turn off autopilot and take the controls. It requires that you dive deep and find what you’re passionate about and invoke its energy as part of your health and healing journey.

We’re always going to be challenged with adverse situations. How we handle it, the tools we accumulate to ease our pain, and connecting with our true selves as well as others is paramount to the healing process.

Last night I was watching So You Think You Can Dance. The show is just beginning and is in the audition phase of the competition. This young woman told her back-story that amazed the judges and the audience. She’s eighteen years old and has been dancing since she was three. Two years ago she stopped dancing because she went into treatment for an eating disorder. (Eating disorder programs don’t allow participants to exercise, at least at the beginning) Six months ago this young woman started dancing again.

When the judges spoke with her, guest judge Christina Applegate said to her, “I see where you were broken. I could see it in your choreography and it’s okay because look at where you are today!” She was telling this beautiful young dancer that it’s because she “stopped the world and got on” that she is healing. She made a conscious choice to engage on the deepest levels. She was brave enough to tell her story giving those watching a beacon of hope.

We can’t afford to stop the world and get off. We have to stay engaged during our toughest moments because adversity requires us to pool all our resources as we embark on the healing journey!

Facing adversity and looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

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

No One Likes Change

Let’s face it, we’re creatures of habit. We get into our rhythm of life and we play our own music to that rhythm. There’s a comfort level in the rhythms we create and they provide an emotional and spiritual safety net for what may seem like a life filled with challenge.

I can be quite stubborn and in the past didn’t like change at all. I could dig my heals in better than anyone else I knew to avoid change. I’m not proud of this story but I’ll share it with you.

I was working in a restaurant (within a hotel) in graduate school. I had been there a few years and the manager of the restaurant was someone who was brought in from another hotel. I revered this woman. She was competent. In fact, she was the yardstick that, in my eyes, would measure leaders. I learned a lot from her and we would stay late at night discussing marketing and training. Unfortunately, but not a surprise, she got a promotion and left our establishment

It took a few weeks until a new manager was hired. The new manager arrived and that sent me into a tailspin. It went so far that I didn’t speak to her the first three months she managed the restaurant. Then something happened, I can’t remember the details, and we began a friendship.

So why didn’t I speak to her? I can say with clarity that change led to sadness. The person I admired and befriended had left, leaving me behind. It’s not that I wanted to follow in her footsteps, I was following a different career path, but I found someone who understood me. I had found someone to talk to whose level of passion for what he or she did matched the level of passion for what I was pursuing.

Why am I telling you this story? I’m sharing this to emphasize that change leaves us needing to reorient ourselves to a new north star. It requires that we open ourselves to new possibilities. Change requires us to face fears that we can’t even articulate.

On the other hand, change gives us the opportunity to grow. It provides us with a catalyst for exploring what’s possible. Change can be the shove we need to move forward. It can challenge us to be our best selves. It will ask you to reach deep within yourself to voice what previously has not been spoken. Change is scary, trust me, I know, but if you give it a chance it can also be your closest ally on your journey to overcome adversity, in particular health and healing!

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

Hanging On For Hope

The diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness brings anxiety. It throws the individual and their family into a world of the unknown. It pokes and prods us to become vigilant in our search for hope. The hope is that there will be a treatment protocol that will cure or at least alleviate suffering. As I’ve discussed in the past, there is a difference between getting better and getting well. Cure is the hope, but it’s not always possible. So what is possible?

I’m always on the lookout for news about new treatments. I feel like an information and referral resource for friends and family. It’s a role I enjoy. I’m honored that people in my life trust me enough to share their experiences. My ears and eyes are always open for some information that I can pass on to ease the illness experience.

How vigilant am I in my search for hope and healing? I was watching Jeopardy last night and across the bottom of the screen there was message that said, “FDA approves new medication for MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). That sent me directly to the computer to see what the news flash was about. If you’ve been reading my posts you know my dog has been living with MRSA for the past 6+ years. I need hope.

Our lives have revolved around a cycle of diagnosis and treatment. After a while you feel like a hamster on a hamster wheel. The cycle is repetitive and each time a culture gets sent to the lab we hope and pray that there will be some medication that will tame the infection. As you know if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness, there’s no guarantee that treatments will work forever. We hope that someone in research and development will bring forth a new strategy while we still have time.

Hope also requires that we invite others into our lives. We can’t be everywhere and know all. Inviting others into your life, like others have invited me, giving you a personal research team always on the lookout for an interview, news article, or like yesterday, a message crossing the television screen.

Hope isn’t only about faith. There’s a practical side to hope based on technology, research, and organizations that lobby for money to bring forth new treatments. Whether the future holds a space for you where you get well or get better, remember that hope is a strategy. It needs to be part of your treatment regimen!

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness and looking for support, education, and inspiration?  Visit

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

Gotta Get Out of Here

So many times we find ourselves in places that make us uncomfortable or unhappy. There are those who grow up in small towns who find they need a way to get out. Others, who may live in neighborhoods with violence and drugs, look for a way to get out. If you watch the commercials for the Boys and Girls Clubs you see prominent people who got out. They found a supportive environment with mentors who encouraged them, nurtured them, and providing opportunities for them to make their move.

We look for ways to use our talents to give us a leg up and change our circumstances. Adversity can be a prison or a path to freedom. There are some who simply choose to succumb to the pressure of adversity and start to sink slowly as if they’re in quick sand. On the other hand, that pressure can be a catalyst for change. Think of some of our most prominent athletes. Many grew up in troubled areas and knew that sports were their ticket out. It was their lifeline to a better life.

How can adversity be a path to freedom? It’s when you take what’s challenging you and use it as the motivation you need to change your situation. This may be different when faced with a chronic or life-threatening illness. The reason is that you can’t escape illness. You can obtain treatment with the hope of getting better or well. Escaping isn’t about the physical illness once diagnosed; it’s about escaping the ties that bind on the emotional and spiritual planes.

Pain is a great motivator. Limited options are another motivator because we don’t like to feel closed in or surrounded. But motivated for what? Motivated to find freedom from the things that prior to your adverse situation kept you stuck. Motivated to stop fueling the oppressive thoughts and energy that prevent you from being the best you possible.

Illness is difficult enough without us working against ourselves. What will stop you from fueling the negative thoughts? How will you create a new pathway that promotes health and healing? Who are the people that inspire you? (Read the post “Who are the Legends in Your Life”).

I encourage you to read autobiographies, memoirs, and pathographies. Autobiographies/biographies are not written about people who fail. They are written about/by those who have overcome some type of challenge. They share their struggles and discuss the emotional and spiritual land mines they stepped on along the way. The reason these books are so important is they provide hope. They show that emergence is possible. These are opportunities to create a personal menu for health and healing.

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

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Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, creativity and health, Empowerment, living with chronic illness

Who Are the Legends In Your Life?

Legends, those people in our lives that blazed a trail before us.   These are the people whose work, ideas, and personhood, inspire us. They are the people whose shoulders we stand on. How do you know who the legends are in your life? The legends in your life are the people you make reference to on a continual basis. They are the people who let you now the path may be hard, but it’s worth it.

I’ve had the pleasure, honor, and joy of having legends in my life. Fortunately, some are still living, but recently two legends have left this earth. Angeles Arrien, a noted cultural anthropologist was the professor of the first class I took when I started my doctoral program.

Arrien was teaching The Nine Muses. The course explored the mythological and current implications of creativity. We looked at the many ways we can all use our stories and realize that our stories are told in an individual way. I followed Arrien’s work for years. Fortunately I had the opportunity to have a full circle experience with my legend; she was the external examiner for my oral defense. Having Arrien read my work, dive deep with me about the material, and offer ways to utilize the information moving forward was the greatest gift anyone could ever receive.

Unfortunately Angeles Arrien died on April 24. She asked that instead of memorials that anyone who wanted to commemorate her life to light a candle, every month for the next year, on the date of her death. It gives me the opportunity to connect with her and her work on a regular basis. It also gives me the opportunity to honor the impact she had on my life and work.

The same can be said for another American treasure, Dr. Maya Angelou. A poet, singer, actor, producer, teacher, etc. broke barriers, inspired many, and provided us with a life story that, although difficult, shined brightly as she overcame adversity. If you watch anything that Oprah has done you know that Angelou was a legend to her. Her favorite lesson from Angelou is, “When you know better, you do better”.

This weekend to honor Angelou’s life, OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) has been showing programming about the legend. One of the rebroadcasts was of Oprah’s Legends Ball. The Legends Ball brought legends in the African American community such as Maya Angelou, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, Valerie Simpson, etc. In addition, she had the Youngins’ who included Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, etc. Celebrating the continuum of talent, experience, and possibility is critical for all of us. Having those moments of honoring those who come before us punctuates the decisions we make in our lives to follow a particular path.

Where am I going with all of this? I believe we need to honor the legends in our lives. Identifying why specific people past and present are important to you gives you the opportunity to continue on your own journey and do so with the blessing of those who walked the path before you.

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